Welcome to Gravesend
You’ve just arrived at the Mark Drought website, home
to snide and biased commentary,
as well as links to many more-interesting sites. (In case you might be
wondering, Gravesend is
New Hampshire town in my
In continuous operation for more than 15
years, this site is written from
the point of view of a slightly left-of-center, agnostic libertarian with
faintly Buddhist tendencies.
editor/writer, op-ed columnist and a former adjunct English professor at the University of
Connecticut, from which I graduated way back in the
Coat of Arms
I’m a fan of T.S. Eliot,
Texas hold ’em, the Grateful Dead, Baroque choral music, South Park,
Eric Hoffer, Firesign Theater, Gore Vidal, Carl Sagan, chicken
scarpiello, 1950s bebop (Coltrane and Clifford Brown), W.B. Yeats,
Hacker Pschorr beer, rogan josh, John Irving, chipotle peppers,
basketball (pro and college), Yes, the Allman Brothers, George Carlin, chili with
shredded beef, Joni Mitchell, William Faulkner,
Monty Python, F. Scott Fitzgerald, W.H. Auden, Jack Daniels, Isaac
Asimov, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens, the Miami Dolphins,
Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Chris Rock, Woody
Allen, the Los Angeles Lakers, thin-crust pizza, Arthur Clarke, vintage port, Stilton cheese and a decent cigar.
Just about my favorite fictional character is E.K. Hornbeck,
from Jerome Lawrence’s play Inherit
the Wind, which is also one of my favorite movies (the 1960 Spencer
Tracy/Fredric March version). Hornbeck (played by Gene Kelly) was
based on the great Baltimore journalist H.L. Mencken
(click here for some of his best quotations), who was once America’s
foremost practitioner of
If some of your favorite people include Rush
Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, George W, Michele Bachmann, St. Paul, Sean Hannity, Pope Pius XII,
Randall Terry, Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Rick Santorum, Iranian Ayatollahs and American
Fundamentalists, Ann Coulter, Ken Ham, Dick Cheney, Dennis Miller, the
Fox News Channel, Mark Levin, William Donohue, the Ku Klux Klan, the
Southern Baptists or the 700
Club, you should probably exit for a more right-wing
region of the Web.
Two more of my favorite characters
(Toby and Tucker) are shown to the left. For a full gallery of family pet pictures,
you can click
My wife and I are childless (although we prefer the less
politically correct term “child-free”), so we take
many pictures of our pets, after forcing them to dress up in needlessly
cute and colorful outfits.
Click here to
go to the end of this page and comment on anything you’ve
read so far.
access one of the funniest site on the Web,
click here for
the satirical publication The Onion. If you like political
cartoons, you might enjoy the Jeff Danziger
website, which has some good ones
going back to 1998. And, if you’d like to laugh until you wet yourself, try
for a mock culinary website that’s indescribably funny ... just scroll down
under the heading “Steve,
Don’t Eat It! Vol. 1.”
As a regular columnist for several local
newspapers — including The Stamford Advocate
(Stamford, Connecticut), Greenwich Time
(Greenwich, CT), The
Connecticut Post (Bridgeport,
CT) and, occasionally, the The
Weekly (Fairfield, CT), The
Norwalk Hour (Norwalk, CT) and the Danbury
News Times (Danbury, CT) — I’ve found the worst thing about writing editorials
is that, no matter how controversial my rants might be on Monday, they’re lining
cats’ litter boxes (receiving the treatment many readers
felt they deserved in
the first place) by Wednesday. So, to make my musings more semipermanent, I’ve developed
Following are some of the more-recent articles currently
available (older material is archived farther down the page).
Paris Burning? — As the Trump administration
draws to a close, the
United States is resembling Germany at the close of World War II,
when the Fuhrer decided that he had been rejected by disloyal
Germans, and if he couldn’t have the country, then
Down the Statues — Why are
conservatives so attached to statues of generals who betrayed our
country, like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson? Could it be
they think the wrong side won the Civil War? Could it be that they
wish it were the 50s, either the 1950s, when minorities knew their
place, or perhaps, the 1850s, when the minorities were in the
Day ... Again — This pandemic lockdown has
turned into an exercise in boredom and monotony. It’s not unlike
a movie that starred Bill Murray several years back, and a more
recent movie (“Palm Springs”) I’d
recommend for this year.
Predictions — Once a decade, I like to don
sackcloth and ashes, and prophesy about the upcoming 10 years. Woe
be to us!
