Wednesday, December 14, 2016

LIVE VERSE...THE BOOK! GET IT NOW!

MAKES A DANDY GIFT!

LIVE VERSE - A Tilted View of Humanity's Disorderly Conduct

LIVE VERSE is fast-moving underdog poetry with its own view of humanity's disorderly conduct as it deals with love and politics, music and baseball, hard times and corporate greed.

If you suspect that capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class, LIVE VERSE is your witness.

If you think Wall Street is a high crime area, LIVE VERSE confirms it.

If you belong to the overworked, underpaid working class, LIVE VERSE says you deserve a raise. And proves it!

For the reader who is trying to make sense of mankind's twenty-first century mess and doesn't know whether to laugh or cry, LIVE VERSE is here to help.

ALSO...Baseball--right from the ballpark
AND...American Music--it's boisterous history from ragtime to rap

Buy Now from BOOKBABY

Saturday, February 13, 2016

FREEDUMB AMERICA


My ignorance is as good as your knowledge,
I don’t give a damn what you say,
I can believe ANY crazy-ass thing,
‘Cause the facts don’t get in my way
 
My dumb-ass vote counts as much as your smart one,
When wrong, I’m never in doubt,
Aggressive stupidity beats thoughtful analysis,
And the fact-checkers always strike out.
 
This steaming pile of know-nothingness,
Attracts the brain-washed and drip-dried,
If democracy needs an informed electorate,
It looks like democracy has died.
 
2016
 

Monday, July 13, 2015

YOUR MONEY COUNTS


Just one good, old American vote
They promised, was all I would need,
But that was back in the good old days
Before good old American Greed.

 And now I’m allowed to spend millions
To buy who will represent me,
And you, my friend, may spend millions too,
They say it’s equality!

Democracy’s now just an auction.                              
The Supreme Court’s too dumb to see,
When the Kochs spend a billion on their guy,
I need a billion to disagree.

©2015

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

SWEATSHOP DEMOCRACY


Democracy feels like a giant rock
That I push up a steep, steep hill.
I DO work hard and play by the rules,
But I’m pushing…pushing, still.

This rock gets harder and harder to push,
It’ll flatten me, now, if I stop,
And a happy group of well-off folks,
Is laughing at me from the top.

A lifetime of pushing this rock up this hill,
With never a bit of slack,
And now I find out, those folks at the top…
Those bastards have been pushing back!

 ©2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

WORKING CLASS


Too proud to beg,
Too nervous to steal,
Too stubborn to starve,
Too angry to kneel.

“Workers arise!” seems too quaint a phrase,
For fighting this ruthless war,
When the corporate cats are so fat-ass rich,
And the wage-slaves so church-mouse poor.

© 2012

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

MAKERS vs TAKERS


Longer hours and shorter pay,
And we take it, take it, take it,
Shorter fuse and a longer day,
And we take it, take it, take it,
Shorten the leash and they yank, yank, yank,
Stretch us on the rack, and they crank, crank, crank
And the wealth flows up to the precious few,
Who take it, take it, take it to the bank.

© 2013

Saturday, January 17, 2015

HOLY HARDBALL

Religion's not nice these days,
Showing its medieval ways.
A mean, nasty fungus
Is spreading among us
To prey instead of to pray,
And the Golden Rule's so yesterday.

 ©2015

Sunday, November 9, 2014

THIS AIN'T JIMMY STEWART'S CONGRESS

Mr. Smith goes to Washington. What does he find?
Gridlock!  On a grandiose scale.
Voters sent him to get stuff done,
Like Frank Capra's old fairy tale.

But Senator Smith will be hog-tied,
By obstructionist trolls and jerks,
Whose bitter distain for We the People,
Compells them to gum up the works.

So the senator takes up arms,
In a partisan brawl of accusers,
While Americans watch with a cynical eye,
Knowing that we'll be the losers.

2012

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

WHO'S ILLEGAL?

When the first peace pipe was passed,
A mellow medicine man,
Crafted the first legislation,
A bad immigration plan.

