The the Hoarse Wolf-Calls of Governor McMaster

Washout Folly Beach during Hurricane Bonnie

I had this post all mapped out in my head as I drove to Folly Beach from West Ashley this morning.  Since public safety is allowing only residents on the island, I have the beach to myself, more or less.  I drove to the Washout, Folly Beach’s premiere surf break, ready to write about the awesome swell and how twenty years ago I would have been right there with those well-warned surfers, struggling to paddle outside of the break, and once I’d made it, how I’d be eager to catch one of those monsters, hoping to make the drop and achieve stokification or, perhaps more likely, to suffer a crushing avalanche-like wipe out.

I was going to complain that now I was too old to even try, reduced to getting my thrills vicariously, like the old man in The Big Sleep. (I suspect that William Faulkner, who received partial credit for the screenplay, wrote this part).

The problem is here is the Washout on Day 4 of Governor Henry McMaster’s mandatory evacuation.  It’s as flat as a John Brown’s EKG.*

 

 

On Monday afternoon, declaring that even one life was too precious to lose, Governor McMaster, who refuses federal Medicaid money, ordered a mandatory evacuation of the South Carolina coast.*  Drop everything, close your businesses, find refuge with loved ones or at Motel 6 inland (which doesn’t sound all that safe to me).

And for the third year in a row the mandatory evacuation was completely unnecessary for Folly Beach.  Four school days down the drain.  Millions of dollars squandered.

A legitimate fear is that when a real storm comes a-callin’ some of the population might be too jaded to take warnings seriously.  I’m all for evacuating for deadly storms but not when they’re a week away and their paths uncertain.


*”John Brown’s body”, of course, “lies a-mouldering in the grave.”

Someone’s Son

 

My father had some admirable qualities, but equanimity wasn’t one of them.  For example, once, during my teenaged years, when the phone rang once too often to his liking, he ripped its wires from the socket and hurled the entire apparatus against the wall.  Although incidents like this were rare, they occurred often enough to put us on edge. Unfortunately, after I left for college and his business started to go under, financial pressure exacerbated his anger.  When my younger brother Fleming and sister Sue Ellen entered their adolescence, the household became more and more turbulent.

Not too surprisingly, Fleming started to get into trouble.  Anger is contagious – or at least it was for us.  While I was up in Columbia playing the role of angry young man, Fleming was back in Summerville mouthing off, experimenting with drugs, and getting arrested for this and that.  Eventually, he was expelled from Summerville High School.

Nevertheless, he earned a GED and later a BA in mathematics and got a job teaching high school for Berkeley County.

Thanks to a fairly robust his drug habit, his teaching career was short-lived, and Fleming spent years in and out of rehab, ultimately getting hooked on crack.  Oh yeah, before that, he suffered a couple of strokes and had a heart valve replaced while still in his twenties.

Young Fleming

Although I do not believe in a personal god, I know that Jesus can save lost souls, because he saved Fleming, who has been sober/straight now for going on a decade.

During this time, he has been writing and playing music.  Just recently, reverb.com invited him to Brooklyn for a recording session.

My hope is that some established star records one of his songs because they’re really good, both melodically and lyric-wise.

Here’s a clip from a recent gig at Bowties in James Island.

The song is entitled “In the Holy City,” a tribute to the love offering of the relatives of  the victims of the Charleston massacre.

Anyway, never give up on someone.  If you’re in the Charleston area, you can catch Fleming and his band at Bowties Thursday 18 October at 7.  I’ll certainly be there.

A PR Disaster of Homeric Proportions

This Trump supporter is unhappy his dear leader has been removed from office

The ill-fated descent on that hellbound escalator to kick off Trump’s presidential campaign will go down as history’s most disastrous publicity stunt Eh-Ver.

escalator descent into hell

Even my then 8-year-old stepdaughter understood on that woeful Wednesday Trump really didn’t want the job.  She predicted he’d see all those presidential papers piled on his desk and say, “What?! I don’t want to do all THAT!”

Obviously, Trump didn’t think he’d win.  No one on his staff even bothered to prepare for the transition.  The idea was to amass a planet-load of free publicity for the Trump brand and hee-haw all the way to the bank[s]/slush fund[s].

Unfortunately — for us and for him — he did win, thanks in part to Russian interference, in part to the National Enquirer, and in part to those campaign donations to his former mistresses, if you can call them that. We’re talking a difference of 78,000 votes in three states, a margin narrow enough to claim that the Russians and the silence money could very well have tipped the election his way.

