Notes from the cave

paul simon

I was reminded the other day that Paul Simon is on his farewell – “Homeward Bound” – tour.

Got me thinking that so many of Simon’s songs begin like the opening lines of every great story – you want to know what happens next.

The Mississippi Delta

Was shining like a National guitar.

I’m following the river,

Down the highway,

Through the cradle of the Civil War.


One and one-half wandering Jews.

Free to wander wherever they choose.

– Hearts and Bones

Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together.

I’ve got some real estate here in my bag.

So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner’s pies.*

And walked off to look for America.

– America

From the next line –  “Kathy,” I said, as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh – I tripped into Kathy’s Song and wondered: Who’s Kathy?

Turns out she was a 16-year-old girl Simon met – he was 22 – when he was living in England and playing folk clubs in the early 1960s. A photo of the young lovers illustrates the cover of The Paul Simon Songbook (1965).

Paul & Kathy


* Mrs. Wagner’s single-portion pies were sold across the East and Midwest states until the bakery went out of business in 1968.

Mrs. Wagner's Pies

* * *

I could stomach only the first fifteen minutes or so of the Showtime documentary called The Fourth Estate, chronicling the New York Times’s coverage of the Trump presidency so far.

Such bullshit – editors and reporters obviously performing for the cameras. Then again, even if all these super-serious men and women are on the level – How can you not laugh, gag or rage at Trump? – it’s not like any newsroom I’d want to be in.

Guess not much has changed since I was a copyboy at the Times in the mid-1960s. As I recall in my memoir: The Times was insufferably full of itself and its perceived place in the world.

* * *

Recent headline:


If the Schnorrer in Chief has a guiding doctrine, this is it – the presidency for fun and profit.

* * *

Watched the first two Godfather movies after reading the passages in Jim Comey’s book comparing Trump to a Mafia don. Biggest difference: the Trumps are a family of Fredos.

* * *

Bill Maher, on his HBO show, does a bit called: “I don’t know it for a fact, I just know it’s true.”

I’ll play:

  • For every dollar Michael Cohen got to influence the don, the don got the don’s share.
  • The don trashed the Iran nuclear deal to raise the price of oil for his pal Putin and the rest of the Rooskies who have the U.S. president in their pocket.
  • The don initially had second thoughts on his summit with Kim Jong Un when he realized schlepping to Singapore would cut into his time on the golf course promoting Trump properties.

* * *

Watched The Hot Rock, with Redford, George Segal and the incomparable Zero Mostel. It’s set in my New York of the early ’70s, the last time I lived in Gotham – shots of the Twin Towers under construction and the Pan Am Building when it was still called the Pan Am Building.

Redford in Hot Rock

I went to the premiere at Radio City in 1972, a fundraiser for ex-GOP mayor John Lindsay’s lame bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

* * *

Sarah Huckleberry dropped four interesting words during one of her bull sessions in the White House briefing room last month.

In dodging a question, she said her boss is “working hard to make this country better, whether it’s through building our economy, creating jobs, defeating ISIS, fixing our judiciary system …”

Fixing the judiciary system?

That’s supposedly the linchpin of the devotion to Trump for a big chunk of his supporters, especially evangelicals – appointing ideology-first judges who will blindly rule against abortion, gay rights and most other progressive advances of the past half-century.

Add the fixed judiciary to the current GOP control of the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government and you have a right-winger’s wet dream – the promise of a white Christian version of Sharia Law made in the USA.

* * *

While the wannabe dictator wields his power in Washington, an exhibit of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms is on display this summer at the New-York Historical Society museum on the West Side of Manhattan.


The paintings – Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want – were inspired by president Franklin Roosevelt’s State of the Union speech in January 1941.

FDR argued against American isolationism promoted by powerful America First war profiteers and Hitler sympathizers. He warned that freedom could be lost – as it had been in much of Nazi-occupied Europe – if the U.S. did not step up its aid of Britain and join the war against Germany.

I saw the paintings when they were at the Guggenheim Museum in New York after 9/11.

Once again, the message is clear:

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone …

– Joni Mitchell

My memoir, The Expat Files: My Life in Journalism, is available from and Amazon Canada.



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