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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Flickering Thoughts Like the Damselfly

I've been Sam Cooke-ing for a few days and I'm not sure why. Oh, yes, I've always liked his music. It's clean. Pure. Nostalgic. But I have been on a heavy diet of it for days, apropos of nothing, and I've re-read the circumstances of his shooting death. The courts ruled that he had been drunk and distressed and that the shooting was justifiable. I have troubled meshing the beautiful sound of his voice with the image of him lying dead on the floor at the Hacienda Motel wearing a sport jacket, shoes and nothing else. The area was bad, even in 1964. It was very near the part of Los Angeles that was to be the hotbed of the Watts riots soon to happen. The reader is forewarned that all the film footage is bad. It is all pre-December, 1964.

Friend Kirk Jusko is brilliant about things historical and political. Often, he posts about current political events and I've told him from time to time that his sharp grasp of these things intimidates me just a little. Oh, I'm bright enough. When I represented unionized public employees, I trained and led large groups of members to Sacramento to lobby the lawmakers. So I'm certainly capable of understanding these things. The trouble is, I developed an easily triggered gag reflex. I sicken early and often. And when the choke begins, I find my attention wandering. I'd rather close my eyes and think of England. However, this morning my mind is on politics. It's because of those damned Tea Partiers and a spot I saw on the local news this morning.

Las Vegas (and the state of Nevada, to an extent) is different from any other place in many ways. We elect political officials who are rogues, scalawags, rapscallions, reprehensibles and worse. Although I vote in every election, I never have voted for the candidate who wins office. I guess I'm out of step with the other citizens. Consider our mayor. Oscar Goodman's claim to fame was that he was the lawyer to the mob. I remember hearing the stories of his legerdemain when I lived here in the 1970s and 1980s. His clients included defendants accused of being major figures of organized crime in Las Vegas. He did it well. He'd once been voted one of the top 15 trial lawyers in the U.S. The mob could afford good counsel. He was elected mayor in June, 1999 and remains mayor today. So much for term limits. Our Oscar is a man with some wild ideas, the grit to say outrageous things, and some really poor judgement, publicly exhibited. He's the kind of man Las Vegans elect to high office.

Our recently completed freeway and highway projects include some beautiful wall murals featuring native plant and animal species in colorful bas relief. These are truly lovely enhancements to otherwise unrelieved city and desert driving, and - yes - the grafitti vandals were immediately attracted to them. Mayor Goodman came up with a grand form of punishment for the felons and called a press conference to announce it! Televised thumb amputation. That would certainly be a deterrent to others with cans of spray paint. I wonder which station on cable TV would get the rights to televise that.

Oscar's love of gin is legend. He tells this himself to any interested party. Visitng a classroom of fourth grade students, he was asked what he would want to have with him if he found himself on a deserted island. To the displeasure of some of the parents who heard the story that evening, Goodman's reply was "a showgirl and a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin". He certainly is a permanent fixture at any local event presented by the good folks of Lee's Discount Liquor, being featured prominently on posters and flyers, arm around Mr. Lee's shoulders.

We were out for a Sunday afternoon walk in pleasant conditions. We chewed unhappily on the uncertainty of the school district budget cuts and what it might mean personally, rather than generally. I questioned my companion closely, coming from the union rep's point of view. "What is your union doing about these things? Do you think the district really will take unilateral action and break the contract? They can't win at that!"

This led to my sharing a story I'd seen on the news. Mayor Goodman had a proposal for reducing city expenses in our economical crisis. This was not some tongue-in-cheek local joke. This was the man's, the attorney's, actual proposal. "Let's fire all the unionized city workers and then immediately hire them back at reduced hours and reduced wages. No one loses a job and the city saves all the money it needs to save." His actual proposal. The union rep in me screamed! "They can't do that. They have a contract with these workers and they're required to negotiate any change in working conditions. It's unlawful!" It took the City Attorney two days to notify the mayor his proposal was unlawful. Our mayor is the kind of man Las Vegans elect to high office. And that's enough about him. He's not even the politico I meant to write about.

So last week, over at Tag's fine blog, the commenters were being goofy and I volunteered to go chuck rotten produce at Sarah Palin's tea party in Harry Reid's tiny home town and at Ann Coulter who was speaking in Henderson. I even went so far as to say I might get into a physical dust-up with the women, and Tag gallantly said his money was on me. I was just funning about going there. I already had plans for the weekend. But now I wish maybe I'd changed my plans and gone out to get a feel for the idiots.

Currently there are 22 candidates seeking to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the midterm elections. On the news this morning, I heard about one who reminds me of the kind of man Las Vegans elect to high office. Scott Ashjian is a Tea Party candidate. He is an asphalt contractor who has been a lightning rod for negative press since announcing his candidacy. The news spot this morning was presented to say Ashjian narrowly missed being jailed for felony theft. Wednesday he made restitution for a bad check and court fees totaling $5,575, thereby paving the way for the judge to dismiss the felony charges in court today. There is another $5,000 bad check written to a businessman in December that still has not been resolved.

