Hell No! Trump Must Go!


Hell No! Trump Must Go!

When I began reporting for a small local newspaper, I remember standing in front of my editor’s desk and gazing at a poster of a poem on the wall.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

            Pastor Martin Niemöller

As a Writer I take it to heart to speak out for the oppressed, to be a voice for the voiceless, to speak truth to power, and to speak out against tyranny.

This past year I watched the Trump campaign sprout into existence like a weed and then I watched quietly as it grew and gained momentum. From a distance I looked on bemused as I might observe the antics of a buffoon at the zoo. But bemusement slowly gave way and uneasiness crept in as the weed multiplied, nourished by the language of division, of accusation, and of guilt by association. My uneasiness became fearfulness as I watched the rallies become violent all the while from the pulpit of hate the finger of Trump jabbed and pointed and cheered them on.

I became alarmed and perplexed, as friends jumped on the Trump band wagon, telling me they were angry at the political establishment, furious at the loss of the middle class and frustrated at politicians corrupted by Wall Street and corporations. And just sick and tired of the political system. On deaf ears I expressed my shared anger and frustration but not their choice of leader to voice such sentiment.

In quiet moments I considered if the Trumps would come for me someday, suppressing my freedom of speech, my freedom to write and eventually my freedom to think? As a writer born in a country for which freedom of speech is a constitutional right why was I having these thoughts? Because Fascism had become palpable, what had been just words, echoing from once upon a time had sprouted into existence before my eyes. And the poem of wisdom upon the wall which had been brought forth and thrown against this rising tide of hate had called to me.

So, while I can, I will exercise my right and speak out against the language of division and hate, against the threat of free speech: the tenet of democracy. I will speak out against the bully pulpit of Trumpism.

The love for freedom is the fertile ground from which self-rule springs forth and free speech and the right to protest is its flower, a bloom we cannot allow to suffer the heel of oppression and fear. Anyone who spreads fear through their actions or words is against the people of a free nation and cannot be a friend of democracy no matter how many stars and stripes he or she may wave. Trump is not the way. Be vigilant tending the garden of freedom. We reap what we sow.

Therefore, as I stand on the walls of the City of Democracy and I lookout at the beachhead of the Alt-Right and I gaze upon their gift of Trump placed at the gates of the City I turn to its citizens and I say Hell no! Trump must go!



Me and Tony Gwynn

Emmanuel Burgin

At my local watering hole a bittersweet moment occurred. Chalked on the board of available beers was an AleSmith Tony’s Take .394 named in the honor of the late great Padre Hall of Famer and his final batting average in the shorten baseball strike season of 1994.

I had interviewed Tony a few days before the strike began; ending his bid to reach the .400 batting average last achieved in 1947 by baseball titan and Tony’s idol Ted Williams. The strike also cancelled the World Series, something not even World War ll had done. The strike would become a black eye on America’s pastime.

As a reporter for a small local newspaper getting an interview with Tony in the midst of his great pursuit of baseball history would be no small feat.

That summer day I took a seat in the dugout and nervously studied my notes and waited. When Tony stepped out of the clubhouse tunnel and into the dugout, I stood and introduced myself, and he quickly stated not today, come by tomorrow. Then up the steps he went bat over his shoulder on his way to a dozen interviews and eventually to batting practice.

I left deflated but returned the next day and sat in the same spot and waited. I heard a major sports magazine writer was in the ballpark looking to feature Tony and gazing towards the batting cage I spied the well-known writer near home plate chatting with ball players and coaches as if he had known them all his life.

Also, I could see the television crews and sports reporters lined along the first base line waiting to get a few words with Tony. When Tony finished with the TV crews he’d move on to the Major newspapers, and then with the time left he’d get in a few swings before the game: truly a media circus.

Tony I thought would never have time for me.  I wanted to leave.  Yet, I stayed and soon Tony approached me in the dugout. I remained seated this time and as he neared I smiled and made eye contact, he gave me a glance, a smile and not missing a step turned quickly and went towards the throng of reporters and news crews. I was crushed and embarrassed.

