What I groove on

Archive for the tag “myth”

A Fine Healthy Serving of Useless Information, Open Wide Please

Let’s see if we can tie this together with a big rope, some bungee cords, a lot of yarn, and perhaps some pretty red ribbon:

During WW2 the United States best air ace was Richard Bong (no relation to the marijuana smoking device) who shot down 40 enemy planes in his P-38. Dick later died test flying a jet in North Hollywood, Cal.

The German Ace of Aces was Erich Hartmann who shot down 352 enemy planes was nicknamed Bubi (The Kid), which has no relation to Sir Mike Stiefel, who holds court in the great state of North Carolina. Hartmann had a daughter named Ursula (who is not related to the Queen Mother of All Groove, Ursula Banning who calls the shots from her pad in Montecito, Cal) nor is Erich connected to arguably one of the funniest Saturday Night Live players Phil Hartman, who went to Westchester high and Santa Monica College and opened his own graphic design firm where his designed at least 40 album covers for bands such as America, Poco, and Steely Dan’s Aja (not confirmed)  before hitting his true calling as a comedian. The crazy ones are fun to run with for a while, but Phil paid a high price when he tied the knot to a real wacko – his 3rd wife Brynn Ordahl who shot him 3 times in a coke freakout as he lay sleeping before offing herself.  His ashes were strewn over Emerald Bay in Catalina.

Phil also designed the logo for Crosby, Stills, and Nash, but he did not design the goofy “cartoon bird” logo for one of my favorite baseball teams the Baltimore Orioles. The “Cartoon Bird” logo came out in 1965 and was on the hat for Brooks, Frank, Boog, Jimmy P, Earl and even Cal. The same group of animators came up with the updated characters of one of my favorite cereals Rice Krispies (Rice Bubbles in Australia.) The original cereal came out in 1927 and the characters Snap, Crackle, and Pop (Kiks, Raks, and Poks in Finnish) have changed a bit over the years (who can forget the 4th guy in the group Pow who represented claimed “explosive nutritional value”, but was soon dropped like a hot potato.) In 1963 the Rolling Stones recorded a short song for a Rice Krispies commercial. The same group of animators also came up with Tony the Tiger, the Jolly Green Giant and the Hamms Beer bear.

But Pow is dead and so are about 200  poor souls stuck on Mount Everest. Their bodies are now used as landmarks and trail markers. “Green Boots” (see photo) died in 1996 and now serves as a waypoint marker that climbers use to gauge how near they are to the summit. “Green Boots” got separated from his group, sought refuge in a mountain overhang, and shivered in the cold until he died. In 2006 English climber Dave Sharp joined “Green Boots” when he stopped in the overhang to rest. His body eventually froze in place rendering him unable to move, but still alive. Over 40 climbers passed by as he sat freezing to death thinking that he was already dead. Eventually some heard faint moans, realized he was still alive, but alas, it was too late.

So from Fighter Aces to Phil Hartman to the logo for the Baltimore Orioles to Rice Krispies to Dead people on Mount Everest, that’s a bucket of useless information poured over your head. To help you lather it in pour yourself something cold and refreshing (I suggest an Anejo rum and soda water with three limes), take those damn shoes off, flush away those brain cramps, and just drift for a while. You will thank me later. Groove.

Here’s a toast to our friends the Cool Cats (Gangsters) and Kittens (Prostitutes)

-1x-1I always thought I would be a better gangster than a spy. The spy thing is too much sneaking around in a trench coat trying to lurk in the shadows of the night. Always vulnerable, like a puppy on an iceberg, a spy often is a traitor and who wants to groove with a traitor?  Gathering information, creeping around, perhaps your shoe is an intercontinental ballistic missile (better than “his bow-tie is really a camera”), not that fun – just not a good line of work. Not to say that being a gangster is any day at the beach.  Most die young and violent deaths without the joys of friends nor family. But both our pals the gangster and his good friend the prostitute, brought some of the common sense and good times that we all enjoy today.

