Thursday, February 25, 2016

Well Now, Here's A Thing

I cruise the  real estate listings now and again to get an idea of what "Luxury Properties" -- as well as more mundane places -- are going for in our area of New Mexico these days. We bought our place at the height of the real estate bubble after all. The crash hit New Mexico hard and things have a long way to go before there can be a recovery.

Meanwhile, the swells, the High and the Mighty, seem to have done right well for themselves here and everywhere. The luxury properties that are features of Santa Fe Living, Santa Fe Style, have mostly held their value, and many have increased substantially in value. Those who have the money to spend on these places for the most part have much more disposable income now than they had before the crash, so prices increase. Meanwhile the rest of creation wallows in increasing poverty.

Same as it ever was? Well, maybe not.

While going through some of the listings today I came upon this:

What is this you might well ask. Well, here's the listing. See for yourself.

As we wander through the convolutions of the electoral primary wars, Our Betters are preparing.

I'm told that some of the High and Mighty in Santa Fe and environs have been spending enormous sums to equip their own compounds with similar facilities -- "for when it all goes to shit." Wouldn't be surprised. Of course we don't know any of those people, so when it comes -- whatever "it" might be -- we'll have essentially nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide.

Actually, back when we bought this place, out in the middle of nowhere, ten years ago now, friends in California said, "Oh, so you got a place to escape to when it all goes to shit, eh?" They were only half joking.

Monday, February 15, 2016

OT: He Died of a Pulmonary Embolism

Saturday, I received a copy of my brother's death certificate from the authorities in Iowa. The same authorities say they can't locate a copy of his birth certificate, which is interesting. It's possible none was filed. On the other hand, it's possible he was born somewhere other than where I thought, and the search turned up nothing because of my error in locating his place of birth. Of course the authorities in Iowa could also just be Iowa Stubborn. (Boy-o-boy, do I know the ground truth of that trenchant observation of Meredith Wilson's about Iowans and the way they are.)

At any rate, despite the errors and typos on the cert -- it's shocking how badly some of it is mangled -- I now know what my brother died of -- pulmonary embolus it's called, a blood clot in the major artery of the lungs, stopping the flow of blood to the heart and brain, killing him within minutes if not sooner.

Same thing my sister died of.

I should say they were not blood relations with one another. My sister had a different father; my brother had a different mother. But I am blood relation to both. It was never particularly difficult to sort this out in my own mind, but trying to explain it to others -- especially in the straight laced '50s when I was growing up -- could be difficult. Multiple marriages were not common in those days, you see.

At any rate, I considered both my half-sister and my half-brother to be my sister and my brother without further qualification, though as it happens, I did not personally know my brother at all (never having met him), whereas I knew my sister very well indeed.

I thought I knew enough about my brother though. I'm finding I didn't, not really, and now with a fuller picture of his passing and after learning more about his relatively brief life, how much I didn't know and don't know is becoming much clearer.

For example, I didn't previously know that his mother died the day of his birth. I thought she lived for a while -- days or weeks -- after he was born (not sure where I got that idea, though), but his death certificate says he was born the same day I previously learned his mother had died. That must have been devastating to my father, and it helps explain why he never got over it. He was in mourning for my brother's mother for the rest of his life.

In some ways, I think he blamed my brother for her death.

Thirteen years later, I came along. I didn't realize that my birthday is within three days of my brother's --- and the day of his mother's death. My mother told me that she -- my mother -- experienced a long and difficult labor with me, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to find that her labor started on or about the date of my brother's birth and his mother's death. I can imagine the period surrounding my birth was gut-wrenching for my father. Would history repeat? Would it rhyme?

My brother was born severely challenged both physically and mentally. I didn't realized how severely he was challenged until late last year when I started corresponding with a cousin I previously had no knowledge of. She had letters that her mother had preserved, letters which mentioned my brother and his condition. It was not good.

For quite a while, and apparently at various periods, he could neither stand nor walk on his own; there were times when he apparently couldn't speak, other times when he would merely babble. He'd been described to me as an "idiot savant," which is to say that like some autistics, his mental development was stunted, but he had an astonishing memory for obscure statistics. From what I've read in those letters, though, I'm not sure that was true.

