Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tony Brandenburg: For Brevity's Sake

D. Boon and Mike Watt
For Brevity's Sake
Last night I edited a letter - well, actually an editorial about um, uh, duh,  Ed Honowitz (click here) - from 1386 words down to 850 so that it could be submitted to a newspaper. This type of letter writing is something I haven’t attempted in some time, and it was a rough edit. However, because I didn’t bother to research the parameters, I had to edit it again -  this time to the desired 650 word maximum - and that was flat out brutal. Next time I should probably follow the directions the first time (click here). At last edit, I admired the finished product: a skeleton of a once powerful statement, whittled down to a toothpick for easy picking - now just regurgitation, or worse; food between the teeth. It was nothing close to the meal it once was.

Taking a Ride (click here)
Most weeks I work every day except the two that my union makes sure your unions honor - that is if you ever want to see your kids in the daylight. This week, however, my union chose to use our “Don’t call it Christmas or even a holiday it’s Winter Break” at a different time from the more local union- the one where my children are edumified, PUSD. That is the beauty of secularism, no one knows what anyone else’s schedule will be. In the hodge-podge that generally follows, we get a week of jockeying them to their edumacation stuff, and then they get a week where they are totally unsupervised - unless your family is like mine, and one parent is always home ruining all the good times.

A Brief Statement for the Time Impaired (click here)
On these periodic days, Mary, my partner and friend, gets half of the mom duties comped by me, who now, twenty staples lighter and a third net implant later - is opiate free, pain reduced, and behind the wheel of the mean unclean ungreen machine. This week I have been set for taking the older two kids- the girl child (16) and the elder boy child (13) - through the frenzy that is the morning ride to school ...

Here, eat this dried bread with saturated oil slop and that cup of coffee, here, take this napkin or you’ll have food all over your face like your father. Grab that bag with the organic fruit chews and that processed meat food stuff and this calcium enhanced water for your midday nutritional break, and  hurry up and get in the car or you’ll be late again. We’re at 17 late days in a row, guys, let’s try to not make it 18 (click here). Yeah, yeah. Stop talking and chew. You guys enjoy breakfast, and let me enjoy traffic.

45 Glorious Revolutions
There was a time when things were simpler (click here), and when life was more enchanting; a time when I could run my fingers across the edges of a 45 RPM slab of ebony wax, gently blow the dust away, place it, spin it,  drop the needle down on her gentle grooves, and marvel as she waxed perfection in tones and vibrations of magnificent sound throughout the house (click here).

No time for that now. Move it, Maxwell, let’s go. Chop, chop.

iGrab the iPod and the smarter than I am iPhone.  There are 8,000 music files in there with every version of any song I could possibly desire on both of these gadgets, but I swear I can never find the songs I actually want to listen to. The barrage of useless misinformation and insignificant minutia attacks randomly - so quickly, and with such force -  that it’s a balance or tug-of-war between apathy and migraine every fourteen seconds. Twelve times a day I revisit the crossroads (click here)  and choose whether to bargain with one (this), or the other (that).

It’s to the point where even the things I love are so compressed, and so compacted, and so emaciated that even the soul of this planet has been subsidized.

Play it in Under a Minute
A file opens on the mini computer music player thingy,  and out from the pod comes an elegantly disjointed blast. It begins filling the machine with the story of my life passed, and infuses into my life present. Paranoid Time (click here), a seven song six minute blast of jazz-pop-funk-punk by one of the greatest of the bands to come out of the early 1980’s Southern California hardcore scene,  the Minutemen of San Pedro (click here). Playful in their name - their songs usually clocked in at a minute- and easily one of the more dedicated of the bands from that time period - I always enjoy when one of their songs pops up on the Ipod shuffle mp3 music player thingy.

We listened to the first  couple three songs in silence as I internally reflected on my brother, how the Minutemen were one of the first bands he saw,  and how they so generously gave him a record to remember that night. He kept that record until the day he died.

