Category Archives: R.I.P.

Thank You

It’s been a tough week in New Orleans. Paul Drake’s unexpected death has taken a toll on his people. Shorter Adrastos: Since this is the second time this has happened in 14 months, I don’t feel like writing today.

I would, however, like to thank everyone for the kind words here and on social media. It means the world to Dr. A and me.

What’s a cat post without a picture or two?

Here’s a previously unpublished picture of the krewe of cats named for Perry Mason characters: PD and Della Street. We miss them both.

The last word goes to Sam and Dave and Paul Rodgers:

 

Paul Drake, R.I.P.

2020 has been a terrible year for everyone: death has been depressingly commonplace. I have another passing to report. After a brief illness, Paul Drake has left the building. I use the old Elvis concert phrase because PD was an internet rock star. He deserves a star send-off.

It started last Friday. One minute, he was a normal cat then I left the room. When I returned 10 minutes later, he couldn’t stand up and started dragging himself across the floor. Initially, I thought he had a broken leg.

We raced off to the emergency veterinary hospital. It turned out to be much more serious than a fracture. PD was diagnosed with saddle thrombosis. It’s a malady whose most sinister symptom is clotting in the legs. His hind legs were paralyzed, which was the source of enormous frustration for such a vigorous and hitherto healthy cat.

We followed the course of treatment recommended by the vets. We knew survival was a long shot but, despite the pain meds, he was still present and fighting for his life. Yesterday when we arrived for a visit, he started purring the minute he saw us. It was a tough visit, but we left hoping Paul Drake could beat the odds. They were too long.

Late last night, the vet called to tell us that he had another blood clot. She asked for instructions. We decided to let the poor dear go.

It was sudden, shocking, and sad: taking only 51-some hours from start to finish. We were dazed all weekend. It’s an unfortunately common problem and is nearly always fatal. PD is a special cat, so I hoped he’d be one of the survivors, but it was not to be.

Some of you have met Paul Drake, others have followed his antics here and on social media since his gotcha day, Twelfth Night, 2018. He was a happy and gregarious boy. When we had Carnival parade parties, he didn’t hide under the bed like a sensible cat, he assumed the party was in his honor. He was certainly the life of the party.

I knew we were in for a bumpy ride when he stopped eating. We took some shredded cheese to the clinic yesterday, but he was not interested. This from a cat who came running every time the refrigerator opened. He seemed to think it was a magic food box full of wonders. I laughed every time it happened.

A word of thanks to Doctor Margaret and her wonderful staff at Avenue Animal Wellness and Emergency in Uptown New Orleans. We had such a bad experience with our former vet’s staff during Della Street’s final illness that we “divorced” after 30+ years. I was nervous about leaving her pesky kid brother in the hands of strangers during the pandemic, but they were magnificent: kind, competent, and transparent. Like everyone else, they were smitten with the charming Mr. Drake. Thanks again, y’all.

The house is quiet without PD’s thunderous footsteps and zany bag-play. I’ll even miss yelling at him for jumping on the counter hoping to steal our supper. He always looked at you as if to say, “I know you’ll forgive me, but I’ll get off anyway.” That’s a confident cat.

I sometimes kvetch about the Tweeter Tube in this space. Not this time. I was overwhelmed by a flood of kind words and best wishes as I updated his status. Thanks again, y’all.

I feel somewhat awkward about going on about my cat’s passing when there is even more suffering in the world than usual. But Paul Drake was special, dammit. He was not just my cat or Dr. A’s cat; he was your cat too. I’m glad I was able to share him with our readers.

The last word goes to Al Green with one of the saddest and loveliest songs I know:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Band On The Run

The Bird, The Cage & The Forest by Max Ernst.

I’ve gone on about NOLA rain in this space this summer. It was the wettest July in recorded history, and it happened without any tropical systems getting too close for comfort. That much rain can be inconvenient, but it keeps the temperatures down. That concludes this brief weather report. If I had a green screen, I’d go on longer, but we don’t have the budget for it.

