Saturday, April 28, 2007

"The Liquid Life" (installment twenty-three)


The arrest was a gift to Cassius from the honeyed center of the universe, and soon he had pasted and posted “wanted” signs everywhere, with a blow-up of Elendele’s police blotter shot, and a smear of painted red across her lip. At the bottom was Cassius’ business number, but that didn’t work because people took the posters for decoration and art objects.

The red smear, compliments of Cortez, was the painter’s first real success, ending up in a lively opening, sponsored by a gay city councilman, on “Art and Local Politics.” What he’d learned from it all was that painting is not a question of size and stroke, rather of hidden and shifting sensibilities. And now that he was dizzy, he was a more pleasant person.

Still, with Elendele’s union status all clear, and her face in every place, Cassius was able to find her a commercial to act in. Her ugly attitudes against commerce were not to be found, because no moral value was more important than the possibility of her becoming, “a simple working actress. Not famous,” she clarified, “just a simple working actress,” which is what she was pretty sure she wanted.

Soda pop stuff. We all go down to the location to see our little starlet. Cameras and lights and motorcycle cops stopping traffic. Elendele’s sitting in a high director’s chair and a black guy is doing her makeup for her. Painting her imperfect perfections perfectly and talking fast enough to leave out the spaces between words.

There’s action everywhere, but nobody actually does anything while they wait all day for the sun to begin going down. Finally it’s time and Elendele heads for her spot. I whisper her an old theme, “aspire to be a goddess,” and she grimaces, because there’s nothing like when it’s time to put up or shut up.

All Elendele has to do is stand outside a phone booth with another solid chassis girl and go mad, together with her, over the guy in the booth. Still, it takes a hundred takes to do it.

The people shopping stop to see who the famous actress is. “Who is it?” asks a
middle-aged lady and I answer her proudly. “My friend, Elendele.”

“Never heard of her,” she shrugs me.

“Sure you have. She burned the church.”

She gets clouded and her mouth gets older with a disapproval wrinkle that young
people never have. “Oh her!”

Friday, April 27, 2007

Give 'Em Hell Harry (Reid) Part II

Here is a petition being circulated by Senate Majority Leader Henry Reid requesting the President listen to the American people for once and sign the funding bill with timetables for withdrawal. David Broder wrote a piece this week suggesting Reid was something of an embarrassment to the Democatic Party. We disagree and think Broder needs a vacation from Washington D.C. Somebody has to step up and oppose this awful war forcefully and highwayscribery is grateful that Reid, with all his stuttering and missteps, has taken on the job.

To sign it, click here.

A scribe's Life

That’s a picture of the young highway scribe taken 20 years ago.

The location was his thinking man’s castle in the sky on Oxford St. in L.A.’s Koreatown district.

The picture is full of youthful vitality; the scribe “bent to it” as his hero Jack Kerouac liked to say.

Maybe he was working on a poem, something that has fallen from the repertoire in recent years.

Maybe’s he was working on a chapter of “The Liquid Life,” which you are hopefully reading on a weekly basis, and was known at the time as “Six Little Seductions.” The seductions are not delineated enough and so the title was dropped for the current one.

That is a home office financed by the scribe’s one-time employer and now most prominent freelancing client. The typewriter’s electric and that block thing sitting on the desk, at right, is a Kaypro, something of a forerunner to the personal computer. As a full-time correspondent, the scribe was lucky, or unlucky, depending, to be on the cutting edge of the coming information revolution.

You can see an orange “Trimline,” phone connected to a wire. When the scribe left that office, you could no longer speak with him. Wherever he went, he belonged to that place. Whomever he was with had his attention completely and the other way around. The fax had not permeated the home or office markets yet and the e-mail and Internet were but twinkles in the Kaypro’s eye; the cell phone was science fiction.

The apartment was enormous, with a great front salon containing three windows and 12-foot ceilings, a legitimate dining room, the office in the photo and a bedroom with rooftop views all strung along an extended hardwood floor hallway.

It cost $675 a month and was the home of “READ” magazine and many nights up with young artists and crazy actresses that populate “The Liquid Life,” and the scribe’s nostalgia.

The photo was taken by Jesus Isasa, a friend from Madrid, whom the scribe doesn’t hear from or see anymore.

Life goes on and this is truly a scribe’s life after all that time. Only the machines and delivery mechanisms have changed.

Last week, the scribe had a good time posting on this blog about a favorite rock band, political considerations of the day, reviewed an Almodovar movie, and a reworked chapter of “The Liquid Life,” which he thinks is quite good. A couple of hundred people stopped by highwayscribery and highwayscribery homesquare which is a watered down version found on the scribe’s My Space Page.

And that’s pretty rewarding. Those are not George Will numbers, but it’s good to know strangers and friends alike care.

This week the scribe was hoping to riff on this article from “The Guardian” of England entitled, “Ten Steps to a Fascist State.”

But that didn’t happen. Nor did the post designed to help MoveOn publicize the true sentiments of many veterans regarding the war in Iraq. The administration thinks it has a monopoly on soldiers’ stories, which is both a lie and a problem.

But that didn’t happen, either.

highwayscribery was also hoping to analyze the first debate among Democratic presidential candidates – looks like Senator Clinton did alright – but there was no time.

No, the scribe was scraping out a living and trudging through the perquisites of his chosen craft. He wrote two articles for his client. One was on an overtime back pay settlement owed to immigrant construction workers employed by a Canadian company working on projects in Downtown San Diego (got that?)

A small, short piece, it did not come together, easily. The editor sent the first draft back mindful of the fact the scribe had tried to meet a short deadline for him. Then, the original contact at the state labor department shrugged off at least three calls before shunting the scribe upstairs to someone designated for the purpose of dealing with the hacks. That fellow needed some time for finding answers to the scribe’s rather detailed questions.

Another piece, also a short news story, involved the recall of a particular device designed to treat people with sleep apnea. In case you didn’t know (the scribe certainly didn’t), that’s when your nasal passages close while sleeping. There was a problem in the power supply of the device and 300,000 were recalled worldwide.

And that story took some time, too, as the scribe tracked down and finally coordinated with the company spokeswoman on the date required by a publication covering the medical devices industry.

Then there were two briefs on corporate transactions in the biotech industry that took more time than the scribe would dare to charge the recipient publication for; a loss of money as weighted by the value of the writer’s time.

Glamorous huh?

Well, no, but necessary and true dig-it-out journalism of importance, not to everyone, but to certain classes of people reliant upon it. Not everybody needs to hear the opinion of a single guy spending most of his life in a room. Lord knows we have enough of those people who, “write off the top of their heads,” as a journalistic colleague of the scribe’s once put it.

And that is the game. Lonely, never-ending, but blessed with the virtue of affecting lives, which is a value some misguided citizens carry around in us like a germ that cannot be purged from the body.

In between waiting for the phone calls the scribe practiced his readings from “Vedette,” given that he and guitarist Omar Torrez have a few tentative shows lined up as well as a performance on public access televison up in Calabasas, California.

the scribe puts Omar’s record on and recites passages from the book, every day, because that’s how you get so sharp there are no mistakes even though that transition from the kitchen to a room with cameras, lights, and people talking or watching is jolting for someone who is not a regular performer.

The events are termed “readings,” but the scribe has the hundreds of prose words memorized, give or take a screw up each go round. That allows him to make eye contact, to raise his level of artistry to something approximating his amazing collaborator’s, and to distinguish himself from the endless, morose and self-involved poets with noses in books droning on about their souls.

The imminent television taping has forced the scribe to practice some in the bathroom, in front of the mirror, so he can see what a camera frame will be conveying up-close. That sounds stupid, and it feels stupid, but is critical to preparation for something like that.

You learn these things living on the margins of Hollywood, and you learn to take them seriously if you don’t want to look like a jackass in front of an awful lot of people.

Speaking of which, it’s time to end this post on a scribe’s life for another recital session in an empty house standing-in for a crowded coffee shop filled the rapt and critical literary fans.

Thanks for checking in.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Private Morales and Corporal Rojas

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of La Puente Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Jason M. Morales of La Puente, CA:

"Private First Class Morales valiantly served our nation with selflessness and patriotism. Jason will be remembered for his brave sacrifice in the name of freedom. Maria and I offer our sincere condolences to Jason's family, friends and fellow soldiers as they mourn his passing."

Morales, 20, died April 18 in Baghdad, Iraq, as a result of injuries sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, KS.

In honor of Pfc. Morales, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Fresno Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Michael M. Rojas of Fresno, CA:

"Corporal Rojas dedicated himself to our nation and our fight to bring liberty to the oppressed. Michael's courage in the presence of ultimate danger is an inspiration to all Californians. Maria and I extend our sympathies to Michael's family, friends and loved ones."

