Saturday, July 31, 2010




Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Prologue: A federal judge has blocked the major provisions of Arizona's controversial new immigration law, SB 1070. Arizona governor Jan Brewer vows to appeal the ruling.

Went to work the other day--THIRTEEN years at the same company--and they said: "You need to sign some papers and produce some documentation to prove you have a legal right to be in this country." This country where I was born--just down the road at St. Mary's Hospital.

And I said what if I didn't--and they said you'll never work in this town again!

And the form said, in effect: Are you now, or have you ever been an illegal alien/terrorist scum? And I remembered that I had been an illegal speeder and red light runner, and I had been an illegal jaywalker, and an illegal accumulator of about a dozen unpaid parking tickets...but I didn't equate that with "illegal alien/terrorist scum," and so I marked the box that said no.

And then it said provide one form of ID from column "A," or one from column "B," AND one from column "C." But I don't normally carry my passport and/or birth certificate around with me--here in this place where I was born, just down the road apiece--and so I shrugged and said: No lo tengo.

And they looked at in the place where I've been coming in every morning for the past thirteen years--where everyone served up a friendly smile and knew my name--and suddenly, I was Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life: BERT! ERNIE! DONCHA KNOW ME? IT'S ME--GEORGE BAILEY!

But they didn't know me. I had ceased to exist. I had no DOCUMENTATION. Documentation that divides us as a nation into US and THEM. And if there's anything that frightens the bejesus out of us--here in our land of the free and home of the brave--it's THEM.

"Bring in your passport tomorrow," they said...and I could feel their eyes following me as I walked on down the hall...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Atlas image courtesy: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/Nasa/Nsf

As we enter the dog days of summer, here's a little tale I hope you will enjoy.

"He's been spending all his time in the mountains, staring at the sun."

"Know where he is now?" I ask.

Gina lifts her eyes to mine. They flash a warning: There's a bump in the road ahead. "I think he's up at Finger Rock Trail."

Jeremy, wearing the incriminating evidence of a backyard dirt bath, comes bounding into the room. He flings something that glances off the side of my head. It's a plastic purple Barney. "Better settle down young man," she calls after the blonde-tressed cherub, who whirls and vanished in a cloud of dust through the front door.

"Who was that masked man?" I say.

Gina whispers. "Jeremy's been acting strange. Karl has been...well...telling him things."

"What kind of things?"

"I'm not really sure. The two of them sit on the porch at night and speak in hushed voices. I catch snippets of it here and there when I stand close to the door, out of sight. It's puzzling--once he seemed to be telling the kid stories about himself as a boy. Something about going real fast and high in a swing...and then jumping."

Slender fingers laden with Indian-crafted turquoise smooth disobedient wisps from her eyes. Gina's face belies her age. Still parted down the middle, her long black hair looks the same as it did the day Nixon stared us dead in the eye and professed his innocence...sometimes you have to look a little closer to see the truth.

"Leave a light on for us," I say with a reassuring smile. "I'll take a hike up that way."

"Just one thing, Dan," she says, lighting an unaccustomed cigarette. "Don't let on that I'm worried."


The spire just from atop the Catalinas like a distended middle finger. The trail will take you there. About halfway up, the path becomes rugged and ill-defined. It's easy to lose your way. That's where many hikers pack it in and head back to Tucson for a cold one. You look up and see old Finger Rock flipping you off and can almost hear the mountain laughing.

I find him perched on a large flat-topped boulder beside the trail, gazing into the distance like one of the world's great thinkers. He sees me and nods, only mildly surprised. He is shirtless, revealing the ancient bicep tattoo and the still prominent scar along his ribcage. Knees pressed to his chest, Karl's lanky frame looks deceptively compact. He seems oblivious, even as the warmth of the setting sun yields to the rising chill of impending night.

I clamber onto the big rock and ease down beside him. The city fans out along the desert floor below. Housing developments eat further into these foothills with each passing year.

"You're going to miss a great supper," I say.

"Sent you here to save the madman from himself, did she?"

"Yep, figured you'd be sun blinded by now."

"Laid it on pretty thick this time."

"Yeah, I know." Fact is, I probably know more about this man's wife than he does.

"There's something I'm connecting with here," he says. "Something coming into being..." Karl has this poetic way about him--he swaths imaginary brush strokes in the air. "Another masterpiece," he proclaims, as though he had just emblazoned the sky with the crimsons and pinks and mottled blue-greys streaming across the canvas of the low horizon. He cocks his ear, a look of intense concentration on his face. "Listen now and you can hear it."

I sit completely still. "What am I listening for?"

"A kind of low...growl...there, hear it?"

"You mean-"

"The city's a living breathing entity. That's the sound it makes as it sets about devouring what's left of the desert."

I consider the possibility of this. "Sorry, all I can hear is some plane motor maybe, way off out there..."

