Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday's Poetry: "Sympathy"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was born to parents who had escaped from slavery, and the grim African experience in America is a pervasive theme in his writings. Dunbar died from tuberculosis at the tender age of thirty-three, but even in that tragically short life, he was able to compile a substantial body of literary work that included a dozen books of poetry, four books of short stories, five novels, and a play which was the first all-black production to run on Broadway.

At one time Dunbar, who had been student body president of a basically all-white high school, published a newspaper aimed at an African-American readership. The printing shop that put out the newspaper belonged to two of his friends, Orville and Wilbur Wright!

His poetry is simple and speaks directly to the heart. The following selection, Sympathy, is a good example of Dunbar's elegance with a sparing use of words, and it demonstrates the impact that he still has on modern writers like Maya Angelou.

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

I KNOW what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals —
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting —
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up

by Pa Rock
Earth Mover

I found my elusive Blood Orange tree at Whitfill Nursery on Saturday. The nursery is an amazing place, several acres of palms, cacti, citrus trees and houseplants right in the middle of Phoenix. Walking back through all of the greenery in search of their one remaining Blood Orange reminded me of a visit to Guatemala several years ago. My guide on this adventure was a fellow named Archie who treated me like I was the only customer at Whitfill! The tree that I was seeking proved to be difficult to locate, but Archie persevered until we found it.

I also bought a kumquat tree while I was there - and it is loaded with delicious kumquats. The last time that I had fresh kumquats was in New Orleans over Easter weekend about thirty years ago. They taste just as wonderful as I remembered!

Archie and a couple of his co-workers loaded both trees into the back seat of my convertible. I drove a leisurely 20-miles-an-hour down Glendale Avenue through Phoenix, Glendale, and finally Litchfield Park. I didn't check the mileage, but it was at least twenty miles. Probably no fewer than five or six hundred cars flew past me on my trip back to the Wheezin' Geezer Trailer Park!

I managed to get the fifteen gallon kumquat out of the car by myself, but the Blood Orange in its 24-inch wooden planter had to spend the night in the car because I couldn't find a chump - er...good Samaritan - to help me unload it. This morning I pulled up in front of the house where I wanted to discharge the big tree. I put on my most pitiable expression as I pulled and tugged on the planter, and eventually a neighbor whom I hadn't met stopped and gave me an assist.

Today I have dug three major holes and gotten the kumquat, tangelo (moved), and new tangerine into the ground. The Blood Orange will go in front of the house where the tangelo used to reside. (It proved to be too big for the spot where I intended to plant it.) I also made two trips to Lowe's and got the necessaries for planting those trees - including three dozen large border blocks. My back didn't go out until I was packing my car during the last Lowe's stop.

I am in so much pain!

I used my credit card at the final Lowe's stop. When the clerk asked for an ID, I inadvertently pulled out my military ID instead of my driver's license. "Oh," he said, "That's good for 10 percent off!" (Wish I'd known that before I began this yard renovation!)

I'm off to lay on the couch, eat kumquats, watch Andre Rieu Live in Dresden, and let the cat walk on my back! Life doesn't get much better than that!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Little Dog Laughed

by Pa Rock
Citizen Drama Critic

It's a given that an evening at the Nearly Naked Theatre in downtown Phoenix will result in a good time, and The Little Dog Laughed does nothing to diminish that expectation. This play, which was on Broadway just a scant two years ago, is clever, funny, and very touching. The four-person cast under the direction of Nearly Naked founder, Damon Dering, bring their characters to life flawlessly, engaging each other and the audience in an intricate dance of love, fame, and deal-making.

Mitch Green (Ian Christiansen) is a young actor who phones out for a rent boy one evening when he has had a bit too much to drink. Alex (Owen Virgin) answers that call and almost inadvertently begins a serious affair with Mitch. As their love develops, complications arise when Mitch's agent and wannabe producer, Diane (Patti Davis Suarez) tries to keep him closeted while she pursues the rights to a hot play that has a perfect role for Mitch - and is a perfect vehicle for her producer aspirations. And then there is Alex's girlfriend, Ellen (Laura Anne Kenney), who, even though she knows her boyfriend is a hustler, has some significant jealousy pangs as she watches him falling for Mitch.

Okay, it's not your normal boy-meets-girl, boy-courts-girl, boy-marries-girl pablum that has passed as real life for way too long. The Little Dog Laughed is a contemporary love story that explores the topic in an open and honest way. It feels very, very real - from the queen-sized bed that occupies the center of the set, to the occasional and relaxed nudity of the lovers. Much of the dialogue is rapid fire and dead-on, and there are enough twists, turns, and triangles to be worthy of the Bard of Avon. And while the plot is far from predictable, the story is easy to follow.

While each of the actors nailed their roles, it was Patti Davis Suarez who carried the production. In addition to being superb as the pushy agent, she functioned as the narrator for much of the show and kept pulling the various story tangents back into focus. She was also the only member of the cast who managed to remain fully clothed throughout the play!

Ms. Davis Suarez, who has apparently been a staple of the Valley arts scene for several years, was the local news anchor in another era when I was living in southern Missouri. (I won't embarrass her or me by saying how many years ago that was!) I remember her final broadcast - for some odd reason - when she announced that she was leaving and moving to Los Angeles. A couple of years later Saturday Night Live took a swipe at her when she refused to give up her stage name (Patti Davis) so that Reagan's daughter (also Patti Davis) could use it. Gutsy move!

The Little Dog Laughed will run through December 5th. It is a lot of fun and very well done. This show will make you laugh and touch your heart.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Elusive Blood Orange

by Pa Rock
Hole Digger

The ground has been cleared, the roses planted and bordered and mulched, and the stone blocks formed into circular borders in anticipation of three new citrus trees. Tomorrow I will visit several nurseries in search of the perfect specimens to adorn the east side of my house.

I am considering lemon, lime, or tangerine for the trees on the ends of the garden, and my final choices will rest primarily on the quality of the available selections. They have to be well-shaped and healthy.

The middle tree will be more problematic. I want the center of attention to be a Blood Orange, but I am learning that they are the first to go when the new trees arrive in the fall. Today I was able to track down one by phone, on the far side of town, of course. I won't reveal the price because if my dentist finds out that I am even considering buying it, he will raise his rates! I will trek on over tomorrow and check it out - and hope that some Black Friday shopper didn't beat me to it.

A year ago I had never even heard of a Blood Orange. But then one of my former thirty-year-old bosses came to work one day and announced excitedly that he just discovered the small orange tree in his front yard was a "Blood." There was something about the way he flaunted the news that made me realize that I had to have one. No yuppie adolescent with an overpriced home was going to out-tree Pa Rock!

And when I have found the elusive Blood Orange, my next quest will be to locate a Crip Mango!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 2009

by Pa Rock
Holiday Reveler

It was a beautiful day in the desert, temperatures in the low eighties and blue skies as far as the eye could see.

I crawled out of bed early in anticipation of the repairperson from Dish Network who was scheduled to be at my place sometime between 8 a.m. and noon. Mario from Dish arrived minutes before noon, with his father-in-law (a holiday visitor from Los Angeles) in tow. It turned out that my service was out because I failed to turn the proper knob to the proper setting. Mario and his wife's father were in and out in five minutes.

I managed to plant four more roses during the four hours that I waited on Mario. All were Don Juan climbing roses which will soon be entwined through my porch railings and with their shiny green foliage and deep red fragrant blooms. Arizona, which isn't good for much, is a wonderful place to grow roses.