Rojas, 21, died April 18 in Taji, Iraq, as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, WA.

In honor of Cpl. Rojas, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dog Pound

Dick Cheney accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) of being cynical for pursuing a defeatist war strategy, “because it will bring his party more seats in the next election.”


Of course, it was the administration which launched this ignoble defeat of ours and, for a time, reaped rewards at the polls.

Not one to be outdone, Reid said, “I’m not going to get into a name-calling match with the administration’s chief attack dog.”

Woof! Woof!

That’s pretty good, but we’ve been warming up to the understated Reid recently.

And Harry’s not the only that’s barked back lately.

highwayscribery missed it, but Bush’s schnauzer must have said something about the Democrats assuming the form of “that old party of the ’70s” (Acid, Amnesty, Abortion!), which was led by none other than George McGovern (above).

And the “L.A. Times” opened up some space for McGovern to respond.

Woof! Woof!

The former Senator from South Dakota and Democratic nominee in 1972 owned up, proudly, regarding is opposition to both the war in Vietnam and the stinker in Iraq, because, and the scribe quotes, “these two conflicts have weakened the U.S. and diminished our standing in the world.”

Which is the even-tempered bark.

Here’s the bite:

“In the war of my youth, World War II, I volunteered for military service at the age of 19 and flew 35 combat missions, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross as the pilot of a B-24 bomber. By contrast, in the war of his youth, the Vietnam War, Cheney got five deferments and has never seen a day of combat - a record matched by President Bush.”

Ouch! er, um, Woof!

You know what McGovern’s saying here and that’s why (r)epublicans had to nail Clinton on a sex scandal and dance all over Jack Kennedy’s hallowed grave with stories of sybaritic (mis)behavior.

As the Los Angeles/Baton Rouge poet Jesse once proclaimed at an elegant Mob event in Hollywood: “Presidents should be allowed to have testes!”

“One point I do agree with Cheney on,” McGovern continued. “Today’s Democrats are taking positions on the Iraq war similar to the views I held toward the Vietnam War. But that is all to the good...Beyond the deaths of more than 3,100 young Americans and an estimated 600,000 Iraqis, we have spent nearly $500 billion on the war, which has dragged on longer than World War II.

The Democrats are right. Let’s bring our troops home from this hopeless war.”

Still burning from his denigration as a “socialist poet” (see Oliver Stone’s “Nixon”) and being robbed by burglars in the employ of the White House during his presidential run, McGovern gets sidetracked for a moment.

But that’s his right and privilege from our strictly anarcho-syndicalist perspective:

“Indeed, the entrenched incumbent president, with a campaign budget 10 times the size of mine, the power of the White House behind him and a highly negative and unethical campaign, defeated me overwhelmingly. But lest Cheney has forgotten, a few months after the election, investigations by the Senate and an impeachment proceeding in the House forced Nixon to become the only president in American history resign the presidency.

Who was the real loser of ’72?”

(all of us)

And the real losers now?

Guys like these.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"The Liquid Life" (installment twenty-two)


The gangs, the party, Elendele, the wayward gentleman journalist, a girl named after a ringed and chemical planet; these were things that spiced the story and sold newspapers. From the moment her picture was run in the dailies, there wasn’t anyone who didn’t want to know about the trade unionist with curls and mind roots in violent recipes for ultimate utopia.

“How many great thinkers die cold and alone?” was the theme she was soapboxing for the penworths, at her numerous and entertaining press conferences.

The responsible citizenry and city council were thirsty for red stuff and the district attorney promised them full swiggings. But there was too much attention, too many talks shows, too many petitions, and too many bomb threats from the enlivened fringe for the city to benefit by keeping Elendele’s army in a cell. She refused to implicate any of us, despite hours of time beneath the bright lights, smoke, and accusations of her sworn and natural enemies.

“Plato’s monsters of pure spirit and honor,” was the pearl she threw at an audience unprepared to understand it or Elendele.

Two deaths, a burned church, and three months later, all our cases were dismissed for lack of evidence. Justice had finished its wheel spin just in time because the Elendele stories were now being found on pages eight, 10, and 12 – without pictures.

She’d been consumed and attention was now being focused on newer catastrophes.

Aside from the night of the arrest, we never had to spend any time in jail. Except for Elendele who got stuffed there for drawing the court’s contempt with her contemptuousness.

After the arrest, the police shuffled her place up and found her Maria, her stay-up-late pills, the crumbling seditious pamphlets from battles long lost, including the sacred ones on church burnings. They found a stack of graphic pornography and held a press conference and laid it out on the table with all these other exotic symbols and statues Saturn had lying around – like some secret army’s cachet off weapons.

The coroner’s report revealed that the rubble body found in the church had been sexually molested. The police report claimed that Elendele had been apprehended with a copy of Catcher in the Rye in her possession. The attempt to discredit was complete.

“Your attitude’s shitty, young lady,” judged the judge. "Your character is dishpan…laced…I mean just filled up with lines of dirt and wet filth.”

Elendele told him that so was his, so was everyone’s. “Civilization’s just the arrangement we swallow to cover those things up, so we don’t all smother in multiple shames,” she waxed the courtroom over. “That’s why things are private, and that’s why those things are supposed to be protected – because they’re bound to let off the bad scents of our weaknesses…and our pleasures.”

Superior Court Justice Hadder, a purported man of the people and incorrigible idealist, gave her two weeks in the county jail. When she got out, she acted as if she had liked it a little.

It was Whitey who got us through. He was finished being mad at Elendele and had concluded that her only real flaw was having tried to involve too many people in the affair.

“Ahhh she’s just too democratic,” he graveled his quarryman’s voice. “Just a kid with ideals,” he told me after the cooldown. “This thing was bound to come apart with all these kids, and gangs and what have you involved.”

He’d drawn support from places as distant as Argentina, where the president, and old friend from the days of the war, put in a call and wielded his ever-dwindling influence.

It was the last political capital Whitey had left and he had spent it on Elendele; on the thing that jump-started his life and helped him to know danger again. He was forced to resign in disgrace. But he smiled on his way out, because Elendele had taught him to be comfortable, to relish the attention that came with public

Everybody blamed the getaway by the court’s back door on the press. They said that making everything about the lives of the burner band known, created bigger than life characters, personalized them, and made them seem persecuted for what was going to be done to them.

All the sympathy for them was because of the reporters, one southern congressman cried. Elendele’s friends’ way of doing things had made them heroes to those they shouldn’t have, he argued. The press was widely attacked for being lured to all the darkness, for betraying its neutral self over a chance at a glimpse of the truth.

The press fired off that no character can ever be made bigger than life. Elendele was being busted, not for burning, the reporters thundered to their bosses’ dismay, but for what she had burned. Surly was the fourth estate in its insistence that truth lies in the dark and light alike, in its jack-o-lantern pleasure at having upset everybody so.

I was fired from my job and had my city police press credentials revoked. Elendele produced counterfeit versions. Eating would not be hard she assured us. Money from a pair of funds set up for our defense was still coming in. The job had been complete and Whitey dished up what he could from his end of the deal, given the scrutiny factor involved. It all had to be spent so Saturn, Elendele, and I brought a table up onto the roof and drank champagne for days in a row, cutting out all the articles about the incident for Elendele’s scrapbook, and dissecting the satisfying scandal.

“You see I was right,” she said to us. “Playing by the rules only leaves you subjected to them.”

The pudding was stuffed with proof, but I wasn’t sure I agreed. In days after the calming, I debated her for hours and tried to excise her of such ideas with logic – a popular tool of the legal system with which we had become so familiar. The notion of burning a church was pointless and dangerous, I smoothed. Her politics, rooted so strongly in the factory councils of Turin, were an anachronism.

“The battle for social justice left the factory place years ago now, Elendele. Why do you think they have all the nightclubs in those industrial spaces? Nobody else wants to use them anymore.”

But she would not listen. She was too busy designing a device made from paper clip chains and empty cat cans; to play the machine poems, the metallic incantations of the wily Futurist, Filippo Marinetti. (at top)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Five More Guys

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Twentynine Palms Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Jesse D. Delatorre of Aurora, IL:

"Our brave Marines are dedicated to our nation's commitment to preserving freedom. Lance Corporal Delatorre fought for our country with courage and resolve. Maria and I offer our heartfelt condolences to Jesse's family, friends and fellow Marines during this time of mourning."

Delatorre, 29, died April 16 as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, CA.

In honor of Lance Cpl. Delatorre, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of San Francisco Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Mario K. De Leon of San Francisco, CA:

"Sergeant De Leon bravely fought for our nation with everything he had. Mario will be remembered for his courageous determination and noble service to our country. Maria and I offer our prayers for Mario's family, friends and fellow soldiers."

De Leon, 26, died April 16 in Baghdad, Iraq, as a result of injuries sustained from enemy small arms fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany.

