Saturday, April 30, 2016

Perfectly Into the Moon

I know I'm not "blogging" anymore, but last night McNeil dreamed that he watched a "lost season" of BEWITCHED! He dreamed a new opening credit sequence, too: "At the end, when Samantha winks, her eye opens and then floats up and fits perfectly into the moon."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Thank You!

Well, I've been "blogging" for almost ten years, don't you think that's plenty? I'm going to stop now. I guess if I want you to remember anything, it's the time Elizabeth Kaiser ate a whole raw onion at a party. I had been planning to shut down the works on the actual tenth anniversary, but that seems ostentatious. At the same time, I don't want hackers to take over this spot as a base from which to sell counterfeit vitamins or something, so maybe I'll open it up for comments soon, just to give me a reason to keep an eye on things. I can't promise I'll post or respond to or read your comments, assuming you have any, but I might. Okay, I think I've enabled comments on one "post" ("click" here). Please stick to its subject and thanks again!

A Defining Gesture

Thanks to a timely tip from Megan Abbott I watched some of I'LL TAKE SWEDEN on TCM last night. But - and here's the fascinating part! - I went to bed before it came on. But then I couldn't sleep! So I got up and watched it until our old, box-shaped TV from the 1990s finally died. I'LL TAKE SWEDEN killed our TV! And then - this is true, also - I got up and had a terrible new back pain and I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and some of my hair had turned white! I mean, I noticed a lot more white than I've noticed there before. I'LL TAKE SWEDEN! It's mostly Bob Hope walking around gracefully in many different beautiful suits, which I am sure he kept, because he was a terrible cheapskate. But I mean, he is a good walker and hand gesturer. Here (above) we see him with one hand just below his ribs, seeming to pantomime the thought, "These kids these days!" I would describe it as a defining Bob Hope gesture, though it occurs just once in the film (at least in the hour I saw last night). McNeil could confirm its essentialness and describe it better than I could. He has a knack for cataloguing these things. I remember once we were watching a movie in which Jeremy Northam played Dean Martin, and Jeremy Northam (as Dean Martin) was applauding something while holding a cigarette between two fingers, and McNeil said with delight and authority, "That's just how Dean Martin clapped!" Oh, how I wish McNeil had been here. Only he would have understood why I actually laughed a couple of times, once at a fantasy sequence in which Bob Hope's imaginary grandchildren are forced to eat a parrot, and once at some dumb wisecrack Bob Hope made while riding around with his head sticking out of the sunroof of a small Swedish vehicle.
There is one part (seen here) when he is looking at Frankie Avalon with real hatred. Like, I don't think he's acting! Or, actually, I think he turns out to be a better actor than we ever gave him credit for. Or both! He seems to be thinking, "THIS is what it's all come to? THIS? THIS FRANKIE AVALON?" Or he could be deep in character, thinking, "No way this motor-scooter riding rascal is gonna marry MY daughter!" I just can't tell. In addition, Frankie Avalon takes Tuesday Weld to a strip club on a date! For all his grousing about Bob Hope do you think this is where Mike Nichols got the idea for the scene in THE GRADUATE? Tuesday Weld is much more blasé about the strip club than Katherine Ross was, though there is identical twirling involved! However, it is not graphically portrayed in this case. The twirling in question occurs offscreen and is alluded to discreetly by Bob Hope and Tuesday Weld (see also). The strip club is called The Pink Kitten and the bouncer dresses like this:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Over Cristina's Shoulder

I "skyped" with my pal Cristina, who is in the land of Italy, the land of her birth! I saw this (pictured) over her shoulder. It's part of the view from her parents' balcony. And I said it reminded me of something from 8 1/2, because my knowledge of Italy is limited to 8 1/2. Cristina said it's the "final piece" by the architect Zaha Hadid, who passed away just recently.

Monday, April 25, 2016

By the Greenwood Side

Our neighbor's dog just won't stop howling today. It makes me think of this thing from THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY: "In the year 1012, at Colewiz, in Saxony, on Christmas Eve, a company of young men and maids, whilst the Priest was at Mass in the Church, were singing catches and love-songs in the Church-yard; he sent to them to make less noise, but they sung on still; and if you will, you shall have the very song itself: A fellow rid by the greenwood side,/ And fair Meswinde was his bride,/ Why stand we so, and do not go?" The priest prays to Saint Magnus that he will force these scalawags to keep singing for a year! That'll show 'em. "...and so they did, without meat and drink, wearisomeness or giving over." Anyway, I think something like that happened to this dog.

