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Dog Days

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Is one not to notice the girls in summer dresses

Their ice cream shoulders and precocious breasts

Tattooed flesh and iridescent tresses,

The eye of the beholder is awakened from its rest.

One chances to recall the Woodstock days

Of disturbing green fields with feverish paws

Burying bones and then fetching sticks at play

Ignoring “keep-off” signs and unwritten laws

Straining at the leash in that defining trait

Scent by association is an enticing lure.

While obsession destructs, persistence can create

Tempered fixations sanctioned and endured.

        A life once so literal and now one so steeped

        In a fount of metaphor; a memory so tweaked.                                                                          

Ron Vazzano


August: a Rebuttal


Last month I jumped off a diving board of reality into a chlorined fantasy, that there just might be something magical about summer. I noted that one novelist even went so far as to say "everything magical happens between the months of June and August.” While I questioned, everything, I did concede that given the number of novels, movies, songs and poems, with themes of summer love and coming of age—with all the attendant life discoveries along the way—one can see how that notion can arise. Re-enforced in a way, in the sonnet above written some time ago. Come to think of it, within such notions, could a purified Disney version have been far behind?

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Entering the backstretch of this season of "magic," I came across a satirical essay (I think it’s satirical), written by journalist and podcaster David Plotz, in which he offers what you might call a rebuttal to the very  existence of August itself. Although the 20th of this month is special to me, I hold no malice. Nor do I think, a petty Plotz, a putz.

As I’ve done from time to time in using a guest writer in these musings, here is his essay in full. Save for  cutting a few lines along the way, when I found him beating a dead horsefly to make his point.  And I did a tiny bit of a fudging in a couple of places within, which you might notice if you read the piece.


Let’s get rid of it.

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August is the Mississippi of the calendar. It’s beastly hot and muggy. It has a dismal history. Nothing good ever happens in it.  And the United States would be better off without it.


August is when the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when Anne Frank was arrested, when the first income tax was collected, when Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe died. Wings and Jefferson Airplane were formed in August. The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour debuted in August. (No August, no Sonny and Cher!)


August is the time when thugs and dictators think they can get away with it. World War I started in August 1914. The Nazis and Soviets signed their nonaggression pact in August 1939. Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2, 1990. August is a popular month for coups and violent crime. Why August? Perhaps the villains assume we’ll be too distracted by vacations or humidity to notice.


August is the vast sandy wasteland of American culture. Publishers stop releasing books. Movie theaters are clogged with egregious action movies that studios wouldn’t dare release in June. Television is all reruns (or worse—new episodes of Sex and the City). The sports pages wither into nothingness. Pre-pennant-race baseball—if that can even be called a sport—is all that remains.


Newspapers are thin in August, but not thin enough. They still print ghastly vacation columns: Even Martha Stewart (born Aug. 3) can’t think of anything to do in August. Her Martha Stewart Living calendar, usually so sprightly, overflows with ennui. Aug. 14: “If it rains, organize basement.” Aug. 16: “Reseed bare patches in lawn.” Aug. 27: “Change batteries in smoke and heat detectors.”


You can’t get a day off from August, because it is the only month without a real holiday. Instead, the other months have shunted onto this weak sister all the lame celebrations they didn’t want. "Air Conditioning Appreciation Week," "Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Week," "National Religious Software Week," "Carpenter Ant Awareness Week." All these grand American celebrations belong to August. Is it any accident that "National Lazy Day," "Relaxation Day," "Deadwood Day," and "Failures Day" are commemorated in August?

The people with August birthdays are a sorry bunch. Sure, Lyndon Johnson, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton were born in August, but the other presidential Augustans are Herbert Hoover and Benjamin Harrison. Film is represented by Robert Redford and Robert De Niro—but also by John Holmes and Harry Reems. Third-raters populate August: George Hamilton, Danny Bonaduce, Rick Springfield, Ron Vazzano, Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford were born then. August gave us Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat.


In art, August offers Leni Riefenstahl, Michael Jackson, and Danielle Steele. (To be sure, not everything that happens in August is so terrible. Raoul Wallenberg, Alfred Hitchcock, Herman Melville, and Mae West were born in August. Richard Nixon resigned in August. MTV launched in August. And Jerry Garcia died in August.)

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August can’t even master the things it is supposed to do well. Despite its slothful reputation, it is not the top vacation month; July is. Nor is August the hottest month (on the East Coast, at least). That crown, too, is July’s. August is when the garden starts to wither, and when the long summer days cruelly vanish.


We should rage, rage against the dying of the light. The United States desperately needs August Reform. Purists will insist that we shouldn’t tinker with the months, that August should be left alone because it has done workmanlike service for 2,000 years. That’s nonsense. Calendars are always fluxing. August itself was a whimsical invention. In 46 B.C., as part of a broad calendar change, Julius Caesar added two days to Sextilis, an old 29-day month. In the reign of his successor, Augustus Caesar, the Senate voted to change Sextilis’ name to “Augustus”. August was created by politics, and it can be undone by politics.


