The man in my head

Tuesday, May 22: So lucky today.  Shana is in New York with her friend (and mine) Gypsy Snider.  Complicated machinations, but: Shana has an extra ticket to Shakespeare in the Park (friend-in-the-cast ticket, so no waiting in line) and Gypsy has an extra ticket for Hamilton.

I went to Hamilton.

So I watched, and I thought this clichéd thought and that clichéd thought (because every possible thought about Hamilton has already been expressed, at least twice, once in German), and somewhere in the middle of the rap battle between Hamilton and Jefferson, I realized that the actor playing Hamilton probably had a greater understanding about the founding of the American banking system than Donald Trump.

Because at least he’d had to learn his lines.

Heck, I have a greater understanding of the founding of the American banking system than Donald Trump, because I read a BOOK. Trump didn’t even read his own book.

The show that Tracy went to see? Julius Caesar, directed by Oskar Eustis, in which Caesar is a Donald Trump (!) lookalike who gets stabbed to death halfway through the play, as is traditional. Caesar is all “et tu, Brute,” but he shoulda read the play. This staging of a 400-year-old play with a kinda obvious spin — and make it relevant — indicates that Shakespeare knew a few things about how people work. But the production has caused a stoopid kerfuffle with large corporate sponsors pulling their support from the Public Theater, which Eustis heads.

Super secret fact: Sometime in the 80s, I went to see a production of Julius Caesar in Berkeley. Caesar was portrayed as a Reagan type who sought to enslave his people through television. That production was directed by Oskar Eustis.

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Broadway Lafayette station; waiting for the D train (note woman on left)

 

Wednesday, May 23: Steady rain. The Whitney Museum Biennial. Survey of work by young artists of every race, ethnicity, gender, ability, and they all live in Brooklyn. They’re here, they’re woke, and they’re pissed off. Some attack environmental degradation, some battle against oppression of sundry minorities, and some bite the hands that feed them, linking big art donors to the worst evils of capitalism.

At the Whitney. Where investment banks and secretive multinationals have their names on galleries, floors, cafes and drinking fountains. And suppose those works attacking the art-industrial complex wound up being purchased by the patriarchy, allowing the artist to have a somewhat nicer Brooklyn studio from which to pierce the dark heart of corporate cronyism.

Spiraling ironies.

And all of this before the elevation of Donald Trump, who thinks irony is what you make steely out of. Imagine how pissed off the artists are now. Trump is like this magical alchemical substance; add him to anything and he makes it six times worse.

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Lower East Side, Rivington St.

Thursday, May 25: Went to Sweat, a play about what happens in a small town in Pennsylvania when “the plant” closes. Compelling story, well-acted, blah blah blah. These are the people Donald Trump says he’s fighting for, and of course that is fake truth.

How could so many of my fellow Americans be so gullible? Trump is friends with the people who own the plants that closed down and threw millions into economic misery. Except probably the plant owners try to avoid Trump because he makes vulgar jokes and sits down as though he’s been invited. Now they’re probably sitting on an advisory committee for ending poverty in our time.

This is not new. Trump has been exposed more times than, hell, write your own comparison. It’s all old news. I am not thinking new thoughts about him. I want to think a NEW THOUGHT. I like traveling because it often forces me to think new thoughts.

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Aboard the A train to 125th St.

Friday, May 26: Off to the New Museum, that little slice of  heaven on the Lower East Side. Women artists on every floor. I wonder what Donald Trump thinks about women artists. He probably doesn’t even know they exist, a list that also includes quarks, cassoulet, Muddy Waters, the Solomon Islands, Millie Bobby Brown, Edgar Allan Poe, meerkats and human decency.

I have a latte served by authentic hipster youth. I also taste the bitter dregs of Donald J. Trump.

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New Museum; art by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Sunday, May 28: Grand Central Terminal. One of greatest public spaces in the world. Sitting on the cool marble steps. Staring up at the astrological ceiling. Built in 1903, at a time when America believed in spending taxpayer money to build astonishing public infrastructure. The astonishing NYC subway system opened the following year.

