Friday, January 29, 2010

The Lincoln V-12

Dear George,


My dad bought our family’s 1941 Lincoln Zephyr V-12 from our neighbor Lou Reed after the war.  American auto production had ended in the U.S. in 1942, so the Lincoln was still one of the newish cars around.  I’d say it was the fanciest automobile my parents ever owned.  It was large enough that three teenagers fit comfortably in the front seat, with four in the back.  I frequently filled it to capacity while cruising around Menominee and Marinette.  A true luxury car, it had more gadgets than most cars of the day.  Sideview mirrors on the driver’s and passenger’s side, a radio, a multitude of gauges, an electric cigarette lighter, ash trays in the back seat, a fan mounted on the dashboard, windshield washer fluid, and who can remember what else.


Driver’s training wasn’t mandatory in 1953, and, while Lou Reed had given me a couple of informal lessons as a 14-year-old, my dad took upon himself the task of teaching me to drive in the V-12 when I turned 16.  Our first outing together was so emotionally intense I can still recall many of the sights and feelings..  We drove into town from river house, and the first mile and a half wasn’t too bad because Riverside Boulevard was empty.  I kept the speed at a steady twenty.  Once in town and approaching the Signal Electric Company on Park Ave., I was clutching the steering wheel so tightly that my knuckles turned white.  My father was silent and seemed grim, and I was even grimmer.  I did make it all the way into town and back though.  After a couple more outings, I worked up my courage to try steering with my right hand while resting my left elbow on the open window frame.  My dad seemed more relaxed too.  Before I knew it I was allowed to take the car out on my own.


On my first solo trip to town, I drove eastward on Stephenson Ave. until it dead ended into Sheridan Road at the M&M Brewery, and then I turned right on Sheridan to go toward downtown.  After a couple of blocks I heard a siren behind me, and I pulled over.  The police car, lights flashing, stopped behind me, and the officer came up to my window.  I could hardly breathe.  He asked me if I knew why he’d pulled me over. I said I didn’t know -- I didn’t think I’d been speeding.  He explained that he’d been coming down Sheridan Road in his car and that I’d pulled out right in front of him.  To avoid crashing into me, he’d turned sharply to the left, jumped the sidewalk, and wound up with the front end of his car in the Brewery fountain.  He paused to let this sink in.  Then he went on to give me some very earnest advice about looking both ways before I pulled out from a stop sign.  Finally he let me go on my way with a warning rather than a ticket.  In school the next day my math teacher, Mr. Miller, said he’d watched me get pulled over in front of his house, and he’d had a good laugh.  In retrospect, it was a valuable life lesson.  I’ve looked both ways at the stop sign ever since.


Like most teenage drivers, I did a variety of stupid things that I’m glad to have survived from.  One of the worst involved the Lincoln’s superior technology.  The car had a theft-prevention feature which allowed you to turn the ignition key in a particular direction and it would lock the steering wheel in place so that potential car thieves couldn’t go anywhere.  I demonstrated this to Frankie St. Peter one day as we were driving across the Interstate Bridge.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that the anti-theft device was made to be used only while the car was stationary, and if you locked the steering wheel while moving, you couldn’t unlock it until you came to a complete stop.  In this case we were traveling across the bridge at about 30 miles per hour.  I’d locked the steering wheel, but, to my horror, it wouldn’t unlock, and I saw in my rearview mirror that a large oil tanker was following behind us.  Fortunately, we were headed in a pretty straight path, though my car was drifting gradually toward the curb.  I couldn’t use the brakes because the tanker was too close behind.  Ultimately, we hit and jumped the curb, and I brought the car to a stop up on the sidewalk next to the fence which overlooked the river below.  The oil tanker veered to its left and missed us.  Frankie thought it was totally awesome, though I could barely breathe.


The Lincoln was so emotionally significant to my life experience that my recurrent teenage nightmare involved driving it from Menominee to Marinette across the Hattie Street Bridge, which had collapsed in the middle, and plunging to my death in the Menominee River – an apt metaphor, I later decided, for all my anxieties about passing from adolescence to young adulthood.  A lot of good things happened in the Lincoln too, but those will have to wait for another accounting. 





G-Mail Comments:

-Jennifer M (2-1): The thing that most interests me in this story is that you ever did anything risky, even as a teenager.  I see you as a pretty cautious person.  Cautious enough that you wouldn't have taken risks, even when your brain wasn't fully formed.  :-)

-DCL to Jennifer:  You are right: (a) my brain wasn’t fully formed; and (b) I only took risks by mistake.

-Linda C (1-30):  do you think there are vampires in the u.p.?

-DCL to Linda (1-30):  Vampires have a definite preference for warmer climates, e.g., Egypt is a favorite country.  However, some adventurous vampires have chosen to live in colder places such as Russia and Canada, and they have undoubtedly migrated to the U.P.  I don’t think there were any vampires in my high school though.  

