151 Band

Friday, April 24, 2015

I Remember Now...

I think I was in my late 20's when I experienced it for the first time.  There was excitement, noise, cheering, and anticipation in the air that was so thick, it could be used on pancakes.  There was a small group of us and we did our best to grasp the reality of what was going on around us, and it's been a long time since I've felt that.

Longacres was a horse track south of Seattle and it didn't really have a reputation like the Belmont, but it was colorful, exciting and horribly loud.  The size of the facility wasn't too large and it was built in such a manner that everyone felt close to the action.  I'd never gambled before and even then, there was a feeling like I was doing something wrong.  It was legal, but it felt weird.

I'm not really sure why it came to mind, why that event chose to resurrect itself in the graveyard of my memory, but it was a good one.

I also remember the apartment we had when my mother got sick.  We had to be closer to her oncologist, so we moved to an area of Seattle called, "Rainier Beach."  It had a bit of a reputation for being a bit of a scary part of town, but I had no idea there was such a reputation, so I was just myself.  Granted, an angrier version of me, but I didn't know I needed to play pretend.

I remember the porch that led up to the entrance that took you down a hallway to two of the apartment doors, the other two being up the stairs.  The porch was a gathering place for youngsters such as myself.  They were just enjoying each others' company and maybe getting a touch football game revved up.  It was a simpler time, really.  Mom was still alive, the sun seemed to shine just a little brighter, and the laughter was just that much more intoxicating.  Though it wasn't really "home," it sure as hell felt like it. 

During my childhood in the Seattle area, the weekends were amazing.  On Friday after school, we would wait until Dad got home and ask the big question:  "Are we going to the drive-in?"  Sometimes we went, other times we didn't but the anticipation was almost as exciting as actually being there.  Loading up our blankets, our snack bag, and the pillows was almost ritualistic and each of us had a job to do.  I was responsible for the blankets, Mom always had the snacks ready, and Dad would make sure the dogs were fed and put up for the evening.  It was just a really cool time.

Today, there are only a handful of drive-ins left in the whole country and I'm afraid that mine will be the last generation to truly experience what it's like at a drive-in.  I've taken my kids a few times and they genuinely liked it.  The smells, the feel, the cool summer air, and the communal experience of watching a movie outside was completely amazing.  There is nothing else like it in the whole world.

Unfortunately, there are whole chunks of time that have been erased in my mind and even with prompting and encouragement, I just can't conjure up the visuals that correspond with the dialog.  Little bit by little bit, however, I get to sneak a peek at moments in history.  I can't tell you how frustrating and discouraging it can be at times.  But for every memory that comes forward, is accompanying joy and lots of smiles.

I'm thankful for these memories.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Gun Free Norman

I am an avid supporter of the 2nd Amendment.  I believe that the Supreme Court's Heller decision was a good one, and yes, our right to keep and bear arms is a right that cannot nor should not be infringed.  I also fought long and hard to get the legislature to approve campus concealed carry, but to no avail.  The whole of the Constitution is precious, not just one of the Amendments.

Yet, there are times when common sense and dignity should overrule our ego maniacal desires to be right just for the sake of being right.  Nowhere is this more evident than in this ongoing drama regarding the Norman Music Festival.

The Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association filed suit against the City of Norman and the organizers of the Norman Music Festival because there was in place a "no firearm" policy.  District Judge Thad Balkman (yes, the former legislator) ruled in favor of the OK2A, and the justification makes sense.  But I would argue that it's not exactly the right thing to do.

Norman hosts numerous music events throughout the year (Jazz in June, May Fair, the Medieval Fair and Midsummer’s Night Fair) and attendees of the events deserve the opportunity to attend an event that has been historically "gun free."  We're talking about a four block area in Norman - not the whole bloody county, so the OK2A doth protest too much.

The argument, I suppose, is that the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms transcends local regulations and that there is never a time or place for any of our rights to be "tread upon."  You see what happens there?  The argument is shifted from the micro to the macro, which overshadows the here and now and the unique circumstances therein.  For example, it's our right to bathe in chocolate syrup, Snickers bars, Pop Tarts, and Jack Daniels.  It's our right to walk around the State Fair yelling in Klingon.  It's within our rights to tell our spouses that yes, that dress DOES make her ass look big.  But the question is, why?  Why would we want to do those things?

The music performed at the music events aren't Country AND Western exclusively, so maybe this is a tactic by the OK2A to silence music that they just don't really like?  Maybe?

As a musician, I'm not interested in firearms at a performance because it's a musical event, not a gun show.  It's ridiculous that we've come to this point in our culture where the only way to reach an agreement or a compromise is to take it to court - and to thing that Judge Balkman isn't biased, you're sadly mistaken - which represents a problem with electing judges, but that's another topic altogether.  The two parties couldn't have just sat down and hammered out some kind of agreement, could they?  I know a few of the folks over at the OK2A and they used to be a reasonable crew,  conglomeration of people passionate about the 2nd Amendment, but still possessing a modicum of common sense. 

It's sad and pathetic that we can't even have a music event without it turning into some political garbage.

It's my opinion and I could be wrong, but I bloody well doubt it.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Why So Serious?

I got an email from a friend who asked me about the tenor, the content of my last few blog entries and why I had become so serious.  He noticed that I still had a sense of humor, but the topics had been heavy and in his words, made him "want to hide in a closet."  Well, dang.  That wasn't really my intention at all, but rather to look at issues that are, in my mind, rather controversial and even hypocritical at times. 

