Just a kid from Pompton Lakes turned Upper West Sider, I was lucky enough to be in a wide orbit around the incredibly exciting scene(s) that exploded out of the territory South of 14th St.  This is the way "The Plague" played out before me.
There were a lot of needles and spoons around in the music scene.  You could sell your blood, by the pint in Times Square or that place on Third Avenue (12th St.).  More than half of my friends were gay and New York was "the" place to be in that world.  Lots of nice people, great parties and club happenings.  It was a great time.

A rumor started making the rounds about the guitar player in a very famous band.  "He had some kind of weird disease, where, like, he can't fight off any cold for flu that might hit him".  In less than a year, the press was telling us about Aquired Immune Difficiency Syndrome.  AIDS.

In the first year or two, there was confusion everywhere.  The first realization was that this disease was a death sentance.  This was even before the HIV virus was known (or being reported about).  Sunamis of misunderstanding about "how you get it".  Sunamis of misunderstanding about how to stay safe from it.  An awful lot of mean people had a voice about keeping the dying away from them, if you know what I mean.

If only you younger folks could have experienced how it felt in the next 5 years, or so, to hear of several deaths a month.  To have a half dozen friends who were certainly going to die.  They got skinny, sunken faces, and frightened eyes, increasing almost daily.  The first (thousands) of victims were caught in the irony of not knowing anything about this disease when they were contracting their demises.  You could see that irony in their faces right along with their disappearing life energy.  For me, it was horrible.

And remember boys and girls, this story comes only from a clueless kid that had the nickname of "Beaver".  I try to imagine the losses of many others.

It is profitable to pray for your dead.
From deep within Mexico and growing in the U.S. border areas, grows a death cult embraced by violent Mexican gangs.  Santa Muerte (or Holy Death) is not only the patron saint of the drug gangs, but her cult has spread to many who share the neighborhoods with those gangs. 

This "Saint Death" seems to be a hapless answer to the pessimism that pervades that low strata of society.  She is called upon for protection (of the petitioner and/or family), providing secular needs, and for a good death.

Shrines to her are in many homes, patios and courtyards.  Large, expensive shrines seem to "appear" along the roadsides of the major highways.  These shrines are rumored to be financed by Mexican drug gangs.  The Mexican authorities tear the roadside shrines down, only to have them return elsewhere on the road.

The cult is a mixture of pre-Columbian reverance for death.  This, as depicted in archeology and evidenced in the Mexican "Days of the Dead", seems to go hand-in-hand with Roman Catholicism. 

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City decries it (I would hope so).  The part that creeps me out the most is that this saint is often offered (among other things) tobacco.  I've "been around" in a couple of situations where offering tobacco to the disembodied voice, or statue was the thing to do.  It was chilling.

However, strange as it may sound, this weird blend of Roman Catholisim and Pagan culture is not all that unusual. 

Peoples of many countries, which were Christinized in the early colonial period, were denied their native worships and practices and were forced to accept  Roman Catholic norms - probably over night. 

My guess is that, either by obediance to both pagan and Roman Catholic dieties, or by sheer defiance, the old ways were kept (in secret) as, at least, tradition throughout the centuries.

I know from my own experience, that many in Brazil venerate both African dieties as well as Christian saints in both churches and natural environments, without much differenciation.  They throw money and mirrors into the sea to appease a vain sea-godess who might steal their children.  But she is revered as a saint, right along with Saint Michael. 

The rituals borrow from one another, as well.  Someone from the Northern Hemisphere would not believe their eyes at what goes on in some of those Roman Catholic church basements.
Santa Muerte, or "Saint Death" goes by several names; Señora de las Sombras ("Lady of the Shadows"), Señora Blanca ("White Lady"), Señora Negra ("Black Lady"), Niña Santa ("Holy Girl"), and La Flaca ("The Skinny One").


I was waiting for something like this. 
In case you hadn’t noticed, times are tough out there.  There is a burgeoning underclass of working poor, barely being able to make minimum payments.  In a sane world, or even a broken republic, nothing would be more American than for the so-called downtrodden to develop a cry in the tradition of American folk movements, as in the past. 
Of course, with this kind of picture, one might expect Guthrie/Seeger/Dylan-esque lamentations rolling out of the great Northwest in a flannel shirt and an extra set of banjo strings.  Myself, I wouldn’t have imagined a legit, folk-like expression of this type to come rattling down the NYC Subway tracks, closing in on Manhattan, like a freight train, rather than the R train. 
But this is Garland Jeffreys.  And this is his latest single release, “Coney Island Winter”.