And so the fuss of THEM and US,
The cranky-ass need to condemn,
Except for descendants of Sitting Bull,
All of US used to be THEM.

©2013

Monday, September 22, 2014

GREED RUNNETH OVER

He looks down on mankind's mortal mess,
And He’s more than a little dismayed,
Sternly He speaks:  We have to talk,
Humanity’s fabric is frayed.

I taketh offense at you fortunate few,
Who’ve grabbed so much of the gold,
While needy masses of dispossessed,
Sleep outside in the cold.

I wonder what part of the golden rule,
You corporate crooks don’t get,
Your sinful, greedy ill-gotten gains,
Exceedeth the national debt!

Remember the camel…the eye of the needle?
Salvation’s not meant to be free,
In My Book, greed is the deadliest sin,
So don’t come praying to me.

I mourn humanity’s loss of compassion,
And greed is its primal tool,
Whoever would meet thy Maker (that’s Me!),
Live thee by My Golden Rule!

©2011

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

THE BIG GAME...THE AFFLUENT vs. THE BROKE

The A Team was born on third base,
When they score it's ruled a home run,
The B Team knows that the game is rigged,
And it no longer seems like fun.

The A Team gets to hire all the umps,
And still claim there's justice for all,
But they DON'T get to claim they're Babe Ruth,
When they never have hit a curve ball.

2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

MELTING POT

I gazed upon the stars and stripes,
And pondered chemistry,
Our melting pot is at a boil,
An integration spree.

 
If every flavor in the pot,
Achieves assimilation,
The stew becomes a mellow brew,
Of savory integration.

 
But just one cook can spoil the broth,
With bitter polyglot,
One pinch of vitriolic spice.
Ignites the whole damn pot.

©2011

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

SINKING THE SHIP OF STATE

Republicans claimed to be fiscal saints,
After eight years of Bush’s red-inking!
In '08 they hand off the ship of state,
Just as the old tub is sinking.

Captain Obama called hands on deck,
'Cause the Dow did a big belly-flop,
Republicans stood in their fiscal puddle,
And never would go get a mop.

We're now in the Straits of Obstruction,
Where compromise seems to have drowned,
Will they scuttle our whole damn Ship of State,
To make sure the Captain goes down?

© 2013

Friday, February 8, 2013

EUBIE BLAKE'S 100 YEARS OF BLACK HISTORY

 
All-but-forgotten today, Eubie Blake was a black music pioneer who participated in 100 years of African American history. Yes, he lived to be 100, and I met him in 1978 to do an article that would appear on his 95th birthday.  The son of former slaves, he was playing piano in a Baltimore brothel at age 15, and at 95 he was giving Johnny Carson fits on the Tonight Show.  And in between, he changed the course of American music as a ragtime pioneer, composer for the musical stage, and by his strong influence on stride piano, the style that bridged the gap between ragtime and a wealth of later jazz piano – a contribution for which he seldom gets credit.
 
Eubie (no one ever called him anything else) was a spry 94-year-old who liked my car, an aging high-rider because of its easy access, and I became his designated ride whenever he was in L.A.  I drove, he talked.  A lot!  And he had plenty to brag about, whether it was beating Jelly Roll Morton at pool, opening the first all-black musical on Broadway, or testifying before Congress on behalf of copyright holders.  He told me his father always said “Never mess in white folks business,” yet in 1922, with pressure from his music publisher, he was admitted to ASCAP – one of its first black members.  “See, I was somebody then,” he smiled.  He was already known for many original rags when he teamed up with lyricist Noble Sissle to write five Broadway shows from which came many all-time standards including “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and “Memories of You.”
 He told me more than once about his proudest moment.  When Sissle and Blake’s “Shuffle Along” opened on Broadway in 1921, not only was it the first black-written Broadway show, it was also the first produced, directed and performed entirely by blacks.  But there was a problem, and it involved a song called “Love Will Find a Way.”  In 1921, unburlesqued, romantic love between black people had yet to be tried on a white audience.  There were dire predictions of everything from boos to bloodshed.  The way Eubie told it, on opening night, his partner Sissle was standing at the backstage exit with one foot inside the theatre, and the other pointing north toward Harlem, “And me,” Eubie said, “I was stuck out there in front, leading the orchestra where my bald head would catch all the tomatoes and rotten eggs.”  Fortunately, the song was well received, and another racial barrier came down.  “Shuffle Along” ran 504 performances and helped to launch the Harlem Renaissance of the 20’s.
 
