BATTLING FOR THE RIGHT TO NOT DRINK – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry has an undying devotion to some really awful old television series. Among many others, he really likes “The Untouchables.” That would be the version with Robert Stack as Elliott Ness. It’s the original, where our chief G-man and his “guys” fight (are you ready?) for The Volstead Act.

Prohibition! That’s right.

Prohibition. Booze, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Fighting for the right to have people NOT drink booze.

I’m not a boozer. I don’t drink now and never drank much, not even when I was younger. That being said, I can’t imagine going to war to make booze disappear.

War doesn’t work, not even when it’s a war against drugs or booze or your neighbor or their neighbor. War (which is not the same as protection) is an ineffective tool that does more damage than good. I grant you there have been a few exceptions, but ironically, most “good wars” were fought because of bad deals made following previous bad wars. But what do I know, right?

Back to “The Untouchables.”

What a great show. When the cops are pissed off with you, they can beat the living crap out of you. If that doesn’t get you to spill your guts, they’ll toss you off the train. A moving train. You have a problem with that?

You are disposable too.

Ready to blow it up? You betcha!

This version of the FBI is unconcerned with your rights. They don’t believe you have any rights.

First amendment? What’s that? You are dirt under their feet and they treat you accordingly as if you are dirt under their feet. This is a show that never made the slightest apology for being racist. They never pretended to be fair or worried about legalities.

They said “We are G-men. You will obey!”

Everyone did. It was the FBI at its most pure. These men (there are no women) are not just above the law. They are the law.

Early terrorist attack (1920s) – Wall Street

My favorite moment in tonight’s show was when the boys, ignoring even a nod to international law, take the FBI bus into Mexico to track down the guys who kidnapped their witness.

“The bus broke down three times and the trip took 10 hours,” said the stentorian voice of the narrator.

“So what?” I said to Garry. “That could describe my last trip to the grocery store.”

Since the FBI took over enforcing Prohibition — The Volstead Act — no one has had a drink. Not a single person. These guys were so good at battling beer and booze, the alcohol problem was permanently solved. Some might call this denial.

I call it faith. If you believe, it must be true. Who needs facts when misguided belief is more than enough?

I’m trying to get into our current national spirit.

How am I doing?

THE NEW IBERIA BLUES, BOOK 22 – DAVE ROBICHEAUX – James Lee Burke

The New Iberia Blues:
Dave Robicheaux Series, Book 22

By: James Lee Burke

Narrated by: Will Patton

Series: Dave Robicheaux, Book 22
Length: 15 hrs and 3 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 01-08-19
Language: English
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio


James Lee Burke never fails me.

Every book he writes is rich, sensual, and powerful. The writing, the feel of the place and mood of the times. Of course, Dave Robicheaux and Clete are my favorites, but I have loved every book I’ve read by James Lee Burke, in and outside of the “Robicheaux” series.

I didn’t think they could get better, but this was better.

Why? Because the characters aren’t the same “kids” they were. They have aged, grown, and changed. They aren’t the same “guns blazing” Dave and Clete.

Life has been hard for both of them. Dave has lost three wives, one to Lupus and two to violence, but he’s not full of hate or looking for retribution. He’s an adult, a genuine grownup.

Both men have moved on with the understanding that life isn’t and won’t ever be exactly what they want. They aren’t expecting perfection, yet they are still involved, caring, concerned for each other and the world in which they live. They are entirely alive and deeply involved.

If you like James Lee Burke’s writing, there’s nothing not to love in this book.

Will Patton is a superb narrator (and a pretty good actor too, by the way). He may even be better than the original narrator who was himself, brilliant. What Patton has going for him is clarity of speech which enables him to use a reasonable southern accent, but clearly enough for we northerners to easily understand.

My only regret is that I read the book too fast.

I should have slowed down and made the story last longer. Maybe I’ll read it again.

Maybe I’ll read the last TWO again.


Note: This review is for the Audible.com version, but reading James Lee Burke as a regular book is just fine and in fact until quite late in the series, I read all his books in hardcover. I have all of the first books in hardcover, first edition. I know it’s sentimental, but I can’t help myself. I still love the smell and feel of a new hardcover book!

THE UNWRITTEN SCRIPT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My father studied with Sigmund Freud in Vienna in 1921. He was one of the first psychoanalysts to practice the “new” field of psychiatry in this country — in New York City. If you’re trying to do the math, I am not approaching 90. My father was almost 60 when I was born.

One of my Dad’s cases from that time has haunted me. I wanted to write a script based on this story for my audio theater group, Voicescapes Audio Theater. But it involves a hit man for the mob going to a psychiatrist. It was done, with great success and humor in “Analyze This” with Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal. And of course in “The Sopranos” on HBO.

mobster4The fact that my father’s story predates these versions by over 50 years does not seem to matter. When I tell the story, people are fascinated, but say: “Too bad you can’t turn this into a script – it’s already been done.” I still think it’s a great story, so I’ll tell it to you. With the proviso you don’t try to turn it into a script.