The morning's yard work also included digging up a dying bush - that was immediately replaced with a health Don Juan - cutting some dead branches from other bushes, and digging up an ancient knot of lantana roots. This afternoon I built a mound of dirt over the spot where the lantana had reigned supreme for so many years, and proceeded to plant two large prickly pear cacti as its crown. It is an ideal spot for the prickly pear - I hope!

The ham and navy beans that I fixed in the crockpot overnight were delicious, and I have plenty left to get me through the weekend and then some. Scroungy Bastard (to whom I am growing attached and considering changing his name) thought that the ham was a particularly tasty!

This evening I settled down on the couch and watched Calendar Girls on BBC America. It is the very essence of British comedy - a tale of a group of middle-aged women who pose nude for a calendar as a charity fundraiser. Well, they weren't completely nude - each wore her strand of pearls! Those Brits are so bloody proper!

The military hospital where I work is closed tomorrow, but I will be among several people who go in anyway to catch up on paperwork. That saves having to take a vacation day. I will use my "Black Friday" next month as I cruise the Caribbean!

Tim called last night to wish me a happy Thanksgiving. He and his bride, Erin, and Nick and Boone are going to my dad's house tomorrow and prepare a Thanksgiving meal for him. (Erin, if you wind up doing most of the cooking, make the guys do the dishes!) Molly called this evening so that Sebastian could wish Pa Rock a "Happy Thanksgiving." He said it so plainly! Sebastian's little brother is due to enter this world within the next few days.

On this Thanksgiving Day I am truly thankful for family: my dad, my kids, and my grandkids! Live long and prosper - Pa Rock loves you!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Republican Party Purity

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Those crazy Republicans are going at it again! Just last month most of the big names in the party went charging off into the wilderness of northern New York to campaign for a third party candidate for Congress because their own Republican candidate was too liberal. The bit of political skulduggery cost them the seat - the Republican lost, the Conservative lost, and the Democrat won - just in time to vote for health care reform!

They were so successful at giving away a congressional seat that had been held by Republicans since the Civil War, that now they are taking their plan to purify the party nationwide! Some members of the Republican National Committee are circulating a resolution that puts forth ten loyalty tests for Republican candidates. They want the full RNC to agree to not give money or an endorsement to any candidate that doesn't support at least seven of the ten "pure" conservative positions. Those that are judged by the party to be "impure" will have to self-finance their campaigns or go find a home elsewhere.

These ten pure conservative principles are based on on the myth that they are what God (Reagan) would have wanted. But, as Keith Olbermann pointed out on Countdown earlier this week, even the almighty Reagan would have failed this litmus test!

Here is the list of beliefs that future Republican candidates may have to openly embrace in order to prove their party loyalty. Good luck, Comrades!

1. We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits, and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama's "stimulus" bill.

First off, crackheads, the original stimulus bill was sent to Congress by the Bush administration, those good folks who came within a whisker or two of bringing on an economic depression that would have made Hoover's (also a Republican) look lame by comparison. Second, while Republican Presidents and elected officials are religiously opposed to spending any money on the poor or minorities, they are always eager to fund wars and provide welfare to the rich. Some of the most significant debt in our nation's history has been piled up by Republican administrations.

2. We support market based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run health care.

Or, in simple English, those enormous insurance companies that give us tons of campaign cash should be left in charge of determining who gets what health care - and at what cost. Again, Republicans do not give a twisted turd about the plight of the working poor who often hold down multiple jobs and still can't afford health care.

3. We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation.

That's a two-fer. It means that they don't want any government interference in the energy marketplace, and screw the environmentalists. Those big oil companies have always been our friends, right?

4. We support worker's right to secret ballot by opposing card check.

Republicans oppose unions, in perpetuity! If there was a way for the rich to run their factories without workers, they would do it. As it is, they now have to ship jobs off to places like Bangladesh and the Banana Republics in order to find slaves willing to work for pennies. Republicans also oppose the concept of a minimum wage and take great pride in fighting against increases in the hourly wage.

5. We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Translation: If you had the audacity to be born brown, get the hell out of my country - after you finish doing the yard work and scrubbing my toilets!

6. We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges.

Actually what they support is the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower (a different kind of Republican) warned us about. They support big defense contractors who dump money in their campaign war chests. They support wars that their children don't have to fight. Wars are the big reason that Republicans fail so miserably at meeting Goal #1.

7. We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat.

Again, what they really support are their fat cat friends who get rich selling the machinery of war.

8. We support the Defense of Marriage Act.

Fuck that! Republicans are such moralistic bastards! Senator Larry Craig, a married Republican, propositioned a man for sex in an airport bathroom. Senator John Ensign, also a married Republican, had an affair with a married staffer on his payroll, and then tried to buy his way out of the resulting mess with cash and jobs for her family members. Republican Governor Mark Sanford left his wife and four sons at home over Father's Day weekend while he flew to Argentina for a roll in the sheets with his mistress. There are more, many more. And yet these are the sanctimonious pricks who want to define marriage for the rest of society. Again, fuck that!

9. We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing, denial of health care, and government funding of abortion.

Unfortunately, health care is already rationed - by one's ability to pay: the rich get plenty and the poor get none. And Republicans have long brayed for votes by opposing a woman's constitutionally-given right to control her own body. As the old saying goes, Republicans see life as beginning at conception and ending at birth - when it comes time to guarantee a decent life to another poor child.

10. We support protecting the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.

In other words, any mental patient or lifelong felon should be able to own as many fully automatic weapons as he can afford. And don't even think about keeping any records on gun ownership. Criminals aren't the enemy - government is!

Keep up the good work, fools. Der Fuhrer would be proud!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Arpaio Files: Joe's Justice

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Joanne Cuccia is a Phoenix area attorney. On October 19th of this year she was in court representing Antonio Lozano, a young man who was being sentenced for an aggravated assault which he had pleaded guilty to in September. During the hearing, Cuccia left her desk and approached the bench to speak to Judge Lisa Flores. It was just another routine day in Maricopa County Superior Court.

But a detention officer named Adam Stoddard, a deputy with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, took it upon himself to turn an ordinary day in court to a memorable one. While Joanne Cuccia was at the bench talking to the judge, Deputy Stoddard walked up behind her desk, pulled a paper from the file that she had left on the desk, and gave it to another deputy to take outside of the courtroom and photocopy. He might have gotten away with this clear violation of attorney-client privilege, except that the document heist was recorded on the court's surveillance camera. Oops!

This week Deputy Stoddard had to do his own perp-walk into Superior Court where he appeared before Judge Gary Donahoe and tried to 'splain himself. Stoddard hemmed and hawed as he tried to justify his theft of the document. He had seen some suspicious words on it ("going to," "steal," and "money") and jumped to the illogical conclusion that it must therefore have posed some security threat. He also said that he thought the defendant might have ties to the Mexican Mafia.

But Judge Donahoe wasn't buying it. He ordered Stoddard to hold a news conference before November 30th where he was to issue a sincere public apology to the attorney. If he did not do that, or if the apology failed to satisfy Ms. Cuccia, the deputy was to report to jail where he would be incarcerated. The judge had barely finished speaking when Sheriff Joe let go with one of his classic tirades.

"My officer was doing his job," Joe thundered, "and I will not stand by and allow him to be thrown to the wolves by the courts because they feel pressure from the media on this situation. I decide who holds press conferences and when they are held regarding this Sheriff's Office." (Translation: There is only room for one glory hog in this outfit, and it ain't Deputy Stoddard!)

So rifling through attorney's files, taking papers without permission, and having those papers photocopied is Deputy Stoddard's job. That's good information for other attorneys practicing in the Valley to have. It doesn't work that way anyplace else, but Maricopa County has a long history of being unique.

