Archive for February, 2010

Oh Mister Rogers, you should be here this morning. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood and that’s a fact. My first sight out the door is the brilliant golden flash of a black-headed oriole catching the morning sun on his bright yellow plumage. The sparkling halo of water droplets from his vigorous bath in our terra cotta fountain ain’t too shabby either. The Greatest Show On Earth, under one palapa, for a limited time only. That’s right, for just four more days, then it’s pack the bags and the doggie, into the big Alaska Airlines bird and back to the bay area and that other reality.

But I’m not really complaining. How could anyone who lives in two of the most beautiful places on earth complain? Sure, it’ll probably be cold and rainy when we touch down on the tarmac at SFO, but a glorious Spring and a long hot Summer are just around the corner. The only thing I can think of that would improve the situation, it embarrasses me to say (being as spiritually enlightened as I am) would be the influx of significant amounts of cash.

The long-suffering lovely will go back to her job, and I will return to what? My Social Security benefits and her modest earnings as an Instructional Assistant don’t give us much margin for error as we eke along from one paradise to another . I am paying my dues as a writer, plugging away on my New York Times Best Seller, blogging here and there. But only my bumper sticker slogan writing has brought minimal fiscal returns. I thought surely someone would have discovered my prodigious genius by now.

Oh ye fickle Gods and Goddesses of the media, read my blogs, see my videos, hear my pleas, please give me some serious money for being funny. I promise not to be greedy and I will honor my Southern Baptist roots and tithe my tenth to worthy causes.

I know I sound increasingly more desperate with each page I write, with each blogging post that goes unread. The possibility that I’ve been unwilling to face, that I’m actually full of shit and unfit to read, is moving from the shadows to occupy a mocking presence at center stage. I dread the prospect of returning to the work force (when there are so many others who need jobs) but the dream of living by my witticisms seems to be just that: a dream. And the reality is emerging that I may not have what it takes: talent-wise, dogged salesman/self promoter-wise, or downright luck-wise either.

It’s doubtful that this is the kind of dynamic tension that writers strive for to hold the attention of the reader and create the “ripping good yarn” or “page turner” that fills his coffers. This wrestling with self-doubt, exorcising inner demons and such amounts to little more than literary sado-masturbation with sandpaper gloves. I imagine there is a very small audience for this. There seems to be a very small audience for everything I write. I can’t even get friends and neighbors to read my stuff. I’ve caught my wife rolling her eyes when I try to read her a choice paragraph or two.

If a writer writes stuff on paper that nobody reads does that still use pulp from the tree that falls in the forest that nobody hears?

In the time it takes to ponder that enigma wrapped in a condom and stuffed into a paradox parfait, we have watched our last Baja sunset, sunrise, consumed our last mango margarita, our last relleno at Miguel’s, our last Café Brown enchilada, our last papas rellenos at Barraja’s; taken a last misty-eyed look at Casa Fisherrero; returned the Nissan Tsuru to Alamo; gotten through security*, stowed Aldo and us into the Alaskan bird; arrived in SFO, got picked up by Ed and Estelle, loaded up the Ford step side pickup, and snuck into Monte Rio shrouded in darkness.

* We were foolish enough to think we could smuggle a potentially lethal and very expensive pair of fingernail clippers and a gag miniature tool kit that was in a tiny zippered black leather case with a tiny screwdriver, a tiny adjustable wrench, and tiny pliers. Plenty of stuff for an evil McGyver terrorist to bring down a big old jet air-o-liner. I felt bad about giving up that little miniature tool case. It had sentimental value. It reminded me of my dad. He bought it back in the fifties when miniature tools must have been all the rage. Gail wasn’t too happy about rendering up her nail clippers either. I hope this episode didn’t get us on the no-fly list. Ain’t no flies on us, bro’.

On the plus side: there aren’t as many bugs in your face in the mobile mansion, the internet connection is better, I can get Netflix again, there are lots of good books in our local library, I can say hi to all my friends, and all our kids and grandkids are within shouting distance.