Like everywhere else in the country, life has been grim in New Orleans of late. Small businesses, especially restaurants have been failing daily. It’s estimated that up to 50% of restaurants here will close for good. They need help and since the government ordered them to close, it should come from them. I am not optimistic that Moscow Mitch and his merry band of miscreants will reconsider and ride to the rescue. In the immortal words of Mel Brooks:

This week’s theme song is an ironic choice for this moment in time: ain’t no bands on the run or even on the road.

Paul McCartney wrote Band On The Run in 1973. It was the title track of Wings’ smash hit album, Band On The Run. Was that a run-on sentence? Beats the hell outta me. I’ll stick a band-aid on it just in case.

We have two versions of this Macca classic for your listening pleasure: the Wings original and a raucous cover by Foo Fighters.

Let’s run to the other side of the break. I think I hear band music in the distance.

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John Lewis, R.I.P.

I selected the image above with some care and thought. It was posted on social media in 2016 by John Lewis upon the 49th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act being signed into law by Lyndon Johnson. John Lewis was not only present at this historic occasion, but his activism helped inspire the bill itself. John Lewis *was* American history and now he’s gone at the age of 80 after losing a battle with pancreatic cancer.

John Lewis was one of my heroes. He never lost his passion or sense of humor. He was a man with a big voice and an even bigger heart. He was never petty and was always willing to accept changes in former adversaries. He famously forgave George Wallace in 1979 when the latter expressed remorse over the chaos and havoc he wrought during the Sixties.

The New York Times has republished a 1998 piece he wrote after Wallace’s death, which those who are using John Lewis’ death to settle petty scores should read:

When I met George Wallace, I had to forgive him, because to do otherwise — to hate him — would only perpetuate the evil system we sought to destroy.

George Wallace should be remembered for his capacity to change. And we are better as a nation because of our capacity to forgive and to acknowledge that our political leaders are human and largely a reflection of the social currents in the river of history.

It’s hard to be as big a person as John Lewis but we should try.

He would, however, note the irony of those who would limit the franchise speaking in glowing terms of his lifetime of service. The best tribute to John Lewis would be to reinstate the Voting Rights Act in all its glory.

Central to my admiration of  John Lewis were his kindness and fundamental decency. He was proof positive that you could be a firebrand without being an asshole. Too many Americans confuse assholery with strength and leadership. John Lewis never did. Again, we should follow his example. Being the bigger person isn’t always easy but it’s the right thing to do.

As I searched the internet yesterday, I came upon a tribute that John Lewis wrote about another one of my heroes, David Halberstam after his death in 2007:

I have often said that without the members of the media, the Civil Rights Movement would have been like a bird without wings. David Halberstam, as a reporter for The Nashville Tennessean, was a sympathetic referee who helped to convey the depth of injustice in the South as well as the heart and soul of a movement that would transform America. We talked to him because we trusted him.

We trusted John Lewis to do and say the right thing. He was always focused on the big picture, which is what made him such a singular figure during his nearly sixty years on the national stage. John Lewis kept his eyes on the prize.

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Carl Reiner, R.I.P.

I grew up watching reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show with my mother. My favorite character was the pudgy punster, Buddy Sorrell played by Morey Amsterdam. My second favorite was the hilariously tyrannical boss, Alan Brady played by Carl Reiner. The world just became a little less funny after his death yesterday at the age of 98.

I learned early on that Carl Reiner was the creative force behind that classic show. My mother encouraged my Sheckiness by buying me this album for Christmas one year:

Oy, such a Christmas present. I wore it out.

Carl Reiner, of course, was nothing like Alan Brady. He was famous for being as nice as he was funny. Condolences to the Reiner family and his nonagenarian cronies Dick Van Dyke, Mel Brooks, and Norman Lear. Keep the laughter alive, y’all, keep the laughter alive.

The best tribute to Carl Reiner is to post some of his work as well as an unforgettable CBS Sunday Morning piece from when he was a mere lad of 93:

The last word goes to Carl Reiner as Alan Brady in one of the funniest sitcom episodes in teevee history, Coast To Coast Big Mouth.

Memorial Day: Who I Remember

Memorial Day should be a solemn and somber holiday as we’re honoring those who served in the military during wartime, especially those who paid the ultimate price. The nature of this holiday is often honored in breach by those who crowd the beaches and parks. In ordinary times, that’s merely annoying. These are not ordinary times; in 2020, it’s infuriating.

