Tuesday, December 31, 2019

"Musical Interlude 3"

I threw in a Bette Midler.

I think it was "You Gotta Have Friends."

I don't know why I chose that.

It's not my favorite Bette Midler.

And I'm not sure about the premise.

I mean, its nice to have friends.

But, I don't know, you "gotta"?

My all-tine Bette Milder is John Prine's "Hello in There."

So, fixing a mistake I made in 1972...

Monday, December 30, 2019

"Musical Interludes 2"

This is another song that was included in my one-hour special aired on CBC Radio sometime in the early seventies.  Before 1974, because after that I was here.  Starting on April the twelfth.  (I just mistakenly typed "Startling on April the twelfth."  I guess because it was startling I got here.

I have loved Randy Newman since the beginning.  But he was not popular is Canada.  When I went to Sam The Record Man and asked, "Do you have the new Randy Newman album", they said no, and, as if any Randy would do, they said, "We have Randy Bachman."  (Who I believe is from Winnipeg.)

I somehow finally got the album.  And numerous albums after that.  (I was at the concert where he introduced both "Short People" and "Rednecks."  That was some explosive to-do.)

I like a lot of Randy Newman songs.

But this is the one that I chose.

Friday, December 27, 2019

"Musical Interlude"

When I worked for CBC Radio, writing and performing three-minute sketches that were inserted into other shows, my producer surprised me one day by asking me if I wanted to do a one-hour special, showcasing my work.

I immediately said yes.  Not only because I wanted a one-hour special showcasing my work, but because the work was already competed and there was no more for me to do.

Talk about your "No Brainer."

Also included in that one-hour special were a number of songs.  Although none of them were sung or written by me, they were selected because they felt something like me.  Which is, I guess, natural because I picked them.

As a kind of "Musical Interlude" on this blog, I present as many of those songs as I can find, for your holiday listening enjoyment.  I think they still fit.

Let's start with this one.


Thursday, December 26, 2019

"I Once Met A Princess - The Untold Story"

Wherein readers learn the blogger had no natural proclivity for screenwriting.

It all seemed clichéd.

And yet, on some murmuring level, it felt like a movie.

Being unable to pull such a thing off, I never gave it a try.

Working at Harrod’s, I ran into a princess.  (See: My Single Brush With Royalty, posted, most recently, last December 23rd.)  I had helped her with her parcels, and we had ignitingly hit it off.  I tried to turn down her tip, but she insisted I take it.  I felt personally offended.  But deep down, I may have hopefully preferred this.

Written as screenplay bullet points:

The princess and the toy wrapper head in separate directions, she for the exit, he, back to “Toy-Wrapping Hell.”  Suddenly she stops, turns back to him and says,

“Excuse me.  Would you like to spend Christmas in my country?”

That sounds like a movie, doesn’t it?  “Opposites attract”, and off we go?  Insert “Opening Titles” right here? 

But then, then what?  Stuff I make up.  Which, when I do it feels… made up.

A personal jet awaits at the airport.  The princess reports, “There will be two of us.”  Followed by a nodding,  “Very good, mum.”  (Though they really mean “Ma’am.)

Comedy ensues, as I take my first “Luxury Flight.”

We arrive in Luxembourg.  Glistening snow.  Twinkling lights.  Rosy-cheeked kids, filled with Yuletide excitement. 

Can you feel the clichés?  I have turned an actual place into a Christmas card painting.

I meet the King (having decided “No wife”), a doting Dad, used to his daughter bringing how “strays.”  I meet the country’s Prime Minister.  “Obsequiously clever, but ‘dark’.”

This is the first time – though hardly the last – that I consider removing myself from the picture.  Must all movie Prime Ministers be “obsequiously clever but ‘dark’”?  They do in my movies.

I am ushered to my room.  Blazing wood-burning fireplace.  Canopied four-poster bed.  Fresh-baked shortbread in a castle-shaped cookie jar.  The room is fit for a king… except I’m sure the real king has a better room.  I wonder what he gets.

The next day, we go skiing, hi-jinx assured, it being my first time on the slopes.

Everyone laughs.  They like me.  I am silly and unserious.

We share walks and talks through the sumptuous surroundings, me, because I can’t help myself, noting the disparity between what regular people experience “… and this.” (a scene sure to be edited out of the picture.)

Christmas Eve.  All is calm, all is bright.


I overhear clandestine chatter.  It sounds like the P.M. and his cronies are up to no good.

(Like we didn’t see that coming!”)

I alert the princess.  She insists I have undoubtedly misunderstood.  Though I can tell she’s concerned.

More fun in the snow.   

ME: (Brandishing snowball)  “Are you sure I can do this?” 

PRINCESS:  “Bring it on, commoner!”  

Lavish dinners.  The princess shows me how to eat escargot.  (Which I secrete into my napkin.)  I forget the “intrigue”, my mind abuzz with “How did I get here?”

At the Royal New Year’s Eve Gala, there is an “accident”, explained as a “fireworks snafu.”  Recalling The Three Amigos, I tell the endangered princess, “This is real.”

The princess immediately alerts her father.  Angrily summoned, the wily Prime Minister talks his way out of it, promising to “round up the usual suspects.”

Okay, I’m tired, and pretty much really fed up.  (Really?  Stooping to “Casablanca”?)  I’m going to stop this before the King’s locked in the dungeon, the bristling princess, confined to her quarters. 

I regret not reaching the point, where, I inject myself into the action, rallying the populace, who rise up against “Evil”, restoring the monarchy (after promises of meaningful reform), and all’s right with the world.

I know.  It’s terrible.  Well at least I have spared you, and myself, the scene delving into “The Relationship.”  Is it a “friendship”, or has it gradually blossomed into “more”?  Were there “misconstrued signals” involved… Yikes!  I am totally unsuited for this work.  Not to mention the historical nonsense I have contrived.  What do I know about Luxembourg?  (Is it still even a place?)

Here’s the thing.

What happened between me and the princess actually happened.  This ridiculous foolishness did not. 

Although now that I think about it, the original story feels real, because it is.

Maybe that could be a movie. 

Let’s see now…

“Earl, stop!”

You’re right, “Internalized Conscience.”

I’ll just stick to my game.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

"Christmas In The Sky"

We are currently flying to Maui, our fingers crossed for the greatest Christmas present of all -

A safe landing.

Since we are thirty thousand or so feet closer to Heaven, we are sure our Christmas wishes will be answered.

I hope all your Christmas wishes are answered as well.

And Chanukah wishes as well.

And whatever you may celebrate, including "Festivus."

One day of good will, that's all I ask.

Who knows?

Maybe it'll be catchy.

Mele Kalikimaka, everyone.

That's "Merry Christmas" is Hawaiian.

Unless they're pulling our legs.

I mean, "Mele"?

Sounds kind of suspicious.

You see that?  I am already a skeptic.

And we're not even there yet.

This "good will" thing is tough.

But I still think it's worth trying.

"Mele Kalikimaka."

I say, I'm buying it.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

"Your Presents Are Requested" (Again)

Holiday wishes.  Holiday story.  (With minor revisions, ‘cause I can never totally let go.)

Who invented holiday gift giving?

“A guy with a store.”

Too cynical?  Perhaps.  Though perhaps not entirely off the mark.  Historically – if we can regard the Bible as history, and who’s to say it’s less accurate than anything else written back then – the gift-giving tradition originated on “Day One”, if by “Day One”, you mean “Day One” of A.D. rather than “Day One” of B.C.  I actually don’t know when “Day One” of B.C. was.  Billions of years ago?  It was way back, I know that.  Anyway, that’s got nothing to do with this story, just an interesting filigree. 

Hovering over the event from that very first occasion, there loomed the darkening presence of gift-giving anxiety, the gut-wrenching worry that your gift will fall resoundingly flat. 

Allow us now to peek in on that initial foray into heartfelt but emotionally agitating generosity.

Ext.  Holy Land – Night 

(Note:  In the Jewish tradition, which was in force on this first day of Christianity, all holidays begin on the night before.  I don’t know why.  Maybe they were impatient to get their presents.)


(Note:  Because I have no idea of their actual names, the Wise Men will herein be designated by the gifts they are delivering:  Gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Sorry for all the Notes.)




F:  I’m concerned about its appropriateness.

G:  What are you’re giving them again?

F:  Frankincense.

G:  And remind me again what that is?

F:  An aromatic gum resin.

G:  Uh-huh.  And you believed that was appropriate because…?

F:  Frankincense is known to have soothing properties.  I thought after the turbulence of childbirth, the participants might appreciate a mild, calming intoxicant. 

G:  I suppose.  But have you noticed how peaceful it’s been? –  a starlit firmament, the absence of a breeze, not a peep out of anything?  If I were a Weather Man – or a songwriter – I’d say, “All is calm, all is bright.”

F:  You’re saying they won’t need a mild, calming intoxicant?

G:  It seems somewhat redundant.

F:  You’re right, they’re going to hate it!  I know exactly what’s going to happen.  They’ll be all nice about it and everything.  “Look, Joseph – frankincense!  What a beautiful present!”  And then, angling for reassurance, I’ll say, “Are you sure you like it?  I could take it back.”  And they’ll say, “Oh, no, it’s perfect!  We were just talking about how we were real low on frankincense and my husband said, ‘Maybe I should pick some up’, and I said, ‘Hold off a little.  We might get some as a present’, and here we are!  It’s like a miracle.  I mean, it’s no ‘Virgin Birth’ or anything, but it’s still amazingly timely.”  I despise that excruciating charade.  I wish I had brought something else.  

MYRRH:  You wish.

F:  Oh, yeah, I forgot.  With you around, I am guaranteed no worse than “Second Most Terrible Gift.”

M:  Well that’s not very supportive.

F:  Your gift makes no sense whatsoever.

G:  What was your gift again?

M:  Myrrh.

F:  Terrible!

M:  It’s not that bad.

F:  Oh, really?  First of all, myrrh is also a gum resin.  I mean, three gifts, and two of them are gum resins?  These guys will have to be really good actors.  “You can never have enough gum resin.”   This is a train wreck!

G:  A what?

F:  It’s going to be bad.

M:  It may be okay.  There is actually a substantial difference between my gum resin and your gum resin.  Yours in an aromatic gum resin.  Mine is a bitter gum resin.

F:  (TO G)  You know what bitter gum resins are used for?

G:  What?

F:  Embalming.  He’s bringing them a burial spice.  (TO M)  I hope you kept the receipt. 

M:  I did.  But the store’s in Mesopotamia.

F:  Remember now, you promised.  I give my gift first.  I go after you and it’s like, “Oooh, more gum resin.”  No way.  I want to be the first gum resin they get.

M:  I don’t know, after my bitter gum resin, aromatic gum resin might be a step up.

F:  I’m going first!

M:  Okay!   

G:  I think you “Wise Men” – though your behavior puts that in serious question – are making too much of all this.  Remember:  “It’s the thought that counts.”

F:  Spoken like a man giving them gold.

G:  It is simply what came to mind.

F:  Yeah, right, you big showoff.

G:   You could have brought gold.

M:  “Gold, gold and myrrh.”  They would certainly remember me then.

F:  Why do you have to be better than everyone else?

G:  That is not how I thought about it.

M:  Oh, right.  “Let’s see.  What gift should I bring them?  I know.  Something that makes everyone else’s gift look terrible!”

G:  It’s not a lot of gold.

F:  (To M)  Did you see the pouch it’s in?

M:  The pouch alone is better than my present.

G:  If you’re so unhappy with your present, you should really have brought something else for the Newborn King.

M:  Like what?

G:  I don’t know, booties.

M:  “Gold, frankincense and socks.”  That’s much better.

F:  Why didn’t you bring booties?

G:  Because I brought gold!  Dear Lord!... who was incidentally just born.  Do I have to apologize for being the only one bringing a decent gift? 


F:  You know, in truth, we have no idea who we’re bringing this stuff to.  They could be loaded.  They could open the pouch and it’s like, (BLASÉ)  “Oh, look.  More gold.” 

G:  Unlikely.  Rich people don’t have babies in a manger.  They prefer giving birth without donkeys nearby.

M:  They could be rich “naturalists.”  Yours could be the least appreciated present of all. 

F:  (TO M) He put zero thought into it, you know.  “‘Gold.’  Done!”

M:  I know.  It’s like a “Gift Certificate.”

G:  Will you just stop it!  What am I doing with you people?  I should have gone with a traveling caravan.  Unfortunately, I blew all my money on the present. 

F:  That wasn’t so “wise.”

G:  Shut up!  I hate you!  I hate this spiritual sojourn!  And I despise this lumpy camel! 

M:  Take it easy!  You’re turning all red.

F:  (TO G)  Would you like a little frankincense to calm you down? 

M:  I’d like to slip him some myrrh.

F:  Oh.  For “embalming.”  I get it.

G:  Can we stop talking?  Can we not just “camel” in silence?

F/M:  (TOGETHER)  Fine.


F:  (TO M, CONFIDENTIALLY)  What’s got his miter in a twist?

M:  I think he’s concerned about his present.

G:  (OVERHEARING)  I am not!



G:  Everybody likes gold.  (AFTER A BEAT)  Don’t they?


Merry Christmas to all.  Even those who prefer “Happy Holiday.”

Monday, December 23, 2019

"My Single Brush With Royalty"

I was 22 once.  And when I was, this happened.

As the days grew closer to Christmas, Harrods was unable to insure their delivery trucks (for local deliveries) or Her Majesty’s Royal Mail Service (for deliveries to “The Continent” or perhaps even America) would get the gifts to their destinations on time.  What use would they be if after that?

“Remember that big holiday we just had?  Well these are for then.”

Not good.

“I got my Christmas gifts after Christmas!”

Certain fodder for therapy.

Harrods “Trauma-Preventing Policy” was to cut off deliveries and mailings five days before Christmas, requiring all last-minute shopping to be carried away by their purchasers. 

After December the 20th, packages, professionally wrapped by unsavory scalawags like myself, would be delivered by their wrappers to the Ground Floor “Purchase Collection Kiosk”, where customers, showing the appropriate “ticket”, would collect them, for personal transport to their intended destinations. 

So there I am, carting packages to the “Collection Kiosk”, in plain sight of the Harrods customers, which was unusual, as “My kind” were kept strategically “in the back.” 

Now I am out in the open, wearing less-than-recently-laundered brown corduroy pants, a faded Canadian flannel shirt and a pair of high-topped suede “desert boots.”  The actual salespeople dressed differently.  Something similar to “Wedding Attire.”

Before I reach my destination, I can already hear the cacophonous clamoring of an irate customer, standing at the “Collection Kiosk”, screaming her head off. 

Note:  I do not remember this experience verbatim, but I specifically recall my initial words, which were these:

“Lady, you are giving me a headache.”

The irate customer looked demonstrably taken aback.  Not merely by my response, but by the fact, it seemed, that I was speaking to her at all. 

She appeared to be in her mid-twenties, not that much older than me.  Fashionable, floor-length winter coat, bordered in pristine white fur trim.  Her radiant dark hair, exquisitely coiffed, was pulled back, revealing a face that was marble, not in the sense of “cold and impenetrable” but in the sense of “milky white and microscopically flawless.”  (Or am I talking about porcelain.  Anyway…)

She was the most beautiful Gentile woman I had ever seen in my life.

Sensing her relax her guard, I asked her to tell me – calmly – what exactly was going on.  Still visibly upset, she explained that her gifts had been unacceptably packaged for overseas travel, and that there was a car waiting outside to take her to the airport so the “terrible snafu” must be corrected immediately. 

“Come with me,” I instructed.  Firmly.  But with a conspiratorial twinkle.

I then escorted her to the toy-wrapping room, talking to her like she was a regular person, because that’s the only way I know how to talk.

Our arrival elicited spontaneous excitement – Queen Elizabeth, visiting a coalmine.  I immediately told them to behave, and my assumed “authoritative tone” caused them to listen.  Since there were no chairs to sit on, I offered my guest a spot on a large roll of corrugated cardboard.  Which, lacking an available alternative, she accepted. 

Jabbering endlessly as I worked – to distract her from the urgently “ticking clock” and from the fact I had delivered her to a hellhole – I rewrapped her purchases for overseas travel.

The ameliorating procedure involved increased protective insulation, corrugated cardboard which I procured elsewhere so she would not have to get up.  The parcels were then rewrapped in signature “Harrods Green” paper, followed by the final step – the heavy twine, tied crescendoingly in a bow.  For that crowning maneuver, I solicited – and received – the customer’s personal assistance.  Arising elegantly from her cardboard settee, at my expert direction, she magnanimously pressed her finger onto the knot.

Problem solved, I returned Milady back to the Ground Floor, where she thanked me sincerely for my assistance, and presented me a five pound (nearly fourteen dollar) tip, which I adamantly rejected because “We’re just two people” but she insisted I take, understanding we weren’t.

“Give it to your favorite charity,” she proposed, trying to soften the blow.  I said, “Sure”, appreciating the effort, if not the suggestion. 

And then she was gone.

As I trudged back to my dingy workstation, I was accosted by a posse of agitated… I don’t know who they were, people in “Management”, I suppose… who bombarded me with questions. 

What was the problem?  Where had I taken her?  Was she terribly upset?  Had she mentioned the word, “lawsuit”?  What had I done to her?

“She’s fine,” I assured them.  “She had a problem with her parcels and I fixed it.” 

Before returning to the waiting refuge of obscurity, I took a moment to inquire,

“Who was she?”

To which I was huffily informed,

“That was the Princess of Luxembourg.”

And that’s the story.

I still think about her sometimes, especially around Christmas.  She probably doesn’t think about me.  Which, of course, makes impeccable sense. 

Only one of us was the Princess of Luxembourg.