Thursday, November 20, 2003

The Britney Spears Phenomenon

I don't get Britney Spears. She's the one we watched grow up on videos, right? She started out as a little girl on one of the star search shows. She's done well since then. I heard she heads a $200 million empire with dozens of employees. I watched her the other night as she was interviewed by Diane Sawyer. She came across as vacuous, sensitive, nice, trailer park White version of Michael Jackson except maybe not as perverted--yet.

Yeah, but can she sing? I'm not sure that's a requirement. Consider Bob Dylan. She's interesting though. I watched for 30 minutes before my mind wandered on to more important things. After 30 minutes I didn't know any more about her music than I did when I started watching. I know that she's rich, pretty, well known and widely recognized. If she lived next door I'd like her. So, enough about me and my lack of relationship with Britney.

One of the blogs on my list to the right is Toby. He reviewed Britney's new album for his college newspaper. It's very insightful. I never realized. Toby, you are so in the zone!

Thursday, November 13, 2003

A Letter from West Virginia

Not exactly a letter, but my blog cousin, Sara, over at Hillbilly Sophisticate, is my single source for commentary about Jessica Lynch, our reluctant heroine. I agree with Sara. I thought Jessica was very composed, and surprisingly well spoken for someone not used to being in the public eye and speaking a lot. Diane Sawyer has always reeked of empathy, so she would have been my choice of all of the news models with whom we are familiar.

Have we learned anything from this entire episode? Probably not, but it is a cautionary tale.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Prayers placed gently upon the wind

A long time ago when my life was in a period of extreme turmoil, I was touched by an angel. Out of nowhere, I ran into a wall of calm. It was a profound experience. I never forgot the name of the person in the center of all that calm. I've always wondered what became of him. Last week I asked the gods of Google if they knew. They did.

I think the year was 1969, maybe 70, and Ben Torrey was about 18, maybe 19, fresh from Korea where he had been living with his parents at a primitive Christian community in the mountains of central Korea. It was called Jesus Abbey. This boy man radiated empathy and calm, as yet unspoiled by the American common culture. I think I was struck dumb. I've never forgotten him nor the impact I felt from just meeting him.

It was like getting a postcard from God telling me "oh by the way, you remember that nice young man you're always praying for? Well, he's doing pretty good. Just thought you'd like to know." Of course I wrote to him in an expression of my joy at having the opportunity to know that he was doing well.

Thanks, God. Ya' know, God, he's one of your better efforts.

Friday, November 07, 2003

The Right Christians

This is my favorite new blog this week. I'll tell more when I know more about them.

Obscure Bible Passage of the Day: Jeremiah 12:1-3

You will be in the right, O Lord, when I lay charges against you; but let me put my case to you. Why does the way of the guilty prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? You plant them, and they take root; they grow and bring forth fruit; you are near in their mouths yet far from their hearts. But you, O Lord, know me; You see me and test me—my heart is with you. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter.(NRSV)

Jeremiah wonders whether justice will ever come.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

The Week-end

The fund raiser came off without a hitch and was enjoyed by all. My gumbo was fabulous, even if I say so myself. The boudin balls were a delightful surprise to my little group of California foodies. Ain't nothing like discovering a new food to make them go nuts. The weakest link in the dinner was the crab cocktails, but no one sticks their nose up at a generous serving of crab. I made Helen Corbitt's cocktail sauce which was a nice touch. Dessert was a freezer version of keylime pie.

Friday night, however, my car died. My poor old cadillac. I was cruising down Oak Street in San Francisco and suddenly every light on the dash came on, and there are a lot of them. I was warned that the engine was overheating, my electrical system was failing and then my power steering went out. I was sure the car was doomed.

Okay, when the car died Friday night, I parked it and walked away from it. I gave the s.o.b. to the universe. I refused to go near it on Saturday (NOT that I had time, but I didn't anyway). On Sunday I went into San Francisco and checked on it. It was fine. No parking tickets, depsite the fact that it was in a location that warned that street cleaning occurred daily. I did notice that there was a lack of signs of extreme motor duress. So, I blessed it again and promised I'd be back.

On Monday morning, I checked in with it again and still no tickets. At that point in time, if the rules had been followed, I could have had as many as a dozen parking tickets. Is that a sign from God or what? I called Triple A and had it towed to a garage recommended by the tow truck driver. It was close by. They took it in, diagnosed the problem, called me within an hour with an estimate, and by 4 o'clock, had my car ready. Bear in mind, I was ready to walk away from it as a hopeless and expensive cause. I did not blow the engine, I only lost a waterpump. So, once again, I have a car. I am so happy.

Well, not entirely. Do you ever do computer dating? I'm registered with several: Yahoo Singles, Chicago Singles, Planet Out (or some such shit), and occasionally I run ads on Craigs List. I'm not always sure I'm looking for someone, but as long as I'm single, I dutifully put bait on the hook and cast the line. About the only ads I never answer are the ones who are looking for a hairy chested alpha male. I am defintely not that, and besides, that's what I'm looking for. But I love to meet people. It's like an old fisherman who talks to everyone he sees. Since we're all looking for fish, we do have something in common and something to talk about.

So I answered an ad of this real cute guy who, by his own admission likes my stories, enjoys my writing, blah, blah, blah, but feels it necessary to write to me and tell me that our "chemistry" is not right. Excuse me? What chemistry? We haven't met yet. How can one determine "chemistry"? I think he wasn't honest in his ad, and that annoys me. A lot of guys won't say that they're only interested in White men, so they write an ad that is inclusive and then they just don't respond to Blacks. Same with HIV, same with age. Oh, well. Next?

Friday, October 24, 2003


Sounds kind of pretentious to say it, but it means different things to different people. How about, I had an epiphany? Well, walking to work the other morning, suddenly, a light went off in my head. Oh. And I can couch it it buddhist terms, christian terms, California-new-age-let's-all-feel-good terms, but in the language of my people, I figgered something out. I figured out how to let go of some of the struggle. A weight was lifted off of my shoulders. A close friend dismissed it by saying it was just my drugs kicking in, but that's not true. It is true that I had a third cup of coffee that morning, but it was more than that.

For the past few months, I've been less energetic than usual. OH, hell, I was seriously depressed. Wasn't nothing wrong with me as far as I could tell. I was a year older and fatter, working at a dead-end job that I'm trying to milk out another half dozen years, have lost interest in a sexual relationship of any sort, what could I possibly have to be depressed about? On top of that, I felt like I was skiing down an expert slope and I'm a beginner. Everything was going a little too fast and I felt that I was in the last turn instead of the next. There was this layer of anxiety. I didn't feel like I could pull it off. I was losing control.

Control is an illusion, anyway, right? I have no control over anything. Never had. I surrendered that illusion Tuesday morning while walking to work. With that surrender came the most peaceful feeling. I'm three days into it, and maybe it won't last out the week and I'll go back to that steep slope, but I don't think so. But even if I do, I won't be quite as afraid as I was two or three weeks ago.

Tomorrow I'm cooking gumbo for 16 people I don't know. I donated a gumbo supper/cooking demonstration to my girlfriend's choral group, the San Francisco Choral Society. Usually we sell 4 slots for about $50 each. It's a total win-win situation. I get to have nice people come over for a smart party where I get to entertain in my best Louisiana or Texas accent, show off my china and silver, regale them with tales of my life on the bayous "back home." The choral society gets a $200 cash gift, the people get a lesson in making gumbo, and we have one fun afternoon. I play cajun music, ply them wine, and real good food. This year, a couple who bought tickets, asked if they could invite their cooking club along, adding 10 to the count. That's $800 to the chorus and oh, my god, I've got a crowd coming over to eat.

I've noticed that when one is depressed that their house cleaning skills seem to be one of the first things to go. I looked around my house and thought, oh my god, I can't let people see this mess. Then I remembered Tuesday's epiphany and thought, people aren't necessarily looking at the things you're pointing to. Sometimes they're just looking at you point. You know, I think my place is charming, just as it is. Is it a mess? No, I prefer to think it has a "lived in" feeling to it. Those people are coming to taste my gumbo, not to judge my housekeeping. (I will clean the cabinets, floors and bathrooms and put out flowers, but that's it! The tub doesn't need to be scrubbed--no one's going to be taking a bath, ya' know?)

I'm cooking chicken and sausage gumbo. The reason it takes a cooking lesson to cook gumbo right, is because you can't start with a recipe and do a traditional gumbo unless someone has showed you how. Why? Because you wouldn't know if you got it right or not. It's not because it's hard to do.

My families started arriving in Louisiana in the late 1780's, about 20 years behind the Cajuns, following them into the back bayous of southwestern Louisiana. It didn't take ten years to begin seeing our names marrying theirs. We immediately became part of Louisiana's fusion of culture. I'm pretty sure my people, the Ashworths and Perkins and Clarks and Drakes and Bunches and a dozen others, reflected the Scots-Irish culture of backcountry South Carolina. Cooking was at best primitive. Meat would probably be stewed or fried. Bread would be corn pone. It is doubtful that they even had sourdough. Next to the Cajuns we were primitives. We were also Baptist and they were Catholic, but still there was intermarriage. Abner and William Ashworth, the sons of Keziah Dial and James Ashworth, married Cajun women: Abner to Rosalie Gallier, and William to Deliede Gallier. Thank god for it, too, because the cooking in our family got good, quickly.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

How Stupid is Stupid?