Here is a framework for compromise. Cede the first 10 days of August back to July, thus extending holiday revelry for more than a week. September would claim the last 10 days of August, mollifying the folks who can’t wait to get back to serious work. Labor Day would come 10 days earlier, the school year would run longer, and the rush of fall activity could get jump-started. August itself will keep 10 days. That is just enough: Every summer we’ll be able to toot happily, “Gosh, August went by so quickly this year!”


Word of the Month

akrasia    a-kra- sia /əˈkreɪziə /



  • lacking command or weakness (occasionally transliterated as acrasia  or Anglicised as acrasy or acracy)


  • lack of self-control, or acting against one's better judgment.


From Greek akretes (powerless), from a- (without) + kratos (power, strength).


First Known use

Earliest documented: 1806. The adjective form is akratic.


Used in a sentence


The akrasia of New York Yankee great Mickey Mantle, can best

be summed up his own words, in which he once said, that if he knew

he was going to live so long he would have taken better care of himself.

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Scenes from Summer Stock: Opus '73




Vans packed tightly like cartons of eggs
the contact here is a fragile one

of errant knees rubbing in early friction
the acting troupe caravans.


They wind their way through the white birches

        of New England
a respite from the treeless city;

the overtures of honking cabs and hissing buses.

Enter a chorus through no wings of praise:


        What are you doing with your life these days?


No. 1


Can they shoehorn “The Method”

into a pillbox of pilgrim worship,

an historic church transformed into theater?
r will the craft teeter,

top-heavy and bloated? Toppling out

        into the nights, 

        of crickets, stars and escapades
               in brass beds but a shout
               from ancestral burial grounds...


        it beats back home where they’d be making the rounds.


No. 2


Up here they steal not only a summer
but the Yankee folk as well
to color the townscape of The Music
And they layer
them in sweat-stained costumes
at odds with the steam bath climate

        and polyester plot.


In boaters and bonnets all learn quickly the sonnets
of this paean to American dros

in lieu of their hymnal praise to the Lord.


        Yet with the theater, the Yanks are on board.


No. 3


Oh, if that deer head mounted on that wall

in the house consigned to the cast could speak:


        of the strawberry girl
               secretly sipping her sherry each night

               retreating to her room

               to rehearse a suicide,

               hopefully the one in the play they'll be doing;


        of the lady of the house
               fading in the throes of blond domesticity
                       tingling anew

              with the ripe possibility
              of the leading man slipping in at lun

        of the Alderman’s daughter
               possessed by the demon of Bohemian freedom,

                       this summer spawned;

               who quits the play to run off with the minister's son;


        of pixie sticks of marijuana
pped while sitting out back under

               the tree that got iced by lightning one night
               as if a sign from an angry god;


        of the fair-haired boy                   

               and the stage manager’s wife;    


        of the rape alleged
               by a minor cast member
               toying with her toast at breakfast one morning,


         a dramatic awakening absent a warning.


No. 4


A roll in the hay and then one down the hill

        into fire and brimstone

where preachers may have warned

        in frockcoat times

of "the gypsy moths hatched from the larvae of Satan

who flutter about the flames of sin"...


         yet the townsfolk open their doors and let them in.


And even if that deer head hangs mute,
can one not help but...


        smell the flats still damp with pigment

               and wanderlust
        as a curtain thrusts

        upward like a maiden’s skirt

               on opening night?      


        Snicker at the clown-white temples
     on the head of audacity;
         those stretches beyond suspended belief?
         Like the peach-fuzz Mayor—
ght here in River City”
         too young and hung for the part?



         that the line between stage and county
         has b
een covered up with a layer of dirt—

        “Oh, we got trouble!”

         Lock up your daughter!


         And the Watergate hearings bring down the old order.


No. 5


Days following the Fourth are shot dead on TV
by a Ni
xon minion with a smoking gun.

His Grace Kelly of a wife

as if summoned from High Noon—

to play a supporting role

entering stage right

the stunning Maureen Dean.

        A pull of platinum tresses

        framing a face in alabaster,

        she sits in silence and steals the scene,

        as her owlish husband hoots to atone.

        The cast falls in love with her; she's one of their own.


No. 6


The summer creeps on like a lost centipede...
et dragging across the boards
        in and out of step—
though of little matter after the rape.
The rape…

it was mentioned before.


It happened in that house
in the gabled room wedged—

        albeit alleged—
near the stage manager and wife “Hester”
        off some
where that very night 

winning "just one more ‘A”

with the fair-haired boy
whose part on stage called for toying with a flute, 

as she now toys with him?


“There were bells on the hill”
but no one ever heard them ringing.
through all proclivities the show must go on,
         and so on the show


        This creed, an oak, to their contours bent.