We fall silent. I contemplate the sky. A hawk circles in a lazy holding pattern above the canyon. We watch it, trance-like, for a good while before he speaks again. "Here's one for you...would you be willing to give up life as you know it--your ability to think and reason and all that--if you could trade places with our feathered friend up there?"

The hawk becomes a dive bomber, hurtling toward its target. "I'd consider it," I say. Then again, I'm not that fond of rodents."


I won't pump Karl about the furtive conversations with Jeremy. Instead, I'll play fly on the wall here at the house tonight. You see, the four of us are a family--one you might call nontraditional. Karl and I have been best friends since high school. When the war escalated, he went to Vietnam...I went to college. When the whole sorry mess was over, it didn't matter that we had been on opposite sides of the fence. Friendship runs deeper than propaganda.

He wasn't the same, of course, and sometimes the demons of his past return. He's done the whole counseling trip, spent some time as an inpatient too. Once, a few years back, he lost it pretty good. We found him flattened beneath some cowboy's pickup truck at the mall. Something had spooked him and he dove for cover. When we finally coaxed him out he was trembling and calling for Jake, a buddy of his during the war. Jake, you see, bought his ticket into the next world just as he was finishing a joke about King Kong and Godzilla in a whorehouse. One moment he was opening his mouth to deliver the clincher, and the next he was exploding into a million pieces. Karl admits that sometimes late at night he still wonders about the punchline.

Gina, of course, gets anxious at the first sign of erratic behavior. I pick up on this right away. It's not hard. We were married each other. When the two of us were an item, it was Karl we took along nearly every place we'd go. Ten years is a long time. When the love thing between me and Gina died, Karl stepped in. Not all at once, but it happened, kind of naturally. Then it was the two of them dragging me around, the three of us inseparable as always.

It's not surprising we'd end up this way. One of my earliest memories of Gina and me is from Woodstock...yeah, we were THERE. It's our one claim to notoriety--that and the thing I do for a living, I guess. Anyway, we were standing in the middle of this sea of bodies and in every direction you looked there was no end to it, and Gina, who is part Sioux, whispered this phrase: Mitakuye oyasin.

It means that we are all related.

Jeremy came along six years ago. Now, you're probably wondering how Gina could have a son that age. Actually, he's her grandson and her son. Jeremy's mom--Karl and Gina's daughter--jumped seven floors to her death not long after he was born. Some wounds never heal--you just get more used to them as time passes. Gina and Karl were granted sole custody of the boy because his real dad was a drunk.


Karl and Jeremy are in the backyard, stargazing. I stand just off to the side of the porch, out of sight but well within earshot. The scent of woodsmoke drifts through the air.

"Are we still gonna go to the nest?" asks Jeremy.

"Yes," says Karl.

" birds ever fall out of the sky, dad?"

"No, hardly ever."

"What about stars. Do they fall?"

"The stars stay in heaven, 'cause that's where they live."

"Why do stars shine?"

"Because they're smiling so brightly."

"Uhm...what's the shiniest star, then?"

"Remember when I showed you Orion The Hunter with his club and shield and the sword dangling from his belt?"

"Uh huh."

"Here, look where I'm pointing. Can you see him?"

"Mmm....I think so."

"Below him sits the Big Dog, Orion's faithful companion--and there--there it is--Sirius, the Dog Star...that's the brightest of them all."

Jeremy's voice rises with excitement. "Yes, I see it!"

"Soon the Big Dog will go away and then we won't see him for awhile."

"Where does the doggie go, dad?"

"Well...I think sometimes he sees a comet wagging its tail and jumps up to chase it across the Milky Way."


There are ghosts that roam these hallways--spirits from the sixties that ride the airwaves like Morrison rode the storm. Jim and Janis and Jimi. Their eyes stare down at me from their places of honor upon the control room wall. I'm the morning man at Echo 101.5., recycling the oldies for all of southern Arizona from six to ten a.m. The music has endured. The idealism has died. One out of two ain't bad.

When I was young and new to the radio game, they all said I was going places. I did, alright. from east coast to west coast and points in between, chasing that dream of becoming a star. It always felt like I was reaching for something just outside my grasp. Sooner or later, when the disillusionment sets in, most everyone settles for something less. Something comfortable. Then the weeks and months and years run into one another like the watercolors in Jeremy's paintings.

I told Gina that I had failed to turn up her smoking gun. But there's something about that night out back that bothers me--the part about a nest, and birds falling from the sky. The two of them are up to something I'm certain, but why the secrecy?

