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January 5, 2021

Music in Memoriam: 2020

2020: The Year of Death. We must mourn. We must always remember all the musicians, writers and others who died, along with so many others. Before my personal list of those who meant a lot to me, let me mention that in the US between 2900-3000 health care workers died of COVID-19 and in Italy about 350. It is hard to comprehend, but we must in order to move on and to honor those that we lost to this terrible pandemic.

Adam Schlesinger*
Al Kasha (songwriter)
Alan Merrill*
Alfred "Uganda" Roberts
Alto Reed
Armando Manzanero
Barbara Martin (Supremes)
Betty Wright
Bill Pursell (songwriter)*
Bill Smith (Dave Brubeck)
Bill Withers
Billy Joe Shaver
Bob Shane (Kingston Trio)
Bonnie Pointer
Bruce Williamson (Temptations)
Bucky Baxter
Bucky Pizzarelli*
Buddy Cage (New Riders of the Purple Sage)
Buzzy Linhart
Chad Stuart (Chad & Jeremy)
Charley Pride*
Chris Darrow (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band)
Clyde Davenport
Cosmas Magaya (mbira player)*
Dame Vera Lynn
David Olney
David Roback (Mazzy Star)
Eddie Cooley (songwriter)
Eddie Van Halen
Eddy Davis*
Ellis Marsalis Jr.*
Ennio Morricone
Eric Taylor
Eric Weissberg
Ezio Bosso
Gaynel Hodge (songwriter)
Gordon Haskell
Helen Reddy
Henry Gray
Henry Grimes*
Ian Whitcomb
Ivry Gitlis
Jack Sherman (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Jerry Jeff Walker
Jim Owen
Jim Radford*
Jimmy Cobb (Miles Davis)
Joe Pennington (Hank Williams)
John McKenzie
John Prine*
Johnny Mandel (songwriter)
Johnny Nash
Jorge Santana
Joseph Shabalala
Julian Bream
Justin Townes Earle
Kenny Young (songwriter)
Lee Konitz*
Little Richard
Lynn Evans Mand
Mac Davis
Marcello Abbado
Mark Barkan (songwriter)
Max Crook (songwriter)
Maynard Solomon
McCoy Tyner
Michael Peter Smith (songwriter)
Mike Lilly
Millie Small
Moon Martin (songwriter)
Neil Peart (Rush)
Pete Carr
Peter Green
Phyllis McGuire (McGuire Sisters)
Ray Pennington (songwriter)
Rocco Prestia (Tower of Power)
Rod Bernard
Ron Thompson (John Lee Hooker)
Ronald Bell (Kool & the Gang)
Salome Bey
Spencer Davis
Stan Kesler (songwriter)
Stanley Cowell
Steve Weber
Tommy DeVito (Four Seasons)*
Tony Rice
Toots Hibbert
Trini Lopez*
Walter Lure (Heartbreakers)
Willie K
A.E. Hotchner
Adam David Miller
Alison Lurie
Anne Stevenson
Arrigo Levi
Barbara Neely
Barry Lopez
Bruce Dawe
Bruce Jay Friedman
Bruno Nettl
Charles Portis
Charles Webb
Cheryl Wall
David Clewell
David Scott Milton
Derek Mahon
Diane di Prima
Eaven Boland
Florence Howe
Gail Sheehy
Jan Morris
John le Carre’
Keiko Ito
Larry Kramer
Lewis Warsh
Lisel Mueller
Louis MacAdams
Luis Sepulveda*
Maj Sjowall
Marvin Bell
Max Evans
Michael McClure
Murray Schisgal
Naomi Long Madgett
Natan Zach
Per Olov Enquist
Pete Hamill
Peter Abbs
Ralph Angel
Robert Mezey
Roger Kahn
Rubem Fonseca
Rudolfo Anaya
Ruth Weiss
Shere Hite
Sir Ken Robinson
Stanley Crouch
Terrence McNally*
William Kittredge
Winston Groom
Yuko Kagiwada
Brian Dennehy
Bruce Boynton
Buck Henry
C. T. Vivian
Carl Reiner
Chadwick Boseman
Charles Evers
Chuck Yeager
Curly Neal
Dawn Wells*
Franca Valeri
Fred Willard
Grant Imahara
Harry Britt
Hugh Downs
Jim Lehrer
John Lewis
John Peter Sloan
Joseph Lowery
Ken Osmond (Eddie Haskell)
Max von Sydow
Michael Lonsdale
Nick Cordero*
Orson Bean
Peter Beard
Philippe Daverio
Ralph Barbieri
Robert Bechtle
Robert Braetz
Robert Conrad
Rosalind P. Walter (Rosie the Riveter)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Sir Alan Parker
Sir Ian Holm
Sir Sean Connery
Terry Jones
Tom Blackwell*
Wes Wilson
Wilford Brimley
William E. Harbour
Al Kaline
Bob Gibson
Dick Allen
Don Larsen
Glenn Beckert
Joe Morgan
Johnny Antonelli
Lou Brock
Mike McCormick
Phil Niekro
Ron Perranoski
Steve Dalkowski*
Tom Seaver*
Whitey Ford
and in a League of Their Own:
Barbara Thompson
Dorothy Christ
Dorothy Kovalchick
Lois Foster
Magdalen Redman
Margaret Jurgensmeier
Marilyn Jenkins
Mary Pratt
Pauline Pirok
Sallye Carberry
Victims of police violence:
Ahmaud Arbery
Breonna Taylor
David McAtee
George Floyd
James Scurlock
Mannie Ellis
Michael Ramos
Rayshard Brookes
Sean Monterrosa
Sean Reed
Walter Wallace Jr.
and others
And not on my list,  but maybe on yours:
Alex Trebek
Allen Garfield*
Ann Reinking
Ben Cross
Bob Kulick
Charlie Daniels
Dame Barbara Windsor
Dame Diana Rigg
Dame Olivia de Haviland
Diego Maradona
Don Shula
Gigi Proietti
Hal Ketchum
Herman Cain*
Hosni Mubarak
James Lipton
Jerry Stiller
Joel Schumacher
K.T. Oslin
Kelly Preston
Kenny Rogers
Kirk Douglas
Kobe Bryant
Mary Higgins Clark
Paolo Rossi
Pat Patterson
Paul Hornung
Pierre Cardin
Rafer Johnson
Regis Philbin
Rhonda Fleming
Robert Trump
Warren Berlinger
*COVID-19, though others are COVID-related