Monday, January 25, 2010

Are Vampires Real?

                        Linda Rabinovitz, Vampire

Dear George,

There’s been such a rash of vampire movies lately.  Along with right-wing radio talk-show hosts, sex addicts, and greedy CEOs, you might say that vampires are dominating the American landscape.  Recently I was discussing Twilight: New Moon with an acquaintance, and they asked me if I thought vampires were real.  Of course, I initially scoffed at the question.  It kept nagging at me though, and finally I posed the question to the search engine Ask Jeeves: “Are vampires real?”  You can imagine my surprise when I found out that the answer is a resounding yes.  The indisputable evidence is that literally hundreds of real vampires have chosen to “out” themselves on the Internet, probably because of the anonymity which it offers.  I’ve pictured one of them here, Linda Rabinovitz, who lives in central Virginia with her teenage son.  Linda had the courage to actually post her photograph.


A lot of the confusion comes about because real vampires hardly correspond at all to the fictional versions propagated by Hollywood or Bram Stoker.  Real vampires, for example, are not immortal. They don’t burst into flame when exposed to the sun (though they do have a severe sensitivity to sunlight).  They are more likely to sleep on water beds than in coffins; they cast reflections in mirrors; and they are not necessarily repulsed by crucifixes. There are many faithful Christian vampires, as well as Jewish and Muslim vampires, etc.


In the movie versions, vampires subsist entirely on human blood.  Real vampires, though, may or may not drink blood, and they never drain their victims' bodies.  Those that do drink human blood ordinarily rely on the willing cooperation of donors and usually only consume about a shotglass a week.  For animal blood, which is obtainable at the butcher shop, about a pint of blood a week is the norm.  Other vampires rely instead on sucking up the energy vibes from other human beings around them.  Linda Rabinovitz mentions that Applebee’s is particularly good for this purpose.  Energy-sucking vampires, also termed “psivamps” or “prana vampires”, are actually the most frequent type.  Only about 17% of real vampires rely exclusively on drinking blood.  Real vampires can be killed by driving a wooden stake through their heart or shooting them with a silver bullet, but so can everybody else.


Real vampires are very hard to identify because they look pretty much like everybody else.  They’re more likely to be men than women, and they tend to look young for their age.  They have unusually pale skin, but darker colored lips.  All real vampires have a dark colored ring around the iris of their eyes (though some non-vampires have this too).  Vampires tend to be energetic at night, but get very tired just before the sun rises.  They’re often viewed by others as empathetic, and their moods can have strong effects on the moods of others around them (especially babies and cats).  They have a high tolerance for alcohol, have enhanced senses and psychic abilities, can hear whispers from across the room, and have difficulty with electrical appliances, e.g., computers, iPhones.   


If you do a Google search on vampire groups in Cincinnati, you will find that there are currently 81 people on the Vampire group waiting list.  Many of these are only aspiring vampires, but a significant number are real vampires who are seeking new dating partners or a clan to join.  I have not contacted any so far, but that might be a next step.  It’s hard to tell just where most vampires live in Cincinnati.  I suspect that a few reside in Hyde Park, but probably a majority live in Clifton or Northside.  I’ve been canvassing Ludlow Avenue for the last few weeks in an unscientific effort to estimate the number of vampires in our neighborhood.  You see hardly any vampires (or even apparent vampires) in the daytime.  As soon as night falls, though, definitely more vampires come out.  My current estimate is about 3% of people on the street at nighttime are real vampires, and, interestingly, it’s equally divided between women and men.  One pretty obvious example is an older gray-haired guy who you often see hanging out near Stillwell’s coffee shop on Ludlow.  He’s very thin, with pale skin, somewhat elongated canine teeth, and an other-worldly voice; plus if you look at him from the proper angle, his eyes have a silver sheen.  I think he stations himself outside Stillwell’s because it’s a local vampire hangout and an excellent place to recruit converts.


I am going to continue my research and will report new findings from time to time.  I am curious about vampires because Katja has shown a strong interest in them ever since I’ve known her.  In fact, sometimes she asks me to refer to her as Katjula.  I don’t think she has any vampire blood in her, but you can never know for sure.




G-Mail Comments:

-Kathy R (2-3): Enjoyed the "real vampires" entry on your blog.  Be careful walking around there in Clifton at night.

-Phyllis SS (1-26):  Interesting.  Your stories always (usually) make me smile.  Not about Manson though.  If you are doing research on vampires you must have to get awfully close to them.

-Jennifer M (1-26): Who knew?!  

-Linda C (1-26): are you born a vampire or can you become one along life's way?  i am going to look for that ring around the eye, i have seen it and just thought the  person had really pretty eyes. i am also going to check out everyone in my family and i think you should too.  it seems important for the grandkid(s) to know who is a family vampire vs and outsider vampire...

