Sunday, September 05, 2010

Your Gray Vest Is Stained With Tears

Gosh, there is so much to tell you. Like, some magazines came in the mail! I didn't say the "much to tell" was interesting. Maybe some of it is. Let's find out! Oh, well, I have been concerned that maybe you think I made up "The National Clean Up Paint Up Fix Up Bureau" (which I mentioned yesterday) because it sounds so fake. "Click" here, then, for a catalog description from the time Christie's famed auction house was selling a letter from President Johnson to the Director of the National Clean Up Paint Up Fix Up Bureau. Okay? Yes, so, as I was saying, my copies of OXFORD AMERICAN and THE BELIEVER arrived in the mail yesterday. I haven't yet had time to inspect them thoroughly but I have already noticed lots of great things. For example, Michael Kupperman is in the OA. What? Somehow I didn't expect that! It was an unexpected delight! Plus there is a wonderful new short story by Jim Whorton. Best of all, Mr. Whorton's "author bio" at the front announces that he has a new novel coming out next year! That is something to look forward to. John T. Edge contributes another masterful column that will make you hungry, this time on the subject of Buford Highway in Atlanta, where, at "a bare Korean restaurant in a strip mall," John T. has "black goat soup with watercress and green onions" and slurps "raw crab with a wobbly texture and a briny finish that gave me the shivers." It is a tale of Korean barbecue and Vietnamese fried catfish in which John T. sees the evolution of the South and Southern cooking. Buford Highway is where Caroline and Dr. Theresa and I used to go and get a whole huge karaoke room to ourselves! And I think maybe some chicken wings and some bottles of wine. Those were the days. I mention them because I am elderly and filled with mawkish sentiment for times gone by. Near the end of his article, John T. justly and soundly and roundly mocks creepy "Southern fabulists, whose misplaced affections for the region are informed by xenophobic tendencies and Neo-Confederate sympathies." So it is weird to see a recent segment about him on the ABC news show NIGHTLINE introduced by an anchor who stupidly invokes "Spanish moss and plantation houses," which is sort of the opposite of what John T. is about. Some guy in a newsroom cubicle must have said, "Quick! I need something about the South!" And the guy in the next cubicle yelled back, "Spanish moss and plantation houses!" And the first guy said, "Perfect!" and hit "print." And then the reporter in the segment actually has a voiceover praising John T.'s "Rhett Butler charm." WHAT? John T. has a lot of work cut out for him. I don't mean in the charm department, because he has plenty of that. But, you know, two steps forward and three steps back. The segment itself is terrific, especially when John T. rhapsodizes about this and that. You can watch it by "clicking" here. It won't take you to the piece directly. You may have to do a site search for "barbecue." Wow! This is getting long. And I don't care! I know you stopped reading a long time ago. So you will never see how smoothly I went from OA to NIGHTLINE to THE BELIEVER by keeping the focus on food. So far my favorite thing in THE BELIEVER, and maybe my favorite thing ever, is an intricate two-page collage of "the great sandwiches of English literature." There are five sandwiches from the works of Donald Barthelme alone, including "Your gray vest is stained with tears. Let me make you a ham and cheese sandwich." And there are four or five sandwiches by J.D. Salinger, too. I am not doing it justice, this thing. It is set up to look like a menu. Oh, just go get a copy, you need to see it for yourself. It really makes for hours of fun! You will never tire of it, I tell you. A sandwich from PNIN! A Flann O'Brien sandwich ("They give you a beef sandwich with no beef in it...") and so on. Two butter and sugar sandwiches are represented! "Blog" readers will certainly recall the butter and sugar sandwiches that the aforementioned Jim Whorton used to take with him to school, as mentioned here almost four years ago. See how I am helping this mammoth "post" hang together? (Also, we discussed one President Johnson above and Whorton once wrote a novel involving the ANOTHER President Johnson!) The butter and sugar sandwiches on the BELIEVER chart come from Toni Morrison and Harper Lee. And now gently take my hand and we shall speak again of Jerry Lewis. Oh, wait, let me connect it, because I can! Through the power of sandwiches! There is a fascinating section of DEAN & ME in which Dean and Jerry spend hours in a deli with Marilyn Monroe. So right after that I am reading the part where Dean and Jerry go to visit Frank Sinatra on the set of THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM. And you know who else was in that movie, don't you? Arnold Stang! So I got very excited. Like, "Maybe I will be able to write a 'post' entitled 'Lewis On Stang,' all about a great meeting of the minds between Jerry Lewis and Arnold Stang." But Jerry does not mention Arnold Stang and it all remains a glorious dream.