Bellingham by the Bay

Feeding the hungry ghosts

The Buddhists call them hungry ghosts. They are the dead. They wander the planet, ravenous for something they’ve lost or never had. They have not attained a peaceful place in the afterlife. They suffer in their longing; they agonize in their unfulfillment. They are condemned to their emptiness.

No, this is not the Trump campaign.

Aw, I wasn’t going to be political. You know the old saying, “In for a penny, in for a pound.”

It is said that Labor Day marks the time for the real test for the presidential contest. It’s hard to avoid discussing the ubiquitous Donald Trump. He’s everywhere, it seems. Like shingles.

One can be judged by the people one keeps. Trump’s pals include former congressman Mark Foley, who was drummed out of the House for sending dirty texts to underage male pages in Congress. Or Sarah Palin, who has the most annoying voice in the world. Sharon Anderson says of Palin: “She makes my ovaries hurt.” Or Newt Gingrich, otherwise a bright man, who snidely says of Black Lives Matter: “All lives matter.” Talk about missing the point. And there’s Rudy Guiliani, whom I’ll never forgive for putting a Disney store in Times Square. I liked the peep shows. The constant blaming and scapegoating is disturbing. Who is Trump going to pick on next? The Masons? Scapegoating is right out the Fascist playbook. In 1933, Germans were very angry. But they voted for the wrong candidate, blinded by their rage.

Right, Donny, let’s make Germany great again.

Lots of attention was given to Trump’s remark about how Hillary Clinton wants to “abolish the Second Amendment.” We should abolish the Second Amendment. It’s an anachronism. We don’t need any more guns. And we certainly don’t need assault weapons. The military should have them. Can’t control guns now anyway.

OK, Bruce, give it a rest.

If I seem out of sorts, it’s because I had to spend a lot of time in the hospital recently. I only mention that because it may help me be eminently employable. Let me say a few things about St. Francis Hospital, on Nob Hill, my second home. They treated me very nicely. I’ve been to so many hospitals in the past 10 years that I should be a critic who reviews hospital food. By the way, the food at St. Francis is pretty good. The best thing about being there was the night nurse who would scare up ice cream and graham crackers for me after midnight. Connie Jacobsen is a peach. So is Rachel Miller, who is a manager at the hospital’s Bio-Hazard Lab. I’m a sucker for a beautiful woman who carries a stack of Petri dishes.

I once asked Father William Myers what St. Francis would say when he learned that this city was named for him. “He wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” replied Father William.

There was quite a good documentary on KCSM the other night, about the Easter Uprising in Ireland 100 years ago. The film, narrated by Liam Neeson, was made by RTE, the Irish TV network. It reminds me of my time singing in Tralee, in western Ireland, in 1975. The contest that I was in — The Festival of the Rose of Tralee — was carried live on RTE. I carried a 12-string guitar, and sang a few of my songs.

The rebellion is a seminal part of Irish history. The battle for Dublin in 1916 was shockingly bloody. The Brits thought the rebellion was backed by the Germans. Six thousand British troops were sent into Dublin. Imagine open warfare on the streets of a major western city. This was during World War I. One of the leaders of the rebellion was Eamon De Velara. He was eventually caught by the Brits, and sentenced to death by firing squad, but someone in the British government discovered that De Velara was born in New York. He was an American citizen. The Brits wanted American support for their effort to defeat the Germans. To avoid irritating the Yanks, they commuted De Velara sentence. He went on to be the first president of the Republic of Ireland.

While I was in Tralee all those years ago, De Velara died. The festival was postponed for a few days out of respect, time for me to fall in with bad company.

Years ago, there was a doc about Ireland, A Sense of Loss. That’s a fair way of describing the year 2016. I think about Al Hart, and Wilson Van Alst from KCBS … Carole Vernier, who was Herb Caen’s legwoman … the inimitable Michael McCourt … and an old friend, Lesley Gore. No hungry ghosts in their universe. All of these people provided so much happiness, and sweetness to the world. I’ve reached the age when I’m afraid to inquire about anyone’s health.

Oh, if you happen to run into a hungry ghost, take him out for lunch.


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Bruce Bellingham is author of Bellingham by the Bay. Like all boys, he’s hungry all the time. Place your orders at [email protected].