politicians, politics, Trump

“Get my change, would ya?”

This morning, I read several infuriating articles about Donald Trump’s latest shenanigans. One article was about how the military is getting a 3% pay raise, the second largest they’ve received since 2010. On the surface, it sounds great. If Bill were still in the Army, I wouldn’t complain. I’m not surprised, either, since this is an election year and lots of military folks like Trump. A generous pay raise is one way to secure their votes in November.

I also read about how Trump wants to cut retirement benefits to government service employees, although they too will get a 1% raise this year. A 1% raise is better than nothing… but Trump wants government employees to pay more toward their retirement benefits. Some of his proposals would only affect new retirees, though others would affect everyone.

I also read about how Trump wants to end a popular student loan forgiveness program started in 2007 by fellow Republican former President George W. Bush. Two thoughts came to mind as I read this news. First, I thank God that we paid off my loans in 2018. I will be eternally grateful to Bill for making it possible for me to get rid of those loans, once and for all. Second, I can’t help but remember that Trump ran a fake university that bilked millions of dollars from students who hoped to learn the “secrets of the real estate industry”. Trump now wants to screw over people who have taken jobs in low paying public service jobs so he can continue to artificially prop up his big promises to his supporters during this election year.

I’m not sure what will convince Trump supporters that he’s not worthy of their vote. It doesn’t matter to them that he molests women and insults anyone who doesn’t kiss his ass. All they seem to care about is a few extra bucks in their paychecks. But I wonder if they’ve thought about what those extra bucks are going to cost them in the long run.

My friend Audra has a friend who, just the other day, was praising how well his 401K was doing in the Trump era. This guy, married and with a daughter, doesn’t care that Trump probably couldn’t be trusted in the presence of his wife and daughter and would happily grab them by the pussy. What seems to matter most to him is that extra cash that he’s getting today. I wonder, though, if he’s thought about what will happen years from now, when he’s old and infirm.

Trump is going after Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, with plans to shred them. Many elderly people– people who have worked and paid taxes their whole lives– depend on those programs for their survival. I don’t know how old Audra’s friend is, but I do know that his wife, who was in my high school and college class, is my age. Does he realize that the senior years are just around the corner, at least for his wife? Does he have a plan for those years? Is he independently wealthy? Can he keep working until he drops dead?

Not even military retirees are being spared. One of the best hyped benefits to retirees is the ability to use military treatment facilities for “free” medical care. But that benefit is going to be slashed, as more than three dozen military hospitals will stop offering care to military retirees and family members. Granted, this plan came about in 2016, when Obama was still president, and it’s always been true that active duty military members get treated ahead of retirees and “dependents” (hate that term). However, a lot of elderly people who were promised healthcare for life are going to see even higher medical costs, especially since Trump is hellbent on decimating Medicare and Medicaid.

Healthcare is obscenely expensive in the United States, and some people have found that it’s cheaper to go to Mexico or Canada to get their drugs… even factoring in the cost of a plane ticket! In fact, right now, there is a year old program in Utah seeking to lower prescription costs for the state’s insurance program by paying for airline tickets of beneficiaries so they can fly to Mexico to get their prescriptions filled! Not only does it seem sketchy to send our citizens to Mexico to get prescriptions (good thing they’re still letting Americans across the border and not putting them in cages), it also means that elderly people are making exhausting trips south of the border to get the drugs necessary for their survival.

So much for the pro-life crew, huh? They’re only pro-life for the unborn. Those who have already been born are on their own. Not to mention all the pollution caused by air travel… wouldn’t it be better if these folks could simply pay a fair price for their medications in the United States without taking trips that put them at risk and foul the environment? But Trump doesn’t give a shit about that, and I guess his supporters don’t, either… which brings me to the title of today’s post.

A few days ago, I watched Purple Rain for the first time in many years. That film, which famously starred Prince in his acting debut when he was just 27 years old, came out when I was 12. Back then, I thought it was a great film. As I watched it the other day, I realized it’s actually a pretty crappy movie. The music is incredible, of course, but the acting was terrible! The story was full of misogyny, too, with women being thrown in Dumpsters, tricked into jumping into freezing lakes, and slapped around by men, once the men had them under their power.