In honor of Sgt. De Leon, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Twentynine Palms Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of 1st Lt. Shaun M. Blue of Munster, IN:

"Maria and I offer our heartfelt condolences to 1st Lieutenant Blue's family and friends. Shaun's unfailing perseverance is an inspiration to all Californians. We offer our prayers and thoughts for this brave Marine's family, friends and loved ones during this difficult time."

Blue, 25, died April 16 as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, CA.

In honor of 1st Lt. Blue, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Paradise Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Steven J. Walberg of Paradise, CA:

"Our country's selfless soldiers put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms of all Americans. Private First Class Walberg made it his mission to secure freedom for all who seek it. Maria and I offer our thoughts and prayers for Steven's family and loved ones during this difficult time."

Walberg, 18, died April 15 in Baghdad, Iraq, as a result of injuries sustained from enemy small arms fire. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, KS.

In honor of Pfc. Walberg, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Mission Viejo Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Santee of Mission Viejo, CA:

"Lance Corporal Santee strove to represent our nation with integrity and valor. Daniel's life was lost in the honorable pursuit of attaining liberty for the oppressed. Maria and I extend our deepest condolences to Daniel's family in this time of grieving."

Santee, 21, died April 14 as a result of injuries sustained from a non-hostile vehicle accident in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

In honor of Lance Cpl. Santee, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Give 'em Hell Harry (Reid)

On Thursday, Harry Reid said what can only be thought, but never uttered: “The war is lost.”

Reid was echoing comments he’d made to the (p)resident while chewing the fat at the White House on Wednesday. It’s what the 2006 elections were all about; informing the president the party is over.

Dan Froomkin, of the “Washington Post,” asked in his Thursday column/blog, “Could this have been the first time Bush has come face to face with someone willing to confront him so bluntly on the signature issue of his presidency? We don’t know.”

And he works at the White House every day.

Reid recounted for reporters what transpired between the mucky-mucks meeting in the Oval Office. He said that he told Mr. Bush to avoid becoming another Lyndon Johnson, “who did not want a war loss on his watch.”

The frat boy president, “bristled,” and “rejected the comparison,” according to others present too fearful to identify themselves.

Reid later told reporters, “I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and – you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows – that this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq.”

(r)epublicans were shocked, SHOCKED, that Reid would stoop so low as to utter the truth before a people not used to, or worthy, of such honesty.

“I can’t begin to imagine how our troops in the field, who are risking their lives every day, are going to react when they get back to base and hear that the Democrat leader of the United States Senate has declared the war lost,” mooed Sen. Bitch McConnell (r-Kentucky).

That’s because McConnell has no imagination or he could envision those weary, extended-tour troops muttering, “Good. Now we can get the hell out of here.”

Rep. Peter Hoekstra wanted to know where Reid’s plan for winning the war was, as if the Senate majority leader could walk on water or turn it into wine.

Hoekstra conveniently forgot how, just a few days ago, it was revealed the administration couldn’t find a sucker to be its new “War Czar.”

One candidate, a retired Marine general named Jack Sheehan said, “The very fundamental issue is, they don’t know where the hell they’re going. So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, ‘No thanks,’.”

Can’t imagine what the troops returning to base thought when they heard that.

So it’s a nice by-product of the Democrats’ majority status that Bush has to eat some humble pie, but that is as far as it goes for now because, in the end, we are a country with a bad war habit.

Another “New York Times” article suggests the Dems are ready to cave in their war of wills with King George and hand over another $120 billion worth of funding to be coupled with “non-binding” timetables for withdrawal.

Which is to say they've been rail-Roved again with that line about “endangering our troops in the field” to which a proper brief response was never concocted.

the scribe liked: “The president is endangering the troops by keeping them in the field now that the American people have decided to end the war.”

If you’re going to say it’s lost, then you have to stop paying for it. (for real)

Rep. Hank Johson (D-Georgia) admits the Dems are in a fix and must prove they can govern, so we’ll all have to get in line.

the scribe can live with that. He remembers long ago, in 2000, traipsing from cocktail party to cocktail party trying to drum up support for Al Gore. Folks were disgruntled that Clinton had not cured AIDS, taken everybody’s guns away, set aside the other half of Utah as national park, and generated abortion-on-demand vouchers.

They could not see a difference between “Gush and Bore” and were going to vote for Saint Ralph the Raider. The difference came into focus over time, while the saint grew blurry.

So we’ll have to take what we can get here, which is another, rather safe, expression of opposition to the president’s personal project in Iraq, and clench our teeth while guys and gals continue filling body bags.

But, buck up, buckeroos! You are not alone in your anguish and anger. We recently did a post on the secession movement afoot in the enlightened State of Vermont.

Here’s another piece about their senate, following directions from multiple and democratic town councils, calling for the impeachment of the (p)resident and vice decadent prick cheney, saying their actions “raise serious questions of constitutionality.”

Little by little.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"The Faces" An Appreciation

Probably the best thing about growing older these days is the low price of album’s from one’s time.

Last night the scribe converted a $20 Barnes and Noble gift card from mrs. scribe, a Christmas offering, into an album of greatest hits by The Faces pop group called “Good Boys... When They’re Asleep.”

It cost $12 and that’s cheap for a guy who doesn’t have an MP3 player and laments the lack of outlets for purchasing music the old way – bargain bin prices for those of us stuck in the time warp of paying for “ElPees” (long players).

A renewed interest in this old-time boogie band (1970-1975) can be chalked up to endless musical investigations of brother-in-law Clinton; the only person in the world to have placed value on information gleaned from the misspent youth that was the highway scribe’s.

Clint’s been listening to a unique treasure trove of ’60s - ’70s music found on the Web site,
Wolfgang’s Vault, a depository for the late and great rock-and-roll impresario Bill Graham. Not long ago, The Faces were the “concert-of-the week” and Clinton burned a few opening numbers and passed it along.

The Faces were vaulted back onto the scribe’s radar a couple of years earlier when some Madison Avenue types absconded with their wonderful “Oooh La La” for the purpose of selling cars. Maybe you remember it:

I wish
I knew what I know now
when I was younger!

But it was the CD from Clinton, that raw guitar of Ronnie Wood’s pushing the even rawer voice of a young Rod Stewart, that took the scribe back to a place of appreciation for those wonderful Faces.

Clint will listen to any of the scribe’s stardust memories about long ago and was more than willing to accept that the Faces were “enormous” in their time, despite their relative anonymity now.

Yes, Rod Stewart is a very famous man/celebrity and Ronnie Wood’s sitting pretty as co-guitar with the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, but who today remembers their turn as pretty Faces?

Tucked away on Long Island, New York, escaping only to Manhattan for rock shows at Madison Square Garden, the scribe was not nearly as worldly as now and his perception of the Faces’ hugeness can be largely attributed to the fact he lived, ate, and breathed a now-defunct rock rag weekly called “Creem.”

“Creem,” ran hundreds of words about the soap opera that was the band; scores of pictures of The Faces, including Rod with Swedish sexsation Britt Eklund, and the rest of the boys waving whisky bottles around on stage, leaning loopily upon one another in trashed hotel rooms.

They were a unique blend of pretty boy pop group and serious rock outfit that lent themselves to the magazine’s format, which was irreverent, chancy and hungry for gossip. Cameron Crowe, the guy who directed “Almost Famous,” wrote for “Creem” as ( his pen name escapes now) “the world’s most au courant teenager.”

the scribe was crushed, crushed, when “Creem” cheekily announced the break-up in 1975. “Your Pretty Faces Have All Gone To Hell. How Will You Carry On?” (Or something to that effect.)

Anyway, the point is, The Faces may (or may not) have been as big as the scribe remembers through the prism of “Creem,” but they were clearly big enough to gain a foothold in a corporate closet like Barnes and Noble 32 years after the fact.

And surprise of surprises when the liner notes to the CD turned out to be written by Dave Marsh, a regular at “Creem” in the early ’70s.

Here’s how he opens things up: “For me and my crew at the notorious garage-punk rock magazine ‘Creem’, the advent of The Faces in 1970 was a dream come true.”

That explains that.

More Marsh: "Like the Rolling Stones, they were obsessed with R&B; like the The Who, they sported Mod clothes, coifs, and attitudes; like The Beatles and The Kinks, they adapted the anarchic, goofy spirit of the vaudevillian British music hall to the rock 'n roll stage."

Count on highwayscribery for your "anarchic."

Marsh provides some valuable history: The Faces were an offshoot of a ’60s group known as the Small Faces, led by Steven Marriott who left the group in 1969 to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton. During those times, apparently, guitar god Jeff Beck also had a band with Rod Stewart as vocalist and Ronnie Wood on bass (!).