The song starts out with a nice, stripped down combo setting up a thin, dry thread of hypnosis, while Garland dreamily sets up his poetics to lament a life “too close to the edge of the street”.  For me, the lyrics sting with a picture of a middle class descending to working poor.  Or even further towards the streets. 
jefThe back line eventually gets sucked into the angst and starts churning.  The synergy develops and before you know it, you’ve got a two chord anthem coming at you like a freight train.  The simple, yet rising momentum keeps you excited yet lets you focus on the interplay of the lyrics with the pulse. 
Seems like every time I listen to Garland Jeffreys, I notice the excellent musicians that he works with.  This track is no exception.  Everyone on the recording seems to get each other’s juices going.  This tune is a 70 mph steamroller; just short of frenetic – and that’s class!.  The expertise and sensitivity of this ensemble is evident.
With “Coney Island Winter” Jeffreys is telling our story.   And that, cousins, is folk music.  Nobody said you couldn’t deliver it with a sledgehammer. 
Jeffreys has been an important part of the New York City music scene, as well as nationwide top 40 airplay/touring act, for well over 40 years.  For almost as long as I can remember, he’s been the real thing in singer/songwriter/AOR Rock & Roll.  For a New Yorker, a local hero on a world stage.
Garland has street cred.  In New York, particularly.  I know that dirty, dangerous 352763384_9d534bba00New York of the 70’s that he came up through.  Not pretty at all.  He has my respect for that.
His rep got started with that early 70’s AOR hit, “Wild In The Streets”.  He got some good mileage out of that one.  Then basically, he was putting out an album per year from 1977 thru the early 90’s.  He’s been surfing the top 40 markets throughout several periods of American Rock.  Every time he records, he gets respectable airplay.
Jeffreys is diverse and true to several genres.  He is best known for his middle class suburban NYC native Rock & Roll.  He branches out into some pretty good interpretations of a diverse collection of styles.   One that comes to mind is the  seven inch “roots reggae” single, “Miami Beach” packaged with his  1980 Escape Artist album. 
This dude is the real thing.  He’s back.  And he has local gigs coming up in the greater NY metro area this month.  Check it out, and I’ll see you there!

Blogger's Note: Virtually all my friends and readers would question the value of such an every-day subject as Paypal.  Millions of people are using Paypal, but not all even know what it is.  This article is for them.

It happens all the time.  One single dad pulls another (his buddy) aside.

"My ex let the fuel oil run out.  I sent up every penny.  Ya got anyting in your PayPal account to get me to lunch for the week?". 
This is a sacred single dad thing.  You step right up.
"No sweat dude, just give me a chance to power up".

So you get online and log into your Paypal Account.  You put money there every once in awhile.  Maybe to buy something without stressing my $500 limit credit card, that I use for online stuff.  Me and that buddy swap lunch money all the time with PayPal.  But mostly I keep money there because I have kids spread out all over the place.  It is instant money for them.  It is safe and legit.

In my memory, Paypal sprang up as a payment vehicle for start up entrepreneuers going online.  This market was mostly electonic deliverables (like software and ebooks), but  I learned about the system from an avid baseball card trader - so there you go with the grassroots thing.

I thought Paypal was dopey.  I thought "if you were going to do e-commerce, you would want to have all those Visa and Mastercard logos".  Online credit card merchant accounts were very, very difficult to qualify (pay) for in those days.  The gateways for which the data passed were clunky and unreliable.  It was a mess, but you still wanted those logos.  So I stopped thinking about PayPal a long time ago.

Well, although I must have ignored about a billion images of Paypal logos blasted at me in the next decade, or so, it never went away.  Visa/MasterCard/Amex/Discover merchant services had certainly come a long way.  But PayPal was still there.

Well, now its more than 10 years later, and I have to get some money converted into euros and sent to my kid to some address in Italy, to some person.  Hmmm.  Time for Western Union. 

Now you would think of Western Union too, I'm sure.  So off, I go, looking for my local Western Union office.  Let me tell you.  They are not the tellers behind the brass bars with the beautiful mahogony all around (were did that visual come from?), anymore.  Nine times out of ten, your local Western Union Office is a hole.  A hole where you pull out 9 hundred dollar bills and give it to a guy that isn't too good at English.  That being said, it all worked.  Stiff exchange rate, though.  But that's where the money is made.  The cost of getting it done.  No complaints.

Now, although the Western Union transaction was immediate across the continents, I could have done this just as quickly, if not quicker, from my PayPal account.  Not only could I have done it online, but I didn't have to find a Western Union office or go to it.  In all fairness, Western Union, also has an online interface, but it just plain sucks.  I have an account that I created on the fly - just to get the story - that I will never remember.  Yuk.

I've been seeing Paypal logos on web sites for over 15 years now.  That is, more or less, the early days of the public Internet.  It is not a small thing.  It is not a bank.  It just seems even more stable and efficient as any of the iconic names of Visa, MasterCard, Amex, and even Western Union.  Sure, Western Union has been a household name for several generations, now.  But Paypal has to be considered a proven brand to even the most skeptical of online purchasers.

