Friday, August 30, 2019

"I Like It 'Now'"

But I fear no one is listening.

It seems I do not change as fast as “change” wants me to change.  Not that I don’t change at all.  I change all the time.  I used to wear calf-high gym socks; now I wear anklets.  I used to eat cow cheese; now I eat goat cheese.  And I am working tirelessly towards squeezing the toothpaste tube from the bottom.

I am a veritable whirlwind of change.

It’s just that I like to change at my own pace, and “change” itself seems to change faster.

There is also the question of “choice” – the difference between moving, and being evicted.

I can identify with those beleaguered coal miners.  Mining coal is what they know, it’s what they do, and what they want to keep doing.  And no “No-‘count ‘Outsider’s’” going to get them to stop.

Such thoughts came roilingly to mind after reading a response in Ken Levine’s “Friday Questions” (on his reliable blog bykenlevine), where Ken mentions, and I quote, because when Ken “mentions”, I listen:

“… fewer people now read blogs.”  


That’s the blacksmith at the dawn of the “Car Era” hearing,

“… fewer people now ride horses.”

Now I may be jumpin’ the gun here, but if Ken’s admonition wasn’t “Time’s up!” it sounds like “Time’s up!” is precipitously down the road.

I don’t want “Time” up till I’m ready.  Is that too much to ask?  (To which the answer is “Yes.”)

Sometimes, as Ken goes on to reports, after writing a blog a while, it gets increasingly harder to come up with new post ideas.  In my experience “feast or famine” happens in waves.  Scribbled ideas on mini-yellow pads all over the house mix with inspirational droughts. 

These temporary “slow times”, I believe, arise because I have uncharacteristically stopped noticing.  I temperamentally see myself as an “interested noticer”, most particularly of “little things”, offering “noticings” for people with brains more productively applied elsewhere. 

This is is the service I provide, a “Personal Shopper” of “noticings”, for those too busy to notice things themselves.  It seems to work fine.  I am not busy, and the “noticing” recipients seem grateful.   

I am not alone in this peculiar proclivity.  A recent Lyft driver regaled me with his musings about an emporium he drove past called Lamps Plus, piquing his interest and his concern.  He understood they could not just call the place “Lamps”.  But what exactly were they talking about when it came to the “Plus”?

I immediately identified with his curiosity about store names.  Lamps Plus, I proposed, came from the same “branding philosophy” as Bed, Bath and Beyond.  I then wondered if there was ever “Inventory Clash”, “Lamp’s” available “Pluses” being identical to Bed, Bath’sBeyonds.

With such uncertain labeling, you could never be certain.  Needing to buy something, you are unsure if it’s a “Plus” or a “Beyond.”

All of which made the drive home enjoyably faster.

When you do a blog called “Just Thinking” – and my sped-up heartbeat just warned me “Don’t say this!” but it is too late to stop now – ideas for posts appear unlimited.

(Stay tuned for Fate’s punishing “dry spell.”  Or don’t, ‘cause there’ll be nothing to read.)

Seems to me, if I remain open and don’t get to too sad or neurotically unhinged awaiting medical results, I can keep “rollin’ along, singin’ a song.”

But, if as Ken observers, “… fewer people now read blogs”, it won’t matter if I’ve still got ideas. 

Will there be readers to read them?

It is only by erroneous accident that I occasionally learn how many “followers” I have.  (The most frequently asked question by people who know me, none of whom are reading my blog.)  (And, by the way, “followers” suddenly sounds creepy.)

I write this blog – falling into quetionable patios – because I likes to.  People reading it is a bonus. 

But what happens if they stop?   (And I eventually find out?)

Ken is already immersed in his podcast, apparently the next communicational outlet.  (Unless there’s a still newer one and I am two communicational outlets behind.  Like I am a number of Apple cell phones behind.  (I can now just call people over seventy.)

Here’s how slow I am, and not just “slow to change.”

This post was supposed to build to the borderline virtual impossibility of my transitioning to podcasts.

And I am just getting there now.

I may try that one next time.

Unless the “End of Blogging” is closer than I thought,

And they turn the lights out tonight.

VETERAN MINER:  “I am still digging coal.”

Would you still dig it if no one was buying it?

That’s a strange question to ask.”

Ken Levine tells me that’s coming.  And I’ve not known him to be wrong.

“Who’s Ken Levine?  Some no-’count ‘Outsider’?”


It don't know what happened to this post.

If you happen to find it, please let me know.

Thank you.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

"So Long, Ike"

An old friend passes. 

And I’m eating pancakes.

Yesterday, I was informed that a man, once important to me, had recently died. 

We had been best friends when we were kids.

I last saw him four years ago, and he looked fine.  Then I heard he’d had surgery.  Then I heard he was gone.

Beyond that now precious reunion, save for a one-day reunion sometime in the 80’s, there was nothing for fifty or more years.

Remembering someone from the long ago past, it’s like, for me at least, you’re on some archeological dig, finding tiny fragments of memory, not enough to construct a whole person – there are thousands of lost pieces – but recognizable as him.

Sifting through those disparate fragments,

I see “blond.”

I see “wiry.”

I see “dryly funny.”

I see “pensively thoughtful.”

I see “caring.”

I see “kind.”

And then there’s this larger “personal artifact” –

A full-blown “Moment in Time.” 

