"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."

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Okay, so I've been otherwise occupied.  Lots of loving, lots of thinking, lots of writing. Good times, yo.

The last couple of months have been among the happiest in my life. I've had a lot of experiences, met a lot of great people. Perhaps those stories will trickle out over time.  

The important thing is they happened, whether I choose to write about them in this space or not. If we're friends, just picture me happy and smiling and laughing my ass off. Bingo! Now we're up-to-date.

I've only bought a couple of things in the last few months, a handful of thrift store books. No records, no movies. The sweet song of "acquire" was almost always my jumping off point. No new purchases, no new posts.

And then a few days before Halloween, David said "you need to get back on the blogging train."

You know something? He was right.

Friday, October 4, 2013


It's snowing where I am.

And this seems like so long ago:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I left town with two boxes of books I figured I could trade at any interesting used bookstore I encountered on the road. 

I found a suitable place in Albuquerque and hauled both boxes to the front counter. The woman who greeted me was very nice, and I started poking around the shelves while she computed my trade. I was looking for vintage paperbacks, but there wasn't much.  

A Touch of Death by Charles Williams (Gold Medal K1353, 1963)
Message From Marise by Paul Kruger (Gold Medal K1323, 1963)
I found these two Gold Medals right off, which is exactly what I'm looking for. Pretty much any reasonably priced mystery or science fiction novel from the '50s or '60s published by Gold Medal, Signet, or Ballantine is something I want to take home. I scoured the shelves but couldn't find much else.  No John D. MacDonald or Ross McDonald, no Chandler or Hammett, no Heinlein or Bradbury or anything else.  

I checked back in at the trade counter and the woman told me she could offer me $193 in credit. I asked her how much I owed her for the two books in my hand.  "With trade credit, those are fifty cents each," she said.

I explained I was just passing through and didn't know when I'd be back. Was there a cash offer?  "I don't pay cash for books," she said, which I respect. She asked me if I had any friends who could use my trade credit. I told her no, I didn't have any friends.

We got to talking and she told me she bought the bookstore from her father.  "I've been working here 43 years," she said. "I've been paying social security since I was five years old." She was a pretty woman, tiny but tough, with a good sense of humor and a small dusting of weariness that suggested she'd been through some shit, either hers or someone else's.  

She told me her name (Elizabeth) and the amount of time it takes to get from Albuquerque to Fort Collins, CO by bus (13 hours). "I put my daughter on that bus yesterday," she said, which explained some of the fatigue I saw in her face.

Elizabth pulled a bartending guide from my stack of trade and asked me if I had any favorite recipes. She said the local tavern didn't open until 11 and I joked about picking up beer from a convenience store and getting started early.  

She asked what I wanted to do with my books and I asked her if she had any more vintage paperbacks. She told me I was welcome to look behind her counter and I quickly found a few more things.

Bad Day For a Black Brother by B. B. Johnson (Paperback Library 64-482, 1970)
Shaft Has a Ball by Ernest Tidyman (Bantam N7699, 1973)
Naked Lunch by William Burroughs (Grove BC-115, 1966)
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (Beagle Books 95123, 1971)
The Shuttered Room & Other Tales (Ballantine 23229, 1974)
The Lurking Fear & Other Stories (Ballantine 03230, 1974)
A couple of Lovecrafts, the Burroughs, Superspade #5, a Shaft novel. I asked Elizabeth to choose enough books to cover my purchase and gladly paid the extra fifty cents per book.

She reboxed my books and I grabbed one carton and she grabbed the other. I told her I didn't mind walking back to the car myself but she insisted on walking out with me. As I opened my car she pointed to a box. "Is that a comics box?" I told her it was, but that it contained compact discs. "Too bad," she said. I asked her if she had any comics and she told me to wait a moment. She went back inside the store while I packed the books into my car and she returned with a remote.

"Come with me," she said.  Behind the store was a gate, which swung open when Elizabeth pressed the remote.  "Is this where I end up chained to a radiator in the basement or you stab me or something?" She laughed. "Sure is," she said. 

Behind the gate was a small structure which Elizabeth unlocked. This is where she stored her comics, all neatly arranged by publisher. "There's nothing too valuable back here, but if you want to make an appointment I can show you some Silver Age stuff."

I looked around for a minute and thanked her for her time. She told me she was having a big sale that weekend and I told her I'd come back another time.  "Bring some more books," she said. I promised I would.

We walked back to my car. I asked her if there was a gas station nearby and she said there was, but that we weren't in a great part of town. Someone really had been stabbed a couple of weeks ago.  I asked her if she'd done it. "No," she said, laughing. "It wasn't me."

I got back in my car and followed my GPS to the freeway. I got gas three hours later in a quiet little town where nobody had been stabbed in over a year.