The “Gangster Golden Era” really lasted just three years from 1933 to 1936.  This was also the era of the FBI’s “War on Crime”.  The FBI started out as aUnknown-5 bumbling band of overmatched amateurs who initially didn’t even carry firearms.  J. Edgar’s boys lost suspects, botched stakeouts, and repeatedly arrested the wrong men. Their mistakes would be comical if not for the price paid by the innocent.  imagesDuring that three-year period we saw the rise and fall of John Dillinger (definitely a cool cat…the chicks dug him), Baby Face Nelson (a real unstable psycho, killed to boost his ego and did have a baby face), Machine Gun Kelly (real name George Barnes, dumb as a sack of nails, his wife nagged him into a world of crime), Pretty Boy Floyd (was not pretty, but was cool enough to have Woody Guthrie write a song about him), theUnknown-1 Barker/Karpis gang (Ma Barker was a dim-witted old hag who loved to put together puzzles, it was J. Edgar who portrayed her as a “mastermind,” her own gang said “she couldn’t plan breakfast”), and Bonny and Clyde (no Warren or Faye here, largest haul was $3500, killed innocent bystanders, were incompetent and careless. She was 23 and Clyde was 25.)

There is one cat that needs to be further mentioned. Picture this: it is 1979 and you were on the Spanish coast in a town called Torremolinos. You look Unknownover at the table next to you and there was a seventy year old Alvin “Creepy” Karpis still lean and alert looking more like a professor then the last of the FBI’s Public Enemy No 1’s.  Creepy (his friends called him Ray) was captured in 1936 and according to Creepy, Hoover approached him only after other agents had seized him. Hoover said “Put the cuffs on him.”, but no one brought any, so they had to use one of the agent’s ties. During his life time he ran with Baby Face Nelson, knew images-2Bonny and Clyde, was the longest-serving prisoner on the Rock (Alcatraz), for a long stretch of 26 years. He knew the Birdman, and that gas-bag Machine Gun Kelly, and saw Capone flop around on the cafeteria floor like a large mouth bass on the cutting board while in one of his syphilitic seizures. In 1962, while in the process of closing Alcatraz, Creepy was transferred to McNeil Island Penitentiary in Washington state. There he was approached by a little punk who wanted guitar lessons. “He was meek and mild and never said a harsh word to anybody ” said Creepy. Charlie Manson went on to his own fame, but not by playing the guitar. Creepy was released in 1969 and died in Spain ten years later of an accidental overdose of pills and booze.

As far as our friend the gangster and organized crime is concerned, they brought us many things that we enjoy today:  jazz music (Al Capone, whose jazz images-1clubs in Chicago introduced jazz to mainstream America, and according to black singer Ethel Waters “treated her with respect, applause, deference, and paid in full.”  He and other gangsters, including the great Owney Madden of Cotton Club fame, supplied steady and professional incomes to jazz musicians who had previously lived in poverty.), alcohol (prior to Prohibition a woman rarely Unknown-4drank  in public unless she was a prostitute. The “Speakeasys” changed that because women were welcomed there), Las Vegas, Broadway (Arnold “The Brain” Rothstein, who is credited for turning organized crime into big business, financed several Broadway venues, such as the famous Selwyn Theater, as well as various productions that brought tens of thousands of patrons to the “Great White Way”) the establishment of many of the gay and lesbian bars in America  (Where there is dough you will always find the “Goodfellas”, Vito Genovese and Carlo Gambino, leaders of two of the most powerful crime families in America. They began investing in gay clubs in the 1930’s. The famous Stonewall Inn was owned by three associates of the Genovese family. The family funded the gay pride parades in New York City which have become an annual event demonstrating sexual freedom.)

Unknown-3And look what our lovely street walking friends brought us: in the 19th century, if a woman owned property, made high wages, used birth control, consorted with men of other races, danced, drank, walked alone in public, wore makeup, perfume, or stylish clothes, chances were she was a prostitute. In fact, prostitutes won virtually all of the freedoms that were denied to women, but are now taken for granted.

So you see, a lot of good comes from the bad.  I think our pals the gangster and the prostitute deserve a toast next time you have a drink in your hand, but perhaps not in loud tones. Who knew that so much freedom and groove would be handed to us along the dark path of those who do dark deeds? Raise a glass to those who came before us and let us not take these freedoms for granted. Groove.

I stole shamelessly from two excellent books : A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell and Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough. Thanks fellas.


