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Top 5 Crimes Against Pedestrians in Car Crazy California

“In order to get across the street (in LA) you have to have been born there.”
     –Martin Amis in Money


It’s been over a decade since I chucked my car and began getting around, most of the time, by putting one foot in front of the other. By now I should be used to the low priority, invisibility and outright abuse of pedestrians in the Golden State, but if anything, I’m becoming more outraged the more time passes. In ascending order of importance, then, here are the worst offenses committed by car owners.

  1. Drivers waving me on

This is a petty complaint, I know, but I can’t stand it when a driver stops at a corner, with or without a stop sign, as I’m about to cross, and magnanimously waves me on–as if my crossing the street is entirely up to him or her, and aren’t I the lucky benefactor of such kindness? In fact, according to CA law, if a pedestrian steps off the curb, traffic must cease until they’re safely across. It’s a right, not a privilege.

  1. UnknownCracked and broken sidewalks

Sidewalk maintenance gets little attention in many cities, especially in the poorer neighborhoods. Even potholes, notoriously left unrepaired, are taken care of before sidewalks, since after all we don’t want our cars getting ruined on the road–and what kind of nutcase walks anyway? My first car-less year I tripped and fell four times; needless to say, I’ve become hyper-alert. Still, last winter’s rains took a heavy toll; one street I walk down regularly is so badly caved and crumbled that I have to step into the roadway, raising a hue and cry of honking. I’ve been told it’s the landowners who are responsible for their own sidewalks, not the city; I’ve been meaning to look into this.

  1. Dog shitUnknown-1

Why is it that the owners of the biggest baddest dogs are the ones who have yet to join civilization and clean up after their pets? Two lazy louts in my ‘hood are guilty of this, but I’ve never actually caught them in the act. When I come upon their infernal messes I hold my nose and circle past the sometimes steaming piles of poop. I’m closing in on one of these guys, though: I think I know where he and his dog-horse live. As soon as I’m certain I plan to file a report.

  1. Cars parked on sidewalks.Unknown-5

You have a ten-room house and a two-car garage, but you need even more, you greedy bastard! You park your car so it takes up all available sidewalk space. I cannot overstate my angry resentment of such people: all I want is a sliver of sidewalk! But no, here too I have to step out into traffic. Lately one of my neighbors has been making this a daily habit.  I’m planning to write them a note–I will attempt to be polite. (Or not.)

  1. Running red lights

Now this is more than a mere annoyance. The Bay Area and SF have the highest percentage of red-light-runners in the country. Frequent headlines tell of children or adults murdered by impatient assholes who speed up instead of slowing down at the amber light. My son was hit by one of these heinous criminals many years ago, and he’s suffered TBI (traumatic brain injury) ever since. If CA is supposed to be so mellow, why are these drivers in such a rush?

Ah, here’s the truth: Californians, driving or not, aren’t, despite the stereotype, mellow;. Having lived here for almost 30 years I concluded some time ago that they live in a permanent state of denial. Which is a whole other topic.




Strange Blues: Poem Inspired by Edie Windsor

Hildy had strange blues I mean she had
some mighty strange blues after Janie died.
Hildy knew all about the blues—
death blues & love gone bad blues
no moneyfoodorliquor blues
homesick blues and Momma blues
Daddy blues and too old to tango blues
but these blues weren’t like those.
These were strange blues.

She was a stranger by law
to Janie said the judge,
calling her ‘The Deceased’.
They weren’t spouses. How could they be?
They were both women, each having 2 boobs
one pussy and no dick on the premises.
Thus there’d been no wedding no license no cake
no spouses and what about spice?
Hildy could still laugh but
Legal Strangers said the judge
pounding his gavel.
That’s what you are: A Legal Stranger.

That’s what gave Hildy the strange blues
for sure. She’d held Janie’s hand
‘til her spirit left her tired body
so how was she a stranger?  No, said the judge, not
a stranger; a Legal Stranger. Look it up.
So she did. Hildy looked under L and S in the big dictionary
in the living room and the paperback dictionary
in the kitchen with the cookbooks
and she looked under the catboxes and
in the bookshelves and in the drawers of
all four desks. (One for each grownup, one
for each kid. Intellectuals, friends would tease them.)
In every dictionary she turned to L and then to S.
but could not find Legal Strangers
which is why Hildy’s got these
strange blues tonight: real strange blues.

Get out your guitar
and strum the Legal Stranger Blues.
Betcha can’t. Betcha won’t.
O sure, you can play the Sam Cooke blues
The Ray Charles blues Aretha blues
Johnny Cash blues and
the Last of the Red Hot Momma Blues

but you and me, we don’t know any
Legal Stranger blues or any Legal Strangers,
only Strangers in a Strange Land
of judges, no spouses, no wives and no rights.




