Travel Plans

I’ve blogged in the past about some trips that I’ve taken with my lovely wife.  This year, we’re planning two major and at least a couple of minor trips.  The major trips are another Mediterrainian cruise, and a safari in Africa.   We also have an out of town wedding, and we’ll be in Vermont some times.

Scenes from the Silver Spirit, May 2015

The Mediterranean cruise is similar to the one I blogged about in 2015 (  Last time we traveled with our good friends Rob & Laura.   This time we’ll be traveling with Zelda & Matteo (don’t ask). The trip is not for a while yet, so I still have adequate time to obsess over planning and packing, and planning for packing.  Actually, I don’t expect any drama with the packing for this trip – I’ll pretty much just drag out the packing list from the last one, update it for new sneakers, etc., and be done.

The safari is a whole new ball of wax.  If you’ve never gone on a safari, or talked to someone who has gone on a safari, you may not be aware that there are a few very strict requirements.

The first is that all of your luggage must weigh 44 lbs. or less.  This includes your checked bag (singular) and any carry-on stuff you may bring.   Related to this, the checked bag apparently must be a soft-sided duffel-type bag with no wheels.  There are other guidelines around what you should or shouldn’t bring as well.  I’ll probably devote a few posts to this issue in the future, as this trip isn’t until much later.  So I have plenty of time to obsess (full disclosure: I started obsessing a couple of months ago when we agreed to make this trip).

I’ll talk a bit about our cruise planning in an upcoming post.

And Trump’s position is …

I can’t believe I am writing about that critical national issue: which public toilet should people use.  

One of the things I got right during the presidential campaign was that anyone who took the Trumpster’s word for anyone was falling for a con.  The man said any number of things, took many sides of many issues, and often seemed to be channeling the last person he spoke to (is that Steve Bannon I just saw leaving his office?).  Famously, he spoke in favor of “LBGT and Q” rights in his nomination acceptance speech, although it seemed to me at the time that he wasn’t sure what all of the letters meant.  On January 31 (just 3 1/2 weeks ago) he issued the following statement:

“President Donald J. Trump Will Continue to Enforce Executive Order Protecting the Rights of the LGBTQ Community in the Workplace

President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election. The President is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression. The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump. ”


Then, this week, his Education and Justice Departments issued a joint letter rescinded a prior letter issued by those departments under the Obama administration that gave protections to transgender students (the “T” in LGBTQ) in using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.   So we seem to have a case where the Trumpster said one thing during the election, then did another.  This isn’t the first and won’t be the last time, folks. 

Let’s start by noting that the question of which bathroom people can or should use has risen to a national debate.  Which is sad, very sad. But let’s examine the underlying issue and what some people claim they are trying to accomplish.   

It appears to me that some people have a gender identity that is at odds with their external sexual identity at birth.  People born male feel female, and vice versa.  For many reasons, this creates a lot of stress in their lives, and some of them are able to deal with it by switching their public identify from female to male, or male to female, to match what they feel.   One of the most famous in recent times was Caitlyn Jenner, who spend 60 years of her life as Bruce Jenner.   I do recall the Trumpster saying she could use any bathroom she liked in Trumpster Tower.  

So here we have a person, “Kim”, who dresses and looks like a man (or boy), or like a woman (or girl).  Kim needs to use a public toilet.  Which room should they choose?  Door #1, or door #2?  If Kim chooses the door that matches his/her public identity, most likely no one will notice anything unusual.  This would of course violate the inane law in North Carolina.  Or, Kim could follow the NC law and what the proponents of the above Trumpster Letter and choose the door that matches his/her biological or birth identity, and which is contrary to the public identity.  So bystanders would see a woman walking into the Men’s Room, or a man walking into the Woman’s Room.   How well would that go over?

I guess – because I can’t imagine what people are really thinking –  that the supporters of the Trumpster’s latest view on this are worried about one of two things.  

They could be worried about their modesty.  But as I understand it, Woman’s Rooms are 100% stalls (I’ve never been in one myself).  And Kim would most likely choose to use a stall if he went into the Men’s Room.  

Or they could be worried that Kim, who was born a male but is now female, will rapea  “real” woman if she is allowed to use the Woman’s Room.   Now, I could have missed it, but the crime wave of such incidents seems to not exist.  Nor is there any reason to believe that this is the most likely way that a sexual predator who choose to attack their victim.  Because sneaking into the toilet while cross-dressed to commit rape means you assume no one will be there to witness the attack, so why go to the trouble of putting on a costume?  And, if you’re assuming others will be there, are you planning to rape in front of witnesses?   

