30 YEARS RUNNING

Remembering New Times’ Steve Moss

CITY LIFE.STEVE MOSS

Before his death in 2005, Steve Moss turned the scrappy alternative weekly he started with Alex Zuniga and Beverly Johnson in 1986 into a viable and trusted source of news and information throughout SLO County.

by Stacey Warde

I worked at New Times as managing editor at the turn of the century, not long after 9/11, when the alternative weekly wasn’t yet 20 years old. Recently, I received an email from a past reader and contributor:

“Did New Times contact you about contributing to their 30th anniversary issue? I was really disappointed this morning when it didn’t include an article written by you. You should have been a part of it. I do think, however, that Jeff McMahon wrote one of the best pieces that New Times has ever published.”

At first, I felt a bit slighted; I would like to have been included in the anniversary edition. I worked at the newspaper when founding publisher Steve Moss revived himself, came back to life, after a long depression. He never really got over his depression but his spark came back as we worked together.

I picked up a copy of the issue in question and read Jeff’s tribute to Steve, who died from an epileptic seizure in 2005 while he was in his garden. Indeed, as my colleague points out, Jeff’s portrait—in which he emphasizes Steve’s reverence for a good story that was humane, backed with solid data, and free from ideology—rises to the top.

It’s a fine portrait.

There’s not much to add to Jeff’s depiction of Steve’s genius for news and storytelling, but I’d like to give a partial view of my own experience with the man, who hugely influenced my approach to telling stories that matter, stories that leave a lasting impact.

Before his death, Steve had turned the scrappy alternative weekly he started with Alex Zuniga and Beverly Johnson in 1986 into a viable and trusted source of news and information throughout SLO County.

Steve was a mentor who constantly raised the bar for us, sometimes to the point of madness, to do better; he challenged our assumptions and cherished notions about life, and countered with questions we hadn’t yet fully answered as reporters and storytellers. By the time a story got placed on the newspage, it had been turned over and over until the kinks had been shaken out of it and would stand on its own.

Steve took complete confidence in what he offered San Luis Obispo County in his newspaper and never saw reason to apologize for it, even when some readers threatened to burn down the building because they didn’t like what he printed.

Not long after he hired me, for example, we started hearing rumors that KSBY producer and TV personality Kevin Graves had been caught masturbating at a public sporting event.

The Tribune had recently run a glowing article about Mr. Graves’ wife, Sharon, a much-beloved weather forecaster, also at KSBY, who had just announced her decision to move out of state to be closer with family. Her announcement came as a shock to her many loyal viewers. She was an integral and active part of the community.

Meanwhile, several anonymous callers began informing us that the “real reason she decided to leave” was because her husband couldn’t keep his hands out of his pants, and he got busted for it. She had to leave to avoid any further embarrassment.

There was no mention of her husband’s behavior in the Tribune story about her departure.

Steve and I went into his office to discuss the matter. He sat down on his swivel chair where he wrote his Shredder columns and turned to face me for the first challenging news decision I had to make with him.

“Do you think we should run this story, if it turns out to be true, that her husband got busted for beating off in public?” Steve was always blunt and kept his humor whenever he was confronted with a news challenge. Steve made telling the news fun, even when it was difficult.

“Unless they come right out and say it,” I responded, “we can’t really prove that they’re leaving town because her husband’s a jerk off.” Steve looked back at me knowingly, with a mischievous grin. In that moment, we connected as news men, and I knew we’d make a good team, come what may.

“At the very least,” I continued, “we should look into it and, if necessary, set the record straight.” It wasn’t an easy decision, but we both agreed the community had a right to know, if the facts confirmed rumors of lewd conduct by a local celebrity. Neither us wanted to besmirch Sharon’s fine career. It was her husband, we decided, who chose that course.

There was a gleam in Steve’s eyes. He hadn’t been well, I’d been told, battling depression and, in some ways, slipping, flattening, his passion for the news waning, and it showed in the pages of the newspaper, which in recent years had seemed dull and lifeless, not the scrappy little upstart it had been in the beginning. Steve’s much-tested instincts began to stir again.

We asked senior reporter Dan Blackburn to run down to the courthouse to see what he could find. An hour later he returned to the office with a file containing the court’s record of Mr. Graves’ “no contest” plea to accusations of lewd conduct. The newsroom stirred and tittered as we pored over the details.

“Banner headline!” someone shouted. “This is a BIG story!”

“NO!” I responded. “We’re not running a banner headline. The content in the court record is caustic enough. We’ll run it as a ‘What’s News’ item.”

Thankfully, Steve agreed with me. We basically rewrote the content of the court document into a small four-graf news brief, buried among other briefs in the “What’s News” page. We attempted to reach the Graves numerous times for comment before going to press. Our calls were never returned, and by morning the Graves had abruptly left town. They were gone.

When that week’s newspaper hit the stands the next morning, the calls—and threats, including one who claimed he would burn the place down—started rolling in. “How dare you!” one lady shouted at me when I picked up the phone to take her call. “How dare you shame a community treasure!”

“Ma’am, you’re talking to the wrong guy,” I said, “you need to talk to Kevin Graves.” And on it went, all day long. That night KSBY brass went on the air to lament Sharon’s premature departure. Steve and I watched the sad undertaking on tv while sharing a beer at Spike’s, and I noticed a spark in his eye.

***

Until then, I had worked for New Times as a freelancer, penning commentary and cover stories, including one for the “Bridal Issue” about gay marriage in SLO County before it became popular to talk about such things. The annual supplement, as all other supplements, like the “Best of SLO County,” is a big boon for the paper because it brings in much-needed advertising dollars. The focus is not news so much as entertainment and frills to attract advertisers and their money.

News staff were responsible for generating copy for these supplements, and consequently, despite attempts to make them appealing to advertisers, these stories more often reflected news value rather than the marketing and promotional purposes of the advertising manager, who cared little for the dicier, juicier, and meatier stuff that is the spice of life in an alternative weekly.

Advertisers went apoplectic over my bridal story, which presented the personal views of half a dozen gay couples in the area, including some who were raising children, while the gay community received the story well and were happy to be represented in the county’s only major weekly. The advertisers were pissed, I was told, because my story “made a mockery of marriage.”

“Advertisers are having a shit-fit about your story,” then-managing editor Marla Pugh told me when it came out, “but don’t worry, it’s a good story and Steve really liked it.”

