Saturday, November 24, 2018

What No Owls

So Clare Boothe (not yet Luce) visits Bernard Baruch's South Carolina mansion, near which "deer, fox, feral pigs, egrets, bald eagles, wild turkeys, and bull alligators populated the surrounding woods and swamps." And when I read that, I was like, what, no owls? Come on! I know there were some owls in there! But owls did not make the cut. Just a few pages later, though, Baruch is "prominent in owlish spectacles."

Monday, November 19, 2018

Owl Decoy

Lee Durkee gave me a copy of A MIRACLE OF CATFISH by Larry Brown. I started reading it just now and right away I thought, "Well, I bet there's an owl in this pretty soon!" And I was right. Page three. Well, an "owl decoy," as previously seen in BAG OF BONES by Stephen King and GRINGOS by Charles Portis. It counts!

Sunday, November 18, 2018


I don't have to explain myself to you! I don't even "blog" anymore. But anyway before my recent trip I was in Square Books looking for something to read on the airplane and I saw a Travis McGee novel by John D. MacDonald I had never noticed on the shelf before: NIGHTMARE IN PINK, and I walked right by it and didn't even pick it up because of my many, many problems with those novels, but somehow it stuck in my head. I find - and I'm sure it's some sort of compulsion - that if a book sticks in my head at Square Books, I always go back and buy it the next day. What if I miss out on something? And I went to bed that night thinking, you know, maybe NIGHTMARE IN PINK would be good to read on the airplane, even though I haven't truly enjoyed one of those novels yet, because it's really about weight and size when I'm picking out a book to read on the airplane; content hardly enters into it. And I comforted myself by thinking that no one was going to walk into Square Books overnight and buy NIGHTMARE IN PINK before I returned the next day. How bizarre that would be. But, reader, someone did. I went back and NIGHTMARE IN PINK was gone, and even though I didn't actually want to read it, and had already, the day before, bought the book I was going to read on the airplane instead, I felt cheated. Cheated by life! So in the following days, as I prepared for my trip, I would walk by the bookstore and look at the empty spot where NIGHTMARE IN PINK used to be. Okay! Upon my return, I was in Square Books one day and glanced at the shelf and NIGHTMARE IN PINK was back in stock... so I bought it! I read a little of it and put it aside because Megan and I got started on our book club book. At least my strange need to purchase this volume from a series I don't enjoy had been sated. Anyway! Last night I couldn't sleep and there was NIGHTMARE IN PINK, so I read some more of it. Yes, Travis McGee's morbid horror of being devoured by a woman was intact. "Any minute now the sticky tongue would flick out and snare me and yank me into that greedy maw." That's Travis McGee describing a woman. Now, there's a sort of woman that Travis McGee claims to like a lot, that he spends a lot of time striving to convince us he likes a lot, and, as Ace Atkins has pointed out to me, that woman "always dies." Now! I will say this for John D. MacDonald's technique, or maybe this is more about Ace's insight: wondering when the one woman Travis McGee "likes" is going to die keeps you reading. Like, "Oh no! Don't get too attached, McGee!" It introduces a distasteful (and possibly entirely external) source of suspense. So anyway, after spending some time with the woman whose "maw" terrifies him, Travis McGee goes back to the woman he claims to like and she says to him, "Wanna play owl?" And now you know why we're here: for reasons long forgotten, I keep a list ("click" here!) of every book I read that has an owl in it. After Travis McGee and his friend "play owl," and never mind what that is, I sincerely regret to inform you that they play something called "naked owl."

Friday, November 16, 2018

Most Admirable of All

You know I don't "blog" anymore but people keep sending me new information about plovers' eggs. Megan sent me a passage from an old cookbook that says plovers' eggs are "incomparable in a salad or sandwich; and most admirable of all set like large opals in aspic jelly."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Regarding Plovers' Eggs

I'm sure you've been wondering whether there was any controversial fallout over yesterday's plovers' eggs "post." As a matter of fact, novelist Jeff Abbott introduced me to a storyline in which Jimmy Olsen is called upon to rustle up some plovers' eggs (see above). The tale introduced a young Jeff Abbott to the concept of plovers and their eggs and he never forgot it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What Is Up With Plovers' Eggs

As you know, Megan Abbott and I read a lot of celebrity biographies together. We just read one about Gloria Swanson, in which we learn that "she developed a taste for plovers' eggs." Then we moved on to Clare Boothe Luce: "Mr. Higganbotham gave her an extravagant eleventh 'birthday' feast of plovers' eggs, consommé, turbot, chicken, asparagus, vanilla soufflé, and a cake with eleven candles." Anyway, what the hell is up with plovers' eggs.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Brian and the Birthday Boy and Me

