Keeping the world safe from Terrorist Cats

A lot of you know that I have a soft spot for cats. Persians to be precise.GooGoo-07 Raised them for years and used to go to shows. My cats still go to shows, but being blind, I kind of get lost looking for the concession stands. But, I have ‘cat’ friends who take my cats to the shows and still stay in touch with a lot of cat people.

Just this weekend there was a show here in Portland and I sent two of my girls. A friend who shows a different breed than Persians. She shows and breeds Somali cats, a breed closely related to  Abyssinian cats which turns out would have been a safer breed to show, but wouldn’t have fit on a Vanity License Plate, She shared the following story in an email this evening, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

See, times are tough, even amongst people that still pursue this hobby. So, she took her two cats to the show hall, and found out that parking near the Rose Garden was $8.00 a day! So, being the thrifty person she is she decided to park across the busy  four lane road in a shopping mall, brave the rainy cold weather and save a buck or two. She diligently read the sign that said ‘Complimentary 4 Hour Free Parking for Mall Customers’. So, she decided that if she went in and grabbed a latte from ’that place’ she’d at least be technically a mall customer. She was even thoughtful enough and dedicated enough to go move her car every 4 hours.Somali Cat

All went well Saturday, and she even did some Christmas shopping at the mall after the show Saturday and had another over priced coffee before the show Sunday. But that is where the happy story ends.

She came out of the show Sunday, around 4:00 pm, had her cats and all the paraphernalia that cat people haul around to show; carriers, combs, toys, shampoo, brushes,anti static spray, “Summers Eve” feminine hygiene powder, which believe me is used for when your cat has an accident and is a cat show persons secret weapon, and to quote Arlo Guthery, other implements of destruction.…she had all this loaded on a little four wheeled cart and secured by bungee cords so she could cross the street safely. She makes it across the street and approaches her Toyota Sienna Van-brand new and perfect for hauling all your cat show stuff.sienna Oh, and it has black out windows. Very ominous.

I remember talking to her when she bought it and suggesting the vanity plate (a pun in itself) of CAT BOX. Well, she couldn’t get that plate but she did pick out a great vanity plate. She chose the plate number of SOMALI. By the way, she got a great deal on this van from another cat friend who works for the Toyota dealer in Corvallis, OR. She has even managed to find stickers, like you see saying “Proud Parent of an Honor Student” only these are of Somali cats. I think it’s terrible to put bumper stickers or any other stickers on a car, especially a new car, but you know these crazy cat ladies….

You probably haven’t been able to miss the story all over the news about the young American student-terrorist that went to school at Oregon State…in Corvallis. The one who was born in Somalia and with the assistance of the FBI managed to plant a dud bomb near Portland’s Pioneer Court House Square for the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.us-attacks-justice-somalia-oregon_5517471_custom 

I’m sure you can see what’s coming. My friend gets back to her car. A van, with black out windows,  with the SOMALI  Vanity plate and the dealer license plate frame from Corvallis Toyota. She is immediately surrounded by 5 mall security vehicles and officers with their  guns out. Right behind them is two squad cars from the local PD. Her first thought was, “Wow, there are really serious about “Customer Parking”. She immediately cops to beating the $8.00 a day parking at the Rose Quarter, but explains that the sign for mall parking wasn’t excluding others from parking, and besides she had her coffee cup still, proving she was a legitimate mall customer. Give them credit, they didn’t have the bomb disposal van there nor did she see any FBI agents. They demanded to search her van though. So, she opens the back and besides the cat toys, cat beds and other cat items, she has a box of plastic 1 gallon mason jar type containers of detangler. Not all that plainly marked, and to be honest you wouldn’t know what was in these jars unless you were a cat person. They all stepped way back and conferred in hushed voices.

She finally caught on to why she was getting all this attention and asked point blank (pun again intended) if it was because of her license plate. They said, “Well, yeah. Plus she was parked in the very back of the lot, had black out windows and when they had peeked in the windows there were suspicious looking containers.” So she proceeded, very cautiously,  to open one of the pet carriers and show them the cat and the ribbons from the show and explaining that it was a Somali cat. They had another conference and finally let her go on her way with a stern warning about how not to look suspicious and the proper use of Mall Parking. One even suggested she think about a different vanity plate.