He had my back, Marla said, knowing full well that without good content, even in an advertising supplement, a publication wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on, and if advertisers wanted to complain, let them. They were buying genuine real estate in his publication because its pages held real value, content with teeth, not the fluff that’s so common today.

***

Steve and I were a good match. We worked well together. He was the consummate newspaperman with a Libertarian view, suspicious of government overreach, always on the watch for a great story, and unafraid to turn over the apple cart as long it served the higher purpose of a well-informed readership.

Steve subscribed to an ideal I had learned from one of my previous mentors: “Report the news without fear or favor.” He respected and cherished his readers. Without readers, he’d say, you’ve got nothing. Give them what they need, and then some.

Barely two days after the firestorm of protests erupted over our news brief on Kevin Graves, Steve walked breathlessly and excitedly into the office. “I’ve got an idea,” he exclaimed as he swept into the newsroom, “I’ve got an idea! We’re going to run a cover story, ‘Should we have done it?’”

“Should we have done what, Steve?” I asked.

“Should we have run the story!” he fired back. He’d heard enough complaints about our news brief to put the question before experts in the field. He wanted to contact publishers throughout the state to see how they might have handled the story. Then, we would report their findings in the next edition.

“Are you crazy, Steve?” I responded, wearied from the onslaught of angry calls. “Isn’t that just adding more fuel to the fire?”

“No!” he countered. “Are you kidding me?” It would be a great way to educate the community on the standards and values of news. I was afraid it would give readers more reason to hate our guts. We had already done our job, I told him, and that was to tell the news without fear or favor.

We went back and forth, arguing the point, bringing staff into the conversation until finally we agreed to lobby respected experts to see what they’d say. The whole newsroom got into the action, querying the state’s most respected editors and reporting their answers in the subsequent edition.

We had done the right thing, the respondents told us, hard as it might have been. The role of setting the record straight, keeping the community as fully informed as possible, eliminating destructive rumor with truth, is vital to the health of the community.

Soon, we were being flooded with calls again. This time callers were congratulating us for having the guts to tell the truth. “I’m so glad you guys are here. I know you take a lot of shit for what you do, but keep doing it, and thank you!” Suddenly, the dialog shifted into a more nuanced conversation about a community’s right to know.

Steve was right all along. That was his genius: To open a dialog, unpleasant as it might be, about the nature of our surroundings and community. We worked together for about two more years, helping to put a few crooks in jail, putting the spotlight on law enforcement overreach, and  gave readers unique insights into their community that they’d find nowhere else.

I miss Steve Moss, and I think of him often, and wish he were still with us. §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at roguewarde@gmail.com.

Nerdy India

CULTURE.INDIA2

by Dell Franklin

Just looking around at what I see on the Central Coast, people from India seem very polite and pleasant but also very nerdy. This was not something I seriously thought about until I read the LA Times Sports section one recent morning and discovered that India, a country of 1.3 billion people, only had one medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and it’s a puny bronze to boot. Even tiny Fiji secured a gold. America, a country of 320 million, had, at last count, 93 medals and 30 gold, and still counting….

I wonder if India’s lack of athleticism and competitive zeal, obviously, has something to do with yoga, an ancient Indian practice of mental discipline and physical flexibility, which I started practicing three months ago at the age of 72. I’ve never been to India and what I know about India, besides yoga and the image of yogis in ashrams hypnotizing the Western world’s spiritual needy, is this: Gandhi was a great pacifist whose philosophy is the most sensible in world history; some Indians around here have pink dots on their foreheads; most of the motels and hotels in this area are owned by Indians who do not permit dogs in their rooms; every time you need to know something on the phone when you’re ripped off, a polite Indian, whom you cannot understand, answers; just about every cold call on your phone is a fucking polite Indian; Indians and their spawn, which I see walking around outside of their motels and businesses, seem clannish and do not carry themselves with the swagger and light-footed rhythm of athletes; India children in America dominate national spelling bees, seeming to memorize entire dictionaries, destroying white, brain-trust children; most Indians are named Patel; Indian yogis lead the world in all phases of yoga and are idolized by their disciples and pupils; behind the sweet politeness of Indians is a ruthless mercenary streak that I suspect overruns humanity.

Of course, most of the Indians I’ve come in contact with are probably not from the bottom of the caste system in India, because at least they have enough money to buy a plane ticket to America and buy all our motels and hotels, live in them in some cases, and make more money. They come from a country teeming with beggars; and I wonder, do the millions of impoverished in India give a damn about yoga and yogis or athletics when they’re hungry and wasting away and on the verge of stealing a pig, a goat, an apple, a piece of bread?

I’ve read of a famous and fabulously rich India yoga guru in Beverly Hills who was trying to fuck all the pretty female acolytes in his classes who worshipped him and ended up getting sued for his millions. I once, as a cabbie, picked up an Indian man in a beautiful suit and drove him to a business conference at a snazzy hotel and he was very interesting and intelligent and friendly and tipped me well and even gave me some rupees which I still hold in my wallet, in case I ever get to India; though I’ve never had any desire to visit a country that hot and overcrowded.

I probably wouldn’t even give a second thought to poor feeble India garnering only one measly bronze medal from a country of 1.3 billion if it wasn’t for my recent plunge into yoga, where everybody seems happily under the influence of its precepts, and those precepts are from India. In many of my yoga articles I have admitted to the exercises softening my hard edge and rendering me less competitive, even if I still do toss my tennis racket at times, though not as often.

Speaking of tennis, this is the only sport where I recognize any professionals from India, and what I read about the few who succeeded just a little on the pro tennis tour was that they were really nice guys, almost too nice, which leads me to believe further that a country with a vast yoga culture breeds a bunch of gawky nerds interested only in taming A-type personalities while stressing non-confrontation.

What is shocking to me is that I have not seen one India person in any of my yoga classes, nor any Indian instructors or gurus, though I have read about big shot yogis spell-binding rich white people (mostly females) in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, which means that perhaps these Indian gurus are secretly trying to squeeze the aggressiveness out of our guilty aggressors and therefore undermine the maniacal aggressiveness of our country—probably a good thing. It also might be obvious that, for the most part, India people hate fucking yoga and think we’re a bunch of idiots for adopting it in a manner that has caused it to take off as a business empire for the yogis who prey on our guilt and lack of spiritualism as we ruthlessly lead the world in finance as well as the Olympics.