-DCL to Linda (1-26):  I'm glad you're in tune with this and appreciate your advice to check out family.  The only one I'm 100% certain about is Baby V (i.e., definitely not a vampire).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cincinnati Celebrities: No Name Maddox

Dear George,

J’s alma mater, Walnut Hills High, has an illustrious history with many distinguished graduates.  If you were to ask teachers and administrators about famous alumni they would probably mention James Levine, director of the Metropolitan Opera; Jim Dine, pop artist; Tony Trabert, world-renowned tennis star; Jonathan Valin, famed mystery novelist; or even Theda Bara, silent film star.  If you ask the students, however, only two names are popular:  Jerry Rubin, 1960’s radical activist and founder of the Yippies: and Charles Manson, charismatic leader of the ill-fated Manson Family.  Rubin and Manson were from the same stormy era in the late 60’s.  Rubin, in fact, once wrote of Charlie Manson, “His words and courage inspired us.”


“Charles Manson” was not his original name.  According to his initial hospital record, No Name Maddox was born on Nov. 12, 1934, at General Hospital in Cincinnati.  His mother, Kathleen Maddox, was an impoverished sixteen-year-old who has been described as a heavy drinker and a teenage prostitute.  Several days after the birth, she did name him Charles Milles Maddox.  Her parents and her grandmother were strict religious fanatics who forbid dancing or even talking to boys, and Kathleen ran away from home in 1933 at age 15.  While Maddox’s father has never been established with certainty, Kathleen filed a bastardy suit against one Colonel Scott of Ashland, KY, winning a child support settlement of five dollars per month (though she never received the money).  To provide her baby with a legitimate name, Kathleen married laborer William Manson, but he abandoned his teenage wife and stepson shortly afterward.  Charlie never knew his biological father, and his mother had a habit of disappearing for days or weeks at a time, leaving him with his grandmother or his aunt.  In 1939 Kathleen and her brother Luther Maddox were sentenced to the penitentiary for armed robbery of a service station, and five-year-old Charlie was sent to live with his extremely religious aunt and uncle in McMechen, WV.  His uncle constantly berated him for being a sissy and sent him to school on the first day dressed in girl’s clothes.  Kathleen took him back when she was released from jail, but provided little in the way of mothering as she brought home lovers of both sexes and moved from one dingy hotel room to another.  Reportedly, a waitress in a bar jokingly offered to buy Charles from her, and Kathleen gave him to her for a pitcher of beer, then walked out and disappeared until his uncle came to search for him days later.  


At nine Manson was sent to reform school for stealing, then again at age 12.  He ran away and tried to return to his mother, but she rejected him, and he lived on his own by stealing and burglary until he was caught and sent to Father Flanagan’s Boys Town.  He returned to Cincinnati and attended junior high at Walnut Hills High School.  When his mother’s boyfriend didn’t want him around, she tried unsuccessfully to find a foster home for her son, but he was instead convicted for armed robbery and sent to the Indiana School for Boys in Terre Haute where he has said that he was sexually brutalized.  He and two other boys escaped and headed for California, living by burglary and auto theft, but got caught and sent to the National Training School for Boys in Washington, D.C.  Though illiterate, Manson’s tested I.Q. was 109 (and later measured as 121 at McNeil Island Penitentiary).  He scored high on aptitude for music and listed his religion as Scientology.  A caseworker described him as aggressively anti-social. On the verge of being paroled, he sodomized a boy in a Virginia reformatory, then was transferred to a more secure institution in Chillicothe, OH.  Paroled at age 19, he lived briefly with his aunt and uncle, then his mother, and married 17-year-old waitress Rosalie Jean Willis, who he supported through odd jobs and auto theft.  He drove a stolen car with his pregnant wife to California where he was jailed again.  Willis gave birth to his first son, Charles M. Manson, Jr., but then left town with the baby and a truck driver. 

The rest is well-known history.  Following his release from prison in 1967, Manson moved to San Francisco where he formed a quasi-commune in California, composed mainly of young, upper middle class women from emotionally disturbed backgrounds.  At that point he was an unemployed ex-convict who had spent half his life in correctional institutions for a variety of minor offenses, e.g., car theft, forgery, credit card fraud.  He became obsessed with death and “Helter Skelter,” his interpretation of a Beatles song in which he predicted a race war in America.  In 1969 he was convicted of conspiracy in connection with his follower’s gruesome murders of Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife Sharon Tate, another Los Angeles couple, and Gary Hinman.  The crime scenes contained messages scrawled in the victims’ blood proclaiming Manson’s “philosophy”.  Though his cult members did the actual killing, Manson said, “Believe me, if I started killing people, there’d be none of you left.”  