Paranoia on their part? Is the threat of terrorism translated to this level of scrutiny? I don’t know, but it did make me think that if we end up invading Iran next, I might want to consider a different breed of cats than Persians.

 

The Dirty Lowdown

"Decision Points," G.W. Bush

To know my deed, ’twere best not know myself.”-Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Details With those words, Macbeth tells us that to judge ones impact on history you need to be a little bit blind as to what that impact was. The former president took these words to heart in ‘Decision Points’. The Presidents memoir was released yesterday and though I haven’t read it in it’s entirety, I did manage to get through a few key chapters. I’ve  also read reviews and responses from both sides of the Atlantic from some of the other world leaders that are key characters in this account.

The first thing that comes to mind is clueless. There is an alarming off-handedness about the implications of what’s being said. About the unfolding financial crisis at the end of his presidency. About the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. About the use of “enhanced interrogation” better known as torture.

The book is surprising in the fact that apparently it is not ghost written but is an unexpectedly engrossing memoir. But, you quickly get the feeling that reality and his memory are two different animals. For instance, he states, “Their interrogations ( of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) helped break up plots to attack American diplomatic facilities abroad, Heathrow airport, and Canary Wharf in London, and multiple targets in the United States,” British officials have said there is no evidence to support this claim. The Heathrow alert in fact happened a month before his (Mohammed’s) arrest. In fact, British Counter-Terrorism officials have said that the most useful information provided by Mohammed was mainly related to al-Qaida’s structure and was not extracted under torture.

Later on Bush writes that German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder told him in January 2002 that the US president had his full support when it came to his aggressive Iraq policy. Bush wrote that Schröder indicated he would even stand behind Bush should the US go to war against the country. Gerhard Schröder has said that George W. Bush is not telling the truth.

On the other hand, he does sound sincere when he talks about his decision to stop drinking, and when he talks about his religion. But then he blows it when he goes on to present his anti-abortion stance and how he adamantly had to “convince Pope John Paul II not to waver in his pro-life convictions.” Uh huh, gotcha…..

You are left with the feeling that Bush, like Macbeth, need not know himself to judge himself. He constantly seems shocked and disappointed at the many failures of his presidency; Not finding WMD’s in Iraq, the financial melt down, the failure to capture bin Laden, leaked identities of CIA operatives, but then he turns around and blames these failure on others. Indeed, he judges his biggest failure in his administrations response to Hurricane Katrina. And his biggest accomplishment as “After the nightmare of September 11, America went seven and a half years without another successful terrorist attack on our soil.” So, to summarize, in his own eyes and words, his failure was in not dealing correctly with an act of god, and his fait accompli was in what terrorists didn’t do…..

I guess reality really is subjective.

 

The Dirty Lowdown

The psychology of music-or why I am drawn to bands that are really bad.

Growing up, my first exposure to music was the country and western of my mother and the big bands of my father. Sometimes they crossed over- Vaughn Monroe  was big band but he did ‘Riders in the Sky’, Jim Reeves was country, but he often used an orchestra-but neither were my favorite genre then, or later in life. My personal tastes for music were probably formed at an early age, somewhere just before the invasion of the Beatles when I hear my mothers Ray Charles albums. Yes, he had an orchestra and could vaguely be called big band, and yes, he did what you could call country songs but there was something more. The music moved, it was alien to my home. It wasn’t homogenized. In short, it had soul-and I don’t mean that it was black music-it felt like the musicians were having fun. It felt ‘out there’ it felt slightly wild and rebellious.

