HAVEN’T SCRIBBLED here lately, I guess because the iron piggy and I haven’t been anywhere worth scribbling about. Poor piggy, sitting out in the driveway with her brake rotors rusting. But here’s what there is for blab, in no particular order, real stream-of-semiconsciousness-like.
When not writing I’m keeping busy swinging a hammer, brandishing a plaster knife, stabbing at the world with a post-hole digger, haven’t lost any digits to the axe, table saw, chop saw, chain saw, thickness planer, haven’t pneumatically shot nails into a body part. Did some automotive welding for my neighbor Steve today, didn’t set anything on fire.
Here’s how busy: found a big chunk of cornbread in my beard today and haven’t eaten cornbread for two days. Bride had two comments: “That’s gross,” and, “You need a trim.”
I like to get my money’s worth out of a work shirt, don’t you?
I do dig the change-up. It’s great fun to switch off, work with the brain space until it’s toasty, work with the hands, back to the brain, hands, brain…
I’m waiting on a thumbs up or down on a writing job. Interesting work but I’m not counting on it. That’s freelancing, buy into the precarious and roll with it. Kindly like motorcycling. Could definitely use some motorcycle-style rolling with it, just too busy, though I did offer in recent days to meet biker buds Jan from Texas and Keith from Oregon in Yellowknife next summer, capital of the Northwest Territories. Akin to Alaska, except you ignore the left out of Edmonton and ride north instead of northwest. But I guess I expect to stay east in ’15, maybe Labrador and Newfoundland.
Wonder if I could put the piggy on a boat to Iceland out of Newfoundland? They just finished building a ring road. Here’s old bud Mark Arsenault of the Boston Globe, icing his back in Iceland a few weeks ago. He was there with his bride Jennifer Levitz of the Wall Street Journal. We all worked together at the Providence Journal way back when.
I might try to sneak in a ride to Washington DC in the next few weeks, now that the air is cooler. Something I need to see down there, on a scribbling matter. And two of my nieces in Philly are expecting, be nice to stop and see them on the way. First child for Kristen Celia, fourth for Caryn Thomas. Caryn’s due as we speak.
Old bud Mike Connelly sent me a link to a minute and a half of haha motorcycle footage. This is a young rider, makes so many mistakes it’s hard to know where to begin. It would be pretty hard to do this dismount twice. He hits a disabled car sitting square in the road, plain as day, sun is behind him lighting up the car nicely, he sends it rolling away as he’s tossed up onto the roof with his helmet cam still running and—this is the hard-to-do-twice part—the lens happens to be aimed back at the motorcycle he just dumped in the road, bike’s getting smaller, smaller… smaller…
“My leg… might be broken… oww…”
Kid seems to spend an awful lot of time looking at his motorcycle while riding. And he thinks with his brakes and clutch, which tells me he’s probably a leaner, not a counter-steerer, hence a slow swerver. Heads up, Moe, scan for whatever it is you may run into, then don’t. Trouble dawns on him late but it’s still an easy press-right or press-left to get out of it. Alas, he target fixates and grabs the controls. THUMP!
But he’s got a yarn to tell. Had a learning experience. Ride on, young brother!
Autumn’s here before we knew it, wildflowers have gone to seed, except for a few withered blooms still giving it the old college try. Horticultural college, I imagine.
The bride is just about finished with her third consecutive summer on the DL. She’s mending nicely from the shoulder surgery, likely to go back to work at the bank in a week or two, maybe part-time at first. She met every challenge with good cheer, bore up like the pioneer stock she is, stalwart, uncomplaining, without drama.
Well, almost had a bit of it in the supermarket, but that was me, really. Have you ever said something and while it’s coming out of your mouth, you think This will go badly? But somehow you continue on and actually say it? Out loud?
So, I’m following her through the door at the supermarket, and when I catch up I hear myself say, “When we were walking in just now…” These are the words that are coming out. “When we were walking in just now I could see…” I’m apparently going to continue on and tell her. “When we were walking in just now I could see where you’ve lost muscle tone.”
Eh, what do I know?
She turns to me with O-shaped mouth, bugged-out eyes, and brings to bear a certain menace, in sotto voce. Less is frequently more, tell you what, in this case it was. I’m chastised not for the random observation but for delivering it publicly, for in private she’d have felt free to forego the sotto. That’s control, I admire that. Okay well, swing & a miss, just connect on the next one and you’re batting .500, the goat is suddenly a hall of famer. Comebacks are easy, my speciality. So I disarm the faux pax by repeating it. That’s right. I say it again, this time in the heaviest NooYawk/RhoDyelind accent I know, and with the culturally-correct interrogatory on the third element after the “not for nothing” setup. So it’s funny now, and for days to come. In the car, eating dinner, watching a movie, “Hey, yo. Not for nothing. But when you was just walkin? I could see where youse lost muscle tone.”