Literary Matters

It's time once again for "Literary Matters"! No one enjoys those. They're not enjoyable. 1. I covered this one on twitter yesterday, but it's sticking in my mind. I read in the New York Times about Jimmy Buffett "grinning and splashing Tabasco on a modified Cobb salad." The editorial machinery of the New York Times saw fit - for the sake of accuracy, one supposes - to make sure the reader did not receive the false impression that Jimmy Buffett was eating a completely traditional Cobb salad. BUT! They did not care to let that same reader know in what way the Cobb salad had been modified. That's really all I have to say about that, except that I can't stop thinking about it. 2. EVERYBODY has been telling me to read BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL. Why, Randy Yates stopped me on the corner outside his own restaurant just to ask whether I had read it. And he was only one of many to make that query. And I needed something to read after MEASURE FOR MEASURE. (Ha ha, don't worry, I haven't given up on THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY; I just read this in it: "Cupid and Death met both in an Inn, and being merrily disposed, they did exchange some arrows from either quiver; ever since young men die, and oftentimes old men dote"... but I need a new "carry-around" book.) BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL is done up at least partway in that poetic style that Chandler made permissible for crime stories (instead of bubbles in the bathwater there are "little zeroes of suds"), and I'm more than fine with that! Okay! But then I had to stop on page 12 when he referred to the "trashy tune and words" of a Hank Williams song. The idea of someone sitting around proclaiming something "trashy" has never set well with me. And I know I should not confuse the author with the narrator! But here's a guy working in a genre that has been (unfairly) called "trashy" and he is going to have his narrator refer to the towering melodic and lyric achievements of Hank Williams as "trashy"? He should be on Hank's side! The irony (?) is compounded by the fact that this is a slick nyrb paperback, which has "rehabilitated," I guess, his "pulpy" novel. 3. Have you ever noticed in those books how your tough-guy narrator always wants to tell you when he takes a hot shower and eats some steak and eggs? It's a tendency I noticed in Spillane a lot. Maybe it's realism! I always thought it would be interesting to write a detective novel where there's no crime to solve and the detective just tells you about all the eggs he eats and hot showers he takes. The narrator of BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL "had no more idea of falling in love with her than I had of making a meal of the big yellow cake of soap in the Victorian bathroom," curiously combining both tendencies. 4. So I put down BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL. I'm gonna come back to it! I just have to shake off that unnecessary sideswipe at Hank Williams, though it's really got its claws in me. But in the meantime I thought I'd see what some of these here Shakespeare experts had to say about MEASURE FOR MEASURE. Out of three scholarly tomes I opened, two fell open EXACTLY and AT ONCE to the part about MEASURE FOR MEASURE, as if guided by the ghostly hand of Shakespeare himself! 5. Okay, I told you I'd read some more of this novel. Just three pages later the narrator is complaining that descriptions of women's legs in books are "trash." I don't know whether he's obsessed with trash or I am. But he's used the term twice in three pages. And now he's washing down seconds of potato salad with ice cold beer. Don't get mad at me, kind recommenders! I'm going to give this guy more of a chance than he gave Hank Williams. 6. I WAS WRONG! It's more like Cain than Chandler, but that's not what I mean. See, he's using the Hank Williams song ("If You've Got the Money, Honey") in a much more complex way than I expected... as a kind of shifting leitmotif. "Before it had sounded frank and functional. Before it had sounded gay and uncomplicated. Now the tune had a nasty taste to it." So, see, he was going somewhere with that, and I'm the sap. 7. I'm "not 'blogging' anymore, but I thought a late addendum to an old "post" would be okay. I'll probably come back to brag when I finish THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY too. But in the meantime, from BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL, "She split some canned wieners and fried them with the eggs." See? I told you this kind of narrator always tells you when he eats eggs. 8. "... his hand busy as a tarantula in a fly cage." Gross! And I don't even know what a fly cage is. I assume it is a cage full of flies. And then you put a tarantula in it. But with its obvious debt to Chandler's "tarantula on a slice of angel food," the pendulum of influence swings back. I said I'm not "blogging" anymore but I keep sneakily adding to this list. Pitiful.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bakery Heiress

