"Crap! I wish I hadn't seen Ricky on the sidewalk."

"You will be fine for 31 minutes. You will be dead in 32 minutes."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Goodwill Toward Vinyl

I bought some records on the way home from work. 

I went to Goodwill looking for books, but they had a lot of new (old) records and I got down on my hands and knees to flip through them.  There must have been 200. 

I bought three, paid a buck for each one. 

Two Sides of Wanda (Capitol, ST-2030)

"There are two sides of Wanda Jackson's talent, and one has been just as important as the other to her fame and success.

The two sides of this record demonstrate those two wonderful sides, those two great styles of Wanda Jackson, with twelve top songs--half of them as swingingly, and half as them as beautifully done as anything Wanda has ever recorded. 

Side one presents the rocking, swinging, bluesy Wanda at her best . . ."

Then there's side two--the sweet, rich, beautiful ballad side of Wanda Jackson . . ."

Up And Away (Wand T91011)

This Kingsmen record doesn't have their big hit, "Louie, Louie," but I'm happy with it just the same.  It's got a Beatles cover ("If I Needed Someone"), a Stones cover ("Under My Thumb"), and a bunch of other songs you've heard elsewhere: "Wild Thing," "Land of a Thousand Dances," "Mustang Sally," "Shake a Tail Feather," etc.

I threw the record on my turntable and listened while I washed dishes.  It sounded terrible and I thought the record was severely damaged.  Turns out someone turned off the stereo feature on my receiver; once I restored it, the record sounded just fine.  Old, yes, but still listenable. 

The Threepenny Opera (MGM E3121)

I'm in love with Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weill, so whenever I see a copy of The Threepenny Opera soundtrack, I buy it.  I can't help it, I have no choice in the matter.

This is the 1954 off-Broadway cast recording featuring Lotte Lenya, Bea Arthur, Charlotte Rae, and John Astin. 

The cover is faded, but the record sounds fine. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Four Pies

I did Thanksgiving on Saturday this year.

I like roasting turkeys, always have.  I don't know what it is, but I have a little routine and I stick to it.  Maybe that's it, the annual ritual.  I buy a 20-25 lb. turkey even when I'm just cooking for myself.  I never call it a bird.  I don't brine, I don't deep fry, I don't grill, I don't smoke. 

I take the turkey and I bathe it in dry sherry and I fill it with carrots and celery and onion.  Every hour, I take half a stick of butter and rub it on the skin.  I know I let all the heat out of the oven every time I open the door, but that's how I roll.  People tell you not to wash the turkey, that it sprays bacteria everywhere, but I wash it anyway.  I don't use a meat thermometer either.  I pull the turkey out when it looks done and if the juice runs clear, I let it cool for twenty minutes before I butcher it.  I don't have an electric carving knife and the instruments I do have aren't that sharp, but I make do.

My oven's been a little wonky this year, I'm not sure it's properly calibrated.  I bought a $5 oven thermometer and crossed my fingers. 

I'll be honest:  I got in late Friday night.  I told everyone at the bar I was leaving at 10 but it was midnight before I drove home, and I needed to finish defrosting the turkey.  I filled up the sink with cold water, stuck the turkey in, and set the alarm for 5 a.m.

I had two dreams in the next four hours. 

One was the standard pre-party nightmare, the one where all my guests get food poisoning (oops, my bad!) and both bathrooms flood and we run out of toilet paper. 

My other dream involved a man with blue shoes who appeared to me in a tightly structured story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It was funny, it was sad, and I woke up with the knowledge that all I had to do was write down the details of my dream and send it to The New Yorker. 

When the alarm went off I couldn't remember anything but the blue kicks, so I stumbled into the kitchen and checked the turkey.  All the water had drained from the sink, which made all the blood drain from my face. 

In my haste, I'd left the kitchen sink plug upside down. 

The turkey was still cold, but it worried me.  It worried me that my turkey was now teeming with salmonella.  I debated buying another turkey but it was five a.m. so I just refilled the sink and let the turkey finish defrosting. 

I got up for real at 8 and took my chances with the defrosted turkey and the funky oven.  I wanted the turkey cooking by 9:30, in case my oven didn't reach the proper temperature and I needed more time.