On the negative list: the mobile mansion has become an allergen-triggering asthma death chamber with dark blooms of mildew blossoming on floors, rugs and curtains. The yellow on this “Yellow Submarine” is likely to manifest itself as mucus for a while, till we can burn out the evil spirits who’ve had the run of the place while we’ve been gone.

It’s much more expensive to live in Sonoma County and I’m not bringing home the tocino I used to. Barely enough to cover energy costs , taxes, medical, insurance, monthly septic sucking, internet, phone et al. We’re ekein’ deacons, bro’. We don’t eat out or party much. All resources must be diverted to fund our life in the Baja Parallel Universe (BPU).

Last night as I dismally surveyed the basket full of bills and other postal flotsam and jetsam that had accumulated while we were away, I noticed the retro-Air Mail look affected by the Society of Secret Gentlemen on several red-white-and blue-bordered envelopes in the mix. I thought the Illuminati had forgotten about me. Here were three more attempts to recruit me? Draw me out of hiding? Prevent me from popularizing the Ancient Knowledge? I’ll need a good night’s rest to overcome the jet lag, turn back the asthmatic reactions to cold, damp, mold and mildew, and start tomorrow with a complete set of faculties.

Prefatory Statement: I wrote this at the end of Summer ’09 at the behest of my writing guru, poet Pat Nolan. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to manage a small movie house, here’s one guy’s memories.

The long, lovely days of this, the best Summer in recent memory (weather-wise) are yielding to the shorter, but still quite lovely days of Fall. It has begun to get a bit nippy in the morning, taking a little longer to get to eighty degrees, and it begins to cool down earlier in the evening. Still, each day offers an industrious author plenty of working hours to chip away at his word sculpture. Unfortunately I am more of a slothful author and the seasonal down-sizing of daylight is just another excuse to procrastinate.

Right now though, I am being a good little writer and doing everything I can to get the job done. For instance, I just got off the phone to my friendly neighborhood mentor. I wanted to drop off a few new pages which showed just how slavishly I am willing to follow his advice and muted admonitions. I thought by bringing up the topic of his own recently printed “Intellectual Pretensions” Prose Poems, a copy of which he’d recently gifted me and which I’d recently finished, that I might accumulate enough brownie points to earn some more free mentoring. But, though the conversation is lively, it is brief. Today he is Tiger Woods, teeing off on his own drive to greatness and unwilling to encourage the participation of the gallery and its throng of well-wishers and emulators.

But, like the greatest mentors, he is able to sling a casual suggestion effortlessly my way that will keep my Uni-Ball rolling for a few more hours this windy Fall afternoon. He hearkened me back to my days as a theater manager, which I’ve only briefly mentioned so far in the NYTBS*. This, he suggested, might prove to be fertile ground for developing a more complex picture of me, the most important character in this book, and others who fell under the sway of the transformational cinematic offerings screened in “my”little hippie theater by the river (or in the river, on several occasions).

Pehaps he’s right. Perhaps even then I was a bit of a “Fitzcarralldo”, using the Rio Theatre as a “riverboat” to bring culture to the unwilling natives of the lower Russian River. Along with the other cinephiles who have booked films for this unassuming movie house , I was entrusted with the task of bringing big box- office entertainment to the redwoods to help finance the screening of films that would appeal to more discriminating cinema palates.

This theater was, and continues to be, different, quite a bit different than your more mainstream movie venues. For one thing it is housed in what I‘ve heard referred to as a Quonset hut. You know, the corrugated metal, half-cylindrical structures you often see on military bases. The theater is aptly named “The Rio Theatre” because it is a little too close to the Russian River. On more than one occasion, since I’ve been in the area, it has risen, like some sort of watery Phoenix, from the silty river waters, to assume its rightful place in the community as a temple of culture. But if you insist on your Phoenixes rising from ashes, well this theater has survived a fire that consumed every other building on the property. As the audience was evacuated that night, they were given “Fire Check” coupons to attend a future screening when flames would no longer be a factor. 

When I first arrived on the scene, and it was a “scene”of sorts, the theater was owned and operated by a home-grown guru/psychiatrist named Bob Newport. He ran the theatre as if he were a psychedelic Captain Steubing on a Hippie Love Boat. He was surrounded by a talented, organic crew of alternate society folks who insisted on healthy snacks and the very best cinematic offerings.