Pre-Beatles and British invasion rock n roll gave us Del Shannon, Dion, The Beach Boys, and of course, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, but by the time I was old enough to appreciate these early pioneers, Elvis was in the army, Chuck Berry was in jail, Jerry Lee had married a little girl and Little Richard was old hat. The rest of them, the early rock n roll pioneers had been taken over by the ‘suits’ and their music was sounding tame, corporatized if you will. Then came the invasion. The Beatles, the Stones, the Animals, Zombies, Yardbirds and a host of others and these guys had that same feel-wild, rebellious, free. Of course, they were invoking what I came to know as American blues and R&B but at the time all I knew was it was fun. Now, a lot of these musicians weren’t actually very good musicians, but I didn’t know that either. As John Lee Hooker said after a tour of England where he was backed by a group of ‘young British musicians’, “these white boys want to play the blues real bad, and these white boys play the blues REAL BAD.”

Of Course, mixed in with the bad musicians there were some legitimate musicians or some musicians that would become genuine masters of their instrument-Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page (who was a very sought after studio guitarist at the time) Jack Bruce, etc…and there were some vocalists that could deliver a song to the sound of garbage cans crashing curb-side. But for the most part, any real musical ability these guys had was developed long after they became stars and icons of rock n roll.

With the success of these ‘invaders’ there came a whole flock of American bands trying to emulate ‘that sound’. For awhile, producers would sign groups who only touched their first instrument last week, as long as they looked good. This gave birth to a whole new genre of music. The garage band. Some of these groups trying to capture that feeling literally didn’t know a chord from a guitar string. But they had that feel, that rebelliousness and they were successful to varying degrees. It was in the late 60’s when I had digested enough 60’s music to know that I wanted to be a musician, after all, the rock n roll players got all the girls, and I was becoming old enough to care about getting the girls.

I discovered early on that I didn’t have the natural talent it would take, and I couldn’t sing a lick, but with all things throughout my life, I studied it deeply. The history, the language of music, the structure of time signatures and chord structures. Along the way I gained a new respect and learned to enjoy jazz music, classical music, blues music, R&B music and a very long list of genres. In other words, I came to be educated in what good music was comprised of. I reveled in the genius of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, the craft of John Lennon, Paul McCartney as well as the eloquence of Bach, Beethoven, Ravel and other composers. I found a beauty in the mathematical structure of music and started to get more discerning about what was good and what was bad.

Today, my ear is refined enough to know that some of the stars that have hit the scene lately are god-awful. Fall Out Boy sucks musically. I laugh when some of these ‘new’ guitarists are compared to Hendrix or Clapton. But then, after all these years of educating myself on music, both as a player and as a listener. After collecting a very large selection of great jazz, or great classical, of the geniuses of rock and R&B I find myself on select days passing by Lush Life and wanting to listen to some garage rock. I want to hear The Chocolate Watch Band, or The 13th Floor Elevator, The Groupies (who ever only made one album and were more about taking great press photos than playing good music. And, I ask myself why? I mean this is like a doctor smoking 3 packs a day when he knows better that anyone else the damage that does. Then it comes to me. I want to feel that rebelliousness, that freedom, that simple joy again. I want to be ‘moved to my soul’ I want to twist and shout and do the mash potato and I don’t care if it’s not great art.

There. That said, I think I’ll go put ‘Little Steven’s Underground Garage’ on the satellite radio. Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news.

The Dirty Lowdown

The Last Five Books I’ve Read

Guardian of Lies Guardian of Lies-Steve Martini . Very good, Paul Madriani the Southern California defense attorney, defends Katia Solaz, a Costa Rican beauty facing a murder charge committed by Liquida, the Mexecutioner. Busy action involving escaped Guantánamo prisoners, a Colombian rebel base, a Mexican drug cartel and a plot to bring the war home to the Great Satan via a nuclear device. Fun use of tech devices by the FBI.

Rain Gods  A Novel (9781439128305)  James Lee Burke  Books.htm

Rain Gods-James Lee Burke . Enjoyed this one. Similar setting as No Country For Old Men but Burkes’ use of language and characters is so original and he had me writing musical scores as if it were a film. Jimmy Dean, Johnny Paycheck, Marty Robbins, Waylon and Willie tunes kept creeping into my mind. A young Iraqi war veteran and his girlfriend, who sings Carter Family Spirituals in honky tonks that made John Wesley Harden nervous,  find themselves on the run after a series of brutal murders in South West. Fortunately, Sheriff Hack Holland is on the case and back in a world he’d tried to leave behind so long ago.

