Tag Archives: Groucho Marx

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.

Sign of the Wolf – 67 Year Old Spoiler Alert

Once upon a movie night!

Janie and I have been binge-watching GAME OF THRONES and our raggedy dog Chloe has been joining us. Chloe is quite taken with the wolves in the series and is now demanding to be referred to as our “dire” pup.

Whatever.

She’s good company though, so I’m trying to nurture her new-found cinematic interest. I allowed her to choose our film one night.

Unsurprisingly, she chose a 1941 Rin Tin Tin/Lassie wannabe; Sign of the Wolf.
The title is totally misleading. There are no wolves in the film – not one – zilch – nada.

There are however, not one but two big athletic Alsatian Shepherds named Smokey and Shadow. And if you think about it, that makes a kind of sense. You can’t reasonably expect any one dog to replace Rin Tin Tin or Lassie and to be perfectly honest about it, Smokey and Shadow combined are not really up to the mark either. Oh sure, they can climb walls and fences. They can jump hurdles. They can survive plane crashes. They’re faster than a speeding bullet. For real! They actually seem to outrun the dozens of rifle shots taken at them in this flick – it’s uncanny…and un-canine. The dogs do all these things in the film. To quote that great philosopher, Groucho Marx; “It’s a hell of an act!” But in the personality department, they are sadly lacking. It doesn’t help that they spend most of the film running around in dirty snow. How charming would you be? In my world, the only thing worse than snow is dirty snow. It’s a black and white flick – I can’t tell if the snow is yellow…but it’s dirty.

This is a Canadian production which is okay by me, but it means Smokey and Shadow bark in Canadian accents. It changes things in subtle, but disconcerting ways. Using the identical barks that Lassie employed to say; “Come quick! Timmy’s fallen in the well!” Shadow’s rescue-seeking bark is interpreted as; “Come quick! Mantan Moreland is trapped in a plane crash!” Frankly, I was baffled.

The film also features Dobie Gillis’ brother, Darrell Hickman as the “Timmy” character. I find most child actors to be quite moving and effective…and awful. Hickman simplified things by going straight to awful.

The film is based on the story by Jack London but that’s alright, Mr. London had died by the time this film was made so he didn’t get to see what happened to his story.
Then of course the snow fell for real at our house the next day and Chloe spent the next morning running around in the new, clean snow, barking in Canadian, and looking for plane crashes.

The neighbors fear she’s gone mad.

The Dylan Thomas & Groucho Marx Meeting You Never Heard About

The Dylan Thomas and Groucho Marx Meeting You Never Heard About

 

It would have been in the fall of 1968.

It was a big night for little Roger.

I was a senior in high school and I was going to see the college theatre guys at the University of Kentucky do a play.

It was a student production of Dylan Thomas’ sublime Under Milkwood in the Laboratory Theatre (now the Briggs Theatre). I love Dylan Thomas’ work and I especially love THIS Dylan Thomas piece. It’s told in small town voices that resonate in all the world and in all times. Over the years I have discovered for myself several pieces that do similar services for us; Sherwood Anderson’s WINESBURG, OHIO, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, and Davis Grubb’s profound and relevant THE VOICES OF GLORY. People talking about themselves…there’s nothing truer…even when they’re lying.

I’m sitting in the theatre, in the middle of the house. The lights dim. And isn’t that the moment?

Isn’t it??

Anything can happen!

Chances are very good that by the closing curtain, you will not be the same person you were before the lights dimmed.

You will have been moved.

Perhaps an inch…perhaps a mile…

You will have been changed.

Perhaps into……?

I always hope so.

This particular night, I’m facing a darkened center stage, framed by two lit podiums. The podiums are inhabited by two young actors who intone the opening narration.

The stage right actor reaches a crucial moment…

Wait!

If we could take a moment for a seemingly extraneous thought…

In his eighties, during his hilarious Carnegie Hall concert, Groucho Marx relates how he first got into show business. Please understand, I’m paraphrasing from memory.

“I needed a job. I read an ad in the paper that offered employment. You had to apply at an address near my home. I ran five blocks to the building and climbed six flights of stairs and knocked on the door. A guy answered wearing lipstick and high heels. I thought; ‘How long has this been going on?’”

…end of the seemingly extraneous thought.

Back to Under Milkwood

The stage right actor reaches a crucial moment and says;

“We look in on the sleepy town of Milkwood as the dawn inches up…”

It doesn’t.

Not even an inch.

The actor hurls some serious “side-eye” to the middle of the stage but stammers on. He rambles through various unconnected bits of Dylan Thomas prose, giving the light crew a chance to awaken. Finally ready to try again, he suggests;

“We look in on the sleepy town of Milkwood as the dawn inches up…”

Nope.

No joy.

No light.

Only the despair etched in our young thespian’s countenance.

To his credit, he drones on. I catch snatches of Shakespeare, Pinter, Lewis Carroll (“The Walrus and the Carpenter” no less), and maybe a filthy limerick or two. It was a wondrous salad of desperate foolishness. Eventually, he closes his eyes and prays. Then the eyes open wide and he shouts;

“WelookinonthesleepytownofMilkwoodasthedawninchesup…”

BAM!