How fabulous. How spirited. How, well, infrastructure is now just an empty promise and our bridges are crumbling, as is the very fine subway I rode here on and the train that will take me up the Hudson. And with the Chaos-in-Chief running things, God knows, GOD knows. Nothing is getting done at a pace remarkable even for the 21st Century.

Turns out I have fucks left to give.

Train time. Be glad to get out this depressing dump.

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I mean, who knows? Sixth Avenue.

Tuesday, May 30: Bedford, New York. Staying with our beloved friends Rachel and Joe. I had suggested yesterday that maybe a trip to Vassar would be an amusing outing.

My mother went to Vassar. When we were living in Pasadena, she was a honcho of some kind in the Vassar alumni association. She spoke of it as a high point in her star-crossed life. The rolling green lawns, the sympathetic professors, the endless opportunities for reading. I wanted to finally see the place.

It was a entirely wonderful. The dining hall where she would undoubtedly have eaten was being remodeled but not torn down. The student union, where she would have undoubtedly wandered, was still standing. There was a plane tree that was mature when she walked to class, probably wearing saddle shoes.

Of course, education is one of the glories of western civilization, along with math and writing and math and astrofuckingphysics, all of which Trump disdains, although of course he knows nothing about it. Resist, Vassar. Resist! Also, get a real bookstore. Books! Damn!

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Vassar. Looks like heaven, doesn’t it?

Wednesday May 31: Off to Hyde Park, ancestral home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his fabulous wife Eleanor Roosevelt, who really should be on some kind of currency. The house is meh, but the Museum and Library were amazing, worth a detour, allow a few hours.

 

OK, can’t avoid it. Presidential comparisons. FDR courageously refused to let his polio define him, and won the governorship of New York just seven years later. Trump courageously recovered from the bone spurs that made him ineligible for military service. FDR said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” Trump said, “I have all the ratings for all those morning shows. When I go, they go double, triple.”

FDR said, “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” Trump just lied about something.  He doesn’t care.

The Roosevelt presidency started in a great depression and ended in a great war. And yet it seems a golden time, with adults in charge of everything and a huge push for social justice that dominated those famous first hundred days. Now, babies and cowards are in charge of everything, and nothing whatever is getting done.

Plus the babies and cowards are still whining about Hillary Clinton. She’s the defeated candidate, and somehow she won anyway because no one loves them.

FDR said, “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, it was planned that way.” Is this still true?  Discuss.

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Every building needs one of those

Friday, June 2: Philadelphia. Baseball game. Giants vs. Phillies. Giants doing very well. Sun goes down. Eat hot dog in a cold bun with radioactive mustard. Has Donald Trump ever eaten a hot dog in a cold bun? It’s an American experience, but Trump is not really an American. Hold that thought.

Saturday, June 3: Today was patriotism day. We went on a tour of Independence Hall, where a few things happened, like the signing of the Declaration of Independence (John Hancock sat right there). Eleven years later, after contentious debate (Franklin used to enjoy tripping delegates with his cane), the Constitution was likewise ratified. The Constitution. That makes it a rather more important than the damn Liberty Bell, which had nothing to do with anything.

There are two facts about those events that I have always loved. First, both took place in the hellish Philadelphia summer, in a smallish fetid room. How could they even think? Second, most of the delegates had some form of dental trouble. And, sweaty and throbbing and often angry, they wrote the two most important documents in the history of democracy. Beat that.

But even better was the lesser known Congress Hall, where both the Senate and the House met in the early years of the Republic. The room is elegant, cool even on sunny afternoon. And it was there that John Adams took the oath of office while an apparently relieved George Washington looked on.

