Monday, June 24, 2013


Yeah, yeah, I know. But in some alternate universe, there IS a #ROW80 a-boil, right now!

This is probably the least, or most, reasonable reason (sic) for creating a post, depending on your point of view, but as I am so damned sick and tired of talking about me, me, me, rather than mi, mi, mi, fa,sol, la, ti, do, this will work in lieu of DaTScans, drooling, eyesight with no depth perception, but 2 of everything, and general dementia and hallucinating. In other words and other circles, a typical violist.

So, I got dem #ROW80 blues... in E minor, no less. The enharmonic, or relative key is G Major, with 1 sharp (#) and Brahms' 4th Symphony and Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony are written in E minor. I always enjoyed playing these pieces, because the viola parts are tough. Unlike Amadeus freakin' Mozart, who sucks, oh so precociously and preciously and is so terrifically boresome, that the entire viola section falls into a stuperous coma. Beethoven fixed that, when he jumped from the Classical to the Romantic era in his 3rd Symphony (the “Eroica” not the “Erotica” as some idiot typesetter put in a program once, along with all of the orchestra's names misspelled. I underwent a sex change and was “Marc Wallach”) in the 3rd movement in about 16 measures. Plus, according to some historians, Ludwig and I share the same birthday, just not the same year, har har. Vivaldi (who also taught Paganini; perhaps the greatest violinist ever) is a sweet ride and so is Haydn, but Mozart is the lamest of the lame in my book, with the sole exception of his "Requiem" which I haven't played, but sung Alto, and loved. Unjustified hero worship, in my not-so-humble opinion. Thank god, he's pretty avoidable.

My house is a Mozart-free zone and zero-tolerance does apply. Violators will be subjected to the Biebster for 80 hours. No exceptions.

In mentioning different genres of music that I have played, it should be mentioned that I was classically trained and in the Galamian school of Pedagogy. Ivan Galamian was a noted pedagog in string teaching for violin and viola. I studied with one of his students for a number of years, but strictly classical repertoire. That previous paragraph meant nothing to anyone unless you were trained in the Suzuki method of playing violin, viola, cello or string bass. You know, with the tapes on the fingerboard? The idea was anyone who was possessed of a tin-ear and completely tone deaf could play a non-fretted string instrument. Trust me. You can't. You can however, piss off the rest of us and embarrass your parents.

Over the course of my career in music, however, I had the opportunity to learn and play every other kind of music and in just about every kind of venue. I've even played on top of a swimming pool for a political fund raiser, which was interesting. Not something I'd care to repeat, though.

               I got dem Row80 blues...
               nuthin' here for me to do...
               I got dem Row80 blues,
               'cause A to Z is done and gone as well...
               Row80 has me singin' the blues in the key of Hell...
               'Cause C# is a bitch of a key to sing
               Next tah-ime, I be a-singin' the Row80 blues,
               I'm-a goin' for the key of B minor, or maybe F minor
               With accidentals 'n' double-sharps 'n' double-flats...
               'n' that'll show them violinists... They can be a-singin' the blues...                  
               Cause they like to play ever' thing in e♭major, the most boring key on earth, ever...                                                                                                                                                    
               'n' they lubs dem a whoooole lotta Mozart. I got dem Row80 blues... 

San Francisco Symphony and Corky Siegel Blues Band, 1971

These seem dated to me now, although I love playing Blues more than most other genres, because of being able to "bend" the notes.

Leonard Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

On the other hand, "Symphonic Dances from West Side Story" remains one of my favorite pieces to listen to and play. The Broadway production and movie had no violas, but the Dances do and the parts are difficult indeed. Still my favorite; I've played them as recently as 2006, with Maestro Coppola and they are still hard and awesome. Not dated one bit. Oh, yeah, the violas have to yell "Mambo!" in this. 

I played with Bernadette Peters several times and her music books travel with her, as with all headliners, to all the local venues and it is a tradition that the local backup players sign the backs of the books. This way, I've kept up with my Detroit friends and other friends over the course of my career. Violists are also a bored lot and we're notorious for silly jokes. One of her standard tunes is “Glow Worm,” and there is a passage where the violas are supposed to sing “Glow Little Glow Worm, Glow.” The printed instructions read “Sing.” A bit further on, they read “Play.” Some wag went over this piece of music with a pencil and wrote, “play” then “play and sing” then “sing and play” and then, “walk and chew gum.” My stand partner and I, a youngster from the Cincinnati Conservatory spent half a day getting over the snorts and giggles from this. Of course, during that night's performance we had forgotten and started laughing all over again. It doesn't help either, that these artists love to showcase the players by seating us on risers. Well, they told us to have fun.

The usual setup for one of these "show" orchestras is something like this. I'm not in this picture. I've probably been expunged from all publicity shots and sent to Valhalla or witness protection for violists, or something. Frankly, there's too much lame dripping off these folks. They're probably playing some Mozart, or "Babes in Toyland," Heaven Forfend!

So, from classical to rock; from hip-hop to heavy metal, I've pretty much played it all and I think that my favorite type of music to play is either something like the second movement of Grieg's Cello Sonata, adapted for viola in A minor, which has some awesome passage work in the upper register, or Rachmaninoff's “Vocalise” for Viola and Piano. This also has some great passage work in the upper registers, but the lower notes can be played on the “C” string, in higher positions, which really resonate on my viola. There are also the Max Bruch Unaccompanied Viola Suites, which just flat out rock.