I think I might ask one of my yoga instructors if there are any India people in their classes, or if there ever has been. My guess is that most of the local India people are well-apprised of yoga and would be embarrassed to join a local class and observe our instructors and pupils, just as an American in India would laugh out loud at an Indian trying to hit a baseball when one of their national sports is cricket, kind of a foolhardy offshoot of baseball if not the outline of the beginning of that sport.

This morning, the day after I read about the Americans earning 93 medals to India’s one, I picked up the paper and saw that we were up to 100 and the Indians still had only one pathetic bronze, but when I turned on MSNBC to see what Trump has done next, a gold medal ladies’ badminton game was going on between a Spanish woman and an Indian woman! The Indian woman was assured a silver, and for that I was glad, but I still rooted for her to beat the world-class Spaniard to whom she was an underdog, but she lost the second set after winning the first, and then I had to go to yoga class and therefore missed the final set, so I guess I’ll have to read about it tomorrow. §

Dell Franklin, once a skeptic of the benefits of yoga, has become a regular practitioner and has regained flexibility in both his body and mind. More of his stories can be viewed at his website: dellfranklin.com, where this story, a series about yoga, first appeared.

 

THE SPORTING PANORAMA

From NFL Hall of Famers to the corrupt 2016 Olympics

by Dell Franklin

COMMENT.SPORTING.ORLANDOOf late I have developed conflicted feelings about the sporting world and lost interest in teams and players, which has led me to boycott the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro for the first time—except for the sprinting events. At the same time, for the first time ever, as the farthest thing from a football fanatic, who never watches college games and few pro games, I viewed the entire day-long National Football League Hall of Fame induction ceremony and found myself utterly absorbed and repeatedly in tears while listening to men who had come up from the very bottom of our socio-economic ladder in America and reached such heights in the bone-crushing and wildly emotional game of professional football.

Having sampled football up until the tenth grade and realizing it was for kids more gladiatorial than me, there is this respect and admiration for those who continue to play. My father, who played big league baseball and faced fire-baller Bob Feller without a helmet and was an amateur boxing champion out of tough Chicago, also found football simply too brutal in the stone-age era of the 1930s when he was recruited by the University of Illinois to play for the legendary coach, Bob Zuppke, whom he characterized as a “miserable goddamn heartless sadist.”

“Football players at that level are a different breed,” he always said, with a touch of awe. “They’re not like other people. They’re a select club of men.”

Nowadays, these men play for more money while enduring even more pain and brokenness because they’re bigger and faster and smash into each other with horrifying force, so much so I wince and hate to look at the players who after collisions lay writhing in agony, their magnificent athleticism temporarily and sometimes permanently crippled. To face such savagery, and even dare to be paralyzed, as in some cases, their courage is something us mortals cannot possibly relate to or understand, only stand in awe of.

And perhaps that is the reason I tried but could not hold back tears while listening to Orlando Pace, a black giant, talking about his mother, who raised him and his sister while working two jobs in Sandusky, Ohio, the camera panning to his mother and sister dabbing at tears as they sat under a warm Ohio sun.

John Madden, home and ailing, possesses such profound respect for these men he could hardly get through a taped introduction of the deceased Kenny Stabler, a slender Alabaman quarterback who, on badly damaged knees, stood the charges of thunderous defenders for over a decade and won games with guile and daring.

Kevin Greene, all-American boy and ex-Boy Scout, talked of his dad, a retired Army officer wounded in Vietnam, the camera panning to this man who struggled to keep his composure as Kevin gave him full credit for teaching him the military discipline to succeed in such a tough business.

The most impressive speech was by an ex-owner drummed out of the league, Ed Debartalo, a diminutive man so in love with his players that he immediately visited them, in the locker room after injuries and took care of their futures as family. His message to NFL powers that ran him out of the game was to treat these men as he had; a chastising of their greediness and ruthless inattention to the physical and mental debilitation these men suffer long after retirement.

If these men brought tears and cheers, Brett Favre brought roars and copious weeping. The toughest of the tough, he barely made it through his speech without breaking down, but brought down the house when talking about how hard his dad was on him, yet at the same time, behind his back, extolled his character and determination to his coach, something I think all jocks and their jock dads have experienced, including myself.

All of these speeches were delivered by a bunch of big old sentimental slobs. At times they were awkward, unpolished but always sincere, and always moving, boy/men still, thanking just about everybody who helped them get there, the memories so poignant, the game so dear to them, the teammates and coaches so valuable, that it wasn’t really about them, but the totality of the experience, from peewee football to the prized NFL that has broken the heart of so many gridiron stars trying to make it.

Small wonder American football fans are so crazy about these gladiators.

***

COMMENT.SPORTING.RIOThe 2016 Olympics in Rio are the accumulation of decades of the IOC turning a magnificent competition into a corrupt grab-bag of billionaires and politicians on the take. It is about the rich pushing around the poor, and in some cases taking their homes to build monstrous and soon-to-be obsolete sports complexes, as in countries like China and Russia. It’s about a broke country like Greece going broker. It’s about a country like Russia, caught red-handed in a colossal cheating scheme and then let off the hook by the political whores in the IOC knuckling under to the latest global bully, Vladimir Putin.

It’s about the Russians recruiting desperately impoverished migrants from Eastern Europe to build their complexes, withholding their pay, housing them in sheds, disposing them as lifeless carcasses when they’re sick and broken and used up—and dead. It’s about this very same country forcing their poorest people out of their homes and out of their turf, paying them nothing, essentially breaking them, while billionaire oligarchs become richer, and we in America, along with the IOC, stand by as we wave our flags of superior athleticism—another vehicle to buoy our image to ourselves and the world.

It’s about Brazil, a country caught in an economic tragedy so severe that people are literally starving to death, and protesting, somehow spending billions to put on the usual pomp and pageantry and the construction of soon-to-be abandoned venues as, like Greece, get fleeced by the greed-hogs from the IOC.

It’s about NBC manipulating the emotions of every American TV viewer with its saccharine music accompanying maudlin depiction of certain athletes and their heart-breaking situations, a literal soap opera, while two-minute commercials seizing on the gullible masses stuff their corporate pockets.

Every year, since I can remember, the Olympics arrived every four years as something great, but as time passed it became this monster of flag-waving, country-chanting hypocrisy, another money grab perpetrated by a pack of rapacious scoundrels known as the IOC, a group not unlike NFL owners whose entire goal in life is to stock-pile more treasure and territory and keep their foot on the neck of their slaves.