I gotta ask this question.

Here's the set-up: there's this guy who feels a connection to bears. He's an amateur, but he's had a modicum of success in marketing his connection. I don't imagine he's a bad guy, just a little obsessed to the point of lacking a certain ability to stay rooted in reality. I mean the potential has always been there. It always is when someone successfully markets an avocation.

Okay, this guy's name is Timothy Treadwell, and according the L.A. Times. I'm going to link to the Times story, but you have to register with them in order to read it, so don't be afraid. Anyway, this dude has a reputation with the Park Service up there as not having a realistic attitude about the bears, and in their opinion, he takes too many chances. Make that took too many chances, cause, he's daid now. He was eat by a bear.

But that's not why I'm writing about stupid. By cruel irony and coincidence, we have an audio recording of his last moments. ("Chomp, chomp, chomp.") I apologize to anyone who's sensibilities I offend with this.

"...the tape begins with sounds of Treadwell screaming that he is being attacked and calling for help to Huguenard [Treadwell's companion whom we are given to believe was his girlfriend], who was apparently still inside a tent.

"It's obvious that the attack was going on before the tape was turned on," said Wilkinson, who then repeated quotes from the tapes.

"Come out here; I'm being killed out here," Treadwell said.

"Play dead!" Huguenard yelled in reply.

"That strategy is commonly used to pacify angry bears in an attack. But Treadwell told Huguenard the strategy wasn't working and she then urged him to "fight back."

"Treadwell, who never carried weapons [emphasis mine], then asked her to get a pan and to hit the bear, police said.

"At that point, the tape stops. Much of it is fuzzy or inaudible . . . .

We are left assuming that she grabbed a frying pan and went after a thousand pound grizzily. More probably? I don't know. Did she try playing dead in the tent only to have the bear rip it apart to get to her? What do you think she did? What would you have done?

But do you understand my question? How stupid is stupid?

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

What Do Conservatives Want for Us?

In a op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal today, Andrew Sullivan asks If it's not a crime to be gay, why can't we get married? I don't know, Andrew, they're your friends. Be sure to tell us what the answer is.

Meanwhile, back in Texas, a Republican state senator says to one of the Democrats, "If you're going to act like Mexicans, then you're going to be treated like them." (via Eric Alterman)

Now let's talk about California's recall. So long, Gray, hello Arnold. Eric Alterman sums it up well for me. Quoting Eric, "This is a lesson to Democrats everywhere. Don’t think you can win if you ignore your base. They will ignore you back. . . . If Arnold makes politics fun and interesting again, well then, I’m all for it. And if he screws up the state horribly, well then, tough luck. You people [we] voted for him."

Maybe Robert Rosencrantz can get a break now. The Governor-elect understands that people sometimes deserve a second chance. That seems to be something that Davis never understood.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

The Collapse of the Enron Presidency

Josh Marshall uses a business metaphor to examine the Bush Presidency.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The Debate

What a bunch of crap. The moderator should have been given a switch enabling him to turn off microphones. I tuned out after about ten minutes, screaming at the tv for all of them to "shut the fuck up!" Ms. Huffington both impressed me with her dogged determedness and annoyed me with her lack of manners. She didn't get my vote, though. I'm not sure what the purpose of her being there was. I think she was there because she can afford to be. She's promoting Ariana, and she's doing it well.

Big winner: Arnold Schwartzenegger. He didn't look any more stupid than everyone else there. Second place was Ariana Huffington who was offered a part in Terminator IV.

Big loser: well, there were two. Tom McClintock, who looked almost like a senior statesman in the first debate, was invisible next to Arnold. All of his common sense was drowned out by the fireworks between Arianna and Arnold. Second big loser: Ariana Huffington who came across so caustic that she won no converts and made Peter Camajo look like a reasonable candidate.

I would like Peter Camajo if he were running as a Democrat. Unfortunately for him, he is running as a Green, and I am having to take medicene on a daily basis because George W. Bush is President of these United fucking States. If Ralph Nader hadn't been such an ass, we would be living in a different world. As for the Greens, they're a sad joke of would-be hippies who fart, think it's righteous, and call it singing. I am simply not interested. The whole country is being FUCKED right now because of their Bobo self-righteousness. Screw them. Peter Camajo might sound normal were it not for his association with those people.

Okay, today's prediction. The recall fails. What a bunch of clowns we witnessed tonight. Gray Davis looked down right reasonable in comparison. Tomorrow his numbers will go up. I'm still voting no on recall and I'm voting for Garrett Greuner, just in case. If it ain't Davis, give me someone who hasn't been tainted by this shit fest.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Living with Depression

You know you're depressed when your co-workers send you a get well card that says "by a vote of 10 to 5, we wish you a speedy recovery."

My hmo has a book they give you to help you figure out what's wrong with you so you can have the answers to the questions they're going to ask you when you call them to find out what's wrong with you. Anyways, I looked up depression in their book, and after checking five on a list of eight, I shut the book saying to myself, "what the fuck do they know."

Yeah, well maybe I'm not alone in this. How can any liberal not be depressed these days? Our common sense tells us that no one in this country is going to vote for a party made up of depressed people. Ain't going to happen. And liberals know that. So, fuck yeah, I'm depressed.

Still, retiring to a quaint and picturesque monastery where you can just grow roses and meditate isn't really an option, what with reality demanding attention and all. We all have to maintain. It ain't easy. For some of us, it's more difficult that it should be. My depression is beginning to debilitate me. I am less able to keep my opinion to myself than I need to be. I just want to be left alone. The problem with that is that I work in a service position, and if my services aren't utilized, then my labor needs to be refocused, i.e., reassigned.

The problem with that is that I'm a house servant, and the master will put me out in the field picking cotton if I don't straighten up and get along with the missus and the kids. You see, I'm a secretary to fifteen attorneys, most of whom respect me, several of whom like me, a couple to whom I'm very close. There are 12 women and 3 men. The three men are straight. Of the 12 women, 2 are lesbian and 1 is asexual. I have known most of them for over ten years. At different times, I have thought each of them fascinating. This is not one of those times. And three of them despise me for breathing the same air as they.

My boss thinks I have an "edge." After giving it some thought, I agree with her. I've made an appointment to talk to my primary care physician about a referral to a psychologist and a prescription for an anti-depressant. Maybe drugs will even me out. God knows, the political situation for America and the world doesn't look very promising. This could be a long haul.

So there, I've come out and said it. I'm depressed and I'm going to get help. As for politics, I'll try to get zen about it. It's all cyclical. This too shall pass.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Photograph of the Day

Well, two of them actually. This for art's sake (via Magpie), and then This for the sake of art (via Chris Paul).

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Happy Birthday, Mama.

Born this day, 13 September 1888, Minnie Ashworth Droddy, the first daughter of Amos Owen Ashworth and Mary Heard. She married Joseph William Droddy about 1905, I can't remember exactly. She had 8 children, 16 grandchildren, and after that I lose count. We buried her in 1986, but she never died. She lives in our hearts, our minds, our souls. She lives.

From Vietnam to Iraq

This is from Col. Mike Turner writing for Newsweek. Impeach Bush now. No, wait, that'll take too long. Let's just vote his ass out next year.

And from the Philadelphia Daily News, Twenty Questions about 9-11 to which I'd like to know the answers.

And to my friends and family that ignore the questions and continue to shill for our draft-dodging President, never mind me, but ask the questions aloud and answer them in your heart. If you acquiesce and refuse to even ask the questions, you become accomplices in this tragedy. Shame.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

From Eric Alterman

It is posted here with a loud amen.

"It’s a solemn day. Everyone is a bit quieter today in New York. The sky is as crystal blue as it was two years ago, when al-Qaida blew a hole in my neighborhood and killed almost 3,000 of my neighbors. Since that time our unelected draft-dodging president has:

"1) Failed to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.

"2) Failed to dismantle al-Qaida.

"3) Alienated the only countries that have had any success against al-Qaida.

"4) Ignored the connections between al-Qaida and Pakistan and al-Qaida and Saudi Arabia.

"5) Failed to oust the Taliban from Afghanistan.

"6) Failed to bring peace and security to Afghanistan.

"7) Failed to confront real security threats like vulnerable chemical and nuclear plants.

"8) Stretched our military so thin that we are once again unable to adequately react to emergencies.

"9) Occupied a country that offered no threat to the security of the United States.

"10) Passed the cost of that occupation on to my yet-to-be-conceived children.

"11) Absolved the richest Americans from financial responsibility for this hubris and folly.

"12) Made the poorest Americans once again pay the ultimate price for hubris and folly.

"13) Failed to support New York City and State when they needed the most help.

"14) Supported security efforts in Montana with more per-capita funding than either New York or California.

"15) Turned his back on the police officers and firefighters who saw their brothers and sisters run up the stairs of the Twin Towers as everyone else was running down.

"16) Lied repeatedly to the American people and the world about the state of risk and security."

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Hey, Gray!
What did you learn today?

I missed the governor's part of the debate. The synopsis I heard and read sounded like an opera singer warming up: "me me me me me!" He's going to try to stay more in tune with us. What the fuck does that mean? What's he going to do about the fucking budget mess? A mess, I might ad, is his by virtue of the fact that he's the fucking governor. Yeah, Gray, remember that snide remark about the Legislature and the justices implementing your vision? Well, claim the budget as your own, asshole.

