I Picked the Wrong Year to Give Up Drinking, Smoking, Amphetamines, and Sniffing Glue

Movie night!

One of my favorite TV shows growing up was Sea Hunt starring Lloyd Bridges. I was watching Mr. Bridges dive underwater long before he was watching the skies blearily in Airplane. And long before that, he was making tonight’s movies.

That’s right, I said “movies”…plural.

It’s a Lloyd Bridges double-feature tonight (now there’s a phrase you don’t hear every day); The Limping Man (1953) and Trapped (1949). Inexplicably, neither have been made into musicals or roller coaster rides.

The Limping Man features early 1950’s plane travel (yes, it was hard to seriously watch Bridges in an airplane of any kind) with passengers disembarking on the runway and then walking to the terminal in the open air. (Geezer moment – this was de rigueur at Bluegrass Field in Lexington when I began flying, rain, snow, or shine.) The seats on Mr. Bridges’ movie plane were bigger than my first apartment.

The movie also features a complex and smart plot and a completely stupid ending. Think Dallas and weep.

Trapped features lots of Treasury Department doin’s with counterfeit twenty dollar bills (a bogus twenty in 1949 was damn serious bidness) and clunky cars in Los Angeles in the shortest car chase I’ve ever seen. Little-known fact illustrated by this flick; the Treasury Department in the late 1940’s was comprised 100% of white men in three-piece double-breasted suits. I’ve not seen such a monolithic wardrobe in film since Men in Black. Mind you, I’m not complainin’, I’m just explainin’ – I love a good three-piece suit.

The film also features a young and delicious Barbara Payton which is quite worth the price of admission. Ms. Payton later made an interesting early Hammer sci-fi film; The Four-Sided Triangle (1955). Unfortunately, much of the plot of The Four-Sided Triangle revolved around the irresistible physical charms of Ms. Payton’s character. By that point in her career, she wasn’t quite as irresistible, but she looks great in Trapped.

As for Lloyd Bridges…

…well…

…he was in both flicks.

Shakespeare in 5/4 Time?

Movie night!

Wanna hear Othello play the piano?

Wanna hear Desdemona croon the blues?

Wanna see Iago rattlin’ a hot drum solo?

It’s all in All Night Long, Basil Dearden’s 1962 jazz retelling of Shakespeare’s OHELLO.

Set in Richard Attenborough’s swingin’ two story Mayfair apartment, top jazz performers gather to celebrate Rex and Delia’s one-year anniversary with an all-night jam. Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, Johnny Dankworth, and Tubby Hayes are playing guests. Even Cleo Laine gets a shout-out as the guests arrive. Patrick McGoohan schemes and plays drums. Henry VIII (Keith Michell) blows weed and sax.

The acting in the film is generally sub-standard. The story is convoluted and implausible. It may be neither iambic nor pentameter, but the music is hot.

The movie is mostly a curiosity, but it looks great and the music makes up for considerable mediocrity.

There’s even bongos!

“Don’t worry man…everything’s co-o-o-o-o-l.”

I Vote Republican

Yes.

Yes, I do, not as often as I vote Democratic, but I do.

And will continue to do so.

I voted for Louis Nunn, Larry Hopkins, Linda Gorton, Ryan Quarles…

Had I the chance, I would have voted for Alice Forgy Kerr a number of times.

I voted for Ernesto Scorsone even though he answered my phone call with; “Rodge, I think the world of you, but you’re on the wrong side of this issue.”

Before I retired, I supported political candidates financially and wish I still could. My pitiful contributions probably ran 60% Dems and 40% Reps. The candidates I supported probably lost more than they won…about my same success at predicting today’s weather.

I support and vote for the best people I can identify, Democratic, Republican, black, white, animal, vegetable, mineral…

I’ve not had an absolute deal-breaker of an issue that has kept me from voting for the best person I could identify…

…until now.

I will never vote for Mr. Trump or anyone who supports him.

Everything instilled in me by my parents, by my Baptist Sunday School upbringing, by my public schools, and by my journey through life argues against it.

I guess I’m brainwashed.

Boar Hunting on the Brazos

That’s how I spent my afternoon.

Neal Stephenson’s new book, TERMINATION SHOCK, arrived today and we’re off to a flying start. Well, maybe not a completely successful flying start. I the first few pages, the private plane’s pilot, who also happens to be the Dutch queen, lands smack on the back of a herd of very large wild boars. This, as you would guess, proves to be a poor flight plan for both the boars and the Boer.

I now find myself looking over the shoulder of a cowboy Ahab on a vengeful prowl for Moby Pig in a drone-equipped pick-up. I’ve already learned what a “dually” is. I kinda want one.

Gimme another few pages and I may become your go-to for information you’ve been craving about the introduction and subsequent loss of control of European wild boars in Waco. Talk about your invasive species! If one must choose between pythons, Japanese beetles, kudzu, and Bradford pear trees…wouldja take wild boars? I’ll let ya know.

About the turn of the millennium, my delightfully bright friend Ave Lawyer mentioned how much she enjoyed a book she had recently read by a writer named Neal Stephenson; CRYPTONOMICON. I read it and was hooked. Ave moved on to twenty more authors as she inevitably does. I was happily stuck and for 20 years I have devoured each of Mr. Stephenson’s books ravenously, and basked in wonder and sometimes befuddlement.

Along the way I have learned so much…

  • I’ve learned techniques for permanently disabling underwater open sewer pipes in Boston Harbor.
  • The orbital dynamics of efficiently hooking up with a captured comet spun me for a loop, but I cheerfully went along for the ride.
  • I have followed the path of Schrodinger’s cat, and thus have a more nuanced understanding of why those witches of Salem may been scorched.
  • The history of cables and cabling I’ve mastered…just as the world goes wireless.
  • I have many interesting facts about coinage history, currency (current and crypto), and gold (Solomonic and Fort Knoxian). I know much about money…without having much.
  • I now know the practical intricacies of insect worship in India and fully understand why it has not caught on.
  • I now feel positively conversational with Norse deities in a way that Wagner never conceived.
  • The history of urban coffee vending is no longer mystery to me…and, I suppose, I now realize that it once was.
  • I have confirmed that Jack of “Jack and the Beanstalk” and Appalachian Jack Tale fame is someone I would be proud to be one day…and simultaneously, be afraid every day to stand too near.

Wow.

I’m sure I’m a better person for all this education.

Next page, please.

The Urge for Going

With apologies and thanks to Joni Mitchell and Michel LeGrand…

“I’d like to call back summertime and have her stay for just another month or so,

But she’s got the urge to going so I guess she’ll have to go…”  –Joni Mitchell.

I walked through our small back yard yesterday and I felt the urge for going. The day lilies are of course long gone. The knock-out roses are finally bowing to the inevitable. My playpen of cleome, bronze fennel, autumn sedum, shiso, and spiderwort has hunkered down, hoping to be overlooked by the random angry gods of Winter.

“…summertime was falling down and Winter was closing in

Now the warriors of Winter…they gave a cold triumphant shout,

And all that stays is dying and all that lives is getting out.” –Mitchell.

I’ve bitterly raked the leaves from the birches next door. I’ve chopped the spent estival splendors. I’ve shut down the pond’s fountain/birdbath. The bewildered frogs have retreated to the sleepy, frigid depths. The myriad tadpoles are struggling to fathom their first frost and consider the question of mortality for the first time. They’ve got the urge for going, but don’t where to go. I have no assurances to offer them: it’s my first winter with pollywogs myself.

The hummingbirds have fled like the fickle, mesmerizing, gypsy, bouncing dots that they are. They’ve got the urge for going and they’re gone.

The trumpet-vine hedge is embarrassed by its nakedness; bare vines overreaching the sky annexed to become a Casbah-like warren for tiny wintering birds. The arrogant trumpet has got the urge for going but has roots…and responsibilities. Where would those tiny birds find their hygge?

“When the sun turns traitor cold

And all trees are shivering in a naked row,

I get the urge for going, but I never seem to go.” – Mitchell.

Why? I suppose I could.

Michel LeGrand offers an answer;

“Beneath the deepest snows the secret of the rose

Is merely that it knows you must believe in Spring.

So in a world of snow, of things that come and go,

Where what you think you know you can’t be certain of,

You must believe in Spring…

And love.”

Last night, actually this morning, I awoke at 3:45. I crept out to the cold-compromised backyard, by the amphibian-befuddled pond. The sky was brilliant and clear. I shuffled back to bed and awakened Janie. She rolled out of bed and rolled into a blanket. We and our devoted star-gazing pup Chloe stood, huddled in the cold to see the lunar eclipse.

It was fine.

I suspect I will always have the urge to flee the dark and the cold, but I will never go.

I have a standing appointment with Spring…

…and love.

Here Comes the Bride

Sometime after my twenties, it occurred to me that I didn’t have all the answers to everything. It was another ten years before I realized I actually didn’t have the answer to much at all. Still don’t.

However, I did and do retain the notion that those answers are still out there for me to find.

Except…

There are issues and questions I suspect we’ll never answer fully nor resolve to the non-MAGA world’s satisfaction.

Following the guidance of that profound philosopher W. S. Gilbert, I’ve made a little list;

  • What is the exact value of Pi?
  • Ginger or Mary Anne?
  • Pluto – planet or errant rock?
  • To be or not to be?
  • Designated hitter – yea or nay?
  • Elsa Lanchester’s make-up in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN – is it more outré as the Bride or as Mary Shelley?

I am an unabashed fan of Ms. Lanchester; especially in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. I have previously extolled the screaming talents of Fay Wray in KING KONG and DOCTOR X. But it doesn’t hold a candle to Lanchester’s hissing in THE BRIDE. It’s an audible lightning stroke from her amazing hair-do through her imperious eyes to her voice and snarl that lances the horny monster’s heart. I cannot fathom how Boris Karloff could even continue with the show after that blow.

But Ms. Lanchester was more than a movie monster-ess.

Before her movie career, she was a cabaret performer. I have recordings.

To hear her saucily warble about “Fiji Fanny”, or the potential adventures “At the Drive In,” or to widen your eyes to the double entendres of “My New York Slip” and “I’m Glad to See Your Back” is…shall we say in that Old English way; monsterful.

She gives cheeky invitations; “If You Peek in My Gazebo” and “When a Lady Has a Piazza.” But be aware of her advice; “Never Go Walking Out Without Your Hat Pin.”

Yes, Ms. Lanchester implies she is imminently osculable, but her Cockney kiss may be followed by her knock-you-to-your-knees hiss.

A Tale of Two Cicadas

Apologies to Charles Dickens.

It was the blessed of climes until that burst of chimes…

…cicadas.

The cicadas are coming! The cicadas are humming!

We heard about it all winter, but faced with the tsunami of plagues filling our 2021 calendars (covid, anti-vaxxers, wildfires, floods, sonic assaults from Havana and Mar-a-Lago, the inexplicable inability of the Reds to hit left-handed pitching, and Hannity), strident sibilation from a bug seemed a low priority on the fret list.

And for the most part it was no big deal. Oh, there were a few stretches of scratchy serenades, wound-tight whiny choirs, and one full-blown hella-to-ya chorus I remember, but mostly the cicadian rhythms became just one more orchestra section for my backyard summer symphony.

Recently I found a solitary simulacrum on the back of our garage. It clung like an abandoned jewel, light brown-gold on the Keeneland-green wall. It reminded me of one of my favorite writers; Lafcadio Hearn. Being retired and free to change my daily agenda to meet just about any passing whim, I moseyed to our library and burrowed into the Hearn pile.

Mr. Hearn lived a meandering life in the second half of the 19th century. He lived and wrote in Greece, France, England, New York, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Martinique, and Japan. He translated French writers for the New Orleans newspaper, reported crime for the Cincinnati paper, wrote travel articles for national periodicals, owned a bar in New Orleans, and lived his final years translating Japanese fairy tales and lecturing English literature in the Imperial University of Tokyo, Japan.

I find his writing to be challenging and pleasant. He writes with such intelligence about places and times of which I am utterly ignorant, but his prose makes him a precious guide.

In his SHADOWINGS (Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1901), Hearn has a section designated “Japanese Studies.” One of the three parts of the section is entitled “Sémi.” Hearn tells us “sémi” is the Japanese word for “cicada.” Much of the article explores various Japanese attitudes towards cicadas as reflected by haiku.

Hearn notes; “Often a sémi may be found in the act of singing beside its cast-off skin.”

Waré to waga

Kara ya tomurð –

Sémi no koë

(Methinks that sémi sits and sings by his former body, — chanting the funeral service over his dead self.)

That’s one opinion. That’s one cicada.

Here’s another view.

Yo no naka yo

Kaëru no hadaka,

Sémi no kinu!

(Naked as frogs and weak we enter this life of trouble; shedding our pomps we pass: so sémi quit their skins.)

Which cicada might each of us be; the one who chants over our dead selves, our past selves, the old days, the glories past? Or the cicada that sings; “Thank you!” to and then leaves behind those past experiences and goes on to fly.

Which cicada might each of us be?

Which cicada might our country be?

I think I’m ready to quit those skins.

Like William Shatner, I think I’d still like to try flying.

That’s worth singing loud about.

Purging Fire Cures All

Movie night!

HORROR CASTLE aka THE VIRGIN OF NUREMBURG (1963) is tonight’s cinematic delight. It features the ubiquitous Christopher Lee and the constantly-backlit-in-her-negligee Rossana Podesta (even when the only source of light is the candlestick she holds in front of herself – I’m not complaining, you understand – but it defies the laws of physics).

Chris Lee is menacing and ruthless and dubbed in English for some unfathomable reason.

Ms. Podesta is best known for her work in various sword and sandal epics, especially HELEN OF TROY in which she allegedly beat out Elizabeth Taylor for the titular role.

I’m expecting this epic will end in a purging European fire as most of these giallos do. These euro-trash classics seem to feature Prometheus as their go-to deux in virtually every machina.

Sho ’nuff. It all goes up in flames and Mr. Lee bites the dust as usual. However, Ms. Podesta survives, perfectly coiffed, and ready for the next dim staircase.

I loved it.

Feel So Near

Dougie MacLean tells of an island in Scotland; small, barren, isolated to th

e lack-o-mercies of the winds.

<<< You’ll find me sitting at this table with my friend Finn and my friend John…we may take a glass together. The whisky makes it all so clear. I feel so near to the howling of the wind – feel so near to the crashing of the waves – feel so near to the flowers in the field – feel so near. >>>

Janie and I live in a green bubble, mostly sheltered from crashings and howlings, yet the song resonates.

I farm a lot these days.

That’s a joke that only Janie and I know.

Sorry.

I dead-head and seasonally prune roses. I think it helps.

I whack and wreak violence on the trumpet vine. I think it helps.

I water the petunias, begonias, bougainvillea, impatiens, and coleus. I know that helps.

I kneel and crawl and claw at pyramid-scheme grasses that try to drain the resource bank accounts of Janie’s day-lilies.

I croon encouragement to the robust efforts of the cleome, sedum, shiso, and bronze fennel gifted to me by Becky Johnson. I keenly feel that responsibility.

I harvest and return the errant game balls of various sizes that have evaded the best efforts of the six-year-old that lives behind us. Sometimes I launch a sphere towards the youngster’s goal. Calipari has not yet called.

Yes, I farm, but far from diligently.

What I do diligently is take plentiful breaks. The kitten (a sworn but un-diligent killer of critters that stumble into her maw) and I sit, still and attentive.

Cardinals scold. Frogs croak, bark, and squeak. Sirens wail. Cicadas ratchet. Hummers whir-r-r. Copters whirl.

We feel so near…

<<< The old man looks out to the island. He says this place is endless here. There’s no real distance here to mention… There’s no distance to the spirits of the living – no distance to spirits of the dead.

I feel so near to the howling of the wind – feel so near to the crashing of the waves – feel so near to the flowers in the field – feel so near. >>>

I feel so near.

Sh-h-h-h-h.