September 30, 2020

Robert Bechtle is Dead

I never met Robert Bechtle. I admired his work in museums and at the San Francisco airport where I saw his painting, "Frisco Nova." He was a local guy, born in San Francisco three years after my father. Through his work with hyper-realism, he taught me a valuable lesson about seeing. Seeing what we always see but never see. In photo-like paintings of ordinary places and people and things, Bechtle, a quiet man, yelled: LOOK AT THIS. There's nothing better than this! Look harder! What do you see?

I say to you: Look up. Bechtle's triptych, "Sunset Intersection," is the image and title for this blog. Not to mention the title of my latest novel. I think that's the street I grew up on in the Parkside/Sunset district. Anyway, it's a fascinating work because it seems like the ultimate representation of reality, a painting that takes weeks of hard labor to look like a photo. But it is also mere lines and shades and colors. Turn one of the three upside down to check. It is ultimately abstract art trying to tell you something. Do you get it? Everything we see every second is lines, shades, colors. It is all two dimensional until we touch it. Until we make the first move. So what is real? What's out there, what's in here?

Robert Bechtle died this week at 88. We lost an artist, we lost a teacher. His work, his vision, his wisdom remains. And his "Alameda Gran Torino" over my desk.

July 23, 2020

The Quarantine Chronicles, Day 100.

Balance sheet -- 100 days.
I spent 77 days indoors
never going out, not even onto
the safe balcony -- then unavoidably
7 days in Milan, coronavirus capital
of the world, then 14 days in extra
quarantine, then a swab in the car
then negative results, lockdown is
over, lockdown is over. Safe to reopen.

I disagree, I strongly fear opening
everything up again: is it better
to have a catastrophe to confirm
my dark opinion? or fewer deaths to
show that the business leaders
and their politicos were right?
virus, what virus? we're back in
business, baby! cranking it out, pumping it
assembly-lining it, harvesting,
dishing it up -- down @ Peet's:
what's your name? Covid.
Covid, your coffee's ready!
Right on.

