To the Point

There comes a time in every epoch when pragmatism simply evolves into extreme acquiescence and surrender to the forces of apathy and do-nothingness, a guarantor of the status quo in all of its easy, democratic criminality--its fortress of greed.--TL Simons

Monday, March 31, 2014

Time Warp

Photo by RP Thomas

The ‘57

Tex may have been first to notice,
though the topic was debated
in Noble Coffee, that the old Fury
had recently reappeared in town.

The philologist Carl Hicks said
something that seemed profound—
to himself if not Harry Reems—that
curiosity is the trick of a mind sated

By decorous ambiguities. A Fury
with the driver dead, Hicks stated
with his usual air of confounding
obscurity, cannot be driven unless

Old Martha has risen from her grave
and given it a fill-up at Phil’s station.
Reems reached for the honey this
time, his mind chilled by the gravity

Of Carl’s oration. We should visit Phil,
Harry suggested, riven by the philologist’s
logic. Stirring his cupful, he looked
up at Talent’s town clock; it read 7:57.


Crime Scene

Photo by RP Thomas


Every small school has a football star—
Talent is no different in that regard—
a kid who shines under the lights
on Friday nights, thrilling the home town
crowd of moms and dads who yield to this
sacred rite of passage, when 200 yards
rushing ensures the rightful purpose
of their lives—and the dad may drink or
be an insurance man, and the mom may
have a secret plan to escape the deadening
sameness of everything, having once
dreamed of something else.  Boomer’s
mother hadn’t a clue that her son was sporting
failure in school—that his head was filled with
schemes to steal things that weren’t his.
Thus one night after the big game, when Big
Mike and Rolo were away at Lizzie DeLay’s,
Boomer and his friend Ben Browner stole
into the junkyard after midnight, found the
mechanic’s stash and a few of his  meager
treasures, and trashed the bus in their anger.


Friday, March 28, 2014


Essay of the day, from Andrew Levine.

Good stuff.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tex's Blues

Photo by Charles Lucas

Tex’s Old Café Blues

Don’t ever work the grill in the old café.
There are better ways to spend your days.
The good old days will soon slip you past,
and a job like that it just won’t last.

If you cook something up it should be real good.
Cook enough to feed the whole damn neighborhood.
Serve it one time with a real fine wine,
just don’t spend your whole life on the cookin’ line.

The old café will be the end of your time.
Let it and you’ll turn hard to crime.
You’ll never make money or get very far,
except to spend your pennies in the next door bar.

There are better things to do.
Work a job that is a better you.
Take time to catch a simple clue.
Don’t do things that make you feel too blue.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fixing the Hole

Photo by RP Thomas

Rex Dern

As far as Rex Dern could tell
everyone meant well at Tex’s Tavern,
but he was sick of it all.

A more selfish man he couldn’t recall
than his friend Ted, whose swell
of agony hit him like a tsunami of fear.

Day in and day out he sits there,
usually on the same stool if he can
arrange it, dropping tears into his beer.

Goddamn, Ted'd shot many a man
in his war, as had Tex in his, but neither
one could make sense of it; far be it

That the U.S. government ever admits
wrong doing, so it falls on them to one
day fix things. Rex knew neither would,

Nor could. Their faith in illusions was
too strong; he saw anything beyond
breathing as but a mercenary's song.

Rex dragged himself up from his desk
and looked out the window. Tomorrow
he’d cash his last unemployment check. 


A Day in the Life

Photo by RP Thomas

A Talent Day

As Big Mike turned an Allen wrench, he smelled
the stench of something rotting in the trunk
of a gray Olds towed in the day before,
while Rolo rolled 'round under the good old
bus.  Over at Tex’s Tavern, the wag Ted
said, “Lizzie, I’ll have another.” Lizzie
shook her head, sending Ted into the men’s
room to piss and rethink his strategy.  
In Noble Coffee, Carl Hicks was laying
it on thick, explaining the various
uses of metaphor in the Good Book.
Harry Reems frowned and shot Hicks a grim look.
Tired, Tex was upstairs in his office where
he now lived, writing three songs he deemed fair.