Here's how it works:
  • You open a free Paypal account
  • You tell Paypal what they need to know about your checking account.
  • They perform two test transactions in/out for (I think) zero dollars.
  • Then you log into your Paypal account and tell them how much money you want them to take out of your checking account.
  • That takes a few days.
  • In the mean time, apply for a Paypal debit card (This is how you turn your Paypal money into greenbacks at the cash machine).
  • Then go buy stuff and the seller has no clue about your money (even if you fill out forms).
  • Send money to your kids.
  • Lend money for lunch
Author’s Note:  This article is merely an overview of the story of an amazing life and legend.  I have tried to keep to only the anecdotes which involved me directly.  However, most of this story comes to me second-hand from trusted (by me) sources, whom I have known for decades.  This second hand reporting is easily corroborated by others who knew him.  However, there are fewer of those people around, these days.  Therefore, this ‘rough sketch” comes to you without much qualification other than my personal experiences and corroborated anecdotes of others who knew him.  But it’s a story that needs to be told, no matter how shabbily.  I hope this will get some other certain people writing.
Throughout his life, Archbishop Theodore has been known by several names.  In the Russian Orthodox clergy, names can change often.  This article will refer to him as, solely, Theodore.  Titles like Archbishop, Bishop, Father and Vladyka are, in this story all interchangeable.

theodore1aIn the 1980’s he was known as “The Little White Father Of Juarez”.  After 20 years of prayer, as a hermit, in Alaska, Archbishop Theodore was guided to Juarez to “help poor children” (his favorite expression).  His reputation as a clairvoyant and miracle working elder spread quickly among the poor in Juarez. 
But this is nearly the end of his story.
I was fortunate enough to spend weekends with Archbishop Theodore during the last seven years of his life.  He was the elder of my elder.  He spent the last years of his life at a small monastery in Northern New Jersey, as a simple monk.  I was around there a lot in those days. 
He spent hours on end, in total silence, praying.  Aside from the occasional cantankerous lesson, he did little else.  During Liturgy, he would sit in the bishop’s throne, in the sanctuary of a basement chapel, and become radiant with prayer.  This radiance was not easily/blatantly perceived by the onlooker.  Not like movie special effects. 
In prayer, he would look (to me) 20 years younger.  His face was, albeit discreetly, the most “light-defined” object in the room during this occurrence.  No laser shows.  No pretty gradients.  The larger impact of observing this was the peculiar stillness of the experience.  Sort of a timeless visitation.
It is difficult to decide how to tell Archbishop Theodore’s story.  There is an amazing historical side of his story.  There is an equally amazing collection of reports of his miraculous works.  Then there are my first-hand experiences with the man.  Lets start with his history and see how the legend and my anecdotes fit in, as it goes.
Theodore was born sometime around the turn of the 20th century (1904, we think).  TsarsFamilyWe know that he was about 12 or 13 at the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917. 
Theodore was the son of a German general in the Russian White Army and a member of the Tsar’s court.  RasputinYoung Theodore was playmates with the Tsar’s children.
The only thing Archbishop Theodore reported to me personally about life in the Tsar’s court was about the famous historical figure Rasputin.  What was said to me was that “he was a man of great holiness and great evil at the same time”. 
It is easy to imagine young Theodore, being the same age as the young hemophiliac Tsarevich Alexei, to have run into Rasputin when his playmate was sick or recovering from Rasputin’s “treatment” of the young Prince.
The story then jumps to young Theodore’s education as a cadet in a military academy in Irkutsk, Russia, just North of Mongolia.  In Imperial Russia, nothing could be more natural for the son of one of the Tsar’s most trusted generals. 
Here, Theodore tells a story of how he was mocking a (very rare) substitute teacher during class, about a lesson being taught, which involved a “book falling out of the sky”.  This substitute teacher became cross with young Theodore and informed the boy that he wouldn’t laugh so much once he became a monk.  Archbishop Theodore mentioned that this substitute teacher was never seen at the school, or the sparsely populated town, before or after this day.
During the young cadet’s time in military academy, the Russian Revolution broke out.  Theodore was a member of the Tsar’s court.  He was definitely on the Bolshevik’s list, and he knew it.  He walked across half the Asian continent, on the run.  Hoping to reach some other country where a White Russian refugee might be safe.  He had to go West towards Europe or (closer) Scandinavia.
He told me the story of how his brother and a few friends went running to a band of Bolsheviks, hoping to join, only to get gunned down, with no interrogation, right before young Theodore’s eyes.
Eventually he reached Finland.  There, he became a novice – then monk - at Valaam Monastery. 
Life at Valaam was his favorite subject.  This is one story he told me about Valaam, paraphrased.

