This isn’t why I’m writing

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I’M NOT WRITING to report that, blah blah, we’ve all been busy around here, for busy is the norm. I’ve been knocking down walls and digging holes in the ground (too many) and scribbling (not enough) and riding the motorcycle (not nearly enough). By the end of the week, I hope to dump a 140,000-word novel manuscript on my old friend Larry Stanley, and then I’ll get into another edit once I have his critique on paper.

I’m trying to time this with a scheduled interruption in his teaching duties at Brown. Larry knows writing, and story; indeed, he’s Oxford-trained at Piling it Higher & Deeper, except over there they call it a D.Phil. instead of a Ph.D. Same deal. I read his doctoral thesis way back when, “Metaphoricity and the Sublime Moment,” a heavy theoretical yarn with deconstructionary challenges to Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man. So now Larry’s returning the favor. But that’s not why I’m writing.

For our stewardship of the Phantom universe, my King Features colleagues, Paul Ryan and Terry Beatty, and I, have been nominated for a Harvey. That’s fun because the nomination comes from other writers and artists, so, if they’re enjoying our yarns, that’s good to know. If Lee Falk were still around, I believe he’d like what we’re doing with the characters he created in 1936.

Lately, two traitorous moles in Naval Intelligence, minions of Chatu the Wambesi, have been waterboarding a captive President Lamanda Luaga. They’re trying to find out where the terror master has been secretly imprisoned. On cue, the Phantom crashes the party and delivers a complimentary keg of whup ass.

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I’ve been writing the strip since 1999, when Lee Falk finished his earthly journey. Paul works his magic on the daily art, and Terry’s our man on the Sundays, always a separate narrative.

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The Harvey is named for Harvey “What? Me worry?” Kurtzman of Mad Magazine fame. I’m automatically a fan of anybody who had the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency trying to put him out of business. Our editor in New York, Brendan Burford, alerted us to our Harvey nomination in the Best Syndicated Strip category. We’re up against Dick Tracy at Tribune Media, Fox Trot and Get Fuzzy at Universal, and Mutts, one of our compadres at King Features. Voting ends August 18. But that’s not why I’m writing.

The Wall Street Journal recently mistook me for Jamie Dimon, or some kind of 1 percenter, or 1 percenter wannabe; hedge fund guy, maybe; inventor of worthless financial instruments; enricher of self to the ruin of others, etc. Tried to force me to take a free subscription, one that, from my reading of the fine print, automatically matures into a paying deal for them. As the Not-So-Big Lebowski would say, This aggression will not stand, man. Here’s a transcript of my chat concerning the strong-arm marketing technique. After four attempts to raise someone at the WSJ, I happened to draw the divine “Angelique,” very possibly a 260-pound lug with hairy shoulders.

WSJ Live Help

You are now chatting with Angelique

Tony: I received a card in the mail saying the WSJ is going to start delivering a free subscription to my house on July 12. I don’t want it, won’t read it, and don’t want to load up the recycling bin with it. Can you cancel if I give you my address?

Angelique: Hi, Tony. I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sorry to hear that you would like to cancel your account. We’re always concerned to lose a valuable customer. For security purposes we are unable to cancel subscriptions via Chat. Please call Customer Service at 1-800-568-7625 Monday – Friday, 7AM – 10PM or Saturday, 7AM – 3PM, Eastern Time.

Tony: I’m not a customer.

Angelique: May I have the address please?

Tony: 110 Fairweather Avenue, Cranston, RI, 02910

Angelique: Thank you for that information. There is no active subscription upon checking the address.

Tony: Correct. And I don’t want a free subscription. Can you prevent delivery of the free subscription I didn’t request? The card I received said I’ll be getting the WSJ Weekend starting July 12. I don’t want it, didn’t request it.

Angelique: Oh, I see. The account is still on process. We are unable to process your request. Please contact us effective on July 5 for further assistance.

Tony: What account? I don’t have an account. There is no account to process. I don’t want the WSJ creating an account for me, understood?

Angelique: Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Tony: You haven’t helped me with anything today. I want a supervisor on the line.

Angelique: I do apologize. The account is still on process. We are unable to process your request. Please contact us effective on July 5 for further assistance. If you want to cancel your free subscription please contact us again on July 5.

Tony: Why am I wasting my time not only today but again on July 5 to cancel a free subscription I never requested? I’m still waiting to speak with your supervisor.

