Sunday, November 30, 2014

Not Good Eating

Why am I already reading ANOTHER Stephen King novel? That's a great question! Kaitlyn at Square Books recommended DOCTOR SLEEP and then Tom Franklin and I had one of our infamous luncheons and was there wine involved? YOU TELL ME. But Tom also recommended DOCTOR SLEEP. Which is about an alcoholic. So I stumbled back to Square Books and got a copy of DOCTOR SLEEP. Later I wound up on the balcony at Ace Atkins's office, as you can see. Somehow, with the patient guidance of Dr. Theresa, I made it home still clutching my copy of DOCTOR SLEEP, which, so far, has had two figurative owls in it: a "night owl" and a "boiled owl." This "boiled oil" was neither drunk nor sore, however, unlike earlier boiled owls of our acquaintance. Someone was described, in fact, as being "tougher'n a boiled owl." WHAT! I looked it up in my GREEN'S DICTIONARY OF SLANG and this measure of toughness goes back at least as far as 1909. And I guess it makes the most sense of any of the boiled owl comparisons. I imagine if you boiled an owl (DON'T!) it would be tough and just not very good eating. I'm sorry I doubted you, Stephen King! I guess a boiled owl can be whatever we want it to be. The versatile boiled owl, ladies and gentlemen.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tales of the Old Swimming Hole

Dad's in town. He told about a guy who lost his false teeth in the swimming hole. Dad - a boy at the time - offered to dive down and look for the guy's teeth. He didn't believe he'd find them but the guy seemed so distraught. So Dad dove down and found the teeth and brought them back up and the guy said, "I owe you big time!" But Dad never got anything.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

No Hope

Square Books called yesterday to say they have that new biography of Bob Hope I wanted but I couldn't make it yesterday so I called twice today and just got Lyn's pleasant voice on the answering machine so I guess they are closed for Thanksgiving, what a tragedy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Poignant and Gross

I made Kent Osborne watch that clip of Jerry Lewis and Kent didn't like the way Jerry was jumping all over Bob Hope. I liked that part! I think it is accurate to say that Kent disapproved in general of Jerry's attitude and behavior. I told Kent, "The young have to take down the old!" I think that's what I said. Something like that. Which is funny, because I'm old. I was thinking (I was wrong) that Bob Hope was born in the late nineteenth century in England (it was actually 1903) - practically a Victorian! - and here's Jerry, a child of the jazz age! A child of New Jersey! And that's why it's so poignant and gross when Bob and Jerry at a later date are commiserating about the supposed bad eggs among the hip youth of the late 1960s. By that point Bob and Jerry have bitterly merged into a single generation! It's sad. (Of course Bob would be the one who was actually a young rake during the jazz age. Anyway, what's the jazz age?) And then that made me realize that when I was a kid I knew at least three people (more than three, but three I remember well) who were born in the nineteenth century. That's weird! But it's not so weird. But it's weird. Anyway, I'm old. So I fell asleep and dreamed I had signed up for some seedy traveling act that got locals (like me) to compete in footraces against mangy old retired circus animals. The guy ahead of me raced a lion. He made it 1.9 seconds before the lion outran him, which everyone said was good. I fainted (in my dream!) before I found out what animal I was supposed to race, and people were trying unsuccessfully to pry open my eyes.

That Dang Vampire

Megan Abbott emailed this morning. She's thinking of rereading H.P. Lovecraft for the holidays (!) and wanted to know my favorite stories of his. By coincidence (OR WAS IT?) there was a Lovecraft allusion on last night's ADVENTURE TIME, when a little creature on a pilgrimage, hoping to see a god, saw Finn eating spaghetti instead. The poor little thing cried out, "I thought you'd be beautiful!" and started weeping and melted. And by coincidence (OR WAS IT?) yesterday's ADVENTURE TIME meeting was about a creepy episode idea from Seo Kim (who also storyboarded last night's episode along with Somvilay Xayaphone). It was also based on a night terror (OR WAS IT?) that a friend of Kent's had. And by coincidence (OR WAS IT?) I ran out of things to read on airplanes and at an LAX souvenir shop where by coincidence (OR WAS IT?) a large glowing poster of pal Mary Miller's novel THE LAST DAYS OF CALIFORNIA decorated the register I bought the new, Lovecraftian Stephen King novel. (Also in that souvenir shop: a lifesized cardboard cutout of Martin Short, for which I fantasized about buying a seat next to me on the airplane.) Also (OR WAS IT?) I have been tweeting little fragments of the ghost book I just finished reading to Megan and Jimmy, like so:
And Bill Boyle, inspired by this, emailed Jimmy and Megan and me some scary "links" to recordings of poltergeist activity (little kids talking in SHINING voices, yaaaah! Dr. Theresa hates it when I say in a raspy voice, "Jack's not here, Mrs. Pendarvis" - as much as I hate and fear her creepy impression of Helena Bonham Carter in FRANKENSTEIN! - so I guess Bill Boyle has taught me a valuable lesson in empathy) and a medium named Leslie Flint channeling the Brontë sisters. I shan't include the "links" lest they drive you mad with fear (see Lovecraft). Hey did I ever tell you that one of my little sister's first words as a baby was "poltergeist"? True story! Plus I'm reading that dang vampire novel now, what is wrong with me. OR WAS IT