“At Valaam, when I became theodore-novice-george_gt4ln_21672a novice, I took my rasa (long black robe) out into the woods.  I was so happy to finally be a monk.  No more cities, no more distractions.”
“I laid my rasa down on a large rock and began kissing it, thanking God for leading me here.”
“Then I suddenly heard laughing.  I turned around and saw a man dressed in rags with long hair and a beard.  He spent a few minutes laughing at me and went away.  Later I leaned from the other monks that this man was a revered hermit in the area.  They were excited to have heard of him.”
“The next winter, this hermit was brought into the dispensary where I worked as a novice.  The hermit was nearly frozen to death.  Eventually responding to treatment, the hermit became conscious and was greeted by a steady stream of visiting monks who were very excited to have such a holy man among them.”
“In the midst of all this celebration, the hermit grabbed my arm and whispered ‘Come see me tonight, at midnight’”.
“When I returned that evening, I was told all the events of my future life.  He described to me the place where I would die.  It is this place.”
When Archbishop Theodore arrived at the monastery in New Jersey, he got out of the car, on arrival to our monastery, he looked around and said:
“Yes, this is the place where I was told I would die”.
valaam2We think that Theodore spent about decade at Valaam monastery in Finland.  The abbot at Valaam had  noticed that there was something different about this boy.  It was this early in Theodore’s life that reports of his becoming radiant with “uncreated light” during prayer originated.  This boy was different.
Eventually, Finland entered into a pact with the Communists, where the Finns would be left alone (militarily) by the Soviets, as long as they did not harbor, or sympathize with refugees from the revolution.  It was best for the survival of the monastery that Theodore leave.  He was still on the Soviet’s list as part of the Tsar’s court.
The abbot at Valaam sent Theodore to the cave-dwelling monks in Estonia, which was not yet part of the Soviet Union.  To me, he only mentioned that he was there.  The abbot says he was there for about a decade.
Next stop, Paris; where most of the Russian Orthodox church was in exile, reeling from the apocalypse of the bloody slaughter of the Church, Her clergy, and laity, during the revolution of 1917.  He became a priest in Paris in the late 30’s. 
While there, God performed an astonishing miracle through him, with witnesses.  His fame grew way too fast for a humble monk to bear.  He felt he was in spiritual danger of the temptation of “prelest”, when one thinks they have something special from God. 
Striving to maintain his identity as a worthless monk, he was terrified.
He wrote a letter to his elder in the Estonia caves.  cavemonasteryTheodore asked his elder for a blessing to go back to Russia and die for the Faith.  The response went something like this:
“Permission denied.  The Communists will torture the Faith out of you, make you deny Christ and then kill you.  I think you should go in the other direction”.
Because the Russian Church had been nearly wiped out.  They were elevating Bishops with a fair amount of regularity in Paris.  When the Paris Bishops had heard about the miracle, performed by God through Theodore, they quickly made him a Bishop and sent him to America.  I do not know the specifics of how he was able to accomplish the crossing and immigration to the U.S.  Theodore told me, personally that Joseph Kennedy arranged his immigration. 
He wound up at the Russian cathedral on 2nd St. on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  Many times he claimed to me that this church was controlled by the KGB.  theodore11_5U254_21672He told me that one of his superiors, at that time, turned out to be the Soviet Foreign Minister during the 80’s.  The name he used matched the former holder of that office, at the time of the telling.  Anyway, I digress.
According to Theodore, this person on 2nd St. sent him to Canada, knowing full-well that Theodore didn’t have the papers to get back into the U.S – and that he wouldn’t know the difference.  The story continues with anecdotes about the months that he spent hopping the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence Seaway (U.S. Border) to sneak back into the country.
Once back in the U.S and with a new inspiration to stay away from 2nd St., he stayed in the Ohio/Michigan/Illinois area.  He was a Bishop and had a responsibility to shepherd and establish churches.  My information on this period of his life is sketchy. 
Prior to my meeting him, Archbishop Theodore was described to me as, what is known as, a “Fool For Christ”.  The Russian expression translates to “Holy Fool”.  There is a long tradition of this kind of ascetic in the Orthodox Faith. 
It is a concept where one can crucify one’s self to the world, by looking like a fool to the world, thusly obeying Jesus’ command that we should take up our cross daily.  In this period of his life, the stories of such foolishness begin to rise.
He told me that he ran a candy store in Detroit.  No one else who knew him ever heard of it.  That’s all he said to me.  No further details. 
I recently found on the internet an uncomplimentary essay about Theodore when he was in Ohio during the late 40’s.  The writer was completely exasperated with Vladyka Theodore for continually abusing and eventually destroying a clothes washing machine.  I knew Archbishop Theodore.  I can tell you that he would make it a point to challenge your desire for clean clothes.
The next chapter in Bishop Theodore’s life was as a hermit in Alaska.  He went to St. Herman’s Monastery.  It was there that he is said to have prayed a short repetitive prayer, without ceasing for about 20 years.  spruceisland2The legend says that he slept in an open coffin to remind him, every moment, of his future (rare, but not unheard of in the 19th and early 20th century – Sarah Bernhardt did this also). 
It is said that he prayed for seven years without sleeping, then for seven years of standing, then for seven years without eating.  He covered the walls of his cell/hut on the Alaskan island with carved inscriptions of his short, repetitive prayer.
One story he told me was about when he arrived at the Alaskan monastery.  The abbot arranged for the monks to build a hut for Theodore on one of the deserted islands within the monastery. 