Then he stopped as if pondering something. Had he recalled his promise?  He could easily have ignored me, his time so precious, interviewers waiting, batting practice needed. Then he pivoted gracefully and looked at me for a moment and then he walked toward me with his bat over his shoulder, skipping down the steps he pointed at me and said “Go” and sat next to me in the dugout.

I knew Tony played basketball at Long Beach Poly High School because I had attended Lynwood high and our undefeated teams had met in the state’s biggest game that year. I would use this to ease into the interview.

“Ooooh we beat you bad” Tony said with a big smile, then gave that distinctive laugh.

They had and Tony, their star point guard, led the way. We reminisced about the big game, the big plays, and the great players who participated. We laughed and chuckled like high school kids. Every once in awhile I looked up to see reporters on deadlines not at all happy with me.  I finally asked a few questions, and then explained I had to end the interview because I had a second story to cover about an award recipient. I pointed to the ceremony beginning across the infield along the third base line.

“Yeah, yeah go” Tony said.

I thanked Mr. Gwynn and dashed toward the ceremony running past the gallery of reporters and the magazine writer, doing my best to ignore them.

Tony kept his word and a reporter for a small local newspaper is forever grateful. Cheers Mr. Gwynn.

Tony never held any bitterness about the strike. He was glad it happened when it did knowing if he were batting .400 at the time of the strike some would have questioned whether he could have accomplished the feat over a full season. He had made peace with the baseball gods and his missed appointment with destiny. But me, after the strike and his lost opportunity at baseball immortality and his chance to stand next to his idol Ted Williams as an equal, I had had it. I was never right with the game after that.

What Happened On the Comeback, Baby?

What Happened On the Comeback, Baby?

Your woman
Says something
About something
And you can’t hear
It anymore


You’re out the door
Get in your
And go south on
The 5
But the traffic
Backs up
So you decide
To go east
And around it


Then you see
The sign to Las Vegas
And you know there
Is some open road
And six hours later
You’re at the crap table
Crapping out
On the Come Bet

You turn and there is a fine
Lady you once knew

looking sorrowful

Because she was
Hoping you would have
Won and taking her
For a spin



She lays
A hand on your
And says
Oh, What Happened On the Comeback, baby?

Your mind is searching
For something sharp
To say
But your mind
Is dull
And your body
And your only thought


Do I have
Enough gas
To make it home

Your life didn’t
Come out right
Your phenom arm
Gave out before
You made it to
The big leagues


Left the
Game for a few
Then tried a
As an infielder
But light hitting
Are a dime
A dozen

You took a job
As a sports bookie
In Vegas
Because that’s
Where you quit
The game

You met
A chorus girl
And moved to
Hollywood when
She got a bit
Part in a movie


  Took a job selling
At the Alamo
That’s what the employees call the stadium
Box office
That sits out in the middle of parking lot C
The wife’s movie
Career didn’t
Pan out
And she’s
Selling real estate



Those crashed dreams
Fall on your
Like a
Hard rain
And there is
Nothing to do
But cover
And run

You were hoping
For Little Joe on the
Come Bet
But you crapped
It was Little Joe’s that
Laid you out
Took all
Of the nothing you had left


  Turned you from
The table
With nothing
But the drink
In your hand
Not a penny
To your name


Lean against the
Throw your
Elbows up
To brace yourself
Your legs are weak
The world is
Creeping in
You’re rounding
Second to
The good
Looking blond
With the
Sorrowful eyes


eyes you once knew
What Happened On the Comeback, Baby?


For a moment
You thought
You had an answer
But it is passed you like a fastball
High and tight
Your mind has
Dulled out
Like your body
Third base is so far away


You are wondering
If I turn third
Just right

Can I make it home?