It's nine o'clock and I'm pulling the songs for my last hour: Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane, Paul McCartney and Wings...HOLY CRAP! Now I remember what Gina was talking about. Years ago, Karl told me the story of his backyard swing. He was seven, and loved to see how fast and high he could go. One day he got the idea that he could fly like a bird. the swing set was perched near the edge of a hill--at the base, a bed of cinders and rock. He bailed out of the swing at its highest arc and tumbled head over ass right to the bottom. Got all cut and scraped up and caught plenty of hell from his parents. But he said that for one split second he actually expected it to happen...that he would really fly. Told me it was something he would never forget.

With an increasing sense of dread, I see it all falling into place. A nest. The hawk we watched in the mountains. His musing about changing places.

I need to get home. Sit him down like I've done in the past and keep him focused till he comes back from Pluto...but damned if I'm not stuck here on the air for another hour.

The phone rings. It's Gina, her voice betraying a tightly controlled hysteria. "They're gone, Dan," she says. "I woke up this morning and thought they'd made a run to the store...then I found the note. It says: Sorry, but I couldn't allow either of you to talk me out of this. It's something we have to do. Zero hour eleven a.m. He drew a map. It leads into the mountains. Now you tell me what the hell this means!"

Karl wants us to stop him if we can. I had to tell Gina what I knew. She took it fairly well, considering. I try to concentrate on driving, now, so I won't have to think about the worst part of it--that Jeremy may be in danger.

My old Mazda begins to choke and sputter. It jerks once, drinks up the last spurt of juice and lurches half a block, then gives in and dies. Had it been an ordinary morning I would have stopped for gas by now. I stand in the middle of the street trying to think of my next move.

Guardian angels come in various guises, so I figure mine must be at the wheel of the Yellow cab that 's bearing down on me. I throw up my hand like a traffic cop, not budging an inch. The taxi screams to a halt a couple of feet away, the driver cursing loudly from his open window. I vault into the front seat.

"Going off duty now," he says.

"This is an emergency--we've got two stops to make."

The guy looks wasted. He smells of too many hours behind the wheel and not enough minutes under the shower. I reconsider that idea about guardian angels.

"Okay," he says. "But it'll cost ya."

The cab sits in the driveway, the three of us inside, and Gina says, "Jesus, Dan, I can't believe you ran out of gas at a time like this."

The driver says, "Trip into the mountains like that...gonna have to charge you forty dollars."

My watch says 10:30.

I say, "Fine, let's move it."

He says, "I don't know about this--better give me the cash up front."

I empty out my wallet. Eleven lousy bucks.

"Christ," Gina mutters. "I've got three or four in my purse and that's it."

"I was planning to hit the bank today."

Tears flood her eyes. "You've been running on empty since the day I met you, Dan."

A familiar knot twists in my gut as I realize we're about to fight like an old married couple.

The driver fiddles with the radio, locking in on my station. Marvin Gaye is singing "What's Goin'

"Do you know who I am?" I say. "I'm Dan Rivers."

"No shit? Hey, I was listening to you this morning...I still gotta have forty dollars."

Gina whispers that this is our last shot--a trick that used to work for a girlfriend of hers back in school. She leans forward and blurts, "I'll show you my tits!"

"What?" he says, swiveling round in his seat.

"You can eyeball my jugs. Bazooms. Knockers! That ought to be worth at least half the fare."

He rubs his stubbled chin, contemplating the conversion rate of breasts into currency. Some of us boomers are pretty well preserved, and Gina is one of them. Anyway, this guy looks like he's in the beggars-can't-be-choosers category.

The cab jerks into gear. A mother's love will find a way.


Racing through the desert at eighty to ninety miles an hour, about to enter a winding mountain road on the way to save a poor misguided bastard from doing himself in and maybe his kid too, I am entranced by the graze of the wind on my face, the intensity of the azure sky, the faint scent--now magnified--of coconut in Gina's hair. I think about this lecture I once attended where the speaker said that people sleepwalk through their lives, and it's only in times of crisis or some impending danger that most of us ever jolt fully awake.

Saguaro, cholla, and palo verde streak by like a video on fast forward. We hit the curves and Gina shouts, "Take it a little easy!"

"It's alright," the cabbie shoots back. I used to drive in The Big Apple."


"End of the line," he announces. Gina collapses out of one door and I pour myself from the other.
The guy says, "Hey lady, a deal's a deal."

She lurches over to his window, burns him with a look of pure contempt, then jerks her sweater up and back down, flashing him so quickly there's no time for even his tongue to loll from his mouth, her startled breasts emancipated for a bittersweet moment in the late morning air.

We take off running, scrambling to the top of the slope that looms ahead--the only place left to go--the driver's voice echoing "RIPOFF! RIPOFF!" from behind.

My watch reads 11:01.

"There--hurry," I say, pulling Gina along, half stumbling toward a group of about a dozen people. As they come into view it is apparent that something is fact, everything is off!

They're all nude.

