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Fat Man On The Left

JAN 2005
"I've always been a train lover, and not only because of my name. Back in 1964, for example, I rode the last mail train, old 151, from Los Angeles to Pismo Beach. Some years later I wrote a piece in the Los Angeles Times about riding the Amtrak Starlight from Los Angeles to Redding, explaining that Amtrak was set up in such a way the private railroads were allowed to give their freight trains priority over passengers trains, which defies commonsense. Unless you actually want passenger service to fail. Amtrak still is not given priority in running its passenger trains, even though the agency pays a considerable amount to the private railroads to use their mostly poorly maintained tracks."

"Willa was never fond of Lucy Gayheart, for example, the character she created in the novel by the same name. Yaltah was seeing a great deal of Willa when she was writing Lucy, much more so than her brother or sister. Willa loved all of them, however, and had strong relationships with Yehudi and Hephzibah as well. Her love of the children was also made all the more intense by the fact she was getting no joy from her writing. She wrote by hand and then a secretary typed up the manuscript. She was in constant pain with a wrist ailment."

"As I watched her life unfold, it was plain to me that Yaltah Menuhin had good reason to feel the way she did. For the last decades of both their lives, mother and daughter had spoken only once, and that was after Yaltah's brother Yehudi had cajoled Marutha and Yaltah into a telephone call. After a valiant attempt, Yaltah hung up and never talked to her mother again."

JUNE 2004
"One of the unfortunate results of enshrining a delusional Hollywood actor as president was that real grace and charm such as McGee had became verboten. There are those who say Reagan was charming. How could a man who said he didn't dye his hair black or wear makeup be charming when anyone who saw him up close knew that just wasn't true?"

MARCH 2004
"Effie is fighting back -- legally. The Fair Housing Foundation, a nonprofit that fights for equal opportunity in housing, is representing her in federal court against Marine View Apartments. But that doesn't help in the day-to-day reality of the indignities she and her children have suffered because of that discrimination."

"In this and all other ways as well, the harder he tried to swim away the more the undercurrents of the Brooklyn world sucked him back, even and especially after his family sold its grimy hardware store business and moved to the Catskills where they were going to build a motel and promptly get rich and breathe fresh mountain air."

"This is Phil Stern, a political lefty even to this day, who had a longtime feisty relationship with John Wayne. Wayne called Phil a Bolshevik and Phil called him a Neanderthal. Phil's favorite prank was the time in the old Soviet Union when he hunted up the stamp with the biggest, gaudiest picture he could find of Valdimir Lenin, stuck it on a postcard and sent it to John Wayne who lived then in Orange County."

"Now Ahnold is not as clueless a human being as President Bush ­ few mortals are. He certainly is not an intellectual and certainly no philosopher. He has the craftiness of a salesman, though, and worse, he has the craftiness of a damn good demagogue. As Hitler showed, his nation is quite adept at these."

"There is no more compelling version of a writer's trials and tribulations than those described in Martin Eden; cranking out his manuscripts, spending his last few cents on postage rather than food, seeing each day's mail bring more and more rejection slips. After a while, he replaced his wallpaper with rejection notices. Yet when London struck it big, during the few short years that remained of his life, he had produced more than fifty books as well as countless articles and short stories. Not only did he write the great adventure stories, but he also produced such powerful social protest works as People of the Abyss, The Iron Heel and South of the Slot."

"He was a member of a white gang and 'we used to go down a block and throw rocks at black kids. They would come into the white neighborhood and throw rocks at the white kids. One day I went diddy-boppin' down Taylor Street, and turned right on Marengo, right into a gang of black kids with sticks and baseball bats. They proceeded to flail at me. I fell back into some heavy bushes and shrubbery and bushes, but it was at that point I started asking myself if racism was really such a good idea.'"

JULY 2003
"The communists understood the value of culture, he says, and put their money where their mouth was. On the other hand, in today's new society, there's no one to prevent him from making foreign appearances, such as the Communist authorities did to him on the occasion of a debut performance in London when there were concerns about his politics."

JUNE 2003
"It was sort of nice, in fact, to see the corporate trade show hoopla for their manufactured, soulless "products" trying to fit in with the real literary folks, people with leather on their elbows and pipes in their mouths, and, if they are of the male gender, which many are not, beards."

MAY 2003
"Despite her difficult mother, Nigey was not as adamantly opposed to Mothers Day as my mother. Yaltah staunchly opposed it, as I learned the first time I picked out some jewelry for her on Mother's Day -- a necklace that she truly liked, I think. Still she explained to me that Mother's Day was a holiday to boycott. An excuse to make people buy things they really didn't need."

APRIL 2003
"Another thing you have to be prepared for in Bulgaria. Whatever the drawbacks of life under communism, basic infrastructure -- education, medicine and housing were taken care of first. Thus there are a lot of well-educated Bulgarian, artists, doctors, engineers, musicians and scientists, mostly unemployed."

MARCH 2003
"Even Nixon wasn't anxious to give such an order, except after 6 p.m. Because he was a drunk, after 6 p.m. he was usually so plastered the only order he could think to give was 'Nuke the Fuckers' to any questions posed to him. After 6 p.m., his aides carrying the red button were ordered by Kissinger to stay away from him. Kissinger wanted all decisions going through him first. No doubt Nixon would have regretted starting World War III in a drunken stupor -- this guy Bush doesn't seem to have that level of comprehension."

"After The Jungle, Sinclair couldn't do anything without it showing up in the penny-dreadful New York 'yellow press.' By 1908 he was close to a nervous breakdown. His breakup with his first wife, Meta, had become lurid headlines everywhere he went. At the same time, George Sterling, who seems to have been a friend of every important California writer of the day -- from Jack London to Robinson Jeffers -- was trying to get Sinclair to come west. So was another socialist, millionaire H. Gaylord Wilshire, after whom Los Angeles' Wilshire Boulevard was named. Wilshire had a gold mine in the Sierra, whose two unusual main features were plenty of 'high wages and socialist propaganda.' Sinclair finally came west and stayed in the Sierra and in Carmel."

"The ideological arguments were never important to my mother. She saw everything through each individual person. To her, the whole Mann family reminded her of one of the elder Mann's novels. 'No boundaries are set. There was no understanding of any normal, natural relationship,' she said. She did not feel comfortable, for example, with Mann's fascination with the 'homosexual thing' that was typical of the period in Germany before Hitler. 'It was supposed to be a much higher form of love,' she said, 'than that of the normal bourgeois who married a woman and had children. It was a protest against convention.'"

"Kunkin dates his becoming metaphysical from the early '70s, when he was under incredible strain, trying to keep the "Freep" alive. After he published the home addresses of various state narcotics agents (who were busy framing and busting often-times innocent people for political reasons), he was jailed, no one would print the paper, and just to blow off some steam he disappeared to the Mexican border with a young woman, and did drugs and other tantric things in a motel room for several days."

"I wish Bill Clinton were president today. Not just because he had style, although that would help. Wit, that would help. Brains, that would particularly help. But because we wouldn’t be the victim of a half wit leading the world into war and depression and there’s no way to stop him."

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