Can you tell I don't like Gray Davis? Okay, and as an additional disclaimer, Free Robert Rosencrantz, now!

What an asshole is our illustrious governor. Yet, reluctantly I am voting against the recall because those asshole Republicans cannot be allowed to win this fight. It's not that I want the Democrats to win, I just don't want the Republicans to win. They're dangerous.

Just in case the recall passes, I will vote for someone to complete Davis's term. Swartzenegger is a sad joke, swaggering around the state as a characature of himself, uttering movie lines as if he was Ronald Regan. Bustamante, taking money and opportunity as it presents itself, sees his opportunity for the big time. First thing he does is take $2 million from the casinos, just to send the message that everything will return to normal, only he'll be the one getting the big bucks. How cynical is that?

I liked Ueberroth the best. It's jobs! jobs! jobs! Fewer jobs, fewer taxes. It's going to take someone thinking outside the box. Sorry, Camejo, but you didn't tell me how you were going to convince the two political parties how to implement your revolution. Mrs. Huffington sounded a bit tinny, don't you think? McClintock didn't convince me that he wanted anything to succeed other than no new taxes. If every kid in this state went hungry and was thrown out of school, McClintock would call it natural selection. I find myself fundamentally opposed to that concept. It is in the interest of society to maximize the contribution of its citizenry by enabling them to better themselves, read education, healthcare, affordable housing. The list is longer, but you get my drift.

Vote no on the recall and then for your conscience. Right now, I'm voting for this guy.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003


I was surfing through the blogosphere this afternoon, and decided to stop by and see what Holden Caulfield's Lover was up to. After the first paragraph I felt as though I had been hit in the chest, and the air knocked from my body. Earlier in the summer, Holden treated us to a candid account of a love affair with a young man whom he called "Hero." It became clear early on in the relationship that there was no place for it to go. Hero came from a place of need. There is never enough to fill that void. Given time, the person with the need can make it go away, but it's not easy, and this time, there wasn't enough time.

I feel bad for Holden, but he'll be okay. He has friends who care for him, and that's the best medicene I can think of right now.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Bay Area Rapid Transit

I depend on BART to get me to work daily, and occasionally I use it to get to other places in the San Francisco Bay Area for personal reasons. It works amazingly well. I live about a mile and a half from the MacArthur BART station which is walking distance. I have resented the way MacArthur station has been maintained from the beginning of my experience with it.

This is what it looks like.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Seen Mars yet?

You do know that it's going to be so close that you can almost reach out and touch it? That close. You do have to stay up till midnight, but it's a once in a 60,000 year sight, so plan on staying up on Thursday and finding some dark sky. Here's a list of places to see the Angry Red Planet.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

There's this guy over on a blog called Ross Judson: Sprial Dive. He's a good read. He wrote this today and I happen to agree with him.

"The Right Hates America"

"They hate the prospect that gay people might get married. They hate dissent. They hate any form of criticism of their ruling party. They hate the separation between church and state. They hate a woman's right to choose. They hate being forced to choose between a clean environment and corporate welfare. They hate the prospect of losing their guns. They hate being asked to sacrifice anything past racism has given them. They hate the idea that market forces might not be uber alles, because that invalidates a great deal. They hate people who demand some form of proof that their policies work, people who don't share their faith. They hate people who commit crimes but also hate people who don't commit them, by supporting the death penalty for innocent people. They hate people who are committed to principals, instead of probability-driven lives (as in, I probably won't get falsely arrested and, well, if someone does, they probably did something else wrong, or it's just their tough luck)." -Something to Think About ...

Wednesday, August 20, 2003


My maternal grandmother, Minnie Ashworth Droddy, did not tell stories as much as she "remembered." Living with her all of her life was her eldest daughter, Elsie, who was simple. I want to remember Elsie also, but that's for another story. My grandmother and Elsie could remember the most incredible details of their lives. Because mostly what they remembered occurred in the late 1800s and early 1900s, I sometimes feel as though I have one foot in this century and the other foot in that one. Only now, I have a third century to factor into the analogy, and I'm out of feet, so I'm going to drop it for right now.

Mama and Elsie remembered life when it was simple. Poor, but simple. Between them they could recount the genealogy of individuals I considered total strangers at the time of meeting. They could remember the intricacies of kinship. They didn't always remember things in the same way, and they didn't always end the subsequent argument in agreement.

As a child, I sat through these regressions and discussions and arguments, sometimes paying attention, more often not. I cannot remember the details. I told my sister I was willing to be hypnotized so that someone could get me to channel either my grandmother or my aunt Elsie because you know in the recesses of my mind there are some delicious stories.

Even without channeling or hypnosis, I think the details of their remembering color my perception of life today, and do absolutely lend detail to my ability to imagine our stories. I don't remember as much as I tell stories, richly detailed with vague recollections of my grandmother and aunt fussing with each other about the specific details.

After the Civil War, the dominant White society lost its impetus to keep expanding the definition of Black. Since we had never identified ourselves with Blacks, we continued to identify ourselves as White. Another generation and the core was not quite as dark as the generation before it, and the edges were lighter still. By the time of the birth of my grandmother in 1888, the only place the core remained dark were in the tiny homelands: DeQuincy, Starks, Lunita, Singer, DeRidder; places like that. Those Ashworths and Perkins and Basses and Hoosiers and Clarks and Johnsons living on the perimeter, now thought of themselves as White without having to worry about fighting about it. By 1890 and 1900, they were no longer being listed as Mulatto on the census. When communities became wealthy enough to have schools, Redbones went to White schools. Race was no longer a legal issue. From now on, the game would be played by different rules.

The Civil War

Since almost all of my first 17 years of education were in the South, I was never taught anything that resembled reality regarding the Texas Revolution, the Mexican War of 1845, or the Civil War. Nothing. Nada. Zip. I was taught mythology as history. There was always a right and wrong side, and we were always right. There's something to be said for creating mythologies. Damn, sometimes I hate how reality has to devastate mythology. The way it happens is personal.

For me, I discovered that I probably wasn't descended from plantation folks, but rather from folks that the plantation folks would just as soon have turned into Black slaves. Damn, but that makes it personal.

Then once you start looking at the details, you notice other aberations. For instance, my great-grandfather (mother's father) and his brother were both charged with desertion from the Confederate forces. The ggguncle, was also charged with being a "copperhead." After becoming aware of that fact, I read where they were not alone in their reactions and behavior from the other "crackers" of central Louisiana.

Not all of the Ashworths that could serve in the war, did. Quite a few managed to avoid it. Quite a few others did serve. Whether they were drafted or volunteered is one of those details still hidden to history. In the mythology of Southern history, there isn't even a mention of a draft, except in reference to the North, where it was always coupled with a footnote remembering the fact that one could buy their way out. Well, let me tell you, friends and neighbors, just like the marines drafted boys from our families during Vietnam, the South drafted our boys to fight for slavery.

If I sound bitter about this, it's because I am. In the bloody South, if you owned, or your family owned, more than 100 slaves, you were exempt from service because it just wouldn't be prudent to leave all those women folk alone with all those slaves. Since my families, for the most part, never owned slaves, they had to go be cannon fodder for the rich kids. Sort of like George W. Bush, our beloved president, did in Vietnam. He stayed home out of harms way. Hasn't stopped him from sending other boys to harms way, has it.

But I digress. I can only imagine how the Ashworth cousins dealt with the Civil War. Don Marler, in his recently published book, The Louisiana Redbones, says that we are a violent culture. Violent rather than warlike. Individuals are violent, cultures are warlike. I believe that we were a group of outcasts as opposed to a culturally defined group, or as my grandpa mght have said, "just because we're all outlaws doesn't mean we belong to the same gang." Given another hundred years, we might have become a more distinct subculture, but since we never thought of ourselves as anything but White, we kept assimilating. Our core might have been dark, but our edges kept getting Whiter and Whiter.

To the extended Ashworth families, the darker core seemed to have avoided the war, and those along the edges were more likely to have participated.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Fair and Balanced

Fox News is suing Al Franken for appropriating the words "fair and balanced" which Fox says they own. How the fuck does one own words of common usage? And of all of the news organizations, Fox is the least fair and the least balanced. They shill for the Bush administration. They are offensive to everyone with any taste.

They are not the first. The widow of one of the men killed while mythologicalling slaying the dragon and saving the kingdom wanted to trademark the phrase "Let's Roll."

McDonalds owns the phrase "Mc." Pity the small restauranteur whose name is McDonald.

The Left side of the blogosphere is taking up this cause. Probably for the wrong reasons, but it matters not to me why you hate my enemy as long as you hate my enemy. Today we are friends because we have the same enemy.


