Monday, November 27, 2006

Veterans and Thanksgiving

These are two topics I have yet to comment on. Somehow they seem to go together.

For me and for much of the country in the late 60's and 70's this wasn't always the case. I am a vet of the Viet-Nam era, drafted Sept 67 and let go Apr 69. People then seemed to blame the troops for the war instead of the politicians and their supporters. It never happened to me, but I've heard the stories of soldiers vilified, spat upon, and disrespected. At least this time around, the troops are supported by the populace even if the war is not. We got no thanks for going to war as the government dictated. The most print and film went to the draft card burners and those that fled to Canada. I could not face either choice, so I went; I went not believing in the cause, but believing I had no choice and that I would survive. Somewhere in my subconscious was a faint feeling of duty. It was my country and I enjoyed it and had to pay something for it besides taxes.

Years later and some maturity gained I knew I was right. But I didn't blame Tom Hayden or Muhammad Ali for their choices. This is the beauty of this country: dissenters may go to jail, but they, too, can gain respect for their beliefs if they stand by them.

But this is supposed to be about Veterans. I am one and this is my experience. When we lived in Canada, I found many male Canadians fascinated about the Viet-Nam war. Actually I found more support for Viet-nam vets at that time (1977-1995) than I ever had in the U.S. Many of those guys knew someone who crossed the border and enlisted. I met several. They just wanted to go to war and help out the U.S. When some of my co-workers found out I was a Vet, I had to answer many questions of the type: "What did You do in the War?" My answer was always I was an airplane mechanic and was stationed in a very secure area. (True) One young co-worker kept pestering me for more gory details: Didn't you ever shoot anyone or fire on a village...? I finally told him I was really trained as both a silent killer and a sniper, that I lost count of my kills and though I was stable now, it didn't take much to set me off. (False) He left me alone after that.

In Canada, it is called Remembrance Day. And on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, all across Canada at memorials large and small ceremonies take place with town folk and Canadian Forces and Cadets. PDB took part in several. He and his Air Cadet Squadron marched in a parade and stood on a monument to the fallen while the town celebs made speeches. Don't see much of that here, even in NC.

When I was discharged at Oakland, CA., Spring 1969, the army gave us our back pay in 50 dollar bills and a class A uniform to walk out in. My friends and I shared a cab to the San Jose airport to meet wives and girlfriends. Walking through the airport to the bar we got looks but no greetings, friendly or otherwise. Memories fade over time, and I'm not too sure if the bartender was surly because we were in uniform or wanted to pay for the drinks with fifties.

Now, I see many troops in airports and they are familiar and have the respect of the civilians.

Perhaps, 'cause I'm in the South, Vets and soldiers seem to have more honor for their current and past service. This state, NC, seems to have more military posts than universities, but I may be mistaken.

My Dad was a Vet, my Father-inLaw is a Vet. I hope my sons don't have to be Vets. If they want to enlist, more power to them, but I would not be happy.

Back in the day, it seemed that vets had to band together and look for respect and honor. Now it is just given. For that I am thankful.

About Thanksgiving Day, you may want to read PDB's take. We were at the same gathering. Some family, too much food and a great time.

And if you think your Congressional Representatives and Senators are only paying lip-service to supporting the troops and vets, check out the Veterans link in the right margin. It is an eye-opener.

I almost forgot to mention this video about Remembrance Day. I think it's really great, and was sent to me by one of my Canadian friends.

BRB is Write (and has no visible scars)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Democrats Win! So What

For the first time since we moved to NC I missed a federal election day. I was too busy worrying about losing my sanity by going through security and boarding a plane on the way to visit my Mom. Or, the toothless Bichon we live with ate the ballot. No excuses, I didn't vote; I don't feel good about it; I will not whine about politics and politicians for the next two years. I did not exercise my franchise.

Just a word to Democrats: Don't Gloat. The blame is all yours now. You have no excuses for doing nothing. No sooner do the liberal types win than I get a link to Michael Moore with this. Not only is this gloating, it is cynical, and no way is it sincere. If any one of those pledges comes true, I will carry Michael Moore's bags from Flint to where ever he wants to go. I think many of those pledges are desirable to achieve. But you, Mr Moore, cheapen the argument and goals by your presentation and make them harder to obtain. "That liberal asshole Michael wants universal health care and tolerance for all folk and their religion. Has to be a bad idea 'cause Moore wants it."

I hate self-proclaimed liberals who have an audience. Much of what Moore presented in Rodger and Me and other films was true, but the presentation was guaranteed to offend all but the most loyal supporters. Same with Fahrenheit 911. I couldn't finish either one. Without you liberal hacks, we in the bleachers, in the pews, on the shop floor, and voting may achieve some of those pledges.