Memorial Day 2020 is beyond somber, it’s downright grim. We’re approaching a macabre milestone: the 100,000 death from the novel coronavirus, which was memorably noted in Sunday’s New York Times. Two stories captured my attention this morning as I scanned the digital edition of the Gray Lady. The first is about how our monstrously mendacious president* went golfing this weekend as the country suffers from his misrule. He has yet to express sympathy for those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic; not even on his beloved Twitter. Mourner-in-Chief has long been part of the job description but he’s incapable of even paying lip service to the dead. In a word: monstrous. That’s why I call him President* Pennywise.

The second story is about the pandemic’s toll on Holyoke Home for Soldiers in Massachusetts.

Of the 210 veterans who were living in the facility in late March, 89 are now dead, 74 having tested positive for the virus. Almost three-quarters of the veterans inside were infected. It is one of the highest death tolls of any end-of-life facility in the country.

This is a gut punch of a story, reminding us of how hollow the nation’s commitment to our veterans often is. Meanwhile President* Pennywise golfs and tweets; oblivious to the grim milestone noted by the NYT. He is incapable of even feigning empathy with the survivors of those who have died due to his grotesque incompetence. It didn’t have to be this bad and the buck stops in the Oval Office. In a word: infuriating.

We return to our regularly scheduled annual programming, but I would have been remiss in not mentioning our current national tragedy on this most solemn of holidays:

There’s nothing like a national holiday to make one feel ritualistic.This post is making its eleventh annual appearance at First Draft. It was also published in our anthology, Our Fate Is Your Fate.

I realize it *should* be posted on Veterans Day since my remembered soldier survived the war BUT old habits are hard to break. Besides, I would face the wrath of both Athenae and Dr. A if I didn’t post it. So, here we go again:

The veteran I’d like to remember on this solemn holiday is the late Sgt. Eddie Couvillion.

Soldier Boy

My family tree is far too tangled and gnarly to describe here but suffice it to say that Eddie was my second father. He served in Europe during World War II, not in combat but in the Army Quartermaster Corps. In short, he was a supply Sergeant, one of those guys who won the war by keeping the troops fed, clad, and shod. Eddie was what was called in those days a scrounger; not unlike Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22 or James Garner’s character in The Great Escape. 

Eddie’s favorite military exploit was running an army approved bordello in France after hostilities ended. He always called it a cat house and bragged that it was the best little whorehouse in Europe. One can serve one’s country in manifold ways…

Eddie died 5 years ago [2005] and I still miss him. He was a remarkable man because he changed so much as he aged. When I met him, he was a hardcore Texas/Louisiana conservative with old South racial views and attitudes. At an age when many people close their minds, Eddie opened his and stopped thinking of black folks as a collective entity that he didn’t care for and started thinking of them as individuals. Eddie was a genuine Southern gentleman, so he’d never done or said an unkind thing to anyone and confided to me that the only one he’d ever hurt by being prejudiced was himself. I was briefly speechless because we’d had more than a few rows over that very subject. Then he laughed, shook his head and said: “Aren’t you going to tell me how proud you are of me? You goddamn liberals are hard to satisfy.”

Actually, I’m easily satisfied. In 2004, Eddie had some astonishing news for me: he’d not only turned against the Iraq War but planned to vote for John Kerry because “Bush Junior is a lying weasel and a draft dodger.” That time he didn’t need to ask me if I was proud of him, it was written all over my face. It was the first and only time he ever voted for a Democrat for President.

I salute you, Sgt. Couvillion. I only wish that I could pour you a glass of bourbon on the rocks and we could raise our glasses in a Memorial Day toast.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Shapes Of Things

Abstraction by Rolph Scarlett.

I don’t have a helluva lot to add to what I said as the 13th Ward Rambler earlier this week. I’m still keeping my head down during the lockdown. We’ve had a few front porch visitors, which breaks the monotony and allows Paul Drake to make goo-goo eyes at company and get his nose prints all over the lower glass panes of our front door.