And he never let me forget that all his accomplishments should be measured from his starting point -- a Baltimore ghetto and a fifth grade education.  He said that long after he quit playing “bawdy houses,” he still thought the first word in that description was “body.”  He related that with a chuckle, but there was a lot of sensitivity (and this was his phrase) “to not be ignorant around white folks.”  Spelling and grammar had been a life-long learning project for him.  At age 66, he graduated from NYU with a degree in musical composition.  At dinner (if you didn’t head him off) he’d explain – at length and with great enthusiasm – the Schillinger System of composition, even writing bits of music on the tablecloth.  And, trust me, it’s too deep for mere mortals.  He went on to receive honorary doctorates from five universities, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan, a Grammy nomination for his 1969 album, The 86 Years of Eubie Blake, a U.S. postage stamp with his picture on it, and lots more.  All that from a Baltimore ghetto and a fifth grade education!
 
Even at 94 Eubie had it all together.  What a charmer he was!   A little man with a big personality and a joyous legacy to share. Of course, his natural habitat was the piano keyboard, and much of what Eubie played delighted him, so he cheered himself on.  Loudly, sometimes!  Audiences loved him, whether it was millions watching on TV, or fifty in a small club.  On nights that he didn’t have a gig, he wanted to go where the piano action was, and he was welcomed everywhere as piano royalty and shown right to the keyboard.  One night an over-served matron, who hadn’t caught Eubie’s introduction came by afterward to shake his hand and say he was “really good.”  She asked if he’d ever played professionally.  Our hero smiled charmingly and said, “A little, Darlin’.”  Nobody that cool should ever be forgotten!  Fortunately, YouTube has some Eubie Blake videos, so you can see for yourself.
©2012

 

Friday, June 29, 2012

THOSE CRANKY CONSERVATIVES

Remember, they didn’t trust women to vote,
They fought it for 50 grim years.
They cried and wailed about child-labor laws,
Dollar signs mixed with their tears.

They so hated Social Security,
They cast a unanimous nay,
It offends their values when old folks are paid,
To be useless and just in the way.
 
 
Their sinister scheme to starve the government,
Hurts we the people.  That’s us!
While we foot the bill for congressional pay,
They’re plotting to blow up our bus!
 
Stingy and mean as junk-yard dogs,
This surly crowd pledges to fight,
For your FREEDOM!  To struggle, starve and die,
As long as it’s done out of sight.
 
©2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

HOLY SANCTIMONY!

The see-evil Christian speaks loudly of sin,
With a wedge issue up his sleeve.
The golden-rule Christian speaks softly of tolerance.
Permissive!  They’d have us believe.
But beating up gays and preaching damnation,
Seems mean clear through to the bone.
How peaceful t’would be if they’d wait for the Rapture,
And just leave us sinners alone.

Monday, April 30, 2012

TRUTH DECAY IN THE GOP


Republicans dislike the truth,
They bring their own facts to the fight,
They know when you’re peddling snake oil,
You keep the damn snake out of sight,

They cry global warming’s a hoax,
Suspicious of gravity too,
It’s rumored they still think the world is flat,
I’m sure they have facts if they do.

They think evolution's a liberal trick,
They say contraception's not right,
Their facts show the tax-cut fairy.
Can wipe out the debt overnight.

Their ongoing war on women,
Is too big to hide with a lie,
So what do they do when everything shows?
Deny, deny, deny.

They’re still busy proving our president,
Was some kind of fraud all along,
They cherish the thought they’re the only ones right,
While the rest of the world is wrong.

