A few weeks ago, Mary Ann and I attended her family’s reunion in Sacramento. There were dozens of cousins, the majority of whom I had never met before, so I resigned myself to being the odd man out as they recalled stories of their distant youth.
Until one of them mentioned the old Pelton wheel at the North Star powerhouse. Mary Ann and I grew up in the same neighborhood (where we still reside today) and all those cousins had fond memories of playing among the (then) ruins of the glory days of mining in Nevada County when they visited the Niehaus clan in Grass Valley.
So I spent most of the afternoon recounting those thrilling days of yesteryear while munching on barbecued oysters. (One of the cousins has an oyster farm in the north state. Cool!) They had some good tales of their own.
Back when I was doing the short-lived daily version of It Takes A Village Idiot in The Union, I did a series of strips about those times. Today’s entry is the first of five. The others will follow as the week progresses. Enjoy.
Every now and then I feel compelled to run this strip. I did it eleven years ago and my opinion on parties hasn’t changed since then. It becomes more relevant as we move into another election cycle, as evidenced by the increasingly partisan bickering in the comments section of news sites and blogs, both national and local. Thank goodness I’m above it all. (Just kidding!)
In the movie Cloud Atlas, the common theme is the interconnectedness of humanity; how certain people are drawn together at different points in time. There was a similar storyline in Little Big Man, when Jack Crabb (no relation) keeps running into past associations in his travels through the west. There have been a few of those in my life, but the one that comes to mind right now is the Gene Clark connection.
If you are an old rock’n'roll fan like me you’ll remember Gene Clark. He was the lanky guy with the tambourine in The Byrds. I saw them at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento a week after their debut album was released in May of 1965. Gene was a top notch singer and songwriter, but was overshadowed by Roger McGuinn and David Crosby. He left the band after the second album to pursue a solo career.
I remained a fan through the years and was thrilled when I found his new album No Other at the record store in the Greenbriar Mall, Atlanta, Georgia, in 1974. I was there with Charlie Williams, Bill Smart and Doc Halstead, and we were in the process of reforming the Carrie Nation band. Our heroes were bands like Buffalo Springfield, Moby Grape, and of course, The Byrds.
So it was a pleasant surprise when the band recorded their second demo tape with engineer Tony Reale, who was also the recording engineer on No Other. He told us he enjoyed working with Clark, but hated the producer, Thomas Jefferson Kaye. (Wish I still had a clean copy of those sessions. All we have are a few scratchy cassettes.)
About the same time, Doc was hitchhiking down the road with his trademark cowboy hat and an acoustic guitar. Another musician pulled over and gave him a ride. It turned out to be Vern Gosdin, who with his brother had recorded an album with Gene Clark aptly titled Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers.
The years went by: Carrie Nation briefly flirted with the Big Time before breaking up in 1977. Charlie moved to Marin County and joined the band “Mistress”, the band started by Greg Douglass, then lead guitarist with the Steve Miller band. After Douglass left, they added two more guitarists and eventually signed a recording contract with RSO records. The first album was to be produced by…you guessed it…Thomas Jefferson Kaye.
Mistress was going to record a song Charlie and I had written called “Letter to California”, so I went to Marin to watch the sessions. Kaye decided to add banjo to the song and recruited Doug Dillard, who had made an album with Gene Clark called The Incredible Expedition of Dillard and Clark . We had a rollicking good time.
After all that, I figured that someday, I would have to connect with Gene Clark himself, but it was not meant to be. Gene passed away in 1991. If he had lived, I can well imagine that he would have played in Grass Valley. After all, Roger McGuinn played here recently, and David Crosby was here a few years ago.
I thought that with his death, the connection was broken. Then tonight, for no good reason, I googled his name and discovered that a documentary of his life called The Byrd Who Flew Alone had just been released. When it becomes available to the public, you can be sure I’ll check it out. It will finally bring some closure to a quest that began forty-three years ago.
Americans have been anxiously awaiting the debut of the Affordable Care Act since the Democratic Congress passed it and President Obama signed it into law those long years ago. It held special significance for those with pre-existing conditions who were denied coverage, unless you were lucky enough to be included in a group plan at your place of work. The alternative was the emergency room, and that was only if the ailment had reached a critical stage demanding immediate attention. If you were in that neutral zone between wealth and poverty, it meant crippling medical bills that drove many into bankruptcy.
So any change was welcome, sort of. Watching politicians dissect the new law was like watching a pack of blind drunken plumbers performing brain surgery, and you could only hope the patient would survive with all his parts intact. There were so many deals cut to satisfy the needs of the politican-doctors and the insurance cartels that the end result was sewn-together abomination that even Dr. Frankenstien would have disowned.