That film also starred Morris Day, who played a slick, flashy, womanizing guy who would try to impress the women he was interested in with grand gestures of largesse and tempting stories about his brass bed and Italian cook. Then, once he’d gotten what he wanted from them, he’d toss them in a Dumpster.

Morris Day meets the comely Apollonia and tries to dazzle her by paying for their drinks and telling the waitress to keep the change. Then, out of the side of his mouth, he tells his henchman, Jerome, to “Get my change, would ya?” I can’t help but think of Trump courting his supporters with a little cash thrown their way as he tells government officials to “go get his change”.

So much for his “generosity”…
I fear this may be our future as people wake up to Trump’s empty promises… I’m sure Morris dazzled this woman, too, before she surrendered to his empty promises.

If you need a less Hollywoodized version of this idea, consider a story Bill told me this morning about his shyster uncle, who used to sell aluminum siding. Bill’s uncle had no qualms about being shady to make his sales. When Bill was a child, his uncle would sometimes take Bill with him on sales calls and, when Bill was out of earshot, he’d garner sympathy by telling his would be customers that Bill had some kind of terminal illness. He had a medallion that he’d wear with a cross on one side and a star of David on the other, which he’d flip according to his customers’ religious beliefs. And when it came time to make the sale, he’d “sweeten the deal” by telling his customers that he’d give them $1000 cash if they’d sign up for the siding. What the customers didn’t realize is that dear old uncle would write that $1000 cash “gift” into the loan. So his customers, thinking they had scored a sweet deal by getting an extra grand, would end up paying for that cash, plus interest!

When I listen to Trump’s big plans for the economy and watch as he boldly craps all over American laws and traditions, as well as our beloved checks and balances, I can’t help but think of sleazy characters like Bill’s shyster uncle and Morris Day. Trump can fast talk with the best of them, and when you’re getting an extra $100 in your paycheck, what he says and does looks good. But what happens when you give him your vote and wind up in a Dumpster afterwards, discarded like one of Morris Day’s conquests? I don’t think a lot of Trump’s supporters have thought about it much.

Not really.

My well read husband also brought up the book 1984, by George Orwell, and how “chocolate rations” went up… only they didn’t, really. I’m ashamed to say that even though I was an English major, I never came across that book in my studies, although I did read Animal Farm. I was also around in the year 1984, when everyone was talking about Orwell because of 1984. I tried to read it years later, but couldn’t get into it at the time. Maybe it’s time to try again, because some of what Trump is doing is eerily reminiscent of Orwellian society… Yeah… you’ve got more money in your paycheck today. But will you still have it when you need it, years from now, as Trump destroys programs designed to help those who can’t help themselves while he pads his own wallet and those of his friends? I wish people would think about that before they enthuse about how “great” Trump is making America.

This looks like it was done by an AP high school English class… but it’s still pretty good.

Yes, you’ve got a little extra chocolate right now… but you don’t have nearly as much as the top 1% does. And once Trump gets a second term, there will be no stopping him. We’ll all end up in a Dumpster, with neither extra chocolate nor change.


Bruce Springsteen always reminds me of high school…

Last night, I decided to download a comprehensive album of Bruce Springsteen’s music. I had just listened to his latest album, Western Stars, and then one from the pinnacle of my youth, Born in the USA. I had a sudden urge to hear “Hungry Heart”, and rather than fetch my iPod or move up to my office, where my whole, vast musical collection is stored, I decided to just order another Springsteen compilation. Bill and I sat there and listened in our German Eckbank Gruppe (corner booth) and I was suddenly transported to my 14th year.

This NEVER gets old… even as I do. “Hungry Heart” was released when I was about 8 years old.

When I was fourteen, Springsteen was at the top of his game. I got my dad to buy me his Live 1975-1985 box set for Christmas. I had it on cassette tape and, along with Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms album, I used to wear out those cassettes, riding my bike to and from the barn where I boarded my horse, Rusty. It got to the point at which I had the whole box set memorized, right down to the stories Springsteen told about facing the Vietnam draft, and fights he had with his father over his rock n’ roll lifestyle. I was definitely a true fan.

