Sunday, August 31, 2014

Getting Frosty

"Your beard is getting frosty." That's how Chris Offutt put it to me the other night.

What's It About

I'm supposed to give a talk at the Savannah College of Art and Design in a couple of months. I guess it was a few weeks ago they asked me what my talk was going to be about and I was like, oh, gee, huh, what, it has to be "about" something? Around the same time they kept asking me for a head shot. I don't have a head shot, not one I like. I was looking at this photo of Jerry Lewis I used on a previous "post" and thinking wouldn't it be funny to send that in for a head shot and that's when I had an actual epiphany, probably my very first. And I wrote them and said my talk would be about WHY I LOVE JERRY LEWIS and they were polite enough to say, hmm, okay. So I've been watching some Jerry Lewis movies again. Yesterday I was watching THE KING OF COMEDY and I noticed a metal sculpture (maybe?) hanging on the wall of Jerry's apartment and for two seconds I entertained myself with the thought that maybe it was the same artwork he banged his head on in CRACKING UP. I'm sure it's not, despite McNeil's contention that the carpet in CRACKING UP is the same carpet from THE PATSY, only "with 20 years of wear on it" and my CERTAIN KNOWLEDGE that Jerry wears the same bathrobe in THE FAMILY JEWELS and THE BIG MOUTH. I'll tell you one thing: Fantasy Jerry (the one who exists in De Niro's head in KING OF COMEDY) has a lot of acrylic furniture in his office, just the kind I saw when I went to Beverly Hills for that auction of Bob Hope's personal items. Also, I started thinking I'd like to dress like Rupert Pupkin in everyday life, though he'd also make a good Halloween costume. I seem to remember that De Niro bought Rupert's suit right off a mannequin in the window of a store. Where did I read that? I want to say he even based Rupert's hair and moustache on that mannequin. Like, he looked at the mannequin and said, "That's Rupert Pupkin!" (See also.) I think I read that somewhere. Don't worry, none of this will be in my talk.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Omens and Fiends

Lisa Howorth was talking to me about MRS. DALLOWAY and I realized I have never read it. So I went and got a copy at Square Books. At the same time, Bill Boyle's birthday was coming up. So I got him a pretty nice edition of AN AMERICAN DREAM by Norman Mailer. And then I realized I've never read that either, though I have a copy I got from that used book stall I told you about before. And what poor taste to give a gift on which you can't stamp your personal guarantee! So that's how I started reading MRS. DALLOWAY and AN AMERICAN DREAM at the same time. Incompatible, one would think! Oh, but the human brain loves to mash stuff together, am I right, people? (See also.) So when I put down AN AMERICAN DREAM and picked up MRS. DALLOWAY and read about "one of those spectres who stand astride us and suck up half our life-blood... It rasped her, though, to have stirring about in her this brutal monster! to hear twigs cracking and feel hooves planted down in the depths of that leaf-encumbered forest, the soul," well, I thought: "That's kind of Norman Mailery!" I mean, I had just read in AN AMERICAN DREAM, "Yes, I had come to believe in spirits and demons, in devils, warlocks, omens, wizards and fiends, in incubi and succubi..." Of course, in Woolf these things are metaphorical, and I'm never sure with Mailer. Ghosts and magic are real for him. It's to his credit (I think!) that I can't tell whether AN AMERICAN DREAM is ABOUT a crazy person or BY a crazy person. Then you have Woolf's Septimus Smith (makes me think of the name of the Mailer character Sergius O'Shaughnessy) who thinks clouds are sending him messages (to be fair, I may be exaggerating: it's a skywriter advertising toffee, so Mr. Smith IS being sent a message, but not one to him personally - he believes it's part of something beautiful and universal) and that "the human voice in certain atmospheric conditions... can quicken trees to life!" Whereas when I last left AN AMERICAN DREAM's Steve Rojack (like Septimus Smith, forever changed by his experience of war) he was sitting in a bar, convinced that he could make one patron's foot hurt or another get the hiccups with magical invisible bullets he'd mentally send their way... Oh well, I'm just a short way into both books and like Steve Rojack and Septimus Smith and everybody else I'm making connections that aren't really there.

Friday, August 29, 2014

To Rescue His Lover

I've told you about a million times how you can push that little "info" button on your remote control and see a "capsule description" of whatever show is on. And oft how I have wondered and pondered about the men and women who write those capsule descriptions and all the joy they bring to my life with their brief summaries of television programming. Last night I saw a capsule description of a movie that went like this: "A man races across Europe to rescue his lover from evil Dracula." Ha ha ha! Why did that make me laugh so much?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Jell-O There

In the final chapter of THE DHARMA BUMS, the Jack Kerouac character makes "raspberry Jello the color of rubies in the setting sun," which just goes to prove everything I said about everything ever in my previous "post." Just "click" on it if you don't believe me! Also, it marks the second Kerouac novel I have read with Jell-O in it. Also, it makes me sorry I never took the time to catalog every book I have ever read with Jell-O in it. I have shamefully underestimated the role of Jell-O in American literature. That's my cross to bear.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Beat Product Placement

"'... there's one thing I would like right now more than anything in the world... A nice big Hershey bar or even a little one. For some reason or other, a Hershey bar would save my soul right now...' I was a little woozy and needed sugar, but to think of chocolate and peanuts all melting in my mouth in that cold wind, it was too much." THE DHARMA BUMS has more product placement than you might expect. Log Cabin brand syrup makes an appearance, too. Anyway, that Jack Kerouac, he sure did have a sweet tooth.