When Marriott blew town (as it were) Stewart and Wood decided to join the remaining Small Faces -- Ronnie Lane, Ian McClagan and Kenney Jones -- drop the “Small” (because they were kind of tall) and forge ahead as the subject of this post.

"I can still remember seeing them take the stage for the first time,” wrote Marsh, “one cold night at the Eastown Theater, a 2,500-seat ballroom packed to the rafters with local rowdies.”

One simple sentence in summation of a time. Clint frequents live shows, but the scribe usually demurs in accompanying him for he finds no joy or identification with the concert crowds of today.

At 14, 15, and 16 years of age the scribe reveled in the mobs of ill-behaved boys and sex-cruising teeny girls, suburban toughs, spun from the green lawns of Long Island.

They seemed countless, legion, and the scribe took heart at their scruffiness and smokiness; found safety in the ample numbers. Certainly all these wayward kids weren’t on the path to ruination? (they were) They couldn’t all be threatened with home expulsion over the length of their hair? (again, they were)

There was a contagious attitude about the youths and the scribe returned home to battle the parents with a new sense of urgency and commitment.

Over what? Priorities kiddies: pot, beer, rock music, money for shows, ElPees, and petting rocker girls, (though not necessarily in that order).

And a good band mirrored all that. Here’s Marsh: “Faces took that stage the way they took over every stage I ever saw them on, from Louisville to Madison Square Garden. They took it the way a teenage gang takes over a corner, rolling into place with unfeigned casualness, tossing a leer and a giggle here and there. They could barely have known a soul in the room, but they acted like they owned the place. Then, like a gang with good intentions, they began bashing away at everything in the neighborhood, nailed down or not, raising a ruckus and ensuring a great time for everyone willing to participate.”

Rock ’n “Role” models, you see...

And because of this, school studies were a source of great concern because they were very far behind the six priorities listed above. In that time, and place, good grades were a mark of shame, barely lower than a clean haircut, and knowing how to play guitar a source of certain and elevated status.

Thanks to a similarly dissolute best friend, Darren Wiseman, there was literature, even if for all the wrong reasons. Darren and the future scribe sat in the school library reading Herman Hesse’s “Narcissus and Goldmund,” largely because Goldmund had weaseled his way into the bed of a certain medieval knight’s two teenage daughters - a definite rock-fed fantasy buried in a “legitimate” book.

An essay penned in senior year on the character of Goldmund was widely appreciated by the English Department and went a long way toward demonstrating the scribe’s otherwise sketchy academic solvency.

Later, in college, a kid named Crash gave the scribe a tape with Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells A Story” on one side, and The Faces' “A Nod Is As Good As a Wink to a Blind Horse” on the other. What with Wood playing both on The Faces' offerings and Stewart’s solo albums it was hard (and unnecessary) to distinguish between the efforts.

It is also worth noting that Stewart, in the single seminal year of 1971, was part of three classic albums, the third being The Faces’ “Long Player;” a string of beauties that form the quality nut of his career.

The writer’s progress continued apace over the years, these values receding, yet lurking, beneath the developing persona of urbane, urban, syndicalist literary lion.

In the early ’90s, the scribe penned a screenplay entitled “Chasing Cuqui Molina,” which recounted the adventures of an English rocker, Peter Coverdale (“heir apparent to Townsend and Weller”), and a Gypsy guitarist in pursuit of a flamenco goddess across Andalusia (where he was living).

The Faces’ “Pool Hall Richard,” and “Had Me a Real Good Time,” fleshed out the English character’s devil-may-care attitude, figuring prominently in the soundtrack to another film that was never made, but should have been.

In fact, for years,
“Had Me A Real Good Time,” stood as personal anthem and credo while the gates of wealth and prestige and pretension were breached with little more than an arsenal of pretty words to buck the highway scribe up.

Thought I was looking’ good
So I cycled cross the neighborhood
Was invited by a skinny girl
Into her high class world

Left my bicycle under the stairs
Laid my coat across the kosher chairs
made my way across the crowded room
I had nothing to lose

My reception wasn’t very keen
So turning on a friendly grin,
Stood on the table with my glass of gin
and came straight to the point

I was glaaaaaaad to come!
I’ll be saaaaaad to go
So while I’m here
I’ll have me a reeeeeal good time!

The years may pass and the gap between one’s aspirations and reality may pinch, but not getting invited back to the party is not without its piquant pleasures.

Thanks lads!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Film Nerd: "Volver" by Pedro Almodovar

Pedro Almodovar leaves his unique signature on every film he makes (with strong nods to Luis Buñuel).

On rare occasion he has taken a step backward (“Kika”), but usually there is evolution in his art and such is the case with “Volver.”

The Baby Boomers are getting on and many of Almodovar’s kinky gags are left in the somber shadows of this tale about forgiveness and redemption, about a return, volver, to make things one has left wrong, somehow right.

Stock elements, still not tired, abound. Regular people, women more often than not, struggling through harried lives both as victims of acts beyond their control, and others of their own doing; the zany and initially unlikely life circumstances that prove, with his unique writing touch, all-to-believable.

“Pedro” has always been great at understanding how the rules of art prevent it from truly mirroring life, and then breaking those rules.

This time the story is of one Agustina.

the scribe remembers back in 1992 when he and his director/partner walked into the massive American Film Market (AFM) on the beach at Santa Monica, stunned at the size of the movie industry and daunted at how to approach it with their tasty little art film, “Believe In Eve.”

Looking for a hand they would not get from friends who were not friends, they stopped in at the Spanish Film Office’s booth. There they saw a film proposal by director Bigas Luna who was seeking backing and, to that end, had shot a mere 15 minutes of footage and put it on video for all to see.

More importantly, was an accompanying “Interview”-styled magazine, about 16 pages long, containing pictures of a then-unknown 16-year old ingenue to die for named Penelope Cruz. scribe and director alike were sure that anybody with someone like that in their film was sure to get financing somewhere out of the sprawling den of iniquity that was the AFM, and they were right.

One year later, while the scribe was living in Spain, “Jamón Jamón” came out to much ado, and then succeeded famously further afield, the sexy young temptress riding its wave to a career in Hollywood unmatched by any prior Spanish lady thespian.

Cruz plays Agustina and, as her Oscar nomination would attest to, renders a break-out turn as a desperate but resourceful woman who has simultaneously taken over a friend’s restaurant behind his back, hidden and then disposed of her dead husband’s body following his stabbing at the hands of her daughter who is really her sister since her father raped and impregnated her years before.


Again, somehow it all works and is completely believable. The viewer is rooting for Agustina the whole way; if not falling completely in love with her dignified, working-girl’s effort to make everything from a scrambled-egg past and perilous present turn out right.

Cruz has traded in her former coltish body for a buxomy, full-bodied chassis very reminiscent of Sophia Loren. the scribe’s mother, a big fan of Cruz, insists “she’s much more beautiful than Sophia Loren,” which is certainly true, but the point is Penelope took some pointers, if not assumed wholesale, from an archetype both created and popularized by the older Italian woman.

Nothing wrong with that, especially since Penelope is so good at making the thing her own.

As mentioned, there is a dark shading to this work by Almodovar. Rape and incest and the years of tragedy catching up with people just doing their best to move past them because, in the end, how can you address such things?

"With a lot of pain" is the answer as Agustina, her daughter/sister, disappeared mom, and close neighbor from the old village who is dying of cancer, all sort out the mess bequeathed by those who came before and made worse by their own denial.

Sometimes there is time to face up to, forgive, and properly forget, before it's too late.

“Volver,” is funny, but not like bounding romps of Almodovar's past and, although less easily digested, we must be thankful the director was not locked into some eternal silly time space that would have reduced the power of, and trivialized his message through a repetition without that natural seasoning that says "life."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

"The Liquid Life" (installment twenty-one)


So Elendele was going to get to burn a church. She’d always wanted to. She’d never forgiven the sisters of the Order of the Virgin Belen from her days of conventing.

The hours walking blindfolded upstairs to develop the proper carriage; he trays of Brussels Sprouts of punishment for eating more than her fair share. The unmentioned crucifixion in the church basement of her friend who’d been caught on the town – in bed with a man twice her age.

It explained the light layer of aristocracy she wore, but which was often obscured by her flaired nostrils and mouth not tamed.

“Eighty or nine thousand would light a few nights, but even if he’d provided only dinner and month’s ration of Maria thrown in with the deal, Whitey’s plan gleamed white in the dank world of Elendele’s surreal mind. “Burning the church,” was all she talked about. She even had a quick-thickened file for it in her cabinet, well-hidden between the entries for employee stock ownership plans and Empresses of the Near East and distant past.

For Cassius there was no getting it. The symbolism, the politics, the history of it meant nothing to him. He actually admitted to finding the ideas distasteful. But he liked the money and figured it kept Elendele occupied while his faltering efforts at exploiting her silver stardom took on newer, more ornate forms. He too, was young and still learning.

