A beautiful, famous tune by a genius named Django Reinhardt.

Decided to try to do this lilting number as well as I possibly could. Needed to learn the slightly odd, genius form by heart, which I don’t always do, and learn the essential parts of the original arrangement, and then be able to play the melody over it comfortably enough, and in different positions, that I could start throwing the blues over it a little bit. This one’s much of the way there (after a solid couple of days playing it a lot) though not quite ready yet. But I thought it was worth a  listen.   If you get a third of the enjoyment listening that I had playing it, it will be well worth your minute and a half.

I hope you are well, and if not well, at least not too bad. 

One nice irony of a long life

My father died almost eighteen years ago.  Not long after he died, I was finally able to disentangle myself from a long, unhappy friendship with a smart, tormented guy who’d stood in as a sparring partner for my difficult father since we were teenagers.  You can get all the details about this interesting, perplexing fellow at Book of Friedman.

When I finally admitted defeat and declared our friendship beyond saving — I’d finally reduced the eternally cavilling MF to petulant silence, in a Florida coffee shop, during a biblical deluge that turned the parking lot into a raging river — I called his mother, to explain.  To my surprise, she was not in the least bit surprised.  

She immediately relieved me of the burden of explaining, beyond a few basics of the last straw, and thanked me for hanging in there far longer than anyone ever had with her relentless demanding, endlessly negotiating son.   She understood and asked only one thing: leave the door open, if he comes to make peace with you.  I told her I would.  She also asked what I thought she could do for him.  My only idea was a serious course of therapy, something I reminded her he was very unlikely ever to do, since he believed no unhappiness in his life had anything to do with his highly idiosyncratic personality or his demands on others.

There were some frustrating email exchanges every couple of years, when he’d reach out a pseudopod in an email.   His endless paragraphs filled screen after screen, very similar to the tiny, crabbed hand-written letters I used to get from him, many pages long, inscribed margin to margin, with no breaks in the block of words, endlessly expounding, at tortuous length, amid a million caveats and troubled asides.  His brother Neal, I learned after his death, used to delete these emails as soon as he got them. I would answer each one, because I’d promised his mother and because, until very recently, I never liked silence to be my final answer.   I always hated the old silent treatment and so almost never did it to anyone else.  

One year on my birthday I got an audio CD in the mail.  The CD case was decorated with strings, at the end of each string was a tiny card, taped meticulously to the string, a plea for mercy, for common sense, for an open heart.  I don’t have the odd package in front of me now to quote them, in fact, I’m a bit tormented not to be able to lay my hand on it at the moment, have been searching the heaps around this dusty apartment I need to clean.  It was in the same place since I got it maybe 15 years back, I’d seen it countless times, close to my broken down copy of my most precious book, the Collected Stories of Isaac Babel, Walter Morrison translation (long out of print, its paperback spine long ago disintegrated).  Mark loved that book as well and one of his notes was a reference to it.   Among its peppy, oddly dangling notes “don’t be a cossack!,” an exhortation to relax my so-called principles.  

Everything always had to happen on his terms, one of the most annoying things about him, this insistence that things be done his way, which was often a perverse way.  This musical offering struck me as one more outlandish illustration of this intolerable tic.  My promise to his mother be damned, I wasn’t going to listen to the musical masterpiece he’d composed to magically solve all the issues in everyone’s life.

I never listened to the CD.  At the same time, I didn’t toss it in the trash.

I saw it dozens of times over the years, including in the days after I heard of his death of a broken heart a few years back.  I thought briefly about taking the CD out of its case and giving it a spin, but never did.  The last time I saw it, I moved it someplace, with the intention of finally listening to it.  Now it is nowhere to be seen.

“Good,” says Sekhnet.  “Now you have to clean.”

Or, dear Sekhnet, I can sit down and write this instead.  Now that it’s written, I’m going to go digging for it again, though I suspect I may have taken it to the farm… yes, that’s most likely where it is.