Friday, September 6, 2013


I didn't like Martin Scorsese's remake of Cape Fear (1991) the first time I saw it.

Wait--I liked it. I didn't love it. Thought it was just okay.

I revisited the film recently and was struck by the visuals.

It's almost impossible to watch Scorsese's take on Cape Fear and not be moved by the experiment in color unfolding in front of your eyes. The memorable images just keep coming, one right after another, like a fireworks display. Freddie Francis' cinematography doesn't just pop--it explodes.  

And De Niro is appropriately menacing as the single-minded thug Max Cady, who's hell-bent on revenge. This cigar chomping, heavily tattooed bully with the greasy hair and the loud clothes is not someone you want to eff with, definitely not someone you want to cross. 

But c'mon.  The scene where Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, and Juliette Lewis flee the city to get away and the camera reveals Cady hiding under their vehicle?  I mean, it's tough not to laugh.  The situation is ridiculous

There's also a scene where Cady starts speaking in tongues. Didn't phase me, didn't scare me a bit. De Niro is brilliant and talented and versatile, but even he can't pull off speaking in tongues. 

And I don't know how I feel about the scene between Lewis and De Niro, the one where he lures her to an unoccupied corner of her school and sticks his finger in her mouth. Too much?  Or maybe just the right amount of sick and twisted.

I do like the cameos by Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, and Martin Balsam do. All three men appeared in the original film version (1962), and their collective presence is a welcome nod. But why don't I love the opening titles more?  I'm a huge fan of Saul Bass, but wasn't crazy about the work here. 

The Executioners by John D. MacDonald (Fawcett Gold Medal R2055) 
I think it's fair to say I've been going through a John D. MacDonald phase recently. I haven't fully immersed myself in Travis McGee, but I've been rounding out my collection. I recently picked up a copy of The Executioners, the novel that Cape Fear was based on.

I can't wait to read the book, rewatch the 1962 version, and compare it with Scorsese's.

Years ago, I found an angry note in a used book. I don't remember who it was addressed to or who it was from, but I remember this line: I will have renvenge (sic) on you.

I will have renvenge on you.

I guess if you stick around long enough, everything makes sense in the end.


Sammy started community college a week ago. 

His English class meets once a week for several hours. The students work at their own terminals and the instructor's notes are visible on a large monitor at the front of the class.

One of their first assignments was definitions.  The instructor asked the class to define freedom in their own words. 

Heads bowed simultaneously, fingers began typing.

And then this, from the instructor: Are you kidding me, Emmanuel?

Apparently, Emmanuel thought his response would be anonymous, so he didn't think twice about typing pre-marital butt sex as his definition of freedom.

Not only was it not anonymous, it was also displayed on the large monitor at the front of the classroom.

Sammy had great difficulty telling me the story without laughing.

That's my boy.


He'll Have to Go And Other Favorites by Jim Reeves (RCA Victor LPM-2223, 1960)

Vanishing Point (Richard C. Sarafian, dir.), 1971

Don't Look Back movie tie-in (Ballantine U7089, 1968)

I left Arizona on Wednesday, September 4th, the same day the sale of my house was officially recorded. 
I walked the empty rooms a dozen times, making sure nothing had been left behind. I ran my hands along every surface and every shelf, which yielded a couple of dusty issues of Entertainment Weekly and a copy of my birth certificate, nearly forgotten on the top shelf of my bedroom closet.
It was 108 degrees the day I left town. I drove east, in the direction of my storage space, squinting at the rising sun.
I dropped off my last few belongings (a pillow, a blanket, some cleaning supplies), then bought gas and some snacks and a bag of ice for my cooler. I plugged an address into my GPS and hit the road.
Six hours later, I was in Albuquerque.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Chandler cover art by Whistlin' Dixie.

Playback by Raymond Chandler (Ballantine 25169, 1977)
Killer in the Rain by Raymond Chandler (Ballantine 25728, 1977)
Trouble is My Business by Raymond Chandler (Ballantine 25513, 1977)


I knew a bookstore guy, a fellow employee in San Francisco, who used to shove a bunch of mass market paperbacks into his coat at the end of each shift.  He'd wave goodbye to everyone and walk out with 6-10 book-sized tumors bulging all over his body.

Didn't fool a soul.  

We had a pretty liberal check-out policy in those days.  You could take what you wanted so long as you wrote it down in the book-borrowing journal and returned everything in good shape. How else to stay well-read on our hourly salary?  

But this guy! This guy would stuff his pockets and never write anything down. What's the fun in that? To his credit, he did return most everything within a few days. He always made a big production out of returning books he'd tried so surreptitiously to smuggle out unnoticed.