The orderly transfer of power, baby. Lots of governments start with high-minded promises, but the Yu-Nited States of Murica made it happen. The king-god Washington of Virginia allowed a short sour lawyer from Massachusetts to take all the power, without hesitation; that’s what we do. We have, in the course of our history, done many grotesquely awful things, but we have also done that. Every time, we have done that.  Which is why it was meaningful that Barack Obama graciously received the incoming president and rode with him to the inauguration. Because that’s the way we do it.

Could almost make a man cry. Did make me cry, in that cool dark room.

And you can write the rest of the column. Does Donald Trump know what city Independence Hall is in? Does he care? Did he appreciate his participation in the one of our most significant civil ceremonies? Oh, of course not. He’s a worthless grifter and threadbare mountebank. And I wish he’d get out of my head.

I had a great vacation, a fabulous vacation. I should be chill, but  Donald J. Trump is taking up space in my head, always whispering, “this is crap. It’s all crap. Danger Danger DANGER I am here and I hate civilization. Hate! Civilization! (Derisive laughter).”

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, and a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made. And wattles don’t come cheap.

 

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Sign on a church, Society Hill, Philadelphia. Pray for the wretched.

Photography by Tracy Johnston

Random helpful stuff by Michelle Mizera

 

 

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42 thoughts on “The man in my head

  1. Excellent perspective as always… I am numb to the shootings today. As you so succinctly put it; I don’t have fucks to give…

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  2. Dear Jon, Do you know the Rubin Museum at 150 West 17th?  It is a great secret in the Chelsea.  You can have a quiet.  Quiet.  meal in their really excellent cafe, which includes wonderful teas that you can see in large glass jars on the counter.  The place is dedicated to Asian art.  Jim and I had brunch with a Famous Radio Person there and were delighted with the place. Rubin Museum of Art

    | | | Rubin Museum of Art The Rubin Museum of Art is a dynamic environment that stimulates learning, promotes understanding, and inspires … | |

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    Also: we are all warding off hostility toward one another, even as we are turning into Moldavans (Eric Bliss said Moldavans were the sourest, downest people he met on his quest for Happy Places. I am lucky. Every morning I go to places that can stir the spirit to peace.  Then I come home and I share.  Here is image of relaxation. You are getting it before everyone else. Abrazzos, Martha Ture

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  3. “FDR said, “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, it was planned that way.” Is this still true? ”

    Yes, absolutely. Trump is what the ignored American electorate crapped into the shoes of their “betters.” And I still don’t see people responding in a helpful way.

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  4. Cheers once again, Jon. And once again I can stop the whirring in my head because you have said just what I wanted to say. Which has been so for many years. Live long and prosper!

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  5. My god, it’s good to hear from you. Every day brings another mouthy gasp. Please continue. The rump makes sanity and common sense difficult.

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  6. Thanks for this column, Jon. You wrote it before the horrific gun violence that happened this morning on both coasts. Thinking of the greatness that was once our legacy and seeing what we have come to makes me want to cry, too. All the time. I numb myself to it as best I can, but it’s always under the surface waiting for the tiniest slight to burst out in anger. My dreams are fitful with the disgusting sexual predator in chief. No matter what I do I can’t escape him even though his nefarious actions have not yet had a direct effect on me. Thank you for showing me I’m in good company.

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  7. Another spot-on column. Thanks so much.

    On a technical note, have you ever considered asking your web guru to set the time on your site to Pacific Time? I’m always surprised at the times of comments, only to realize you haven’t set the website time to Pacific. (Your choice, of course.)

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  8. You expressed my sentiments exactly. I can’t seem to shake that Trump in my head things putting a damper on everything I try to do to forget it for a moment.

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  9. You got to see the Giants play well — by god, you ARE a lucky man. As for Trump… yeah, he’s stuck in my head too. I’ve come to cherish those few remaining activities that banish him for a while, allowing me — however briefly — entrance to a much better world.