Angelique: The reason why you were chosen to receive this subscription, we would like to introduce our former subscribers to the value of a WSJ Weekend subscription. We want to invite you to read the paper and discover all that WSJ Weekend has to offer.

Tony: I’m not a former subscriber. My name isn’t even spelled correctly on the card I received.

Angelique: Alright. I have deleted the free subscription. Rest assured that you will not be receiving the paper. Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Tony: So now you’d done the thing that could only be done after July 5? Thank you.

Angelique: Yes. You’re welcome. Is there anything else I can help you with today?

That was how it ended, despite all that Angelique and I had meant to each other. But that’s not why I’m writing.

 

Iron Piggy’s windshield has been looking pretty ragged. The elements take a toll, especially the UV.

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Colors are bleached out. Pennsylvania and Maryland are pretty ragged at the corners.

 

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Tennessee’s been flapping around in the breeze. Flapped all the way up to Alaska and back and then down to Georgia and back. That must be millions of flaps.

 

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Western states are extra bleached out. Not surprising, they get a lot more sun out there.

 

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So, with the piggy and I looking so ragged, Daughter #3, the graphic designer, printed us a new set of US state and Canadian provincial flags. Hey, is she flipping me the bird?

 

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A bee! A bee! Run!

In circles!

 

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Safe behind the screens.

 

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D3 printed my new stickers in mirror image this time, so I can apply them to the back of the windshield instead of the front. That way they appear correct when viewed from the front and are protected from wind and rain. Should last a lot longer. This is my old Ontario sticker to the left, the new mirror image on the right.

 

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The stickers are see-through. I gave each one its own space, insofar as that’s possible. Last time I mostly overlapped them into a jumble of color. Very devil-may-care, which suits me, but people I met on the road would say, huh? wh-where’s my state again?

So far the iron piggy has scrubbed off rubber in 48 states and eight Canadian provinces.

 

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The windshield isn’t why I’m writing, but note the GoPro camera case mounted behind the shield. That’s not why I’m writing either. But it leads me to the highway sound check.

I get lousy video off the helmet mount, and godawful audio. By way of experiment, I took off the shield, mounted the camera down low, near the handlebar risers, and ran a wire to a remote microphone. That disables the in-camera mic, which records nothing but wind noise anyway. I duct-taped the external mic to the back of a saddlebag. The theory was, the camera would vibrate less and the remote mic would record the exhaust note instead of wind.

It worked! For a handful of miles, anyway. And then a truly annoying buzz crept in. Until then, I had decent audio of the classic Harley V-twin sound, gear shifts, a bit of transmission whine… and then, out of nowhere, the buzz. Something at the back of the bike is rattling around as it comes up to operating temp. Rear brake pads? Dunno. But I need to track it down because I’m on to something here.

This is a quick blast, a few miles on I-95 south to I-295 north to RI 37 east to US 2 north. When I get on the interstate I’m doing 80 in a 55 and you’ll note that I’m not catching up to anybody! Lordy, traffic is fast around here. Fast and texter-ific.

The mystery buzz starts around 5:25, and gets pretty loud by the time I’m gearing down for the 37 off ramp.

All I know for sure about the mystery buzz is that it’s not why I’m writing.

 

Speaking of Nazis, also not why I’m writing, I recently saw the English-subtitled version of the feature film “Our Mothers, Our Fathers.” You may have read about it last year. It was controversial when released in Germany. It had people marching in the streets holding up photos of their fathers and grandfathers in uniform, with signs declaring him “not a murderer,” and the like. The film is on Netflix streaming now, retitled for an American audience as “Generation War.”

It challenges the common and comfortable German belief that a small cadre of monsters in the SS and Gestapo were responsible for the Reich’s war atrocities and crimes against humanity. The film posits that many ordinary Germans were involved as well, by commission, omission, or even just logistically. It’s about the everyday grunt, the non-party member drafted into the Wehrmacht. The film’s not much about the Holocaust; more about the routine conduct of the war, the daily loss of humanity. Executing prisoners, civilians, that sort of thing. Three 90-minute episodes. High production values. Thought provoking.

 

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My old man served in a U.S. Army unit that shot German prisoners on the push to the Rhine and beyond. Nobody’s holy when it comes to Sun Tzu’s art of government-organized mass homicide. Not even the good guys. But that’s not why I’m writing.

 

Nor do I write of the fact that I’ve seen and heard from many friends in recent days.