This week’s theme song was written by Paul Samwell-Smith, Keith Relf, and Jim McCarty in 1966 and represented a  sonic breakthrough for The Yardbirds. The tune’s Wikipedia entry is absurdly detailed and argues that Jeff Beck should have received a songwriting credit as well. It’s okay: Beck assumed de facto ownership of the song after recording it with The Jeff Beck Group on 1968’s Truth album.

We have three versions of Shapes Of Things for your listening pleasure: the Yardbirds original, the Jeff Beck Group, and David Bowie from Pin-Ups. They’re all shapely and thingy:

Now that we’ve shaped things and contemplated Jeff Beck’s guitar virtuosity, let’s jump to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Drift Away

The Sleeping Girl by Pablo Picasso

Summer is slowly but surely returning to New Orleans. The first two weeks of May were blissfully temperate but summer’s cauldron has begun to boil. It’s unclear if it’s a Pepper Pot but you never can tell.

We had a serious thunderstorm in the wee small hours of Friday morning. I originally planned to put PD’s big ass box out with the trash but thought better of it. I wish I could claim second sight but I’m glad I didn’t have to scoop wet cardboard off the grass.

I did not know until googling information about this week’s theme song that Mentor Williams was Paul Williams’ kid brother. It’s unclear if Paul mentored Mentor in the songwriter’s craft but the older brother never wrote a song as good as Drift Away. Mentor W wrote it in 1970 and after several misfires it became a monster hit for Dobie Gray in the summer of 1973. One couldn’t escape its refrain:

“Oh, give me the beat, boys, and free my soul.
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away.”

We have two versions of Drift Away for your listening pleasure by Dobie Gray and my 13th Ward homies the Neville Brothers.

I know there was a hit version of the song in 2002. I refuse to post a video by anyone who spells cracker with a K. Take that, Uncle Kracker.

Let’s pay a visit to Disambiguation City with the Kinks hard rocking, Drift Away. It sounds nothing like Mentor W’s song but it’s a classic in its own right.

I hope your attention isn’t drifting away. If it is, the time is right to jump to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: For Shame Of Doing Wrong

New York Movie by Edward Hopper.

I’m trying something different this month. I’m pairing the artwork of Edward Hopper with the music of Richard Thompson. Each Saturday in April will feature a different EH image and RT tune. I think they work well together.

My oak pollen allergy has been bonkers this year. We’ve hit a prolonged dry patch: no rain since some time in February. We tend towards extremes in New Orleans. It either rains too much or not at all. The happy medium is unknown in our forecasting annals.

The worst thing about this allergy season during the pandemic is that it’s hard for me to go outside at all. The last time I took a walk, I had a pollen related sneezing jag, which led some fellow strollers to glare at me as if I were Typhoid Mary. So it goes.

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson for the Pour Down Like Silver album. I have a soft spot for that album: it was the first RT album I ever purchased but not until 10 years after its release. I was a late RT bloomer.

We have three versions of For Shame Of Doing Wrong for your listening pleasure: the Richard and Linda studio original, a poppy version produced by Gerry Rafferty, and a cover by RT’s former Fairport band mate, Sandy Denny.

Is it shameful that I like the poppy version from Rafferty’s Folly? Hell, I like the song below too. It was inescapable in 1978:

As I hang my head for shame of doing wrong, let’s jump to the break in a shameless manner.

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Together Alone

I had a quiet meltdown last night. I felt alternately despairing and furious over all the death in the news. Music lovers had a grim day with the passing of Adam Schlesinger and Ellis Marsalis. Mr. Marsalis was an institution in New Orleans. Because he died during the pandemic, there will be no jazz funeral or second line to commemorate the founder of a jazz dynasty. The death of a beloved and accomplished 85-year-old man should be bittersweet instead of bitter, bitter, bitter.

I’m self-reliant and don’t mind solitude. I’ve never been quite sure if I’m an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert but it’s increasingly apparent that self-isolation is atomizing and alienating. At times, it’s like being a character in one of Ayn Rand’s dreadful novels. We’re focused on ourselves and our own survival instead of the greater good. On the whole, I’d rather be a Dickens character; even one of the cheerful losers like Mr. Micawber. Unfortunately, the federal government is nominally run by a man who makes Mr. Murdstone look empathetic. Trump babbles on about 100-200K deaths as the best-case scenario. Such a thought is monstrous: they’re not numbers, they’re human beings. That’s why I call him President* Pennywise.