When I was the chief steward in our local, many years ago, the President of the local was one of the smartest people I have ever known. Not only was she a woman, she was blond and younger than me. I thought I had lived a pretty interesting life to that point. Her experiences made us look like the Cleavers. She kept saying to me how can you be so naive when faced with people's problems? Anyway, we won an arbitration when the company clearly violated the contract. We caught the personnel manager in several lies. After it was all over, I said to Linda, "I want to gloat; can I gloat now; we were right." She said "No you can't gloat, now or ever. We have to work with this person again and again. Gloating just makes us look unprofessional and like uneducated shop workers. We would lose credibility in his eyes." Pretty smart lady. Did I mention that she is now a national rep. with a major international union?

So Democrats, just get to work; don't gloat, don't even snicker in private. You will be held accountable, and likely found wanting.

BRB is Write (did I mention that I am a liberal?)

Impressions of Southern California

Yes, this is about Mr. Paranoid returning to wonderful North Carolina from a family visit to La La Land.

And, dear Reader(s), I apologise for not reporting earlier. My quixotic nature demanded that I tilt at a windmill first. And to my family here, who think I over-react to perceived injustice, I cannot help it. Live with it.

I grew up in SoCal. In the fifties and into the sixties it was a great place to live. Smog was bad, but on clear days you could see the mountains ringing the area. I learned to drive on the freeways. Some days I would spend the morning in the mountains, and the afternoon at the beach.

I won't make it too idylic, because in many ways it wasn't. And now, it isn't at all. If you don't venture out from your little suburb or gated enclave too often it can seem like paradise. But get out into the maelstrom, and you have to wonder how all these people survive.

On this trip, I was out on the freeways at 4:30 am most mornings. Even at that hour there was a lot of traffic. Nothing to slow folks down, but enough to get one's attention. I went into the San Gabriel Mountains to see the sunrise.

Not too many folks on those roads, but on Glendora Ridge Road, from Mt. Baldy to Glendora, I passed a few guys in camo descending into the canyon armed with long rifles. It may have been some sort of hunting season. However, the glances they gave me as I rolled by were not too friendly. Mr. Paranoid fantasized about Patriot meetings, and stepped on the gas. When I was a kid, and my Dad and I went fishing in the San Gabriel River, North fork, and West Fork, the road passed many box canyons that had targets set up at the back, and some riflemen near the road firing away into the rocks.

Many of the camping sites on CA #2 in the forest, and much of the highway, are closed. So the Forest service has scraped out bare dirt sites beside East Fork road and allow campers there; all you need is an overnight permit. It's not pretty, but it's in the mountains with a creek adjacent and very peaceful.

I guess you can tell I have fond memories of those mountains.

Some other observations: A new 3-series BMW with the plate: I'LLSUE weaving in and out of traffic.

Anything will grow there. Just water it, and stand back. Some of the older neighborhoods have vines, shrubs, trees over-growing the pink stucco walls and cinderblock fences. Lush is not too strong a word; but water is the key.

On a farmers' market sign: Avacados: 20 for $1! I could have put a couple hundred in my luggage and paid for my trip.

Mom is safe in her retirement community: gated, guarded, and well looked after. They have 7 foot Bird of Paradise plants and other lush flora. There is a pond with a fountain and a dining room and food that rivals many hotels. This is all as it should be, because the residents pay well for the priviledge of living there.

And, yes, I survived all the security checks and all the take-offs and landings. The security folk were courtious, but not too helpfull. I stood for several minutes waiting for my carry-on bag to be searched, when a fellow passenger said that unless security told me to wait, I should move on. So when I got my shoes tied and belt back on I moved on straight to the bar. Thanks to Ms CPB for making sure I had enough money. Outward bound, my plane left ATL at nine am, the exact time the bar opened. I spent $20 on beer on that 4hr flight. One beer an hour.

On the return journey, I had time to visit the bar at the Duke's airport in Orange County. They didn't pour me on the plane, but I spent less on the flight.

The plane was a 757; cramped in coach, but I had a very smooth flight both ways. Nice plane, but apparently they have no room for food for the passengers. Crackers and cheese, trail mix and a cookie do not a meal make. Four beer helped round it out.

The plane was going on to New York from ATL. After a shakey landing, they announced that the New York passengers would have to exit the plane, also. They were going to have to change equipment for the next leg. It was a very calm way of reporting that since this 757 almost came apart on landing, we'll have to get another plane.