Well, that’s sewage under the bridge, to coin a phrase.  He is the president, perhaps not fair and squarely, but clearly.

No, he didn’t want to win. Why would someone who ran his business like a mob enterprise ever invite the scrutiny that being president is guaranteed to incur?  Why would someone put his children (including his son-in-law) in such jeopardy?

Let’s face it.  Being a close Trump associate has been the opposite of a boon (i.e., a curse), and let me tell you, Trump confidants are flipping like acrobats from Cirque du Soleil, —  Michael Cohen, Allan Weisselberg, and the delightfully named, David Pecker. He’s the CEO of American Media, Inc, parent company of The National Enquirer, and who no doubt has a Great Pyramid-sized subterranean stash of buried Trump stories involving god know what: groped women, spurned B-girls, urination fetishes.  I wouldn’t be surprised if even more pernicious peculiarities may be in the offingouting.[1]

The Trump presidency is doomed. There’s the treason thing. Add to that Emolument Cause thing.  The accounting flimflam fuckedupness of his financial empire. The Kushner culpability.  The catacombs of Don Jr.’s  and Eric’s slack ass shenanigans, no doubt sporting skeletons galore. Class action suits.  Even a dispute that in Chicago Trump Tower is violating environmental laws and contaminating the rivers.

And Mueller has hard evidence.  Hard drives. Trump’s tangerine tinted goose is cooked, which begs the question: how will this idiot told tale end?

Resignation? Impeachment?  Electoral annihilation?

Imagine this. Trump has been impeached, but he ain’t going gently.  He refuses to leave the White House.  His supporters have taken to the streets brandishing assault weapons.

Fun ahoy! Send out for some pillars and Cecil B DeMille. 


[1]E.g., an obsession with Lithuanian dwarves?

Honeymoon Adventures, TMI Edition

As my dedicated blog and Facebook followers may know (we’re talking of literally tens-of-people), I got married last Saturday to Caroline Brooks Tigner Traugott, a woman known for her beauty, intelligence, learning, and Hellen-Keller-grade blindness (hence the possibility of our union).

Anyway, Caroline booked a couple of days at the Grove Park Inn Monday and Tuesday for our honeymoon.[1]  Sunday night, thanks to the generosity of Hank Weed, the owner of Chico Feo, Caroline and I stayed in the upstairs apartment, which boasts perhaps the best porch on Folly Beach, especially if, as former resident Charlie Neeley has noted, you’re into 4 am people watching.  A couple of weeks earlier, I had traded Ashville musician Luke-Dogg a copy of one of my masterpieces, “Greetings from the Edge of America, Swim at Your Own Risk” for tickets to his show in Ashville.

View from the porch at Chico Feo

So after a lovely Sunday evening of porch sitting and chatting with younger son Ned, we awakened to sunny skies and took off in Caroline’s Prius for the Grove Park Inn.

Caroline had booked rooms on the club level, and upon our arrival, the desk clerk congratulated us for being upgraded to the Penthouse Suite, where Mrs. Grove herself used to spend her summers.  Not surprisingly it’s a huge corner suite of beautifully furnished rooms that feature panoramic views of mountains, sunsets, and Ashville’s skyline.

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Soon after we unpacked, a lovely young woman brought in chocolate strawberries, a bottle of champagne, and a celebratory note addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Traugott.”

So here’s what you get on the club level: breakfast, drinks, and dinner on the hall, access to the spa, and in-room performances by none other than the retro 70s Chippendales revue.

Frankly, I wasn’t too keen on going to the spa.  When I think of spas, I think ancient Rome, frighteningly obese and  hirsute Chris Christie types wrapped in towels and sweating like professional wrestlers.  So I quickly wove my way through the men’s section to join Caroline in the co-ed pool area, which featured hot tubs with waterfalls and a cooling pool, and most importantly, a bar.

Ta da!  I thoroughly enjoyed it![2]

The views from the suite were so spectacular we hesitated to leave, but we had friends to see.  First, on Tuesday night, Anna Williams, daughter of best friend Jake, and on Wednesday after checkout the mighty Cat Forester who gifted us two of her beautiful prints.  We met her at Nine Mile, a killer Jamaican restaurant I highly recommend.