The nautical news is particularly disturbing. The story of the aircraft carrier carrying hundreds of sailors stricken with the virus is heartbreaking. There’s no room for social distancing on any naval vessel. They live on top of one another from the Captain to the lowliest squid. They signed up to possibly die for their country in wartime, not because of a president’s unfitness for the job. Mercifully the Navy has found a solution. Unlike their nominal commander-in-chief, they still have the American can-do spirit personified by the ship’s namesake, Theodore Roosevelt.

Things remain bleak off the Florida coast. The cruise ship rejected by Governor DeSantis evokes images of the tragic 1939 journey of MS St. Louis aka the Voyage of the Damned. That ship carried Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution. American refusal to allow it to dock was among the most shameful moments in our history, not one that should be repeated.

The cruise ship crisis cries out for a federal response, but we have a president* who is too busy lying to lead. Our ship of state is rudderless as the captain points the finger of blame. The finger is blood-stained, and we know who to point it at come November.

Between Project Novel and world events, I’ve had the music of Neil Finn and Crowded House on my mind of late. The 1993 song Together Alone haunts me because its title perfectly captures this moment in time. It’s hard to be simultaneously alone and in this together but that’s the situation we find ourselves in. We have no choice but to make it work.

I’ve been with two loved ones when they died. It’s painful for the living but comforting for the dying.  It’s almost an impossibility in this pandemic: COVID-19 requires that friends and families be separated because the risk of contagion is so high. The nature of the disease itself is atomizing and alienating, which is why these Neil Finn lyrics are so poignant:

Together alone
Shallow and deep
Holding our breath
Paying death no heed
I’m still your friend
When you are in need

A reminder that, notwithstanding the indignities of this pandemic, we need to stick together and be there for one another. Death may have no mercy, but it is a must for human beings as is empathy. I curse those who continue to make excuses for a president* whose fatal lack of empathy has made this situation infinitely worse than it should have been.

The last word goes to Crowded House:

21st Century Live Stream Funeral Blues

The other day on social media I posted a link to a WaPo article about the difficulties faced by families who lost loved ones  during the pandemic. It drew a raft of comments because I mentioned my favorite cousin. As First Draft readers know, she died last week.

Today was my cousin’s funeral; attendance was limited to 5 relatives and the people who performed the service. I’m not sure we would have been able to go in normal times, but these are not normal times.

My cousin was a movie buff and the one who introduced me to John Ford’s movies. That’s why the funeral scene from The Searchers is the featured image. Ford knew how to stage a 19th Century funeral in the 20th Century.

My cousin’s service was 21st Century all the way. It was live streamed by her church in Dallas. I nearly put live stream in quotes as the transmission was erratic until the last 10 minutes of the mass. At one point we tried streaming on 5 different devices: 2 iPhones, a laptop, desktop, and an iPad. The latter worked the best. Score one for Apple.

It was such a struggle that we started to laugh at the absurdity. I knew my cousin wouldn’t have minded. She was devout but she had an irreverent side: as a young woman, she acted with Nick Nolte at a community theatre in Phoenix, Arizona. Nolte was wild even then so a little laughter from her New Orleans kin wouldn’t have phased my cousin.

As I laughed, I thought of Chuckles Bites The Dust; the episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show wherein the station clown dies at the “hands” (trunk?) of an elephant while dressed in a peanut costume. The rest of the gang makes sick jokes about the death of Chuckles, but Mary Richards is made of sterner stuff. (The best joke came from snarky news writer Murray Slaughter: “Born in a trunk, died in one.”)  Instead, Mary laughed her ass off during the funeral service after the minister recited the Chuckles credo: “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants.”

I know what those of you who know us IRL are thinking. You’re casting Dr. A as Mary and me as Lou Grant. Twenty years ago, I would have objected but I’ve grown into my Lou Grantness. I was always a curmudgeon but now I have Ed Asner’s hairline and paunch.