Ma looks drunk; I look stoned. I'm not, just in my bliss, playing my viola. I am 16 here.

Contrary to what people may think, it's actually harder to play long, slower passages and interpret them musically, then to play fast passage work. That's like just plain ol' band music. I played in the Stage version of Mel Brooks' “The Producers,” which was a hell of a lot of fun, but it was just a bunch of 16th notes for about 80 pages. I played it for several weeks, so I was able to get a gander at the goings-on onstage. My favorite part is of course, the song “Springtime for Hitler,” where we get to depict WWII in 4 minutes, or 10. I forget which.

Beethoven's viola, which he played in various orchestras in his birthplace, Bonn, Germany. He was probably bored to death of Mozart and thought, "Mein Gott, we must have some decent viola parts around here. I shall write them! Wolfgang is an idiot!"

As we were packing up our instruments backstage, I mentioned to one of the percussionists who was stowing all of his drums, mallets, triangles and what-nots, “You know, nothing says Nazis like Bongos.” I also liked the part where Matthew Broderick tells his boss to stuff it, and shouts out, “Certified Public Assholes.” That wasn't in the 1968 movie. When I played gigs like that, we never ran through a full performance with the cast, until we opened. So, here I am in the orchestra pit, cackling like a hyena. There's always so much stuff going on in these things, you can pretty much get away with anything.

Once, I was eating Skittles out of a 1 pound bag and I dropped the bag during a performance of the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Player's (NYGASP) “Mikado.” However, just then the Grand Pooh-bah (Lord High Everything Else) was up on stage doing his shtick, and everyone was laughing, so no one heard all the Skittles skittering around. This same group also had an infamous pair of violinist brothers; Italians. One was concertmaster, and the other sat Principal second violin. Between a sound check and a show in some town or another, they went off and proceeded to drink wine with their spaghetti.

I was sitting kind of behind them; the pit was small, and we couldn't sit in our usual horseshoe shape. I was also the whole viola section. The conductor had decided years before, that he didn't need 2 or 3 and kept me employed, so I was squished between the cellist and the 2nds. Well, there was a fair amount of dialog and the concertmaster, kept nodding off, then he would catch himself and sit up with a start. After about the 4th time, I figured, he was going to drop his bow or violin, when he almost did just that. So, I looked the other way. My friend, Spenser, on cello, who was sillier than I am, started laughing and I was going to laugh, too, so I looked over at the wind section. Just in time to see the 2nd clarinettist yank his mouthpiece out of his instrument and bop himself right between the eyes, with the thing. Creepin' Jesus.

"Who dropped the Skittles?" "Skittles, Shmittles! Why is the 2nd clarinettist unconscious?"

All of this has nothing on the extravaganza that used to be held annually at my church, Trinity Catholic Church in Brandon, Florida. The orchestra itself was a crackerjack orchestra, the conductor, not so much. But, he was the “Internationally known Father Whatsis” as he had played before Pope John Paul II in Rome. Translation: he sucked. He sucked so bad that one year, when we played “Sleigh Ride” for the eleventy-billionth time that year, he managed to confuse the orchestra so badly, the brass and woodwinds ended 2 measures AFTER the strings did. I am still trying to figure that out. I've played in concerts where the orchestra has gotten lost, but we somehow managed to end at the same time, but this is the only time I've played a piece, and a totally easy, no-shit-everyone-knows-this-turkey type of piece and we couldn't end at the SAME TIME?

Next year, let's stick to the "Typewriter Concerto," hmmmm? We didn't even have room for the Griswolds' Family Christmas this year! "Maybe we can ditch the Gumby Christmas Trees and the Elvis-Abe Lincoln-Serial Killer, too. That whole shtick is creeping me the hell out." "You can't say Hell in church." "Heck, then. Creeping me the Heck out. Besides, we don't even have a plastic baby Jesus."

Meanwhile up on the stage, Gumby Christmas trees and Snowmen Elvises, who could pass for either Abraham Lincoln or serial killers were cavorting with tone-deaf kids, elves and the Griswolds' Family Christmas on a huge screen, sans sound. Occasionally, one of the poinsettias would be knocked into the orchestra pit and we would be dodging soap bubbles (“snow”) and flying plants. The entire pageant was devoted to the secular, because the “Internationally known Father Whatsis” would get lost in “Ave Maria.” There was always something on stage that had me crying rivers of tears in hysterical laughter, every year, without fail.

I was always 1st chair viola and had a fine selection of stand partners over the years: “Somnambula,” the narcoleptic, who played with me on several tours, “Sir” Francis Drake, who was afraid of his own shadow and Lou, who used a whole 2 inches of bow and bitched about EVERYTHING. “I loathe this song, completely loathe this song. Have I told you how much I loathe this song?” He would say before each and every tune. Still, people lined up to play this thing, because it was like being on an acid trip; the orchestras themselves were awesome. We all played for a living. This was like a busman's holiday and it did pay well.

But, the not ending at the same time reminds me of when I was in Detroit, and we were playing Respighi's “Pines of Rome,” and I think the 2nd violins were hung over, or still drunk. “Pines of Rome” is one of these pieces that has divisi in the strings and the sections, 1st, 2nd violins, violas, celli and bass are not unison, meaning that each section is broken up, for a richer texture. Sometimes, that texture is mud. This was shortly after the epic fist-fight in the viola section; talk about an orchestra with issues. Anyway, the 2nd violins got lost and the conductor started screaming, “2nds! When you run out of notes, stop playing!” I'm guessing they had some slow readers over there.