The Great 2020 Distraction -- We
had 12 years to work non-stop to 
survive, then 10 while we discussed it 
at the highest levels -- then we lost a year 
to the bug, civil unrest, sports, elections, and so on.
Online classes ruined education. Fear
of neighbors ruined socialization. Fear
of science ruined our minds.
Fear of death, well, you know ...
So, we've got maybe 9 years left 
until our collective climate suicide --
point of no return, is that ambiguous? --
and we've already declared infinite boredom
with the topic -- We are undeserving; we
are weak, ignorant, helpless children.
After this crud, we think we've survived 
but look ahead, unless we get our 
human being on natural planet Earth
act together now, right now,
turn around the iceberg-bound
Titanic right now ...
We think we have survived
-- we haven't, we won't --
We Thought Wrong.

July 22, 2020

The Quarantine Chronicles, Day 99

DAY 99: Well? It's almost over -- the
pestilence, no that's going along fine, killing
methodically like a grim reaper machine, the quarantine
the lockdown, the hunker down, the hibernation
the hiding at home hoping the boogerman
won't find you -- did he? we'll know soon --
when they let us out, can we party?
they say no but we will anyway --will we
be animals running in a stampede
like shoppers on Black Friday?
I'll wait for you in the car -- can we eval-
uate, give ourselves a grade -- Cabin
Fever or Hermit Syndrome, which won out?
for me, the Hermit Syndrome won and is still winning
but I've always been an agoraphobic-introverted type
for you, though, it was Cabin Fever the winner
you're ready to fly, got plans for fun with friends --
no end --no end to fun, no end to friends -- no end 
to our nation-states, our human rights, our health
wealth and sanity -- all we wants is NO END
in sight -- and to see this we have to go outdoors
to check on who's left to look into the mass graves
and watch the lucky leave the wards, look up,
thank the stars -- if you keep hiding in fear, Hermit 
the Frog, you'll never know, never know any real news 
from the street, never know your friends, yourself,
your sanity.

The safe house was nice, but
it's time to leave. The sunlight
is bright, but it's alive.

July 21, 2020

The Quarantine Chronicles, Day 98

DAY 98: It's time to fight, it's time,
every generation -- Women's March,
Climate Strike, March for Our Lives -- 
every year, it's time to fight --
no ifs, ands, buts, correlaries, addenda --
what a silly slogan, as if they didn't
of course they do
except to the fascists
they don't, so not silly, needed
so we take back the streets and shout
a million strong, not silly, take it seriously
they do, we take back the night
against racism, systemic and personal
-- the parasite on our soul --
we take the governor's mansion
against police brutality, militar-
ization, police murder, cover-ups,
white supremacy, white nationalism
lynching, discrimination, prisons for profit
the KKK good old boys in uniform
got their John in the big house so they raised
their poisonous serpent heads -- Whack 'em
back down, get 'em off the force, they won't change
out of the military, back into a sod-hut in the holler
eating dirt and making moonshine, wearing camo
head to toe
-- yet here I am in quarantine
can't go out for a while and when I do
I must wear a mask and avoid all gatherings 
to hide my identity from the Proud Boy cop thugs
until I'm arrested when the mask goes down
on me but also on you, turn your body-cam off
tape your badge -- but we see you! we know you!
we see your desire to bust heads glowing bright
your contact high for getting permission to do 
the Dark Lord's work, no limitations, like you're infected
with violence, with lust, with avarice and hate
I see the virus running through your veins.

July 20, 2020

The Quarantine Chronicles, Day 97

DAY 97: We're all huddled together
behind trees and parked cars trying
to cover our eyes and mouths as
soldiers or SWAT or stormtroopers
advance full riot gear shooting,
we think, rubber bullets, for now
we could cloister in the church, that
should be a safe haven, but they're
shooting the nuns and priests now
on orders from their commander
William Low Barr, eternally damned,
and other white supremacists --
Sons of Adolph -- because we are
committing the crime ... mass
arrests, ramming the crowds,
targeting journalists (all liberal
scum) ... the crime of mourning
a man we saw killed, we were there
we heard his last breath choked out
we sat at home, quarantined by the
contagion and we saw and said: ENOUGH!

