Tommy Red

Tommy Red
The Progressive Killer

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Of Sea and Cloud … A Prayer for Owen Meany … No Ham Sandwiches on Staten Island … Kyle Carey ... Dietary Progress/Regression …

Amici: 

 
Of Sea and Cloud, by Jon Keller … a brilliant piece of writing that was recommended by author, musician, and all around nice guy, Chris La Tray, a few weeks back. This intriguing story involves lobster fishermen off the coast of Maine. The lobster industry in this setting has fallen behind the technological advances that tend to wipe out the older world style of lobster fishing, especially those fishermen who owned their own lobster pounds (see definition here)… Nicolas Graves and Osmond Randolph (a former Calvinist Minister) are longtime hard core lobsterman … they have a secret pact that involves fishing rights … there’s a deeper story there that is revealed during the course of the novel … Nicolas has two sons, William and Jonah (and some dysfunctional relationships that involved the death of their mother/Nicolas’ wife) … I can further provide hints about what happens early on, but why avoid the enjoyment of reading this wonderful story?
 
We did two of our residencies in the Southern New Hampshire University MFA program on Star Island off the New Hampshire coast ... one of the few things I enjoyed (aside from our classes and workshops) was watching lobster fishermen checking their traps.  I was confounded by all the buoys/flags and how they knew where to go, etc., but we were there in the summer. I can't imagine that kind of work during the winter.  The author did that for a couple of years.
 
One my favorite passages in this wonderful novel: Chimney was in prison and Nicolas was dead and Julius had bought a new boat and moved out. Whether Julius was to be trusted or not Osmond had no idea. Osmond had simultaneously abandoned his brother and his beliefs for a woman and he’d lost both her and their child. And he’d later sacrificed Nicolas his only friend with his own hands. Osmond understood these three deaths to be elements of providence and he understood that fear and fragility came in apocalyptic waves which rose and fell with the corrosive power of tides and what remained when fear finished was love and faith and love and faith together meant blood.
 
Osmond believes in a God, but neither a good nor evil one. He seeks to secure his family’s future (his nephew and nieces) and the lobster pound he shared with a man he killed. When a skull finds its way into the lobster pound, William finds it and, well … no spoilers … read the book, you won't be disappointed.
 
There are some other interesting characters sharing the stage: Osmond’s nephew Julius is a piece of work … Charlotte, Jonah’s former love interest has somehow fallen for Julius … there’s prior family dysfunction between Nicolas’ sons, and the close family friend and co-worker, Virgil (and his wife Celeste and their daughter Charlotte) … Virgil is keeping a secret the author expertly dangles under the reader’s nose. And it is further interesting to note how the author (see interview below) purposely read a few “crime writers” to further the plot. Good on Mr. Keller for doing so, because this wonderful novel also has an element of mystery that will keep your eyes glued to the page.
 
Of Sea and Cloud is one my very favorites this year … brilliant writing, intriguing characters and a plot that grips. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
 
 
 

 
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by Jon Irving … It’s sometimes a bit long in the tooth (you may feel you’ve aged approaching the 500+ page count), but you’ll remain engaged and anxious to learn just exactly how Owen Meany … well, no spoilers. Narrator Johnny Wheelwright has an on-again, off-again, on-again faith … partly due to the day his best friend (Owen Meany, a kind of dwarf-like fellow with a high-pitched squeal of a voice that speaks and writes in CAPITALS ONLY) kills Wheelwright’s mother with a foul ball line drive that strikes Mom in the left temple (while she was waving to some mysterious character sitting in the bleachers). This Jon Irving romp through America’s battle with morality and war (the Vietnam one), presidents dead and alive (and at least one arguably mentally depleted), and sports, all with the usual clever comic relief perhaps necessary in taking on so many subjects while attempting seriousness. There’s no better way to win your audience than self-deprecation and this novel is loaded with it.
 
Owen may have been sent from above (his parents seem to think so) … he may be Christ on earth, sent to take away at least some of the world’s sins … or he may be speaking for Christ/God, etc. … what we do know is that Owen Meany has caught some rough genetic breaks (being so tiny and having such a squeaky voice), but he’s also pretty brilliant and more moral than is sometimes comfortable, although that never got in the way for me. As off-putting as religion(s) usually is/are for me, I found the religious theme in this novel most enjoyable. Only the verbal slaps at the way we seemed to sleep through our walk into the Vietnamese war and/or references to our sleepwalking through Imperial Presidencies were as enjoyable as the narrator’s (and Owen’s) quest for the holy grail.
 