I had no idea at all that he was so severely physically challenged. No one told me. No one even hinted that he couldn't stand or walk on his own as late as the age of nine or ten. Both my mother and sister told me of their meeting with him when he was thirteen or fourteen, and their recollection was that he was pretty normal except for his learning disability.

I never met him. I recall being taken by my father one day to the house where he was living with friends of the family. The nice lady who answered the door said he was sleeping and she didn't want to wake him. When she found out who I was and why we were there, she suggested it might not be wise for him to see me as it could upset him greatly.

So. We never went back.

I knew that he lived with that family until they could no longer take care of him -- they were older than my father, after all -- but what happened to him after that I never really knew.

When my father died, I discussed my brother's whereabouts with his probate attorneys, but all I recalled was that he was in a "facility." He was being well cared for. I had nothing to worry about. I didn't know or rather recollect the name of the facility or where it was -- except that it was in Iowa somewhere -- and I assumed that it was a state hospital.

I've since learned I was wrong about that. So far as I know, he was never placed in a state hospital, and that is something of a relief, because I'd been told he was terrified of going to a state hospital. Apparently he had been taken to one as a potential patient-resident, and it did not go well. So he was not admitted.

Instead, it appears that after he left the care of these family friends, he was placed in a small nursing home  (which no longer exists) a few miles out of town. I don't know how long he was there or what his condition was while he was there. But in 1968 when my (our) father was ill with the cancer that would kill him, my brother was transferred from the nursing home out of town to a residential care facility run by the Sisters of St. Francis in town. He was there until early October, 1972, when his condition apparently deteriorated significantly and he was transferred to the University Hospital in Iowa City where he died on the 27th of October -- of a pulmonary embolism.

As far as I know, he didn't have surgery prior to his death -- which my sister did, and a blood clot following surgery was what caused her death. Given what I have learned about his physical challenges, I suspect my brother was transferred to the hospital in Iowa City when his physical problems became too difficult for the sisters to handle.  He may have had seizures. I suspect he became paralyzed. The ultimate result was the blood clot that killed him.

I sensed he died in 1972, but I have no recollection of being told of his passing. Perhaps I was contacted by someone... but I have no memory of whom it might have been, or even if it ever happened. Finding out that he did die in 1972 and where and how is still surprising.

And I do mourn this one. The loss of my brother is hitting home to me all these years later. I wish there was something I could have done, but what could I have done? I don't know, and that's part of the loss I feel.

So, now I know more...

This One I'll Not Mourn

Scalia, he dead, dead, dead.

The damage that this man was allowed to do and did to the Republic cannot be over estimated. He was dead-set on extirpating and destroying the very idea  of "progress" as a function of governance a legitimate interest of government. Turning back the clock wasn't enough. He wanted to smash the clock itself.

The man was a monster, truly one of the most uncompromising and unblessed the Court has ever hosted -- and there have been many of his ilk over the centuries. Scalia took uncompromisingly destructive ideology and legal theories much further, however, in his overwhelming need and desire to end this experiment in constitutional self government once and for all.

He was not a constitutionalist. He was a theocratic monarchist. He played with the deeply flawed constitution under which we are supposedly governed, mocking it, mocking its provisions and rendering his decisions in the most harmful manner he could come up with.

Some legal scholars lionized him for it. They called him brilliant. No one of high rank on the bench had approached the questions of law the way he did.

A case can be made that by speaking, writing and ruling the way he did, he highlighted the many and often gross flaws in the constitution and left the door open for revision and amendment, but the man basically did not believe in the merit of constitutional self-government in the first place. So ultimately, any attempt to correct the flaw he so maliciously exploited would have been futile in his mind because the premise of the undertaking was in fundamental error at the outset. There was no way to "correct" it.

He's dead now, and there is a sense of foreboding and as well as relief. He can no longer directly influence the Court -- over which he appears to have had an outsized influence for decades, most appallingly in the case of the Court's lawless interference in Bush v Gore. The struggle to replace him is already turning into a constitutional crisis, however, one that may not be resolved short of coup.