The whole thing doesn’t make any sense to me.  And by the way, this latest ruling is coming from the administration headed by the man/boy who boasted about sexually assaulting women.  For sure, don’t let him anywhere near the Woman’s Room.   He wouldn’t even wait, he’d just grab’em by the … .

Guitars: a new beginning

By the time I was in my late 30s, I had been playing guitar and bass for about 25 years.  I hadn’t been in a band since college, and my playing was mostly in our family room as records played(1) on our stereo, and I played along.  My instruments were the same as from my youth: the Gibson B-25N and Vox Cougar bass.  And the bass wasn’t even in my house, but was living with my brother along with the Ampeg amplifier.

Les Paul Custom, c. 1988


For my birthday that year I got a surprise from my wonderful wife: a brand spanking new electric guitar.  I had never owned an electric guitar.  And this was no pedestrian electric guitar – it was a Les Paul Custom, the king of rock guitars, favored by Jimmy Page and countless other musicians.  Black with gold metal work.  It was (and still is) simply gorgeous. 

A problem was that I didn’t have a guitar amp.  I did have my old bass amp, but that was at my brothers.  And in any event, it was old, underpowered, very heavy and had no effects.  So I went down to Manny’s Music on 48 St. and bought a tiny Peavy solid state(2) amp for $89.  It was more than loud enough to play in the family room, and I still wasn’t playing with any other human beings.  Now when I played along with my LPs, I could select the appropriate instrument – the acoustic guitar or the electric guitar – depending on which hero I imagined I was.  I suspect that my wife was sometimes not so pleased with her gift, as the Les Paul was a bit raucous.  

Let’s last forward about 5 years.  I went to a party being given by a colleague of mine from work.  One of my friends brought with him an acoustic guitar he had just bought, a brand new Taylor.   Taylor was a young brand in California which I had never heard of.   BobTaylor, the founder, was in the process of revolutionizing high-end guitar manufacture by applying sophisticated manufacturing techniques – CNC milling machines, etc. – where they were useful, and retaining the old style of hand work where it made sense.   This guitar was amazing, much better than anything I had ever played.   It was also beautifully made – the woods, trim and fit and finish were terrific.

I lamented to someone – perhaps my friend, perhaps myself – that I wished I could have such a nice guitar.  I was still playing my 25+ year old Gibson B-25, which had never been anything more than a starter model at the bottom of their line.  It then dawned on me that I could actually have such a nice guitar – I had a great job, and could afford such a treat.  

Taylor DCSM “Dan Crary”, c. 1991

The next day I went down to Rudy’s Music on 48 St. I tried about a dozen guitars, most of them models from Taylor.  And went home with a Taylor Dan Crary.

I think it was the ease at which I simply walked into Rudy’s and walked out with this wonderful instrument that proved my downfall.  After all, this was the first guitar I had bought since I was 15, when it required saving all of my summer job money to buy a cheap instrument. After this experience, I started thinking about guitars differently. Rather than “which guitar should I have as my single choice”, it became “which guitar satisfies some unmet need want”.   Since then, I’ve found one about once a year. 


(1) I mean actual records, LPs, round vinyl platters that were played on a turntable.   We skipped 8 tracks and were late to cassetttes and CDs.

(2) “Solid state” is a marketing term invented when “transistor” became unalterably associated with cheap, portable AM radios with tinny sound.  

Springtime in Vermont

We went skiing in Vermont this week, as it’s a school holiday week (RealPresident’s Day) and the grandkids are off from school.  Since it’s February, it’s usually pretty cold and, more often than not, cloudy and grey.  But not this week.  Today it was bright and sunny, and 60F.  I don’t know the kid in the picture, but he wasn’t the only one dressed like this today.  I went out in three light layers, which was two too many.  But thanks to the abundant snowfall so far this season, the skiing was great, if slushy.  And despite the holiday week, the mountain was pretty empty.  We all came in at the end of the day completely exhausted.  With no lift lines, we had much less recovery time than usual between runs.  Plus it’s a lot of work pushing the slushy snow out of the way as you ski.