My favorite passage in the book relates to, well, kind of everything, but was focused around the death of Marilyn Monroe (someone Owen Meany was deeply affection toward) … “IT HAS TO DO WITH ALL OF US,” said Owen Meany, when I called him that night. “SHE WAS JUST LIKE OUR WHOLE COUNTRY—NOT QUITE YOUNG ANYMORE, NOT BUT OLD EITHER; A LITTLE BREATHLESS, VERY BEAUTIFUL, MAYBE A LITTLE STUPID, MAYBE A LOT SMARTER THAN SHE SEEMED. AND SHE WAS LOOKING FOR SOMETHING—I THINK SHE WANTED TO BE GOOD. LOOK AT THE MEN IN HER LIFE—JOE DIMAGGIO, ARTHUR MILLER, MAYBE THE KENNEDYS. LOOK AT HOW GOOD THEY SEEM! LOOK AT HOW DESIRABLE SHE WAS! THAT’S WHAT SHE WAS: SHE WAS DESIRABLE. SHE WAS FUNNY AND SEXY—AND SHE WAS VULNERABLE, TOO. SHE WAS NEVER QUITE HAPPY, SHE WAS ALWAYS A LITTLE OVERWEIGHT. SHE WAS JUST LIKE OUR WHOLE COUNTRY,” he repeated; he was on a roll. I could hear Hester playing her guitar in the background, as if she were trying to improvise a folk song from everything she said. “AND THOSE MEN,” he said. “THOSE FAMOUS, POWERFUL MEN—DID THEY REALLY LOVE HER? AND DID THEY TAKE CARE OF HER? IF SHE WAS EVER WITH THE KENNEDYS, THEY COULDN’T HAVE LOVED HER—THEY WERE JUST USING HER, THEY WERE JUST BEING CARELESS AND TREATING THEMSELVES TO A THRILL. THAT’S WHAT POWERFUL MEN DO TO THIS COUNTRY—IT’S A BEAUITFUL, SEXY, BREATHLESS COUNTRY, AND POWERFUL MEN USE IT TO TREAT THEMSELVES TO A THRILL! THEY SAY THEY LOVE IT BUT THEY DON’T MEAN IT. THEY SAY THINGS TO MAKE THEMSELVES APPEAR GOOD—THEY MAKE THEMSELVES APPEAR MORAL. THAT”S WHAT I THOUGHT KENNEDY WAS: A MORALIST. BUT HE WAS JUST GIVING US A SNOW JOB, HE WAS JUST BEING A GOOD SEDUCER. I THOUGHT HE WAS A SAVIOR. I THOUGHT HE WANTED TO USE HIS POWER TO DO GOOD. BUT PEOPLE WILL SAY AND DO ANYTHING JUST TO GET THE POWER; THEN THEY’LL USE THE POWER JUST TO GET A THRILL. MARILYN MONROE WAS ALWAYS LOOKING FOR THE BEST MAN—MAYBE SHE WANTED THE MAN WITH THE MOST INTEGRITY, MAYBE SHE WANTED THE MAN WITH THE MOST ABILITY TO DO GOOD. AND SHE WAS SEDUCED, OVER AND OVER AGAIN—SHE GOT FOOLED, SHE WAS TRICKED, SHE GOT USED, SHE WAS USED UP. JUST LIKE THE COUNTRY. THE COUNTRY WANTS A SAVIOR. THE COUNTRY IS A SUCKER FOR POWERFUL MEN WHO LOOK GOOD. WE THINK THEY’RE MORALISTS AND THEN THEY JUST USE US. THAT'S WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOU AND ME,” said Owen Meany. “WE’RE GOING TO BE USED.”
 
There are several plotlines running throughout this tome. John (the narrator) is on a forever search for his father (he didn’t know who his father was) … his mother, pre-line drive, was a wonderful women who took a special liking to Owen (he was always made fun of and mocked by classmates in and out of school). So, Owen sees a vision during a theatre production of Scrooge (he sees his own death date) … and when John finally learns who his father is, well, Owen has something to do with that as well (no spoilers) … there’s too much to cover to come close to offering the attention this book deserves. I enjoyed it. I suspect any Jon Irving fan would (and probably has) also. For those unfamiliar with the author’s work (as I was a few books ago), TK Recommends A Prayer for Owen Meany, but suggests reading The World According to Garp and/or my wife’s Irving recommendation, The Cider House Rules first (it’s on my Irving next TBR list).
 
 
No Ham Sandwiches on Staten Island … I won’t go into how many good cops I know and/or why all cops shouldn’t be vilified because of the actions of a few. Frankly, that’s common sense and doesn’t require repeating. I also won’t listen to the blind faith defenders of police brutality (and/or the wall of blue), because it requires turning off one’s brain.
 