And as for Joanne Cuccia and her client, Antonio Lozano: the attorney is now filing a motion to have the case dismissed. She is also requesting a change of venue, undoubtedly preferring to review this case in any county that is not Maricopa!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday's Poetry: "Thanksgiving Day"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

It's been more than a quarter of a century since my young family left our home in Mountain View, MO, and moved back to Noel, MO. A major reason for that relocation was the sudden health care crisis that beset my mother, and thus all of us. It was about that time that she was diagnosed with brain tumors, and we realized, sadly, that her days were numbered.

We rented our first home after the move at the base of the hill that my parents basically owned, and they resided in a nice home on the crest of the hill. It would be in that home where my mother would breathe her last a couple of years down the road. One of the first things that I did after getting settled in was to take my new boom box up the hill, complete with a fresh cassette tape, so that Mom and I could have a long discussion about family history.

Fortunately, I was really into genealogy at that time and was inspired to record as much history as possible. Unfortunately, of the several copies that I made of that tape, all have disappeared. I gave copies to most, if not all, of her siblings as well as my dad and sister after Mom's death. I am certain that my copy is somewhere in the 5.600 square feet of my dad's house - every room of which is stacked to the rafters with crap - some of it mine!

But until one of the copies turns up, I am forced to rely on memory.

One of the stories that Mom told on that tape was of her mother and father taking all of the kids through the woods to her paternal grandmother's house on Christmas Eve. They made the trip in a horse-drawn wagon. She even told me the horse's names - I believe one was Dolly, and I can't remember what the other was called. Mom said that they had so much fun on the trip over, and she and her six brothers and sisters would sing "Over the river and through the wood, to Grandmother's house we go!" And she laughed and got tears in her eyes as she sang those words again, so many years later - long after the passing of her grandmother, parents, and two of her brothers.

I was familiar with the words, at least those few that Mom could remember, but I had no idea that it wasn't a Christmas carol or poem, but rather a light verse to celebrate family gatherings at Thanksgiving. The author, L. Maria Child, was famous for being a strident abolitionist, and she also authored several novels in the 19th century.

Here for your holiday reading pleasure is "Thanksgiving Day" by L. Maria Child. May we reach a point in life where our peace is not dependent on someone else's suffering, and everyone can experience the joy of spending their holidays with family.

Thanksgiving Day

Over the river and through the wood,
To grandfather's house we go;
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh
Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood--
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood,
To have first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the wood,
And straight through the barn-yard gate.
We seem to go
Extremely slow--
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood--
Now grandmother's cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin-pie!

(This blog post is lovingly dedicated to my uncle, Floyd Edgar Sreaves, Mom's only surviving sibling and the last remaining rider from that wagon that made the annual wintry trek over the river and through the wood to Grandmother Sreaves' house!)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

George is Dead: Do Not Resuscitate!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Drama Critic

George is Dead, a production of the Arizona Theatre Company, is a work in progress that has aspirations to reach the Great White Way. Right now it is a adequate play, suitable for community theatre, but definitely a long, long way from being ready for Broadway.

The legendary Elaine May wrote and directed this comedic endeavor, and while the script is funny, it is far from being her best work. The elements are there for dynamite comedy with blistering repartee, but the dialogue never gets turned loose to explore the liberal versus conservative construct. (It was also disappointing that the director did not step out onto the stage to acknowledge her audience.)

George is a wealthy and kindly conservative who meets an untimely death while skiing in Aspen. His somewhat ditzy (and pampered) wife, Doreen, has managed to live her life up until that point without having to make any decisions of consequence. When confronted with the unexpected death of her spouse, the clueless Doreen flees to a place of comfort and safety, the modest apartment of her childhood nanny's daughter, Carla. Doreen and Carla had been playmates of a sort when they were little girls.

George died in Aspen, the victim of an avalanche, but his widow, Doreen, and Carla are in New York City. Carla soon discovers that Doreen not only has no clue about how to get George's body back to New York and make funeral arrangements, she is actively avoiding the problem by watching Andy Griffith reruns and worrying about whether Aunt Bee is still alive or not.

Carla's ultra-liberal husband, Michael, storms into the apartment and quickly out again as he comes to the realization that his wife has taken in a homeless and witless millionaire. Carla stays up all night making funeral arrangements for George, while Doreen lies curled up to the couch watching television and singing along with theme songs from the sixties.

And that, sadly, comprised most of the action.

This play has a clever plot with a distinct possibility of raucous hilarity, but it just never happens. The dialogue was inexplicably tepid considering it came from the pen of a true comic genius, and the action dragged. There is a scene in a car where George is being chauffeured to the airport so that he can get on his private plane and fly to Aspen. He discusses life, and love, and politics with his young driver who is a native of the Dominican Republic. The scene made no sense other than to highlight the fact that George is a compassionate conservative who truly loves his wife - all of which could have been handled elsewhere in the production - and some of it was. Yet the scene went on...and on...and on! I felt bad for the two actors who had to plod through all of that useless verbiage and try to make it relevant to the audience.

George was played by Don Murray, a distinguished senior citizen who received an Academy Award nomination in 1957 for playing the rodeo cowboy, Bo Decker, in Bus Stop, opposite screen goddess Marilyn Monroe. (Which, considering that I sat fifteen feet from Don Murray - 3rd row center - gives me one degree of separation from Marilyn!) His performance was somewhat lackluster, but his talent was buried under stilted dialogue, much like his character was buried under an avalanche in Aspen.

Marlo Thomas celebrated her seventy-second birthday last night playing the role of Doreen. Thomas is a skilled actress and was invested in her role, but the magic just was not there. (And speaking of not there, if Phil Donahue was in the house for his wife's birthday, he must have been watching from backstage. He was nowhere to be seen on my side of the curtain!)

The only standout performance was San Francisco actress Julia Brothers who shined in the role of Carla. Brothers' comic timing and flawless double-takes made Carla the most humorous and sympathetic character of the production. Watching her deal with the sad and silly Doreen was the best part of the evening.

George is Dead made for an entertaining evening, though I certainly felt that it could have delivered more considering the fame of the playwright and director, and the talent assembled on the stage. The kindling was there, but it just never ignited. The word is out, I fear, because there were many empty seats at last night's performance including four next to me on the third row. (It was a Saturday in downtown Phoenix without significant competition from any other major cultural events - or sporting activities.) And the curtain came down without the almost obligatory standing ovation.

Elaine, your play is muddled. If you need help fixing it, I know a young playwright in Kansas City that could jump in and help you out!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

An Active Saturday

by Pa Rock
Weekend Wonder

Today I finally made it back to the gym, after a break of too many days. I managed to step out 3.68 miles in a hour on the treadmill, not my best by far, but definitely a much stronger performance than I was giving just a year ago. I also read a short story (mind exercise), bought groceries, and made a swing through Lowe's where I purchased potting soil, mulch, bricks, and a garbage disposal. The park manager had assured me that I could get a magnificent garbage disposal for around fifty dollars. He was wrong.

This afternoon I planted the four rosebushes that I bought last week. They are in a sunny spot with good drainage, so I am hopeful that my mini-rose garden will succeed.

Tonight I am heading into Phoenix to see a stage play - Elaine May's "George is Dead," a mystery starring Marlo Thomas. It is at the Herberger Theatre where I managed to get sprayed while sitting on the front row watching "The Kite Runner." I think that I have the same seat this time, so I hope that Marlo is less exuberant!

Next Friday I am again going downtown to catch a play, "The Little Dog Laughed," at the Nearly Naked Theatre. The productions of the Nearly Naked Theatre are always memorable!

