Posts Tagged ‘Elton John’

PRECAUTION, NOT PANIC

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” Thomas Paine wrote as America struggled to birth itself. Now, we face the coronavirus pandemic. To strengthen our souls, looking back may offer a clearer picture of the future.

Is the sky falling? Gray clouds have gathered and they’re darkening. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “It is going to get worse.” At my age, Covid-19 poses a risk, although my health is excellent. Still, the world won’t come to an end.

Am I a Pollyanna? No, a realist. Major events of my 75-year lifetime provide some perspective.

When I was six, Americans were fighting in Korea—wherever that was. At P.S. 174 in Queens, I joined classmates in duck-and-cover drills to protect from a Soviet nuclear attack on New York. Polio still took a heavy toll on children. A friend survived it but emerged with a limp.

Jim Crow was alive and well in the south and practiced unofficially elsewhere. This, too, was a health scare since African Americans’ health was imperiled by being hung from a tree or shot or burned while at home.

The Cold War produced Vietnam. The American toll in Southeast Asia totaled 58,000, including my friend 1LT Howie Schnabolk, an Army medevac pilot shot down on 3 August 1967. Killed and wounded GIs were just part of the story.

The nation was coming apart at the seams. Nightsticks and dogs attacked civil rights marchers. Martin Luther King was assassinated, which led to riots producing death and destruction in urban ghettos. Political unrest forced Lyndon Johnson to forego running for another term as president in 1968. Which gave us Richard Nixon.

American industry took a header. Japanese cars battered Detroit. Then all sorts of industrial jobs fled the Midwest—soon to be known as the Rust Belt—for the American south and then Asia. AIDS emerged in the 1980s. It took the lives of as many as 700,000 Americans, including three of my fraternity brothers.

In the ’90s, the Dot.com Boom lifted a lot of people’s spirits—until the Dot.com Bust sent them plummeting. On 9/11, the Twin Towers fell and turmoil reigned. The nation rose up yet launched a foolish and costly war with Iraq. The stock market soared again until, in 2008, the financial industry collapsed with the market hitting its low point in March 2009.

Yet even recovery from the Great Recession wasn’t enough to calm a deeply divided America. Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016.

I’ve seen a lot, but so did my parents: The First World War, the Spanish flu (1918-20) which killed over 50 million worldwide and more than half a million Americans, the Depression, World War Two.

In time of crisis, I turn to the English writer Rudyard Kipling: “If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you . . . you’ll be a Man my son!”

Keep washing your hands. Keep maintaining your social distance. Keep your head on your shoulders and your chin up. Male, female or nonbinary, you’ll be a mensch. And as a nation, we’ll get to sing along with another Briton, Elton John: “I’m Still Standing.”

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I, VLADIMIR

I, Vladimir Putin, meet privately with President Trump in Helsinki earlier in week. In private, we discuss many important things. Now, I tell Americans at higher ends of intelligence about what I say to my tovarichDonald.

We start with golf. I love it. Even in deepest, darkest winter, I play 36 holes bare-chested. (Also work at desk bare-chested.) My lowest 72-hole score 45. This is 27 strokes under par. For president of Russia, holes move closer. Donald appreciates.

Women we also love. Donald is my idol. Smart man divorces wife when she stops being hot. Donald does this twice so far. I divorced Lyudmilla after 30 years. She was bad for image. My girlfriend Alina only 30. Even hotter than Melania, though I don’t say this. (Donald Jr. wise to follow father’s example, dump his wife, too.)

We compare popularity. Crowds cheer me everywhere. We have ways to educate people whose hands fail to clap. I say, “Donald, you are rock star.” In speech in Montana early this month, he tells supporters he broke all Elton John’s records. He says Elton John needs organ to draw crowds, not Donald Trump. I nudge his arm. Donald Trump has organ. Not bigger than mine, but huge.

We discuss most serious issues. I tell Donald little green men in Ukraine not Russians, but droids produced by Disney. Crimea always part of Russia. I give Crimea’s Russian speakers chance to come home. Like Donald wishes to make Canada part of U.S., free Canadians from Justin Trudeau and government from foolish burdens like providing healthcare. For Donald’s 2020 campaign theme, I propose “Make America 62 States.” Why not? U.S. took over Mexican territory, lands of native peoples, Hawaii. All Russia asks for is control Near Abroad: Belarus, Moldova, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Georgia. Maybe Syria to protect naval base at Tartus.