Anna, I-and-I, and Caroline

Crammed into the front seat of Cat’s car

We killed time in an underground Brewery before meeting Luke-Dogg at 4 at the farmhouse, and as we sat there sipping on craft beers, the lights went out thanks to a lightning strike on a power station that wiped out all the traffic lights in Ashville. Once it was time to go, Caroline, undaunted, hopped behind the wheel of the Prius and negotiated the traffic-clogged thoroughfares and got us to the farmhouse in time.

Luke-Dogg met us there, introduced us to his housemate Leslie, and later transported us to the gig in his VW bus.  He’s associated with at least two bands, “What It Is” and “Pleasure Chest,” who play at Chico Feo now and then.  Interestingly, for “What It Is” he plays guitar but the drums for “Pleasure Chest.”

Move over, Stevie Wonder.

The venue, whose name I forgot was killer, and so was the music.

Here’s a snippet from Pleasure Chest from last night at Chico Feo.  The cat on trumpet, Justin Stanton, also plays for the three-time Grammy winner instrumental jam fusion band Snarky Puppy.

And here’s a clip of Snarky Puppy:

From left to right, Luke-Dogg, Wesley, Caroline, Leslie, and Justin

Alas, like all good things, our honeymoon came to an end, which means, not alas, the beginning of a new life of love.


[1]Because we had more overnight guests than bedrooms, I spent Saturday night on the sofa while Caroline slept with her daughter Brooks.

[2]No cells or cameras allowed.

The Widow of Ephesus Conquers Her Eating Disorder

The Widow of Ephesus by Philip Banken

 

Bid her awake; for Hymen is awake,

And long since ready forth his maske to move . . .

Edmund Spenser, “Epithalamion

 

It was Federico Fellini who first turned me on to Petronius the Arbiter, the Oscar Wilde of Nero’s reign, a witty hedonist famed for his exquisite taste.   In fact, Petronius’s official function in Nero’s court was to determine what was tasteful (or not), hence his title arbiter elegantiarum, judge of elegance.

Scholars don’t know much about him.  Here’s a snippet from Tacitus’s Annals copped from Wikipedia:

He spent his days in sleep, his nights in attending to his official duties or in amusement, that by his dissolute life he had become as famous as other men by a life of energy, and that he was regarded as no ordinary profligate, but as an accomplished voluptuary. His reckless freedom of speech, being regarded as frankness, procured him popularity. Yet during his provincial government, and later when he held the office of consul, he had shown vigor and capacity for affairs. Afterwards returning to his life of vicious indulgence, he became one of the chosen circle of Nero’s intimates, and was looked upon as an absolute authority on questions of taste in connection with the science of luxurious living.

Unfortunately, however, like so many in Nero’s circle, Petronius was tried and convicted of treason.  Rather than waiting for the inevitable sentence, the Arbiter took matters into his own hands.

Again, Tacitus:

Yet he did not fling away life with precipitate haste, but having made an incision in his veins and then, according to his humour, bound them up, he again opened them, while he conversed with his friends, not in a serious strain or on topics that might win for him the glory of courage. And he listened to them as they repeated, not thoughts on the immortality of the soul or on the theories of philosophers, but light poetry and playful verses. To some of his slaves he gave liberal presents, a flogging to others. He dined, indulged himself in sleep, that death, though forced on him, might have a natural appearance. Even in his will he did not, as did many in their last moments, flatter Nero or Tigellinus or any other of the men in power. On the contrary, he described fully the prince’s shameful excesses, with the names of his male and female companions and their novelties in debauchery, and sent the account under seal to Nero. Then he broke his signet-ring, that it might not be subsequently available for imperiling others.

At any rate, none of this would be of any interest if Petronius had not written the Satyricon, a fragmentary mishmash of verse and prose that satirizes Roman life in the first century BC.  I actually wrote a paper on this picaresque “novel” in the spring semester of my senior year, but alas, like many sections of the Satyricon itself, that work of genius has been lost to the ages [cue sarcastic cough].

Click below, if you dare, to watch the trailer of Fellini’s Satyricon.

 

Although “Trimalchio’s Dinner” is the most famous section of the Satyricon (Fitzgerald at one point thought about entitling The Great Gatsby as Trimalchio in West Egg), my favorite section is the vignette “The Widow of Ephesus,” an oft-repeated tale that traditionally has been interpreted as an invective against the fickleness of women; however, in Petronius’s version, sophisticated readers might see it, to quote Douglas Galbi, as showing “the imperatives of the living trumping respect for the dead.”

In other words, reading it as “pro life” in the best sense of that phrase,

Amphetaminic Synopsis of  Petronius’s “The Widow of Ephesus”[1]

A widow renowned for her chastity goes apeshit after her husband dies, and with over-the-top historonics  (exposing her breast and beating it, e.g), she follows his corpse’s funeral parade into an underground crypt.

There, attended by a “most loyal slave-woman,” the widow keens, gouges her face, and yanks out her tresses with the intention to starve herself so she can join her husband in Oblivionville.

Impervious to the pleadings of her parents and her loyal slave, for five days, without food or drink, the widow continues her frenzied mourning, out-Niobe-ing  Niobe,  “tearing her hair, plac[ing] the tresses on the corpse of her dead husband.”

Meanwhile, a soldier stationed to guard two crucified robbers hears the widow and abandons his post to see what’s going on.[2]  Once he’s hip to the scoop, he returns with food, which she refuses, but the slave woman “seduced by the odor of wine,” indulges, and once renourished, starts in on her mistress.

”What good will this do you, if you will have been undone by starvation? — if you will have buried yourself alive? — if you will have poured forth your life’s breath when you have not yet been condemned to die, before the fates demand it?”

As Margaret Atwood once noted, “Hunger is a powerful reorganizer of the conscience,” and the widow gives in. Once she’s sated, the soldier starts cajoling her to ditch her chastity.  Though we don’t get to hear his love talk, it must have been Barry-White-like and coming from the mouth of one sexy [insert noun from two-word Prince title that begins with “Sexy.”]

Click arrow below for an example of what I mean by “Barry-White-like”:

 

She submits.

So they as my mother would put it, “shack up” in the sepulcher, he sneaking out now and then to procure food and presents.

During his frequent absences from his station, a relative snatches one of the crucified men and buries him. When the soldier notices the missing body, he knows he’s a goner, so he decides to dispatch himself before the judge’s sentence comes crashing down.[3]

He informs the widow and asks “her only allot him a place, since he was doomed to die, and make the fatal tomb common to both her friend and her husband. “

Here’s the key passage:

The woman, who was no less merciful than chaste, [my italics] said, ”May the gods not allow that — that I should at the same time look upon the deaths of the two men most dear to me. I prefer to sacrifice the dead man rather than to kill the one who is alive.” In accordance with this pronouncement, she orders the corpse of her husband to be lifted out of its coffin and affixed to that cross which was empty. The soldier made use of the ingenious scheme of that most judicious woman, and the next day all the townspeople marveled at how the dead man had gone onto the cross.”

Oil paining of crucified slaves in ancient Rome

As Horace Walpole famously said, “Life is a tragedy for those who feel, but a comedy for those who think.”  One equipped with a tragic vision might turn this story into a heartbreaker, the widow refusing to the very end, her gaunt body wild-eyed as she hallucinates tender scenes from her married life.  However, there’s something deep down in every living thing that prompts it to live.  Even if buried beneath the cement of a sidewalk, a weed will attempt to push its way through the cracks towards the sun.

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —

Gerard Manly Hopkins, excerpt from “God’s Grandeur”


[1]Quotes are from John R. Porter’s translation.

[2]He’s guarding them so their relatives won’t remove the bodies to give them proper burial. Some scholars claim this alludes to Jesus’s crucifixion story, but if it does, then it doesn’t jive with Petronius’s dates.

[3]Note how eerily similar this is to Petronius’s eventual fate.

How Can Such a Clownish Spray-Painted Raccoon-Eyed, Combed-over Lard-Ladled Cement-Tongued Buffoon End Up Being a Cult-Figure?

Oh, good God, all these erstwhile free traders turned protectionists don’t give a flying flivver about Donald Trump’s backflip on whatever. He’s right.  He could gun down the Dalai Lama on the street, and his supporters would still worship him as a latter-day incarnation of Vishnu. Trump will get 40% of the vote in 2020, and given the bias the Constitution has for rural voters, again a minority might be enough.

What gives?  How can such a clownish spray-painted raccoon-eyed, combed-over lard-ladled cement-tongued buffoon end up being a cult-figure?

I blame Jerry Springer, pro wrestling, underfunded education, xenophobia, radon, and in-breeding – not to mention abstinence-only sex education.

Here is this century’s William Jennings Bryan[1] regaining Marco Rubio’s support by explaining that he meant to say “wouldn’t” instead of “would.”[2]

I thought that I made myself very clear by having just reviewed the transcripts—I have to say, I came back and I said, “what is going on, what is the big deal?” So I got a transcript, I reviewed it, I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realized there is a need for some clarification. It should have been obvious, I thought it would be obvious, but I would like to clarify just in case it wasn’t. In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word would instead of wouldn’t. The sentence should have been, “I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t,” or “why it wouldn’t be Russia.” So just to repeat it, I said the word would instead of wouldn’t. And the sentence should have been, and I thought I would be maybe a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video, the sentence should have been, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.” So sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.

Yes, Donald, your sensitive linguistic distrust of using a double negative does “clarif[y] things pretty good.”

It clearly demonstrates you’re an incorrigible liar.

So what we get this morning is a barrage of tweets, this one garnering the most absurd award:

Like I said, incorrigible liar.


[1]Imagine Donald at the Snopes trial.

[2]BTW, not seeing “any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia” is as mealy mouth as you get given the intelligence agencies VOCE MAGNAhave said yes, yes, very yes, it was, was, yes the Russians who hacked the 2016 election.

The Nowhere That Is Not Necessarily Everywhere

Reading the late James Hillman’s Selected Writings (edited by Thomas Moore) frustrates me because Hillman deals with terms  — soul, archetype, spirit – that by his own definition defy definition.  He creates metaphors, uses Greek gods and goddesses as examples.  The gist is that like Steppenwolf’s Harry Haller, we have an infinite number of selves that slosh around the in a murky swamp of soul, a sort of neuronbuzz that connects mind to body.  What frustrates me is his lack of empiricism – where does he get his ideas? from an oracle? Nor does he provide case histories to help embody these archetypal inner beings.

Nevertheless, I agree with much of what says about our contemporary world, and he offers some wonderful turns of phrase.

illustration of James Hillman by Jason Stout

For example:

Dumb sex is cultural. Our white American speech doesn’t provide good words for genitals and intercourse – and hardly any phrases about places, rhythms, touches, and tastes.  Listen to the marvelous language of foreign erotica; jade stalk, palace gates, ambrosia!  Compare these with cock, prick, dick, nuts, balls, with suck, jerk blow, yank, and with gash, bush, frog, slit, clit, hole.  A Chinese plum is to be deliciously enjoyed; our cherries are to be taken, popped, or broken [. . .] Our Puritan prose cannot encompass the sexual imagination to which great temples are built in India.

The human person as a data bank does not need to read more than functionally.  A data bank deciding yes or no on the basis of feedback (i.e. reinforcement) need not imagine beyond getting, storing, and spending.  Just get the instructions right; never mind the content. Learn the how rather than the what with its qualities, values, and subtleties.  The human agent becomes an incarnated credit card performing the religious rituals of consumerism.

[. . .] places tend to remind us of history, of ethic and earthly differences that cannot be homogenized into the universal sameness of our contemporary utopias, the nowhere everywhere of our shopping centers and roads to and from them.

West Ashley (Charleston, SC at rush hour

So, according to Hillman, materialism has triumphed over spirituality.

Although perhaps generally true, it certainly isn’t universally true.  I cannot think of one close friend who prefers things to experiences, who would drive a Range Rover at the expense of not being able to travel.  The few very wealthy acquaintances I know are interested in both mind and spirit and never flaunt their fortunes.  And my Chico Feo bar buddies, many who live from paycheck to paycheck, seem well satisfied with their lives.  Before work each morning (and perhaps, even more impressively, on weekends), my friend Jason watches the sun rise above the Stono River and then posts a photograph with an accompanying prose passage, poem or song.

Today’s (11 July 2018) sunrise captured by Jason Chambers

Nevertheless, fighting traffic at rush hour through a wasteland of billboards and cell phone towers on the thoroughfares Hillman describes does indeed suck/blow/yank — especially if you’re in a hurry.  But if you’re riding in an air-conditioned vehicle with a system that plays music or words you select, you shouldn’t complain too loudly.

Summon your inner Apollo or Athena, or, in my case, given that I’m likely to be listening to James Brown or the Rolling Stones, inner Dionysius.

And remember (see the story of Lazarus for an example) Jesus was never in a hurry.

Jason and Me at Chico Feo (photo credit Caroline Traugott)