Timesteps (click here)
Someone in a hurry cut me off on the road, so I waited at the light for a while, and the three of us kept listening, chewing, listening, chewing, tempo, chewing, traffic, music, chewing, rhythm, silence. Deafening, uncomfortable, calm. Check the clock.

More Reflection
The day I was told that Dennes Boon (click here) had been killed in a car accident. My God. December 22, 1985. Twenty seven years ago. Has it been that long? Eyes squinting, I remember the tears, and depression that followed. He was 27 when he died.  Why did this decide to come up on the ipod this morning? Why today, of all days, and why now? I have to get these guys to school.

No. I will not let my head go to that place right now, too late. Then another flash of memory, a burst of fire, then confusion, an epiphany, and then clarity. I check the clock again. That lasted thirteen seconds. I took a deep breath, and hit the pause button

“Hey, do you guys know about McCarthyism? Have you heard of Joe McCarthy?”

A Brief History for the Time Impaired
The boy child shook his head, the girl child said, “They haven’t taught us that in school yet, but I have seen it in my books. I’ve hear you talk about it, so I looked it up and learned about it.”

And for a couple of glorious minutes we three talked about Senator Joe McCarthy, and the Cold War, we discussed free speech, and the spectre of hate. We contemplated paranoia, and fear, and bullying, and targeting, and the adversarial behavior of ignorance. We talked about loyalty to friends, and the high cost of silence.

I asked, “Do you know what the blacklist was?” My daughter shared what she taught herself by researching, about the list of people who could no longer work, about the people who were shunned, and stunned, about being excommunicated from the community and moving to Europe. I nodded, listened, and watched this woman child, a magnificent thinker, as she spoke through my right periphery. The boy child said one sentence, “Like what they did to you and Mom.”  I checked the rearview mirror and tried to smile, but I felt clouding. I wiped my eye like if it was a speck of dirt.

“OK you guys, listen closely to the words.”

Joe McCarthy’s Ghost (Watt)

Can you really be sure
Of the goddamn time of day?
Can you take the dirt
From the fist of a foreigner?
Are you going to fight
When they call out your number?

Can you toe the line?
Can you repeat what you’ve been told?
Can you bite the bullet?
Can you see the enemy?
Can you point the finger?
Can you prove your loyalty?

Get a Move on or You’ll Miss Something Important
So. What do you think guys? If the accused were communists, why not just say so? If they weren’t, why not just deny it? If they knew people who were communists, why not just turn them in? I mean, what was the big deal? Was it better to hide behind the 5th amendment like cowards, or stand up and make a declaration of pride, “Yes, I am a Communist!” or “Hell no, I’m no Communist!” Wouldn’t it have been wiser to just crumble and give up the names of their friends?

Because, Dad, the Government had no right to ask them any of those questions in the first place. The 5th Amendment wasn’t being used to protect them, they had committed no crime to begin with, and they were not hiding. They were not cowards.They were refusing to allow the Government to interfere in their personal lives. They were asserting their right to live freely, and without shame either way. It was a witch hunt, dad, and you don’t really believe most of those things you just said.

I avoided two collisions and pulled up to the curb at the school.  Crap. Late again. Day #18. The principal is in front of the school preparing to lock the doors and start with a tardy sweep.

Ok, talk to you more about this later. Hurry up, before they lock the gate. Apologize for being late and tell them to call me if they have any concerns. Bye. See you after school.

A Brief Finale
I watch them scurry, struggling with bags heavier than they are, up the stairs that they still fumble on, and through the door, which swings shut behind them.

I ask myself , “Why? Why so many rules, so many important little details,  why so much stress? Why do they have to worry about all of this junk? Good grief, they are still just kids.”

I pull the beast out and drive a couple of blocks and then pull over. I don’t feel right. Something’s been eating at me all morning.

I contemplate Connecticut - but not the flame wars on the internet over gun control, or autism, or school safety, or parenting. For the first time in a few days I focus on the teachers and those kids and the last things that they learned on this planet, and I then I realized that I was in such a hurry I didn’t even tell my own kids to have a good day, let alone hug them goodbye (click here).

For the first time in ten years, I wept.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

46 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Evil keeps you guys on your toes, Moderator.

