I came across a lovely piece about the relationship between the leaders of the GOP and – at the time – candidate Trump.
It begins with this report of a conversation amongst some old New York mobsters:
In the late nineties, federal agents insinuated an informer into the ranks of the DeCavalcante crime family, of New Jersey, and the resulting wiretaps and transcriptions revealed a dying language of secrecy, petty schemes, and blood oaths gone wrong. Sad old veterans of the Punic Wars of Essex County talked about selling old comic books and Viagra to make money, and yet they knew they were losing touch with the new world.
“They make money with the computer,” a gangster named Joseph (Tin Ear) Sclafani said incredulously about the young. To which another associate replied, “These [expletive] kids—twenty-five, twenty-six years old—will teach you things you could not ever believe.”
“That’s the whole thing,” another says. “In this [expletive] life that we live, every day if you ain’t like a chameleon, if you can’t change, you’re finished.”
I thought of this exquisite sampling of the DeCavalcante tapesafter reading the riveting serio-comic report in the Washington Post by Adam Entous describing a meeting in June, 2016, on Capitol Hill, at which Republican Party leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, gathered to talk business. Let’s not be unfair, much less libelous. It’s not that the members of Congress present were involved in crimes or illegal activity of any kind; no, it’s that they seem so craven, cynical, and, ultimately small-time. They have sunk so low that they are willing to get behind a candidate for whom they clearly have no regard. Because, well, that’s “this [expletive] life that we live.”
The two reported dialogues are well worth comparing.
Source: Paul Ryan Keeps It All in the Family – The New Yorker
Many years ago my then brother in law made us a mix tape. It was funny, eclectic and filled with surprises.
It introduced me to the Young Marble Giants and I think it was the first place I heard Al Greens wonderful Let’s Stay Together .
It also included poetry – of the wild, beat, ecstatic kind – that he was exploring at the time. Listening to the high incantatory voice of the poet; the golden flow of images and words is a memory of long car journeys into Wales – entranced and dreaming.
The downside is that I never knew who it was or what he was reading.
We lost the tape years ago – and anyway nothing we have would play it now – but I never forgot the poem and today, looking for something else entirely I came across Frank O’Hara’s Ode to Joy and recognised it straight away!
Better yet, here’s a recording of him reading it:
and here’s the Ode itself:
We shall have everything we want and there’ll be no more dying
on the pretty plains or in the supper clubs
for our symbol we’ll acknowledge vulgar materialistic laughter
over an insatiable sexual appetite
and the streets will be filled with racing forms
and the photographs of murderers and narcissists and movie stars
will swell from the walls and books alive in steaming rooms
to press against our burning flesh not once but interminably
as water flows down hill into the full-lipped basin
and the adder dives for the ultimate ostrich egg
and the feather cushion preens beneath a reclining monolith
that’s sweating with post-exertion visibility and sweetness
near the grave of love
No more dying
We shall see the grave of love as a lovely sight and temporary
near the elm that spells the lovers’ names in roots
and there’ll be no more music but the ears in lips and no more wit
but tongues in ears and no more drums but ears to thighs
as evening signals nudities unknown to ancestors’ imaginations
and the imagination itself will stagger like a tired paramour of ivory
under the sculptural necessities of lust that never falters
like a six-mile runner from Sweden or Liberia covered with gold
as lava flows up and over the far-down somnolent city’s abdication
and the hermit always wanting to be lone is lone at last
and the weight of external heat crushes the heat-hating Puritan
whose self-defeating vice becomes a proper sepulcher at last
that love may live
Buildings will go up into the dizzy air as love itself goes in
and up the reeling life that it has chosen for once or all
while in the sky a feeling of intemperate fondness will excite the birds
to swoop and veer like flies crawling across absorbed limbs
that weep a pearly perspiration on the sheets of brief attention
and the hairs dry out that summon anxious declaration of the organs
as they rise like buildings to the needs of temporary neighbors
pouring hunger through the heart to feed desire in intravenous ways
like the ways of gods with humans in the innocent combination of light
and flesh or as the legends ride their heroes through the dark to found
great cities where all life is possible to maintain as long as time
which wants us to remain for cocktails in a bar and after dinner
lets us live with it
No more dying
The Spartans of course were masters of the laconic – the area they lived in gave us the word. Wikipedia quotes this example of antique pithiness:
Philip II of Macedon, after invading southern Greece and receiving the submission of other key city-states, sent a message to Sparta:
You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.
The Spartan ephors replied with a single word: ‘If’
Philip didn’t proceed with the invasion.
Haikus are laconic. This one – posted in the Quartz Daily briefing today – describing Trump’s tax plans appealed to me strongly:
For everyone. And a lot
For the very rich.
I thought it could just as easily form the strapline for the Tory party manifesto here in the UK.
Some nostalgia here. This was on the back pages of so many of the comics I’d read as a boy. Was Charles Atlas real? These days, would the skinny youth stay at home crouched over his twitter feed and find other routes to revenge?
We like March, his shoes are purple,
He is new and high;
Makes he mud for dog and peddler,
Makes he forest dry;
Knows the adder’s tongue his coming,
And begets her spot.
Stands the sun so close and mighty
That our minds are hot.
News is he of all the others;
Bold it were to die
With the blue-birds buccaneering
On his British sky.
Studs Terkel is one of my heroes. He has the conversations I always dream of having – about art and music, liberty and freedom. I love his persistence, courage and the way he documented the unostentatious heroism of ordinary lives.
He was on radio and TV in America so I’ve only rarely heard him speak – which made this documentary on the World Service such a treat. The first part is on iPlayer now. The second will be broadcast tomorrow.