Really Fancy Dessert

"My ideal show is a person sitting and they have a really fancy dessert and they have to tell you about their day while they eat the dessert." That's something Natasha Allegri said in an interview and I was going to tweet it but it's a little too long for a tweet, and to remove any word would be to wreck what I love about this idea... for example, that they "have to" tell you about their day. There's something semi-threatening about it that really adds the spice!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Poop of Mighty Eagles

My "internet" pal Jessica Easto, who used to go by an anonymous code name on this "blog" for reasons I doubt either of us can recall, tweeted about a recent correction in the New York Times. Here is a "link," also provided by Jessica, to that correction, which apologizes for misrepresenting the "poop" of eagles and ospreys as purple. "They eat fish, and their poop is white." So gravely states the New York Times with regret for its previous error. The comma makes it elegant somehow. See also.

Suddenly, At Dusk

About 30 pages to go in THE DHARMA BUMS (see also) and I was really getting worried because there were no owls in it. And there were many opportunities for owls! What with all the sleeping under the stars. But there was nothing but a lot of mystical desert silence and the occasional braying of a lonesome mule (see also) to remind our heroes of the suffering of all living things. But finally! "Suddenly, at dusk, he came running back into the cottage drunk as a hoot owl" (see also). (Pictured, Dharma and Greg.)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I, Jerk

In case it wasn't clear, I - not Eric Stoltz! - was the jerk in those three hazy memories of Eric Stoltz I offered you yesterday. 1) In the "Darryl Strawberry Incident," I butted in without knowing what I was talking about. 2) In the case of the "Sound of Music joke" my overweening pretensions were suitably shellacked. 3) When Eric Stoltz rejected the shirt he was just "telling it like it is" so we could save the shirt for some idiot who would actually wear such a piece of trash.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Memories of Eric Stoltz

There is a channel running a marathon of every episode of THE SIMPSONS, you know. They just showed the one with Darryl Strawberry, which reminds me of the time I was working with Kent Osborne and Ward McCarthy on our little show we made together and our special guest star was Eric Stoltz and Eric Stoltz and some of his pals were talking about Darryl Strawberry's personal troubles, which they seemed concerned about, and I interjected, "Oh no! Not Darryl Strawberry!" I was being sincere, because I knew Darryl Strawberry only from his SIMPSONS cameo, not having kept up with his baseball career or his personal troubles. Anyway, Eric Stoltz and his pals gave me a cutting look. Darryl Strawberry's personal troubles were well known it turns out! Except to me. So I can see how it must have looked to Eric Stoltz and his pals. Like I was mocking Darryl Strawberry. Far from it! I must have seemed callous, uninformed as I was about current events, "social media" having not yet been invented. But that doesn't mean Eric Stoltz's withering glance cut me any less deeply! Later I compared something to VIRIDIANA and Eric Stoltz replied coolly, "I was going to say THE SOUND OF MUSIC." He was cutting me down for being an egghead! Ha ha ha! And rightly so, no doubt. Then Ward and Kent and I tried to give him a shirt and he said, "I don't wear things like that." Ha ha ha ha! Such are my memories of Eric Stoltz.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Real Chocolate Pudding

Hey! Remember how much Jack Kerouac loved pie and ice cream in ON THE ROAD? In THE DHARMA BUMS he's gaga for an all-new taste sensation. The Jack Kerouac character is about to go mountain climbing with his friend and the friend says, "I'm bringing real chocolate pudding, not that instant phony stuff but good chocolate pudding that I'll bring to a boil and stir over the fire and then let it cool ice cold in the snow." And Jack Kerouac replies, "Oh boy!" Ha ha! Jack Kerouac.

McNeil's Movie Korner

Welcome once more to McNeil's Movie Korner! I know you are nothing but an uncaring lout who refuses to "click" on my "links" but I hope you will extend more courtesy to McNeil, who has provided a couple of "youtube clips" here to ignore at your peril. McNeil wrote to me in an email the other day, "Well, I've stumbled onto a gold mine of sorts...and the death of me, I suppose. Apparently [this guy on youtube] splices bits of old, forgotten 60s movies together and sets them to old forgotten 60s lounge music - and sometimes the original soundtrack. So what I end up doing is looking up the movies on IMDB, the IMDB tells me some are available for see the vicious cycle. [Here's] an example but there seem to be millions... jrrylpz may have surpassed charliespliff as my YouTube hero." And another message from McNeil this morning: "This might be my favorite of the day (so far)... The bartender looks like his twin brother, and I love it when he tries to put the map together - it's only two pieces!!!"

Amongst the Region's Fearful Residents

Last night at a City Grocery Bar get-together to welcome our new writer-in-residence, the great short story writer and novelist Mary Miller, Lee Durkee was talking about how many swans Richard III used to eat and Ace Atkins was astonished when I claimed never to have seen the movie FLUFFY. Looking at the poster Ace emailed me (above; the guy with the hatchet makes me nervous), hmm. Maybe I have seen it. It seems to fit snugly in that group of films I used to watch that included Soupy Sales learning how to fly and Mickey Rooney hanging out with a talking duck. From the imdb summary of FLUFFY: "Wherever he goes, Potter's ponderous pet incites mayhem amongst the region's fearful residents... Our heroes find themselves on the run from the law when Fluffy is accused of eating someone!"

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


A "web" site called "Brooklyn Vegan" has some nice pictures of that Rock*A*Teens show we saw in NYC, corroborating many of our claims! Although I must say that Lopez looks a lot more comfortable crowd-surfing than he made out the next day. "Click" here for Brooklyn Vegan's photos and write-up.