A man walked into my father’s office and said he needed psychiatric help. What was the problem? He couldn’t do his job anymore. It meant a demotion at work and a pay cut.

What was his job?

He was a hit man for the mob and just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger. He talked about the demotion to second story work (burglaries), as any corporate employee would. He complained he was too old now to go back to climbing in and out of windows.

Edward_g_robinson

He was humiliated by his lower status in the organization. So was his wife. She was getting snubbed by the upper level mob wives. She was furious about the pay cut he had to take and was making his life miserable.

My father had a moral dilemma. Should he do his job and help this man go out and kill people again? He only killed other mobsters, never civilians — and did that make a moral difference? Or should he uphold his personal feelings rather than his professional ones, and turn the man away?

He wondered how he would go about stifling the stirrings of conscience in this man, even if he wanted to.

Bullets-or-Ballots

My father was also concerned about his personal safety. He asked the man how he could be sure if he cured him, the man wouldn’t come back and shoot him because he knew too much. The man said: “ Doc, how do I know you’re not going to turn me into the authorities? I guess we’re just going to have to trust each other.”

My Dad was intrigued by the man. His curiosity and professional ethics won. He took the man on as a patient. Unfortunately the story ends pretty much there. My father had several sessions with the man and then the man just stopped coming.

By sir_trees-d6cn6ls
By sir_trees-d6cn6ls

Maybe the story has stayed with me all these years because it ended in mystery. I theorized the man fell out a second story window in the course of a robbery. My father thought maybe he had told someone about his progress in therapy and the hit man who “replaced” him decided he wanted to keep his promotion.

I think this story is different from the whiny mobster and shrink stories already out there. I may yet write a script using this as a part of the plot. But for now, the story is a big hit at dinner parties.

Hopefully, it makes a good post, too.

PERFECT!

We’ve been watching the reruns — from the beginning — of Blue Bloods. The family lives in a huge house that no cops I’ve ever known could afford. The house is meticulously kept.

In other cop shows, the apartment owner works all the time. He or she never has time to sleep, much less clean. They are single. Yet, their homes are spick-and-span.

And about the house in which the Reagan police family lives. How did they afford it? And who takes care of it?

Who cleans? I’m pretty sure it’s none of the stars.

Jennifer Lopez – Shades of Blue

You never even see an occasional temporary helper. How do they do that?

Then there are all the television lady cops. They are thin and obviously none of them have ever eaten a doughnut. Their makeup is perfect. Their hair is perfect. They wear 4-inch heels and yet they still pursue the bad guys!

Major Crimes

I’ve met a lot of lady cops. Some of them were attractive, but none of them were thin like those TV lady cops. Or perfectly made up. Or, for that matter, made up, at all. No one wears heels of any height.

Cagney and Lacey

Also, these lady cops wear uniforms which fit as if they were made to order. Oh, wait … they were made to order.

What was I thinking?

OF COURSE WE CAN REGULATE GUNS – JUST LIKE OTHER COUNTRIES

From 2 years ago, February 2015. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.


I’ve been listening to arguments against gun control since I was a kid. As a child, I didn’t understand why anyone would object to sensible gun regulations.

I mean, Wyatt Earp did it in Tombstone. Should we be doing less in Boston or Austin?

ColtSAA04

YOU NEED A LICENSE FOR THAT

Virtually every aspect of our lives are regulated.

Without a license, you can’t cut hair or sell insurance. Drive a car. Most places, you need a license to build an extension on your house, change the wiring, remodel your kitchen, or replace your roof. You need a license for your dog. A permit to hold a parade. Or sell booze.

So what’s the big deal? Why are guns different? We control and limit more or less everything, so why are guns off-limit? The answer is obvious. They aren’t, not really. What makes guns off limit isn’t the Constitution. It’s a powerful lobby group that has caused generations of politicians to fear for their congressional seats.

To me, it’s simple and obvious. If you can’t hold a scissors in a barber shop without a license, you should not be allowed to carry a loaded rifle in Walmart without requiring at least as much accountability.

The arguments against sensible gun control are specious. Stupid. If can’t drive drunk, how come you can walk around drunk — with a gun? I would never limit anyone’s right to own a car without good reason. Like bad eyesight. Driving under the influence. Lack of insurance. A flunked driving test. Surely we should require at least this much oversight for guns.

A COMMONSENSE GUN CONTROL PLAN

If you want to own guns, you have to pass a licensing test which makes sure you know how to shoot and care for weapons. You are obligated to keep it out of the wrong hands. Your eyesight should be good enough to hit a target. You need to pass a background check to show you aren’t a felon. Or nuts.

You have to register your guns. All of them. You are obligated to keep track of your guns, to know where each of them is. You may not lend them to anyone who is unlicensed any more than you can loan your car to an unlicensed and/or uninsured driver.

If your gun is lost or stolen, you absolutely must report it to the cops. None of that “Gee, I guess it must have been stolen” crap. You will carry liability insurance on every weapon. Should a weapon registered to you be used in an illegal act — with or without your consent — you are responsible for damages. If you don’t go to jail, you will still pay. As you should.