We laugh about income taxes. Only fools pay. Giving tax returns to fake media? This not for rich people with money laundered in Zurich, London, New York, Miami. And why should Russians connected to Kremlin reveal loans and equity positions arranged with orange-haired American developers? Private enterprise should be private.

Biggest item is supposed interference in 2016 election. I ask, “How could Russia do or not do this?” I answer, “We are too busy interfering in our own elections.” (I first was elected president in 2000—may Donald serve his people for 20 years!). Is my duty to keep voting process free from outside agitators like university professors, artists, writers, fake journalists, students, housewives, doctors, businessmen who not oligarchs or mafia, grocery store owners and ice-cream sellers. Besides, I say, we know how world works. Interference? Could have been Democrats or anyone.

I remind Donald in last election I receive 92 percent of vote. (We announce lower percentage to show world Russian elections fair.) I tell him this is five more points of popular vote than he says he really received—American vote totals rigged for Crooked Hillary.

Russia and America can be good friends. Man like Donald Trump understands what international relations all about: I grab mine. You grab yours.

I say, “Let us chat soon in Washington.” We will talk about many cultural favorites we share. Song: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” TV: “The Americans.” Cinema:Manchurian Candidate.

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THE RIFF RAFF AT OUTSIDE LANDS

It was another step up on another big stage. Last Saturday, Hurray for the Riff Raff—my son Yosi, resident fiddler—performed at the Outside Lands festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Carolyn and I were among the few seniors in a sold-out venue of 70,000 youthful partygoers. Here’s my report.

The more I see and hear, the more I appreciate the quality and integrity of Hurray for the Riff Raff. Alynda Lee Segarra, the band’s singer/songwriter, creates music that entertains while being socially conscious and thought provoking.

The band’s set went well. They opened performances at Sutro Stage at twelve-twenty. A good crowd assembled and had a great time, singing along and dancing. Of course, Carolyn and I were right up front. Note: Yosi changed bows during the performance. He explained later that wood bows often don’t do well outdoors; carbon fiber bows resist the weather.

After the performance, Carolyn and I, along with our son Aaron and son-in-law Jeremy went to the VIP hospitality pavilion overlooking the Polo Field. A tent at least 150 feet long, it offered tables and chairs, and other seating with a view of the Land’s End stage where Sir Elton John closed the festival Sunday night.

I ordered a beer. I was “carded.” I was required to get a green wristband proving I was 21. Well, I was—50 years ago. A young woman asked for ID. The man with her laughed and informed her that I really was old enough to drink. But who knows? Soon I might have to show ID to prove I’m not too old. Beer in hand, I listened to a band whose female singer strutted the stage a la Mick Jagger. She was better looking, but I knew this only from the giant TV screens flanking the stage. From the VIP tent, performers were specks. Fortunately, the sound system was good.

Drinks consumed, we wandered a bit. The crowd swelled. By two o’clock, getting from place to place over the large area fenced off for the festival proved time consuming. Lines at the port-a-potties—there were many—stood 12 deep. The festival map offered a reasonable approximation of various venues and highlights—food, drinks, merchandise, a beauty bar—but was a bit fuzzy on detail. We tried to get into a comedy show but couldn’t. I left at three, my mission accomplished—almost.

As it happened, the band’s Airbnb accommodations were in a dicey neighborhood. As band members checked the place out on Friday after driving up from Los Angeles where they played the Skirball Center, they saw drug deals going down right outside. Yosi called. Could the band stay at our house? The band camped out for two nights. We provided breakfasts. By Sunday, all but Yosi remained.

What’s next? The Riff Raff will record a new CD in Nashville. In November, they’ll play the Fox Theater in Oakland, opening on tour for City and Colour (Dallas Green.). They’ll also perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall on January 29.

Am I proud? Believe it. Do I take credit? No way. Hurray for the Riff Raff keeps moving up thanks to hard work and dedication. Alynda, Yosi and the band have paid their dues. And it never hurts to make great music.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

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