When Theodore came to the finished cell, he became very agitated and begged/demanded that the hut be moved some distance further from the shore of the island, pointing out the place where he would prefer.  It is said that some years later, a tsunami hit the islands and just came short of his cell in its “new” location.
It is also said that Jesus and Mary visited him separately, and daily during this period.  It is also said that, after 20 years of unceasing prayer, The Blessed Mother communicated to him that God was pleased with his unceasing prayer and that he should go to Juarez to serve His Poor.
I only assume that the following story, which took place in Las Vegas, fits in this point of his story.  That is, on his way to Juarez.  It’s the only way I can account for the location and characters of the story. 
According to what was told to me by Theodore and others, Archbishop Theodore was in Las Vegas with some Aleut natives where he opened a chapel.  This chapel, somehow, became popular as a wedding chapel.  As it was told to me:
“Some criminals came and insisted on buying the chapel.” 
“Suddenly, I had a hotel room full of money.  I gave all the money to the Aleuts.” 
“They all bought useless things like automobiles, and the like.”
“It didn’t take long for them to destroy the autos and all the things that they went crazy purchasing.”
“It was a good lesson for them.”
Myself, I have few anecdotes, details or history of his time in Juarez.  Like most of the story, my knowledge is second-hand, from a small group of monks who visited him to pray with him at that time.  The anecdotes I’ve heard the most about this period include stories of clairvoyance, healing, bi-location and other miraculous events.  All the while, debasing his personal image to the world as a Holy Fool, while serving the poor and teaching the clergy.  He was very serious about “helping poor children” as he always put it to me.
From here, one day, he was simply put in a car and kidnapped by an ambitious abbot of a monastery in a Northwestern state in America.  He spent a little over a year there, corresponding occasionally with the other clergy whom he loved. 
But he was not happy there.  There were rumors of emotional abuse.  Rumors of using Theodore as an “attraction”.  Our abbot eventually gave a blessing for his staff to drive up to MA and liberate him.  Again, when he arrived, he recognized the place as described by the hermit in Finland.
The first weekend, after Theodore’s arrival to the New Jersey monastery, theodore1_todhS_21672I came to the Abbey to meet him.  When I got out of the car, I looked up to the window of the guest room to see him.  The windows were wide open.  He was sitting there, looking down on me, expressionless. 
He was on the second floor, with the windows open.  My sight of him was crystal clear.  He looked just like Santa Claus, but there wasn’t even a hint of “ho-ho-ho” in his countenance.  He just stared at me.  No emotion or personal recognition.
He referred to a friend and myself as “the boys”.  “The boys” that were part of the Valaam hermit’s description of Theodore’s final days.
Some time later, I was commenting on my first view of him, at dinner with the community, along with a couple of visiting monks.  I was not very tuned in to Orthodox Catholicism at the time, so my ignorant comments went something like this:
“Yup, I saw him sitting at the window in the guest room.  He was wearing one of those “funny hats” that you guys wear; with a silver cross on the front of the hat.”
The abbot answered:
“You mean a Kamilavka.  Well, the silver cross means he is an Archbishop”
The visiting monks paused.  Evidently, there had been some discussion as to his actual rank, being such a gadfly of a cleric.
“Yeah, all that!” I replied.
The Abbot replied:
“Bishop Theodore doesn’t own a Kamilavka”
After some argument from me, the abbot challenged me to go into his cell and find it.  I knew that room.  It had been my room several times in the past. 
The man owned nothing.  A couple of books in Russian and a handful of letters from his Deacon in Alaska.  No funny hat.
Just being around him was a transforming experience.  Throughout all my manias, and no matter what was going on, the best thing you could do for those seven years was to just sit with him in silence. 
One would sit down on the window bench, right in front of his easy chair, close to him and fully in his view. If he was used to you, he wouldn’t seem to notice you, or pay much attention.  You might pray with him, you might just look at your feet for an hour.  Either way, it was a curative wealth of stillness. 
Occasionally, during these silent sit-downs, he might begin softly speaking a story about himself, a comment on whatever you were silently thinking about, or a straight-out spiritual teaching.  He would often ask me to pray for his sister.
When he would speak, it would be in an understandable mix of English, Spanish and Russian (in that order of preference).  His tone of voice was usually gentle.  He would call one “darling” every once-in-awhile.  Remembering the sound of my name in his angry voice chills me to this day. 
He prayed.  All the time.  I remember he was genuinely confused, when I offered him an old television.  “Why?”, he said.  He had little use for conversation about the banal, which was basically, anything besides prayer, or the struggle to holiness.
He taught.  He was an elder and he treated the Abbot (my elder) harshly, at times.  Then like a grandfather, he would turn to me, or my friend, and say something like “I’m hard with him because he is so young”.   Like a grandfather, he was always gentle with my friend and I, “the boys”. 
Sometimes without even realizing, he demonstrated his clairvoyant abilities to us, at regular intervals.  For the most part, he would merely comment supportively on whatever you were thinking about.  He knew when I was being bad, in secret.  He would become angry with me and not even be able to understand what he was describing.  But I knew what he was talking about.  It was my secret.
This kind of elder was, at one time, relatively common.  But that was centuries ago.  Even I remember a time, not too long ago, where one could know of less than a dozen of these kind of people in the world.  I’m willing to bet there are either little or none of these God-Bearing elders left these days. 
I sometimes wonder what we should expect from the future.
First, let me prep you for this story.