But it was the best they could do, given that their majority was unlikely to survive the mid-term election of 2010. Nobody read the final draft. Nurse Nancy said we’d all find out what they had done after the bandages were removed.
There were immediate benefits, for my family in particular. PCIP probably saved my wife’s life, and for that I will be eternally grateful. I got to see how the system works up close and personal. The doctors were competent and professional.
Mercy Dignity Hospital is a well-run facility. The staff was helpful and compassionate. It really seemed that things were running smoothly for the new program.
Until we saw how much the ordeal had cost. Without getting into specific numbers, I calculate that it would take 900 healthy millennials paying the same high premiums just to break even. And that’s just one case out of the hundreds of thousands that will now flood the doctor’s offices and clinics across the land.
That’s the sticker shock that Americans woke up to after the new exchanges opened up in October. The botched computers are just the tip of the iceberg. The reality is that every working stiff will be subsidizing the sick and elderly, which they had been doing unconsciously before through inflated and inadequate insurance premiums. Obamacare just made it more obvious how broken the system really is.
John Roberts declared the the new insurance rates and subsidies are a tax, and he was correct. It’s a new tax passed through the hands of the insurance companies to the providers. And the public outrage is designed to force those providers into taking a smaller cut of the action, along with reams of new regulations.
There is already grumbling from the doctors and hospitals. Some will drop insurance and medicaid altogether and see patients on a cash-only basis. New arrivals will avoid general practice, opting for specialized services. More patients will never see a doctor, as the burden is shifted to nurse practitioners who are not as well versed on diagnosing serious conditions. Rationing, if you will.
The reluctant Republicans who refused to vote for the ACA said it was a ruse to move us into a single payer system, and they were right too. Perhaps that’s the only way to resolve the problem in the long run. There is no easy answer, and no free ride.
Amid the chaos and confusion surrounding the Obamacare debacle, the national press turned its all-powerful gaze to the Oracle of the Ozarks, former Big Chief Wild Bill Clinton, to shed light on the subject.
“The President must not break his promise to the people,” Bubba opined. “He must make whole that which he has rent asunder.”
It sent shockwaves through the political pigsty. After all the oinking and snorting a consensus was reached: Bill Clinton has finally severed his family name from the floundering White House. The blond queen-in-waiting has set the dragon loose upon the pretenders to the throne.
Willy Jeff’s term was the closest thing we have to a Successful Presidency in this generation. He could deftly parry any thrust Newt and his Turks could muster, even after his nationally televised disgrace. Millions of otherwise committed feminists admire him, even though had it been their husband, they would have neutered him and emptied his coffers faster than you can say Gloria Allred.
Hillary swallowed her pride and walked to the helicopter. Even the heartbreak of infidelity could not end the partnership of the ultimate political lovers. Together they would go where no political family since the Roosevelts had gone; four terms in the White House.
But upstart Senator Barack Obama screwed up the schedule. Democrats saw the opportunity to fulfill the Promise of Lincoln and elect the first Black American President, a man who offered hope and change to a weary, divided nation. As recently reported, Clinton admitted that Obama was “luckier than a dog with two dicks.”
It hasn’t turned out that way lately, and Obama understood that he had to bite the bullet or risk losing his own party to the usurpers. His improvised “fix” was to pass the buck back to the insurance cartel, who now must bear the brunt of public scorn. Will it work? The jury’s still out, but it’s doubtful that the image of Obama’s promises will disappear from the TV screens from now until election day.
Charlie Krauthammer, currently making the new book circuit, announced that we are witnessing the Death of Liberalism, but that is mostly wishful thinking. We heard the same thing about the Republicans in 2008, but they are still kicking, fitfully. Other conservative scribes compared it to George the Second’s “Katrina” moment, when the Bush name was so tainted that it would hang around the family’s neck like a dead chicken till the end of days.
Yet even now, we hear distant rumblings of a Jeb Bush candidacy in 2016, and when you look at the competition you have to think he has a good chance to carry the elephant banner one more time. The Clintons know, and it could be that we’ll see the last titanic struggle between the two most influential names in modern American history.
Hillary’s chances will depend on how this healthcare issue is resolved. The liberal press is in high spin mode, trying to explain to an angry electorate that they’ll be better off, someday. High Priestess St. Joan Walsh dismissed the Obamacare/Katrina comparison by noting that with Obamacare, nobody died.
She probably should have ended the sentence with the word “yet”.