I know people who will try and play 2 lines at once. You're not showing off. You're "failing." Badly. Stop it.

I've been fortunate that way; usually, the section that's getting it's ass chewed out is the section I'm NOT playing in at the moment. I'm either really good or I fake really well. The jury is still out on that one. Actually, a friend and a fine violist who coached me for a few years when I first came to Tampa, helped me distill it this way: We never really master our instruments. The best we can hope to do, is to learn how to disguise and minimize our flaws. I think she hit that just right. I also learned from her that we're all basically self-taught; our teachers can show us proper technique, but we do the work. A teacher's most important function is to inspire us and make us want to learn.

Sunday, June 16, 2013



Before I go into the rules and so forth regarding these awards, I have to say this; writers, authors, bloggers and journalists have got to be some of the most generous people it has ever been my pleasure to know. I have won another Liebster Award, my 2nd this year and an accompanying award the “Very Inspirational Blogger Award.” This was bestowed upon me by Sunni, who enjoys my wit and also, I have a cat. I can think of no better reason to bestow awards. Her blog is awesome and a tribute to her kitties, the ones she has now, and also to the ones who have passed on. She is also a huge fan of Kristen Dyrr, who runs the KristenHead blog. Kristen has rescued several dogs and cats and looms large in my heart for that very reason, as do so many of you.

So, on with the rules, for either/or Liebster and Very Inspiring Blogger Award. They are both bestowed upon all of you upon my list. Use them as you see fit!

  1. List 11 things about yourself.
  2. Answer the questions given to you.
  3. Ask 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.
  4. Choose up to 11 up-and-coming bloggers (with less than 200 followers) to nominate. I tend to be a little lax on this one.
  5. Go to each blogger's page and let them know about the award.
  6. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.

  1. Display award logo(s) on blog
  2. Link back to the person who gave you the award
  3. State 7 things about yourself
  4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link back to them.


  1. My primary caregiver was my father. He was in college when I was born and he brought me home from the hospital. I went to school with him. This was in 1955. I thought this was normal up until last year, when I started running into Mr. Mom blogs, like @dadblunders, who has chosen to stay home with his son.

  2. I love, love, love me some boxing! I watched it with my dad; we listened to it on the radio. His mother loved boxing as well. From the days of Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali sparring in suits to the fights between Foreman and Ali, we watched them all. I've been to several matches in Tampa and ran into one of the conductors of an orchestra I was playing in at the time. After we both picked our jaws up off the floor, we both agreed that boxing was the last thing we would thought we'd have in common.

  3. I have a cat that adopted us. I've always had a cat find his or her way into my life. This time, she looked and watched and waited and decided JC was just the ticket. She lost her only kitten and it was hard on everyone, but she has a forever home here with us.

  4. I have a viola that was built 10 years after the death of Ludwig Beethoven. The viola is a Guidantus Florenus, made in Bologna, Italy in 1837. That school of fiddle-making is different than the Cremonese school of Amati and Stradivari, but they are fine instruments. My bow is a heavy German viola bow; as heavy as they come at 72 grams. It was made back in the 1950s or 60s. I currently own no violins, as they have a tendency to multiply like rabbits when you get one or two of them in the house. Zero is a good number of violins for me.

  5. Along with violins, I share an equal antipathy for Mozart. You have to pay me huge dollars for Mozart. I'd rather poke my ear drums out then listen to his precocious preciousness. Ick. The only thing of his that's worth a damn is his Mass. I play Beethoven for free. Mebbe because we share the same birthday, according to some historians.

    Time for a break from my blather, and not altogether a happy one. The big cat is Mama, the little one, her remaining child, who we were in the process of getting to know. She was so very feral, I'm surprised Baby let us get this close. About a week after this was taken, Baby was hit and killed. Mama looked forlorn and was lost for weeks. Just as soon as we were able, JC and I had her spayed and she's content with us. I still have trouble looking at these pictures. Funny kitten, when she was eating, you could pick her up and move her and she wouldn't stop chewing for a minute.

  6. I am visually impaired and legally blind (or bland, if you prefer. A friend of mine says his mother used to say, “The bland leading the bland.”) I rather like that. I carry a cane and tell people that it's for “beating the shit out of people who run into me.” It generally keeps them away. As I'm also mentally ill, I throw in a little crazy if they persist.

  7. In case you can't tell I am a nerd. I am the nerd trifecta. Music, computers and math.

  8. I went back to school and majored in computer science when my 2nd husband, a viola player I met on a playing gig, got jealous, because I got to play with the Moody Blues and he didn't. So, when the magic Zither fairy didn't show up and turn me into a zither player, I went back to school and majored in computer science. The marriage crashed and burned. I know, a big shock.

  9. I worked for IBM and Verizon as a computer engineer and continued to free lance. I would take a laptop with me and work from the road. No wonder I'm burned out.

  10. I am an only child and had no children; both my parents are deceased, but the great thing is this: I have people that I consider my family and would do anything for them. They are so very dear to me.

  11. I've been homeless and alone and frightened. That is how “Homeless Chronicles in Tampa” came to be. I'm no longer homeless, but I still live near the shelter I stayed in and see the people I lived with. There's a part of me and part of JC that belongs here.

Mebbe that's not my knee, it's my keyboard stand...

