The Devils Golf Course

The Devils Golf Course

We interrupt this epic western road trip for a political rant. In Death Valley, one of its many dried salt pans is called the Devils Golf Course. I don’t know why this feature got this name. There is a perfectly normal golf course down the valley road, but wind has caused this salt pan to form a jagged sea of rock salt that is both delicate and dangerous. Cuts and broken bones have resulted from people who have tried to walk on it.

This otherworldly scenery creates a landscape that is so mind-bendingly weird that only one person comes to mind as a potential developer for this property. Folks, I give you the future site of Trump International – Death Valley. All true sycophants would be more than willing to drop dollars and spend time here too. They would be honored to receive a 4 PM tee time, even if it is 112 degrees. I’m just saying, it’s already named after him.

Meanwhile, here in Monterey, we are beset with other demons from the links. The PGA is putting on the US Open at Pebble Beach next week, but all the hubbub that usually accompanies these events is already in full swing. The place is way more crowded than usual and it hasn’t even started yet. I would say that it is just bad timing on our part, but it is also peak season here, so it would be crowded anyway. It is one of the big little lies about Monterey that summer is the best time to come. Spring and fall have better weather and fewer people.

Trumpty Dumpty

Trumpty Dumpty Built a Great Wall, Brooklyn Mural

Trumpty Dumpty built a great wall,
Trumpty Dumpty tweeted it all.
All of his lies and all the Fox newsmen
Couldn’t get Trumpty reelected again.

It’s tax day and I can’t think of a better time for complaining about the current administration. First off, is everyone loving their Yuge tax cut? Unless you are a member of the 1%, it’s probably not that big. For many, it doesn’t even exist at all.

I heard on NPR today that reversing years of Republican orthodoxy (Like that would ever happen?), Trump has proposed increasing spending on the IRS. Normally, I would be OK with such a proposal, but these are hardly normal times. Any man who would seriously consider using refugees and asylum seekers as pawns, to be used to punish political opponents cannot be trusted not to misuse the tax enforcement agency. I can’t imagine to what ends that man would pervert this agency, to further his own agenda.

This tax day plays out against the saga of Trump’s own tax returns. His lack of disclosure regarding them begs the question, what is he hiding? My money is on the idea that he his hiding the fact that he is nowhere near as rich as he claims to be. There were all those bankruptcies after all. I wouldn’t rule out though that he is also hiding a little money laundering on the side. While he may be able to stiff arm the House Democrats, cracks are forming around the edges. Subpoenas have been sent to Trump’s long time accountants, who have no recourse but to comply. Meanwhile the New York attorney general is probing his state returns. The truth will come out, no matter how much he tries to prevent it. Hopefully, just in time for the 2020 presidential campaign.

Randy Rainbow

Randy Rainbow

On Friday, the cover of the Post-Dispatch’s Get Out section announced that Randy Rainbow would be performing live at the Pageant on Saturday. Why not? So, I scored a pair of primo tickets. We’ve been following his YouTube videos for some time and have been loving the likes of  Desperate Cheeto, Yes! We Have No Steve Bannon!, Alternative Facts, and Rudy and the Beast. His schtick is to marry popular show tunes with pointed political satire that skewers the current administration. Collectively, they have over a 100 million views. He produces these videos himself, which showcase his love-hate relationship with Trump, “We are all going to die, but he has been so good for my career.” Randy Rainbow is his given name, his mother “wanted the gayest son possible and she got him.” Jewish, he grew up in Broward County, but now splits his time between there, NYC and near constant touring.

Accompanied by a four piece band and a big screen projected TV, each number would begin with a replaying of a video’s intro, giving him time for a quick costume change. Then he would come out to sing. I wondered how this was going to work, since much of his work uses a lot of green screen and the highly edited repartee with his interview subjects couldn’t be duplicated live. His show was 90 minutes, which included a Q&A with the audience or tea talk.

This was our first time in the Pageant, a U-City Loop Joe Edwards property. Since he owns most of the Loop now, he must have made a fortune that night, because business was really booming. Delmar was an end-to-end traffic jam. Afterwards, we got home just in time to catch the opening of SNL. Quite a night, quite a weekend! I wonder if anything new will be on the tellie tonight?

Oslo

Oslo Program Cover

In 1993, the Oslo Accords were adopted. This was the last success in the Arab-Israeli peace process. Culminating in an iconic photo-op, where Bill Clinton presides over, while Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shake hands, on the Whitehouse lawn. Rabin and Arafat later shared the Nobel peace prize, but the origin of this diplomatic win began much more prosaically, with a quiet Norwegian couple.