Spring skiing

If you won’t speak its name, you can’t be serious about fighting it

So for some unknown reason, the Trumpster finally acknowledged the existence of anti-Semitism, and expressed the view that it “is horrible and it’s going to stop and it has to stop”.  He stopped far short of promising to do anything about it, as he has done with any number of other apocalyptic threats he sees in the US: Islamic terrorism, illegal immigration, environmental protection regulations, Meryl Streep, etc.  

Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, issued the following statement:

“The president’s sudden acknowledgement of anti-Semitism is a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration,” Goldstein said in a statement. “His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting anti-Semitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record.”

Anne Frank, 1943 (Source: Wikipedia)

In case you didn’t know, Anne Frank and her family were denied visas by the US, in large part because the US government significantly tightened visa requirements because they believed that German refugees might be spies or terrorists (the Franks were German, although they had fled to the Netherlands by 1941).  Sound familiar?

Ivanka Kushner posted on Facebook yesterday, perhaps about the recent spate of bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country, and somehow managed to be completely opaque about what she was talking about or which group was actually being targeted: 
“America is a nation built on the principles of religious tolerance and respect for all faiths,” she wrote. “We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. #JCC”.

Do you know what she’s talking about? If you’re not Jewish would you understand the hashtag JCC?

Guitars – the early years

As The Bassman, one would expect that I have a bass guitar.  And indeed I do.  In fact, I have three of them, none of which are very special.  I also have 26 guitars, some of which are quite special.  This addiction collection started pretty late in life.

Gibson B-25N, c. 1965

In the beginning – that is, when I was 13 and my grandmother bought me a dime-store guitar for $20 – I was about six months later than my friends in learning to play.  This was in the 60s, and the Beatles had revolutionized everything about music.  They wrote their own songs, played their own instruments, and had great hair.  Every teenage boy wanted to play guitar, except for the few that decided that banging on drums was more their style. I was no exception.  I thought it would help me make friends, especially friends who happened to be impressionable girls.  I also started wearing my hair a little longer, which created no end of strife between me and my father.

After making bad sounds on guitar for a few months, I realized that there was a surfeit of budding guitarists in the neighborhood, all of whom were more experienced than me, all of whom played better than me, and all of whom were much more likely to get hooked into a band than me.  I also realized that there was a thing called bass guitar which was (1) interesting, (2) what Paul McCartney played, and (3) not nearly as common as guitar. Showing an early eye for underserved markets, I went and got me a bass guitar and a bass guitar amplifier, and was promptly invited to join a band.  This bass guitar was of the same quality as my $20 guitar, although I probably spent $50 or $60 on it.  They were both terrible instruments.  The amplifier, through sheer happenstance, was an Ampeg SB-12 fliptop, which has now turned into a collectable classic.  Who knew?

I made some money one summer and decided to upgrade my kit.  The guitar was replaced by a Gibson B-25N, a student model that I could afford.  Not a great guitar, but a playable guitar.  The strings stayed in tune, they were close enough to the fretboard that one could actually make real chords, and the sound that came out – although thin – was unmistakably that of an acoustic guitar.  I don’t recall what happened to the dime store guitar.  Did I sell it?  Did I give it away?  The answer is lost to time.

For the bass, I really wanted a Fender.  Sadly, my funds didn’t support that, so I got a Vox Cougar bass. Vox was an English company best known for the amplifiers that the Beatles and other British Invasion bands used, and had ventured into guitars and basses by subcontracting the manufacture to a variety of providers.  This resulted in some unusual designs.  In my case, the Cougar bass was a knockoff of the Gibson EB-2 bass with some modifications.  The pickups were underpowered, it had a metal nut, and it really couldn’t be tuned properly.  But it was miles better than the piece of garbage it replaced.

Vox Cougar Bass, c. 1966

Unlike the fate of the first acoustic guitar, I remember clearly what happened to the cheap bass.  I scraped off whatever logo was on the headstock and painted “VOX” on it.  This fooled no one, of course.  I then advertised it for sale and sold it to an eager kid who was a bit younger than me.  This was the last guitar I have ever sold.
These two instruments – the Gibson acoustic guitar, and the Vox bass guitar – went through high school with me, then off to college and graduate school, and have stayed with me for about 50 years.  That may be the cheap way to buy a vintage instrument: buy it new, and then wait.

They were my only instruments for almost 25 years.  Then another gift, and a party, changed the world.

