Dan Valentine – Pink cigarette lighter, part 5

July 23, 2010

By Dan Valentine


Shortly after my little episode with Melody – y’know, the brigadier general’s daughter, so on and so forth, the one with the butcher knife, etc., etc., with the crazy ex-boyfriend – I soon found myself a studio flat of my own in downtown D.C.

The Westpark Apartments, 2130 “P” Street, just west of Dupont Circle and the Metro stop that took me straight to work at the Russell Senate Office Building. The Ritz-Carlton was just around the corner. My good friend Paul Smith, Orrin Hatch’s former press secretary, and I saw Peggy Lee perform there one evening. She had fallen shortly before the engagement and sang on crutches.

The residents at the Westpark were mostly students and professionals. There was a grocery store next door and some of Washington’s better restaurants nearby. Georgetown was a ten-minute walk.

Great location but noisy on weekends. Across the street, I soon learned, was a stretch of very popular gay bars: a gay dance club, a gay sports bar, a gay piano bar, a gay you-name-it. “The cutting edge of Gay nightclubs,” I later read in a local rag.

I lived there for some two years without incident.

Flash-forward half a decade. I had moved my folks from Salt Lake to Arlington, Va. A three-bedroom penthouse apartment, above the Balston Commons Arcade, with a view of the Nation’s Capital. It was to die for! Fourth of July, it was the best seat in the house. Fireworks galore sprouting above the Washington Monument.  During Bush I’s term, when the troops returned home victorious from fighting in Kuwait and Iraq and the whole town celebrated, it was the best seat in the house. Fireworks galore.

One evening, shortly after returning for the second time to the District, I joined my bestest friend for a cocktail or two. We may have even had dinner.

You could smoke in bars and restaurants back then and, like many times before in the past, by the end of the evening, her cigarette lighter ended up in my blue sports coat pocket. She doesn’t smoke cigarettes; though, she’ll light herself a cigar every once in a great while. She prefers to smoke, well, let’s just say she likes to laugh. As I do. Laughter is a sound foundation for any relationship. (My ex-mother-in-law once asked my ex-wife, in front of me, “Why did you marry him?” “He made me laugh,” she said. Her mother sniffed and replied, “I’ve never thought he was funny.” I had to laugh.)

Anyway, the lighter ended up in my pocket when I used my last match and she lent me hers. It was pink.

Many a time I have sat at a table with friends and, by the end of the night, everyone’s lighter or matches or both have wound up in my possession. I’m infamous for it. And many a time, a friend during the evening has slapped his pockets or searched her purse only to find that his or her light is missing. “Where’s my lighter?! Where are my matches?!” Friends always turn to me. “Valentine! Not again!” I get caught up in the conversation at hand and, without thinking, I slip them in my pocket after lighting up.

We had met at a restaurant nearby Dupont Circle, close to my former residence. After bidding goodnight, call-you-later, I thought I’d save a buck or two – I was raised by Depression Kids – and catch a cab to Georgetown for one last drink before going home to Arlington.

In D.C., at the time, there were taxi zones. When I lived on “P” Street, I soon discovered if one wanted to save some cash one had only to stroll a few paces and cross the street at the end of the block to hail a taxi. Back then, every zone your cab entered cost you an extra-added fare.

So, I’m on “P” Street–familiar and friendly territory, or so I thought at the time–a few steps from saving a dollar or so, when I stop to light up. I pulled out my friend’s pink one. I lit my cigarette, pocketed the rest. It was then that someone head-butted me in the back like an NFL guard, plunging me face-first to the pavement. Another man, from out of the shadows, joined in the fun, kicking me in the head and ribs, both of them shouting, “Faggot!” and other slurs I suppose.

I can only suppose that the pink lighter offended them.

I was knocked unconscious. When I came to, I opened my eyes to see two Pink Angels gazing down on me, one with a flashlight beaming on my face.

Every Friday and Saturday, near the stroke of midnight, a group of volunteers, dressed in black berets and jackets, pair off and walk unarmed up and down the gay sections of D.C., making sure gays get home in one-piece. They’re known as Pink Angels. Such groups exist from San Francisco to Greenwich Village.

The two helped me to my feet and guided me to the gay piano bar on the corner. Upon seeing me, the bartender immediately began dialing an ambulance. He didn’t have to pick up the phone book and thumb through its pages to look for the number. I told him to dial me a cab instead. Save a buck here, save buck there. I was raised by Depression Kids.

