“It’s called the American Dream. Because you have to be asleep to believe it.” – George CarlinFoto by tgw, "blue sky apartments," New York City, 2009. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Blues Idiom in Confronting Chaos
How down and out can you get before you start "singin' the blues"? Singin' 'em with deep passion and serious emotion. I mean, what's the gutter these days? I saw several shots on teevee of a tent city in Sacramento, California. That's the capital of Lotus Land! This tent city housing the area's recently doomed was just up the street from the fine home provided by the State of California for the governor and his charming wife, in which those two role models are continuing to live in conspicuously consuming splendor--no foreclosures on any of Arnie's or Maria's vast real estate holdings; still no taxes on their huge foundation holdings--in fact, Arnie and Maria's Chevron stock is paying big dividends and their investments in healthcare insurance are fixing to go through the roof--such good times for those two clever cuties. They're giving recession parties they are so well off. Why, their offshore bank accounts are running over with filthy lucre and their future looks so bright it's hard for a down-and-outer to even imagine what that life is like! I know it's easy as pie for Maria Schriver Swartzennazi to walk through utter chaotic poverty and never bat one of her well-coiffed eyes; and I'm sure it's so revengeful for Arnie, the Nazi cop's son from Hitler-ass-kissing Austria, to pompously walk through that tent city showing maybe false concern since he is acting as though he were governor of a big US state, but just imagine the seething hatred he has for "failures" like those living in Sacramento's daily-growing-by-leaps-and-bounds tent city. You see, people who go broke--who have failed at their endeavors--are worthless in the critical eyes of the Power Elite--except as dead, off the roles, or put into slave labor. When you are living in a tent city or your car with no money at all, then you are subject to working for a bag-of-rice-a-day you're getting so desperate. Just think, Arnie and Maria together could have saved thousands of homes from foreclosure in Sacramento. Just think how much better Power Elite asshole Michael Bloomberg could have spent the 100 million bucks he spent buying himself the election that made him mayor of New York City for an illegal third term, an election he won by only 50,000 votes over an unknown black man whose own party and President neglected him in one of the lowest voter turnouts in NYC mayoral-race history. Mike could have built whole blocks of affordable apartment houses with that money. He could have built health clinics with it. Instead, he pompously bought another term as mayor. As mayor, Mike has left New York City totally divided between the filthy rich and the utterly scrambling ("Scrapple for the Apple") poor. Wall Street as I type this is holding huge recession parties all over the chic hot spots of Manhattan, partying hearty, today revealing that their precious darling criminal organizations like Goldman-Sachs and JP Morgan-Chase (both companies bailed out by We the People) are going to turn in the greatest profits in the history of the financial district. Along with those profits are coming some of the largest executive bonuses in the history of bonuses. How joyously these crooked assholes are blowing We the People's money! The recession? What recession? Recession? How come President Obama doesn't hit these crooked assholes with an EXCESS PROFITS TAX!
Warren Buffett is thinking of buying the Burlington-Northern-Santa-Fe railroad. How is this one son of a bitch able to afford to buy the nation's largest railroad, the largest railroad system still standing in our otherwise wrecked once-greatest-rail-system-in-the-world? You see, the trouble with railroads is they are too slow. We move FAST in this country. We move at high rates of speed before we realize we're traveling too fast. We tried to develop high-speed trains back in the '60s, but our trackage and roadbeds weren't stable enough to run on at speeds over 65 or 70. [NOTE: Japan's high-speed railroad system was built for them from scratch by We the People of the USA after World War II.]
SLOW DOWN, we are warned; yet we want to go faster. Our planes can easily go 600 mph, but that's not fast enough for us; we want our planes to go supersonic speeds--from New York City to Tokyo in 3 hours as the Great Communicator promised us back when he was driving us into the biggest debt in our history during his time in the White Man's House. Our cars, even our clunkers, are capable of going over 100 mph easily on roads built for cars that could only go up around 90 before they started shaking to pieces in the days when the US Big 3 automakers ruled the car world. Speed is of the essence to us. Speed causes catastrophes, and we love catastrophes. The chaotic raceway is filled with high speeds resulting in great catastrophes these days and we love it.