Though Manson received the death sentence in 1970, this was reduced to life imprisonment when the state Supreme Court temporarily abolished the death penalty in 1972.  Recently turned 75, Manson is currently an inmate at Corcoran State Prison.  If you want to send him a belated birthday card, his address is: Charles Manson B33920 4A 3R 14L P.O Box 3476 Corcoran, CA 93212.



-G-Mail Comments:

-Phyllis SS (1-25):  Manson is from Cincinnati and went to Walnut Hills?   How interesting.  He must have had a brain that functioned at one time.  Poor kid - what a life.  I am not going to send him a birthday card - did you?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Me and Mark McGwire Are Muy Simpatico

Mark McGwire



Dear George,


Home run king Mark McGwire is sure getting a lot of flak.  When he recently admitted to Bob Costas on national TV that he’d been on steroids in 1998 when he hit 70 homers and broke Roger Maris’ all-time record, the fans applauded his contrition.  But then Mark went on to say that the steroids had had no effect on his hitting.  He only took them so he could get healthy and keep playing.  The sports radio guys said this was the stupidest lie they’d ever heard.  Now nobody thinks that McGwire should ever even get near to the Hall of Fame.


I myself completely agree with Mark, and, if I had the chance, I would definitely vote for him for the Hall.  As you know, just like Mark, I’ve been struggling with a lot of arm and shoulder pains for months.  It all goes back to last September when my fitness trainer, whose identity I will protect with the pseudonym Morgana von Sadistica, told me to increase all my exercise weights.  It wasn’t easy, but I did it.  Then I woke up one morning with throbbing achiness in my arms and shoulders, and I found that I couldn’t put my shirt on without experiencing excruciating pain.


I didn’t return to Morgana, and I quit doing my strength exercises at the fitness center altogether.  I decided this was a matter of rest and healing over time.  I started taking Advil several times a day.  I did feel pretty good during the day, but began hurting each mid-evening, and was thoroughly sore at bedtime.  Because certain movements aggravated the pain, I had to stop sleeping on my stomach (which I’d been doing for fifty years) and had to keep my arms pinned to my sides and completely motionless.  This did not make for restful sleeping and, according to Katja, caused loud snoring.  I began taking Ambien every night to put me to sleep.


By December I wasn’t feeling any better, and I’d had to double my dosage of Ambien, though even then it was no longer working.  Finally I made an appointment with my new family physician, Dr. Cosgrove, to get a better sleeping pill and a more powerful painkiller.  Cosgrove is a sort of mum person who spends most of my appointment time typing on his laptop.  He told me that my tolerance for Ambien had increased, and he didn’t want me to use that any more.    He moved my arms this way and that and came up with a diagnosis of bilateral tendonitis.  Katja had recently gotten a steroid injection for tendonitis in her hand, and it had been very successful.  I asked Dr. Cosgrove if he could give me some shots, but he didn’t think so.  Instead, he prescribed a milder anti-inflammatory, Naproxen.  I told him that I couldn’t sleep because of pain and that I would need a strong painkiller at bedtime.  I think Dr. Cosgrove had already decided that I was a drug addict because of my increased Ambien usage, and he said that Tylenol was the strongest painkiller that he would prescribe.  I gloomily complained that Tylenol was worse than nothing.  Dr. Cosgrove thought it over.  Then he said, “We can try Cycladyne on you.”  I’d never heard of it.  He said it was one of the earliest antidepressants that was used before Zoloft or Prozac, but that it would work both as a sleep aid and as a painkiller.   That sounded good.  Dr. Cosgrove paused.  “There is one side effect,” he said.  “What’s that?” I asked.  “Priapism,” he said.  I’d never heard of that either.  While I won’t go into the gory details, Dr. Cosgrove explained that it’s like that four-hour condition that Katja finds so amusing in the Cialis commercials, except that it can go on for days or even for the rest of one’s life.  “That doesn’t happen very often, does it?” I asked, and Dr. Cosgrove said it didn’t.  But he told me to phone his service immediately if it did.


I went to the drugstore and filled my Cycladyne prescription, then went to Keller’s IGA where I ran into one of more former clinical psychology colleagues, Art Ruby.  We chatted a bit and I mentioned going to the doctor.  Art’s jaw dropped when I mentioned Cycladyne.  He explained he has a lawyer friend who recently defended a client whose anatomical parts were completely destroyed by Cycladyne.  While the client did wind up with a ton of money from the drug company, the lawyer’s opinion was that Cycladyne was the work of the devil.


Art’s story raised some doubts in my mind, but I’d already paid the $25 co-pay for my one month prescription.  I paused and looked in the mirror before taking the first pill that night, but decided I would simply abide by whatever fate had in store.  It’s not that easy to fall asleep when you’re lying there in a cold sweat, but the Cycladyne did its work.  I drifted off at 11 p.m. and woke promptly at 8.  The only hitch was that my mouth felt stuffed with cotton balls and my arm muscles were in agony.  I think the Cycladyne was so powerful that my entire body had remained locked rigidly in an immobile position the entire night.