I don't mourn Scalia's passing but I'm not looking forward to the next few months without his malevolent presence on the Court, either.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

So Is It Over?

I haven't really been following the tangled disintegration of the Oregon Standoff, quote unquote, but it sounds like there might have been something of a resolution -- following an extended period of sex-drugs-and-rock-n-roll. Or something.

They say even the Old Man (Bundy) was rounded up as he de-planed in Portland.

My my.

And only one killed -- so far. Poor deluded LeVoy got his (apparent) wish and was shot down in the snow by state police as twirled and ranted after a botched attempt to flee a roadblock.

Well, I saw the same video everyone else did of his execution, and there appeared to me to be no necessity to shoot him at all, any more than there is a necessity for LEOs to kill this or that suspect, individual, person in the vast majority of cases. They do it because they can, and they can get away with it in almost all cases. Further, as in the case of the poor, deluded elder Finicum, they do it pour encourager les autres. To make a statement: "Fuck with us and you die."

Finicum fucked with the law and authorities a lot, he did. So he, of all those deluded individuals, had to die. I'm sure he was targeted probably very early on. An example had to be made. And it was in spectacular though tragic fashion.

Immediately afterwards, I saw a lot of cheering commentary regarding his killing, as if this time -- of all the thousands of police killings over the last few years -- the dude really needed killing, and hurrah! for the Feds.

No. He's liable to become a martyr, that one. All because he "stood up" to the tyranny of gubment. And they -- the vast, implacable They -- shot him down for it.

That's what makes martyrs, just as has happened over and over again throughout history, triggering one revolution after another.

I make mock of Bernie's pretense to "revolution" -- a "political revolution" as he calls it -- because that's what it is, a pretense of revolution, not the thing itself. I believe it is a deliberate move to stave off the real thing from the left, pressure for which has been mounting for some time. But what about from the right?

A neo-revolution (neo-colonial, neo-conservative, neo-liberal) actually has taken place, suddenly in the aftermath of the unsettled 2000 presidential election, and then slowly consolidating ever since. Because it's not actually a rightist revolution -- though it has many aspects of rightist action and rhetoric -- many actual rightists are unsatisfied. They want more.

They see power in the wrong hands. They want for themselves. Which is what the Bundy Bunch have been after for years.

Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of "patriot-rebels" (they say there may be three hundred thousand of these mooks or more) are arming and prepping themselves into a frenzy of rebellion, indeed potentially of revolution, the real thing.

So is it really over? No, not by a long shot as they say.

We're going to see more and more of this as the neo-crowd continues its consolidation of wealth and power. And those who would fight that consolidation of power become more and more radicalized.

Friday, February 12, 2016

On Bernie vs Hillary

I watched a bit of yesterday's debate on PBS, but I have to confess that the debates do not hold my interest for more than a few minutes.

That's because our electoral system is a sham. Whomever is put up for and eventually elected president is a figurehead emplaced primarily to keep the masses tame while in the background the looters and killers have free rein to do what they do.

Even a mook like Trump will find that out in the by and bye, assuming he doesn't already know it, which I think he does.

All the candidates know the real deal.

Including Bernie.

So I wonder what he thinks he's doing yadda-yadda-ing all the time about things he can't actually change from the Big Chair in the White House.

Ah yes, it's a bone, he's a bone, thrown to the groundlings who feel so disoriented, so dispossessed by things as they are. He can't do anything about it but yadda-yadda. More to the point, even if he were to sit in the Big Chair -- and it could happen -- he won't be allowed to do anything substantive about it.

At least Hillary says what she knows: the way things are is not gonna change substantively in our lifetimes, and probably not in your children's lifetimes, either. Deal with it.

Any "revolution" has already happened, and it came from the right. There will be no leftist counter-revolution.

The reason why is simple enough. Maintenance of the status quo, which keeps shifting ever rightwards, is the whole point of what  constitutes the so-called "left" in today's political world. Bernie talks about what amount to tweaks in that status quo and preventing an even more precipitous lurch to the right. And he calls it "revolution" -- which is silly. And I think he knows it. Hillary, on the other hand, says the revolution is not coming (because it's already come?), she will tweak things a bit this way or that way, but mostly she will maintain an even keel through the next eight years, which is what she declares the People want.