He had wisely assumed that a theater in the boondocks should strive to fill a niche, unlike those provided for by the downtown theaters upstream. In the early seventies there were no multiplexes in Santa Rosa or Sebastopol, the areas of highest population concentration nearby. Three or four theaters and a couple of drive-ins were about it for most of Sonoma County then. All of these screened almost exclusively the first or second run big box office Hollywood hits.

So the Rio offered classic cinema, foreign films, animation festivals, freaky live performances by groups like the “Angels of Light” (a spin off from the legendary “Cockettes”); at least till Dr. Bob ran out of money or the inclination to provide culture to us savages.

Being a cartoonist/graphic artist fresh from some experience gleaned during a stint as number one ad producer for “The San Jose Red Eye” hippie rag, I was able to insinuate my way into this elite assemblage, and hang on for dear life as new owner-operators came and went over the years. I would do the layout for the calendar/schedule flyer, and distribute it all over Sonoma County from Cotati to Healdsburg and every other little burg in between. The hope was that dedicated cinephiles would think nothing of driving twenty plus miles for their fix of Fellini or Bergmann.

To promote community support, one night a week was “Fifty Cent Night”, where movie-goers could see an old family favorite, preceded by a cartoon cavalcade, all for half a buck. On the other side of the river, the same family might partake of a “Peasant Dinner” offered by the folks at the Village Inn Restaurant (eg. Eggplant Parmesan with a side of veggies and rice for two bucks, including apple brown betty for dessert.) This homey, economic atmosphere existed throughout the seventies (the dawn of civilization, pre-video, pre-computer, pre-MP3) and into the early eighties.

At first I circulated in the dark fringes of the operation, doing my graphic schtick, and for a time, cleaning up the melted Eskimo Pies, wads of gum, Jujubees, the ocasional stinky diaper, roaches (smokable), even cash and food stamps that I would find on the sticky floor. In later years I advanced from ticket window duties to actually being involved in the booking of the films and making frequent drives to San Francisco based distributors to pick them up.

I joined the ranks of the nick-named. I became “Movie Michael”, the guy that legend has it, would accept a sensemilla joint in lieu of cash for admission. The Furry Freak Brothers were right,”Times of Pot will get you through times of no money”, way better than the corollary. And being the manager of such a theatre, serving such a clientele, and being a scant seven miles from the Occidental Vortex, as you might imagine, I dealt with a reality unimaginable to today’s multiplex manager.

At the heart of this mansion of movie magic were a pair of projectors that looked like they could have been cosmic ray weaponry hi-jacked from a Flash Gordon era space ship. The white-hot light needed to shoot the images to the screen was provided by the ignition of carbon arc rods. The whole process depended on constant vigilance and impeccable timing, qualities that were rare in those days, especially among the projectionists who found there way to our booth in the high old seventies. My intercom calls to and from the projection booth were reminiscent of Star Trek dialog,”We’re down to our last dilithium rod, I dunna ken if we can make it through the next reel, Jim!”

The projection room was a museum in more ways than one. Besides sporting the antique projectors mentioned above, the walls were adorned with “one sheet” posters and hand-written lines from the thousands of movies we’d screened over the years. From, “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges”, to Jack Nicholson’s “Chicken Salad Sandwich” routine from Five Easy Pieces, til hardly a square inch of wall space was untagged.

As you may be aware, most theaters survive financially on the popcorn, sodas, and candy they sell, rather than the ticket admission take. Ticket income is mostly eaten up by the hefty percentages the distributors take for the privilege of displaying their big box office films. We always prided ourselves on the quality of the items available in our snack bar: freshly ground French Roast coffee, popcorn with real butter, fresh baked pastries from “Just Desserts” (a gourmet SF bakery of the day), It’s Its and other ice cream treats.

For me it was like giving a party every night. And like some parties, things would occasionally get out of hand. During one screening of Ken Russells’s frenetic take on the Who’s rock opera, “Tommy”, the flashing lights during Tina Turner’s turn as “The Acid Queen” provoked a seizure from one epileptic member of the audience. Fortunately there was a practicing RN in the next row whos first responder skills got things back under control after a short intermission.