Go Johnnie Go…the life we’ve lived

johncolterrunJohnnie, stripped of his clothes and shoes, was running naked as a jaybird, stepping on prickly pears, blood running from his nostrils as it does with racehorses when extreme exertion causes the lung tissue to hemorrhage.  Basically Johnnie was trying to escape from the maw of death.  I suppose we all have made runs such as this, in some form, at some point in our lives.  A run of shame, a hasty

Cabrini Green

Cabrini Green

yet nimble retreat down rickety back stairs;  a young, clothes clutching lad, who was running towards his certain demise at the Cabrini-Green public housing project in Chicago, scooped up by a haloed, trash truck driving savior;  the tire iron and croquet mallet wielding miscreants chasing an innocent Dodger fan through the parking lot of Jack Murphy stadium.  These events are all too common in this day and age where unshirted zealotry is coupled with a bovine lack of curiosity, where imaginations are used more than memory, and where charm and reliability rarely come in the same package .

images-1But Johnnie’s issues did not come from this day and age.  Johnnie Colter’s issues were from 1808 when this fur trapper, mountain man extraordinaire, member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and first person of European descent to enter the region now known as Yellowstone National Park, met up with some Blackfoot Indians in a liverish mood. While canoeing up the Jefferson River he and his partner John Potts ran into several hundred Blackfoot who motioned them to the side of the river.  Johnnie went ashore where he was forced to nude up by the Indians, but Potts tried to get away.images  He was riddled with arrows like a sewer’s pin-cushion and his body was brought to shore where it was hacked to small pieces. Johnnie thought his fate was going to be the same as his buddy Potts, but no. The chief, after much council, thought he would make a game of it.  Telling Johnnie to dash, it all became clear – John Colter was in for the run of his life.  He was given a two hundred yard head start then chased by 300 young warriors full of menace.  Johnnie had to hear their horrid war whoops closing in behind him and probably thought he had as much chance to outrun the young bucks as Donna Summer did getting into the images-4Rock-n-Roll hall of fame (actually she made it in 2013 ….so weird.)  He looked back and saw that the chasing Indians had scattered and he had gained ground on the main body of his pursuers with the exception of one brave who was within 50 yards. By this time he had run 6 miles and could still hear the footsteps close behind him.

Suddenly Johnnie stopped, turned around, and spread his arms. The Indian, totally surprised by the images-2suddenness of his action, and perhaps because of Johnnie’s bloody appearance, also came to a halt, but tripped and fell to the ground, his spear breaking at the blade. Johnnie grabbed the blade section and impaled the Brave onto God’s good earth. The trailing Indians saw what occurred and increased their pursuit with renewed vigor and vengeance.

Johnnie ran like few of us ever have, eventually jumping into the freezing Madison River, where he hid in cottonwoods var_mtnmanand beaver dens to survive. He walked, climbed high snow covered peaks, and ran for eleven more days, usually at night, until he finally arrived at a trading post on the Little Big Horn. His life had been won.   In the end the wild life of the Mountain Man lost its attraction, and Johnnie fell back to St. Louis where he found his wife and found his last days.

We all have friends like Johnnie who are bold with adventure, who percolate in their own vitality – and we are better for them.  We all have friends that have found themselves in difficult situations (usually self made) where things could have gone terribly wrong, but now are just good stories.  Good FriendsSome have been forced to run for their lives, either figuratively or literally, and their thunder-clap stories enhance us and shield us from the winds of normalcy.  So let us toast to the gallant, to the foolish, to those who defy slumber, to those with affections and afflictions, to those who shirk the mundane, to those who bring smiles and head shakes to us with their exploits.  So here is a toast to Johnnie Colter and to our wonderful friends. Groove

Groove Central LA Quiz Masters Tourney

quizIt is time again for the 2nd annual Groove Central LA Quiz Masters tourney. After a long journey the two winners from the last contest, the noble Nelson Holdo and the superlative Tom Collins, have been paid in full. Both wore the crown with dignity and both wore it well. If you remember, the first two contestants who answer all of the questions correctly will win 3 drinks to be purchase by the Groovemaster himself at an appropriate venue. This also includes a limited amount of witty conversation and a hearty hand clasp thrown in as a bonus. Best of luck, but as the great Branch Rickey said “Luck is the residue of design.”

1)  Herb Alpert (of Tijuana Brass fame and A & M Records (A meaning Alpert, M for Jerry Moss )    Unknown-1

  • a) was born in Tijuana, Mexico and would often perform at the famous ” Long Bar ” bar in downtown TJ
  • b) comes from a Jewish family that came to the US from the Ukraine
  • c) Father worked on the presidential sculptures on Mount Rushmore
  • d)  Mother was a famous flagpole sitter during the 20’s.