I just want to watch the sprints. §

Dell Franklin grew up in the rough-and-tumble of sports in Compton, Calif., where his father, “Moe” Franklin, a professional baseball player, built a shoe business and supported a family. Dell writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his rescue dog, Wilbur. Visit Dell’s website at dellfranklin.com.

Obsolescence and doing business

CITY LIFE.CAYUCOS SUPERMARKET*

 

by Stacey Warde

I run my life off a tired Apple computer, a MacBook Pro, that’s 10 years old, which has been a fine and dependable workhorse. I use it as an entertainment center for radio, news and tv. I write articles, run this magazine and my business on it. It’s my connection to the world.

It’s so old, however, the company that made it refuses to service it any more. “Um, yeah, that machine is obsolete,” an Apple techie said recently when I asked for help with a fan that had gone bad.

I watched a YouTube video on my cell phone to figure out how to fix it myself. Not long after that, I noticed the thin protective panel on the computer’s removable battery starting to peel off.

I made a quick run into town to pick up some super glue. Living in a small town, there’s only one store, the Cayucos Supermarket, which in its own peculiar way—with its leaky open cold storage, occasional cruddy fly strips hanging from the ceiling, and chipped, stinky deteriorating floors—is also obsolete.

I’ve often thought this place could use its own sprucing up, a much-needed upgrade and paint job and repairs, so the owner, for example, wouldn’t need to put towels down on the floor to soak up water leaking from the ancient cold storage; and maybe improve the selection by including some produce from the many nearby farms to give it a touch of fresh and local. But, when you’re on a budget like me, which I’m guessing is the problem here, you make do with what you’ve got.

I found my way to a corner of the store where knick knacks such as can openers, spatulas and other forgotten or missing kitchen essentials and fix-it items like super glue hang on the wall. It’s the quick-fix corner for the summer flood of tourists and vacationers who come to town and are likely to need missing items from their vacation homes or travel packs.

The fix-it corner sits at the end of the produce display at the back of the store. The produce section features an incomplete and sad selection of limp and tired fruits and vegetables, where flies and gnats buzz the air, and where shoppers aren’t likely to get too inspired for their meal plans. The prices vary but verge on the high side; you don’t really get what you pay for here, but shoppers like me patronize the store anyhow, for the convenience mostly. It’s the only show in town.

As I stood there gazing at the wall, searching for super glue, I heard someone spraying down the produce. “How nice,” I thought without looking, “someone’s spritzing the fruits and vegetables.” Then, I smelled the distinct chemical odor of bug spray.

I turned to see who was spritzing the produce and got caught in a stinky cloudy chemical mist. The store owner, who apparently didn’t know I was standing there, seemed surprised to see me and waved his hand to brush away the mist. “Oops! Didn’t mean to get you too,” he said, waving a green can with thick black lettering, what appeared to be a can of RAID in his hand before he turned and quickly walked away.

“Did I just see what I think I saw?”

It was an embarrassing moment for both of us. I just wanted to get some super glue to patch my tired old computer without being exposed to bug poison; he just wanted to get rid of those pesky bugs bombing the produce without making a display of it, or accidentally dousing a customer with pesticide.

I didn’t know what to think: “I’ll never buy produce from this place again,” was my first thought, then, “how much of the bug killer got into my lungs? How much of that crap have I ingested over the years buying produce here? Should I call the health department? Will I ever come back to this store? Where’s that damn super glue?”

Finally, I spotted the package with the tiny little squeeze tube, which was hanging from a hook near the can openers, and pulled it off the wall. “This will work,” I decided, eager to get out of the store.

Before making my way toward the front of the store again, where the cash registers are, to pay for my glue, I made one quick glance at the bugless produce display. “Yuck,” I thought. I didn’t say anything to the cashier, mostly grousing to myself, eager to get home so I could fix the loose battery panel on the back of my old computer.

“I get it,” I thought, back at home, meticulously patching the super glue onto the loose panel, “you make do with what you’ve got, sopping wet floors with old towels, and hanging fly strips from the ceiling, just like I’m doing here, patching up this battery, wondering how much longer this tired machine is going to last.” §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at roguewarde@gmail.com.

Open letter to Hillary’s voters

The Fear of Donald and our descent into fascism

COMMENT.HILLARYby Stacey Warde

Yes, I know, fascism gets tossed into our faces pretty easily these days and comes off as mostly disingenuous and trite, until you meet one of Hillary’s “vote for Hillary, or else” supporters, whose pressure to conform amidst dire warnings about fascism sound alarmingly fascist themselves.

Here’s the deal, if the only reason you’re voting for Hillary is because you’re afraid that Donald Trump will win, fascism has already won. You’ve already lost your freedom to choose. You’re afraid. The fascists have won.

And, soon, hounded by fear of what might be instead of acting upon our values, creating a truly just world, we’ll all be fascists, as we continue to vote for the lesser of two evils.

How much more can we lower our expectations in a general election? Hillary or Donald? Wall Street Darling, or Bankrupt Bully?

If you really like Hillary, which I don’t, then by all means vote for her. That’s what a democracy is all about. Please, however, don’t try to convince me that she’s the best candidate because she’s the only ONE who can beat Donald.

Bernie, apparently, might also have beaten Donald, and might still had he considered joining the forces of his 13 million voters with a third party candidate like Jill Stein. But, never mind that, because I don’t want to sound like a spoilt sport or be ridiculous. Just because he got sandbagged by The Machine, and the “revolution” sidelined. Yes, it’s upsetting, and I don’t plan to “get over it” until the system changes.

There will be no revolution with Hillary. The revolution will be with Donald Trump, if he wins, one that might spell the end, it is said, of the American enterprise as a place of virtue and good will, which is only historically partly true. The United States has always had flaws, very serious flaws, that have resulted in the torture and deaths of thousands upon tens-of-thousands of innocent people. But let’s not get into that, or into the tens of thousands of lives that might have been saved had Hillary spoken out against the war on Iraq.

Let’s just say that together Trump and Clinton represent nearly all of the flaws the world attributes to us, starting with violent, brash, repugnant, ignorant and entitled. I’ll choose neither candidate, and prefer those who, like Bernie, can at least show some sense of humility and humanity, which seemingly lack in both Hillary and Donald. Again, if you want Hillary, that is fine. Let’s agree that Donald mustn’t win, and I’ll vote for the person who most represents my interests and values.