This went on for a couple of weeks.  I was enjoying the best sleep ever, but my tendonitis was getting worse and worse by the day.  Finally Katja, fed up, demanded that I call her orthopedist.  I worried about being disloyal to Dr. Cosgrove, but I was feeling so terrible that I just went ahead.  Her doctor came up with the same tendonitis diagnosis, and he went ahead and gave me a steroid injection in each shoulder.  It hurt.  I asked how long the effects might last.  He said it might not help at all or it could help for a few days, or a few weeks, or forever.  I’d have to wait and see. That was three days ago.  The first day I felt a little bit better; the second day, I felt a lot bit better; and today I feel 100% back to normal.  Plus Katja is happy because I don’t snore any more.  So, Mark McGwire, I know exactly where you’re coming from.  My home run hitting probably hasn’t improved a whit, but I’m definitely a whole lot healthier.  If you need my testimony for the commission, just give me a call.





*This story uses some pseudonyms

Monday, January 11, 2010


Dear George,

I spent a couple of hours at the fitness center in the late morning. On the way home I thought about stopping at the grocery store to pick up some bread for lunch, but, on impulse, decided to treat myself at Wendy’s instead.

Wendy’s is on Westwood Northern Boulevard at the eastern edge of Camp Washington, a very poor, formerly Appalachian and now mostly black neighborhood nearby Clifton. There was a medium-sized lunch crowd which looked to be mostly working folks, and I got served my #2 meal (double cheeseburger, fries, diet coke) in quick order.

I sat near the center of the restaurant, picking a table which offered the best vista for people-watching. I had just taken the first bite of my burger when I noticed a shabbily dressed, dark-skinned African-American man in his late 30s or 40s who flashed a big smile in my direction and approached with his hand outstretched. I assumed he was greeting somebody behind me and averted my eyes, but he came right up to my table and held his hand directly out to me. Confused and disconcerted, I shook my head and looked away. The friendly man’s smile disappeared and he backed away, then turned to walk toward the service counter.

I watched out of the corner of my eye. I wondered if the man were psychotic. He walked back and forth in the thirty-foot space between the front door and the service counter, sometimes turning in circles and/or doing a little dance. He approached various individuals with a big smile, but nobody offered any visible reaction, nor did the various seated customers give any sign of acknowledging his presence. At one point he seemed ready to get in line to place an order, but he didn’t follow up on it. An attractive, well-dressed white woman came in and got in the line. The strange man came up and began talking to her, then touched her on the shoulder.

At this point a Wendy’s employee, a tall, thin African American woman in her 40’s who might have been the manager, came out from behind the food counter and told the man to leave. He didn’t want to, and she became firm and insistent. When he said he had to use the bathroom first, she said “Oh no you’re not,” and pointed him to the side door. He said angrily that he was going to go out the front door, and she shepherded him there, standing at the doorway with her hands on her hips until he disappeared into the parking lot. My impression was that this was not their first encounter.

All of this was mildly disconcerting. The strange man didn’t do anything harmful or threatening, other than making unwanted friendly overtures to strangers. But he clearly violated numerous implicit rules for behavior in public places, and, in the absence of any other information, the social inappropriateness of his behavior was unsettling to people present and disruptive of the scene as a whole. This would a rare event in a restaurant in my own more homogenous middle class neighborhood, but I guessed it to be more commonplace in Camp Washington. In retrospect, I wondered how the friendly man managed to survive in the world. If his behavior was ignored or rejected by the more civil folks in Wendy’s, how forlorn he must be in a street world that is probably harsher.



Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Baby V's Great Adventure: A New Orleans Fable

                [all Baby V photos by parents J & K]

When V was a tiny infant, it was clear that she was a girl of great moxy and determination.  She could only crawl, but, even then, she was ready and eager to explore the great world that awaited her.

By fifteen months Baby V had mastered the art of walking.  She not only walked excellently, but she could climb onto very high things, do somersaults, turn around rapidly in circles, and run so fast that her dad could barely keep up with her.

It was time, V decided, to venture out into the world and find out what it held for her.  So she packed a few things and set out early in the morning before her parents were even awake.

Baby V walked and walked and walked.  Finally she came to a huge field where she saw a bunch of grown men running around and crashing into each other.  It was the Saints football practice field.  V watched for a while and thought to herself, ‘I am good at bumping people.  Maybe this is what I am meant to do with my life.’

She went up and talked to one of the big guys, who happened to be Drew Brees, the Saints quarterback.  V said she’d been watching and thought she could be good at this game.  Drew said, “You are definitely a girl of great moxy and determination, though you are sort of small for the NFL.  But our center was just injured, and so we’ll give you a tryout.”