This story comes from Time Magazine. It is about the sudden arrival of 462 Tomahawk Cruise missiles on 3 Ohio Class "Boomer" submarines that had been refitted to carry cruise missiles instead of nuclear winter-bearing Tridents.

Let me tell you why I think this is a dramatic event:

I used to be Navy.  You NEVER see these boats (yes, call them boats).  They go down as soon as they hit properly deep waters.  They don't come up until 9 months later, and in the same spot they went down.  You can't get near them on the bases, without clearance.  In fact, sub stations are pretty much segregated from other types of sailors and bases altogether.  You will never set foot on one of these boats without a Top Secret clearance.  Not Secret - Top Secret).  In fact, my first reaction to this story was "How did they get that picture of that sub?"

I can't emphasize enough, how much of a shock to the Chinese it must have been for these three boats to simply surface, in plain site, in the Pacific theater.  A very, very strong message.

Another point in the story that is not (in my opinion) emphasised enough:  The article mentions that these ships are to be home-ported at these bases in Pusan (South Korea), Deigo Garcia (Indian Ocean) and Scubic Bay (Philippines).  That indicates an extended presence.  It is conceivable that many entire families are being moved to those location.  This is no small news item.  Read from the link below and notice the part, where the think tank lady calls the Pacific Theater "the military focus of the 21st century".  In all the years since Korea and Viet Nam, you'd think we could find something else to export.

On the other hand (and to be fair), this same article says that the US is responding to requests from Australia, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and Viet Nam to respond to increasingly aggressive behavior by the Chinese navy in the area.  Well, that sounds good too.  I think.

U.S. Missiles Deployed Near China Send a Message

Now we all know that things are getting a little dicey in those parts.  After all, there is North Korea, China, albeit grudginly, will stand for North Korea. 

There is also the scheduled (and repeating) rhetoric from China about Taiwan.  Long story short: China thinks that the island nation of Taiwan, democratically goverened for 60 years, belongs to The People's Republic of China (Red China, as we called it in the 60's).

In January of 2010, the Chinese displayed to the world her ability to take a traveling missile out with another (both Chinese missiles).  Don't forget that they took out one of their own satellites, in the same kind of display earlier.  The more recent demonstration is said to be because they were pissed that we sold a Tomahawk based missile defense system to Taiwan.  That story (again from Time) is here:

China's Missile Test: A Symbolic Warning to U.S.
Just when you started to think that the Gulf oil disaster had already estabished itself as a worst-case scenario, hang on; there's more.  To many experts, it is starting to look like the Deepwater Horizon may have punched a hole in an oil souce that has way too much explosive Methane in it.  In fact, some postulate that the drill head travelled 8 miles up the drill shaft, in reaction to the gas pressure, and impaled the B.O.P. which is the device that should have stopped all this.

Methane comprises about 75-90% of the natural gas that you burn at home (stove, furnace, etc.).  Methane destroys oxygen in water and creates aquatic dead zones, where nothing can live (the Gulf already has one).  Methane is also far more damaging to global warming effect than much-touted carbon dioxide.  The average quantity of methane in an oil well is about 5%.  What's coming out of the sea bed in the Gulf is about 40% methane.

There is also deadly benzine in the "cocktail of poisons" that is racing out of the well.  Benzine can cause cancerous lesions in the lungs years after a short exposure.  The last news of benzine levels in New Orleans reveals an alarming 3,000 parts per billion.  That's an awful lot of people who are in danger - right now.

But the hidden (and far more disasterous) danger lies in struggling to control the massive pressures pushing thousands of square miles of sea bed up to 10 feet above their pre-spill levels.  If this deposit of methane escapes, uncontrolled, the following may happen.
  • Every ship within 50 miles of the spill will instantly sink.  Not become swamped - just drop like stones.  If the water, surrounding any ships in the area, becomes saturated with this much gaseous material, boyancy won't mean a thing.  There will be virtually nothing to resist the ships drop to the bottom.  Do you remember early reports about declining help from other country's ships?
  • Either because of an explosion, or simply a sudden cave-in, filling the void left by the methane would cause a 200-300 foot high sunami traveling at about 500 miles per hour.  About that 200 foot sunami; the highest elevation in Florida is about 150 ft. above sea level.  Scientist estimate that the shock wave from an explosion of this magnitude would flatten everything before the tidal wave.  At least you won't know what hit you.
  • Some sources say this explosion, if it happens, would be on the same scale as Mt. St. Helen's.  We can only assume that an awful lot of poisonous gas is going to be in the air in the Gulf region.    If the methane were dry, which it is not, it would just go up in the air and cause 20 times the global warming damage as the same amount of Carbon Dioxide.  However, wet methane will remain on the ground and in the rain.
If the methane just "oozes" out into the sea and then into the atmosphere, unchecked until it is exhausted; we may be looking at extinction scenarios.  Unfortunately, something like this is thought to have happened before in the Gulf - twice.  251 million years ago, the Permian extinction which wiped out 96% of all life on earth, along with, yet another, huge release of methane 55 million years later.  One's mind flashes right back to reports of BP cutting safety corners for the sake of cost.