Then there was the difficult removal of a 350 pound drunk who had passed out and became wedged into one of the toilet stalls. Then there was the tiny, sleeping seven-year-old, who’d been left by his parents, curled up on his seat, unnoticed by the usher and locked in the theater after closing time. When he awoke, he resourcefully used a shoe to break out the semicircular window in the theater front door and escaped into the night.

The theater has seen Cinemascope, black and white, color, 3D, porno, 3D porno (“The Stewardesses”) and “Smellovision”. I have watched sensitive viewers bolt and barf from “The Exorcist”, scream to “Jaws” and “Wow” to “Star Wars”.

As I mentioned, it exists to this day, thanks to the efforts of Don and Susie Schaffert, who’ve added their own special loving touches. During their tour of operations they’ve aded a multitude of attractions, not the least of which are “Don’s Dogs” , specialty hot dogs, brats and hot links which started out as concession stand offerings and ended up as a restaurant with the same name at the rear of the theater building. They also employ youth in the community, supply an enclosed dog run area on the property, and sponsor a wonderful vintage car show every Summer.

One of my son’s friends, Jason Long, has brushed on a distinctive mural on the building’s exterior that has caught the eyes of tourists headed for the coast for several years now. But sadly, I have noticed “For Sale” signs recently which would seem to herald the end of another era.

My sweetest memory of the theater came when we decided to go ahead with a matinee screening of Ingmar Bergmann’s filmic version of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” despite the fact that there was only one person in the audience, a little old lady who’d driven all the way from Healdsburg to see it. One little, teary-eyed old lady, sitting all by herself watching opera in a little theater in the boondocks by a big river, which brings us full circle and back again to the “Fitzcarralldo” metaphor.

*NYTBS (New York Times Best Seller) my unfinished masterpiece.

Me And Poetry

Posted: February 12, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Frankly, I feel inferior and two dimensional because I have no confidence in my ability to write serious poetry, and from my limited reading experience it would seem that the greater part of poetry is serious indeed, with Ogden Nash, Edward Lear, Dr. Seuss, Rudyard Kipling, being a few obvious exceptions. And now it’s not even cool to rhyme anymore.

Once, many years ago, I entered a Black Bart Doggerel Contest. Doggerel is crudely or irregularly fashioned verse often of a humorous or burlesque nature. I figured I would start modestly in the poetry business and work my way to the top. The judging took place at The Blue Heron Restaurant in Duncan’s Mills, a very pleasing vista that is one of the high points of the scenic route to the Sonoma Coast. Green rolling hills, dotted by outcroppings of rock and clusters of trees that thicken into forest on the taller ridges, all rising up from the bank of a lazy stretch of the Russian River, provide a perfect setting for an afternoon of doggerel. It is said to be near the stage route which the old highwayman, Black Bart claimed as his source of income and means of distributing his creative output. For each stage robbed the robber had an original poem to memorialize the occasion. He was a bad man who wrote bad poetry.

My effort was accompanied by crack folk and country acoustic guitarist, Ray Barrio, and rendered in the troubadorian fashion to a panel of judges who knew a thing or two about bad literature. As I recall, both Pat Nolan and Scott Kersnar were chairmen of the bards that day and part of the humiliating determination that my work was too good to be doggerel. To me they seemed to further imply that the piece was still not good enough to be poetry, which relegated me to a kind of literary limbo, where I roam ambiguously to this very day. You can decide for yourself whether my poem is bad enough, by reading the poem, “The Days of ‘69”, so here it is.

                                                                   
                                                          Days of ‘69
                                    (To the tune of “Ghostriders In The Sky”)

Back in my youth in Florida the coppers were so rash
They’d follow you to work and back in hopes to find your stash.

Were you to inhale or not, they’d find you out ‘fore long
And many a well-intentioned lad soon sang chain gang song.

Chorus: Hippie – I – O, Hippie – I – Ay
My Volkswagen died today.

So from that clime I ventured forth to one I’d heard was freer,
For wild I was and jaunty then, beneath my staid veneer.

