When you hear what I have to say about what happened at the courthouse that day, you may decide that I'm racist. After all, it's not the kind of charge one can easily deny these days. Not even if you're the least racist person in the world. But the truth is, there's no way to relate what happened without brining race into it. In a way, the whole thing was about race. And it all began before the jury was selected. Before the defendant was even arrested.
The place is Georgia. The month, August. It’s hot, and we’ve been stuck here since 8:00 AM. For most of that time, it’s been impossible to ignore a young white woman who’s been flitting about, laughing and chatting since we got here. Her laugh is infectious. She’s added a certain levity to the day. A lift even the espresso I got from a vendor couldn’t quite compete with. Then near the end of the day, she says this:
“Oh my God, I think I might have bought drugs from this guy back in high school.”
Recently, I finally got around to checking out the celebrated British TV series, Foyle’s War — and found it impossible to ignore the way this echo from the past foreshadowed two news events that occurred the same day.
The first was Donald Trump’s visits to El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in the aftermath of last weekend’s mass shootings. The second was the mass arrest of 678 undocumented immigrants at seven agricultural-processing plants across Mississippi, the largest raid of its kind in American history, topping the previous record of 595 in 2008.
You know that old saying about how there’s 20/20 vision with hindsight? And the one that says those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them? Well, that’s why my first viewing of the Foyle franchise keeps rattling around in my brain.
What History and Sexology Reveal about the Problem of Pedophilia
It is a hot midsummer's day in a small town just north of Atlanta shortly before the Epstein sex scandal hits the fan. Maybe the teenage girl who passes me as I exit the department store is sexy. But I don't think so.
She's asparagus thin and much taller than the older rounder woman, possibly her mother, who enters the store alongside her. They do not speak to each other or to me. The girl's gaze is downward, her attention is fixed on a cell phone. She wears more makeup than her young skin requires, and her dishwater blonde hair is pulled into a bun at the back of her head.
I notice these two, in part, because the girl can hardly walk. She's wearing denim blue jeans and platform shoes that add about three inches to her height. The jeans are not yoga pants or tights, but they might as well be. That's how snug they are. Between the shoes and the jeans, it's not difficult to figure out why she walks like a robot without bending her knees. And yet, she clip-clops into the store as if evolution had always intended for humans to walk this way.
I can't see my own face, but I don't think I react. The sight of a skinny teenage girl in tight jeans doesn't do anything for me. I see her as a girl in the process of growing up. And that's about it.
For the guy entering the store a few feet behind the girl, however, something different is going on.
Nabokov's Nymphet Remains Misunderstood by a Culture that Winks at the Sexualization of Children
I don’t care about Jeffrey Epstein. I care about the girls. I see the term “Lolita Express” in the news alongside passenger logs that include the names of rich and famous men, most of whom are white, and the only relief I feel is that Epstein did not have the audacity to give that name to the aircraft himself. The reference to Nabokov's famous novel came from the press, as did the nickname for the 72-acre island he owns in the Caribbean—"Orgy Island."
Cute, but it's not funny
Lolita is a tragic figure. She is completely undone by the lust of a sophisticated, well-educated adult, who by possessing the object of his desire transforms it into something entirely different, initiating her demise. The novel is a double tragedy. It is the story of Lolita's ruin and that of her putative stepfather and abductor Humbert Humbert.
Consider what it means to call Espstein's airplane "Lolita Express." Especially when the alleged sex trafficking of underage girls is part of the equation and an alleged open secret.
Does Forgetting about Sexual Assault Make It Go Away?
Nestled on an island far across the Pacific, the Hotel G20 requires the most exclusive credentials in the world. It's an invitation-only getaway. Crimes have been committed to earn a place here. Or so it's been said. As with most exclusive hideaways, what you see on the surface (should you fly a drone over), is nothing compared to what Hokusai art lovers might call the "thunderstorm beneath the summit." It is here that the Short-Fingered Vulgarian meets with his boss, The Bare-Chested Horseman, to go over the books.
Although he nods agreeably at the spreadsheet, the Bare-Chested Horseman is not pleased. His undilated pupils tighten to the size of pinpricks. Two black dots in a pair of unblinking eyes. Something is bothering him.
“Idiot! Did you really rape some woman in a department store?”