Do I have
Enough in me
Enough gas
To make home

Galeire Kamzik: The Center of the Center

Espresso Newspaper

November 1998

Galeire Kamzik: The Center of the Center

“So what brings you to the center of the center of such a most unstable region at such an opportune time?”

The professor of Socioeconomics at Charles University of Prague, whom I had just met, had leaned over my shoulder, as I sat at the bar, to pose the question directly to my ear. Then he squeezed in between the bar stools and waited for my response.

I had been contemplating my bottled beer, a Pilsner Urquell, considered one of the best beers in the world if not the best, when the question drew me out. In the crowded little bar of Galeire Kamzik (Chamois) it is not hard to find someone willing to engage in conversation. Questions can come rapid fire and it is necessary to all ways to be metaphorically on your toes because Kamzik does not draw the usual crowd.

Galeire Kamzik is about 50 meters from Prague’s historic center–Staromestske Namesti (Old Town Square). It is a place that no one goes looking for. Tucked away at the end of the blind street Koza (Billy Goat) where the narrow, cobbled stoned street intersects with two gated corridors, which are locked by 9:00 p.m., Galeire Kamzik is all but unknown even to locals.

The only outsiders who find Kamzik are drunks, those looking to get drunk, or the occasional adventurous tourist, the one who sticks his nose into all the nooks and crannies, who upon seeing a place normally frequented only by locals isn’t afraid to step in and have a least one drink.

In the spring of 1996, I spent two months in Prague on a writing project. After a day of writing, I went into the center in search of Pivo (beer), which isn’t hard to find, considering Czechs drink more beer than any other people.

Wandering through a corridor, I heard the Rolling Stones’ song “Jumping Jack Flash.” I followed the music to Galeire Kamzik. Fifteen foot windows framed in dark wood enclose the bar. One set of windows look onto a white walled corridor, the other onto Koza. Inside are seven, small, dark wood round tables and more chairs than can ever fit around them. An L shaped bar seats eight.

The floor is of worn wood planks and in the center of the bar is a pillar that supports the neo-Gothic arches of the vaulted ceiling. On the plastered walls, yellowed from years of cigarette smoke, hang large original paintings by Czech artist. Above the entrance to the restrooms is a portrait of the Mona Lisa with horns and a joint in her hand.

It is a place lacking pretenses, where one time dissidents come to be among their peers. It is a place where the Rolling Stones’ songs, rebellious music for rebellious spirits, is played almost continuously. It is a place where early in the morning on a whim the bars owner, Joseph Mungo, will play communist work songs and all the patrons sing along, recalling every word to every song because for them it had been mandatory under the Communist regime to know these songs. So, effortlessly, they sing at the top of their voices, however, now no longer singing to remember but rather to never forget.

On many nights I am reminded that it is a place to take shelter from a storm.

Mungo–“The Rolling Stones are my life”– sang in a rock ‘n roll band during the Communist regime, gravitating toward the rebel music because it raised the ire of the government. A band that became too popular drew the attention of government officials and soon were prohibited to play. The length of suspension depended on the success of the band and ranged from six months to two years. Every musician, a Czech musician friend told me, tried to be very successful.

On any given night at Galerie Kamzik you might find the famous Czech painter Michael Rittstein or a half a dozen other well known painters and graphic artist, or Richard Nemcock, owner of the famous rock n’ roll club Bunkrs.

Here you might find magazine publishers discussing their latest issues, or the professor of Economics, whom after the Velvet Revolution was invited to Lecture at Harvard and whom eventually worked alongside Noam Chomsky.

Here the band Savle Mece (Swords and Sabers), one of the best Jazz and Blues fusion bands in Europe, whose trumpeter Miro is probably the best trumpeter in the Czech Republic, drops in after their shows to cool down. Mungo keeps a light on for them and like the great Jazz movie- they wonder in “Around Midnight” and stay sometimes until dawn, drinking slivovice, a Moravian moonshine.