Once, age in the “double-digits” though I am not sure which ones, we had the option of purchasing our own canoe paddles at camp, and I did.  With the explanatory underpinning now lost – did I ask him to do it, did he spontaneously insist, I do not recall.  But a few days later, individualizing the blade of my canoe paddle, he had painted the recognizable cartoon head of “Dennis the Menace.”   

Wherever that priceless memento is today, you have “painted friendship”, etched on a paddle.

Then, pondering this tribute, another meaningful fragment surfaced to mind, triggered, I imagine, by its prominent mention in yesterday’s post. 

We saw my favorite movie The Court Jester together. 

And this wonderful thing happened that day.   

(Note:  You could easily do this back then at the movies.  Today, unless you’re particularly tricky, you can’t.)

We file out at the end of the movie, emerging into the lobby.  Having mutually concurred The Court Jester was great, suddenly, without a word being said, we wheeled back to the theater, and we watched it again.

That’s all the memories I’ve got.

Accompanying this feeling, uneasy to process, which is this:

Two pals.

One, gone.

The other, still here. 

You know what I mean?  It feels weird.  Unfair.  And, of course, mortalistically scary.

I went down to the ocean this morning for guidance.  I was told he’s okay.  It helped a little, I guess.  But… you know.

We saw The Court Jester twice.

And now I’m the only one who remembers.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

"What Happened To Just Laughing?"

When you are old, every pronouncement sounds like halo-ey nostalgia.  I’ve tried not to be old, but they won’t let me.  So I guess I’m stuck with it.  And stuck with sounding like this. 

I know comedy is different today.  Hewing assiduously to their “visions”, today’s comedy writers ignore the once sacrosanct “line” between comedy and drama.

(It now occurs to me I once did that myself.  After pitching an idea for an episode of The Bob Newhart Show, the show’s consultant, comedian Dick Martin (from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In) observed, “Nice drama.”  I just wanted it to be truer to life than “You bet your bippy!  I guess today’s writer’s want it to be truer than me.)

Though there are numerous kinds of comedy I like, my all-time favorite is comedy that bypasses my brain and hits me right in the kishkas.  (Yiddish, for the visceral intestinal area, where the belly-laughs reside.)

The style goes beyond conventional joke structures.  Call it – loudly and proudly –

“Silly Comedy.”

Back in the fifties (and earlier) comedy was essentially “Forget your troubles, come on, get happy!”  There were, among others, Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello, Ma and Pa Kettle, the Bowery Boys, and “Francis, The Talking Mule.”

Nothing “gritty” or “meaty.”  But you could squirt popcorn out your nose.

My “Number One Champeen” back then – and remains still – The Court Jester, with Danny Kaye.

I don’t know if it holds up today, but is made it at least to the late 80’s, when I showed it to my then young daughter Anna, and she ate it right up. 

What stands out for me as a professional are The Court Jester’s endless overlays of comic invention.  A sweet-natured shmegeggie turns dashing and brave (and then back again) through the snapping signal of hypnotic suggestion.  As the hypnotized hero explains, “You can snap me in, and snap me out.” 

Then there is the secret musical signifier, the hero tunefully wondering, “To whom do I hum, to whom?”, the ubiquitous “catch phrase”, “Get it! – “Got it!” – “Good!” and the certifying “purple pimpernel on the royal posterior.”  Not to mention a passel of boisterous “Little People” who wind up saving the day.

And, of course, there is the pre-joust mnemonic reminder, determining which toasting cup to drink from: “The vessel with the pestle has the pellet with the poison” which then breaks and is replaced by “the chalice from the palace”, leaving “the brew that is true” in “the flagon with the dragon.”

Silly comedy.                       

Masterfully devised.

Which did not entirely depart after the sixties.  (When even the pop songs got serious, seguing from “Charlie Brown, he’s a clown…” to the mirthless “Eve of Destruction.”)

Keeping the genre alive were the innately silly Monty Python movies, and the blissful nonsense of The Three Amigos. (in which “in-famous” means “more than just famous.”)

But after that, nothing.  (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure came close.)

Unless you count “drug comedies” which I don’t.  (Though younger filmgoers may.)

One silly example of my own, because, you know… it’s my blog.

Although elements of “silly” appear in everything I write, this is the shortest example I could think of. 

I had a series called Family Man, which ran for seven episodes on ABC (but only after FOX and NBC refused to broadcast it at all.)

Surrogate “me” in the show, “Shelly” complains to his wife Andrea about his malfunctioning typewriter – that’s how old this joke is – while writing an episode assignment for Cheers.

“Something’s wrong with this thing.  Every time I type ‘N’, it comes out ‘G.’  (READING STAGE DIRECTION FROM THE SCRIPT)  ‘The door to the bar opens.  Gorm enters.  Everyone goes ‘Gorm!’

You can’t get sillier than that.

But it still makes me laugh.

Silly comedy won’t solve the problems of the world, but it can lift the load for a moment, sending you back to the fray with renewed vigor and an unclenched perspective.

Or not.

But at least you had “recess.”

I recall a joke from Neil Simon’s Sweet Charity, where a claustrophobic trapped in an elevator says,

“If I could just get out for a few minutes.  Just a few minutes outside and I’d be all right.  Then I’d come back inside.”     

“Silly comedy” is those few minutes out of the elevator.

And I miss it.