I'm going to start refering to the different generations of Ashworths and their cousins simply using the word "cousins" instead of the Ashworths, their cousins, and their friends. There are some who would call this group of cousins and friends "Redbones." I prefer the word cousins because I'm not sure when people started calling us Redbones. And since even to this day it is considered an offense for someone not a Redbone or not your cousin to call you one. I'm pretty sure we just called ourselves White. There is no record of being racially limited while Texas was a Mexican state. They were accepted by their neighbors in Texas as equals. It was only after the Southerners formed a government of anglos did the racial issue arise, and then almost immediately. Cousins were not allowed to join the Texian militia. This was the beginning.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Sam Ashworth

In the summer of 1856, tensions between the Ashworths and those Whites who felt the Ashworths should be eliminated came to a head when an Ashworth was accused of stealing hogs by a White man. The young man's cousin, Sam Ashworth, when getting the young man out of jail, had an exchange of words with a White man. Family tradition says the man, by the name of Deputy, called Sam a "hog stealin' nigger." Sam called him out, probably promising to whip his sorry ass right there on the spot in front of God and neighbor. Deputy declined, but went to the justice of the peace and swore a warrant out for Sam for "talking sass to a White man." Sam had to appear in court on the charge. First it had to be proved that Sam was indeed a non-White. The evidence consisted of White people getting on the stand and saying they knew Sam to have some Black blood in him somewhere in his distant genealogy. That was it. Sam was found guilty and sentenced to be publicly whipped.

Sam was allowed to escape from jail by the sheriff who himself was allied more with the Ashworths than the White parties. Sam went off down the swamp and stayed with relatives. Well, story goes, a bunch of the boys, first cousins for the most part, got drunk and Sam decided he was going to have a little instant justice for himself. He and his first cousin, Jack Bunch, took their guns and put out in a pirogue on Cow Bayou looking for the man who started the whole ruckus, Deputy.

He came along soon enough and Sam and Jack intercepted him. I imagine Sam told the s.o.b. to get right with God, and then shot him. The other man in the boat escaped and went back to town with a story about being ambushed by Sam Ashworth and Jack Bunch. A mob formed demanding the sheriff arrest the two and bring them back to town for hanging. The sheriff dutifully went out looking for Sam and Jack, staying out several days before coming back in saying he couldn't find hide nor hair of them, and that they must of fled the state back over to the Neutral territory which was now a part of Louisiana, but still another jurisdiction.

The mob decided to go out on their own and look for Sam and Jack. They went to the homes of other Ashworths and their cousins and proceeded to burn their homes and barns. The Ashworths and their cousins formed their own posse and burned a few barns of their own. After a few weeks of this, the state sent in its authority whether by Rangers or militia is uncertain, but the State's authority came down against the Ashworths who were forced to flee Texas.

Jack and Sam had taken refuge, not in the Neutral Territory, but San Antonio where Jack was recognized and arrested. He was brought back to Beaumont where he was tried and hanged. Sam was never captured. He later died serving in the Army of the Confederacy at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. (I can't remember right now. I'll come back later and fill in the blanks.)

About Race

Someone once said to me when I protested being considered African-American that it was no shame being Black. I quickly responded, "It's no honor either, especially if you're not."

I don't mind that history says I descend from Texas' most famous Black family. What I object to was that all it took to convict us of being Black in the early 1800s was an accusation. Not that we were afforded the opportunity to defend against the accusation, but how does one disprove something as nefarious as the race of your great-grandparents? That was then and this is now, right? Wrong. Now, 150 to 200 years later, contemporary historians are validating the racist, kangaroo courts of the early 19th century by saying yes, indeed, we were Black, without the addition of a single piece of evidence. That's what bugs me the most about this argument.
Texas, continued

Colored Outside the Lines

When Texas was a part of Mexico, the Ashworths were no different from their American neighbors. They obtained land, managed herds of cattle and hogs, and lived in relative peace with their neighbors. Some of their neighbors may have considered them "Not White," but few mentioned it to their face. Racism as a state institution may have been coming into being, but its enforcement required one to be able to shoot and fight, and few challenged the manpower of the Ashworths and their allied families or their willingness to fight to protect what was theirs. My point being, no one called us "niggers" to our face.

But racism in the South was more than just personal animosity, it was enforced by the state. In the 25 years between independence from Mexico and the start of the Civil War, the Ashworths and their allied families fought the attempts by the state to marginalize them. When William Ashworth and Diedre Gallier were charged with cohabitating (their marriage not recognized by the state of Texas), they took their case all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, only to lose. There were 15 indictments returned against the Ashworth family for various offences involving their marriage to Whites. Often they just paid the fines and went on with their lives. More often, they looked to their cousins for spouses. I'm not sure where the line was with cousins, historically, but growing up in East Texas, marriage between first cousins and their offspring were off limits, and between second cousins it was discouraged. My aunt married a second cousin and she and her husband were shunned for the first several years. On the other hand, third cousins were fair game.

When wronged by neighbors, the Ashworths sued; and their neighbors sued them. They were in all respects like their neighbors, just darker. By the laws of the Republic of Texas and subsequently by the State of Texas, people considered non-White were not allowed to own property. The Ashworths owned property; owned slaves, too. We have no record of any of the Ashworths or their allied families voting or running for office. I'm not even sure they could read. They did form churches, White churches.

My point here is not to claim that we didn't have Black blood. Probably we did. Don't know for sure. My question to present day historians, is why do you paint us today with the same racist brush you used 150 years ago?

Here's a group of people, white identified, having few or none of the racial markers characteristic of Blacks, but marginalized by the dominant society with only the accusation of being mixed blood.


Friday, August 15, 2003


My blog cousin, Sara, over at Hillbilly Sophisticate is collecting a list of words which are pronounced uniquely by our hillbilly cultures. (And if you don't think East Texas is populated by hillbillies, just go visit and listen to 'em sometimes.) Here are some East Texas, Westen Louisiana specialties:

Hisn. His
Hern. Hers
Pert near. Close
Batry. Battery
Clum. climbed
Cyore. To cure
Puore. Pure
Pizzen. Poison

We got a bunch more, but this this is Sara's project. I'm jist tossin' in a few of iron.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003


The widow of my father's oldest brother lives on the Sabine River where Nichols Creek empties into it. Her name is Winnie Harden Bridges and she is now 81 years old. I call her Aunt Melvin and have since I was 4. I have no idea why, but I must have been persistent enough for it to stick, and now my siblings and my mother also call her Melvin.

Aunt Melvin is a Roman Catholic. It's an important part of how she sees herself, the world, and everything in between. I think my father was infatuated with her from the first time he met her, shortly before World War II. When he got back from the war, he lived with his oldest brother, Cliff and his new wife, Winnie.

Prior to his being killed in December 1952, my father converted to Catholicism and had all of us children baptised Catholic as well. I can't remember if my mother converted at this time, and neither can she. I've asked. After the death of my father, I lived with my maternal grandmother in East Texas who was a Pentecostal. I cannot bring myself to use the term "holy roller" because it fails to reflect the dignity my grandmother brought to her simple faith.

My grandmother was appalled at the idea that any of her family could embrace Catholicism. Thus began the competition between my Aunt Melvin and my grandmother for my soul which resulted in my being very conflicted about religion from the time I knew there were different churches until I became a Zen Buddhist Jewish Pentecostal Episcopalian several years ago. Suddenly, it all made sense, but that's another story saved for another time.

Anyways, I was talking to my Aunt Melvin and she asks in her simple Bayou drawl, "Raymond, are you going to move back here after you retire?"

"Sugah," says I, "it's hot as hell there most of the time, except when it's freezing. You have every variety of poisonous snake found in North America: rattlesnakes, copperheads, coral snakes and water mocassins. You have not only black widow spiders in abundance, but you also have the deadly brown recluse, and while not deadly, the tarantula is also plentiful. In late summer you have what we called "fuck bugs" that turn the sky black and ruin the finish on your car. Now the are mosquitos, always fierce and abundant, are spreading the West Nile virus. I don't know about you, but I find it disconcerting to see birds dropping dead around you, y'know? Oh, and the fire ants. Deadly fuckers. And wasps. And probably killer bees. And the worsest of them all, the state is populated in large part by redneck assholes. Who else but Texans could be taken in by an upper class, Connecticutt yankee pretending to be a Texan pretending to give a fuck about common people?

But my story is about Texas. The first record of any of my ancestors getting to Texas was a census taken by a Spanish commandante at a camp near what is now Liberty, Texas in 1807. The ancestors from my mother's mother's family, John Aaron Drake, his wife Chastity, and several of their children were among the first American settlers to make it into Texas. They had been in Louisiana for 20 years prior to the excursion into Texas. They went back to Louisiana the following year.

In the early 1830s, the next two branches of my family would enter Texas. One to the north to San Augustine, the other to southeast Texas, to what is now Jefferson and Orange counties.

The part that always amazes me is that they came, they liked the place and they stayed. Well, I don't know how much they liked the place, but they did stay. They made history, in that their story is the story of Texas. They were players, all of them.

My great-great-great-grandmother's brother, Alexander Horton, was Aide-de-Camp to General Sam Houston. His brother-in-law, my ggggrandfather, Colonel James Whitis Bulloch, a veteran of the war of 1812, led Texian volunteers who attacked and liberated Nacogdoches 4 years before the fall of the Alamo. This is my father's mother's mother's family.

My mother's mother's people, the Ashworths, fled South Carolina around 1803 to Louisiana. Fled being the operative word here. If I were to speculate as to their reason for abandoning South Carolina where my gggggrandfather, James Ashworth, had received a land grant from the English Crown in 1774, I'd probably guess it had something to do with James showing up in the record books as a Tory serving under British command during the American Revolution. Did you know there were over 100,000 Tory refugees who fled the Southern colonies alone following the American Revolution. That was by boat. Probably a lot more, like my family, just moved West. The new nation was not very forgiving to those who had opposed its quest for independence. There was a lot of revenge taking.