Mama is looking for the thingy on the milk carton she batted over here. That's definitely my knee.

Here are my latest cat photos. I truly suck at this, but Mama is willing. See the smile on her face in the 3rd picture? My right knee is in the 1st and 2nd photos; she buzzes around my computer most of the time. What is it with cats and computers?


The Most Inspiring Blogger Award doesn't have questions, but you are welcome to answer the first seven questions (or more) instead of listing seven random facts about yourself if you wish.

Here are Kristen's and Sunni's questions (The last time I made up questions, they sucked; these are much better) :

  1. Q: What is your favorite video game (if any?) This can include mobile games and Facebook games. A: Runescape, an MMORPG. I've played since 2007 and am a ranked player. My name? SpZViolaFury, for my Clan and my onscreen name. I know, hokey. I also play “Bejeweled Blitz” when I'm zoning.

  2. Q: Do you like to sleep on a very soft surface, or a harder surface? A: Soft; sometimes, I feel like I'm sleeping on cement.

  3. Q: What is the most unusual food you have tried? A: Raw eel in Japan.

  4. Q: What is your favorite odd food or meal (if you have one?) A: I, like Sunni, am a grazer. So, it's graham crackers and peanut butter. Or burritos and cheese, lots of cheese, sour cream and salsa.

  5. Q: What is the first sense you turn to when describing something in your writing (taste, smell, touch, sight, etc?) A: First, what a great question. Actually, none of those. I turn mostly to state of mind, when I write. I am not sure why this is, but I think it has more to do with how I perceive the world. If I don't have a handle on what's going on in my head, then I will mess up the descriptive part of writing every time.

  6. Q: What is one of the cutest things you have ever seen in your life? A: Baby anythings, and I want them all, NOW!

  7. Q: What is the ugliest thing you have ever seen or experienced (this can have to do with feelings, or inner ugliness, etc.?) A: My own abandonment of principles to gain something that wasn't worth it; I paid dearly for it and I'll regret it for the rest of my life; it will never happen again.

  8. Q: Do you prefer typing or writing with a pen or pencil and paper? A: I prefer neither. Since I have either Essential Tremor or Parkinson's Disease, writing anything is hell. Just addressing an envelope is hard work,takes forever and is illegible. Typing works.

  9. Q: What is your favorite thing to drink? A: Zephyrhills Water and some of those flavored Ice waters with extra potassium, Pomegranate and Strawberry Kiwi to change it up. Nothing alcoholic. I am on psychotropic medicines and life's weird enough without alcohol.

  10. Q: Do you prefer road trips, airline travel, train travel, or other (when going long distances?) A: For years, I flew when required as a violist or when I was required to do so for Verizon, although I hate to fly. Strange, because both of my parents were pilots. My father flew B-29 Super fortresses in the Korean War and my mother had her private pilot's license. I decided that was enough pilots in the Wallace family. I've ridden the train many times across the United States and it is a wonderful way to see the country. My preferred method of travel is by car. Back when I could see, I loved driving road trips. The whole family did. I miss those days. Sometimes, I think we may have been Cossacks who ended up in Scotland, as I loved traveling the roads of America late at night, on my way to my next playing gig. I miss that freedom.

  11. Q: What is your favorite way to watch TV, movies and videos? For example, do you watch everything on your computer or sling it to a big TV? Do you use a Tivo, a DVR, or Netflix? What is your setup? A: I stream from Hulu+ and Amazon Prime on my monitor. I loathe commercials. They all make us sound like idiots.

    Some love to my fellow nominees here, before I name mine and why Sunni picked these particular nominees. I have to say, that blogging and the blogging community as a whole has been wonderful to me. Without all of you, I would be sad indeed. Forced to “retire” early at the age of 54, I have picked up a new “career.” Although I have yet to earn a farthing, I've had tremendous fun with various challenges and learned lots. You are all my mainstays and partly the reason I get up at the crack of noon every day:

This is a much better picture of Mama. I didn't take it. All of my pictures have cooties. The damn cat gets up and has had 5 naps before I get up. - My Inner Fairy
Because I love fairies and collect them - Tracy Moore
Because I’m interested in tarot - J. Keith – Inspiring blogger for you because you have more than 200 followers
For some entertaining posts - Brandy
For Photography
Funny posts and he has a cat - Rowena

Vashti Q-Vega - Google+ - Vashti Quiroz- Vega
Good story and interesting guests – Shirlene Corcoran
Good stories – Lorraine Reguly
Book Reviews – Lee Bird
For his encouraging words to others and controversial subjects – LinnAnn Pike
For the funny posts about your life and for the tenacity you must have to keep going - James Osborne
Homey stories

Prescription For Murder 
Interesting facts about many things - Michael Cahill
Beautiful poetic writing

You may give the 11 random facts about yourself, or answer the questions I answered. You pick.

If any of you have more than 200 followers, you can ignore this, of you want to. It is impossible to tell on some of the blogs. That is why I nominated more than eleven.


My eleven picks and why: I'm not even looking at the numbers. My eyes are total wonk today and I'm happy to come up with names.

Http:// - Karen, who is one of the nicest, most generous people I've ever met.

Http:// – Jesse or “JMan” who, besides being totally random and hilarious is one of the kindest and most gracious of men.

Http:// – Jade Kerrion, who is a well-established author of YA, writes beautiful, intriguing and challenging prose and helped this blogger when she was conducting her blog tour. I was not in the best of shape mentally at the time and she helped me through this challenging period. Without her, I could not have pulled my part of the tour off. While not a stunning success (for her) it wasn't a total flop. She is the best, as a person and writer.