New kid in town

Today’s news (actually yesterday’s) is that General H.R. McMaster has been selected to become the new National Security Advisor.  The General will replace the lying fool who wasn’t clever enough to realize his own intelligence aparatus was taping every conversation the Russian amabassador had, including his.  It seems like we have a winner here: an adult who is unafraid to disagree with his surperiors, and who undoubtedly extracted a number of concessions on his independence and NSC staffing choices.

McMaster is an active duty general – the first in this job since Colin Powell held the job for Ronald Regan.  He joins a number of retired generals in the Adminstration, including Jim Mattis and John Kelly, not to mention his new deputy, Keith Kellog.  I certainly have nothing against generals, or retired generals; they are usually pretty smart guys and have experience which can be important.  But it does seem like we are getting a government which is a bit too military in nature.  I thought we generally had civilans in control in this country, but then, I’ve been wrong about so many things I thought about this country.

For now Flynn is out of the NSC.  But we’ve seen that True Trumpettes never really get fired.  They seem to go on hiatis for a while, then return in some other role or guise.  While the Republican Congress makes a show of looking at what’s going on with the Russian Connection in the administration, Flynn will be waiting patiently in the wings for his next appearence.  Omarosa and Lewandowski have probably briefed him on what to expect.


And while this is indeed good news – that we have a grownup in an important job – Homeland Security began issuing orders about how they are going to increase our exports of human beings.

You can’t always get what you want

I went down to the demonstration today.  Didn’t really get any abuse, although some pro-Trumpers did yell at me.  I’m not sure why; I wasn’t carrying any signs (or singing songs) either pro- or con-.  I was carrying a camera, and wearing a badge that I made up that identified me as “Media – Press”.  I guess they assumed any member of the media or press would be a con-.  I think they’re supporting a con (see what I did there?).

We all know that these are unusual times, regardless of which side of the 30 foot wall we find ourselves on.  Those who support the Trumpster believe they’ve finally elected someone who will take on the Washington fat cats and their big business partners, who have all been screwing the people for decades.  I have a lot of sympathy for this viewpoint.  In fact, I believe that the Washington crew has lied to pretty much everyone about what they can accomplish, and what they want to accomplish.

The Republicans have claimed that they stand for free enterprise, and for lower taxes, and for less government spending, and a smaller less intrusive government, and all that good stuff.  Of course, they’ve stood for no such things – they have massively increased the size and reach of the government and lowered taxes for the wealthy whenever they have the chance(1).  At the same time they expanded the government into limiting the choices that individuals can make about who they love and live with, who they sleep with, what they can put into or take out of their bodies, and created a surveillance state that peers into every bit of our lives.

The Democrats are barely better.  They’ve mostly failed at increasing wages for most Americans, at creating jobs that pay middle class wages, and have also participated in the two most dangerous aspects of 21st century America: our huge indebtedness, and the continued intrusion, via surveillance, into everyone’s life.  I would argue that they talk a better game when it comes to civil rights and personal liberties, but aren’t very effective.

So here we are, with a President who makes up so-called “facts” as he goes along, and savagely attacks the existence of the free press every chance he gets.  A President who is so insecure and ego-challenged that he is still whining about Hillary Clinton, that she got 3 million more votes than he did, and repeatedly arguing that she would be a worse President that he is.  Hey, Donald – you won!  You’re the President (I shake when I write that)!  You have four years to prove that you can do some good stuff, unless the Congress gets fed up and decides to kick you out.

But in the meantime, lets all make sure that we don’t let him and his band of miscreants get away with continuing the trend we’ve been on for the last umpteen years: huge deficits, huge intrusion into our personal lives, and a gradual erosion of our freedom.  We need to #Resist his bigotry, his willful ignorance, his blatant disregard for civil liberties, and his moves to enrich himself and his family because he is President.



(1) Full disclosure – as you might guess from reading my “About” page, I’ve benefited financially from some of these policies.

I am The Bassman

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it?  But I’m not really scary.  Just a guy in New Jersey who has some thoughts to share with the world.  I’ll write about this, or that, from time to time.  I might write about some place I’m visiting, or something I’m doing. I might write about politics.  I might show you some photographs I’ve taken, perhaps recently, perhaps a while ago.  You don’t have to read this.  You don’t have to look at the pictures.  But if you do, perhaps we’ll all get a little smarter.