"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."

Sunday, July 28, 2013


You can't always count on the dollar bins. Sometimes they give, sometimes they are unforgiving. 

I flip through record bins everywhere I go. Thrift stores, bookstores, record stores. Everybody knows this. Naturally, I expect to find the best records in the record stores and the worst records in the thrift stores, but that's not always the case. 

Remember that Robert Mitchum record I snagged at a local bookstore last week? There were boxes and boxes of $1 records stacked on the ground but I was meeting my son for lunch and didn't have time to crawl around thumbing through vinyl.

Today, I made time.

Harpo by Harpo Marx (Mercury Wing MGW 12164, 1964)
Delirium in Hi-Fi by Elsa Popping and her Pixieland Band (Andre Popp) (Columbia WL 106, 1958)
Homer and Jethro at the Convention (RCA Victor LPM-2492, 1962)
The Mermaid Theatre presents Lock Up Your Daughters (Decca LK 4320, 1959)
Bill Carty Blasts Off! (Stereoddities CC-1, 1961)
Relaxing Body and Mind  by Milton Feher (Folkways Records FX 6191, 1962)
Havana, 3 a.m. by Perez Prado and His Orchestra  (RCA Victor LPM-1257, 1956)
At the Drop of a Hat by Flanders and Swann (Angel Records 35797, 1959)
Totally Bananas by Rose and the Arrangement (Twink Records TLP 1001, 1981)

Lots of no-brainers here. Lots of records considered, lots of dollars paid.

The last time I saw a Harpo Marx record, it was marked $50. Too rich for my blood, friends. A buck I can handle. Not only did this one immediately go in the "yes" pile, it forced me to look at every dollar record in the joint. The moment you find something good, you're screwed.

The next record I grabbed, Delirium in Hi-Fi, caught my eye thanks to William Steig's cover art. Turns out the record is pretty important in its own right.  Andre Popp, the French fellow who wrote "Love is Blue," composed the music for the album and Pierre Fatosme created the sound effects.  They released their team effort under the name "Elsa Popping and her Pixieland Band." Don't ask me why. Maybe it's a French thing? 

An unusual album, to say the least. 

I've never listened to Homer and Jethro, not ever. I bought this album strictly for the Jack Davis artwork.

Lock up Your Daughters? Never heard of it. I have heard of Lionel Bart, who wrote the songs for Oliver! According to the liner notes, Lock Up Your Daughters is based on Henry Fielding's Rape Upon Rape. Great premise for a musical, huh?

Normally, I'm not a big fan of rape but I can overlook almost anything so long as the songs are catchy.

Check out Bill Carty's face on the cover of Bill Carty Blasts Off! and tell me you wouldn't pay a dollar for this platter. Impossible, right?

Richard Swift's excellent The Atlantic Ocean (Secretly Canadian, 2009) contains a song called "A Song for Milton Feher." I never really thought twice about who Milton Feher was (or might be) and then this Folkways record materialized in front of me. 

Apparently, there was a Milton Feher School of Dance and Relaxation and if you listen to Milton's recorded voice and follow the instructions in the 8-page booklet, you'll not only learn how to relax, you'll learn to sit correctly, improve your posture, and breathe without effort. Definitely worth a buck.

Perez Prado? 'Nuff said. Let me hear you say "¡Dilo!"

Flanders and Swann. One guy plays piano, the other guy's in a wheelchair. Hilarity ensures. 

Totally Bananas looked like a lot of fun. I'm a sucker for novelty records, obviously, but Rose and the Arrangement didn't exactly ring any bells.  Neither did cuts like "Last Tango in Pahrump" or "The Cockroach That Ate Cincinatti." But unlike you, I am willing to gamble with one hundred pennies. I am willing to take a leap.  

Got home, saw the latter song was a huge hit on Dr. Demento's radio show. Pulled the record out of my shopping bag. Saw the endorsement from Demento himself, five whole paragraphs, on the back of the album.

Sometimes it pays to read, especially when you're in a bookstore looking at records.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Most of my Dell mapbacks are in storage, but I picked up this little honey the other day.

Counterfeit Wife by Brett Halliday (Dell 280, 1947)
A customer asked me once why I kept referring to a particular book as a mapback.  "No reason," I said, "except for the fact there's a map on the back!"

True story.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Say what you want about Robert Mitchum, but I dig that guy, especially his turn in Charles Laughton's adaptation of The Night of the Hunter (1955). I've seen that thing a million times and I'll see it a million more.

I also like Mitchum in Out of the Past (1947) and his genuinely menacing Max Cady in the original Cape Fear (1962), but I've never embraced The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) the way others have. Never oohed, never aahed, never awed.