Http:// - Jess Witkins' Happiness Project. Jess is a traveler and she blogs from near and far, she interviews authors, runs contests with people in vintage costume; one just never knows. She writes about music and she is always entertaining. One of my dearest bloggers and an excellent person!

Http:// - Amberr Meadows – Dear Amberr is the very first blogger I ever met when I first started Homeless Chronicles. Through her I ran into all sorts of people. She has a huge reach, but she writes very honestly and inspirationally about her trials and what she is going through to achieve the life she wants to live and raise her daughter in that life.

Http:// - Lynnette Conroy – An inspiring writer and a damned funny one, too. I bestow upon you the Very Inspirational Blogger Award (now I'm feeling like “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”) - Keith Michelle is probably one of the rosiest, and most optimistic people I have ever had the pleasure to spend time chatting with. As my own ET (Essential Tremor) or PD (Parkinson's Disease) or whatever the hell this is, has steadily worsened, it is not easy for me to chat. People have to get decoder rings or decipher Fackobok to Facebook and I become downright ununderstandable, like this here sentence. My Michelle, my love, to you goes the Very Inspirational Bloggers Award!

Http:// - Lee McCaulay – Awesome writer, takes the tone of a Victorian explorer, using Minutes of Meetings to explore human behaviours and historical facts. Amazing!

Http:// - Andi Roo – This is for the Very Inspirational blogger award. I recently nominated her again for the Liebster Award, but she is without doubt, the most inspirational blogger and has had the largest impact on my life in the last year. She is not afraid to stand up and call something “bullshit” when she sees it. A trait we share in common, but one I only recently began to exercise in my personal life after my 3rd husband damned near came close to getting his heart's desire, in having me die while we were married (long story.)

Http:// - Aaron Brinker – Also being nominated for the Very Inspirational Blogger Award. He is the primary caregiver of his son, Xander, while his wife works outside the home. His descriptions of their adventures and his stories about how the adventures and daily life turn into life lessons are ever fascinating, not just for the things Xan is learning, but Aaron as well. Through both sets of eyes, we see new facets of what being a parent, as well as a kid are like. Aaron, Melissa and Xan are great. It gives me new hope for the human race.

Http:// - Gina Valley is a funny, funny lady. She is also a very inspirational one and writes beautiful poetry that will stop you in your tracks and make you think about your place on this earth. I love the fact that she does have so many facets to her. So, Gina, you are awarded the Very Inspirational Blogger award. It's a rare thing indeed when someone can have me giggling over crime-scene kitchens, or hospital wheel-chair jousting, and then describe a sunrise that is perfect. Thank you.

Http:// Beverly Mittan-Ribaudo, or YumaBev. She has run the blog Parkinson's Humor for years. It's rather like a Parkie-pedia with laughs included. And she is very funny. She has oodles of followers and has recently had DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) to try and mitigate her symptoms. It took her 17 years to get a diagnosis. I'm just at the beginning of this process and I hope it won't take 17 years; maybe it might take 6. It's complicate and hey, this ain't about me, this is about her. She has REALLY been my inspiration. When I am tired, down, depressed, having tremors, drooling, can't talk right, no sense of smell, or falling down, which is most of the time now, and since I can't see well, this is just icing on the cake I go to her. And then she says something like "I don't need no rockin' chair, 'cause I'm a'rockin' on my own." Well, what are you going to do with that? ROFL. So, one very, big HUG and VERY INSPIRATIONAL BLOGGER AWARD TO YUMABEV!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


One of the things I did in college was write a bit. Not a whole lot, because I was either studying the viola like mad and then some 20 years later boning up (boning up, hell, I was learning it for the first time; I slept through it in high school) on mathematics and computer science. But, I did some dabbling in writing. Enough to win awards for my rhetorical writing; fiction was never really my bag and if I ever tried to express anything that required imagination, it would be stupid, to say the least.

I'm not naive when I say THIS is the America I believe in. The one where I am free to dissent. The one where I am free to worship as I choose. The one I am so proud to be a part of. The one that holds it's hands out to new immigrants and that cares for all.

The kinds of things I wrote about and the articles with which I had my biggest successes were based on intangibles, if you will, although there is nothing tangential or intangible about them. We certainly should, if we are adults, or not, as this is not magically awarded to anyone at the age of 18, but is built over a lifetime I guess, possess good character. Character or morality of a sort that bestows upon us the ability to choose right from wrong and adhere to principles, that we, as a society have agreed upon to be fair, just and own some measure of equality.

To be honest, these are not principles we ourselves chose and wrote into a charter, but they are ideas that set the framework of the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. The Constitution itself cannot be changed, but the Bill of Rights can be amended and it's framework, like that of the Constitution, is deliberately porous, so as to meet any contingency that would follow after its passage and after the deaths of the authors and signers.

We, as Americans, must take the time and care to understand what this all means. It means that we must understand how government works and what these documents mean and what they can and cannot do. It takes time to read and study all of that, but we must, if we are to remain free. We must also understand something else. There are people in our government who are foursquare for us. I know of many Senators who guard their constituencies and truly care about them. Iowa, and Senator Robert Krause. I've been amazed; well, lurking in his wake, watching how he drums up support for various fund raisers; very much a grass roots leader. I really admire that. I am going to follow his run for the Governorship. I plan on learning plenty; I started reading his charts on the economy and the reasons why it hasn't bounced back.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the Governor of my state of Florida, who the less said about, the better. Senator Bill Nelson is around, and is right now trying to get catastrophic aid for Hurricane victims passed; always a tough battle. If I drop him a line, he answers. Senator Krause answers me too. The fact that these busy people have time for people who are or aren't their constituents amazes me.