Tempted By Trouble Tempted By Trouble-Eric Jerome Dickey. Hopefully you have read my review, but Eric has done it again with a story filled with themes from today, The price of love, the cost of morality. What would you pay for your self respect?  At once Noir Caper story with dashes of Road Story, Thriller, Love Story, Crime Novel and a Moral Tail, but as Eric recently told me, “I don’t work about the box. All I care about is the writing.” Tempted is bound to top all the best seller lists as Eric once again sets the bar awful high for anybody writing modern fiction.

Tokyo Year Zero

Tokyo Year Zero-David Peace. I hadn’t heard of David Peace or this novel, but as I was exiting a grocery store my volunteer driver wanted to buy a lottery ticket and parked me near the entrance and wouldn’t you know it, they had a bargain bin with books. Maybe there is a god. This is a darkly disturbing novel based on a real-life serial-killer case in post-WWII Japan. The despair of the “defeated” and the hate for the “victor” and the horror of how that war ended are the back drop . Inspector Minami of the Tokyo police walks a lot of tight ropes in this tale from the British author who lives in Japan and is a winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. Minami is married and a father of two, is smart, tenacious and experienced; he’s also addicted to sedatives, keeps a mistress, is in the pocket of a local crime lord and not above sampling the wares of prostitutes he encounters while roaming the city at night.

Knots

Knots-Nuruddin Farah It’s easy to see why Nuruddin Farah’s name keeps getting mentioned as a likely recipient of a Nobel for Literature. This is a strange and compelling read that will haunt you. Somalia, is shown in all its war-ravaged sadness. Cambara is a young Somalian-born woman who has spent most of her life in Toronto. Through the carelessness of her husband and his mistress, Cambara’s son has drowned and she returns to her home to properly grieve. Once there, she attempts to wrest her family property from the warlords who seized it. Despite squalor, poverty, sexual depravity, petty meanness, and the constant threat of violence, Cambara and a small cadre of good people struggle against daunting odds and the story reminds us that home, even in a forgotten and forlorn place in the world, is still home. The story showcases the solidarity and civilizing influence women have, even in the direst circumstances imaginable. This is not a beach read. If you have any desire to explore the world and learn about hero’s that don’t drive fast cars and wear Jimmy Choos , it is a story not to be missed.

Review-Tempted By Trouble by Eric Jerome Dickey

 The bad thing about reading a new Eric Jerome Dickey novel is that you know you will have to wait a year for the next o51DwdieclaL._SL160_ne.

  How far will you go for love? What compromises will you  make to keep it? Dmytryk Knight has to answer these questions in Tempted By Trouble, The soon to be Best Seller from Eric Jerome Dickey and Dotton/Penguin Group. Dmytryk must live with those answers. Dmytryk is a respectable man, a man who has seemingly fulfilled the American dream. He is college educated and has earned a white collar job in Detroit’s Auto Industry. Dmytryk is a conservative man who wears Johnston & Murphy wing tip shoes, wears conservative dark tailored suits even for dinner at home with a ghost.

He carries his fathers pocket watch and wears his fathers classical black fedora. He measures his accomplishments against the lessons he learned from his hard working parents. Until the crippling recession of the first decade of the 21st century comes along and puts his values to a test a lot of us are currently taking ourselves. Dmytryk is down sized from his comfortable six figure job, but recovers and puts on a blue collar, working the production line in the same auto plant. It’s a step back, but Dymtryk is a noble man. "It’s a birth defect," he says of that nobility. He meets Cora Mature who works on the line too. They fall in love and marry and between them they can still maintain that American Dream. Until the economy spirals into even darker times. Out of work for two years, having lost two fancy new cars, their town house in a "nice" neighborhood, run out of unemployment and spent their savings, they are forced to move into the small house that Dmytryk grew up in. The new cars are gone, but they have Dmytryk’s fathers classic ‘ 69 Buick Wildcat which he meticulously maintains, dreaming of those shiny European status symbols. They work part time jobs. Many part time jobs, Dmytryk even delivers pizzas, a far cry from the boardrooms of GM. They maintain the dream as best as two decent people can in trying times until one day Cora gives into desperation-she’d grown up poor, and wasn’t going back without a fight. Behind Dmytryk’s back, she takes a job as an exotic dancer at a "gentlemen’s club" that had no gentlemen as patrons. She take’s the stage name of Trouble, then she becomes Trouble.