As the years passed, I stopped listening to Springsteen so much, especially when his sound changed. I think it happened in the early 1990s. I was in college and had started discovering new music, thanks to my stint as a radio DJ and unofficial music studies. The faculty members of Longwood University’s music department kindly gave me the opportunity to study voice privately and join their auditioned choir, The Camerata Singers, even though I wasn’t a singer until I came to college. Being in a choir and studying voice introduced me to music I had never heard. I had limited time and even more limited funds, so old interests went by the wayside. Prince, another one of my obsessions during adolescence, suffered a similar fate. I stopped listening to him at around the same time I quit listening to Springsteen.

When I was a high school senior, this was probably my favorite song.

When I got older, I had more time and more money… and I started listening to and buying those old albums I missed. Last night, as I heard Springsteen’s familiar, evocative lyrics, and the familiar cadences of his best known songs. I was suddenly reminded of being fourteen, in the traumatic tempest of adolescence. I remember fourteen was a particularly stormy year for me. I was a bucket of emotions. One minute, I was cracking off-color jokes. The next minute, I was in tears for some reason. People literally thought I was crazy. The evidence is in the inscriptions left in my yearbooks.

As a teenager, I really related to Springsteen’s stories about his parents. He had a contentious relationship with his dad, just like I did. Bruce’s dad harassed him about his hair and his life choices. Mine harassed me about my weight and my outspoken personality. He would have preferred me to be more demure. It’s not me. But there was still a lot of love beneath those fights.

In those days, I remember people asking me if I was bipolar. In the 80s, they didn’t refer to bipolar disorder as such; it was called “manic depression”. No, I am not bipolar, but I was very moody in those days. In the midst of crying jags, temper tantrums, and hysterical laughing fits, I was riding my horse and my bike, struggling with school, writing short stories, and loving music. I loved more music than I could possibly purchase. It surprises and, frankly, kind of depresses me I never made an effort to study it seriously when I was growing up, although I’m pretty sure I was like that because my parents were/are musicians. I wanted to do my own thing, without pressure from my parents to do what they were doing. I’d rather ride my horse, who was the best company and never judged me for being who I am.

I have always had really eclectic musical tastes. I think it comes from having three much older sisters who introduced me to the stuff they liked. My oldest sister was mostly gone from our house by the time I was old enough to know what was going on, but I seem to remember she was a fan of Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, and… actually, I don’t know. I’ve never really gotten to know Betsy that well. She’s thirteen years older than I am and an extremely high achiever. When I was growing up, she lived in other countries: France, Morocco, Egypt, India, and she visited so many others because of her work.

My sister, Becky, was more of a hard rock/alternative fan. She introduced me to groups like The Who, Roxy Music, Dead Can Dance, and The Police, and singers like Eric Clapton, Dan Fogelberg, and Kate Bush. She also introduced me to James Taylor, who is probably my favorite of all of them, besides Kate Bush. I used to raid her record collection the most. We shared a room for awhile, even though she’s eleven years older than I am. I’m probably closest to her.

Sarah, who is eight years older, liked “urban” music. She liked funk, R&B, and white soul, like Hall & Oates. She introduced me to Earth, Wind, & Fire, The Commodores, and Rose Royce. I remember she also introduced me to Pat Benatar. The very first album I ever purchased was Benatar’s Crimes of Passion, which came out in 1982. I even remember how much it cost… $7.86. For a kid who got $2.50 a week as an allowance, that was a lot of money to save up. I remember walking from my house to Murphy’s Mart, which was a shitty discount store in a strip mall near my home in Gloucester, Virginia, and plunking that money down at the cash register. I wore that album out.

I used to buy a lot of 45s in those days, since they were much cheaper and I usually just wanted to hear one or two songs. I also used to tape music from the radio. Now I routinely download entire albums, sometimes without even having heard any songs on it. I often do that when I’ve been drinking. I have surprisingly good taste when I’m drunk, too. Bill and I often refer jokingly to my “drunken downloads”. They’re usually a pleasant surprise.