Miro’s girlfriend, Barra, a well known Czech actress and host of her own political-talk-game show, “The Guillotine,” sometimes accompanies him to Kamzik. The ex-minister of finance drinks here too, as does the one time top anchorman of the communist period, the Peter Jennings of his time.

On the wall are snapshots, the kind pinned to bulletin boards of your own local bar, except when you look closely at these photos, the Kamzik patrons are shown with their arms around Mick Jagger, or are greeting the Dala Lama, or having a drink with Czech President Vaclav Havel.

It’s here to the center (Kamzik) of the center that they all come to unwind. Here they come to be themselves. As Robert, the lead singer of the bars band “Get Back to the Grave” (a snip young women say to older men whose passes are unwelcome), says “Here we are all family.”

My arrival at such an “opportune time” was serendipitous, arriving one week before the national elections. The “unstable time” mentioned by the professor was in reference to the results of that election. The Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the right-wing conservative, pro-privatization party that had run the country since 1992 and President Vaclav Havel’s choice of parties had fallen on hard times.

Prime Minister and ODS party leader Vaclav Klaus, a brilliant politician but like many brilliant politicians arrogant to a fault, had led the country into an unstable economic breach. Then while struggling to right the ship a scandal, the disclosure that members of Klaus’s cabinet had access to a secret Swiss account and, moreover, were unable to explain the source of several million crowns worth of political donations, all but cost Klaus and the ODS re-election.

The people’s disgust with the economy, lowering of living standards, and the ODS lapse in ethics brought the Social-Democratic Party (CSSD), once thought moribund, back to power.

A year ago, to broach the possibility of a left-wing socialist Czech government would have brought laughter and jeers of absurdity, yet this absurdity is now a reality. Furthermore, as the Czechs try to find that comfort zone with a left-wing government, they still must contend with a lack of strong leadership because, although the CSSD did win a majority of votes, they did not win enough parliamentary seats to form a majority government, leaving the people without a leader in a economic crisis that demands strong leadership.

In the ensuing weeks, the CSSD attempted a coalition with the minority parties, the Freedom Union (US) and the ultra-conservative right-wing Christian Democratic (KDU-CSL), but they wanted nothing to do with the left-wing CSSD and its foul tempered, brow-beating leader and now Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman. Quietly in the wings former Prime Minister Klaus waited.

Klaus was finally approached by his hated arch rival Zeman about forming a government. In negotiations, which could have been nothing but arduous, Klaus secured the position of Parliament chairman. But it is a government some say will not last more than six months, an assumption that continues to lead to an unstable economy and a lack of confidence from the international financial world. Zeman himself called this compromise with Klaus and the ODS a “Suicidal Government,” a coalition no less he feels “will last the four-year term.”

The mood of Praguers, to say the least, is subdued. Uncertainty is again their companion. Although, this time it is not an oppressive regime that distorts their way but rather the unstable, fragile world of Global economics–a far greater foe.

So I gathered my thoughts then formulated my answer and told the professor that social economics is what brought me here to the center (Prague) to see for myself the affects Western cultural and Capitalism will have on a country that for fifty years lived under Fascist and Communist rule. What brought me to the center of the center was a matter of great luck.

He nodded, laughed and slapped me on the back and then wandered toward his table for another whiskey. Soon I was joined by Peter, the professor of economics and former colleague of Chomsky. In 1996 I had a long discussion with Peter on the Nature of Man; a discussion that, subsequently, helped me to frame many of my thoughts on Mankind’s’ social, economic and political problems; a discussion that lasted well into the early morning.

In short, Peter stated that man was good but that his systems, which were man made and, therefore, “artificial,” were the bane of man’s existence.

This time we had a long discussion on Raw Capitalism and the International Monetary Fund and their probable devastating affect on local cultural, a conclusion we both agreed upon. When I realized that this magical city of Prague might have its great cultural suppressed or altered by Globalization, something that Fascism and Communism had tried and failed, I looked up from my beer with a feeling of despair.