James Ashworth's problem was further complicated by the fact that he was a mixed blood, probably Indian and White, although family lore always claimed our swarthiness came from our "Portygee" roots and our Indian grandmother on the Perkins side of the family. I think the Indian Grandmother of our family mythology was Esther Perkins. In the stories of several of my kindred families, the Indian Grandmother is obviously one single character. In Richard Maxwell Brown's book, The South Carolina Regulators, James Ashwroth is described as dark and swarthy with black hair. It also goes on to say that he had a "t" branded in his hand for "breaking out of jail." Odd choice of letters, but I bet he preferred a simple "t" to "BOOJ."

James married Keziah Dial also of South Carolina. Family tradition says that Keziah was an Indian, but I discount this. That she was part Indian I'm pretty certain, but subtle evidence suggests that Keziah's family (who came to Louisiana with the Ashworths) were White identified. For example, Keziah's mother, Elizabeth Hill Dial, sued her sons for failing to support her after the death of their father. That was the action of someone who considered themselves White.

When the Ashworths left South Carolina, they were all White. By the time of the next census, 1810, over half had become "colored." In another 10 years, they were all "colored." My sister says they all just got darker from working in the fields. Good point, but there was something else going on as well.

In 1803, the South was beginning a downward spiral under the weight of racism and slavery. Slavery was not as heavily a race based system in the 18th century as it became in the 19th century. Despite the fact that its not taught in American history, there was a lot of enslavement of American Indians by the colonists. By 1800, this resulted in a lot of mixed blood populations. Indian and White. White and Black. Indian and Black. Indian and White and Black. The United States has the peculiar history of being about the only former European colony without a significant population of mestizos. You see, as slavery became more and more a Black thing, Southerners became busier and busier making all mixed bloods eligible for slavery by classifying anyone suspected of having Black blood, Black.

James Ashworth, having taken refuge in a Cherokee village in the northwestern part of the state, gathered his family up and moved to Louisiana. In total, about a dozen families joined James in the migration to Louisiana. They settled in Louisiana in an area called "the Neutral Zone." The Americans claimed Louisiana went as far as the Sabine. The Spanish who had just given Louisiana back to the French, claimed the Calcasieu River about 70 miles to the East of the Sabine as the border. The American and Spanish generals facing each other off decided between themselves to avoid war and just let the outlaws have the land between the rivers until it was worked out. The area quickly filled up with mixed-bloods and outlaws. I'm proud to count both amongst my ancestors.

By the early 1830s, these mixed bloods had coalesced into an identifiable subculture in the remote bayous of Louisiana. They had a reputation of being fierce and violent. Don Marler says this was to make them unattractive as candidates for slavery. They were also part of a larger western migration of small, isolated Indian groups and mixed blood groups moving west towards Texas. Word had gotten out that they were welcome in Texas. The Mexicans supposedly wanted a buffer to the Americans.

They were a formidable people: White identified, but not accepted as such by the dominant White culture. An Army of almost 200 men could be made up of first and second cousins. Probably for that reason, no one ever called the Ashworths or their cousins anything but White to their faces, in Texas and Louisiana, until after the Texas Revolution.

After Texas won its independence, it became a Southern nation and eventually state. Our old enemies from South Carolina were not in charge of the government. They immediately started their war against us, calling us "Niggers" and classifying us as Free Blacks. They denied us the bounty lands given to other Texans for their support in the Revolution, saying Blacks couldn't own property. We fought them in courts, we fought them with force. We could form a "posse" of 200 heavily armed first and second cousins in a relative short time.

In February 1839, Texas passed a law which gave mixed bloods now being called Free Blacks, two years to leave the republic, or risk being sold into slavery. By December, after petitions from the leading citizens of Jefferson County, the legislature passed the Ashworth Act, naming my family specifically as excepted from the harsh provisions of the act.


Thursday, August 07, 2003

Let the Circus Begin!

Arnold Schwarzenegger has joined the race for Replacement Governor in the event of the success of the recall against Gray Davis. He joins about one to two hundred others who think they have as good a shot as anyone else. I'm not writing Davis off just yet. As of right now, he gets to run against chaos, and that does give him an edge.

Schwarzenegger hasn't impressed me with an ability to run the state. Maybe if he'd stop being a caricature of himself I'd take him more seriously. He even ended his press conference with a movie line, "I'll be back." The last time we had a governor who thought being governor amounted to delivering old movie lines was Ronald Reagan who is generally considered to have been a disaster as governor. Maybe he was jealous of his actor-buddy, Jesse Ventura who gets to be called Governor Ventura for the rest of his life. I think he'll get bored too easily.

To all of my fellow Californians, let me remind you that you can have it both ways. Vote against the recall and then for whichever clown you like the most. After the election, Gray will go back to work, a little humbler for the experience, the Republicans will cower down for awhile, and stay out of our face while we try to fix our economy and budget woes.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

On Being a Gay Episcopalian

We have a new bishop, the Right Reverend Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who has just been approved by the House of Bishops. He seems like an ordinary, caring, faith-filled man who speaks softly and with a voice oozing compassion. See anything wrong with this picture? Oh, he's Gay. Well, holy fucking Mary mother of God. What's this "In Your Face" shit from Gays? How dare they take a place at the table that's been reserved for others? Dave Cullen, a writer living over in Denver, in a piece entitled A Bishop of Our Own makes it personal.

Dave has about 4 or 5 postings on the subject. I incorporate all of his posts with this one Amen. Dave's right, it is important to us, and it is personal.

I do want to comment on the accusation by David Lewis that Bishop Robinson "touched" him inappropriately. First, background to the story summarized by Dave. I have a few questions for Mr. Lewis. First, did you get all tingly when he touched you? Did you get physically stimulated? You seemed quite sure it was inappropriate and amounted to sexual harrassment when you emailed the charge to all of the bishops. Are you the slightest bit worried, Mr. Lewis, that your reaction to the Bishop's touch says more about you than it does the Bishop? Maybe you have some issues about your own sexuality.

Amongst us flamboyant homosexuals, we have noticed that some straight men think that homosexuals everywhere are after them. We laugh at their sexual paranoia, and consider the issue to be more about them than about us. Excuse me, Mr. Lewis, but I saw a picture of you and I've seen pictures of Bishop Robinson. Dude, you're not in his league.

I believe in the spiritual idea that God hides her light from no generation. Those who believe that God hasn't revealed herself to humans since the Bible are too silly for words. Maybe their God is dead and hasn't spoken for two thousand years, but mine lives. She lives in me. She lives in the love I have for my family, my friends, my partner(s). She lives, Mr. Lewis, she lives.

Congratulations, Bishop Robinson. Thanks, Dave for your help in expressing the range of feelings about this subject.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Hurricanes and the Planet Mars

This just off the wire, folks. Okay, not off the wire, but from my blog cousin, Sara, whose blog, Hillbilly Sophisticate, alerts us to a request from Rep. Sheila Lee of Houston that the names chosen for hurricanes include names more common in the Black community. Sara snickers at the whole thing by wondering aloud why names more common to West Virginia aren't used.

And just in case Hurricane Kinesha isn't obscuring your view of the sky, comes word that Mars will be the closest to the earth as it has been in recorded history, and may not be this close again for another 60,000 years. Whoa! This is from my cousin who raises horses somewhere in New Mexico. Want to see some pretty horses? Visit Victoria and check out her Tiger Horses. I'll quote her email to me since she didn't provide a link:

"The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest 75-power magnification Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. Mars will be easy to spot. At the beginning of August it will rise in the East at 10 p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m. By the end of August when the two planets are closest, Mars will rise at
nightfall and reach its highest point in the sky at 12:30a.m. That's pretty convenient to see something that no human being has seen in recorded history."

Be there or be square.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Cooking Gumbo

I was at the Famers Market this morning and bought half a pound of the prettiest okra.

I like okra. Not everyone does. Last summer the French kids were over and they fought for the okra cooked in the crowder peas. It impressed the hell out of me. But I'm digressing. I'm talking about gumbo, not French kids and not okra.

For three years now I've donated a gumbo cooking lesson for 4 to the San Francisco Choral Society. It's a huge success. For me, it's a chance to be the center of attention and share a tradition given to me by the women of my family and community from when I was growing up. Although I ate a lot of good gumbo at my grandmother's table, it was Hilda Roberts Marioneaux, a neighbor, who taught me to cook gumbo.

Okra is used in gumbo to thicken the broth. The alternative to okra is file, which is ground sassafras leaves. Bet you didn't know that. Most of the time, I cook gumbo I use file, but this okra was too pretty and I decided I was going to do a chicken and andouille gumbo with okra.

First you make a roux. Using about half a cup of oil and a half a cup of flour, begin stirring in a large cast iron skillet. Does it have to be cast iron? Yes, now hush. Cook the roux slowly, taking your time. We don't want to burn the roux. Used to, I'd get ready to make my roux by freshening up my drink and calling my cousin Sue on the phone.