First Trouble

Photo by RP Thomas

Young Lizzie

Before she stood with Tex that night in
San Antonio, Lizzie had never sang in front
of a crowd of rodeo riders and hangers-on.
Growing up in Port Arthur she’d heard all
about Joplin of course, named her horse
“Janis,” and vowed to get out of town as
soon as she could.  When she was ten her  
dad died and her mom cried until a bull rider
named Griffin came along.  Lizzie never
liked him and told him to “fug” off.  The first
song she sang was “Me and Bobby McGee,”
which she purloined from her Aunt Tillie’s
Pearl before it melted in the Texas sun.  

By 15 she was ready to run and no longer  
a virgin; Tillie took her to Austin to “settle
her down.”  Calling Lizzie wild and destined
for trouble, Tillie found a job In a cheap motel;
soon thereafter Lizzie’s life and everything else
she knew fell all to hell.  She dated a cowboy
punk who had a wife and baby at home, drank
until she was drunk as a skunk and began to
roam Austin’s streets on her own.  Just as
Tillie told her it would, her day did come;
Lizzie got a gun and held up a liquor store; in
Texas that’s a stretch, so Lizzie did her four.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Clifford Brown

He played better than this frequently, but this is the only known footage of Clifford Brown, who died in an automobile accident at age 25.

One of my favorite players.



Photo by RP Thomas

Ted’s Bad Dream

The wag Ted drank his fill
at Talent's Tex’s Tavern
before heading up the hill
to his house on Deemer Lane,
where he lived alone with
his demons and bad dreams.

In his old life he’d had a wife,
but that was a long time ago.
She’d ran off with a man named
Sam with whom Ted served in
Vietnam; his bad nights had
since gotten worse and he’d   

Laid a few mines down near
the wire, loaded his revolver
and stayed under cover until  
dawn, when he peered outside
and saw his neighbor Glenn
Nguyen mowing his lawn.  Oh,

Ted thought it odd—a sign from
God?—and went to his kitchen to
make coffee, before thinking again
and finally taking to bed with his
gun at his head; he spun the chamber,
pulled the trigger, and lived.


How Tex Met Lizzie

Photo by RP Thomas

Tex’s Guitar

Tex played
his old Yamaha
now and again.
For ten years he’d
been a country
musician working
out of Midland;
roadhouses mainly,
playing Waylon and
Willie covers, with
some early Merle and
Earle thrown in.
That old guitar had
saved his life, he
told Lizzie Delay
the night he met
her in a juke joint
outside San Antone.
He was alone on the
bandstand when Lizzie
touched his hand; as
he picked the notes
of a George Jones song
Lizzie began to sing along,
and damn if she didn’t
sound a whole lot like
Loretta Lynn.
The next day Lizzie
joined the tour—this
was back in ’04, when
Lizzie was 25,
and Tex felt lucky
just to be alive.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Post-Mortem on Nike U

The Duck bashers are out in full force on the interwebs.

Who are these people?  What makes them so vicious?

I doubt if it's much different anywhere in the land, but I just don't understand the negativity people manage to dredge up when their team loses. Or the chortling.

This is the part of sport I can't take. The blame game.

The naysayers are blaming Oregon's excellent and proven coach Dana Altman, the players, the officials, the cheerleaders and the bus driver for the loss last night.

Oh, and Nike.

Right, everyone is to blame, except Wisconsin, which happens to be a very good team that adjusted in the second-half and took advantage of its length to exploit Oregon's undersized and slow front line.

Great coaching there. If you didn't notice Oregon's front court crew was lacking all season you weren't paying attention.

Wisconsin noticed, that is for sure, if belatedly.

That's basketball.

When Oregon adjusted, or tried to, and packed the middle to stop Wisky's inside game, the back court suddenly had open opportunities, which they cashed in like a bundle of overtime bonus checks. That team could flat-out shoot it.

That's not the narrative though in the minds of certain types. The naysayers seem to be more interested in social science and psychology--bless you Harry Edwards, wherever you are.  Thank you as well, Ivan Pavlov, wherever you are.

