Friday, February 25, 2005

New York state of mind

Originally uploaded by michael j nolan.
One of the things I love best about Philadelphia is that Manhattan is just up the road. Trains leave 30th Street Station all day and all night long and you can be in New York less than two hours later.

I spent last Thursday doing business there. Marjorie Baer, my Executive Editor from Peachpit was in from California, and we met some authors and potential authors. Marjorie took this very New York-y photo on the way to one of our appointments.

Whenever I'm in Manhattan, I feel like I'm running on extra cylinders or something. The energy level is intense, eyes ears and nose assaulted from every direction. After a 12 hour day there I got back to Philly past midnight. I awoke the next morning with a New York hangover—even though I had had only two glasses of wine with dinner while I was there. New York does that to me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


It seems to me, the key to survival in these challenging times is maximizing the potential to reinvent yourself at a moment's notice. Whatever the moment requies: go with the flow, be here now. When I look back on the last few months of my life, a very challenging interlude, I've only survived because I decided to surf—rather than resist—the inevitable changes thrust upon me. It was a “what the hell” motif and that hasn't failed me yet.

Monday, February 21, 2005


Living in Red America isn't easy for me. During my childhood and through most of my adult years I thought I knew what our country was about, and I had faith in some pretty basic institutions.

One institution I always respected was the press. I had this silly notion of a free press which serves to inform the public in as non-partial a way as possible. Now objectivity is as outmoded a concept as celibate priests, and "news shows" spew hatred and disdain for the political beliefs of people like me. There isn't even a pretense that coverage is fair and balanced, and they've even taken those words and twisted them into the equation. Think that kind of media played any part in the outcome of the recent election? Now they're consolidating their gains.

The White House doesn't renew the press credentials of a venerable reporter like the New York Times' Maureen Dowd, yet indulges the gay stud hooker from a right-wing blog service for two years presumably because he won't ask the hard questions she will. It turns out that syndicated columnists have taken money from the administration to put the right "spin" on conservative initiatives. Judges tell us reporters will have to go to jail if they don't reveal their sources, yet nobody bothers to go after the man who committed treason by revealing the name of a CIA operative. The FCC paves the way for more media consolidation, while threatening crippling fines for those who violate the moral standards of the Christian Right.

PBS used to be an alternative to the corporate screed we were fed by the mainstream news organizations. Sadly, it too is cowering in the face of right-wing threats, losing its credibility along the way.

Thank goodness for the blog-o-sphere. As the media landscape shifts in Red America, there's somewhere those of us who seek the truth can dig around.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Other people's new governor

Reading the online edition of the Indianapolis Star sure makes me glad I got out of Dodge and into a safely blue state in the nick of time. That's because of the shenanigans of Indiana's first Republican governor in decades, the newly-elected Mitch Daniels. I'd be apoplectic before finishing my morning coffee just reading the day's headlines.

"My man, Mitch," they like to call him. It's the moniker George Bush fondly bestowed on his former budget director, the guy who oversaw our federal government's plunge into reckless deficit spending amid a flurry of tax cuts for the upper crust. My blue friends in Indiana call him, "my bitch, Mitch." Here's some reasons why:

Leaving some children behind

As anyone who knows the wily ways of Republicans could have guessed, Mitch is slashing education funding, holding back money from the already strapped schools. Urban schools in places like Indianapolis were just beginning to catch their breath and make some strides forward. The state had reluctantly supported them. Now they're back to swimming upstream to that Republican mantra, "do more with less."

My man, Mitch. Man of the people

In one of his more telling moves--or rather, non-moves--Mitch has taken a misstep. Not wanting to move into the classic old Governor's Mansion on North Meridian Street in the swankest old neighborhood of Indianapolis, Mitch and his wife announced they'd be building themselves some new digs in the nouveau suburb of Carmel. Mitch prefers to live in the next county north of the hoi-polloi, in a gated estate surrounded by his wealthy (Republican) neighbors and their gated estates. If the riff-raf are out of sight, they're probably out of mind.

Before coming to Philadelphia, our family lived a couple of blocks from the Governor's Mansion in Indianapolis (although hardly in such a grandiose house). We have fond memories of seeing Susan Bayh jogging along the canal or coming to read stories at our son's school when her husband Evan was governor. The house was always a popular stop on Halloween for neighborhood trick-or-treaters and Governor O'Bannon (often personally) dropped toothbrushes into the kids' bags instead of 3 Musketeers. It made government seem real to us.