V had a natural talent for centering the football, and Drew Brees was very complimentary.  Even so, he had to tell her, “As good as you are, you’re still not big enough.  Come back in a couple of years, and we’ll try you out again.”


V was not discouraged in the slightest, and she set out on the highway for the Big Easy.  She walked and walked and walked, and finally she came to a place downtown called Emeril’s.  It was a fancy restaurant.

Baby V went in and talked to a fellow named Emeril Lagasse.  She said she was a very good eater (which was true) and she was looking for a job.  Emeril said, “Well, you seem like a young girl of great moxy and determination.  It just so happens that our food critic has gone off to San Francisco. Let’s give you a try.” 


Baby V sat down, and Emeril served her Sauteed Escargot with Orecchiette Pasta, Creole Shrimp Gumbo,  Andouille Crusted Texas Redfish, and topped it all off with a Chocolate Torte with Whipped Double Cream.  V gobbled it all up with gusto and got more enthusiastic with every bite.  Emeril said, “You are just about the best eater I’ve ever seen.  But, unfortunately, our food critics need to be a little more critical.  Come back next year, and we’ll give you another try.” 

V was excited that the world held out so many fine opportunities.  She just had to find the right one.  So she walked and walked and walked, and soon she was at a place called Tipitina’s.  She went inside, and a big man was playing the piano.  V had already heard a lot of music in her fifteen months, and she recognized the piece as rhythm and blues, something she herself has often played on her xylophone.

The big guy’s name was Fats Domino.  V told him she liked his playing and she would like to be in a band too.  Fats was surprised to hear this from such a young person, but he invited V to sit down at the piano and he would see what she could do. 

V played her own renditions of “Blueberry Hill” and “Walking to New Orleans.”  Fats Domino was impressed. He’d never run across a fifteen-month-old who had such a perfect sense of rhythm.  Unfortunately, he told her, she had to be eighteen years old before she could play in a bar serving liquor, and so she would need to to wait a while. 

V liked Tipitina’s a lot, and she began wondering just where her place in the world was going to be.  But she walked and walked and walked, and soon she found herself in her own Mid City neighborhood.  She looked across the street, and there were some familiar faces.

It was Mommy and Daddy, who had been out looking for her all day. They were so happy to see her, and Baby V was so happy to see them.  She couldn’t wait to tell them about all the exciting things she’d seen and done.

So they all went home and had double servings of chocolate cake with blue and yellow icing.  And everybody was feeling very good. Baby V even decided that her future life had such promise that it would be all right to be a baby for a while longer.  Especially being a baby in such a loving family.  And she never thought about running off again. 


G-Mail Comments:

-Phyllis SS (1-8-10): Dave - This was adorable.

-Lawdiva4 to Linda KC (1-8-10): Fabulous...loved it! Seriously, I could read these every day :) Keep them coming...

-Jennifer M (1-7-10): Great story and great pictures!

-Donna D (1-6-10): David this is the BEST one so far!!

-KKB (1-6-10):  that is the sweetest, most amazing story i've ever read!

J**, i would love it if you could print it up into a book.  K**

-Vicki L. (1-6-10):  David, These stories are just wonderful. Did you know that you can't easily put out a very professional-looking bound book via the internet. A client of mine just showed his (almost 300 pages) - said it cost him $15.00. This would make a treasured birthday or xmas present. What a grandpa!. Sis

-JML (1-6-10):  That was awesome Dad. I'm gonna make that into a book. Thank you so much, j**

-Linda KC (1-6-10):  oh my god, i love this so much i am sending it on to all my friends, thanks to a special grandfather and so creative 

Monday, January 4, 2010

Rockin' Dopsie Jr. at the Rock n' Bowl

                     Rockin' Dopsie Jr. and unidentified woman

Dear George,

One of the exciting things about visiting New Orleans is that we do a lot of things with J and K that we never do on our own.  On Saturday night we all went out for cocktails at the newly renovated Roosevelt Hotel.  The hundred-yard lobby, which housed three bars, was lined on both sides from beginning to end with glittering white Christmas trees.  We wound up the at Sazerac Bar where I had a Sazerac and Katja had a Ramos Gin Fizz, historic New Orleans drinks.  Then we dined down the block at MiLa, a new, elegant downtown restaurant.  The name is a combination of the two chefs’ home states (Mississippi, Louisiana) whose regional food was the inspiration for their locally sourced southern cuisine.  Katja had Sweet Potato Pappardelle, and I had Yellowfin Tuna – delicious and aesthetically appealing.