A microbus a decade old our means of transportation
Careened and jolted us along to reach the Hippie nation.

Chorus:

And miracles it was we saw along route 66:
Flaming night-burn oil rigs , jackalopes and hicks.

There was fearless Frank in muttonchops, an acid peddler he,
And psycho Jim, the Vietnam vet, and then of course, there’s me.

Chorus:

We pushed and pulled, cajoled and cursed that dreadful old vehicle
Till the great divide was at our backs, between us but a nickle.

And years rolled by in “Poppyland” as did our occupations,
We’d stuff pillows, sell left-wing news just to advance our stations.

Chorus:

And love was free and speech was too, and freer still was sex.
Our Uncle Sam he knew us not and never touched our checks.

It seems as though ‘twas yesterday, although three decades past.
Well, Frank OD’ed and Jim’s a cop, of me this is the last.

Warning: Some of the following is actually true.

Near the Ham-n-Egglet of Mondo Weirdo exists an all-natural Xanadu for the wealthy known for many years as The Bohemian Grove.It has attracted the Bush’s, Rockefellers, Reagan, Nixon, and their associates, and the scions of industry, commerce, sports and entertainment. Private helicopters whapping above, long black limos hissing along narrow roads below, laden with powerful male cargo: these are common sights and sounds during the Grove’s two big Summer encampments.

For many years the locals treated the Bohemian’s seasonal insurgence with cheerful, snappy compliance not unike the greetings Victor Von Doom would receive on his rare visits to Latverian resort destinations. When away from their encampment and at play in local eateries, drinkeries and moteleries, outstretched palms, diverted eyes or brazen winks, admitted the Powerful and they hoes.
They were good for local business, were the stuff of local legends and just another random tidbit of evidence to support my conclusion that I always find myself just a stone’s throw from the hornet’s nest of the rich and famous. In Florida you couldn’t go out for a Sunday drive without getting hung up at a draw bridge opened for some sort of Kennedy nautical nonsense or a motorcade snarling the traffic on US 1. Hell, I cut my teeth on Cuban missiles and flossed with hurricanes. Since I left “The Gold Coast” of FL (land of bland fantasy and fragile ecology) they’ve hosted (within a 20 mile radius of my childhood home) the training sessions for 9/11 Terrorist/Pilots, an Anthrax attack, and played a critical part in the first stealing of the presidency (2000). Even earlier Palm Beach County was recognized as the crack capital of the world. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but this, after all, is only a diversion.

Lately, the last two or three decades at any rate, the Grove has been a focal point for protest/ outrage, thus serving as a momentary annoyance for Henry Kissinger and his ilk. To varying degrees of success, campaigns to make the roads of privilege (to the Grove) a little bumpier and to voice the concerns of the powerless were organized, given limited coverage by the media, and allowed to fade into the river mist. And that is the set-up for this disturbing tale of the Rich and Famous.

The story begins a little more than two decades ago on the verge of the Savings and Loan Debacle of the early 80’s, Hi-Jinx were raging both in and out of the Grove. Magic was afoot and the unsuspecting Bohos would never know what hit them.

Faery folk manifesting themselves as Gray Aliens amused themselves by mind-controlling an encampment at the Grove, making virtual meat puppets of Henry Kissinger, Bob Weir (Grateful Dead) The Postman from Cheers, George Bush Sr., Art Linklater and Bob Hope. A Celto-Gothic evenings entertainment reportedly ended with the ritualized offering up of what is said to have been the twin of actor Ashton Kutcher, snatched from the nursery, his mystery disappearance unsolved and suppressed by the Illuminati til the release of this volume . Rumors persist of an annual human sacrifice event since then, and a “Sasquatch” quality, hand-held camera , bonfire-backlit figures capering about a giant owl video has been offered as proof by a self-embedded investigative reporter who somehow penetrated the Grove’s tough security.