But I'll tell you something else. I like the fact that Robert Mitchum sings. I picked up his calypso record (Calypso is Like So, 1957) when it was reissued on cd in 1995. That's when all the cool cats were rediscovering lounge music by Esquivel and Les Baxter and Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman. Guilty as charged, officer.  Take me away in chains!

But I never saw any Robert Mitchum on vinyl until today. The purchase set me back a whole $3.50.

That Man, Robert Mitchum . . . Sings (Monument SLP 8086, 1967)

My love of Bobby Hebb's version of "Sunny" has been well documented in these pages. Mitchum's is somewhat less spectacular, but I love it just the same. 


Because it's tough guy Robert Mitchum and he knows the words to "Sunny" and he's singing them into a microphone.

The results are sublime.

This album also contains "Ballad of Thunder Road" and "Little Ole Winedrinker Me," both of which made the pop charts that year. I'd offer a detailed track-by-track review, but my record player is already packed up.

But here's the real reason for this particular post: check out the liner notes from acclaimed songwriter and co-founder of Capitol Records, Johnny Mercer.

Hmmm . . . I guess those comments make Mercer something of a "free palomino" himself, eh? 


Albert Kanter's Classics Illustrated series popped up in 1941, beating Cliff's Notes to the marketplace by 17 years.

No child alive would mistake The Three Musketeers for Fantastic Four, but Kanter knew what he was doing presenting world classics in comic book form. By 1962 (the last year of original material) the series spanned 169 issues and moved 200 million units.

Here's a taste:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Just how up in the air have things become?  I've decided to let my hair grow.

Chalk it up to boredom.  It's nothing serious, no cry for help. I have a reading next week and I fully expect to look like I always do when I step up to the microphone. My hair experiment will very likely end up in the sink.

I had dinner with Leslie last week and she complimented me on my haircut. I shook my head. "This is the opposite of a haircut," I said. "I'm actually letting my hair grow."

She returned her gaze to our Hot & Spicy Sichuan Prawns.

So it grows.


Sounds For Sick? People (Shell S 1711)
I found this in the bins and immediately thought it was a joke. 

Back in the 1960s, a company called High In-Fidelity Records issued a bunch of novelty record covers (sleeves only, no vinyl inside) with titles like Songs For Swinging Mothers, Music for Mixed Emotions, Music For Casual Affairs, Music For Half-Assed Friends, etc. Nudity was strongly encouraged, but not essential.

Each empty sleeve had an insert that read "I Bought This Album For You As A Gift . . . Sorry I Couldn't Afford The Record."

Sounds For Sick? People was a real record, compiled by Dr. Herb Breger and issued on his own Shell Records. Breger was a dentist, but that didn't keep him from issuing music by The Ivy Three, The Delacardos, The Pyramids, and The Daddy-O's.

The music looks like a mix of standards ("St. James Infirmary," "I'm Beginning To See the Light," and "Dry Bones") along with tunes like "Ulcer Alley" and "X-Ray Eyes."  

I'm kinda glad my record player is already packed up.

Monday, July 15, 2013


Remember the old joke about what happens when you play a country & western song backwards? You get your girl back, you get your job back, you get your dog back.

I know a variation. I know what happens when you clean out your garage. You get your expired passport back, you get your social security card back, you get your childhood back.

Here are some random finds:

Didn't Thurston Howell have the same teddy bear in Gilligan's Island?
Apparently so.

Basic Goals in Spelling 
Safe All Day With The Happies (Rand McNally, 1959)


I've spent more time in Home Depot in the last two weeks than I have in the last six years. I'm a goddamned regular over there. 

It's like Norm entering the bar on Cheers, except nobody's very happy to see me. The employees all spin around and start walking the other way when I show up. They take early lunches and extended breaks.

I really can't blame Home Depot because I have nothing but silly questions and occasionally some returns. A tan faceplate instead of white, an extra paintbrush.

Getting the house ready to sell was more than packing up my belongings, more than cleaning bathrooms and baseboards, more than dusting furniture. It meant spackling and painting walls and resealing both bathtubs. 

It's been an education.

Several trips were devoted to matching existing paint and many more involved advice and additional supplies. 

In the end, it wasn't very difficult. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013


So I had what?  Over 600 Modern Library books? 

I pulled out all the duplicates and thought I might take a portion of the collection with me, but what to take?  What to leave behind? The duplicates were no indication of what I really had and it didn't make any sense to cart the rare stuff all over creation.

The whole collection is now nestled in cardboard, sleeping safely in storage. There are many striking covers that deserved scans, but I limited myself to three early titles. 

Dracula belongs here, and Native Son. The Sun Also Rises and Nine Stories and Invisible Man. Anything by E. McKnight Kauffer or Paul Galdone or George Salter.