In that Sacramento, California, tent city were stunned-looking Middle-classers, families, yes, but a lot of single men, too, everybody having just lost their jobs, everybody having just lost their homes, and nearly everyone of them with medical problems and losing their healthcare insurance when they lost their jobs. No bailouts available. All of them startled awake out of that American Dream, Amen, George Carlin.
Wow, I just heard through Amy Goodman's Democracy Now that Governor Groper (Arnie) is planning on privatizing the California University System! Wow. Way to go Arnie. Education for profits. Pay or go dumb. Great thinking. Now the big corporations can control what California college students can learn and how they learn it.
In the meantime, our President is off on another whirlwind tour. His second White House is Air Force One. This time he's giving brilliant double-meaning shielding speeches in Asia: first, Japan--where we're having to kiss some ass over our continuing unwanted military presence on Okinawa and the fact the new Japanese government wants a bigger and better Japanese army without US intervention--and, today (Nov. 19] our president is in China, where he is having to kiss some deep Chinese Commie ass in order to do something about China owning our asses and trying to save the US dollar. China is talking of creating a new world dollar [Dr. Jack Van Impe (an official The Daily Growler soothsayer/prophesier) says there is already being minted a "New World Order" dollar]--and a lot of countries are agreeing with them about it. Venezuela and Bolivia are proposing a South American dollar to compete with the Yankee dollar.
Think about it! Both South America and China have been ruled by the Yankee dollar since the late 19th Century. All the problems we have had and continue to have in South America were due to the Yankee dollar--the Rockefellers ruling in Venezuela--ruled for years by a dictator put into and kept in power by the USA. Colombia? Colombia has been under the Yankee dollar since the US stole Panama from it back during Teddy Roosevelt's speaking softly and carrying a big stick way of trying to rule the world (his Great White Fleet representing the New World Order of the Great White Race). We stole Panama from Colombia in order to build the Panama Canal and own it. Our territory became known as the Canal Zone. Central America likewise has been under the Yankee dollar since again the late 19th Century--when most Central American nations were taken over and totally controlled by Chase Bank, the United Fruit Company (now cutely known as Chiquita--for cute little Chiquita Banana--"Never keep bananas in the refrigerator")), the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. (now owned by a Japanese company, Bridgestone--Japan, by the way, has no native rubber production), and the Imperial and Domino sugar giants. Chiquita Banana's name recently popped up in Colombia's political affairs when they admitted paying Colombian oppositional forces millions of dollars to allow them to steal bananas and whatever other wealth-stealing businesses Chiquita is in in Colombia with impunity. Hey, who knows, maybe Chiquita could use their many immunities to get cocaine out of the Colombian jungle and into the US--what do you think? Or how about Chiquita being able to launder a lot of drug money through their complex offshore banking system? Just stating a couple of possibilities, not necessarily facts. I am a fictional character writing a fictional blog going under the notion that most of human reality is fiction--so why not fiction judging fiction? Fiction is full of truths. Fiction is deep inside reality working its way back outside to whatever surface it finds itself on. Deconstructing then reconstructing. And you thought all of that died with Levi-Strauss last week. 100 years that tough old Sociologist got to live. Yeah, you see, us Sociologists, masters of statistics as we are, are also masters of our minds and bodies (we don't separate the two), the good health allowing us to become masters of empirical notation, i.e., great writers of fiction.
You think you've got the blues, read Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London; or read Henry Miller's middle book, Sexus, in his Rosy Crucifixion trilogy. Or read the last few books of Frank Harris's Life and Loves. Or B. Traven's classic Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
I'm slowly slipping back into the Blues Idiom. I am all in it because I'm currently deeply involving myself with the life of Lester Young. I mean so deeply I got bilked this week on eBay when I bought an "old" print photo of Lester Young blowing on stage with a Basie unit and it turned out to be a computer printout that could have simply been a scan of a page out of a book. When you involve yourself in the life of a guy like Lester Young, you expect a lot of such bullshit.