A popular Texas talk show host (Alex Jones) saw a redwood log of an issue to throw on his own bonfire of conspiracy and controversy. With his centerpiece video he cobbled together his own nuances, interviews with locals*, more paranoid rants, agressive voice-over, and voila, a quasi-documentary on the horrible secrets of the Bohemians. It went something like this:

The body continued to scream in pain. Suddenly, all of those little metal crosses that we had seen along the bank during the day burst into flame. So, I was there witnessing something right out of the medieval painter Hieronymus Boschs Visions of Hell: burning metal crosses, priests in red and black robes with the high priest in a silver robe with a red cape, a burning body screaming in pain, a giant stone great-horned owl, world leaders, bankers, media and the head of academia engaged in these activities. It was total insanity.”The real horrible secret is that some of these guys (and you know who you are) are responsible for a lot more than one measly little tyke death a year, think millions. Was tiny Norville Kutcher chosen as the perfect tot to represent the legions pledged to the Evil Alien Overlords/ Faery Folk ?

A slightly less horrible secret is that there are some fairly nice folks that hang out there. Why they do this is the subect of a line of investigation with which I am not currently concerned. Why I do this is because Bohemian conspiracy sells.That’s right, I’m no better than a sleazy, bullying talk show host. Well, maybe a little better because I have a dream of rallying a community around the making of a best-seller./So, I’ll likely be featuring “Bohemian Hi-Jinx” in a cover blurb, along with the sex, drugs and rock and roll stuff I made up, and BAM, NYTBS in yo’ face corporate America. Long live Free Morphin’ Socialism! I’ll explain it to my grandchildren when I ramble on about the Great Wall Street Smackdown and the horrible things we had to do jus to retire comfortably while B.O. was setting things straight.
 
* My wife appeared in an interview segment and said, “I don’t know about human sacrifice, but I hear they don’t always treat the women who work there in a respectful manner.” Will Sarah Palin be the first female member of the Grove?

Readers of this post may be interested in further Grove-related Hi Jinx in another entry entitled “Ritualized Burning of Care and Other Bohemian Amusements”

I think I’ve changed a lot since I felt the call to literary greatness back in July of 2008, and not entirely for the good. I believe I have exhibited more persistence at this attempt to showcase my weirdness than in the past. But, as a result, I have become a pest to those whom I sought out for help, whose help I still need to complete my quest. I have played bloody hell with the feng shway of the mobile mansion with my insistance on cramming more than my share of space with manuscripts, books, a scanner/printer, paper, pens and whatall.

Maybe I did bite off more than I can chew (and I no longer have dental coverage). But for once I decided to follow that dream wherever it may lead. Greatness? Bull-goose lunacy? Whatever. And, I’m gonna follow that dream, catch it, put it in a bag and sell it to the highest bidder just like a good American should (or try dying).

With my zero-tolerance work ethic, I guess I should have realized that this could take a little longer than a year, as I’d originally hoped. Hell, Michael Crichton just published another book, and he’s been dead a while, so I suppose I’ve got plenty of time.

Is it just me or is their some Destiny going on here, after midnight, December the ninth, two thousand and nine? I’m feelin’ it. That’s just another thing that’s changed about me, this awareness of powerful forces, just out of sight, giving me these cryptic signs at intervals, accompanied by the half-heard clicking sounds of things falling into place.

Take this strange letter I got the other day. It sounded like an acceptance letter for an Illuminati Fantasy Camp, Home Edition, where I will be learning the Secrets of the Ancients from a 56 page book, get all the power, romance and dough-re-mi I can eat, all absolutely FREE! Of course I sent in the reply with the appropriate boxes checked to get me started down the road to Rewardsville, somewhere beyond my Wildest Dreams, near the little town of Knott-Likely. Sure, I have some doubts, but still, I haven’t been so excited since I sent in five Nestle’s Cocoa labels to get a Cosmic Smoke Gun (that could anesthetize guards with a puff of smoke from its red plastic barrel). I run to the mail box every day. After all, this could be the first day of the rest of my life that I’ve always wanted.

Imagine if it was you that had been selected by an “elite group” to receive “secrets that have laid hidden from ordinary eyes for 2300 years”, because they realized your “special qualities”. You’d be keyed up too, I bet.

The thing is though, this is supposed to be all hush-hush, and I hope to hell I haven’t blown this big chance at “peace and love overflowing in (my) life” just by talking to you about it. Wouldn’t it be just like me to do something at the last minute to foul up my chance to “begin generating huge sums of money within hours…automatically…without even trying!”