I don't know where you stand on Nelson Algren, but I like the guy.

His novel The Man With The Golden Arm won the very first National Book Award, back in 1950. I'm not crazy about Otto Preminger's adaptation with Frank Sinatra, but how can you not love a protagonist named Frankie Machine? He plays cards, he plays drums, and he's addicted to morphine. Talk about a monkey on your back.

Of course, Algren is also known for his affair with Simone de Beauvoir, his relationship with the city of Chicago, and his novel A Walk On The Wild Side, an inspiration for one of Lou Reed's best-known songs.

The Neon Wilderness (Doubleday, 1947)

The Man With  The Golden Arm (Doubleday, 1949)

A Walk On The Wild Side (Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1956)


There's really no good excuse for going ten days without posting except I've been packing up the last of my belongings and getting the house ready for the real estate photographer. There was also a terrible book that needed reviewing and people I wanted to spend time with.

I scanned a couple dozen things in the past week, images for future posts, and then I packed up my scanner. Don't worry, I know where it is. If something magnificent comes along, I can always plug the scanner back in.

The best thing about living in a mostly empty house is there are fewer places to lose your keys or wallet.  Three rooms are completely empty, the carpets are clean, and the curtains have been washed and tumbled dry. 

The house officially goes on the market next Thursday. I thought it was something that happened instantly, but apparently real estate listings have a proper release date, just like books and movies and records.

And that day is Thursday. 


Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Oh, J.D.

It's a big year for Salinger.  There's a new documentary and a new oral biography coming, but those are still months away.

Here are some Salinger goodies from my library:

Salinger's Catcher in the Rye: Clamor vs. Criticism  (D. C. Heath & Co., 1963)

Studies in J. D. Salinger  edited by Marvin Laser and Norman Fruman (The Odyssey Press, 1963)

Unauthorized Salinger collection (1974?)
Years ago, when I ran a bookstore, a customer who traded regularly brought in some Salinger books.  Tucked inside the books were these vintage Salinger clippings:

The New York Times Book Review (September 17th, 1961)
Salinger in Time (September 15, 1961)
Salinger in The Atlantic (August, 1961)



I lost an entire post on July 1st, which is a little ironic since it was basically a description of what it's like to shed material possessions.

Most of these posts are stream-of-consciousness, composed in haste at the end of my day, but that doesn't mean I don't spend time editing or tinkering with word choice. I'm not above setting aside a draft that isn't working, either.  

So I lost my post after working on it for almost an hour and I had no energy to start all over.  I wrote down a few lines in case I decided to revisit it and then I went to bed.

Here's the gist:
Superman #164 (October 1963)
I’m feeling a little in-between these days.

I’ve spent the last three weeks boxing up my possessions, even though it’s not clear where I’ll end up. All I know is, I’m not staying here. 

No matter what, I’m heading to a smaller space.  It’s time to cut back, it’s time to slim down, it's time to make some tough decisions. 

My storage space is already three-quarters full.

I've thrown out a lot of stuff, things I've kept for three decades or more. I fill up my recycling bin every week, I called the city for a bulk trash pick-up, and I've made several large donations to Goodwill.

Sophie Zawistowski had to choose between her two children. Big deal. Easy-peasy.  

I've thrown away nearly 1300 issues of Entertainment Weekly. Ticket stubs, balls of string, love letters written, love letters received.

You know that sense of relief and fulfillment people say they get once they’ve shed all their material possessions?

I don't have that, but I understand it.

Last week, my dvr got fried. I had nearly 100 hours of premium entertainment (movies, television, talk shows, etc.) recorded over the last six years.  

And then suddenly I didn't.

It only took a second to register. The machine wouldn't turn on, there was no way to access my recordings.

And that was it, no two ways about it. Hasta la video, baby.

And I was okay with that.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I've always had a love affair with things.  Magazines, books, music, movies.

I like them pristine, I like them mint. Do you know how many items I have that are as daisy fresh as the day I bought them?  The correct answer is “practically everything.

Do you know how many relationships I’ve soured by telling my girlfriends not to place their drinks on top of my magazines, not to read my cd booklets with greasy hands, to please hold my vinyl records by the edges?

Do you have any idea how much wrath I’ve incurred from friends by gently asking them not to dogear the pages of my books, not to crack my spines, not to read my books in their bathtub?

Me, I'm a perfect browser.  My hands are almost always powder dry. I never leave fingerprints, I never leave traces.

Do you know how many merchants have openly weeped as I examined their wares, painfully aware that no harm would come as I lifted their items off shelves?

I've kept things that are important to me. I've kept things I cannot replace.

I won't miss this house but I'll miss the space.