Why Can't She

Watching HOLLYWOOD OR BUST as "research" for a "talk" I'm going to "give" in "October." Jerry promises Dean, "We'll be pals like Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn in THE RAINMAKER." Always such undercurrents with these two! Not even undercurrents. Currents! Pat Crowley tells Dean that Malcolm (Jerry Lewis's character) is "off his rocker about" Dean. "Why can't you be like Malcolm?" Dean asks her.

Monday, August 18, 2014


There is literally nothing I don't love about this newspaper caption that Ace Atkins tweeted. I love every phrase, I love every word, I love the order of the words, I love everything behind the words, I even love the unnecessary comma. In fact I would like to retype that caption for you now: "George Jones gave a birthday party at his Possum Holler Club for ex-wife Tammy Wynette. Tammy's long-time friend Burt Reynolds, presented her with a fern that was said to have cost $100."

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Hey yeah so last night I watched ESCAPE PLAN, a Sylvester Stallone movie featuring a jaunty spotlight turn from Arnold Schwarzenegger. I swear that Schwarzenegger ended most of his conversations with Stallone with a pretty good wisecrack that sounded like a natural button - like, okay, that was a good wisecrack, we're moving on to another scene now - but then Stallone would have to tack on an extra wisecrack that was just gilding the lily, an inferior wisecrack, like Stallone had it in his contract that he always had to make the last wisecrack, like he had a guy on set to write toppers for him on the spur of the moment, like Bob Hope would have had, only this guy wasn't up to it. I feel sure my analysis would not stand up to the most basic level of scrutiny, but that's how it felt. One thing I enjoyed was when Stallone punched a guy in the gut a couple of times and the guy said "Aaoogah!" each time, like an old-time car horn: "Aaoogah! Aaoogah!" Or it may have been Stallone saying "Aaoogah! Aaoogah!" with the exertion of his punching. One of them was saying "Aaoogah! Aaoogah!" Once again, I am not sure my fleeting impressions of the moment would stand up in a court of law. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a "mad scene" more or less like Ophelia's! And I have to say he did a good job of it. He played that whole section in German. He sold it, man, and I was buying it all the way! Genius and madness glimmered in his eyes! In equal measure! And now I would like to warn you about the very major spoiler that is going to take up almost all the rest of this "post." It's about the ending. Okay. So, Stallone is about to wreak a mighty vengeance on evil warden Jim Caviezel by blowing him up. In the split second before the explosion, Jim Caviezel, realizing what is about to happen, just cocks his head to the side very slightly, like a curious little dog, and squeaks. He squeaks! An anticlimactic and fascinating choice. I could not find an "internet" image of Jim Caviezel squeaking like an interested puppy, but here is Sylvester Stallone about to set off the explosion with his gun, and someone has gone to the trouble of labeling it in yellow letters. While I am not sure I agree with his or her assessment, I admire the effort. (A late postscript! It strikes me that Schwarzenegger's "madness" - an act designed to confound an authority figure - has more to do with Hamlet's than Ophelia's.)

Steamily Moist

He asks, "In what way would you say that ghosts are 'real'? Do you think this is a fair question?" And she replies, "Well, I am not sure at all that it is a question that makes sense." Ha ha! I love reading the excruciatingly polite debate of these dry British people about the existence of ghosts! Can there be anything more pleasurable? Another woman in this book has a theory that ghosts are just photographs printed on the atmosphere (I don't think I'm oversimplifying her position much). She claims that ghosts are "more common in moist climates rather than in the drier ones. Thus, Scotland and Ireland have a considerably larger number of apparitions than England. In some parts of India where the atmosphere is, at least for some months of the year, steamily moist, ghosts abound, both indigenous and foreign." Of course, the anthologist, while conceding to Dr. Murray that a ghost will "grow fainter in its later appearances," also takes issue with her: "I am not convinced that there is any true comparison to be drawn between fading apparitions and fading photographs," he huffs discreetly. "Flowers also fade, as do the colours in many textiles. The list could be extended." Ha ha! I love this guy so much. Funny thing, my friend Eugene had a similar theory to Dr. Margaret Murray's. He claimed to have heard a couple of ghosts making plans to catch a long-defunct ferry one night. He told me there were so many ghosts in Mobile because "it's so humid, things we do get stuck in the air." I think he compared it to a skipping phonograph needle.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

About My Solar Plexus Area

Despite the humorous titles of its chapters, I find that I cannot recommend the book with the paranormal jelly bags in it. What a letdown! I won't name it or its author because why hurt someone's feelings? But it's just a sloppy grab-bag, really - one minute the author is helping some people get a ghost out of their attic, next minute he's talking about a UFO case he has nothing to do with... there's just no point of view, and I don't believe his dialogue for a minute. ("There's no way in h..., ah, heaven that I would go up there when those crying noises begin.") It's all hooey. When I used to teach a scary story class, I think I made the observation that no kind of story benefits more from realism than a ghost story. I suppose that's doubly the case when the story is supposed to be "true." So let's move on to what seems to be a much better ghost book: A GALLERY OF GHOSTS by Andrew MacKenzie. It's the first one that Dr. Theresa held up in the shop for me to consider, and I am afraid I rudely and instantly dismissed it. I didn't like the generic title and I didn't like the cornball cover with the full yellow moon and the crooked black tree. Luckily, Dr. Theresa was persistent. Always respect Dr. Theresa's instincts! First of all, A GALLERY OF GHOSTS has an academic-sounding subtitle: AN ANTHOLOGY OF REPORTED EXPERIENCE. Classy! And I like the introduction, in which MacKenzie makes an interesting distinction: "Unlike the ghost stories of fiction, which have a beginning, a middle and an end and deal with dramatic happenings involving revenge or remorse... the true ghost story is fragmentary and often apparently meaningless." Well, now he is talking my language! I am sick of things with beginnings, middles and ends, truth be told. I do like a nice shiny fragment. I like that the book flap says with exquisite formality, "Mr. MacKenzie presents many hitherto unpublished supernatural stories from his own collection." I like that he drops allusions to weighty-sounding tomes such as "G.N.M. Tyrrell's masterly work SIX THEORIES ABOUT APPARITIONS." I like that the very first thing he does in the very first chapter is admit to his interviewee, "I have never seen a ghost, possibly because I am a poor visualizer." She - the Vice President of the Society for Psychical Research - has reportedly seen two ghosts (the modesty of the number, especially for one in her position, is something else I like). I like that she says, "I wasn't in the least frightened, but afterwards I did notice that I felt cold about my solar plexus area." And I like that MacKenzie responds drily, "That is most interesting." None of this flailing around and trying to be "colorful" like that other book with the flying jelly bags, which shall remain nameless, and which, as you may recall, had something sticky on the cover anyway. (The image above popped up for reasons unknown as a search result for a photo of Rosalind Hedley Heywood, the Vice President of the SPR at the time of MacKenzie's writing. I didn't find a photo of her but this one is all right too.)

Rydberg Freed Himself

"After several desperate moments of frantic struggle, Rydberg freed himself from the sucking jelly bags" is part of a sentence I just read.

Friday, August 15, 2014

At Long Last Jelly Bags Are Here

The "true" book with a chapter entitled "The Terrible Flying Jelly Bags" has arrived. "Dark Shadows in the Magic Theater of UFOs" is the jumbled title of another chapter, I see, as well as the almost comically blunt "The Thing in the Bloody, Haunted Basement" and "You Are Mine to Kill." That one kind of scares me. And the book is sticky.

The Jerry

Mark Childress and Bill Boyle were both kind enough to send me a really interesting article about the time the Beastie Boys almost started a dance craze called "The Jerry Lewis." The links between Beasties and Jerry have been noted on this "blog" before. But here we have the Holy Grail. Best of all, the "Do the Jerry Lewis" track is grounded in a sample from a Dino, Desi & Billy LP I bought at The End of All Music. You remember Dino, Desi & Billy! Jimmy once referred to Dino, Desi & Billy as "mopey superheroes." I cringed yet nodded when the author of the article stated of the man himself that "Jerry Lewis is mad funky" (see also). I enjoyed learning that "The Jerry Lewis" is based on Jerry's climactic dance (pictured) from THE NUTTY PROFESSOR. And I like the perceptive appreciation that shines through the disdain when a childhood friend of Mike D's says, "One aspect of Mike and his brother Stephen was that they liked these kinds of low-class things. They'd get off on stuff like Mr. T, you know? So maybe Jerry Lewis fit in, in a way. You can't tell if the guy's an idiot, or is he an idiot savant? He sort of makes you uncomfortable in some of those early movies. Is there something wrong with this guy, or was this an astonishing performance?"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Properly Crammed

I would like to apologize to the labels ADVENTURE, BLOOD, DREAMS, DRUNK, EMPTY, FAVES, FISH, FURNITURE, GLORY, HAPPINESS, HEADS, HEAVEN, PROUD, RICE, SHINY, SILENCE, SLEEP, SPIRIT, and STATUES, which should have been appended to a recent "post" but could not be crammed properly into place.

No Profit

Okay, here's a John D. MacDonald sentence I like, especially out of context: "There was no profit in watching a hairy man read a book."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ghosts Are Real

As you know, Dr. Theresa and I can hardly be bothered to walk up the block to hear music. But this weekend we went all the way to New York City to hear music! That's right, our favorite band The Rock*A*Teens, who were playing their VERY LAST SHOW EVER according to Rock*A*Teens mastermind Chris Lopez, whom we saw in the club (Le Poisson Rouge) when we arrived early - though the next day (about which more later) he seemed more cryptic and less certain when we raked him over the coals about it. We can only hope - the world, I mean! - that the Rock*A*Teens will play again. Our trip began the day before, with drinks precisely at "Megan Abbott Time" - this time with the actual Megan Abbott! Hey, you know how I always wear my glasses way up on the top of my head? Sure, it's probably all you think about! You can see an example in the following photo by Dan Conaway.
Well, I tossed back my head with glee or something and my glasses flew away into a spot from which they were seemingly irretrievable. Megan, a daintily constructed person (I once asked for and received her permission to compare her to a doll in a magazine article) slipped herself behind the banquette in our swank hotel lobby to save them. Later that night, at dinner (about which more later), an efficient and stealthy waiter suddenly appeared behind me with my glasses, which I had lost again in the identical manner. "Sir, your glasses," he said. "A theme!" I thought. "This is hot stuff! The title of my 'blog' 'post' can be 'Sir, Your Glasses.'" And so I jotted in my special book of jottings. BUT IT WAS NOT TO BE. "Ha ha," I thought. "My glasses are always flying off my head. What an intriguing character I am." Dr. Theresa and I were dining at Il Buco Alimentari, a place recommended by John T. Edge. When we arrived, the hostess said, "Oh, you requested the kitchen," and the other hostess said quickly, "No, no, no," which made me suspicious. WHO HAD REQUESTED THE KITCHEN? For we were indeed seated, as if we had requested the kitchen, at a marble counter facing just inches away from where they were cooking the food, a terrific spectacle. The exchange between hostesses made me wonder whether John T. had secretly called ahead to ensure that our dinner would be especially memorable. I have suspected as much of him before! Dr. Theresa had some octopus and then later I had some different kind of octopus. Somehow I thought of Camille's, an old spot in Atlanta, though Camille's was sometimes crummy, especially in its later years, whereas Il Buco Alimentari was glorious, but my octopus made me think of the fra diavolo at Camille's if a mighty, shining archangel had prepared it instead of a human who had given up on life. It was some exquisite octopus there at Il Buco Alimentari is what I'm getting at. And Dr. Theresa said that her own pasta course was like "black pepper and pecorino romano got married and had a beautiful offspring." And there was pork with nectarines and so many other things, things just kept coming, things that could make you cry, a snifter of green chartreuse. And now I'm going to leave the heavenly Il Buco Alimentari to indulge in some memories of shaky old Camille's. Dr. Theresa and I went to Camille's on our third date! Between our first and second date she had gotten seriously ill - not because of our first date, ha ha! I mean, like, she was in the hospital. So on the third date I thought it might do her some good to try to walk to Camille's (she was very weak). It did her no good at all! In fact it did her some harm. Which reminds me of the time long before that when I made my poor sister walk a MILE to Camille's in some uncomfortable shoes which I found out later had caused her feet to bleed like some kind of saint. Good times. Let me explain that at the time, my brother and I were both living in Atlanta, in separate places, and my sister, then a teenager, would sometimes come to visit. So on that trip she and I sat around the apartment and played hangman because I didn't have a car and I forced her to march until her feet bled... and then when it was her turn to stay with my brother, he introduced her to her hero David Byrne! David Byrne shook her hand and she swore never to wash it again. So that was a contrast. Nor did my brother force her to walk until her feet bled. OKAY! Back to the present! The next day Dr. Theresa and I were to meet Megan at the Strand bookstore, where I had never been somehow. Dr. Theresa and I were a little early, so first we ducked into a comic book store around the corner. I got a copy of Seo Kim's book CAT PERSON. It's great! Sitting on a bench waiting for Megan a few minutes later I was just laughing out loud like a lunatic. Also, I was reading CAT PERSON by Seo Kim. I was delighted to see Jesse Moynihan's FORMING on the shelf in the comic book store, both volumes. But an employee told me that the recent ADVENTURE TIME comics cowritten by Kent Osborne were sold out! He told me they sell the minute they come in - they can't keep them in the shop! Our town does not have a comic book store, so I was sad about that lost opportunity. (Later the Rock*A*Teens bass player Will Joiner showed me a picture his niece had asked him to show me. She's getting ready to start 7th grade and she was all done up in her ADVENTURE TIME finery. He said she had never been so excited as when he told her he was going to meet someone who works on ADVENTURE TIME... which is the same way I feel about the Rock*A*Teens!) Megan met us at the Strand and we went down to the occult section in the basement. Dr. Theresa immediately found me several of the kind of "true ghost story" books I like, including one with a Table of Contents that promised a chapter about "The Terrible Flying Jelly Bags." I don't know what those are yet, and I won't until the books have been delivered, but I thought "The Terrible Flying Jelly Bags" would make a great title for a "blog" "post," surpassing even "Sir, Your Glasses." BUT IT WAS NOT TO BE. Megan was trying to choose between a book by a debunker and a book by a spiritualist medium and I suggested the latter because it would be "crazier." An eavesdropping young man turned to us and in a quietly intense voice said, "Ghosts are real." As I recall it, I replied in a friendly conversational tone, "I know, I've seen 'em!" Minutes later, however, on the street (and several times throughout the remainder of our stay in New York) Megan claimed that I had said, "Of course! I've seen many!" and as I was saying it (according to Megan's version, which she demonstrated to a number of people over the next few days, as I've noted) I made a sweeping, Shakespearean gesture with my right hand. That's what she said! I don't remember it. In any case, I "out-weirded the weirdo" (as Megan put it, to which Dr. Theresa sincerely added, "I am so proud of you"). It is true that the quiet and intense young man, whose eyes glimmered with danger and insanity, was flummoxed, stunned, defeated and silenced by my solicitous response. Eventually, Megan and Dan and Dr. Theresa and I were at the Rock*A*Teens show, and I literally can't remember the last time I was so happy.
For one thing it brought Dr. Theresa and me in an emotional whirlwind back to our early days (we've been married almost 19 years!) when Hogan sang at our wedding reception and Lopez picked up a guitar for one number. For this gig, though, all these years later, a band called Ricer opened, and it was a good sign when the lead singer and guitarist announced that her favorite band was The Rock*A*Teens. Then Ricer blew us all away with crashing relentless deafening sterilizing murderous vibrations that made us feel young again. Megan described their sound as "early metal" - I think. It was impossible to hear! In a good way. "They're like Frank Sinatra!" I screamed in Megan's ear, and I believe she agreed. She got where I was coming from! Maybe. After Ricer, Megan and I went and found a photo booth at the back of the club.
The Rock*A*Teens came on and Dr. Theresa danced, sometimes with Dan and sometimes with the girl from Ricer, and sometimes both, probably. I chipped in. It was mass hysteria! Dr. Theresa screamed herself hoarse. The aftereffects are apparent to this very day! She reached up for the stage and Chris Lopez reached down and grabbed her hand. She later called it her "Courtney Cox moment" - for you youngsters, that's a Springsteen reference. The next day, the bass player Will Joiner told us that the R*A*Ts had played for TWO SOLID HOURS, 23 songs, an incredible length for a set list. Lopez crowd-surfed for the first time ever. "I didn't do it on purpose," he said, sounding apologetic. "I stumbled and somebody grabbed me." This conversation took place at a joint called "The Campbell Apartment," where Megan took us, a rococo little bar in a hidden corner of Grand Central Station. Here's a picture I found of it on the "internet."
You can see the top of the nicely-upholstered couch where Lopez and Dr. Theresa and I were sitting. But you can't see the stone lion with wings (a gryphon?) that watches over everything. The atmosphere was suitably phantasmagoric but some of the fancy drinks were tastier than others and Lopez and Dr. Theresa may have had the right idea when they switched to bourbon on the rocks.
Dr. Theresa showed off her tattoo and Lopez asked whether I had got one to match and I said teasingly, "I don't desecrate my body," to which Lopez replied "THIS body?" gesturing humorously at my body. Which reminds me. We were lucky enough to see Ward McCarthy and his dear wife Ann on this trip, our old friends, and their daughter Lily (I knew her when she was a newborn infant and now she's about to start college!) and Ward and Ann LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME as they did when I first knew them. And Chris Lopez looks EXACTLY THE SAME. Whereas I am a fat guy with a lot of white in his beard. What happened? Ward said he and the family had been rafting in some rapids recently. That's not the Ward I know! As I exclaimed to all present. "Yes, because all we did was sit in a bar and complain," said Ward. "But when I wasn't doing that, I was rafting," he added lyingly. I had reason to think of my fatness as I reclined in a marble bathtub, taking a bubble bath and reading a Travis McGee novel just as John D. MacDonald never intended. A tub so deep I could float in it. I DID float in it! This was the day after the show and I was singing everything to the tune of "Don't Destroy This Night," my favorite Rock*A*Teens song, like, "Let's get a drink/ We can sit and think/ Tub so deep/ It puts me right to sleep/ I'm in the mood/ To take pictures of my food." Such were a mere few of my hilarious parody lyrics basd on gritty real-life experiences. I'm like the Weird Al of the Rock*A*Teens! But - and may Ace Atkins forgive me for saying so - John D. MacDonald writes a lot of prose that should ONLY be read in a bubble bath. "One goodnight in a sad alto echoed in an empty corridor in my mind... I stood on a dream bridge and saw an open boat drift under the bridge on the black tide, full of a lost tumble of dead maidens..." WHAT! COME ON! Travis McGee likes to explain life to the ladies. He likes to tell women what's what. "Baby, nothing is easy... real people walk around in the foggy, foggy dew." Okay, Travis McGee! That little speech runs about a page. (Ha ha, look who's talking!) By page 142 two women have literally purred at him - PURRED AT HIM, NOT METAPHORICALLY - because he's so awesome at giving them a squeeze if you know what I mean. Maybe one woman specifically purring in gratitude for his manliness every 71 pages isn't too many, I don't know, what do you think, don't tell me, I don't care. But he's trying to avenge the death of a pal and get his mitts on some weird gold statues so I'm still reading it so sue me. After drinks with some Rock*A*Teens at Grand Central Station it was off to Laura Lippman and David Simon's place with Dan and Megan for a really special evening of conversation and cheese. I am talking about a cheese called burrata, which I guess I am the last to know about because everybody was looking at it and saying, "Hm, the burrata, oh, the burrata," like it was a normal thing. But it was so much more than a normal thing! Plus Laura had thoughtfully prepared some Southern specialties to make us Southerners (she has Georgia roots of her own!) feel at home. Because guess who else was there? That's right, Roy Blount Jr.! "She introduced us to her donkey," Roy said when I asked him to tell us about the time he met Flannery O'Connor. "Funerals are a good thing to be funny after," he said later, on another subject. At one point Megan said "Everything important looks simple," and I wrote it down because I go around writing down things Megan says. Like, a day or two before that, she said in defense of Frank Sinatra, "He couldn't control his overwhelming emotions, that's the worst you could say about him," and then she laughed really forcefully ("merrily," we decided) at the audacity of her own pronouncement. Ha ha ha! At Le Poisson Rouge I wrote down something Dan said but I'll tell you the truth, I'm not sure I can read it. It's dark in there! It's dark and drunk in there. I think it says, "The promise isn't better than the thing." And I think it had to do with how fantastically he had vowed to dance with Dr. Theresa - a promise he easily kept! I have a lot more material here... I mean a LOT more... a whole riff on SNOWPIERCER for example (I think I call Tilda Swinton the Peter Sellers of our time) but even I have my limits. OR DO I?

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Who Cares

I've traced the source of that Robert Mitchum/Jim Morrison conflation to an article in THE ATLANTIC (the article itself ripped off throughout the lawless plains of the "internet") that seems to quote the Lee Server biography of Mitchum in part, though I'm not sure there's a footnote or credit given, but there probably is, somewhere, and if there's not, who cares, life is just a big ball of chaos.

Friday, August 08, 2014


McNeil says that Mitchum suggested the Ramos gin fizz as a hangover cure to Frank Sinatra. Sinatra found it so effective that he started calling Mitchum "Mother" and even mailed him a card every Mother's Day. "The Ramos Gin Fizz was also said to be a fave of Doors frontman Jim Morrison," the author of the Mitchum biography concludes in a dazzling non sequitur. (A late postscript! I don't know what Mitchum bio McNeil is reading. In the one I have, by Lee Server, the author mentions the hangover cure using much of the same language, but in a generic way, omitting its identity as a Ramos gin fizz. Nor does he make the weird aside about Jim Morrison.) PPS: Mystery solved! "Click" here for more information - ha! I know you never will.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Tall Dog

McNeil tells me that Mitchum once sat next to Faulkner at dinner. Mitchum made some intricate conversational metaphor that I just don't feel up to typing about being a "tall dog on a short leash" and later Faulkner said, "I really like the way that boy talks." That's all I have for you today and if you don't like it you can go to hell. I don't know what they had for dinner.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Discussing Literature

Our friend J. was passing through town. I believe it is okay to mention him without permission on the "blog" as I am protecting his anonymity to some extent. I happened to run into him at Square Books. He was with his friend Cary, who directed a movie version of JANE EYRE that I liked a lot. J. mentioned that he and Cary were having dinner with Wright Thompson later in the evening. Well, then I went to City Grocery Bar to meet Ace Atkins and Bill Boyle, where we, uh, discussed literature. It was just after four, "Megan Abbott Time" as we call it around here. Ace left at one point and walked next door to Square Books and bought each of us a different Travis McGee novel tailor-made to our individual tastes. Square Books has sold so many books to drunk people! You sit up there at the Grocery and get excited talking about some book you love and next thing you know you're somewhere else and the old cash register is ringing. Not to say that Ace was drunk. In fact he was in more of a sipping mood. Sipping and contemplative. My own mood was somewhat different. I got home and told Dr. Theresa about J. being in town - they once bonded over the horrific experience of going to see COWBOYS AND ALIENS together, and really it has united them in a way that few can fathom - so she wanted me to bring him a little note saying how sorry she was to miss him. So I went to the restaurant with the note in my pocket but no one was there so I had no choice but to drink some more. We have reached 8:30 in the evening in our tale. Wright showed up and politely asked me whether I'd like to join the table, and I impolitely - boorishly, even - accepted the invitation. Then I babbled about JANE EYRE to the director for a million hours without managing to produce a single insight. Stuff like, "You did a great job!" At a lull in the babbling, J. said, "Hey, Jack? Did you know he directed a version of JANE EYRE?" A chuckle was enjoyed by all. Why, only that day I had seen Kaitlyn at Off Square Books and one of the books there reminded me of the sad death of Meriwether Lewis, which I started babbling about, and Kaitlyn said, "I heard it might have been murder!" And then she realized, "Oh, I think it was you who told me that." And I realized that I have only two or three topics of conversation, one of them being the sad death of Meriwether Lewis. Another is crows, as I discovered at a dinner party when everyone gently hinted that I should shut up about crows. Wow, I'm learning a lot of miserable things about myself as I type this. And yet I have no feeling that I might ever become a better person. Things reached such a state at the dinner last night, the JANE EYRE dinner, that we decided to drunk dial Jerry Lewis. I think it was Wright's idea. So Wright called Dr. Theresa to ask her to read him Jerry Lewis's phone number, which I have taped to my office wall, natch, but luckily Dr. Theresa did not pick up the phone because Dr. Theresa never picks up the phone, so we didn't call Jerry Lewis. Oh my God! That was a close one.

Monday, August 04, 2014

This Guy and His Italics

Read a bunch of that Artie Shaw biography by Tom Nolan yesterday and I thought of a bunch of stuff I wanted to tell you about it but now I forgot most of it. I do feel that it's only fair, as I've alluded to the time that Artie Shaw recklessly and accidentally killed a guy, to mention that he saves someone's life at great personal risk later in the book. I'm still in the middle. I haven't even made it to Ava Gardner yet, though Artie Shaw has been intimate with just about every other woman in Hollywood, plus several women from the music business and some civilians of various professions. Betty Grable was married to Jackie Coogan when she met Artie Shaw. Pin-up icon Betty Grable was married to Uncle Fester (above)! "Betty came home one night to find Jackie had sold their wedding presents for 'ready cash.'" And that's one of the nicer things he did. So you can see why she dumped him and took up with Artie Shaw. Teenage Judy Garland was infatuated with Artie Shaw. As a favor, child star Jackie Cooper (not to be confused with the aforementioned Jackie Coogan, who also started out as a child star) would pick up Judy at her house to go on a supposed date, but then he'd drop her off at Artie's place (so Judy's mom wouldn't suspect) and Artie and Judy would take long drives and talk about literature and he swears he never laid a hand on her, but that doesn't mean it didn't BREAK HER HEART when he suddenly married Lana Turner. Poor Judy locked herself in her room and cried and cried! Shaw married Lana Turner so fast that she didn't even have time to change out of the dress she was wearing on THEIR FIRST DATE! Yes, that was hasty. It worked out as you may expect. But now I want to discuss the author's use of italics. Please note in advance that when this "blog" first started I didn't know how to put italics in it, so I used ALL CAPS where italics should go, and even though I think it would be easy to put italics on this "blog" I never have, so I am not going to start now. Same goes, as you can see, with paragraph breaks. So you can always tell when this author is quoting from an interview he did himself, because he has the most peculiar fondness for italics when transcribing human speech. There are hundreds of examples throughout the book, but I will start with the time he interviews Jack Klugman about Billie Holiday, because why would anyone interview Jack Klugman about Billie Holiday (he never shows up in the book for any other reason)? "GOD, she was wonderful... she would sing maybe two or THREE songs... She was sen-SATIONAL!... Aw, I LOVED Artie Shaw's band. He was - he was great; HE WAS AN INNOVATOR." I don't know if this is getting it across. It's really INSANE. Hey, remember how it grossed me out when that Frank Sinatra biographer compared women to flies? Nolan writes almost the same sentence about Shaw, except he makes the women into hummingbirds instead of flies, still gross, I suppose, but it's nicer than saying they "gathered like flies." And then Phil Silvers (!), who went on Artie and Lana's first date with them (!!), says Lana went for Artie "like a bee making for the honey." Phil Silvers is all over the Frank Sinatra biography too. I was going to give you some more examples of weird italics but now I'm tired.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Dusty Old Paper

Aw, this Artie Shaw biography doesn't smell that bad... just like dusty old paper, which is a pretty good smell, actually. I have a vivid childhood memory (ha ha! I am so boring! You can turn away from me in disgust now) of smelling a copy of PILGRIM'S PROGRESS by John Bunyan that I checked out of the public library in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. A smell I still recall and savor! Ha ha, what a loser. The library was shaped like a log cabin... hmm... it was made of logs, I think... I guess it WAS a log cabin... but the shape seemed... ironic? Some kind of statement? Hell, I don't know. Several years ago my brother and I were back in the Bayou and we stopped by the building and it was empty and the windows were smashed. Anyway, I'm just 32 pages in and Artie Shaw has already killed a guy.

Softballs in Chicago Are Huge

My friend Judge writes in to report that softballs in Chicago are huge! Sixteen inches around. "It's like catching a globe," she says. On the plus side: "You don't need a glove & it makes good players bad & bad players bad - equalizer." But mostly I think she hates it!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Eugene Lighting a Candle

Dr. Theresa was watching THE PINK PANTHER on TCM just now and she said, "Hey, wasn't Eugene in this movie?" And weirdly, Eugene popped up on the screen just then, as the butler who is lighting some fireworks for Peter Sellers, who is dressed as a knight and thinks what he has is a regular candle. Mayhem is to ensue. So I got to put my finger on the TV screen and say, "Yes! That's him!" She talked to Eugene on the telephone once but sadly never met him in person. This photo I took of the TV is lousy but I am an old man and don't know how to properly use a computer to take a photo of a TV screen so go to hell.

Chest Thumpers

Megan Abbott was right when she told me I was depressed from reading "too much chest-thumping male stuff in a row." Yet somehow I felt like going straight from the 700-page Frank Sinatra bio (and that's just the first half of his life!) into an Artie Shaw bio I've had on the shelf for years... talk about a chest-thumper! I seem to recall he was one of those geniuses who was also a big jerk. Maybe I was "leaning into it" - is that a phrase that means anything, and am I using it correctly if so? I guess it was the Ava Gardner connection between those two gentlemen that got me thinking about the Shaw book. And the Lana Turner connection to a lesser degree. And one time Frank came home and found Lana and Ava hanging out and he got so mad! So I took this Artie Shaw book off the shelf and, I don't know, it smelled weird. I read the first page. At 92, Artie Shaw recalls his very first memory: seeing a devil! Or, to be less sensationalistic, a devil-shaped shadow on the ceiling over his crib. But like I said the book smelled weird and the devil over his crib reminded me about my odor-free copy of PARANORMAL MISSISSIPPI RIVER: AN ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA, which I opened to a passage on "phantom kangaroos" sometimes "seen hopping around and occasionally behaving aggressively, in Central Illinois." Just like Frank Sinatra and Artie Shaw!


I have a lot of books about ghosts and most of them are fantastic! But that last ghost book I tried to read, set in Mississippi, was a big dud. So as you may expect it was with some combination of dread and expectation that I stumbled across a volume entitled PARANORMAL MISSISSIPPI RIVER: AN ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA in Square Books yesterday. I like things that are arranged encyclopedically! And the busy cover illustration featured the devil perched on the roof of a house, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, like, "Hmm." But the bookmark enclosed by the publisher scared me a little. It's an advertisement practically begging for authors, and carries a whiff of self-publishing about it. But as you know I have had some great enjoyment thanks to self-published material, crudely illustrated ("click" here for just one example that leaps to mind). In fact, it was just such an illustration that sealed the deal for me. I present it above. The caption was also magnificent: "No peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich was safe whilst the BIGFOOT-type monster dubbed MOMO stalked southeastern Missouri." As you can perhaps make out, the facing page contained phrases such as "like sulfur and feces, only worse" and "unprotected peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches." Flipping through, I ran across an allusion to THE GODFATHER of all things ("It seems likely Marie Laveau became the classic 'fixer,' in the sense familiar to many who have read Mario Puzo's THE GODFATHER"), a frequent touchstone of the Frank Sinatra bio I just finished, so that seemed like a good omen. One person who works at Square Books, whose identity I shall protect, saw me looking at PARANORMAL MISSISSIPPI RIVER: AN ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA and asked whether I had ever heard of the Bell Witch. Had I! I won't tell you about it because it's too scary. But anyway, this person told me that the daughter from all the Bell Witch trouble had moved into a house "a softball's throw away" from his or her own childhood home, and that, according to legend, a ghost had followed her there. By the time my informant was born, the haunted house was a storage space for "farm implements" where no ghostly occurrences were reported.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Twice Is a Lot

This Frank Sinatra biography has a lot of UFOs in it for a Frank Sinatra biography. The author complains that the announcement of Frank signing with the Capitol record label was "buried beneath articles about a UFO sighting over New Mexico's Kirtland Air Force Base." So that's just two mentions of UFOs so far but this book covers just the first half of Frank's life and I've only made it to page 662. I'll let you know.