I told everyone we'd eat at 4 p.m., so most people were arriving at 3:30.  Sara, Sam, and Julia were shooting for 2:20 or 3.  They were bringing an extra chair and some ice, and Sara brought rolls and two homemade pies:  one apple, one pumpkin.  Michelle brought her dad and a spinach salad and some brussel sprouts with crushed peanuts on top.  Tony brought homemade pretzels and cheese dip.  Liz brought Zoe so there was a little puppy sniffing fingers and licking faces which was very nice.  Corey brought brie and wine.  She made a squash pie but didn't like the color or the way it set, so she brought a peach pie, too.

This is how we ended up with four pies, each of them delicious in their own way.

I meant to take more pictures, but I got too wrapped up in finishing the food.  I want to be a good host, but it's hard when you're mashing potatoes and cooking beans and making gravy.  At some point, you just have to give up.  Make sure everybody has a drink and trust that they'll entertain themselves while you're sweating over whether the turkey has reached the proper temperature.

In the end, it wasn't my best turkey or my best batch of mashed potatoes.  If you ask me, the haricots verts tasted a little waxy. But here's the thing.  Nobody cared.  We were just sitting around a table eating and talking and laughing and I was glad everyone was there. 

And life is so much better with gravy:

It was too soon for pie, so we retired to the other room and played Catchphrase.  We discussed Apples to Apples, but it was deemed too complicated and Catchphrase is always fun. 

I'd been drinking Coke Zero with Fireball Cinnamon Whisky and at some point, Michelle and I each did a shot.  There wasn't a lot of alcohol consumed.  Tony was drinking a combination of raspberry and chocolate beer, Corey was drinking red wine, and Michelle's father was mixing egg nog and Jack Daniels. 

We ate pie.  Michelle and her father left and so did Liz.  The rest of us watched an episode of H. R. Pufnstuf, the one where Jimmy is transformed into a mechanical boy.  Trippy, to say the least.

Tony had an extra ticket for the Cardinals-Rams game, but it was an all-day commitment.  He was planning on getting to the stadium at 9:45 and tailgating until 2, and I just couldn't do it.

We said our good nights and I thanked everyone for coming, told everybody to be safe. 

It took me over an hour to clean up the kitchen and do the dishes, but I didn't mind at all.  I was listening to the Velvet Underground and my refrigerator was full of leftovers.  I am thankful for my children, thankful for my friends. 

Most importantly, I threw a party and nobody got sick.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012


...My Son the Copy Cat . . . (DFLP 1233, Del Fi Records)
Stanley Ralph Ross (1935-2000) was very busy in the 1960's.  He wrote episodes of Batman and The Monkees, took small roles in films like The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and Tony Rome (1967), and cut this parody album to capitalize on the enormous success of Allan Sherman.
Sherman deserves his own post, but let's focus on Stan Ross for the moment.
Here's what Ronald L. Smith said in the Goldmine Comedy Record Price Guide (Krause Publications, 1996):
"Ross not only comes up with Allan Sherman-style material, he does a pretty fair job of imitating Sherman's voice.  Folk tunes are turned Jewish.  'Clementine' becomes 'Clement Stein' about a 'yenta ten percenta agent,' 'Molly Malone' is now 'Solly M. Cohen' and 'Waltzing Matilda' becomes 'Washing Gefilte,' all about the problems of making gefilte fish.
'I'm Called Little Buttercup' becomes the very Shermanesque 'I'm Called Little Butterball.'  He admits to even trying drugs: 'I've tried every Dexi, and yet, I ain't sexy!  My legs I relaxacize sore.  I drank chocolate Metracal, Grape and etcetrecal, but increased my slacks a size more."
Nothing to write home about, perhaps, but an interesting footnote in 60s-era comedy albums.

Covalent Bonds

I saw Skyfall last week with my lady chums.  Saw it for free.

Last Saturday, I bought a copy of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Peter Hunt, 1969) from Best Buy, because their $9.99 Bond Blu-rays were packaged with $10 coupons good toward the purchase of a Skyfall ticket.