Mr. Paranoid had another beer before getting on the 737 for the short hop to Charlotte. PDB picked me up.

We all survived, and I got to see Mom. I still don't like to fly.

BRB is Write(SoCal still rocks, but not for me)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More About an Evening With Perlman

Did I say I loved the concert? Yes I did. Again and again I loved the concert, and at the risk of giving the W-S Symphony an excuse to raise ticket prices, I would have paid more to attend that concert.

However, they stiffed the band. This is a near paraphrase: We are thankful that the orchestra is volunteering their time this evening so that we may have Itzhak Perlman. It sounded as if, if they had not played for free, we wouldn't have had Perlman at all.

I just read this article in the Winston-Salem Journal. The notable passage is this: "... Wachovia Wealth Management - which took the unusual step of paying Perlman's hefty fee - is also making his concert one of the attractions that its clients will see in a two-day event called 'Artsfusion.'" So I stand corrected about the sponsors. In my previous post, I questioned where they were, when the band had to play for free. They were there front and center making sure we could get Perlman. For this I thank them.

But symphony management, what happened that caused you to lie to the concert goers, and to lean on the orchestra? I realize that most of those musicians would play for free to have the opportunity of playing with Perlman. But did they have to? I understand jacking up the ticket prices. You just charged what the market would bear. I understand why Perlman gets a "hefty fee." He has earned it.

But is the W-S Symphony in such dire financial straits that you needed to pocket the money normally earned by the orchestra? I would guess that you had the biggest box office take in many a year for that concert. You didn't even have to pay the star! And the orchestra had to volunteer to get Perlman? I don't believe it. If you have an explanation let us hear it.

BRB is Write (and loved the concert)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Itzhak Perlman Live!

Last Thursday evening we went to see Itzhak Perlman with the Winston-Salem symphony play Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major at the Stevens Center.

What a marvelous evening! The orchestra played the best I've heard them in the two seasons we've been going. Having a soloist of the brilliance of Perlman's perform with your orchestra must be like having Agassi as your doubles partner, or Eric Clapton front your garage band. People of this calibre raise the level of achievement of all those around them. Not that our local symphony is the local garage band. Those folk can really play without the inspiration of playing with Perlman. Ms BRB and I have concluded that the First Chair violin, oboe, bassoon, horn could play for any named orchestra. There are probably others.

This is why I could never be a music critic. You don't really need to read the whole review. The first three paragraphs should be enough. Is this good writing, or does this guy need an editor? "And what can we say about the music's key of D Major? It was around but seemed unable to tame the music's striking harmonic ambiguities." (ambiguities can be striking? If not an editor, get him a dictionary.) Pluh-eese. Are we to anthropomorphize music as wine critics do to their little liquids? Yes, the musicians bring life to the notes; let's just leave it at that.

Back to the evening: Perlman was a treat to watch and hear. When he was not playing he was still totally engrossed in the sounds coming from the orchestra. Just before his part started he would tuck the violin under his chin and then drop his hands to his lap. It looked like someone had flung the instrument from the wings and he caught it with his chin and shoulder just before it lodged in his neck. (It doesn't take much to amuse me.) There were four curtain calls. He went back to center stage to acknowledge each one. If you have seen Perlman, you know how difficult that must be. After the third call, and as we were clamoring for a fourth, a towel flew out from the wings. He came back to center stage anyway.

Just a few more observations. The Executive Director came out at the beginning and announced that in addition to thanking the sponsors (some bankers that handle really, really rich folk, and charge accordingly) that the orchestra was volunteering their services for the evening so that we could have Itzhak Perlman. That caused me to wonder why the balcony seats were $60 a pop. We normally pay $20 for the Sunday matinee concerts. That's thirty thousand for the balcony box office alone. I shudder to think what the orchestra seats grossed. The evening was still the best concert we have attended. However, if it was a fund-raiser, I would have appreciated a heads-up, and a receipt. Does Perlman command that much? He earns all he can get, but please don't stiff the orchestra. Where are you sponsors?

I loved the concert. I would pay that price anytime to have that experience. But, again, the workers got stiffed. I realized that they "volunteered." I am just an old union worker who has experienced again and again workers taking a hit for the greater good while the investors sacrifice nothing. Did Ms Executive Director also forgo some salary? I'll shut up about that now.

I loved the concert. Again, have your music live as often as you can. Performers rise to live audiences as they never can to studios and sound boards. I would rather have had that night with Perlman and our "garage band" live in person than the same music recorded by The New York Philharmonic and played on the best sound system money can buy. Live is live, and the rest is just bits in the stream.

BRB is Write (and likes dead composers live.)