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    2. Damn unicorns sniffing into Tattler business.

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    3. I'm all for chipping in for some stocks to place in Kerstig court. There'd be quite a line up.

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    4. The unicorns around here are like dogs. Always sticking their noses where they don't belong.

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    5. Exactly where their snoots belong 11:09.

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    6. @10:16-The Mayor might like that a little too much - if you know what I mean

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    7. It's a Long Beach thing. You wouldn't understand.

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  2. And so here I am, waiting for the machine to regurgitate a morning brew, finishing Tony's letter, with tears streaming down my cheeks. My own kids have long since left HS, I should have wished them more good days, and given them more hugs... we talk on the phone but somehow it's so superficial given our geographical and political divides. The problem with raising cricical thinkers is that they're free to believe as they choose... Thanks, Tony and John.

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    1. The article did the same thing to me 7:49. It just crept up on me and I found myself crying by the end. Very bittersweet and though provoking.

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    2. I think Tony is showing us through his storytelling how his mind works. He wove me through I don't know how many ideas yet maintained a theme. He may not be a newspaper journalist, but he sure is a writer- with some ADHD thrown in!

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    3. It is kind of a Minuteman way of writing. Pick out some seemingly disparate themes and stories, tell each one in a short space, and at the end weave them into a whole. Not everyone can do that.

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  3. Has there ever been warriors for their children more dedicated than Tony and Mary Brandenburg? They took on half of a town and an entire school system. It just goes to show that even two people can take on the system if their cause is just. An inspiration for the new year.

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    1. Thanks for reminding me to take the time to enjoy my kids while they're still home with me. I don't want to look back and regret, yet I already do.

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    2. The Brandenburgs sure have guts.

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    3. I like that they're encouraging their kids to research outside of school, and to question the status quo. I worry that there remain those that don't appreciate questioners, require followers.

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    4. It takes guts to get to the point where you discover that the tiger is made of paper, and it can be beat.

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    5. Yes 10:15, so true.

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  4. I imagine there is a generation gap around D. Boon. There are those who can remember where they were when they heard he died, and then there are people who never heard the name before. That group would include both my parents and my kids.

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    1. Don't know who D. Boon was, but there's one for my generation too: Buddy Holly. It's the message woven throughout, lives cut short, not wasting time on the insignificant....

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    2. I know how I felt the day John Lennon died. An utter waste, but it also drew people together.

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    3. I know exactly where I was when John Lennon died. I was in my 20s and living in New York. I was devastated.

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    4. Never thought I'd find something interesting in reading about a punk rock band. Times have certainly changed. Thanks Tony B.

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    5. The Minutemen were something very special. I think D. Boon would have taken them far had he lived.

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  5. This column is a thing of beauty. I've read it three times now.

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  6. I haven't listened to the Kinks in 20 years. Damn, that sounds good.

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    1. It is a good one

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    2. I haven't listened to Pink Floyd in over 20 years.

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    3. Revisit piper at the gates of dawn. you won't regret it.

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    4. Ummagumma. It has the cool song with the axe.

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    5. Careful with that axe, Eugene.

      The Tattler needs a second blog for culture and arts.

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    6. Nah. there are generations of Luke minded arts aficionados here. When one generation recognizes the bridge from the big bopper and buddy holly to another through John Lennon through anther of D. Boon, I can only say, there you go. through music we find a common language.

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    7. That's like minded, no offence to Luke. or Matthew, Mark, or John, for that matter.

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    8. The Force be with you.

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    9. that was pretty funny

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  7. I guess I missed a generation.

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    1. The Who stopped singing "My Generation" at one point because the people they were singing it to now were around 30 years younger than them. Pete Townshend has also said that he no longer feels the same about the line, "Hope I die before I get old."

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    2. I must be fooling myself but I don't feel the generation gap.

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    3. There are more of us than there are of them.

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  9. This day ends pretty much as it started.

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    1. ya thought it could end any other way, jc? haters gotta hate. it's what they do. without it they'd be lost like the seven castaways.

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