John Canzano walks into the Oregon locker room and, surprise, sees frowny faces.  This bugs him, just as the smiley faces Oregon displayed in a football loss to Stanford this season bugged him.  You would guess this is his first college rodeo. He can't decide what he wants--calzone or pizza?--in the buffet line.

Hey, JC, the players were pissed in both cases, and could give a damn what you think. Reactions to losing are as varied as the humans who have them. Wasn't last night  a sign they cared?  I mean, come now, you were critical when a couple of Ducks showed a seemingly cavalier attitude in the Stanford football game and didn't appear to take the thumping to heart.

Those self-defensive and embarrassed smiles on the sideline were deplorable! A true sign of not giving a damn!  Right?

Which is it?  Be sad or be glad when you lose?  Hmm...the dilemma appears to be how to react to losing--a sticky-wicket open to interpretation. We can agree that acting out, picking a fight, is bad form.  After that words, if not fists, commonly fly. Though I agree we all need to be nicer to each other, sometimes it just doesn't work that way.

Somewhere in the ether there exists a reaction to a loss that Canzano must envision as proper, a method of dispelling heartbreak. It would be neutral, emotionless, cold, and something other than honesty and the truth of the moment would need to play out.

Would it be like an NFL or NBA locker room, where an outrageous salary for the night's work might salve the wounds?  Or would it be more like sitting in front of a keyboard and making shit up?

Who knows?

Oregon wasn't a "team?"  Bullshit again. Were they immature?  Must be, because only the writers and naysayers have maturity, obviously.

Oregon was a team with an inferior front line. There's no need to rip the players about that.  Anyone with an ounce of acumen should be able to admit that without blaming the loss on phantoms. Oregon wasn't going to win it all--by losing in the round of 32 the team is fair game for the writers and would-be pundits/coaches. To hear JC, this loss was all Oregon. Wisconsin had nothing to do with it--except they had a better team on this night.

Take it from a guy who has played on a few losing teams--me.  Great guys co-existed on those teams, with a few exceptions.  The few bad guys didn't cause the teams to lose.  A lack of size, speed and fundamentals did.

Good lord, get relativism is a canard in sports most of the time. Feel-good stories about championship seasons, wherein a team of angels defeats the forces of darkness, are baloney.

Even the state champ has a dickhead on the team. Always.

It's embarrassing to be an Oregon fan at times, given the odd and hilarious paradox in Oregon athletics now. The thinking goes like this: Nike adversely coddles Oregon's players, which causes them to lose big games and act out.  Or...Nike coddles them, which means they should never lose while acting out.

Win and it's on Nike.  Lose and it's on Nike. The hue and cry is astonishing.  The middle ground, good sense, realism, have vanished. You know, because athletes act out, good and bad. You know, because that always happens and always has. Always will.

In a recent year, an athlete on Harvard's much lauded team was kicked out of school for cheating. Damn entitled punk.

Oregon took its loss hard.  Would you expect them to take it any other way?  If the players cracked a smile, they'd get ripped for that.

But nobody is taking this loss as hard as the fans who expect Oregon to win because it's Nike U, or those who think Oregon lost because it's Nike U.

Christ, it was a game between two decent teams, both of which have corporate backers and, most certainly, a bad egg or two.

Would you like some corporate cheese atop those rotten eggs...?

Short of some kind of national championship outside of track and field (which is miraculously unaffiliated with the famed running shoe company, ha ha) nothing will please the bandwagon fans--except when something pleases them.

Darn it.  I wish Oregon wasn't filled with so many bums.  I wish they'd take their beatings like real men.  I wish Nike would go away and we could have something else to blame.

You know, like other teams' fans do...


Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Photo by RP Thomas

Post-Modern Talent

Everyone who lives in Talent
is a post-modernist according
to the philologist, Carl Hicks.

“I should know,” Hicks said,
clicking his pen as he prepared
to write himself into a corner.