Health as a Metaphor for a National Sickness — Our country is already
taking a beating from climate change, and we’ll soon be taking a
beating from our profligate budgetary policies.
Freedom of Speech:
Church and State:
Always Room for Another Religion —
In this case, it’s Trumpianity, which is the worship by
evangelicals of any candidate who is willing to make poor women
give birth to children they can’t afford to feed, and a Messiah
who wants to see more money in the hands of millionaires like
Freedom Should Not Mean Forcing Bigotry on Others —
Now that conservatives have the
right-winger they prayed for on the Supreme Court, the prospects
for continued progress in civil rights seem to be dimming.
Sharia Solution — According to
Republican genius Newt Gingrich, the way to stop terrorism is to
look into the minds of Muslims, find out what they believe and
then deport them for it, even if they haven’t committed any
crimes. Screw that pesky First Amendment ... you can’t let the
Constitution keep us from doing whatever the hell we (good, white,
righteous American Christians) want to.
Happens When the Bible and the Constitution Clash?
— According to Kentucky clerk Kim Davis,
you have an obligation to put your religion ahead of the law of
the land, especially when this provides you the opportunity to
deny equality to homosexuals.
Doesn’t Always Have to Be My Way or the Highway
— Religious fanatics who say that you
either believe like me or rot in hell are generally those on the
Right, who think any straying from absolute fundamentalism is
compromising with the Devil. It doesn’t have to be that way, and
surprisingly, one person saying so is televangelist Pat Robertson.
Is out of Place in a Democracy —
When free speech and freedom of religion clash, the devout are
generally willing to throw free speech under the bus.
With Fear —
Republicans win elections by scaring their sheep, and filling them
will anxiety about what will happen if the big, bad Democrats win
an election. When they’re not working hard to suppress the vote,
they’re lying about why the rest of us should vote for
conservatives and Trumpists.
If you believe something strongly enough, it can be hard to let
go, even when you’re so wrong you stop making sense. In the Era
of Trumpiness, that’s apparently no longer embarrassing,
Dissonance — Some
people will believe almost anything, and won’t even believe
their own eyes and ears. Often the hardest thing is holding two
conflicting beliefs in your mind at the same time.
Day 2020 — This
may be the last free election we ever have in this country, so
the Craziest of Them All — Bill Maher said it best (he
usually does) —
maybe all we need this time around is to nominate a candidate
who’s a little less nuts than Donald J. Trump.
You wouldn’t think that would be all that difficult.
the Year of the Donald — As we approach the next
election, we better give some thought to what America is becoming,
and what it could become with so many more years of a fascist pig
More Perfect Union — Americans love the idea of
perfection. These days, we don’t
get anything anywhere near that in the Oval Office; however, with
our current president, anything different would be a
the Constitution — Most proposed amendments to
the U.S. Constitution are inane suggestions that go nowhere, which
is why the document has been amended only 27 times in more than
200 years. However, I've got one, a 28th Amendment, that sounds
like a good idea to me, and it’s one that should appeal to
Republicans and Democrats alike.
It’s as American as Apple Pie — Our country is a mix of
capitalism and socialism, yet we’re proud to call ourselves “capitalists,”
and ashamed to admit to our own socialism. It’s as if Americans
believe the Constitution established the U.S. as a capitalist
nation, following the command of Jesus and St. Paul in the New
in the Cancel Culture — We Democrats need to stop eating
our own. The Republicans will do it for us, so it’s not
necessary that we help them by joining in.
the Great Mandala — The essence of existence is change;
hence, the essence of all things is impermanence ... or so the
Buddha said, and I’m going to take his word for it. A mandala is
a circular piece of artwork, sometimes created by placing grains
of colored sand into a frame.
With the Corona Virus — Living through the worst
disaster to befall our country in a long, long time has been a
difficult slog. And we’re only a few weeks into it ... if feels
like it’s always been like this, and it will never end.
Even More Too Old for This Stuff Than I Used to Be — All
things are relative, but I’m no longer as patient as I once was.
In fact, I’m becoming downright curmudgeonly.
and Take — You never get something that you don’t have
to give up something in return. It seems to be an immutable law of
physics, at least for most people I know.
High School Reunion — You want an event in your future
that makes you feel really old? Try having your 50-year high
school reunion in your immediate future. It seems like those five
decades just sped by before I knew what hit me.
Thinking — There is always a gap between what we wish or
hope were true, and what actually is. Whether you’re an optimist
or a pessimist, there’s always going to stuff that’s out of
touch with reality.
