Chapter 1: I Remember Swamp Girl

Ogden Elson and Jack Pendarvis met when they were about 13 years old, at Independent Methodist School, which no longer exists, in Tillman’s Corner, Alabama. Now they are in their mid-50s and communicate mainly via email, Elson from Dallas, Texas, Pendarvis from Oxford, Mississippi.

Chapter One: I Remember Swamp Girl

OE

Had a long dream last night that started in a swanky bar. Suddenly, John Wayne pushed himself away from the bar and said, "A painting is an unwritten will." And we were off and running!!!

JP

Watching a movie called GUILTY BYSTANDER on YouTube. Anyway, check out Zachary Scott drinking and smoking with the same hand at the same time! That's what I call a valuable skill.

OE

I have an old copy of that book around here somewhere. It was my grandpappy's. I've tried to read it a few times, but the print is so small...those old guys had great eyes!

JP

Can you find that paperback you mentioned of GUILTY BYSTANDER? I might have a way we could make a little money on it by writing an article about it. It might not pan out. But my idea is you read the book and tell me about it, and I tell you about the movie... sort of a mutual interview... anyway I have to pitch a couple of ideas on a piece about the movie, and I thought that could be one of them.

OE

I can try...

JP

One of my ideas is you just email me as you search for it... what else do you find? Hey! This is pretty good. It's like you're the detective... hmm...

OE

Shamus on the skids! That's what it says on the back cover....

JP

Awesome! Don't start reading until I see if we can get paid for it.

OE

I never read otherwise...

JP

Okay! Let's make this the official GUILTY BYSTANDER email thread. No firm okay yet, but the guy guest-editing the website likes the idea. He has to get approval from the people who run it. So just sit on it, I guess. Sit on it, Potsie! Ha ha, good times. We should start off talking about your grandfather's paperbacks. And maybe how long we've known each other? I put it at 43 years, is that possible? We could talk about biology lab with Susan Lyle. Wasn't she our lab partner? I always thought she looked like Carol Burnett.

OE

Does Susan Lyle have anything to do with GUILTY BYSTANDER? This is a fairly wide-ranging interview. We could talk about the guy who snuck into the Social Studies classroom window during lunch to steal the test...a crime! We all looked it over while standing under a scrubby pine tree in "the quad.” The guy's name was John, I think. Though there's a small chance it could have been Rory Zane.

I'm about to leave for work. But I can still do a bit of thinking on this.

JP

Maybe you can carry the book around with you and just tell me stuff that happens to you while you're trying to read it... stories from work or something... in addition to some stuff from the book... and my responses will probably be, Huh, I don't remember that from the movie. Super boring, I love it.

OE

That's a good idea, but I didn't bring it today. I didn't want it to get hurt if I wasn't even supposed to start reading it. I'll bring it tomorrow - the Lord's day. I actually think that's a great idea, mainly because it's so similar to the book I was writing last fall, which I got 80 pages into and quit.

The book itself is in pretty good shape to be one of Grandpa's old books.

So...the first thing I did this morning was bring GUILTY BYSTANDER (hereafter referred to as GB) downstairs and make a cup of coffee in my Keurig machine. You get coffee faster that way, and there's less of a mess, but you have to drink it in a hurry because the machine can't get the coffee as hot as the pour-over method, which is how I usually make it. When I sit down with my coffee and my new paperback friend I flip it over to the back cover and see that there's an author photo - it's two guys! Wade Miller is a pen name for the collaborative efforts of Bob Wade and Bill Miller. The book I have is a 25 cent Signet Book (Complete and Unabridged!). It is the third printing - 1958 - of a novel whose original publication date is 1947. It took Grandpa 11 years to get on the Wade Miller bandwagon, I guess. Intrigued by the dual authorship, I head to the computer and type the name Wade Miller into Google's magic box. According to Wikipedia, the duo have several pen names and wrote more than 30 novels together, several of which were made into films. Immediately I wondered if I should watch all the film versions of their novels and try to make something of it. But that would be avoiding the task at hand! Procrastination! Like making a second cup of coffee or walking the dog before I get started. Two things I will have to do, otherwise they will nag at me and distract me, not unlike a full bladder, which will also have to be taken care of. But before I head off to do these things, I flip through the pages and notice the chapters are set up like a diary, with the day, date and time of day, which I have also been known to do in my own attempts at writing. On that positive note, and with something to look forward to, I head off to get 30 minutes of stuff out of the way.

-------- Is this the kind of thing you're talking about?

JP

Ha ha, yeah, I guess so, I don't know. This is pretty hot stuff! We're going to make a fortune! So are the diary entries from the detective's point of view?

OE

What detective? I haven't read the book yet...I have to take a nap first!

JP

If you have any questions about the movie, let me know. I won't remember!

OE

Great! This is working out perfectly.

I watched about half of CHICAGO DEADLINE last night on Internet Archive. It's great!!! The quality isn't so good, but I got used to it. It was recorded off a TV station in Hawaii on something called "The Magic Million Dollar Movie" and uploaded.

JP

What led you to CHICAGO DEADLINE? I guess you should tell me more about your grandfather. I just talked to Mom on the phone. She said her neighbors kill and cook a goat every year, and they have this year's goat penned up in their backyard right now. It's making sad sounds. She said she wanted to go make friends with it, and even steal it, but she's afraid they have security cameras.

OE

I was writing this new story I mentioned, and I needed a reason for a character to be late, so I looked it up in the old TV Week and for that day at Noon CHICAGO DEADLINE was playing. This character needs to get this other character interested in buying a satellite dish...blah blah blah...anyway, I needed to watch the movie in order to talk about it for a few lines, etc...so I tried to find it, which was difficult. Your poor mom. Stealing the goat is probably a bad idea. Well, I can write a few lines about my grandfather, but after work - I have to leave for work now.

Chapter 1 of Guilty Bystander is titled "February 8, 4:15pm". Chapter 2 is titled "February 8, 4:30pm". Chapter 3 takes place at 4:45pm...Max Thursday (the protagonist's name in the book) drinks Old Cathedral whiskey, and after a swig calls it "Old Sherwin Williams.” Was there any mention of the whisky at the beginning of the movie?

JP

Oh yeah, like an empty bottle rolling out from under the bed. He's a hopeless lush in the movie, living in a flophouse as the "house detective" but not doing much more than drinking. Hey! Remember that screenshot I sent you where he's drinking some whiskey and holding a cigarette in the same hand as he drinks? Efficient! I saw a shot like that in a Rohmer movie a couple of days ago, a young woman smoking and drinking red wine, glass and cigarette in the same hand at the same time. How come it's charming when she does it but when Zachary Scott does it, it looks depraved? I am reminded of when Theresa and I saw a woman smoking a cigarette and eating a strawberry ice cream cone at the same time. We thought it was weird, but then we went to dinner with friends, and the friends said it was normal. Because of my blog, I can report with accuracy that we saw it happen on the evening of May 18, 2007. I'm glad I had a blog because it's the only way I remember anything. We haven't seen anyone smoking and eating an ice cream cone at the same time since then, so I still maintain that it is not a usual practice. Finally, do you think it's hard to smoke and drink scotch or wine from a glass in the same hand as your burning cigarette? It seems dangerous to me. You're lifting the cigarette toward your eye. What's his attitude toward drinking in the book? Does he feel bad about how much he does it? The Sherwin Williams joke could be read as self-deprecating but not shame-filled.

PS Is it written in diary form? Are we supposed to think he keeps a diary every fifteen minutes? Also, I don't think I would have looked at a stolen social studies test. Did I? Do you remember that Rory Zane had sort of a concave place in his chest where other people's hearts are? His heart was in some strange part of his body, I think. Should we change his name?

PPS Do you remember when maybe you came down to Atlanta and we drove to Mobile for some reason? It must have been 2002, because when we came back to Atlanta there was a TV movie on, where Jeremy Northam played Dean Martin and Sean Hayes played Jerry Lewis. At one point Jeremy Northam was applauding while holding a cigarette between two fingers, and you said excitedly, "That's just the way Dean used to clap!" Anyway, you're good with gestures, that's what made me think of it.

OE

My impression is that he doesn't think about his drinking as being good or bad. He is who he is. He drank a lot when he was married, and he drinks a lot now. I'm still at work, and I will probably answer all these questions, and more (!), tomorrow when I'm at a computer. Also, I don't think there has ever been a brand of whisky called Old Cathedral. That's a funny name for a whiskey now that I think about it.

JP

You say there was never an Old Cathedral whiskey, but remember when you found that newspaper ad for Town and Racquet Bourbon on sale at Gimbels for $3.09? I couldn't find any other references to that brand on the internet at all. Well, I should mention that we still don't have the go-ahead, but these aren't different than our usual emails anyway. But don't break your eyes reading the book.

OE

I'm in the middle of another fascinating email for "The Project,” so expect it soon. It's probably too long, but who cares. Yeah, I know it's not a sure thing, but it's fun and it may turn into something for somebody at some point. And you're right, I was telling Soledad that this is what I normally do except now I can call it 'work.’ Also, I found a website that’s full of vintage ads.

I've been through 16 'pages' of ads and I think I remember seeing an ad for Town and Racquet...I'm not sure now. There are so many with double names.

JP

I just saw one for Great Western champagne. What a bad name for champagne. I think the slogan was "Let's Face It. America's Most Glorious Champagne." Ha ha! Hmm, it looks like they're still in business. A winery in New York State. New York State's finest champagne.

OE

Some of these liquor ads are awful. You can tell who has a budget and who doesn't.

My grandfather was a carpenter in MS, and after WWII he built this nice, roomy, airy house on a hill and grew watermelons. Across the road he had about 30 acres (I'm guessing) of land on which he also raised a few head of cattle. He didn't get to spend too much time on any one of these projects because he had a steady job in town as foreman for a construction company. Anyway, there was supposed to be a second floor to this house, but he suffered a stroke in the mid-1960s and was unable to finish it, so it became this gigantic attic, and it had become a "catch all" for everything the he, his wife, and his 3 daughters didn't know what to do with. So by the time the late 70s rolled around, there was about 25 years of miscellaneous treasure up there that was a gold mine for us grandkids - old newspapers, movie tickets, clothes, tools, toys of all kinds, financial documents, mysterious locked boxes, and littered with dead wasps (it was very hot up there and the heat would kill them once they got in)...but what took up the most space were the pulp novels. Thousands of them stacked one on top of the other waist high. The covers were a source of endless fascination for the 3 teenage boys in the family, of which I was one. For some reason I remember "Swamp Girl" - I don't know if it was on top of a pile or not, or maybe there was a particular luridness about it that appealed to me in some way. Maybe I don't want to know. I do know that my grandfather read constantly when he wasn't working, and I remember him liking "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" a lot. He was a big Joseph Cotten fan, and Dean Martin. But I'm getting off track a bit. When he died everyone split up the novels. I brought some home in brown grocery bags. Over the years some have fallen apart so that you couldn't tell what they were anymore and I had to throw them away. But most have held up pretty well. Also, most show signs of having been read - like dog-eared pages, or they have something written in them (dimensions of some kind or a phone number for example). "Guilty Bystander" has none of this. In fact, of all the books I have from the attic, this one is the one I would bet was never read. Although I doubt that happened. I guess I should make up my mind.

WEIRD INCIDENT: last night at work I was working on gate C11 and a flight was scheduled to come in from somewhere like Hilton Head, and going back out to maybe Columbus OH. Something easy. And it wasn't coming in for about another 20 minutes so I sat down in the breakroom with GB and was reading for about 10 minutes and one of the guys I was working with comes up and says "I got bad news. We got a different flight. 5 minutes. Fort Lauderdale in, Phoenix out. Which sucks, because that is a heavy flight both ways. So I go out and we work that flight, start loading bags for the Phoenix outbound and I notice a lot of these people going to PHX are actually connecting to Long Beach. I tell this other guy, "I didn't know we flew to Long Beach." He just shrugged. "That would be a cool trip." He didn't seem to have an opinion either way. I was wondering what was going on in Long Beach that so many people were connecting to Long Beach. So we finish the flight and come back into the breakroom and cool off. Get a bite to eat. Check the schedule and I have a little time before the next flight. I sit down with my newest besty, GB. I read about a page before I find out that Georgia's husband is out of town at a convention for the National Clinic Association in Long Beach!!! Mind blown, bitch!

Stay tuned.

I think I was confusing Park and Tilford with Town and Racquet.

JP

Town and Racquet exists, though. I think you saw it when you were going through all the old New York Times... I saw it, too. I notice from the website with the ads that a lot of whiskeys are called "Old." Old Crow, of course... I didn't see an Old Granddad ad... there was one called Old Fitzgerald.

OE

I've seen Old Grandad on that site. There's a Budweiser ad from 1948 that states "Ice gave all 48 states a seashore." Idaho should sue.

JP

Reminding myself to put "Golden Wedding" in our article, even though you sent it in a separate email. It’s a whiskey and you said the name sounded dirty. So, I should have mentioned when you brought up Long Beach that the movie takes place in New York, not California. Is Georgia Max's ex-wife in the novel?

OE

Georgia is his ex-wife. The novel takes place in San Diego, with fairly specific location detail.

This has encouraged me to buy some Old Crow next time I'm in the liquor store. I see that in a lot of old movies. That and Four Roses. Don't I see Four Roses in old movies? Maybe that's just after I've had a lot Old Crow. Hahaha. Whoo baby! Fun times...

JP

Faulkner was big on Four Roses. Supposedly he served it to his guests and drank something fancier himself. Please buy some Old Crow and do a review of it. It will be part of all this magic we're making. The movie version definitely sees drinking as a habit for craven sleazes. Laura Lippman once told me that if I wanted to do something really different, I should write about a happily married P.I. who doesn't drink much. I wonder how the brokenhearted drunk as investigator became such a cliche. I've never seen it quite so plainly and simply laid out there as in Guilty Bystander, with no sense of being part of a tradition or anything, it's just, hey, look at this pathetic drunk. Hey! Is his child kidnapped in the novel? In the movie, it's the only thing that can make him crawl halfway out of the gutter.

OE

Yes, his son is kidnapped. And I have something to say about it, but I'd rather be at a typewriter to get it down so I'm going to wait. I'm at work and I have to go outside for a flight in 10 minutes so I don't have time to finger this in. Sorry darling.

JP

How does he feel about his child being kidnapped? Is he like, eh, whatever? Does his wife say you're the man for the job, now stagger out there and do it, rummy? In some ways it's a funny choice when you're picking someone to rescue your kid. In the movie, if I can paraphrase unfairly, he's sort of like, "Hey, my kid got kidnapped, this is my big chance to clean myself up and be a regular guy, thanks, kid!" Ha ha, that isn't accurate whatsoever. He probably starts out like, "Ah, I'm a lousy rummy, what can I do?" and swiftly graduates to the sentiment formerly elucidated.

PS My new idea is that we should only write about this movie while drunk. I'm not drinking this month. I'm trying to lose some weight because I have a trip to Los Angeles at the end of May and I want to be able to button my jacket without looking like a sausage bursting from its casing. But you can get a head start! I'll catch up when I come back. All bets are off!

OE

Right. I was thinking, as I was reading, that for a guy on a bender, he sobers up quickly. But yeah, at first he wonders why Georgia picks him for the job, why not the cops? Which is a question mostly for the reader's benefit, but I guess he needs to get it out of the way too. He seems to have a weird 'I'm a bum, but a highly-functional bum' attitude. At one point Georgia says something like, "You used to be good." Max replies, "I'm still good!" as he rubs his stubbly chin (is that a phrase? We can come back to phrasing). And then Georgia wonders why he's working in such a seedy motel, and Max justifies it, and then they just casually mention that Max hasn't seen his own kid in 5 years! (Even though he lives in the same town). She had to show him a picture so he would know what his son looks like. But as for the sobering up, I'm not sure why he felt like he should stop drinking to do this, because apparently he was drinking heavily when the two were married and after the kid was born...so...it just adds tension because he's trying not to drink, I guess. So the "all of a sudden my kid needs me, I need to sober up" deadline passed a long time ago I think. But I'm not sure I'm answering the question. He says, "It's my kid," and "My kid's been snatched," a lot. He's not using the case as an excuse to sober up. He doesn't have any kind of relationship with the kid. He could be doing it to prove he's better than the guy his ex picked over him. "I knew you'd married a doctor named Mace, but I never thought you'd marry anybody named Homer, sweetheart." In the vein of true noir, I'd say he's doing it for the dame.

I'd like to mention that on every other page so far the authors like to mention that Max has blue eyes.

WHO TIPPED OVER MY WASTEBASKET? Is the title of the novel you will get if you write about a private eye who is happily married and doesn't drink. I'm trying to think...Barnaby Jones was pretty tame. Hart to Hart - married, but I never watched the show so I don't know what it was like. A guy Ms. Lippman describes wouldn't know anyone to give him leads, or...well, anything really. Why hasn't she written it? I'm not trying to be sarcastic, but I'm wondering if she's tried and run into those problems.

The ABC store opens in 30 minutes!!!! Old Crow, here I come.

I've never found that drinking puts a whole lot of weight on me. I haven't had a drink in about 2 weeks, but that's for budgetary reasons - I've just not worked much. But that's all over now, baby! Soledad was just telling me that her mother used to drink King's Ransom, which Google tells me was once the most expensive whisky in the world. There was a woman who could put away some scotch.

Chapter Two: An All-Night Joint on Market Street

Chapter Two: An All-Night Joint on Market Street


JP

Rewatching the Jerry Lewis/Frank Tashlin Rock-A-Bye Baby, which we talked about recently. It starts with one of the characters drinking brandy at 8:30 in the morning... because she's upset... because she's pregnant! So it has all the same concerns as Guilty Bystander... getting drunk... having babies... there's a thin line between a comedy and a skeevy thriller.

OE

I don't have that movie. I think it might be on youtube though. I took Thu/Fri off so I can get some of this important project under my belt. I need to work on that 10-minute play I’m writing, too. And call the IRS. And drink the Old Crow.

JP

How much is a bottle of Old Crow going for these days?

OE

That 5th cost me $9.95. Which is a little worrisome, honestly. Almost half the price of the same size Jim Beam bottle. But you never know...I will be home at 11:30 tonight and begin the taste test!

JP

Back to your earlier point, Lt. Columbo was a great detective, and he was happily married. Was it the fact that he had a steady job with the city? There have been many drunken police detectives on TV, though. I would say that the more prestigious the TV show, the drunker the policeman. Is that because of "gritty realism"? Are we supposed to think that being drunk, miserable, and unhappy in love is "real"? And if you think otherwise you're a square and a creep? In the movie, Max Thursday is a former police detective. I think he got kicked out for drinking, though I could be making that up.

OE

In the novel he is an ex cop. And I think he was kicked out for drinking. But that's not made clear.

What prestigious TV shows are you thinking about where the detectives are drunken losers?

JP

THE WIRE, maybe THE SHIELD (I didn't watch it), going back to NYPD BLUE (I didn't watch it), and I wouldn't be surprised if it happened on HILL STREET BLUES (I watched it but don't remember it). Well, I guess what we're learning is that the movie, aside from the setting, is a lot like the book, which is a boring thing to learn.

OE

Isn't THE WIRE about cops? If so, that doesn't count. THE SHIELD is obviously about cops - doesn't count. I haven't read but 20 pages or so of the book, maybe less, give it time to fall apart.

JP

Oh, in the email about Columbo, I said that there WERE police detectives who were drunks, especially in prestigious TV shows. I was countering my own example of Columbo. We got our wires crossed. Ha ha, get it, The Wire.

In fact, I said, "the more prestigious the TV show, the drunker the policeman." It's funny, I guess there were more drunken cops on the air than drunken P.I.s. In fact, I can't think of any.

OE

I have some stuff to say about the TV detectives, but it will have to wait. School shootings ruin everything! Soledad was not on campus today, but her building is next door. Old Crow: claws its way down your insides. Feels like it's laid eggs somewhere along the way. Worth every bit of 9 dollars. More tomorrow.

Okay. I didn't think I was much of a whiskey connoisseur until I tasted Old Crow. But this is some pretty shitty whiskey.

JP

Jesus! I hope Soledad is feeling okay. I imagine even being in proximity to something like that is a real blow. I drank a bunch of Maker's Mark last night, because that's what they had at a birthday party I attended. I was "on the wagon," standing there with my club soda and lime when someone started insulting the food at Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta, and I thought, I can't stand here in a crowded room with strangers saying crazy things and NOT drink, can I? And I turned out to be right, I couldn't. Just like Max Thursday!

OE

Who in Oxford would know about the food at Manuel's besides you and Dr. T?

Also...I have put away the Old Crow for emergencies only - like in case I run out of rubbing alcohol.

Have you heard anything definite from your contact about this Guilty Bystander project?

JP

No, he has to submit a proposal of all his stuff on the 9th, I think. So we would be part of that proposal. I guess we would hear soon after that.

And to answer your other question, it came up that we had lived in Atlanta and so had this guy.

OE

Alright. I'll try to get a bunch done tomorrow.

Max just gave out a specific address for the Bridgway Hotel, where he lives. On 5th between Island and J. I looked it up and these days it's a very hip spot, or seems to be. There's even something called Oxford Social Club on that block, which looks pretty swanky.

JP

San Diego’s Oxford Social Club appears to be in something they would like us to think is called "The Gaslamp Quarter" of town.

OE

That's a terrible name for a part of town...it's the kind of name people will always get wrong. You know I'm right!!!

JP

"The Gaslighting District."

Watching EYES WIDE SHUT and I could swear there's a guy in a Bob Hope mask. So I Googled "Eyes Wide Shut" + "Bob Hope" and it turns out that not only do other people think it's a Bob Hope mask, there are conspiracy theories about it. What are the theories? I don't know, because I was too nervous to click on the links.

Okay, I clicked on one. One guy is saying that it is no coincidence that Kubrick died just after "exposing Bob Hope." Ha ha! It's true, Bob did outlive him. I wonder if Bob watched Eyes Wide Shut.

OE

I can't imagine Bob watching that one. I didn't care for it much. Of course I didn't notice the BH masks either, which could have changed my opinion.

I'm taking notes on this novel. It's interesting, though I'm not sure it's stuff you would find interesting or not. When I get some more I'll send it along.

In the film version, is there a cheap blonde who lives in the same hotel as Max? And who is kind of loose? Do we know the name of the hotel in the movie? And where it is in NY?

JP

Well, there's the woman who runs the hotel, but I wouldn't call her cheap. Shady, yes. She's in charge, an older woman, surrounded by rat-faced, shabby men. I'll watch the movie again and find out the name of the hotel. Hell, I'll watch it now, what else do I have going on? The movie begins with an epigraph. Pretty fancy for a movie that takes place in a dump. “PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE. THERE IS STRENGTH IN THE WEAKEST OF US. - Max Thursday.” Huh! That doesn't sound like Max Thursday to me. The hotel is under this famous bridge. Which bridge is this? The Brooklyn Bridge? I'm too dumb to be alive. I see a sign on the front of the hotel, but it's so small it's like going to the doctor and reading the chart. What the hell! It looks like it says LATRINE. Ha ha! But it does look like it. I grabbed a screenshot of that too. Maybe you've strengthened the muscles in your eyes by reading the infinitesimal print of our hearty ancestors, who ate carrots all day as they squatted on their haunches in the field.

OE

That hotel name looks just like a blurry white line to me. In the novel there is a young floozy named Angel who lives in the hotel. She comes on to Max, and so far I'm not sure what else she has to do with the plot, but something! Like involved in a double cross, maybe...She may have something to do with the bad guy and the kidnapping. Max found a pearl in the dead partner's desk drawer. Did that happen in the movie? He shows it to Angel the Floozy to get her to spill about what she knows. Okay...this is breaking wide open, Pendarvis. Max figured this out because the night clerk at the hotel, not Smitty, told Max that Angel has been using a lot of 'Chloral' - which I guess is supposed to be Chloral Hydrate (knock out drops). The night clerk uses it for his legs, and Angel always has him pick up extra. The druggist always obliges.

I'm learning a lot about writing reading this. I guess it's stuff I already knew, but seeing it worked out is something else again. Now I know why I need the stuff I've sort of been consciously leaving out.

I noticed once in Lt. Clapp’s office, that while Clapp is smoking a pipe, Max asks for a cigarette, so Clapp reaches into his shirt pocket (?) and throws Max a pack of Raleigh cigarettes. He smokes cigarettes AND a pipe! Also in that scene, the narrator makes a point of telling us that Max notices the tawny lion on the wall calendar. It might just be one of those neat details, but it seemed odd to me for some reason. But there is a lot of detail like that. I like it.

Teachers is pretty good Scotch. It was $15 for a fifth, which is a good price, and it's a gigantic step up from Old Crow.

...and no morning regrets.

Did you know that in the late 70s, the only way to order one of the very early satellite dishes (the big ones) was through a Neiman Marcus catalog? It cost $30,000.00. That only has something to do with GB if the movie you saw was recorded off a satellite dish. I'm pretty sure CHICAGO DEADLINE was.

JP

You know, I forgot that Max's ex-brother-in-law's girlfriend Angel is a character in the movie. She doesn't live at the hotel, but she fits your description. Max finds something... hell, I should have paid closer attention. There's a crummy doctor who's so cheap that he saves the unused tobacco out of his cigarettes... and Max finds something in his wastebasket... like, "Why would he throw this out? It's perfectly good... chewing gum." (It's not chewing gum, I can't remember what it is.) And inside the wad of chewing gum (it's not chewing gum) he finds... sure, let's say it's a pearl.

OE

Wow... sounds like the movie made that much more complicated, and worse, than it needed to be. There is no ex-brother-in-law in the book. What kind of hiding place is a trash can? I'm sure the cops would have looked there. The novel has the pearl hidden under a removable pencil tray in the doctor's desk.

JP

Hmm! Let me ask you this about the novel. I figured having it be Georgia's brother who disappeared with the kid made it even more urgent not to involve the police. Honestly, I can't figure out why they just don't call the police. Why has the kid been kidnapped, exactly, in the novel? I'll tell you the truth, I can't figure it out in the movie. I think maybe the brother-in-law was just watching the kid when he (the brother-in-law) got in dutch somehow. I'm going to rewatch the scene with the discovery of the pearl (?) and see what I got wrong. Don't blame Max Thursday!

It's a sponge in the wastebasket. "Now why would a guy so stingy he saves the tobacco from cigarette butts throw away a perfectly good sponge?" says Max Thursday. Come on, Max! There are hundreds of reasons to throw away a sponge. Anyway, he peels open the sponge and there's a diamond hidden inside. Going back to an earlier question you never answered, do you recall that our classmate Rory Zane's heart was in the wrong place so he had sort of a caved-in spot on his chest?

Also, if you were hiding a diamond, is inside a sponge in your wastebasket the best spot? Well, they don't seem to empty the wastebaskets too often in Max Thursday's hotel.

Also, the thing he takes out of the wastebasket doesn't look like our modern sponges. I can see why I confused it with a wad of gum.

OE

In the movie it's her new husband who disappears along with the kid, though we're not sure that the new husband has taken the kid. And she doesn't call the police because she gets a note that claims something bad will happen to the kid if the police get involved. I think a new husband is better because it causes friction between Max and Georgia and the ex.

Hahaha...it's a pearl, not a diamond. I don't know why I think that's funny. Does Max hide the 'diamond' (is it a diamond in the movie? Why?) inside a sponge in a wastebasket in the movie? They really turn him into an idiot. In the book he hides it in a bottle of bourbon and puts the bottle in a dresser drawer.

I've only got about 30 pages left in the book, but they are long Signet Book pages. Is there a lot of time spent on a boat (owned by the Spagnolettis) near the end of the movie? Max has a pretty rough time on the boat, but he's helped out by a young lady from a girl's school who happened to be on board. People are killed by a fairly gruesome weapon in the novel: a shotgun that has been modified with a barrel from a .22 rifle, so that the buckshot is concentrated. I'm not sure that's an actual thing, or even possible, but the effects are apparently gruesome. I'm sure that's not in the movie.

JP

It's the movie that made it a diamond, not me! Get off my back. And it's the doctor who hid the diamond in a sponge in his trash can. I think a big "diamond" probably photographed better than a pearl. Probably they made it a brother in the movie so there's no impediment to what everyone wants to see: the broken-down lush getting back together with his wife and kid.

In the movie she's like, Max, why did you stop loving me? And he's like, here, sugar, take a drink. And she's like, is that why you started drinking, because you didn't love me anymore? And he says, here, take these sleeping pills. Ha ha! He really would rather not talk about their relationship. Oh boy.

OE

I got something big that photographs well....Hey, do they explain where the diamonds come from? In the novel the pearls come from the Philippines. Something about a bank robbery during or after the war...blah, blah, blah...I'd have to look that up again.

JP

I'm sure they were part of some damn heist.

OE

But you're not positive. Is that because it's all a little hazy in the movie, or are you still hitting the Maker's Mark?

JP

No, I'm off the stuff, I swear!

I was just cutting and pasting some of this, thereby "writing" our article... and that got me to thinking about Great Western Champagne. I bet I bought something like that when I was in college. I remember my roommate Ben and I buying something that called itself "champagne" for $2.99. Ha ha! Is that legal? I guess it's legal. Great Western still makes champagne. But I thought you couldn't call stuff champagne if it wasn't from the correct region. I guess anything goes! I remember Ben got so drunk that night he pulled a tree out of the ground... a young tree, but still. And he was a skinny little guy. I still feel bad about it. I stood by and did nothing!

OE

I thought it had something to do with alcohol content and the way it's produced. But I really don't know why champagne is champagne. Unless it comes from Champagne in France. But California champagne...oh, never mind. Delphine and I used to buy this horrible product that Ernest and Julio Gallo used to crank out called Red Rose. It came in a half-gallon bottle. We would drive around (!) and drink it out of the jug - circa 1982. I think it cost about $6 for a half gallon.

Now I'm going to try and finish GB. But first, I'm going to get this straight. You say you're pretty sure there is a heist involved in the diamond procurement? But you've seen the movie twice now - right? Are they just skipping over it? Or what?

JP

No, I only watched the movie once, and I didn't pay attention to where the diamonds came from. I watched some of the beginning for a second time to answer a few of your questions. I'll watch it all again. In the meantime, here's a frame from the Rohmer movie I told you about, where the young woman, much like Z. Scott, drinks while holding a lit cigarette in the same hand as her glass.

