Friday, August 24, 2012



I took a trip up to Streetsboro, Ohio – a suburb of Cleveland – recently to appear with my new friends the Womack Family Band at Honky Tonk House Concerts (they're great, by the way).
I always enjoy these solitary drives. They permit me to talk to myself.   Much as I'm doing here, I'm sure.
One thing I noticed since last trip up was the new proliferation of signs dedicating aging bridges and stretches of deteriorating highways to local heroes fallen in this continuing war-of-choice in Afghanistan and Iraq. It seems like every piece of crumbling infrastructure is dedicated to someone's child's dream of serving their country.
I have no zinger here for this story. Only a question: is the lost life of even one American kid justifiable to pursue the hegemonic fantasies of old men?
Reinstate the draft. Put everybody's kid in harm's way.
it's always the old who lead us into War, always the young who fall”
                                                                                               ----Phil Ochs

Friday, August 17, 2012


I love you, Nedezhda
I love you, Yekaterina
I love you, Maria
You are magnificent
You are Pussy Riot
Vladimir Putin is just a pussy.

Thursday, August 16, 2012



I've been watching Mitt during his trips to the heartland. I notice that, in order to appear to be one of the “folks”, Mitt has taken to wearing blue jeans. He still wears the business shirt, but the sleeves are rolled up, dammit, and Mitt's ready to get in there and pitch right in with the hay baling or the barn raising or whatever it is that these people do.

The only problem is that Mitt just doesn't look comfortable in jeans. For one thing, they're too new, ain't been washed once, I betcha. Rather than a man of the people, Mitt looks just plain uneasy in his newish, bluish, purple denim trousers.

My wife actually owned two Cadillacs once. And having been around rich people, she assures me that Mitt is no doubt familiar with the feel of jeans and that he probably is in the habit of wearing them when he mows his lawn, changes the oil on his car, or fiddles with the outboard motor of his bass boat. He just wants to look nice and sharp for the voters, despite his humble beginnings.  And he has magic underwear and is very kind to his pets.

I'm sure she's right.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I'm not tough enough for this game
Not smart enough, not rich enough,
Not famous enough, not talented enough

I've been doing this for so long
for so little that sometimes
I wonder why I don't stop.

I'm not tough enough, smart enough,
rich enough, or talented enough
I'm just fool enough. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Panama Goes on a Diet


A few months back I got to looking in the mirror, something I do not do as much as the tone of these essays would imply. Anyway I noticed that I was, hopefully, getting fat. I say hopefully because either I was getting fat or my entire underlying abdominal muscular structure was giving way and my guts were getting ready to fall down around my knees. I got on the scale and got out my online chart and discovered that not only was I fat, I was borderline obese. Borderline. Obese.

I got in touch with my personal trainer, who was taking a nap in the bedroom.
Patty?” I whined manfully. “I'm borderline obese.”
Told ya,” she said supportively. “Time for a diet, Chubs.”

As it happens, she'd been in touch with our chiropractor and had been looking at a diet plan called Medifast. Here's their deal: they send you a big boxful of boxes and every three hours you choose one thing from one of the boxes and eat that. That one thing is sufficient to keep you going for another three hours, no matter which one you choose. Three hours later you choose another thing from the box. Most of the time the food is palatable, some of it downright tasty. But it ain't bad is my point.
And once a day you get to actually eat something. A real meal. We invariably have either broiled chicken and a salad, or baked salmon and a salad. We have these because these are what I can fix, and me cooking for both of us is part of my personal trainer's philosophy. “You need to be in closer touch with what you're eating,” she says. 

I did not go into this blindly. I researched it on the internet, and found some criticisms of the plan. One of these revealed that this is sort of a pyramid scheme, which it is. There was much chortling amongst the regulars on the forum. About how stupid a person would have to be to fall for this scam. There was a picture of the moderator of the forum. She looked like Shamu. I therefore gave the nod to my personal trainer and she signed us up.

So far I've lost quite a few pounds in two months. And it ain't torture. I'm not going to say how many pounds I've lost, because I hate that kind of stuff, but it's something on the order of two large cats.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Panama Encounters the Secret Service

Like many of my gullible fellow seniors I've recently become the victim of a Nigerian scam.
Okay, I knew that an email that asked me if I wanted to make a thousand dollars a month from my home in my spare time was too good to be true. Knowing this, I wrote back to Mr Duyt Mallow and told him that yes, I'd like to make a thousand dollars a month at home in my spare time. And sat back and waited for what would come next. I'm always up for a scam.

What came next was an in-depth interview that basically wanted to know my address and explained what my duties would be. My duties, it turned out, would not be very stressful. All I had to do was receive packages at my home and then put new labels on them. This, it was explained, was because “we are an English company and many of our goods are purchased there in the States, but we do not want our American customers to know that they actually came from America.” Well, this made sense to me. I often tell European audiences that I'm an American, and I find that this goes over well with them, despite being the truth.

I prepared myself for an onslaught of packages to be re-addressed and sent out. A few days later a Federal Express truck rolled up to my house and dropped off one, count 'em, one dinky little package.
Oddly, although the package had my address on it the addressee was someone named Redden. But I got my new label in an email from Mr Mallow and slapped it on the package and sent it to someplace in Valley Stream, NY. Prepaid via Federal Express. Meantime I'm copying every label and saving every email, because I know that somewhere down the line some investigative agency is going to want to know all the details.
This is the kind of thing old people do. We get bored. It passes the time. We're snoopy. We think we're Miss Marple or Matlock or somebody.