Well, she could be right.

Bernie the Bone says "No, no! We have to do better!" Well, yes, but how? Through "reform?" He talks a lot about expanding and growing and building from the current base, but that's not revolutionary. It's hardly evolutionary. Hillary talks the same but takes a different tack: "Slow and steady. Step by step. Not all at once. A piece at a time. We'll get there. Eventually."

Time and again modern leftist parties have won elections by promising to do something about the looting, corruption, death and destruction caused by the triumph of the political and economic illiterates who rose to power and prominence on the wreckage of the Soviet Union.

At best they've been to mitigate some of the damage some of the time. But mostly they've been able to do nothing. Or -- as in the tragic case of SYRIZA in Greece -- they have been forced to implement even worse measures to satisfy their rapacious overlords.

Someone like Trump, as one of those overlords, would do it gleefully, come what may.

Someone like Bernie might say "I'd rather not" -- but would have no choice in the end.

Hillary would argue how best to do it.

So I don't watch the debates as a rule. The Show Business is all well and good but pretty meaningless in the end.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dan Hicks -- Dead, Dead, Dead

"I Scare Myself" at the Warfield, San Francisco, December 9, 2001

Musicians from the Old Days have been dropping dead left and right lately, but this is a hard one for us. I would almost go so far as to say Dan was a friend, but that's going too far. He had lots of fan-friends who he wouldn't know from Adam or Eve, they were just folks who wandered into -- and out of -- his long and storied life.

When we lived in San Francisco in the mid-Seventies, Ms Ché and I would go out to the Sweetwater in Mill Valley practically every weekend when Dan Hicks and whatever assembly of Hot Licks, Lickettes and Acoustic Warriors he could get together were playing. The Sweetwater was a smallish bar with a stage at one end, and we'd stay for hours drinking and carousing, and Dan and the band would sometimes play quite long into the night beween their own bouts of drinking and carousing among the fans and patrons. One time I remember it was very late, probably closing time, and he invited the remaining bar patrons out to his house for a jam session with Sid and Mary Ann and Naomi, and so we went to where he said he lived, and sat on the glassed-in porch, waiting. But Dan never showed up. It may have been somebody else's house for all we knew, or just as likely he got way-laid along the way -- and forgot.

His persona was ever casual and laid-back, utterly imperturbable. A friend to everyone, a master of none. He was Just Dan, Plain Ol' Dan, an easy-going country boy, or so it seemed, yet he burst on to the counterculture music scene in the '60s and never looked back.

He was never a huge star, no, for Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks was a novelty act by category. They were throwbacks to another era, but just what era was never quite clear, sometime in the '40s maybe, maybe not. They accessorized in a Victorian manner, in fact they were one of the first San Francisco bands that I remember which used the then-plentiful remains of Bay Area Victoriana in costumes, on stage visuals, and seemingly their lifestyles.

Their evocation of times past was part of their appeal.

We first saw them in San Francisco around 1969 as second billing to another group, probably British, at the Fillmore. I think. Well, one's memories of those times are always hazy at the best -- "if you remember the '60s you weren't really there" and all that. I remember being quite taken with them in person. I'd heard them on the radio and was familiar with some of their music, but seeing them live was a treat. I don't remember who the headliners were.

We still have most of their albums from that era, but don't ask me where they are, because I don't know. I know where a couple of the CDs are because we bought them at a performance maybe ten years ago in Sacramento -- "Last Train to Hicksville" and a couple of others -- and had them signed by the always-gracious Mr. Hicks (by this time he was old and courtly enough to be a Mister) and his then-current line up.

That was a funny show. There wasn't a large audience (maybe 150 or so) and some were calling out "Where's the Money! Do Where's the Money!" Or "I Scare Myself!" and he refused to play them, at least for the longest time. "Nope, nope. You've heard them before. Many, many times. We're doing our new music now."

Eventually they were persuaded to do "Where's the Money," but I don't think they ever did do "I Scare Myself" that time.

