“Coffee (café): Induces wit … Taken without sugar, very chic, gives the impression that you’ve lived in the Orient!” — GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, French novelist, playwright

I wasn’t headed up town early this a.m. for coffee, even though it’s Saturday. Coffee, the numero uno in my daily routine, would have to come later. My current mission, significantly less auspicious than the morning coffee quest, was a brisk bike ride with a group of new friends, mostly doctors and all specialists, who assured me that I’d be “better off riding with one GP than all four of” them. I had raised a rhetorical question to them in rather (but not entirely) lighthearted banter because of my cycling accident last October that landed me in three months’ recovery from a broken acetabulum (having little to do with my posterior, though it sounds otherwise), a separated shoulder, and a concussion – all this unknown to them. This morning I allowed as how it felt reassuring to ride in a pack of four medical doctors, when one of them ruthlessly (but in good humor, I might add) burst my enthusiastic bubble with the candid quip about the hypothetical GP. And I say “hypothetical GP” because that may be an extinct breed.

Anyway, these guys I was riding with are, respectively, urologist, radiologist, anesthesiologist, and oncologist – all pretty useless on a bike ride, at least from a medical viewpoint, though all are good riders. I mean, look — probabilities are low that I’ll be treated for cancer or a urological disaster on a bike outing, although I suppose if one were riding when a gallstone started it’s descent through the plumbing, it might feel reassuring to have a urologist standing by. But maybe no moreso than the comfort I get when I need help in the office.

Everyone seems to be a “specialist” these days. Even in my accounting office we no longer have the generic “accounting clerks” of the old days when I was a pup in the business. We now have “accounts payable specialists” and “payroll specialists” and “billing specialists” and … well, you get the picture. I can’t get help from the billing specialist when there’s a rush on getting an invoice paid; she only takes care of situations “when we’re asking for money to be sent to us, not the other way round” (for gosh sakes … with the eyeball roll!).

So back to the docs and the bike ride. I’m presently over my worries about the lack of a GP. We’re just having fun, exercise and a little camaraderie today. Have I mentioned that I have a lot of ‘mental problems’? With songs? Tongue in cheek here, but songs do sometimes interrupt serious production. Not songs I’m writing; I’m not a songwriter. The songs I’m talking about are songs that I’ve acquired through the aural canals and unintentionally stored in my brain’s wrinkles (of which there must be more than on even my face, judging by the numbers of songs that roll out with annoying regularity) over the years of my life. I don’t really know whether there’s any scientific evidence that this is creative brainpower surging through my synapses, but random recollections of something I have heard roll out, involuntarily spilled for no particular purpose. But it can be entertaining in times of otherwise inane activities like riding a bike with a bunch of medical specialists.

The song running through my brain this overcast morning was the catchy, bluesy-but-pleasant little country tune with the typical cryin’-in-the-beer lyrics of that genre, Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues. Penned by Danny O’Keefe, it was popular in the early 70s (peaking at #9 in 1972). I have a very cool instrumental rendition of it on a CD project by the great guitarist Earl Klugh. It’s very whistle-able, so even if you’re not a vocalist – and I’m not, at least not when I’m pedaling up a steep hill on my roadie – you can hit your licks on this tune with your whistle. The lyrics go like this:

Everybody’s goin’ away.
Said they’re movin’ to L.A.
There’s not a soul I know around.
Everybody’s leavin’ town!guitar

Some caught a freight. Some caught a plane.
Find the sunshine, leave the rain.
They said this town’s a waste of time.
I guess they’re right, it’s wasting mine!

Some gotta win, some gotta lose
Good time Charlie’s got the blues

You know, my heart keeps tellin’ me,
“You’re not a kid at thirty-three.
“You play around you’ll lose your wife.
“You play too long you’ll lose your life!”

I’ve got my pills to ease the pain,
Can’t find a friend to ease the rain.
I know I should try and settle down.
But everybody’s leaving town.