2)  We all groove on Duke Kahanamoku, a pioneer of surfing and 3 time Oly gold medal winner. Duke was alsoimages

  • a) instrumental in bringing  ” beach Volleyball ” here to California and was also the athletic director at Santa Monica’s “Beach Club”
  • b) was an amazing dancer to the point of being admired by Fred Astaire.
  • c)  refused to eat anything red
  • d) starred in a Tarzan movie along with friend and swimming champion Johnnie Weissmuller playing the part of  “Mombobo”, a tribal chieftain.

3)  In ” Mein Kampf ” (My Struggle) , Adolf Hitler’s 1925 memoir, the only American who was mentioned favorably is

  • a) Al Capone
  • b) Charles Lindbergh
  • c) Henry Ford
  • d) Ryan Braun

4)  Which one of these items were NOT originally made in Switzerland ? ch~

  • a) electric toothbrush
  • b) LSD (not talking about the great new band Lake Street Dive)
  • c) cellophane
  • d)  rotary phone dial

5)  Marlon Brando’s son said “the last time my father left his house to go anywhere it was with ………    He was instrumental helping my father through the last years of his life.”   Was he referring to

  • a) Jack Nicholson
  • b) Dean Martin
  • c) Michael Jackson
  • d) Johnnie Carson

6)  We all know and groove on the early 20th century writer Zane Grey (whose first name was Pearl), who appeared to be a



pleasant and unassuming dentist from Ohio who wrote adventure stories, mostly cowboy, then hit it big with “Riders of the Purple Sage.”  He also had a big pad in Catalina overlooking Avalon harbor which is now a hotel.  Over the years, 112 films have been made from his works and in his peak he made $500,000 in one year. By comparison, F.Scott Fitzgearald, in his best year, made $37,500.  But Zane had a secret. It was :

  • a) His books were written by a blind and deaf brother who never knew of his brother’s success or fame
  • b) He kept an enormous cache of pornography sometimes with Zane as the star performer
  • c) Was arrested, but not convicted, of a string of murders of young girls in Mexico City
  • d) was a cross dresser preferring Angora sweaters, tight black dresses, and red pumps.

7)   After refusing surgery this person  said: “I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share. I will do it elegantly. ”

  • a) Eleanor Roosevelt
  • b) Steve Jobs
  • c) Albert Einstein
  • d)  Walter Cronkite

8)   Here, I will lob you a beach ball right across the plate. Sandy Koufax, Dodger great and one of the coolest cats around, Sandy-Koufax-Ballscould hold how many baseballs in one hand ?   (Try it yourself…)

  • a ) 4
  • b) 5
  • c) 6
  • d) 7

9)  If you fell off a 30 foot building would you wildly scream, utter a quick yelp, or silently face your fate?   This is NOT part of the quiz. I’m just asking.

10)  Which of these records was established way back in 1978 and has yet to be broken

  • a) the Men’s long jump
  • b) the top speed on water
  • c) the top speed on land
  • d) the Women’s discus throw

11) Boston Corbett was the man who shot and killed John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln’s assassin) in a barn in Virginia 12 days after Unknown-3Lincoln’s assassination.  Henry Rathbone was with Abe and Mary in the booth at Fords theatre when the dastardly deed was done, sustaining a serious wound from Booth’s Bowie knife.  Beside being part of this American trajedy what else did these two men have in common?

  • a) both were placed in an asylum for the insane
  • b) both died in the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 which killed 21 people
  • c) both played for Abner Doubleday’s ” Knickerbockers ” baseball team
  • d) both played at the 1st Nick Talent Full Throttle Wide Open.

12) Who said that he “half-regretted the demise of so many of the valley’s orchard trees, because now there are no longer enough trees to hang all the troublemakers who live there. ”

  • a) George Armstrong Custer
  • b) William Sheridan
  • c) Gutzen Borglum
  • d) William Mulholland

Well there you have it. Good times await a couple of wonderful souls who will have the great fortune of consuming alcohol with the Groovemaster.   Nelson and Tom, do you have the juices for a repeat?    Thanks and Groove.

With Tom

With Tom

With Nelson

With Nelson

Fake Legs and Chewing Gum – A Big Spread…

mexicofanMexico and I have always gotten along. This surely is not true for everybody, especially for those who ended up taking a bath in an acid filled 55 gallon drum, but for the last 47 years we still sing a good song. Perhaps it is because it is a country where inefficiency is a virtue, where the hurried are shunned, and where day drinking is applauded and encouraged. All this fits nicely into my wheel house.