Saturday, November 22, 2014

No One Can Stop Me

Anyway I feel like "blogging" about Jerry Lewis again and who's going to stop me? You? Don't make me laugh. I feel bad for "blogging" about how Jerry seemed to cast ingenues he thought maybe he could boss around (I'm speculating!) because then along comes Kaye Ballard in WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT? and you see what might have been... they have just one short scene together, but she matches Jerry in energy all the way. Surpasses him, even! I suppose a whole movie of that would have been exhausting. Or exhilarating! I guess we'll never know. Anyway, maybe Jerry was getting older and starting to trust himself more. I had some other choice stuff about how Jerry splits himself into four parts in this movie instead of the usual two... but I'm getting tired again. I found this photo at You can email Kaye Ballard there! I close with the entire clip of Dean and Jerry and Bob and Bing of which I offered only the merest hints in an earlier post. McNeil found it and sent it to me a while back and I tweeted it on the twitter. You'll see why Bing got so scared of Jerry and ran away. It's pretty great and fascinating. Would it kill you to watch it?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bejeweled Woman Descending From the Chimney

My sister, who is interested in Casanova as a historical figure, probably already knows this, but according to a movie review I read in the New York Times today, Casanova claimed that his first memory was of "being locked in a chest by a witch to treat childhood nosebleeds and hallucinating a bejeweled woman descending from the chimney."