OE

I think I remember doing that once a very long time ago, and feeling the heat against my temple or eye and thinking I'm not going to do that again. There's probably a way to do it - like tilting the cigarette AWAY from your face. Or you could just not smoke. But under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you not drink.

Sunday. February 12, 3:00 a.m. "Ham and eggs and two cups of coffee costs sixty-two cents. Max Thursday put them away at an all-night joint on Market Street..."

I just discovered I have a 1933 copy of W.R. Burnett's "Dark Hazard", which was made into a 1934 film with E.G. Robinson. I saw the very end of it once on TCM. The book's in really good shape. I was taking a break after coming across a highly improbable plot twist I wish hadn't happened in GB...the schoolgirl on the boat, Wilmington, turns out to be Smitty's long lost daughter - well, not so lost. Smitty's been keeping her up with money through a bank, somehow...I'm not sure why that had to happen.

JP

Yes, Smitty is unencumbered with such complications in the movie.

Have you ever noticed how much ham and eggs detectives eat? And how many times they shave and get their shoes polished? I'd like to write a book where a detective just eats eggs and shaves and gets his shoes polished and nobody ever comes to him with a case.

Also, do you remember Max Goodman, speaking of famous Maxes, who hosted "The Big Show," the three o'clock weekday movie on WKRG?

OE

This has nothing to do with GB, so I'm keeping it separate. But I was looking up something for that thing I'm saying I'm writing, and it looks like Allen Ludden might have died the day of my high school graduation. I'm not sure what to make of that.

JP

That’s going straight into the GB thread!

OE

The End.

Max finds the kid. Tied to a cot in an old house guarded by two dangerous men (Stitch Olivera and Doug Jones). The kid has contracted pneumonia and may die at any moment if Max doesn't get him to the doctor soon. For some reason he takes him to the police station, where the doctor who does the ballistics tests puts Tommy (the kid in the book) on Oxygen, gives him antibiotics, etc, works on him and saves his life. I was ready for that to be the end of the book because the print is really small and I couldn't understand the plot anymore. But it wasn't the end of the book. There were a lot of loose ends to tie up. All I'm going to say is that Smitty did it. I thought for a split second that Smitty might kill Max and that it would be one helluva good ending to a book, but instead Max ended up outdrawing a crippled old lady and he guns her down. Max not only guns her down, he empties the chamber into her chest, and keeps trying to shoot even after the gun is empty. All this time that schoolgirl daughter is downstairs - she had shown up wanting a date with Max.

As for your comment about the ham and eggs...I noticed at one point Max stumbles across Clapp and his ex eating at a diner. The ex is eating a salad and Clapp is having a steak. After a minute or two, Max walks over to “the self-serve counter,” whatever that is, and gets an avocado on toast - or something similar. I don't have the book in front of me.

By the way, the boat where a good bit of the action takes place is called "The Panda" for some reason. This is where he is beaten severely by that blonde floozy - probably toned down in the movie. I'm sure one member of the writing team wrote this section by himself, probably with his pants off. I could see it being its own story at one point and then they changed it a bit and, blammo, it's in GB. Remember when we used to mail stuff back and forth to each other and write stuff that way? I wonder if these two guys wrote this, or all their stuff, in a similar fashion? It looks like this one might have been done that way and then maybe one of them smoothed out the sharp corners.

Here's a website to check out: [Elson includes a link to a website called Misty Mansions.] There are pics of some San Diego locales in various Max Thursday novels, of which there are six! I've been hearing people at work talking about San Diego and this has made me want to go even more. Maybe this summer I'll take a few days....

JP

Man, the kid barely figures into the movie. Max solves the mystery, then he and his ex-wife go pick up the kid from a matronly looking, beaming, apple-cheeked caregiver in a picket-fence neighborhood. How he got there is a bit fuzzy for me. He toddles over, all apple-cheeked himself. Looks like he's wearing a turtleneck, but maybe the kid doesn't have a neck to speak of. Everything looks like a turtleneck on him. And they all walk away together, everything's great! Hey, the old babysitter hands him a Mickey Mouse doll over the fence. What could be more American? The end. So I take it Max and Georgia don't get back together in the novel?

I laughed out loud at your image of Max eating avocado toast. He's one of these here millennials. It's true he can't afford a house. What do you mean "self-serve counter, whatever that is"? Seems obvious it's a sort of buffet set-up. Yes, Max's avocado toast is my main concern.

"You don't know what it's like to be old," Smitty says to justify her crimes. I'm on your side, Smitty! Do what you have to do. Max calls the cops on her. Anticlimactic. She says, "Maybe you'll get a job on the force for peanuts!" She's offering him diamonds, see. Max doesn't care. So I guess the point is he's restored to society. Wife, kid, steady job. What a sucker.

OE

How does the kid get to the nanny if he's been kidnapped?

It's left open whether or not Max and Georgia reconcile. I sorta thought they didn't.

In the novel, Smitty does it all for her daughter. How Smitty ever found out about the pearls to start with is one of those noir mysteries I guess.

I'm still wondering who thought it was okay to leave in the part about bringing in the nearly-dead kid to the ballistics lab to save him. Why would you have antibiotics and an oxygen tent in a police lab?

Why wouldn't they just say "buffet"? I imagined him going up to the counter and ordering, and someone hands him avocado and toast. Of course, that's not technically self serve, but I'm just telling you what I imagined, because I didn't think "buffet" style dining existed back then. HOWEVER, I just now recall "buffet" being mentioned in an Orson Welles movie I saw the other night. So I guess I'm wrong. Never mind.

JP

I'll take your questions and comments one by one. It will be up to the reader to put it together. Ha ha, "reader."

I think Georgia's brother dropped off the kid. It's not so much that he's been kidnapped as temporarily misplaced.

Georgia and Max are definitely together in the movie. They're a family again! He's sober and has a job. It's a nightmare.

Smitty doesn't give a crap about anybody but Smitty in the movie. It is at this point I should mention that FILM NOIR: AN ENCYCLOPEDIC REFERENCE TO THE AMERICAN STYLE refers to the actor who plays her as "Mary Boland, fat and gross." Is that nice, I ask you? Giving them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they meant to contrast the seedier Mary Boland of GB with her earlier high-tone screen appearances to show how the movie... uh... does something. But I say that's bullshit. As a fat and gross person myself, I can vouch for Mary Boland and say that she seems pretty regular to me, and if the authors of that book want to see an actual fat and gross person they can come over right now.

SIDE NOTE! Theresa is just leaving for the Gay Pride parade she helps organize every year. I read the back of her shirt... "THIS QUEER SUPPORTS..." and it went on to explain what this queer supports. I read it out loud and said, "Are you proclaiming yourself to be queer? Is that insulting to people who identify as queer?" And she said, "A queer is someone who problematizes and destabilizes spaces..." etc. And I said, "Well, okay, then, you destabilize my space every day." And we both had a good laugh, and then, as I closed the door behind her, she said, "I didn't know it said anything on the back of the shirt." A grad student had given it to her. But I admired her instant and persuasive rationalization of the slogan she was sporting unawares!

Chapter Three: Under His Bed in a Shoebox

Chapter Three: Under His Bed in a Shoebox


JP

Hey! What Orson Welles movie has a buffet in it?

OE

TOMORROW IS FOREVER.

JP

Tell me more about the buffet.

I was thinking I would go back through and see which of each other's questions we never answered. Like, you asked me if Laura Lippman had tried writing a happily married private eye. I honestly couldn't remember whether her main P.I. character, Tess Monaghan, ever married her longtime boyfriend Crow. I know they had a baby. I just double checked and they do get married at the end of THE GIRL IN THE GREEN RAINCOAT, but if I am recalling correctly, those books slow down after that... I mean that there haven't been too many more of them. So perhaps the happily married private eye is tougher to write, I don't know. I have a strange feeling that Philip Marlowe got married, maybe in a book that Chandler never finished. If I remember correctly, Chandler was upset by some pamphlet or monograph that suggested Philip Marlowe was gay, which is why he finally has sex in THE LONG GOODBYE. I imagine Philip Marlowe would be a good husband.

Oh yeah, and I just remembered that Quinn Colson, the detective in my friend (who you know) Ace Atkins's novels just got married in a recent one. But once again it's late in the series. Also, Quinn is a sheriff. I guess in fiction and movies there are more married cops than married private eyes. But Quinn would certainly be a husband you could count on.

OE

Your obsession with the buffet makes me think it's not only the liquor that's keeping your coat from buttoning.

JP

You're avoiding the question of what was on the buffet. Cold cuts? Pickles?

OE

You don't actually see the buffet, sorry. But you do see them eating on a patio. I don't recall exactly what they were eating and I deleted the movie. Chicken? A little research would clear it all up I'm sure.

...and...aren't most of these old pulp novels in public domain? If that's so, couldn't someone simply rewrite them with the P.I. as a married vegetarian or whatever and just see what happens?

By the way, in the movie, does Max constantly struggle with booze? In the novel he falls off the wagon a couple of times, gets drunk, sometimes in "the line of duty,” whatever...but the movie seems pretty sanitized.

Why did you want to know about the THE BIG SHOW host?

JP

I don't know, because his name was Max. I know what you like. You'd like to hear that I just started watching FORT APACHE and by an astounding coincidence Henry Fonda's character's name is Owen Thursday. I know what you like, you sick bastard! And no, pulp novels are not in the public domain. I think it takes a hundred years for a copyright to run out. I might be making that up. I really don't know anything, it's a wonder I'm still breathing.

When Orson Welles was offstage in Julius Caesar, he'd run to a restaurant up the street for a steak sandwich and a glass of whiskey. Then he'd come back and finish the play. Oh, and to answer your question, no, the movie is actually quite frank and even harrowing about Max's addiction to alcohol. It really fucks him up! The struggle is presented dramatically. And Smitty is constantly suggesting that he should take a drink... it seems like she's just being a pal until you know the whole story.

Anyway, I just read the chapter of Moby-Dick where the guy climbs into the whale penis like it's a suit, and wears it for protection while he's slicing up blubber. What, he couldn't have packed a raincoat?

OE

Hahaha...why would you read that particular chapter while your wife's at a Gay Pride parade I wonder???

Why would I like it if his name is Owen? I think it takes 28 years for a copyright to expire, unless it's renewed. But there oughta be a way to figure out what is in public domain and what isn't. You just keep drinking, I'll worry about it.

JP

Do you remember how invested we were in coincidences for a while? There was a certain level or type of coincidence we referred to as an "omen." Maybe this started thirty years ago and lasted for five or ten years? It was big! We really made hay out of it. But I can't remember why or how it started and what the supposed value of the "omens" might have been.

OE

Yeah I remember that.

JP

Thanks, you’re a real fountain of insight.

OE

Well, what more do you want me to say. You really want to get into an argument about synchronicity/fate or whatever? I know we disagree on it mostly. I mean, your wife is in a Gay Pride parade. Don’t take it out on me. Have fun in your penis suit, big boy.

JP

Why do you think we disagree on fate? I believe in all sorts of crazy shit. More importantly do you remember the weird concavity of Rory Zane's chest?

OE

Yes. I thought of him the other day when I remembered the theft of a social studies test. He used to tell me, on Monday, about all his wild adventures over his weekend. Mostly involving underage drinking and underage driving. Didn't he die?

Rory Zane would drive around with friends and egg people’s houses, and there was some story about something he did at Springhill Mall that was illegal, and he would cover the license plate with a paper bag during the getaway.

JP

Are you sure that was Rory Zane? He seemed like a lovable sprite to me!

Did Rory Zane even have a driver's license by the time you left town? And why won't you address the significant issue of the big weird hole he had in the middle of his chest?

OE

I believe I mentioned underaged driving. Didn't he die from that hole in his chest? You're the one who told me about it. Back in the 80s. Not long after high school. I think you said he was a vegetable. Ask your mom. She knows everything.

JP

Oh my gosh, I never heard about Rory Zane dying! I was just looking for Rory Zanes on the internet, to see if I could recognize him as an adult. I knew his little sister a bit in college. She was fun to hang out with. Seems like she had a great sense of humor. I feel like we slid down a hill on a piece of cardboard together? We really knew how to have a great time. She and Rory did have an older sister who died when she was still in high school. I had originally intended to mention something else about penises but now it seems wrong. Well, it does tie into Bible class, which is something you and I attended together at the time of which we are speaking.

OE

So maybe I'm confusing Rory and his older sister. Who was his younger sister? Did I know her? My sister was two grades behind me.

I sent a text to my sister about this little girl you played with.

JP

I had a sudden flash of inspiration! Do you think that you have mixed up Rory Zane and Lenny Rester? Some of this, including stealing a test, sounds more up Lenny Rester's alley. He was a funny guy. He used to claim to be the anti-Christ, which I found upsetting.

OE

No, I think stealing the test was either Rory Zane or that John guy who was in a motorcycle accident. I know who Lenny Rester was. He had contempt for almost everybody at IMS. It seems like just because he came from a public school - which most people had at some point - he thought he was hot shit. No, Lenny, uh uh, not anymore, bitch. Not on my GUILTY BYSTANDER thread!!! One more condescending smirk and it'll be Rester in peace, my friend!!!

JP

Man, I don't remember any motorcycle accident. Jesus! I'm starting to feel like I'm going crazy.

John Humphrey? John Humphrey WISHES he had been in a motorcycle accident!

OE

No. It was John the little short guy.

JP

Oh, yeah, I remember a little short guy named John Snyder, maybe? Short but tough! Still don't remember the motorcycle accident. Your memories are a lot more action packed than mine. I was just going to say that Herman Melville mentions a chapter in the Bible where people get in trouble for worshipping penises. And I was like, I don't remember that from Bible class! But I looked it up in several different types of Bibles... most just call the thing being worshipped an "idol," but the New International Version calls it a "repulsive pole." In the barrage of emails, I missed your original one about the underage driving and your mistaken (?) impression that Rory Zane died. So I apologize for the resulting confusion.

OE

Yeah. John Snyder. My sister seems to have a recollection of someone named Alex Zane. Do you not have a yearbook? I'm at work, and I don't keep my old yearbooks here.

JP

Her name was Andi Zane. I can't get over how much more interesting your memories are. Your Rory Zane is some kind of super delinquent and mine is just some skinny guy who liked to tell jokes. Maybe the hole in his chest gave him a secret rage to live!

And no I don't have any old yearbooks.

That's a great idea for a character, though. A guy who brings all his old high school yearbooks to work with him.

OE

..AND he's a detective on the side.

Oh yeah. Andi Zane. I remember her. She was nice. Probably still is.

JP

I remember she was a lot of laughs! For whatever dumb reason I particularly remember when she dumped an entire Coke in my lap, resulting in hilarity

OE

That was me!!!

JP

Ha ha ha! She didn't do it on purpose. I was telling one of those ghost stories that has a big "AND THERE HE IS!" at the end, or some other scary exclamation... and it really worked! Coke went everywhere.

OE

Coke went everywhere! What would Freud say. Oh boy. That's not right. She was probably 2 classes below you. Forgive me God. Was her name really Andrea?

JP

Maybe. Gee, we were both in college. And just pals. Let me ask you this. Did Rory Zane seem like he was already going bald at age 14? That's the way I picture him.

OE

Oh, I thought this all happened at IMS. Well that ruins my fun. Yes. Now that you mention it. Rory did seem to have thinning hair even in 9th grade. Or maybe just "strandy" as the authors call it in GB.

JP

Oh, Jesus! Holy Christ. No, I didn't know Andi until both she and I were in college. Yeah, looking for Rory Zane on the internet, most of the Rory Zanes have heads of hair that are too glorious. Hey, do you recall some thoughts you had about TV detectives? They were interrupted by the terrible campus shooting, so I never got the whole story there. I was just thinking that TV beat cops can drink more because they are cogs in a greater institution... so no one individual cop (unless he's T.J. Hooker!) represents the entire force. Whereas nobody wants to watch Mannix or Jessica Fletcher getting bombed out of their skulls every week! The TV private eye or amateur sleuth really has to be an audience stand-in, almost. And sure, the audience is probably blasted out of their gourds, but that's not the point.

OE

I'm pretty sure I can pull the stuff about detectives back out of my memory, but not at work on a phone. So that will have to wait.

So I think if you knew Andi in college you would have known whether Rory died or not. Because my recollection is that he didn't live much past high school. Again, I'm sure your mom will know. Why are you afraid to ask her?

JP

I thought you said you were confusing him with his sister who passed away. I hate to keep bringing that up, as it hardly befits our lighthearted gaiety, and I don't want to give the impression we're taking it lightly. As for our classmates passing away of natural causes, that's certainly something that is ripe for reflection, given our age. Speaking of my mom, as you seem to do obsessively, she's at her own high school reunion today. They told her it's going to be the last one, which seems like a morbid decision to me. Like, they're giving up. Fuck it, they're saying. All the good ones have died already, they're implying.

OE

The last one! Wow. That's what happens when there's only 2 or 3 people left usually. Depressing. I've never been to a reunion of any kind. I'm not sure if I'm proud or ashamed of that fact.

I think I said I may be confusing his sister's death with his own. I'm still holding out hope that Rory himself may be dead! Haha...oh, this is so wrong. But I feel I should have died a long time ago. So many people younger than I have died for no good reason...

JP

Yeah, and there are hundreds of people still alive in Mom's class! She went to Murphy, so it was a huge graduating class. At least a thousand. Don't die!

OE

I wonder if there are 2 people from IMS emailing each other wondering whatever happened to that guy Oswald? Elson. Or whatever his name was. Didn't he die?

Whatever happened to Alicia Long? She asked me to be her boyfriend once, through a note passed along by that short girl with the really dark tan, and I said no. That made her cry and that gang of girls hated me for a few days.

JP

Alicia Long was great! Shame on you for making her cry. The girl with the tan to whom you refer was doubtlessly Sandy Brooks. You're lucky your name is [Pendarvis uses Elson’s real name here], it probably makes it harder for old classmates to track you down. Did I tell you Morton Gladwell called me up? We had nothing to talk about, really, which he should have thought about before he called. He seemed to be doing well. He's... and I'm making this up, because I can't remember... inspecting ships for the Navy? I'm totally making that up, but if you ever heard what he's really doing, you'd know I was close. You're not on Facebook, are you? Neither am I. I imagine it's a hellscape somewhat like these emails we're writing. So for the ordinary guy or gal, what we're doing is just what they see on Facebook every day, some inescapable past of countless regrets.

OE

I am not on Facebook.

I liked Alicia a lot. I wanted to be her boyfriend, but when I saw that note, what flashed through my mind were images of us sitting together in chapel, holding hands in the hallway, sitting together at lunch, etc, and I became embarrassed, I guess, by all the attention that would attract. I did not want any attention.

JP

Sandy Brooks was a true pioneer of tanning as a way of life.

OE

Yeah, she could get incredibly dark. And yes, having a fairly generic name is a blessing. And I never use my name as an email address. Also, to help matters, in the last 5 years there has been a hot baseball prospect from California named [Ogden’s real name] - and he now plays for the NY Mets, so somebody has to dig pretty deep to find ol' Oggy.

JP

I believe it was from Sandy Brooks that I first heard the term "laying out." As in, "I'm going to be laying out today," meaning she would lie on top of a car during lunchtime to further her tan.

OE

Now I feel bad. I should get in touch with Alicia and tell her I've thought it over and the answer is yes after all.

JP

Ha ha ha! Well, you know, I've been thinking about it and I feel bad too, because you're right: it's more than drinking that makes me a fat fuck.

OE

Is this "Rory Zane" a new project? Because this is the 35th email in the thread with that heading.

JP

Nope, same project. I guess I just broke it up a little, accidentally. Were you always tall? You're tall. Compared to me, you're tall. I think you're objectively tall. I ask because Alicia was tall. I had a crush on her, but I knew she was "too tall" for me. You really fucked up. A couple of tall people, you could have lorded it over the campus, such as it was.

OE

Alicia was really tall. I don't know if I was tall in the 8th grade. She may have been taller than most of the guys in class. I remember her note saying "Oggy, just think how we could lord it over the rest of them.” That's when I knew what it was all about. She didn't love me at all.

JP

That's a great ending. Maybe we should stop.

Plus I tacked an old email you wrote me about a dream you had at the beginning. It's a good start!

OE

What dream?

JP

Some profound statement John Wayne made in a swanky bar.

OE

Oh yeah. Best fuckin' dream ever. He was so out of place in that bar.

JP

What I love about all this is that we don't have approval. We should keep going until it's a novel. I'm going to change his name to Mark Zamey or something like that.

Was it a Johnny Carson biography I read where John Wayne walked into a bar with an apple corer jammed all the way into his back? His wife had stuck it there. And Johnny Carson had to grab it with both hands and plant his foot on the bar to pull it out? This biography was by Johnny Carson's lawyer, so there were tons of scenes where Johnny is just telling the lawyer what a cool guy he is.

[Note: Pendarvis is mistaken. It was Humphrey Bogart who had an apple corer jammed to its hilt his back, and it was John Wayne who had to plant his foot on the bar to pull it out. Pendarvis read about the incident in Scott Eyman's biography of Wayne.]

OE

Rory Zane is a good name. You know, the problem with these long threads is that I'm certain I've missed some emails. I just saw that email about Johnny Carson and the bar by accident. Maybe I have it formatted wrong. Or maybe there's a better way to do it. A blog that only we can type on? Maybe not that...it needs more spontaneity, but something better.

JP

Email is dead. The fact that we're communicating by email is probably a joke that I don't get. Like, someone would read this and say, "They're sending emails to one another! Priceless!" Who is this person I'm imagining? A duchess!

I know I missed some of your emails, which adds to the sweet piquancy of the encroaching dementia. I found it wonderful (in the old sense) that you never commented on my researches into Biblical penis worship.

This is the closest Rory Zane to our Rory Zane I could find on the internet. Look at his little pharaoh beard! And his bald head. I believe he's shirtless in his profile pic, though it's hard to tell. And "bad man" is part of his... Facebook... address? And his profile says he's a "truck driver" from "all over the place." Now, I have to say, this fits in with your memory of Rory Zane much more than it does with mine, who would be... in charge of a petting zoo, maybe?

OE

If I know someone who is on Facebook, can they see more of his profile without his permission? It could be him. The eyes. The eyes, I think. His, not hers. He is asleep, obviously, and she took the pic to show her friends what an awesome "trophy" she bagged last night. Haha...she got him with his mouth part open. What a terrible picture. Why use that one?

JP

Mom says it was the best high school reunion ever, partly because they told everybody it was the last high school reunion ever. I guess that got everyone more invested and, in Mom's word, "melancholy," which she put forth as a good thing. She said the food was terrible, though... a "spinach bake"... a "fish creamy dish" (?)... and "rolls that didn't taste quite right." But the iced tea was good! And now would you like to hear about Kentucky Derby Day at my aunt's assisted living facility?

OE

Yes! You know me so well! I can't wait to hear about Derby Day at Autumn Rest Hills Pleasant Horizons Assisted Living.

JP

Well, they made them all put on hats and pick a horse. But they didn't really let them pick a horse. They made them draw a name out of a hat. If you picked the winner, you got a bag of candy. And my aunt got Maximum Security. But she refused to go out and mingle with the other people, so she didn't get her bag of candy. And, as you know, Maximum Security was disqualified, so Mom teased my aunt she was lucky, they would have taken her bag of candy away. But you know what? Maybe they would have! I can imagine that story. Grabbing a bag of candy away from an old person while they try to stuff as much candy as possible into their mouth. Anyway! I'm going to call Mom right now and tell her that you said she would know whatever happened to Rory Zane. Results coming soon!

So I called Mom and told her that you had a lot of faith in her knowledge of whatever happened to Rory Zane. She enthusiastically began to describe... Rory McConnell! So I had to tell her that was the wrong Rory. She said we should look on Facebook. And that's when it occurred to me that Facebook is for people even older than we are. "Tell Ogden I had a good idea about where to look!" she concluded.

OE

Wow. Your mom really let me down. I'm not even interested in what happened to the other Rory. Can't she track him down some way with genealogy skills?

JP

I can't even remember why Rory Zane became the central figure in our lives all of a sudden. How many times have you thought about Rory Zane over the past 40 years? Before now, I mean. Twice? It's funny you say you're not interested in the other Rory, because rumors are popping into my mind, scandalous rumors! Like Max Thursday level twists and turns. Too sad and grimy to repeat.

OE

Rory McConnell used to live on what he called "the river". From what I understood, he and a bunch of friends had a kind of treehouse next to the water, and they would drink beer there and swing out over the water on a rope. Rory McConnell used to keep a liquor bottle under his bed in a shoebox, and he would drink it in bed every night.

JP

That's Tom Sawyer stuff! I'm talking more Pedro Almodovar.

OE

I don't know anything about those rumors, because I don't have a source like your mom. Clue me in. As for Almodovar, are you referring to his movies or personal life?

JP

His movies, in all their melodramatic complexity. I don't recall the source of the rumors in question, but they were too lurid to have come to me from Mom. Hey! Have we settled on "Rory Zane" as the pseudonym of our protagonist? I've typed the actual name so often that, as plain as it is, it has taken on an almost mythical allure.

OE

You've typed it so often? I only made it up an hour ago.

JP

The actual name, _____ _______.

Chapter Four: Like Walking the Dog

Chapter Four: Like Walking the Dog


OE

Another weird fact. I have found a soulmate on IMDB. Look up CHICAGO DEADLINE and look in the "trivia" section. You will find that someone has listed approximately the first 25 times the movie was shown on TV and where. I have also seen this for a few other movies recently, though I can't remember which ones right now.

JP

I'm putting this in our public email thing, so why not explain your novel a little bit, and how your obsession with old TV schedules fits into it? I can't wait to find out the first 25 places that Chicago Deadline aired on TV. But first I'm being compelled to "take a walk around the lake.” Damn this lake! If it didn't exist there would be nothing to walk around.

“Its earliest documented telecast took place, as you might expect, in Chicago Sunday 5 April 1959 on WBBM (Channel 2), and it soon became a popular local favorite all across the USA in markets large and small.” Who wrote this, a publicist’s ghost?

OE

I don't see much point in describing my novel. Every time I try to write a novel it ends up the same. I write 60-80 pages and then I get tired of it and stop and move on to something else. I found it's like walking the dog. The dog starts out with a lot of energy and purpose, but it's not long before he figures out "Hey, this is all pretty familiar." And then he ends up back on the couch with the TV on in the background. Same with me. More on the TV detectives soon. I promise.

JP

Well, my advice is just to keep doing it. My theory has always been that if you do something that seems pointless for long enough, it begins to achieve magical power by sheer accumulation. If I had written 80 pages of a novel four times, I would present the 80-page sections in succession and call it a novel. I should also point out this theory has never worked. I keep meaning to ask you what Chicago Deadline is about.

OE

Dead girl. Address book. Questioning persons listed in aforementioned address book. Private detective vs. police department. Snappy dialogue. Mystery!!!

JP

I'm looking back over this stuff and it lets people know exactly what it would be like to eavesdrop on two old jerks. I would put a "chef's kiss" emoji here if I knew how. I feel safe in saying that this is exactly what the world has been waiting for. One thing I'd like to do now is start filling in holes. For example, yes, to answer a question I never answered, I remember when we used to attempt to collaborate on scripts through the mail, like the authors of Guilty Bystander. I remember you created a character called Master Bate. I think we were still in high school. This must have been one of the earliest examples. It was some kind of Game of Thrones shit, we were ahead of our times. The other script I remember is "The Tall Grass Cafe," which included a subplot about steeplejacks. We spent a lot of time talking about steeplejacks.

OE

There's a couple of things I need to answer. I'll try to do that in the next 36 hours. If this ever comes to anything, you mentioned splitting a payday, but I don't think that's fair since you are doing much more work. We can iron that out later with lawyers at a long mahogany table.

JP

Yes, lots of cutting and pasting, my finger hurts.

OE

I'm not even doing that. Sucker! I just drink Old Crow and jack off to Rory Zane's girlfriend.

JP

Okay, we're definitely changing his name.

OE

Look this up for kicks: "The CIA Made Six Remote Control Dogs In the 60s"...and... "UFOs Invading Military Airspace Multiple Times a Months, Seen by Hundreds..." by Andrew Whalen - Newsweek

JP

Will do. I was going to make myself an egg this morning, and instead of taking the egg carton out of the refrigerator, as I usually do, I just opened the carton while it was still in the refrigerator. When I reached in and grabbed an egg, it broke in my hand. I took the carton out of the refrigerator, got another egg to fry, and removed the four remaining whole eggs, which I put in the cheese drawer of the refrigerator. That seems like asking for trouble but I didn't know where else to put them. I threw the carton with the broken egg in it away, though it occurred to me that the carton may not have leaked in the refrigerator, because don't you think that thick egg-carton cardboard is designed to absorb raw egg leakage, or at least contain it?

The dog thing you sent me is horrible. I wouldn't wish it on a dog, as they say. As for UFOs, I have a theory that the worse the president is, the more people are inclined to spot UFOs. Do you remember the big one of our childhoods? You were living on the Gulf Coast when those two fishermen were picked up by a UFO in Pascagoula, right? I think it was 1973, speaking of terrible presidents. They went on the Dick Cavett show so Dick Cavett could make fun of them.

Making sure you saw my email about the egg I broke this morning. I think it's because the egg carton was on a high shelf. Ordinarily when you take an egg out of the carton, you probably hold the carton down with your other hand, to make it easier to withdraw your chosen egg. With nothing to hold the carton down, the snugness of the egg groove (that's a bad name for it) worked too well, and the ordinary amount of pressure I would use to withdraw an egg was just too much for the fragile shell, held firmly in place as it was.

OE

What a ham-fisted doofus! It's not a bowling ball. They should breed chickens that lay eggs with edible shells for people like you. That way you can just dump the whole carton in a pan and mix it up. Yum! If you can't help yourself, and you can only pick up an egg like you're trying to squeeze out the pit, then buy eggs in plastic cartons - they don't leak. And don't worry about plastic fucking up the planet, it's not the plastic, it's the humans that are fucking it up. Basically, we're fucked. Fucked by UFOs, plastic, robot dogs, imbecilic presidents. They (the government) are going to stop recycling soon anyway because they can't keep up. Yes, I remember the UFO guys, and Dick Cavett and the UFO guys. The one who is alive just put out a book, but I think we have already talked about that. One of the UFO guys, not Dick Cavett, who I think is dead too. Alright, I need a nap. I called in sick today (and probably tomorrow too for work-related technical reasons I won't go into) so I could get some writing done. So naturally I walked the dog, Rory Zaned (as I now call it), and then sat on the couch and watched some more of some movie that takes place in Spain about a dead brother who comes back and wants to take over the family diamond business, or something like that. Too bad it's not pearls, that's what the movie needs.