“So what do we do?” I asked, hopeful that here at the center of the center there might be an answer.

Peter stood leaning against the bar, his left hand on his hip, looking at me, contemplating my question. Gradually, his contemplative expression gave way to a smile then the smile became a grin, and then in a burst of enthusiasm he put an arm around my shoulders and squeezed.

“By then, hopefully, we’ll be dead and not have to worry about it,” Peter answered and began to laugh. I too began to laugh and soon we had drawn the attention of the patrons of Galerie Kamzik.

How to explain, although, I realize here, like everywhere, there are no answers, but now it doesn’t seem to bother me as much.

The Boys of Summer

It is July first nineteen sixty-eight
A Monday afternoon
I’m ten and I’m playing
Catch with a friend on the
Lawn of the apartments my
Father owns

The day air is still,
the air
heavy against the skin
An L.A. summer day
My oldest brother Eddie
is cleaning his white ’64 Thunderbird
The driver’s side door is open
The radio tuned to the Dodger’s game
Vin Scully is calling the game
Bob Gibson and the Cardinals
against Don Drysdale

Gibson has pitched 47 scoreless Innings
Drysdale has the record at 58
Something has to give

My brother has been out of the Navy
four years, and he’s sharing a room
with me and my other brother Claudio
I’m the youngest Eddie the oldest
Eddie still wakes
at 4 or is it 5 a.m. and begins
spit shinning his shoes.
He just got a job at
McDonald Douglas
Putting rivets in the engine’s of
some of his friends are in Vietnam

I watch him detailing the
Dashboard of the car
Drysdale strikes out Edwards looking
It‘s the bottom of the first
and Gibson is taking the mound

My dad and brother Claudio
are not into sports
but Eddie and I can’t get
Eddie played baseball at
Centennial High
He played with Reggie Smith
who later would become the right fielder for the

Willie Davis comes to the plate
Eddie stops rubbing the dash
and I keep the ball in my
glove, turning it slowly feeling the
stitching and waxed leather hide
Davis grounds out
and we go back to what
we were doing
Scully’s words
go out of the chrome and
white car and
linger in the air
He’s telling a story now
and I listen and he takes me back
to before I was born
I hear names like DiMaggio
and Warren Spahn, Dizzy
and Duke Snider, and Pee Wee Reese
The names dance in the still
air all around me
Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field
I can see these places
see the crowds and
see the players hitting and

The Dodgers have runners
on the corner
I don’t want Gibson to
break Drysdale’s record

Not long after Eddie returned
from overseas we are
at the kitchen table
a yellow Formica top
and all chrome
he has the sports page
spread across the table
he has a toothpick in his
I am kneeling on a chair
With my elbows on the table
That was the day he taught
Me how to read a box score
Soon I was reading every word of
The sports page, I would read
The Herald and the Times
The Herald and the Times Sports writer’s
Bud Furillo, Jim Murray,
Became my writing teachers

My brother is seventy this weekend
and in bad health
could be the bottom of the ninth for
him but he is still
swinging away
No bigger Dodger fan
than my brother
His birthday last week was
Dodger themed, his cake
Dodger stadium of course

The Thunderbird gleams in the
Sun and it’s reflection off the chrome
blinds me temporarily and I
lose track of the ball
It rolls to the Date palm
Home plate when we play with a plastic bat and ball
Real games are played across Willowbrook street
Along the train tracks
Beside the wooden warehouse

Scully’s voice leaps from the
the ball gets by the catcher
Gabrielson is coming home from third
And Vin Scully says
and that’s it folks 47 innings
Drysdale’s streak is safe for

there’s no cheering from
us, maybe, just relief
I have a little more pep
on my throw
Eddie is at the rear fender
with a cloth wiping quickly
putting that final shine
like he does with
his shoes in the morning

I don’t know how much time
I have with my brother
But I will always have that summer day.