Remember in Feb. 2007 when Dr. Theresa took a hammer and a nail and made me a new notch in my belt? Well I am about to lay on you a story just as captivating! First, let us go back (forward?) to 2008. Our fascinating prologue commences when I was staying in a motel in Los Angeles. I walked up several blocks to see THE APARTMENT on the big screen. And I saw Shirley MacLaine's face in this very scene (above) race through dozens of emotional transmutations in mere seconds. Every emotion, she had! But subtly. It was different on film, and at its intended size and scope, though I had seen THE APARTMENT many, many times before, on a tiny television screen with a tiny televised picture. The difference was like... when I used to see Rothko paintings in a library book and think, bleh! But then in the 1980s my ex (?) girlfriend (?) and I flew to Washington, D.C. together and I don't know where she went... but I met, by some obscure prearrangement, a bakery heiress on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Her roommate, possessing the magical name Cornelia, was a Roosevelt. Like... A ROOSEVELT. We drank concoctions of rum and orange juice on the balcony of a hotel across from the White House. An upstairs light was on over there! As dusk descended! The bedroom, we reckoned. George and Barbara, en déshabillé! After we parted, though, the kind-hearted bakery heiress and I (it was on plain white sliced bread that her cunning people founded their considerable fortune!), I was forced to stay with a different, less hospitable bunch, some [redacted] who - however noble their purposes, and I think them quite noble in intent! - were unpracticed as hosts. They lectured me vitriolically on the subject of cheese for hours at a time, for example, and hung gory, unavoidable posters of vivisection in every cranny, and fed me on naught but that which made my stomach hurt, and always made me pay for the cab. EXCEPT for that one glorious evening when [redacted] a raging fire in a big fireplace though it was June and boiling hot outside, and then [redacted]! [redacted]. The Indigo Girls were climbing the charts for an eager young nation with their hit [redacted], which, coming through the radio, burrowed into my mind as the theme song for that [redacted]. But I mean, I saw some Rothko paintings in person at the National Gallery back then, in the aforementioned 1980s, in Washington, D.C., and their majesty was all-consuming, like Shirley MacLaine's. Even though, prior to the screening (keep up! we've moved forward to 2008 again), I had considered her movie "my favorite," it was like I had never seen it before. So that seems like a shame. It seems, in fact, like I have wasted my life! But the point is that in 2008 I forgot to turn in my motel key when I checked out. Nothing else I just mentioned had anything to do with anything. I just wanted to explain why I still have this motel key.
It's an old fashioned key. A key key. Like, a metal key. A key. The kind of key Norman Bates would give you, or possibly Dennis Weaver from TOUCH OF EVIL. A motel key dangling from a flat blue slab of plastic, Room 109. So! Now we are coming closer to the point. Dr. Theresa and I have this spare house key we like. It just stays by itself. It's not entangled or associated with a bunch of car keys and office keys and random keys that open we don't know what. It's just on a ring all alone. Or used to be. Very light and convenient! Like, to have in our pocket if we want to take a casual stroll. But its key ring just fell apart! Suddenly there was nothing to anchor that favored key, to give it heft, to shield it from loss. So I thought maybe we could put it on this old motel key ring I have. Ha ha! These kinds of stories are my favorites. The motel key was designed diabolically. Bulky and twisted and nigh impossible to pull apart. Probably for some motel owner's good reason. So Dr. Theresa got some pliers out of the kitchen drawer and went to town on that implacable key ring like a champ. Finally she was able to separate the parts of the ring just enough so that we could slide the vital house key into place. Then I took a hammer and banged the whole thing back together like Thor himself descended from the heavens. That key ain't slipping off now! I'd like to see it try. It was real teamwork, though Dr. Theresa had already restored everything more than adequately with her pliers by the time I managed to dig out the hammer, and my hammering, while it made me feel like a great big man, was likely just for show.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Julian the Apostate Emperor's Big Kissing Speech