Mythologies — We believe all kinds of things we probably
shouldn’t, but if anyone thinks humans will suddenly get
smarter, well, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell
Day — This short piece was written for Father’s Day 2020. No politics, and
hopefully this treads the line between sentimentality and
Words — This story doesn’t readily fit into any
particular category. I wanted to try writing something sentimental, but not sappy.
It’s a fine line to walk,
especially for me, as it’s not really my style. In 2006,
this story was published in a book that briefly made it onto the New York
Times best-seller list. It’s available on Amazon.com.
For more information, you can also click here.
of Enemies — Take two intellectuals from opposite ends
of the political spectrum who absolutely loathe each other, and
stick them together night after night in a debate setting, and
what do you get? A documentary about 1968, starring William F.
Buckley and Gore Vidal, that’s a whole lot more fun than it
ought to be.
Shut Up and
Deal — A
heartwarming story about Friday night poker
games. A reader from Australia
e-mailed some nice things about this
story, so I’ve included a link to his
homepage — like many good Australian sites, it deals with beer and poker.
I’ve also linked to the Octoroon
Poker Club, which meets in
neighboring Westchester County. Members of this group — like
its leader, Tom Tringali, who sounds like a kindred spirit — have sent several friendly e-mails.
Cards — A list of popular and not-so-popular games,
with rules and commentary, as well as a
link to the Bylaws of the Southwestern Connecticut Poker
which has conducted Friday night poker games for more than 30 years. Another Australian reader sent me a URL for his site, which involves, in his words,
music and sport,” so I’m including a link
to it here. (Evidently, Gravesend is popular
the responses I’ve gotten regarding the poker sections of this site have
come from Australia, including one from Cathy Jenkins, a Web
designer from Canberra — click
here — and the first female to show an interest in anything
poker-related at Gravesend.)
For an extensive
poker site full of helpful
information, as well as links to other poker-related
sites, try Online
Poker Tools, based in Manasquan, NJ, and managed by
of a Superstar
— Sports are fun and games, so they’re seldom truly
“important.” And the people who play them are generally
entertainers, who don’t
warrant any more attention than your average singer or actor.
However, there are always exceptions.
Sainthood — Once Michael
Vick became a better quarterback, the ex-con seemed to become a better
person, at least in the eyes of the jocks and sportscasters who
covered his career. Sports fans are so eager to see their heroes
as saints, they’re willing to give them a free pass for almost any
crime, no matter how disgusting.
Role Model — This short op-ed piece deals with sports and politics.
If, like me, you love sports, but find athletes more than a little
bit sickening, you might enjoy
The first three items below were
published “Letters to the Editor” (The Stamford Advocate); the last two were articles written for The
Quayle Quarterly, a now-defunct magazine that
once made fun of a now-forgotten former vice president.
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**From the Archives —
Oldies From the Dim Past**
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The black-and white pinhole
camera photo to the left was supplied by Paul Jones, professional
photographer, ex-carpenter and drinking buddy, as well as amateur poker player (the best kind
player, good loser, always brings plenty of cash). He’s finally gotten
around to putting up some of his pictures on a site, which you can access by
clicking on his head, which is right below the Bass Ale tap. You can also find a
different collection of pinhole pictures by clicking here.
(Unfortunately, he was too cheap to spring for color film.) And you can
find another cache of pinhole pictures right
Paul is also
responsible for the commercial photo below ... that’s
his hand expertly pouring the beer into the mug.
have to confess that Bud is far from my favorite brand of
beer, even the least-tasty lager has it all over most other
beverages. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that — just as there’s no
truly bad lamb
vindaloo, bad Shakespeare or bad sex — there’s no truly “bad beer” ... only
varying degrees of good.
To turn the Bud into something better, point to
the head on the glass. Then click on the resultant Hindu brewski to view a
list of beer- and
alcohol-related quotations I’ve compiled. Beer lovers who want to
read reviews of many popular brands should click
The picture to the left was
done by Steve MacLeod, a commercial artist from Southbury, Connecticut. We worked together
during the 1980s and early 1990s, and these days, he’s on his own. To take a look at another of his drawings,
drag your mouse over the bird.
To view a gallery of Steve’s work, click on his logo:
|Junk text as a divider — and some
more junk text as a divider
Many of Linda Champanier’s paintings are
oriented toward a sci-fi/fantasy audience, including some beautiful
pictures like the wolf to the left. In my psychedelic days, I was a fan of
such as Roger Dean (who did many of the Yes album covers). Linda’s
paintings remind me of some of Dean’s artwork, as well as the illustrations you see on the covers of books by
people such as Anne McCaffrey (“Dragonriders of Pern”) and C.S. Lewis.
has written some well-loved fantasies,
including “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “The Dark Tower”
and “Mere Christianity.”)