Cora is an erotic and exotic beauty. Brooklyn born and Detroit raised. She is the perfect mix of Dominican, Canadian, Jamaican, Chinese and "a few other dark exotic lands combined." A stunning beauty with an erotic face that "reminds Dmytryk of Maria de Medeiros Esteves Vitorino de Almeida." Child like and seductive all at once. Her metamorphous throughout the story is more physical, where Dmytryk’s is more a transformation of the soul. Cora transforms from a woman of conservative and expensive dress and tastes into a woman that looked like she stepped off the cover of a magazine that featured stories penned by Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammet, maybe pulp stories about a mysterious buxom woman who carried a gun, a woman who had sex for fun and shot people for the same reason. Trouble meets a very dangerous man, a man that goes by the name of Eddie Coyle. Eddie Coyle steals from the rich and gives to the disenfranchised. Eddie Coyle seduces Trouble one night, with money, expensive meals and night spots, and a $5,000 fur coat because she is cold. Delivers her 24 hours later back to her husband and lures her into his world of bank robbery and deceit with a chance to live the high life once again. Dmytryk will do almost anything to honor his vows to love and protect Cora and seeing that he has failed at that duty, he agrees to work for Eddie Coyle.

While casually killing and dumping the body of his previous getaway driver and his wife, Eddie lays it all out for Dmytrk. First rule in this ruthless world. No witnesses. Eddie rants, "Capitalism is all about big fish devouring little fish and never stopping to masticate their prey. It’s a good thing when you are winning. When you’re losing, you see it’s faults. The country is devolving. The Tea Party is out there expressing their outrage over health care. If this is the outrage that comes from health care, it’s going to be crazy when immigration is brought to the table. Bad economy and racism, the fear of a new labor pool coming from beyond these shores to do jobs in an already jobless country-it will be a Molotov cocktail. It will be the Detroit race riots in ’43 and the Detroit race riots in ’67 and the Watts riots and the ’67 Newark riots and the Oklahoma race riots in every state, city, and town in America." Dmytryk listens. Eddie had just murdered two people and was engaging in casual conversation about politics. Dmytryk goes from driving decisions in GM boardrooms to driving battered Chevy’s as a bank robbing teams getaway driver. Sixty to zero in no time.

From there, Dmytryk is almost all in. He doesn’t so much as sell his soul, as he sells his values and compromises his beliefs at the alter of love for his wife. He never gambled his honor or that birth defect, nobility, for if there was ever an honorable thief, Dmytryk Knight is him. He develops a brotherly affection for his "teammates", the inside guys, Sammy Sanchez and Rick Bielshowsky. He asks with concern after their wives and children. He is even taken into their confidence about a possible big job in the near future that could leave them all flush and able to retire. He even deals honestly with the psychopath Eddie Coyle and his thug brother, Bishop.

This team pull many robberies following the plans of Eddie Coyle and though the money is quick and the actual jobs take 2 minutes for $20,000 profit, Dmytryk finds that Cora spends it just like he had that regular six figure salary coming in. Their life is back to normal until the money starts to run low. Then Cora grows cold and distant, disappearing for days at a time with no explanation until he goes on another job for Eddie Coyle. After one such job he comes home and Cora is gone, no forwarding address.

He even comes to understand Sammy’s mistress, and Dmytryk’s secondary getaway driver Jackie Brown and her motivations even though she is an "alcoholic who sleeps with married men, has sex with the bedroom door open wide for everyone to see, kills people for fun and shoots innocent televisions to make a point." Even though she has a filthy, arrogant and dark demeanor, her dirtiness appeals to Dmytryk’s resentment after Cora’s disappearance.  Jackie is an ex soldier who lost her children in a custody battle while serving her country in a combat zone. Dmytryk see’s her resentment and feelings of being betrayed by the same system she was fighting to protect. The same system that betrayed him and cost him his dignity and his wife.