Silver Bells

I'm writing a book about cigarette lighters and supposedly another book, plus look what the producer of SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS put on twitter the other day:
Yeah, so that's going on too! And I just went to Burbank to work on ADVENTURE TIME, so maybe that's why I haven't been "blogging" too much, what, you didn't notice? Gee. And you know I pride myself on taking a little notebook along and jotting down precious memories for you, but the whole first day of my trip I had a dull, aching feeling that there was nothing to jot. I remembered that before I left TEQUILA SUNRISE was on TV,
a movie that I went to see a number of times on the big screen during the callow days of my impressionable youth, and Dr. Theresa came in the room and made a funny comment about the "smokin' hot Kenny G riffs" on the soundtrack, so I jotted that: "Dr. Theresa, sarcastically: 'smokin' hot Kenny G riffs.'" And I closed my notebook and sat there in the hotel lobby nursing my drink like, "Well, I guess that's it." BUT THEN GARRY MARSHALL SHOWED UP. Garry Marshall, creator of HAPPY DAYS! Director of PRETTY WOMAN! Actor in a memorable cameo in LOST IN AMERICA! He was meeting some friends so I eavesdropped on them. The bartender came over and Garry Marshall asked him about "the score of the game" and the bartender said that Tennessee had just scored a spectacular 80-yard touchdown and Garry Marshall said "Eh." Some of his younger friends started trying to explain what ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK is to Garry Marshall and he was slightly ticked off that they didn't think he knew what ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK was. He knows what ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK is! He's Garry Marshall for God's sake. He didn't say it in those words. I'm interpreting. One of Garry Marshall's friends reminisced about his (the friend's) first big job onstage, in which he had to bound out naked for his first entrance. "He was very good naked," Garry Marshall said, which got a big laugh from everybody. Garry Marshall and his friends left the bar area of the hotel lobby so I called Dr. Theresa and told her I had seen the director of RUNAWAY BRIDE and she was very proud of me. Then I told her about how I had accidentally bought a really expensive brush at the drugstore across the street from the hotel. I should have known because it said "By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen" on the handle. That was the slogan of the brush company! But the brush was so small! Whether from pride or embarrassment, I allowed the cashier to ring it up without protest. Dr. Theresa got in some good jokes about me and my expensive brush. Then Verdell showed up! She had been hoping she could come by after work, and she did. These days, Verdell works for a space company that makes space rockets that go into space! Anyway, Verdell sat down and ordered a drink and I told her she had just missed Garry Marshall. AND we discovered that Garry Marshall and his friends had been blocking our view of another actor. I said, "Hey, look, it's the guy who played the mad scientist on FRINGE!" Verdell had never heard of this guy. (Later, Dr. Theresa told me he has a current role on the television program SLEEPY HOLLOW.) The mad scientist from FRINGE was reading a newspaper. "What do you think he's doing?" I asked. "Looks like he's reading a newspaper," said Verdell. Verdell said that there were Christmas carols on the radio on her way over. She doesn't like most of the religious Christmas carols but said she finds the secular "No Place Like Home for the Holidays" acceptable. We discussed the meaning of the line, "Gee the traffic is terrific." Then we talked about "Sleigh Ride" and "Let it Snow" and "Silver Bells." Then I had to pee. I walked into the bathroom humming "Silver Bells." There was just one urinal! So I had to stand behind the guy who was using it. When he turned, he revealed himself to be the mad scientist from FRINGE! He had what I must call a sour demeanor. I also noted that he had an unexpected resemblance, somehow, to the late Robert Preston, a sour Robert Preston. As I peed, I noted that I could hear him over there at the sink washing his hands. Good hygiene! And he started humming! I can't swear to this, but I think maybe he was humming snatches of "Silver Bells"! I could hardly wait to tell Verdell.
Verdell and I had some more drinks. Garry Marshall came back to the lobby! I pointed him out to Verdell. Garry Marshall noticed us noticing him and came over and introduced himself. Verdell said to him, "You look fashionable, are you wearing desert boots?" "I don't know," replied Garry Marshall. Later, when Garry Marshall sat down with a friend of his, Verdell was able to determine that Garry Marshall was most likely wearing "tan suede oxfords." She noticed that Garry Marshall's friend was wearing loafers with no socks. That reminded me of something else I had overheard earlier in the evening, about Garry Marshall and his wife (I think) donating 650 socks to the homeless, or maybe 650 pairs of socks. There's a breakfast place I like across the street from the hotel, and the next morning TV's Andy Richter sat at the counter next to me! I am pleased to announce that he is the trusting sort and left his keys and sunglasses on the counter when he went to the restroom. Needless to say under my watchful eye Andy Richter's keys and sunglasses went undisturbed. Kent and I had lunch with Kent's brother Mark, who happened to be in town directing Jeff Bridges for Mark's upcoming movie! Mark told us how nice Jeff Bridges and Albert Brooks are, and that's what you want to hear, you want to hear that these actors you like are nice people. Dinner at the Tam O'Shanter! Seo Kim came. I got to tell her about a cat she drew that I especially liked. While Kent and I were waiting for the others to arrive (we went there early, right after work), Kent drew me at the bar,
contemplating my favorite curse. Joey and Brian came to dinner! We had Welsh rarebit and deviled eggs to pass around the table and then Kent and I had expensive ribeye steaks! Kent paid! What a pal. I tried to give him the bit of ribeye I had left over and Kent demurred until Joey came up with the brilliant idea of asking the waitress for one of those delicious rolls that came with the Welsh rarebit. "Now you can pop it right in there," said Joey to Kent. Kent thought it was a great idea for leftovers. And that's when I found out those rolls we had been enjoying were "Yorkshire puddings." So that's what a Yorkshire pudding is. I didn't know. Anyway, Joey had been joking that I sounded like a mom, repeatedly begging Kent to take my leftover ribeye so he could "make sandwiches" but SHE is the one who came up with idea of nestling the last bite of ribeye into the welcoming center of the Yorkshire pudding for a tempting taste treat okay I think it is time for me to stop jotting now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Opprobrium of Hans Christian Andersen

I haven't told you about this ghost book I'm reading and I think it's because I don't like the way they punctuated the title. It's GHOSTS A NATURAL HISTORY: 500 YEARS OF SEARCHING FOR PROOF by Roger Clarke. If you're going to call it that, I guess you need two colons, but two colons would look weird, so don't call it that! I see in the fine print that the original British title was A NATURAL HISTORY OF GHOSTS. That's so much better. I can just imagine some jerk American publishing executive saying, "No, Roger, we have to LEAD with the GHOSTS or PEOPLE won't GET IT!" But that's not my point. I think it might be the best ghost book I've ever read, and I've read lots of ghost books. That's my point! Let me just quote three or four brief fragments to give you some flavor. 1) "In 1821, syphilitic, mercury-poisoned and deranged, he had his bed removed to a gardener's cottage and called in the dilapidators, watching with satisfaction as they knocked the house down." 2) "Mrs Crowe... possibly had a drug habit, which drew the opprobrium of Hans Christian Andersen on a visit to Scotland. On 17 August 1847, he describes her inhaling ether with another woman at a party, and with a frisson of misogynistic horror he describes 'the feeling of being with two mad creatures - they smiled with open dead eyes...'" 3) "Manning said of the man she had murdered and buried under the flagstones of her kitchen, 'I never liked him and I beat his skull with a ripping chisel.'" 4) "From around the time of the Hammersmith ghost, people's attitude toward ghosts was becoming confrontational. Young men sought to conquer their fears. Every evening, groups of them would be seen prowling the area, looking for the ghost, and anyone wearing light clothing could become a target." Clarke goes on to describe the sad story of a bricklayer named Thomas Milward who "wore the apparel traditional to his trade - white linen trousers, a white flannel waistcoat and a white apron." Some dummy mistook him for a ghost and he "threatened to punch the man's head." His mother-in-law told him to stop wearing white linen for his own safety but he was like, "No way!" (I paraphrase.) Then: "As he walked down Black Lion Lane, he was shot dead with a fowling gun by a frightened excise officer named Francis Smith, egged on after a drinking session with local watchman William Girder in the nearby White Hart pub. They had been exchanging tales about the ghost that had frightened the wife of a locksmith to death." Long story short, the king pardoned Francis Smith on the grounds of (and here I paraphrase again), "Hey, he thought he was shooting a ghost!" This is the same illustration of the Hammersmith Ghost that appears in the book.