The egg may have been partially stuck there because it was already leaking because of a crack - i.e. already "broken". So when you....oh, God, never mind.

JP

I thought the "remote control dogs" in the article were going to be robots, not actual dogs, so I was sickened by the reality.

Dick Cavett is alive and up until recently he was contributing "humorous" columns to the New York Times.

OE

So...if I send you an email, can I call it "writing" now?

JP

Yes! I can't wait until they tell us, "We can't use this shit."

When the bad guy dumps out a little bag of diamonds on a piece of velvet or whatever, the audience immediately knows, hey, those are diamonds. Look how they sparkle. You dump out a little bag of pearls, what the hell are those? It takes a couple of seconds to process. That's my theory about why diamonds surpass pearls as movie contraband, and the possible reason why they changed pearls to diamonds in the movie version of Guilty Bystander. As always, I await your withering scorn.

OE

Absolutely nothing withers in response to you, baby. I seem to recall watching something very recently where someone holds up a pearl for someone else to view. The other person asks about it. The holder explains the difference between a cultured and uncultured pearl....what was that?

JP

That does sound really familiar.

I can imagine William Devane explaining the difference in FAMILY PLOT, but again that centers on a diamond heist, I think.

In my halfhearted search, which lasted 15 seconds, I found a movie called THE HOT PEARL SNATCH, starring someone named Jody Baby. Jody Baby! That was someone's stage name. Do you think Baby is a common surname? Speaking of halfhearted, did I ever tell you about the time I wrote a song called "Halfhearted," and I sang some of it for a guy I was trying to write songs with, "Halfhearted when you told me that you loved me..." the chorus started... and he started laughing uncontrollably because it sounded like "I farted when you told me that you loved me." Ha ha! When he explained it, I don't think I ever laughed so hard. I was crying.

Anyway, I think we should watch THE HOT PEARL SNATCH.

There's a movie on TCM right now that the description says is about a man "squashing his daughter's dream of joining the 4-H Club."

OE

I would love to watch THE HOT PEARL SNATCH. I laughed so hard at that songwriting story. I had to tell Soledad and Ira, who were downstairs, and they laughed too. That's hilarious.

I did a search for movies with stolen pearls, but THE HOT PEARL SNATCH didn't come up. I got PEARL OF DEATH. "Murder of a nude woman" is a plot keyword for THE HOT PEARL SNATCH. Jody Baby appears to be the name of the leading man.

Yep....I tried hard to stay away from a joke about the title, but it turns out it is, in fact, some mild 60s soft porn. I'm still gonna watch it.

Hey, I responded to an email you sent back in 2015, but my email apparatus put my response back in the 2015...file? As if I had responded back in 2015? Maybe that's a way to put it. So maybe it's kind of like a time machine. Right? Anyway, good luck finding it. I'm sure it's worth your time.

JP

I saw it! I think I've mentioned before that I can imagine a sort of time travel that is just making websites that people see in the past. It seems easy! I'll get to work on it right now.

OE

I don't understand your idea. Are the people in the past and they see websites from the future? What?

JP

Yes, that's it. We send messages to the past. That seems like something the kids could do with their apps and so on these days.

I don't know if THIS is a coincidence or not, but you know "they" monitor our every communication... anyway, I have started to get pop-up ads for a "non-alcoholic whiskey." A NON-ALCOHOLIC WHISKEY! I don't begrudge anyone anything that might make them happy, but I'm not sure a non-alcoholic whiskey could make anyone happy in any way. I can understand non-alcoholic beers and wines, but is that just conditioning? The brand is called ArKay, I think. Ha ha! Their slogan should be "How's your drink?" "Why, it's just arkay."

I read a review of it that says it contains an ingredient used as a laxative for pregnant women.

OE

Why would it need that ingredient? And I guess I can see a market for non-alcoholic wine, and I guess beer if you're in AA or something, but liquor - it's a bad idea. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure any of it's a good idea. Most liquor is 40% alcohol, so now...you're losing 40% of your ingredient. I'm probably wrong about that.

JP

Naturally, I'll send this complete thing to you in case there is anything you want to change. PLEASE let me leave your jacking off jokes in, not that I think you would mind.

OE

I'm sure all four of my kids will understand I don't REALLY jack off to old classmates pics of their one-night stands. Of course! Leave them in! It's art!

JP

That poor lady isn't his one-night stand, I think she's his special lady!

OE

Come on, that picture of Zane...He's clearly asleep. It's the before picture, just after the mickey kicked in and when he still had both his kidneys.

JP

But why would that be HIS Facebook profile picture?

OE

Some gang of female robots is obviously controlling his day-to-day activity at the petting zoo.

Chapter Five: Food Grade Industrial Alcohol

Chapter Five: Food Grade Industrial Alcohol

JP

Did you ever think of what you were going to say about TV detectives? I don't know whether this will spur your memory but I laid out some guff about why TV cops can drink like fish and TV private eyes have to take it easier on the old liver. I'm not sure your thoughts were even in that vicinity, though.

Back to the non-alcoholic whiskey, I remember running across chocolate wine in a liquor store and laughing about how gross it seemed. I bought a bottle and Beth Ann Fennelly (wait! I didn't have to buy a bottle because someone had given her one years before) and I were going to drink it and write an article together about drinking the dusty old bottle of vile chocolate wine and making ourselves sick, so we drank it and it was absolutely delicious so there was nothing to write the article about.

OE

How do you make chocolate wine? Is it still from grapes? It's not wine if it's not from grapes. You can't make wine from the chocolate plant. Hahaha. Cashew wine would be something to try, if you're going to make wine from yummy snacks.

JP

Now we're cooking! I have a lot to say about this. The chocolate wine claims to combine "the great taste of Dutch chocolate and fine Cabernet wine." Remember when you sent me a cashew tree for my birthday? That was the greatest present I ever received, even though I made the hole too shallow and the climate would not have been kind to cashews anyway. I did find out how hard it is to dig a hole. I can't believe people are always burying the bodies of their murder victims, it would take forever. It took me forever to plant a cashew tree, very poorly. And I think I was wearing a pair of shorts that left little to the imagination, ha ha! Not on purpose. I remember a stranger stopped by to chat with me because he saw me digging a hole, and that's when I realized something was going on with those shorts. That's another story. I recall reading that when you harvest the cashew, you have to watch out for some kind of highly volatile acid that could squirt in your face and blind you. In many countries, the nut is discarded and the fruit of the cashew is eaten instead. These are things I recall from blogging. I was really looking forward to eating some of that fruit and I studied hard about how not to get blinded or scalded with poison while picking cashews.

OE

That's why most victims are buried in shallow graves. AND...I remember reading that the actual nut from the tree is poisonous unless it is prepared just right. You can't just pick it off the tree and eat it. It has to be boiled and roasted first, or something like that. It sounds like a lot of trial and error happened before someone didn't die from eating a cashew nut.

Anyway...finally, TV detectives. I think originally this started because someone dared you to write a story about a happily married, sober detective? Maybe I'm wrong. And we were trying to think of any. THE THIN MAN series comes to mind. Nick and Nora Charles. They drink a lot, but not in the way the bitter, lonely detective types we're thinking of do. None of the others who come to mind are drinkers. A few are married. McMillan is married. Columbo is married. I don't know where I'm going with this except to say that the main difference I can see, with half a cup of coffee in me, is that TV detectives are mostly full of idiosyncrasies instead of bitterness. But that's not always true. And that mostly this is a boring topic this early in the morning.

JP

Even a shallow grave has to be a pain to dig. Nick and Nora drink like fish. They drink like there's no tomorrow. Maybe the difference is the attitude of the story toward alcohol. They're rich and happy and they're just putting it away, man, sophisticated and cool and nothing to do but drink. If Nick and Nora were broke and drinking Old Crow, you've got yourself a different movie. Now I want to see George and Martha from VIRGINIA WOOLF solving crimes!

OE

Right. I believe I mentioned that Nick and Nora do not drink from bitterness nor loneliness. I think that could have been phrased better...I'm not with it today. I think there was a mix up with the hospital… it’s throwing me off. Soledad is giving an exam, I have to go to work, and why am I telling you this??? I only have to work one day this week and it's turning me inside out!!!

JP

No, no, I got it. You're fine! By coincidence, right after I heard from you I was watching BLUEBEARD'S EIGHTH WIFE, where liquor is the humorous solution to marital problems. Gary Cooper, with purpose, gets Claudette Colbert really drunk, and though I couldn't approve of his methods, I laughed at the gleam in his eye while he played the piano and sang,"Lookee lookee lookee, here comes Cookie." Part of it was that he really can't sing. It's sweet. Extra funny because it makes Claudette Colbert cry, because she's drunk. Anyway Colbert gets revenge by stuffing a whole bunch of green onions in her mouth (an inspired image!), so it's okay. It skirted right up to the edge of something ugly, though. I guess that's what comedy does! You have to hand it to GUILTY BYSTANDER for making liquor no fun at all.

OE

That movie is a good one. Is that Lubitsch? Or Wilder? I might watch it at work if I have time.

JP

Wilder and Brackett wrote it, Lubitsch directed it. I remember watching it maybe 30 years ago and being "disappointed." What was my problem? In a lot of those Lubitsch, Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder movies, all those guys, there will be a very minor character who's a private eye who just kind of breezes in and out of the story as a plot device. I like that. It's a really good way to handle exposition. Colorful!

This morning I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich, except I also put salami on it. Highly recommended. I eat lunch food for breakfast, because my videoconferences start at noon Central Time. Breakfast is my lunch! True story. I had a thing I wanted to tell you about getting old, but I'm running late now.

Man, they're really running the hell out of the tornado warning siren today! It's half an hour early, too. They test it every Wednesday. Maybe I should be worried but the sky is spotlessly clear.

OE

I didn't get to do anything at work last night except work, which sucks. So, am I right or imagining that you once did an interview (real or imaginary) with someone who was passing through town (Oxford)? I'm not sure you knew this person before you interviewed them. I'm trying not to look it up. I think the interview took place in your kitchen at night. Someone kept interrupting. I think the subject is some kind of wanderer? A wandering musician? A minstrel! This sounds like you could have been talking to a stray cat for all I know. From Texas. Oh, forget it.

JP

I have no idea what interview you might mean... it would have been hard to interview someone in our old kitchen, because we didn't have any chairs! Can you think of any stray detail of the conversation? Anything you think of could be a help to us, ma'am. We just want to catch the guy who did this. This is my direct line. If anything comes to you, anything at all, please call that number. We want to get this animal off the street!

The other night I was idly playing with a cat toy. There were no cats around. It's this mouse on the end of a pole and line. Its tail is a puffball, which is not accurate. But this puffball of yarn is embedded with tiny spikes, so that it looks like a medieval mace. Shiny silver spikes, thin, not sharp or pointy. Foil, I guess. They look like tinsel but have none of the yielding properties of that yuletide favorite. The weight (not much) of the mouse on the end of the line made it very satisfying to sort of fling here and there like I was a fly fisherman... this went on for a number of minutes... maybe twenty minutes... before I realized I was playing with a cat toy and maybe attracted to it for some of the same reasons a cat would be.

OE

Is this a euphemism? Of course it is.

I can't find that interview, and I've looked around the internet for a while now. It seems that this person came in from Texas one night and you interviewed them...OR...it is you transcribing a story about someone from TX who stayed at your house!!! This is sounding more like it!!!

JP

Oh, yeah, that sounds like a sort of slice-of-life thing about when my friend Pen was driving across the country and stopped here for a couple of weeks. He's from Texas originally, so I gave him the pseudonym "Tex." Clever!

OE

Thanks for sending along the link, but I hope it's not keeping you from that puffball on the pole. Tiny spikes!!! Hey that's a good nickname.

By the way, I saw Four Roses in the liquor store the other day. It was expensive.

JP

Yes, I'd have to ask my friend Ace about this. I remember him telling me that a Japanese company (maybe? I could be making that up) bought it and started packaging it as more of a luxury item than the lowdown hooch that perhaps it once was.

Anyway I read that all the whiskey in the world comes out of the same big hole in the ground and they just pour it into different bottles.

OE

Hahaha....you and _________ should have a talk about what you read online. Same big hole indeed.

JP

There's a single factory in Indiana where so-called "craft" whiskey makers all over the country get their stuff. According to an article in The Daily Beast, this factory also makes "'food grade industrial alcohol' used in everything from solvents and antiseptics to fungicides." Max Thursday would read that and start licking his lips.

OE

Really? I want to find this article. Can that be true? Something about it doesn't make sense.

JP

I met these two guys in Oxford who are going to make their own gin, and to hear them tell it, they won't be indulging in any of the shenanigans you'll read about in that article. Anyway, I happened to be in Ace's office on the square once when they came by and were handing out preliminary sips to a lawyer they know, and I had some, because I happened to be there, and I made a dumb joke like "I'm getting notes of ashtray..." that wasn't it, but it was something better, let's say. Something funnier than that. Maybe I said it tasted like a pencil eraser? One of the big ones you have to hold in your fist? Whatever I said, it was merely for comedic effect, and I didn't say it front of them, but when they came back onto the balcony, the lawyer ratted me out! He repeated my remark. What happened to lawyers dummying up? Nobody liked me after that. And why should they? They poured their life's blood into this stuff! Maybe that's what it tasted like. That reminds me, we went to some bar with my friend Bill and they brought out something with rosewater in it, like some kind of weird treat, and Bill said "This tastes like my grandmother's armpit!" And then he said, "Don't get me wrong, I'd lick my grandmother's armpit, she's a great lady."

OE

I hate it when people try to hand out fancy drinks that aren't alcohol. Why? One woman was at my house one day and somehow managed to make a drink with mud in it...actually it was clay, she said, and asked if I wanted some. I was like, "What kind of question is that? No." Wouldn't something like that clog up the liver? Wouldn't it be more fun to keep it busy with alcohol? The liver, of course. Maybe the woman, too, I don't know. I'm wondering how much difference there actually is between distillers that are NOT 'craft' whiskeys. Is that the way you spell it? Or would it be whiskies? Haha...that looks like a cat food. Uhhhh...I bought a second bottle of Teacher's, as you may can tell. And that is what brought me to the question. Teacher's is pretty good. If, you know, you're drinking alone in the dark in just your underwear. Great. Teacher's is for you. You can drink a fair amount and go through your pre-bed anti-hangover routine (which most people have, and which is probably mostly psychological) and not feel too bad in the morning. But I was wondering how different it actually is than a scotch that costs twice as much...Alas, I am too Scottish to find out. NEWS FLASH: Teacher's is from the Ardmore Distillery, which is owned by Suntory Holdings, that Japanese Whisky company. I guess I'll have another glass and go watch TORA TORA TORA.

JP

I was thinking about bad hangovers. When I was a young drunk who didn't know any better, I had several rum and orange juices at a Mardi Gras ball. I had eaten chicken livers and cherry tomatoes and when I threw them up I thought they were parts of my body. Ironically (?) I now combat a suspected approaching hangover by getting up in the middle of the night and drinking orange juice.

I may have some whiskey tomorrow or Saturday. Maybe both! I'm meeting Tom Franklin for lunch tomorrow and we like to do it up. It's an occasion! Then Saturday another birthday party. Seems like people are being born every day. I guess I'll forget buttoning my jacket as a goal. We walked around the lake today and only eight dogs chased us. So that was exercise. We moved out here and I can't walk to the bars anymore. If I do drink any whiskey I'll report on it and you can do your due diligence and tell me what's wrong with it. Here I am completely sober, not a drop in me, and from the fragmentary tone of my emails I sound drunker than you. Sometimes I bump into things and think, "See? I don't ONLY do it when I'm drunk!"

I want to know more about the woman who made a drink out of clay. Or maybe I just want to know more about the clay. I've read that some pregnant women crave clay... there's something in it they need... don't ask me, I'm not a pregnant woman! But Beth Ann, with whom I drank the chocolate wine, once decided, when she was pregnant, what the hell, she was going to order some of this fancy clay she had heard about and eat it and write an article about it... that's right, they make fancy clay for pregnant women to eat. Which brings us back to the non-alcoholic whiskey, which has an ingredient that acts as a laxative for pregnant women. Which brings us back to the Jerry Lewis movie where the woman drinks brandy first thing in the morning because she finds out she's pregnant. Which brings us back to Max Thursday, pregnancy, family, drinking, this was going somewhere. It almost snapped into place. Anyway, why did somebody come to your house and say, hey, let's all drink some mud? Leave out any identifying details... but I still feel anyone who knows her could read this and say, hey! That's got to be Trudy, she loves to drink mud.

OE

Sorry this is so late, but I had to get up early and meet the doctor, then meet Soledad for breakfast about it, and now of course I have to nap. But to briefly touch on 2 points....the clay lady was probably over to pick up a kid from a birthday party or play date. And I noticed an old pulp novel on my shelf called "Back Country" I might read. The cover looks like the action might take place on a lot of old red clay roads. I will keep you posted.

JP

Yes, let me know if they drink any clay. Theresa dropped a glass bottle on the kitchen floor last night and glass went everywhere. Everywhere! Every corner of the kitchen, and in rooms adjacent to the kitchen! She must have dropped it just right. It was the most excitement we've had around here since moving in. We couldn't believe all the places we were finding glass, what a night. We're still talking about it. Lunch with Tom Franklin canceled because his roof is leaking. That means no whiskey today. Tried on a jacket and it fit fine. In fact it's a little loose, I should drink a couple of gallons of whiskey to even it out.

Going back over this stuff as I format it and I have to say we are ushering in a new golden age of prose. So far I have three questions for which I need clarification. 1) Didn't you have some story about your parents going to your grandfather's house and finding a crumbling, yellowed Baby Huey comic book (or maybe it was Heathcliff) lying on a stained mattress, and they were like, "We have to get this back to Ogden right away!"? 2) When the cheap crook Smitty in the novel is secretly putting her daughter through a fancy school, isn't that a direct homage to Great Expectations? You were asking why that was even in the book and maybe that's the answer. Maybe one of those two co-authors wanted to show off his bachelor's degree. I know how he feels. 3) There was another John in class who was really short. John Davis. He was pugnacious. I can see him crawling through a window to snatch the answer key for a social studies test. Could the culprit have been John Davis?

OE

I'm going to answer these in reverse order: 3) I think John Davis is who I'm thinking of, but then again I go around town all the time looking at spots where there used to be a diner and say "I used to eat at a great diner there. It was called Jimmy's." And they can't all have been called Jimmy's, you know what I mean? I think John Davis who was in the motorcycle wreck was short and stocky. John Snyder was short and slightly built (skinny)? Or maybe he was called Jimmy - who we have not talked about at all, by the way. 2) Yes. It has to be. And the description of the ruined hotel and Smitty's room (over and over) which could also be described as being in ruins or tatters. There are descriptions of things in Smitty's room which are probably important to your point, but the book is upstairs. 1) "Marmaduke Rides Again" is the name of the book. Scholastic Book Services, copyright 1968. But I'm afraid you have the circumstances wrong. My parents had been going down to that house in MS for many years to do repairs, etc., with a pickup truck carrying loads of stuff down, and bringing stuff back to Dallas. I'm talking furniture. Heavy stuff that takes up room and takes effort. So they have seen this Marmaduke book lying around for about two years and just keep moving it from one place to another in the house wondering if I would want it - almost throwing it out once or twice (but of course bringing back a yardstick that is broken off at the twenty-eight inch mark. Stuff like that). They eventually bring it back and tell me the story of how they kept forgetting to bring it back, and I kept wondering how? And they kept saying they had other stuff to bring back. And I keep reminding them that it's a paperback that will fit in your back pocket. And they stare at me blankly and my childhood repeats.

Chapter Six: The Hair on the Back of Your Neck

Chapter Six: The Hair on the Back of Your Neck

OE

I'm watching BLUEBEARD’S EIGHTH WIFE, perfect script. Flawless. And David Niven is a fox in the beach scene.

JP

Theresa suddenly started asking about the Trinity tonight.

OE

You mean Bob, Jerry, and Dino?

JP

Ha ha! Well, I found it hard to explain, despite our time at IMS. I settled on a character from a show we watch, BETTER CALL SAUL. Have you seen it? There's this guy Jimmy McGill who has built up a pretty respectable law practice... though back home in Cicero they knew him as a con man named Slippin' Jimmy. Now McGill gets temporarily disbarred, so he comes up with this character named Saul Goodman who produces TV commercials... just something to do while he's waiting to get permission to practice law again. So he has three distinct identities, but he's one person. And he sort of switches back and forth between them. But! Theresa asked me what about when Jesus says, "Father, forgive them..." Who's he talking to? Well, that stumped me! I thought, maybe he's saying that to be a good example... but it seems pretty disingenuous! That's a real Slippin' Jimmy move!

Theresa said, "Why didn't I ask these questions when I was a kid?" And I told her they would have kicked her out of the state of Georgia.

French poster for HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE AND RUIN YOUR LIFE (1968).

OE

Did you happen to see AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON? I’ve only seen about 15 minutes so far. But it reminds me of HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE AND RUIN YOUR LIFE. I think that's the one. Where Dino is the actor and he plays poker with the crew....etc.

JP

No, but I watched THE END OF SUMMER, which came on right before it. Another Ozu movie. It was great! And then I thought I should watch AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON, but I just couldn't make myself push the button on another Ozu so soon, as good as the other one was. I'll check it out!

PS I think you're thinking of WHO WAS THAT LADY... but maybe Dean plays an actor in both.

You're probably the first person in world history to compare Ozu with Dean Martin but I think you're onto something. In THE END OF SUMMER there's an Eli Wallach type (a la HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE AND RUIN YOUR LIFE) who's a respectable businessman slipping out of the office to see his mistress, with whom he has an alleged daughter who seems to want nothing more from him than a mink coat.

Wait! Sorry! The Dean Martin movie you were thinking of is WHO'S BEEN SLEEPING IN MY BED.

I shouldn't say Theresa "suddenly" started talking about the Trinity. I brought up the Holy Ghost for some reason. I'm racking my brain for a reason that subject should have come up. Maybe someone mentioned the Holy Ghost on TV? That seems unlikely.

OE

"Don't question the Bible!" That's the answer we used to always get. Or, "God's too complex for our brains to understand." Or something like that. Dr. T needs to give us a break. We were just trying not to get too many demerits.

JP

I remember asking the Bible teacher (who I think was Mr. Price that day?) why we have hair on our arms if evolution isn't real. He said, "Hairs on the arms were put there for extra sensitivity." Even then I wasn't buying that one!

OE

So the hair on the back of your neck can stand up when I try to squeeze by you in a doorway. That way you know love is real.

JP

Pretty good answer! Much better than Mr. Price's.

OE

Back Country. A guy gets a letter from an old friend from his army days who calls Miami "angle town." It's that kind of book.

JP

Theresa just ran into Bill at the grocery store. He's our potential editor for this thing. Theresa said he's feeling off about it. Bad feelings! Something in the air. He has a meeting on Monday. Theresa says he thinks the swells in charge are going to "kick him to the curb." The latter phrase a quotation from Theresa, and probably from Bill. But! Bill has what I would call a salubrious sense of constant discouragement, very healthy if you want to get along in this world. What will we do if the project gets canceled? At least we'll have an ending! I'll figure out something else decent to do with it. I can't say it's a seller's market.

OE

How long is it? If that's even a question that can be answered. We could keep going and make it a book. I see no reason we couldn't keep this shit up for a long time - we've been doing it for decades already.

JP

I'd say it's almost novella length at this point.

I meant to add earlier (and this is something that Bill has talked about it print before) that once a light bulb burned out in Bill's mom's kitchen and she said, "Nothing ever works out." Ha ha! That's one of my favorite things anyone has ever said, contextually. I'm just saying Bill is well-versed in the beautiful art of pessimism. He plays it like a musical instrument!

I thought you might be worried about those four eggs I took out of the carton on May 6, 2019, and placed with no ado in the cheese drawer, where they no doubt rolled around precariously as I pushed the drawer closed and might have been subsequently smashed by a wantonly tossed chunk of Parmesan. You'll be glad to know that when Theresa came home the same day, she said I should just put them in a bowl on a refrigerator shelf. Much more sensible! Secure, isolated. That's one of the many threads of our story we didn't bother to tie up, unlike Max Thursday.

OE

Someone should make a documentary about the poor writer who can't walk to his favorite bar anymore. The same guy whose night is ruined when the cat meows in the kitchen. Oh no! I hope tomorrow his wife doesn't make him walk around a picturesque lake. If I had a keyboard I could really start in with the eggs...

...I wonder if there's a documentary like that? Angry. The directory's so angry, envious, or jealous of his subject he/she is constantly showing him in a condescending (?) way. Oh man...I didn't put that down right.

JP

First of all I love it when the cat meows in the kitchen. I'm sure there are lots of snide documentaries but I can't think of any specific examples right away. Well, I remember an Errol Morris documentary in which an "old man refers to his pet turtle as a gopher" as the back of the VHS box snidely proclaimed, and it is true that the supposedly subjective camera seems to get a big kick out of that, both filmmaker and video box writer seemingly unaware that there is a kind of tortoise that is properly called a gopher or gopher tortoise... Yes, yes, I feel that there are tons of documentaries with a snotty "get a load of these rubes!" vibe. Often when I'm reading a biography, I'll feel the author's resentment of the subject kind of stewing there under the surface... or maybe I'm the one who's stewing under the surface.

Actually, I think the box said "he thinks his pet turtle is a gopher," a dumb interpretation suggested by the film as well.

OE

"Get a load of these rubes!" isn't what I'm talking about. I wish someone understood my art.

JP

Yes, I see your distinction... hmm... the subject would have to be some glorious hero, maybe even to the filmmaker at the outset. I'm sure this exists.

Also, I can't walk to ANY bar anymore. What am I going to do, go look at a duck? Last time we walked around the lake, we saw a duck. We walked up to it. There it was, floating on the water, a FAKE DUCK. What kind of shit are they pulling around here? I had whiskey at that birthday party last night. I made a point of looking at the label. It was fancy bourbon and the label was black with fancy silver writing on it and unless I'm mistaken the word "Old" was part of the name... but I had too much of it and forgot the name. I was seated next to my doctor.

OE

Or maybe the documentarian doesn't even know the subject. It's just an assignment. But pretty soon they're annoyed by the subject's petty annoyances...all of a sudden I can imagine the subject being Jared Kushner for some reason. He just looks like a good subject for that kind of thing.

JP

I just found the website of the American Bourbon Association. I'm going to look at every label until one looks familiar.

OE

Just start with Old Crow, I'm sure that's it.

JP

The American Bourbon Association has some suspiciously nice things to say about Old Crow. I'm starting to lose faith in the American Bourbon Association.

OE

I've read some decent reviews of it, too. But it's not for me. I keep it upstairs in the bedroom closet for "emergencies.”

JP

Did you see my email about the fake duck? I understand the concept of decoy ducks. But what kind of twisted madman are we dealing with here?

OE

Yes! I saw the FAKE DUCK emergency email. Some ducks will scare off other kinds of ducks, and someone may have placed a decoy in the lake to ward off certain kinds of...blah, blah, blah...because they are annoying them for one reason or another. Or maybe it's just a fake duck got loose.

JP

That seems like a neighborhood scandal! There are some nice guys who own ducks and maybe some nefarious rascal is trying to scare away their ducks. They have a couple of swans, too. I'm going to go over there and offer to find out who has it in for their ducks. For a price!

OE

Join us next week, when P.I. Pendarvis stars in "Duck, Duck, Death!" BACK COUNTRY is pretty awesome in its own way. I highly recommend it. I've read about four pages and the character describes something, and then says "they can have it," in a mocking way. He's done this about five times already in only four pages. He tells of a time in his youth when he and some friends planted an alarm clock in a tuba and ruined the Star Spangled Banner for everyone. How do you plant an alarm clock in a tuba? Crazy shit like that.

Chapter Seven: No More Fun

Chapter Seven: No More Fun

JP

Started watching AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON. After hearing the TCM host describe it, I thought, "Have I seen this before?" And I watched a few minutes of the movie and continued to think, "Have I seen this before?" But I don't think so. The description is awfully close to some of his other movies. Seems like there's always an unmarried young woman who's a cause for concern in the family. Not always. But frequently!

OE

Was the host that Aussie chick? Don't you think that movie is a bit like that Dino movie where he's the TV doctor?

JP

I don't know about that specific movie (which we watched together in October 2014, according to my records; it was a short visit, and you complained about the price of candy apples at the airport), but sure, I see the Dino touch, a bunch of dudes sitting around drinking, kidding their friend about his young wife, plus the generation gap angle you'd see in 60s comedies like... oh, MARRIAGE ON THE ROCKS or I'LL TAKE SWEDEN... TAKE HER, SHE'S MINE, sure, although only one of those had Dino in it, but you know what I mean. I'm just half an hour in, though, so maybe I'll come around. I definitely haven't seen this one, but Ozu loves those drab office settings with the slate-gray walls.

OE

That's funny, because when I walk into work I pass a candy shop and they have candy apples, which may be called candied apples, for about $8, which seems insane! So I'm still complaining about the cost.

Don't you have the box set with WHO'S BEEN SLEEPING IN MY BED? You should watch it again. AT ANY COST! I think you'll see what I'm talking about. The Dino movie changes things up, it's not a remake, but there's inspiration there.

JP

No, you brought that one with you. I have a double DVD set of WHO WAS THAT LADY? and HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE AND RUIN YOUR LIFE.

OE

Is the cover a sort of tannish brown? I'm terrible with colors, so...give that description a lot of room, chromatically speaking. Chromatically speaking!!!

JP

I think so. Or a feeble blue. When we moved, I just put up all the DVDs in a completely random order. I'll look around for it so I can give you a full report. Oh boy, it's going to be a big day for me! Finally, a reason to go on living.

Yes, your tannish brown is about right. I would have called it sort of a dusty copper color.

OE

There is a channel named Grit, apparently, and it is on in the breakroom and they are showing THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN??? Anyway, I wish I were 10 years older and retired so I could sit in my chair and watch it with a bottle. That sounds like the kind of person someone would make a bitter documentary about.

