Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Leon, Nukes and Same Sex Marriage

It's a typical day...lots going on although it's hard to say anything is particularly happening.

I've got a half day off so HSO and I can travel upstate to see a dear friend I've never met - Leon Russell. I guess I need to explain that.

I grew up in Woodstock, a pretty straight, Donna Reed-raised kid in a town that was a heaving mass of dirty, happy, drugged-out hippies. I wasn't part of the scene, but I loved their attitude. Leon Russell was one of my few links to the counter-culture.

I know, I know...his music wasn't particularly subversive...but he could beat the hell out of a piano and his hair scared my dad to death. That was big fun.

I never saw him in person until many years later. I was grown and had children and he was appearing at the Iron Horse in Northampton, Massachusetts. I hadn't seen any recent pictures and was shocked when he took the stage: when had the man whose nails-on-a-blackboard voice was part of my history become Santa Claus? The years had changed us both, but Leon certainly showed the changes more. His long, lean body was very well fed and his long, long hair was snow white.

When the show started, I was in a time warp and very happy to be there.

That was probably ten years ago. He's going to be appearing at a free event in Albany, New York. He's not the headliner - KT Tunstall is. How times change. But HSO knows I love Leon and we're going...unless it pours rain.

My morning began with interviews regarding our local nuclear power plant. It's up for relicensing and it seems there's always some problem or other there - whether it's non-functioning sirens, rotting infrastructure or the latest news - the finding of 'trace' amounts of a radioactive element that was the chief problem after the Chernobyl disaster.

"Because a second element wasn't present in the monitoring well," the company spokesman told me, "we think this is just leftover fallout from Cold War nuclear tests."

The NRC didn't rubber stamp that explanation, but the federal spokesman did say it was a very, very small amount...not a danger.

Local environmental groups expressed frustration - they say the feds stack the deck in the nuclear industry's favor when relicensing hearings are held. The feds decide what arguments they're willing to hear. Out of about 150 complaints, 15 have been accepted as worth hearing. The saga is unlikely to end anytime soon.

From that I moved on to an interview with a woman who had to go to court to get her employer, a state university, to offer her wife and child the family benefits that heterosexual couples are automatically entitled to. This is a follow up to an interview I did with a gay couple who'd just returned from California where they'd gotten married. I'm sorry to hear that one of them is back in the hospital...apparently he's got heart trouble. At least they've now got the legal standing of a married couple as they deal with his illness.

It's one of those days when I realize my job suits me perfectly - I have trouble sticking with one thing for very long before my mind goes flying off in another direction. This job lets me dig as deep as I possibly can in a limited time, then demands I shut down and open the books on something new.

The best story today? The 83 year old guy who was taken to court after he shot a bear that kept showing up in his garage. The judge put him on accelerated probation...if he behaves, his record will be wiped clean. Think he's happy he's finally an outlaw?

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