A couple of weeks later another package arrived. “Wow, this is easy work,” I said to myself. Got the label, sent it out to a different name, but also to the same building in Valley Stream, NY. I did break confidence and I slyly opened this one. It had shoes in it. Pretty expensive ones, too. But I resealed it and sent it on, prepaid Federal Express. My first month of employment was just about over and I was
wondering how my employers were going to approach the fact that I had done twenty minutes' work for one thousand dollars.

I must say that they were not prompt in getting my thousand dollars to me. But after two more weeks I got another letter from Mr Mallow, apologizing for not getting my payment to me, but the company had been in the throes of reorganization (he didn't say “throes of reorganization”, I'm just trying to keep this interesting), but things had settled out now and my payment would soon arrive, and my situation was being handled by Mr Bench, to whom I should write and communicate my readiness to receive my payment. .I wrote Mr Bench.

My letter from Mr Bench stated that the “authority” in the company had agreed to pay me and that my paycheck of one thousand dollars should be arriving any day now. Federal Express showed up again, this time with a FedEx envelope addressed to me. I opened the envelope. Inside was a cashier's check, not for one thousand dollars, but rather for thirty-eight hundred dollars. My lucky day.

I soon got another email from Mr Bench saying, oops, we sent the wrong amount, and I should go to my bank, deposit the check in my account, keep my thousand dollars and then send the balance to some guy in Charleston, SC, via Western Union. I could by this time imagine some crew in Nigeria laying their fingers up beside their noses a la “The Sting”.
I replied to Mr Bench that I was going to send his check back to the address it had come from, and please send me a check for the thousand dollars. He wrote back, “go ahead and cash it, it's okay.”

So I went over to FedEx. And asked Ashley, who works there, to Google the address the envelope had come from and see if it was a real address. So she did and it was. “They also have a phone number,” she said. “Do you want it, too?” I would have said “you betcha,” but Sarah Palin has ruined that phrase for me, so I was stuck with Yes. It was a place in Birmingham.

I dialed the number. The company was named Underground Wiring(not really) and the kid who answered was named Mike(really). He told me that the guy I was calling was gone for the day, but did I want to leave a message? “Yes, I do,” I said firmly. “Tell Bill that I'm sending back the letter he FedExed me.”

“Is this about a check?” Mike asked. Yes, I said. “Listen, the Secret Service has been in here all day talking to Bill, because somebody got our Fed Ex account info and has been using it like crazy lately, so if that's what this is about, you should get in touch with your local law enforcement people.”

“Okay,” I said.

I called the Secret Service office in Nashville. Apparently they are tasked with a lot more than just guarding the president and stiffing hookers in Cartagena. But it was Friday, and I got a message saying no one would be in until Monday and I should leave my number and the nature of my call. So I did.

I gotta say that even Mr Mallow and crew were more prompt when it came to getting in touch, because I didn't hear from Secret Service for a week. Or ever, actually, because I had to call them again. Which I did today.

I got through to the receptionist and she put me through to the “duty agent”.

Ring. Ring. “This is (unintelligible). How can I help you?”

“I'm sorry, what's your name again, please?”


“Could you spell that? I'm hard of hearing.”

“Who is this?”

“My name is Danny Finley. What's yours?”


“Okay, 'Dan', I'm calling because I've gotten involved with some scammers and I have a lot of information that I'd like to pass on to you. I think you'd be interested.”

“I don't think so. You see, there's nothing we can do once the money is out of the country. If you're supposed to send something to someone via Western Union, then anyone can go to any Western Union office anywhere and get the money.”
“Really? Don't you think you should maybe talk to Western Union about this?”

“Really. It doesn't work that way. It works the way I just said.”

“So you're not interested in these reams of information I've collected about these guys?”

“No. These are guys sitting in Nigeria or Ghana, and we can't touch them.”

“So I should just forget this whole magilla?”

“That'd be my advice, yeah.”

“Well, thanks for your time.”

“No problem”.

Well, it sounds like a BIGASS problem to me, but what do I know? I'm just a bored little old man in Rockvale Tennessee. Now I know how the Secret Service stays secret. They don't do anything unless the president is coming to town. Or they have a hot date in Cartagena.

It's "its".

It's “its”

You may think it's because I deeply care about your being able to write a cogent, coherent thought, and about your being able to express yourself more concisely, precisely, etc., because I love you. I don't. I do it because I can't stand to see the same crap jerk mistake made over and over and over.

Notice I didn't say “mistakes”, plural. I said “mistake”, singular.

So I'm not going to take you to task for “to, two, and too” today. Apparently no matter how many times you hear it, it will not sink in that these are words that sound alike, but do not mean the same thing. Instead I've decided that for a while at least I'll just drop my left shoulder like an offensive lineman and plow on through this garbage I constantly get from out there, they're and their.

Nope. Today we're going to go to town on “it's”. I see this poor orphan abused all the time even by people who have Letters After Their Names. I thought I'd clear this up for you, even those unfortunates with degrees.

It's “its”. Invariably. Unless you are making a contraction of “it is”, it's always “its”.

There is no “I before e, except after c(unless you're spelling 'weird')” rule here. Unless you're saying “it is”, it's always “its”.

There! You just earned your English Degree. Thank you for reading. I feel much better now.
Snacks, naps and playtime