"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."

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.


In which my John D. MacDonald collection grows by one.

This isn't the original cover art for MacDonald's Judge Me Not; it's a third printing from June 1958, nearly seven years after the first edition.

Still, it's pretty classy by Gold Medal standards and not a bad book for two bits.

Judge Me Not by John D. MacDonald (Gold Medal 782)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Live in Anvers by Alex Chilton (Last Call Records 3093182)
Boy, I sure love Alex Chilton (1950-2010). 

Janel made me a mixed tape (a real tape, a cassette) when I was working at Hunter's back in the late 80s. Mostly Big Star stuff, but also his solo work. Paul Westerberg had already steered a lot of people in Chilton's direction, but it was Janel who marched me into the light.

Much as I love the music, I've always loved the Alex Chilton story. The early success with The Box Tops (Chilton was only 16 when he recorded "The Letter"), the hugely influential (but poor-selling) Big Star albums. When Big Star failed, Chilton quit the music industry. He found work washing dishes and trimming trees, ultimately wasting a whole decade drinking and doing drugs.  

Live in Anvers is a concert Chilton played in Belgium back in 2004, his first proper live album. Chilton was backed by three local musicians who rehearsed for a few hours on the day of the concert. It was an experiment that paid off, with Chilton playing very few of his own songs ("In The Street" and "Bangkok") in favor of covers of his favorite jazz, r&b, and soul tracks.

My favorite cut of the evening is Chilton's six minute take on "It's Too Late to Turn Back Now" by Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose, a #2 hit from 1972.

The chorus, for those who don't know it, is

It's too late to turn back now
I believe I believe I believe I'm falling in love

The song is perfectly suited to Chilton's voice. You know how some people have eyes that have seen a lot? That's the kind of voice Chilton has. Said a lot, yelled a lot, heard a lot, hurt a lot. 

And then about halfway through his version, with the band still playing, the drummer still keeping the beat, Chilton addresses the crowd directly:

Yes, people!

I want to thank you all for coming out here tonight and seeing us. It's been really fun to come here and play for you. You've been a great audience and the band has been so good tonight. They're all from here in Belgium and they've done such a great job and I have to say I really appreciate them helping to make me sound a little bit better than I normally would, ya know?

Chilton introduces Mauro Pawlowski on the guitar and Pascal Deweze on the bass, and back on the drums, Karel DeBacker, and then he says some things in Flemish and Dutch and quickly apologizes, saying it's all the Flemish and Dutch he knows.

He thanks the crowd a few more times then launches right back into the song without missing a beat.

'Cause, yeah, uh-huh . . .
I tell ya
It's too late, to turn back now
I believe I believe I believe I'm falling in love

It's too late to turn back now
I believe I believe I believe I'm falling in love

And even though it might sound cheesy, it's not. It's not slick, it's not ultra-rehearsed. 

It's real, just four working musicians sharing a stage, pounding out some tunes for an enthusiastic crowd.

If you've got to go out, it's a nice way to go.


For the last ten years, I've taken my car for emissions testing on August 6th. 

The first two times were unintentional, but once I noticed the coincidence on my renewal paperwork, I made a ritual out of it.

To be honest, I don't have much of a relationship with my car. I put gas in it, I get the oil changed regularly, I have the tires rotated for free. Everything else I entrust to my mechanic. My father was a big car guy, but I've never been a big car guy.

I'm not my car, I'm really not. It's just how I get from place to place.

Every two years, I drive to the same emissions place and I start worrying almost immediately. 

On one hand, I feel like a parent anxiously awaiting SAT results. Is my kid going to Harvard or community college? I want my car to pass emissions, to demonstrate I'm a good parent, to show these people I raised my car right. And you know what?  My car always passes. 

But once I get to the place, once I'm in line with my car idling, a new fear grips me. I feel like Billy Hayes, the guy in Midnight Express. I feel like a drug mule with bricks of hash taped to my chest. I'm standing at customs, sweating like a pig, trying not to look guilty. That's me, in the little booth at the emissions place, while they check out my car. 

They're not the police, they're not airport security. Nobody ever went to jail for failing the emissions test.

But there I am, my heart pounding like Giorgio Moroder himself is playing keyboards in my chest.

The technician points me back into my vehicle and tells me the test cost $27.75.  I hand him the money and when he gives me the receipt he tells me my car has failed the emissions test.