“How do I know, boss?” Though he tries to look bemused, the short-fingered Vulgarian seems bewildered. “You think I keep track of ‘em all? But I did read that excerpt from her book, and—”
“You read it?”
“Well I had Huck read it to me over the phone. Anyway, it sounds kind of familiar. Especially the part about pushing her into a fitting room. But she wanted it, boss. She was laughing the whole time. Besides, you can do stuff like that when you’re famous.”
“So you keep telling me. But once again your sordid past threatens to jeopardize everything we’ve worked for. What are you trying to do to me?”
Before we get too carried away by the fit-unprintable events in today's headlines, let's take a moment to enjoy the latest uplift from the world of coffee. Apparently, it can help you lose weight! But you've got to be careful. No more than three cups a day. And no java past 1:00 PM if you want to get the much-needed deep sleep that keeps you healthy, wealthy and wise. That's because caffeine stays with you for six hours. Yikes! Here's the skinny in a two-minute summary via Gayle King and pals on CBS This Morning.
We can't just let that kind of news sit there without celebrating--can we? So let's raise a cup in joyful gratitude with this fun version of Bach's Coffee Cantata, the gritty heat of Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa, the cool piano of Ray Charles, and a Paris DJ set from Black Coffee himself. Because after all--whether you like it hot or cold, espresso, pressed or dripped--there's no time like the present to acknowledge the bean without which life would be as dull as a "shriveled-up roasted goat." (Watch Bach's hilarious cantata with English subtitles to catch the reference.)
'You're a Woman, Ain't you? Well, this is a kitchen.' Why Tara Westover's 'Educated' Will Remain a Must-Read for a Very Long Time
Ellen DeGeneres read it because Michelle Obama told her to. Bill Gates said it’s even better than you’ve heard. Barack Obama put it on his best books list. So did Amazon. Time Magazine named its 32-year-old author to its Top 100 list. I read it for all these reasons and because a retired high school headmaster, one of my best friends, encouraged me to.
You might not think a book about going to school would read like a page-turning thriller. But Tara Westover’s Educated does just that. It is without question one of the most extraordinary books I’ve ever read.
Even if you have to wait twenty weeks to get it from your local public library (as I did)—here’s why you should read it. Westover’s story is not just about getting a highfalutin degree. It’s about her multi-leveled struggle to become herself against insufferable odds. This is what Jungians call individuation. It’s what Dr. Wayne Dyer referred to as “leaving the tribe.” You think that’s easy? Try it.
But Westover’s memoir is more than that. Raised by survivalist parents on an Idaho mountain, her obstacles include the people she loves—her family. They involve received ideas about God and religion—the Mormon fundamentalism she was brought up with. She must climb over a wall that includes unquestioned loyalty to male power figures. You’re a woman, ain’t you? Well, this is a kitchen.
Why We No Longer Hear Angels - and a Few Words about Tennis, Chess, Prison & the Healing Power of Classical Music
If you’ve ever visited the circus or a city like San Francisco, then you know a barker is someone who stands outside a theater or sideshow and calls out to passersby to get them interested in what's happening inside the tent. The word comes to mind just now because there seems to be a lot of barking in the public arena these days. And a lot of braying too. All of it a distraction from the things that probably matter most to you—if you haven’t been too distracted by all that noise to figure out what that is.
So, let me depart from my usual commentary in order to share a few things I found touching recently, which you may find interesting too.
WHY WE NO LONGER HEAR ANGELS
The following clip is from Faraway, So Close—a beautiful 1993 film by Wim Wenders, which I heard about this year from a writer friend on Twitter. At only two minutes and fifteen seconds, this bit of dialogue gets to the core of why all that barking can be harmful. It depicts a telepathic conversation between two angels, Raphaela (Nastassja Kinski) and Cassiel (Otto Sander), as they consider why it’s so difficult for their guidance to reach us the way it used to back in the day.
I like big books, and I cannot lie. My background includes talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy. I've won awards for my journalism and my fiction. One of my essays even made it into an anthology for college English courses. For real? Yes, for real.
If you’re reading this website, think of me as a troubadour standing on the street corner, strumming a guitar and singing a few songs. Not everyone who comes this way is able to make contribution. But if you’re one of the passers-by who can, then feel free to drop a little spare change in my hat by clicking either the Donate or the Become a Patron button below.