No doubt, the bartender poured me a drink on the house. And, no doubt, I lit myself a cigarette. Can’t have a drink without a cigarette, swollen-bleeding lips or no. And, without any doubt, I pocketed a book of matches with the bar’s logo on them. Can’t have a cigarette without a light.

The pink lighter was missing, glimmering in a moonlit gutter somewhere.

I was in the Men’s, cleaning up best I could, when the cab arrived. The driver took me to the Georgetown University Hospital emergency room for my wounds. Broken nose (again, for the umpteenth time), multiple bruises, battered ribs, fractured jaw. I may have even had a minor concussion. Can’t remember. That wasn’t meant as a joke. It’s just been that long ago.

Later on that week, I saw a specialist, etc. In all, visits, procedures, more visits, more procedures, it cost me some several thousand dollars. I was unaware at the time–no one volunteered the info–that there is some sort of city fund for such incidents.

The time was the late ’80s, but little has changed.

Just recently I came across a news story on the internet The head read: Wearing Pink Gets Straight Man Gay Bashed. The date: October 2009. The story: A straight man who wore pink to aid breast cancer charities was bashed by men at a Kansas City Chiefs game. The victim, a father of three, had volunteered to wear pink clothing to draw attention to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. He raised a few hundred dollars, vending pink ribbons and shirts and hats, among other things. Third quarter, he decides to call it a day. He’s heading out of the stadium when two men, drunk, began harassing him because of his pink clothing. One of them punched him in the face. The second threw him to the ground. Both began kicking him in the ribs and head. I can relate. Managing somehow to get to his feet, he scurried for his life, the men chasing after him. Dodging them in between parked cars in the stadium’s lot, he finally escaped.

Sometimes, looking back, I think it may not have been the pink lighter at all. Maybe they were simply hard-core anti-smoking activists. They could very well have been paid assassins hired by my ex-mother-in-law. They may have been Danes! One thing’s for sure: The two wanted to hurt somebody, badly–gay, straight, or Martian–and they did. Me. Wrong place at the wrong time. A lot of life is timing. You win a few, you lose a few.

For some time afterward, I smoked very little, if at all. Wired-fractured jaw. When I was well enough, I visited my bestest friend.

THAT didn’t make me feel better! She was seeing a cop. Upon hearing that, no doubt, I lit-up a cigarette. I left shortly afterward.

A few weeks later, I visited her again. Just happen to be in the area. Yeah, right! I asked how she and the cop were doing. She said she had broken up with the fellow. She had discovered he was gay.

This was at the height of the AIDS scare. AIDS was somewhere in everyone’s mind, in flats on “U” Street, where she was living at the time, and in dark, shadowed doorways on “P” Street.

“He told you that?” I asked.

“No. Not exactly.”

“So, how do you know?”

He, too, it seems, had visited one day, and after he’d left, she had found a book of matches from a gay bar.

“I know you’re not gay. So–.” She showed me the matches. They were mine. From the gay piano bar on “P” Street.

You win a few, you lose a few. One day you’re lying in a puddle of blood, your own; the next day, you’re soaring, eagle-like, high above the clouds, a big-big smile on your face, fractured-jaw and all.


Obama’s cabinet: Neal Boortz spreads hoax smear, months after debunking

July 23, 2010

Neal Boortz, the Georgia-based radio broadcaster, goes beyond irresponsible journalism.  After we caught Boortz spreading false tales about Hilary Clinton last year, I proceeded to ignore him.

Traffic links pointed to Boortz this morning — now we find he’s spreading a hoax about Obama’s cabinet’s qualifications, months after the guy who started the false story caught his error and retracted it.  [July 4, 2011 – If that link doesn’t work, try this link to Boortz’s archive.]

That’s not just irresponsible and sloppy:  Boortz clearly has a grudge and will tell any falsehood to push his agenda of hatred.

Birds of a feather:  Texas deficit champion Rick Perry with Neil Boortz, who tells whoppers about Clinton and Obama

Birds of a feather: Texas deficit champion Rick Perry, who refused to talk about his $18 billion deficit in Texas, with Neil Boortz, who spread a hoax about Hillary Clinton in 2008, and now spreads old hoaxes about President Obama.

Boortz posts this at his site, probably as a warning for what his philosophy of reporting is:

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that justifies it.”

Frederic Bastiat

Just before Thanksgiving last year, a J. P. Morgan official wrote a humorous piece of conjecture for his weekly newsletter — a week when most of the markets in the U.S. were closed, and so there was little news.  Michael Cembalest, the chief investment officer for J. P. Morgan, without serious research wrote a piece wondering about what he saw as a lack of private sector experience in Obama’s cabinet in those positions in Cembalest’s view that are concerned most with job creation.