If I post this as a blog, I predict my very next trip to the mail box will yield a letter with a polite, but stern apology. “The Elite Association of the Secretly Powerful has reconsidered your invitation to receive the Greatest Kept Secrets of All Time and hereby withdraws said invitation because you have shown yourself to be a cynical, spiritually-challenged blabber mouth. And you’re not that funny either.”

But I’ve been wrong so many times before. Why not keep Hope alive? Besides, if these secret folks have been watching me, and are so well aware of my “special traits”, they must have known I’d jump on this as a blog topic like a junkyard dog on transient buttocks. Could it be that I’ve been chosen to popularize this Ancient Knowledge and bring it to the masses? What would a world where everybody is rich and powerful be like anyway? Do I even want to be some kind of internet Moses?

There I go again, rushing things and expostulating all over myself. I’m going to stop, take a deep breath , clean up the mobile mansion, do some grocery shopping, anything to kill some time before the mail gets here.

Don’t worry. I’ll be sure to let you know when I get rich and powerful. That is if I’m not too busy having sex with any woman I choose or winning big at games of chance.

Me And John Lennon

Posted: February 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

Prefatory Note: I’m writing a book (isn’t everybody). The working title of the book is “N.Y.T.B.S.*, Or How One Small Community Beat The Odds And Produced A *New York Times Best Seller“. My writing coach and sometime editor is the noted outlaw/subversive poet, Pat Nolan. He has encouraged me to rein in my scattershot gonzo-kitchen sink approach in favor of focusing on myself, “the single most interesting character in the book” and my exploits. The following is an attempt to determine why others succeed while I do not.

I may very well be the most interesting character in this book, but even with my artificially inflated ego, I realize that I am small potatoes. Often, when I am reading a biography of one of my heroes, I like to compare their potatoes to mine and wonder what differences in their environment, what fatal factors made their potatoes so much bigger and better.

Since I’m reading Philip Norman’s biography of John Lennon, let’s use him as an example and a standard for our potato comparison. We were both born during wartime. His Liverpool was under attack the night his Aunt Mimi rushed to the hospital to witness his birth. My Roanoke, VA, was feeling the pinch of rationing but otherwise calm and unscathed. His Dad was often away at sea. My Dad was stationed no further away than Norfolk, VA, during WW2, and a constant factor in my life till he passed away at 91. John’s family life was often tumultuous, at times he was raised by committee. I had a “normal” nuclear family. Dad was a postal employee for 65 years and Mom was a housewife for life. I had lots of family support and high standards and high expectations to meet.

Both John and I were interested in art, literature and music early on. Although I have dabbled in all of
the above, I never considered pursuing them as a career option. John never seemed to consider anything else as a serious careeer option.

Believe it or don’t, I won prizes for good citizenship and was usually an honor roll student. John, though extremely well read, had little interest in education, and “citizenship” was not high on his list of priorities either. Both of us, however, seemed to possess a kindred prankster spirit. I believe he was caught more often than I, though perhaps his was a more open rebellion against authority than my sneaky guerilla antics. But I was caught once.

In high school I was a “jock” and consequently had a different sort of physical education experience than the non-athletes. We would, during Track and Field season, report to a special “Jock Central” room where we would find our directions on the blackboard as to what calisthentic activities we were to incorporate into our afternoon warm-up: how many windmills, squat thrusts, pushups, and sit-ups and so on. Then we would proceed to the field for our self-directed warm-up.

One day I got to the room early and since no one else was around, I decided to alter the calisthentic routine on the chalkboard a bit. “Fifty double-breasted f**k-ups, One mile Sissy Walk, One hundred rhythmic abdominal thrusts…” You get the picture.Lots of laughs as the guys who could read arrived and checked out the chalkboard.

Later that same day, the school’s Athletic Director was giving a tour of our newly-minted educational facility with the County Supervisor of Education. I could hear him bragging to the Supe, his voice resonating in the hall just before they entered the “Jock” room, “Our kids aren’t the kind who deface school property. They’ve got pride and a basic sense of decency. You won’t find any foul…” And then the silence that seemed to reverberate with a negative energy of its own.