Lights up full!!!

The young actor staggers back under the luminous assault and in a clear state of relief. I dare say it might have been his personal “light on the road to Damascus”…and at such a young age. How lucky for him. How lucky for me not to be him at that moment.

The show goes on.

Man!

How long has this been going on?

Fire Truck (Revised)

Now before I start ramblin’, all you fact-checkers, and score-keepers – just let it go.

Relax.

This little tale has been pressed through a 40-year-plus filter of memory. If it’s not perfectly factual and accurate…as the very fine Kentucky songwriter Mitch Barrett puts it; “I ain’t lyin’, I’m tellin’ you a story”.

Besides, it’s not like I have the codes to our country’s nuclear arsenal or anything.

This is simply how I remember it.

I’ve related the story Groucho Marx told of how he ended up in show business;

“I saw this advertisement in the newspaper for a job. I needed a job. I ran 6 blocks and up 3 flights of stairs and I knocked on the door. This fellow answered the door wearing lipstick and a dress. I thought; ‘How long has this been going on?’”

I suspect most theatre participants have had a similar moment of truth (or deception).

I know I had several. This is one.

When I was in high school, I had a part time job in the children’s department of the public library in Lexington. At that time, the library’s main (and only) branch was in what is now known as the Carnegie Reading Center in Gratz Park. I would finish my school day at Bryan Station High School, walk over to the junior high building (middle school not having been invented then), and catch the city bus for a 35-minute ride to my 70-cents-an-hour part-time gig at the library. Did I also mention that it snowed every day and the roads all ran uphill – coming and going?

I loved the job and I loved being in the Gratz Park neighborhood.

The bus would drop me at the Apothecary (not drug store, mind you – apothecary) on the corner of Market and Second, usually about 30-40 minutes before I was scheduled to start my shift. The Apothecary was next door to the original Morris Book Store. Occasionally, I would peruse the book store. Mr. Morris himself special-ordered for me my hardbound editions of THE LORD OF THE RINGS in 1968. But most of the time, I would slip downstairs to the Apothecary and get a bag of chips and a coke and slink through their back door and down the hall to a strange little subterranean chamber in which resided a parrot (or macaw or dodo…or whatever) on a guano-ringed floor stand. I never knew why the bird was there. It didn’t respond to questions. There were also stacks of story magazines in the room. No, not porn, just story magazines. I would feast on my chips and coke and reading material under the baleful eye of the parrot (or macaw or dodo…or whatever) until it was time to cross the street to the library. It all sounds so exotic today – not so much then.

On my lunch breaks I had options. I could throw my frisbee in the park until Mrs. Gratz (for real!) came out and explained that her-husband-had-given-the-land-to-the-city-and-frisbee-throwing-was-not-what-he-had-in-mind-and-how-come-my-hair-was-so-long-if-I-was-a-boy. Or, I would walk down to Brandy’s Kitchen on the corner of Main and Lime, step over the Smiley Pete memorial, and get a $1.35 daily special. This was my introduction to chicken-fried steak. I never knew exactly what a chicken-fried steak was. It didn’t respond to questions either.

At nine o’clock, I would catch the bus home unless my mom came down to give me a ride home. Any excuse for mom to visit the library was legit.

My duties were sometimes tedious, but mostly heavenly. I would shelve the returned books (restricting myself to only reading every other one), assist the “kiddie-lit” students from Transy, and listen to the children recite their reading adventures so they could gain credit in their “Busy Bee Reading Club”.

I fear it was during this period that Dr. Seuss, Walter Farley, Carol Kendall, Hugh Lofting, and Enid Blyton became more important to me than Milton, Coleridge, Byron, and Shelley (Mr. or Mrs.).

One afternoon, my assignment was to read and tell a book to several Head Start classes visiting the library. It was a rainy day. Thus, I think there were 80+ kids in that session. I read the story and then selected several kids to act it out. There weren’t nearly enough parts for all the kids. There were two six-year-old boys on the front row who were raucous in their desire to participate. (RAUCOUS PARTICIPATION IS ENCOURAGED – wouldn’t that be a great title for someone’s biography?) I pointed to one of the six-year-olds and asked him if he could play the fire truck mentioned in the story. He roared; “YES!” and began to wail his “siren” and wave his arm as a ladder. His partner and lifelong friend (six years old, remember) was crushed to be left behind. I asked him what color the fire truck was. “Ray-udd!” he shouted, and with my extraordinary but certification-lacking linguistic dexterity I immediately interpreted that as “red”. I asked if he could be “red”. He leapt to his feet, stood next to his fire-truck-playing friend, made “jazz hands”, and danced frantically around his friend.

The room and I went graveyard silent in sheer awe and admiration.

That was a Groucho Marx moment.

“How long has this been going on?”

At that moment, I wanted to grow up to be that 6-year-old.

I still do.