For more of Linda’s work, click
on the wolf’s snout.
Linda is also quite adept at portraiture,
for which she is paid quite handsomely. To the left is her portrait of my
oldest friend Joe, who is a degenerate pervert (and I mean that in the
nicest possible way), a great drinking buddy and someone who’s like a member of my own family.
He’s also one of the finest sailors in the area. Here’s a painting of
him at the helm of
his gorgeous 31-foot, gaff-rigged Friendship sloop Natanya, on which I’ve spent
many a happy hour on Long Island Sound.
One of the best things about
having a website is that I become acquainted with people I wouldn’t
otherwise have gotten to know. For example, I’ve acquired a pen pal from Gravesend, England,
Claire Bellot, who
upon my site while looking for information about her hometown. I’m
hoping to announce her upcoming wedding in this space shortly.
I’ve also gotten
to know author Lawrence
McAuliffe, which has been an interesting experience. He’s a disabled
Vietnam War veteran and former chaplain, who’s written a well-received novel
Sun. To read my review, as well as other readers’ critiques, click on
the book jacket to go to Amazon.com, which enables readers to write book reviews on its site.
For an environmentally friendly
take a look at
August Pacific Publishing. It includes an alternative transportation
newsletter, Fleets and Fuels, owned by crazy bastard Rich
Piellisch, an aviation journalist and world traveler whom I met while
covering air shows in places like Paris and Singapore for Aviation
Week magazine. His site also includes a memorial
page for poet Mark Leigh Gibbons, a onetime English professor at Rich’s
alma mater, Boston College. Dr. Gibbons is honored by former students with
a Pub Crawl
of bars through the length of Manhattan, held
annually on the first Saturday in May. I’ve found this event to be collegial, congenial and drunken. Rich is also a blues musician, so his
site features links to the
San Francisco blues scene.
To go to his homepage, click on his ugly polka-dot tie or his even-uglier mug.
Here’s a book by a friend
and co-worker — a fine poet named Sherry Fairchok. A graduate of
Syracuse University, as well as Sarah Lawrence College’s master of fine
arts program, she’s translated a blue-collar background of coal miners and
immigrants into a powerful
collection of heartfelt verse. She’s currently working on her first novel,
which I’m also looking forward to reading.
Sherry’s poetry is the kind of stuff I always
wished I could write. Unfortunately, in my youth, what I did
write was the sort of pretentious stuff graduate students with overly inflated vocabularies think is monumentally important and
That’s why, if you’re lucky, you’ll never see any of
it posted here. Click here
or on the book jacket to buy Sherry’s book on Amazon.com.
Also located on
Amazon.com is this book by an old friend, Penny Van Horn, who lives in
Austin, Texas, with her daughter Ava, and has carved out a career in cartooning. Her stuff is
rather dark ... along the lines of Harvey Pekar, about whom the disturbing
movie “American Splendor” was made in 2003. Take a look at her
or on the book jacket to the right. You can also go to her website by
To the left is the home of high school
pal Rolf Olsen, of Lebanon, New Hampshire. This is a beautiful part of New England, but
I’ve only visited him there in the
summer; I’m guessing it might be somewhat less hospitable in mid-February.
To visit Rolf’s website, click on his massive forehead, which will soon
reach back to his shoulder blades.
You’ve pretty much reached the end of
the line here (and by now, you’re probably thinking, “Christ, it’s about
time”). At this point, I’ll come clean and admit a shameful fact:
Although I now consider myself a “recovering Christian,” in my
misspent youth, I was a Baptist. I’m not doing any bragging about this, but at
least I wasn’t a Southern Baptist, which ranks just below Wahhabi Islam
and just slightly above Scientology on my list of “The World’s 10
If, like me, you take a jaundiced view
of religion in general, and fundamentalist Protestantism in particular, you might
enjoy an amusing website that
purports to be
the homepage of a church somewhere in the Bible Belt: Landover Baptist. Southern Baptists
generally have their sense of humor washed away, along with their sins,
when they’re immersed, which makes this site a real hoot. For a different take on a similar subject, click here
for a wacky site that was nice enough to include a link to mine.
And, finally, one last link you might want to take a look at. For those
who view the occupation of editor as a superfluous waste of time, click here
for some amusing photos that illustrate just how important this underpaid and
underappreciated job can be.
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you’ve seen here