When the roux is dark brown, and I do mean dark, as dark as brackish swamp water, I add about a cup each of chopped onions, bell pepper and celery. My aunt Winnie calls this the "holy trinity." It with the roux is the basis of 90 percent of Louisiana cooking. Personally, I like the taste of garlic, so I ad about 4 or 5 cloves of chopped garlic and cook it with the rest of the holy trinity.

After about 15 to 20 minutes of cooking the vegetables (I'm calling the holy trinity and the garlic vegetables, so y'all stay with me here), I add about a cup or so (this isn't rocket science) of sliced okra, and continue to cook until the okra is hot, then I add my vegetables to a large soup pot of heated chicken broth (approximately 4 cans). Now, I live in the city, work full time, and have a very busy social schedule, so yes, I use canned chicken broth. If you've got more time than me, make the shit yourself. I don't have time.

At this point, you add the chicken and the sasage, which you have previously sauteed a bit. When I was growing up, the chicken might have been pecking in the yard a couple of hours before I started the gumbo, but see the above paragraph about living in the city and being busy, so now I buy chicken parts. Quick and easy. I especially am fond of chicken thighs. Make it easy on yourself and buy 3 or 4 pounds of chicken thighs, season them, dredge in flour, and saute for a few minutes and they're ready to add to the gumbo. Prepare the sausage by cutting it up into bite sized pieces and searing before adding to the gumbo.

SECRET INGREDIENT: I add about a spoonful of liquid crab boil after everything is in the gumbo. Not more than that 'cause it's hot, very hot. Just about a spoonful.

At this point, everything is in the gumbo. Cook it for about an hour and let it sit for awhile. If I'm doing a dinner party, this is all done in the afternoon. Then I take my nap. Naps are very important. About the time your company arrives, put the rice on to cook (this takes 20 to 30 minutes), and put the gumbo back on the fire at a low heat and bring to its serving temperature.

When the rice is done, we're ready to eat. What kind of bread, you ask? Well, if you're going to be traditional, throw a slice of white bread at them. I prefer to be fancy and will often serve a hot baguette if I haven't had time to make cornbread. My people are bayou people, without pretention to being French. We're a lot more likely to serve cornbread than store bought bread, but you do what you want. Bread don't matter. This is about the gumbo.

Bon appetit!

(Note: Gumbo is a soup made in Louisiana and East Texas made from vegetables and meat (such as chicken, or seafood, and is thickened with okra or file powder). (That's pronounced fi'lay. Please bear with me since I can't figure out how to do an accent aigu on my blog.) It's one of those "culturally defining" dishes of the French in Louisiana, like chicken soup is to Jewish cooking, or haggis is to the Scots.)

Determining Priorities

I'm with this guy. I'm copying rather than linking because that's all I can do. I just want him to get the credit for highlighting an important point that no one seems to have raised. It is about priorities.

"Guns vs. Butter, or Children vs. Seniors.
"So we're gonna hand $400 freakin' BILLION dollars of cash to drug companies, as a freebie to seniors. Is this really and truly the best way that we could be spending our health dollars? Is this the single most effective place, in terms of return on investment? Let's rephrase the question: Exactly how far would $400 freakin' BILLION go when it comes to insuring the uninsured children of this country? As hard as I might, I just can't seem to find a scenario under which I'm more sympathetic to a senior citizen, living in his own home, driving his cadillac to the doctor four times a week because of aching back, than I am sympathetic to the child of a poor single mom somewhere in an inner city...where a tiny fraction of that drug money can save a life or provide the regular medical care that is so important in a young life.

"Where does the AARP get off, exactly? Let's call this what it is: A gigantic giveaway to the drug companies. We're just going to take out a huge debt and hand the slip to them. We'll say to them, "Come up with the most expensive drugs you possibly can! Do it now!".

"You can BET on the fact that drugs are going to get more expensive. Why? Because as these drugs are directly marketed to senior citizens through the airwaves, they'll be going to their doctors and demanding these medications, which will now be covered under these stupid programs; drugs companies know this, and will raise prices, knowing they're gonna get paid. And as the population continues to age, this voting block gets stronger and stronger, wants more and more under these programs, and will finally succeed in burying a younger generation under the weight of their parents' greed."

All I can say is amen.

Friday, August 01, 2003

I've Screwed Up

I've fucked up my template. This will all seem wierd for awhile. I was trying to show some sophistication and fucked up. I will recover.
Bless Your Heart

This appeared in the blogosphere half a dozen or so years ago. It bears repeating. Anyone knows the author of this piece, let me know. She has a fan.

Bless Your Heart

Someone once noted that a Southerner can get away with the most awful kind of insult just as long as it's prefaced with the words, "Bless her heart" or 'Bless his heart." As in, "Bless his heart, if they put his brain on the head of a pin, it'd roll around like a BB on a six-lane highway." Or, "Bless her heart, she's so bucktoothed, she could eat an apple through a picket fence."

There are also the sneakier ones that I remember from tongue-clucking types of my childhood: "You know, it's amazing that even though she had that baby seven months after they got married, bless her heart, it weighed 10 pounds!"

As long as the heart is sufficiently blessed, the insult can't be all that bad, at least that's what my Great-aunt Tiny (bless her heart, she was anything but) used to say. I was thinking about this the other day when a friend was telling me about her new Northern friend who was upset because her toddler is just beginning to talk and he has a Southern accent. My friend, who is very kind and, bless her heart, cannot do a thing about those thighs of hers, so don't even start, was justifiably miffed about this. After all, this woman had CHOSEN to move south a couple of years ago "Can you believe it?" she said to my friend. "A child of mine is going to be taaaallllkkin' a-liiiike thiiiissss."

I can think of far worse fates than speaking Southern for this adorable little boy, who, bless his heart, must surely be the East Coast king of mucus. I wish I'd been there. I would have said that she shouldn't fret, because there is nothing so sweet or pleasing on the ear as a soft, Southern drawl. Of course, maybe we shouldn't be surprised at her "carryings on." After all, when you come from a part of the world where "family silver" refers to the large medallion around Uncle Vinnie's neck, you just have to, as aunt Tiny would say, "consider the source."

Now don't get me wrong. Some of my dearest friends are from the North, bless their hearts. I welcome their perspective, their friendships and their recipes for authentic Northern Italian food. I've even gotten past their endless complaints that you can't find good bread down here. The ones who really gore my ox are the native Southerners who have begun to act almost embarrassed about their speech. It's as if they want to bury it in the "Hee Haw" cornfield. We've already lost too much.

I was raised to sware, not swear, but you hardly ever hear anyone say that anymore, I sware you don't. And I've caught myself thinking twice before saying something is "right much," "right close" or "right good" because non-natives think this is right funny indeed. I have a friend from Bawston who thinks it's hilarious when I say I've got to "carry" my daughter to the doctor or "cut off"" the light. That's OK. It's when you have to explain things to people who were born here that I get mad as a mule eating bumblebees.

Not long ago, I found myself trying to explain to a native Southerner what I meant by being "in the short rows." I'm used to explaining that expression (it means you've worked a right smart but you're almost done) to newcomers to the land of buttermilk and cold collard sandwiches (better than you think), but to have to explain it to a Southerner was just plain weird.

The most grating example is found in restaurants and stores where nice, Magnolia-mouthed clerks now say "you guys" instead of "y'all," as their mamas raised them up to say. I'd sooner wear white shoes in February, drink unsweetened tea, and eat Miracle Whip instead of Duke's than utter the words, "you guys." Not long ago, I went to lunch with four women friends, and the waiter, a nice Southern boy, you-guys-ed all of us within an inch of our lives. "You guys ready to order? What can I get for you guys? Would you guys like to keep you guys' forks?"

Lord, have mercy. It's a little comforting that, at the very same time some natives are so eager to blend in, they've taken to making microwave grits (an abomination), the rest of the world is catching on that it's cool to be Clampett. How else do you explain NASCAR tracks and Krispy Kreme doughnut franchises springing up like yard onions all over the country?

To those of you who're still a little embarrassed by your Southernness, take two tent revivals and a dose of redeye gravy and call me in the morning.

Bless your heart.

Why do some men name their penis?

I've called mine names (like, opportunistic), but I've never like, given it a name. Do women name their vaginas? I think not. Okay, now that we know men do, here is a list of the 50 worst names you can choose.

Hepburn and Tracy, NOT!

I'd like to say I don't watch much tv, but that's not exactly true. I don't pay attention to a lot of tv, but I watch it more than I have time for, and the only part of tv that interests me is news about people, i.e., gossip.

Now because I watch it peripherally, I see different aspects of it, and miss others all together. I mention all of this as a background for my next topic, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. All I know about either is what I've gleaned from tv gossip, advertisements, and information I think I pick up from the commentators on the morning entertaining news shows. I think Ben Affleck must be one of the smartest young newcomers to hit Hollywood in a generation or so. Notice I didn't say he could act. Doesn't matter. He's cute. He comes across as nice. His friends are nice. He may be as mean and nasty as Joan Crawford, but he's got a clean image. Ms. Lopez has come from a different direction. For all her talent and determination, she's mentioned as much for the men whose company she has kept as for her own skills and talents.

Her greatest skill so far has been looking out for the JLo phenomenon. She's going strong. Same for Ben. He's going strong. They have one shared strength: the camera likes them.

Still can't act. Either of them. She better than he, but that doesn't make her good or even close to good.

About a year or so ago, I heard that Ben and Jennifer had obtained the rights to remake Casablanca. Oh my God, I thought. Is nothing sacred?