Our rancher friend in Montana, Robyn, won approval of her design on a new cattle brand. Her border collie, Byrdee, herds cows as if they were sheep. Robyn says Byrdee must think of herself as a much bigger animal than she really is.

 

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In reality, she’s compact enough to ride on the gas tank whenever Robyn goes after livestock grazing miles away from the house. The Byrdee dog must think: Why run when you can ride a motorcycle? And I imagine she’s hip to that bumper sticker we’ve all seen: “Bikers know why dogs stick their heads out of car windows.”

 

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Last summer, headed north and west to the Arctic. Montana, baby! Oh, to be riding across Montana right now.

Well, but then I would have missed our friends Cathleen and Greg adopting their little girl, Annah, in Albany, New York.

Would have missed a visit from Tom and Jay, our friends from Port Orange, Florida. Interesting conversation on the front porch, with beer & chips & pretzels in the good old summertime. Tom was the first editor I worked for at the Providence Journal, in 1986.

Would have missed dinner at a nice restaurant last week, with the bride and two ex-newspaper colleagues of mine, Jen from Boston, and Amanda from here in Little Rhody.

I noticed this about babes out for dinner:

They all order drinks that disguise the alcohol with flavors from the produce department.

They all sample one another’s drinks.

They all talk at the same time, happily, and for hours.

They all order dessert.

They all sample all three desserts.

But that’s not why I’m writing.

 

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Remember the summer of 2012? The bride’s slip & fall at work, left shoulder broken in two places? Then came October of 2013, her tumble on a rocky hiking trail in the Berkshires, two fractures in the right shoulder. Well, she never got the use of the right shoulder back. So today, we took a ride to Rhode Island Hospital for three hours of surgery. Last evening she lamented, “They told me no nail polish, no makeup—I’ll look like a homeless person!”

 

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So of course I’m bringing the camera. This is pre-op, around 11 this morning, right after they put the IV in her hand and shot her into orbit, Wheeeeee…! Got a departing smile out of her with, “This’ll be a good no-makeup, no-hair, no-contacts shot for the blog. With an up-your-nose angle just for luck.”

She was in the O.R. for 3 hours. The surgeon fixed a couple of tears in the rotator cuff, ground down the bone where the biggest fracture had fused unevenly. He dealt with the post-injury arthritis and frozen shoulder. She’s resting comfortably at this hour. Looks like I’m on nursing duty for the next ten to twelve weeks.

But that’s not why I’m writing.

 

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Here’s what I’ve got for actual scribble-worthy blab: Grandchild #1 is on the way!

G1 via D1. Emily’s 19 weeks along and expects to learn her baby’s gender on Friday.

This happy surprise led to a discussion of new names, and not just baby names. The bride had a great-grandmother who went by Mimi, so she’s decided to be a Mimi.

I’ll never be anybody’s grampy, gramps, grandpa, grandpop or grand anything. And Pop is out because D2’s been calling me Pops forever.

D3 nailed it with, “The baby should just call you Tony.” Upon further review, and by consensus, that was freed of a syllable and pared down to Tone. Kinda makes the baby a definite New Yorker/Rhode Islander type. Like when it needs a change: “Yo, Tone, not for nothing, but, my diaper—madonne!”

Emily and Ryan were up from New York this weekend. Actual email exchange while they were in transit:

D1: I think maybe I forgot to tell you we were driving up tonight. Anyway, we are leaving now. It’s 6:45. See you soon.

Me: I’m having second thoughts on “Tone.” Might want the baby to call me “Cool Jerk.”

D1: Haha! That might be difficult to pronounce!

Me: I think the baby could say “Cool Jerk” almost immediately, but would have to be four or five months old before it could say, “This cat they’re talking about, I wonder who could it be.”

 

So this, then, is the next adventure in life. Not just for us as grandparents, obviously, but for Emily and Ryan as parents. Em had an outstanding role model for a mom and is eager to start paying it forward.

Getting late, so I’ll sign off now by embarrassing Em with this card she drew for Mother’s Day a dozen years ago, when she was 20 and finding her way. She lived in northern Vermont for a few years after high school, traveled cross country, saw a bit of the world and started to figure things out. And then it was college in Boston, and work in New York, and now, motherhood.

Em's Card 1

 

Here’s the love on the flip side, with a transcript so you don’t wrench your neck.