We stepped outside risking our
lives to say ENOUGH not to the TV
or to inform political-social progress
like the smug commentators say,
we went out because we had to --
ENOUGH! -- in the face of the goon army
(ex-US Army), in the face of the stronger
more-frightening COVID-19, we had to face
the killers -- STOP, lay down your swords
and join us in peace or at least
get your knee
off my neck --
i can't breathe.

July 19, 2020

The Quarantine Chronicles, Day 96

DAY 96: Tomorrow the walls come down,
God ordered us to walk 6 times around
the city walls and on the 7th - pling - the walls
done gonna come a-tumbling down -- if
you got faith, if you believe
just a little more.

There's still sickbays full and
positives galore, no vaccine or cure
all that masking and distancing isn't
working, in the US the fascists
cause riots in the streets, cities on
fire, no masks can hide the cops
with their badges taped, we know
you, you will not reform
the KKK on our watch
society of segregation, no, 
our rights, human rights
civil rights, free speech,
the right to assemble
peaceful protest will prevail.

But the virus marches on too, in
town, in jail, in paddy wagons
police tanks, many will be touched
ruined, killed by COVID-19 and
TRUMP-20, the terrible double whammy
one-two punch, especially after
tomorrow, no holds barred, battle royal
last one standing gets a chicken
tomorrow we're free at last
free from death for the crime
of being black, free to rampage
for being a cop, free to kill
hands in your pockets, smirk
I don't want to go out, I don't
want to die, I don't want to
be invisible, mostly, I don't want 
to go on a ventilator because
the last words of the United 
States of America will be:
like George Floyd (murdered by
Derek Chauvin), Eric Garner (
murdered by Daniel Pantaleo), Elijah
McClain (murdered by Woodyard,
Rosenblatt and Roedema)
and so many more:

July 18, 2020

The Quarantine Chronicles, Day 95

DAY 95: ¶ Everything will be okay --
You stand alone in a gorgeous
park centered on a deep green
lawn and your loves are coming
they run towards you (past and
present) to kiss and embrace, as do
your family members (dead and
alive) plus all your friends and
acquaintances from your whole
life including elementary school
all hugging you with warmth
revealing secrets
about everything.

¶ Everything was okay --
We lived in such a wonderful
world of restaurants and bars,
multi-screen theaters and churros,
economic security, college loans,
comfy cars, enormous supermarkets,
so much fun and goodness before
the dark plague hit
ruining everything.

¶ Everything is okay --
In the bathroom with the door locked
many things can happen
if you crouch on the tile floor
to feel its cold you can scrunch
in the corner to feel your own cold
the empty hole inside your belly
that all those snacks cannot fill up
because you just watched everyone
you know (with a couple exceptions)
vanish into thin air, so all you can do
now is vomit, bleed and cry,
expelling bodily fluids for nothing
in return.
Nothing is okay.

July 17, 2020

The Quarantine Chronicles, Day 94

DAY 94: Dazed, dazed, we're dazed
we go on with chores and interactions
we eat times 3 and sleep in fits
we remember to brush our teeth
or not but we're in constant shock
shocked, stunned, gut-punched, dazed --
it's not improving.

100,000 Americans dead in 2 months
so many more victims falsely divided by nation
united by horror -- the Black Death --
how can we work, how can we
study, how can we imagine a future --
even when we do it
we don't know how.

to live in a plague, to move here
to there, day to day, person to
person, with love, with kindness
with hope -- what hope? 100s
of 1000s dead -- a tragedy too large
for us to embrace and without an
embrace it will never
go away.

it's right that we're this way
the only reaction acceptable
the dazed generation
out in the street, with friends
pretending they're not
all pretending it will end
making jokes, smoking,
knowing that this is our life
now and always.

July 16, 2020

The Quarantine Chronicles, Day 93

DAY 93: 1990-2020 growth,
change, progress, hope.