"When you're not wealthy, be stealthy," he said. Which is good advice.

He was a great mystery reader. I remember him rereading the works of Dashiell Hammett at one point, and insisting everyone do the same.

His only criticism was the covers, which he hated. Nothing pleased him more than a complete series with a uniform look, all lined up on the shelf together.  

But Hammett was a mess. Some of the books had white spines, some of the books had black spines, and The Continental Op looked the least like the others, with its silver spine and no photograph on the cover.

"Read these," he said, "but don't bother stealing them. At least not until they change the covers."

The guy was full of good advice.  


Days by Real Estate (Domino DNO 305, 2011)
Why is it that Real Estate (the band) has been so good to me, while real estate (the real estate) has been such a bitch?

Oh well. I'll take soaring vocals and jangly guitar-pop over just about anything else.

I'm officially out from under all of it September 4th.  

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I'm leaving in two weeks, so my to-do list includes signing documents and packing boxes and trying to see friends without really saying goodbye. There are services I need to suspend, and others I need to cancel altogether. The contents of my liquor cabinet has been inventoried and distributed to friends. I'm making hay while the sun shines, but no more casseroles because the Pyrex is already packed.  

I had lunch with Rosemary and Heather and Sue yesterday, and we shared some funny stories about garage sale etiquette. I don't want to have a garage sale.  Most everything is going into storage, except for some large pieces I will try and sell on Craigslist or donate to Goodwill.

I don't want to haggle with someone over the price of salt & pepper shakers or a balloon Inflato-Pump or my favorite dishes or the cocktail shaker Susie gave me for my birthday one year.

Forget it.  Save your breath. 

Monday, August 19, 2013


While my nephew was picking up records by Jimmy Smith and Milt Jackson at Revolver's Sunday Sale, I was across town browsing bins my own self.

Not a bad haul. A little rockabilly, a little "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo," the birth of The Rutles, and a couple of nifty novelties.

Rock with Bill Haley and The Comets (Somerset P-4600, 1958)
All American Boy by Rick Derringer (Blue Sky KZ 32481, 1973)
Spy With a Pie by Soupy Sales (ABC-Paramount ABC-503, 1965)
6 Squeeze Songs Crammed Into One Ten-Inch Record ( A & M Records SP-3413, 1979)
Love is All Around by The Troggs (Fontana SRF-67576, 1968)
The Rutland Weekend Songbook by Eric Idle and Neil Innes (Passport Records PPSD-98018, 1976)


When Tania and Angela got married, they encouraged everyone to take the centerpiece and the decorations from the tables at their reception.

I'm getting ahead of myself.

First there was the eating and the dancing and the drinking and the toasting. And before that, a lovely ceremony where they literally sewed themselves to each other. Bound by love, but also needles and thread.

When the night was over and the band had gone home, and someone was flicking the lights on and off, that was when people were encouraged to grab things on the way to their cars.

Somehow, I ended up with this vase.

Shortly thereafter, I started tossing loose change into it.  Of course, when one rarely carries cash, random coins occur infrequently. The coins accumulated slowly, over a period of years and years.  

At one point, I poured out all the change and organized it into stacks. It was close to $70. 

I know this because buried beneath a few layers of recently added coins is a piece of paper with the date (8/10/10) and a figure ($67.10).

Now it's time to pack up my things and a glass vase full of coins seems like unnecessary baggage.  

I used to work in an accounting office and know what a pain in the ass it is to roll coins. The last time I was in my credit union, I asked if they required people to roll coins ahead of time.

The teller told me not to bother.  

"It's a lot of coins," I told her.  She shrugged.  "Just bring them in," she said.  

I have a feeling I'm not going to be very popular at the credit union the day that transaction happens. I'll be the story all the bank tellers share over dinner.

"There was this guy today," they'll all say.  "He had a glass vase full of coins . . ."

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Dragnet Case No. 561 by David Knight (Pocket Books 1120, 1956)
You already know the facts.  

What you may not know is that this Dragnet-inspired novel comes with a handy glossary, so everyday people can follow the action just as well as law enforcement professionals.

When I look at the picture of Jack Webb on the cover, I can't help but wonder how many times he's paid a woman to open his trouser safe with explosives.


I picked up this Dashiell Hammett the other day.

Like many people I know, I like to reacquaint myself with novels from the noir canon every few years. Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain. Lots of good reading there and plenty of quips to work into everyday conversation.

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (Permabook, 1961)
The Thin Man, published in 1934, was Hammett's last novel and the light tone and overall humor distinguish it from say, The Dain Curse or The Maltese Falcon.