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Mom, thank you for every morning you woke me up so I wouldn’t oversleep. For every morning there was breakfast. And thank you for every morning you wished me a good day.

Mom, thank you for every night you cooked dinner. And wished me sweet dreams. And told me to drive carefully and have a fun night.

Mom, thank you for everything in between. Letting me know I always have a home here. And for letting me completely not know what I’m going to do with myself next year. Thank you for all the times you have felt unappreciated, when I should have said thank you but didn’t. Thank you for always letting me know I’m loved and you are thinking about me.

Em's Card 1Tony DePaul, July 29, 2014, Cranston, Rhode Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Tony

The occasional scribblings of Tony DePaul, 62, father, grandfather, husband, freelance writer in many forms, ex-journalist, long-distance motorcycle rider, motorcycle wrecker, motorcycle rebuilder, collector of surgical hardware, blue routes wanderer, outdoorsman, topo map bushwhacker, handy with a wrench, hammer, chainsaw, rifle, former photographer, printer, logger, truck driver, truck mechanic, jet fueler… blah blah...
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36 Responses to This isn’t why I’m writing

  1. Eric Benjamin says:

    Great reason for writing. Congrats to all affected and effected parties! Healing vibes sent to your lovely bride.

  2. Jenna says:

    Great post Dad!

    Proud of you on the nomination! And what a nice picture of Emmy!

  3. Chris Eck says:

    Outstanding post, and outstanding news! Congratulations! By the way, which two states are missing from Piggy’s windshield? I assume Hawaii and…?

    • Tony says:

      Ahoy, Chris! Long time no hear. Hawaii and Oklahoma. We keep riding right by OK for some reason. I’ve been there, just not with the iron piggy yet.

  4. brad says:

    What great news at the bottom of another wonderfully crafted post. Congratulations to all of you. And, Tony, extra congratulations on the Harvey nomination.

    By the way, the see-through state flags are very trick.

    • Tony says:

      Thanks, Brad. I keep encouraging Laura to mass produce the stickers and hawk them on eBay. Probably more research needed on UV-resistant materials, though, the ink, paper stock and the plastic in the laminate. Dunno if she’ll ever get around to it.

  5. Congrats on G1 brother! Start saving up for the helmet fund as the noodle grows.

    • Tony says:

      Hey! Long time, Steve. Yeah, oboy, what will motorcycling be like 20 years from now? I hope I’m not a bad example in getting kids interested in something that’s even more insanely dangerous as time goes on. Hmmm… will noodle on that…

  6. Jan says:

    Glad Pam is getting the work done to recover that arm/shoulder, she is far too active to not.

    So, Tone.. what about Nonno or better yet: Nanu Nanu?

    Big congrats to D1!

    Looking forward to reading a new novel from an awarded writer I met once, will be a first.

    • Tony says:

      Thanks, dude! I’m too close to this scribble to tell whether it’s any good. Will rely on Perfesser Larry. He’s not afraid to hurt a scribbler’s feelings. Straight shooter.

  7. Chris Whitney says:

    I see what you did right there, building the suspense and all that, you crafty wordsmith you. Congrats to all on G1 and good vibes to Pam. May her tennis serve resemble Roscoe Tanner’s.

  8. Bill Boogaart says:

    Pam’s on the mend. GC1 is on the way. Things are getting better all the time! Grampa!

  9. Jeff Day says:

    Great post Tony as always Tony. Glad to hear your wife is on the mend and super happy that you are expecting your first Grandchild! After all of the girls it would be nice to have a grandson then first time around. I have a 4 year old grandson after two granddaughters and he is a hoot.

    It will be great no matter what she has and you will be a stellar grandfather!

  10. Matthew Reed says:

    Tony,

    I’m wondering about that buzz… does it have anything to do with battery voltage decay? Tried a different battery? But that’s not why I’m writing.

    Fantastic news on the grandbaby. You’re going to love being a GP1.

    Best wishes to Pam (GM1) for a quick mend. Ouch!

    Back to work, now. You have something leather, or metal, or wood – some substance to work with – for the baby is coming sooner than you think, and is going to need, something. Maybe a cradle? With leather, metal and wood. And stickers.

    Salute.

    Matt
    Bettendorf, Iowa

    • Tony says:

      Haha! Thanks, Matt.

      Hmm, electronic cause of the buzz, hadn’t thought of that. Camera’s not wired into the bike but maybe it’s own battery is on the way out?

      Funny, the other day one of the gals showed me a photo of something for the baby’s room. “Could you build something like this?”

  11. Duane Collie says:

    The baby might not be allowed to call you Grandpa, but that won’t stop me from doing it!
    “Grandpa DePaul”, I think it has a nice ring to it. Fitting. Congrats!

    I took out a new 2014 Street Glide for a test ride last week, man, that new chassis and engine are quite an improvement over the 2004’s….ten years has made a difference. It still shook my dental work out at the stoplights though, but if you’re gonna ride Motor Company Iron, you should get one of the new ‘uns.

    • Tony says:

      Ha! Amy Bishop at Ocean State Harley is already at work tempting me, says they’ve got four 2015 Road Glides coming in after Labor Day. Maintain the custody of the eyes, Moe, custody of the eyes! The only thing I ever learned worth knowing from the Augustinians. Don’t look at what you don’t want to want. Things get in through the eyes.

  12. Jorge Nelson says:

    Bapa Tony,

    Congrats on your upcoming Harvey and better than that – yer gkid. You old fart…

    Have a great weekend and ride on…

    Jorge

  13. Charlotte Siegel says:

    Emily’s “thank you” card is perfect, and you know she will be a mom just like Pam – perfect. And while I’m putting out the P words – BaPA is a great name – the baby will be saying that name first.
    Also wishing Pam a safe recovery, healthy healing. It’s good that she finally had the surgery, and you are her nursemaid. Enjoy all the new roles in your life.

    • Tony says:

      Thanks, Charlotte. I love that card! Em wasn’t overly happy about me putting it out there, says it’s private, but you know us reporter types, the people’s right to know, etc., we blab everything.

  14. Dave Sell says:

    Congrats on the award nomination but especially on G1! Picking grandparent names is funny. When Lucy was getting ready to make her entrance, and my dad was contemplating the same issue, he decided he did not want to be called Pop Pop. His caveat: “if a tiny little face looks up at me and says, “Pop Pop”, then I’m Pop Pop.” Luckily, we were able to get Granddad to stick.

    Best Wishes to all!

    – Dave

  15. Jennifer Jordan says:

    Congrats Mimi and Tone! I had to wait a long time to find out why you were writing, but it was worth it. So good to see you the other week. And I saw Pam’s Facebook message about pink booties, so congratulations about that, too!

  16. Vincent says:

    I’m weighing in rather late on this post, but I just had to congratulate the Ghost who Walks on the nomination. And to throw in the Swahili equivalent for how we’d call our grandfather – “Babu” – for what it’s worth. Nice and easy to pronounce 🙂 Hope Pam’s on the mend in readiness for lots of baby-cradling.

    • Tony says:

      I’d be Babu in a heartbeat if it made Sade Adu think I’m hip. I once gave serious thought to throwing the bride over for Sade Adu. Bride said she’d throw me over for Shemp Howard and come out ahead. End of that stratagem.

  17. John Lassiter says:

    Late to the party, but glad I came anyhow. Lots of good stuff, thanks. Here’s to fast, good healing on Pam’s part. Have to let you know of a few tears of joy on hearing of D1 & hubby’s great news. I believe no matter what you’re called, GD #1 will be melting all that road grime from you in no time.
    Good vibes to the entire family!

  18. Pat Donahue says:

    Lots of good news there. Congratulations on the nomination for a Harvey. Cool that you’ll be a grand no matter what you get called. Etc.

    I watched your video and kept wondering why you were going so slow on the ramps then I’d remember what you ride. 😉 In case you didn’t know Sena makes a headset for any kind of helmet. They also make a bluetooth connected back for your camera. You can inject your thoughts or singing on the video as you tour. Could be nice for remembering stuff. You might not have that problem though. Funny when a car to your left weaved closer to you my right wrist twitched in time with your little added twist. Best way to not get hit is to not be there.

    Keep up the good stuff, let us know if you get the Harvey, and keep us updated on Pam’s progress. I know we’ll hear about the grand kid .

    Pat

    • Tony says:

      Hate to admit it but later on I found a loose wrench in the saddlebag. I’m hoping that was the source of the buzz. Gotta get out for another test-blast one of these evenings, same route. Gonna check out that Sena system. At one point I had tried to figure out how to get some writing done while riding, dictating to a little Sony DVR in my pocket. Reinventing the wheel, apparently. Ride safe out there, Pat!

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