I just heard Scroungy Bastard coming in through the doggy door. It must be supper time!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mary Landrieu Has Health Insurance!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Mary Landrieu, a United States Senator from Louisiana, has been in the news quite a bit lately. Polls show that the people of Louisiana favor a national health insurance program, but Senator Landrieu, an astute political animal and daughter of the infamous ex-mayor of New Orleans, Moon Landrieu, has an election coming up and she is not too sure about those polls.

(Okay, that was a bit unfair of me because all mayors of New Orleans, past and present, generate some degree of infamy.)

Last Saturday the National Association of Free Clinics - in association with MSNBC - held a free health care clinic in New Orleans, and the results were quite disturbing. Over one thousand people showed up for the free health screenings. Ninety-percent of those in attendance received two or more diagnoses, 82% had life-threatening illnesses, and four had to be taken to hospitals immediately on stretchers. Many of those seen at the clinic had not had any medical care since before Hurricane Katrina devastated their city and their lives.

One nurse who attended as a patient was interviewed on television. He worked for two different hospitals, and because he could not find a "full-time" position, he had no health insurance. The nurse said that he had not been to a doctor for his own medical care in over five years. (That's how Wal-Mart does it. Keep those wage slaves employed on a part-time basis so you don't have to pay those pesky benefits.)

Senator Landrieu was invited to attend the free clinic to visit with her constituents and get a firsthand view of the very real health care crisis that exists in her state and her city - but she declined due to "scheduling conflicts." She was also invited onto the television show, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, to discuss the results of the clinic, but she was unavailable for that also.

While Mary Landrieu may not yet be certain which way the political winds are blowing, that is not the case with Republican Congressman Joseph Cao who represents most of New Orleans in the House of Representatives. Mr. Cao was the only Republican to vote for the comprehensive health care package recently passed by the House. Joe knows, Mary, Joe knows. Wake up and smell the chicory coffee!

(Senator Landrieu was in the news today when it was revealed that she inexplicably wrote a check to the United States Treasury from her campaign fund for $25,300. Either she is an exceptionally concerned citizen with altruistic motives, or she is trying to get in front of an ethics probe. My money is on the latter.)

The National Association for Free Health Clinics and MSNBC will hold another big clinic this Saturday in Little Rock, Arkansas, where Senator Blanche Lincoln, another Democrat, is also sitting on the health care fence. Will Senator Lincoln show up at the clinic and meet her constituents - and listen to their real life health care horror stories? That is what a good Senator, one who is truly concerned about the health of her constituents, would do.

Make your donation or pledge your time at: (I made mine this evening.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Nation Cruise

by Pa Rock
World Traveler

I will be cruising again during the second week of December, this time heading to Grand Turk, St. Thomas, and Puerto Rico. If I were still living in the bitterly cold Midwest, this would be an especially lovely getaway. But even though the weather in Phoenix will be great in December, it will still be nice to get away from the sand fleas and teabaggers - if only for a week.

And will I ever be getting away from the teabaggers! This cruise is with The Nation magazine, a very leftist publication that offers me a weekly respite from Arizona attitudes. This cruise will be much like the one that I took with Ms. Magazine and the National Association of Social Workers a couple of years ago with some of the time at sea being devoted to workshops and listening to well-known speakers.

It will such a rush to be set adrift with people who actually think and speak sense!

Speakers scheduled to be on the cruise include national luminaries like Howard Dean (former governor of Vermont and chair of the Democratic National Committee), Calvin Trillin (poet and columnist), and award-winning novelist E. L. Doctorow. Tom Hayden, California politician and member of the infamous Chicago Seven, was scheduled to be a speaker, but I recently noticed that his name has been dropped from the line-up. (I hope that he has a change of heart and decides to join us!) Several national journalists will also be on board sharing their insights.

This will be my second cruise of the year. The first was last June when Nick and Boone joined me on a Disney adventure. We had a marvelous time letting the folks from Disney entertain us. Floating with The Nation will certainly be different than last summer's boat ride to the Bahamas with the House of Mouse, but I am expecting to have just as much fun!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My New Dentist Drives a Hummer

by Pa Rock
Health Care Consumer

I was assured by friends that my new dentist was painless, but they clearly lied. Oh, the shots go in with little irritation, and the deep cleaning was a downright drowsy affair. In fact, I never felt a thing until his "girl" handed me the bill - that was a real kick in the face, and man did it hurt!

He actually gave me an estimate yesterday, shortly after taking a couple of hundred dollars worth of x-rays. Dentistry is a gotcha system. You have to have the exam and x-rays before the mouth doctor can tell how much it is going to cost. By the time you get the estimate, you have already been hooked into his system. The estimate that I was handed yesterday - by another of his "girls" - represented enough money to buy a decent car.

(I suspect that prices went up when he found out that I had a Cadillac dental plan, but even with the cash that the plan will fork over, I will still be hit harder than Muhammad Ali ever pounded anyone.)

My new dentist has to charge ridiculously high prices because his office is a palace. The first thing that one of the "girls" do for new clients is to give them a tour of the office, and it is nice - very nice. Some of the accoutrement's that caught my eye were the flat screen televisions located at the end of each patient station, and also on the ceiling over the reclining patient's head. I learned that those were available so that patients could watch movies while the dentist was doing his thing. Really!

That was my first clue that the rates were going to be exorbitant. Clue number two was when I learned that he drove a Hummer - an effing Hummer! Not only is he a greedy capitalist swine, but he also has no environmental conscience!

Today I went back to my new dentist and another of his "girls" gave my teeth a deep cleaning, and then gave my wallet an even deeper cleaning. I am certain that I have now made a Hummer payment - or two!

My New Dentist Drives a Hummer
by Pa Rock

My new dentist drives a Hummer
Morning, noon, and even summer.
He smiles when I walk in the door,
Knowing he will leave me poor,
And forever driving my ragtop Bummer!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Arpaio Files: Meet Joe Blow

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Vice President Joe Biden was in Phoenix yesterday meeting with area Democrats. He also took time out to personally recognize some of the local people who have benefited from the Federal stimulus package. Then, to add the frosting to that cake of a day, the Vice President took a meeting with Joe Arpaio, the legendary (in his own mind) sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.

Or did he?

Well, according to Sheriff Joe, he did. The self-styled "toughest sheriff in America" tweeted the following: "Just got done meeting with the Vice President of the United States." The sheriff even revealed the nature of their talks. He apparently told the Veep of his need for more deputies.

The local press, which should be used to our sheriff's outlandish propensity for shameless self-promotion and exaggeration, bought into his tweet and helped to generate more local buzz about the meeting between the Vice President and Sheriff Joe.

Only one problem - if a meeting occurred, it was somewhere in cobwebs of Arpaio's aging head.

Today the White House issued a statement noting that the Republican Arpaio had not been invited to the Biden event - he just showed up. Apparently pushy old Joe managed to grab a handshake with the Vice President as he was exiting the building, but it lacked the element of conversation that most people regard as necessary for a "meeting."

Undoubtedly the Vice President is aware of our illustrious sheriff. Janet Napolitano probably regales the cabinet with stories of Sheriff Joe routinely rounding up political opponents and charging them with bogus offenses. And Joe's tent city is truly legendary, adding to that tough cop image that he likes to brandish.

I suspect that Biden has a working knowledge of Arpaio - and that if the sheriff had the opportunity to make a pitch for more deputies, the Vice President would have probably laughed in his face. True, more deputies could help to serve the 40,000 misdemeanor and felony warrants that are backlogged and waiting to be delivered to deserving recipients in Maricopa County, but the sheriff already commands a force that would give any third world dictator a permanent boner. If Sheriff Joe would take some of the deputies off of his publicity-oriented immigration sweeps and other stunts, the county's law enforcement work might start getting done.

