Just some thoughts and ideas going around in my head while trying to figure out where I am and where everyone else is going.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Play la Marsellaise. Play it!"

Paris is one of Philadelphia’s sister cities. I’m not sure what that means other than it has the Rodin Museum which has the largest public collection of artwork produced by August Rodin outside of Paris and that it has an excuse to do quirky little things that represent that bond.

One of those things is to do a re-enactment of the storming of the Bastille which was a castle turned prison where they kept a few people behind bars. The prison was overrun by the people in Paris back at the start of the French Revolution, the prisoners were released and the building torn down. Philadelphia relives this event by having actors invade, the now defunct, Eastern State Penitentiary on the weekend before or after Bastille Day.

Eastern State, if you remember is the first state penitentiary in the United States and is the one during the 30’s that kept gangster Al Capone for a few months and bank robber "Slick" Willie Sutton for 11 years not including the time that he spent on the outside after he tunneled his way to escape. But he was gone for only about 30 or 40 minutes so it doesn’t really count. Willie is also the one incorrectly known as the man who said when asked why he robbed banks, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Anyway during this year’s re-enactment of the Bastille, they had an actress on top of the ramparts of the prison play the role of the Marie Antoinette. From there she tossed free Tastykakes to the crowd below apparently referencing the “Let them eat cake” quote that the queen is supposed to have made when told that the people didn’t have bread to eat.

I didn’t attend this year’s performance because it was raining all day and plus I think it’s kind or corny. What I should have done instead was to rent or maybe even have bought a copy of my favorite movie Casablanca to celebrate Bastille Day. There is nothing that makes you feel more alive and free and maybe even want to fight Nazi tyranny than when Rick allows a resounding rendition of the Marsellaise to be played in his club, unless of course you happen to be female, Arabic and have a certain religious penchant about clothing. But then again which country is it that you know that doesn’t have flaws somewhere?

Vive la France!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

To Kill a Mocking Bird - Redux

How long has it been, 20 or 30 years since I read the little brown book that my grandmother’s cousin kept in a box in her closet? Actually a better question would be why was I in her closet?

She kept dozens of books there; ones by people like Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim. All of them about pimping or being a drug addict or being raped and becoming someone’s bitch in prison or all 3. Ah the classics, I don’t think they write ‘em like they used to. But she had one book that has stayed with me all of these years. It was about a little girl in the 1930’s whose family life had entered into a situation that was completely foreign to her. It was about how she discovered how truth can often be hidden behind form and ritual and convention and that win or lose, sometimes the fight is all we have; the only thing that can bring meaning to our lives.

Of course I’m referring to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird that was first published 50 years ago this weekend. I’m not going to review the book since I’m sure that’s been done by editors and professors and plenty of other people who are much more capable than me. Plus I have not read the book since I first opened it, But I remember it. I remember not realizing that Scout, the protagonist and narrator was a girl until I was about 2 thirds of the way through the book. I remember Jem her older brother who looked after her to his utmost ability, the way that most brothers do but only when they have to. I remember reading about her father Atticus the lawyer shooting a rabid dog and defending t Tom Robinson in court not because it the heroic thing to do, but because it was the right thing to do. I remember the fear created by the presence of Boo Radley until, as with all things once the reality is known, the truth is often different from the perception.

I haven’t been to Oakland since the mid 80’s so I don’t really know what the truth is about what happened on New Year’s Day 2009 when an unarmed Oscar Grant was shot in the back and killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer. I don’t know how different the bay area is from the south of the 1930’s or if there is or even was a racial element to what happened. I suspect that things are very different, but I don’t know. All I know is what I feel and that is that a young man was wrongly killed and that someone or a society should have to pay for his loss and the loss to those around him.

But whether others think of the incident as murder, man-slaughter or just deserts all I can say is that I’m reminded of a short passage in the book where Atticus said to Jem: 

“I'd rather you shoot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It's Hot as Hell in Philadel-Phia

If it's 101 degrees Fahrenheit in Philadelphia now, what is that in Celsius and what must it have been like 2 centuries ago? No wonder there was a Revolution.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Flim Flam Man

An email that I received recently said:

“You have won (£3,500.00 Million) on the Irish Lottery Promo held on the

22nd of April,2010 in Dublin, Ireland.

Send us Your Full Name:...,Address:...,Tel:...,Country for claims

Mr. Jimmy Peterson: +447035914740.

E-mail: clmsveri_dept@upimail.be

Note that you will be liable for the Cost of remitting your winnings to



Mrs. Anna Brown.

Co-coordinator Irish Lottery”

Wow! Who would have believed that it could happen to me? I don’t even remember entering or registering for a lottery and now I’m a multi-millionaire. What incredible luck I must have….. Although, I thought the Irish Lottery was in Ireland where they used the Euro(€) and not the Pound(£); and why is the email address a Belgian one and not Irish? You know now that I think about it, if someone is going to scam me they should at least try and give a good story without holes in it so that I wouldn't feel so bad about throwing away my money. What kind of clown do they take me for?
When I was younger, sometimes I would be approached by men who would say that they were just off the plane from whatever country was in the news at the time, South Africa, Guyana or someplace. They would tell me that they had given their cab driver from airport hundreds of dollars to take them to a hotel, but he had instead left them in middle of Times Square in New York, or in later years, Center City in Philadelphia with bad directions. Suddenly another man would walk up and ask if he could assist. The second man would say that he knew of a place where the visitor could stay for very little money. The first man would say that money was no object and then pull out a roll  as thick as his fist that seemed to be full of one hundred dollar bills. The second man would him and tell him that it was unsafe to show that amount of cash in public and that it should be kept in a bank. One of them would tell me how honest I looked and asked if I had an ATM card so that they could deposit the cash in my bank and maybe withdraw it at a later date with, of course, a cut taken out for myself.

Now my name isn’t Peter Parker but my Spidey senses would tingle into overdrive whenever I heard this, well at least the first 2 times that I heard it. I didn’t understand what was going on but I remembered that Mother always said you never get something for nothing, there is always a price. It was time to bolt, and I always did.

It wasn’t until I was old enough to understand what the movie The Sting was about and had seen it about 3 or 4 times on TV that I realized that I had been the mark in some sort of “Pigeon Drop” scam. Someone had tried to make me think that I could make a little more money with no risk to myself. They had tried to work on my sense of greed to see how far they could get because I looked like an easy mark.

It probably doesn’t explain why I have very little sympathy for those people who fall for swindles like the email from a lawyer somewhere in Africa or Malaysia with a dead client, or even the rich friends who were ripped off by financier Bernie Madoff who supposedly gave a 20% return on their investments without bothering to explain how it was done. I mean it’s just a con man working on the gullibility and greed of people to believe that there is something  for free where nothing exists.

So if you should ever get in touch for any reason with Mr. Jimmy Peterson or Mrs. Anna Brown or even that lawyer, tell them that I send my best but the check will not be in the mail.


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