Husband and wife, Terje Rød-Larsen and Mona Juul, facilitated the negotiations that eventually led to the Oslo Accord. In 2017, J.T. Rodgers adopted their story to the stage, with his Tony award-winning Broadway play, Oslo. Performed at the Rep, this is artistic director Steven Woolf’s final directorial production in his illustrious thirty-year career with the Saint Louis Repertory Theater.  

In the opening scene, Terje describes meeting Rabin, who at first comes across as a sputtering clown. “Six months later, Rabin is prime minister, and I am a fool,” says Terje. “Why? Because I saw one side of this man and assumed this meant I knew all of him.” Chance encounters lead to secret meetings. Through Rodgers, we witness not these meetings themselves, but the intervals in-between them. Set in the anteroom adjoining the negotiating room, we witness the down time between principles. Jokes are made and stories are told, lightening this three-hour history of a peace process that had some measure of success.

Juxtaposition this story, with last week’s debacle in Vietnam. Terje emphasized personal relationships in those negotiations, but he also had a plan, a strategy that he called gradualism, a policy of gradual reform rather than sudden change. Contrast this with Trump and Kim’s mano o mano quest for a deal, where so little preparation was done that the two sides can’t even now agree on what they disagreed about. It is a sad commentary on this summit that the world first held its breath and then let out a collective sigh, when no deal was reached. Fear of a bad deal being struck, just for a win, was that great. 

Matchstix Man

Matchstix Bromeliad

I took this picture on Monday. It wasn’t until Tuesday that I figured out which flower I had photographed. I didn’t just want to call it something like strange pink flower, although I have used such nondescript titles like that in the past. On Monday, I Googled without success this plants name. Yesterday, I asked two Climatron workers, who were only able to identify its family as bromeliad. Some more Googling eventually elucidated this flower’s name. Mystery solved!

Instead of going to the garden for the third day in a row, I did my normal walk or at least attempted to. While most sidewalks had been cleared, there were enough that hadn’t that I ended up mainly walking in the street. Fortunately, for a lot of the walk there was a bike lane to walk in and in the neighborhoods there wasn’t that much traffic. Maybe it was a sign of my fatigue and frustration that when I was almost home, I was disappointed to find that Ethel Walk had not been shoveled. This a public walkway that connects two streets and crosses an open storm drain. Such was my despair that when I returned home, I called up the city to complain. I was told that the city doesn’t shovel sidewalks, but I contended that this one was different, after all, it has its own street sign. Stay tuned we’ll have to wait and see where this one goes.  

Speaker Pelosi “asked” the President to consider postponing his SOTU address, because of security concerns caused by his 26 day shutdown. If he could not see reopening the government, then rather than throwing a temper tantrum, because she took his TV time away, she invited him to submit his report in writing. This to the man who only yesterday served “1000 hamberders” up on Twitter. 

Shut Show

Smallwood’s Anole

The government is still shutdown and now, so is Saint Louis. We got a respectable 8″ last night and it is still coming down. In truth, ours like the government’s is only a partial shutdown. Our one-block street is plowed, all the way down to black top and the paper was delivered, eventually. We might even get mail today. There is some heavy-duty shoveling in my future that was made only worse, when rising temperatures heated our aluminum awning enough that the snow piled up on it slid to the ground. Now there’s a rampart at the walk’s head.

Local television is serving up a combination of fear and schadenfreude. Be afraid, don’t venture out or you’ll end up like these unfortunates. Don’t they look miserable? If TV cannot find enough misery, then they manufacture their own, by sending out the newest-cutest reporter to suffer in the elements for you.

We’re all making much adieu about nothing. This storm was well forecasted. Because it first hit during the evening rush hour there was additional turmoil, but everyone had plenty of time to fill their fridge. Hunkering down for a day or two in winter is not all that bad. Everything will be right again by Monday.

Yesterday’s sojourn at the zoo was a tribute of sorts. In 1982, Saint Louis experienced its greatest snowfall in living memory, 19″. We still felt new here and called ourselves Babes in Toyland, having ventured out alone onto the world stage. It was a Saturday and we had attended a matinée at the Esquire. Exiting the theater, we were greeted with thunder-snow. We had plans to visit friends that evening, but begged off. The city was closed for a week.

Like today, it was still snowing the next morning. We lived closer to the park then and took advantage of our sudden richness to cross-country ski. None of the roads were plowed and there were few cars moving. We eventually found our way to the zoo. The entrances were closed, except for a service one, where the gate had been wedged open. We asked an employee, who was climbing through the gap in the gate, if the zoo was open? After thinking, he said yes.

There was not much to see. All the buildings were closed. Including the pictured anole’s herpetarium. The only animals that we saw were the sea lions, who were loving the snow. A sole concession stand was open and in it had gathered some of the zoo’s staff. Sipping hot chocolate, we overheard one man exclaim that he had driven 20 miles to get here, because he had “200 herbivores to feed.” Talk about an essential employee.