These are the people who get things done, and we need our Senators and Congressmen and women. They are earnestly holding up the principles outlined by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

But, right now, we have this whole other thing going on and this is not a good thing. I mentioned the Patriot Act yesterday. Back in 2001, six months before planes hit the WTC (which I had actually flown over the previous Wednesday, out of Logan, at sunset, after teaching a software class at Bell Labs, on September 6, 2001) a TV show called “The Lone Gunmen” aired a pilot that hinged upon a thwarting of a plot to fly a passenger jet into one of the towers. It aired March, 2001.

I am not going into conspiracy mode; I mention it as a casual aside. I am in civil liberties mode. How much of our information is controlled? Not only how much is taken from us, but how much is let out? After the trauma of 9/11, people were willing to sign anything. We were also willing to go haring off to Iraq, when there really was no evidence of WMD, or that the Iraqis were involved. It was found out rather early on that the hijackers were Saudis, yet they were already hand in glove with the Bush family. All air traffic had been halted, yet a plane filled with members of the bin Laden family were let out secretly.

The Patriot Act was signed and there were loopholes and codicils all over the place. Homeland Security with Tom Ridge was pretty much a non-starter. He disappeared into thin air, but the Patriot Act lived on and with that, dragon's teeth were sown. Now, we have the NSA actively seeking “information” via phone records from Verizon, and At&T. They've been trying to get in through back doors at Twitter and Facebook. I would be willing to bet the FBI has already done so.

Martin Niemöller was a prominent Protestant pastor during the 3rd Reich. Quote from him upon his release from one of several concentration camps: "First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out --- because I was not a Socialist.  Then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out --- because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out --- because I am not a Jew. Then they came for me --- and there was no one left to speak for me.

The trip I was coming home from? Bell Labs? I worked for Verizon. We had 7 people on the roof of WTC1 that day. I worked in the Mainframe and PC deployment/training group, going after rogue servers at the time, I did catchall stuff. I didn't have a formal job title. Those people's computers continued to transmit “handshake” codes for weeks after the towers fell, until their batteries finally died.

Understand, the NSA or whoever, are going through formalities. They're already watching and listening. They have been for years. Being caught with their hands in the cookie jar is only making them go through the sham of begging permission. We gave up that right to privacy when the original act was signed in 2001. “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels,” and “Any society who gives up its freedom for security is neither free nor secure.” Neither of those are mine, but they both apply here. We should have raised holy Hell years ago; it's too late now. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


An old adage comes to mind here; “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” And apparently, it's seeming like old times indeed. Back to the jolly days of the Cold War and McCarthyism. Here in this country, the good ol' U. S. of A., back when my Daddy, the high school drop out, soldier in two wars and proud possessor of VA benefits that allowed him to take college entrance exams and go into college in 1953, put him spang in the middle of the
McCarthyWitch Hunts and the House Un-American Activities Hearings, where Reds under the Beds were being ferreted out, right and left.

He came to the fore merely by fear alone; he did to us, what Stalin could only dream of. He made us weak and we doubted ourselves.

There is only one problem with this scenario. Although the American Communist Party had by this time been outlawed, Joseph McCarthy, the junior Republican Senator from Wisconson, who was a back bencher in the the U.S. Senate and the junior Senator from Wisconsin, needed to make some kind of name for himself, else he was going to lose his next election. After lobbying for commuting the death sentences of the Waffen-SS soldiers who were responsible for the massacre of US soldiers at Malmedy, he was named the “worst senator ever.” He needed to turn this around somehow and by one of those serendipitous strokes of luck, he did. At a 5 hour speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, he mentioned that the State Department was just “full of communists and fellow travelers.” There is a matter of some debate, as the speech was not recorded. He gave a number of “205 or “57”* and Harry Truman was informed and then looked into this matter.
     *I looked up these numbers. They're real, but huh?

All sorts of mischief followed, with inquests into politicians', professors', actors', politicians' and several journalists' careers. People committed suicide over this. There were people who had been members of the American Communist party, but up until the Cold War (around 1953 with the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg execution) this was not a crime. Every time the focus drifted away from “Tailgunner” Joe, he would start waving his list of names around in the Senate.

Julius was recruited by the NKVD, but there still remains some question as to whether Ethel was or not. There were other agents recruited who served time; none were executed.

McCarthy was himself stunned by the response, when before he was overlooked; he was, to put it bluntly mediocrity personified. And that was on a good day. He also caused the Tydings Hearings Committees to be called. This was a subcommittee of the United States Senate Committee of Foreign Relations in 1950 to investigate “as to whether persons who are disloyal to the United States are, or have been employed by the Department of State.” Senator Tyding himself, in responding to irate Democrats over this mummery, responded, “(sic) Let McCarthy have his three days; he'll never show his face in the Senate again.”

Sadly, from it's beginning, the Committee was marked by partisan infighting. After the final report, penned by a Democratic majority, the Republicans on the committee refused to accept the language nor the verdict of the report. Three times the full Senate voted, split along party lines.