To really understand Mexico let us look at one of its past leaders who resides in the g0a0000000000000000496459ec62c5038d700afc37a5c654e845735aaeBlack Pantheon of Guys who failed their Nation: Antonio de Padua Maria Severino de Santa Anna y Perez de Lebron, also known as Santa Ana or perhaps in some circles as just Santa. This guy lived a crazy political life having been named President of Mexico eleven non-consecutive times and was still at the end of his life, ready for a come back (we thought Bret Farve was bad).  He was the man in charge at the massacres at the Alamo (189 Americans killed including Dave Crockett and Sam Bowie) and at Goliad (executed 342 Texas prisoners) all in 1836.  Joel Pointsett (the first US minister to Mexico) called Santa Ana a “polecat in silk clothing” (Joel was an amateur botanist and would send back to the states the beautiful red flowered plant that now graces his name : the Pointsettia.)  A month after his wife died, Santa, now 50, married a 15 year old and attempted many coups and presidential runs, but after eleven shots in the high office the good people of Mexico had had enough. He was forgotten and unloved.

But that isn’t why I found interest in this madman in silk.  (By the way, he demanded to be called by his subjects the title “Most Serene Highness”.  I have no problem with that, having been called the same more than once.) In this case what interests me are artificial legs and chewing gum. A big spread I know, but Santa has his hat in the ring in both instances.

surrenderLet’s go back to the famous “French Pastry War” of 1838 to 1839. (not making this up.) What happened is that a French citizen living in Mexico City owned a pastry shop that was ravaged by some boozy Mexican officers after a night on the town and split without payment (who hasn’t thrown down a bunch of eclairs, croissants, and gaugeres after chugging Margaritas). The shop owner filed a claim which was quickly dismissed by Mexican authorities. He complained to the French embassy which appealed to the French government who issued a demand for 60,000 pesos from the Mexican government. (Which was a lot of dough back then (no pun intended), for 1 peso was the daily wage for the average worker.) The Mexicans said NO so the Frenchies invaded, thus started ” the French Pastry War,” and that brings us to Santa Ana.  Though disgraced from his defeat in Texas he was still the Main Man in Mexico ( M.M.M.) and he met the French invading army at Veracruz. There, he was hit in the leg by cannon fire, and had his leg amputated, which he buried at his hacienda. The war ends after 4 months – the French got their pesos, and headed back to France to their pastries. After the war Santa Ana arranged for a state funeral for his amputated leg which at that point  had been buried for almost 4 years. It was dug up, placed in a crystal vase, taken in a full military dress parade to Mexico City and buried beneath an elaborate monument in Santa Paula cemetery. The funeral involved cannon salvos, speeches, and poems in the general’s honor (we did similar things when our tortoise died last year). So the guy had to get a fake leg.

Let’s now jump to the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and Santa Ana is fighting American forces at the Battle of Cerro Gordo. He

The captured leg

The captured leg

decides to take a breather and chow down on some fine roasted chicken.  His lunch is interrupted by the 4th Regiment Illinois Volunteers (led by a young Robert E. Lee, who 15 years later would command the Confederate forces in the Civil War) who swoop down upon the camp, somehow allowing the one legged Santa to escape (we have to assume by horseback or personal hovercraft), but he leaves behind his wood/cork fake leg and chest of gold coins. The volunteers turned in the gold, but keep the leg. Today, Santa’s fake leg resides at the Illinois

On display

On display

National Guard Museum in the town of Cerro Gordo, Illinois (used to be called Griswold, but because of the victory they changed the town’s name). There is a story that Abner Doubleday while stationed in Mexico during the Mexican American War used the fake leg as a bat to introduce his new game of baseball. This is not true, for Abner Doubleday had nothing to do with the invention of baseball (he is often credited with inventing the game, although he himself never made such claim and there is no evidence to support it. He is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, while in San Francisco after the Civil War, he obtained the first patent for the cable car which he eventually sold.) The Mexican government has requested the leg be returned, but I don’t see this happening anytime soon.