Okay, that was a silly question, but I shuddered at what I imagined their updated and "cool" version of Casablanca would be like. If it's anything like this, there oughttabe a law. Apparently others dislike the new movie also.

I certainly wish Ben and Jennifer the best. If they do a porno flick, I'll buy it in a minute. But they can't act. Their problem is they have too much power, and they think they're smater than they really are. People like them need to let directors, writers and producers be in charge. A good director can make a mediocre actor look good. A good writer can give cute people actual words to say to give their beauty context. And a good producer can . . . well do whatever producers do better than someone who's done what they've done so far because they're cute. If they need a warning example, I give them Kevin Costner and Barbra Streisand. (Hasn't her decline into mediocrity been sad?)

Meanwhile, Ben, Jennifer, please leave Casablanca alone. Oh, and leave those other Hepburn and Tracy movies alone, too. I don't care how cute the two of you are together, you can't act. I feel bad for you about that, but heck, you're rich and beautiful, ain't that enough?

Oh well, there goes my invitation to the wedding.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

POTUS News Conference

Tried to watch it. Irritated by the press. Why wasn't this question asked: " did you wretchet up the talk about nuclear weapons development in order to show the inevitability of the conflict with Iraq?" Of course he's going to take responsibility for his words. That was the easy question. Why wasn't he asked about the implication that we were misled as to the seriousness of the Iraqi threat? Fucker got a free ride today.

And what was that rambling shit about Gay marriages? There's already a controlling federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by good ol' boy, Clinton himself. If I were Gay, why . . . why nothing.

I edited this post. I guess it took a few minutes for all that crap about the sanctity of marriage and "we're all sinners" shit to sink in. Screw him. I'm not interested in his simplistic understanding of religion and morality. If you think I'm mad at the s.o.b., this guy's even madder.

Despite Andrew Sullivan's total capitulation to the religious right, I don't think the constitutional amenment thing is going anywhere. I can't imagine the great majority of Americans are willing to let the religious conservatives foul the Constitution with their crap. At least I hope not.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The Black Sheep

That has nothing to do with anything. I just wanted to say it. I was out running around in the ethernet the other day and stopped in and said hi to a few different folks. Had a couple say hi back to me. Hmmm. Life's good, chilrin', celebrate!

Damn, what a fine sunset!

It was only one color, sort of a pinkish salmon that was on fire! Think Maxfield Parrish, at least the sky part.

You need clouds to get the full range of sunset colors. I lived half a dozen or so years in Alaska, and all sunsets and sunrises in my life now are measured against that rule. Man! What a place. The cycle much of the year is ...the sun rises in the north, coming in at a gradual angle breaking the light into that prism that gives our eye the most color. The sun rises, does sort of a "U" pass, setting a dozen plus hours later in the north, the same direction from which it rose. Did I say "set"? It dips below the horizon, with the horizon lit by it's bent rays which create so much color. So sunset lasts a couple of hours when you realize that there has been a subtle change in the colors and now sunset is sunrise. It's a different energy.

But tonight's sunset from Oakland was pretty good.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Was It About the Oil?
Have to ask the question. Was the Iraq war about oil? I've always said no. I've repeatedly laughed and ridiculed my "no war no way" friends on the Left out here in California. Saddam was a mean and dangerous sonofabitch. I agreed with the Administration when they said we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud over an American city. They had been caught with their pants down on 9/11, and by god, they'd err on the side of caution in the future. And Saddam has fucking nukes! The President said so, the Vice President said so, and Donald Rumsfeld said so.

So now, this conservative group called Judicial Watch sued Cheney for the notes from his secret meeting of energy company officials back in 2000, 2001 and won. The administration stonewalls releasing the minutes right to the last minute. Meanwhile, Enron goes bankrupt, California faces record deficits and a recall, partly because of the energy crisis of a couple of years back. Man, there's a lot of related shit coming down, all kin to Cheney's group's meeting. The surprise in the minutes, however, is not the manipulation of the energy crisis by Enron and the rest of George's friends, but that they had studied maps of Iraq and had indeed discussed the value of Iraq, especially controlled by the U.S. Am I the only one who wants this better explained? This is from Wampum, my newest addition to my blog roll. I'm learning about her. She writes about autism, Amerindian issues, politics, and probably a lot of other stuff. Hell, I don't even know her name, but I know some of her ideas and several of her opinions, and you know, it's a good start.


For my Neice upon her graduation from High School

I wrote this back in May and intended to post it then. Better late than never.

June, 2003

Dear Megan,

I think it’s traditional to write a real sappy letter full of good wishes, expressed hopes, reminders of shared experiences. That has not been our relationship. If I pretended it were so now, my letter to you would mean little.

Despite our lack of closeness, I have watched you grow up through the eyes of your mother and grandmother. If you were to measure your wealth in terms of their love, you’d be a multi-billionaire.

Besides my well wishes for your success in life, I offer these tidbits of wisdom that have served me well over the years. Take them as you would all unsolicited offers of advice, with a little salt.

Do what you love, the money will follow. You’re going to have to work for the better part of your life. Seek a career that gives you joy. It will energize you more completely than money ever will.

Be good to your mother. You’ll never appreciate how much she’s done for you over the years until you have children of your own. Ditto in regards to your grandmother. You come from a remarkable line of tough and powerful women. The path you choose will be your own. However, you reached that path having been lifted by the love of many incredible women over many generations.

Go, do well, and be proud.

Thinking about the Budget and the Recall

First, a disclaimer. I work for the state of California. My salary is going to be affected by whatever budget or lack of budget occurs. I am probably harmed more by the lack of budget than by any specific budget that may be adopted. That is the prism by which I see this issue.

I am more than just a little bit annoyed at both the Democrats and the Republicans. They are at war with each other and see any compromise as defeat. A pox on both their houses. If I followed their example, every time I got into an argument, I'd just punch the guy's lights out.

I worry whether or not Gov. Davis is in any position to provide any leadership in this mess. He's about to face a recall. He has no popular support to speak of, and he's going into the recall election with the state being brought to its knees by an incredible deficit which he is now accused of hiding (at the worst) or of not seeing it coming. Either charge if correct is enough to recall him.

Can he survive the recall vote? That's a tough call right now. I haven't decided how I intend to vote. I dislike Davis immensely. I dislike how he substituted his judgment for the Parole Board and kept Robert Rosencrantz in prison. I dislike how he "fixed" the energy crisis we had several years ago. I dislike how the only thing of importance to him between his first election and his second was raising money. I dislike how he said that the judges and justices he would appoint were there to implement his vision. God, what arrogance. I dislike how he spent his money to discredit the better Republican candidate. I dislike how his campaign made scurrilous charges against Bill Simon, his Republican opponent.

If the only Republican name on the ballot were Darrell Issa (the Republican Congressman who bankrolled the recall), I'd probably vote the retain Davis. If Tom Delay (the Republican Majority Leader of the House) were the only Republican on the ballot, I'd probably vote to retain Davis. However, the field of candidates promises to be much more interesting than that. The likelihood of Davis being replaced by a clown such as Arnold Swarzennegger delights me. For one, he'll be more interesting and sure as hell won't be any worse than Davis. He won't consider the "other side" to be evil. He will be able to talk to both sides in our political debate. Of course, Arnold is a longshot. More likely we'll get one of the Republican's True Believers and the holy war will continue.

Davis should resign and let Bustamonte be the sitting governor. The recall will continue, but it'll fail because the recall is about Davis, not Democrat hegemony over Republicans. Bustamonte's profile will be much higher and generally more positive than any of the Republicans seeking to overturn Davis. The coup fails.

But what about the budget? Do we do nothing for the next six to nine months? Republicans insist on cutting both the size and cost of government. In the five years of Gray Davis, the budget has grown astronomically. Republicans are insisting that the budget be balanced through spending cuts. Is it unreasonable? Probably. Can they pull it off? Possibly. Do I want them to? Harder question. But I can tell you one thing for certain. I don't care for the process we have in place. We seem to have a dictatorship of the minority. That's plain wrong.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Technically Lying

"As you know, in a deposition in January, I was asked questions about my relationship with Monica Lewinsky. While, technically, my answers were legally accurate, I was not entirely truthful with my information."

- William Jefferson Clinton (August 1998)

...while others don't:

"It didn't rise to the standard of a presidential speech, but it's not known, for example, that it was inaccurate. In fact, people think it was technically accurate."

- Donald Rumsfeld (July 2003)
(From Media Whores Online

Well, thank God Shrub brought honesty and accountability back to Washington.

Saturday, July 12, 2003


My birthday is this week. I'll be 56 years here. When I was young, that seemed like a very long time. Now, I'm not as sure. It seems like it's been a long time, but my grandmother lived to be 98, so I've got the genes in me that say this could be just half way, only during the next half your back hurts a lot, your energy wains more than it waxes, and your mind wanders a lot.

I do know more now than say I did at 26 or even 46. For instance, I'm not nearly as smart as I thought I was at 26. I'm better looking, too. That happens to some men. Of course, at 26 I'd have traded that for a bigger dick. Nah, I wouldn't have either, but it sounds like something I'd have said. All in all, I'm pretty lucky. Hard work is a good virtue, but luck is a blessing from the universe itself. I'm lucky. I was born a (semi-) White male in the richest country on the planet. I could just have easily been born a third world woman.