©2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A WEDGIE FOR ROE vs. WADE

Abortion opponents can have it both ways,
They fight contraception as well.
Instead of one happy solution for all,
Two angry wedge issues to sell.
©2007

Friday, April 6, 2012

SUPREME CONTORT

The guys in the black robes are pissing me off,
They get it wrong year after year,
If you think that money's free speech, try this:
Say "Bartender, where's my free beer?"

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

BANK SAVINGS

Greedy big banks have lost hundreds of thousands of customers who grabbed their money
and ran.  Trying to reverse that old bailout?


Congratulation, taxpayers.  Look what you've done,
Made Wall Street into Attila the Hun.

You bailed out the banks and saved a disaster,
Could they have been less grateful any faster?

Taxpayers, remember, at one time you owned,
A thousand broke banks and a savings and loan.

Next time they tell you they’re too big to fail,
You'll know it's the usual 1% wail.

You 99%... you poor huddled masses,
Saved their crooked aristocratic asses.

Pretty damn heroic, to save the big banks!
Any day now, I’m sure they’ll say thanks.
©2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

PEE WEE AT THE BAT

With apologies to Ernest Thayer, author of that
great American classic, "Casey at the Bat."
No apologies, however, to Casey...

It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville kids that day,
The score: 18 to 20 with one inning left to play,
And so when Tommy died at first, and Joey did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the parents at the game.

They said, “If only Butch were here, or Petey, in that box.”
But Butch and Petey, hitters both, were home with chicken pox,
But Billy bunted safely and Ricky’s bat exploded,
Johnny got a walk, and they had the bases loaded!

Then from the gladdened multitude arose an anguished groan,
Some parents laughed or snickered and some were heard to moan,
Some offered false encouragement, the rest morosely sat,
For Pee Wee, little Pee Wee, was advancing to the bat.

There was doubt in Pee Wee’s manner as he walked up to the box,
A hitch in Pee Wee’s gait as he tripped upon his sox,
And when, responding to the jeers, he turned and lost his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt t’was Pee Wee at the bat.

Two hundred eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands in dirt,
And 50 mothers groaned as he wiped them on his shirt.
And while the stern-faced pitcher rubbed the ball against his hip,
Confusion shone in Pee Wee’s eye, a tremor touched his lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Pee Wee stood and watched it with an indecisive stare.
Right by the pint-sized batsman the ball unheeded sped:
“Can’t reach that one,” said Pee Wee.  “Ball one!” the umpire said.

Once more the scowling pitcher made the leather spheroid hum,
But Pee Wee only stood there and chewed his bubble gum.
“Ball two!” the umpire stated.  The coach yelled, “Good eye, Son!”
“A walk’s a run,” the parents cheered (though they needed more than one).

All watched as Pee Wee wiped his nose and hitched his pants up high,
They saw the pitcher grip the ball and watched him let it fly,
They saw the ball speed toward the plate and thought a strike t’would be,
But Pee Wee’s size denied it and the umpire yelled:  “Ball three!”

The frenzied parents cheered their luck, so recently forsaken,
And Pee Wee gripped the bat and tried to keep his knees from shakin’.
And now the pitcher holds the ball and now he lets it go,
And Pee Wee swings and Pee Wee clouts that ball a mighty blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land there’s misery and gloom,
The rain is raining somewhere and thunder speaks of doom,
Oh, somewhere blues are sung because there’s tears and toil and trouble,
But there ain’t no blues in Mudville.  Little Pee Wee hit a double!
                                                                       
                                                                        Ellen Griffith
© 1968

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

UNCLE SAM DOESN'T LOVE ME NO MORE

Uncle Sam doesn’t love me no more,
He’s broke and he’s in a bad mood,
I think I’m next on his chopping block,
Because he’s so cranky-ass rude.

Uncle Sam doesn’t love me no more,
I’m a fan so I don’t like to bitch,
He tells me he’s broke, yet he gives away money,
To folks who are already rich.