No. 7


A kangaroo court bounds into order

in the dressing room— unexpectedly.

The accused sits anchored,

then shifts with a spasm of denial,

and the slow descent of a single tear.

The company assumes their places as if
in  accordance with a director's blocking.


         eyes avoiding interlocking.


Reawakened  are the sleeping dogs 

of Christian codes and other moral pedigree


        all barking in the moonlight up the righteous tree.


For this tiny teen girl,
a spray of caramel freckles

        and budding breasts,
with kitten claws of innocence has torn the curtai
n down.


        Lock it in the dressing room; keep it from the town.


No. 8


Time gets caught in the web of an early

        September storm,

then mercifully breaks the entanglement

as the pyrotechnics flag the summer’s end

these lives being released—

lofting upward
        splashing outward
against a blue-black inky sky.

                        But the sparks that fly

must fall back to earth leaving ashes in their wake.

And who might assume the role of a phoenix?


        One can imagine that

        that women of means,

        Mrs. John Dean could. And did.


        But what of the lady of the house on the hill

        and other characters with secrets to spill?


        From Hester to the boy toy ebbing?

        The strawberry girl enwrapped in her shroud?

        The accuser? The accused?


        From the Alderman’s daughter
        to the Milky Way of Yanks?


        The laser years to fill in the blanks.




The white birches go unseen on the weave back home,
eyes now focused on the upcoming season.

Life as they have known it, but a few months ago,

is to resume in the black boxes built


         of facades and wires and papier-mâché;

         lighting gels that in concert may

         create a forest of fantastical trees


         from which they will cherry pick their realities.


                                              Ron Vazzano

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Quote of the Month

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St. Anthony of Bennett (a Reprise)

With news just in (July 21, 2023) that Tony Bennett has passed away within two weeks of his upcoming 97th birthday on August 3rd, here is a reprise of a piece I wrote in tribute to him in the November 2011 MuseLetter. Within it, Bennett's duet with Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse can be accessed through the hyperlinked photos shown. The occasion had been the release of his album, Duets II.

As Saint Francis of Assisi took to animals, Tony Bennett takes to singers. He loves them all. And they in turn love him. All ages, all genders, all styles, all genres.


It appears that his mission in life has become one of singing a duet with everyone who has ever sung. And that just might be possible. At age 85, he has been around almost as long as pop music itself. Though that said, after his current smash album Duets II, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200—making him the oldest living artist to ever reach that top spot—he has said of these types of collaborations: "I definitely won't be doing a Duets III."


What I love about the man, is that he cuts down the barrier that invariably exists between past and present— that eternal generation gap. Such as which you will often hear: "We knew how to do it, but these kids today don't." Or that our type of music is far superior to theirs. Call it a culture gap as well.


I guess in that way, we see Tony Bennett as a metaphor for all that is possible in bridging gaps that appear to exist between people, and yet can disappear, once we're all in the same room singing from the same music sheet. And yes, I'm aware of the controversy his remarks about terrorism caused on Howard Stern's show this past September. As well as I'm aware that he was engaged in battle at the front lines in World War II. Tony Bennett reminds us as well, that things are not always black and white. But that somewhere in between, there lies a surprising and refreshing area of gray.


I have been following the man since his first number one song, "Because of You" in 1951. Not yet seven years old, I was doing a rendition of it to the delight of patrons in my uncle's bar. (What I was doing at that age singing in a bar, best not be reported to the authorities).


In the sixty years since, Tony Bennett has remained true to himself.

"I'm not staying contemporary for the big record companies, I don't follow the latest fashions. I never sing a song that's badly written."

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Finally, as if it would really need saying, Tony Bennett is the epitome of aging gracefully, and with great vitality. And while the man is not really a saint, there is something saintly about the man. At least, in the way he goes about his business.   


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Nov. 2004-2018

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MuseLetter \’myüz-‘le-tər  noun

1: a personal  message, inspired by a muse of one's own creation,  addressed to a person or organization, in the course of which, the sender becomes absorbed in thought; especially turning something over in the mind meditatively and often inconclusively.

2: a letter from a poet, or one who envisions oneself as such, in which he or she “muses” on that which is perceived to be news, or newsworthy, usually in some ironic or absurd way.  

Remainder of the site under reconstruction

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cop car

Anchor Runs Out of Steam


It was only around for 127 years and was the oldest craft brewery in the United States, having begun in 1895.. Based in San Francisco, the Anchor Brewery, with its signature brand Anchor Steam, became as much beloved to the to the locals , as the  Golden Gate Bridge. Which wouldn't arrive until 1933---thirty-eight years after.




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The akrasia of New York Yankee great Mickey Mantle, can best

be summed up in his own words, in which he once said, that if he knew he was going to live so long, he would have taken better care of himself.

Mickey Mantle_edited.jpg

graphic design by Ron Vazzano

—Ron Vazzano

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