Some gotta win, some gotta lose
Good time Charlie’s got the blues
Good time Charlie’s got the blues
Good time Charlie’s got the blues

(whistling to end)

Pretty grim, huh? But lighthearted blues, thanks to the catchy tune. How did my thoughts get here this morning? I mean, I’m having fun with these guys and none of us seems particularly down on his luck! Did yesterday’s date (9/11) have something to do with my thoughts? After all, eight years ago yesterday was a disaster in international history and the lives of lots of folks. But I don’t know whether the memory of that day of infamy triggered Good Time Charlie …. I think it had more to do with stories I hear. Here’s an excerpt of one, ironically including “Charlie,” who may indeed start singing the blues. [Hope you can ignore the syntax errors typical of news journalism.]

The End of the Road for Charles Rangel?

Written by Catherine Mullins

Thursday, 10 September 2009

“After a 40-year career of liberalism and scandal, Rep. Charlie Rangel, one of the biggest fish in Washington, might finally be getting fried. [My Note: As New York’s congressman from the 15th District, he’s been in Congress since January, 1971. Think that’s long enough?! Maybe the following quoted excerpt from Wikipedia explains something about his longevity: “Rangel’s district, the smallest in the country in geographic size, encompasses Upper Manhattan and includes such neighborhoods as Harlem, Spanish Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood, Morningside Heights, and part of the Upper West Side, as well as a small portion of Queens in the neighborhood of Astoria. … Rangel earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service in the Korean War.” That last sentence almost surely explains a common occurrence in human history – taking “heroes” who’ve served one purpose honorably, with the often-erroneous thinking that they’ll make good leaders in another, especially in politics. More about that topic another time.]

“As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the committee that writes the federal tax codes, Rangel failed to report $75,000 he earned in 2007 on a rental property to the IRS. Ironically, he claimed to be ignorant of tax laws. The ethics committee which has ignored Rangel’s tax law peccadilloes in the past is now engaged to look into the matter.

“Since that committee was appointed, it has been alleged that Rangel failed to report over $1 million in outside income and $3 million in business transactions,” CBS reported. The Washington Examiner broke it down further for us: “It turns out Rangel had a credit union account worth at least $250,000 and maybe as much as $500,000 — and didn’t report it. He had investment accounts worth about the same, which he also didn’t report. Ditto for three pieces of property in New Jersey.

“Beyond even that, we’ve learned that Rangel has failed to report assets totaling more than $1 million on legally required financial disclosure forms going back to at least 2001.

“On top of those allegations are ones that ‘he falsely listed a Washington D.C. residence as his primary address when he was living in rent-stabilized apartment in New York City; used Congressional letterhead for fundraising purposes; and helped a wealthy donor to a school bearing Rangel’s name establish a lucrative tax shelter in Bermuda,’ according to Fox News.

“With an ever increasing list of accusations, Charles Rangel is looking more and more like an arrogant and belligerent tax cheat. According to him, though, he has far beyond the average intelligence. With regards to his financial situation he told reporters: ‘I recognize that all of you have an obligation to ask questions knowing that there’s none of you smart enough to frame it in such a way that I’m going to respond.’

Well, poor ol’ Charlie. I hope he’ll be singing the blues in Sing Sing for a long time.  But given our track record for actually prosecuting and incarcerating such cheats of high stature, I’m a bit skeptical. On to other “Charlies” of humbler origins and means.

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!


© September 2009, Michael E. Stubblefield.  All rights reserved.


2 thoughts on “Saturday Coffee

  1. Great post on Rangel. It’s terrible that other Democrats are putting up with this. Congressman John Carter (TX-31) is tired of people like Rangel getting away with this and is speaking on the need to ‘drain the swamp.’ He’ll address the House tonight during Special Orders. carter.house.gov.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Creighton. From where I stand, though, this is the kind of stuff that a majority of Democrats love to ignore or defend — either openly or tacitly. But it’s certainly not the exclusive province of Dems. I keep talking about a 5-year-old moratorium on Congress and the Senate — no meetings, they all go home for five years, forfeiting their salaries so that they can “help the poor and homeless.” 🙂

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