I don’t blame the church for my 21st Century live stream blues. It’s hard to imagine a more difficult place from which to transmit than a church. What can ya do?

Condolences to Chris, Xander, and Chloe. The good news is that they’d understand our finding the live stream fail funny. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Perhaps that’s why the iPad worked best.

John Ford’s funeral scenes typically used Let’s All Gather At The River as music. But I’d like to use an equally solemn river song. The last word goes to The Band who headlined the first concert I attended. My favorite cousin was the one who took me.

R.I.P. Tina, you will be missed.

My Brave Face

Mask by Jackson Pollock.

March 2020 has been the month from hell. It’s as if the Ides of March came and never left. I’ve already admitted how hard it is for this lifelong news junkie to follow the news. The bad news has been relentless. COVID-19 has gotten so bad that even the Impeached Insult Comedian finally admits that it’s not “fake news” cooked up to deny him a second term. But there will be backsliding. He cannot help himself.

On a personal level, things feel equally bleak. I usually try not to let things that I cannot control bother me. The pandemic has me jittery and rattled. I try to put a brave face on things but it’s hard not to feel numb and empty.

Here’s why I feel empty: My favorite cousin died at a hospice in Flower Mound, Texas on Monday. I’m glad we got to see her earlier this month. It was a whirlwind trip during which I caught the stomach bug I mentioned here. I did not mention my worry that it was COVID-19 caused from hanging out in a nursing home for the better part of two days.  It was not. But I had more than a few sleepless nights and remain jittery about exposing my immune system to any risks. Additionally, I have a normal body temperature that ranges from  99.5 to 100 on a hot day. That’s why I’m not going anywhere they might stick a thermometer in my mouth.

A few words about my late first cousin. She was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. She was more like a sister than a cousin. My parents are dead, and I’m estranged from my sisters so losing my cousin is like losing the last link to my nuclear family.

I’m one of the younger members of my generation of my extended Greek family. My cousin was 75 and finally lost a 25 year battle with cancer. Her son moved her to a facility closer to his home to make it easier to visit. Then came the nursing home lockdown. In her bleaker moments, my cousin said the only reason she wanted to live was to see her family. I believe she gave up because of the lockdown. Many elderly New Orleanians died in the first year after Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. Like my cousin, they lost the will to live.

If you have elderly loved ones in assisted living or a nursing home, remember to stay in close touch even though you can’t visit. Human contact is important, if you can’t physically touch one another, you can talk on the phone. And I say that as someone who dislikes talking on the phone. My late cousin was okay with that, I’d speak briefly to her, then hand the phone to Dr. A. My cousin always said, “He’s just like Uncle Lou.” In that regard, I suppose I am.

I’m trying to keep a stiff upper lip and put the best possible face on things without being in denial. It’s not an easy balancing act.  I’m lucky because I’m married to a wonderful woman whose family nickname is “the representative of the world of science.” She’s good at keeping a cool head while the rest of the world is freaking out.

Finally, I try to maintain what Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello called My Brave Face.

Now that I’m alone again
I can’t stop breaking down again
The simplest things set me off again
And take me to that place
Where I can’t find my brave face.

It’s a breakup song but it works by analogy.

The last word goes to Macca:

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Game Pieces

The featured image is of Max von Sydow playing chess with Death in the Ingmar Bergman classic, The Seventh Seal. Von Sydow had a long acting career in America; often playing in horror movies. He died earlier this week at the age of 90. This is the first time I’ve ever started a Saturday post with an obit. I like to change things up.

The Seventh Seal is set during the Black Plague. It was an era with clueless and ignorant leaders; much like the US&A in 2020. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

This week’s theme song continues our board game theme. The Game Pieces was written by Chris Leslie and Nigel Stonier for Fairport Convention’s 1999 album, The Wood and the Wire. Here’s a woody and wiry live version:

I’m a lousy chess player but I know a good song about chess when I hear one. Just say Yes:

Now that we’ve established that we’re all good people, let’s take a straight and stronger course to the break.