My traveling threw up another roadblock up for my ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY reading. But now I'm dawdling over its pages again. Can't seem to make it out of the love section. Now I'm reading about what a typical guy does when he's in love, according to Burton: "to turn up his Mushatos, and curl his head, prune his pickitivant [or peaked beard]... he may be scoffed at otherwise, as Julian that Apostate Emperor was for wearing a long hirsute goatish beard, fit to make ropes with." Of course, I am only telling you this for the sake of "pickitivant." It's like when I was so taken with Burton's insistence that life is but a glucupicron (I may be paraphrasing slightly). Hmm, I can't find that anywhere on the "blog." I must have only jabbered about glucupicron on twitter. And repeatedly, I feel sure. I'm sure I overdid it. I'm sure I rubbed it in. Ah, yes, yes, I see I had the temerity to explain life being nothing but a glucupicron to Neko Case: And I think I tried to convince everyone for a while that GLUCUPICRON would be a good ADVENTURE TIME episode title. I don't think my heart was in it, I mostly liked pretending it was a good idea, but I grew perversely insistent for a short while. Now to set the scene! MR. MOM was on briefly while I read THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY last night, just the section where Michael Keaton goes to the grocery store and can't figure out how to buy ham. I don't mean to brag but I think would have been able to buy ham the first time I ever even saw a grocery store. As an infant, given a little prodding, I could have bought some ham. You know, put a couple of dollars in my sticky fat little fist and encourage me to try to say "ham," or to flap my arms in that general direction. I could have gotten some ham. It's a big, big crisis for Michael Keaton, though, buying ham. It breaks him! How to buy ham? Insurmountable! I can't remember for sure, but I think Bob Hope is overwhelmed by the bounty of the modern grocery store in BACHELOR IN PARADISE, but I bet he could have bought some ham - and with a cool, collected demeanor, too. Nonchalantly! Even stunned by capitalism at its shiniest, Bob Hope could have suavely negotiated the purchase of some ham. And of course Joe Namath had no trouble with ham in HIS movie grocery store. Joe Namath knows who's boss! And it's not the ham. I recall that McNeil and I saw MR. MOM in the theater in Charlotte, North Carolina, when it came out, and no doubt we considered it a masterpiece of realism at the time, though we had both been capable of buying ham with little trouble for many years by that point. As you will recall, we prided ourselves on tucking in our t-shirts at the time. Burton goes on to relate how "Julian that Apostate Emperor" had to make a political speech apologizing for the unfashionable style of his beard. Julian opened with a self-deprecating joke about how he hated to kiss anybody anyway! ("I do not exert myself much, said he, in the giving and taking of kisses.") Because the people - the twitter mob of their time! - were saying that the emperor's kind of beard was inconvenient for kissing and made him look like an unkissable dummy. See, politics were always crazy, ha ha, what times. Truly Julian that Apostate Emperor was the Donald Trump of his day; I can't back that up.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Hey I went over to Square Books and found that Valentine, who works there, had drawn me "as a Peanuts character." I tried to steal it but they need it "for something." Valentine emailed me this picture of it, though. You just don't know what's going to happen when you stop by there. I think it's okay to mention I found out that Valentine's full name is the thrillingly John Bunyan-esque "Valentine Payne."


Welcome back to "McNeilileaks," where I leak the contents of my friend McNeil's most secret and private emails. "Agh! I just swallowed a gnat!" wrote McNeil in an email dated April 21, 2016.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Moated Grange

Oh yeah, I came on this line in MEASURE FOR MEASURE the other day and found myself captivated: "there at the moated grange resides this dejected Mariana." I think it's the "this." It's like the time I couldn't stop thinking about "Excuse the faintness of my acquiescence, Milicent."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

No Moore

So Mandy Moore stopped by Square Books yesterday and Katelyn invited her to my reading but I don't think she showed up.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ye Olde Pink Trick