Here are my friend Brian and me at that birthday party I was telling you about. Sure, the birthday party guy was supposed to be anonymous, and that's his picture my thumb is poking at, but it would take some kind of internet genius to figure it all out, and nobody cares, plus he looks like a magnificent sad prince, so I feel okay about everything.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Pen Runs Over a Bottle

1. Lee was about to pull up to give me a ride to Memphis when I discovered that the button on my jacket was precariously loose. It took the desperate combined efforts of Dr. Theresa and me to thread a needle. Suddenly that infomercial I saw in January 2011 about an innovative needle with a huge eye didn't seem so damn funny anymore. Once we got the needle threaded, precious seconds ticking away, Dr. Theresa secured that button in place like a speed demon. But that wasn't the end of the troubles! This is exciting already. So! 2. When Lee and I were about halfway to Memphis, I glanced down to discover that I was wearing the wrong shoes. For you see, I had an appointment at the Magic Castle in Hollywood later in the week, thanks to my friend Kate, who is a magician, and they (the Magic Castle, not magicians in general, nor Kate in particular) have a dress code, for which reason, and with some exaltation, I had recently purchased my very first ascot. Anyway, Dr. Theresa had to mail me my shoes. Or they would have never let me into the Magic Castle! 3. The Von's across from my hotel in Burbank no longer stocks the gigantic bottles of seltzer I like. 4. I saw Kent, who happened to be visiting from his new home (well, he's been there a long time now!) in Vermont. He wasn't going to the Magic Castle with us but asked whether I had been with him at the Magic Castle years ago when a guy made a baby appear. I said I thought I would remember something like that, but now I wonder. Was I? Did I? Would I? 5. Kent told me a dream he had had the night before, which I will abbreviate to its ruin. A yellow cobra comes out of a faucet and starts fighting a rat. Then a monkey runs into the room, grabs up the cobra, and begins choking the rat with it! I suggested that the yellow cobra coming out of the faucet meant that Kent needed to pee. 6. In TENDER IS THE NIGHT (the book I brought to read on the airplane) someone's monocle falls out due to a surfeit of emotion! Like in a cartoon! 7. Kent walked by while I was talking on the phone to Dr. Theresa. "Did you tell her about my dream?" he asked. Ha ha! Sure, we kidded him, it was the top of our agenda. Dr. Theresa used to call Kent "Big City" as part of an inside joke. Now, as she decided during the very phone call being described, she's going to call him "Big Maple." Because of Vermont. He has a beard now! Because of, I assume, Vermont. As these shenanigans were taking place I was about to leave for the Magic Castle, so Kent fussily rearranged my ascot (which I had tied myself; I'm not so hot with ties, but noting the ascot loophole in the Magic Castle's dress code, I deduced that an ascot would be easier to tie than a regular necktie... and I was right! An ascot, in its raw appearance, is like a big clown tie). 8. There are some things I can't tell you about the Magic Castle but maybe one day I will. One of them involved the invisible piano player who performs there. I wish I could tell you! Another guy kept making lemons appear out of thin air. Where were those lemons coming from? It was crazy! Magic is crazy. 9. At a Holiday Inn with Julia Pott, Pen, and Kent. "It is happening again," Julia kept saying during the karaoke at the Holiday Inn, purposely and accurately invoking TWIN PEAKS. Everyone there had chosen a sad song, as if by psychic prearrangement. Pen and Julia are especially fine dancers. Kent is a great dancer too, but what I remember is Kent and me sitting at a tall two-top with our really bad drinks, watching the fluid motions of Julia and Pen under the spell of a scrawny white-haired stranger moaning a song of absent love. (Pictured, above, a higher floor of the Holiday Inn.) 10. Back at my own hotel, alone... they were shutting down the bar when I came in... as I was sipping my nightcap a couple sat down next to me, a man and a woman. "The bar is closed," said the bartender, Harvey by name. "But we're getting married tomorrow!" objected the woman. Harvey has been known to do me a favor, so I proclaimed with a flourish, "Oh, allow me to get these two some champagne!" To which the bride-to-be responded quite severely, "No." Then, after a pause, "I want a 'chard.'" So I was like, "Never mind!" She went on: "Champagne is for tomorrow." And I said, "I understand." Why was I trying to force champagne down the throat of these innocent victims? And so to bed, as Samuel Pepys would say. 11. Now we have reached Saturday, and - speaking of Samuel Pepys - a bawdy section of our tale, so be forewarned, as bawdiness was not an area in which I normally dabbled, back in the days when I "blogged." At home on the Saturday in question, Dr. Theresa was suffering the calamity of a football game day. The streets were wild, she reported, and the home team was playing a team called "something like the Cockmasters," an assertion on her part that made both of us laugh even as she said it. "Well, it's something like that," she repeated, and vowed to find out. I begged her not to enter "Cockmasters" into the search engine of the computer. Anyway, it was the Gamecocks, which Dr. Theresa said she liked even less than Cockmasters, given the actual name's association with the practice of animal cruelty. 12. Talked by phone to Megan Abbott. We spent some incredible amount of time (I will say 20 minutes) just parsing the monocle sentence from TENDER IS THE NIGHT (see #6, above): "His monocle fell out, with no whiskers to hide in - he drew himself up." Megan solved it for me. She also said I sounded sedated, like late-stage Judy Garland. From Megan that's a compliment! 13. "I'm happy talking to an idiot." - Rae Gray. 14. Saw Rae Gray and Ashly Burch and many others at a kind of sendoff before Kent returned to Vermont. Talked about books a lot with Rae and Ashly and we laughed uproariously about a number of things, as well as becoming somber and contemplative when the occasion arose. Steve Little was there and when he saw my jotting book he produced his own jotting book in solidarity! Then I admitted I had neglected to bring a pen and he seemed disappointed in me. 14. My friend had a birthday party. Hmm! I can't remember why he's always anonymous. Maybe I made him anonymous because I didn't know him that well when he started appearing on the "blog." Anyway, now he's anonymous forever and subsequently my tales of his birthday party will be shrouded in vagueness and mystery... like why were at least half a dozen cast members of VERONICA MARS there, supplemented by the equally dazzling stars of iZOMBIE and PARTY DOWN? See? Already I've said too much... let me be clear. My friend was not the creator of VERONICA MARS, whom I did meet for the first time that night, however, and who, upon learning that I reside in Mississippi, told me he had played at a club in Jackson in 1985, but he couldn't remember the name. I was pleased to correctly assume he meant a place named W.C. Don's, and to tell him the possibly true fact which I barely recalled hearing somewhere that it had burned to the ground. I played there in 1990. We just missed each other! He swiftly produced a photo of himself with a mullet in front of W.C. Don's. 15. My friend Joey, knowing me to be a huge VERONICA MARS fan, introduced me to Kristen Bell, to whom I remarked how surreal it was for me to see the residents of Neptune (the town where the show takes place) walking around, which prompted her to explain to me the concept of acting, ha ha! I'm making it sound like she thought I didn't know the difference between fiction and reality but that wasn't the case... I hope! No, she was explaining from long experience why people feel and act the way they do when they see someone who performed in something in which they (the viewer) became emotionally invested. But just for a joke (and because it was true) I pretended to conflate another actor from the show with his character, leaning in and murmuring confidentially, "Don't be alarmed, but Logan is standing right behind you." And then an incredible thing happened. Kristen Bell became Veronica Mars! Her voice and posture changed instantly, and she said in character, "That's okay, I have eyes in the back of my head." What a good sport to indulge me so! And what a dexterous display. It was something to witness, and I felt lucky to witness it. Then I ate some creamed corn. 16. The next day Pen and I were out doing stuff and we stopped on a side street. Pen said, "I'm going to park my car better." We were already on the sidewalk. Pen hopped back in his car and pulled up a few inches and immediately ran over a bottle that disintegrated into a million sprinkles of brown glass with a terrible BANG! I jumped and started laughing. We had just been discussing Groucho Marx in the car, and that's where my mind was. "I'm going to park my car better." POW! The timing was perfect. In a movie, his tire would have gone pssssssssssst, but the tire was fine. 17. "You think you're with a decent candy maker and then he starts screamin' at you," is one thing Pen said about Willy Wonka. 18. "It was often easier to give a show than to watch one." - TENDER IS THE NIGHT. 19. Sitting in the airport thinking I have nice shoes but my socks are falling down. As long as I bought an ascot, why not sock garters? 20. Also I saw a man with shoes so shiny they made me ashamed. Maybe his shoes were TOO shiny. Blindingly gleaming they were! Dr. Theresa always says she likes a leather shoe that's been broken in so it has some character. She understands me! 21. Rising to depart from the plane which had returned me to the Memphis airport, I heard a plaintive meowing behind me that made me pine for home. Why, this passenger had been traveling with her cat the whole time and I never knew.