After dinner, J invited us to go out to the Rock n’ Bowl where a famous Zydeco group was playing.  Katja said she was too tired, and I was reluctant too – mainly because we never venture out after 10:00 at night.  Fortunately I remembered the great time we’d had at the Rock n’ Bowl on a previous occasion, and I conquered my inertia.  J had told us previously that the Rock n’ Bowl is a famous New Orleans institution.  It combines a bowling alley and a live music venue.  The bowling alley began in 1941 as “Mid City Lanes”, and when current owner John Blancher bought it as a failing enterprise in 1988 he turned it into a nightclub featuring local musicians playing jazz, blues, rock, and, particularly, zydeco.  The Rock n’ Bowl was one of the first flood-damaged Mid City businesses to reopen in December 2005 after the hurricane.

J and I got there about 10:30, and the crowd was overflowing into the parking lot.  The audience was youngish – lots of twenty- and thirty-somethings – and ethnically diverse – whites, African Americans, Hispanics.  Maybe a third of the people were dancing, and a lot were standing up front bopping along with the band or sitting at tables near the back.  The bowling alley, at the far end of the cavernous room, was also busy.


The band for the night was Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. (pronounced Doopsey) and the Zydeco Twisters.  Rockin’ Jr.’s father, accordionist Rockin’ Dopsie (1932-1993), was one of the kings of Zydeco who had helped make Creole music prominent internationally and who had recorded with Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, and others.   Rockin’ Dopsie Jr., vocalist and accordion and washboard player, took over the Twisters upon his father’s death, and the band also features two of Dopsie’s brothers, drummer Alton Dopsie Jr. and accordionist “Dopsie” Rubin, as well as bass, guitar, and keyboard players.   Dopsie Jr. is a charismatic performer.  He wore a sleeveless vest, sunglasses, and a cowboy hat, and strutted about the stage much like Mick Jagger, exhorting the audience to scream.  He belted out songs which seemed a mix of Zydeco and rock and roll, played his washboard, and engaged the crowd with continual shouted remarks.  Dopsie’s repertoire includes many Zydeco classics, e.g., I’m the Zydeco Man; Jambalaya; Lucille; Ay-Te-Te-Fee.  People loved it, and the whole place was shaking.  J and I moved up toward the front and watched the band and the dancers on the ballroom floor.

                   John Blancher at the Rock n' Bowl

About midway in the set Rock n’ Bowl owner John Blancher took the stage.  He gave an emotional speech about his son-in-law leaving his wife and three children for a year-long military stay in Afghanistan, and he led a prayer for all the young men and women there.  He asked the Zydeco Twisters to play God Bless America, which they did well but which struck me as probably a one-time performance for the group.  Then Blancher himself took off his shirt and did a bare-chested vocalization of “The Star Spangled Banner”, dancing about the stage with Dopsie Jr.  The crowd stood and watched politely.  The whole scene was a little surreal.  After the patriotic interlude, Rockin’ Dopsie said he’d located three people whose birthday it was today, and he invited them up to the stage: a 31-year-old man, a 50-year-old man, and a 72-year-old man.  Dopsie said the band would do a song for them before the break, but they then went on to do five or six numbers.  The birthday guys swayed along to the music.  Toward the end, Dopsie asked for women volunteers to dance with the birthday celebrants, then invited a young women named Mindy (who J and I judged to have a shaky voice) to do an Aretha Franklin song.


We left about midnight when the band took its break.  I felt a little euphoric, like I’d participated in something extraordinary – certainly extraordinary for me.  We’ll definitely return to the Rock n’ Bowl, and maybe Katja and I will learn some Zydeco steps in the meantime.  We’re grateful to J and K for helping keep us in touch with where the action is.




G-Mail Comments:

-Donna D (1-9-10): O my god David ijust read this.  Very interesting night you had ,huh!?

-Vicki L. (1-5-10):  Heh David......I'm jealous! And who would've thought you would become the family leader in rockin' out? Proud of you - that inertia can exert quite a tug. Love your new format of including pictures. Love, Vicki



Saturday, January 2, 2010

Saints Fever/Saints Pain

Dear George,

When we arrived in New Orleans to visit J and K ten days ago, we took a cab from the airport into the city.  The driver was silent until we asked something about the Saints (who, up till their most recent game, had accumulated a perfect 13-0 record).  The driver got very animated and explained that his team was about to earn a playoff home field advantage when they defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Sunday’s game.  The Bucs had an awful 2 and 12 record, and never in NFL history had a 2-win team beaten a 13-win team.  He said the whole city had gone wild about the Saints this season.  When he turned off the expressway into Mid City we could see what he meant.  There were billboards, Saints banners on people’s porches, yard signs in their yards, pictures in their windows, bumper stickers on cars.  Once we traveled about a bit we saw numerous people wearing Saints’ jerseys (typically with a large number 9 -- quarterback Drew Brees’ number)  The community seemed in a state akin to religious frenzy.