I hate to sound like the current inhabitant of the White House and his anti-media tirades, but if you believe the news of last Sunday’s Berkeley demonstrations, it was a bloodbath created by the big bad ANTIFA. I was at the demonstration in MLK Park for almost three hours, and though I saw and even spoke with some ANTIFA kids, the event was typical Berkeley, complete with Kumbayas, peace and love. No, I couldn’t possibly see or experience everything that happened, so it’s likely that some violence did occur; however, the media’s focus on ANTIFA’s violence is a deflection from the reality of what is going on.

First of all, the ANTIFA movement didn’t just spring up yesterday or even in the 1960’s, but has a venerable history dating back to at least the 1930s. (See article). Its philosophy–yes, it has a philosophy–is that fascism must be stopped before it gains the smallest toehold in a society, i.e., had Hitler been stopped early on, by any means necessary, there never would have been ovens. As one who most likely would have been thrown into one of those ovens, I appreciate the sentiment.

At this historical moment, we have a Nazi sympathizer living in the White House, elected by and emboldening all manner of insects to emerge from their dark holes and crawl around the streets of America. This president’s policies, if you can call toxic tweeting a way of setting policy, are not only fomenting division and hostility in America, but also creating the actual means to enforce draconian measures against anyone he and his gang of cronies don’t like (Just today he authorized arming the nation’s police forces for war). Despite our democratic institutions, our system of checks and balances, he has been getting away with actions that most of the country is against. If Congress and the Supreme Court cannot stop this, certainly a bunch of people holding hands and singing Kumbaya cannot.

I am not exactly advocating violence, but I’m sympathetic to the ANTIFA. I appreciate their willingness to put their lives on the line, to physically confront racists, anti-semites and bigots of all kinds. I appreciate their philosophy that the time to prevent fascism from gaining power is the moment it appears. The media is emphasizing their violent behavior, equating it with the right’s violence. But if there weren’t Nazis in the street chanting “Jews will not replace us,” there’d be no ANTIFA trying to keep them out of our towns and cities by any means necessary. In Charlottesville the bigots killed a young woman and then said, in writing no less, that she was a fat slut who deserved to die! The two groups are in no way equivalent. And yet the media is obsessed with ANTIFA’s and violence “on the left.”

I am not the only person, or even the only Jew, who wonders from time to time how and why my tribesmen timidly boarded the death trains. Is there anyone who doesn’t think they should have fought back? We now know there actually were pockets of resistance, battles such as the valiant Warsaw uprising; yet six million Jewish citizens meekly obeyed the Nazis. And make no mistake, the Nazis did what they did one small step at a time: first they ordered Jews to wear yellow stars; next they passed laws dictating where Jews could go, where they could work, when they were allowed in the shops; then they herded them into cramped and stinking ghettos; finally they shoved them onto the trains and into the camps and ultimately into the ovens. They gassed more than six million people in ovens they built for that purpose!

So the ANTIFA hit a fucking Nazi. Here’s what I have to say to them: Thank you.



An Ordinary Day

An ordinary day

Kentucky USA.
Searching for planets.
Searching for meaning.

A glowing diamond ring
pulsates on screen
our sun         our moon
so they claim.

Watching third-hand via
technology and distance
like peering through a scrim
scrambling for significance.

Blame it on the fog.
Blame my location.
Blame the lack of wherewithal
that kept me from Kentucky.

When the moon and sun return to normalis
so do I: endlessly regretting
every choice that landed me here
for the only totality in 99 years.

The Political Dorothy Parker

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How many people, I wonder, know that when she died Dorothy Parker left her small estate to Martin Luther King Jr.? Those who hung in and read the rolling post-scripts at the end of Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle may remember; otherwise you might be forgiven for thinking all she ever cared about was booze, men who broke her heart, and honing her sarcasm.

In fact, Parker became a political activist in 1927, protesting the Sacco and Vanzetti executions in Boston, for which she was arrested, and she remained poltiically active until she died 40 years later.

She reported on the Loyalist cause in Spain.  She was chair of the Joint Anti-Fascist Resuce Committee, organized transport of Loyalist vets to Mexico, and headed the Spanish Children’s Relief Project. During WWII she founded the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, which grew to 4000 members and which the FBI suspected of being Communist. She spoke out on segregation and supported the civil rights movement.

In addition to short stories, reportage, and poetry, Parker wrote Hollywood scripts, including the iconic Judy Garland vehicle A Star is Born. Naturally, she landed on Hoover’s Hollywood blacklist and was knocked out of the movie business for a number of years.

Despite her constant drinking, she outlived almost all the members of her famous Algonquin Round Table: she was 73 when she died of a heart attack. I can’t help thinking what an asset she’d be today, writing caustic poetry about the goings-on in Washington.