The Fear of Donald

COMMENT.DONALDThe only presidential candidate I know who has already incriminated, and thus disqualified, himself from the office before he even holds it, is Donald Trump, a weak, thin-skinned, pathetic demagogue, a low-blow, bigoted bully who knows little about our own constitution, foreign policy, the world’s state of affairs, how to treat women, or the pressures of the nation’s highest executive office.

Let’s impeach him for conspiring with Russia to spy on a U.S. citizen.

He has no backing in both the House and Senate, or even from the despicable Koch Bros., and no political clout, capital or influence beyond his own self-aggrandizing and bloated ideas of himself; his speeches are mostly exercises in narcissism, and his calls to action are mostly appeals to base thuggery and ignorance.

If we truly have a democracy, he will lose, unless we’re a nation of course men and women, a mob of ignoramuses who prefer the gross over the sublime. The laws and principles and force of history of this nation—if American greatness ever existed—will bring him down, not raise him up. Decency alone would dictate this. He has none. He is indecent and rude and mustn’t be elevated.

If Trump is elevated, lifted to “victory,” he will ultimately lose. That is his game. He loses over and over, his whole life a series of failures that he calls “success.” If Trump rises to the top, that says more about us as a people than it gives a solid argument for why I should vote for Hillary.

Trump doesn’t frighten me half as much as a populace so cowed and afraid that it must choose the “lesser” of two evils to avoid a calamity. That’s the beginning of fascism, when a people choose an evil, even if it is the “lesser,” over conscience and heart. Unless, and until, more voters begin to vote their conscience, we will, sooner or later, all turn into fascists.

Some say that to vote my conscience, not for Hillary, is a “luxury” no one can afford.

I don’t consider my vote a “luxury.” It represents what I most value, someone who is not beholden to Wall Street or the One Percent, someone who refuses to choose war over reason and diplomacy, or who isn’t likely to dissemble through word and action, who knows the constitution and laws protecting citizens rights, and is humble enough to admit a mistake.

Our politics are so rife with cynicism that we go along with the “lesser evil,” election after election, as far as I can remember, even if that lesser person models what is most despicable in our culture—greed, graft, and corruption—as if that can actually be a good thing upon which to hinge my hopes and dreams. I’ve voted for the lesser evil most of my life. I won’t do it now, or ever again. §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at roguewarde@gmail.com

Trump: America’s love of bullies

We have turned to Donald Trump, a born bully totally lacking in soul or humanity for anybody but his own flock.

We have turned to Donald Trump, a born bully totally lacking in soul or humanity for anybody but his own flock.

by Dell Franklin

The wild throng of Hillary haters at the Republican presidential convention is wildly reminiscent of the packed houses and stadiums where Adolph Hitler spewed inflammatory demagoguery and scapegoating that turned an entire nation against Jews and people who were not white or purely German and led to the saddest, most demonic era in the history of the world.

“Heil Hitler! Jail Hillary!” Same thing.

The faces of what appears a 98 percent white crowd are clenched and inflamed with hatred, prime prey for a messianic bully to lead them to the promised land, which was their once-white country where “niggers and ‘spics and queers” had no voice or chance to get ahead, and knew their place if they wanted a few crumbs to survive on. They were all, like Native Americans, victims of the bullying white race with its fanatic religion and rage to control and dominate.

Whites, with capitalism, supposedly a partner of “democracy,” and the desire to amass fortunes, build personal castles, gouge out territory, and plunder the environment, could subjugate and keep the minority masses down. Capitalism and greedy whites trampled democracy, and so what we have today is the disgraceful, absurd and embarrassing Republican convention to show the world just what a bunch of failures and petulant whiners we are—a reflection of our system.

To salvage this mess of a country, which has actually thrived after George W. Bush single-handedly imperiled it, we have turned to Donald Trump, a born bully totally lacking in soul or humanity for anybody but his own flock.

***

There are three ways of dealing with bullies, and you learn this at a pretty early age. First, you can knuckle under and join the bully as a cowardly sycophant and indulge in some bullying of your own. Second, you can go out of your way to avoid the bully so you never have to be confronted by him and be exposed as a coward. Third, if he is bigger and older and stronger and crueler than you, find a way to beat the living hell out of him.

Because the Republican primary was supposed to be about issues, policy and civility, the 15 sycophants running against Trump had no idea of how to deal with his incessant bullying and demeaning of their persons, and one by one they crumpled in disgrace, powerless in their political correctness not to walk over and bitch slap or knock him on his ass.

I’m positive if any one of these weasels, and especially the newest sycophant, Chris Christie, would have punched him, he would have garnered more than 2 percent of the vote. None of them had anything to lose, even the biggest pussy, Jeb Bush.

***

Congratulations to the GOP for scouring the country to dig up a handful of angry bible-spouting black pastors and police captains to spout over-the-top vitriol, these so-called speakers evidently culled from our black populace to show us that the Republican Party cares about them, especially after rolling back voting rights in every black stronghold. What the GOP haters are really saying behind their backs is—“you fuckers had your chance with your Muslim nigger Obama, now we’re taking over! Because white is right!”

***

I’m sure Latinos and black folks were impressed with the roll out of the preppie Trump clan, scrubbed and polished and so shiny they resembled something hoisted out of a wax museum, talking about how great America is, and how great its been to them, and, like their Dad, inheritors of millions, sent to the most prestigious schools, the sons, who have never served in the military, taking on trophy wives like dad, the daughter looking like a trophy wife, all bragging about how wonderful their father is and how he loves America and wants to help the citizens he’s been fleecing and conning for decades.

***

Mike Pence, who reminds us of one of those guys who was a professional politician in junior high and kept working at it by being religious and conservative and careful and proper and bland, and landed the vice presidential slot, is perfect for Trump—he’s smaller and looks tiny beside Trump, and he’s got that helmet of white nary-hair-out-place hair compared to Donald’s billowy mane, and he is so utterly dull and ordinary and conforming that Donald kissed him for his fawning mediocrity, recognizing immediately the perfect toady for a bully.

***

Lining up behind Trump are especially nasty and mean-spirited fellow bullies like Christie, Giuliani, and snide Newt Gingrich, all salivating to run Trump’s show, like a lingering disease that will not go away. I’m sure the cowardly chickenhawks who started the Iraqi war are licking their chops, as well as some military brass always spoiling to flex their muscles and in the name of American greatness sending troops from the under-classes into battle while we sport ribbons and praise their courage.