Dan Hicks and the various incarnations of the Hot Licks and Lickettes was one of the few Bay Area bands that wasn't so full of itself that they wouldn't come to the Central Valley to play a show now and again.  For so many artists in every field in California, the Valley is Terra Incognita, a country that is filled with monsters and otherwise bewilderingly foreign. Even as close as San Francisco was, the Valley was way too far away for comfort. But Dan didn't seem to have any qualms at all about venturing forth into the Darkness of Davis and Sacramento and even Roseville, omg.

So we saw them as often as we could, the last time in Sacramento at Harlow's, an intimate bar not unlike the Sweetwater. At least I think we might have seen them there. Memories fade. It was about a year before we moved to New Mexico.

Guess what? We get to New Mexico in the fall of 2012 -- we have not been back to California since -- and the next December (2013), who shows up in Albuquerque but Dan Hicks doing his Christmas Show at the South Broadway Cultural Center. Of course we had to go.

He said he'd never played Albuquerque before; he didn't know why. Or maybe he did play Albuquerque, forty years ago, and he didn't remember. He'd played Santa Fe plenty of times, but never Albuquerque -- that he remembered.  The house was full, and not everyone was a geezer, though there were plenty of geezers in attendance. Some of them remembered more than he did, more than I did too.

It was nice to know that not everyone who remembered him was pushing a walker around, though.

Not yet, anyway.

It was a memorable evening, Christmas or not, and yes, they did do "I Scare Myself" without hesitation, but this time they didn't do "Canned Music" despite the pleas from the crowd.

Afterwards, we chatted a bit, and I mentioned those weekends at the Sweetwater, and he chuckled at the memory, if he remembered. Turned out there were several others in attendance who had Sweetwater memories, and we got to wondering how we'd wound up in the Land of Enchantment rather than sticking around in California, particularly the Bay Area. Well, some of us thought California was becoming uninhabitable, but Dan still lived in Mill Valley, and he said he couldn't imagine living anywhere else. It was his home-place, and no matter the changes -- there have been so many -- he wouldn't want to up and leave for, say, Albuquerque or even Santa Fe for that matter.

Dan was looking thin. I wouldn't say he didn't look well, because for a man of his advanced age he looked pretty fine, and the show was solid and close to two hours. He came back a couple of more times, the last time just a year ago, February 6, 2015. He looked even thinner, and this time he didn't stay for meet and greet. It was the last time we saw him. According to what I read today about his death, he was already quite ill with throat and liver cancer, but you wouldn't know it from his performance. Not even a hint.

Sorry to see him go, but as Ms Ché said when she heard the news this morning, "That's life. I'm glad we got to see him before the end."

Here's a link to an interview in Local IQ that may expand a bit on what I've written:

Local IQ

Something from the Sacramento Press about the Harlow's performance in 2011 together with a whole lot of history, too.

Sacramento Press

One of the underappreciated songs from Striking it Rich:

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

OT: On Finding Out About A Brother

This is another story in the saga I have come to refer to as "who are these people?"

As I've mentioned before, late last year I was contacted by a stranger who turned out to be my cousin, the daughter of one of my father's sisters. She'd been born and raised in San Mateo, and currently lives in a little Sierra foothill community east of Lodi. This is close to where I lived for many years in California. We knew nothing about one another, neither hint nor clue. This was largely due to the fact that in my father's family (my mother's too, but that's another story) there were and are certain things one does not mention. Turnts out, I had other cousins living close by in California as well. But I knew nothing of them nor they of me. No one ever said.

I did know, however, of the existence of a half brother, the son of my father and his second wife (who I had always assumed was his first wife, but I found out last year that he'd been married previously). My half-brother's mother died tragically shortly after his birth, and my father was in mourning for her the rest of his life. His devotion to her memory was one of the reasons for my parents' divorce. (My mother was my father's third -- and as far as I know, final -- wife.)

I knew my brother was mentally challenged. The phrase I heard used was "idiot savant." These days his condition would be referred to as "severe autism" or something along that line.