Trick-or-treaters would have a hard time even finding Mitch's new house--let alone getting past the watchdogs and video cameras. But not to worry; it wasn't meant to be. Somebody (probably a rabble-rousing Democrat) pointed out that the dodgy old Indiana constitution requires the governor to live in the state's capital city. Mitch retracted and said he will comply, but he still doesn't want to live in a creepy old house. He's going to stay put in his McMansion overlooking Geist Reservoir—one of suburban Indianapolis' most prestigious (and off-the-beaten-path) addresses.

Trains? We don't need no stinkin' trains.

Mitch has aligned himself with the highway builders and the oily, oily Bushco interests by endorsing Georgie's proposal to end Amtrak subsidies. Never mind that a high-speed rail line linking Indianapolis to Chicago would cut a three hour car trip to two hours and ignite business in the Hoosier capital. Never mind that highways and airports wouldn't even exist without massive government subsidies. And never mind the 1000+ Amtrak workers in the Beech Grove, Indiana repair shops. There's something about trains that bothers Republicans. They seem to favor burning vast quantities of mid-East oil in oversize SUVs and overloaded jets, while sending other people's kids to Iraq to secure the supply.

Mitch is quoted in the Star as saying, "Every time someone gets on an Amtrak train it would be less expensive to buy them an airplane ticket and hand it to them on the platform." Well, Mitch, as someone who travels to Indianapolis and back once a month from Philadelphia, I'll tell ya. Take your airline ticket and shove it. I can't stand the humiliating security measures like removing my belt and taking off my shoes. I don't like my luggage getting lost. I fear being stranded by weather or dare-I-say-it, terrorists. I'd choose a high-speed train that would cut my ten hour drive time on the Pennsyvania Turnpike to eight hours on a train. I could plug in my computer, do some work, and rub elbows with some fellow Americans. And oh yeah—not cosume twenty seven barrels of Iraqui or Saudi or Alaskan oil for the trip.

It makes me wonder. What airlines and oil companies does my man Mitch own stock in?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Sweetness in time for Valentine's Day

Originally uploaded by michael j nolan.
When I saw this lipstick imprint on a napkin in a trash can while walking down the street it was one of those times I was glad to have my camera along. It looks posed, but it's not. That's life in Fishtown.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Bush Budget Blues

Now this is where the shinola hits the shit--or however it goes. Bush's new budget. Oh, and guess what. We have plenty of moolah for killing and maiming babies and Halliburton hoo-hah "we're in the money!" But now we gotta get austere, so ...

(This is--mind you--from the Indianapolis Star, for friggen sakes):
"Forty-eight education programs would be eliminated, including one for ridding drugs from schools. In all, more than 150 government-wide programs would be eliminated or slashed deeply, including Amtrak subsidies, oil and gas research, and grants to communities hiring police officers."

OK. So Lemme get this straight. We need to give tax cuts to gazillionaires so we can send our kids to die in Iraq while we pay Halliburton out the ass with no accountability so we can pass the bill on to our kids and their kids, and meanwhile we dismantle any hopes we have of breaking out of the cycles of poverty that have made us a have and have-not society, but we think it'd be better if it got more have and more have-not, cause that's just good for business and besides we were joking when we said "no child left behind." We really meant " no billionaire left behind" but the dumbass hicks who voted us in are just too dense to see it.

OK. Over and out. Count me out.

Friday, February 04, 2005


My friend Liz in Boston sent me a link of great interest. I could be on t.v. Seems the Learning Channel is starting a new program based on fixing up run-down houses and flipping them. They're looking for projects to feature. They specifically asked for an "ugly duckling" house that can be "designed" to appeal to buyers. Do I ever have the place for them! I'll even venture that it's the ugliest house in Villas, N.J. I sent off my application by Express Mail this afternoon.

Meanwhile, the cottage in Villas is like a trainwreck. I've torn it apart, down to the studs, and now it's not going back together quite as easily as I imagined. I can't seem to get a reliable electrician to come through with a bid, even though I've met with two. The heating and cooling guy I gave a deposit to is from Pennsylvania, and the New Jersey building authorities are running him through a gauntlet of permit and license hell, so he can't install the new HVAC systems. Without those, I can't remove the funky gas heater in the middle of the floor so I can get rid of the gas that leaks and stinks up the house. It didn't help that during a recent cold snap the gas ran out for some mysterious reason and the pipes froze and the water heater burst and flooded the utility room. I'm taking it all in stride.

Meanwhile the renovation bank account dwindles as costs mount, and progress is hard to see. I think the very best thing that could happen would be for me be chosen for the t.v. program and to have the whole fiasco nationally televised. I could be the guy who makes all the mistakes and whose house doesn't "flip" but he does.