As time went on, McCarthy began to resemble Stalin and his purges. In fact, Stalin, watching the parade of shame, as McCarthy looked for “Reds under the Beds” said something to the effect of “We have no need to ruin America. McCarthy is doing it for us!” Then, Stalin went back to slurping vokda and having Lavrenti Berya in Lybyanka murdering his doctors or something, having run out of professors, intelligentsia and his own very remarkable Red Army Chiefs of Staff down to Major.

Fellow-traveler Imaginary Trotsky and I could write a whole column on Nikita Kruschev, who was on the front line and General Chuikov, the saviour of Stalingrad. I want this flag.

What caused this particular remark was this: McCarthy was going after our own Army, starting with George C. Marshall, who developed the Marshall Plan that enabled Europe to get back on its feet after a crippling war. McCarthy was enraged in the extreme when President Truman fired General MacArthur and called for his impeachment. JFK, himself a junior senator at the time, held his cards close to the vest and said nothing.

Eisenhower was planning on running for President and McCarthy was now very powerful, with his own permanent subcommittee on Investigations. Thus began the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings, which would lead to his downfall. His lead investigator was Roy Cohn, and early in 1954, the U.S. Army accused both McCarty and Cohn of putting undue pressure on the Army to give favorable treatment to one G. David Shine, a former aide to Cohn. After 32 days of going back and forth with Senator Stewart Symington and Judge Joseph Welch, McCarthy was losing momentum, and once again, turned to one of his magic lists. Up to this point, McCarthy's star was waning. You can go to the trough only so many times. McCarthy was however, about to slit his own throat and never saw it coming.

Joseph Welch said (paraphrasing wildly here), “In all of these lists you brandish, we have yet to hear one name. You threaten, you bluster, but you never reveal. I would not doubt you, if you would give me but one name.” Joseph McCarthy said, “There is a fellow by the name of Fred Fisher.” (Mr. Fisher had once belonged to the National Lawyers Guild, a mouthpiece of the Communist party) Welch exploded. “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never gauged your cruelty or your recklessness...” When McCarthy tried to resume his attack, Welch interrupted him. “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

This was the first televised congressional hearing and it was the end of McCarthy's career. Americans were ashamed that they had bought into such knavery. We don't do this, anymore than we spy on ourselves with phone calls, or sign Patriot Acts. I know about lists. My father was in college during the McCarthy era and not just a few of his professors had their careers destroyed.

Then, we had the (what I call famous) infestation of FBI agents hovering around in the mid-70s. This was back when we weren't friends with the Saudis.. My father did some kind of mathematical voodoo at a munitions corporation that made personnel carriers. He sat at a desk, but had some people who worked in the “field” whatever in the hell that means. I'm guessing he did some kind of a logistical thing. Anyway, 2 of his guys dismantled and somehow snuck out with 2 complete personnel carriers and sold them to the Saudis; a big no-no then. So, we had pairs of guys in suits and sunglasses dropping in for coffee at 3 am for a while. My father was picking me up from school and we would drive aimlessly for hours, knowing that the Feebs were tailing us. My father loved fucking with their heads. My mother declared herself an anarchist-bomb thrower when, during one of the late night coffee clatches, the talk turned to politics. It was like she'd gotten up and pooped on the stove.

When I went to school, we had a huge Eastern European-Russian school of studies there and I took some glasses. I also joined the American Socialist party and went to rallies for Solidarity and ended up on the CBS evening news. I got a call from my dad on the other side of the country. He was hysterical. I know I'm on a list. We're all on a list of some kind. The NSA can listen all it wants. Collecting lists is my hobbies. Besides, the last time I looked, we still had a Constitution and a Bill of Rights and I know those like the back of my hand. Probably better than the folks at the NSA registering my keystrokes right this minute. Will it do any of us any good? That remains to be seen. This all started when George Bush signed the Patriot Act in 2003 and I think anyone who understands the basics of constitutional law knew then that that the death knell had rung. Anything passed into law that is that broad reaching and that porous is not good. It will be expanded upon no matter the best intentions; and how do you put the genie back in that bottle?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

#ROW80 SUNDAY CHECK IN – POST 14 – ONLY ON NEBRASKA AVE., 33602, 33605, 33604, ETC.

I believe I've mentioned that everything that can possibly happen has happened here on Nebraska Avenue, whatever the zip code. As I roam around pretty much within these 3 zips, it's safe to say, I've seen just about every kind of human failure, vice, venal and cardinal sin committed, along with just about every sort of human kindness, sacrifice and altruism given in aid as well, not as part of someone's job, but because someone cared and ached for a fellow being.

That being said, lots and lots of weird things happen and just plain, WTF? of the unfathomable variety. Laziness? Because you could? What part of no did you not get? Case in point being the famous hole in the counter between the registers in the Sweetbay Pharmacy. The hole is 2” across; not very big. People kept throwing garbage in it and it was a real pain in the ass for the pharmacists' assistants to get the little wadded-up pieces of paper and gum and lint and what have you out of the hole.

Look how happy he is! He's just waiting for you to throw your linty mint, chewed-up pencils and broken hair barettes in here. (Frankly, when inanimate objects start doing this, I'm outta here!)

The easy solution? They started out by writing “DO NOT USE THIS FOR GARBAGE.” Less than 20 feet away is a perfectly good garbage can for, ohbestillmybeatingheart: garbage. I know; right? Garbage kept magically appearing and the pharmacists' assistants kept having to dig the little wadded-up pieces of paper and gum and lint and what have you out of the whole.