“But what’s a church good for?” she convinced herself, standing on the coffee table while her close ones formed a semi-circle of attention. “As a sanctuary it isn’t worth the paper proposition it comes from. There isn’t a state around, past or present, that wouldn’t stomp into God’s house at a moment’s notice and soil his votive candles in the name of national security.”

If Elendele had believed in God, she felt it followed logically that he be a guy, however unlikely that might appear coming from her.

“The cops and the armies do what they want,” she reasoned. “When you see them coming, leave, guilty or not.” All of which hinted at the armed party approach to the project, which she birthed.

With its Sunday baskets, its guilty tax, she litanized, the church was good for revenue raising and then wasting it on more churches. This kind of economy was about as good as military spending, Elendele reasoned us. “No external benefits, no good stuff coming out of the pipeline for Jack and Jill,” she railed in her own street way.

“Church is something your parents make you go to until they get divorced and can’t justify forcing the issue in front of the kids because they’re ashamed anyway,” she raved on. “Church is a place that rises in your morning mind, to rob you of rays that are charging you still, after an evening without accountability.”

For me, pleasing certain women always required a degree of compromise, and I’d attended an occasional church, but burning one…

That Elendele was involved gave the whole scurrilous scene a glamorous cache. She spent hours before some sacred pamphlets of the Spanish CNT she withdrew from a safe deposit vault at the big bank, after her agreement with Whitey was sealed and the months ration of Maria delivered. They contained instructions on, “The Orderly

Dismantling of God’s House,” developed as part of a successful anti-cleric campaign, in Red Catalonia, in a time she tried every day to imagine, but could never quite get right.

Sure it was exciting. Sure it was for a good cause. Sure it was illegal. None of us ever internalized that last fact that. In the eyes of the state, church burning was not a form of protected political speech. It was high crime.

To keep things at a low profile in official circles Whitey would drop by the salon and smoke joints with her whenever any plans had to be made. Elendele was in control. And Whitey? Either he liked smoking marijuana suddenly at the age of 71 or he’d shrined himself a little Madonna in Elendele. The shady shadowy things they are it was probably a little bit of both.

She had brought a peppermint blast to his existence. Whitey would roll joints the size of the cigars he and his white-shod friends down a the local always smoked.

He’d ask her to play records and even borrowed her vintage, three-record, 78 RPM version of Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” without ever returning it.

The only thing to slow preparations happened when Elendele balked at the assistance of the bribable faction of the police union that Whitey felt was so necessary. But she furied him with a typical tirade, and like some housebroken husband, he promptly agreed to “keep the cowboys out” as requested.

He’d gotten his ideological organization.

Nobody involved could get an idea heard. She gave one mistake, and after that you were out. She was miserly with the operations money, paid poorly, and didn’t ask for other opinions. Then she overruled them when they were blurted out anyway.

And she was a friend of freedom.

Whitey didn’t know that Elendele had turned to the Li’l Criminals gang to provide the muscle she’d refused to accept from the law enforcement patriots. She had three reasons for embracing the notorious cell. First of all, the church was on their ever expanding downtown turf, and she didn’t want it on her head that something had been burned there without their prior approval.

Second, there wasn’t a scoundrel among them that didn’t have a knowledge of the church and its labyrinths, after having toiled through so many useless sermons about cleanliness and goodness during the timelessness of their childrenhood.

Better still (and number three), one of the higher-uppers in the gang was an altar boy. He had a working set of keys to most everything in the church, including the sacristy where Elendele secretively coveted gallons of stored holy wine. Half for her and half to trade with a full-blooded Comanche she knew in Santa Fe. He had blended his own potion from fermenting the coca plant, and holy wine was the only thing for which he was willing to trade anyone.

He was the money behind a drug store in town known as the Psico-Deli Rodeo, where you could find things you couldn’t anywhere else.

Whitey worked the inside. He got the help of the cemetery workers who found Elendele an empty casket and a grave plot. There they would store the incendiaries being developed, in a joint effort, by the gang members and their new friends at the Stage Props local union.

The whole thing almost came undone when Elendele and Saturn went to a meeting of the Writers Guild to see if that damn strike was ever going to end. They left the keys to the salon with Sammy from Li’l Criminals and the props people came by. There was a special running on Bock Beer at the corner liquor store, because it was the season, you see. They all got drunk and put little fake explosives and blood capsules in their chests and ignited them, diving around the room like they were getting killed, yelling and playing combat, staining the parquet floor. The props people were having a blast because the writers’ strike had left them idle, and deep down, they were really fire and gunpowder addicts. The gang kids were amazed. They had never experienced explosions without the accompanying whispers and tears and topsoils of death.

A neighbor called the cops and everything got scrambled, but not without Chivo getting caught on Eighth Street with evidence – a burned hole in his muscleman t-shirt. A quick check in the car computer and the police knew he was a parolee. They landed him back up in La Pinta for another five-year hitch. But he wrote Elendele that it was good to be back with old friends, to have time to paint, to know where the next meal was coming from.

The explosives were ordered by the union and paid for by a large studio – an arrangement worked out by Whitey. To accomplish the thing, he placed Saturnina as office manager at the props local – one of the most criminally underwritten unions in the county fed.

She was a craftswoman with white-out and copy machine; tricks she had learned in art school, and which left a path of invisible footsteps wherever the mad plan might have otherwise dropped is stain.

It was a summer evening during which it seemed the sun would never give in and go down, that the thing rolled off the assembly line. The salon was full of people who had finally decided to jump stage and get into routine because Elendele had brought lots of cocaine to lure them.

“I want a door off a confessional to paint,” was Cortez’ play.

“For me, what would be beautiful,” requests the loyal Saturnina, “is if one of the guys could smash me some stained glass and help me find a crescent-shaped blue piece and maybe some more to wrap around neon and things.”

“I just want to get in and then get out,” Trevor tosses.

“Please!” says the Elendele Express, “You guys…we can’t wait around for all these things. We only have enough time for me to get the wine out of the sacristy and then we’re off.”

“Saturn,” I ask, “How do you wrap stained glass around neon?”

“Just go up to the art school,” Elendele expedites, “ask if you can use their glass blower.”

“Elendele,” Cortez rallies, “if there’s time to get some wine there’s time to rip up a confessional and get a door to paint.”

“And make a buck on selling it, right Cortez?” comes her left cross.

“Yeah,” says Saturnina, “we could sell it.”

“Yeah,” confirms the Cuban, “maybe sell it to the mayor’s wife or one of her friends who like the arts. Whitey could help there.”

Elendele likes that idea after all. She agrees to let Cortez get a confessional door and Saturn a crescent moon of blue-stained glass.

“I just want to get in and out,” Trevor affirms the aforementioned.

“You don’t have to come, but if you do you can leave whenever it gets to be too much,” Elendele offers him and they sign their simple pact as Cassius, who’s still not going, shows up with some beer for everyone. “I hope I don’t end up an accessory to the crime,” he worries. After it’s all gone, and everybody has inhabited their proper swimworld of fearlessness, we stumble out into the street.

We load into a pick-up truck, with loud speakers in the topped flatbed cranking full, so no one will suspect anything. Chato is supposed to drive around the block after leaving Saturn and Elendele off at a house next to the cemetery. We’re supposed to cut through a hole in the fence and follow a map to where the gravediggers have left a rosewood casket filled with gasoline, gunpowder, and Korean fireworks.

“Elendele,” Saturn squirms, “I don’t know if this is such a good idea. I think maybe your crazy now that I think about it. Maybe Cortez and Dominique should go…or one of the gang kids, some men should go.”

“I’ll do it,” huffs the menace. “Let’s go Dominique.” And she winds her arm under mine from behind and back around across the front of my shoulder, as if I had just asked her to dance.

We run for the fence and she yells those guys to find their places in the church. Elendele pulls out a flashlight to help find the seam in the fence opened by some of the Li’l Criminals, whose job it was to get inside the cemetery earlier, before closing.

We crawl through and on the other side. She pulls out a map and compass and orients herself. We are supposed to meet at the grave of Clara Bow. The Crazy Lokes set of Li’l Criminals, charged with assisting the inside effort have left a trail of overturned tombstones through the cemetery that leads right to the grave. There are hundreds overturned and when we arrive they’re sitting on granite seats smoking cigarettes.

“It’s about time bitch,” says one of the bad boys with a stocking that holds some little curlers in his hair steady.

“Don’t you ever call me a bitch,” Elendele says and then stares him down when he puffs his chest and comes near her.

“Why did you do this to the tombstones?” was her immediate query.

“We got bored,” he returns, tossing a cigarette into the up dug grave.