McNeil's Movie Korner

Welcome once more to the welcoming arms of "McNeil's Movie Korner." Forgot to tell you that McNeil discovered the Jerry Lewis version of THE JAZZ SINGER. He kept pausing it to send me emails: "I watched the first minute (!) and had to pause it my heart was so overflowing with joy. ....Oh, *****, I just watched another minute - Jerry just finished the opening song. I feel like I want to rewind it and watch it over already." And: "I watched another 30 seconds...Jerry comes off stage and licks the manager's cheek!!! This is so perfect." And: "I've watched through the end of Act 2 of THE JAZZ SINGER, but I had to stop at that point. I became physically ill when Jerry's father threw him out of the house - AFTER the cantor b**** slap took my breath away. I'm upstairs talking it out with Bonnie." BONUS! Bill Boyle sent me an article yesterday about when Bob Dylan got "deeply into" Jerry Lewis. The article also mentioned in passing that Bob Dylan owns a boxing gym with a coffee shop attached. MORE EXTRA BONUS EXTRA! I watched WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT? and it anticipates the controversial ending of Tarantino's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS by 40 years. By which, not to be coy, I mean to say that Jerry personally kills Hitler at the end of the movie.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dog Cookie Faint

Did you know there was a sitcom starring Robert Mitchum and NATURAL BORN KILLERS' Juliette Lewis? Me neither! McNeil sent me a bunch of sad stuff from the last part of a Robert Mitchum biography, most of it so sad I'm not going to even tell you. I believe I've mentioned before that every biography of a dead person gets sad toward the end. I'm not even going to tell you the name of the sitcom because I don't want you to go searching for it and watching it the way McNeil forced me to do. Forced me! So Robert Mitchum is a formerly homeless man who is also the grandfather to some kids, and he goes to the grocery store and comes back with a bunch of junk food. Juliette Lewis disapproves! She shows a snack cake to the dog and the dog pretends to faint in disgust. A little girl pops out of a grocery bag! And I guess some other stuff happens. (Hey, I don't know why, but there are a lot of images on the "internet" of Juliette Lewis dressed up like this.)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Kingdom of the Grackles

