Twitch, But Don’t Blink

I freely acknowledge that Mario Bava’s 1971 Euro-trash classic Twitch of the Death Nerve probably does not show up on most people’s lists of favorite Easter movies, but with so much gruesome in the news these days, I thought it might be good to lighten things up with a dose of mayhem you can actually see and perhaps run away from.

Plus it involves many useful ingredients for rollicking good/dreadful ride;

  • 1) I actually do like director Mario Bava’s work, especially his Black Sunday (1960), featuring the ultimate scream queen, Barbara Steele. It’s an excellent “first film” if you’re looking to dip your toe in the cheapo-Euro horror film pool of the 60’s. Of course you may not get that toe back.
  • 2) There’s a “Bond Girl” in the flick. That alone will probably prick the attention of half the audience. Claudine Auger is featured here a few years after her turn as the tragic heroine “Domino” in 1965’s Thunderball.
  • 3) The body count in Twitch is jaw-dropping. Not since A Fistful of Dollars or the final scene of “Hamlet”…
  • 4) The gamut of death-inducing weaponry exceeds that of a game of Clue. It includes a spear, a shotgun, a rope, and a hatchet…not to mention weird insects and a freshwater (?) squid.

You’d think with all that going for it, how could it miss?

Well…it does.

I started watching this jewel with Chloe, our resident canine critic.

Her opinion? “If you want me, I’ll be in the bar”.

She’s a big Joni Mitchell fan.

Bobble Head Day

The last two or three years I worked were a strange mix.

I traveled a lot. I hated the travel, but was quite intrigued with the places to which I traveled…when I rarely got to actually see them.

The buttes of Scottsdale were novel to see…through the sliding panel of my hotel room. The stunted, green-deprived palette ditto…through the rental car windshield.

The fierce mountains looming over Anchorage didn’t intimidate me as much as navigating the dust and gravel-strewn intersections of sections of town where no cab nor cruise ship bravely went.

Streaking between the hurricane-scraped concrete slabs of Biloxi and the white, featureless sands of the Gulf to get to the Mecca of the local casino was a mite disheartening.

Boston, a week after their two biggest snowstorms in 20 years was…white.

Edmonton in February was……not……Biloxi.

And getting home was no picnic either.

Days lost to never-ending red-eye flights from Seward’s Folly, landing on less-than-the-prudent number of wheels in the midst of flashing red lights in Chicago, returning to Atlanta because the runway in Lexington was considered a touch too short for the pilot’s liking that evening, luggage too often scheduling an itinerary of its own…

…no, no picnic.

The assignments in Kentucky were mostly delightful.

I enjoyed the city council meetings I attended in Danville and Bowling Green and Hurstbourne and, of course Louisville and Lexington. I found them to be mostly validating in their local expressions of democracy.

There were the odd exceptions.

One night, I found myself in an obviously expensive house in Louisville surrounded by dark suits and dead animals. Big game trophies jutted their deceased faces and horns from every wall. I did a quick check to be sure Marlin Perkins was not in attendance. He was not.

One of our major political candidates running for re-election at the time was.

He looked pitiful and small. His handshake was pitiful and small.

I felt pitiful and small.

A year or so later, I was invited to an afternoon meeting with another of our major political candidates running for re-election at that time.

There were about 50 dark suits there, no dead animals, two suits were female, none were other than white as far as I could determine. And, except for me, everyone’s head bobbled…for real.

The candidate’s head cocked and bobbled as he pretended to be discovering for the first time the same points he had been making for two years. The dark suits’ heads bobbled in agreement.

It wasn’t that he was sounding crazy, but the bobbling heads were pretty funny.

And the big eyes on the younger members of the throng…you know what I mean…those big rookie baseball player eyes that say; “Ah’m jes’ glad to be here an’ I hope I can help the team win some games.”

It was when the candidate had responded to a question with an implication that after a “welfare mother” had birthed two or three young’uns that maybe she shouldn’t be birthin’ anymore…I surveyed the room to see all those dark suits still a’bobbin’ those heads.