“You got bored? Yeah, well, listen. You be real careful because our gripe’s with the living and we certainly don’t need to be rubbing the dead wrong. With the living. Got that?”

We raise the coffin in a few seconds cause the gang bangers had been practicing doing it during their wait. They had even blown off some of the fireworks at dusk.

“Does the word ‘secret’ mean anything to you guys,” she slashes mister stocking and curlers, after finding the evidence.

“When this is over,” she tells him, while pulling out the explosives, distributing to each his allotted supply, “tell Sammy from MCX set to give you my number. Call me up. I’ve got a couple of books for you to read.”

“I don’t know how to read,” he barks at her.

We run down a grass lee preserved yet for the undead or just barely dying. At the bottom, two Teamster friends of Whitey’s are waiting to drive us the long distance from the end of the cemetery closer to the church. They don’t even stop when we get there. Elendele hops out with the flatbed cruising mph and we all follow.

There’s no more talking. Everybody knows what to do. There’s a split-up and each goes to an appointed entranceway or window. There, more members of the cemetery workers local, dressed like nuns, open up from the inside. It’s hard to see at first, but I can hear footsteps running up and down the long aisles. Then a collision up by the altar and the sound of bodies falling.

“Trevor you idiot,” Saturn hisses him, “stop following me around.”

Elendele clears them away and waits there for each of us to blow whistles of different color and intonation as signal that our bombs have been dropped. As the rustling goes on she passes the time lighting all the votive candles on the altar, casting clear the shadows of nuns’ hats trailing the man-made wind of quick movements.

When the last whistle is blown she sticks a papier mache torch she’d fashioned after the one used in the i84 Olympics with a candle. It whooshes up into a paint brush of blood and dying sun. Cortez steps back in reverent admiration. She moves quickly, lighting first the stack under the front pews, then the stack under the hay of the baby in the nativity scene.

“Jeezus,” she sings, “Heeees mah friend…”

Then the confessionals. Half way around the church she stops for a gulp of holy water and fire ritualizes the other side, after her quenching.

By the time she has worked the horseshoe back round to the front, a fire has started full under the pews. “You’ve got three minutes to loot and then you got to meet out front,” is her loud command, “three minutes!”

Cortez is chopping away at a confessional for his bounty reward while I help him in the final pry. Saturn is looking for someone to smash her a window, but Trevor has enlisted all the fake nuns in his effort to dislodge the weighty, four-foot statue of St. Just he suddenly decides he wants.

So she comes up to me with her coyness in command.

“Dominique,” she begs in near nobility, turning half away, lowering her head so she can crash me with her smoldering uplook, “smash me a window, baby. Please?” as if we were in the bed back at the salon again.

I look at Cortez. “I’ll be alright,” he says, door under arm, heading for the truck, “Help her out.”

“Okay,” I relent and give her my arm as she tugs me across the church, which is flaming on three or four walls like Elendele has planned. That way we have a way out, if we take time gratefully and not greedily. But Saturn can’t make up her mind and she takes me twice around the church looking at windows like we’re in a gallery.

Finally she decides on the one about brief deaths, upon a hill at night, because it’s five-sixths blue, except for the brown green of Calgary, and the bone white of the lonely crucifixes sticking sadly out of them.

“This one,” she chooses, backing away, folding her arms to watch me do her dirty laundry. The window is 30-cathedral-feet high and arched. If I smash it while standing at the base, with the little statue of St. Anthony she has given me for the purpose, it will fall down all over me. So I back away into the center aisle and throw the statue through.

It is a glass waterfall that starts with the bottom giving. But the top, so up in the neighborhood of gravity, makes the splashdown first. Saturn wades the resulting pile, tossing the blue pieces around so she looks like she’s playing in swirl pools or in a mirror spot on a starry night sea.

After a few minutes Elendele comes out of the sacristy breathing heavy, but in control. “Man, get this stuff up and get out of here.”

Everybody is in the truck except: Saturn, who is still searching me, watching her trance dance; Trevor; and one nun still trying to help me move St. Just.

They take ten more seconds going about their business when the altar collapses as the fire gorges on its wooden roots.

“Saturnina!!!” screeches the field marshal.

Saturn is holding two pieces up to the fire light in a final ponder.

“Oh Goddamn it! I guess…I guess I’ll take this one. I can file it down later.” Then she hopscotches out of the church, her hands full of blood, the doorway falling in after she passes through it. Elendele points me out the other side to safe haven.

I watch from the entryway as she urges Trevor to forget the statue because it’s getting late. Everything is burning now and I only see them yelling and gesturing at each other because the church is corn-popping and creaking under the wilting, lilting flame.

Then a firebeam falls from above and lands on the cemetery worker, knocking off his habit and his head. Trevor wails unholy, and St. Just falls and smashes like the blue window did. Elendele grabs Trevor and runs for the door where I’m waiting.

The truck comes around because they saw the door come down after Saturn and thought we were stuck. We jump in, and while pulling away, St. Just moans like a swordfull bull. Sits down to sigh, and then lays over on its side and dies.

Whitey had gotten cab union members to set up a relay system and Elendele and her gang commandos had to make 14 car switches in a 20-minute period, double backing, going up and then down the same street twice, around corners forward then backwards, to throw off pursuit. He got that union’s president to call a protest for a fare increase and cabbies left their cars parked in the middle of streets important to firemen wanting to stop the fire, and to policemen on the trail of the curly-haired girl, who’d maybe taken her chaos just one step too far.

Everybody got scrambled in different cabs and Elendele, Saturn and I rode together.

We couldn’t get the bleeding on the step-sister’s hands to stop.

“Elendele. Jesus. A guy died back there,” I note, because it hasn’t sunk in. It’s true. She’s a general of the dreamworld; a buck private in reality.

“That kind of thing happens in this business,” she deep-freezes me, leaderly,
wrapping Saturn in satin, her shirt tight wound round the hands, held like a baby to her breast --Saturnina -- the only thing she’s worried about for the moment.

The cab relay finally brings us back around town and into a cotton warehouse just a few blocks from the flaming saint with an ideal for a name.

There, a party is spread, driven by the unfathomable futures of holy wine, loud with Brazilian music, scented with dwarf birch and woodrush found in the cemetery, and bonfired along with little statuettes, and pieces of stained glass; all pillaged booty of the left-leaning lootery Elendele had assembled.

It was a party that would glamour the press, after we were caught, and drape everyone in the safety of the public eye. But not that night. That night Elendele and her Li’l Criminals heard and felt the whaps and whelps of a blackjack athleticism they could never have imagined. And they were the skeptical ones.

“The only time I was ever scared enough to want to call the police, and it was them who were beating us up,” she said after the bailing and bonding were done.

Of course, acrimony soon took hold of the gangbangers over spending the contents in the money box offered them as payment. She had offered any number of the church’s treasures, but the Li’l Criminals saw value only in money. They were not so much interested in Elendele’s bazaar of values as they were in her ass and some cold, hard cash. So much so that they agreed to take the box, and their chances, that something would be in it. As soon as its big bounty was revealed, rival sets were formed and mister stocking and curlers pulled out a gun and fired shots at the now scramming street scammers.

He missed, but the cops didn’t when they later shot a boy leaning against the wall. They’d queried identification and then shot him when his wallet looked like a gun.

It wasn’t, but the score was a little more even now.

“It doesn’t matter to the gangs or the police,” said the provocateur Elendele. “To them he’s just another statistic on dead people.”

But that murder shocked everyone and it changed Elendele – true to its design.

Afterward, she was less bold and mostly frightened that she was being watched, because her pinch between the fingers of authority had left her surprised at how much of her story was known to them.

The Li’l Criminals were armed and dangerous and they had it coming. Elendele knew afterward that working with them was a mistake. Whitey made this clear anyway, roaring about, yelling in her face, making Elendele feel like a little girl.

“Maybe I should have held your hand…should I have held your hand? Ooooh mother of God this is the one. What have I done?… How did you hook me into asking you to do this?… Where could I have come up with this disease of an idea?… You…You seduced me!

Getting arrested cause of you wasn’t enough…I had to go back for more…Rule number one is never get involved with an internationalist,” he whips his self up, “and I break it as easy as that.”

“American unions never…” she started.

“Never mind that!” Whitey bellowed mighty over her. “Endelene, it’s always your way and the world is your doll house right? You know about politics, huh? You know about coalitions? You know all about a common, binding thread? Christ, for you people that’s a fashion term…”

Elendele had realized the gangs didn’t stand for barrio autonomy or anything else.

The problem with them, she determined, was that their killing and maiming was for its own sake, unchecked by any theoretical parenthesis.

“I gave them the benefit of the doubt,” she told a reporter wandering down the wrong halls of a self-chosen labyrinth. “What they’ve done inside me can’t be fixed.”

