It’s been one fuck of a year… Where to start? I’m still reeling from the passing of Sharon Jones, so I’m really not in the mood to go chapter and verse through all the other catastrophes that took place in 2016. But I can’t let the biggest disaster slip by without offering a few half-baked observations.
I’m one of those idiots who was convinced the guy would lose. Here’s me on Sept. 2: “As much as I bitch about Millennials, I’m glad to see that the vast majority of this much-coveted demographic views Trump as a pathetic old gasbag who just needs to go away.” What a maroon! In 2012, I took great pleasure in ridiculing Romney supporters and their specious polls showing that President Obama didn’t have a chance. Now I’m the one eating a big bowl o’ crow. And, especially given my knee-jerk assumption regarding an entire demographic (good thing I didn’t try to predict how women would vote), I deserve every slimy, maggot-infested mouthful.
My mom was the first woman to chair our county’s Democratic Party, so most of my extended family members are still having a rough time processing this election. I’m more of a “will of the people” kind of guy – maybe even bit of a political mercenary (blame a seven-year stint in state government back in the Eighties, when I learned all about that thin line between idealism and naked ambition). I savored Nixon’s demise… survived Reagan… suffered through two terms of President Cheney… Surely I can handle a couple years of Trump, with Pence assuming control after his boss implodes. In my mind, they won fair and square, and any attempt to prove otherwise (and continue to run up Hillary’s share of the popular vote) is a complete waste of time and energy.
But Trump is something altogether different – a president-elect who seems willfully, almost gleefully disinterested in anything resembling presidential behavior. Even worse, a guy who stirs the wet dreams of white supremacists around the world.
Then again, maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. I’m a white guy, with health care and a pension to boot. Why should I be troubled by the fact that the majority of Americans struggling to make ends meet are willing to go all-in with a completely self-absorbed billionaire? Not my problem, right?
Fact is, I’m just another hopeless “libtard,” somehow convinced that countries with good social services and fairly progressive views regarding race, religion, sexual preference blah blah blah will inherit the earth. So shoot me (ah, hold that thought… no need to encourage any gun-wielding members of the Aryan Nation).
Perhaps the more important question is, what can we do to lift our spirits – or at least divert our attention away from the mounting wreckage – as we enter the holiday season? Once again, RCR is here to help.
- Binge on The Crown. I’ll confess that, before I dove into this first-rate Netflix series, I knew very little about the Royal Family… and probably cared even less. I had no idea that neither Queen Elizabeth nor her father, King George VI, wanted the Crown to begin with – and the only reason George took the job was because his idiot brother Edward (a Nazi sympathizer during the war) abdicated the throne so he could spend the rest of his days with a vacuous American socialite named Wallis Simpson. Whew! Gossip and scandals aside, the Royals played a vital, reassuring role in post-war England, and they took their responsibilities very seriously, as an ailing Queen Mary explained to Elizabeth: “The calling comes from the Highest Source, from God Himself… Monarchy is God’s sacred mission to grace and dignify the earth, to give ordinary people an ideal to strive towards, an example of nobility and beauty to raise them from their wretched lives.” It’s a powerful statement and more than a little unsettling, not just because of Mary’s dim view of her subjects. It also implies that, without enlightened leadership (you know, with grace, dignity and all that rot), all you have is an angry mob. But I’m sure we’re in good shape for 2017 and beyond.