“Having been a biologist as
well as a wordsmith, you’ve
studied our DNA,” said Harry

Reems, adding a touch of cream
to his coffee.  “I agree you should
know.”  By now everyone in

Noble Coffee had pricked up their
ears:  “So my fraudulent friend,  tell
me what post-modernism means.”

“Of course I will not!” Hicks huffed.
“For it is knowing that nothing is
 as certain as it seems! Nothing!”



Photo by RP Thomas


In Talent, the edge
is always near,
civilization and the
wild enmeshed,
distance a provocation,
a dire warning and  
welcoming invitation;
the seer,
like a frightened deer,
may misjudge the scene
and move along a path
that wends downward for
a fraction of time before
climbing into unfamiliar
terrain, where green and blue
merge into something both
alien and true; sheer
terror, thence broken, becomes
new, confounding emotion.


Life Imitates Art

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who owns the original Kerouac Scroll of "On the Road," which he paid over 2 million for, is in trouble.

There's an odd synchronicity to this story.  Kerouac drank himself to death at age 49 and had a particular fondness for amphetamines.  Irsay was nabbed for driving under the influence (drink) and possession of a controlled substance (pills).



Pollack is Pissed

This reads like Pollack was up after midnight, with much on his mind, something sinful by his side.

Some time ago I short-listed Norman to the handful I can take seriously, a group that includes Hedges, Cockburn, and Pilger, among others.

And this is a damn fine piece on Cormac McCarthy.

See what happens when you get up at 4 a.m.?  Good things.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Final Four

The tournament selection committee likes Oregon this year.

Two winnable games confront the Ducks.  First up, BYU. Oregon beat them earlier in the year, in OT, I believe.

After that, likely Wisconsin, the West's No. 2 -- not the best of the number twos.  Oregon will run into problems with Creighton, however.

So I see another Sweet 16 for the Ducks, but that is about all.  They'll have to play their best to get that far.

My Final Four:  Arizona, UCLA, Michigan State, Louisville.

You saw it here first.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

In 'N' Out Ordeal

Lee Santa was rushed to the Portland VA Hospital Thursday with a heart problem.  The docs slapped a pacemaker on him and sent him back to Idaho this morning.

Ah, science.  It is good.


The Tithe

Ceramic by Charles Lucas

Talent Sunday

The pious were in church Sunday morning
while the rest of Talent slept.  In the Church of
God, a cleric gave warning: “Brothers and sisters,
our deep suffering and goodwill would be blessed,
our lives less stressed, if on the way out you left
a ten dollar bill.”  Amen, the righteous rang out and 
dug deep into their pockets.

The wag Ted, recently trying to dry out, said, “Rex,
ya think Tex is out of bed yet?  About God I have
my doubt.  A double about now, and a few while 
tithing, may improve the faith I am lacking.”
Rex, bereft of humor but full of good sense, said,
“but how?” Ah, man, the wag sang out and 
dug deep into empty pockets.



This is great.  My daughter was listening to it as she read from "Talent," the new cycle of poems I've occasionally posted here.

It fits.  It's nice when the public understands what you're doing.  Even nicer when family "gets it."

Lots left to do on this project.  Thanks, Stella Claire!


Thursday, March 13, 2014

No Condi

Good on Rutgers' students and faculty.

Now if only college football fans might discard her from the Playoff selection committee next season.  Not only is she unworthy as a human being, but she knows as much about football as my cat.

I don't have a cat.  But you get the idea.

Inviting a contribution from Condoleezza Rice in anything these days shows an appalling lack of judgment, something you might expect from the good ol' boys who run college football.  But for a major university to allow her to give a commencement is simply, breathtakingly, hopelessly asinine.

But, come to think of it, since when did we ever really expect the academy to be exempt from asininity?


Double Whammy

I went to the dentist today, had an extraction.  In a little pain now.

Looking forward to a good night's sleep after last night.  I ate some bad food and got really sick.  Up from midnight 'til four this morning.

The dental on top of that.

What joy.


Cheese Plus

Speaking of the big cheese, Oregon goes after UCLA tonight in the second round of the PAC-12 Tournament at 6 p.m.

This time UCLA will have its two best scorers, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, who were suspended when the two teams met a couple of weeks ago.