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: McCoy Tyner

The ground-breaking jazz pianist McCoy Tyner died last week at the age of 81. Here’s a random sampler of his album covers:

Here’s the Nights Of Blues & Ballads album in two parts:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Get Happy

Painting by Piet Mondrian.

My stomach bug was a persistent bugger. It slowly got better but I lived without coffee for four days; an experiment I’m not eager to repeat. It’s hard to be alert when you’re under-caffeinated, Coke Zero and tea don’t quite do it. The result was a groggy unprolific blogger. So it goes.

A quick note about the featured art and its influence on the Krewe of Spank. Our theme this year was NOLAOPOLY and our float was designed to be a rolling version of the game board. I suggested that the sides should look like a Mondrian painting. Our float captain, Greg, went for it with gusto.

I may not be able to paint or draw but I have a good eye. Besides, Di Stijl is always in style.

I decided to try and put some pep in my step with this week’s theme song. It was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler in 1930 for a Ruth Etting movie, The Nine-Fifteen Revue. Etting was later played by Doris Day in the 1956 movie Love Me or Leave Me with Jimmy Cagney as her gangster husband.

We have two versions of Get Happy for your listening pleasure. The artists need no introduction but get one anyway: Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald.

Since we’re trying to get happy, it’s time for Keith Richards’ signature song:

Let’s join hands and happily jump to the break.

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James Lipton, R.I.P.

It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely pop culture hero than James Lipton. After a career behind the scenes, Lipton became a teevee star with Inside The Actors Studio. He died earlier this week at the age of 93.

I always found Lipton weird and intriguing. His hair and beard looked spray painted on but he knew more about acting than anyone this side of Elia Kazan, Stella Adler, or Lee Strasberg. Lipton eschewed gotcha interview tactics and celebrity gossip to discuss the craft of acting.

James Lipton was famous for asking the Pivot Questions. As a tribute to him, here are my answers:

1. What is your favorite word? Eponymous.

2. What is your least favorite word? Utilize.

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally? Music.

4. What turns you off? Bigotry of all kinds.

5. What is your favorite curse word? Malaka.

6. What sound or noise do you love? A good three-part harmony.

7. What sound or noise do you hate? Bagpipes, tubas, and jackhammers.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? An old school movie director. I see myself wearing an eye patch and jodhpurs while yelling at the grips.

9. What profession would you not like to do? Skyscraper window washer.The older I get, the more afraid of heights I become.

10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? “How the hell did you get in here?”

The last word goes to Mr. Lipton himself:

Kirk Douglas, R.I.P.

Movie stars don’t come bolder and brasher than Kirk Douglas. He died yesterday at the age of 103. He was one the last survivors of Hollywood’s Golden Age, which he made grittier and tougher-minded with his presence.

His real name was Issur Danelovitch Demsky. He wisely changed his name before his film debut: Izzy Demsky is almost as bad a movie star name as Archie Leach. The name change led to two nice Jewish boys Douglas and Tony (Bernie Schwartz) Curtis playing Norsemen in The Vikings. Oy, such casting.

Kirk Douglas, of course, would have disagreed with my calling him nice:

“I’ve always been attracted to characters who are part scoundrel,” he told The Times in an interview in 1984. “I don’t find virtue photogenic.”

Douglas was an intense actor. It was easy to imagine him leaping off the screen and grabbing movie-goers by the scruff of the neck. Comedy was not his forte.

Along with director Otto Preminger, Kirk Douglas helped end the Red Scare era blacklist by giving writer Dalton Trumbo screen credit in Exodus and Spartacus respectively. I always thought it was amusing that Paul Newman was cast in Exodus instead of Izzy Demsky or Bernie Schwartz. Oy, such casting.

Douglas published one of the best movie star memoirs ever in 1988: The Ragman’s Son. He grew up poor and tough as nails as this passage indicates:

“Even on Eagle Street, in the poorest section of town, where all the families were struggling, the ragman was on the lowest rung on the ladder,” Mr. Douglas wrote. “And I was the ragman’s son.”

The Oscars are on Sunday. Kirk Douglas should have won best actor in 1956 for Lust For Life in which he played Vincent Van Gogh. He was given an honorary career performance Oscar in 1996. They no longer show such awards during the broadcast. It’s one reason I stopped watching the show last year. I didn’t miss it.

In December, I compiled a Kirk Douglas movie list for Saturday Odds & Sods, The photo montage at the top of the post replicates the list but here it is anyway:

My Top Ten Favorite Kirk Douglas Movies:

  1. The Bad and the Beautiful
  2. Spartacus
  3. Seven Days In May
  4. Ace In The Hole
  5. Paths Of Glory
  6. Lust For Life
  7. Champion
  8. Young Man With A Horn
  9. Two Weeks In Another Town
  10. Out Of The Past

One of the most famous moments in any Kirk Douglas movie came from Spartacus. “I’m Spatacus” gets the last word:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Handle With Care

Saturday Morning by Edward Hopper.

It’s been a busy week. so I’ll keep this introduction brief. And I mean it this time.

This week’s theme song was originally supposed to be a George Harrison single, but it turned up on the Traveling Wilburys first album in 1988. The song is credited to the band, but the primary writer was George. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

We have four versions of Handle With Care for your listening pleasure: the Wilburys original, Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and Stephen Stills & Judy Collins.

If you can handle it, let’s jump to the break but with care. Always with care.

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This Will Be Our Year?

I don’t have a hangover but something about New Year’s Day makes one move as slowly as a dial-up internet connection . We had an early supper with some friends, then hung out at home as the fireworks and the odd gun shot went off. My neighborhood was positively sulphuric, which did not amuse Paul Drake. He’s not terrified of loud noises but isn’t crazy about them either. Who can blame him?

I’ve been in the mood for old movies of late. We saw Shadow of a Doubt the other day, which is best described as Hitchcock Americana. It’s a great movie because of its likable villain: Joseph Cotten as Uncle Charlie.

Last night’s viewing featured an unlikable, sociopathic villain: Robert Mitchum as Max Cady in the original Cape Fear. I’m still unclear as to why Martin Scorsese decided to re-make it in 1991. DeNiro and Nolte were unable to match, let alone surpass, Mitchum and Peck. It always amuses me to see Peck turn into a vigilante to rid his life of his hulking stalker. A bonus is the presence of Maybe Cousin Telly Savalas as a shamus with hair no less.

I almost compared Max Cady to the Impeached Insult Comedian who is a combination national nightmare and stalker. Cady, however, is a smart bastard and Trump is as dumb as dirt and twice as ignorant. We need a few more Gregory Pecks to rise against him and expel him from office. He has a death grip on the GOP similar to this headlock at the end of Cape Fear:

Everyone should remember that Trump wants us rattled and fearful. He feeds off the fear like Stephen King’s evil clown in It. That’s why I call him President* Pennwyise. Fuck him.

2019 was a terrible year for some of my friends. I’ve written about the Homans at the Bayou Brief. My friend Kyle of Little Buddy fame lost both his parents in rapid succession last year. It was a rough ride but he posted some hopeful song lyrics today, which inspired the post title albeit with a question mark:

“You don’t have to worry. All your worried days are gone. This will be our year. Took a long time to come.”

The song in question comes from the Zombies classic 1968 album, Odessey and Oracle. They get the last word:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Behind The Wall Of Sleep

Sleeping Girl by Pablo Picasso.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the impeachment hearings ate my week. It wasn’t a snack, it was a tasting menu of scandal, malakatude, and heroism. Democrats have found their mojo: I was proud of their performance in the face of Republican shouting and conspiracy theorizing. That was down to Chairman Schiff  who refused to take any shit from committee GOPers. I’m less confident of the performance of Judiciary Chairman Nadler but the ball will soon be in his court. Stay tuned.

This week’s theme song was written by the late, great Pat DiNizio in 1986 for The Smithereens debut album, Especially For You. The band had been kicking around New Jersey for years before hitting the big time with this great rock song.

We have two versions of Behind The Wall Of Sleep for your listening pleasure: the original video and a 21st Century live version.

There’s a Black Sabbath song with the same title but metal is not my thing so I’ll pass.

Now that we’ve caught up on our sleep, let’s jump to the break.

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