On baby matters pertaining to Grandchild #1, we’ve learned that Daughter #1 is having a little girl. This’ll be around the middle of December. A girl—Huzzah! We get an excited phone call from D1 Emily while she’s standing outside her doctor’s office at 51st St and 6th Avenue, next to Radio City. It was welcome gender news here at the humble manse. I was hoping for girls all three times the bride went into labor. Boys, okay, I guess we might have kept them, I just preferred girls given that cosmic thing about what goes around comes around. Delivery doc: “Its your Mini Me, dad,” oh, crap, transferring to the 18 years of hell train, here’s your ticket. With girls, I always knew with certainty they’d be asleep in their rooms until it was time to get up and go to school. I never once awoke at 2 in the morning thinking, I’ll bet the girls have snuck out to ride their minibikes down the trolley tracks on 63rd Street.
Daughter #3, a sweetheart and so funny. This is the graphic artist D3. She’s designing my novel cover, which means we’ll be up & out before the sun probably both days this weekend, chasing a seaside photograph we need in Narragansett, RI. Or just Saturday if we’re lucky and the weather and the light are what we’re looking for.
Daughter #2 is bound for Zurich tomorrow, to attend the Zurich Film Festival’s showing of a movie she co-produced. She’s negotiating the terms of a co-producer’s job that would keep her overseas until around January if they come to an agreement.
Here’s a snapshot into the state of my own movie career, where the secret of my success has been to start out slow, then taper off.
This is a Writers Guild of America quarterly accounting of residuals due me for my role in the Second Biggest Wide Release Box Office Bomb of 2004. Luckily, National Lampoon made something even crappier.
To my credit, I note that the producers threw out 97 percent of my script, after raving for years about how great it was. Once they had their D-list director on board, they let him write his own story, of the deadly dull, career-ending sort. I wasn’t in a position to be helpful by arranging an accident for him or whatever, I’d just been in one myself. Had an unfortunate get-off on the Super Glide, totaled it, broke this that & the other, got crutches under me and hopped down to the movie set in Atlanta just in time to see the whole groupthink disaster taking shape without me. Not that writers have any power to do anything about anything anyway, which is why the leading lady will sleep with the craft services guy first, he can get her free soft drinks & whatnot. Will have to tell you the whole sorry movie story one of these days.
I did get to meet Jim Caviezel while he was starring in this embarrassment, making a valiant effort at a story that must have made him want to throw himself off a building. Needed the work, I guess, & don’t we all. He struck me as a good egg. The bride’s a fan of his TV series, Person of Interest.
Robert Redford does an outstanding job in All is Lost, saw it last week. A movie with one actor, no backstory, and no dialogue. I love to see moviemakers doing something smart and new and succeeding at it.
If you see All Is Lost (Netflix streaming) let me know what you think happens in the final five seconds. I know what I think.
Nope. Not showing you mine until you show me yours.
A century-old triple decker near Providence College. While Daughter #2 is overseas, Significant Other #2 will be doing more of this, building new houses inside old ones.
Same space later. Jonny and his crew gutted and rebuilt the house in record time this summer, nine weeks and a few days. Turned it into housing for nine students, three to a floor. All new everything. They’ve done a bunch of houses in the area, under contract to an investment group. Not a scrap of old wire stays in, not a length of old pipe, everything’s new, efficient, safe.
In this particular house the crew found the original blueprints inside a wall, and a photo of the men who built the house.
All immigrant labor, I suspect. Skilled and working cheap. Irish, Italian, Portuguese…
All turned to dust but the house lives on, good for another century before the next rehab.
Demolition in progress earlier this summer.
They saved the original hardwood floors where they could.
Big barn of a house! Interior demo was going on at this time. I came by in the ’49 truck to throw stuff in their gigundo roll-off dumpster for free.
Took a ride by yesterday to get the finished exterior shot. There’s the old piggy.
Dunno what else I can say, except maybe news about nuts: Around fifteen years ago I had a reaction of some sort while eating almonds, instant itching in places you don’t think can itch and where you can’t get to to scratch. Inner ears itching like crazy. Those cords that attach the backs of your eyeballs to your brain? Those were itching. I could breathe fine, no problem there, but the only way I could get the bride not to dial 911 was for me to get in the car and voluntarily drive to the Emergency Room at Kent Hospital.
When they hear “apparent allergic reaction,” they take you to the head of the line, ahead of people who are bleeding, and they hit you with a benadryl IV that renders you unconscious in three seconds, and for hours.
I had follow-up skin tests. The verdict: Nuts are now potentially deadly to you, Moe. You’ve had the warning, next time it’ll be fast moving, you’ll probably lose your airway, so have your emergency epinepherin self-injector handy. Sounded dubious to me. I felt I had probably reacted to a fungus or a pesticide or who knows what. Did make an effort nonetheless, because I could be wrong; did reasonable due diligence about keeping tree nuts out of my diet. This spring, however, I’m eating box after box of Girl Scout cookies loaded with coconut and thinking Coconut? Coco nut! Grows on a tree. Nut of the coconut tree. No way I’m allergic, knew it all along. The bride and I discuss it: Yes you are, No I’m not, Yes you are, No I’m not…
So at my annual physical I ask the doc to send me for a new round of testing, which she does. I find out a lot has changed in 15 years. The allergy doc says half the people walking around with EpiPens in their pocket don’t need them. (Is that your EpiPen or…?) On the other hand, if you really do need the pen, he says, beware of dying, carry it. Which I never did.
So now they have a blood test for food allergies, and that’s where we start. Mine come back negative. Follow up with skin tests. Negative. Then I eat walnuts in the doctor’s office. Don’t die. Two weeks later I eat pecans in the doctor’s office and don’t die. Next appointment I eat almonds, again fail to die. So, question settled: No, I’m not. On the next iron piggy trek across the continent, we’ll be heavy laden with nutritious high-calorie good-fat things that grow on trees.
Didn’t mean to get back on piggy before wrapping up. Well I do mean to get back on piggy, just not as a topic. Sad old piggy, sad, sad, just sitting out there waiting to run with me. There are newer faster big-mile rides out there, and, I must say, I was tempted recently by a super-low-miles FJR for crazy short money, it would have been fun to fly out to California after it and ride it back to Little Rhody. But me and piggy, we’re keeping the custody of the eyes. That may be the only thing I know worth knowing from my sojourn among the Augustinians, so-named for Augustine of Hippo, whom the late Christopher Hitchens once described as “a sadistic North African pseudo-intellectual.” Well yeah, but, the order of sexually repressed men who bear his name and have white-knuckled it through the world since the thirteenth century, they were right about how things get in through the eyes, Moe. The primate brain in action, monkey see, monkey want. Don’t look at what you don’t want to want.
Should touch on Phantom matters. I like how criminals running away from the Phantom never realize they’re actually running toward him. And they keep thinking Devil the mountain wolf is a dog.
This week I sent 118 pages of new script to Paul Ryan and Terry Beatty, artists on Lee Falk’s Phantom, the daily and Sunday strips, respectively. Paul and Terry will be working their magic on the new pages until next May. About the Harvey I mentioned last time: So much fun to be nominated! The thing itself, we didn’t quite get there this time.
Dick Tracy at the Tribune syndicate edged our Phantom at King Features. Next year, don’t be surprised to see the Phantom on crutches in a flying trash can. Two can play at this game.
Okay, well, in actual closing now, Scotland, it must be said, saved my summer. Scotland and Saul “Beardo” Berenson palm-striking an Iranian psycho-spy in the beak, I enjoyed that as well. Yes, Season 3 of Homeland is on Netflix DVDs, at last. I’m too frugal to pop for On Demand. Frugal brings me back to Scotland, which brings to mind how so much of the news business is about shareholders first, readers/viewers second. I wish they’d spend a little money digging up actual news, reallocate the hair budget perhaps. Stop interviewing themselves so much. Why are millionaires afraid to wear out their shoes? I’m always on the hunt for stories that may be big later but are nothing now; the stories that don’t sell, or don’t sell yet. Often, some wretched little scribe at Reuters will be way out front and surprise you with something worth following for weeks and months, right up to its inevitable comic conclusion under the Big Top. In other words, Scotland.
Our British-born friend in Seattle, Hugo Munday, and I, exchanged links to the most interesting reports we’d found, but also the funniest, craziest and most dumb-ass obvious. When the polls said the vote could go either way, the entire London establishment went bonkers. Government and business dropped all pretense of being separate enterprises and joined hands in opposing Scottish independence. I think my favorite story in the home stretch was the Daily Mail’s coverage of a Yes voter punching a blind No voter. Daily Mail, favorite paper of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists, feel free to hang your hat on every word.
I was delighted to alert Hugo to that one. “And they egged his house and kicked his puppy, the hooligans! Hilarious, ham-handed tabloid coverage you may have seen.”
The Economist had this gem: “Campaigning in his constituency north of Glasgow, a few doors from the house where he grew up, the Scottish Labour MP Gregg McClymont was told to “fuck off back to England, you fucking Tory.”
Alas, it all fizzled on referendum day a week ago, leaving us feeling cheated and used; not about the outcome but what a blowout it was. Not even close. I duly advised Hugo of my disillusionment: “Within the margin of error my ass! Eyes on the product, the prime directive. We’re selling cliffhangers here, people. I pronounce a hearty J’accuse at the usual symbiotic mechanisms of corporate hyperventilation. It’s always the most important vote of the century and too close to call. Pols enable pollsters, pollsters enable media, media enables pols and pollsters, one big self-interested pig pile rolling around in the spectacle. But, hoots mon, I was entirely drawn in! Such a fun story while it lasted. Scots Wha Hae, laddie!”
Tony DePaul, September 24, 2014, Cranston, Rhode Island