Oregon blew a nice lead in that one during regulation, but survived in overtime and beat the Bruins.

UCLA doesn't have any excuses now. I expect the Bruins to win because they have better talent, though Oregon might have better depth.

Oregon is in the big dance.  So is UCLA.  This is a nice warm up for the real deal next weekend.  The winner may get the higher seeding in the dance, however.  That stuff is overrated.  You either play well in March Madness and advance, or you go home.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Photo by RP Thomas

Trouble in Talent

In April I shall shave
my  beard, Tex said, 
and in May I shall 
move into town.

Tex looked outside
at the black clouds
circling above Talent
like a murder of crows.

First, I am too old
to be your cuckold;
and you, Lizzie
DeLay, are too cold.

Lizzie sat in her chair
with her hair down,
her bold countenance
drawn low that day.

The wag Ted later said,
through the gloom of Tex’s
Tavern, love is doomed;
hate always more truthful.

If you want proof, look 
around; Lizzie’s feet are well
off the ground, and Big Mike
has swallowed a spoonful.


Cheese and Basketball

The first round of the PAC tourney begins today, including Oregon and Oregon State facing off at 6 p.m. in Las Vegas.

Theoretically, Oregon is playing for a higher seed in the Big Dance next week, but a loss to the Beavs might give the selection committee juice to toss the Ducks out if too many upsets among all the conferences crowd the March Madness field.

Conference tournament champs get automatic berths to the big tourney, so we'll see.  Oregon State would have to win four in a row in Vegas to get in.

Now that would be something.  Not likely to happen, however.


Colonial U.S.

About that minimum wage, Mr. Speaker...


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Road Trip

Photo by RP Thomas

A Trip to The City

For Talent’s fortunate sons and daughters,
a trip to San Francisco is always fun and worth
the price of gasoline.  To go to a ball game or
just be seen, The City offers laughter and mirth,
a respite from Talent’s day-to-day; a way to  let
off steam and enjoy the scenery along the Bay,
to shoot photos and play the radio when the best
jazz DJ is on the air, to discuss here and there as
they swirl past through a windshield with wipers
still, the sun beating down like a Sunny Murray solo,
the wind warm, the fields fallow, the back roads
clear of human concerns; with Lizzie and Big Mike 
riding along, murmuring in the back seat, what more
need be done?  A trip to The City is at the core.


Question of the Day

Since Internet advertisers know as much about my tastes and proclivities as does the National Security Agency, it makes little sense to me that the former cannot take no for an answer.

I guess there is always a possibility that I may indeed become a "national security risk," so the powers-that-be are probably wise to keep an eye on me.  On the other hand, I am never going to buy 99.9 percent of the products advertised on my computer--which begs the question: why do the advertisers bother?  Don't they know a losing proposition when they see one?  Has their research and marketing acumen simply gone awry?  How can they be so hopelessly inept, and just plain wrong?

Ladies and gentlemen, here is what I've purchased over the web since its invention:  books and a Bloggie camera.  I'm really not a candidate for much else, so please don't bother me anymore .

There.  I fixed that little problem, didn't I?

I'm kidding, of course.  I'm a demographic, not a person.  And who knows, I may soon need a direct link to diapers.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Morning Coffee

Photo by RP Thomas

Morning Coffee

The morning coffee drinkers at Talent’s
Noble Coffee are experts in many fields.

Or they claim to be. Political thinkers on occasion,
these coffee friends are reluctant to yield the floor

When a debate is in session.  A door salesman named
Harry Reems—he changed his name after the porn

Star—is also an astrologer, a horn player and a
former friend of the “disgraced chef,” Paula Deen.

A retired biologist, Clay Hicks, calls himself a philologist
and plays with words night and day. He has joined

Dianetics, has written two self-published polemics, which
nobody has read, and keeps one friend in Noble Coffee—

Himself.  Coffee, a known diuretic that settles wrong
in the intestines of the naively political, makes Noble 

Coffee a fine enclave every morning.  A haven for coffee 
fiends who, despite everything, sometimes get along.