Ah, well. Yes! I guess tonight is my only "event" for my new book of short stories entitled MOVIE STARS. Megan Abbott has flown down from NYC to rake me over the coals "in conversation" at Square Books this evening. The primary question is which jacket to wear. What? You're reading a "blog," dimwit. This is what you get. Now, Chris Offutt has upped the ante - again and again! - on "event jackets" around here, which is why I am leaning toward the pink. BUT! I've worn it a lot. True, true, it was mostly in Los Angeles, as seen here with my friend and coworker Julia Pott and our outdated novelty pillow. But in our crazy digital age does geography matter? Besides, I've even worn it on airplanes! Look at that face. That (above) is the deadened visage of a man who has just crawled off an airplane, in fact. Has my pink jacket been overexposed? The airplane wear, in addition, has left it somewhat creased. There may be an unsightly spot or two of indefinite origin, I won't deny it. I tried that old trick of hanging it in the bathroom while the water steams and rages, in the hopes of smoothing it out, to not much avail. I did the same with my "John T. Edge" brand shirt. That's right, he has a shirt brand named after him! He's John T. Edge, damn it. And if you want to know, this particular "John T. Edge" shirt has dots on it that are cleverly made with intricate knots of thread, unseen to the casual observer, lining the inside of the shirt, giving the wearer a cozy sense of... holy God I'm even boring myself talking about this shirt now. You know what? Maybe I'll hit 'em with the old steam again. I MUST wear the pink! I must! Otherwise Chris Offutt is going to be there in who knows what manner of glory, like a wedding guest who dares to arrive in white, I just know it. Hey, I just went to BBB and ate a Pylon with lots of onions, precisely the thing before an event with people. I stopped by Square Books on my walk home and Katelyn said I should "get a puppet buddy," a suggestion I brooded over the rest of the way back, and indeed over which I continue to brood. You can take it lots of ways.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

17th-Century Booger

Speaking of Shakespeare, I went up to the campus and looked at the First Folio they have on display in a big, dark room. I was the only person there. Well, there was a young woman sitting in a chair against a far wall. I believe she was the guardian. They had the First Folio opened up to Hamlet's "To Be Or Not To Be" soliloquy, which I thought was a little on the nose. I asked the young woman if they ever turned the page. "I've been here two days and they haven't turned the page," she said. It was a foolish question: all the banners and posters and informational plaques were about that soliloquy. You can't really see the front cover or back cover. I bent myself into all kinds of positions trying to look. But you can see some fancy gold filigree along the inside of the covers. Here's what caught my eye (I'll use the spelling from the HAMLET facsimile that Lee Durkee gave me, so it might not be exactly the same): "the power of beautie will fooner transforme honeftie from what it is to a bawde, then the force of honeftie can tranflate beautie into his likenes, this was fometime a paradox, but now the time giues it proofe, I did loue you once." And then Ophelia says, "Indeed my Lord you made me belieue fo." I didn't really need to include her reply for my purposes but ouch! Poor Ophelia. The point is, there was something pale - a splotch, a lump - lying there over Hamlet's phrase "what it is" - maybe it was a 17th-century bug that accidentally got mashed when the book was shut! Or maybe some old dude from ancient days sneezed on the page. Or it could be a 19th-century piece of chicken for all I know.

A Fantastic

Bill Taft came back to town! But not to rock and roll. There are more sides to Bill Taft than that! He was here for an academic conference on mass incarceration, you heard me! I went to a thing where Bill and his friend and coworker Sarah discussed their work teaching literature in prison, and I swear I was sitting there feeling guilty about how much I hated teaching. I was like, "I should have done more with my life!" Oh well. Bill and Sarah were inspirational. I even went out and bought a copy of MEASURE FOR MEASURE afterward, from that used book stall I like. I was moved to action! If you want to call that action. And in the second scene a guy named Lucio shows up and I was all, "Who the hell is this guy?" So I looked in the dramatis personae, I think you call it, and it said, "Lucio, a fantastic." And I was like, "What the hell! That doesn't help me at all." Luckily I met Sarah and Bill at City Grocery Bar later, so I was like, "What's a fantastic?" And Sarah said, "A fancy man!" And Bill said, "A fop?" He said, "A dandy?"