JP

Grit, huh? Who's in charge of the remote control in the breakroom? Why do they call it grit? So hairy dudes will watch it? Theresa likes to watch a channel, I don't know what it's called, but the nightly lineup is Perry Mason, Matlock, TJ Hooker, The Bob Newhart Show, Maude, and Hart to Hart. I doubt it's called Grit. I was making fun of TJ Hooker the other night (I think I told you this already) but I got so caught up in the story I stood there and watched practically the whole episode. The bad guy ran his angel-dust business out of a pinball arcade! I was standing, because I had intended just to walk through and make a scathing comment about TJ Hooker. Instead I stood there mesmerized. The power of storytelling wins again. Oh! The main thing I wanted to say is that the candy apples cost $8 in 2014, so instead of griping you could be goddamned thankful the price has stayed the same for five fucking years. Do you think they're the same apples? Ha ha, that would be something. It's fun to imagine wonderful stories like that.

OE

I think almost every episode of T.J. Hooker must be about something along those lines. I love that show - I think it's hilarious. The one about his daughter's friend has him backing his own daughter against a mantle in a very creepy scene. Yikes. Rubbing her shoulder. At the end of that episode Shatner points a gun at a punk and says, "Resist arrest! Resist arrest! C'mon, I want you to. Resist arrest!" Like a maniac and at least a year before Eastwood's "Go ahead, make my day."

JP

I asked Theresa if she wanted some wine and she said no but I should have some. She said, "It's a twist-off cap." And I said, "You know that's got my name on it!" and Theresa said, "Twist-Off Jack." It's a great fucking nickname! And very sad. I'm sticking with it.

OE

Drinking wine at 4:00. That's what happens at the 30 minute mark of the documentary... followed by a shot of the crew rolling their eyes in disgust.

Anna Nicole Smith, RIP.

JP

Hey, man, we eat dinner at 4 o'clock. And have since we were young. We found a real old-school French restaurant in Toco Hills that opened at four, we were never happier. We took our friend Valencia there for her birthday and had some bottles of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which Valencia called "She Had Enough to Pop." I remember it well, because it was the day Anna Nicole Smith died, which we heard from the young, stringy-haired waiter, who, for whatever reason, was inclined to make numerous inappropriate jokes about her, which we found disconcerting, as she was so recently deceased and he, in fact, was the source of our knowledge about the situation. The only other people coming in at that hour were literally hobbling in on walkers. We felt so at home! I won't lie, I'm a little drunk now.

OE

I don't think I ever met Valencia, but right after I got a divorce did you try to set me up with her? Or am I confusing things? That was a long time ago.

But, again, we are all hard at work and sober here at the Dallas airport. No time for mid-afternoon binge drinking. We are busy keeping America safe and productive.

JP

Make America Drunk Again!

OE

Valencia, Valencia, Valencia! I let her get away. She could be in my profile pic, cuddling with me while I'm passed out, or in post-op....whichever Rory is up to there. That would sell a lot of t-shirts.

JP

Ha ha, you two would have been great together. She was really my best friend. Don't be jealous! She introduced me to Theresa, for example, AND got me my first real non-retail job, writing stuff for Turner like, "Coming up next on TBS, a giant bird terrorizes a community. THE GIANT CLAW, next on TBS." Come on! Introduced me to my wife and got me a good job? That's pretty good.

OE

What's Valencia doing now? Is she close by? To Dallas, I mean. (Please say yes!) We could get together and she could lie with her head just under my arm pit and we could watch Grit TV - which is what I now imagine that Rory Zane and HIS special lady are doing in that pic - or were doing before the "smack" caused him to be "lit.”

JP

Well, I saw her just a few years ago and she was doing some kind of psychic healing that I totally bought!

Fuck! That old fucker got fucked! That's my impression of AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON. I don't believe Dean ever got so thoroughly fucked as that poor fucker got fucked.

OE

Don't spoil it!

But that's interesting about Valencia. I have a funny story about that. Well maybe it's not funny. Interesting. Story about psychic healing, I mean. I'll try to get around to typing it out tomorrow.

JP

Please don't forget. I have a story about that, too, involving someone other than Valencia, but I don't believe I can tell it here. By the way, WHO'S BEEN SLEEPING IN MY BED seems completely unavailable. Your DVD is like a Gutenberg Bible, except more so.

I actually saw a Gutenberg Bible. Leslie showed it to me. Remember Leslie? She and her then-boyfriend Luther were curing their own olives at the time.

OE

I'll see if I can find the dvd around here. I'm curious. You inspired me to get drunk, but not too much, I have to wake up in 6 hours and drive Penny to school.

AUTUMN AFTERNOON (1962).

JP

Looking back, I may have been too drunk to tenderly inspect the nuances of the ending of AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON. Or just drunk enough! Those old guys put away a lot of hot sake in that movie. I was just trying to keep up.

Doris Day died. It’s all over.

Doris Day. RIP.

OE

Yep. No more fun.

I've had a pretty crazy morning, so I've not had much time to let it sink in. Now it's nap time. Maybe she will come to me in a dream.

JP

Last night I dreamed we had a toucan in the house. The previous owner had left it here. I was like, "Do we need to be feeding this thing? It seems to be doing fine on its own!" In the dream, I was going to Google what to feed a toucan. Well, our water heater is busted. Owning a house! We were too old to be buying our first house. Ah, it's all a big crapshoot. Don't forget you were going to tell me a story about psychic healing. Also, report back on your dreams.

OE

I had a dream, but forgot what it was when the alarm went off, because if the alarm goes off that means I slept too long. I usually don't have a problem waking up at whatever time I want without an alarm, which is nice, because I hate alarms, so I woke up in "Oh shit!" mode.

A toucan is colorful, exotic, cartoonish. We were talking about "spiritual healing" before night-night, so maybe look up toucan for that. I'm scared to.

Do you have an estimate for water heater yet? We just had one put in a couple of months ago, but the old one was 15 years old so to put the new one in the house had to be "brought up to code.”

JP

Nothing has to be brought up to code in Mississippi. The new water heater and installation cost $650.

I don't even think there is a code. For anything!

OE

$650 is about right...The Elson Seal.

A while back I began seeing this psychologist because I'm a fuckup. She seemed a little "woo-woo-ish" if you know what I mean, but I didn't mind...it was a refreshing break. So after a few sessions I asked her why we never used the other part of her office - which had a nice couch, lamp, pillows, etc. It was a completely different vibe over there. She said it was for hypnosis and past-life regression. So we talked about it for a bit, and I think I just said, "cool.” But eventually I tried it. I don't know if you have ever done it, but what this therapist does is hypnotize you, more or less, and put you in a place where all your past lives are presented and you choose one to explore. In this scenario, they are supposed to show up as pictures on a wall. Well, my room had blank walks. Blank! She didn't know what to do about that. She knew I was a new soul, but figured I would have some kind of past experience. Nope. Nothing! Just bumbling through life like some buck-toothed hayseed, I guess.

Valencia briefly....I thought that this guy, me I guess, would run across Valencia's business as a spiritual healer in a nearby town. He would go see her but not tell her who he is. He only knows her name. They've never met, and maybe I make up a name, because my real name might ring a bell... I'll ask that lady I see (the past-life regression lady) if she knows Valencia next time I see her. That would be weird.

JP

Maybe they meet in the realm of dreams!

What's his motive in the story? Love? A scam? A love scam?

OE

Curiosity. I'm not sure what you call what I’m trying to think of. It's a kind of voyeurism, I guess.

JP

Like a detective!

OE

Exactly. Let's say that.

What is Valencia’s last name?

JP

Chambers.

OE

How was dinner? Did you picnic by the lake? With some Doris Day wine from TCM? Wouldn't you feel funny drinking from the bottle of some Doris Day wine? I would just be tempted to look at people and stick my tongue in it. I guess I would feel weirder drinking from a bottle of Dean Martin wine, now that I think of it. I would be worried that I would spill some on me while people are watching and wonder what they are thinking. Is his a white wine? Yikes.

JP

Funny you should say that... is this related at all? I found out today that Adam, who's my boss, is particularly appalled by the gesture "the chef's kiss." Why would a chef do that? That's what Adam wants to know. This chef is going to get his spit on whatever dish he's preparing next! Keep your hands away from your mouth while you're cooking professionally, that's Adam's advice. I kept laughing all during the meeting thinking about how adamant he was about it. Adamant! And his name is Adam. I guess your fantasy about sticking your tongue in a Doris Day wine bottle made me think of it. Where are you seeing this list of TCM wines? I find it impossible to believe they would assign a white wine to represent Dean. Dinner was good. We had leftovers. What about you?

OE

I wasn't looking at a TCM list. I was making it up. FICTION.

JP

You seemed genuinely surprised by the Dean Martin white wine you made up.

OE

You forget. I'm brand new to this world! Everything is so exciting and fresh! Including the white liquid that spills from Dean and splashes on my shirt. Yummy!

I remembered my dream! I was at work and we were about to push a plane from the gate. I was working as a wing walker (one of those guys you see on the sides near the wing...) on this flight and the guy on the other side spotted a fuel leak. So we called maintenance and decided to go inside, but someone, a manager?, told us we should wait for maintenance, and I said why? It's obvious what's wrong with it. And there's an image of a stream of fuel coming out of the wing. And we kept walking toward the breakroom. Whew! Close one. We almost had to work! Yesterday we had a plane on our gate with a bird strike on BOTH engines. Unheard of. That takes forever to look over. Hours. I think somebody from EPA has to come out and take samples to see if the bird was endangered. That kind of thing gives you a nice long break. I've often thought of keeping a bag of dead birds in my locker so if there's a good movie on...

JP

Wait. The fuel leak was in a dream but the dead birds were real, is that correct?

OE

Yes. Even though about a year ago the dream scenario happened, but I don't know why I would dream about something that happened a year ago.

Chapter Eight: Human Remains

Chapter Eight: Human Remains

JP

A woman had an old refrigerator in her yard and TJ Hooker said, "DON'T YOU KNOW YOU HAVE TO WIRE THESE THINGS SHUT?" And she said she had asked her husband to do something about it and he basically said (in TV-friendly words) "Fuck your husband!" And he took his bare hands and fucking ripped the door of the refrigerator right off its hinges! I forgot to look up toucans today. I have a bunch of books about symbols around here, but I'd be surprised if any of them mention toucans specifically. Weirdly, I went to see Bill (who might be editing this) at his job at the record store, and he was wearing a shirt with a hummingbird on it, but it was a wild-looking hummingbird, like no hummingbird in nature, gaudy as a toucan, with golden fish scales on its head and a sunburst and a daisy on its chest, it seemed like a dream bird. I associated it with my dream.

OE

Did you ask Bill about it? The bird on his shirt?

JP

Yes. "Hummingbird Festival," he replied. Two words, but they said it all! Coincidentally (not sure that word applies) an insanely persistent whip-poor-will is going nuts outside as I type. I turned off the TV and I could hear it. It's almost midnight. I was watching a documentary about Orson Welles and they showed a bunch of Christmas cards he had drawn over the years. All of them featured Santa as a pie-eyed drunk with a bottle of booze.

OE

Hahaha. That Orson cracks me up like nobody's business. I used to have a WPW outside the window of my study for about a month. It drove me nuts. Then suddenly it stopped and never came back. I'm going to get to the computer tomorrow and type some stuff up for you.

JP

I made the mistake of looking up "what do toucans mean" on the internet. Of course there's a website called spirit-animals.com that blows a lot of smoke up your ass about how special you are if you dream of a toucan. "Similar to the potato beetle, you have a lot of inner wisdom to share with the world." Ha ha! I believe that's a direct quote from spirit-animals.com. Just imagine a potato beetle and a toucan hanging out, they would have so much to talk about.

OE

Plus you had a visit from a nightingale or something last night.

JP

Thank you for the photo of the 330 lbs. of human remains that I assume you moved onto or off of an airplane last night. For the record, it was wrapped in what appeared to be white butcher's paper secured by black string, and bearing a bright blue stamp that said HUMAN REMAINS. How much of that was coffin weight? This morning I saw an obit headline about a 98-year-old "WWII hero who fell on a grenade" and I thought, wow, that grenade really took a long time to go off. This concludes the human remains portion of our show.

OE

It's wrapped in cardboard. All tied together with a metal band - sometimes nylon I suppose. I'm not sure the guy's in a coffin. I think the coffin comes later, though he should be in something. Plastic bag? He's being shipped to a funeral home, although he comes from a funeral home. There have been a lot of gruesome stories about dropped coffins, of course, but I'm not sure how many of them are true. One day a few summers ago, I had a dead guy who had to switch flights. When they transfer planes you have to put them in a cart and take them to the "freight yard". That's right. When you're dead and get shipped, you're freight, just like a spool of wire or mail or cases of People Magazine. So it was really hot and the freight yard is this giant open space that's pave with asphalt - so I could just imagine a body sitting out there in a metal cart for 3 hours and I asked if there were somewhere else to take it. The guy who was on the gate I was working (the Boss Man!) said, loudly, "It's freight! Take it to the freight yard!" And I replied, meekly, and a little sadly, "Dude, if I die, don't ever put me in the freight yard, okay." And then this guy kind of leaned into me and yelled, "Then don't die in Dallas, bro!"

JP

Now that should be the ending.

OE

I can't get that image of Zane's Facebook pic out of my head. I was wondering if he'd ever been in jail. For some reason it looks like it. What if this woman in the pic is a spiritual healer, and he had been writing her letters from prison about a new start in life. When he gets out, he goes to see her without letting her know who he is. I have letters that someone gave me about 10 years ago that are love letters, more or less, from an admirer. They are terrible and cringey, if I'm remembering correctly, and perfect. Now that I type it out it doesn't sound too good, but when I picture it it's alright. I wonder what's missing in the telling? Maybe the healer FINDS the letter, somehow - having been blown out of the trash, or whatever (because I found a similar letter that way once), and writes our Zane character in prison. Ahhhh...I'll keep trying.

JP

He does appear to be in the kind of spiritual ecstasy you'd expect from an old statue.

OE

I still think he just had one of his kidneys removed.

Why do people put their name, address, telephone number, email, and very often a picture of their entire family on the ID tag of their luggage? A lot of people out here aren't in jail only because they haven't been brought to trial yet, weren't convicted for one reason or another, or have done their time. I see people typing up addresses in Google Earth, I guess to get the layout of the place...to see what they’re getting themselves into maybe.

JP

So do people look at a suitcase and think, "Hey, that's a nice suitcase. I should rob these people"?

OE

I didn't say that! I just think it's naive of people to put a picture of their attractive wife along with her address so potentially unsavory characters can look up the address to see if you're rich or not. Why?

JP

What if they looked at the box of human remains and thought, this guy seems rich! I bet he's going to buried with all his stuff like King Tut. Grave robbing here I come.

OE

Doris and now Tim Conway.

JP

I remember when all the last original Munchkins seemed to be dying and I thought, what if they're being murdered? It was funny because they were all like 102 years old.

OE

That's not old for a munchkin, though.

Chapter Nine: The Doctor Gave Me a Box to Shit In

Chapter Nine: The Doctor Gave Me a Box to Shit In

JP

I think my thumbnails are suddenly growing much more slowly than my other fingernails.

Getting my hair cut this afternoon. Guess I'll head to the bar after that.

OE

Huh...I really wish I had a camera and could follow you around. Did use a ruler to figure this out? Keep track with graph paper over a 3 month period. Years of cuticle tracking?

I'm at Great Clips with Ira and we are waiting to get our hair cut. I've always noticed how many people show up here who don't need a haircut. Their hair is short and perfectly trimmed. I always wait until I need a haircut. People at work call me Garth I usually wait so long. That's just one of my nicknames (MVP and Professor being the other two).

JP

Wait are you telling me we are getting haircuts on the same day? That's the kind of shit that's going to blow this thing wide open.

Whoa! Our emails crossed, and everyone is getting a haircut I guess.

OE

Omen!!!

JP

We were emailing each other about getting our haircuts at exactly the same time. I don't see how people don't believe in God when miracles like this can happen.

Back when I was unemployed for 10 months I tried to get Theresa to cut my hair. I said, "Mom and Dad cut each other's hair!" Somehow that didn't win her over to the idea.

Something was nagging at the back of my mind so I checked the blog, and I see that we also coincidentally both got a haircut on March 3, 2008.

OE

Nagging? Or tugging at your heartstrings?

Man, Ira is really giving this poor lady a heart attack. Demanding a Beatles haircut. Then something short all the way around in a circle. Hahaha. She's doing a good job talking him out of it. He wanted sideburns! I told him he had to grow those on his own, she can't give those to you.

Well, everybody's haircut turned out well, I'm happy to say. I don't look like Garth so much anymore, so people at work are gonna be mad. And I realize that Ira has hair like Pete Best, if you recall what his hair is/was like. He couldn't pull off "the look" because his hair was too thick and wavy???? Or something like that. It wouldn't go straight down and Beatle-y. Me typing more about it isn't making it clearer, either. Keep me posted about the thumbnails!!

JP

Are we "baby boomers"?

OE

I think we are closer to Gen X-ers. But we are so borderline it may depend on how we were raised. I say Gen X.

JP

Hmm, Australia Research Center, whatever that is, says we're on the tail end of being Baby Boomers. And I don't know about you but I have complete faith in Australia Research Center. Anyhow I was in a meeting and some dude was like, after the millennials there is a new generation: "The Makers." And I wanted to say, "Do they drink Maker's Mark?" But I said nothing. Anyway, I don't believe in these "makers." How many damn generations do I have to see coming up to yank me down from my gold-encrusted pedestal?

OE

I'm the one who called them "Maker's,” and I was being ironic.

JP

This was some Hollywood honcho at a conference table. John Stamos was there too. I didn't dream it!

OE

Don't teenage girls think he's the dreamiest? Is that the right guy? I don't wanna look it up, I'm ready for my nap. I've got the beagle here and the pillows just right...got the day off...all I have to do is put the ol' Elson touches into that 10 minute play later and...yawn...yep...now I'm starting to dream about Valencia and the past-life-regression lady, except Valencia makes me call her Madame Chambers and it's turning crazy, baby....

Well..."Little Sneaky Deaths" has been submitted. Goodbye $10.00. I wonder how many submissions they get? Has the drinking begun?

This is not the play I'm writing, by the way. These are actual events.

Cast of Characters:

Ljubomir and Vladimir - brothers from Yugoslavia

Strahil - their father

Mike F - WWII vet who owns a house in Munich on Stephan-Lochner Str.

Barbara F - Mike F's daughter

In the early 60s, Strahil gets a grant to work in a lab doing something or other in Munich. He gathers up his wife and two sons and goes there. I believe he sends his sons first, so it makes it look less like a defection, and the sons live in an orphanage in Munich even after their mother and father arrive...maybe there's not enough room in the new place. I don't know. When the mother and father arrive in Munich they rent a house on Stephan-Lochner Strasse, just down the street from Mike F. They get to know Mike and his daughter Barbara, go hiking together, and Vladimir (the oldest son) even dated Barbara briefly. But eventually the grant ran out, and it was time to leave. Of course, no one wanted to go back to Yugoslavia. So it was stay in Germany, which no one wanted to do so soon after the war, or come to the U.S. So they ended up in MD.

Ljubomir ended up at Johns Hopkins and met Michaela, Soledad's sister, in 1970 and they soon got married. Soledad was born in 1966, and knew Ljubomir throughout the 70s of course.

During this period of time, Mike F. had become a sort of staging area for Art Historians. If you were an Art Historian and you needed to do work in the area, you stayed at Mike F's place. He knew everything about the region, and he welcomed you for free, eager to have you, etc...So when it came time in 1987 for Soledad to do some research, her advisor wrote Mike F a letter and Soledad went to Stephan-Lochner Strasse to stay for a while. She and Mike hit it off. She stayed for many weeks. One day Mike F was helping Soledad with her German and as practice she began describing her family and said her sister was married to a man named Ljubomir. Mike laughed and said he once knew a kid named Ljubomir, and he had a brother named Vladimir. Soledad said this guy has a brother named Vladimir. And it went on from there....

JP

I'm thinking about this story... maybe the paragraphs need to be in reverse order?

OE

Well. I'm not sure I like it as a story. It's just a crazy tale of improbable coincidence. I'm not sure what you have against chronological order, but get over it.

JP

My haircut was finished and the bar wasn't open. Wouldn't be for another twenty minutes. I thought, well, I'll go to the diner, I should have something in my stomach anyway, I haven't eaten all day. And I know the menu like the back of my hand! I'll order fast. It's 3:40, the place will be empty. I'll be at the bar in no time! So I sat at the counter and ordered an iced tea. The counter person slipped the menu to me, not that I needed it, and went to check on her other table. There was a couple in a booth on the other side of the room. When she asked if they needed anything else, the guy started giving her a long monologue. Wait! I haven't ordered yet. Such were my silent pleadings. I was going to say that this was an old guy... but he was probably about our age... and he just couldn't stop talking. And I had to admire, sort of, the way he left no conversational room in which his victim might step away, just a steady stream of patter, a long sentence that showed no sign of ending. Ten minutes! His friend from Missouri married someone from Argentina. They're both as skinny as rails. They don't understand Southern food. Once the guy told him about something called "veggie burgers," which "people in California eat." Then this guy (the speaker) sent him a photo of a hamburger he was eating in Tupelo. "All these are organic ingredients," went the caption of his photo. The French fries probably weren't good for you, but they weren't greasy, either. "He's one of those Missouri snobs," he said. Missouri snobs! Is that a common idea of Missourians? It's news to me. I would say the guy was lonely, but his wife was sitting right there across from him. She would chime in occasionally. I was thinking, "Sweet Christ! The bar will be open soon!" I finally ordered a vegetable plate. The fried eggplant appeared to be of an ordinary temperature on the outside, but the inside was molten. Molten! In my haste to get to the bar, I burned the roof of my mouth quite painfully. At the bar, I looked at the bottles and picked Buffalo Trace. "You mean Buffalo Trace GOLD?" said the bartender. "Is that what it is?" I asked. "Yes, it's Buffalo Trace GOLD." I replied that yes, I would drink it. Now I'm going to see if they squirt it straight from an old hose at that industrial park in Indiana.

OE

I think this is Rory Zane! In the waiting room at the doctor's office!

JP

Come on, you're just seeing Rory Zane everywhere now. He was a skinny little dude! This guy looks like the "after" in a commercial for erectile disfunction. I'm laughing really hard imagining you taking photos of people in the doctor's waiting room, just where everyone wants to have their picture taken. I was thinking about privacy the last time I went to the doctor. There's a sign-up sheet where you're supposed to list your birthday... above where I signed someone had listed her birthday as 9/19/19... as in 1919! A hundred year old person, almost. Knowing my doctor, they didn't make it. Ha ha, I kid my doctor. Last time I went, I said, "Should I take my shirt off?" and he said, "Yes, would you like some music?" Did I tell you that? That same visit, I asked about a procedure, "Will it hurt?" and he said, "No, not me." He's a funny doctor. I thought about it later and those are probably standard jokes for him.

OE

No, I think this guy looks like that Facebook profile pic. Ck it again.

That's a funny doctor. Every doctor should be like that. Or like my doctor, who one visit suddenly showed up with new boobs she was very proud of. Ever since she wears tight, button-popping shirts and sweaters. I'm not complaining, but then again I do complain and make appointments, so...what am I doing actually? Daydreaming about my doctor's boobs while Soledad gets an endoscopy while I sit across from Rory Zane? Yeah, some doctor is putting something down my wife's throat. What of it?

JP

It's not that cool to be born in 1919. You missed all of World War I, stupid! When I was growing up I knew at least three people who were born in the nineteenth century... probably more, if I stop and think about it, but I'm not going to stop and think about it. Old people used to be really old, man.

OE

But! She got the Roaring Twenties AND the Depression! All before she turned 21! Why are you so negative? You need some...whiskey?

JP

I think last night is going to do it for me for awhile.

Anyway, the roaring twenties were bullshit if you weren't old enough to... do whatever they do in The Great Gatsby... run over somebody with a car.

OE

Too much Buffalo Trace?

JP

Buffalo Trace GOLD. There was too much buffalo in that batch.

Ace gave me a ride home and we stopped at a butcher shop. I bought two links of pork sausage, two links of rib eye sausage and two links of lamb sausage. Wild, drunken sausage debacle.

OE

I think that expensive stuff is a little overrated, but I don't get it too often, so I don't really know what I'm talking about, so I'll shut up.

JP

Are you talking about the sausage or the whiskey?

Because I was looking at the receipt and thinking, that's a lot of money to drunkenly spend on sausage! Can I write it off on my taxes?

OE

I didn't see these emails until much later this afternoon. Sometimes if a thread gets long and then you email me twice in a row, it's hard to see - especially on my phone. That sounds dirty for some reason. Maybe because I was thinking about you and Ace and a car full of sausage links late at night. Why are butcher shops open late at night? Was it late at night?

Hey, after we got home from Soledad's special procedure, we had lunch and she lit a candle and said, "This reminds me of college. Roger Wolfson used to have a candle-lit breakfast all the time." Apparently, this guy Wolfson lived up the stairs (uh-huh), and would often call Soledad in the morning and tell her breakfast was ready, and she would bounce up (my image) those thirteen steps and 'The Wolf' would just be finished lighting the candles. Would Dr. T believe that story if you told it? I didn't either. Then they would have this contest where they would drink tomato juice with increasing amounts of hot sauce in the glass, to see who would last the longest. I'm just going to keep giving you straight lines here, okay? I looked up this Wolfson character and asked her to identify him, which she did.

Maybe you've heard of him. I hadn't. Apparently he lived on a sailboat called Kinship II for twelve years. That's the thing I'm most jealous about. You may have even run into him in all your Hollywood journeys. He built an amphitheater on his property to serve the community...He turned the whole city of L.A. into a no-kill shelter zone...people like that are covering up something.

JP

I believe I got home about 7 o'clock. The butcher shop did close right after we left, though. We saw them closing the blinds and locking the door. "Look, we made it just in time," Ace said. "I would have been in trouble if I didn't bring home the chicken." And it made me think they probably saw us coming... "Hey, we should throw out this old sausage." "Wait! A couple of suckers just pulled up." When I entered the name Roger Wolfson in the Google search bar, it automatically finished the phrase "Roger Wolfson wedding." I wonder why! This looks like a hot lead.

When I am out of town from May 25-June 2, I won't be checking email, but I will be keeping a meticulous record of my drinking to share with you when I return. On the evening of May 27, for example, I am supposed to meet my friend Taneka for happy hour at a place called "Bourbon Steak" in Glendale. I'm guessing they have bourbon and steak.

OE

Hey, the 27th is Memorial Day. It's gonna be tough, but I think I can make it. Happy Hour. Glendale. Bourbon Steak. Got it. I'll be there early, snapping pics of Zane look-a-likes.

JP

Don't you have some deal where you can get on standby flights cheap or free? You should really do it!

OE

Yeah I fly free. Don't tempt me with bourbon and steak and Glendale, Pendarvis.

JP

I was thinking you could write a good short crime novel based on where you work. It would involve human remains, luggage tags, and the ability to fly wherever you want for free. Is HUMAN REMAINS a good title? I can't tell if it's good or terrible.

I was looking at the calendar and counting up how many esophagus pills I will need to get me through my trip. Then I went downstairs and opened my pill bottle and counted my esophagus pills. Exactly enough! No need to get a refill. Wow! I felt great! I thought, this is a great day, I've really accomplished something.

OE

Oh happy day! Well, get them refilled anyway, Pendarvis, I have a special assignment for you. Soledad got that job in Dubai today. But there's a catch! The guy she's replacing decided not to retire until the end of NEXT YEAR! He's 75 years old. How long does this guy intend to be a burden on the community of learners? You know how much money this guy is costing me by hanging on? So she can't start until the fall of 2020 --- that is...unless, you know, something unfortunate were to happen to him. Which, God forbid, I hope nothing does because that would make me the #1 suspect. So you should go over and make sure everything is taken care of and nothing happens to him.

I ran out of my heart pills. I also ran out of my cholesterol pills. But I called them in. In AUTUMN AFTERNOON they talked a lot about taking pills to keep up with the young wife. This is 1962, or thereabouts, so they couldn't be talking about Viagra, or anything like it. What could they have been talking about?

In addition to the disappearing meds, the Old Crow's almost gone. And instead of a colonoscopy, the doctor gave me a box to shit in and ship off. The box has a cartoon figure of a box with arms and legs and a dialogue balloon that says "So excited to meet you!" Hahahaha. Oh, Jesus.

Speaking of crime. I used to work with a guy who would steal wood from a church to heat his mobile home. He had to steal the wood because he had already ripped out all of the paneling and burned it, as well as all the wooden furniture. All of the paneling! Which means there was nothing between him and the elements except that aluminum siding, so he was really just making it colder. He wasn't the brightest guy, and full of Bigfoot stories.

JP

I was just going to ask you about Dubai. Well, with a move like that, the end of next year will come up fast... it takes me that long to put on my socks.

OE

Speaking of Bob Hope, who that joke reminds me of, I saw a clip of him on the Tonight Show when Jerry was hosting...must have been early 70s...Bob was terrible. Jerry was terrible. The whole thing was off.

JP

I remember seeing what was probably that same appearance... they talk a lot about how the kids these days should cut their hair and show more respect, is it that one?

OE

Maybe...Bob says he plays a lot of colleges and is convinced that 98% of the young people today are alright. It's the 2% making all the noise that you hear about. And Jerry agreed, and there was a lot of clapping for the kids who toe the line - I guess.

JP

Why are you asking about what they used to get it up in AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON? Do you need some?

OE

Nooooo!!!! Heck no! Not SuperO!!! Are you kidding me? Pshaw. Do I need to send you a picture to prove it? I'm just curious what weird stuff they may have used because it's the only movie I've ever heard anything like that mentioned.

Speaking of SuperO. I was watching THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, and the character Trip is the perfect SuperO.

JP

I’ve never seen it.

OE

I'm trying to watch PASSING FANCY, but it's hard (the watching, not my great whatsit). The silent part of it seems different, plus I can't help saying to myself "that young woman is dead of old age now.” So I'm just going to delete it.

JP

What the hell is PASSING FANCY?

OE

It’s one of those Ozu movies… silent. And don’t curse.

JP

Would you call SuperO your alter ego?

OE

Let me look that up first.

JP

The website that was paying me to paraphrase Moby Dick seems to be running out of money, I wonder why! Maybe it’s goodbye to that sweet plum. I have at least 300 pages done they haven't used yet. Speaking of stuff that guy could burn to keep warm.