Yeh, the Republican Party is the white bully party, the tough guys, the law-and-order, war-mongering, super-patriotic, gun-toting bible-beaters, the screeching, hating, anti-abortion-obsessed women, and they’ve got their man, the perfect bully to line up behind and flex their dwindling power as sad, sad human beings floundering around in the greatest so-called country in the world, the greatest country ever.

***

Congratulations to Cleveland for turning their city into a police state so as not to expose us as a racist nation.

***

Since Donald Trump has threatened NATO and promised to undue our nuclear pact with Iran, I guess it is natural he and his tribes feel it doesn’t matter that most of the civilized Western world thinks we’ve lost our minds and have become downright stupid and dangerous.

***

If this country elects Trump as president, we will deserve everything we get, especially when those who clamored for his success riot to impeach him within a year into his first term—when they realize Trump is no more than a corporate entity taking what it feels is its due as the superior race. §

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., and will punch out any bully who wants to Make America White Again. Visit his website: dellfranklin.com

Dinner

FICTION.DINNERby Dell Franklin

“I’m on my way,” Mel announces. “I’ll be there in half an hour.”

“Mel’s on his way, mom!” I announce, hanging up the phone, which mother has difficulty operating due to failing eyesight and arthritis.

“If he’s on his way, it means he’ll be here in two hours,” mother says from her plush rocker with a view. Mel lives 15 miles away in Long Beach. I have driven down 247 miles from a small beach town up north, where I live in a beach shack. Took me 4 ½ hours in my limping 20-year-old Toyota Tercel. It’s Saturday afternoon and my mother and I are going out to dinner with Mel, her companion, in San Pedro. He has already called four times to check on mother. Each time he’s asked if my sister, Jeannie, is coming over. I keep telling him she can’t make it because she’s busy with HER life, she being an involved citizen and college professor.

Mother has tubes in her nostrils from an oxygen tank. She’s still fragile from a near death battle with pneumonia. Jeannie and I need to organize her affairs and find a live-in caregiver. My sister has been driven nearly mad dealing with mother and Mel and is a bit miffed I have been up north and caught none of the stress. Now I am here to make myself useful. My sister lives in Palos Verdes with her retired husband who was a corporate executive. Their two boys are out of college with advanced degrees, and doing well in business. I drive a cab, am single, rent, play a lot of tennis, surf, read, drink.

“Jeannie should be here any minute,” mother comments.

“No, mom, she’ll be over tomorrow morning.”

“Oh yes. That’s right. But you’ll be here all week, won’t you, honey?”

“No, mom, I’ve got to get back to work tomorrow night.”

After a while I remove the twin tubes from her nostrils and turn off the oxygen tank. She has more color in her face. Jeannie calls and warns me not to let mother drive.

“You think I’m an idiot? She can hardly see, and she’s terrified of taking ten steps alone.”

“And don’t let her wear those red high heels.” She pauses when I don’t answer. “We’ve got to keep mother in a controlled environment.”

I hang up after telling my sister I’ll see her tomorrow. Mother is now reading the LA Times funnies. She used to read the entire paper and the New Yorker. She was a high school valedictorian and college honor student and educator who, in her eighties, took up Oriental painting and a short story class. I sit down across from her. She smiles at me. Her eyes suddenly come into focus and meet mine with the old yearning that could melt granite.

“I miss our going to the movies together,” she says. “And going to dinner afterwards and watching the people and talking about the movie, and books, and people. I miss you, honey.”

“I know. We’ll go again.”

“Jeannie doesn’t want me to. She doesn’t trust me.”

I don’t say anything. What can I say? I cease looking into her eyes. “The motha look,” my dad used to say, describing the way she looked at me—admiration, understanding, forgiveness, everything.

***

FICTION.DINNER.dancerMel shows up around 7, two hours after he said he’d be right over. His entrance, as always, is turbulent. He has a female Pomeranian that is demanding and spoiled. Mel has to make several trips from his car, toting packages for mother, toys for the dog. He needs a hip replacement and lurches along, his shoes never leaving the ground. I go out to help him with the strawberries, champagne, bananas, boiled chicken for the dog, shopping bags of food and sundries. He is in a huff about the dog darting into the street and getting run over.

Once settled in a chair beside mother, he asks how I’m doing at the bar I tended for 10 years, but which I haven’t worked in over a year, since I started hacking. I tell him business is good. He then leans toward me and whispers that mother had a stroke. The doctors say she did not have a stroke, but Mel knows everybody’s business better than they do. He once owned car dealerships and real estate, was a wheeler dealer, is well off. He’s been mother’s companion almost 25 years, and nearly cracked up when she was sick. He is a lifelong bachelor and claims my mother is the classiest lady he’s ever known. “So Jeannie’s on her way, coming to dinner, Rick?” he says. I tell him again that Jeannie can’t come and will be over tomorrow. Mother tells him I’ll be here all week. I tell them I’ve got to go back to work tomorrow while my black Lab, who is not allowed in the house for fear he’ll eat the Pomeranian, stares sadly at me through the sliding glass door on the patio.

“Your mother likes it when you come down,” Mel says. “She perks up. She’s never happier than when you come down for a visit.”

Tonight we are going to a swank establishment down on the harbor. I volunteer to drive, but Mel insists on taking his Lincoln Town Car. Mother wears a chic outfit and looks amazingly 10 years younger than her age while Mel has on a summer sports coat and silk shirt open at the throat. I wear thrift store shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. It doesn’t take mother long to get ready after their ritual champagne with strawberries, but then we must wait for Mel to break up the dog’s chicken into tiny bites and place it beside the bowl of bottled water. Then Mel dilly-dallies for what seems forever in the bathroom and mother’s room. I ask her what he’s doing and she says he dithers. There is no use saying anything to him, and when he finally emerges mom accuses him of taking half an hour, but he insists he was only five minutes. “Thirty minutes,” says mom.

Outside, I slacken my pace to a near crawl to stay abreast as we walk to Mel’s car. I help mother into the front seat and get in the back seat behind her. Mel’s head just does come up over the seat and steering wheel. The two little heads look like gourds. Mel flies down the hill just missing parked cars. But he knows the three-mile route. When he arrives at the harbor parking complex he slams into and bounces off a center divider on a turn, and just misses a pole.

“There’s no lighting down here,” he grouses after mother informs him he needs to fasten his seat belt, which he never does.