Prez gave his last interview in his hotel room while gigging in Paris in March of 1959, only a day or so before he would fly suddenly back to New York City and a night later end up dead in his room at the Alvin Hotel, on Broadway directly across from Birdland, which was on Broadway just around the corner off 52nd Street, the Jazz Street. In this interview, Lester said, "I'd a left here [Paris] the other night if I had five hundred dollars. I just can't take that bullshit, you dig? It's all bullshit, and they want everybody who is a Negro to be an Uncle Tom or Uncle Remus or Uncle Sam and I can't make it.... You just fight for your life, that's all. Until death do we part, you got it made. But it's the same way" [from Francois Postif's interview with Lester Young as quoted in Frank Buchmann-Moller's great book, You Just Fight for Your Life, published by Praeger in 1990].
Prez's music has always encouraged me while haunting me, too; I mean you listen to Lester at his best and you wonder and wonder about greatness, natural greatness, why it's praised and raved about yet not understood enough to keep it from having to fight for its life all its life, continuing to blow its innovative sounds all up in your face. Prez at his best can be heard on the 4 sides he did for Columbia in Chicago in '36 as a member of the band name tagged Jones-Smith, Inc. (Jo Jones and Tatti Smith), which was actually a unit out of Count Basie's Club Reno band that John Hammond had gotten a hotel gig in Chicago and while there he took Basie, Prez, Freddie Green, Papa Jo Jones, Tatti Smith (trumpet), Big Walter Page, and Jimmy Rushing out of the band and into the Columbia recording studios where they made four sides: "Lady Be Good," "Shoe Shine Boy," "Boogie-Woogie," and "Evenin'." This was Basie's first recording; it was also Lester Young's. On all of these cuts, Prez knocks your swingin' sox off--he is blowing away the blues on these sides--everyone agrees, the best first recordings ever made by a jazz star, meaning Lester. The original sides were issued on Columbia's cheapie Vocalion label--I own two 78 reissues put out in the 40s on the Blue Ace label, though the Vocalions do occasionally turn up at reasonable prices. 78 record collectors are a rare and dying breed just as are 78 records and 78 rpm record players. My generation also collects Long-playing albums, LPs, vinyl, the recordings that were born and raised almost exactly at the same time we were. My generation has given you be-bop, Bob-Dylan-type folk, electric blues (we championed the electric guitar and later the electric jazz bass), hardcore r and b--starting with Lucky Millinder, Roy Milton, Joe Liggins, Paul Williams, Julian Dash, and movin' on into Ikey Renrut, Ike Turner spelled backward, beginning with Jackie Brentson singing "Rocket 88," and carried on into rock 'n roll being by Chuck Berry ("Wee Wee Hours" and "Maybelline"), Little Richard Perryman ("Lucille," "Tutti-Fruiti"), melding with jazz under the auspices of Brother Ray Charles (the amazing live recording of "Drown in My Own Tears"), and cracking the sound barrier with women like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Laverne Baker, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner. Hey, my generation gave you Country & Western bands with drums and with blues connections and in some cases even jazz connections--Chet Atkins could play jazz. And we rediscovered Charles E. Ives and gave rise to Leonard Bernstein's kind of approach to symphonic music. No brag, just fact.
And Lester Young's music fascinates me still so to the point that I want to know Prez inside and out, which ain't as easy as it sounds. To know Prez right, you've got to know how to write in what Albert Murray called the "blues idiom," which has been my mission since I first read about Jack Kerouac writing On the Road by putting a roll of butcher paper in his typewriter and then putting on Bird records--and writing like Bird soloed. Improvised writing. Yep, blowin' in the continuing present tense, the NOW, and all of my generation knows "Now's the time!" And it always has been; in fact, NOW's the only time we've all got. Get in the groove; that's the safest place to be when you're surrounded by bullshit.
for The Daily Growler