    Good to have you back…

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  10. I’m so glad you’re back to blogging. It’s hard to write with Total Disaster interrupting with his newest horror every day, and you have done it wonderfully! “The Man In My Head” — perfect. Thank you for the laughs! You made my husband ask, “What??” looking at me falling off my sports ball at the computer. “Irony is what he thinks they make steely out of….” And I cried in Independence Hall. I burst into tears all the time about my beloved country. With all of our flaws, we don’t deserve this. Or, maybe we do? “Discuss” as you write. Wonderful photos!

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  11. Infrastructure abandonment has been accomplished for decades by our BART Board of Directors. Today’s system is a crippled wreck of what it was and what was promised.

    The Trumpet and his cadre confound me that they, so bald-facedly, can make a mockery of Truth and think they are getting away with it.

    They are “steely.” (Made from “irony.”)

    The elfin Sessions and his apparently shameless performance had Republicans (pretend to be?) fooled, John McCain embarrassingly rude, and Democrats forced to state the obvious while being shut down by the Republican control.

    That whole thing is in the head of a lot of people, Jon, and I hope they know the only hope is the ballot box, and we need to keep the Russians out.

    Reading what you write is at once enjoyable and cathartic.

    No need to binge-watch this Washington show – I think it will run for far too long.

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  12. The Man in your Head is the Man in everyone’s heads, and a most unwelcome fellow is he. Damn!
    Wonderful to travel along with you. Wonderful to come upon Tracy’s decisive moments.

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  13. Over the years, you have so often written the half-formed, barely-conscious thoughts/ observations/ opinions in my head, with such wit and grace (not the cat columns, though; I have my own fully-formed thoughts and observations about cats), that I think it’s fair to say that you’ve been The Man in My Head for a long time. And most welcome you are there.
    About Vassar: it is such a lovely and peaceful-looking campus, particularly at this time of year. Not really peaceful, because it’s full of bright and often passionate people, many of them in late adolescence, and full of opinions and altruism and objections and a fierce commitment to making things happen, making things change, making things stay the same, making other people behave differently, making other people think differently. There’s a lot of ferment, and it’s not always kind or tolerant. Kind of my ideal of a college campus. One point you might be interested in: your mother did not eat in the dining hall being remodeled; it didn’t exist before the 1970s, when the college rebuilt the existing Students’ Building, that enormous white building with the pillars, into the All College Dining Center (called for a while The AC/DC, which caused a certain amount of undergraduate merriment). Your mother would have eaten all her meals in the dining room of her house (dorm), and would have come down to breakfast in her bathrobe, because men weren’t allowed in the houses until noon. The dining rooms are still there in the houses, but they are cavernous spaces no one has been able to figure out good uses for.
    Thank you, Jon, for taking us with you on your vacation.

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    1. Oh, how fascinating. I postulated (in my head) fierce debate and passionate outpourings; that what makes a campus so wonderful. (I remember being introduced to the cut and thrust of political debate with a month of my being at Cal. Made my head explode; loved every second).

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  14. I marvel that life — including burgeoning numbers of investigations — seems to go on inexorably, despite the rot at the top. However, I think we would all benefit from a series of cat columns, always the best medicine for whatever ails us.

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  15. Thanks for writing. Pendulums swing, knives cut both ways. We will suffer the fool and he will undo himself. Wishing you peace and good health and cats.

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  16. Wonderful piece, Jon. I felt the same way in those places. Tracy’s photos as always fabulous. I only heard a little, but did you hear Biden and Terry Gross? He thinks Michelle Obama the greatest first lady. But he might not have been thinking it through completely. Don’t know how you can beat Eleanor Roosevelt. Thanks for this wonderful blog. Trump’s always in my little cranium too. Magee

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  17. Very much enjoyed!! Read that only 20% of Americans read one book a year. That explains a bit of the Trump crowd? Appalling! You are appreciated!! Beth

    Sent from my iPhone

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  18. John,
    I’m an arts and entertainment writer for the six MarinScope papers. Sometimes I do it extremely well. But little I write can be as arty or as entertaining, or bring as much joy and titillation, as your June 14 Trump prose.
    Keep on keepin’ on.
    Woody Weingarten

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