The spin meisters at American Enterprise Institute abused Cembalest’s rank conjectures as a “research report,” created a hoax saying Obama’s cabinet is the least qualified in history, and the thing went viral among otherwise ungainfully-employed bloggers (a lot like Neil Boortz).

Cembalest retracted his piece when he saw, in horror, what had happened (but not before I was too rough on him in poking much-deserved holes in the AEI claim).

Cembalest called me before the end of that week, noting that he’d retracted the piece.

Nearly eight months later, full of vituperation but bereft of information, today Neil Boortz resurrected the hoax story on his blog (on his radio program, too? I’ll wager Boortz is double dipping with his false-tale telling . . .).

Here’s a series of falsehoods Boortz told:

Last year J.P. Morgan thought it might be interesting to look into the private sector experience of Obama’s Cabinet. America, after all, was in the middle of an economic disaster and the thought was that the president might actually look to some people with a record of success in the private sector for advice. So a study is done comparing Obama’s Cabinet to the cabinets of presidents going back to 1900. secretaries of State, Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Energy and Housing and Urban Development were included. The J.P Morgan study looked at the percentages of cabinet members with prior private sector experience, and the results were amazing.

The presidential cabinet with the highest percentage of private sector experience was that of Dwight Eisenhower at around 58%. The lowest — until Obama — was Kennedy at about 28%. The average ran between 35% and 40% … until, as I said, Obama. Care to guess what percentage of Obama’s cabinet has prior private sector experience? Try 7%.

Here’s a start at the truth — try 11 times the experience Boortz credits:

All totaled, Obama’s cabinet is one of the certifiably most brainy, most successful and most decorated of any president at any time.  His cabinet brings extensive and extremely successful private sector experience coupled with outstanding and considerable successful experience in government and elective politics.

AEI’s claim that the cabinet lacks private sector experience is astoundingly in error, with 77% of the 22 members showing private sector experience — according to the [standards of the] bizarre chart [from AEI], putting Obama’s cabinet in the premiere levels of private sector experience.  The chart looks more and more like a hoax that AEI fell sucker to — and so did others.

Boortz is eight months late, and the whole truth short.  Shame on him.

Not just false stuff — old, moldy false stuff.   Atlantans, and all Americans, deserve better reporting, even from hack commentators.


Coda:  Sage advice, but . . .

Boortz includes this warning on his website:

Don’t believe anything you read on this web page, or, for that matter, anything you hear on The Neal Boortz Show, unless it is consistent with what you already know to be true, or unless you have taken the time to research the matter to prove its accuracy to your satisfaction. This is known as “doing your homework.”

Great advice — but no excuse for sloppy reporting.  He should follow his own rule.  On this piece, Boortz didn’t do his homework in any fashion.  He’s turning in somebody else’s crap, without reading it in advance, it appears.

DDT and birth defects: South African television asks questions

July 23, 2010

Steven Milloy, Roger Bate, and Richard Tren hope you never see this television production — they hope you never even hear about it.  It’s one more indication that Rachel Carson was right.

They hope you never even hear about it.  It’s set for telecast in South Africa next Tuesday:

Special Assignment to broadcast episode on ‘Collateral Damage’

Published: 22 July 2010

This week, Special Assignment looks at those affected by the dangerous DDT chemical and also those who say it is a necessary evil to prevent many South Africans from dying.

“I have problems with my balls,” says ‘George’. “I was born without testicles,” adds ‘Joseph’, yet another man born in the Limpopo area. These two and many other young men in Venda share a common story.

Each year, South Africa sprays more than 90 tonnes of the toxic DDT chemical in homesteads in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo areas. Though DDT, a persistent organic chemical which can remain in the environment for as much as 40 years is banned across the world, South Africa still uses it to control malaria in the country. Recent studies have however showed that DDT is harmful to humans with hundreds of kids born in the Venda area showing signs of genital deformities. The chemical has also been associated with breast cancer; diabetes; and spontaneous abortion. Yet it remains South Africa’s best option for the prevention of malaria which kills millions of people each year across Africa. This week, Special Assignment looks at those affected by this chemical and also those who say it is a necessary evil to prevent many other South Africans from dying.

‘Collateral Damage’ will be broadcast on Special Assignment on Tuesday, 27 July, at 20:31 on SABC3.

%d bloggers like this: