"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."

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.