Testy and Bilious

22 May 2011



“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.”   Albert Einstein


Sympathy, education and social ties should all prompt us toward a tolerance of others’ beliefs and differences. I am a nonbeliever but I respect the believer. After all, she may be right. It is unlikely that we are going to die and then “journey,” as a totally conventional person would say, to a heaven where an old white man is serenaded by a lot of harps. (Substitute here any picture of the hereafter that anyone has imagined.) Unlikely, but not impossible. Who knows? The most sensible thing is to respect all points of view and even enjoy them as one enjoys different flowers in the garden.


Yes, I am aware that this is “secular humanism” and is thus anathema to fundamentalists of all stripes. There may be 600 virgins waiting there in Paradise for those of us lucky enough to be religious martyrs and there may be hellfire and damnation for the ones who don’t belong to The Pentecostal Chruch. But, eh?, probably not.  ¿Quien sabe?


Someone said “Virtue is its own reward.” Was this Aristotle, Plato? Some wise person said it, and it only seems self evident.


I have a great idea. Let’s cut funding for Medicare and other social programs for the poor so that we have enough money to lower taxes for rich people and corporations. Oh, wait, no, someone’s already thought of that. It’s going to be the Republican Party platform for 2012.



The Democrats are being particularly spineless at this poiint. President Obama is not calling them as he sees them. He’s trying to mollify everyone, and he knows that we have no alternative, given what the opposition is offering, so he can take us for granted. The two party system is not such a good system right now.

Republicans, those who can put a complete sentence together, make some sort of ridiculous statement almost once a week. As noted earlier, Mike Huckleberry said that Obama’s world view is influenced by his upbringing in Kenya. Michele Bachmann has joked innacurately about the “coincidence” that swine flu emerged during the Carter and Obama presidencies and hinted publicly that Obama may have “anti-American” sentiments. Someone recently asked Sarah Palin who the most influential journalist was. “Oh my goodness, that’s a great question,” she said, before turning to her husband Todd and asking for his input. When Todd also balked, Palin came back and said, “Um, gosh, that’s a great question, I have to think about it, OK? Because there are many.”  Tom Marino, Republican, Pennsylvania, recently said that our intervention in Libya could spread to Africa. I mean, what were these people doing in school, paying people to take their exams? No wonder they can believe all of the ridiculous things that they believe. They are completely ignorant. Anyone knows that Maureen Dowd is the most influential journalist. And the cutest.


Of course I’m not talking about Republicans who are Republicans for financial reasons. They are not ignorant. They’re just amoral.


Mills Building, San Francisco, 220 Montgomery and Bush, 1891. Darius Ogden Mills made his fortune outfitting gold miners and he laid out the town of Millbrae. The first steel framed skyscraper in the West, the Mills Building is a beauty. I worked here as a legal editor for a law firm, and I used to walk up and down the stairs once a day, 22 floors, 26 floors, I forget. The Mills Building has that white archway, a Romanesque inheritance from the Chicago school of Louis Sullivan, and a lower façade of light-colored Inyo marble. The architect John Wellborn Root also designed The Chronicle building.


After three days, fish and guests stink.

Everyone claims this statement. John Lyly (1554-1606) wrote it, and Leo Rosten says it is a Yiddish proverb. My mother told me that she made it up, and of course she was right. It’s a German saying too. You know? Maybe it’s just universal. Maybe everyone made it up, everyone who’s ever had guests for more than three days.


The Beatles arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Queens, 7 February 1964, aboard flight 101 of Pan Am’s Yankee Clipper for their first visit to the United States. They went to stay at The Plaza Hotel, 768 Fifth Avenue, and played on 9 February for The Ed Sullivan Show. They did All My Loving, Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There, and I Want To Hold Your Hand. They returned to New York on 12 February to perform two shows at Carnegie Hall.


Till There Ws You was a song from The Music Man and I loved it. It had a couple of diminished chords, very unusual for pop music at that time, it was fun to sing, and Paul did it very well. He played this sort of song, I am sure, to learn what chords could do and it served him well. This is learning music theory on the job. (Of course John was probably over in the corner going “Ack, Ack, I can’t believe I’m playing this song.”) Takes all kinds to make a band. At least they were both talented. It could have been worse, believe me.


And speaking of longhairs, the average scalp has 100,000 hairs. Redheads have about 90,000 hairs, blondes about140,000, and brunettes fall somewhere in between.


My cousin Kelli Andrew.


Elizabeth Gage writes to me about her Yiddish antecedents:

My favorite Yiddish statement of all time was coined by my mother. I am sure you are aware of the kosher dietary regulations (no eating milk with meat). My parents took us to Grossinger’s, a chi-chi Jewish resort in the Catskills (Ketskells) when I was 17 (1966.) I do not think it even exists anymore. On New Year’s eve, there was a woman wearing a dress that left absolutely nothing to the imagination, and my mother’s impromptu response was, “Oy vey, melkich and fleishich on the same plate.” (Milk and meat on the same plate.)