But those are just my thoughts.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday's Poetry: "The Theology of Cockroaches"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

The words of Sherman Alexie flow as smoothly as butter melting over warm flapjacks, and they are just as aromatic. Whether writing short stories, novels, or poetry, Alexie is a wordsmith of the most readable order. His tales take readers into the very heart and soul of contemporary Native American culture, detailing life on and around the reservation in hard and real terms: "...poverty, grinding and absolute, constant as gravity..." Yet his words also convey the the warmth of family and friendship, like the fuzzy comfort of a worn Indian blanket or an old dog sleeping at your feet.

Sherman Alexie is such a mesmerizing poet that I struggled to find something representative of his skills. The following, The Theology of Cockroaches, does provide a good gauge of his talents, but everything Alexie writes is worthy of reading and reading again.

This poem was taken from the volume, One Stick Song.

The Theology of Cockroaches
by Sherman Alexie

Diane says, it might have been
a cockroach
in the upstairs bathroom

though she cannot be positive
because she was otherwise distracted
and only saw it out of the corner
of her eyes, the cockroach

or rather, the potential cockroach
that scuttled along the baseboard
in the bathroom and vanished
before she could get a good look at it.

Have you ever seen a cockroach?
I ask her and she says, Of course
I have, I grew up in California
though I'm not sure what that means

because I've always associated
cockroaches with poverty, grinding
and absolute, constant as gravity
and though I've been poor

I've never been that poor, never
woke to a wall filled with cockroaches
spelling out my name, never
stepped into a dark room and heard

the cockroaches baying at the moon.
Diane saw the cockroach
in the bathroom, one of four bathrooms
in this large house. We are homeowners

and there is a cockroach
or the idea of a cockroach
in the bathroom, a cockroach
scuttling along the hardwood floors.

Did you get a good look at it?
I ask Diane and she says, No, but
it was fast, cockroach-fast.
Not beetle-fast, not

ant-fast, not even spider-fast
but cockroach-fast, disappearing
behind the magazine rack
in the bathroom, slipping

into the crack between floor
and baseboard. Impossible.
Impossible. Impossible.
Impossible. Impossible.

Impossible. The impossible cockroach
is not alone, I think, cockroaches
are never alone, never hermits, never
the last one on the ship, never

the one who dies alone.
Christopher Columbus was a cockroach
and look what followed him.
The cockroach, the cockroach

in the bathroom is watching us
as Diane and I explore
the smallest spaces between
toilet and wall, beneath the sink

and in the drawers that contain
the pieces of our life
together. The cockroach
is watching us as we discuss

our theories
to explain this cockroach:
the neighbors are remodeling
the old house next door, forcing

cockroaches to migrate, perhaps
fleeing from insecticide
and the sudden absence of food.
Maybe it wasn't a cockroach, I say

and Diane agrees. It could have been
any other kind of insect, it
could have been a hummingbird
for that matter, it could have been

an angel sent to test our faith, it
could have been God, God, God.
That cockroach, that angel
scuttles along the hardwood

and Diane sees it out of the corner
of her eye, in her
peripheral vision, and she believes
it was a cockroach

but she cannot be sure, she only
saw it for a brief moment. God
I ask Diane, how many humans have seen
God in person, truly seen God

take shape and form, how many?
Moses saw the Burning Bush, she says.
Moses, Moses, Moses, impossible Moses
scuttling along the hard wood

or was it Pharaoh? Or was the cockroach
on fire? Or was the cockroach
not a cockroach at all, but a visible prayer
a corporeal sin, a tiny piece

of forgiveness? Diane and I kneel
in our bathroom. We are searching
for the cockroach that might have been
a cockroach or nothing at all.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More on the Wedding

by Pa Rock
Proud Dad

Tim and Erin were married in their apartment last night, and while the setting was simple, the ceremony was one of the most beautiful that I have ever witnessed. The vows were personal and carefully scripted by the bride and groom. The minister, whom Tim referred to as "The Priestess," took the couple's words and made them the binding contract that is marriage. Tim had selected a very appropriate quotation about love from Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms that his friend Chad read into the ceremony.

One of the nicest things about this simple wedding was having the opportunity to meet everyone. I had the chance to become acquainted with Erin's parents, her sister and brother-in-law, and her niece. They are such great people, and I know that Tim was drawn to Erin, in part, by the acceptance and warmth of her family. I also got to meet some of Erin's friends and visit with a couple of Tim's buddies. It's amazing how much you can learn about your son when his buddies are relaxed and telling tales!

The happy couple hosted a very nice reception dinner at Figlio's Restaurant in Kansas City. The group was small enough that I was able to chat with most who were there, and listen in on many of the conversations. All in all, it was instrumental in helping me to know my son and his beautiful bride better.

Tim and Erin, I wish you much happiness! Erin, welcome to the family!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wedding Day!

by Pa Rock
Proud Dad

Mr. Tim Macy and Miss Erin Pater will be married at five o'clock this afternoon at their apartment in Kansas City, Missouri. Erin is from this area, so I will get to meet many of her relatives and lots of Tim and Erin's friends. It should be a very nice evening.

My friend Carla helped me get hooked up to Skype last night - by phone, and then she and I managed to have a video call across Kansas City. Carla is coming over to my hotel for lunch today, and she will help me polish my Skype skills so that Tim's poor, pregnant sister, Molly, should be able to see the ceremony from her home in Salem, Oregon. Tim's other sibling, Nick, and his son, Boone, had planned on being here for the wedding, but they have both been very ill with the flu - possibly what Nick's granddad refers to as the "pig flu!"

Updates to follow here or on Twitter.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Scuzzball Airways!

by Pa Rock
Pissed Off Traveler

I admit that I wouldn't be happy if I didn't have something to bitch about. With that requirement in mind, I should move into an airport where I would undoubtedly be deliriously happy all the time!

Today the object of my ire is U.S. Airways, a Phoenix-based claptrap airline that just charged me twenty-five dollars to check a twenty-one pound suitcase.


Yes, you say, I could stuff my stuff into a carry-on, elbow my way through the rest of the luggage-lugging public, and then cram it into an overhead bin - probably nowhere near where I would be sitting. But I don't really want to be a part of that pig push, at least not today when I am packing a suit for my son's wedding - a suit that I would prefer not having to wad up so that it will fit into a carry-on.

So, Scuzzball Air, here is my twenty-five - and when I fly back to Phoenix on Sunday I will grease your greedy palm again with twenty-five more. It is probably worth it, since my suitcase will undoubtedly be traveling all by its lonesome in the plane's belly!


If you thieving maggots really are so hard up for cash that you are literally peddling peanuts, selling sodas, and charging to check baggage, why not just raise the price of the tickets and and quit behaving like pickpockets. I'm sure that the flying public would appreciate the courtesy of just being robbed once instead of running the gauntlet of airline employee beggars. I know that I would!

U.S. Airways, you suck!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Extortion by the Catholic Church

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Catholic Church is trying to make the City Council of Washington, DC, bend to its will through a heavy-handed - and very political - threat. The Archdiocese of Washington has told the City Council that if the city persists in its efforts to sanction same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia, the Church will retaliate by stopping all of its social service provisions to the nation's capital. In other words, you play the game our way, or we will take our toys and go home.

The Catholic Church manages some of the city-owned homeless shelters, helps in securing or providing health care to some of the city's citizens, and provides minimal resources in the city's adoption programs. The Church pumps some of its own money into these efforts, but it also receives payment from the city for assisting with social services - so there is some cold, hard cash to go with all of the altruism.

The Catholics have doubled-down on an issue that is an anathema to their beliefs and sensibilities. They have boldly stepped beyond the boundaries of religion and entered the political fray. This is America, and anyone who wants to be politically active certainly has that right - unless, of course, they have a tax exemption for being a religious institution.

Let the Catholic Church take its marbles and go home. Surely people and organizations with a true Christian spirit will step forward to pick up the slack. I'm not available for working in the soup kitchens or shelters, but I will send a donation to help out.

And as for the Church - tax the bastards!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Five Who Served

by Pa Rock

Veterans' Day in a time of war.

While many of us doubt the wisdom or necessity of the wars in the Middle East, few will disparage the courage and commitment of our brave young men and women who have carried weapons and risked their lives in the meat grinder that is Iraq and Afghanistan. They are all heroes. Each and every one did something that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfield, Paul Wolfowitz, Mitt Romney, Bill Clinton, and even George Bush failed to do - they took up arms and answered the call of a grateful nation. Tonight I would like to recognize five of these heroes - five among thousands and thousands!

Tammy Duckworth was a Blackhawk helicopter pilot in Iraq who lost both legs and suffered a serious arm injury when her helicopter was shot down. After a lengthy recovery period at Walter Reed Army Hospital, she returned home to Illinois where she remained active in the Illinois National Guard. Duckworth ran as a Democrat for Congress in 2006, and was roundly trashed by Republicans and the stodgy old Veterans of Foreign Wars because she was suspected of having liberal tendencies. (Duckworth describes herself as a social conservative.) Duckworth lost that election by a scant two percent. She went on to become the Illinois Director of Veterans' Affairs, and currently is an under-secretary in the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs. Of her unsuccessful foray into politics, Duckworth has this to say:
"I am sick and tired of the Republicans saying 'Either you agree with us on national security or you are not patriotic.' It is total baloney – in fact I have a better army word, but I can't use it. We must never forget that it is patriotic and it is American to question people in power."
Amen, Major Duckworth, amen!

Everyone knows the story of Pat Tillman, the young man who gave up a professional football career in order to serve his country in time of war. Tillman joined the U.S. Army just months after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. He had been in the military less than two years when he was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. The death of Pat Tillman, originally reported by Army General Stanley McCrystal as a death due to enemy fire, has been the subject of controversy since it occurred in April of 2004. It was subsequently revealed that Tillman had serious doubts about the way the war was being executed and the necessity of the war, and that he had an appointment to meet with pacifist author Noam Chomsky upon his return to the U.S. Tillman was not a man of God, but he was exceedingly well read on the concept of religion. He had read a number of religious texts including the Bible, Qur’an and Book of Mormon as well as transcendentalist authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

Kevin Tillman was a professional baseball player when he joined the Army with his more famous brother, Pat, in 2002. Both of the Tillman men went on to complete the rigorous Army Ranger School before deploying to Afghanistan. Kevin was outraged over the cover-up of his brother's friendly-fire death, and has gone on to become a major critic of American war policy in the Middle East. He had this to say about the way the government handled the reporting of Pat's death:
"The deception surrounding this case was an insult to the family: but more importantly, its primary purpose was to deceive a whole nation. We say these things with disappointment and sadness for our country. Once again, we have been used as props in a Pentagon public relations exercise."

Paul Rieckhoff was an infantry rifle platoon leader in Iraq who came back to America after his service and helped to found the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the largest group of veterans from these two wars. Rieckhoff and his group are focused on the medical, legal, and social treatment of veterans and their families, and he has been outspoken in support of health care initiatives. Rieckhoff is the media's go-to guy on stories involving America's newest crop of war veterans.

Darren Manzella served two tours with the Army in Iraq, one as a combat medic. He performed his duties well, and eventually achieved the rank of sergeant. After six years of solid service to the Army, some of which were in extremely dangerous circumstances, the military saw fit to discharge Sgt. Manzella because of who he was - a gay man in uniform. (The Ramble will have much more to say about the Army's abuse of Sgt. Manzella in a future posting.)

Our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have been and continue to be a brave and honorable group of individuals, worthy of the admiration and gratitude of all of us. The policies that brought about these wars may be questioned, but not the bravery and dedication of these fine young people charged with being America's boots on the ground in a hostile environment. You are our heroes!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The State of Hate in Kansas

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

If there is a God, and if She has a sense of fairness (or humor), surely Scott Roeder and Fred Phelps will eventually share a very small cell - with one narrow cot!

Roeder, the man who shot Dr. George Tiller of Wichita in the good doctor's church on a Sunday morning, called the Associated Press yesterday and admitted murdering Dr. Tiller. (Big whoop, there were dozens of witnesses!) But Roeder wanted to trot out his clever defense and parade it before the American public. His claim is that since Dr. Tiller was an abortion provider, killing him would save future fetuses from being "murdered." Scott Roeder wants his trial is to be about the actions of a physician who was working within the limits of the law - and not about himself, the creep who pulled the trigger and murdered a man in cold blood.

Scott, has God commissioned you to do Her work? If Dr. Tiller was doing something immoral, and I certainly do not believe that he was, couldn't God handle the retribution? Why would She need to use some stupid puke like you to settle things for Her? You committed a murder Scott, with malice aforethought. Own it, savor it, masturbate to it, but do not try to convince yourself or anyone else that you were doing God's work. God can do Her own damned work - and you may learn that sooner rather than later!

Fred Phelps, Topeka's strangest son, is at it again. The Phelps family, resident rodents of a large compound near Topeka, have been embarrassing the nation for years by protesting at the funerals of gay individuals (Matthew Shepard, for one) and persons whom they feel have been too tolerant of gays (Barry Goldwater, for one).

Old Fred (he will be 80 on November 13th) is a disbarred attorney who fashions himself a preacher. The family controls its own church in Topeka, the Westboro Baptist, where reportedly 60 of the 71 members are relatives of Reverend Fred. The church's theology is basically anti-gay, but it also has a strong bent toward physical child abuse. Old Fred was never one to spare the rod, a proclivity that led some of his children to reject the family and move on to safer (and saner) pastures.

A couple of years ago this family of moral degenerates went completely off of their collective nut and began protesting at the funerals of American service men and women who were killed in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their "logic" for that hurtful stupidity was that our government has an agenda to support homosexual lifestyles, and the deaths of these uniformed young people was God's payback for the government's support and encouragement of gay rights. (All of that nonsense while our government is still kicking good soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines out of the service for being gay!)

Fred, wake up and smell the stupidity!

The Phelps' are a bunch of mean bastards. They scream and yell at mourners, desecrate the American flag, and try to incite violence at what should be very somber ceremonies. Many of the members of this family of evildoers are attorneys, and they show up at the funerals with video cameras so that they have records of any violence directed toward them. Can you say "chickenshits?" Even the children of this crazy clan are put out on the street to yell and scream at grieving family members.

A young person dies in the service of his or her country, and the grief-stricken family and friends have to struggle to say good-bye through the noise and nonsense of Fred Phelps and his evil spawn!

Yesterday the Phelps circus stopped by Washington, DC, where they set up their freak show outside of the school attended by the Obama girls. So their program is expanding - from anti-gay, to anti-American, and now, to anti-little girl. The Phelps family would have to evolve significantly in order to qualify as pond scum! (But, judge that for yourselves:

Scott Roeder and Fred Phelps are not representative of Kansas, but they are products of the winds of hate that are blowing across America. The craziness that dangerous fools like these inflict on America must stop, but it will only stop when all Americans - regardless of race, political persuasion, age, gender, sexual orientation, whatever - link arms and say emphatically "We are better than this." For until we can make that statement, loudly and honestly, we remain at the mercy of of this sick rabble.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Poetry Monday: "The Lonely Things"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Rod McKuen was the poet of choice on college campuses in the 1960's, known for simple and passionate works about love, solitude, and cats - and sometimes all three at once. I have five volumes of McKuen's work, two of which (Listen to the Warm and Stanyan Street) were acquired during my undergraduate days. The following poem, "The Lonely Things," is the closing verse of Stanyan Street. It is very representative of the lyrical softness evoked by Rod McKuen.