Folks…

…we can surely do better than this.

Pandemic Ponderings

Janie and I take Covid-19 seriously.

We are of the “most-vulnerable” contingent because of age. That’s worrisome.

My mom ditto, but she’s an obstinate cuss who won’t let just anybody into her house, especially someone named “Coronavirus.” (I can hear her now; “I don’t know anyone named that…what kind of name IS that? …mutter, mutter, mutter…”)

Janie and I light up green every night, order our groceries for pickup, wear our masks (made by Janie, of course), tip the food delivery folks, and pine to see our friends.

We also watch Governor Andy Beshear’s daily 5:00 update every day.

Every day.

We’re proud of our state for responding with vigor to the challenges of sheltering-at-home. We’re pleased the response seems to have reduced (so far) the damage other states and countries have suffered.

I’m not ashamed to admit I weep for our fatalities and I cheer for our recoveries.

I now practice sign language. That alone makes me a better person.

These sessions with Governor Andy are useful and inspirational. I applaud the local TV stations for carrying them in their entirety.

Tonight, I was arrested by three things Gov. Beshear said.

  • “The truth is always the best answer.” – I think I first learned this at about the age of three under direct interrogation from my parents. Practicing it has produced the best results ever since.
  • “We need to do better.” – There has never been a day in my life when this has not been true. Not one…but I still hope.
  • “This is our chance.” – Damn straight! Our chance to be exceptional. Our chance to show some justifiable pride. Our chance to value and sustain all of our neighbors; red, blue, white, black, young, old, left, right, east, or west. Our chance. Our neighbors. All of ‘em.

These are all part of my growing up in Kentucky.

Why would I not be moved by them now?

Why do I not expect to hear any of them from our current president?

We will get through this.

We will get through this…together.

Ourselves.

What If They Don’t Come Back?

Our recently acquired tree frog is in rare voice this evening.

r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-R-R-R-R-RRRRRRRRRR-R-R-R-R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r…………..

I’m reminded of a description I once heard of the “Om-m-m” chant. This is my memory of that description.

It’s a four-syllable chant;

  1. It begins with an aspirant release of breath that almost has an “H” in it, framing the “O” to come. It prepares the way.
  2. The “O” ascends from your diaphragm, through the aspirant to the parted lips. It is powerful and inevitable.
  3. The parted lips close, turning the “O” to an “M-M-M-M-M.” It roils and is eternal until;
  4. The air is gone. The aspirant, the “O”, and the “M” are gone into silence. The silence is the final syllable. The silence is the final……

until;

  1. It begins again and again……

r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-R-R-R-R-RRRRRRRRRR-R-R-R-R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r…………..

As if on cue, the frog pierces the evening outside my window.

r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-R-R-R-R-RRRRRRRRRR-R-R-R-R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r…………..

Every amphibious aria lasts for about eight seconds.

I’m grateful and strangely renewed by each one.

It’s good to find renewal in this year of the plague, in this presidential term of dissolution, in this week of having mortality painted on your mirror as indelibly as icy swim trunks on a stormy late summer afternoon. Thank you, E. B. White for that thought.

It’s good to be encouraged, to be renewed, and to be turned forward to anticipate a “new normal.”

r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-R-R-R-R-RRRRRRRRRR-R-R-R-R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r…………..

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-m-m-m-m-MMMMMMM-M-M-M-m-m-m-m…………..

I look forward to the new normal and speculate endlessly on what it might look like, what it might contain.

Today, in particular, I’ve been dwelling on a generationally shifting notion.

What if, when work and shops open up for future business, folks in their early sixties, who have worked their asses off their whole adult life, decide not to do that anymore, decide the health risk is not worth it, decide this time off at home they’ve experienced is worth more than the eternal carrot on the stick and they should have realized that decades ago and……maybe they did know that long ago…but forgot it?

What if…they don’t come back?

Perhaps un- and under-employment issues would fade as younger people stepped into those abandoned positions.

Perhaps nose-to-the-grindstone people who have never felt rich in dollars would find themselves rich in time; time to think, time to listen, time do one thing at a time and do it well, time to tell their story, time to;

r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-R-R-R-R-RRRRRRRRRR-R-R-R-R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r…………..

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-m-m-m-m-MMMMMMM-M-M-M-m-m-m-m…………..

Time to take a chance.

Time to take a chant.

Time to face that mirror and not flinch.

Just a notion.

Out of Quarantine

It’s been an intriguing week in and out of quarantine. May I share it with you?

Out of quarantine?

Yes…for about three hours.

Monday was a lovely Kentucky spring day; sunny, sixty-something degrees, lawns greener than Oz, dogwoods poppin’ cream and raspberry. We don’t tell “furriners” about days like this…why share? We seem to have so little and Carmel demonstrates no eagerness to share their ocean. Without Jack Kerouac, Pebble Beach, and PLAY MISTY FOR ME, it would remain merely legendary. We have spring days. Central Kentuckians resonate with days like this and mostly never understand themselves. It just feels right and rare.

Janie left the house about three o’clock on Monday with Chloe the Wonder Pup for Chloe’s daily adulation tour of the neighborhood. Neighbors, dogs, joggers, hired flacks, and alien spaceships line the lanes to pay homage to the shaggy dog of glee. It can take hours.

I turned the porch light on to let my wanderers know the front door was unlocked, stepped out and noticed that Janie and Miss Wonderful had only made it to the corner where Chloe was basking in the worship of the Pantheon of Chuck and Paula who live there. They might be gone till dark at this rate.

I have written before in this blog about my love of bicycles. Janie and I had our bicycles readied for the season recently and I had been trying to make a habit of tooling about the almost perfectly flat streets of our neighborhood on a daily basis. The recent cool days had interrupted this effort but today… I found it enticing to pedal my ass again.

I zipped out of the garage, down the driveway, and onto the street. I flashed past Chloe and her adoring throng and had a momentary flashback on Tolkein’s warning about the road in front of your house leading to amazing places and hazardous missions. Will I meet goblin spiders or Stupey the Loud Cocker Spaniel on this journey? Will I reach the Mount of Doom or the low hedge by the old baseball field?

Neither, as it turned out

I reached the end of Providence Road and turned downhill and picked up a bit of speed. The gimme hat I was wearing (no haircut!) began to shift and I instinctively reached up to salvage it as if I were 25.

Alas, I was not 25.

The next thing I remember was answering questions from an Emergency Medical Technician in the back of an emergency vehicle bearing me to the hospital trauma suite tout suite.

Stitches, injections, and a cat scan later I was told Janie was waiting for me in the parking lot. I located the nearest restroom and finally saw the damage. I was a blood-drenched Rocky from film number one. I immediately ran the calendar through my battered head and determined I was still six months away from Lexington’s Thriller Event and I couldn’t possibly maintain this look for that long without actually dying in which case my dancing would be even worse than it already is.

So…

…I cleaned myself up as best I could, and tottered out to Janie, laughing at me in the sunny parking lot. It was the best medicine in the world; even better than Lysol.

It seemed right…and rare.

Under her care I feel a little better every day and look a little less outré every day. I think I’m now up to “No, officer, I ran into a door.”

Chloe is totally embarrassed and doesn’t want to be seen with me.

I sleep, and I watch movies…bad movies. I’ll share them with you…just for mean-ness.

I miss my friends. Who doesn’t?

To my friends and others;

…don’t drink bleach…no matter what he says…please.

It doesn’t seem right.

And then I’ll really miss you.

Missing Sidney on This Sunny Day

It’s strange what can trigger a memory.

Today I heard my friend and adopted faux-daughter Karyn Czar asking the first reporter’s question at the governor’s press conference. I was so proud.

I first met Karyn on stage in a play.

Today was also to be the opening day for the local minor league baseball team; the Lexington Legends. Of course there’ll be no game and perhaps no season at all thanks to the corona virus. My friend Sidney Shaw loved to go to the Legends’ games. He would not have been pleased with the waste of a fine sunny day with no baseball.

I first met Sidney in the same play.

It was the summer of 1994. It was a production of Measure for Measure in the Lexington Shakespeare Festival when it was still in Woodland Park.

I remember admiring Sidney’s ease with the language and the wisdom with which he infused the character he played. I remember being delighted the first night in rehearsal when his character cast aside wisdom for outraged passion. It made the dramatic moment mean something more…more human. Working with Shakespeare’s foreign-to-us cadences and vocabulary can make an actor forget the humanity of the situations being depicted.

Sidney didn’t forget.

This was a nice production with a bunch of new (to me) actors, most of whom I’ve had the good fortune to work with multiple times over the ensuing years. This group of actors has gone on to mean much to Lexington’s theatre audiences; Karyn Czar, Jeff Sherr, Donna Ison, Eric Johnson, Laurie Genet Preston, Joe Gatton, Glenn Thompson, Spencer Christiansen, Holly Hazelwood, and others.

Ave Lawyer directed. It was my first time to work with Ave and certainly not my last. I’ve moved furniture and learned lines for her in a number of shows since then.

Thus it was with Sidney. He and I shared the stage in four or five productions. He was always good company and I learned something from him in every show.

However, my favorite theatre experience with Sidney was as an audience member for his performance in Death of a Salesman. I watched my friend Sidney disappear into Willie Loman. The growing desperation and evaporating control of Willie Loman was so alien to the Sidney Shaw I knew. It was a remarkable stretch for an actor and Sidney handled it adroitly and broke my heart.

I miss Sidney.

This is Our Time

That’s what Governor Andy Beshear told me today.

What a blessing he has been in this season when America learned to its dismay that “corona” was not something you could drive or smoke, but something that could truncate your season basketball tickets, or hose down your spring beach hormones, or free up your Sunday mornings (but not to play golf), ……or kill you……or kill those you love……or kill what you love.

I do not want to disappoint Governor Andy…or endanger my mom, or Janie, or my friends, or total strangers for that matter. I will stay healthy at home.

But I do miss baseball.

I’m loving the free streaming from the Metropolitan Opera and looking forward to the National Theatre’s stream of “One Man Two Guvnors” this Thursday evening.

Continuing my dubious literary journey though the tawdry Edgar Wallace canon is amusing.

Walking the dog 18 times a day is fulfilling.

Janie’s cooking is jes’ fine.

But I do miss baseball.

That explains the giddiness I’m feeling over the “Baseball’s Greatest Games” series on the MLB Network. Bob Costa zips though highlights of the greatest baseball games in the last 50 years with commentary from participating players. Then the network shows practically the entire game with the original play-by-play.

So…

Tonight I’m watching the first game of the 1988 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers (formerly of Brooklyn) and the Oakland Athletics (formerly of Kansas City and Philadelphia). This is the Kirk Gibson game; a cherished moment for any baseball fan. Mr. Gibson’s one-legged homerun in the bottom of the ninth for a walk-off (hop-off?) victory for the Dodgers. I know it sounds like a Monte Python routine but it’s actually quite thrilling.

The play-by-play is by Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola, similarly cherish-able; “He was about three minutes late on that fast ball” or “The ball didn’t get up. It didn’t get down. It just got out.”

I got yer analytics right here. Vin and Joe didn’t need no stinkin’ stats.

Also cherish-able for this baseball nerd is getting to watch Lexingtonian John Shelby play center field for Los Angeles.

An interesting aspect of the rebroadcast is the elimination of 90% of the replays and 100% of the strolling time between pitches. It turns baseball into a rhythmic action sport. It’s gripping. You can’t take your eyes off of it.

“You can’t take your eyes off of it.”

Not even for a second.

Not even to take a bite outta yer hotdog, or turn to the friend (or stranger) next to you to discuss in complete sentences and grunts what shoulda been done on that last play or what should be done on the next, or who’s a bum and who’s not, or whether the so-called poetry of Rod McKuen was simply a long-range pre-publicity campaign for Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty for Me (that’s a close call).

In these re-broadcasts, as much as I’m enjoying them, time has been extracted from the timeless game.

Time for important stuff.

And it’s our time.

Our time for important stuff…

…like staying home…

…being healthy…

…being together…

…protecting what we love…

…protecting ourselves…

…not being part of the problem……

……waiting for the next real pitch.

I do miss baseball.

Quarantine Casserole

I’m a lucky guy.

If you’ve spent more than a half an hour with me, you’ve probably heard that phrase and you know I’m talkin’ ‘bout Janie. The eye doctors in Central Kentucky owe me a moiety of their prosperity for all of the eye-rolling I’ve inspired with that phrase, but it’s undeniable. The day I tricked her into thinking she tricked me into marriage was the best day of my life.

First of all, she’s a pole dancer…for real. We even have a pole installed at the house…for real. How many guys do you know that live in a house with a library (with thousands of books, movies, and music discs), and a pole (with a resident dancer)?

I rest my case right there. I’m a lucky guy.

But wait! There’s more!! And it has nuthin’ to do with Ginsu knives.

Said pole dancer is also one sharp cookie.

Janie went hunting and gathering today at Kroger. She slapped on her pith helmet and sallied forth, sans grocery list (that means “without” – apologies to Groucho Marx). She was spurred to action after hearing about lockdowns in Italy and Spain, and Walter Tunis’ trophy-hunter selfie with the last can of tuna from Kroger.

She returned, sporting a grimly triumphal look.

“I hunted. I gathered. You bring ‘em in.”

“What’cha get?”

“Bags of random crap.”

That’s BORC to the I-can’t-be-bothered-to-spell generation (ICBBTS’s).

She was off to wash her hands while I toted in the nine BORC.

What a treasure hunt! What a jumble sale!

There was evaporated milk, clam strips, blueberry muffins, calamari, two cans of tuna (take that Mr. Tunis), a bag of oddly curled pasta (the last in the free world I’m told), one can of spam, and one tiny tin of anchovies. That last sentence was un-exaggerated and unexpurgated.

There was more, of course, but these were the items that dazzled me.

Anchovies.

I have never owned an anchovy in my life. I’m not sure I even know what one is. We are truly living in historic times.

I asked the Great Red-Headed Hunter, gently mind you, about the anchovies.

“I think I have a recipe.”

I surveyed the expanse of the BORC and pondered.

What kind of casserole could involve clam strips, calamari, tuna, spam, and anchovies? Do I wanna know?

The pondering swirled away (as pondering often will) into a stray remembrance of when I collected baseball cards as a child. I recall one summer when every pack of baseball cards I bought had a Marv Throneberry card in it. I didn’t know Marvelous Marv personally. He may have been a charming fellow, but I hated him that summer. What I really wanted that year was Pete Rose’s rookie card. I never got one. At one point, I offered to trade six Marv Throneberry cards for one Pete Rose. No takers.

Today, as I move the grocery piles to the pantry under the avaricious eyes of the dog (hoping for droppage), I am offering one tiny tin of anchovies for six Marv Throneberry cards…plus a few Ginsu knives thrown in.

Thus far, no takers.

I’m gonna go wash my hands.

Honestly…Puzzling It Out

I have some thoughts about something Mr. Trump said this week;

“Honestly, we have all the material.”

Something struck me as curious when I heard it.

There’s the obvious; his use of the word “honestly.”

There are trigger phrases for me like;

“To tell the truth”

“I can honestly say”

“Believe me.”

In my life experience any statement that begins with one of these three phrases is inaccurate (or a flat-out guess), a deliberate lie, and/or is trying to do something unpleasant to someone…often me.

Also, I can’t recall ever hearing Mr. Trump use the word “material.” For sure, it’s not a difficult word, but Mr. Trump uses so few words and repeats his favorites so many times, it’s arresting when a new one creeps in.