Plus, it's a great premise. What's not to love about a private investigator who marries a wealthy socialite and promptly retires? Nick and Nora Charles love to drink, they love their little dog Asta, and when a mystery presents itself, guess which wisecracking couple want to solve it together? You know, between cocktails.

Just as Bogart is inextricably linked with the character of Sam Spade, it's impossible to read about Nick and Nora Charles without picturing William Powell and Myrna Loy. The success of the first adaptation (also 1934) inspired five sequels, with the final entry, Song of the Thin Man, appearing in 1947.

Hammett got a story credit for the first sequel, After the Thin Man (1936), but did not write the screenplay and was not involved with the other films. 

While the "thin man" in Hammett's novel is a murder suspect, movie producers identified the character of Nick Charles as the "thin man" in order to tie the series together.

You know, because people who go to movies are stupid.


I called my sister and told her I've been watching The Mod Squad.

"Linc," she said. As in Lincoln "Linc" Hayes, the groovy cop played by Clarence Williams III.

"Solid," I said. "Far out."

I guess you had to be there.

"Man, don't you dig . . ."
"We're the good guys!"

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Welcome back, old friend.

A strong start for Breaking Bad, season 5B.  I loved seeing the White house in decay, loved seeing "Heisenberg" spray painted on the wood paneling, loved the way Walt startled his neighbor.

And then it was just story, story, story and not a lot of action, which makes sense with only seven more episodes to go. Gotta lay a lot of pipe for all the twists and turns ahead. Everybody was represented, every character got some screen time.

But I'm glad Walt confronted Hank.  That had to happen fast, right? And it had to end with a threat. We hear Walt say very firmly, "that is not going to happen," probably not for the last time.

And then this:

"If that's true, if you don't know who I am . . .then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly."

One down, seven to go.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


The Illuninatus! trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson was originally published in 1975. Dell issued all three volumes as individual mass market paperbacks, starting with The Eye in the Pyramid in September. The Golden Apple was published in October and Leviathan followed in November. 

If you're interested in conspiracy theories, satire, mind control, drug culture, counterculture, science fiction, the term "fnord," or numerology, chances are you've already encountered the Illuminatus trilogy. Perhaps you have a copy under your bed, or beside the chemical toilet in your survivalist compound.

Fans of Breaking Bad will be tickled to know sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman shares a name with one of the main characters in the trilogy. 

Coincidence? Is such a thing possible?

The Eye in the Pyramid (Dell, September 1975)

From the back cover:

The Illuminati, an inside joke? The lunatic fringe? 

Or a hellish conspiracy of psychotic lost souls hidden for centuries, unleashing its evil on a naive, defenseless world?

It was Saul Goodman's lousy luck to smell the trail in some underground memos in a bombed-out office--the heavy case he'd always dreaded.

So it was one tired New York cop on a wild, weird, zany odyssey, searching out a secret society that spanned centuries, crossed continents, drugged generations, and stopped to any depth of degradation to self-destruct an entire world.

In the acerbic, black-humor tradition of Vonnegut, in the shining reflection of Castaneda, here is ILLUMINATUS, volume the first, irresistibly ridiculous theater of the absurd.

Or a bone-freezing blueprint of disaster to come?

The Golden Apple (Dell, October 1975)
From the back cover:
Was it Lucifer Saul Goodman was after? He was beginning to almost believe it was.

But Goodman was a New York cop; only juries believed in fairy tales.

And this crazy case that had fallen in his lap--the Illuminatus; did it really exist, a great and dreaded secret cult, counting kings as members over the centuries, a colossus of crime and occult conspiracy?

Witchcraft or world blackmail, it was Saul Goodman's baby now, and even the President saw it his way, holding back the National Guard to give Goodman time to track down the evil behind Illuminatus--before it unleashed the anthrax plague that threatened to destroy all the creatures great and small . . .

As weirdly wonderful as the best of Vonnegut, as suspensefully offbeat as Castadena, here comes Part II of ILLUMINATUS, a vulture's eye view of the dark side of human comedy.

Leviathan (Dell, November 1975)
From the back cover:

Psychedelic supermen?

A monstrous joke? Or was Illuminatus an awful truth--a hellishly powerful secret cult that had striven down ten thousand years to enslave the human race in a schizoid nightmare?

Tough cop Saul Goodman took over the case and the first clue cracked his hard-boiled core--the Mafia's most powerful don was Illuminatus' most willing tool.

Then Saul Goodman himself disappeared.

The Illuminati were way ahead of Freud. They brainwashed Saul Goodman and returned him to the world as their own creature. Or so they thought . . .

The shattering climax of ILLUMINATUS, the mind-exploding trilogy that has thrilled millions. Like the works of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., ILLUMINATUS is divinely dark comedy--or terrifying truth seen through a cunning kaleidoscope.