What Elizabeth may not know is that both Lenny Bruce and Bill Graham both worked at Grossinger’s as wait people, along with many other well known characters both in front of, and behind, the scenes. Milton Berle and Danny Kaye were both tummlers at Grossinger’s. What was that film with Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze? Dirty Dancing? Wasn’t that supposed to be a fictional Grossinger’s? She was Baby. He was a poisonous goy. And isn’t that the best kind?


In the 1970s I taught guitar for a couple of years at Ragona Music in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, every day of the week for six or seven hours a day. Often, just to decompress from this intense schedule, I would walk home to the West Village in Manhattan. That was a long walk, many miles, but a very good one, and towards the end of it, I would walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and do a long meditation on everyone else who had been there, not least Sonny Rollins, premier tenor saxophone player who used to come out to the Bridge and practice at night.


It took from 1867 until 1883 to build the Brooklyn Bridge which was the first physical connection between Brooklyn and Manhattan… a connection that would be politically solidified with the 1898 consolidation of Greater New York.


Remember the film Blazing Saddles? There were some  Native Americans in it who spoke a strange language, Yiddish! Chief Mel rides up to the cowboys and says, “Abi gezunt,” (As long as I have my health). This was the name of a hit song by the great Yiddish actress Molly Picon and composer Abe Ellstein from the 1938 Yiddish film Mamele (Little Mothers).


Donna found this Mann coat of arms. Mann is my mother’s maiden name, but I think her people are far too humble to have a coat of arms. One nevers knows, though. This is from the right part of Europe. Donna is on the track of my family and she has already found out some very interesting things.


Always take life with a grain of salt… a slice of lemon… and a shot of tequila.


The Phelps House, 1111 Oak Street, San Francisco, 1850-1851, was built by Abner Phelps, a Montgomery Block lawyer, on 160 acres in what was then the countryside. The house was moved three times and has undergone significant interior changes, but is said to be the oldest externally unaltered residence in town. The high foundation, balcony and veranda provided a taste of the South to appease Phelps’ homesick bride whom he met while mayor of Lafayette, Louisiana.


Ronnie Campsey on right, his son Beau and Sadie.


The Orthodox Coptic Church is one of the oldest Christian Churches, founded and based in Egypt in 41 AD when the evangelist Mark founded the Church in Alexandria. Coptic Art was influenced by the art of ancient Egypt and also by the Greek or Hellenic artistic tradition. The portraits are often done in encaustic (wax) and have several common features: large eyes and ears, gentle, sweet lips, small mouth, small nose and a large head.


A government cannot declare an act a crime after it has been committed.  Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution prohibits ex post facto laws. This protection guarantees that individuals shall be warned ahead of time if their actions are illegal.


The International Exhibition of Modern Art (aka The Armory Show) opened at the 69th Regiment Armory, 68 Lexington Avenue between East 25th and East 26th Streets, Manhattan, 17 February 1913. This was the splashy showing of modern art to an unexposed New York public. President Teddy Roosevelt called the artists “a bunch of lunatics.” Artists on display included Pablo Picasso,  Georges Braque,  Edvard Munch, Wassily Kandinsky, Puvis de Chavannes, Odilon Redon, Henri Matisse, Raoul Dufy, van Gogh, Gauguin, Paul Cézanne, Marsden Hartley and Joseph Stella. This show only ran a month, but it made a big sound in the art of the 20th century.


An allergy is the excessive or hypersensitive response of the immune system to benign substances in the environment. The most common cause of allergy is pollens that are responsible for seasonal or allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nose). My friend John says that a certain tree with yellow flowers in his house is called an AcaCHOO!acia Tree, and Elise is trying to get me to cut down an acacia on our property now. I was born without this curse and am hence insufferable to the suffering sisterhood of allergists.


in the 1960s, I sat for hours in James Gurley’s living room, actually just down the hall from me on Oak Street, San Francisco, and drew everything in the room. That painting on the opposite wall is by Martin Gorak. I loved his work. Now I wish I would have photographed all of his canvases, but no one could afford a camera or film then. Martoon, as we called him, was such a great and interesting artist.


Alwyn Court Apartments, 182 West 58th Street at Sixth Avenue, Manhattan, 1907-1909. This French Renaissance extravaganza of terra cotta detailiing was one of New York’s early luxury apartment buildings, not far from the southern edge of Central Park. I used to walk by here and marvel at all of the delicacy in this building, which boasted fourteen-room, five bath apartments when it was new. The courtyard within is adorned with a painted architectural façade by muralist Richard Haas. The Alwyn is a good example of why walking around Manhattan is such a wonderful adventure. There are treasures in every block.


Fun dein moyl in Gotts oyeren. (Yiddish). From your mouth to God’s ears. Another Yiddish sentence that would be understood by any German speaker. This is something that you hope, that you wish may come true. Tom Finch plays guitar lines like this all the time. They are beautifully expressed and i reply, “Fun dein moyl in Gott’s oyeren.”