Thereafter, her associates were more conventional. She subscribed to at least one product of the mainstream press, and her ties with all gangs, not just east-siders, were severed completely.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sour Krauthammer

“By the day, the debate at home about Iraq becomes increasingly disconnected from the realities of the war on the ground,” writes Charles Krauthammer in this morning’s “Washington Post.”

Finally, we agree on something.

Just kidding. The next paragraph has the Democrats “consumed” with developing a legislative plan, “to ensure the failure of the administration’s current military strategy.”

So who’s disconnected? Krauthammer would like you to think that Bush’s war policy is failing because of the Democrats, not the guy who walked into the Green Zone yesterday and killed a bunch of people.

Or was that, in fact, Joe Biden self-destructing again?

(He he he.)

No really, Krauthammer’s title, “The Surge: First Fruits” is not the first in a film trilogy about a war gone awry. It’s a tease for all the good news he has from the Iraqi front.

(courtesy of John McCain?)

Seems a certain General James Conway just returned from Al-Anbar province to announce that “we’ve turned the corner.”

the scribe doesn’t know about you, but we’ve turned so many corners since March 2003 that he’s literally car sick.

The columnist goes on to explain some inside-y stuff about how Sunni warlords have turned against Al-Qaeda there and how that means they’ll all be joining the U.S.-backed NEW IRAQI ARMY in short order.

Hope so, because 3,300 dead U.S. soldiers, countless innocent Iraqi lives, and Bazillions of dollars we could instead spend here at home building levies, schools, and medicinal marijuana outlets are quite enough, thank you.

But you should know, the scribe has received some pleasant phone calls lately and it would seem his anemic career as novelist, screenwriter and all around literary superman, IS REALLY ABOUT TO TAKE OFF!

What with a whole bridge being taken down two days ago and the aforementioned “cafeteria” bombing, the ebullient Krauthammer does have to admit, “The situation in Baghdad is more mixed.”

The two bombings, “show the insurgents’ ability to bomb sensitive sites.”

That they do, and Krauthammer’s single sentence related to the ongoing destruction and death in Iraq shows how insensitive he can be to such sights.

the highway scribe absolutely loathes the way conservative pundits and war boosters soft-sell death and destruction from the vantage point of a keister cushion at some posh Georgetown eatery.

Krauthammer assures us that, “on the other hand, the pacification is proceeding.”

Sudharsan Raghavan, a real reporter who survived the bombing, has a different story to tell and you should read it (after lunch has been fully digested) before you swallow Pollyanna’s rosy assessment that the Sunni’s have “lost the battle of Baghdad.”

Which begs the question, why would we want to recruit them in Al-Anbar for THE NEW IRAQI ARMY?

But the piece is not truly about the war in Iraq, because Krauthammer’s not there. He’s merely taking the word of people who were sent there to do a job, telling you they’re doing a good job.

It’s more about the Democrats whom, we know from reading Ann Coulter, are America’s real enemies.

He takes issue with Democratic opposition to the war and the concomitant claim that such were the wishes of the American people as expressed in the November 2006 elections.

“But winning a single-vote majority as a result of razor-thin victories in Montana and Virginia is hardly a landslide.”

It is if you’re a Democrat.

And who said you need a landslide to reverse a failed policy? You get a nice turnaround of seats in both legislative houses against a better financed party, couple with them with chronically poor assessments of that party’s president, and the scribe would suggest (again) that you have a mandate to end rather than deepen the bloodletting.

But this post isn’t about the war or Charles Krauthammer. It’s about the rancid corruption of the people running the war and of those who concocted it in the first place.

“The Post” also ran a piece about Paul Wolfowitz -- a big war guy back at the beginning -- and the rumor he worked out a very nice monetary arrangement for a love interest at the World Bank, to which he was kicked upstairs once the war started going south.

the scribe doesn’t know exactly what he did for his love newton, Riza. To be honest, the (r)epublican talent for switching e-mail business to networks it doesn’t belong on, and finding ways to pay people who aren’t entitled to that pay, is way too sophisticated for a mere blogger.

But Wolfowitz did something, which doesn’t look very good, but isn’t nearly as bad as getting us into the war Krauthammer is so excited about.

Ironically, the scribe was reading, just last night, an article on bribery in the Dec. 23 issue of “The Economist,” which, if its advertisements are to be believed, is “quite possibly the most important magazine in the world.”

In that piece the important ones noted that, “Paul Wolfowitz, the head of the World Bank, is devoting special efforts during his presidency there to a drive against corruption.”

He should start by looking in the mirror.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Corporal Freeman and Specialist Coon

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Walnut Creek Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. James J. Coon of Walnut Creek, CA:

"Maria and I join all Californians in extending our heartfelt condolences to Specialist Coon's family. James courageously dedicated himself to our nation's mission to spread freedom. We offer our prayers for his friends and family as they mourn this tragic loss."

Coon, 22, died April 4 as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Balad, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, TX.

In honor of Spc. Coon, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Lancaster Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Walter Freeman Jr. of Lancaster, CA:

"Private First Class Freeman fought for the liberties that set our nation apart as a beacon of freedom. Californians are forever grateful for Walter's dedication to our country. Maria and I offer our prayers for his family, friends and fellow soldiers during this difficult time."

Freeman, 20, died April 4 as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Baghdad, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Carson, CO.

In honor of Pfc. Freeman, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An Invitation From The (p)resident

King George has spoken...

He has invited the Democrats to talk about the standoff over war funding. Under his plan, they'd come to the White House (his turf) to “discuss the way forward on a bill that is a clean bill” (re: his bill) a bill that would contain no “artificial timetables for withdrawal.”

What’s an “artificial” timetable? Seems to highwayscribery that the dates Senate and House leaders have chosen to bring the troops home are pretty “tangible.” Imagine what the troops think.

And what’s a dirty bill anyway?

The (p)resident wants the Democrats to come to the White House and tell him how they plan to give him what he wants with no compromise on his part of any kind.

But first he’d like to insult them: “It is irresponsible for the Democratic leadership in Congress to delay for months on end while our troops are in combat are waiting for the funds they need to succeed.”

“Succeed” you see.

Sounds like a party the Democrats would be very smart to skip in lieu of a press conference calling the (p)resident’s most recent and disingenuous political ploy exactly what it is...his most recent and disingenuous political ploy.

the scribe hopes the Democrats hold firm and make clear it’s irresponsible for the (p)resident to let these guys get blown up, one by one, without any plan for withdrawal, to “delay for months on end,” their deserved return to family, hearth and home.

Meantime, highwayscribery waits with trepidation having to run Gov. Schwarzenegger’s next announcements of more California soldiers killed in battle given the high number of casualties that occurred over the weekend.

It takes a few days to sink in, but the bad news always arrives.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Private Figueroa and Specialist Spivey

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Baldwin Park Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Gabriel J. Figueroa of Baldwin Park, CA:

"Private First Class Figueroa selflessly served our country with strength and valor. Gabriel's dedication to protect our liberties is an inspiration for all Californians. Maria and I offer our condolences to Gabriel's family, friends and loved ones in their time of mourning."

Figueroa, 20, died April 3 as a result of injuries sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire in Baghdad, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, TX.

In honor of Pfc. Figueroa, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Chula Vista Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Curtis R. Spivey of Chula Vista, CA:

"Specialist Spivey devoted himself to our nation's mission to preserve freedom. Curtis will be remembered for his heroic sacrifice. Maria and I offer our heartfelt gratitude and condolences to his family, friends and fellow soldiers as they mourn their loss."

Spivey, 25, died April 2 in San Diego, as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Baghdad, Iraq, on September 16, 2006. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, TX.

In honor of Spc. Spivey, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

"The Liquid Life" (installment twenty)


I started shivering, went through a withdrawal, but kept finally firm. I sent Whitey’s message by courier. The speed of delivery proved to be pointless because it was some two months before I heard from her.

“Dominique? What’s up? Hope everything’s good. Listen, tell that businessman McEntee that I’m too involved with other projects to get my hands dirty working for him,” she peppered me. I’m just too busy, but I hope everything’s good with you.”

Sure. Just fabulous. And her?

“Cassius says I’m on the verge of landing so many roles. He says I can get plenty of commercials soon, too. He’s helping me meet all the right people.”

"Is that right?"

“Yeah, there are about eight of them. The rest are full of it. Anyway, Cassius has gotten me out of politics altogether,” went her litany for me.

She had beauty to mine and Cassius said there wasn’t much time. “Let my world devour itself,” was her new program. Cassius gave her three years or even less. “Three years can go very fast,” did she cliché me, “and then the first blush fades.”

The only predictable things about Elendele were those that had to with acting. Like so many of her kind, she was slave to the idea of being screened.

“What’s wrong with you,” I rang her bell, “is that you run around talking about youth being in the soul or the spirit, but you cower before each New Year’s Eve.” It was a rare lecture. “You’re all hung up on it.”

She said that we were not connecting and that the topic should be dropped right there. Elendele asked if we could meet for coffee sometime and had to sweeten the deal by offering to pay for cappuccino and vanilla stick and Maria. With those words she flushed recent nostalgia straight through me. There were daydreams of winter afternoons between my shees and their summer sheets.

There were nightmares featuring the appearance of Cassius. Cassius who was stout, who was quick in the mouth, and fearless upon entering a room of fresh faces. He’d ended up with her; that was the sum total of all events involving him.

Cortez and I were fighting off libel and slander charges against a magazine from our mutual past when she called again. It didn’t have much to do with me, really.

Cassius had learned you can’t do anything, commercials, or movies with epic sweep, without getting into the Actors Guild. And you couldn’t get into the Actors Guild without having done a commercial or something with an epic sweep, or at least without knowing someone. She should have known that. Whitey McEntee – someone to know – certainly did.

When she called she caught me drunk and I agreed to set up a meeting between them and I agreed to be there to help them work it out; to bring Whitey’s enterprise to fruition; to hang around the salon again.


Perhaps we, and our allies, have been humbled into reason by the horror of Iraq.

the highway scribe attended opening day of the Los Angeles Angels baseball club on Monday night.

A loyal fan of the Halo’s, the scribe has long held his nose at certain patriotic tics associated with the fact the team plays in Orange County, (r)epublican stronghold and birthplace of the John Birch Society.

One such tic is the dramatic use of fighter jets during the national anthem on opening day. This overpriced and unnecessary display of military might usually terrifies and annoys the scribe who tries to shrug it off and keep his mind on the team and its name, which is anything but warlike.

Like the scribe, they are Angels.

Anyway, this year, the club forewent the fighter jets. And that was odd.

Earlier that day, as the Britain/Iran crisis simmered, a poll was released demonstrating a clear reticence on the part of the British people to resolve the thing militarily, with just seven percent in favor of loading up and blasting hells bells into Iran.

And that was odd, too.

Of course, the scribe knew he might be connecting dots of his own invention and reading into things that weren’t really there.

Until he read a piece entitled “The Public’s Foreign Policy,” by Daniel Yankelovich, published in the “San Diego Union-Tribune.”

The author cooked up the poll, “Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index” 30 years ago.

Of the most recent edition he noted that, “[W]hen public frustration reaches a tipping point, as it now has, the public starts to develop its own foreign policy – largely in opposition to existing policy. At that point, public opinion counts a great deal and can no longer be ignored. This is one of those times.”

highwayscribery is concerned, above all else, with good and interesting writing (scribery), so we will not wade through a laundry list of poll data. Here are a few high points:

- 60 percent have concluded that being in Iraq has nothing to do with our safety from terrorism;
- 51 percent think the troops should be home within a year and 19 percent say immediately;
- 64 percent “worries a lot” that there are too many casualties associated with the war;
- 70 percent said the U.S. is “too quick to go to war.”

You get the idea. It’s the same idea that got into the scribe’s head when the Angels chose to honor their old reliever Troy Percival instead of terrorize children with roaring F-16s seemingly hurtling toward the upper deck of the stadium.

Apropos of everything said above, there is an international group called Avaaz, which has taken up cudgels in the effort to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

If you read highwayscribery with any regularity, you know we hate Camp Gitmo and the torturing and denial of essential human rights that is standard policy there.

Anyway, sign their petition if you agree with us and them.

In the “liberal blogger” category, is looking to hold a bunch of events nationwide on April 16 with an eye to generating pressure for action on global warming. Read about Gore’s effort here.

Although the presidential sweepstakes train has clearly left the station with frontrunners raising bazillions of dollars in the first quarter of this year, a recent poll of California voters demonstrates that were Gore to enter the race, the current pecking of order of Clinton (41 percent) Obama (28 percent) would be altered markedly to Clinton (31) percent, Gore (25) percent and Obama (21) percent.

And that’s not so odd.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sgt. Gutierrez, Lance Cpl. Olsen

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of San Jacinto Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Agustin Gutierrez of San Jacinto, CA:

"Maria and I are inspired by Specialist Gutierrez's unwavering fortitude in the face of ultimate danger. All Californians are forever grateful for Agustin's sacrifice for our nation. Maria and I extend our sympathies to Agustin's family as they mourn their loss."

Gutierrez, 19, died March 29 as a result of injuries sustained during a non-combat related vehicle accident on March 28 in North Kabul, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

In honor of Sgt. Gutierrez, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Twentynine Palms Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Daniel R. Olsen of Eagan, MN:

"Our hearts go out to the family, friends and fellow Marines of Lance Corporal Daniel Olsen as they mourn the loss of a valiant patriot. Daniel gallantly served our nation with courage and resolve. Maria and I offer our prayers to his family during this difficult time."

Olsen, 20, died April 2 as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, CA.

In honor of Lance Cpl. Olsen, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Republic of Vermont

The United States of America, on paper, is an excellent idea.

Like all pure notions, however, the reality does not always live up to the dream.

Before right-wingers start screaming for the scribe’s head or immediate deportation to foreign shores (or airport tarmacs), let’s be clear: We should all, always, be striving toward, “a more perfect union.”

Those who claim some kind of perfection already exists are not really living in this country, rather in what they fancy it to be, which is not okay.

the scribe has been sitting on a very interesting piece published in the “Washington Post” over the weekend entitled “The Republic of Vermont.”

It is something of a radical manifesto of secession and how it got into a mainstream paper of record is as much a mystery to him as to you.

But it makes for interesting reading, the primary gist being that the United States, or its government, as currently constituted, has drifted far afield from the intentions of those who founded it, and that Vermont, with its hoary old town meetings, is much closer to the real thing and itching to break away from the Federal Frankenstein and continue a purer democratic experiment.

Here are some salient arguments from the second paragraph penned by Ian Baldwin and Frank Bryan:

“Over the past 50 years, the U.S. government has grown too big, too corrupt and too aggressive toward the world, toward its own citizens and toward local democratic institutions.”

highwayscribery likes the sound of that and couldn’t agree more.

“Vermont,” their reasoned rant continues, “did not join the Union to become part of an empire.”

And the scribe does not like owing back taxes to pay for that empire when he has needs much closer to home and more personal. It’s likely, when viewed from this rather selfish perspective, you might find an opening in your mind for some of the arguments put forward by these worthy gentleman.

And that’s what the possessive individualists, Locke and Rousseau, had in mind when configuring a society that would harness our self-interests to the benefit of the commonweal.

Here’s a little bit of Vermont history:

“A decade before the War of Independence, Vermont became New England’s first frontier, settled by pioneers escaping colonial bondage who hewed settlements across a lush region whose spine is the Green Mountains.”

Steeped in nostalgia for olden times, the scribe shivers at the idea of a world so empty and so rich in land that if you didn’t like the way things were run, there was a place to go where you could run them yourself. O Pioneers!

Continuing their Vermont-centric lecture, the writers noted that, “These independent folk brought with them what Henry David Thoreau called the ‘true American Congress’ -- the New England town meeting, which is still the legislature for nearly all of Vermont’s 237 towns. Here every citizen is a legislator who helps fashion the rules that govern the locality.”

How many of us can say the same about our civic participation and the configuration of our home state’s polity?

The next few paragraphs denounce the extant of America’s far-flung world interests and the lack of input most of us have (other than our tax dollars) in the administration of those interests. The analysis, once again, is a revolutionary one rooted in the Farewell Address of George Washington.

Remember him?

Neither do those running the country over the past few decades, infer Baldwin and Bryan, who continue with a fascinating history of discordance between their remarkable and independent state and the federal government.

They close the litany of disagreements with a 1985 tiff over a federal mandate to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21. Vermont wasn’t interested, fully confident its 18-year olds knew when to say “when.”

President Rayguns, who the scribe loathed then and now, blackmailed the state, threatening to withhold federal money for repairing highways. Vermont took the case all the way to those friends of the people, the United States Supreme Court, and lost.

Sound familiar?

Here in California, the state’s voters passed a law at the ballot box legalizing marijuana for medical use, but have not been spared the ugly site of mustachioed DEA stormtroopers raiding small operations run by aging hippies as if they were outlets for Al-Qaeda recruitment.

Who invited them to party?

the scribe used to blog on the issue of medical marijuana, but has stopped because, quite frankly, he’s afraid of the government, which Gore Vidal noted quite some time ago, has ceased to be our friend.

"It's simple," say the Vermonters, "The United States has destroyed the 10th Amendment, which says that, 'powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively."

highwayscribery recommends you read the piece which details the state’s growing secession movement and the arguments upon which it is based.

And Don’t Tread On The Highway Scribe.