He won't even tell me what's wrong, just that the car failed. He tells me to pull around the corner and park and somebody in the building will explain the problem.

Let's back up for uno segundo. My life has been a little crazy the last four months.  Not necessarily bad, just not what I'm used to. 

Apart from the reading I did last Friday, which was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had, things have mostly not gone my way. I'm selling my house, my house has termites. I'm switching jobs, I don't know which job will make me happy. Am I staying where I am or moving away?  

Also: what is the correct length for my sideburns?

So now, it's August 6th and I take my car in, like clockwork, for emissions testing. Except this time, there's a hitch. 

I look at the paperwork. The car has actually passed the emissions test. It's my gas cap that failed. I take it to the guy in the office, the guy confirms.

"Go buy yourself a new gas cap," he tells me. "You have 60 days to retry your vehicle."

Except I don't have 60 days. It's the 6th of August. I have today.

It's raining now, so I drive over to an auto parts store near my house. Apart from the termites, the buyers want my air conditioner checked out. They're not sure about the air flow, not sure about the ducts. I wonder how the rain is going to affect the A/C tech on my roof. I wonder if he's going to fail my house the way emissions testing failed my car.

The guy at the auto parts store wants to know if I want a gas cap that locks. "No," I tell him. "Just one that doesn't leak."

He asks about the car. I tell him it's a Honda Civic and give him the year.  He asks me which one. "Which one what?" He wants to know if it's a CX, DX, EX, EXR, HX, LX, etc. You know, like I'm an idiot, like I forgot my anniversary or my kid's birthday.

I go out in the rain and stare at the rear of my car. When I come back inside, I tell him it's an EX.

The new cap costs $11. I drive back to the emissions place.  The tech who helped me is eating a sandwich. Another guy is laughing. Four lanes have been reduced to one.  

I get in line and wait.  When my turn comes, I hand the guy my paperwork, show him my receipt for the gas cap. He nods.

Two minutes later: pass.

I'm free to go about my business.


This one is an inside joke.  The less said, the better.

Monday, August 5, 2013


Back in March, I posted something about Bob Dylan and mentioned how long it's been since I've seen a copy of his first book, Tarantula (Macmillan, 1971). 

Back when I had my bookstore, I used to see them everywhere. I was constantly checking my boots for Tarantulas. As soon as I priced one, I sold one.

And then nothing.  No more copies. Years and years went by.

I finally found a copy on Sunday, a third printing. The original jacket price was $3.95, and the store price--written neatly in pencil--was $2.  

Which promptly drove me crazy.

I know it's just a reading copy, nothing particularly valuable. And yes, I'm aware I benefited from the unimaginably low price.

But still. Still. It bothers me that some robotic employee grabbed a book, glanced at the original price, and then simply divided that number in half without considering the book itself. All that without recognizing Bob Dylan's name, or face, or fame, let alone his contributions to the Jewfro and the art of mumbling.

I know pricing books can be a thankless, boring task. But pricing interesting books isn't. 

And check out this dedication:


I know you don't like Bob, but no harm in trying to change your mind.

Love you


Poor dumb Jimi. 

I bet Judy never changed her mind about Bob. Considering this copy of Tarantula was used, I wonder if she changed her mind about Jimi.


Another happy accident.

I was browsing at one of my usual joints on Sunday and noticed some unusually bright colors emanating from the poster display.  

Sandwiched between This is 40 and The Odd Life of Timothy Green were three vaguely psychedelic movie posters by Elaine Hanelock. The copyright (by Royal Screen Craft, Inc.) was dated 1968.

Clark Gable was ripped and I noticed some mold on the image of Wallace Beery and Marie Dressler, but the Marx Brothers poster was totally intact. I swear I've never seen it before, but there's something oddly familiar about it.

When I got home, I did a little research and discovered not much is known about Elaine Hanelock, aside from the fact that she's frequently listed as "Elaine Havelock."  This poster series also includes Laurel and Hardy, Clara Bow, Will Rogers, Charlie Chaplin,  W. C. Fields and Mae West, Jean Harlow, and John Barrymore.  

My walls have already been stripped of photographs and artwork, but I couldn't walk away from Harpo, Chico, and Groucho.  

What's $3 in trade credit?  

Friday, August 2, 2013


Oh, Will Jordan!  Your record eluded me for so many years.

Until today. Cost me $2.16 with tax.