I don’t say a word. There’s no use saying anything to Mel about bouncing off center dividers and sending terrified pedestrians, dressed for Saturday night dinner in various restaurants, scurrying for cover. The Town car has amassed a few dents and smells of dog, like my heap. Mel makes a few turns around the vast lots searching for a disabled spot, finally settling for a spot that is a row of blue lines. Oh well.

I help mom out. It takes a while to corral and steer them up the walkway to the restaurant, which is comprised of two large banquet rooms between which are three adjoined sections for elegant dining with a view of the water and cargo stacks in LA harbor. Both of them have to go to the restroom, The hostess asks do I wish to wait for them up front, but no, I wish to be seated, and she leads me to a table at a window on the water. I pick up the menu, browse it, look at the water, then at the diners, and spot mother wandering into the restaurant, looking a bit catatonic. It is a good thing the hostess sat us in the front section. Mother is headed past the salad bar toward section two when I intercept and guide her to our table and sit her down across from me beside the window.

After mother is situated, Mel scuffs into the room. I get up to intercept him and lead him to our table, where he sits beside mother. They peer out at the water.

“There’s not many ships out there,” Mel says, concerned. “Last time we were here there were a million ships coming and going.”

“Maybe it’s 9/11,” mother says.

“We’ve been here since 9/11, Lilly,” Mel says.

“No we haven’t,” mother insists.

“Yes, we were here last month, Lilly.”

“No, we went to Sorrento’s. We’ve been to Madeo’s and the Four Seasons, but we haven’t been here for years, Mel.”

“Lilly, we were here last month,” he says, with patience.

They continue to joust while I gaze out the window at the placid water. It is July and still light out. A cargo ship cruises by like a mountain moving into view.

“What a lovely table,” mother says.

“There’s no traffic out there,” Mel says, tucking his napkin at his throat, studying the menu. “There’s got to be a reason for it. I’ll find out.”

The waiter alights. He is overweight, with wrinkled forehead and huge gaped teeth. He’s around 40 and his name tag reads, RAOUL.

“And how are WEEE tonight?”  He smiles at us like we are four year olds. A number of men in red coats and black pants and ties stand around or hustle about. They all have name tags. Both banquet rooms are packed with wedding parties. Salsa music filters into the crowded dining room to mix with the standard desultory Muzak. We each order a glass of wine. Meanwhile, mom and Mel go round and round trying to decide what to order. She asks me what I’m going to order and I tell her probably the prime rib. She asks Mel if the prime rib is good. Mel says they’re not “noted” for their prime rib. Everything is “okay.” This restaurant, though pricey, is known for its ambience, not the food. Mel, the ultimate authority on restaurants and food, has found ambience, but continues to complain about the lack of traffic in the harbor. There isn’t much to look at except the flat keys of stacked containers, cranes jutting above. Just glassy water and the occasional cargo ship headed in or out.

Raoul returns with our wine and mother surprises everybody by ordering the rack of lamb, but only after putting Raoul through an inquisition regarding sauces that might contribute to her cholesterol. Mel has the salmon special Raoul so tantalizingly described. I have the prime rib. I discourage them from going to the salad bar, and they order the soup de jour. Mel selects the red rose potatoes while mother and I have the baked. They begin eating bread while I go to the salad bar. When I return they are pointing to a Coast Guard ship.

“See,” mother says, “9/11. There was no Coast Guard here last time we were here.”

“The Coast Guard is always here,” Mel explains. “And the Harbor Patrol. This is the biggest port in the country.”

They joust a while about which port is the biggest in the country, naming New York, Seattle, etc., until the soup comes. They dig in. I eat my salad, which mother claims “looks very good.” I have the plate so full that food falls onto the white linen cloth. Whenever mother commented on how good the food on my father’s plate looked, he automatically gave it to her. I dish some over to mother. A cruise ship crawls by. Passengers line the railings drinking from champagne glasses and waving at people along the windows of the restaurant, and diners wave back, affecting enthusiasm. The ship is immense.

“I loved taking cruises with your father,” mother says.

“Soup’s not great,” Mel remarks.

“Rick, honey, I wonder where the ship is going. The one I took with your father went to Acapulco.”

“Probably goes to Mexico,” Mel tells her.

“Or Hawaii. We went there, too. We also went to Tahiti. A wonderful time. So beautiful. Such lovely people, the islanders.”

Mother smiles at me. Usually, when I come down here, if I can, I bring my on-again-off-again girl friend, Miranda. Though mother is fond of Miranda, she feels she’s not right for me. Three other serious flames over the years were brought home, and though mother adored them, too, they also were not right for me. When the eventual break-up with these fine ladies occurred, they all made it a point to visit my mother for lunches while going out of their way to avoid me. Mother loves Miranda. Miranda, after 16 years, is done with me. Mother does not know this.

Our food comes. When Mel sees our baked potatoes and then his own tiny red rose potatoes, he grabs Raoul by the arm and says he wants the baked too—go ahead and charge extra.

“Ok-eee, do-key!” Raoul simpers. “And would you like butter and sour cream on your potato, sir?”

“Yes, thank you, Raoul.”

When he waddles off, swishing his ass, mother says, “What an ugly man.”

The waiters at the restaurant always prepare a diner’s potato for them, but Mel will have none of that. Meanwhile, mother and I dig in. She claims her lamb is “pretty good.”

“So you’re staying a few days this time?” Mel says to me, not eating. “Your mother really likes it when you stay longer.”

“Going back tomorrow, Mel. I’ll be back in two weeks.”

“How’s the bar going?”

“Okay.”

“Still making good tips?”

“Enough to live on.”

He is perking up. “Back when I owned my jazz nightclub, a beer and a shot cost fifty cents. What are they charging these days?”

“A draft and a shot’s about six bucks. The good stuff’ll run you up to ten.”

“Been in any good fights lately?”

“Nah.” I neglect to tell either of them that I quit the bar after hospitalizing a guy in a fight. “I tamed that dive.”

“I always liked the dives.”

“I like all bars, Mel.”

He smiles. “Yes, I like all bars, too.”

His baked potato comes. He has not touched his salmon. Mother and I are half finished. Mel methodically slathers his potato. When this potato is as he likes it, he prepares to stick a fork in it and somehow knocks it off the table onto the carpet. I rise to retrieve it, but Mel motions me away and flags down Raoul, who scurries over and picks up the potato and promises to bring another. Raoul is busy with a table of four well-dressed, middle-aged Latino couples two tables over. It is getting dark out. Mel watches us eat.

“So how’s the lamb?” he asks mother.