He used to be there when I’d need him,
He used to help out in a pinch,
He used to be glad to take care of his own,
But lately he won’t budge an inch.

Uncle Sam doesn’t love me no more,
He helped send my job overseas,
To nurture the greed of the “free market” system,
That can’t do without guarantees.

Uncle Sam doesn’t love us no more,
There’s sort of a nation-wide chill,
Do you get the feeling like I do…
He won’t mention you in his will?

©2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

RAPTURE

EXPIRATION DATE

The folks who annoy us with sin and salvation,
Are back with the end of days,
They love to point out who God doesn’t like,
And nag us to change our ways.

Two thousand years of failed predictions,
Haven’t diminished their sell,
They still charm the hopeful by dangling Salvation,
The fearful by promising Hell.

Well, I’m gonna go and sit on the porch,
I’ll throw my ol’ dog a bone,
And count the hours till they fly off in Rapture,
And leave all us sinners alone.

©2011

Saturday, May 7, 2011

MOTHER'S DAY


They call it Mother's Day...but all mothers remember when every day was Kids Day.

It was Kidville Central.  Three mothers in side-by-side apartment buildings with eight kids all under six.  Our husbands, blue collar workers, escaped every morning in the family car, leaving us knee-deep in small fry with no way out.  Since it was the 60’s, we liked to imagine how great our lives could be if we weren’t wading in rug-rats.  We saw ourselves with flowers in our hair, joyfully following the Grateful Dead…until a crash and a kid’s shriek brought us back to earth.  Back to house arrest at the zoo.  The obvious occupational hazard here was Cabin Fever, and we all had it.  But with careful planning between naptimes and feeding times (much like the zoo) it was possible to escape.  Pop the baby in the stroller, let the toddlers tag along, and…ahh, fresh air!  Ahh, scenery!   With luck, you could make it to the market and back with a box of Hamburger Helper.  But If Cabin Fever was avoidable, Kiddie Fever was not.  Kiddie Fever, Judy said, was when you tied your OWN shoe laces in double bows.  We all caught it.  Claire’s symptom: she had the youngest in her lap and when she set him down on his feet and gave him a little push… he fell flat on his face! The kid on her lap was not the toddler, as she had (mindlessly) thought, it was the 9-months-old, who was not yet walking.  And that probably didn’t help. I remember hurrying into the bathroom with a pair of tiny sox to throw into the laundry hamper.  Distracted by the three-kid bedtime ritual, I lifted the wrong lid…and tossed them in the toilet.  What made it worse – two tots at my elbow saw the goof before I did.  It’s never good when they’re smarter than you.  Which reminds me that when Don first started talking, Susie – 13 months older – could translate some of his jabber when no adults could.  The bizarre result of that was waking her in the middle of the night on one occasion to translate what was wrong with Don.  No, it’s never good when they’re smarter than you because, as mothers know, much of mothercraft is an ongoing scam.  I remember putting a tight hug on a screaming five-year-old Susie in the middle of a big early-morning earthquake and by the time the shaking and rumbling had stopped, I’d convinced her that it was the same kind of bumpy fun as the rides at Pacific Ocean Park.  By then the littler ones woke up and wanted to know what in the world was going on, and Big Sister told them it was an earthquake and it was a “fun ride.”  The sweet little scret to all this kiddie chaos which we didn’t usually admit was that, in spite of the measles and chipped teeth and thrown toys, with a little creative problem-solving, Kidville could be fun.  When they're still little, kids are cute.  When they’re old enough to talk, but too young to win an argument, kids are cute.  When Susie was about five, she called me to the window to point out that the strange people next door were putting clothes under the hood of their car “where that dirty engine is.”  It was a Renault, probably the first rear-engine car in our neighborhood, and the storage space was in front.  Susie was relieved to know that. Then there was the time when Don had been listening to grown-up conversations about Douglas Aircraft (where his grandfather worked) merging with McDonnell (Aircraft).  He was seven or eight (and usually hungry) so he wanted to know if we could get free hamburgers.  My favorite Cute Kid Quote was when two-year-old Wayne saw his first ground fog -- so thick that the buildings across the street were invisible.  He ran back inside and said, “Mommy!  The air’s all fuzzy out there!”  Ahh, yes…Kidville!
©2009

Friday, April 29, 2011

NEW ORLEANS

Today JAZZ FEST begins in New Orleans. 
I can only wish myself there. 
And remember...