And that finally brings us to Santa Ana and chewing gum. A fellow named Tommy Adams lived in Staten Island and was a photographer and glass maker, among other vocations. To make a little dough on the side he would take in boarders, and in this case it would be the irrepressible General Santa Ana doing some exile time away from Mexico.  Santa Ana was in possession of a large amount of chicle, a sticky substance that comes from the Mexican sapodilla tree, and suggested to Adams that he try to vulcanize it as a substitute for rubber.  Adams Adams-Chiclets-Gumtried to make toys, masks, rain boots, and bike tires out of the material, all failures. Preparing to dump the chicle into the East River, Adams popped a piece into his mouth and liked the taste. Chewing away, he had the idea to add flavoring to the chicle. Shortly after, he opened the world’s first chewing gum factory and in February of 1871, “Adams New York Gum No.1” went on sale in drug stores for a penny a piece.  He then added “Chic-lets,” “Black Jack,” and “Tutti-Frutti” to his line and was the first gum to be sold in vending machines. During the next year, Thomas Adams formed the “American Chicle Company” which merged the 6 largest chewing gum manufacturers and remained on its board of directors until he died in 1905. In America, over 195 million pounds of chewing gum is consumed annually.

santa-annaI don’t think Santa Ana got a dime from Tommy Adams, for the self proclaimed” Napoleon of the West” and the ” Most Serene Highness” died penniless in Mexico City in 1876 at the age of 82, but his replacement fake leg is being displayed at the National History Museum in Mexico City, so in a twisted sense his legacy lives on. On the other hand, Bruce says “everything dies baby that’s a fact, but maybe everything dies someday comes back” so if you are walking down the street and see a one legged  Mexican chewing gum wearing silk yell out “Hey Santa” and see what reaction you get.  Groove.

Lemme tellya Pilgrim

Did not serve

Don Adams (Get Smart) served with Marines on Guadalcanal. Wounded in battle, he later became a drill instructor . Eddie Albert (Green Acres) won the Bronze Star for actions during the Battle of Tarawa in the Pacific. James Arness (Gunsmoke) received The Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his actions at the Battle of Anzio. Walter Brennan (Real McCoys) served in WW 1 and was exposed to poison gas which ruined his vocal cords leaving him with the high pitch voice texture that made him a natural to play old men while still in his 30’s. Jimmy Stewart flew over 20 bombing missions in B-24’s over Europe, rose to the rank of Colonel, and was awarded many medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross. John Wayne, real name Marion Morrison, DID NOT SERVE. There were many top line actors who distinguished themselves in America’s wars (Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Tyrone Power, and many more), but John Wayne was not one of them.

John Wayne, the quintessential war hero and patriot, never actually  served in uniform. There are some who claim that there were good reasons that kept John from service (a crumbling marriage, four kids to feed, old injuries, a skyrocketing career, can best serve at home making movies of WW2 heroes), but there were other stars under similar circumstances who found themselves in service. In 1944 Wayne received a 2-A classification, deferred in support of national interest. A month later the Selective Service decided to revoke many previous deferments and reclassified him 1-a, but Wayne’s studio appealed and got his 2-a repealed.

Author William Manchester (Arms of Krupp, American Caesar), while recovering in Hawaii from wounds suffered in the Pacific  during WW2 wrote  “One night they had a surprise for us. Before the film, the curtains parted and out stepped John Wayne, wearing a cowboy outfit and a 10 gallon hat, bandanna, checkered shirt, two pistols, chaps. boots and spurs. He grinned his aw-shucks grin, passed a hand over his face and said, Hi-ya guys! He was greeted in stony silence. Then someone booed. Suddenly everyone was booing. This man of fake machismo we had come to hate, and we weren’t going to listen to him.”

In the wake of his movies the line between John Wayne the man and the heroes he portrayed becomes blurred. Perhaps there are good reasons for his absence during WW2 and there are many who feel there are. Yet, by many accounts, Wayne’s failure to serve in the military was a very painful experience in his life. His widow (the last of three wives) said that his patriotism in later decades sprang from guilt. She wrote ” He would become a ” superpatriot” for the rest of his life trying to atone for his staying home.”

I think John Wayne was a patriot, but not a hero.

Waiting for Columbus

” In a museum in Havana there are two skulls of Christopher Columbus, one when he was a boy and one when he was a man.”     Mark Twain

Washington D.C….the D.C. is short for District of Columbia – a feminized version of ” Columbus”.  Two state capitals and some forty other U.S. cities, towns, and counties also bear his name. As do countless institutions such as Columbia University and of course his landing date is a national holiday. For God’s sake they even named a space shuttle after him, but that didn’t work out so well.