I just hope this is not as bad as it is looking.  There is, what one might call, a news blackout.  Clean up crews are wearing gas masks.  Cracks in the sea floor are being reported by independent agencies like NOAA, as well as high methane concentrations in waters that are up to 10 miles away from the Deepwater Horizon site.
About a month ago, the New York Post held an online competition for firehouse dogs to be included in an upcoming calendar. 

One of the nice things about living in a major city is when the tabloids occasionally feature favorable stories about our public servants.  As a citizen, I find it has an, albeit small, comforting effect.

Although this reporting is far from timely, I thought I would pass along the action as reported in the NY Post. 

The first link is an announcement of the contest.  Nearly 27,000 votes were cast online for reader's favorites.  Yes, that's right; in fact, the actual number of votes was 26,861. 
Vote for city's best firehouse dogs - NYPOST.com

The link below is a slideshow of the K-9 contestants.  Hover your mouse over the pics and read a quick blurb about these dogs.  Most of them exist as a result being rescued from perilous situations.  Natural for firemen - no?.

And the winning pooch is . . .

CERN's Large Hadron Collider creates 10 million Big Bangs in a week! 

What in the world could all that mean?  Lets try to break it down together, because I'd like to understand it too.

It looks like scientists have become divided on the nature of existence or, at least, the nature of matter. 

To me, it sounds like Einstein described energy and matter one way.  Einstein's theories describe the science of large matter (like universes).  The newer disciplines of quantum physics, which deals with the behavior of atomic, and smaller, matter, tend to describe energy and matter another way. 

According to my (light) reading, they (the scientists) want it both ways or, at least, a convergence / connection of the now-disparate theories.  So they are trying to find evidence of a sub atomic particle called the Higgs Boson Particle.

The short story on this Higgs Boson object is that Scottish physicist Peter Higgs, who calculated that this object must exist, also postulated that this particle makes it possible for matter (created by the Big Bang) to take on mass (the universe, and its elements). And, of course, the obligitory scientific mantra: "the origin of life".  More about the Big Bang here.
Somewhere, down the line, physicists decided that the collision of super-accelerated particles (smaller than atoms) would result in the demonstration of conditions, as they were just seconds after the Big Bang.

They hope they will find evidence of the elusive Higgs Boson in a mini Big Bang and begin measuring and categorizing it.  Then they hope to connect this object with causality of why matter takes on actual form, or mass (with image, weight, gravity, etc.). 

Scientists also think that there is not enough matter in the observable universe.  So they are looking for something they call "dark matter".  Some also think that measurements of this collision and big bang condition generated, might lead further in the direction of dark matter studies.  There's more about dark matter here.

If you are a multi-universe, multi-dimensional kind of person; this is definitely the thing to keep an eye on.  I hope these guys know what they are doing.  I wonder what the unexpected would yeild on this one! 

So they started working on developing a "collider technology" as long ago as 1954.  Those years of work have finally come to fruition in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) built and administered by CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research).  Looking over a time line of this technology's development, one can see that it was a long succession of developments. 

The LHC is basically a 17 mile underground ring which straddles the Swiss / French border.  It is an enormous underground tunnel which is refrigerated to incredibly low temperatures (minus 456.3 degrees Fahrenheit).  Beams of streaming protons are injected into this "ring" at a speed of 99.999% of the speed of light. 

The hoped-for collision would result in an explosion (or mini Big Bang) of 7 Terra Electron Volts (TeV).  A Terra equals a million, million, by the way.  Also, it says here, that this 7TeV explosion also generates temperatures that are 100,000 times the heat of our Sun.  With that in mind,  -456.3 degree environment sounds like a positive step. 

The equipment in the LHC will also measure time, during these experiments, down to the billionth of a second.

I was recently listening to a radio program where a scientist explained (in defense of the project), that these collisions being strived for, happen all the time in nature.  The problem is being near a collision, while they are happening all over nature.  OK.  That explanation was good for me.  But let me try to hang all this together in one scene.

In this scene, we go down, under the ground and into this 17 mile long facility that is under two countries.  All the machinery for cooling this ring to incredibly low temperatures is humming all around (imagine the electric bill).  Then, with who knows how much machinery, a stream of billions and billions of protons (where do they get them from) is shot into this tube at a hair under the speed of light.  Then another stream in the opposite direction.  Do things sound like they are jumping yet?

OK, so we have billions and billions and billions and billions of protons travelling at just sub-light speed, in two directions.  And they are trying to make these particles crash into each other to create mini Big Bangs at temperatures exceeding our Sun by 100,000 times, while looking for anti matter, dark matter, parallel universes and (my words) the nature of the fabric of existence, itself. 

