Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Karl Malden Wouldn't Sit Anywhere Else
I still take my famous jotting book but I hardly jot in it anymore because I don't "blog" anymore, rendering the very act of jotting questionable. And besides, as Adam Muto rightly admonished me last time I won an Emmy (this is my subtle way of telling you that I just came back from Los Angeles with another one!) I should look up and experience the world directly rather than jotting about it while it's right there in my face. In fact, if you "click" on that previous "link" you will see a photo of me with my jotting book open and ready for jotting backstage in the immediate aftermath of the awards presentation two years ago. I'm the problem with America! But you know, I'm glad I brought the jotting book because I AM required to "blog" whenever I read a book with an owl in it, and on this trip there appeared in my path THREE books with owls in them. I couldn't believe it. It was a bonanza! Let's get right to them! Well, first I stopped by Square Books for something to read on the airplane, as I like to do. And I was drawn again to the Travis McGee novels of John D. MacDonald, though I never enjoy them the way I'm supposed to. But now I guess they say "airplane" to me because of some sick compulsion. I picked up this one called DARKER THAN AMBER and I was like, "This seems familiar." Because they all seem familiar. And the titles are interchangeable. So I put it back on the shelf and went home empty-handed. And I sat there and thought, why do I know that title? And I poked around on the "blog" and saw that my friend McNeil had mentioned DARKER THAN AMBER as being particularly sexist. But as far as I could tell from my own "blog" I hadn't read it, and perversely I decided to get it and see if McNeil was right. And McNeil was right! In fact, I would argue that Travis McGee goes beyond (?) mere misogyny into a psychotic fear of sex. Now, of course, we can't confuse the author with his creation, but I would argue that McGee is presented as an aspirational character. "Jake leaned back on his heels and stared up at me, like a man admiring a tall building," is a typically modest self-description by our narrator. And now please forgive me but I'm going to quote just a smidgen of the misogyny so you won't think I'm exaggerating. You have been warned. Here we find catalogued McGee's disapproval of women who have had too many boyfriends: "she suffers a sea change wherein her juices alter from honey to acid, her eyes change to glass, her heart becomes a stone, and her mouth a windy cave from whence, with each moisturous gasping, comes a tiny stink of death." What! What kind of writing do you call that? Moisturous! Moisturous? It has a certain purple tone that KNOWS it has a tone (A CERTAIN PURPLE TONE sounds like the title of a Travis McGee novel)... hmm... a tone approaching parody, but wanting it both ways... what is called in the business "kidding on the square," as I was once informed by Rob Schneider. Ha ha! But "tiny stink of death"? That's one of the grossest phrases I've come across. And later McGee refers to a woman's mouth as a "round horror-hole," okay? A ROUND HORROR-HOLE. Wow, I'm forgetting the owl. Weren't we talking about owls? McGee says that the eye of a corpse is "like a cheap glass eye in a stuffed owl." And you know what color that eye is? "Darker than amber," that's what color. So I was lying in bed reading this in the hotel room and Dr. Theresa was lying there too reading her own book - what a picture of contentment I am sure we made! - and she said, "Hey! This has an owl in it!" The owl in her book, she said, flew right into an inn and caused much consternation and dialogue. So! I finished Travis McGee and started a book of Sam Shepard short stories I had picked up at Skylight during one of our jaunts across the city. And in the very first story, some owls settle into a eucalyptus tree. So anyway that is a lot of owls in a lot of books for one trip. Speaking of Skylight Books! I ran into the actor Steve Little there, forced a copy of my most recent story collection on him (they had a couple of copies) and kind of harassed him until he fled the store. This is an accurate depiction of events. And speaking of Sam Shepard! So, T-Bone Burnett was one of the presenters at the Creative Arts Emmys, and I was determined to meet him at the ball following the show. And I did! Megan Abbott and I had been reading Sam Shepard's ROLLING THUNDER LOGBOOK, in which T-Bone Burnett appears, leading me to make the following brilliant remark to the distinguished musical icon of whom I have been a lifelong fan: "I saw a picture of you dressed up like a wizard!" (See above.) I'm getting everything out of order. Dan Tana's and got the same booth. I was like, "Hey, I liked that booth when I was here before, can we have it?" And the maître d' was like, sure! "Karl Malden wouldn't sit anywhere else," he informed us. So here we are sitting where Karl Malden would be sitting were he still among the living. But he can't do a thing about it now! Photo by my brother. Well, I'm flipping through these pages and I hardly jotted anything, it turns out. I'm not sorry. On the plane ride to Los Angeles I was sufficiently convinced that my Biscoff cookie bore the face of a holy saint to request that Dr. Theresa take a photo of it, which she gamely did.