Thus, my attention was caught and my curiosity piqued. To whom was his statement meant? To exactly what material was he referring? Why?

I’ve heard two explanations proffered by the press;

  1. He was responding to a question about his impeachment and reassuring his supporters of the inevitability of the impeachment failing since he had control of all the witnesses and the documents. Sounds reasonable.

Of course, that would be a public confession of the very obstruction of which he’s been accused. But as long as he can completely corral the Republicans in the Senate…

  1. Ms. Maddow’s blog suggests another theory. She posits Mr. Trump was referring to material as the general strength of the case on his side and the good job his defenders were doing…in his opinion.

Of course, that’s simply and glaringly not true. But that hasn’t stopped him in the past.

I wonder though…might there be a third, albeit more sinister explanation?

Suppose he’s not messaging the press, his base, or his supporters. Suppose the message is intended for Republican senators suspected of possibly wavering in their Trumpian devotion who might be firmed up, or even Democratic senators who might be swayed by the “materials” in Mr. Trump’s control.

Suppose those materials have nothing to do with the Ukrainian fiasco.

It is rumored that J. Edgar Hoover had compromising files on many important people and used his possession of those files to maintain his intelligence empire for decades.

Mr. Trump now has all the resources of the Justice Department and the intelligence community in his control. He has demonstrated that he will reach around the world, imperil other countries’ security, and bandy about billions of dollars to get dirt on his political opponents. How much easier might it be to obtain “kompromat” from just down the street, from someone you appointed, from a department you rule?

Who knows how many “Steele Dossiers” are out there…waiting to be released……or not.

It’s not a happy surmise, but it would go far to explain the curious total capitulation of the Republican members of Congress.

Curious.

I am completely open to the thought that this is all just a morbid speculation on my part, but what if it’s not? And after a week of increasingly erratic tweets from Mr. Trump, hearing his voice urging the firing of a US diplomat with the phrase “Take her out”, the implied threat to Rep. Schiff, the threat against republican senators (heads on pikes?), and the juvenile name-calling, who knows the limits of what’s possible with this president?

It is curious, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, the track record of this administration has been such that “curious” usually suggests “spurious.”

Honestly…

Quicksand Fever

I fret.

It’s my medium.

I work with fret like potters work with clay.

It’s my gift.

I can fret about anything. If you give me a stack of $100 bills, I will fret about which way the bills are turned. What if they stick together? What if a strong wind blows? How am I gonna get change?

I’ve learned to live with it and laugh at it…and that’s good because I’ve fretted since my childhood. I was a fret savant.

I was raised on 50’s and 60’s TV. I fretted when Spin and Marty went to summer camp. I fretted when skinny Frankie Avalon tried to keep up with all those big surfers when it was clear that Annette coulda taken him two falls outta three. I even fretted about Mr. Peabody’s “Way-Back Machine.” That thing didn’t look safe.

As I grew older, such “objets du angst” proved silly.

Quicksand, for example, has not proven to be near the ubiquitous hazard that TV westerns predicted it would be. It’s good to know Chloe the Pup and I can wander the neighborhood with impunity.

One of the most worrisome fears of my youth was falling into the hands of the Communists. I had read accounts of how the Soviet government snatched their innocent citizens off the streets, held sham investigations and trials, and whisked the hapless victims off to insane asylums or Siberia…or insane asylums in Siberia. My dad and my teachers and Walter Cronkite assured me it was so.

Gulp!

I was also assured by those same people that it couldn’t happen in America. Any nascent wanderlust in me was subdued a bit. But as long as I maintained my citizenship, voted like a banshee, and kept my feet in the Land-Where-We-Do-What’s-Right, there was no need to fret.

Whew!

But wait.

Wait……

…………………………………………………………………..…wait…………

Now we have a president who asks a former Soviet country to investigate American citizens.

I’ll be asking my grass-cutting guy to survey the back yard for quicksand next week.