Ill Will by Will Jordan (Jubilee JGM-2032, 1960)

Hugh Hefner wrote the liner notes, but the album never really caught on, never really sold.

"We've known Will as a close personal friend for several years, since before our friendship with either Mort (Sahl) or Lenny (Bruce) began, and long before either of them had clicked nationally with their own highly personal style of hip humor."

. . .

"We venture that Ill Will will go far in the Land of Hippies. We like the sound of his patter, the cut of his jib. Most of all, we like his way with curates and bishops. Vox Vobiscum."

I know Jordan wasn't thrilled with all the material included on the album, and Hefner alludes to Jordan's "sick" humor more than once:

"I remember Twenty-Thousand Leagues Over the Sea, a parody of marijuana aboard a submarine, and a Liberace satire that will never be heard on record . . . "

Jordan is a gifted mimic and offers impressions of everyone from Eisenhower to Sammy Davis, Jr., from Robert Montgomery to Ralph Bellamy.

His German instructor starts quietly, with gibberish and a heavy accent, then quickly launches into a Hitleresque tirade.  

Jordan also does an extended Frankenstein parody and a riff on Lindy's delicatessen starring his version of Ralph Richardson.

Maybe not one for the ages, but still entertaining.


There's nothing quite so haunting as group of children singing together, is there? Especially in movies. Never trust a bunch of angel-faced children singing in unison.

Once I hear a children's chorus on the soundtrack, I know this: it's stabbing time. 

The adults never expect a thing, never see what's coming, never know what hit 'em.  All they have to do is turn their back for a second and pow! All the kids' eyes are glowing and everyone is holding a bloody machete.

I don't know, maybe it's just me.  

I paid fifty cents for this record and that's about what it's worth.

It's supposed to play at 33 1/3, but I played the first couple of songs at 45 rpm. The Jack and Jill Little People sounded like a bunch of chipmunks.

I replayed the songs at the proper speed and they just sounded dull, like an army of brainwashed rugrats holding machetes. 

Singing about manners, no less.

I'd happily make the same mistake again. You never know when you're going to strike gold.

Be polite
It doesn't hurt you
Do what's right and show respect
Gentlemen give up their seats to ladies
For the smile they will collect

Thursday, August 1, 2013


I've been letting my hair grow, mostly for my own amusement. After six years of closely cropped hair, it's been strange watching my sideburns bloom.

One of my friends said, "I didn't expect your hair to be dark." 

Really? Am I that old? Maybe it's dark on the outside 'cause that's how I feel on the inside.  Did you ever think of that?

I shaved my beard last night and did that thing bored men do: I left the most hideous mustache imaginable and took pictures.

I would never leave the house like this, not even on a dare.

This is what I looked like:

If you know me at all, you know I couldn't stop laughing while I tried to look serious for the camera. I'm talking non-stop giggle fits.

It's creepy, right? 

This 'stache, a blue windbreaker, a bag of candy, and I'm immediately banned for life from elementary school playgrounds. 

There's something about this guy in the mirror I don't trust.

Once my image had been duly recorded, I quickly said adios to the crumb catcher and hola to my smooth upper lip.

But on the plus side, I now have an image for my next comedy album.

If I didn't know better, I'd say this guy collects vintage erotica.


We collect all sorts of things at the Museum of Stuff. Our interests are wide and varied, our patience for browsing is as plentiful as our trade credit, and the gas tank is always full.

I have boxes and boxes of old paperbacks stacked neatly in my storage space. Mysteries mostly, and cult authors, and items I purchased simply for the provocative cover art.

I love it all, but I get the biggest kick out of collecting vintage erotica.  Nothing classy, nothing written in French, nothing with any historical value or intellectual appeal. 

I'm talking about the poorly written, slightly seedy tomes from publishers like Connoisseur Publications, Art Enterprises, Inc., and Magenta Books.

You know, the "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" garbage they used to keep under the counter at newsstands and liquor stores, the stuff they used to hawk out of the back of men's magazines, the guilty pleasures your grandfather kept out in the garage or in a plain shoebox hidden in the bedroom closet.  

It's uncultured culture.  Plenty of booksellers specialize in it, and collectors are happy to pay premium prices.

I refuse to shop online, which means I add to my collection the old-fashioned way. It's mostly slow-going, but I've found some interesting pieces in the last month.

It's ridiculous, I know, but I couldn't be more proud.