The bottom line is I’m really tired of writing about this stuff. Truly tired, yet I can’t imagine the frustrations of the African-American community over the absolute disregard of our criminal justice system for their concerns. Wednesday night I listened to both spins of coverage … five minutes of whacky Marc Levin was pretty much all I could take, but even he was trumped by an even crazier New York Congressman, Peter King. There’s no point in retyping what either said, it was the usual race-baiting mantra: 95% of African-Americans murdered each year are murdered by other African-Americans (or whatever the percentage is) … totally disregarding the 85% of whites murdered by other whites … and/or how that has anything to do with African-Americans killed by law enforcement vs. whites killed by law enforcement. African-Americans between the ages of 15-19 win that one by 31% according to FBI 2010-2012 statistics.
 
You can indict a ham sandwich goes the old saying. Apparently not. Not in Missouri, and not on Staten Island.
 
I’m not sure what it will take for Eric Garner’s family to find solace after the non-indictment of the police officer(s) who caused his death on camera with an “illegal choke hold” (the NYPD Police Commissioner’s words, not mine) on Staten Island in August this past year. More than likely, the city will suffer through mostly peaceful protests for a few weeks, to be followed by a long wait before a civil suit is either dismissed or settled out of court (or in court) and the city pays a few million to make believe it never happened. That’s happened a few times in the past. A damn shame that.
 
The federal investigation is likely to come up short as well. Right now it’s just another bone being thrown to a family and community that has done nothing but wait for some semblance of justice.
 
I don’t know what the intentions of that police officer were at the time he jumped on Garner’s back and choked him to the ground. I have ZERO belief that he wanted to kill Mr. Garner, but I also know neither the alleged “crime” nor the situation in any way called for that level of excessive force. On my best day, when I could bench press 400+ pounds, I wouldn’t be able to toss four cops off my back. No way, no how. The way the officer pressed down on Garner’s head alone once he was on the ground boiled my blood. That was obscene. Garner wasn’t resisting on the floor. I don’t believe he resisted when he was standing. Even if the police believed he was resisting, the level of response was way over the top. Mr. Garner wasn’t in any condition to retaliate, especially once he was on the ground with four cops holding him there. A man 6’3” 350 lbs, doesn’t make him an NFL lineman. It was pretty obvious Mr. Garner wasn’t in good shape.
 
Nor did he act violently toward the police. Resisting arrest? Really? My wife and I both thought (and still think) we heard Garner say, “Please don’t touch me” as he backed up.
 
The few times I was arrested, I was handled decently. I thought I could’ve gotten a desk ticket once, but the guy in charge decided to give me the Toombs treatment. A long inconvenience is what it turned out to be. Caffeine headaches blow, but I wasn’t killed.
 
A few years ago I was stopped on 440 in Staten Island by a small (stature) officer who acted as if he’d just watched a Jason Statham flick. I was doing 50 in the left lane (in a 50 MPH zone) with nobody on my right. The officer drove up my ass in an unmarked car. I had no idea he was a cop or I would’ve moved over. I assumed it was some asshole (and I was right) looking to intimidate me out of his way. I didn’t move to my right or go any faster. He flashed his bright lights at me a few times and I waved at him, all five fingers of my right hand. That apparently made him nuts. He put on his flashing lights and pulled me over. He wouldn’t let me speak, so I let him repeat himself a few times until I got pissed off. I was on my way to pick up my wife from nursing school (after she’d worked a full-time job), so I didn’t want her to have to wait for me in the cold (it was February). When I finally heard enough, I said, “So write me the fucking ticket and let me go pick up my wife.” “What’s that?” he said very angry at the audacity of my speaking back to him. I said, “I didn’t know you were a cop or I would’ve moved to the right lane. You came up on me and I thought you were being a dick.” “I can write you up for blocking my way,” he said, something I knew was bullshit. I forget what else he said, but he didn’t write me a ticket. Instead, he stormed back to his car and sped off. By the time I made it to the SI Expressway a few minutes later, I saw he was taking it out on somebody else---actually writing someone a ticket.
 
“Sorry, buddy,” I said to myself (for the poor bastard getting the ticket, not the cop).
 
That was one cop. He was an asshole. Or maybe he was having a bad day. Or maybe he wishes he was on television. Maybe he was practicing for an audition. I don’t know, nor do I care. He wasn’t under duress (except in his mind), and we’re talking about Staten Island, not Beirut. I was guy who’d just worked a full shift (3 trains to and from work, plus the Staten Island Ferry both ways) and I wanted to pick my wife up in Manhattan and bring her home to New Jersey. The point being, maybe Eric Garner was having a bad day. Maybe the “loosies” he was selling help put food on the table for his wife and five kids. What the fuck was the big deal? Give him a summons. Hand him a desk ticket. Make a deal with him. “Hey, take a walk away from here and that’s the end of it.”
 