For your reading enjoyment and peaceful thoughts...

The Lonely Things
by Rod McKuen

The silent rain that falls, the meadowlark
the winter wind that calls the lovers from the park
the sad and bitter song December sings
these are the lonely things.

The sun behind the clouds, the starless night
when you're alone in crowds the need for sudden
the empty loneliness that parting brings
these are the lonely things.

A taste of love too soon gone wrong
the sad mistaken heart that heard the sirens song
and sang along.

The waves that drum the shore at morning light
the friends that come no more to try and make things
the hopes that fly too soon as though on wings
these are the lonely things.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Trent Franks Should Be Ashamed!

by Pa Rock
Outraged Constituent

Representative Franks,

I'm extremely disappointed to learn that you voted with the insurance companies and against health care reform that would have benefited me and my neighbors - your constituents.

You have government-sponsored health care, yet you have the audacity to deny us the same option. That is so self-serving and unfair!

The Affordable Health Care for America Act that passed in the House last night wasn't perfect, yet it was far superior to what your party brought to the table - which was nothing at all except an attempt to give more power to the insurance companies. The bill that concerned Members of Congress managed to pass will make health care affordable, do away with insurance company abuses, help small business and our economy, and give us a choice of a public health insurance option. It is a good bill, and it would provide quality, affordable health care to all.

Instead of standing up for the people you represent, you sided with the insurance companies and voted for the status quo - denial of care, skyrocketing prices, and medical bankruptcy. When you have the chance to vote on health care reform again on the Conference Report, I hope you will reconsider and vote for us and not them. You have one more opportunity to do the right thing for America and for the Arizonans whom you have been elected to represent.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act is supported by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the American Medical Association - neither of which are radical organizations. The bill has merit and will benefit many Americans. Those Americans need your support on this most important matter.

If you cannot see your way clear to support health care for all Americans, then I respectfully suggest that you give up your government-run health care policy. That would only be fair - and it would show you how the other half lives!


Rocky G. Macy
Registered Voter
Litchfield Park, AZ 85340

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Steady Hand at the Helm

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to pass an historic health care bill tonight, truly a momentous achievement in these mean times. Of course any bill is still a long way from reaching the President's desk for the signature that will make it the law of the land. The chickenshit United States Senate must pass their bill, then the two bills, those of the House and the Senate, must go before a joint committee to reconcile their differences, and the finished bill must again pass both the House and Senate. Then, once that long and complicated dance is over, it goes to President Obama for his signature.

There is an old political addage that declares the making of legislation is almost as disgusting to watch as the making of sausage - the good stuff often gets cut out while the tripe is mixed in with gusto. When the Republicans fail in their effort to kill health care outright, they will certainly try to make it ineffective by hacking away the good parts and dumping in the garbage.

One of the stated Republican objectives in destroying any hope for public health care is their belief that to do so will take down their bogeyman - President Obama. But while these small-minded, racist obstructionists have been laser-focused on health care, several other bills of social import have made it into law. As reported last week in this blog, we have now expanded federal hate crimes legislation to cover cases involving gender identification and sexual orientation. The next time someone is beaten to death (or just beaten, or just discriminated against) because they are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgendered - the perpetrators will become acquainted with federal prosecutors and federal courts.

Congress has a long history of passing weapons bills for things the Pentagon doesn't really want. Why? Because sleazy defense contractors (a description that easily includes all defense contractors) cleverly spread the jobs out for these projects into many districts of Congressmen whose votes are critical for the projects. They become jobs bills, whether the country really needs the weapons systems or planes or tanks, or whatever. Of course these sleazy contractors also give cash directly to Congressmen or their campaign committees.

Republicans are very "patriotic" and "pro-defense," due in large part to the cash the gets thrown at them by defense contractors. But this year, while they were busy demonizing the President and trying to make health care look like a plot to kill old people, the rest of Congress (the intelligent segment) and our President were able to get the F-22 fighter jet (a fighter jet that the Pentagon did not want) terminated. Also sliced from the budget was the new fleet of Presidential VH-71 helicopters.

Other accomplishments of the Obama administration include setting aside 1.2 million acres of Wyoming range land, effectively making it off limits to the greedheads of the oil and natural gas industries. (That oil and gas will keep - it won't spoil - and our grandchildren may need it!) The Food and Drug Administration has now been given regulatory control over tobacco - something Republicans have fought against for generations. And the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) has been expanded and enhanced. This is a wonderful program that allows poor children to receive medical care. President Bush, who was never a poor child, vetoed it twice in 2007. President Obama, who grew up in modest circumstances, signed it into law.

Obviously I'm glad that the Republicans have been so wrapped up in tea parties and the health care debate. While they were posturing for their base and mugging for the Fox News cameras, President Obama and the working members of Congress were able to make some real progress in other areas. The President is doing a remarkable job of navigating the ship of state through the Republican icebergs.

And as for affordable health care with a good public option, that too shall pass!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Life With a Cat

by Pa Rock
Old Softie

The trailer park manager sent a notice a few weeks ago telling me that if I was going to feed a cat, I had to do it inside of my house, He didn't want any feral cats being attracted to the neighborhood because of a cat dish sitting outside. It was just garden variety harassment. The ill-tempered oaf was hoping that I would decide to get rid of the cat who had adopted me. So, I complied with his hateful park "rule" and began feeding old SB inside - and then throwing him out after his morning and evening meals.

Then the weather got chilly for a week or so, and the cat wanted to move in on a permanent basis. I wasn't having any of that, so I opened my storage shed to allow him to spend the nights there. But the shed wasn't good enough for SB. I learned that he had belonged to an old couple who moved from the park. They had given him to a friend, but he ran off from the friend's house because she had other cats, and SB, like me, is a bit of a loner.

The past few nights my little orange friend has been crying at the front and back doors seeking entry. Tonight I gave up and opened the dog door. It took SB about 5 seconds to figure it out!

The poor old cat was lonely. Now he is wrapped around my computer purring contentedly as I type this blog post. I guess he can be my editor!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Massacre at Ft. Hood

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This afternoon the nation was rocked with the news that Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, opened fire at a deployment readiness center at Ft. Hood, Texas. Major Hasan, a native of Virginia, was reportedly on the verge of being deployed to Iraq and did not want to go. He used two pistols in the random shooting, at least one of which was a semi-automatic, and was able to kill 11 individuals and wound 31 others before being wounded and stopped by a responder to the bloody mayhem. One of the wounded later died at the hospital, bringing the total deaths to twelve.

This is personal. I work for the military as a mental health provider (social worker). I have worked at a large army base - Ft. Campbell - that is somewhat smaller than Ft. Hood, though not by much, and I am very familiar with the types of stresses that haunt our brave servicemen and their families. I have also worked at deployment and redeployment readiness centers, much like the one where today's madness took place. In fact, if today's shooting had occurred at Ft. Campbell instead of Ft. Hood, I am certain that I would have known some of the victims.

This is an ugly business.

Many, if not most, of our brave young people who go to Iraq and Afghanistan are coming back damaged - both emotionally and physically. As today's carnage illustrates, the war is also impacting those who have yet to go. War has a cost, and that cost is truly staggering.

This craziness at Ft. Hood sickens me.