Practically the first thing that J said when we met up was that there was a chance he could get us tickets to the Saints-Bucs game.  Their friends Murph and Marie were due to fly back from Illinois on Sunday morning, but, with the Midwest racked by major winter storms, many flights were being delayed or cancelled.  We were excited.  Like other fans nation-wide, we’d followed the Saints’ amazing run, and Sunday’s game would be a momentous occasion.  Murph had told J that, if they couldn’t get back from Illinois, J could have their tickets.  J reflected that it was probably immoral of him to wish their flight would be cancelled, but he couldn’t help but hope.  On Saturday morning J called Murph to check on their flight situation, and, much to J’s dismay, Murph said that he’d already promised the tickets to somebody else.  But Murph said he’d see what he could do.  After a couple more phone calls back and forth, Murph said that he been able to locate two tickets.  However, J asked where they were located, Murph explained the seats were in separate sections.  J politely said thanks but no thanks, and we decided that going to a neighborhood sports bar would be nearly as much fun.

A little before Sunday noon we walked a few blocks over to Finn McCool’s Irish Pub, which I was later to learn was a famous New Orleans football gathering place.  As we approached the door, we heard a lot of screaming and shouting, and J nodded and smiled.  We went on, and the female bartender was working up the crowd over a microphone, getting people to shout “Who Dat?” at the top of their voices.  The whole place was jam-packed.  There were a half dozen TVs mounted on the various walls near the ceiling.  An employee pointed us to the only empty remaining space in the whole room, next to the wall behind the pool table, underneath one TV set, but obliquely facing another TV at an angle.  Not ideal, but we could see what was going on.  J bought a round of drinks, and we settled in. 


The crowd was youngish, mostly thirties and forties, and boisterous.  Women and men wore Saints jerseys.  There was a lot of smoking and noisy conversation.  The game started shortly after our arrival, and the crowd cheered loudly at every Saints success, whether Pierre Thomas made a two-yard run or the defense held the Bucs to the line of scrimmage.  When the Saints scored a touchdown on their first possession, the crowd erupted with joy and high fives.  Then on their next possession Drew Brees marched the team down the field for a second touchdown.  I mentally calculated that, at this pace, the final score would be 56-0.  The Saints added a field goal on their third possession, and the contest seemed to be all over before halftime.  The Bucs did manage to eke out a field goal before the half ended, but our group remained pretty relaxed, happy, and confident.   We ordered some more drinks.        

                                      Finn McCool's Irish Pub

J and K traded child-care duties after halftime.  Things began to get a little dicier as the second half unfolded.  Tampa Bay’s Cadillac Williams began making one solid run after the next, and the Saints’ defense suddenly was looking more vulnerable.  The Bucs scored one touchdown and then another, and the crowd in Finn McCool’s quieted down and smiles vanished.  K arrived at the bar in a state of shock and asked us what in the world was going on.  Late in the final quarter the Bucs tied the game with a field goal.  Nobody in Finn’s could believe it.  Then with less than two minutes to go Drew Brees did his magic again and brought the Saints into field goal range.  There were two or three seconds left on the clock..  The snap was good, and the highly reliable Saints’ kicker kicked the ball solidly.  Inexplicably, though, he shanked the ball to the left, and his very makeable 37-yard attempt failed.  The Saints’ owner on the TV screen, misreading the field goal as good, jumped with joy, as did we fans.  Then, just as quickly, we all groaned as the officials signalled the kick no good.  The game clock expired.


It just felt like more bad Karma when Tampa Bay won the coin flip to start overtime.  It was bad Karma.  They promptly marched straight down the field and kicked a field goal of their own to win the game, 20-17.  The bar was silent; the fans, stunned and incredulous.  Several started crying visibly; others simply grimaced and shook their heads.  Nobody said a whole lot.  The bartender on her microphone tried to get the crowd to yell that the Saints were still going to win the Super Bowl, but she was met with lukewarm enthusiasm at best.


We went outside and ran into one of K and J’s friends, Rick, on the sidewalk.  Rick said this was more like the Saints of old and that they probably won’t do much from here on out.  Rick’s companion commented that many of the Saints’ wins in their 13-0 run were last minute flukes and that their luck was over.  Later we listened to a local sports radio commentator who denigrated the Saints’ defense as pitiful and said their chances of winning a game in the playoffs were next to zero.  While the city seemed on a massive high before the Tampa Bay game, it had abruptly plunged into collective despair.  The team that people idolized was now the object of distrust and disillusion.


So now it’s nearly a week later and there’s been time for spirits to recover.  New Orleans plays Carolina tomorrow.  The Saints are 13-2 and have the second best win-loss record in the NFL this season.  They have a bye for the first week and, because of Minnesota’s loss, will enjoy a home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  They have one of the most successful quarterbacks and one of the most potent offenses in professional football this year.  Tampa Bay was an embarrassing catastrophe, to be sure, but, based on their season record, the Saints’ prospects are favorable.  It would help though if you join our daily noontime prayer circle – the team does need a little support from above (and who’s more deserving of it than “the Saints”).  Who Dat?