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.