I keep hinting around about some project like it's some big secret, but it's not a secret and it's not a secret project, it's just a project, I guess it's a project. Hey! Remember when I went to an auction of Bob Hope's personal effects and then I wrote an essay about Bob Hope's ice buckets, and ice buckets in general, for THE ATLANTIC, and this was before the "Ice Bucket Challenge" became popular (remember the "Ice Bucket Challenge"?) so now my article is totally obsolete? Well, that essay series is related to a series of books that Bloomsbury is putting out and they asked me if I could think of an object I wanted to write about - another object - and I scratched my head and said "Cigarette lighters?" And looking back, I think I only said that because I had a lot of leftover notes about Bob Hope's cigarette lighters. But anyway, now I am writing a book about cigarette lighters and that is my so-called "secret project." So I flew to Oklahoma City to view a large private collection of cigarette lighters. (The lighters are actually in nearby Guthrie.) But I'm not going to tell you about that or it would spoil the book! Ha ha, you're not going to read that book, are you? TELL ME THE TRUTH! But here, let me look at my famous little notebook of famous jottings I always famously jot when I travel and see how many jottings are useless for the book and thus safe for me to share. Well! As always the question was what to read on the airplane. I looked around the shelves here at home and I just wasn't feeling anything. So I went to Square Books and leafed through Martin Short's autobiography again. I would never buy Martin Short's autobiography! I don't know why! Sorry, Martin Short! I like Martin Short. And I'd sit in a bookstore and read his autobiography for free - no better than a thief! - but I just can't make myself buy it. On the cover of his autobiography his head forms the "O" in "SHORT." But! His mouth is wide open, so maybe his mouth is the "O" in "SHORT." Or maybe his head is the solid part of the "O" and his mouth is the emptiness in the middle of the "O." I read some stuff about how he met Danny Thomas and Danny Thomas always carried a pistol in a holster on his hip! And then I put Martin Short's autobiography back in its proper place and went upstairs and started looking for a small paperback suitable for airplane reading. As I described some of my likings to the booksellers Kate and Kaitlyn, Kate exclaimed, "Do you like vampires?" Now, there is no way that Kate could have known I am currently working on a Marceline story for ADVENTURE TIME - a meeting about which story was to take place later that very afternoon! - so vampires and all their peculiar habits had been particularly on my mind.
(That's not a spoiler, is it? You know Marceline the Vampire Queen is a character on the show, right? Besides, Adam Muto himself recently tweeted these drawings of Marceline from the thing we've been working on - sketches by Hanna K.) So Kate and Kaitlyn tried to get me to buy a book called THE QUICK by Lauren Owen. "I'm a hundred pages in and there are no vampires yet," said Kaitlyn. I replied that that was fine. I reminded Kaitlyn of a book I had recommended to her, THE LITTLE STRANGER by Sarah Waters, and how you had to wait a long time for the ghost, and Kaitlyn said, "There ARE NO GHOSTS in THE LITTLE STRANGER!" (This is an argument I've had before with other people.) So Kaitlyn and I argued about that in a friendly fashion while Kate thrust the vampire book into my hand. A big clunky hardback! Too big and heavy to carry through airports with my fragile arms. But I opened it up to page one just to be nice and the first sentence is this: "There were owls in the nursery when James was a boy." AND YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS! So I said, "Sold!" And I left Square Books fully convinced that I would grit my teeth and lug this monster of a novel (523 pages, that's not so terrible) onto all the airplanes. BUT! I stopped by Ace Atkins's office and he had a nice, light paperback copy of LABRAVA by Elmore Leonard on his desk because he had been wanting me to read it. Ah, that's more like it. Sorry, Kaitlyn and Kate! But you almost had me. The vampires will be here for me when I get back. Ace urged me to stay at the Skirvin in Oklahoma City (he was there a lot when he was researching his Machine Gun Kelly book). Ace said the Skirvin was famous for being haunted and he sent me a New York Times article (!) about how professional basketball players who stay at the Skirvin get most especially haunted (!!). But I had already made reservations somewhere else. Ace also told me about a good steak place, but I had already - on Wright Thompson's recommendation - made reservations at Junior's, which Wright described in a tweet as an "old school 80s oil money cocaine rich dark red leather whiskey and T-bone joint."
And yes, that was a recommendation! So I guess my unintended message to Ace was "Screw your thoughtful suggestions!" Though I did bring that book he loaned me. I looked up the Oklahoma City weather on the "internet" and asked Dr. Theresa if she thought I should bring my overcoat. I wanted her to say no! We had an overcoat debate. Then it was time for my ADVENTURE TIME meeting. Kent popped up on my computer screen and started agreeing with Dr. Theresa! They were ganging up on me. But I didn't want to drag my bulky overcoat through the airport. Finally, Pen joined the meeting. "How many degrees should it be before I wear an overcoat?" I asked him. "Overcoats are fun, so I say any degrees," Pen replied. I explained that I prefer to travel light. One carry-on messenger bag, one book, and the clothes on my back! That's it! Pen suggested turning the overcoat into a hobo bindle and putting all my stuff in it. I said, "Yes, that's what they like to see at airports." When Pen found out I would ALSO be wearing my blue smoking jacket (under the OVERcoat) he had second thoughts and came around to my side! "I've seen Pen walking around with no jacket when it's FREEZING!" Kent objected, hinting that Pen was no judge of when to wear an overcoat. Now let's get to the jottings you've been craving. I'm skipping some good stuff because I'm tired. Too bad for you. 1. Went to Junior's on my first night in town, just as Wright had suggested. The cab driver, Cecil, took me past a strange building. I couldn't get a really good look - it was a pale, imposing lump in the dark - but I was intrigued enough to ask him what it was. Cecil said it was the "Gold Dome," a vestige of the glory days of Route 66. Cecil also mentioned the "Milk Bottle Building," but I didn't see that and don't know what it is.