The thing escalated. Next, one of the assistants put a medicine bottle that just fit in the hole. You could still see the “DO NOT USE THIS FOR GARBAGE.” This did not deter are garbage squirrelers or throwers, or lazy assholes, or whatever. They removed the bottle, and dumped their little pieces of wadded paper, gum, lint and what have you, so the pharmacists' assistants would now have to remove the bottle and dig out all of the day's debris.

Someone finally got pissed enough, after 2 years of this shit and put about 6 pieces of duct tape over the bottle, so that if some garbage scofflaw wants to get rid of his or her pocket trash, they will either have to peel off 40 minutes worth of duct tape, which will get them beaten to death by an angry Pharmacy department, or walk the 20 feet to the real garbage can. When I heard all of this, I just shook my head and said, “Only on Nebraska Avenue.” Two of the assistants live near me and they howled. They knew what I was talking about.

This is pretty much how we roll here. From shoe-guy on the bus, to slum landlords who think bedbug control is using a 1200 degree heat gun on your mattress, completely missing the "oops, my mattress caught fire" factor, taking bets on how long it will be before someone violates parole and ends up back in the slammer and the ever-popular bus stand game, "Can I have a dollar?" No. "Can  I have fifty cents?" No. "Can I have a bus pass?" Shut up. "Can I have a dollar? ...

This was taken from my porch. I face east. Directly south of this house is the homeless shelter where I lived, before moving here, when I received my disability. It's a magnificent house; there's a plaque on the front explaining it's history.  This is where Teddy Roosevelt stayed at times when he was mustering the Rough Riders, a volunteer corps. After the Civil War, there were not enough soldiers to engage in the Spanish-American War. There was also a fierce debate raging in Congress regarding interference in foreign affair. Isolationists v. Imperialists, so, Teddy took his own road.

Which brings me to my next story. There is a house across the street. It is a magnificent house. Theodore Roosevelt stayed in this house, when he was mustering troops, who later became renowned as “The Rough Riders” before they left for Cuba to fight in the Spanish-American War. They arrived in Tampa in 1898. The Rough Riders are still around, and each year for several years, I played “Mass in Timeof War,” By Franz Joseph Haydn. We would play on Veteran's day and the Rough Riders would come; we donated some of the gate to their cause, for homeless children.

The Rough Riders, circa 1898. The staircase leads to the Grand Ballroom of the University of Tampa. I have played in that ballroom many, many times when I was Principal Viola with the Tampa Bay Chamber Orchestra. The acoustics are marvelous!

A little diversion here, because that's how I roll. I always sat first stand and partnered with a fellow from Curtis freaking Institute. Julliard is Curtis's bitch, if you get my drift. William is an awesome player, and of course, he makes me play like I came from Curtis (ha!) but it's axiomatic, you play better when you're with better players. Anyway, we had to have this choral conductor who was no Dr. Charlene Archibault, or Sir Colin Davis, or James Levine, and certainly no Maestro Anton Coppola. Dr. No (not his real name) did nothing but scowl at us. But, he would never tell us what made him scowl. Sometimes, he'd have less of a scowl, sometimes more. After one of our last performances, William said to me, “What's up with him? He always scowls at the violas, but never tells us what to do to make unscowlable.” I said, “Dunno, but did you notice he had plenty to say about every other section. Mebbe he's just pissed 'cause we don't suck.” William and I shrugged and went off to our next gig, “Santa Claus in Whole Notes, Cause We're Violas.” Great use of that performance major. But, I digress.

This is close to the same image now. Check out the minarets. 

Anyway, that magnificent house has quite a history. I housed a high-class madam and her “hoors” for several decades. The mayor and the Chief of Police were frequent fliers there, I hear. Also, once upon a time, this town was pretty mobbed up by the Trafficante family, who had some dealings with a character named Jack Ruby. The Trafficantes pretty denied much any association with him and some of them are still around, but they engage in honest commerce.

Back in the 70s, I believe the house was sold to the present owners who completely gutted it and restored it back to its original state. It has been named a historical sight and is one of the key key attractions of V.M.Ybor (pronounced ee-bor) which is a part of Ybor City, just to the southeast of Tampa proper. V.M. Ybor's neighborhood association is a weird combination of young professionals and hoodlums. Very eclectic. The V.M. Ybor association had to fight like hell to get it named a historical monument. One for the good guys.

I love the piano. It doesn't love me. I had to take a semester in college and I managed a little Chopin and some Beethoven. I got to Rachmaninoff and had a crisis. I'll stick to the viola on ol' Rocky. That's tuff enuf.

Anyway, the guy who now owns the house has a bunch of musical instruments and he had bought himself a new piano. Either an upright grand or baby grand. He had it tuned and then they had to move it into the house. On the second floor. Understand, I'm a bit sketchy on this, because this is lore and happened about 25 or 30 years ago. So, the owner gets himself a piano mover, who is using an... I don't know what. Forklift? Crane? Magic? Whatever he was trying to use, it didn't work and he dumped the piano right spang in the middle of Nebraska Avenue. Other than being out of tune, the only thing that broke, was the little knob on the lid one uses to open and close the thing. Only on Nebraska Avenue. Actually, I say that, but what I'm thinking is this, “they know about pianos on Nebraska Avenue?” Sometimes, the people here make me wonder if they know about fire or the wheel.