After his mother died, he was taken in and cared for by my father's older brother and his wife. I knew that as well. What I didn't know was how badly my brother was disabled. My new-found cousin shared some family letters with me. My brother is mentioned in several of them. When he was nine or ten years old, it was mentioned that he could briefly stand on his own if he was supported by a chair. He could not, however, walk. He was getting better, and it was thought he would be able to walk... soon. There was mention of him at an earlier age, at five or six. He could not stand, he could not walk, and at least some of the time, he could not talk. At other times, he was apparently very talkative and active but unable to perform the simplest movements or tasks. It sounds from the descriptions that he was paraplegic, at least at times, but I previously knew none of that.

I have no recollection of ever seeing him. My sister and mother, however, did see him during their brief time in Iowa when my parents were married and I was conceived and born. They described him to me as a fairly typical boy (he would have been twelve or thirteen at the time) who had a learning disability. They never mentioned or suggested a physical disability.

I recall my father taking me to see him at the home of a family friend who had taken over his care after he could no longer be cared for within the family (another long story for another time.)  I remember going to the door of a neat little house in town and a woman in an apron answering. She said that my brother was sleeping and she didn't want to wake him. She suggested, too, that I might be very disturbing to him in any case, and that it might be better for his sake and mine if we didn't meet.

My father took her advice, and we never went back.

When my father died in 1969, there were questions about what to do with my brother. I didn't know where he was at that time. All I was told was that the family that had been taking care of him no longer were doing so, and he was in a "facility." Whether I was told or merely assumed it was a state facility, I don't recall. My memories of what was going on at that time are pretty chaotic as were the times themselves. I was probably told the name of the facility, because "Mount Something or Other" stuck in my mind, but I had no clear idea what or where this place was. I was assured he was being taken care of, however. When our father's estate was finally settled, the attorneys got a third (actually it was more, but that's another story, too), I got a third, and my brother got a third. That was that.

I didn't try to track down my brother or find out about his care and well-being. I was satisfied with the assurances I received that he was well cared for. I didn't imagine he was happy, however, because one of the things I'd been told about him was that he was terrified of going to a state hospital.

Some time later, I sensed that he had passed away, but I don't recall being told he had died. I just somehow "knew" it. I pegged his death in 1972, though I had no certain knowledge of it.

Once I was convinced my brother had passed away, he became part of the misty past, a member of that shadowy family I never knew.

When my new-found cousin and I were sharing documents, letters, and memories, I dug out some of the papers I'd saved from my father's house or that had been sent to me by the attorneys for his estate. One was a court filing regarding my father's estate and claims against it by creditors. I barely remembered reading it long ago. But I found to my surprise that the facility where my brother was living when our father died was named: "Mt Alverno," run by the Sisters of St. Francis. Oh. My vague memory of "Mount Something or Other" was based on that, no? It must be, but as I say, I have hardly any memory of reading this document before. I didn't even remember that I had it.

Turned out the facility -- or rather a successor using the name -- was still in operation, and I contacted them last month to see if there were still any records of my brother's stay and ask if anyone could tell me what happened to him.

I was informed that the current operators of the facility didn't keep those records, but the Sisters did, and their convent was next door. My query would be passed on to them. When I had heard nothing after several weeks, I contacted the Sisters through their website form, but once again, I heard nothing back. After a suitable interval, I found the direct email address for the Sisters convent and I tried again. I heard back almost immediately.

They had not received my earlier communications they said. They would look into the records they had, but they weren't sure that there was anything specific about former residents or patients; most of what they still had records of were financial matters.

An hour or so later, I got an email:

Dear [Ché Pasa]
I was able to get some more information regarding your brother....  [He] was admitted to Mt. Alverno on May 14, 1968, from Calamus Nursing Home in Calamus, Iowa.  The record indicates that he was a resident of Mount Alverno until his death at Iowa City Hospital (I assume that was The University of Iowa Hospital) on October 27, 1972. 
Sister Marilyn 
Oh. My.

I thanked her profusely, and then I got this email back:

Dear Mr. Ché,  
I’m happy that we were able to assure you that your brother was well cared for until the end of his life and to give you a sense of closure in his regard.  He will be waiting for you when it is your time to join him.
Blessings of peace,
Sr. Marilyn
Yes. Well.

My time, no doubt, is not that far in the future, is it?

Somehow I never thought of it like that before. I've long been a fan of Franciscans, though. So.

There we have it. Now we know...