The nation’s capital and many other sites around this country are named for a man who never set foot on this continent. Why, you ask?  Well, it’s not really understood…

There is a painting of Chris landing on an island he called San Salvador at the U.S. Capital Rotunda and it is true that for 12 years he hopscotched all over the Americas and was the first European to land on the beaches of many future nations, but not once did he see or touch anything that later became U.S. soil.

Why did he get the nod? Was it because he brought tobacco to Europe allowing most Europeans to bathe less and smoke more. True, tobacco became one of America’s most profitable exports, but  that came along with a deliciously healthy dose of heart disease and lung cancer .

Gold and God, conquest and conversion. Those cute, adorable, but very nasty twins of Spanish exploration. And Chris was a true conquistador wannabee. Sure, he did his mandatory raping, pillaging, and spreading of disease, but came up short  in the gold department. In his last days Chris hung out with another huge liar and self promoter Amerigo Vespucci and coughed up his last breath never receiving the recognition or riches which he so desperately sought.

Both the DR ( Dominican Republic ), Spain, and other countries claim to have some or all of Chris’s bones, but where ever those bones are, I bet they are singing “How do you like me now”.

The Truth Be Told

In 1602 Bartholomew Gosnold,who was one of the first of many enterprising English explorers, was sent to the New World to collect sassafras root, a highly prized aromatic plant of tremendous value back in England, and to attempt to colonize New England (which at that time was called Virginia.) Doubting the weather of the fog bound rocky shores of Maine, he sailed southward stopping at a sandy promontory where his sailors caught so much fish he named it “Cape Cod”.  His next stop was a beautiful vine draped island he named “Martha’s Vineyard” after his daughter.  Soon his ship’s hold was filled with tons of the root. The small colony of Cuttyhunk was established which was soon abandoned.

But the facts are that Bart was loading up on sassafras because it was a supposed cure for syphilis, the most evil of the  “Poxe” raging through Europe. So one could say that English Massachusetts, the most Puritan of colonies, had first been settled because of a venereal disease. Makes one look at the Puritans and the Pilgrims  with a slight nod and a wink. An enigma to the respectable, a delight to the sinister.  Groove.

Print The Legend

The strange  dusty road of Truth has many hairpin turns and hazy stretches. It collides with Myth at a billion miles per hour and leaves chunks of reality mixed in with lumps of fantasy. Yet truth is stranger than fiction. An example of that is that Richard Dawson, the host of Family Feud who recently passed away, married one of the contestants and that the descendants of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s were contestants on the show in 1979 where they played for cash prizes and a pig. ( The Hatfields won).

Like in Western History there are some who believe that myth is more important than History. That myth transcends the truth, and like religion, is beyond fact. Truth is a much harder sell for we Americans don’t really study History we shop for it.  Stephen Jay Gould , paleontologist, Harvard instructor, and a great baseball guy said that “humans have a psychic need for an indigenous creation of myth. That we need to come up with an explicit point of origin rather than accept that most beginnings are gradual and complex. We need to identify heroes and sacred places while evolutionary stories provide no palpable particular thing as a symbol for reverence, worship, or patriotism.”

Many Baseball heads credit Abner Doubleday for “inventing Baseball” one day in a cow pasture  in 1839. Now Abner was a cool cat : a Union officer who is credited with firing the first cannon blast while defending Fort Sumter, which was the opening battle of the Civil War, and after the war he moved to San Francisco where he obtained the patent on the cable car , but he never claimed to have invented Baseball. The man who gave him posthumous credit for creating the sport was later judged ” criminally insane”on murder charges. There is clear evidence that our ” National pastime” evolved over decades from English games such as Rounders and Stool Ball. Now that cow pasture is where the Baseball Hall of Fame resides in Cooperstown , New York.

Rhode Island, which is not an island, got its name from a geographic mixup with Block Island, which Gio De Verrazzano thought  resembled the Greek Island of Rhodes. ” California” is believed to derive it’s name from Calafia, queen of the tall black Amazons, whom 16th century Spaniards conjured up as occupiers of the Golden State. And two continents, North & South America, bore the name of Amerigo Vespucci, who never set foot upon them and wrote fantasies about lands he never saw.

As they said in “The Man who Shot Liberty Valance” when ” The Legend becomes fact, print the Legend.”


Post Navigation