I was reminded of the only other time I've been through Oklahoma City. It must have been 1988 or so. I got fired from my job and my friend Tony and I decided to drive across the country, often sticking to the old Route 66. When we drove through Oklahoma City it was literally covered in a white fog, the whole city. We didn't see a single thing. I later turned that incident into a short story for the fine Oklahoma literary magazine THIS LAND. We pulled up at Junior's. It appeared to be an office building! I walked into a sterile corridor with many doors and wasn't even sure I had the right place: it looked like the door to a dentist office waiting room. But as soon as I opened it up I was in Narnia! I literally walked into a different world. (I may as well mention here that Junior's was the second Oklahoma City restaurant I had walked into with "NO WEAPONS" etched in frosted glass at the entrance.) 2. That publicity picture earlier in this "post" can't do Junior's justice. I felt like I was in VERTIGO, TWIN PEAKS, THE SHINING and a Megan Abbott novel,
all in the best way, and I ate a princely meal that James Garner would have eaten in THE WHEELER DEALERS. 3. My table! They put me at a weird table, which felt like the best table in the house to me. It was a two-top nudged right up against a plate glass window, and on the other side of that window, inches from my left, was the blackness, flecked with gold and red, of a dark bar, with people wearing bolo ties and fur stoles and laughing and SMOKING! It was like a membrane through which I could see another time, and because it was soundproofed it really had the effect of a dream, a thin membrane providing a tempting glimpse of a whole other existence I could almost reach out and touch. 4. After dinner I had to go through that looking glass. It smelled like smoke! I never wanted to leave. 5. I spilled rye all over Ace's copy of LABRAVA. 6. I met three nice women who were out for a night on the town together. One was a realtor, one was an aspiring poet and one was drinking expensive cabernet and studying from an enormous textbook entitled HUMAN ANATOMY at the end of the bar! 7. The next day I went out to Guthrie to visit my contact with the lighter collection. I hired a driver named David to take me. He was born in Ethiopia. He said he works at the Skirvin a lot and Ace will be pleased to hear that he brought up the ghosts. Many of David's passengers have told him about being haunted at the Skirvin. David thinks it's a bunch of baloney. He doesn't believe in ghosts. He is a believer in science and evidence. He had a lot of very interesting psychological theories to explain why and how people fool themselves into thinking they see ghosts at the Skirvin. David's a big reader so we talked about books a lot and he told me interesting stories of his mother and father back in Ethiopia. 8. I can't tell you anything about the lighters because I'm saving it for my book. But I just stared at one of my notes ("Frankenstein nose" is all it said) for several minutes in total panic, thinking, "Oh my God! My notes are useless! I can't write this book!" But then I realized it was "Frankenstein noise." One of the lighters made a noise like the machines that brought Frankenstein's monster to life in the old movie. That's what that note meant. And that's all you're getting out of me! 9. My friends Sarah Marine and her husband Bayard Godsave live in a small town an hour away from Oklahoma City and they were nice enough to come all that way to meet me for dinner. As I stood outside the hotel waiting for them I saw a large group of young women approaching from a nearby park. Their leader was wearing a tiara and a satiny black sash! But they turned the corner before they got to me and I could not read the sash. It was not a parade of any kind, just an informal gathering or stroll with a tiara and sash. 10. Like Dr. Theresa and myself, Sarah Marine and Bayard are early diners. So early, in fact, that the restaurant wasn't open when we got there. We had some minutes to wait. Sarah Marine suddenly realized that we were very close to the memorial for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. So we walked over there and it was a very moving and deeply solemn place to be. I heard a solitary bird make a an eerie and prehistoric but, I thought, weirdly beautiful sound. 11. Sarah Marine pointed out the bird in its tree and told me it was a grackle. 12. Boy, let me tell you, Sarah Marine is down on grackles. "They don't fly, they run," she said disdainfully. "But that one is in a tree," I said. Sarah Marine said, "I'm talking about the REAL grackles, the parking lot grackles." She said no two grackles look alike, they're all ragged and mangy in different ways, missing different feathers, slovenly, and she seemed to resent the grackle in the tree as a poser, I guess, a pretentious grackle that thought he was too damn good to represent his squalid kind. And yet I detected no affection for the punk grackles she apparently considered more authentic. She talked about a grackle standing on a corner gnawing on a chicken bone. She saw this same grackle eating discarded chicken wings in an ugly way in the same spot on two separate occasions!