The flatiron building of San Francisco, The Phelan Building, 760-784 Market Street, 1908. James D. Phelan was a mayor of San Francisco from 1897 to 1902 and later a US senator. At the University of San Francisco, training ground for San Francisco leaders, I had my dormitory experience in Phelan Hall at school with people like Howard DeNike, Kevin Starr, Ming Chen, Darrell Solomon, Silvano Votto, Gordon Bowker and other truly remarkable people. You wouldn’t even believe me if I told you only some of the things that these people did. For example, one of them founded Starbucks, and he is by far not the most significant one. Another is on The Supreme Court of California. Another is the California State Librarian and Historian. These were not people whom I knew distantly, but they were close friends and amazing figures even then. Especially then.


The porous stone in the Theban necropolis made a difficult support for paint, so the tomb decorators smoothed the walls with mud plaster covered with a thin coat of gesso to which they applied paints from various mineral based pigments, and created immortal images of beauty and delicacy.


This is the real beginning of my happiness.



What do Maytag Washers and this photo have in common?


Dad, don’t stand behind the screen door. You look strained. Sam Andrew, Jr. and his men.


Article V of the Constitution specifies that an amendment to the Constitution becomes valid once it has gained the vote of two thirds of each house of Congress and three quarters of the states. States can ratify an amendment by a vote of their legislatures or by electing special conventions.


Elise Piliwale consorting with a ray.


Parts of Texas look like Kansas with scabies.


Senators serve six-year terms, and one-third of the senators run for election every two years. Senators are divided into three “classes,” with elections held on a staggered basis. With one hundred senators, the classes are divided into thirty-three, thirty-three and thirty-four. When a state enters the Union, its first senators toss a coin to determine which class they will join.


At The White Horse Tavern, his favorite New York bar, Hudson Street and West 11th Street, 4 November 1953, Dylan Thoomas began his final drinking binge. He returned to his room at The Chelsea Hotel, 222 West 23rd Street, and said to his companion, Elizabeth Reitel, “I’ve had eighteen straight whiskies. I think that’s the record.” He passed out and never regained consciousness.


I lived a half a block from The White Horse Tavern for a long time in the 1970s, and, though I’ve never really been a bar person, I did go to the White Horse occasionally with friends. Big Brother and the Holding Company, as i  mentioned before, lived often at The Chelsea Hotel, 222 West 23rd Street. Another correspondence is that for a year now I have been naming my paintings with lines and titles from Dylan Thomas.


Glaucoma is the unrelieved increase of inner eye pressure. In a normal eye, pressure is kept in check by the continuous production of aqueous humor, its movement through the pupil into the anterior chamber and its drainage out of that chamber. When drainage is decreased or prevented, glaucoma may result.


Contraceptives should be used on every conceivable occasion.


In vino pulchritudo est.

In wine there is beauty.


“Sarah Palin.” (Sam Andrew on being asked to say something funny.)


First secure an independent income. Then practice virtue.


No one can earn a billion dollars honestly.


The term cartonnage refers both to a material resembling papier-mâché and to objects fashioned from that material. Consisting of layers of papyrus and/or linen covered in gesso or plaster, cartonnage was first used in the Middle Kingdom of Egypt to make funerary masks. Although a few cartonnage coffins are known from that time, it was not until Dynasty XXII that cartonnage was used regularly to make one-piece mummy cases, probably as an inexpensive alternative to coffins made from wood, a material that is scarce in Egypt. I like this cartonnage idea; I’d love to learn how to do it.


A man in love mistakes a pimple for a dimple.


Sam Andrew, Alan Merrill at The House of Blues, Manhattan.


A Yiddish saying: Ven men vinsht in eyn hand un men kakt in der anderer hand, beleibt di letzer tamid ful. (When you wish in one hand and shit in the other hand, the last one stays full.) Kakn means “shit” and is cognate with cagar (Spanish) and caccare (Italian). Kakn is the verb. The noun is Dreck. A shtik dreck is a piece of shit.


My first day on this painting.


In life the final examination often comes before the lesson.


Passenger list, 19th century: I’m closely related to at least eight of these people. Probably more.


Elise Piliwale and Michael Miller.


I wonder if Borg ever said, “I wish I would never have been Bjorn.”


Musicians are very easy to get along with, if you like children.


Have you ever seen a statue of a critic? Have you ever heard a song about a critic? Have you ever read a poem that wasn’t scurrilous and scatological about a critic?


James Gurley singing Easy Rider.


Let Bhagwans be Bhagwans.


The Stephen Andrew tribe: Erin, Jack, Elizabeth and Kathy.


Of course there is progress in civilization. In every war they find a new way to kill you.


All truths are half-truths.     Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)


About one person in a thousand looks good with no clothes on. I have personally verified this.


OK, I’m gping to take a nap now.

Sam Andrew

Big Brother and the Holding Company