-- I can't have AIDS, I feel great.
-- I don't need a mask, that's a hoax.
-- Is it transmitted by kissing or shaking hands, nobody knows.
-- I can't get COVID, I'm young and strong.
-- It'll be over soon and we can toss the damn condoms.
-- It'll be over, maybe already is, let's go out and get an aperitif.
-- No, I won't ever, I can't wear a helmet, it messes up my hair.
-- Seatbelt? No way! It wrinkles my shirt. In a wreck it'll cut you in two.
-- Airbag, why? Just another rip-off. Life is an adventure, live dangerously.
-- No. This mask makes my shades fog up, I can't see well. I want my freedom: I CAN'T BREATHE.
-- It's uncomfortable. I feel very uncomfortable.
-- I know several people who've died.
-- I know a lot of people who've died.
-- Here in the Castro, entire buildings were emptied of occupants.
-- Dying alone in a hospital bed, seeing only someone's eyes.
-- Let's build a movement.
-- Please give generously.
-- My friend died, my brother died.
-- I don't feel so good.
-- Let's build a movement.
-- Gay cancer, it's only gay cancer.
-- Only the flu with a fancy name.

2020-2050 growth,
change, progress, hope.

July 15, 2020

The Quarantine Chronicles, Day 92

DAY 92: How to Die -- let me count the ways
there's heart disease and cancer,
broken hearts, cancer on the presidency,
suicide and car wrecks (sometimes the same thing)
mass shootings and cop killings -- stay away from
crowded places -- there's domestic accidents
terrorist attacks, choking on steaks, poisonous
snakebites, meteorites and lightning strikes,
being pushed off your balcony by your ex-
and there's COVID-19, the novel corona-
virus, a worldwide pandemic that started
in 2019, that is so big-ass and bad-ass
that it's beaten all others in the ratings
-- The Rapture is here at last, now
we can all go out with a Big Bang
not like my cousin who just got news
that her breast cancer treatment (boring)
will take about 5 years (too long)  -- but that's 
here in Italy, in the USA (being made greater 
by the minute) healthcare is fun, everyone has a gun
so at any time, things get rough
don't get tough, pop one in your mouth
like medicine to avoid the agony of defeat
float into the clouds, angels play harps in skimpy
outfits with no underwear, goblets of 100-proof nectar --
bliss awaits, if you know how
to die --

I don't want to die.
I don't want a gun.
I don't want COVID-19.
I don't want to be number one in the ratings.
I don't want heaven.
I don't want to complain.
Please let me remain.
Please help.

July 14, 2020

The Quarantine Chronicles, Day 91

DAY 91: La chiacchierata, that's a chat
about nothing in particular, less is more,
S.I. Hayakawa, my lousy university president
then lousy state senator, but a decent scholar
had a useful linguistic theory -- pre-symbolic language,
meaninglessness, words that don't stand
for anything, could just as well be grunts and
cooing, could be a language no one under-
stands, therefore we -- especially well-educated
white men over 50 -- stupidly maintain its
uselessness -- la chiacchierata doesn't serve
any communicative purpose, so we will not
participate -- Oh, but Hayakawa shows that
it does! The meaning behind meaningless
words is the most important of all --
community-building, relationship-building
-- I grunt and coo, I talk about what a shame
and where you been and did you see the game
-- I mean I like you maybe -- I want us
to be friends maybe -- even with neighbors
I don't like, even people I'd never choose ...
I must engage, in a chiacchierata, talking
from one balcony to another, from behind
masks or downstairs by the cars -- Italians
need this like air, they know that when
100,000 souls die and rise we'll need our
neighbors, even those with whom
we only ever talked with
about nothing at all
just to find the courage
to bear witness.

July 13, 2020

The Quarantine Chronicles, Day 90

DAY 90: Aw, screw it, let's just pretend
pretend our lives will never change
our climate will never change
let's get a spritz and gab about
our high school teachers with all
the beautiful people wannabes
we don't even like very much
(hoping always everywhere for sex
with almost anyone -- instinct rules)
every time, let's go into the street
meet and greet, get plastered, get
laid, live to fight another day -- or not --
at this point, who cares?
I'm fed up and don't need an excuse
-- some girl, some skinny girl
is talking about change, life-style
change (masks indefinitely, distance
forever -- what a crock!) and something
else I can't be bothered with -- climate
change -- I mean I'm pissed off about
price change, I just paid $10 for an Irish
coffee that last year was only $7, so there --
this bullshit about climate change --
let somebody else deal with it -- fossil fuels,
big f-ing deal! -- let governors and captains
of industry take care of it -- I'm sure they will --
I just want to talk to that blonde and
offer her a $10 drink, chat and hope
to get lucky.

Live or die, luck, good or bad,
that's all.