Bayard kind of tried to take up for the grackles a little bit, but had to admit that they stand around chewing on cigarette butts. Bayard and Sarah Marine quoted an ornithologist who hates grackles. An ornithologist! (More on this later.) I could not help but recall the poor cormorant, and that book I have about how everybody hates cormorants. 13. Bayard, on grackles: "Our friend says they look like gasoline." Sarah Marine: "They're shimmery." Bayard: "They're the color of gasoline in a puddle." I must say all of this sounded kind of exotic and tantalizing to me, but Sarah Marine would have none of my sympathetic grackle talk. Sarah Marine: "They sound like something broken." Bayard: "A broken toy." Sarah Marine: "A broken toy of nightmares." I remarked that I kind of liked the way that one grackle sounded. "You haven't heard them when they start grinding," said Sarah Marine. 14. It's a cliché, but the walk back to the restaurant in the gathering darkness took on a Hitchcockian feeling as grackles gathered all around us - I guess I should call them a "flock" but they seemed more like a swarm or a horde - numberless grackles! - and they did make an uncanny racket, and it may have been terrible, but it struck me as unearthly, and for that reason kind of thrilling. INTERESTING SIDE NOTE! Just before I hit the button to publish this "post" I received an email from Sarah Marine: "I'd been thinking that as we stood at the edge of the glimmering reflecting pool at the Oklahoma City Federal Building Memorial, I may have been unfair to the grackle in my musings. Then, I pulled Fifty Common Birds of Oklahoma by the ornithologist George Miksch Sutton off the bookshelf & again feel mostly disgust and pity for the Common Grackle. I've attached a section from the entry on the Common Grackle. Sorry, not sorry, grackles!"
15. At dinner, Sarah Marine told me there's a statue of James Garner in Norman, Oklahoma, and the waitress said, "It's all covered in flowers now," referring to Mr. Garner's fairly recent passing. 16. The restaurant music (before it shifted to "Tears For Fears" mode a bit later in the evening) consisted of popular tunes with a "surf guitar" twist. The theme from GOLDFINGER was one. I mentioned that it was Dr. Theresa's go-to karaoke number. Bayard asked whether I had ever seen the FRASIER episode when Frasier and Niles sing "Goldfinger." I had to say no! Bayard said that the old piano player in the episode can only play "Goldfinger." With Martin's encouragement, Frasier and Niles sing along - reluctantly at first, but with growing enthusiasm. That sounded like a good one! I was sorry not to recall it. I mentioned an episode of FRASIER that had recently disturbed and troubled me and Sarah Marine said, "I have a problem with an entire era of FRASIER." We discussed it. "Why did they give Daphne bangs?" is one thing that Sarah Marine asked plaintively. 17. Sarah Marine said their hometown consisted of "a grain elevator and an intersection." Bayard added, "We have a liquor store that sells Samurai swords." 18. The bottled water in my hotel room had a Bible verse printed next to the expiration date! Not the whole verse, just a citation: "John 5:15." I made a note to myself to look it up in my Geneva Bible when I got home and see what it's all about. "The man departed, and told the Jewes that it was Jesus, which had made him whole." Hmm. Gee. That's what it said on my bottled water! 19. David drove me to the airport the next day and proved himself once again a delightfully wide-ranging conversationalist. He had much of interest to say on the subjects of Christopher Hitchens, Agatha Christie, Karl Marx, Field Marshal Rommel, asceticism, tribalism, and democracy. He was proud that Ethiopia (which he called "the second oldest Christian country in the world," and gave me some history on that) had never been colonized. He told about having to kill goats and oxen as a young man and how his people hardly ever eat a female animal - they eat the rooster, for example, instead of the chicken. "Meat is for rich people," he said. He described being a poor child and - as a kind of entertainment - watching strangers eat meat. "That was our window shopping," he said. 20. I forgot to tell you about the earthquakes! I wasn't in one. But when I was looking at the lighter collection, the collector showed me where several of his lighters had fallen and some had been damaged, and he said, "That's what happens with the earthquakes. We had five earthquakes last week." I think that's what he said. It was something like that. I haven't transcribed the recordings yet. But he is 82, and I thought maybe it was just a strange hyperbolic thing that an 82-year-old man might say. On the drive back to the city, I asked David whether Oklahoma City has a lot of earthquakes and he said, "We had 4,000 earthquakes last year." WHAT! I haven't looked up anything to corroborate that, but Megan sent me an article from THE ATLANTIC detailing a large number of earthquakes in Oklahoma. I didn't see a number so mind-boggling as 4,000 (I haven't looked into it very carefully) but the article did mention a single recent weekend in which Oklahoma had SEVEN EARTHQUAKES! Seven earthquakes in one weekend, I said! David says that the oil men try to tell everybody it's just nature at work, but David knows it's the fracking. 21. Announcement at the Oklahoma airport: "Will the passenger who left the big bag of money at the eastern checkpoint please come get it." 22. "He told Cundo, watching him pick at his cole slaw, he ate like a ******** owl." - LABRAVA