I also had a $5 Reward Zone coupon, so my Blu-ray only cost $5.44. I chose On Her Majesty's Secret Service because I already own Goldfinger and the Lazenby is frequently ranked among the top 5 Bond movies.

I'm watching it now, as I type this.
James Bond (George Lazenby), handy with a blade

I can tell you exactly how many James Bond movies I watched with my father growing up, because it was the same number of professional baseball games we attended, which is to say zero.

Don't get me wrong, my dad was a great guy.  He drove me to the library a lot, and we ran plenty of errands together.  We just didn't do a lot of traditional father-son things.  He never taught me to whittle.  We never teamed up for a three-legged race or went fishing or slept with the same prostitute.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas) tries to make Bond forget all about Donald Pleasence
So it's really no surprise I came late to the Bond franchise.  I came of age during the Roger Moore era, so my bond was campy and lightweight, a real wise-cracker, not tough and misogynistic like Sean Connery.

I know JFK was a huge fan of the Bond novels, and I own all of them, mostly in vintage paperback editions.  You want to know how many of them I've read?  Double-oh-zero.  But that's the nature of collecting.  You can't just collect what you're interested in right now.  You hedge your bets and collect anything you might be interested in in the future.

This Bond omnibus (Macmillan, 1961) collects three novels: Casino Royale, From Russia with Love, and Doctor No.  Another collection, Bonded Fleming (Viking, 1965) contains two more novels (Thunderball and The Spy Who Loved Me) plus five Bond short stories: From a View to a Kill, For Your Eyes Only, Quantum of Solace, Risico, and The Hildebrand Rarity).  I like to think I'll get around to reading them eventually. 
I have one more unread Ian Fleming book in my collection.  It's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Random House, 1964), the book he wrote for children.  I saw the film adaptation with Dick Van Dyke at a tender age, and despite my relative inexperience with film criticism, I wasted no time telling my parents the movie stank.  This was no Mary Poppins, no Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.  Have you seen this film?  It's shitty shitty lame lame, and I say that as a fan of Dick Van Dyke and his ottoman tripping antics.
But back to Skyfall, which I found perfectly entertaining.  Daniel Craig is dynamic, Javier Bardem is deliciously creepy, and the theme song left my head the moment the lights came up. 
My only gripe is with AMC management, which made me dump my dinner leftovers before entering the theater.  They offered to hold my two slices of Thai Chicken pizza while I watched the movie, but I politely declined and tossed the food in the trash. 
Then I paid $8 for a bag of popcorn, but since I got a free movie ticket it seems awfully petty to complain.



Sunday, November 11, 2012


I've been reading Sweet Tooth, the new Ian McEwan novel, on my laptop for the last couple of days.  

I understand why publishers don't want to print advance copies, but curling up with my laptop just isn't the same as curling up with a good book.  Basically, I have another 48 hours to finish reading before this file vanishes from my computer.  I started taking notes as I go because there's no going back to check the facts, which I find annoying.

Stupid digital download. 

I'm on Chapter 15, better than halfway through, so I took a break this afternoon and went scouting.  Half Price Books mailed me a 50% off coupon, so I drove over there.

There was nothing very interesting in their collectibles case, but I did find this Thurber first edition in the fiction section:

The Beast In Me And Other Animals (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1948)

I'm a sucker for Thurber, everybody knows this.
I have lots of Benchley and Perelman and Runyon and Thurber on my shelves, but I see them so rarely that whenever I do find one, I usually buy it.  It was only $5 with my coupon.
My poet nephew has been listening to Graham Parker lately, and as I was flipping through the record bins, I found Purity of Essence, the third long-player from Parker's frequent backup band, The Rumour.
This same nephew is also an enormous Squeeze fan, and Purity of Essence contains the song "Depression" by Glen Tillbrook. 
There are also songs by Nick Lowe and Randy Newman and a bunch of originals by the band (Brinsley Schwarz, Martin Belmont, Andrew Bodnar, and Steve Goulding).
I've never herad the album, so I'll probably listen to it tonight while I make dinner.
I scoured the rest of the store, and ended up in the vintage paperback aisle.  There was some fun stuff, but a lot of it I either had or felt was overpriced. 
Except for this:
The cover art made me wonder if James Avati had painted it, but it doesn't matter.  I'd buy this book for the scent alone.
Both the Bellow book and the Rumour lp had several price stickers.  If I'm reading the tag correctly, the album was originally marked $7.50 (in January 2010), then steadily reduced until June of this year. 
I think I paid $2.50 for it. 
The Adventures of Augie March was originally marked $4.  I found it sitting in the clearance box, priced at $2.
Did I mention how good it smells?


