Two matters: one sad, the other angry but hopeful

The first was unexpected, and I learned of it only a little while ago.

1. Jim Marshall, the greatest rock ‘n’ roll photographer of our generation, died earlier today at age 74. We had a brief but memorable personal connection. I saw a profile about him in the now defunct magazine American Photographer back in the spring of 1987. He hit me as being an authentic crazy mofo, but with an eye anyone with a camera would kill to have. He was a giant.

Then I wrote something complimentary about him in 1995, to another Bay Area photographer with whom I’d gone to college, and next thing I knew, Marshall himself was on my phone at home snarling “I hear you’ve been talking shit about me behind my back. Well, I’m gonna have to give you two of my photographs.” He did: two priceless signed and numbered Janis Joplin images. I felt like Bob Cratchit getting a raise from Ebenezer Scrooge on December 26. We talked about having a drink when he was in New York, but it didn’t happen. His favorite zhluk was Jameson’s. I could have managed that back then.

I’d love to have one of his Leica M4’s but you can’t ask for everything. Besides, he knew how to use them. I got as far as working the rangefinder so the crappy images I produced were at least in focus. Cameras are easy, photography is hard.

2. Now then there is this: the health care bill.

Up front–I consider Barack Obama a megalomaniac on the grand scale of Richard Nixon. He has surrounded himself with a Praetorian Guard made up of a foul-mouthed Chicago sewer rat who acts as his Chief of Staff; a perpetually grinning DeFarge as the House Majority Leader; and a slimy little weasel who I hope will be rejected by the voters of Nevada in November. And let us not forget the latest member of this quartet, the idiot Vice President without functioning brakes who is Obama’s protection against impeachment, an update of Spiro T. Agnew, or a court Fool on the level of Sarah Palin.


And yet. And yet. The healthcare legislation passed the other day…God knows it needs to be tuned and refined…is the most important piece of Congressional legislation since the 13th Amendment. You know the one: it abolished slavery and involuntary servitude.

[With Medicare] I can afford to be sick. I don’t have to have Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, NJ lie me into admission to the psycho ward…after I told them I had no insurance or money, telling me I would get charity care, and then sock me with a $20,600 bill. Because American medicine as it’s now constituted is technically brilliant and filled with used car salesmen wearing iridescent sharkskin suits.

To repeat: that’s what happened when I was in the hospital. I had no insurance and I had no money. I allowed them to put me away  instead of just going home and into outpatient therapy. And I got a charity care bill for $20,600. Right: a guy with a $7.50 an hour job wrapping deli meat owes a hospital over $20,000 based on false promises. And then the Disability Board denies me because I wasn’t crazy enough for them. The only way I got rid of that particular albatross was some contact I made in the “state-controlled Media” who put my story in plain sight in the Sunday papers. The bill disappeared PDQ. Hospitals hate being embarrassed, and I embarrassed the hell out of Monmouth Medical Center. They lied and now the whole world knew it.

What if I could not work embarrassment to my advantage? What if I hadn’t been desperate and crazy enough? Better, what if I had a conscience? I didn’t. Not when it came to being lied to. Not much of one now, either. I have a remaining $50 bill I owe them from outpatient treatment. I’m mailing it back to them, torn up. I moved out of New Jersey three months ago. Get a small claims shyster in a checkered suit and sue me across state lines. I don’t have a credit record to ruin: that was gone a long time ago.

This is not Christmas day for the indigent. Oh, Rush just loved to play that tape over and over. But it’s the first day of Pesach, or the dawn of the day of freedom. If we turn ourselves into Western European Socialism so much the better for us. It’s about damn time. Yes, the European and Canadian systems have enormous areas of suckism: I even heard so from a Canadian. But so does ours. It saddles people with unbearable debt and it enriches bankruptcy lawyers. It drives people to choose between paying the doctor and losing their homes. It takes advantage of conscience, which really does make cowards of us all. Conscience became a bit expensive a long time ago. Time to protect the people of this country from the rapacity of private enterprise. If Obama has accomplished nothing else, he has made a wonderful step in the right direction. So I’ll cut him a break on his monomania, his terrible judgment, his ignoring the unemployment situation in this reliving of the Okie trek across Route 66 toward the Lotus Land of Kalifornia Killer Kopz.

One problem at a time.

Besides, we’ve given Limbaugh years of material.


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