If It's on the Google, It must Be True!

by Pa Rock
Bank Robber

This afternoon some inquisitive soul in or around Kansas City, KS, submitted the following query on Google:

"is it true that tim macy author the brass teapot has father who is a bank robber called pa rock?"

Live by the Google, die by the Google!

Seriously, Tim, or Erin, or Chad, or Carla, I'm innocent of the charge. I don't have time to rob banks! Thanks for brightening my day!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Ramble Enters the Terrible Twos!

by Pa Rock
Blog Master

Two years ago tonight I sat down in front of the computer and taught myself how to set up a blog. My intent at the time was to use The Ramble as a place to collect my writing scraps and as a forum for journaling my daily thoughts and activities. As I looked at the blank screen that warm Arizona night two years ago, I struggled to come up an idea for the first posting. I finally settled on writing about one of my passions - the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama.

Two years ago tonight Mr. Obama was well back in the pack of Democratic presidential wannabes. One year ago tonight he was giving a victory speech at a park in Chicago with the whole world watching. I was proud of him then, and although I occasionally get aggravated with our President now, I am still proud of him. Barack Hussein Obama is the personification of how far America has advanced during my lifetime.

This past July I signed up for a service that tracks visitors to The Ramble. Twenty-five or more people visit this blog on an average day. Thirty-one have stopped by since midnight last night, including international visitors from Australia (2), Japan, the Philippines, Canada, and Denmark. Most arrive by using a search engine (almost always Google) to look up something that I just happened to write about. Many of today's visitors, for instance, were wanting to learn more about the Phoenix baggage bandits - whom I wrote about last night. Randy Leach, Levi King, and The Brass Teapot by Tim Macy also stir regular interest.

It takes a lot of thoughtful effort to "go to press" with something of interest every evening, and twenty-five or thirty random people out of six billion doesn't exactly make me H.L. Mencken, but it is a challenge that I have come to enjoy. If I occasionally say something that makes you smile - or cringe - let me know. Feedback gets me stoked!

Hang around for year three, and let's see where this thing goes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Baggage Bandits Busted

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Times are tough all over, and nowhere is that more true than out here in the sand lands of Arizona where unemployment and home foreclosures are rising faster than the price of medical insurance.

But, as they say, when times are tough, the tough get going. That axiom was proved true today with the arrest of a couple of very industrious Arizonans, Keith Wilson King and his lovely wife, Stacey Lynne Legg-King. The Kings were nabbed at their home in the Phoenix suburb of Waddell along with over 1,000 pieces of stolen luggage.

The Kings had been fighting the recession by hitching up their horse trailer to the old pick-up truck and driving to Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport. There they roamed through the luggage carousels and picked up nondescript pieces of black luggage that sported no special markings or colorful ribbons. By the time the unlucky travelers realized that their bags were missing, the Kings had stashed their loot in the horse trailer and were heading back into the airport for more.

That's a clever little criminal enterprise, and it is probably happening at other airports as well. Victims are robbed twice - once by paying $15, or $20, or more per checked bag - and once by the bag snatcher! They literally get it coming and going!

I bought new luggage in Nogales a couple of years ago. Those suitcases are green with a bold green and yellow decorative border - unlike any others that I have ever seen. The purpose in acquiring this loud luggage was to have something easy to identify on the baggage carousels. Now it has the added benefit of being harder to steal! Sometimes I am so smart it is scary!

Monday, November 2, 2009

My Good Deed

by Pa rock
Good Citizen

This evening I was at our local Lowe's admiring their climbing roses - Don Juan's and America's - after spending the better part of three days hacking and pulling up climbing roses! I really wanted to buy a Don Juan - they smell wonderful! - but was disappointed in the foliage on the four that they had in stock. The America's on the other hand, while not as fragrant, had beautiful, healthy foliage. As I was pondering what to do, a very sweet lady with an accent that I could not place, walked up and started talking to me about the roses. She, too, wanted a Don Juan.

The lady was concerned about getting the very tall plant home in her small sedan. She asked if I was driving a truck, and I said that no, I was driving the convertible next to her sedan. She wandered off into the store. I selected the best America and followed her in where I did some more shopping. As I came to the front of the garden center, my new friend was at the checkout with a Don Juan and chattering with a sales clerk about how best to get it in her car.

Suddenly the lady turned to me and asked if I could drive her rose home. When I learned that she didn't live too far, I agreed, noting that the sales clerk had a smirk on his face that seemed to say "There's one born every minute!" Me, America, and Don Juan followed the lady to her home, where I carefully carried Don J. through the house and out to his new digs next to the patio.

The lady tried to pay me with a new red scarf that still had the tags on it. I declined - red is not my color - and told her just to pay the favor forward. I think that was a good investment.

I did find out about the accent. My new friend is a bank teller who has recently moved to Phoenix after many years in New Jersey. I told her that her accent was definitely not Jersey, and she said that she was a native of Lima, Peru. She said that she has a brother who is a tour guide in Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Him I would like to meet!

I have been invited back to check on Don J., and I may just do it!

Republican Family Values in South Carolina

by Pa Rock
Political Commentator

Up until last week Roland Corning was a political hack working as an assistant attorney general in the state of South Carolina. Before coming to that august post he had served a few terms as a representative in the South Carolina legislature where he was known for trumpeting "family values" and opposing abortion legislation.

But now the sanctimonious Roland, age 66, is unemployed. He lost his job over a dalliance with an 18-year-old female stripper in his Ford Escort in a Columbia, SC, cemetery. When a curious policeman pulled up to see what was going on, Roland sped away, but he was soon cornered by another policeman and had to 'splain himself.

The first thing that the hapless miscreant did was to pull out his attorney general's badge and try to use his political clout. Unfortunately for him, the arresting officer was married to a woman who worked in that same office, so he phoned her to see if old Roland was a legitimate assistant to the attorney general. The policeman's wife promptly informed her boss, and the attorney general just as promptly fired Roland Corning.

It gets funnier, or sadder, depending on your point of view. The arresting officer asked for and received permission to check the Corning vehicle. His search revealed a container of Viagra, for which Roland said that he had a prescription, and a bag of sex toys. Roland Corning purportedly told the officer that he always kept the sex toys in the car "just in case."

The only way this story could have been any better was if the 18-year-old stripper had been a guy!

South Carolina: home of Bob Jones University, Governor Mark ("Don't Cry for Me Argentina") Sanford, Senator Jim DeMint whose own self-proclaimed foreign policy initiatives border on treason, and idiot Congressman Joe "You lie!" Wilson. It must be something in the water - or very bad breeding!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Digging in the Dirt

by Pa Rock
Involved Homeowner

My boys were out here over the second weekend in October and got to see my claptrap hovel at its worst. Bushes were overgrown, plants needed potting, and generally the outside was not something that I was proud of. Since they left, I have really started to get things in order. I have removed two crazy bushes, pulled up a lot of crappy ground cover - lantana - and took down a large trellis that was home to some bizarre roses that covered one whole end of the trailer. A neighbor told me this evening that I was really getting the place cleaned up.

Today is the beginning of the two-day Latino holiday El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). I had planned to celebrate by taking in a vampire movie, but the weather is so pleasant and the days so short that I guilted myself into staying home and working in the yard. I am now officially retired from two jobs, yet it seems like I have never been busier! If the vampires are still out sucking next weekend, I'll meet up with them then!

In other news: The ham went back into the crock pot again today. Scroungy Bastard and I pigged out - pun intended! It is now standard time in the rest of the free world, but we never change anything in Arizona. My home air-conditioner kicked on once today - briefly! The Valley of Hell ain't too bad in the winter!