ROYALTY


Just one man at a piano
On a tiny stage on a hot night
A block from the river in the French Quarter
And the song he sang
About this Enchanted City
Easy to love, hard to understand
This joyous city, standing shoulder-to-shoulder
With the brawny river
The rowdy river that tried to wash it away
Again and again
The good-natured city that pushed back
When it had nothing but a bowl of gumbo and a marching band
The city that marched as one heart beats
On streets not paved with gold, but named for royalty
Kings and Queens and Indian Chiefs
Where folks danced to the edge of the grave.

In memory of Roland Stone

©2005 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

COME BACK CASEY JONES

My dad loved trains.  And he loved to drive. When he bought our 1935 Ford, my brother and I were little kids in the back seat, and on Sundays we’d drive for miles up the Pacific Coast Highway just for the scenery.  No freeways then, just a wonderful two-lane highway and hardly any cars on the road.  If we got lucky we’d see a lot of trains, and the Southern Pacific still had many steam locomotives on the line.  In some spots, the highway ran right next to the rail line.  Passenger trains were no fun because they were pulled by the new, streamlined diesel locomotives.  The magic moment came when we’d spot smoke up ahead.  “We’ll catch him,” my dad would promise as the car surged ahead.  I still remember the thrill of pulling alongside one of those huge, fire-breathing monsters -- so close that I was engulfed by the awesome force of that fierce, black beast with the stacks belching smoke and the drive rods flying back and forth.  “That’s a six-eight wheeler,” my dad would shout.  The drive wheels were bigger than our car.  And all this raw power close enough so that I could see the engineer plainly.  My dad said if I waved, he’d wave back.  And he did!  All this time my mother was urging him to slow down.  No dice.  “He’s got a grade crossing up ahead,” my dad would yell, “You’ll get to hear the whistle.”  I not only heard it, I saw the whistle blow.  Two looong wails, and a couple of short toots.  What a treat!  My dad also wanted to be the first car at the crossing when the gates came down.  So there  we’d be, just yards away when the engine thundered by, and the boxcars came clanking and rumbling behind.  Nothing he liked better than a long, long freight so he could read all the boxcars.  (This was before Amtrak and globalization brought us boring, anonymous containers.)  “See that B&O,” he’d shout above the roar, ”That’s Baltimore and Ohio.  Came right by my house when I was a boy in Cleveland.  Look!  New York Central.  All the way from the East coast.”  I grew up with boxcar geography.  At home, our L.A. neighborhood was on the right side of the tracks – but just barely.  Two blocks down, there was a light-rail line that serviced the warehouses along Sepulveda Blvd., the main drag.  The workhorse down there was a klunky yellow diesel-electric switch engine – a terrible comedown from the charging iron horse of the high-speed rail.  And what’s worse, it had an obnoxious, clanging bell that we could hear clear down at our house.  But it hauled all the same boxcars and we could see them for just a short walk.  More boxcar geography.  “Look,” my dad pointed, “Louisville and Nashville, I’ve been there.”  He sounded proud.  Denver and Rio Grande, Illinois Central, Canadian Pacific, Midland Valley Railroad, Erie Line, New York, New Haven and Hartford.  Before I was old enough to leave home, I got some travel stickers and stuck them on my guitar case so it looked as though I’d been to far-flung places.  When I actually went to far-flung places, it wasn’t by train.  So I wrote a love song to those old steam locomotives. 


COME BACK CASEY JONES by the Demonstrators (My hand-picked studio band) featuring John Schlocker on banjo, the marvelous Roy Zimmerman on vocals, and Marty Rifkin with some extraordinarily nifty dobro.

©2011