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Bald Truth, or The Clippers and the Damage Done

I don't have a lot of hair on my head, and I'm okay with that. 

I've had a beard since I was sixteen, and I started losing my hair in my mid-20s.   Somewhere, there exists a picture of me with a ponytail. Don't try and picture it, it'll only keep you up at night.

Every four or five days, I take out my Wahl hair clippers (you know, the one with the self-sharping, high-carbon steel blades), and I run it over my head just to even things out. I've been doing it for a long time, exhausted my fair share of clippers. 

I was shaving my head this morning when my clippers started to sputter and cough.  One minute the juice was flowing and the blades blazing; the next, my clippers up and died. 


I looked in the mirror.  It looked like I had mange.

So I had a choice to make.  I could run out and buy new hair clippers or I could soap up my head and shave the modest amount of hair that was left. 

Am I vain?  I don't think so.  But I was nervous about running a razor over my head.  Or three, as it turned out.

It was an emotional morning.

Also:  where exactly do sideburns begin? 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Busting My Conk

New York Confidential (Crown Publishers, Inc., 1951)

There are about 500 apartments in Harlem, known as "tea pads," set up exclusively for marijuana addicts.  They are darkly lit, the colors are usually deep blue, there is a juke box or victrola with the jumpiest of jive records. An insidious incense pervades the stuffy air; windows are always closed.  The walls are usually scrawled with crude nudes and pornographic sketches.
Here gather the reefer smokers for their "binge." (p. 118)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
New York Confidential is filled with nuggets like this, but my favorite part of the book is Appendix E: Glossary of Harlemisms
This is where one learns that a "bree" is "a gal," "fews and two" is "very little money," and "bust your conk" means "to apply yourself diligently."
But that's not the last word on "bust your conk."  I wanted more. 
I consulted a second source, Robert S. Gold's A Jazz Lexicon. 
A Jazz Lexicon (Alfred A. Knopf, 1964)

You dig, Jack? 
I was so beat up after busting my conk, I had to truck over to my cubby for some cups.


I read comic books as a child.  Superheroes, of course.  I can remember waiting for my mother at the beauty parlor, working my way through a stack of Spider-Man and Superman and whatever else my father brought home for me.  

I read the stories and studied the artwork and repeated the dialogue in the balloons above each character's head.  I finished a comic book and started another and reread everything all over again until my father delivered a fresh supply.

It wasn't just the comics I loved.  I was enamored of all the advertisements.   Exotic things, like Sea-Monkeys.  Useful things, like X-Ray spectacles or disappearing ink or stink bombs.

I know now that Sea-Monkeys were just brine shrimp and the only kind of shock the joy buzzer administered was just how quickly the device stopped working once you began using it on siblings and friends. 
Don't even get me started on the X-ray glasses. 
Depending on the advertising art, you could see the bones in your hand or right through a woman's skirt.  I never purchased a pair, but I heard from a reliable source (an older boy at my bus stop) they were a waste of money. 
The important thing is there was a time when I believed all these things existed in the world.  I never bought the kid from Krypton or the radioactive spider that turned Peter Parker into a webslinger. 
I believed in a family of trainable, lovable sea-monkeys.  I believed in candles that couldn't be blown out and plastic Money Makers that transformed ordinary pieces of paper into $5 or $10 bills.

Lies, all.

As I got older, my father tried to wean me off comics.  In an effort to interest me in sports, he started pulling packs of Topps baseball cards from his coat pocket as he came in from the garage.   

Baseball cards delivered facts, not false promises.  

The pink cardboard gum that accompanied the cards was terrible.  You couldn't blow a bubble no matter how many pieces you crammed in your mouth.  I collected the cards for a few years, organized the players by team. 

I tried memorizing batting averages and RBIs, but my heart wasn't in it.