Chill to Blue Note jazz. Sophistication… collaboration… elegance… soul… A few other qualities that were in short supply this political season. Well, you can find them in spades in the late-Fifties and Sixties recordings by Horace Silver, Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Art Blakey and others for the storied Blue Note label. I’ve thrown together a lot of playlists over the years – soundtracks for reading the Sunday Times, shooting pool, dancing in the back yard, etc. etc. – but I keep going back to a 99-song magnum opus with the workmanlike title “Best of Blue Note.” Here’s an essential composition and performance by Shorter, with Hancock (piano), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Ron Carter (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums): Speak No Evil
- Take a hike. Every time I hear some teabagger bitching about government or any attempt to fund it, I think of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park – easily the most important contribution to my hometown’s quality of life over the past 50 years. I celebrate its existence, use it constantly, and am comforted by the thought that, if some Bundy-like clan took over even the tiniest maintenance shed in the park, SWAT teams would swoop down on them before they could order their first pizza. But I fear our parks and public spaces won’t fare well in an alt-right world. Here are a couple things to consider before we surround all of them with toll booths: 1) Most of the anger we witnessed this year was fueled by the steady stream of bile coming from our preferred news sources; and B) It’s very difficult to ruminate on all that garbage when you’re walking with your dogs in the middle of the woods. So let’s review: more park time + dogs = less mean-spiritedness/rancor. With this in mind, my heartfelt plea to our new President is, don’t fuck with our parks.
- Host a Sharon Jones Dance Party. What better way to celebrate this woman’s amazing spirit (if you haven’t done so already, please watch the wonderful doc Miss Sharon Jones!) than to shake your ass in her honor. Get the party started with this funky slice of goodness: Pick It Up, Lay It In The Cut
- Visit a world-class city. I must’ve read a dozen articles after the election bemoaning the fact that “Coastal Elites” don’t bother trying to understand rural Americans and their deep discontent. Look, I get it… I read Hillbilly Elegy. Half of my extended family is from rural Georgia. I get an earful of conservative thought almost every day from people I know and work with. I understand why they cringe when someone insists they’re inherently biased or insensitive to the plight of every conceivable special interest group. But then I came across this piece by Patrick Thornton, who hails from my home state. He dared to suggest that more Americans need to see more of the United States. In other words, it’s easy to villainize gay couples and Muslims if you’ve never met any. My Uncle Longino (from Milledgeville GA) never saw much of the world until the weeks leading up to, and after, D-Day. He fought side-by-side with black soldiers during hellish days of combat, but also enjoyed the attention of beautiful – and extremely grateful – Parisian women. And I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a prejudiced bone in his body. Last I checked, most rural Americans today really don’t need a war as an excuse to travel. Hey, if a backpacking adventure traveler can figure out how to get to Kathmandu, surely Joe Bob from Centerville can find his way to NYC (or at the very least Cleveland).
- Meditate. I’m a big fan. All you need is about 15 spare minutes, a relatively quiet space and a willingness to still the mind, using whatever technique that floats your boat (right now, I’m visualizing Queen Mary on her deathbed). It’s a great way to brush off the negative while (hopefully) opening up the mind to bigger, better and smarter thoughts. As a wise man once said, no one ever got hurt meditating. Or, to quote our next President, what have you got to lose?
- Go see The Mavericks. Filled with existential dread about the upcoming election, my wife and I decided to head up to Cleveland to see The Mavericks. Good call, because it’s impossible to leave one of their shows without feeling a little bit better about the human condition. Velvet-voiced Raul Malo and band put the soul back in schmaltz… and I mean that in a very positive, Louis Prima kind of way. More important, they throw one hell of a party, with a blissful, multicultural vibe that seems to embrace everything that a certain candidate ran against. Show them some love when they come to your town. Here’s a Spanish version of a standout cut from their 2013 release In Time: Ven Hacia Mi
- Visit Akron during the holidays. Here’s the Day 1 agenda: View an early showing at Nightlight Cinema… Take in a gallery or three at the Akron Art Museum… Head over to the Brickoven Brewpub in Ellet for a Caprese salad, Sicilian pizza and home-brewed IPA… Head back downtown for a scoop at Chill Ice Cream and a set of jazz at BLU… then stop by Old 97 in Kenmore for a nightcap (try the New Fashioned) and maybe a spirited game of full-contact bocce. Still working on Day 2, but I’m pretty sure a few libations at The Lockview and ice skating will be involved.
R.I.P. Jim Chenot (1953-2016)… Say hello to our friend Jon DeRhodes.
R.I.P. Sharon Jones (1956-2016)… Here’s the official trailer for Miss Sharon Jones! (Rent it now on iTunes):
The Mavericks live in Austin, 2004, reworking an old honky tonk favorite: