Archive for the ‘Real Life’ Category

Corinthians ’74

March 18, 2014

Reading Robert Stone’s Dog Soldiers last night, and a character in it made me flash on a kid I met in the Ozarks one day. I spent the summer of ’74 with my cousin and his wife—they had 80 acres on a mountain in north Arkansas and they were trying to start a commune there. It was way the hell away from everything, no electricity, only a tiny spring for water, 20 miles of gravel roads to the nearest burg, etc., but occasionally people they knew would drift through and stay a day or two. One group was a family of four, and the older son was about nine, a handsome freckled kid with long yellow hair. We were all sitting round the redwood picnic table when he casually pulled out a bag of weed and papers and started rolling a huge, and perfect, joint like it’s nothing. Lights it, takes a huge hit, and hands it to me. While we were passing it around somebody mentioned to his parents how odd it felt and his parents—classic longhairs—just laughed. At some point everyone wandered off but the two of us and he rolled another fat joint. He was like a small adult. He wasn’t interested in kid stuff at all, and all his mannerisms and his way of expressing himself, even the things he talked about, were what you’d expect from someone three times his age. He had the hardcore stoner’s impatience with frivolous talk, and when I said something goofy at one point he grew cool enough that I was a little intimidated by him–which is messed up.

Anyway, there’s no big point to the story—they left after only a few hours. It was just something which, in that particular time and place, barely even registered as unusual, and it certainly laid waste to the notion that people can have their childhood “stolen” from them. This kid was clearly ecstatic to have shaken off the bonds of childhood; the big thing I remember about him is his adult-like poise sitting at that table. He was an equal, and totally happy with who he was.

past blast

February 3, 2014

Totally bizarre…I’m sitting here watching How Green Was My Valley, in particular the scene where Anna Lee visits the family for the first time, and a very young Roddy McDowall, taking one look at her, falls instantly in love. The concept of a kid falling in love with a grown-up idly passed through my mind, and out of the blue I flashed on something I can’t even remember the last time I recalled. When I was about seven we visited my aunt and uncle’s house one night (this was in St. Louis), and my cousins—all in their late teens—had some of their friends over. There was one girl, I’m sure she wasn’t older than 19, who I spent the evening absolutely *fixated* on. I can’t remember her name now but I can remember how she looked, and I especially remember how soft her neck looked, and that at one point I was sitting next to her on the couch, in a room filled with people of all ages, and I was just dying to kiss her there–on her neck, I mean. (Hey, I don’t know who controls these things. It for damn sure isn’t me.)

Anyway, when it was time to leave and my family was walking out the door, it suddenly felt all-important that I let her know how I felt, and so in a moment of real panic I turned around and blurted out “I love you!” There had to be 8-10 other people in the room, including my mom, who was standing right next to me. For a second I thought I was going to get away with it, but then the room erupted in laughter—friendly, sympathetic laughter, but laughter just the same—and I got embarrassed and walked out the door. Sitting here now I can appreciate that it’s a touching memory and yadda yadda, but mostly I’m struck by the fact that I remember this tiny little event well enough that one small moment in a movie can bring it back in so much detail. Seriously, I can picture exactly how, when I said those words, that woman’s mouth fell open and she looked at whoever it was sitting next to her.

Like I say…just bizarre.

(July 17, 2013)


The Knife

February 3, 2014

About 25 years ago I was good friends with a co-worker named Leslie who around 1987 gave me a Swiss army pocketknife for Christmas—a thoughtful, unexpected present. A couple-three years later, though, she and I had a fight about some things I did while I was drunk one night, and she cut me off with extreme prejudice. I haven’t seen her since then, but not only did I hang onto the knife, I kept it on my coffee-table, first all through my time in my last apartment and then again all through my time in this one, using it again and again and again to open things and whatever. Then, about five years ago, my landlady remodeled my bathroom and some of the plumber’s stuff inevitably spilled over into my already cluttered livingroom for a couple days. When he finished and went away I didn’t notice anything different until about a week later, when I picked the knife up to open something and I noticed the little Swiss army pocketknife logo was missing from it—and realized what I had in my hand was a common cheap red pocketknife that the plumber had somehow swapped out for Leslie’s knife. In my head I went through the whole scenario of calling my landlady and having her make Mr. Lee drive back here from God knows where, all to return a gift from someone who doesn’t even like me anymore, and I decided to just skip it and struggle through life with a plain red emotionally-unadorned pocketknife. And that’s what I did. But I swear, there wasn’t a single, solitary time, out of the scores of occasions I’ve used that nothing little knife since then, that I didn’t feel some embers of upset and resentment about losing Leslie’s gift.

And so we come to last Saturday, when I went into the kitchen to check out how much packing tape I had in the house. (Answer: none, but I’ve gotten really good with a tape-gun in the meantime.) I was digging around in the utility drawer, home to myriad tangled extension cords and double-A batteries past their expiration date, and I was trying to dig a little deeper when I realized that what I was holding in my hand was Leslie’s Swiss army pocketknife. I have no idea how it got there; I mean, over all those years I hadn’t just kept it on the coffee-table, I’d kept it on the same particular corner of the coffee-table. Anyway, I’m glad it’s back (and I hope it’s glad to be back), even if I can’t retrieve the psychic energy I wasted on it lo these many years. My apologies to Mr. Lee, and to Leslie, too.

(December 4, 2013)


cracker barrel

January 9, 2013

I was just downstairs having a smoke, and it’s Wednesday so the building is having its cruddy little farmers’ market down there, and there’s a fair amount of foot traffic wandering through the courtyard. Something I saw down there must’ve reminded me of a time when I still lived in Houston, and I was rushing to some appointment and needed to know what time it was. (I’ve never worn a watch.) A businessman was passing by, and after I asked him for the time and he gave it to me, the following question popped unbidden out of my mouth: “Is that the right time?”…as if, for some arcane reason, a person might set his watch an hour off and then, when asked by a stranger for the time, deliberately give them the wrong answer. It seemed a reasonable question in the split-second before I asked it, almost like small talk or a different way of saying thanks, but he was an accomplished and well-heeled chap, a serious man unused to inanities from such as I, and he gave me a glare both bewildered and slightly hostile before growling out “Yeah!” in a gruff voice which sounded like, You may think you’re being funny, but…you’re fucking with the wrong man. It was only after he walked away that I considered how the question must’ve sounded to him, and to this day every time I think of that scene it busts me up no matter where I am. And so it was just now when, even though nothing outward had happened, I started shaking with laughter amongst the office-workers toting away their bags of pistachios.

Same deal with something that happened about 10 years ago. I was seeing a woman I’ll call Lulu, and I was at her house on a weeknight and we’d just been fooling around. I had a meeting or something the next morning and felt like I needed to go home and sleep in my own bed, so I was getting dressed and getting ready to go, while Lulu was bugging me to stay. (No way of fitting “understandably” into that last clause without sounding like a cad, but you know what I mean.) Anyway, she was sitting up in bed naked, and she was chiding me and pretending to be mad, and I was apologizing and trying to explain my side of things when, in a completely adorable way, she suddenly cried out YOU’RE A STINKER!, then threw the blanket into the air so that it settled like over her whole body like an Arabian tent. When I left I could just see one of her eyes peeking out at me from the blanket.

One more. This one was circa, I don’t know, sometime in the late ’80s, and my roommate at the time was hooked on meth. By day he maintained a surprisingly normal existence, even managing to keep his job teaching at a private school despite doing things like running into school one Sunday morning for a faculty meeting that was actually scheduled for the next day. One night he and I were driving somewhere and he needed to buy some gas. We pulled into a station and he got out to pump it, but in his mental fog he grabbed the regular pump and started trying to fit it into his unleaded-only gas tank. He didn’t see his mistake when it didn’t fit, and he kept on trying to push the pump into the tank despite such priceless clues that something was wrong as the loud metal-on-metal kunking noises coming from his hands. I was getting out of the car to see what was up, and saw a girl of about 17 at the next pump who was studying TJ doubtfully as he continued struggling with the nozzle, looking like he was working on a math problem. Suddenly she said, “Hey, mister, you’re trying to fit an unleaded pump into a regular gas tank,” at which point TJ suddenly lifted his head as if coming out of a trance and yelled “HUH?!” Turning around, intending to hang the hose up and get the right one, he instead managed to tangle his feet up and trip over it, doing a belly-flop at the girl’s feet as she jumped yelping out of the way.

There’s at least one more story like that—a friend and I accidentally demolished a motel’s driveway canopy in Fort Kearney, Nebraska—but I’ll give it a rest. Probably none of these stories translate here, but they all tickle the shit out of me enough that if I think about them anywhere, I start laughing like a daft man.

a thing you think about when you don’t even have an ugly kid

October 13, 2012

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of people who have beautiful daughters. Do they feel more paranoid for their offspring than parents of plainer looking girls do? Are there mother/daughter chats where Mom goes “Look, kid, you aren’t going to understand this just yet, but you need to be extra special careful out there”? Is there a moment, maybe over the breakfast table, when Dad looks up from his paper and suddenly really sees his kid for the first time, and thinks “Mother of God, what have I created here”? And what exactly do you do if you’re Marlene Dietrich’s father, other than try not to get run over?

Back in the Saddle

September 10, 2012

I’m a little spaced-out here this morning, and a little cranky, too, if you must know the truth—I went to bed on the early side and even slept in a bit, but I still didn’t catch up on my sleep.

I spent the last few days on the eastern side of the Sierras with my buddy Chris. Friday, on the drive into the mountains, we stopped off in the western foothills at Chinese Camp, a Gold Rush settlement that sprang up when some right-thinking Anglo miners figured life would be better if their Oriental counterparts were vamonosed to a camp all their own. The 2010 census pegged the town’s population at 126 people, and I suppose they’re there somewhere, but we didn’t see a soul. It’s mostly a gathering of decaying buildings lost in a grove of ailanthus trees: a post office, a foundry, the obligatory Odd Fellows hall, a sprawling, now overgrown hotel that looks like the stage for some overripe Tennessee Williams drama—each with its own dilapidated charm.

We spent the night in Bishop, in the Owens Valley. This is a stretch of ground I’ve long been partial to, though Bishop, at the northern end of the valley, is my least favorite part of it. Saturday morning we drove 60 miles south to Lone Pine, turned east, and followed a road from the mostly dry Owens Lake bed up into the Inyo Mountains, with the Sierras to the west and Death Valley on the east. It’s unpaved but it was recently graded, which is a good thing because it’s a hell of a winding little drive which at some places seems to shoot straight into the sky. I had no idea where we were going, but at about 9,000 feet the road widened out and maybe a dozen buildings sprang into view.

The town, in its day, was called Cerro Gordo—“fat hill”—and it was a silver and lead mining community that sprang up after the rush. In the late 1870s it boasted 4,000 people and its hillsides were crowded with structures ranging from dugouts and rock shelters to the two-story American Hotel, which actually had running water. There were brothels and saloons and the other amenities of camp life, and every day wagons loaded with silver ingots—each weighing 83 pounds—would labor down the road, heading for Los Angeles, from whence they’d be shipped back up the coast to San Francisco.

I learned all this and much, much more from a walking encyclopedia named Bob Desmarais—a slender, gravel-voiced guy who brings Levon Helm to mind. He’s the caretaker at Cerro Gordo, and he and his wife, along with a Chihuahua named Harley, are its only current inhabitants. Ms. Desmarais was away on a mail-run at the time, but Bob seemed happy to drop what he was doing and give us a tour of the grounds.

Bob and his wife hope to reopen Cerro Gordo as a going concern, but the last caretaker’s will left it tied up in probate. In the meantime Bob’s approach towards maintaining a historic ghost town has been perfectly balanced halfway beween the tack taken in Bodie, Nevada, where visitors aren’t allowed to enter any of the structures, and Aurora, California, which has been virtually plundered to the ground. (The only thing you’ll find there is thousands of rusted sardine cans.) Cerro Gordo is returning to the earth but at a managed rate, and thanks to its elevation and caretakers it’s been blissfully free of the casual scavenger. As a result, the hotel, the chapel, the barracks, and so on, all of which you can enter, are stuffed with actual goods from when the town was a going concern. It’s not just a collection of bottle caps.

That road going up had been an adventure even in Chris’ 4X4, so it’s a mystery how a wagon loaded with thousands of pounds of silver could’ve navigated it going down. The answer is simple: the mule. The poor damn mule. Mules had a hard enough life just pulling their damn loads, but to keep Mortimer Belshaw’s heavy silver wagons from splashing all over the valley floor, teams were harnessed to the rear of them, too—specialized teams that were trained to pull backward even as their hooves were inching forward. When we were driving home I saw a lone mule grazing happily in a green field, and I heard a crazy voice in my head: “My great-great-great-great grandpappy pulled silver wagons backwards so that one day I might roll in clover…”

Cerro Gordo is a fantastic day-trip if you’re ever in the area, but getting out of there is something else. As rough as the western road was going up, it’s nothing compared to the eastern road that goes down the backside of the mountain. Twisty and turny doesn’t begin to describe it, and there was one particularly nasty stretch that was six or seven miles long—an eternity when you’re moving 10 mph. Washouts made the road all but impassable in three or four places, with one in particular almost screwing us for good. Bob had said it wouldn’t be smooth sailing but he didn’t say we might get stuck 30 miles from nowhere, which is damn near what happened. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t The Wages of Fear—it was still nerve-wracking as hell.

That night we hit the Double L again. It’s just a honky-tonk on Lone Pine’s main street, but damn, it’s a good time. Friendly locals, a reed-thin bartender named Cindy who gives a wry, downturned smile when she likes something you said, a couple of decent pool tables in the back…What more can you ask for? It was Karaoke Night, so the locals were climbing onto the stage and spinning off their versions of “Cocaine” and Britney Spears songs, and I had just a damn good time shooting pool and bullshitting with people, but it was very likely our last hurrah there. The owner of the Double L sold his liquor license—sold his business essentially—to a casino that’s moving into town, so Cindy and the rest of them are going to need a new home soon. Which bites.

Anyway…I’m back. Sam, my boss, died on the Fourth of July—a fact I don’t think I’ve mentioned here—and the company hasn’t named his replacement yet. I’m getting my assignments from an attorney in Sacramento, but they’re slow in coming and I don’t have anyone acting as my supervisor in the S.F. office, so I’m just waiting for the word to come down. Sam’s boss told me the position might be moving to L.A., which, to put it mildly, would be an unhappy turn of events, but I’m not going to stress over something which: a) might not happen, and b) I can’t control anyway. My biggest bitch right now—me not being a mule and all—is that I just can’t wake up.

Night Life

August 19, 2012

Last night I tried watching a couple of Don Siegel movies back-to-back, but when I started nodding off during the second one I packed it in and went to bed. That was at 1:30. I wake up at four in the morning. My brain is involuntarily picturing Don Siegel’s IMDb page, and his credits there include a movie called “Myrnes”. I know good and goddam well Don Siegel never made a movie called “Myrnes”, and now my stupid brain has made me angry. I am wide awake. I get up and start surfing the net and listening to music. An Oasis song called “Morning Glory” comes on. Huh? When I did download that? I don’t even know who Oasis is. I Wiki it and see Andrea Arnold used it in Red Road. Okay, that explains it, I guess, but I suddenly realize I can’t remember what that actress—what’s her name, Kate Dickie—looks like. So I Google her image. Oh right, that’s her. Then, because it is five in the morning and I am who I am, I Google “kate dickie nude”. There aren’t many pictures of nude Kate Dickie, and the ones that are there aren’t very interesting. Google tries to make it up to me with pictures of lots of other naked women; some of them are doing ghastly things. I wonder, why did Google pick these naked women in particular? Are they all named Kate? Do they know someone named Dickie? I light a cigarette. Then I Google Red Road and read the Wiki article about it. It tells me something I don’t know:

Advance Party is the name given to a concept of three films which came out of discussion between Lars von Trier [and three producers]. Each film is to be made by different first-time directors…Scherfig and Jensen created a list of characters and gave them back stories, which the three directors could then write their story around…Red Road was the first film in the trilogy to be released, directed by Andrea Arnold. The second film, Donkeys, is completed and was released in 2010. Plans for the third one are forthcoming.

Huh—that’s kind of interesting, at least. What is this Donkeys movie? And what is it with filmmakers and donkeys? I start to read the Wiki article about it but it looks like it might have spoilers. I go to Amazon to see if they have it. Ix-nay. So I try There it is. In fact, Donkeys is being released on DVD…tomorrow. Surely I am meant to buy it? It is not expensive, so yes, I order it. Finally, just to be on the safe side, I search for “Myrnes” at IMDb. I knew it: there is nothing. Better yet, I have managed to wear my brain down with all this high-level activity. Maybe now I can sleep again. Let us pray.

the beat generation

July 1, 2012

Back. Back in the city. Pleased to find my pizza place open at 2 a.m. That’s all.

“I caught a train to Sheffield…”

June 20, 2012

Well, apparently I won’t be seeing my boss again. I wrote about his medical problems back here, and after his surgery and return to work last year he stayed on until the end of April. He was game, but he never could put any weight back on his frame, and as time passed he started shutting his lights off and “resting” for longer and longer spells, until one day his office was dark for the last half of the day. He virtually crawled out of here that afternoon and never came back; it turned out that the piece of the tumor the doctors couldn’t remove had grown and was now blocking his bowels. He’s been in the VA Hospital in Redwood City since the first week of May, and none of the doctors’ stabs at shrinking the tumor have helped. I was planning on visiting him this week, but because he’s weakened so much in just the last few days his wife tactfully waved me off. She just now emailed me the following: “S. is sleeping a lot now. Looks like the doctors were right – he will sleep more with each passing day and go peacefully in his sleep. With no nutrition, what else can the body do?”

I did get to see him one last time, about two weeks ago. I knew long before then that he’d become pretty important to me. He was the best boss I’ve ever had (by a mile), a friend as much he was a boss, and the man who figuratively saved my life by hiring me when he did. (This was about five years ago, when thanks to being unemployed for a long time I was just wasting away with a feeling that everything was dead.) At the hospital I sat in his room and told him these things while holding his hand, and it didn’t feel strange at all; in fact, it would’ve been agonizing if I hadn’t been able to express it to him. His wife says he’s made his peace with what’s happened, and I guess I have, too.

Anyway, one day a couple months ago I had coffee with an old friend who I reconnected with through Facebook (this is one of the good Facebook stories), and she told me that she really enjoyed this blog “when it isn’t about movies”. I didn’t know what to say then, and I still don’t, since—you know—it’s largely a movie blog, or at least a place where I log lots of the stuff I watch and either gush or complain or try to make sense of it. More to the point, the slow declines of both my boss and my dad (and I also saw him in Phoenix a weekend ago) haven’t left me bubbling over with mirth. So I just wanted to say, I never meant for this to become the Blog of Gloom & Doom (With Some Brigitte Bardot on the Side). But those are the curves life is throwing right now, so…


May 15, 2012

April was the uncoolest month, but May has had its blue notes, too. I bumped into an old friend from The Expansion a couple days ago, and in the course of chatting I asked him about a neighbor of his—Wilson. That’d be Clay Wilson, or S. Clay Wilson, the underground cartoonist, famous for his tales in Zap Comix about animalistic bikers and, ahem, exceedingly well-hung pirates who settle all differences by using their cutlasses to remove each other’s engorged members in spurting gouts of gore. The happening local dive in my area when I moved to San Francisco was Dick’s, an unpretentious corner tavern renowned as the only straight bar in the Castro, and like The Expansion it was a cool and easy blend of old San Francisco characters (ancient mariners throwing down their PBRs as their asses fused to their barstools) and young hustlers (one guy mutated from an innocent farmboy to a minor Scarface in the short time I knew him). Wilson was in there most nights, holding court, or rather holding harangue, for anyone who cared to listen.

If you caught him before he had his ten too many, he was the ideal companion for what Sterling Hayden calls “an old-fashioned man-to-man drinking party” in The Long Goodbye (a Wilson favorite, incidentally). It’s easy to hang with even a really drunk guy if he’s well-read and into the arts, especially if he has an outsized personality, an old-fashioned code of honor, and a home that’s a museum of constantly rotating arcana. (His coffee table was an antique coffin.) I can’t say I cottoned much to the work that made him famous—the Checkered Demon lost its novelty value for me almost immediately, and it was maddening to see someone with so much talent recycling old material for the paychecks—but if he was miffed by the accolades thrown Crumb’s way after Zwigoff’s movie appeared, he didn’t respond by trying to make his work (always as pointedly gross as Crumb’s) more “relevant” in any kneejerk way, and in conversation he remained fixed on fresh material and new ideas. His hectoring, garrulous, exuberant ways put a lot of people off, but not me, at least not until one of us—usually, but not always, Wilson—had had too much to drink.

So I was more than sorry to hear of the brain injury he suffered after either being mugged or taking a fall around the corner from my house more than three years ago. (I knew I hadn’t seen him in a while but, damn, I had no idea it’d been that long.) And apparently he’s just recently taken a turn for the worse, which is even more fucked up. (His wife’s line in her blog—“It is terrible to be old and poor in America!”—just breaks my fucking heart.) This is not a situation I ever could have envisioned in 1983, nor wanted to. Warts and all, the man’s definitely one of the good guys.

Days of Heaven

April 16, 2012

One of the reasons I haven’t been around this place lately is a certain malady I’ve had for a while and which I’m having taken care of tomorrow. It’s nothing life-threatening, but it’s definitely a drag, and even worse it was an entirely avoidable drag, one I wouldn’t be subjected to if I’d taken even a modicum of care for myself in the last several years. I had such a huge stress attack over it last Thursday that I wound up going to Kaiser and getting some tranquilizers, then took them home and set ’em down on my coffee table without taking a one of them. (Though I kept eyeing the as-yet unopened bottles while watching Dead Ringers last night, and boy was that a lousy idea.) This morning I’ve been sitting here doing the paperwork for short-term disability since boss and company both are urging me to take two weeks off and file for SDI bennies because that’ll pay me the most. Needless to say I’ll be glad as all hell to have that much time off—my stress-level is off the fucking chart, plus I’ve got a big writing project that could use some undivided attention, if that can be mustered—but the reason why keeps breaking up the merriment. The last few nights my brain has amused itself with a variety of apocalyptic fantasias, including falls from a great height, being mugged by gangsters and—last night—getting caught in a nuclear blast on a white Jamaican beach in an unused scene from Dr. No. (Seriously.) My attempt to duck and cover was still proving surprisingly effective at the moment I mentally slapped my silly ass awake again…

Frankly, I just wish it was a week from now; at that point if I feel halfway okay I’m just going to grab a car and take a road trip somewhere. This place is climbing up my you-know-what—I can tell you that much.

Sad Song

March 14, 2012

The Internet’s a funny thing, the way it makes people you’ve never laid eyes on such a presence in your life. I first logged on to Table Talk, Salon’s now defunct (and deleted) message board, in ’97 or ’98, and it wasn’t long before one of the posters there made himself conspicuous with his promiscuous love of film and music. The poster’s name—he was never the type to hide behind a pseud—was Randy Porter. Because we were so close in age, and because our tastes (in old movies in particular) found themselves so often working off the same crib-sheet, it was impossible for me not to feel simpatico with him. Randy tended to shy away from writing long posts, but he had a gift for relaxed one-liners which, in combination with his prized avatar—a shocked-looking Hattie McDaniel—had the same droll effect on me even after I’d seen it hundreds of times.

When Table Talk became a pay service, a handful of like-minded posters drifted away, first to our own private forum, and then another and another, and Randy and Hattie—two class acts—were welcome sights at all of them. Randy chipped into the conversation only when he had something truly worth saying, and without ever looking like a wimp about it he always left the fighting to others. That last quality is the one that I find so remarkable. In the 13 or 14 years Randy and I shared a corner of the net, I never once got into a tangle with the guy; au the contraire, I always felt like he had my back even when the rest of the world was laughing at my boneheaded arguments. And it wasn’t just me: I never saw Randy fight with anybody on the Internet, which has to be a record for the period of time involved. It just wasn’t what the guy was about.

Randy often mentioned his twin brother, Terry, and it was an utter shock when he announced a year or so ago that Terry had died. In Sarasota Terry was known as a pop savant, one of those guys who, needing just a scrap of memory or two, could instantly name the album or movie you were thinking of, and Randy clearly loved him dearly. Terry’s death left Randy with a raw, naked welt of sorrow which he couldn’t hide, and when he mentioned Terry’s passing just a month or so ago, it was if it had just happened. Recently Randy began complaining of insomnia and unhappiness and the grief that wouldn’t die; indeed, some of his later posts sounded as if they were directed as much to Terry as they were to us.

You’ve probably sensed where this is going. Word reached us yesterday that Randy too has passed away, age 53 or 54, I think. No word yet on the cause of death, and frankly I don’t care—knowing that won’t change any of the things I care about right now, when all I want to do is say R.I.P. to a brother. You were one of the good guys, Randy, and I’ll miss you.

Pamela Gellar is RIGHT!!!

January 4, 2012

I was running late this morning so I grabbed a cab to work, and the driver was a Moroccan guy who looked like Peter Sellers disguised as Osama bin Laden. And—me being the lucky soul that I am—he turned out to be a proselytizer for Islam! So I can now say from experience that having someone quote the Koran at you, and turn every subject back to Allah and how small our existences are*, isn’t a whit more fun than having a Bible trip laid on you at eight in the morning. In fact, it may be worse. But because it so rarely happens, and because I’m such a fine human being—so free from prejudice and all the rest of that baloney—I couldn’t find it in me to tell him where to get off. I was also afraid he’d put me out of the cab.

It was damned tempting, though…

* When he said to me “We come in this door and we go out that one”, I felt like the Cowardly Lion: “Ain’t it the truth. Ain’t it the truth!”


December 19, 2011

A while back I told the old man to send me anything in the way of heirlooms which, for whatever sad or laughable reason, he’d like to pass on to the son he skipped out on half a century ago; at the time, he said he’d think about it, and then a couple weeks ago he told me that he was sending a couple boxes of stuff, so I was thinking, “Great! I have no idea what I’ll do with it other than be psychically crushed by its very presence, but whatever it is, bring it on.” That’s when I was picturing perhaps some photographs from his childhood, showing life as it was lived in an upper middle class Jewish household in Queens in the ’20s and ’30s, or some trinkets handed down to him by my beloved grandfather William Block. That was then; this is now. Tonight the boxes arrived, and if anyone here is interested in a couple of used electric razors (gray stubble included), a pair of butcher knives (for cutting my wrists, I presume), a photograph of a major league baseball game taken from such a distance you can’t even tell which teams are on the field, a giant Funk & Wagnall’s dictionary in mint condition, a copy of How to Clean Practically Anything (publisher: Consumer Reports Books), a beat-up Minolta camera (requires film), a Seiko wristwatch that’s a size too small for me, or a “genuine leather” credit card case which is a) white, and b) most clearly made of vinyl, why then, you’re welcome to them. However, I am keeping the 1878 silver dollar. In fact, that piece will take up its place of honor on my desk here, along with the tile from the square in Baghdad where that statue of Hussein got pulled down, the .30-30 cartridge from Peckinpah’s cabin, a handful of dirt from the Little Bighorn battlefield, and one of Loudcat’s whiskers.

It’s Either This or a Nice Long Rant About PBS Pledge Drives—Which Do You Want?

December 17, 2011

I changed things up and had a breakfast burrito tonight because that’s the kind of crazy and exciting thing that I like to do on Saturday night, and it promptly knocked me on my ass. (I think it was the extra chorizo that did it.) I ate it about 5:30 and I just now woke up, sitting upright on the couch like a great Sioux chieftain who’s eaten some bad buffalo, with the menu for Meet Me in St. Louis staring me in the face. I feel urpy!

So if somebody wants to come over and give me a light, non-sexual hug until I burp, I’d really, really appreciate it.

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