They have accomplished 10 million of these explosions in a week's time.  But these guys are hoping to generate 600 million proton collisions per second.  Can you imagine how much unadulterated energy will be unleashed?  It sounds like a Superman adventure, with the international scientists and huge amounts of power.  I just hope the bad guys don't escape from the Phantom Zone. 

It was February 1979.  I was too close to homeless (again).  I was one of the last hold-outs in a violent and illegal eviction of an entire brownstone of SRO domiciles.  The bad guys had won.  This kind of stuff was going on all over Manhattan at that time.  It was the onset of a 20 year steamroller of gentrification (but that's another story).

I was living at the Upper West Side YMCA for something like $30. a day.  I payed for it by playing my silver alto sax in Times Square for loose change.  It worked.  My policy was "If its above freezing, get out there".  I used to set up on the West side of the square between 46th & 47th St, or wherever there was a construction wall, full of posters.  I tried to stay on the West side of the square in order to get the warm sun in the early/midday.

Well, there I am, not really playing anything; just scatting around, as usual.  Its post-rush hour and there aren't too many people on the square, but I'm hungry. 

This scene is nothing like Times Square, as it is today.  The streets were filthy - even slippery.  The sidewalks would shine with the burnishing of a billion footsteps.  The signs in the square were worn and forgotten.  Every kind of vice had a  grayed, visual presence on the square in those days.  Not many cops on the payroll.  If you were a rube in Times Square, it sucked to be you.

He was the only person on the sidewalk, when he came into view.  My back was against a plywood, poster covered wall, facing the street.  When you see someone with star power out of the corner of your eye, you tend to do in involuntary double-take.  So I have the sax in the corner of my pie hole, while I'm working the keys.  I'm checking this guy out and its Tom Waits!

Tom Waits!  How cool is this!  I was a fan since his 1975 "Nighthawks At The Diner"
as well as "Foreign Affairs" (1977).  His rendition of "Waltzing Matilda" from Foreign Affairs is one of the most moving performances in my memory.

The dude just walks by.  I expected that.  He looked like he was just awake.  He had a tall, skinny and lanky frame.  He was several days in need of a shave, and young!  I was surprised by that.  Seeing him on Martin Mull's short-lived Fernwood Tonight late night talk show spoof, and listening to his gin soaked vocals, somehow gave the impression of an older dude.  

I was just psyched to see him.  I didn't know, or care, how I was sounding.  It wasn't too unusual to see "famous people" when you spend a lot of time on the street.  But, I wish I could have talked to him.  Let him know how cool I think he is.  So, as he passes out of sight, I just go back to doing my thing.

He came back from where he disappeared, a few minutes later.  He was looking over the front page of the newspaper he just bought.  He walked over to my case and threw in a buck.  I stopped playing.

"Thanks, man, hey, I know who you are!  Tom Waits.  I really dig your stuff."
"Not too bad, kid.  Keep it up" said Waits.

After about 10 seconds of pleasantries, he says "Well, I'm gonna go and get some breakfast.  See ya later, kid."  And started to walk downtown.
"Yeah, me too" I replied.  "As soon as I get another dollar, or so."

He stopped in the middle of his step, turned half his body back towards me, with a look of genuine surprise on his face.

"You ain't had no breakfast, kid?  C'mon, I'll buy you breakfast."

We waked around the corner to the Howard Johnson's that had been on 46th & Bway for the last two generations.  We both had bacon and eggs (I think that's what he had), and chatted about how blown away I was about the Foreign Affairs album (way before CDs).  We chatted a bit about the Blue Valentine album.  He registered a slight disappointment
with Blue Valentine's sales performance.  I was such a dweeb.  I thought I was doing him a favor by recommending that he knock off a couple of gigs at The Mudd Club.  The club was red hot and they were paying well.  I remember his grinning, knowing, nod of approval, as he blew it off immediately.

After chatting for about a half an hour, he excused himself and we hit the street, going separate ways.

So the next time you see Tom Waits on TV or in the movies (he does a lot of small, ecentric parts), or you hear his totally unique style of crooning, please remember this:
At the height of his career, had had a buck for a kid with a sax in the street, and he even bought him breakfast.  When's the last time you, or I did that?

Peace, Luv, Happiness,
Big Rob D

Big Rob Loves u!

Now you can love him back.
Click on my links, if you are in the mood for shopping.
I use most of the products below and I personally recommend them.

Big Rob Loves
Your Computer

This is one of the software titles that I just outright buy. I always make sure I have it installed. In the early days, these people were the only ones who could defrag an NT formatted drive. They know what they are doing. Frankly, I am NOT a fan of Windows Defrag.

Download a free trial!

Amazon Rocks!

Amazon is a totally awesome shopping experience!
  • Always go here for reviews for anything you may be thinking of buying.
  • Create a free account.
  • Save stuff to your wish list.
  • Get sensible recommendations, based on your shopping history!
  • You're gonna love it!