Then a suppressed chuckle . Then a “Well, I will be…Who is responsible for this? There’s always one…and I will find out who did this!” The words of Athletic Director Bobby Riggs, a paunchy, gum chewing,tough guy. And somehow, find out he did, as Yoda might say.

I got a good old-fashioned lickin’ with the m***er f***ing Board of Education, wielded by one of Riggs’ enthusiastic underlings. The board or paddle was high tech, as I remember, with lots of little holes that gave an added dimension to the pain. How, I’m not at all sure. Maybe the holes captured mini butt particles. I’m not a scientist or conversant with enhanced interrrogation techniques.

John Lennon and I both share an appreciation for art, particularly drawing and comic art. His influences are of the “Less Is More” school: James Thurber, Saul Steinberg; mine are from the “More is More” school: Bill Elder, R. Crumb, Gustave Dore.

We were (are, actually, me still being alive and all.More on that later) irrepressible clowns with similar lunatic taste in comedy. He listened to Spike Milligan’s Goon Show with Peter Sellers as a youngster, while I was listening to Bob and Ray and The Jack Benny Show. I was more influenced by Mad comics than almost anything else at that time. If you could master the type of humor I read so voraciously in the pages of “Mad”, you were OK in my book. And there were those on the relatively new medium of television who were well versed in this style of iconoclastic, irreverent humor with their own peculiar tweaks: Ernie Kovaks, Jonathan Winters, Steve Allen (with Louis Nye, Don Knotts and Tom Poston) and of course, the Sid Caesar family including Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks.

One of my first public performances was a slavish reenactment of Kovak’s “Nairobi Trio”, an ape-masked, trio of fez-wearing musicians performing in clock-work movements to a strange little tune. Me and my buddies, George Adcock and Tadziu Trotsky, had watched this Kovaks routine become a running gag on his show, and one of us already had an ape mask. In a couple of weeks we were able to get fezzes and masks for everyone, get in a few hours of practice and come in second place in a school talent show. I think we may have done a few parties as well. We were in big demand.

Nothing like the “Quarry Men” or “The Beatles”, of course. But I did actually make some money performing in bands. In the late 70s and early 80s, it was with “The Gray Cats”, an oldies revival group. In the mid-80s to 2007  it was with “True Slack” and “Senor Moment”. I served as front man, lead vocalist, harp player and percussionist in each.

So what kept me from becoming the raging genius and pushed John Lennon to greatness? Luck. Good Luck? Quite the contrary. It was bad luck and lots of it. John had no stable fatherly influence. Just when he starts to get copacetic with his mom, she gets killed by a hit and run driver. Likewise his beloved Uncle Bill croaks. Best friend Stu Suttcliff dies young, and on and on.

It’s precisely this kind of trauma that builds the rage to succeed, the unflagging desire to push yourself into everyones face till they can’t live without you. And this is precisely what I have lacked, until now.

Epilogical Note: Just thought I would hype Pat Nolan’s Latest effort. It might do for a few free editorial sessions. I got the following notice from the great man, himself. Look out below!

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Greetings All — attached is a link to Small Press Distribution and the announcement of my new book from Poltroon Press, Life Of Crime; Documents In The Guerrilla War Against Language Poetry, destined to shake a few heads and maybe a few bellies (with laughter).  Life Of Crime was the scurrilous newsletter of the Black Bart Poetry Society that scandalized the “literary world” in the 80’s, doncha know.
 

Have you ever seen that film of a lab experiment where a caged monkey is provided with a button, which when pushed will send a little jolt of electricity directly to the pleasure center of its brain via electrodes surgically installed in its cute and fuzzy little head? At first the monkey doesn’t have a clue as to the button’s function, but being a monkey it’s not too awfully long before he’s got one spidery little finger poised over that curiously red, shiny bump that wasn’t here before and…ZORCH! Monkey likey! Amazing how quickly the furry little freak gets hip to the button, and in about thirty seconds his fingers are a blur on the button and his eyes look lit from within.

I’m sorry if I sound bitter, but I applied for that job and it really hurt to get beat out by a monkey.