OE

I have to sit outside and wait for the dog to throw up. He ate some grass and that's coming next. So we are watching the moon come up. It's full. I feel like Charlie Brown, sitting with his beagle.

JP

My email provider suggests replies to every email...? The suggestions appear at the bottom of your email and I'm supposed to click one to respond. My three choices are: "Sounds like a good day. I'm so sorry. It's a beautiful day."

OE

Mine does that on the desktop, but not on the phone. It's always something no one would really say unless they really didn't want to talk to you. So you know what to do.

JP

"What is the phone? I don't know what to do. I don't understand that." Wow! I think we're psychologically destroying the algorithm. Anyway, something kind of poetic about "Sounds like a good day. I'm so sorry. It's a beautiful day."

Yeah, I've watched about the first fifteen minutes of THE VIRGIN SUICIDES now and Trip just came on the scene. I have a feeling you're more like the dad who wants to tell everybody about his model airplanes. Also, I looked up "folk remedies for impotence" to answer your question about what they were taking in AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON, but I didn't click on any of the suspicious websites. One was by someone named Dr. Axe. Ha ha! What a terrible name for an impotence doctor.

OE

Of course I'm like the Dad. That's why I pretend to be Trip.

Tonight may be the end of the Old Crow. I may have to go to the ABC store on the way to work. But that means the Old Crow will sit in my car, in the heat, all afternoon. Maybe it will be alright in the trunk. It might help it.

JP

Spring for the Teacher’s.

OE

Oh yeah.

The dog never threw up, so we had to come inside. I'm sure he will throw up on me in the middle of the night, just like a child.

JP

Never mind, I thought some other sleazy kid was Trip Fontaine. The real Trip Fontaine just entered the picture. He's even less like you than the sleazy kid was.

OE

Not me, me. SuperO, me. You don't understand me.

But what really bugs me is that guy Wolfson, living on a sailboat for 12 years. Fuck you, Wolfson.

Chapter Ten: My Sausage Is Pink

Chapter Ten: My Sausage Is Pink

OE

Alright! I'm going to start CAGE OF EVIL - 1960.

CAGE OF EVIL....not too bad. But why hide uncut diamonds in a drain? And then worry about customs going through your suitcase when the diamonds are in your pocket?

JP

I don't know, did they get caught? Is that why they were put in a cage of evil? Or is evil the cage that made them steal diamonds? What's so evil about stealing diamonds? According to my records, it was almost exactly seven years ago that you read how people could pay to be cremated and have their bodies turned into a 1/4 karat diamond. So you thought we should start robbing graves. Where's your cage of evil? Last night TJ Hooker was dressed as Santa Claus on a stakeout! And Theresa fell asleep during HART TO HART, which she said she was sorry to have missed the end of, because the Harts accidentally fed dog food to their dinner guests, and for some reason the dog food company was smuggling narcotics in the dog food...? So everybody on HART TO HART was getting high from eating dog food. That doesn't sound like a good plan either.

Did the dog ever throw up?

OE

Albert did not throw up! So he didn't get dinner. No vomit, no dinner. That's my policy, I'm sorry, and there are no exceptions.

JP

Jesus Christ! That's not funny. I'm going to watch CAGE OF EVIL today, I guess. And yesterday I watched THE VIRGIN SUICIDES just to understand an allusion you made. It's like you're controlling me with your mind, just like you do to Albert.

CAGE OF EVIL started getting good around halfway through, when the guy really hit the skids. Everybody likes to see a guy hit the skids. Hey, I had an idea for a short private eye novel I could write. It would probably take me about the same amount of time to write it as to describe the plot to you. I know I've mentioned this before, but Ace told me that you don't need a license to be a private detective in Mississippi. So that's a good start.

Here's the idea. A guy went on one date with a girl in high school... now she's got a small role on a TV show, or she was in a movie on Netflix or something. So he decides he'd like to get in touch with her again, and he hires our narrator, who has never had a case before. The narrator decides it's a great opportunity for a vacation, so he flies out to Los Angeles. I'll use details of my upcoming trip here. He comes back with nothing, because he didn't even try. Then he bills the client for the whole trip! That's sort of the whole idea... maybe the client turns out to be psychotically jealous... "You were with HER, weren't you?" And our hapless narrator is forced to shoot him. Or maybe the narrator gets killed or thrown in jail. But it was all worth it because he had a nice vacation.

OE

So I think that's a great idea. And I was thinking as I am baking in the sun, so maybe it's the heat, that while the novice detective is out having a good time, he neglects to read Variety, or whatever, which would have let him know that the woman he was supposed to be looking for died mysteriously while he was out there. And now he has to prove, or not, that the weirdo who hired him actually killed her. This exact thing has probably been done and that's why it came to mind. It may be what CAGE OF EVIL was about as far as I can remember.

....but then the extra thing I added just turns it into a regular story. Ahhh, I get it!

JP

I already started writing it! The detective lives with his mother, which is something I don't think I've seen before, but I'm sure it has been done.

OE

What's the mother like? Apparently there was a TV show called CASTLE where the detective lived with his mother and sister. I'm just being your paralegal here - don't hate.

JP

The mother is kind of like my mother, as I have no imagination to speak of. Hey, I'm cooking those lamb sausages and they're still pink. I've been cooking the hell out of them. Maybe something in them makes them permanently pink. I feel weird about it.

OE

Look up "my sausage is pink" on the internet and see what it says. Let me know.

JP

The automated bling blang says I should reply "I can't see it. It's still not up. I don't see it." All things you have heard about your sausage.

OE

I don't always get those options on my phone. But sometimes I do. And that concludes what is possibly the most pointless email I've ever composed.

Now I'm watching THIS IS NOT A TEST on Classic Movie Channel on YouTube. I think I saw it about 20 years ago, but don't remember the end. Or the middle. I just remember the big truck and an impending disaster, actually. I wish I could live on a sail boat.

I found an old note dated 3-20-03 that said you called earlier that day to let me know "Irma la Deuce" (that's how I spelled it) was on TCM at 3:15. I called you back and we got into a 'debate' over an Elvis movie...I thought the movie we were trying to think of was SPINOUT, you thought it was GIRL HAPPY. I decided you were getting them confused.

Is that fake duck still in the lake?

JP

Haven't been back to the lake.

Chapter Eleven: Close Encounters

Chapter Eleven: Close Encounters

JP

My brother told me about a free documentary on the internet, the subject of which is when CLOSE ENCOUNTERS came to shoot in Mobile. Anyway, it's a bunch of old white people talking about old times being movie extras. You can't imagine anything more boring, but I'm still watching it. Remember the channel 10 weatherman Danny Trainer? There he is in a vintage snapshot, wearing magenta bellbottoms. I remember rumors when we were in school that his neighbors didn't like him because he had a pet tiger in his backyard.

Jack and his brother.

Now they're interviewing a guy whose ladder and serving bowl were used in the movie.

They say the ducks in the movie were flown in from California.

Somehow there's still an hour to go in this movie.

Up in my office watching this while Ace and Theresa load cardboard boxes from the move into Ace's pickup for hauling off and recycling. Is this the end of my marriage?

The extras are still thinking about the controversy when they ate ice cream intended for the principle actors and crew. "I'd do it again!" says one guy. I like this guy.

Ace and Theresa sure have been gone a long time.

OE

I don't guess I really need to watch it now.

JP

It's still going! Now they're talking to the people who tore down the set.

Now they're talking to the guy who stole Steven Spielberg's "Reserved For" parking sign.

We're almost at the end. The former mayor of Mobile says "Ironically, I've never seen it from beginning to end. I've seen bits and pieces of it on the tellypopper." TELLYPOPPER! Is that something people call a television? I've never heard that. It makes me sick.

OE

"I agree! I know! Me too!" Those are the prompts from my phone. I am not only required to be excited, but forbidden, apparently, to disagree.

JP

"I can't wait to hear them. I'm very excited for you. It's going to be good!"

My back or my kidney or my hip or my leg hurts.

OE

Are Ace and Theresa back yet?

I'm 2 minutes into the movie (at work), and my right leg started going numb.

Hahaha...I love the slow-motion phone pick-up reenactment shot.

One guy remembers "scurrying from one place to the next,” that's it. Another sad guy was going through a divorce and living with some football players....it's all too much, Pendarvis.

JP

You haven't even scratched the surface yet!

There's a lot more surface underneath that surface.

OE

This is never gonna fucking end...

JP

That's the way I felt about it. Doesn't it seem impossible it's only an hour and a half long? After a while it put me in a trance that I can't say was unpleasant.

OE

The first 30 minutes is an eternity. What can they do for another 60 fucking minutes. There better be some hot sex soon...

JP

An old guy walks around on his hands. One fun game is to grade the old white men by how red their faces became as they aged.

Perhaps most touching is the sentimental, rheumy-eyed old scarecrow with the caramel voice who seems to be reading from an unpublished memoir about his days in the Chamber of Commerce.

OE

I haven't been able to watch past 30 minutes because of work, but...I can't wait, I guess.

JP

See if you think the guy who walks around on his hands looks like Rory McConnell.

Hey, I just thought of something important. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS would have been shooting locally around the time that you and I met.

OE

And…?

I guess we should have been extras and met on the set and had beautiful memories just like those other rosy-faced gents in the movie.

JP

Instead all we have is our pain.

OE

Well, this has taken over my life, I guess. I just called in sick so I could watch the rest of the documentary on my big screen TV. And I'm out of sick days, so I'm not getting paid, so that's a whole day's pay I'm losing - so that's basically me buying a very expensive ticket to see WHO ARE YOU FUCKERS?

I had to take a break after 20 more minutes for a nap. The lady describing the Goodwill store almost put me over the edge.

JP

She comes back at the end with a shocking twist!

I thought about how they framed her, in the shadow of her carport, from a distance, something mysterious about it.

OE

You said you had a meeting, which just registered with me believe it or not. Are you still working on the STEVEN UNIVERSE movie? This is as an excuse not to restart that documentary, plus Penny is binge watching GILMORE GIRLS.

JP

If Penny has any GILMORE GIRLS questions, let me know.

OE

The movie got better, actually, but I was frustrated because I never found out what happened to that woman who went to Hollywood to become Steven Spielberg's secretary, but thought about becoming Robert Altman's. It went immediately to some guy talking about his mom sticking her head through a car window at a Dairy Queen.

JP

I'm not sure the movie gets better. I think the viewer becomes more accepting. Yes, it's something how the filmmakers flatten every detail until everything acquires equal importance.

OE

Are Theresa and Ace still missing? At the dump?

JP

Ace is "visiting his mother in Orange Beach," and Theresa is "at work." Or so they say!

OE

I took the kids to Orange Beach last August. I'm going to work this afternoon. Coincidence?

JP

I have one ribeye sausage left from the great sausage haul. Today is its one-week birthday. Happy birthday, sausage! One week is too long to hang onto a fresh sausage, don't you think? In short, what should I do with my sausage?

OE

Is there such a thing as Jerk Sausage? If so, I think you should jerk it.

JP

Are you having an affair with Ace's mom?

OE

Yeah, man, Deuce and I go way back.

Did that guy pay me yet?

JP

Ha ha! This thing won't go until, I don't know, December or something.

OE

That won't stop me from asking you every Tuesday night.

JP

I figure we can do it until August before we go crazy. I'll send the whole thing to you. Bill doesn't need it until September or October, I think, so that will give you plenty of time to see if I included anything you don't like. Then Bill will look at it and probably shit in his pants.

OE

Who is this Bill who shits?

JP

That sounds like an answer I need to know to get into a secret lodge. Last night's TJ Hooker was set in the world of televised aerobics.

I don't like to fly. It gives me anxiety, and in the days before a flight, the anxiety expresses itself in different ways. Like, this time, I keep thinking about how I broke my front tooth on an enormous hamburger about eleven years ago, and I went to the dentist and told him just to stick the cheapest possible thing in there for cosmetic purposes, which turned out to be some kind of resin.

So now I keep envisioning a scenario in which I'm talking to someone out there and my front tooth falls out. I can't stop imagining it! I know it comes from the knowledge that I'll be the oldest, fattest person in any room out there, with the worst teeth. Plus I'll be eating lots of steak. Everybody wants to take me out for a steak. What am I going to do? Sit there slurping broth to make sure my tooth doesn't fall out? Ah, it's an "anxiety thought." The sight of me slurping broth is more monstrous than the idea of a tooth falling out after confronting a tough bite of steak.

Naturally I've been on the internet looking up how long that resin lasts. Ten years. I'm living on borrowed time! My anxiety is at a level where I start thinking... can I make this resin fall out just by thinking about it too much?

The job I'm on now is going to wind down in a month or two, and you never know where the next job is coming from. I can't go out there and be the "guy whose tooth fell out."

OE

So...right now they think about you as "That guy who likes chophouses." And you're afraid it will turn into, "That guy whose tooth fell out,” or "That noisy broth slurper guy.” I can see why you might be anxious. It's expensive to get a tooth fixed even with insurance, so that's a problem. I feel you need to focus on your sense that you can make something happen "just by thinking about it.” If you believe you can make your resin implant, if that's what it is, fall out by worrying that it will fall out, then why can't the opposite be true? It's a front tooth. Cut the steak into small pieces and stick the piece past the front tooth. No one will notice. If they do, tell them you're getting a toothache. Everyone gets a toothache, or at least sensitive teeth.

There's also this thing about judging yourself, which we need to get into, but I see we're out of time.

JP

This is good stuff! I assumed I'd get a joke about jacking off. Which would have also been welcome, don't get me wrong!

Chapter Twelve: My Grandmother Was Born Dead

Chapter Twelve: My Grandmother Was Born Dead

OE

I have to go to H/R Block in a bit to try to get the IRS off my back....again! But before I do I wanted to run this by you. I am thinking that, just for kicks, I am going to pick a date in 1978 and look it up in my magic internet page and see what was playing on TV that day. I plan to watch the movies and report on them as some kind of character. Why is he doing it? I'm not sure. Should he watch them willy-nilly? I just thought this up during the previous email so I haven't thought it through that far. Or should he watch them at the exact same time they were shown on the original date! That would seem as if he were commemorating something....like a death...or a prom date (sad, pathetic)...or the birth of a litter of kittens from which he thinks - oh, I don't know, I'll think of it later. Or maybe he just is doing it for a term paper on something or other. Anyway, the first order of business is picking the date. It has to be just right!!! How should I go about it? Great grandfather's birthday? Random? This is the kind of thing that stumps me the most.

I have seen one episode of T.J. Hooker about six times. Somehow I can't seem to get enough of that episode. From everyone's description of the other episodes, I only need to see that one episode (God Bless the Child). Maybe I'm wrong. I'm not sure I've ever seen a Hart to Hart episode. I'm really stuck on that YouTube channel that has downloaded those old movies, a good number of which are TV movies from the 70s. Last night I started something called DEVIL'S ANGELS with Cassavetes. I guess I'm getting old, but my sentiments went with the townsfolk and the lawmen. It wasn't like THE WILD ONE, where you had some kind of feeling for the bikers. These Devil's Angels just made you want to turn off the TV. Get a haircut! That's what I woulda said to 'em. Get a job, punk.

More T.J. Hooker and Hart to Hart tonight? I think I'm going to have to watch that "All in the Family" special on network TV. Soledad's high on that. Or I could say I'm going to the study to 'write'. And look up stuff in 1978 to watch.....I gotta pick a day!!!

JP

Two things. The litter of kittens idea (for example) is much better than the term paper idea. I'd stick with the litter of kittens. It's unexpected! As for the date, what if I pick the date? You can't get more random than that. Let me know if you'd like me to pick the date.

OE

Hahahaha....I can tell you really want to pick the date. Alright, pick the date, then get a kleenex and wipe up the mess. Jesus. Hurry before your tooth falls out.

JP

October 3.

OE

That's my uncle's birthday. Why that day? He's still alive, but very old. I wonder if you just...oh, forget it.

JP

It was my grandmother's birthday.

OE

Your grandmother picked a shitty day to be born. I guess I'm stuck with it. Here's what I got for October 3rd:

SURPRISE PACKAGE (1960) - Yul Brynner, Mitzi Gaynor....9am

APRIL LOVE (1957) - Pat Boone, Shirley Jones....10am

SON OF MONTE CRISTO (1940) - Louis Hayward, Joan Bennett....11am

THE LAST OUTPOST (1935) - Cary Grant, Claude Rains....Noon

FIRE OVER AFRICA (1954) - Maureen O'Hara,...1230pm

TERROR ON THE 40TH FLOOR (1974) - John Forsythe.....1974....8pm

CARRIE (1976) - ...... 9pm

BROKEN ARROW (1950) - Jimmy Stewart, Jeff Chandler.....9pm

THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE (1969) - 9pm

PENNY SERENADE (1941)...1130pm

WARNING SHOT (1967)....1130pm

SHOOTOUT (1971)....11:45PM

BREAKOUT (1967)....1:30am

WAKE ME WHEN IT'S OVER (1960)....2am

THE LONGEST HUNDRED MILES (1967)....3:50am

THE SPOILERS (1942).....4am

JP

If you watch CARRIE, you should watch the TV edit. You probably know this: is there a place where you can watch the old TV edits of R-rated movies?

Aside from my CARRIE suggestion (see above) I can only remark that I watched WAKE ME WHEN IT'S OVER when I had the worst case of food poisoning in my life. I could only watch a few minutes of it at a time and it took me at least a week to finish.

PPS, I don't know these movies, but a WARNING SHOT, SHOOTOUT, BREAKOUT triple feature sounds like a natural, especially when they're stacked up like that as if waiting for you.

By the way, my grandmother was born dead! The doctor lay her aside on the windowsill and a woman who was present rushed her to the kitchen, where she prepared two pots of water, one iced and the other boiling hot. She dipped my grandmother in one pot and then the other, alternately, until my grandmother came to life!

OE

Yeah, probably that YouTube guy who uploads the TV movies, though he may not have that one since it's not a "made for tv.” I should start an email correspondence with him, that would be good. The next thing is to decide whether to watch all of them, or just some...in real life you couldn't have watched all because they overlapped. It depends on what kind of vibe this guy is trying to recapture I guess. Hahaha. Oh brother. Is he sentimental about a certain kitten? Or is he more concerned about recreating a past life, in a broader sense, and the birth of the kittens is simply something he latches onto as a spiritually uplifting occasion?

Wow! What a way to start out!

I'm talking about your grandmother, by the way, not the movies, which is a crappy way to start out. I'm thinking this guy views this method of his as a kind of time machine. A way to get back the past. Isn't that what people do when they look at snapshots? Anyway, this must have been some great cat.

I was looking for an old email in July, hoping I would find your birthday, because I'm a sorry sack of shit and I can't remember the exact date. And I ran across an old email where I was telling you of a dream I had where Soledad couldn't understand what I was I was saying when I was telling her about "Nipsey Russell,” so she kept looking him up in the dictionary under G, because she kept calling him Gypso, and stuff like that...

So give me the exact date of your birth, so I can look it up for movies. I'm not giving up on your grandma, the die has been cast. I'd just like another chapter, that's all.

JP

July 8. Remember when you came down for my 50th? "Hardly a man is now alive who remembers that famous day and year.” We went out tonight. I had two Manhattans. And something called Chicken Vesuvio, which I assumed has something to do with the Vesuvio bar where the beatniks used to go, but it doesn't. Our friend who is a movie star was in town. We went to another place after dinner and I had a cocktail called a "boulevardier." It was loud as hell in that place. Louder than I recall any place ever being. Remember being young? It was louder than that.

As I wake up a soberer man than I went to bed, I recall that the "kids" making all the noise last night were celebrating a 50th birthday.

OE

If I recall, there were quite a few young things at your 50th. That's all I'm prepared to say about that at this time. You should have a 56th...

JP

I've got this patchy white beard but my hair is still brown. I was thinking I should dye my hair and beard completely white.

OE

....or a deep, nut brown, as if you've been on Travis McGee's boat and been taught a few things about love.

So there's a guy in 1978 who's going to community college. He racks up a bunch of parking tickets. So many they haul him into court. He can't pay, so they give him 100 hours of community service. He gets Meals on Wheels, or something similar. There's an old lady on his route who constantly talks about cats - how many cats she's had in life, her favorite cats, pictures of her past cats throughout her house, etc. But now she's old and only has one cat. One day our hero is over putting up the groceries, or whatever he does in the kitchen. There is a bowl of milk on the floor. The old lady's medicine is on the counter. He knocks latter into former while prized feline is drinking. The old lady has walked into the bedroom to lie down. The guy realizes what has happened, but it is too late because the cat immediately falls over dead. The old woman falls asleep. He doesn't want to be blamed for killing the cat, so he ties small weights of some kind (sewing thread tight around each leg with something heavy at the end - something an old lady would have handy that I haven't figured out yet) to the cat's legs and throws it in the gold fish pond in her back yard. She wonders where her cat is the next day, and the guy claims he saw it jump out the window chasing a lizard or something, and that's how it stands for decades. UNTIL...one day on the news many many years later a new owner is landscaping and a crew dig up the gold fish pond and find the dead cat with weights tied its legs. The new owners, who have actually owned the house for years by now, are charged with animal cruelty. They claim their innocence and vow to get to the bottom of it. Our hero is very nervous, and this is getting closer to why he may watch movies from October 3rd...a kind of time machine. There's a psychological reason for him to do it, I can't put it into words right now, but I think I'll be able to....later.

Elson at the doctor’s.

I got Teachers, and I still haven't pooped in the box yet. I'm telling you because I know you are wondering whether or not a sample of my feces is speeding its way through the postal system. If they still had pneumatic tubes, the image would be a perfect 'chef's kiss.’ The Teachers is almost gone already. Thank God tomorrow is payday.

Every single movie has to remind him of that cat or ‘murder.’

JP

Don't forget I'm leaving town on Saturday and will be gone for more than a week, but please send me constant updates about your feces sample so I'll have plenty to read when I get back. Maybe a low-level employee of a video streaming service, in charge of monitoring the bots that collect data on viewers for advertisers, starts to get interested in what your protagonist is watching... hmm... I don't know!

OE

I'll probably be more busy than normal while you're gone. I have to work at that airport, and _______________ has taken a turn for the worse, so Soledad will be heading up there and will be leaving me here with Flotsam and Jetsam.

JP

Sorry to hear about _____________. Don't hesitate if you want to reach out to me about pooping.

Chapter Thirteen: A Man Who Would Juggle Dynamite

Chapter Thirteen: A Man Who Would Juggle Dynamite

OE

Check out this movie synopsis from May 18th, 1978. It's for an Alan Ladd movie called SANTIAGO. Came on at 1pm on a Thursday afternoon - and only I care about that, but I'm compelled to type it for some reason. Did I tell you about my Psychiatrist visit? For the 'interview'? She wants me to come in for testing....I'm veering wildly off topic now.

"Story of a man who would juggle dynamite if the price was right." --- that's the whole thing, which sounds more like a line from the movie than a description.

By the way, there were 4 John Wayne movies on TV July 8th:

LADY FROM LOUISIANA; SANTA FE STAMPEDE; THREE FACES WEST; BLOOD ALLEY

One Elvis movie:

KING CREOLE

Miscellaneous treasures:

THE IMPOSSIBLE YEARS; CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON; SEARCH (1972-look it up); HIGH NOON; TOP HAT; MY DARLING CLEMENTINE; THE LOCKET; FLAT TOP (with Sterling Hayden!!)...

Jesus. You couldn't have just picked your own birthday? I'm off to watch SON OF MONTE CRISTO. Cristo Jr???

JP

You're not married to October 3! Give yourself permission to switch it up. What kind of testing? Is "give yourself permission to switch it up" something your psychiatrist would say? I hope that movie is about the invention of the Monte Cristo sandwich. Theresa still thinks about a bad Monte Cristo sandwich she had at a place called the American Roadhouse, up the street from our apartment in Atlanta. "Why did I order that?" she still remarks from time to time. On the other hand (going back to October 3) who wants to watch MY DARLING CLEMENTINE or TOP HAT for the fiftieth time? Wait! "Give yourself permission to switch it up" still applies. Am I a guru?

OE

"Ha ha, thanks!" "Love it!" "Thanks!"

I've never heard of a Monte Cristo Sandwich. Soledad needs to take me out more, I guess. To fancy restaurants like that one. I think I am married to October 3rd. You picked it, and that's the way it is. Also, I think this might force me to be more creative with the material. That sounds like bullshit, but I found something similar to be true in graduate school. I guess it's something like, if something seems to write itself, then you're less likely to be creative. I don't know if that makes sense. But then again, if it doesn't work I'll switch it up. But going back to the movies, my point is - I think I'd rather be entertained once again by HIGH NOON, than bored once by APRIL LOVE with Pat Boone and Shirley Jones.

JP

That's where you and I are different! Or the same. Come on, I know you'd enjoy watching Pat Boone and Shirley Jones get it on. Or to be more accurate, wouldn't you enjoy a Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee movie at least as much as HIGH NOON? Last night Theresa and I watched BORN TO BE BAD, starring Joan Fontaine and GUILTY BYSTANDER's Zachary Scott. He has a long, weird speech near the end, where he stares up at the sky and says how he never should have given up flying. He can really get perspective from up there... down near the ground you see how dirty everything is... I looked it up in a book I have and it turns out Howard Hughes (who produced) wrote that scene himself and stuck it in the movie!

Anyway, it's a deep-fried ham sandwich with powdered sugar and grape jelly. They ought to call it a Diabetes Sandwich.

OE

Sounds like a Crisco sandwich, and terrible.

"Yellower than Chinese butter." What the hell does that mean? Yul Brynner says it about some guys...

JP

Extreme cowardice, I would suppose, couched in racist caricature having nothing to do with the emotional or moral state of the gentlemen under scrutiny.

OE

I know he means to call them cowards, Mr. Fancy Talker, I just had never heard of the term/phrase. Or even of Chinese butter as a single entity. There is a 9-minute scene in the movie in which the king of a make-believe country tells Yul Brynner a long story about his make-believe troubled reign, all for the purpose of letting him know he left his homeland with the jewel-encrusted crown. Jerry Lewis could have accomplished that in 30 seconds. I think it's an excuse for Yul to interpret what the ex-king says into New Yorkese. Like, "the grenade exploded near the organ" turns into "the pineapple hits the jukebox.”

JP

I knew you knew that! I was trying to be thorough. I don't think "Chinese butter" was a common term, I think it's just some kind of racist knee-jerk bullshit. There are many, many terms that begin with "Chinese" in my GREEN'S DICTIONARY OF SLANG but "Chinese butter" isn't one of them. Some screenwriter thought he was hot shit, I guess. Ha ha, I hate it when a grenade explodes next to my organ.

OE

I can barely understand what Yul Brynner is saying in this movie. I understand the Greek people's broken English better than his dialogue.

JP

Which movie is this? The Son of Monte Cristo?

OE

SURPRISE PACKAGE.

JP

That message really confused me until I figured out it was the title of a movie. Yeah, I guess the Son of Monte Cristo wouldn't be fucking around with hand grenades and jukeboxes.

I was looking for something to read on the airplane. I like a Penguin paperback of a certain size, not too big. The young woman at the bookstore asked for an example and I said OBLOMOV and she said what's it about and I said a Russian guy who doesn't feel like getting out of bed, that's the kind of stuff I like. So she said, wait there's this book we used to carry called HUNGER, it's all about misery. And I said that sounds great! She said it's by Knut Hamsun, which she pronounced "nut," which is probably correct for all I know. Anyway, it gave me a charge, Nut Hamsun. So I got her to order the book because it was out of stock. It's flying off the shelves, I guess! Anyway, I'm looking up old Knut Hamsun on Wikipedia, and boy did he love Hitler. He was so sad when Hitler died that he wrote up an obituary. But HUNGER was written in 1890, so maybe I can read it without thinking about how sad this dude was when Hitler died.

OE

Well, I hope you enjoy your Norse recipe book on the plane. Do you fly Delta to L.A. from Memphis? I'm just wondering because if you're flying American you should take 2 books.

I can figure out no reason whatsoever for that guy in the cat story I told you about to be watching movies at all. Maybe these are movies that the old lady has on in her house while he visits and gets to know her. Otherwise the two things should be two different stories, I guess, which is a bummer because I don't like extra thinking.

I had a long thing typed out about this slick magazine Soledad gets from her old boarding school 2-3 times a year, but I deleted it. It was about how jealous I am of these people, even though I know the school wasn't exactly a picnic. But what a different world these people live in....amazing.

JP

The movie story... maybe the character remembers a scene from a movie, but he can't remember what movie it's from... some little detail that's driving him crazy... he associates it with some momentous day... the day his father died or something like that... so he looks up every movie that was playing on local TV that day... really he's trying to avoid dealing with something else, and this movie scene is... ah, this sounds boring. Maybe he's trying to remember the combination to a safe? Is that better? And he remembers he based the combination on... ah, screw it. I'll think about it while I'm gone!

OE

I think the movie story idea, as I have it, might just suck. It might be best if I went back to the original - just a guy watching movies from a particular day and 'journaling' about it because that's the way he is and see what happens. It's as exciting an idea as anything else.

Have a good trip.

JP

This is the big one! I'm back. Trying to think of everything you need to know about my trip. It's a good thing our phone connection was so sketchy today, because if I had told it to you over the phone, I might not feel like typing it up. The first guy I met was a real Max Thursday type... or so I thought at first! He got on the plane to Atlanta (my connecting flight) at 8:00 AM, already bombed out of his gourd. But he had a good excuse! He had dropped a wad in Tunica the night before. (Tunica, as you probably know, given your interests, is a gambling town between here and Memphis.) "I know the only bar in the Memphis airport that opens at six AM," he gleefully boasted. He was holding an enormous vodka with a splash of orange juice in it. Oh, I should mention he was my seat mate.

He told me all about the "cute little bartender" at the Memphis airport bar, who had filled his glass to the top with vodka because it was her 23rd birthday. Our friend here is a retired white businessman with a face as red as the reddest face in that CLOSE ENCOUNTERS documentary. He asked what I did for a living, so I told him I write and he said I could write his life story, which he has divided into six episodes. I asked him what he meant by "episodes," and he said, "emails." So I guess he has written the story of his life in six emails. I asked him for an example of an "episode," and he said the time he woke up naked in a stairwell in Las Vegas. "That was when I was married to my first wife, Dracula," he said. This episode he attributed to his problem with sleepwalking. I should mention also that most of the "episodes" are about gambling with his now-deceased friend... "Jack"!

On the subject of his current domestic situation, he said he lives with a woman and her daughter, who "came to stay for four weeks, and that was seven years ago." There's got to be an episode worth relating there, but it didn't seem to interest him much.

He lost his phone twice on a flight that lasted about an hour. As we were about to land, I noticed that he had passed out, holding his screwdriver in his lap at a sharp angle. It was clear he was going to spill some of it. I debated what to do. I did nothing. We landed, and he splashed a little vodka and orange juice on his pants, woke up, looked unconcerned, crossed his leg to hide the wet spot and gulped down the remainder of the drink.

An ornamental orange.

NOW! I'll tell you why he's NOT like Max Thursday. He's just a very cheerful guy, and apparently wealthy as Croesus. Instead of going home (he lives in Atlanta) he decided to buy a first-class airplane ticket ON THE SPOT to go to New Orleans right away to gamble at Harrah's, because he needs to get some of his money back. So I watched him buy a ticket for the next flight to New Orleans. He told me his secret is "don't let the old man in," which he attributed to a country singer, but I can't recall the details. He wanted my email address so he could send me the whole story of "don't let the old man in," so I gave it to him, but all his email to me said was "Don't Let the Old Man In." Ha ha! This concludes that section of my adventures. I think it would be a mistake to cram any further excitement into a single email.

OE

I'm at work so I gotta keep this short. Why go to New Orleans when Las Vegas is right there? Come to think of it, why was he going to L.A.? How did this other Jack die? Just forward these questions to his email address and we will start on the sequel...

JP

I didn't explain myself well. He was flying from Memphis (near Tunica) to his home in Atlanta, where the plane landed and I caught my connecting flight to Los Angeles. I didn't feel I knew him well enough to ask how Jack died, but I'm going to go ahead and guess something to do with his liver.

Reading that Knut Hamsun book on the airplane and there's a part where the narrator just stares at his shoes for an hour. If old Knut can do that, why can't you write what you want about a guy who is obsessed by televised movie schedules? Knut won a fricking Nobel prize! I had the idea you could look up the first time Guilty Bystander ever aired on TV. I don't know why. Something mystical might happen.

OE

I'll do it! It might be Knut's birthday. Who knows! Anything can happen in this crazy world - as long as you don't let the old man in. So Knut wrote a book about a guy using his eyeballs to peep at his eyelets?!? I love this guy, dammit!!!

Chapter Fourteen: Oh, I’m So Rich!

Chapter Fourteen: Oh, I’m So Rich!

JP

I have a bunch of good stuff from the trip for you. This might not be it, ha ha! Because I notice that I wrote down "Tell Ogden about the cherries." I was drinking Manhattans mostly, and one night at the hotel bar, I saw they had brought out an enormous container of maraschino cherries. A gallon? A plastic bucket of cherries. The funnier bartender started reading the ingredients label: "Hey, TWO kinds of corn syrup!" To which I replied, "You should get some of those Luxardo cherries." He said, "We used to carry those, but we weren't using them enough, so they would spoil on us." Does that make sense? Maybe. Maybe they were saving the Luxardo cherries for special drinks that no one would order, and giving everybody else crap cherries. But I figure they could add a dollar to every drink price and make a fortune, I mean, who can tell in a hotel bar? The prices are always jacked to the sky anyway. Once at the St. Regis my friend Ward McCarthy ordered a Coors Light and it cost ten bucks. And I think that was in 2012. So I say spring for the Luxardo cherries and then rook the customers, it's the American way! Yeah, sorry, cherries. This is what I have for you. Well! In the next installment, I take the young woman who was my former boss to a restaurant that turns out to be a haven for withered old businessmen and their call girls. I feel I owe you that preview so you'll be encouraged to keep going... going on with life, I guess.

OE

Great stuff indeed. I can't do it justice here. I can try tomorrow, but I can't promise anything. I'M JUST ONE GUY TRYING!!!

JP

No pressure! I know you're really busy with work and the kids. Is Soledad still out of town? Anyway, I'll try to put everything in one big email tomorrow, for you to chew over at your leisure. It's 3 AM.

OE

Looking forward to the email. I'm trying to cram in as much as possible this week in case "something happens" and we have to go to NY all of a sudden. Plus Soledad will go up on her own again soon, etc, etc...I hope to cobble a little response together Thursday morning maybe.

JP

Well, I hope it gives you some entertainment and distraction if nothing else. My lower back hurts. Do you think it's my kidneys? Have I Max Thursdayed myself? I'll begin by mentioning that I "blogged" about some of the more generic aspects of the trip, but I noticed one item on the "blog" that I should have saved for you. I listened to a married man trying to pick up a woman at the bar at Dan Tana's. I could have been a private eye in the employ of his wife! I sat there openly jotting everything he said into my notebook. It would be easy to be a detective. People just talk about anything right in front of you in a bar. I should have saved it for that "novel" I was going to write, but who cares? Now onto what I call "EEC" or "Elson Exclusive Content."

Sitting in a bar looking at a top shelf brand of something called "Great King." Great King! That must be some good stuff. I haven't looked it up. I assume it must be some kind of whiskey.

I took my friend Julia to a place claiming to be "the tallest restaurant west of the Mississippi." The view was something else! I got us a table right by the window. The food was just mediocre, and expensive. The waiter was condescending. I asked what kind of rye they had and he brought over a list and stood over my shoulder and said, "Pretty expensive, huh?" Ha ha! I began to notice that the clientele consisted almost entirely of old businessmen and their young, possibly paid, companions. Julia noted that the rest of the people in the restaurant were women who had dragged their husbands or boyfriends there. One woman was in a tube top! That's fine, I guess people wear tube tops, what do I know? It's her right to sit there eating curiously bland oysters and caviar poached in champagne and looking down over the city in her tube top. After dinner we sat on a couch near the bar and Julia narrated like a documentarian: "I like to watch women make their boyfriends take photos of them, then they look at the photo and always hate it." And she would accurately predict again and again what was going to happen as different women stood in the window getting their boyfriends to take their pictures.

Oh yes! It was after that that I stumbled back to the hotel and had a nightcap... and the man sitting at the bar next to me claimed to have been Johnny Carson's favorite NBC page... I think he pulled a thorn out of Johnny's paw... I wish I could recall the details, which I may have left you in a voice message, for that is the moment at which I called you at what turned out to be 2:30 AM EST, which we have discussed in a series of texts and voicemail messages. The next morning I got up late and rushed out the door and later that day I discovered I had missed not one but SIX belt loops. Ha ha! How does a person miss six belt loops? That's a real Max Thursday move.

I had some really good Manhattans. A bartender in Glendale knew how to make a Manhattan. A guy in Burbank wasn't so shabby, either. Meanwhile, at the Smokehouse, the Manhattans are just all right, but they win your respect by bringing out a sidecar with the extra booze in it. The woman who was bartending at the Peabody in Memphis on the night of my return made a great Manhattan. All the good Manhattans I had were made by bartenders who mixed them tenderly in crystal pitchers with ice, such as Bob Hope might have owned for the purpose, and poured them through strainers. I hate to tell you, but around here in Mississippi a lot of bartenders like to shake the fuck out of a Manhattan in a shaker, and it comes out kind of frothy and unsettling.

Bob Hope’s ashtray and coasters.

To my right at the Peabody bar sat a woman celebrating her 67th birthday and 47th wedding anniversary. She showed me a picture of a bear that had walked through her backyard in Florida.

To my left sat a younger guy who was in town with his wife to celebrate HER birthday. She had gone up to the room after a day of tourism and rather than joining her on her birthday, he opted to sit at the bar and drink "Jager bombs." He tried to buy me one, but I declined. I declined over and over until he gave up. Even I have my limits! The old woman leaned over to me and whispered, "You know that guy you're talking to is full of shit." I was surprised by her salty language! Plus I couldn't think of anything he had said that seemed odd or suspicious. "Oh, I'm so rich!" said the old woman in a sarcastic voice, imitating what she seemingly thought was the attitude of the young man on the other side of me. He hadn't said anything remotely like that. Then, apropos of nothing, she said of her husband and herself, "You might not like this, but we're Trump people." I said, "Well, you may be disappointed, but I don't feel like arguing about it." And she did seem kind of disappointed that I was too tired to argue with a stranger about Donald Trump.

OE

Have you ever had the NY steak Dabney Coleman at Dan Tana's?

JP

Not to my recollection, but I have had the Steak Sinatra at both Dan Tana's and The Smokehouse.

OE

I have a bad headache and cannot explain anything about how this came to be in your inbox: [Elson includes a link to a website called Silver Screen Suppers about NY steak Dabney Coleman.]

JP

This British asshole has no idea what food is.

I mean, he says the dish has to be named after this Columbo episode? What the hell? Obviously, it's something that Dabney Coleman ordered on a semi-regular basis. The staff at Dan Tana's wasn't watching Columbo every week, waiting to name a steak after somebody! They're busy! They have shit to do!

Watching this movie, streaming free on Amazon... I remember when it came out that it was sort of universally hated, but I'm laughing every one or two minutes at least... laughing hard, from the gut. I read interviews or articles where the writer/director/star compared himself, or someone compared him, to Jerry Lewis... I think he meant in just how much he wished to/succeeded in alienating the audience... you'll have to judge for yourself. I think you'll get it! It's called THE COLOR WHEEL. Free!

Huh. Well, I have finished the movie and can no longer recommend it with any moral certainty. Forget everything I said.

OE

Is this a recent movie in black and white? Because it got great user reviews on IMDB if it is.

JP

Yes, if you consider 2011 recent, which I believe you do, because I do, but everything seems recent to me. 1998 seems recent. It had an unsettling twist, like a dare to the viewer... or, "oh yeah, gramps? Are you enjoying this? Well what about THIS? Ha ha, that's right, suckers. I 'went there.' I hope I taught you a valuable lesson about enjoying movies. Please try to never enjoy another one... you never know when I'll strike again!"

OE

Did I tell you about that Psychological Testing I had done? Or did I just imagine I did?

JP

Where you saw the blank spaces where the pictures of your past lives were supposed to be?

OE

No. I am referring to ink blots and some kind of word game.

JP

No, but I've seen that in the movies. You say "pineapple" and the doctor looks concerned and scribbles something on a pad.

OE

The psychologist seemed to have a chip on her shoulder for some reason. I don't know why. Even during the interview a few weeks ago she was condescending. But - to the matter at hand - at one point during this grueling, 3-hour session in a very hot room, she showed me a book with words listed. And gave me instructions, something like, "tell me what it means to you,” or something like that. I guess I heard, "the first thing that comes into your head.” The first word was Apple. I said fruit. The next word was Glove. I said Fit. She looked over at me like I was some dumb hillbilly straight out of the Ozarks and said, in this really mocking tone, "A glove is an article of clothing you wear over the hand." I just stammered out some sort of explanation that I thought she wanted the first thing that came into my head, because I thought that's how 'mind-doctors' worked. "No", was all she said. After that it went okay until we got to Fortitude, and though I know what it means, I couldn't figure out how to define it, so I said 'Pass', and she said, "Let's move on." And we went to the next game. So I guess you only get one mistake at the word thingy. The whole day was like that. But the ink blots were really strange. We took a break after it, and after the break she wanted me to explain how I saw what I saw in the ink blots. She had made, or had already made (this may be normal, I don't know, but I was worried) photocopies of the inkblots, and was drawing all over them as I told her what I saw where. "Where do you see a heart?" "Right here. It's a sideways heart. See?" Scribble, circle, arrow.

I have a service, I guess that's what you call it, on my phone that transcribes voicemails into text so I don't actually have to listen to the voicemail. That's how lazy I am. When you called at 2a.m. I assumed you didn't leave a message because it read "Unable to transcribe this message,” which is what it usually says when someone doesn't leave a message. But when I clicked on it to delete it, the non-message was 35 seconds long. So I tapped play, and then I realized why it could not be transcribed. It was a message from Foster Brooks! I'm going to save it forever and play it whenever we are around anyone and you piss me off.

Next: the texting service isn't always accurate. That, or it's trying to write some pretty crazy/bad poetry, man. This is how it transcribed your voicemail from May 29 - which is absolutely nothing like the real message: "Yeah hey it's me. I yeah I was in a meeting yesterday when you called. Matter fact so that's why I couldn't answer the phone I just thought I'd try to call me now I don't know when it's good time to call is this better luck type of the story of a Crazy deal-drive in Richmond. Anyway it's gotta go to get official record yeah you said a lot of things like I was there with my first wife Dracula called this first wife Dracula and he's just kinda old old guy. He's the only part that opens at 6:00 AM at Memphis. Hello brother he had a lot of I got a lot of pretty good prayed about this guy alright bye." --- Beautiful and hip, baby.

I finally pooped in the box.

JP

Congrats on the box poop.

OE

I actually had a bit of performance anxiety while attempting it. The instructions are crazy and hilarious.

JP

Didn't you say there's a cartoon mascot who helps you along as you poop in the box? How do you want to end this thing? Poop box revelations? "The poop results came back!" That could be dramatic. I feel like maybe we should bring it back around to Max Thursday or Rory Zane. Maybe we could steal some diamonds or pearls. The hard thing about ending is that this is our normal life, and after we "end" the process, the process will continue, unseen by the world. I'm happy to say that we're pretty close reaching the length of a short novel by now... I say when you hit 50,000 words, that's novel territory. A friend of mine told me that TRUE GRIT is 50,000 words long. I don't know whether it's true. He was studying the structure pretty hard, though, because he wanted to model his own novel after its rhythms.

OE

Yeah, we could just keep going until I get the results. Then I'll let you know how I celebrate. Because I'm sure I'll be celebrating. The specimen was beautiful! Then the public will demand a sequel...to my specimen, I mean.

JP

I'll celebrate too! I'll call the mayor and get the whole town in on it.

OE

I'm a Performance Artist. Every trip to the loo is now a tax write off.

JP

I might be making this up but I think I saw part of a movie long ago in which part of the plot was a heist of a Bob Hope feces sample from a hospital... or was this just a dream I had? I feel that it didn't figure too prominently in the overall plot... I want to say it was a movie in which Vincent D'Onofrio played a gangster who didn't have a nose... kind of like Tycho Brahe! I remember a scene where he was eating breakfast... my friend Kelly Hogan used to go to her grandma's and enjoy a dish called "Brazen Eggs" when she was a kid... then one day she looked in the trash and saw a can of brains. She had been eating brains and eggs the whole time! Anyway, in this movie I am possibly imagining, or smushing together with another movie, or maybe one of these movies exist and the other doesn't... that's what Vincent D'Onofrio the noseless gangster eats for breakfast. Maybe.

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

OE

Okay. I think everything you wrote in the first half of your email is part of a dream, or perhaps part of an unfinished story you tried to write a long time ago. I do want to say, however, that stealing Bob Hope's poop, or corpse even, is a great idea. Cloning. Ditto Bing Crosby. Secretly raise the kids in the same neighborhood. See if they hit it off. That's just the first 5 minutes, of course. That's to hook 'em! Hahaha. I see men in lab coats sitting behind computer screens in a laundry van parked at the end of the street watching little Bob and Bing play - or not play!!! Ah, I should have worked today. The one time I went to Boy Scout camp they served us 'brains and eggs' for breakfast, but when one of us asked, they told us it was sausage and eggs, and that's what it tasted like. I had done something naughty and 'All American' the day before, so me and two other guys had to do all the dishes after breakfast, which included cleaning the industrial-size pots and pans that cooked the 'brains and eggs' - it sure looked like sausage. So thereafter, whenever someone mentioned 'brains and eggs', I just assumed the brains part was a synonym for sausage. "Brains and eggs, sir?" "Of course. Sounds yummy."

....here's my newest crazy idea. I'm almost done listing all the movies shown on TV in 1978 that starred the following:

John Wayne

Humphrey Bogart

Robert Mitchum

Bob Hope

Jerry Lewis

Elvis Presley

When I'm done, I'll look at the dates, and see how many overlap (shown on the same date - whatever). I'll watch those and have this character make some kind of connection. Cosmic? Psychic? Who knows? Who cares!!! I think that's a good mix of actors...It keeps my OCD happy.

JP

Not to throw a monkey wrench in your OCD but what about Zachary Scott?

OE

Hmmmmm.....it's got a Z and an S in it. Might work.

JP

I am attaching a 3:15 clip from the movie THE SALTON SEA (2002) in which they plan to steal Bob's stool sample. "He's fuckin' national treasure," one of the criminals observes.

OE

One night last week I came home from work and wasn't sleepy, or everyone was asleep and I felt like having a few drinks with John Wayne - probably the latter. Anyway, I watched HONDO. Two days later, same thing, only this time I guess I felt like watching children stranded in the wilderness. So I started watching DESPERATE SEARCH. As it happens so often on this big round put-on, Lee Aaker was in both!

JP

You can combine all three of your passions - John Wayne, people lost in the wilderness, and drinking scotch from the good folks at Teachers - with LEGEND OF THE LOST. I don't think Lee Aaker is in it, though. I don't even know who that is! Some punk I reckon. I was thinking about it, and I feel bad for calling the British guy who has a website that tells you whatever Columbo ate an "asshole who has no idea what food is." First of all, he wrote a Columbo cookbook! Second of all, it's bad to go around calling people names, especially well-meaning strangers. But his crackpot theories about the NY steak Dabney Coleman remain untenable, if that word means what I think it means. Anyway, I was drunk when I maligned him in such forceful language. I'm not drunk now (it's 8:30 in the morning, give me time) but I already feel bad for Lee Aaker. I'll probably google him and discover he had a tragic life. Her? Him.

OE

I think Lee Aaker made things alright for himself. Up there in the Big Bear Mountains. Alone.

JP

Yes, I read on Wikipedia that he's now a "special-needs ski instructor," which sounds like a fine and thoughtful pursuit.

Chapter Fifteen: Dickless Barefoot Farmer

Chapter Fifteen: Dickless Barefoot Farmer

JP

I was thinking about your poop and noticed that you never answered my question about the funny cartoon mascot who appeared on the poop box. Was he supposed to be a piece of poop? A poop container? A suppository? A toilet? My guesses could go on all day. I assume you have long since thrown out or recycled the outer container for your poop equipment, but a photo of the funny cartoon poop mascot would go a long way to giving me the complete picture I crave of you pooping in a box. Also! Poop Question #2. Did you receive the movie clip I sent, which proves that the scene I remembered of a Bob Hope poop heist was no mere delusion for a change? I am about to drive up to Memphis with Ace Atkins, which means a trip to Costco, or, as Ace thinks of it, Heaven. I've never seen him so happy. He's the king of Costco! "They have an excellent wine selection," he texted me moments ago. Anyway, I'll be sure to come up with some more poop questions for you as I roll along looking at the bleak countryside between here and Memphis.

OE

Here's the little guy! [Elson includes a link to a website called Cologuard Test.]

I like the idea of stealing the stool sample, but I'll pass on the movie. It doesn't look that good to me. At least from this clip.

JP

Looking at the stool sample mascot... he's the box! You poop in him! "Poop in me!" he seems to be saying. So! As I urgently texted you from the Costco parking lot, Ace brought up Billy Whiskers, the trouble-making goat who was the hero of the only book your father claims to have ever read. So I had just eaten some goat, barbecued, at a Mexican restaurant, and Ace joked that I had eaten Billy Whiskers. Turns out Ace once found a Billy Whiskers book in an antique shop and bought it for his son. But who could have guessed that knowledge of Billy Whiskers went beyond our small circle? Neither you nor I had heard of Billy Whiskers until your father's strange pronouncement. So! Costco has everything, as Ace continuously boasts, so I went up to someone who was working in the beverage section and asked for ginger ale. They don't have it! You can buy anything at Costco, even a coffin, but not ginger ale.

On the way home I heard news about the lake (have I mentioned that Ace lives on the other side of the lake?). One of the two swans died after a short illness, Ace reports. I feel bad for the swan that is left over. Also, there is a beaver infestation! I didn't know beavers were indigenous to this area. I've never thought about them. They've been going into people's yards and gnawing down their trees, which I don't see as a big deal. They're beavers! They gnaw down trees! That's what Starbuck says to Captain Ahab about Moby-Dick. What are you so fucking upset about? Yes, he bit off your leg. He's a fucking whale!

Here are two pix from Ace's Billy Whiskers book. I just thought of something else important but I already forgot it. Oh yeah! It's funny that you say "I'll pass" on the movie about stealing Bob Hope's stool sample, because that's just what Val Kilmer says at the very end of the clip!

Oops! I forgot to attach the pix (see message above).

Bought a bottle of Hennessy so big it could easily be used as a murder weapon. It might even be too big to murder with conveniently. It's so big I couldn't stop laughing. Theresa couldn't even stay mad about it, that's how absurdly big it is. We were trying to think of how to give sangria a little kick... we're having Ace and Angela and Bill and Katie over tomorrow night... Theresa wanted to make sangria... spontaneously we decided "cognac." Cognac, we spontaneously decided, would be something to put in sangria. At one point tonight Theresa was lying on the couch and I walked by and said "I'm going upstairs" and I was holding this mammoth bottle of Hennessy as a sight gag. It killed! The joke killed. This bottle of Hennessy looks like a prop in a Jerry Lewis movie.

Ace sends an article claiming that "Billy Whiskers" was a favorite book of JFK! He also says that the author, Frances Trego Montgomery, "died at sea in 1925 aboard the S.S. Franconia near Hong Kong while on an around-the-world cruise."

OE

On the cover Billy is white. The second photo portrays Billy as blue. Also, it could be either the bossy clown or the dickless, barefoot farmer who is speaking on the second page.

Thanks to Ace we may finally be getting to the bottom of the decades-old mystery of "Where is that lady who wrote that goat book?" She died on a boat, and because boat rhymes with goat, I'm sure a nursery rhyme commemorating her passing will come out of all this. I have uncovered more! This Mystic Seaport website [Elson includes a link] has a lot of information about what I believe must have been that very same "around-the-world cruise.” Not sure why I put that in quotes. Click on the link. At the bottom of the page you'll notice the site boasts of a diary written by a nurse! Surely this nurse would have more details regarding Ms. Montgomery's death. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to read the damned diary. We may have to make a road trip to Mystic, CT, which isn't far. I may be able to think more clearly after another cup of coffee.

There's also this, from the NYTs archives 6/25/04:

Billy Whiskers Series

Frances Trego Montgomery, the well-known writer of juveniles, is bringing out through the Saalfield Publishing Company of Akron, Ohio, "Billy Whiskers, Jr." and "On a Lark to the Planets.”

I wonder if you should feel sorry for the remaining swan...or suspicious of it? Put it under the hot lights. "It's a shame if we had to hang you by that long, pretty neck, baby."

My grandfather had a pond and he hated the beavers that used to build dams there. He would go to one side of the pond and smash up the dams whenever they built one. I don't know why. How could a dam hurt a pond? It's not like it's flowing anywhere. I should ask my dad. But I'd rather not.

I don't want to get too far off topic here, but I was in an Elvis mood yesterday so I watched the first free Elvis movie that popped up on Prime, which was GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!. I began with high hopes...Hal Wallis and Norman Taurog were involved, after all, but the damned thing took forever to get started. I won't go on, I'm sure you've seen it, and now I've got to finish it, but my primary complaint is that there are only 2 girls in the movie! The title makes it seem like we're going to be treated to this smorgasbord of beauties - which we're not. Maybe the two female leads get into a fight in the final act. I'll have to see.

I forgot to tell you about this dream I had during my nap yesterday. I woke up from a nap about 1:30 yesterday after having a dream where I was in a terminal. It was a cross between a bus terminal and an airport terminal. I was waiting for a flight, but you could see the street, stop light, and the terminal was on a busy corner, and I thought to myself, "they’re going to have a hard time pushing this flight out of this gate. It's a really busy intersection." I waited on a bench and there was an old lady next to me sitting really close, and nothing happened for a while so I got up to stretch my legs. As I did, I could sense the old woman shift, kind of slide or move behind me. But I went over to the large glass doors and windows looking out over the street, and suddenly a hand touched my right arm and a voice said, "Excuse me." It was the old lady. "Where are we going? We should go somewhere. Just you and me." She was leaning into me and was either drunk, or just kind of doddering(?)/senile. There were some women nearby, smiling at me, like "look what you've gotten yourself into." And I was embarrassed. One of the other women nearby asked the old woman if she wanted something to drink. There were Styrofoam cups nearby. I agreed that was an excellent idea. So I took a cup and walked her over to a table where there was a dispenser for hot water and those little packets of Swiss Miss hot chocolate. I made her one and asked if it was okay. She said yes. I said, "You know I'm married." She: "I was married once. But I strangled him to death." Me: "How did you get away with it?" She: "My nephew took the blame. Sweet Eddie. He's a senator so he didn't get into trouble." Me: "What's his last name?" She: "Ford". I looked behind us and a long line had formed for the hot water. I turned back and looked again and the line had gone.

NOW....5 hours later - 6:30pm, at the grocery store. I buy a bunch of groceries and get in a long line. I'm there for a few minutes and move up a couple of people before I realize I didn't get milk or cereal. There's no point in going if you don't do those two things. So I give up my spot, get the milk and cereal and come back. The lines not as long. I check out, which still takes a while. When I'm done, I grab the cart full of bagged groceries and head toward the front of the store, which is a glass wall and glass door looking onto a parking lot. Someone touches my right arm and says excuse me. It's a young woman. She says, "Are you a writer?" I don't know what to say to her, or how to answer that question, really. So she fills in the gap with, "Or an artist? Because I feel like I've seen you somewhere." I just said, "I don't think you'd know me." She just said sorry to bother you and went on. It was only later that I realized that was just like the dream. Run that by Valencia and see what comes out the Valenciometer.

So now that I'm broke, I will have to work a lot and become un-broke. So I will have less to type. I will need to work on my days off, which is where the money is. It's exhausting, but that's what has to be done. I will do what I can for the team, whatever that means.

JP

Don't worry about anything. Just let me know about your poop results. And ask your dad about the beavers. Theresa almost ran over something the other day, some animal that was crossing the road, and we couldn't figure out what it was. Maybe it was a beaver! How exciting. While you're at it, ask your dad which Billy Whiskers book he read. There are so many! It's weird that he only read one of them. I guess Billy Whiskers didn't do it for him. Billy Whiskers put him off books forever!

Oh! Just for clarification... the part at the grocery store was waking life, right? I know I read that correctly. Maybe that young woman thought you were Freddie Roach, the boxing trainer whom you exactly resemble.

Hmm! I don't get any hits at all for Frances Trego Montgomery in the NYT archives. I was trying to figure out what you meant by 6/25/04, because 2004 is far too late and 1904 seems too early.

OE

1904...page 435. In the 'Books' section I suppose, because there's a whole lot of other stuff about books on that page, including Prof. Wiener's new edition of Tolstoy. Hahaha. That made me laugh.

JP

I don't know why, but that's the heartiest laugh I've had in a long time.

OE

The grocery store was waking life, and the fact that she leaned into me when she asked the question, just like the old woman did, is weird. But, yes, she may have thought I was Freddy Roach, but I don't think we look exactly alike any more. Maybe.

JP

I was kidding about Freddie Roach, though you do look like him, or did. Hmm! Maybe you just give off a glow.

I just use the search bar they have at the top of their webpage. I wonder why Frances Trego Montgomery doesn't pop up when I do it that way. What is the NYT hiding about Frances Trego Montgomery, creator of Billy Whiskers?

PS I searched for Billy Whiskers and it popped right up. I'm an idiot. Billy Whiskers has surpassed his creator. Frances Trego Montgomery died on a boat but Billy Whiskers lives forever.

PPS The more I think about it, the young woman was an angel or a ghost or a stalker or a detective or somebody you knew in a past life... or a tulpa! A tulpa! Are you at work right now? I bet it's fun to get pointless emails from me while you're trying to work. Asking you how to use a search engine. You don't want to ask your father about the beavers but I'm worse than your father!

PPPS I'm going to go downstairs and tell Theresa maybe it was a beaver she almost ran over! Wow! She's going to be so excited!

OE

Well? Was she mortified? Or....the opposite? Whatever that word is. I am going to try to contact the Mystic Maritime Museum to see if I can access that diary.

JP

She did stop the car and get out to check on the one living swan this morning. She said it was just bobbing there with its head under the water. I said it was probably catching something to eat. She said it raised its head and seemed fine, then she laughed, because what, she rhetorically asked, did she think she was going to do if the swan was in some kind of distress? Swim out there and shake it?

An old-fashioned at Dan Tana’s.

I was thinking about how I sat there at Dan Tana's with an old-fashioned in front of me and a guy sat next to me at the bar and nodded at my old-fashioned and told the bartender HE'D have an old-fashioned, and for some reason I said, "Mine has rye in it." I said it because... I had requested rye... and I guess from the way he looked at my old-fashioned I thought he wanted one just like mine, ha ha! And so I said, helpfully, "Mine has rye in it," and he replied in a truly scathing tone, "Yeah, that's how they're made." Like, "Thanks for nothing, worm." He didn't say that part. I probably blushed! I said... "Oh! I... didn't know..." and then I stared into my old-fashioned.

OE

So...the bartender was probably thinking the same thing after you ordered. "Why is this rube telling me how to make an old fashioned? I know my business!"

JP

I see, you're taking their side.

OE

Not at all. I usually stay away from things like an old-fashioned or a Manhattan, etc, and just stick with scotch or bourbon and water. Not even ice if I can get it through somebody's head that I want it that way. It's why I don't like going anywhere. Nobody ever gets anything right. So I admire your adventurous spirit - yep, adventurous.

JP

I see what you're saying, I'm a piece of shit.

OE

Yes.

JP

I get what you're driving at, I should go piss up a rope.

OE

Basically, why not order just bourbon and water? Why be a pussy and order a Manhattan, which was made up by a woman in a fancy hat at a party a long time ago?

JP

I like bourbon on the rocks. And the ice melts and then it's bourbon and water. The other night at a Holiday Inn in Burbank my friend was having a whiskey and soda so I had one too. It was pretty good. When I was on a grand jury, a guy was bragging about drinking Jack and Coke. "And sometimes..." he set us up for a big reveal... "sometimes I drink bourbon JUST WITH ICE!" He said it like we were all supposed to faint. His point was that he didn't see why the kids do the drugs and such when they could just have a Jack and Coke. He was a lot younger than me.

OE

Why would you waste Jack Daniels mixing it with Coke. Not that it's the greatest ever, but it doesn't need Coke.

JP

He was just a cheerful, loud, rich frat dude gone to seed, and I say that with no disrespect, just yelling about Jack and Coke and having a good time on the grand jury. I bet he cooks out a lot!

OE

There's nothing wrong with cooking out.

JP

I know! I just bet he does it a lot. I bet he has a nice yard. Mm, now I'm getting hungry! Why didn't we become friends after the grand jury? I could be eating a burger with that guy right now. Swatting mosquitoes and having a ball.

OE

....watching bugs hit the bug zapper! That was always a lot of fun in my youth.

JP

Ha ha! The automatic suggested answers are "I'm glad you had a good day. Glad you're having a good day! Sounds like a good day."

OE

Those are all the same. Or is that the point you're making?

JP

I don't know what point I'm making.

Maybe I just think it's funny to imagine somebody saying, "When I was a kid I used to enjoy watching bugs getting killed by a bug zapper," and then I say, "Glad you had a good day!" Ha ha ha! It's making me laugh now. "I'm glad you had a good day forty-five years ago!"

OE

Finished GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!. I can never tell if movies like that get better as they go along, or my expectations drop and I meet them halfway, or I just turn into a brain-dead blob about the 60-minute mark and am game for anything.

Chapter Sixteen: The Golden Age of the Awesome Baked Potato

Chapter Sixteen: The Golden Age of the Awesome Baked Potato

JP

I wonder what year it was. I feel like you lived on a nice, grassy hill. And we went out to your garage and picked up the lid of the barbecue grill and there was a venomous snake, maybe a rattlesnake, coiled under there. Or was it a nice snake? I have a feeling you killed the snake with a shovel. Or maybe we just waited for it to leave? You know, it occurs to me that I have very little grasp on this story, or on anything.

OE

We lived in the country? In an old house with a tin roof? I remember that, but don't remember you being there for it. That snake scared the shit out of me. My memory is that I left the garage for a bit, then went back, intending to kill it, but it was gone. And I think that was even more creepy.

JP

Yes, that's right. I was there for it. I remember sitting there thinking, "I'm going to write a novel and describe this grass!" Ha ha, I had big dreams. I recall it as a very pleasant place. I think I started writing a story about a dog coming up to the house with a human hand in its mouth, but I ran out of ideas after that.

OE

I remember you were there now. That was the golden age of the awesome baked potato. Also, one day I went into the attic of that house and found a snake skin! A snake had recently shed its skin up there! I guess it had been recent, I didn't have any way to know, except that it was all in one piece.

JP

Oh yeah! Your special baked potato! Incredible. I told everybody back home about your baked potato.

Ace came over last night. He agreed with Theresa that the lone swan is looking depressed. He said it looked kind of slumped over. Angela wanted to raise money in the neighborhood to buy a swan friend for the swan, but people have told her swans shouldn't live in this part of Mississippi anyway (?), and the swan should be relocated. It seems that the people who bought the swans in the first place moved away some time ago. I think I have that right. The dead swan had its foot caught in some fishing line and never received proper medical treatment, Ace thinks. Abandoned swans, what a world.

This is the kind of stuff you like! For no reason whatsoever, I started associating Frances Trego Montgomery with a woman named Alexandra David-Neel... well, I think I know the reason. It was this business about dying shipboard near Hong Kong... and looking at a photo of her... for some reason I imagined her hanging out with Alexandra David-Neel, who went to Tibet... I can't remember when... fairly early in the twentieth century, I think... and wrote a couple of books about it that I've read. So then I had a brief, vague idea of a story about these two very different women hanging out on a ship, both with literary aspirations... one the popular author of Billy Whiskers... Jesus Christ! I'm boring myself just by typing this. But! I thought... I'm not going to bother Ogden or Ace with this, it's stupid. That was yesterday. Then today I'm reading in the NYT about the revival of an opera I didn't know existed. It's called ATLAS and it's about... Alexandra David-Neel! I just looked up both of their birth years... David-Neel was born ten years after Frances Trego Montgomery... 1868 and 1858 respectively. And Alexandra David-Neel lived until 1969! So she had better luck than poor old Frances Trego Montgomery. Wait! There's more.

This is off the subject, but I've been going through the material we've accumulated so far, and I notice how upset my mother was about her neighbors killing and cooking a goat... I had forgotten all about that, which occurred very early in our conversation, and then I ate goat on Friday! What does it mean? Is that some sort of passive-aggressive act rooted in... aw, fuck it. But I expect more patterns will emerge.

Hey! I think there's blood in my stool! I wouldn't ordinarily mention it, but what if I go to the doctor and he makes me shit in a box too? That would be a great ending for our piece. Finally, we'd be national heroes. Ace is really into this Billy Whiskers research now. He says he'd totally go to that maritime museum and investigate the death of Frances Trego Montgomery. He wants to write a book about it, called BON VOYAGE, BILLY WHISKERS. He also found a book called BILLY WHISKERS DOWN SOUTH (or something like that) which is straight-up racist shit, as you can imagine. I read a little bit of it online... it starts with a kid called Dick Strongarm, which the author explains is his nickname because he has strong arms. Ha ha, that's some lazy shit, Frances Trego Montgomery.

OE

Alexandra had a child, Albert Arthur Yongden. Born 12/25/1899. That's all I got so far.

JP

Your dog's name is Albert. It's all coming together. Oh! And do you remember when I said the young woman who touched your arm in the grocery store was probably a tulpa? I learned of tulpas from the writing of Alexandra David-Neel!

OE

Ha! You said the book starts with a 'kid'. Anyway, my fantasy is that FTM dies from food poisoning from eating bad goat meat. Or poisoned goat meat. I think that's a good idea, to at least contact the museum. Ace has more clout. I think if he lets them know who he is and what he might be up to, they would probably simply scan the diary and email it to him.

Blood in the stool is normal, especially if you've been using a thick, veiny dildo in your ass every day.

JP

I'll send Ace the message. About the dildo. Ha ha, not really. About the diary. The Billy Whiskers dialogue is just terrible, but it's so terrible that some of it is transcendent. For example, "Yes, I see the goats, but what is there wonderful in seeing two goats in Biloxi, where goats can be seen on every street any day of the year?"

OE

That dialogue sounds almost as if it comes straight out of The Bible.

JP

The Gospel According to Billy Whiskers.

OE

I had to look up tulpa. So I imagined this chick in the grocery store? Awesome. The possibilities are mind-boggling!

JP

Here's something I just thought of. I checked, and of course there are real people named Rory Zane. I guess we should make it extra clear that "Rory Zane" is just a name you made up, and doesn't refer to any of the actual Rory Zanes out there. The most prominent Rory Zane appears to be one Rory Zane Ross, which is not the same... he has a GoFundMe page where you can help him buy a car. He's an actor, I think? I didn't pay much attention, but he needs the car to get around in Los Angeles. I assume he's much younger than us... an actor who needs a car... I don't know why that has a young sound to it... so of course he couldn't have gone to high school with us... if he is indeed the youthful hothead I am picturing. Ha ha! Why a hothead? Yeah. Anyway.

OE

I got pissed off at a customer at work tonight and thought to myself, "I'm going to send that guy to Billy Whisker's locker." I made myself laugh.

JP

I never imagined you dealing much with the customers. I guess my fantasy is all askew.

OE

I don't have to deal with customers too often. Every day, yes. But not too much every day, if that makes sense. You know when you walk down the jet bridge and there's a guy down there waiting to take whatever bag you need checked at the last minute because the overhead is full, or because you were too cheap to check? Sometimes that's me. We take turns doing that, because customers suck. "Can you be careful with this? It's a Ralph Lauren bag..." I usually don't even let them finish the sentence before I throw it down the chute in the rain and then turn around and look at them...ah, don't get me started. I have to go to work now.

JP

Chuck one for me!

OE

My pleasure!

JP

We went to eat and I saw two houseflies humping on a table in the restaurant. Then we went to Walmart because I need some new earbuds, but they didn't have the kind I needed, anyway we got some cat food and stood in line behind a kid who was clearly underage using a fake ID to buy alcohol. The other stuff he had was stuff a kid would eat... Fritos, Chips Ahoy, Kool-Aid. This kid could be the Rory Zane for a new generation.

OE

I have been watching this TV show called "Atypical" on Netflix...Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Rapaport...there's a great character on the show named Zahid. I can't remember when Zahid shows up...which episode. It's like a super sleazy 11th grader took some Dean Martin pills...but that's not right either.

Zahid.

JP

This gives me an idea for a movie no one would enjoy: TEEN DEAN. A typical high school student breaks into his parents' liquor cabinet and drinks a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black that his dad bought from at auction from Dean Martin's estate. Little does he know that the scotch contains Dean Martin's ghost!

OE

That's the greatest idea I've ever heard. Why hasn't one of us (or anyone?) ever thought of that before? So do you mean Dean Martin comes out, like in I DREAM OF JEANNIE? Or does the liquor contain some kind of magic, that the teen must come back to as in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR?

JP

I imagined he would be possessed by the spirit of Dean Martin... but I also like the idea of Dean Martin as a helpful imp who lives in a bottle. This is the deadest idea anyone has ever come up with.

I heard an owl last night. In other bird related matters, something unscrewed the lid on top of our bird feeder. What could have enough intelligence and dexterity and hunger for birdseed to do that? Surely a squirrel couldn't be that smart. Crows are highly intelligent and some have been observed to use tools, fashioning the ends of twigs into hooks with which to dig grubs out of trees. But I don't see a couple of them working together to unscrew a lid.

OE

What about that swan? But I vote for the squirrels. They are devious motherfuckers.

JP

Devious but they don't seem bright. Didn't your dad eat squirrel brains as a boy? If that's not true I have no idea where I came up with it.

OE

My dad ate squirrels. All of it. He would shoot them before school, and his mother would have them fried up on a plate when he got home.

JP

My dad did much the same. He said that his grandmother ate the brains, but he would not. His grandmother alone among the family would eat the brains. He said that young squirrels were good for frying but an older squirrel would have to be simmered and stewed for a long time to make gravy.

OE

How would she cook the brains?

JP

I don't know! I have a strange memory of you telling me how your dad cooked squirrel brains... vaguely I recall you using the word "popcorn."

OE

Hmmmmm...that doesn't ring a bell. I'll have to ask him about it again.

JP

Here's a pic of the cat sitting behind a small television while TJ Hooker is on.

OE

Still uncertain why Dino in a bottle is a bad idea. Drinking is cool, right? Maybe the guy is going through DTs? Does that make it better for you? There's gotta be a way to make this a good idea. What if you forget about the liquor bottle? It becomes a lot less fun...and more stupid. Unless he plays a record. No, that's stupid too. An old movie? Okay...you win.

JP

The problem with the idea, for starters, is Dean Martin. Nobody in a desirable demographic cares about Dean Martin or even knows who he is. You'd have to spend the first fifteen minutes of the movie explaining Dean Martin, and no one would care.

As we move into the final phase... of life! Ha ha. I was wondering how to wrap it all up. Maybe the day your poop results come back you celebrate by eating your favorite meal and watching Guilty Bystander on YouTube, having only read the book up until this point. Then you offer some closing thoughts.

OE

I like that. And I can eat everything bad for my beautiful colon while I'm watching. We could publish it with an accompanying "Celebrate the Colon Cookbook.” But what if the test comes back negative (cartoon box w/sad face)? Then I have to have a colonoscopy, in theory, which I think I will put off for as long as possible. Then where will this precious project be!?!? In the toilet!!! Pun intended.

JP

I ate Popeyes fried chicken after my colonoscopy.

OE

The biggest problem with a colonoscopy is that 2 people in my family have died as a result of a colonoscopy. So I'm not really eager to get one unless I have symptoms that say I really need to get one.

JP

Did they die from the procedure, or from what the procedure discovered? I'm curious, because it has always been presented to me as a safe procedure.

OE

From lacerations caused by the procedure. It's too common for my liking. I asked the doctor the last time I was scheduled to have one (3 years ago?) if he had ever lost a patient, and he said 3. I went ahead and had the procedure, but it was the last time I am going to have one unless it's apparent something is wrong.

JP

What the fuck! They told me it was a walk in the park.

Chapter Seventeen: A Bunch of Punks Looking For Trouble

Chapter Seventeen: A Bunch of Punks Looking For Trouble

OE

Just loaded 2 gallons of this. I like that it has a website.

JP

For the record, you have sent me a photograph of a container of holy water. I can read "HOLY WATER" but I can't make out the image at the center of the logo. Is that a person's face? It would be funny if every wholesale jug of holy water had the face of the person who blessed it on the label.

OE

I couldn't make out the image either. Whether it was a face or a symbol or what...it looked like it had been printed with too much ink and therefore been made too blurry...maybe.

JP

That sounds symbolic, but of what I can't figure out. Hey! How come you're all, "I don't want to ask my father about the beavers," and then you're all like, "I can't wait to ask my dad about eating squirrel brains!"? I paraphrase loosely.

OE

Because I’m mysterious.

Go on the website and see what the image is. May be the devil. Or Dean Martin.

JP

I was just going to ask you what the web address was. I can't see that either. My left eye is getting pretty bad again. Yeah! Mortality! Theresa has a weird pain in her hands.

OE

[Elson includes the web address.] That address makes no sense. Can't you enlarge photos on your computer? Or could you still not see it?

JP

I made a half-assed attempt to enlarge it and when it didn't work I said fuck it. All right! My investigation is underway. I have some friends coming into town and I might have to go Max Thursday it up before I can report back.

OE

Hey! The website says if you have an eye problem you can go to Louisville and drink the water or squirt it in your face, I guess, and you will be cured!

JP

I'm not an expert, but when I click on the website, it seems to be written in what I think is Glagolitic script. It might not be that, but it reminds me of it. Did you see a button for translating the website? Or am I just getting it in Glagolitic script (if that's what it is) because I'm so lucky?

I just looked it up, and it's not Glagolitic script. I'm seeing the website in Amharic. Ha ha, oh boy, this is what I'm doing when some people might be waiting for me at the bar.

OE

There's not a translate button on my phone. Only on my computer. At the bottom of the page, there is a link that, when clicked on, is in English.

When you say you are going to get Max Thursday'd, do you mean 'get drunk'?

JP

No, I mean I went out and smashed up a ring of pearl smugglers!

OE

If I told you I was alone and getting Rory Zaned, what would you think? And please be as explicit as possible.

JP

Hey I just realized that yesterday was Thursday.

OE

...and you were loaded to the Max???? You're up bright and early, Sunshine! Max also recovered his son, mended fences with his estranged wife, exposed a criminal kingpin hidden in plain sight, and landed himself what is likely an underage plaything to boot. Not bad for 200 pages or less.

JP

Some guys from the sewage department are out there digging up our yard, so that's pleasant.

Last night somebody said to me, "Hey, Jack! You wanna try... blow?" It was like I was on an episode of TJ Hooker! I said, "Yeah, that sounds like a great idea, let me get started on that at 56 years of age. No thanks!"

OE

You sure they were talking about cocaine? Hey, go out and talk to those guys in your yard like an old man would. Ask them if they know anything about swans. Tell them your sausage is an unusual shade of pink.

I hate starting a movie that's kind of lame, because I have to see it through. Such is the case with RIO LOBO. Sometimes John Wayne doesn't even sound like John Wayne, or look like himself. Weird. When I'm watching it I keep thinking how it should be done. Also, I'm sitting in the breakroom next some guy who won't stop asking another guy (who is from New Orleans) about alligators. He is fascinated by the "what ifs"..."for example, let's say I'm in my yard. Will a gator just come up? How close to the swamp do I have to be? How big are the baby gators?" On and on...now he's asking about the color of the gator...he doesn't even want to be near them on a boat! He's not scared about drowning, he's scared about what happens with the gators after he drowns! "You won't catch my ass out there. What happens if the boat sinks?" Jesus. This guy.

JP

Ha ha! Well, let me ask you this. Do you never stop watching a movie in the middle? I seem to recall that you and I walked out of VACATION in Dallas, Texas, in 1983. And what year(s) did you come back to Mobile for a while? Because I have a memory of walking out of both TEACHERS (1984) and THE WILD LIFE (1984) with somebody... you, I think.

OE

I remember walking out of the first two. But WILD LIFE doesn't ring a bell....but back to the gators. Why would you need to ask what color they are? Then he went on to talk about the horrors of a glass bottom boat!

JP

Ha ha ha! I've never wished more that I could be somewhere. I'm sorry I missed this guy. To play devil's advocate, I guess a glass bottom boat could be scary. Aren't there transparent bridges over great chasms or is that something I dreamed? I don't want to look down and see the sky or the deep, deep ocean, maybe. Before I went to that tall restaurant, I told my friend Cole Sanchez about it and he said something like, "What if you freak out?" Then he suggested I might panic and smash my fists through the window, which made me laugh, and then also made me think, yes, what if I do that?

At the Holiday Inn in Burbank on karaoke night I had a whiskey and soda because that's what my friend Adam was having. I'm sure it was just the well whiskey, whatever that was. Well, it tasted good, maybe because I was in a good mood. So last night when I met my friends at the bar I asked for a whiskey and soda, because it seemed to me that nothing could be more delightful, and the soda was flat! Another disappointment in a life filled with them.

OE

I've never in my life had a whiskey with soda, mainly because it sounds like the worst thing in the world to do to a whiskey of any caliber. I also don't understand why I always spell whiskey without the 'e' unless autocorrect corrects me. I also constantly spell with 'withe' for some reason. On a different subject, Zahid, from that show ATYPICAL, has a sign above his bedroom door that says "Love Lab.”

JP

I just remembered something funny that happened yesterday. I had lunch with Tom Franklin, and as we were walking back to the car, we ran into a guy whom we both SORT OF know, and someone he had with him, who was a complete stranger from out of town. First they told Tom they liked his shirt, but they didn't tell me they liked my shirt. Ha ha, that's not the funny part. Tom was wearing a nice shirt. Then the guy I don't really know told me I should come meet him for drinks later, which I had no intention of doing, I don't even know him, but I said, "Hmm, I'll have to see what's going on at home." Then the stranger, whom I had met literally a matter of seconds before, and will probably never meet again, said gruffly, "Hey, man, when someone offers you a good time you should always take it." Ha ha ha! I was thinking, this guy doesn't know me, how does he even know I enjoy having a good time?

OE

He sounds a little too desperate for a date right now. And I'm sure your shirt was fine. What was Tom's reaction and how did it make you feel? What do you think Rory Zane would do? He probably would have gone to the bar, so never mind.

JP

Zane (your version) would've given the guy a beatdown right there in the street! No, my shirt was nothing to write home about. I can't fault them for enjoying Tom's paisley shirt. I believe Tom's reaction was polite and mild. Anyway, I don't know how we made Rory Zane such an outlaw. He was skinny and had a hole in his chest where his heart was supposed to be. Maybe that's what made him so scrappy (your version)! He was like "A Boy Named Sue" in the Johnny Cash song of the same title. He was like one of the Li'l Rascals. "Just 'cause I got a hole in my chest don't mean I can't swipe apples!"

Did you finish RIO LOBO?

OE

Not yet. Will watch more tonight. Gonna Zane in the middle stall then read some of that comic you recommended since I have a little time.

JP

Happy Father's Day! Any special plans? Hey, I was just reading some online chat forum where people go to reminisce about Mobile, Alabama, in the 60s-80s. It's really boring! It's so boring that I love it. I could read it all day and maybe I will. One guy just cuts and pastes an email from his friend, introducing characters we know nothing about... "Remember that record store? Fletcher used to work there!" Ha ha, oh boy, it's exactly like what we're doing and it convinces me once more of its complete validity. "Everyone has mentioned the Woolworth's which had great hot dogs." This is the kind of content I crave! Now I want to think of a city where I've never been and find a website where people reminisce about being there in the 1980s. One woman lists every store she can think of that was in Mobile during her childhood... hundreds, I think, in a single post! And then at the bottom of the post she says, "This has nothing to do with Mobile, but do you remember a shampoo called Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific? I loved it and wish they still made it." That comes out of left field! No, I can see how she got there. It's a funny way to end a list of hundreds of stores.

PS Now I'm reading about Des Moines! Living my dream. I haven't found the Des Moines nostalgia part yet, but I'm really looking forward to it. I've never been to Des Moines, which is key, I feel, as I mentioned above. Anyway, here's something I just read. "We went to The Cheesecake Factory in West Des Moines and that whole business area was beautiful. Huge lake in the middle and a nice sidewalk around it. But the point of this thread is to just say that I was expecting Des Moines to be just a sucky mid-size city with nothing to see or do, but it seemed pretty nice!"

Someone is trying to remember a defunct Italian restaurant on the Southside of Des Moines, and some guy (who appears to be wrong, according to my rapidly growing knowledge of Des Moines) says, "I think you may be thinking of a restaurant called 'LaRosa's' on the corner of SW 9th and Davis, which would be across from MacRae park's southeast boarder [sic]. I ate there one time in the early 90's and it wasn't very good." What a bit of unnecessary shade! Oh, sweet poetry. This is the future of art. Or I should say that it makes art obsolete.

OE

This is amazing! What made you pick Des Moines?

JP

There was some sort of interactive map on the website, at the bottom of the page, and I fumbled around with it and accidentally landed in Iowa. For some reason it depressed the hell out of me to read people pining about Dipper Dan's ice cream in Bel Air Mall in Mobile but it thrills me to read about when the library was temporarily moved into the Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines. "Funny, I really never think to go to Kohls. The times I do I don't find anything," says one commenter. This is what I'm doing with the rest of my life!

"Well....I'm not the expert, but from my vantage point in the cheap seats it appears to me that the key to receiving the full Kohl's lovin' is all about going there often (weekly....minimum), not sporatically." [Sic.] This is a follow-up to my response above, in case you missed it. I swear to God, I'm starting to think they're talking in some elaborate code. What if this is a nest of spies?

Here is the greatest sentence yet about the Merle Hay Mall: "The last few times I was there to shop or go bowling it was full of a bunch of punks looking for trouble."

PS one nostalgic fellow lists Merle Hay Mall as the first place he went on a date with a cute girl, the first place he "knew people in a really HUGE fire" (!) and, anticlimactically, after that (which was not explained further), the first place he got a free piece of chocolate.

He refers to the mall as “the old gal.”

OE

Hahaha…. Alright! This sounds like the greatest Father's Day present ever! I'm going to save it for work. Right now I'm going to take a short nap before I have to get ready. I want to be fully alert so I can look up St. Louis on that website.

JP

I’ve been to St. Louis once, so it doesn’t hold the same magic for me.

A second person on this thread also refers to the mall in feminine terms! "I no longer live there but my family is still there and I visit once or twice per year and always make a point of visiting the ol' mall just to see how she is doing. Each year it gets sadder and sadder...."

Holy moly! Talk about an omen! Somebody asked what makes Des Moines great and somehow the discussion became derailed and turned into a bunch of stuff about which grocery store is the best... and someone disses the major Iowa chains in favor of something called Schnuck's, which he or she calls "a St. Louis-based chain." St. Louis! You mention it and then it comes up out of nowhere. Oh, and I forgot to tell you I'm reading a biography of Mel Brooks and in the late 60s and/or early 70s, he was the spokesman for Teacher's scotch.

I’m too excited to click on this! [Screenshot: “Any place in Des Moines that sells blocks of ice?”]

Oooooooh, now I'm in a deep, ugly vein of Des Moines boosterism vs. Des Moines discontent! It's a bloody free-for-all! No one is going to come out of this a winner! I can't turn my face away from it. Sorry I'm bombarding you, but there are so many choice nuggets! Like, why did this guy decide to get in on the thread? "I've never been to Iowa. I've always been interested in seeing the state after having seen a movie that takes place in it (which was actually filmed in Texas but still)." He's always wanted to go to Iowa because he saw a movie about Iowa that was filmed in Texas!

OE

Hahaha...that is my favorite! This guy is the loneliest man alive!

JP

Dig this gem of sarcasm from a disgruntled Des Moines resident, answering inquiries from someone who is thinking of moving to the area: "Beaverdale definitely offers an urban experience that very few places in the US can rival." I don't know anything about Beaverdale, but as a standalone sentence it's a masterpiece.

OE

When I'm on that site on my phone, and I have to click on something else, the site disappears for some reason. Annoying.

JP

Hmm! I've been on it all day and now I have a splitting headache. It seems that the woman who moderates the Des Moines forum moved to Phoenix! She loves Des Moines but can't take the winters. She wants to live somewhere it's hot all year long. I skip around so much, I have no idea what year I'm in... I think she moved seven years ago in "real life." But time has no meaning to me anymore! Oh, Des Moines. The site isn't ideal to navigate. I rely on my search history to get somewhere in fewer steps. Probably won't work on your phone. I'm starting to know the personalities of all the main posters! I really should take a break, I feel like I'm going crazy.

This one guy came back for a visit and found that the pipe store at the mall is going out of business. He draws a lot of conclusions about that and everybody gets angry with him.

OE

Hahahaha....hilarious.

The headline on cnn.com is about Des Moines!

JP

Oh no, it’s a terrible story.

OE

Yes, but what are the odds?

JP

In lighter news, I just found the Des Moines Register's list of 50 best restaurants in Des Moines.

OE

How big is Des Moines?

JP

This might be wrong, and they might be figures from 2012 or some similar year, but I want to say a population of 200,000, with 500,000 if you count the suburbs and surrounding area. Ha ha ha ha ha ha! I can't believe I have an answer. But I really did read it all day.

Chapter Eighteen: Tight Jeans and Cowboy Boots

Chapter Eighteen: Tight Jeans and Cowboy Boots

OE

Isn't Leslie from Des Moines? Or am I thinking of someone from graduate school who was from some farm state?

JP

Leslie went to school in Iowa City but she’s from Atlanta.

OE

Yeah, I remember now that this girl in grad school grew up on a farm outside Des Moines...and she wasn't Leslie. I bet Iowa City is a weird place. Did you look that up? I'm off tomorrow, so I will have more to say - mainly about a coffee cup and movie research.

JP

Now I'm intrigued! About your coffee cup. Hey! So last night I was on the internet reading a woman's musings. She was visiting Yankton, South Dakota, and had stopped at a pizza place, the menu of which she reproduced in part. There was a beef and crab pizza named after Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. I don't know why it made me laugh so hard. Beef and crab pizza! I thought, "This makes me think of Des Moines, somehow. I'm going to tell Ogden about it." Then I turned off the computer and watched a show on TV... which included a scene set at the Yankton Federal Prison in South Dakota! The end.

OE

I can't really talk to you about the coffee cup adequately, so I'm going to skip it.

Just a quick update on the 1978 movie listing. The last 6 weeks of 1978 Elvis had 20 movies so far. John Wayne has numbers that come close, but don't quite match it - YET. But summer's coming (I have to work backward, Christmas back through 1978 to New Years Day), and I have a feeling there will be a lot of Elvis movies in the summer of 1978. For some reason Bob Hope only had 5 movies the last six weeks of the year, and none at all in the month of November. I may have to do a day-to-day search through the records to verify that this is indeed a "Fact of Life.” Ha ha. Humphrey Bogart had 14 movies the last six weeks of the year, which is surprising to me. Robert Mitchum has only 5 movies during that awesome Elvis stretch. I haven't done Jerry Lewis yet. I have to get through the Elvis juggernaut so far.

Jack with a crate of Jerry Lewis stuff.
Jerry.

Soledad just came downstairs on her way to Starbucks. She is reading "The Alchemist,” but can't decide if the writing is "intentionally naive or just trite."

JP

Ben Jonson? Come on, give it the old college try with the coffee cup.

OE

No, not Ben Jonson. Isn’t there a recent novel with that title?

JP

Probably!

OE

I have to go sit in the chair and finish RIO LOBO. But there seems to be something else I was supposed to tell you. Oh yeah...This is not something I was supposed to tell you, but there are a lot of instances where Bogart, Elvis, John Wayne, and Mitchum have movies playing on the same day. It's probably not that odd, they made a lot of movies, but then again, there are a lot of movies to choose from to schedule, especially considering the number of days where none of their movies are scheduled. Wait...is there a day where none of their movies are scheduled? Ahhhh...now I'm going to have to find a giant 1978 calendar and write all these movies down and see if they overlap! Isn't there a program for this?

Why do so many old movies, particularly noirs, but not exclusively...movies into the 60s (MARRIAGE ON THE ROCKS comes to mind) do this...go to Mexico for illicit activity, or as a place where the characters feel 'free' in some way. Mexico is the place for a new beginning, not America. Or a certain kind of renewal. I was just thinking about it, but not too much. About to start KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL.

JP

It's a romanticized idea about crossing borders, untethering yourself from your old life... it's in ON THE ROAD, too. Well, it's in hundreds of things. OUT OF THE PAST... also, when you cross the border, you are often out of reach of "the law." Like crossing the county line, but on a grander, more romantic scale. I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

OE

I think you know exactly what you’re talking about. Gee you’re dreamy.

JP

I’m confused about whether or not you finished RIO LOBO.

OE

Not yet! I'm working on it. I sat down and realized it would be easier to watch something on TCM than to dig through that stupid YouTube app on the "smart" TV.

JP

What's the word on your stool sample? The doctor says Theresa might have rheumatic fever!

OE

No word on stool. Get her to the hospital.

JP

What's so bad about Rio Lobo? I can't even remember it. I get it mixed up with Rio Grande and El Dorado, but I never get it mixed up with Rio Bravo. True story.

OE

There's a pretty good print on YouTube. Watch the first 10-15 minutes. I think tv hat will answer any questions you may have in the nature of: "What's so wrong with Rio Lobo?" If I remember, EL DORADO is really good, and I keep wondering why I'm not watching that movie instead. But I have to finish RL...eventually.

JP

This is the greatest typo in history. You meant to write "I think that will answer any questions" but you wrote "I think tv hat will answer any questions." And it makes sense! I believe in TV Hat! A demon who answers questions about television. He has a TV for a hat. This is how people get rich!

OE

Why a demon? Why not an angel? Or Billy Whiskers with a TV hat?

JP

OUT OF SIGHT happens to be on TV and George Clooney was going on about how uncut diamonds are easy to move and look just like rocks, and I thought, oh, this must be the movie Ogden was trying to remember, where somebody explains uncut diamonds, but then I looked at the email, and the movie you were trying to remember was about uncultured pearls, but I sent this email anyway.

OE

That's very strange about Yankton. It reminds me of something I was talking about earlier, but which I can't remember. Something about coincidences, or something like that - along the lines of "What are the odds...". But it escapes me and I don't want to look it up. Beef and crab is kind of 'surf and turf', but it's usually lobster, and I wouldn't want to put tomato sauce over all of it.