I was lucky in that I was wanted by both my mother and father, and even though my father was killed when I was only 5, I was lucky in how my aunts and uncles and grandmother helped my mother and saw to my needs, emotional and physical. I hope I showed my gratitude to them as I grew up, and I hope I lead my life today in such a way that they would be proud of the sacrifices they made as they participated in my upbringing.

All of those things are filed under "luck." They were just blessings showered down by the universe.

I'm also rich. My mother would tease me and say that I only spend money like I'm rich, which in actuality, makes me poor. I disagree. Rich is a state of mind. I have an abundance of friends, health, good fortune, happiness. I laugh more than I cry and smiling comes easy. And while I don't have a lot of money, I have enough.

I have a comfortable home. I share it with a Maine Coon cat named Beauregard that I've had for ten years now. We're pretty closely bonded, but we're not all touchy feely about it. He hangs with me, follows me around the house, naps near where I'm working, and talks to me when he wants something as though he's sure I understand his language. He's always talked to me like that. He learned it from me, I suppose. I talk to him all the time like he's supposed to understand exactly what I'm talking about. Sometimes I think I'd rather have put that energy into a relationship with a human, but frankly, Beauregard isn't why I don't have a significant other, and since I don't have a significant other, I'm sure as hell glad I have Beauregard.

Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, give thanks. It's my birthday and I believe one is supposed to begin with a recitation of one's blessings and be thankful. I'm pretty sure the only way that one can adequately give thanks is to go forth and be generous in the world.

Blessed be.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Another Reason Why I'm Not A Republican

As if I needed another one. Via the Washington Blade, Bob Marshall, member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Loudoun and Prince William Counties, wonders if the Supreme Court's decision will require schools to teach 14 year olds "fisting." Right on Bobo, you probably discovered fisting right after you took your head out of your ass. Where do they find these idiots?
Gay Marriage

I really haven't had much to say about this. Hell, I can't even get a date, much less a husband. The most eloquent statements thus far have come from straights (or at least from people I presume to be straight). Andy, over at The World Wide Rant does an excellent job fisking that " Pennsylvania Pinhead," aka REPUBLICAN Senator Rick Santorum on the subject of Gay marriage. Thanks, Andy, for giving us a new nickname for the idiot.

Oh, about Gay Marriage. I guess I'm fer it. I'm definitely in favor of finding a husband. It's probably a reaction to living most of my life outside law and society's blessings, but I don't really think I need a marriage license to have a relationship. Yeah, yeah, for my Gay brothers and Lesbian sisters who do think this is important, okay, I'm with you. But I have little enthusiasm for wanting to adapt a failed institution to a new age lifestyle.

Did Bush Lie?

I reluctantly supported the President and the war against Iraq. So far "Iraq has weapons of mass destructions" and "they're trying to buy uranium from Niger" rank right up there with "I won't come in your mouth" as classic lies. I can't say I feel personally betrayed because, well, I have never liked the s.o.b. It was never personal. The whole world opposed us, with the exception of Tony Blair and half a dozen other small countries. I bet if Tony Blair had the ability to do the whole thing over again, he'd choose his side more carefully. Non-RightWingers in the blogosphere are holding the administration's feet to the fire over the deliberate and systematic misrepresentations of the administration as it marched us to war. The RightWingers call any questioning of the administration about its deliberate lying to be partisan. If you're interested in getting the lowdown, I recommend Josh Marshall's take on it. I'll sum it up briefly. The White House was told that the information was weak and possibly not true, so they chose to use it anyway and say "according to the British." That's weak. Thanks a lot, Tony Blair. You stood by them, gave them legitimacy and now they're doing their best to butt-fuck you.

Thursday, July 10, 2003


I've been out visiting in the Blogosphere. There's a whole bunch of folks I don't know well. Let me introduce you. First is Holden Caulfield's Lover. He's amazingly candid about his life and loves. Today he talks about drugs. Very enlightening. He's not particularly unique in his experience, but his willingness to talk about it is unique. He's also quite articulate.

Which I haven't been of late. Maybe it's cyclical. Maybe I'm out of dope. Maybe, who knows? I've added several new Gay blogs to my list. I've also removed a few who were no longer writing, or whose views took too hard a turn to the right.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Oh, Canada!

Just spent the past week in Canada. Nice geography, nice gene pool. The occasion was a Gay rodeo in Calgary. Most visitors stayed at an RV camp by the rodeo grounds. I was the guest of a delightful young man from Kamloops who is in the process of restoring a 1977 Airstream trailer. It's a little like a yacht in its use of smartly designed hatches that batten down well for travel. I kept imagining us as Lucy and Ricky do trailer camping.

Did I mention how much I like Canadians? They're a great bunch of folk. Okay, maybe it was me. There I was with two or three thousand, goodlooking men (and several hundred handsome women) who thought I was cute and loved my stories. Okay, you just can't beat that. I hope I entertained them as well as they entertained me. And they were so cute in their cowboy clothes. (I did mention that it was a rodeo, right? I LOVE theme parties.)

My thanks to Chris, Rob, Rod, Ron, Rick, (we called ourselves the Terrible R's), William, Dwayne, Cliff and another Chris, Steven, Kevin, Michel, Art, Alain, Donal, and the list goes on and on. I love you guys. You made me feel like I was the best looking, most interesting person on the planet. I hope you'll come visit me in California. I owe you all a big one.

Next year, guys. Same time, same place?

Cheers. eh?

Saturday, June 21, 2003

On the Road again

I'm at my sister's house in Grants Pass, Oregon. Can't tell you much about GP, but my sister's house is nice. Maybe a little too Laura Ashley for my tastes, but on my sister it looks good.

The traffic was steady. Interstate 5 is not my favorite highway, at least not the part through northern California. It's narrow, as freeways go, and well worn. Made it here in six and a half hours. And my back is in good shape. Ain't nothing like a Cadillac for a nice ride. Yeah,uh huh. It's me and my car.
But before I go . . .

Did I mention that I'm driving my car? That calls for a whole different level of reasoning when you start to pack. It allows me to postpone decisions about what I need to be away from my fort. Cut to the chase, the result is I look like a gypsy. I could probably sustain myself from my cadillac for a month. Fucking boy scouts ain't got nothin' on me. I'm fucking prepared.

My neighbor downstairs looks at the pile of clothes heading towards the car with a certain disbelief and asks "you taking all of that?"

It's a major Gay event, I exclaim in my own disbelief at his lack of knowledge of Gay megaevents, after all, he's witnessed San Francisco's Gay week-end, along with the equally intense Castro Fair Week-end and week till Folsom Street Fair? I patiently explain to him that I may need as many as 3 changes per day at the heighth of the week-end. And because it's a "themed" week-end, as in Rodeo, the costume of the day is western. And since I'm originally from Texas, I see Western as sort of my native dress, and being a natural born, native "princess" I dress colorfully.

In short, I'm taking a lot of stuff. This is a high maintenance week-end set in the middle of a week of family and a week of me as a grownup getting lost in an imagined world in either Vancouver, Victoria, or Seattle. Outside chance of Portland, but it's way out there.

Now, getting lost in a large major city calls for great subtlety. I like to wander around and absorb interesting aspects of a place. I'm vain enough to want to get noticed by interesting people, and once noticed to be thought interesting, but I also like being an almost invisible spirit, a passing shadow. Leaving a wake but no disturbance. Refreshing several of my inner selves by free floating in a fantasy created by my experiencing the city with complete openness.

It's a great high. I'll report back in later. rlbtzero
I'm off to Canada for a couple of weeks. I'm driving my 1990 Cadillac El Dorado to Vancouver, British Columbia. En route, I'll stop and see my sisters in Oregon and a good friend in Bellingham, Washington. But my destination is Canada where I'm joining up with a friend to go to the Gay Rodeo in Calgary. I may blog once or twice before I get back, but chances are you won't be seeing or hearing from me for a couple of weeks.

Have a great 4th of July.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Dear Leon,

I know you're a good and loyal friend of the Bush family. Even though I was personally horrified at his election to the Presidency, I congratulated you because I knew you were very proud of this achievement. I have held back with my opinion of Bush as President. I have always considered him a lightweight, but out of respect for the office of President I have given him the benefit of doubt whenever possible, and out of my respect for you, I have not criticized him to you. That has now changed.

When you called me, you were not interested in my opinion. You wanted to vent against the Democrats who thought his landing on the aircraft carrier to be just too contrived and staged. I thought that a valid criticism and told you so. Our conversation quickly became an argument. You thought my tone with you too strident. I thought your comments to me too stupid. I'm sorry, but that's what I thought of what you had to say.

You were also offended that I told you that sitting alone in the woods watching Fox News was not good for you. You said I called you an extreme Right Winger. I did not. I thought it, but I know I did not say it to you. I'm too polite.

I'm also concerned about the way the administration contrived the evidence about weapons of mass destruction. Yes, Sadam was evil and should have been deposed. But that was not the song to which we marched off to war. This is too serious an issue to lie to the American people and the world about. Lying about a blow job is one thing, this is quite something else.

But you've decided to accept all the lies and bullshit coming from this administration. I think that really does interfere with our relationship. I wish you well. This issue between us will be there for awhile, but not forever.