There is a lot to be serious about, but there's also a lot of material out there that makes us want to laugh our asses off at the same time.  Even the topics that are very serious on the surface, contain little laughs and some piddle-worthy giggles.  Take politics, for example.  Some of the issues the state of Oklahoma is facing can be alarming, but what's tragically hilarious is the response we get from legislators.  Here's a couple giggle-worthy moments:

The perpetual candidate.
1.  Calvey and Crain's "Loser Pays" Legislation.  At first, I thought this was a satirical piece in The Onion, but then I realized that this is the real deal.  The energy sector (the big boys) in Oklahoma needs more protection, wouldn't you agree?  Those pesky farmers and ranchers who would like clean, fresh water are just a thorn in the side of the big energy players in Oklahoma.  The OIPA (Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association) supposedly helped with the legislation - shocker (shame on you, AJ)!  This is funny shit because even a baboon with 50 functioning brain cells can see that Calvey is sucking up to the money boys so he can fund another campaign, but this time, for the D.A. slot.  Just watch, and join me in laughing our silly little butts off when Calvey announces his candidacy.  And by the way, wasn't he term-limited before and why in the hell is he back in the State House?

2.  Presidential Pabulum.  They are off and running, and many of the names behind the scenes of Presidential candidates are names that we have all become used to hearing in the public arena.  Think about this - it's truly funny.  The same old dick bags are advising new dick bags on the same topics that the last dick bags ran on, and they think we're stupid enough to fall for it.  Wait.  I guess we are.  The oligarchy is alive and well in Presidential politics and frankly, I think the American people are sick of it but nothing is going to happen about.  The irony about the "change" argument versus the fact that we keep going down the same path as before is downright comical.  Screw it.  I'm thinking Dean Winchester should run for President - at least he could deal with the demons in Congress.

3.  Fracking Earthquakes.  Okay...get this.  The scientific community is pretty much in agreement that the cause of all these weird earthquakes in Oklahoma is...wait for it...fracking.  Is there anything being done about it?  Is there anything being done about the waste water from fracking?  Hell no.  That's where it gets bloody funny.  It's like watching a bully pick on some nerdy little kid and then the government stepping in and actually paying the bully to be a bully.  Tell me that's not funny!  Oil and gas companies are seeing legislators in Oklahoma offering free lap dances in return for campaign finance, and the bullies are getting tax breaks as a result!  Like a hooker paying a John for having sex with him/her.  The irony is so rich and thick in this case, it could be considered molasses.   Damage to water supplies, homes and property getting rattled and ripped apart, and the aggregate result is that insurance companies don't always cover the cost of repairs because of these earthquakes.  It' silliness.

Some of these circumstances are so bizarre that there is little else to do but to laugh.  It's pure goofiness and We The People love every minute of it.  Politics has become such a disgusting mess, a filthy place where the socially inept and sociopaths congregate to think of ways to justify their existence by authoring unconstitutional, useless legislation that is nothing more than regulatory masturbation. 

Come on.  It's funny and you know it.

Here's to the rest of the week, and y'all be safe and aware out there.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

To Kill, Or Not To Kill?

Jeffrey Todd Pierce was wrongly convicted of rape, spent over a decade in prison for a crime he did not commit.  Anthony Yarbough spent 21 years in prison for a triple homicide that he didn't commit.  Joseph Abbitt spent 14 years in prison because of an eyewitness account that was later proven to be incorrect.  Herman Atkins was convicted of rape and spent 12 years in prison and it was all because of improper forensic science (sound familiar Oklahoma?).  James Bain spent 35 years in prison for a rape he did not commit, wrongly convicted because of improper forensic science.

How many people wrongfully convicted, how many people wrongly sentenced to death are enough for us to wake up and realize that maybe - just maybe - there is something horribly wrong with our justice system?  Instead of taking a step back and reviewing what it is we are doing, my Christian brothers and sisters have decided that the only way to deal with criminals sentenced to death is to find new, creative, and original ways to kill them.  Apparently, even if they have been wrongfully convicted.

Don't get me wrong - I believe in swift, immediate justice when warranted.  For example, someone breaking into my home and attempting to harm my kids will most assuredly die of acute lead poisoning or they will be sent to the hospital having the damage the baseball bat to his/her colon repared.  Or, if a drunk driver blows a .15 at the scene of a fatality accident they themselves caused.  The evidence is conclusive, absolute, and no room for error.  But these are a far cry from some of the convictions we have seen over the years in Oklahoma County.  A whole book was written about it, as a matter of fact.

I've seen some of the commentary from my "brothers and sisters" in Christ who are adamant about the death penalty and are themselves boasting of their innovative and "effective" means to kill a convicted criminal.  These are supposedly pro-life supporters who believe that "every life is sacred," but yet convicted criminals, because of their conviction (wrongful or not), are less than human, perhaps not even the same species so our boasting, chest-thumping, and bravado about killing them is justified, right?  The funny thing is that the voices being heard the loudest are the ones who probably couldn't get off the couch fast enough to catch an armed turtle that broke in their homes.

Facepalm Jesus
Jesus is probably SO proud.

Here's the dilemma:  If we put to death someone who has been wrongfully convicted, that fact alone makes us murderers.  It's not a punishment for a crime; it's brute force, vengeance being exacted.  And yes, we know what the Scripture has to say about that.

I understand the pressure the Governor must be under to sign a bill that every elected official with a desire to be re-elected in Oklahoma had to support.  While I don't agree with the Governor, I respect her position because, after all, that's what the vast majority of people in Oklahoma want - they want the blood of the offender and they just don't give a damn how they come about it.  Again, I don't believe the Governor had any other choice politically than the one she made.  It's sad, but it's also Oklahoma. 

Maybe I am completely wrong here - but I just can't reconcile the facts that we're convicting people of crimes they simply did not commit, or that it is always the poor and the minorities who get the vast majority of the convictions with justification for killing someone within the parameters of the ustice system we currently have.

I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it.