The nation, as well as individual states and counties can tax your weapons and refuse to license weapons deemed inappropriate for private owners. If you want a weapon deemed unsuitable, you will have to get a different license, not to mention explain why you need it.

Simple, isn’t it?

auto inspection sticker texas

LICENSE AND REGISTRATION, PLEASE

We license cars because cars are potentially dangerous. Which doesn’t mean we don’t own cars. Obviously we own millions of them. We try to control who drives while maintaining reasonably accurate records of who owns what. We can’t keep every drunk off the road, stop cars from being stolen, or prevent accidents.

We do the best we can. For the most part, the system works. It would work for guns, too. Equally well, equally badly. Imperfect, but a lot better than the nothing we have in place now.

I have yet to hear a coherent argument against such a plan — probably because there isn’t any. Any reasonable person can understand we need to regulate guns. Like everything else.

BATTLING BEER AND BOOZE

Garry has an undying devotion to some really awful old television series. Among many others, he really likes “The Untouchables.” That would be the version with Robert Stack as Elliott Ness. It’s the original, where our chief G-man and his “guys” fight (are you ready?) for The Volstead Act. Prohibition! That’s right. Prohibition. Booze, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Fighting for the right to have people NOT drink booze.

I’m not a boozer. I don’t drink now and I never drank much, not even when I was much younger, but I can’t imagine going to war to make booze disappear. War doesn’t work, not even when it’s a war against drugs or booze or your neighbor or their neighbor.  War (which is not the same as protection) is an ineffective tool that does more damage than good. I grant you there have been a few exceptions, but ironically, most “good wars” were fought because of bad deals made following previous bad wars. But what do I know, right?

Anyway, back to “The Untouchables.”

What a great show. When the cops are pissed off with you, they can beat the living crap out of you. If that doesn’t get you to spill your guts, they’ll toss you off the train. A moving train. You have a problem with that? You too are disposable.

Ready to blow it up? You betcha!

This version of the FBI is unconcerned with your rights. They don’t believe you have any rights. First amendment? What’s that? You are dirt under their feet and they treat you accordingly, as if you are dirt under their feet. This is a show that never made the slightest apology for being racist. They never pretended to be fair or worried much about legalities.

They said “We are G-men. You will obey!” And everyone did. It is the FBI at its purest. These men (there are no women other than an occasional secretary) are not merely above the law. They are the law.

Early terrorist attack (1920s) – Wall Street

My favorite moment in tonight’s show was when the boys, ignoring even a nod to international law, take the FBI bus into Mexico to track down the guys who kidnapped their witness.

“The bus broke down three times and the trip took 10 hours,” said the stentorian voice of the narrator.

“So what?” I said to Garry. “We live in the country. That could describe my last trip to the grocery store.”

Since the FBI took over enforcing Prohibition — that is, The Volstead Act — no one has had a drink. Not one person. These guys were so good at battling against beer and booze, the alcohol problem was permanently solved. Some might call this denial. I call it faith. If you believe, it must be true.

I’m trying to get into our current national spirit. How am I doing?

HOLLYWOOD SEX AND OTHER DISTASTEFUL STUFF

I’m afraid there won’t be any men left in Hollywood. The way things are going, they will all be out on sexual assault charges. This is not me saying this stuff didn’t happen. I’m positive it did. I always thought it was going on. Everything I knew about people in show business said that powerful men abused women pretty much all the time and got away with it because … they were powerful men.

Some guy I know suggested he had thought that it was a mutual thing. Sort of humorous.

No, it wasn’t. Not mutual nor humorous. Guys who force women to have sex don’t look like a young Robert Redford. Guys who can have any woman by saying “Hey baby … ” and she faints in his arms, don’t need to force anyone to have sex. Okay, well, there are some pretty weird guys out there, so who knows … but overall, I think you’ll find more guys like Harvey Weinstein and fewer really handsome studs.

Date rape — regular old date rape — was so common when I was in college, no one bothered to officially complain about it. I wonder if they still don’t bother?

No one believed in date rape. If you were “out” with a guy, clearly you expected sex, right? I mean — we all know that women never dated men unless they wanted to have sex.

Your girl friends believed you, though. Because they had gone through the same experiences, if not with the same guy, then with guys just like him. The best way to prevent it from happening again was to tell all your girl friends — and have them spread it around — so they would know and not go out with those creeps. Those guys with eight, tentacle-like arms who more or less strangled you in the car and then told their friends that you’d really wanted it, oh yeah!

 

So there was no point in complaining because the cops sure as hell wouldn’t believe you. The school authorities wouldn’t believe it — and mostly, they still don’t. It was entirely possible your own mother wouldn’t believe you, so if you got into one of those scenes, you just got through it, never dated the asshole again and tried to make sure other women knew he was “one of those guys.” It was the least you could do for them.

So it’s really possible that by next year, at least half the guys in Hollywood will be up on charges, behind bars, or simply too embarrassed to be seen in public.

It’s going to put a real hole in the scripts of some yet-to-be-made movies. Somehow, I’ll deal with it.