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Regular Normal Celebrity Autobiography Check

Went over to Square Books and poked around the new release tables for celebrity biographies and autobiographies. You know I always like to check the indices (plural of index!) for Jerry Lewis references. Yeah? Well, how do you spend YOUR time? Oh yeah? Well go to hell. John Cleese has an index. No Jerry Lewis. But I don't suppose any of us will ever forget when Cleese's colleague Michael Palin didn't have Jerry in his index, yet Jerry appeared in the book itself, as I serendipitously discovered. Martin Short does not have an index. But the book happened to fall open to a paragraph in which Mr. Short lovingly dissects the structure of a gag from THREE ON A COUCH.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Heliocentric Worlds

Brian sent me a tweet in which someone talks (appreciatively!) about "the moment a dud Jerry Lewis bit passes the three-minute mark." The tweeter praised such moments as transgressive. I understand what he's getting at, and he's right, but the more Jerry I watch, the less I can think of those bits (which seldom last three minutes, though they may seem much longer) as "duds." My attitude toward Jerry Lewis is kaleidoscopic! I didn't even mind the sock puppet bit in THE ERRAND BOY last time I watched it. Of course, sometimes Jerry does milk a dud - Milk Duds! - on purpose. He WANTS you to be uncomfortable during Stanley's terrible stand-up act in THE PATSY, or when Kelp and the Dean sit in fraught silence. I've grown to enjoy how he draws things out. The other day I was actually narrating such a moment from CRACKING UP to Pen and Kent, featuring Jerry's compulsion to stretch a gag past its natural life by narrating his own misfortune. I remember a couple of years ago when I got obsessed with listening to a Sun Ra album called "Heliocentric Worlds" over and over. It starts up with some bells jingling and then a noise like a cord being plugged into an amp or a needle dropping roughly on an LP, but after you've listened to that record about ten times in a row, you know when the bass clarinet is going to squeak or whatever, and when the muted trumpet is going to start echoing, you're familiar with the terrain, and what seemed like a jumble turns out to be a path full of friendly landmarks - that electronic burp, which may have been an accident to begin with, becomes a welcoming beacon. What Sun Ra said about peach pie applies here, and I'll repeat it in case you're not up to "clicking" on "links": "if you keep eating peach pie every day, [sooner or later] it's going to taste like something else." And I can swear I "blogged" about this once, but didn't David Lynch famously drink a chocolate milkshake from the same restaurant every day for the same reason? Hey! This is way off the subject, but while I was looking for a frame of my current favorite scene from CRACKING UP (Jerry is a hideous gangster - man, he loves dressing up as hideous gangsters! His grotesque mug shot was the running gag McNeil and I appreciated the most in our recent viewing of THE BIG MOUTH - who becomes mesmerized by the security camera, so that the bank robbery turns into a song-and-dance number; note that carpet, subject of a McNeil theory) I ran across an interesting Jonathan Rosenbaum essay in which he attributes current American disdain for Lewis to (among other things) classism: "regardless of how many rooms his Bel-Air mansion had, Lewis’s nouveau riche manner, like that of Elvis, kept his persona firmly within the realm of the working-class." (See also.) Please "click" on Mr. Rosenbaum's essay, he's so much smarter than me (though I did beat him, I think, in comparing Jerry to Edgar Allan Poe).

Monday, November 03, 2014

Rickles Hunches

You know, sometimes I watch a TV show at night and the next morning I go to a "news" or "entertainment" "web" site and read a (by necessity) hastily written summary of the very same show I just watched myself, and that summary is called a "recap." Why do I read such things? It seems an unflattering thing to do to myself, psychologically. And I nearly always think, "Donald Barthelme invented this form!" And then I think, "Who cares?" And I also think, "Someone else has made this point, certainly." And then I think, "Is it really a point?" But the Donald Barthelme piece ("And Now Let's Hear it for The Ed Sullivan Show!") is hilarious. "Ed stands there. He looks great. Not unlike an older, heavier Paul Newman. Sways a little from side to side. Gary Lewis and the Playboys have just got off. Very strong act. Ed clasps hands together. He's introducing somebody in the audience. Who is it? Ed points with his left arm. 'Broken every house record at the Copa,' Ed says of the man he's introducing. Who is it? It's... Don Rickles! Rickles stands up. Eyes glint. Applause. 'I'm gonna make a big man out of you,' Ed says. Rickles hunches a shoulder combatively. Eyes glint. Applause." And then it goes on for about six pages, just a summary of the Ed Sullivan show ("Carlin is wearing a white turtleneck, dark sideburns"), including commercials, sometimes reflecting (like a "recap") the narrator's personal opinions ("Ed brings on Doodletown Pipers, singing group. Great-looking girls in tiny skirts. Great-looking legs on girls. They sing something about 'I hear the laughter' and 'the sound of the future.' Phrasing is excellent, attack excellent"), and ending (with an almost alarming, almost brutal detachment), "The Ed Sullivan Show is over. It has stopped." Can you believe I tried to teach this in a "humor class" once? I am sure the kids were like, "What is this?" They were like, "What's Ed Sullivan?" They were like, "So what?" They believed, "This is normal." And I was like, "Whatever." And I still am.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Urchins Would Throw Cabbage Stalks

Zola wasn't kidding. By the next-to-last page of the book, he writes of his once-lively heroine, "urchins would throw cabbage stalks at her in the street," and that's the BEST thing that happens to her on those last two pages, oh, it's awful, thanks for bringing me down, Zola, just what I needed, I have a feeling you got a kick out of it, you weirdo, maybe the only urchin throwing a cabbage stalk was YOU, did you ever think of that? Creep.