Sunday, July 16, 2006

Lag Blog

Jet Lag Blog
Hi there. I’ve been out for a week and a half, first on a trip to visit my wife’s family in Wisconsin- a trip marred by a sudden death in her family- and then a quick overnight to our nation’s capitol, where I held forth on Montesquieu for a Very Special Philosophy Talk (noon Tuesdays, KALW, stream it on the Web – go to Philosophytalk.org). Topic: Separation of Powers.

DC
What happened was: Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (a great gal, by the way) invited Philsoophy Talk to Washington D.C. She had been a guest on the program last fall, a live taping at Stanford University, and enjoyed the experience so much that she wanted to help the show reach a wider audience.

Philosophy Talk
Go to philosophytalk.org. It will pretty much explain everything. It is a program, hosted by two Stanford philosophy professors, Ken Taylor and John Perry, that takes a philosophical approach to issues of the day. It does other things as well, but that’s the um, basic concept. I appear at the end, every other episode or so, as “the 60 second philosopher,” and do my best to put a button on whatever the topic du jour happens to be. I am underpaid, but grateful to be part of a wonderful radio show. It is wonderful, because it doesn’t pretend to have answers, or to even understand what the problem is. It is refreshing: All questions, no answers.

Where we taped.
In a windowless room, directly, and deep, underneath the rotunda of the capitol building.

After we had finished the show, I was standing in the hallway, and some silver-haired guy appeared. He was a parody of a Congressman – silver hair, white teeth, blazer, glad-handing manner. He disappeared, smiling, into the windowless room across the hall. There are mazes of windowless rooms underneath the rotunda. These are where all the committees meet, and where all our laws are crafted.

And where little public radio shows are taped live.

And where commentators like me fuck up their commentaries, because of trying to talk too fast while suffering from jet lag. Thank God for editing programs!

IMHO: To be a Congressman (or woman), I think you have to emulate the appearance of a successful small town businessman. You don’t want to appear to be TOO well-dressed, but you don’t want to look homeless either.

Senators, on the other hand, want to have more of the Bill Gates look.

Meanwhile, On Wisconsin.
I don’t want to dwell on the death in the family. It’s not my place, and it’s not my grief. Instead I will share with you the weird and wonderful things that happened.

Dixieland
The Child Bride’s father is in a Dixieland band. The Dread Wife, Mother-in-law, and I accompanied him on a gig, in Rockton Illinois.

Every Thursday night, it seems, his band plays at this venue. For free. They call it their rehearsal night.

My father-in-law, at 62, is the youngest member of the band. They range in age from, I’d guess, 62 (obviously) to late 70’s. The band was really good. I had been apprehensive, Dixieland not being my style of choice, but the band was quite eclectic, jumping from Dixieland, to jazz, to blues, to jug band…. The arrangements were inventive, and the playing dynamic. Enough of that.

It seems the band has a following. The bar was full of Hot Senior Babes. I mean SERIOUSLY hot. They had to have spent hours putting on makeup, and selecting their outfits. I’m talking pants suits with slits up the side, mesh nylons, salon coiffures, etc. I was told by Jill (my mother-in-law) that the leader of the band (the trombone player) had been contacted by one of these Babes, apologizing in advance for not being able to attend a performance. To which, I’m told, he responded, “What am I? Your mother?”

Anomaly
So I’m sitting in the audience for this show in Rockton Illinois. There’s a really old guy a couple tables away from us. Jill says he’s had a stroke, and had been a vaudeville performer. I watched him try to attempt a soft shoe during one of the songs, and felt a pang. You could see that his heart was there, but the body was not.

Jill said to watch for the red umbrella. ??? I said.

The Red Umbrella
This guy, once per set, would unfurl a red umbrella and start marching around the dance floor. This was the cue for everybody (I abstained) to march around with him, not necessarily to the rhythm of the music. At the end of the song, he would fold the umbrella, and sit back down. It was kind of like a conga line, only without the conga part.

DC2
The license plates in DC read “Taxation without Representation.” Can someone explain this to me?

Museums
We were done taping PHILOSOPHY TALK by 10:30. Ben Manilla (the show’s producer) and I hung together. Our flight wasn’t until 9 p.m. so we hit the museums until our feet gave out.

American History:
They had an actual HUEY helicopter on display, as well as Sheridan’s uniform, etc. etc.

The way things are displayed in museums these days, none of it seems real. It is, of course, but it all seems like a re-enactment.

On Wisconsin2:
We were in Milwaukee, and I noticed two dwarves holding hands. And then I noticed five dwarves walking around the mall. And then I saw eight dwarves.

It turns out there was a Little People Convention going on in Milwaukee.

Apropos of nothing, I was reminded of the time my friend Joshua and I went to Atlanta, and we happened to be staying at a hotel where the national gay body builders competition was assembled. I have never felt so small in my life.

Current Events
That would be Israel. I can’t blame Israel for its actions.

The world at large may disagree with what they’re doing,. but they’re not surrounded with people that hate them, or even people within the state that hate them, are they?

I wish our government would step up to the plate on this, but they won’t. I suspect that they’re secretly happy that Israel is doing the things we can only daydream about doing.

I have never been so creeped out.

Korea
They missed us with their missile. Whew! Now we can make fun of them, instead of fear them. Until the next launch, of course.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Washington D.C. residents pay federal taxes, but have no voting representation in Congress -- hence the license plates. They're a roundabout way of expressing support for Congressional representation for D.C.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Merle Kessler said...

Aha! Obscure sarcasm from our nation's capitol! On a license plate!ptdxhnjf

5:44 PM  
Blogger Merle Kessler said...

Oops. Ignore the letters at the end of my last post.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least there's some freedom in the fact that Congress allows the license plate. I can imagine other governments (and branches of government) that might mandate something on the order of "Hail, Congress!".

-D.E.

12:27 PM  

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