“Just a little dry, Mel, but fine.” She sips her wine.

“Everything should be perfect for what they charge,” Mel says. “So your prime rib’s pretty good, Rick?”

“Just fine, Mel.”

“I don’t eat much meat these days,” Mel admits.

“Mel’s lost weight, Rick. Doesn’t he look young for his age?”

I nod. Mel does look good—no more than 75. He has a shock of white hair and a ruddy, smooth complexion. He had been a handsome guy in his prime. Everybody who knows Mel, says mom, likes him. He is into everybody’s business, is generous, helpful; understands finances. A former Republican, he’s turned Democrat since meeting my mother, who is an Eleanor Roosevelt liberal.

His new potato comes, Mel again slathers it methodically. He has still not touched his salmon. I am done. I help mother finish her plate. Mel picks up his wine glass, discovers it’s empty, waves down Raoul, who is now a bit hurried and flustered, and asks for another glass of wine. Raoul snares the glass and huffs off. Mel finally starts to eat. A slow eater, he likes his fish and potato, but they’re “not great.” Mel eats out frequently. At his condo, he only cooks pasta with the special sauce he learned from his old country mother who lived to be 102.

He becomes restless when his wine does not come right away. “Where is that waiter?” He peers around, agitated, flags down another waiter who comes right over and listens to Mel tell him he wants another Chardonnay. The waiter flags down Raoul, who stares at our table and then has a hissy-snit, arguing with the man before heading off toward the bar in an angry gait.

Meanwhile, Mel is not going to take another bite until his wine arrives. Finally, the wine comes, but Raoul places it out of Mel’s reach. While Mel strains unsuccessfully for the glass, I move it within his reach, and he picks it up and takes a sip.

“Wine’s good,” he concedes. “Can’t ruin good wine.”

“I like a little chardonnay,” mother says, looking and sounding catatonic, and I cannot look at her. “So did your father.”

While Mel eats, my plate is taken away by a busboy. Mel asks this person, who is actually an adult named ESTEBAN, why there is so little traffic out in the harbor. Esteban, though smiling and nodding, has no idea what Mel is talking about. So he goes and finds Raoul and whispers in his ear, and Raoul comes over and asks Mel if he needs anything, but Mel does not want to be bothered at this point, is busy eating, so Raoul goes off haughtily and then suddenly changes moods to fawn over his big festive Latino table that seems to be celebrating somebody’s birthday. Now Esteban is talking to one of the managers, who comes over instantly and asks Mel if everything is okay. ARTURO. Mel asks Arturo why there is so little traffic in the harbor. Arturo, who doesn’t speak great English himself, goes and finds another manager who is also Mexican but speaks fluent English without accent, and Mel asks HIM why there is so little traffic in the harbor, but ALBERT, after pausing to seriously consider this daunting question, shrugs and admits he does not know why there is so little traffic in the harbor. As an after-though, before leaving, he suggests that there seems to be the same amount of traffic as usual.

“I told you so!” mother exclaims with righteous fervor, no longer catatonic.

Mel wipes his mouth with his linen napkin. He’s just about done. “Last time we were here there was a million ships out there,” he contends. “The Coast Guard and Harbor Patrol’ve been prowling all night long. Something’s wrong.”

“Oh baloney,” mother states, rolling her eyes at me.

Raoul materializes, girds up, half bows. “Are we all done?” he asks, oozing sweetness, for Mel is a notoriously huge tipper. “Everything okay?”

Mel nods, sits back, removes his napkin from his throat.

“And would we like a little dessert?”

“I’ll have the decaf,” mother says.

“I’ll have the same,” says Mel.

“Double Stoli on the rocks,” I tell Raoul, and he winks at me.

FICTION.DINNER4When the coffee and vodka come, Mel takes care of the bill. The dining room is clearing out and the evening has turned dark; we’ve been here for hours, it seems. I have to get them melon from the salad bar for a belated dessert. The melon, they claim, is the best part of the dinner. We finally rise to leave. Both of them scuff off to the restrooms. I wait on the sofa in the little alcove up front beside the fire place across from the hostess station. The wedding parties in both banquet rooms are becoming more boisterous, and joyful young people in beautiful gowns and tuxes mill around in the hallways. Mother finally comes out of the restroom and sits beside me. She takes my hand, smiling, looking around, drifts out of her catatonic state.

“Aren’t the Latin people handsome?” she says. “Your father and I, when he jumped the big leagues to play baseball in Mexico, and in Cuba, we loved it so. We didn’t see each other for over two years while he was in the war, and then he came home alive, and you were two years old, and he just adored you, and at night we danced in all the little cantinas and nightclubs after his games, and there was always music, and it was the happiest time of our lives.” She squeezes my hand. “The Latin people, they could not get over how blue your eyes were, and my eyes, and they wanted to reach out and touch us, and your father, he was so protective, so proud of us, he just beamed…I miss him so….”

My father put up with a lot and accomplished a lot and gave back more than his share and died a debilitating, excruciatingly painful death he did not deserve at too young an age. Mother, nursing him, remained stoic and brave, their love genuine and heroic.

Mel still has not come out of the restroom. We wait. Normally, no person takes longer in a restroom than mother, so it’s my duty to go in there and check on Mel.

He’s not in the restroom. I walk outside to see nobody in the Town Car. I enter one of the wedding parties; packed, hot, noisy salsa music, Latinos, living it up. I spot Mel talking to two middle-aged men in tuxes at a table. He’s drinking champagne. I walk over and stand beside Mel. The men smile at me; offer champagne, ask if I am his son. I tell them I am not. Evidently, one of these men bought a Jaguar at one of Mel’s dealerships twenty years ago. I see a bottle of Stoli and fill a used plastic cup to the brim and drink half of it, listen briefly to their conversation, then go outside to check on my mother. She is gone.

I enter the other wedding party and look around; packed, hot, noisy salsa music. Mother is dancing with a young Latino man. She, like dad was, is a great dancer. I finish my drink, find the bar, take out a wad of bills, point to my cup and tell a pretty girl bartender wearing a Tux shirt and tie to hit it with Stoli, and offer her a twenty. She tells me it’s an open bar so I ask her to keep pouring and stuff the bill in her snifter and turn to watch my mother dance. She’s become the life of the party, the Latinos clapping their hands and saluting her as she whirls in the red high heels dad bought her in Italy. §

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., and publishes his observations on sports, politics, and culture on his website, dellfranklin.com, where this article first appeared.