A young man breaks from the ranks and moves toward us. He is bearded, with long flowing locks and a deep tan. "Hi folks," he says. ""They call me Jesus, but that's just a nickname. What brings you by?"

Gina tries to catch her breath. "What in hell is going on here?"

He motions toward the group. "We're the Jaybirds."

"Yes," she says. "I can see THAT!"

The bodies run the gamut from early twenties to a boomer couple that looks like they entered the twilight zone in the sixties and never emerged.

I say, "We're looking for a guy named Karl...and a little boy."

"Oh, you mean Jeremy?" He motions toward three little kids sitting off by themselves in the grass--au naturel like the adults--giggling and admiring each other like old friends at a reunion.

Gina is there in an instant, snatching up her son, mashing his face to hers.

Jeremy is startled. "What's the matter mama? Why you crying?"

"Where's Karl?" I demand.

"Come on," says Jesus. "Maybe we can still catch him."

We do, barely. Near the edge, where the valley fans out in a tranquil panorama below. I see him, and it is just as I feared. Karl is dashing off the mountain. Naked. And he has wings.

"We call this place The Nest," shouts Jesus over the wind. "We're the only nudist hang-gliding club in the moment." Karl lifts off smoothly, borne aloft by his flimsy, colorful contraption of metal and cloth. "Flying naked, man--nothing can touch it! We've shown him everything we can from this it's up to him."

"How sturdy is that thing?"

He shrugs. "Aluminum and dacron."

I watch as my brother shrinks to a small dot over the valley. I think about that cabbie heading down the mountain--missing the real show because he's looking in the wrong direction--and all of the noble and ignoble things we are driven to as we wait for the punchline to the The Joke.

Sunlight catches glider metal, exploding in a brilliant silver flash. From where I stand, Karl is the brightest star in the sky.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Anthony Moschetti, age 56, went to be with his heavenly father on July 5, 2010. He succumbed following a short illness resulting from a drive-by shooting. A dedicated family man and long-time drug dealer, Mr. Moschetti is survived by his wife, Bernice, of Bogota, Colombia. A civic-minded individual, Tony belonged to the Lions, Kiwanis, and Rotary clubs, and served as a member of the Governor's Advisory Board. He was a patron of the arts, and was fond of saying that his two favorite things were Puccinni and linguini. Tony joined the mob at an early age, starting as a lowly bag man and working his way up until, at one time, he controlled most of the ganja, smack, and nose candy making its way across the border into Arizona. Much of his ill-gotten gain was laundered through several sham corporations, allowing him and his family to live comfortably in their Tucson foothills home. Tony gave freely to many charitable organizations, and he and his wife were quite active socially. If any of their high-brow acquaintances ever suspected what he was really into--they, of course, didn't let on. Tony personally engineered hits on several of his rivals, including Sammy "The Snake" Leonetti, Willie "The Weasel" Minetti, and Ralphie "The Rat" Rosetti. He was preceded in death by his father, Vincent, (drive-by shooting) brother, Joey, ( car bomb) brother, Frank, (pushed from a high-rise) brother, Danny (car bomb) uncle, Carlo, (sleeps with the fishes) nephew, Gary, (car bomb) and grandmother, Edna, (died in prison of natural causes). Services will be held on Tuesday, July 14 at 2 p.m. at St. Augustine Cathedral. In lieu of flowers, what's left of Mr. Moschetti's family requests that donations be made to the Fraternal Order of Police.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Rush hour finds me back on the road to nowhere--
one of the multitude of morose or comatose
wage slaves blending into the traffic flow,
merging with the stream of semi-consciousness,
farting and belching along,
darting and weaving,
to gain some positional advantage in the race to the BIG HOUSE
where I pay homage to da MASSA,
a man whose fondest sentimental memories
are of raining bombs upon the Italians--
a place where, like a chess player who's maneuvered himself into a corner,
they will keep me in check until quittin' time.

He appears at the stoplight
like a notice for a bill I forgot to pay.
Derelict with a sign that says give me money.
I don't, though I can't think of a good reason
not to--isn't he putting in a day's work,
standing in the sun, trying his level best
to hold that placard straight,
same as the guy on the road construction crew
who pulls his thumb out of his ass
just long enough to shove a sign
in your face that says SLOW DOWN?

A man in a cardboard box
needs only to flip his lid
while I, who gave up reaching for them
ages ago, try to comprehend the difference
between his heaven and mine,
knowing that truth is like the sun--
not everyone sees the light at the same time.

And though I pretend not to notice him,
what I really want to do is roll my window down
and say, "HEY, let's you and me--let's hit the turnpike together...
RUN while there's still time--
head north in the summer and south in th-
but by then the light has changed...
and I'm back on my road to nowhere.

I guess it's just as well...
I couldn't live in the shadow of his pain,
nor ever think of a reason to be that free.