I switched to cassettes when I got a Walkman, because I liked listening to music while riding my bike. Also, cassettes never skipped, although they could be damaged in other ways. I remember one time, I left a copy of Zenyatta Mondata on the dashboard of my car, in direct sunlight. It was warped when I came back. Anyone who has ever listened to cassettes knows that sometimes the tape jams and makes a squiggly mess that requires a pen or pencil to correct. I had a few tapes break, too. I was glad when CDs were a thing… and even gladder when MP3s were a thing, even if I do miss the magic of opening a new album and looking at the artwork. Sometimes there would even be special gifts in those LP records. I got a Prince and the Revolution poster in my copy of the Purple Rain soundtrack. That doesn’t happen with downloads.

So anyway… there I was last night, listening to Springsteen and remembering being a teenager. My home economics teacher actually went to high school with Springsteen. She was from New Jersey and a few years younger than he is. She was a freshman in high school when he was a senior. I took her class when I was a freshman. I remember being kind of an anomaly in her class. Most of the people who took it with me weren’t bound for college. I took the class because I like to cook and it hadn’t occurred to me that I should have explored music. Ms. Kulnis, who had married a Gloucester local, told us that back during his high school days, Springsteen was kind of “gross”. In 1986, he was definitely not gross. He was a huge star in his prime. But as a teen, he was unkempt, greasy, had super long hair, and, she said, kind of skinny because he didn’t work out. She said he wasn’t appealing back then, musical talent notwithstanding. She had no idea he would someday be a megastar.

I’ve always loved the slower, live version of “Thunder Road” than the album version, which is more upbeat. I heard it for the first time when I was 14.
Above is a link to my favorite version of “Thunder Road”, which doesn’t have video footage.

It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that I was fourteen. I have some good memories of that time of my life, though I sure as hell wouldn’t want to repeat it. I would not want to be an adolescent again for anything, although I might have made some different choices knowing what I know now. The nice thing about the passage of time is that it tends to smooth out the worst memories. I remember being chronically upset during my teen years. Mostly, I got yelled at by people. I had a short temper and a foul mouth. Sometimes, I was kind of impulsive, but never to the point at which I did anything that got me into serious trouble. Most people seemed to think of me as a “good kid”, although I probably wasn’t as good as some of my friends were… or appeared to be. On the other hand, some of my friends were being naughty behind closed doors. I never had a need to sneak around, because my parents mostly didn’t care what I did, as long as it didn’t embarrass or involve them.

Original version of The E Street Shuffle. He’s changed it significantly since then.

Springsteen’s older music is like a soundtrack to that time of my life. It takes me back every time. The 80s seemed so modern at the time, but now it seems like such a quaint time. One thing that remains constant is the staying power of certain artists. I can tell a truly gifted musician if their music stands the test of time. Springsteen’s definitely does, for the most part. Most artists have an off album or two. Springsteen is no different. I don’t think I cared much for his Human Touch or Lucky Town albums, for instance. Some people don’t like his 2009 album, Working on a Dream. I have only heard one song from that album… a freebie I got from Amazon. No one can bat 1ooo every time. But here I sit in 2019, listening to Springsteen’s 1973 album, The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle, released the year after I was born. It’s still very solid.

A more recent version of The E Street Shuffle.

By contrast, Western Stars, which is a brand new album, is very different than Springsteen’s early stuff is. I like it, but listening to Born in the USA (which I only JUST added to my collection) took me back to the 80s. I had to hear “Hungry Heart”. I ended up listening to a panoply of Springsteen’s hits from over the years. It was fascinating. I suddenly realized how far we’ve come. Springsteen doesn’t have Clarence Clemons anymore. He’s entered a new phase, just like all great musicians do at some point. I haven’t seen him in concert, nor have I seen Billy Joel… both are acts I’d brave the crowds and pay big bucks to see, just because I didn’t have the money or wisdom to see them when I was younger. I hope I can catch them before one of us dies.

I dare you not to dance to this one.

Thank God we still have the ability to take a carpet ride back to our youths through nostalgia. Maybe not everyone is whisked away by an old Springsteen song. I’m sure today’s young people have other artists that take them back.