I wrote a whole email about the coffee cup, but deleted it as unworthy.

Apparently, only a year after he died, Col. Tom Parker and Vernon Presley went on the road with a show about Elvis' life - called "Always Elvis.” I saw an ad for it in one of the 1978 papers. The tickets were $6. I guess making money off Elvis was a habit they couldn't break.

JP

Without getting too deep, could you explain in a few words what you originally thought was interesting about the coffee cup? Now all I can think about is this coffee cup!

OE

I still think the cup is interesting. But it's hard to explain. The coffee cup is hand-made, and therefore one-of-a-kind, which doesn't necessarily make a thing interesting or good. However, in the case of this coffee cup, I think it might. I can't describe the cup because it is too simple - in fact, it seems simplicity perfected. It fits every hand perfectly. It's a piece of art, obviously, so it makes you want to put it down somewhere so it looks good - which it always does. It can't help it, it looks like a piece of nature you have brought into the house. I don't use it because I'm afraid I'll break it.

JP

Send me a photo! Ha ha, what am I, in love with this coffee cup?

OE

No. You'll just mock me and then I'll be afraid to ever open up to anyone ever again.

JP

Fair enough! But I think you just want to keep it for your own personal pleasure and not share it with the world. Which is fine! Hey, here's a question I've been meaning to ask... when you, or your fictional character, are looking up what movies aired on TV over a certain period in 1978, are you talking purely about national broadcasts? Where does programming by the local affiliates come in? Like, "The Big Show" on WKRG in Mobile used to always show "Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Cops." I bet nobody else in the country was showing that! We were the only ones so lucky.

OE

Wow! Are you really interested?!?! Or are you just stringing me along to get my hopes in order to crush my spirit, like Dee Dee, that cruel cock tease from the 12th grade? But, I digress...I/character focus primarily (I'd say 95%) on local programming and the independent cable channels, like TBS and WOR and WDCA. I could go on and on, but...I've been burned before, Pendarvis (see above).

JP

I don't know who Dee Dee is, because you left town in 10th grade. Which brings up a question... when you say "local" are you referring to Dallas?

OE

Yes. Dallas. I've been here since I was 16.

JP

Ha ha, okay, calm down, Mr. Dallas. Here's the key to the city! I was just wondering if you meant "local" in some broader sense... I don't know what that would be... like, if you had randomly picked a cross-sample of representative cities from across our great nation, not that I want to give you any ideas.

OE

The guy lives in a town and he watches TV in that town. Is that a difficult concept? And there's Dee Dee with tight jeans and cowboy boots...didn't she wear cowboy boots? I'm pretty sure she did. How would you know? One of us was always going out with someone else when the other one was free. Dee Dee, not you.

JP

I get the concept! He looks at old TV schedules from his local newspaper... I guess they remind him of times gone by... it might be comforting for him to know exactly what he was watching at an exact time and place... a kind of reassurance he can't get anymore. Is that part of it?

OE

No.

Chapter Nineteen: Circus Peanuts

Chapter Nineteen: Circus Peanuts

OE

Yo! Rio Lobo, at the 54 minute mark, the Duke wakes up next to a young lady and he's wearing a bracelet! No cowboy wore a bracelet! I'm calling bullshit! On the bracelet and that a foxy lady would sneak into that old geezer's sleeping bag.

JP

From the John Wayne biography I read: "Wayne was living in a large ranch house with a couple of hippie girls he had picked up hitchhiking on the drive to New Mexico." It's when he was on location for some movie, I can't recall which one. I jotted down the sentence but not the rest of the details. As I recall, that sentence was just planted there like a bomb. There was nothing to prepare you for it! Up until that point in the book (like, 500 pages in) he had given no indication he would ever do something like that.

OE

I just finished RIO LOBO and there are several women of the Ali MacGraw, Katherine Ross type in it. Hippie girls. The movie gets better after the first 30 minutes and it drops the civil war stuff and becomes more of a western.

JP

This goes back to something you noticed about yourself while watching GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS... or maybe that's the wrong way to put it. But you wondered whether the movies actually get better as they go along or your tolerance for them just rises.

OE

Hmmmm...that might be true with lady friends.

JP

Are you being SuperO?

OE

Hold everything!!! Alright now! I was watching RIO LOBO, which has Jack Elam in it. Then I saw KC CONFIDENTIAL on the TCM app and watched it. Jack Elam is in it. Just now, Ira and I picked out an old TWILIGHT ZONE episode to watch about Martians. It stars Jack Elam. I rest my case.

JP

Charlie's Pizza House of Yankton has a John Wayne pizza featuring "beef, ham, crab, green olives, mushrooms, and BBQ sauce." Their slogan must be "John Wayne threw up here!"

OE

Hahaha…that sounds like the worst town in America.

Also, what’s so John Wayne about it?

JP

I don't think they put a lot of thought into it. Their Hawaiian Elvis has sauerkraut on it! It sounds like I'm making this up but look up Charlie's Pizza House in Yankton. I don't know, maybe we're the fools. A couple of their pizzas come with sauerkraut, maybe it's a trend that hasn't made it down here yet. Ha ha ha! Oh, Jesus. To be fair, all we know about Yankton is they have this pizza restaurant and a Federal prison.

OE

First of all, that Hershey bar came out fine in the end. Next, did you ever find out if that top-shelf whiskey you had came from that warehouse in Indiana? There are probably more loose ends lying around....

JP

I think I left out the Hershey bar (with almonds!) because it was from a particularly vile exchange, speaking of loose ends. Secondly, no, I found to my disappointment that the top-shelf whiskey was a respected brand that did not come from the factory in Indiana.

The rain's really coming down! Nothing to do but go back to the City Forum website and pick somewhere in South Dakota to study. You know, when I look at photos of the interior of Charlie's Pizza House, I can easily imagine hanging out there.

An emergency room doctor and his wife are thinking of visiting Rapid City, South Dakota, and want to know the best things about it. I've only looked at a few of the responses, but three of them list "lack of humidity" as the best thing about Rapid City!

OE

Would you really need the rain as an excuse?

JP

No, but I have to say the Rapid City site isn't as immediately entrancing as the drama of Des Moines.

OE

Damn! I have to say, the pizza at Charlie's looks really good.

JP

Yes, what's better than crab, cheddar cheese, and sauerkraut?

OE

I don't know. I've never tried that combo. I have an open mind!

JP

Is that supposed to be Donald Trump at the far left of this mural of celebrities at Charlie's Pizza House?

Let's meet at Charlie's Pizza House for my 60th birthday in 2023.

OE

Why wait so long?

JP

That's how long it takes me to get anywhere. Ha ha, my life is a George Burns joke now. Aren't you going to Dubai for a while anyway? This will give our overseas boys (you) something to look forward to.

OE

Sitting next to glass bottom boat guy again. He's still talking about gators. Found a story about a 5-foot gator that came into a guy’s yard and bit his arm. Now he has lots of questions about the power of the bite, how did the guy get him off his arm, is 5 feet big or average, does this guy know about the "death roll"....on and on...now it's about that nature guy who died. The guy who used to wrestle gators. Nobody can remember his name. But he was killed by a stingray it is discovered. "You mean a stingray is more dangerous than a gator?" This gator obsessed individual's last name is Swift. He was called "not so Swift" behind his back a few years ago, and now his nickname is Notso, and he doesn't get it.

JP

Ask him if he's heard that story going around about an alligator with a knife stuck in its head. Some asshole stuck a knife in its head and then it was swimming around and somebody took a picture of it and now people are trying to rally around the alligator with the knife stuck in his head and get it the medical attention it probably needs. This guy's going to have an orgasm when he hears about it!

OE

Going to Dubai probably in Sept 2020...just in time for Trump II, so you guys have fun with that. Will stay there for a few years, and probably won't come back to the states unless I can move back to CA. But...I will have to come back here for the summers and Xmas break in the meantime....but if we meet earlier I could spread the word about Charlie's throughout the Middle East.

JP

Where in California do you want to move? San Diego? Is it because of Max Thursday?

OE

Yes. I want to follow in Max Thursday's footsteps.

I don't want to be around Notso when he has an orgasm, okay? That will also mean I will have to talk to him, which I don't want to do.

JP

Just slip the photo of the alligator under the stall door while he's in there.

OE

Hahaha...I showed Notso a pic of the knifehead gator and he was so scared he wouldn't even touch my phone. He thinks it's proof they can't be killed. I enlarged it and pushed the phone closer to him and he recoiled! Jumped back in his chair! Hahaha....poor Notso.

But! He's not afraid of sharks apparently. He'll go on a cruise because if it sinks he can fight a shark by beating it up. He actually said 'beat it up'.

JP

That reminds me of a kid in eighth grade or so... I can't remember his name... was it Barney Sykes? He said in class, "A sheep could beat up a man," and everyone laughed at him. No... it was... I can't think of the guy's name. Anyway, everyone laughed... but some time later I started to think, maybe he's right. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized, yes, a sheep could beat up a man.

OE

I don't remember Barney Sykes. But I think I agree that a sheep is at least stronger than a man, though his straight up boxing skills are probably crude. Who is Barney Sykes?

JP

On Saturday night we were out with some friends from Los Angeles and one of them mentioned Steak Dabney Coleman! With no prompting! I can't believe I forgot to tell you. Which reminds me, I haven't had a drink since Saturday. I don't want this conversation to get as dry as Max Thursday when he's trying to find his son. I thought maybe you were drinking last night when you brought up your high school girlfriend, or almost-girlfriend, and berated her with crass invective.

OE

Crass invective? Uhhh...sure. So two nights without a drink? What's the goal? So one of them just blurted out "Steak Dabney Coleman"? What was the context?

JP

Turn off the hot lights, I'll talk! I don't know, man, they're from Los Angeles, home of the Steak Dabney Coleman.

Seriously, though, why California?

OE

Of all the places in the US, I think it's the only place that I could stand politically or socially. Maybe I've just been in Texas too long.

JP

Don’t forget they elected Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger!

OE

...and right now they seem like girl scouts. Well, maybe not Reagan. And California is only the place I would move to if I came back to the US. I don't think either Soledad or I would make coming back here a priority. But who knows…

JP

I don't think it was Barney Sykes... he was a couple of grades younger than us, maybe. It was a guy with some sort of speech impediment... Johnny something... John Crab?

OE

Jeff Crab.

JP

Well, I'm sorry I didn't back up his hypothesis at the time.

OE

Have you taken Dr. T to the hospital about her rheumatic fever yet?

JP

They're not sure that's what it is. Bloodwork results should be in soon.

OE

Take care of your woman, dude!

Looks like Jeff Crab might be an attorney now in Baton Rouge?

JP

"Objection, your honor! Man v. Sheep clearly states that a sheep could beat up a man, taking 'beat up' to mean 'knock down and stomp on' as one potential interpretation."

That's not our Jeff Crab! Unless he took 14 years off before going to college.

OE

Not at all implausible. Think of the emotional trauma inflicted at IMS. He's a personal injury lawyer. It makes perfect sense.

Any drinking yet?

JP

Nope. What's today? Ha ha! That's what a drunk person would say.

OE

That's 5 days. Well, I'm making up for any losses in revenue the liquor industry may be suffering.

JP

Hitting the old Teacher's? Ha ha, that sounds funny. Who wouldn't want to hit an old teacher?

Going down to the Gulf Coast for my mom's 75th birthday next week. Just talking to her on the phone and she said when my dad was little he cut off his eyelashes because they were so long that he thought they made him look like a girl. "And now his eyelashes are getting revenge because they're growing inward," she said, which made me laugh. I said, "How do you know Dad's eyelashes are growing inward?" and she said the doctor told him! The doctor recommended surgery (!)... eyelash surgery! To get his eyelashes growing the right way, I guess. Or to pull out the errant eyelashes... Dad, of course, refused. When he finally went to the doctor a few years ago, after not having gone for decades, the doctor asked him who his regular physician was, and Dad said, "You, I guess." So he's not the type to go in for eyelash surgery, though Mom says that an inward-growing eyelash is extremely irritating.

OE

I just bought $200.00 worth of groceries and then dropped the eggs trying to open the front door. Only 6 cracked, however, so it's like paying double for eggs...isn't it? I'm not sure if that makes me feel better or not.

JP

What's the expiration date on the eggs? I was going to say you could comfort yourself by thinking you might not have eaten all the eggs before they went bad. But with two kids still in the house, I'm sure you could go through a dozen eggs at an amazing rate. Hey, Theresa and I are watching ROUTE 66, the TV show, now. It's streaming for free and really good. The first episode has George Kennedy, Everett Sloane, Kier Dullea, and a bunch of other actors I recognize but don't know their names.

OE

Does the first episode have something to do with water? And some young people not wanting to leave their home? We'll go through a dozen eggs in 2 days...also a gallon of milk in 2-3 days. We spend at least $1000.00 on groceries every month, which is insane. One of these kids has got to go.

JP

Yes! Have you seen it? Water, and an isolated Mississippi town... I don't know what the deal is yet. It feels almost supernatural.

OE

Yes. I saw it sometime last fall, I think. I don't remember it being Mississippi though. They had car trouble....it's slowly coming back to me.

JP

We got bored halfway into the second episode and started looking at other TV shows, including the episode of MOVIN' ON they shot in Mobile when I was twelve. That got boring fast, even though I saw shops like "Wig World," which were still in business when I was working in downtown Mobile in my 20s.

Great article on Charo in the NYT, with much ink spilled to examine the etymology of her catchphrase "cuchi cuchi" and its myriad meanings.

Getting concerned about your poop. They sure have been studying it a long time!

OE

They're probably backed up....hahaha.

JP

Speaking of defecation jokes, I notice that I accidentally titled our old email thread about colonoscopies "endgame," although I meant something else: the culmination of this wobbly edifice we're constructing. Speaking of which, I was thinking about rewatching GUITLY BYSTANDER today because come on! Shouldn't I have watched it more than once as some kind of professional, or whatever I am?

OE

Should I watch it at some point? Or would that mess up with the funky-ass mojo? Does this mean I have to read the novel again?

JP

No! We floated the idea at one point that you would watch the movie the day you get your poop results, while eating some sort of excessive banquet.

OE

Yes! Circus peanuts! Mountain Dew!

Chapter Twenty: A Bullet Is Much Cheaper

Chapter Twenty: A Bullet Is Much Cheaper

JP

Six minutes into a rewatch of GB and I already see a hundred things I got wrong in my initial descriptions. But that doesn't matter! All that matters is that in the movie, the missing son is named Jeff! Okay, here are two things I got wrong: a bottle doesn't roll OUT from under the bed... when Georgia opens the door, she accidentally kicks a bottle which rolls UNDER the bed. Also, I said the sleazy doctor hid the diamond in a trashcan because trashcans are never emptied in Max Thursday's hotel. But dialogue tells me that the sleazy doctor has an office across the hall from Georgia's apartment! He's not in Max's building. But from what I remember of that rat trap where they meet the doctor, it's not much nicer than Max's place. Maybe Georgia has been hitting the sauce too. Or maybe she has to live in a dump because Max isn't so on the ball with alimony. In conclusion, Ace texts to say that Christina Hendricks from MAD MEN is eating at the Ajax diner on the square right now! He's looking right at her.

OE

I bet he's looking at her with those cartoon bug eyes, tongue hanging out, drool soaking his bib. I don't know what I'm talking about.

Now I think I'm confusing the novel with the book.

Haha...tell Ace to ask her if she wants to take a road trip to the Mystic Maritime Museum.

JP

Confusing "the novel with the book"? You mean confusing the movie with the book? But you haven't seen the movie yet, have you? I figured something else out, too, which had puzzled me earlier. When Nadja in Rohmer's NADJA IN PARIS drinks her red wine while holding a cigarette in the same hand, it's an act of social dexterity. When Zachary Scott does it in GB, he's just slugging that shit back. He doesn't care! You get the feeling he'd consider blinding himself with a cigarette to be a minor inconvenience, as long as he got that drink. Hey! Doesn't Odysseus blind the Cyclops with a red hot implement of some kind?

OE

I meant movie with book. Your description had me wondering about whether a bottle was on the floor in the room at the beginning. I'm almost certain it was. Or did you just put that image there? Also...I'm pretty sure the pearls are hidden in a trash can in the book - aren't they? Or did you just put that in my head. See...if you want me to think something, just suggest it, and presto, I'm like, you know, one of those people who are willing to believe that something is their idea or whatever...? The perfect date!

JP

You said the pearls were hidden in some sort of... pencil box? Something like that. Under a false bottom of some kind. In fact you excoriated a trashcan as a really stupid place to hide something. The comically ghoulish coroner in the movie just mentioned a .25 caliber rifle as a murder weapon, and gruesomeness was implied, but nothing like the modified weapon you said was in the book. Which reminds me of something about squirrels. Why do people care if squirrels eat from their bird feeders? Squirrels gotta eat! Anyway, Mom told me that once she was at Bible study with a 90 year old woman named Gladys Sprinkle (note: that name has not been changed!) and Gladys got up from Bible study and picked up her little .410 and shot a squirrel right off of her bird feeder. I told my coworkers in Burbank about it and they thought I must've been mistaken or misheard. "It must have been an air rifle or a pellet gun," one hapless creative type insisted. Nope!

Georgia says that the doctor got Max drunk on Pernod. Pernod! One of the worst things to get drunk on. After Theresa and I moved from one apartment to another in Atlanta, her friend Doug and I blew off steam by drinking enormous glasses of Pernod. Pernod should not be imbibed from enormous glasses… though, to be fair, it was a cafe that served it to us that way. We were surprised, but drank it anyway. And I threw up for the rest of the night. Pernod smells like a grandfatherly aftershave lotion. The stuff the doctor was pouring into Max did not look like Pernod.

OE

Yeah. That sounds right. About the hiding place, I mean. Squirrels suck. As a homeowner, you will no doubt come to realize this in the next few years. It takes a while. Unless your neighborhood doesn't have many. But they will chew a hole in your house and get in your attic, build a nest there, start chewing on wires, get in your ductwork and cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage that insurance will not pay for. I have trapped 3 in my attic in a metal squirrel trap and taken them to a park 2 miles away. And yet...I still hear squirrels in the attic. I am going to have to pay someone $1,000.00 in 2 weeks to come out and seal up all the holes. A bullet is much cheaper. Even Soledad is in favor of killing the squirrels, and she was once a pacifist. I applaud the woman in your Mother's Bible study. You have touched a nerve, Pendarvis!

JP

I know what you should eat after getting your test results back and watching Guilty Bystander... have a pizza flown in from Charlie's!

OE

No circus peanuts and vodka shots? Well, alright. I'm going to see if they deliver this far. Oh hell, I'll just fly up and get an uber to the joint.

I thought Charlie's was in Des Moines. I can't go to Yankton. Why does life hold so many disappointments, Jack?

What do kids use in the shower besides a bar of soap these days? I overheard a conversation about someone who could slip on a bar of soap, then he said "first of all, who uses a bar of soap these days, right?" I was confused...

JP

Maybe... body wash? Now you might not know this but my peepers are very sensitive, by which I mean my eyes. So, instead of soap on my face I have to use some sort of hypoallergenic foam that comes from a bottle. Otherwise I look like a movie monster. This first happened, oh, I want to say maybe around 1998... it was a Christmas day, it was... hmm... it came out of nowhere, suddenly a regular bar of soap felt like fire or steel wire on my face. I'm glad we had this talk.

OE

Wow...that sounds like some kind of nerve issue. But, back to me. I got a message from Shit Central, saying they had results and to "click here" - a link which led to my doctor's website. So I did. When I logged in it just said, "Cologuard negative", which I guess means I'm cleared for that trip to Charlie's Pizza. Cologuard is the name of the poop company, by the way.

JP

I'm glad to hear your test results were good! Nothing left to do but to fire up the old youtube and have a ham and crab John Wayne special while watching Guilty Bystander. Maybe they make a Zachary Scott pizza, circus peanuts, black olives, beef tongue, bone-in chicken wings and pepper jack cheese in a vodka cream sauce.

Email is dead. TV is dead. Newspapers with TV supplements are dead. Am I onto something?

OE

The world is bored?? I dunno...

JP

I don't know what I meant, but I know it wasn't that. Maybe it has something to do with circus peanuts. Do people know what those are anymore? I was going to say they are made of hoof-based gelatin, which I'm not sure is true, and then I thought it would really be something if they were made out of elephants' toenails boiled into gelatinous form. Add a little food coloring, put it in a peanut-shaped press... voila. Maybe I'm asking if we live in a museum. Maybe I'm saying we're like the bonnet-wearing loom-spinners of Colonial Williamsburg.

OE

Oh. I get it. Maybe it's just me that's bored. I guess since my results are back, there's nothing to look forward to anymore. I should get another box and poop in it.

JP

Isn't that what we're all looking for at the end of the day? A new box to poop in? Are you going to watch GB while drinking Teacher's and eating a big plate of mashed beans? Or should we wrap it all up? It's been quite a ride. I feel just like a turd being whisked through a pneumatic tube at a big-city P.O.

OE

Man...you're on fire today. I think I should watch GB while drinking Teachers or Old Grand Dad or something. Even if it's a postscript. Is that what it's called? I've been brain dead lately. I haven't had a drink in a few days.

JP

I eagerly await your drunken review.

OE

It might have to wait until Wednesday, which is my next day off.

JP

Okay! I'm going down to the bayou for my mom's birthday on Friday. Did I already say that?

OE

Yes. Kill some squirrels for me and wish your mom a happy birthday in that order.

JP

This is kind of like when you dropped the eggs. So, Theresa's hands are still bad. They've ruled out a lot of things but she had to go to a specialist yesterday for more bloodwork. I was going to go to the grocery store later, and Theresa said that maybe some ice cream would cheer her up. I said what kind? And she said (this story is great already!) "I'd like chocolate and... maybe a scoop of some other flavor to go with the chocolate." So when I got to the grocery store, I thought, what the hell. I bought five different flavors, five pints of ice cream, I thought that would be a nice surprise. What an array! Your choices of flavor combination nearly limitless! Ha ha, not limitless. But that's 10 different possibilities, right? A veritable fantasia. So! I got up for a glass of water in the middle of the night and noticed that the freezer door had not been properly closed. It LOOKED closed, but the seal was unsealed by a hair. I opened the freezer and sure enough the ice cream had melted. Not melted entirely. But it was beyond hope. Extremely, extremely soft. Softer than soft serve. I knew that you're not supposed to refreeze ice cream... something about bacteria... so I thought fuck it, I'm going to have a bite from each one of these pints of ice cream, as I'm obliged to throw them away. So I took a big bite of each kind of ice cream and felt really sick. It turns out a grown man should not gorge on ice cream at 1:30 in the morning. But by God I wasn't going to throw away ALL the money I had spent on that ice cream. Theresa got up and had some too, though she wisely limited herself to one scoop of one flavor.

I see that we glancingly touched on the great Pascagoula UFO incident of our childhoods. There was a news item yesterday. They've put up a historic marker to honor the spot where those two dudes were picked up by a UFO! I think Mom and I are going to drive over and look at it on Saturday. She said the one surviving abductee was on the local news yesterday, stating his desire to be buried under the historic marker when he dies. He was beaming with cheerful pride, she said.

OE

That's an interesting wish. Isn't it? I forget...is the surviving abductee the quiet one?

JP

Yeah, it's the younger one, who I feel like was the quiet one.

OE

And you and your mom are going at midnight, right?

So let me get this straight...you noticed half-melted ice cream in the freezer, remembered a time when you read that it may be poisonous, and then proceeded to cram as much of this possibly poisonous ice cream in your face as possible.

JP

No, it's not bad if it melts, it's bad if you refreeze it after melting.

OE

That doesn't make any sense. Bacteria doesn't develop from freezing, it "comes about" from the incubatorial nature of warming up. My mastery of the professional lingo should tell you I know what I'm talking about!

JP

Well, I've read a lot about melting ice cream on the internet now, and you're right, of course. Refreezing could cause an outbreak of listeria in the freezer, but presumably the listeria was already in there swimming around and having a ball while I was shoveling it down my gullet in some sort of Scrooge-like fugue state.

OE

This is what I will be chasing GB with. It's actually really good.

JP

Let the record show that you're drinking a whiskey called Paddy's. I bet that name took a long time to come up with! Where does it fall in the price range between Old Crow and Teacher's? More importantly, what snacks are you having with it? All right! I'm buckled in and ready for action.

OE

$20.00 for a fifth. Reasonably Irish! And to accompany this fine spirit...hmmm...how about microwave popcorn soaked in butter, along with some leftover sesame chicken mixed with stale fried rice. Both, I say BOTH, served up in giant mixing bowls in your honor - because I know that's how you roll.

JP

This is shaping up to be a great night! There's no liquor in the house, and no melted ice cream, so I'm living through you.

OE

I just finished the scene in the doctor's office, with the Pernod. It was a much better scene in the book.

When Georgia first shows up, the hotel lobby seems full, and that's not the impression I remember getting from the book. The novel makes it seem more bleak, along with Smitty, who the movie makes younger and a little more...I don't know - quicker somehow. And if Max is on a bender, he's being pretty neat about it. He's sleeping with his shirt tucked in, wearing a belt, he looks shaven...but he does a great job playing a guy who needs a drink really bad when he gets downstairs. But now he wakes up in the cell.....

Minutes 15 - 30: deviates from the book, but I can see it's to save money. Almost the entire 15 minutes takes place in the precinct house and they cover a lot of ground.

Minutes 30 - 45: the warehouse/elevator scene. I don't think this exists in the book. Wait! Max visits some tuna fishermen in the book. Mafia types. This is the equivalent. The head mafia guy is funny in the movie though, I like it. It says something that I almost completely forgot about the tuna angle until the guy mentioned "Stitch Olivera.”

At the 41:00 mark Max goes to Georgia's house. I can't tell what in the hell they're talking about, but it looks like, to save money again, they're going to be in the house for a while and so they start with some filler dialogue...you know, recapping some stuff we may have missed and then Max thinks about whiskey and that makes me think of my new friend Paddy's. So I pause Max and get a refill and then pop some popcorn.

Hahaha, Max gives Georgia booze AND pills to help her relax...but anyway, the big news is, the pearls aren't hidden in a trash can in the movie. They are hidden inside the lid of some kind of tobacco container. Max knew to look inside the lid because he found a "sponge" in the trash, whatever that is....maybe keeps the tobacco dry??? I've never heard of it, but it seems to have fit under the lid, etc...it’s the 46:00 mark or so.

Oh Paddy me Paddy deary-o. Sweet Paddy. Whooo....

Lost my internet connection so I had to restart my firestick. When it cranked back up I noticed on TCM that DON'T MAKE WAVES was 'on demand.’ It was introduced by that Australian woman who I used to hate, but now she did something to her hair and I'm in love with her. She knows everything. So now I'm watching Claudia Cardinale and Tony Curtis at the beach because she wants me to.

DON'T MAKE WAVES wouldn't be bad at all if they would have cut out the blatant porn shots. It's got some cool sunglasses.

But I noticed in the opening credits that the movie is based on the novel "Muscle Beach.” It makes me want to read it. Why am I still talking about DON'T MAKE WAVES?

...are you at your parent's house? Do they turn the a/c on? My parents won't. So it makes a visit difficult. It's hot as hell in their house. When they come over to my house they always want to sit on the porch in the summer...even on a day like today. I assume it's in the 90s in Mobile too.

JP

My dad works in terrible heat all day, so they keep the house nice and cool!

OE

I'm the same way, but it's a long story how my parents deal with the thermostat at my house - which I require set at 69-70°.

JP

Our refrigerator died, speaking of heating and cooling. As you know, the 4th of July is the day after tomorrow, so I hope we can get a new refrigerator delivered before then. I think the piece is done. But if you respond to this news of the death of our refrigerator by explaining how your parents manipulate your thermostat, I might add that in. Let me know! If you don't feel like typing that up, I'll just send you the piece for your approval.

OE

So you're at home now? And you're down a refrigerator and a hot water heater since you bought the house? I just pray you don't get squirrels in the attic.

Let's not bring the parents into it. I'm tired and need to work a lot and nap, and there's all this Paddy's Irish Whiskey...

JP

One masterpiece coming right up!

OE

Oh boy!!! All thanks to Rory Zane!

JP

I'm gonna rub one out in honor of him this afternoon.

OE

I already beat you to it!

We just got a new washing machine delivered yesterday, and that's because the old one wouldn't spin for about 4 months. It would wash, and take about 4 hours to do so, and then the spin light would come on, but it would just sit there. So when everything was done and the washer said it was okay to lift the lid (i.e. it would unlock the lid for us), I would have to manipulate the load by hand. As you know from previous emails I am very very experienced at manipulating loads by hand. Anyway, the laundry is soaking wet and just laying there - like Rory Zane's sexy lady! hahaha...oh, goodness...to continue...so I have to stick my hand in - hahahahaha - lift the laundry off the bottom of the drum, then spin the drum counter-clockwise fairly vigorously, then close the lid, set the dial to 'drain and spin,’ then hit start, and only then would the washing machine spin the wet clothes.

Yesterday when they removed the old washer, there was a big oil spot under it. They looked at it, and underneath the washer and said there had been an explosion (!) and a fire (!) at some point, which had caused the leak and kept it from spinning. Did your fridge catch on fire? Is there a leak? I guess we'll have to see!!!

Last night I was loading a flight to Louisville and I was wearing my prescription sunglasses and I had my regular glasses in my shirt pocket, like an idiot. Without me knowing it, my regular glasses fell out of my pocket and landed in the cargo bin somewhere. I didn't realize this until I was back in the breakroom and the flight was out on the runway somewhere, taking my glasses to Louisville. I noticed the plane came back to Dallas at 10pm, so the manager called Louisville and they said they would be happy to leave the glasses right where they were so I could find them at 10pm. But they didn't. They took them out to load the plane and forgot to put them back in. So know I have to wait until the next flight from Louisville, at 3pm today, and they promised to have the glasses on that flight. I know this is fascinating, but for some reason I imagine them never intending to return my glasses, and instead use them for some joke prop around the break room. Putting fake eyebrows on it....This is a lot of sentences for nothing. This is what a lonely person might write.

Jack and Elson after walking out on vacation.

Ogden Elson lives in Dallas, Texas. He is a writer, father, husband, film lover, fulltime professor and part-time airline worker.

Jack Pendarvis's most recent book is the short story collection Movie Stars. He mainly writes for animated television shows.