Last week, Ashjian's contractor license was revoked when he failed to appear at a hearing. He has been directed to pay $2,600 in fees and $37,000 to complainants, which includes another bad check for $981.82. Ashjian owes the IRS $200,000 and is facing more than $1 million in home foreclosures. His contractor business has had a number of liens filed and he has been served with a number of city nuisance actions. That's not all! The Independent American Party and the group Anger is Brewing, an affiliate of the national tea party movement, say they will file a lawsuit claiming that Ashjian filed as a candidate before registering to vote as a Nevada Tea Party member. As his own pack turns on him, one can hope that this Tea Partier will have been hoisted by his own petard. Neither Nevada nor the United States Senate needs this. And one is reminded of the kind of man Las Vegans (and other Nevadans) elect to high office. Have I mentioned I have an easily triggered gag reflex?

I wore one of my pairs of Rocket Dogs today. It seemed a Rocket Dog kind of day. On the rare days I wear my Rocket Dogs, homes get very quiet as I arrive at work and put my first foot outside the car and onto the asphalt. When I wore this very pair to our company holiday party at a well-known sports bar, the room turned dead silent as I walked in grinning. For Rocket Dogs are kicks with a little attitude. When a woman wears her Rocket Dogs, she grins a lot. From ear to ear. At everyone. One needs to possess a sense of humor to sport Rocket Dogs. I have one. And the day must seem just right. It is! Yes, they're at least two inches longer than my actual foot. Yes, they're extremely comfortable. I don't wear shoes that are uncomfortable. Yes, the tights are argyle. Yes, that is my best pair of well-worn, much-loved raggedy ass jeans.

In my ears right now: It's Sam Cooke, and the best of his tunes, dammit. But after a day of merry hell with Blogger, now it's YouTube messing with me. If I have to put up the post and add the song later, I will. I'm sick of monkeying around with it. Yep. I had to try it one more time. Stick a fork in me, I'm done. If that song never appears in this post, I'll put it up on a different one.

Ha! There's more than one way to skin a cat, and I know most of them. Here's my favorite from Sam:

Something that charmed me: I bought some potted hyacinth with florets cinched so tightly, I literally could not tell what color my flowers would be. I put it on top of the birds' home in the sunny window, way up high, so I could watch all the action. I know what color the flowers are, and now - so does the reader. The fragrance is overwhelming! Like the busy season down at the funeral home.


  1. My husband has an expression, Les:
    'Turds float to the top'. And another he uses whenever I feel intimidated by someone, 'even the qqeen has to wipe her bum'.

    These may be crude but the exemplify some of the issues you raise here, at least they do for me, and especially in relation to your amazing mayor.

    I can't say much about your American politics, but aspects of your situation resonate with the state of play in Australia, though your situation might be a tad more extreme, compared to ours, that is.

    Thanks for this, Les. Keep fighting the good fight against injustice. It's the best we can do.

  2. A while ago you were thinking of taking your writing more commercially public. You would be a great political commentator. I would love to see this article in print, complete with the pictures. Maybe you should get a literary agent.

    I love Sam Cooke. Discovered him from my daughter's play list.

    I love how I can see the exact place your foot stops in those Rocket Dogs.

  3. @ Elisabeth ~ I would like your husband, I believe. I use and re-use several pithy statements to remind myself of certain things. I like his two expressions that you shared.

    Elisabeth, the state of our politics is shameful and embarrassing. American politics is shockingly horrible. Las Vegas/Nevada politics is worse.

    And you are right. I have to fight. If I just sit back ignorant and complacent, why should I be allowed to remain here and consume oxygen?

  4. @ Kass ~ Ha, Girlie, you made me laugh out loud, because I consider myself a political ignoramus. But I thank you for clapping for my writing. I'm glad you liked Sam and my Dogs. ;~} Today it's way sensible red leather Coach loafers.

  5. You're making me blush so much I look like a tomato with glasses. If you knew how much of my life I've wasted procrastinating, you wouldn't think I was so brilliant.

    Here in Ohio, we also elect rogues, scalawags, rapscallions, reprehensibles, and worse. We just don't find out they're that way until after they've taken office.

  6. @ Kirk ~ So I gave you a little rise in blood pressure, did I, Kirk? But it couldn't have surprised you, for I've expressed my awe of your brilliance many times before. I think you have a natural affinity for understanding politics. I can learn, but I have to work at it. I think you assimilate it through your pores.

    If I went to a meet-and-greet for some of our elected officials, I'd want the bottle of hand sanitizer in my purse to be used after exchanging the hearty handclasp. When my stepfather was a general contractor here in the 70s and 80s, I learned all about "favors" and "friends" and it took a lot of my innocence away. It's much, much worse now.

  7. Hyacinths do have a heady scent, the kind that sticks in my memory, such as the ones my grandmother grew in hour glass vases with the roots creeping into the water like tears down a dirty face.

    Politicians are collectively worse than a one legged man in an arse kicking contest. Not a hyacinth among them.

  8. @ Rachel ~ It's good to see you stop by! I miss reading your work and hope you're progressing with your "real" writing.

    I guess grandmas all around the world had those glass vases for their bubl plants, but I don't know that anyone could top your words. I LOVE " . . roots creeping into the water like tears down a dirty face . . "

    Thanks, Rachel!