FOX & friends

from Julia Claire & Crooked Media

Kevin McCarthy fascism update!! House Speaker McCarthy has granted Fox News host Tucker Carlson exclusive access to all of the Capitol security footage from the January 6 insurrection. This is…uhhh…a highly unusual (and unethical) move. (Imagine Nancy Pelosi bypassing House committees and the public to show oversight materials exclusively to, say, her daughter’s documentary-production company, so it could be turned into Democratic Party propaganda, and you’ll see the issue.) But it’s also a crystal-clear statement from McCarthy about where the GOP comes down on the Big Lie and the insurrection. Just last week, Dominion Voting Systems exposed Carlson’s efforts within Fox News to suppress accurate reporting about the 2020 election and intentionally feed the network’s audience lies. McCarthy’s here to say, Republicans love it! Carlson’s still their guy, systemic lying about the 2020 election is still their jam, and the insurrection is still all cool with them. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said he was not consulted on the release of the footage, and another source says neither was the rest of the GOP leadership. Just a big ole’ “Fuck you!” to us all from McCarthy. Meanwhile, his special pal Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) was really On One™ this weekend (even more so than usual), committing low-key sedition by calling for a “national divorce” between Republican and Democratic states, apparently angling to be a modern-day John C. Calhoun without bothering to update his talking points. Even Gov. Spencer Cox (R-UT) denounced this rhetoric as, “destructive and wrong and—honestly—evil.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

Ari Melber puts it pretty well in this report:

Are you a masochist, you little sadist?

It’s almost funny, if it wasn’t so tragic, the amount of anger my 66 year-old friend still has toward his mother who is making her way toward ninety.

When his mother walks into a room he begins to seethe. Afterwards he would ask me if I noticed how she stood, with that look on her face, the little cutting comment she immediately made. He will do his duty to make sure she is not publicly humiliated or wanting for medical care, but as for love, fuck her.

Fair enough, those are his strong feelings from early childhood through the time he finally left his unhappy family home. The problem is that fifty years later he is just as angry as he was back then. So he can’t forgive his mother, and worse, he can’t forgive himself for his anger and the beat goes on.

He winds up married to a woman who’s in some key ways very much like his mother. He punishes her regularly with his harshly judgmental attitude and the strict demands he places on her in order for her to receive his love. His wife, rightfully angry about this mistreatment, gives it back to him from time to time with both barrels. They live in a balance of terror, while to the outside world they appear to be fine, upstanding, admirable citizens, neighbors and friends. Periodically they have to replenish their pool of closest friends, but they’re socially adept and charming, so it’s no problem.

If you don’t forgive yourself, you are a masochist. I never knew that masochists could also be sadists, but of course they can.

Duing a protracted, insoluble conflict with these two my old friend would frequently become indignant, stand up and announce that he wasn’t going to take this. He wasn’t going to talk about things like making amends, talking about hurt during the ten days of repentance. He wasn’t going to be lectured about the moral values of his religion, values he knew very well being a religious man. How dare I presume to tell him that he had acted badly!

Each time this happened, and it was not just once or twice, it was fairly regular in our conversations trying to make peace, I spoke to him calmly, the way I’d like to be addressed when I’m upset. I patiently told him that I was his friend, that I was not trying to attack him or make him feel bad but that they were things I needed to talk about. We walked away each time with our friendship intact, but it came at a great price and, though I couldn’t acknowledge it for a painfully long time, it was a stinking zombie friendship at that point.

A friend who knew him well laughed when I described this constant need to patiently calm him whenever he got upset. “You gave him exactly what he’s been looking for his entire life, why would he stop doing it when every time you gave him exactly what he has never had from anybody?” So goddamn true that I had to laugh also.

And my long refusal to understand that these two were in a fight to the death, that I had to accept all fault or be killed after what I witnessed of their mutually sadistic, mutually masochistic, relationship, struck me finally as masochism on my part. I don’t consider myself a sadist, I never recall taking pleasure at twisting the knife into somebody else’s suffering, outside of the ordinary schadenfreude that most people feel when somebody gets what’s coming to them, but these repeated hopeless attempts to placate someone who can’t be placated finally did appear to me as masochism on my part.

And at that point I realized it was a matter of my health, and Sekhnet’s health, which I value more highly than anything else I can think of, to stop inflicting pain on myself (and her) by fretting over and hoping for something that can never be. I also immediately forgave myself for this bit of masochism, seeing as I did what I did in the service of saving a long, precious friendship. Some things can’t be saved, unbearable as that truth may also be, and when you see you can’t save them it is time to save yourself.

Isn’t that right, you masochistic little sadist you?