Sometimes It’s Jes’ Real Good

I enjoy Twitter and I generally find it more useful than not. Two sites I find consistently entertaining are those of Miss Punnypenny and Rex Chapman. Miss Punnypenny gives me my Scots word of the day and besides, I have a thing for redheads (ask Janie). Rex Chapman is Rex Chapman of the UK Wildcats…and he really likes and understands dogs.

Mr. Chapman recently posted a street cam video of a fellow faking an accident of a car striking him. It reminded me…

One day in my work life with Liquor Barn I received a notice from our insurance company that an action had been initiated by a customer who claimed that he had been assaulted by one of our cashiers with a shopping cart, knocked to the floor, and presumably damaged for life.

I looked at the date of the alleged occurrence. To no surprise, it was exactly 51 weeks before the filing of the complaint. There is a one-year window for such complaints. Many are filed just prior to the deadline. Funny how that is…

I pulled and reviewed the video for the alleged date, noting that this was gonna be hours of my life I was never gonna get back. I found the incident. The video clearly showed the customer being refused for attempting to purchase alcohol for the clearly under-aged companion, clearly standing off to the side of the transaction. When the cashier turned their back to remove the controversial merchandise from snatch-and-grab range, the customer clearly reached out and snatched a nearby shopping cart instead, and proceeded to kneel and then roll on the floor in distress. His young friend leapt to his assistance and they skipped out the door arguing with each other.

I smirked (a verb of which I am not proud) and filed the tape away with others on my that’s-the-last-I’ll-hear-of-this shelf.

I was wrong.

Within the hour, I received a phone call. It was from the complainant.

Caller; “This is John Diver.” (Names have been changed to protect the despicable).

Me; “Yes, Mr. Diver. What can I do for you?”

“Do you know who I am?”

“I do.”

“I’m suing you for damages.”

“I know.”

“What’re you gonna do about it?”

“…Nuthin’…”

“Don’t you wanna stay outta court?”

“I do.”

“Well, that’s where we’re goin’.”

“Okay.”

Here, there was a long, thoughtful pause. Then, he continued.

“You got video in that store?”

“Mr. Diver, I don’t have to answer your questions. Whether I have video or not will be established in the court in which you seem so anxious to be. When we are in that court, I’ll have to answer your questions and I think I can promise you a level of public embarrassment and perhaps, legal liability that Ripley wouldn’t believe. Until then…”

I never heard from Mr. Diver again.

  • Call their bluff.
  • Shine lights on their lies.
  • Shame their families.
  • Don’t imitate their mistakes.
  • If, in the past you have imitated their mistakes, resign and let someone unpolluted fix things.

Otherwise, as Miss Punnypennie might say, “Wheesht.”

Beauty is in the Eye…

I s’poz I should reassure my friends and declare myself safe from the hurricane.

Chloe my pup, AKA the Queen of Debris, and I have just returned from our afternoon ramble, this time through the eye of what’s left of Hurricane Ida.

I noticed on the weather radar that Lexington was currently nestled in a spot clear of rain. We hastened to don our journeying attire (no, no pith helmets…sigh) and bravely went forth where no man has gone before…at least in the last fifteen minutes or so.

The wind roared along at a brisk zephyr-ish clip as we left the house, passing the fish pond.

We scrambled the frog army from their lily pad perches where they’ve been partying like it was the deluge. They abandoned their “Bud-wei-serrr” keg temporarily, but we turned a blind eye in the nostalgic hope that Louie might crash the gala when it reassembled.

We negotiated (le mot juste) a path that allowed the Queen of Debris to venture near, but not in the excavations of home improvement projects in our neighborhood. Janie would not be pleased if I returned with a muddier pooch than that with which I set out.

It was a short walk, but we managed to cross various streets five times within a couple of blocks…always satisfying. Street crossing is especially important to this hound’o’mine. On a cellular level, she believes that both sides of every street are hers…at the same time. She believes she can have momentum, and be mired and admired in the present moment…all at the same time! She believes if she were Schrödinger’s Dog, she would be alive and dead, within or without the box…at the same damn time!!

Whaddyadoo with a critter like that?

You get out of her way, but keep a tight hold on her leash.

And you walk her in the eye of a hurricane.