And if you have to arrest him and he’s upset, what? Kill him?
 
What bothers me about the Eric Garner case is more than the excessive force that killed a man (over fucking loose cigarettes). What bothers me is the same thing that continues to bother me about the Michael Brown case, the absolute corruption of both prosecutors and the inherent and very unfair oversight of the entire process. In Staten Island, the District Attorney doesn’t answer to the city at large. He answers to the most conservative population in the five boroughs, Staten Island, which is predominantly white and where many cops live. Does that make him (the prosecutor) a bad person? No, but it sure doesn’t make him impartial, especially considering the fact most of his work requires a good working relationship with the police.
 
The bottom line is that in both cases, Ferguson, Missouri and on Staten Island, the normal grand jury process was tossed under the bus under the guise of fair play. 98-99% of grand juries indict (thus the ham sandwich analogy). Most indict several cases in one day. The prosecutor puts on a case for PROSECUTION, not the defense. In the VERY RARE situation where a defendant testifies (defense attorneys normally don't allow it), he/she is challenged; his words aren’t left out there without a challenge.
 
So when an officer says he wasn’t trying to hurt the guy, yet a VIDEO shows him first choking the guy to the ground, then leaning on his head (with three of his best friends), I find it appalling that the prosecutor didn’t question the time the officer’s arm was wrapped around the victim or the number of times Mr. Garner said he couldn’t breathe. As for the latest “choke” theory out there: you can’t talk if you’re chokingwell, how’d that work out?
 
As to the video … I don’t know how you look at that and accept it as routine procedure … and if you do accept it as routine, wow … just, wow.
 
One other note I’m sure the prosecutor never bothered to ask the officer about. From the Washington Post: Mr. Pantaleo has faced two prior lawsuits for false arrest, unlawful imprisonment, civil rights violations and other charges. One of those suits was dismissed while the other is still pending. Moreover, Mr. Wilson was accused of firing off his weapon while Brown went in defensive mode, with his hands up — but that witness-fueled claim wasn’t born out by forensics. In the Staten Island case, a cell phone video showed that Garner actually had his back to Mr. Pantaleo, and the police officer jumped him from behind to tackle him,” CNN said.
 
The City of New York has already doled out a $30,000 settlement on Officer Daniel Pantaleo's behalf.
 
My guess is he’ll be among the most expensive cops in the history of New York City once the civil suit is brought to trial, because this sweeping under the rug non-ham sandwich is going to cost New York City big time when all is said and done.
 
Hey, maybe it was simply a mistake. Maybe it was overzealousness. Maybe. Probably a bit of both, but either way, it wasn’t something that should go unpunished. If for no other reason than to keep policemen in general from thinking before acting in future similar situations. The fact that the guy died for selling loose cigarettes makes this all the more tragic. A non-indictment, it seems to me, encourages bad police behavior.
 
As for the media stirring the shit … one has to wonder where the hell the media were when the following happened in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Notice how the police involved in beating this poor guy were yelling, “Stop resisting arrest! Stop reaching for my gun!”
 

 
Of course all officers involved pleaded Not Guilty … this guy (the victim) was just about to go to jail … his defense attorney found this in discovery … well, we shall see what happens.
 
I don’t know what you tell an entire community that has suffered the injustice of institutional racism for hundreds of years and now into the 21st Century, but sooner or later, the dam is going to burst. All the calls for peaceful demonstration, while noble, I’m afraid aren’t going to get much done. Unfortunately, in America (as elsewhere), violence is what gets attention. I’m not advocating violence, but I’m not so sure I’d be as restrained if it were one of my loved ones who was killed.
 
Hopefully, the Garner family finds some justice. At the least, the cost of this “take down” should preclude the officer involved from ever having the chance to do it again while wearing a badge.
 
 
Here’s the gorgeous voice of Kyle Carey … enjoy!
 

 
Dietary Progress/Regression/Progress … I put back 11 big ones over the Thanksgiving weekend, but mostly because I was plastered in my chair and only went to the gym twice. At the end of the holiday weekend, I returned to my Medifast diet (eating shit and learning to like it) … so as of today, I’m back to 270 (-89 pounds since March 5).  The fugazy lap band removal surgery is still scheduled for December 10 at 1:00 p.m., so I’ll need to prepare for that (I ordered an extra case of Chivas and a couple pounds of tobacco).
 
On the other hand, some strength appears to be returning … it’s been so incremental, I’d assumed my heavy lifting days were over, but hope and Old Faithful(?) spring eternal … 
 
—Knucks
 
More Kyle Carey … her promo …