After a job in The City of Lost Angles goes terribly wrong, and Sammy is killed and Rick is left behind as  Dmytryk has to flee one dead, the other badly wounded. Dmytrk and Jackie have to cooperate to make their getaway and wind their way across the country, Dmytryk battered and bruised after having rammed the getaway car into an innocent woman who slowed down to read a text message from her fiance. Her fiance was breaking it off in that 21st century way; texting. She ends up a hostage confused and damning her luck as she is forced to deliver Dmytryk to a meeting with Jackie. Jackie reminds Dmytrk of the First Rule: No witnesses.

From there, Jackie and Eddie Coyle lures Dmytryk into one final job. The big job.Eddie informs him, "By the way, Rick didn’t make it. Dmytryk asks, "Does his wife know?" Eddie answers, "She knows and she knows to keep her mouth closed. If we have to visit her, it won’t be to bring flowers." Eddie also tells Dmytryk that the secirity gaurd at the bank died, meaning that Dmytryk would face a capital musder charge if anybody talks.The big job is all that matters to Eddie Coyle and Jackie Brown . The job that will allow her to kidnapp her own children and flee to South America. Maybe Dmytryk will come with her. He hasn’t Cora to go back to. She seduces Dymtryk, because he is a necessary piece of the plan, the meal ticket out of town. So, they make their way to Georgia where Eddie Coyle is waiting with the plan for their retirement. A plan that will leave Dmytryk living in a suburb of Detroit not far from downtown madness and near the corner of redemption.

Mr. Dickey has written a winner that is bound to top all the Best Seller lists. It is a dark work on canvass painted from many pallets. Noir, but not really Noir because in  Noir stories the characters are losers and are doomed. They may not die, but they probably should. And Tempted is filled with many characters that the reader wants to have win. You’ll want them to redeem themselves, with the possible exception of Eddie Coyle. It’s got a daub of Thriller written in there, but it is not strictly a thriller. It does have plenty of action that will keep you on the edge of your seat and licking your fingers to turn pages as fast as possible, but a good deal of the "thrill factor" is in what will the characters do next. How will they react under morally challenging pressure. It’s certainly a bit of a crime novel, but their are cops only peripherally involved and you need cops chasing bad guys for a "crime novel". It also is a bit of a "Road Story" but not purely so since the geographic destinations are secondary to the destinations of the heart and soul. What Mr. Dickey has done here is transcend genre. He has written a tale that is  all of those things mentioned above and a moral tale at the same time. A tale with contemporary themes, readily empathized with by a large portion of the planets populace at this point in history. A tale that could almost be told about any number of people real or fictitious in these times of political and economic upheaval that you, the reader, may be dealing with right now. Mr. Dickey has once again proven that he isn’t just the best African American novelist working today, but indeed among the absolute best American Authors. In the end-it’s a story of how we struggle and how we overcome, a great tale of survival and a love that….let’s call it a great love story…that’s what we do.

(I’d like to thank Eric Jerome Dickey and Ava Kavyani, Mr. Dickey’s Publicist at Dutton/Penguin for providing the early release copy of Tempted By Trouble-Available August 17th in bookstores everywhere. Preorder it now from Amazon by clicking the book covers above.)

The Dirty Lowdown

Robert Carraher

Tempted By Trouble-Eric Jerome Dickey’s Newest Novel Available August 17th

Tempted by Trouble

 

I am about half way through Tempted By Trouble and will be posting a review here and at Amazon, I anticipate Monday the 9th (I am taking extensive notes as I read), but I am so pleased with the book, I thought I’d put the link to Amazon up here so that you guys can preorder it. Tempted By Trouble Preorder now. Once again, Eric has escaped the tag "genre". The story has some nice noir elements, and I am loving it! Preorder now you guys and girls, I guarantee you will love this book.

 

The Dirty Lowdown

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