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Crossing a Fence

Today is Record Store Day, so all locals please go support the fine people at The End of All Music. I'll tell you how fine they are! It became a running gag: I kept going in and asking in vain whether the new Blind Alfred Reed compilation had arrived. The anticipation really worked me up! Like the Beatles were coming to America! This Blind Alfred Reed record took on a glow and a power in my mind that it can't have possibly earned. I was a walking joke! So David stopped his busy day to email me the moment it came in and I ran down and got it. He didn't have to do that. But he remembered me. He respected my incoherent ravings. Service at its finest! Shop local. Now I have played it and Blind Alfred Reed turns out to be a bit of a misogynist! More than a bit. That's what you get for wanting things too much. Like he has a couple of tracks telling girls not to bob their hair. He really hates bobbed hair! On a girl. Of course Brian Wilson did once ask "Where did your long hair go?" in a judgmental way, addressing the Caroline of "Caroline No"... but as presumptuous as it was, that seemed to be a purely personal matter between individuals, whereas Blind Alfred Reed believes - and I don't think I am exaggerating - that women will go straight to hell, literal hell where the devil reigns, for the sin of bobbing their hair. So that ain't good. I detected a strong note of compassion in Blind Alfred Reed's "Always Lift Him Up and Never Knock Him Down." Very forgiving! "When he's sick and tired of life and takes to drinking," says Blind Alfred Reed, "You should lift him up and never knock him down." No talk of this particular sinner going to hell, so I thought that was a step up. And I was waiting for a similar verse about sinning women, but none came. It should have tipped me off when another affliction visited on our hypothetical dude who we shouldn't knock down was "a scolding, aggravating wife." There's another song where Blind Alfred Reed is upset about women wearing "skirts so short and tight they can hardly make it when they cross a fence." Ha ha! What I want to know is that if Blind Alfred Reed is blind - I haven't read the copious liner notes yet, but he must be, right? - how does he know about how tight the girls' skirts are and how short their hair is? I guess somebody told him. Or maybe he was like, "Come over here and let me make sure your hair isn't bobbed." (Opening up the booklet to confirm the copiousness of the liner notes I see that Blind Alfred Reed's fiddle was made in Italy in 1695.) In conclusion, I am no doubt being reductive in a knee-jerk way about Blind Alfred Reed's artistry, and the more I listen the more subtlety I will be bound to detect, I am sure. He has a song called "There'll Be No Distinction There" - a mystical view of total equality in heaven, transcending all races and religions... though he does feel the need to point out that "no woman will be flirting with another woman's man" up there.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Kent Doc Bob

Kent just sent me this photo from his doctor's waiting room! (See also.)

Monday, April 11, 2016


Just caught a little bit of RIO BRAVO on TCM. Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson are walking down the street at night whistling a tune together and there are a couple of little white moths flitting under the lamplight and I wondered whether the studio just had moths in it or Howard Hawks imported those moths.

The Third Cough Drop

I caught a cold Wednesday night? Thursday night? Dr. Theresa got me some cough drops. Yesterday I put one in my mouth and the shell - I guess we'll call it - caved in (by design! though little did I know) and mentholated goo oozed out. It was a surprise! And not an unpleasant one, despite the way I just described it. These were "dual action" cough drops, according to the bag. I checked after my surprise. Like, "What is going on with these cough drops?" The effect was bracing and medicinal. I don't know how I feel about the phrase "goo oozed" - at best you could say it's sort of onomatopoeic. Makes me think of a line from "The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed's Church" about "clammy squares which sweat as if the corpse they keep were oozing through." Sorry! But that's almost the only thing I remember from school. I also remember "Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs upon the slimy sea" from "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner." That's all. After about the third cough drop, the novelty wears off.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Squirrel Expert

I ventured out of the house and appeared on the Thacker Mountain radio program last night. Slade had Band-Aids on several of his fingers because - as Katelyn informed me and Slade later confirmed - he had been attacked by a squirrel. Someone called the hospital and was put in touch with a "squirrel expert" who said "Squirrels in Mississippi don't have rabies." Katelyn and I were like, hmm, maybe consult a second squirrel expert. In any case, Slade played the upright bass in the house band in his usual nimble manner. Maybe even nimbler! I'm not kidding, he was doing some complex runs. Maybe he has squirrel powers.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Monday, April 04, 2016

Discontinued Crystal Shrimp

Nobody asked me, but every time I go on a trip I jot down what happens in a little jotting book of jottings and when I get home I type up the jottings for an uncaring world. This set is especially boring. One highlight is buying a comb. But that's not going to stop me. There's a good part where Julia and I see Rory Gilmore. I don't want to get your hopes up. In fact I care very little about you. 1. Rode to the airport with Bill Boyle, who was on his way to France to be lauded. 2. I couldn't bring Tom Bissell's book on the plane. You know how I feel about lugging big, hefty books onto a plane. You probably discuss my feelings on the subject around your family dinner table! So I brought DON JUAN, the book-lenghth poem by Lord Byron: a manageable, if arguably bulky, paperback. But here's what! Right before I left the house I read about John Chrysostom in Tom's book (the name "comes from chrysostomos, 'the golden-mouthed,'" Tom reminds us) and then he
(Chrysostom, not Tom) popped up out of no dang where in stanza 47 of the Byron poem! I was all, "I can't wait to tell everybody!" I was like, "People will finally love me!" And here we are sharing the moment. 3. "All we have are chicken enchiladas," the flight attendant said with a distinct air of foreboding. I said to bring 'em on. Something spurted out of an enchilada and made a small blot on the same blindingly white shirt from which I had just - with some difficulty - removed Pat McHale's infamous wine stains. 4. The plane landed and thus began my layover. I noticed my seatmate removing a flute and two saxophones from the overhead compartment. As we deplaned we had a good conversation about Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman. 5. I got on another airplane. My former seatmate was on that plane too! This time he told me his name was Kirk Whalum - a name that sounded familiar to me. He described himself as primarily an "R&B saxophonist." We got to talking about Mississippi and he told me one of his saxophones was to be placed in a museum in Clarksdale. I said I'd go look at it one day. 6. Watched some of the Fey/Poehler comedy SISTERS inflight. They put too much detergent in the washing machine and suds go everywhere, just like the Bob Hope movie BACHELOR IN PARADISE (above), so we're still in that era of comedy, it never ended like you thought it did, the too-much-detergent era of comedy. 7. The plane lands. Leaving LAX I see a limo driver holding a sign that says KIRK WHALUM. 8. Into the Burbank office for an ADVENTURE TIME meeting. Julia told me she had sent a text about how she and I might be able to get onto the GILMORE GIRLS reunion set that very afternoon. In return she received a succinct yet highly suggestive reply ("How that *****"), which, as it so happens to turn out, was not from me. Kent had given her an obsolete number, which now belongs, it seems, to some saucy personage. 9. Julia and I visit the fringes of the active GILMORE GIRLS set, using methods I should not divulge. Fake, possibly carcinogenic snow lies in lumps upon the parking lot, having strayed from its place. For you see, it is winter in Stars Hollow. Fake snow is everywhere. (When did I switch to present tense? Who cares? I may switch back soon.) To paraphrase James Joyce, "Yes, the newspapers were right: fake snow was general all over Stars Hollow." Suddenly Rory appears! Rory Gilmore leaves the set and we watch her as she makes the long walk to a public restroom (and, at some time later, back). How near are we? I'm not a good judge of such things. Let's say she was like a mighty lioness, brimming with grace and power, spied from, say, the relative safety of a safari Jeep... she was close enough, I mean, to to fill us with awe and holy fear. Rory Gilmore was wearing what I would call a "fawn-colored coat," despite the fact that I'm not sure what color a fawn is, other than "fawn-colored." Nobody dared take a picture, not of Rory, but here's
Julia captured in the very moment, this is what Julia's face looks like when she's reflecting the radiance that no mortal sees without sinking into madness. Seeing Rory Gilmore! 10. Back at my hotel, I notice that the pet store across the street has gone out of business. But it - or a fictional version of it - is immortalized forever in my new book of short stories MOVIE STARS, available now at a reputable book dealer near you. While supplies last! 11. Bought an expensive comb at the place where I accidentally bought an expensive brush before. The plastic comb had the words HAND MADE on it. Can that be true? The brand is "Kent." I was going to tell Kent all about it, but I forgot. 12. It occurs to me that I was staying at the very same place where I arrived sans comb in 2007, at which time I decided to do without a comb for the length of my stay. I was so young and bold! What happened to you, Pendarvis? 13. Back at Cartoon Network I had a nice talk with Elizabeth Ito. "You came on the day when they're shaking the building," she said. "I think they're paving the alley. So the building is shaking and it smells like asphalt." Everything she said was true! That wasn't the main thing we talked about. Later in the writers' room we were all laughing a lot and when someone finally opened the door it was clear that the room had filled up with poisonous fumes wafting from the construction site. It had happened so slowly none of us had noticed. We just thought we were having a good time! 14. I saw Ako! She said she still had a picture I drew of a "mush pot." I didn't remember, until she reminded me, that we had discussed the function of the "mush pot" in certain iterations of the children's game duck-duck-goose. 15. Have I never told you of my friend Cristina? She's my Italian pal from the land of Italy. Whenever I go to Los Angeles she takes me to an Italian restaurant meeting her approval. Last time, I told her a favorite line from THE DECAMERON and she translated it back into Italian for me! 16. I could tell you about karaoke but let's just say Tom Franklin did Styx and leave it at that.
17. Who stayed in our private karaoke room until the very end, yes, who shut it down? Kent, Pen, me and the somewhat eerie stranger nobody knew. 18. I came to this couplet in DON JUAN: "His blood was up; though young, he was a Tartar/ And not at all disposed to prove a martyr." And I thought of Jon Host. I thought, "That's a Jon Host rhyme!" You probably don't know what I'm talking about because you don't know Jon Host or how he rhymes but if it's not clear enough yet, I don't care about you and you're not reading this anyway and I don't care about that either. It was pleasant to be reminded of my old friend Jon Host and to consider the pleasure he would have received from "Tartar/martyr." 19. Speaking of friends of long acquaintance, I had lunch with Khaki. She took me to a place where lots of things on the menu were discontinued. The two I remembered to jot down were "SHRIMP STICK....... DISCONTINUED" and "CRYSTAL SHRIMP......... DISCONTINUED." Curiously, the notices of discontinuation were not affixed to the menu at some late date; they were professionally printed right there on the surface, beneath the lamination. These menus had been ordered and printed afresh to accommodate (tauntingly?) an extensive list of items that the restaurant had presumably served in more generous times. I can think of how it could make sense to someone, especially if the plan was to eventually reintroduce some of the dishes... but it feels overly hopeful somehow, like a litany of crushed ambitions. 20. On the way to see Megan Abbott give the keynote address to an organization composed of aspiring crime writers, I passed the Sheraton Universal and thought, "Ah, that's where I scared Marvin Hamlisch in an elevator." 21. I partook ravenously of the free crime writers' breakfast, to which I was not entitled. 22. DON JUAN: "Since in a way that's rather of the oddest, he/ Became divested of his native modesty." THAT'S more of a Jon Host rhyme. 23. Dinner at Dan Tana's, one of those old-time Hollywood chophouses that hold such fascination for me - and Megan Abbott too. Neither of us had ever been. Ward McCarthy and I always talked about going to Dan Tana's back when we worked together in the 1990s, but we never made it. It was, as Megan's friend Alison noted, brighter inside than you would assume Dan Tana's to be, but otherwise it
met and surpassed our most idealized expectations, what with the red leather booth (in the back corner! just the one we would have picked), old-school wisecracking waiters (when asked about the contents of a particular salad, one of them said, "What can I tell you, it's a 22-dollar salad, it's terrible!" The chopped salad, on the other hand, of which the waiter approved, Alison deemed excellent), clams casino, steak and peppers "Sinatra" (superior to the similar and similarly named dish at The Smokehouse) and, we all agreed, the fluffiest gnocchi yet to be encountered. They don't have to make gnocchi that good at Dan Tana's - why, no sane person would expect it! But there it was. And we sat under a big poster of Karl Malden, who I believe had a veal chop named after him on the menu. 24. Tom Franklin, as I have hinted, happened to be out in Hollywood for reasons of his own, and by coincidence we were on the same plane home. Tom walked through the airport looking for soup. He busily checked every restaurant and kiosk. "Why soup?" I said. Tom said, "I love soup." I've known him, what? Thirty years? And I've never seen this side of him, this side that loves soup so much. I asked why I never heard about it before. "I keep it quiet," he said. We got to our departure gate and I watched Tom's bags while he ran off to continue his desperate search for his favorite thing, airport soup.