25 June 2017

Words Speak Louder than Actions -- The Sad Fate of Watkins, Middle School Math Teacher



Watkins was turned out on his ear. They did everything short of executing the poor bastard. Nearly 20 years a teacher in good standing then one remark, one slip of the tongue and his career goes down the drain. How do you measure one short comment against all the young lives he’s positively impacted and his incalculable contributions to the school in general?

Poor Watkins had maintained a spotless record, making no enemies among colleagues, staff or administrators. Then that damn little bastard Tyree Robinson pissed him off. It was particularly strange because Watkins had a reputation for a really long fuse. Tyree had tested the patience of many a teacher including yours truly. I’d visualized choking the little shit myself. But no one would have predicted that if anyone snapped it’d be Watkins.

Of course there were mitigating factors at play. It was a day in which nothing was going right for Watkins. He spilled coffee in the morning, splattering a few papers he’d been grading. Then there was a testy phone call with an irrational parent at lunchtime. I heard that Watkins handled it as well as one could. Plus there was the general shitty attitude of kids that day as they practically fell over one another to be obnoxious. It was a cool, slate gray and very windy day. Lunchtime sports had been cancelled and a fight had been stopped before it could get started depriving students of a highly anticipated spectacle.

Watkins had started that post lunch class with what he knew would be a real boffo lesson plan. But as often happens among middle schoolers, the damn kids got in the way. They were so boisterous and uncooperative that Watkins had no choice but to shut it down and make them work silently out of their textbooks. So by the time Tyree went into his act, Watkins’ nerves were frayed.

Maybe it was the accumulated frustrations from 19 years of dealing with adolescents. Here’s a man who was famed for his patience, understanding and tolerance. He would make himself available to students at lunchtime and after school, happy to go over the minutest detail over and over again until the student understood. And he didn’t care how much a student acted out in his classroom, Watkins gave the same measure of his devotion to the troublemaker as he did the apple polisher. Maybe the damn was bound to break. Maybe there was a limit to what one man can do. He’d endured the slings and arrows of the vilest student and carried on. Watkins never asked the administration to mete out harsh punishment to students in his charge. Indeed he often begged for leniency. He hated for students to get suspended. And he never uttered a bad word about a student, let alone to a student. Maybe no one can go on like that forever. Maybe everyone has a breaking point. Perhaps on that fateful day Watkins simply reached his.

I heard the ruckus that led to Watkins’ outburst. It was a bit rowdy in his classroom but nothing to be alarmed about. I was on my prep period grading papers and didn’t give it a second thought. Then I heard what turned out to have been the reaction to Watkins’ infamous comment. First a sudden dead silence, then there were howls. There was outrage. There was indignation. This was not an ordinary noise to emanate from a classroom. Middle school teachers learn to respond to the unusual. I got up and peaked in Watkins’ room. He stood there looking at the students with total defeat playing across his pallid face. As Watkins later said he knew instantly that his comment had crossed the line and there was no taking it back and no apology that would redeem him. He stood there stock still being bombarded by angry reposts. It was as if he had just stepped into an elevator shaft and was resigned to his fate.

Meanwhile stupid Tyree Robinson was a martyr. A true hero to classmates because he was the one to whom Watkins’ words had been directed. Tyree was eating up the attention just as he did any attention that came his way. Tyree was an attention whore and a loud mouth who did not have a selfless bone his body. To think that these young people were putting him on a pedestal while getting ready to tear down a great teacher like Watkins was unbearable.

“Could you get, Mr. Durango?” Watkins asked me feebly. Durango was a vice principal. He’d need to come in to calm the situation, sort things out and take statements.

While we waited I stood physically and emotionally at Watkins’ side as if he were a prisoner facing execution. Students, of both genders, all colors, and all abilities, stared at Watkins. Some in anger, some in shock, some seemed bewildered, curious, almost as if they were mystified by how a grown man could transform before their eyes. I made it a point to keep them quiet and was particularly keen on keeping Tyree from uttering a word. I knew he was reveling in the triumph of getting a teacher to crack.

When Mr. Durango came in half the students tried at once to tell the story of Watkin’s utterance. But no one could silence a room faster than our vice principal. Once he’d done so and subsequently gotten the gist of the story, he asked Watkins to go to his office and wait there. I returned to my own room as Durango heard the students out noting the consistency of their stories. He then had them write statements and remained in the room until the dismissal bell..

Due to the nature of Watkins’ remark he was suspended — with pay — pending further investigation. Really there was nothing more to investigate. Watkins did not deny what he said and the remark he admitted to jibed with the student’s claims. A cursory look into Watkins’ background would be fruitless because he had maintained a spotless record. The parent outrage however was another matter and it quickly spread to become community outrage which of course got the attention of the school board which of course made the matter infinitely more serious. Watkins wouldn’t be able to get by on the technicality that, other than for one moment, he’d been an exemplary teacher. The odds also were, at least in my opinion, that he would continue to be an outstanding teacher for the next ten or 15 or however many years he plied his trade.

The matter was taken out of the hands of our principal and would be decided the school board under the advisement of the district superintendent for human resources. Watkins’ suspension was extended indefinitely. Meanwhile his class was taken over by a sub who had no control over the students and whose lessons were straight out of the textbook and thus dull and uninspired.

Watkins was divorced and lived alone, seeing his children on weekends. I visited a week after the infamous “incident.” He’d aged ten years. He sat slumped in an easy chair in front of the TV which was blaring some stupid game show.

“I never got the chance to apologize, to say I was wrong and that those words don’t in any way shape or form represent who I am or what I believe.  I just don’t know what happened, it came out….it all happened so fast and I’ve felt nothing but terrible ever since.”

It was hard listening to Watkins, just as it was difficult to look at him and see him crushed. All I could do was give him assurances about how we were all behind him and that it would blow over and everything would be all right.

But it didn’t blow over and everything wasn’t all right. The school board found cause to dismiss Watkins post haste, his salary and benefits honored until the end of the school year. The union mounted a defense of Watkins but it was too little too late and it was uninspired. The union could have acted sooner and with more vigor but were timid in face of the exact words Watkins said.

So that was that.

Faculty was mostly supportive of Watkins although a few of the African American teachers were not in great sympathy with him. Still no one reckoned that he deserved to be ousted. We invited him to the big party teachers have on the evening of the last day of the school year. It’s traditionally a big bash with a barbecue and lots of booze. Watkins didn’t show.

Two weeks later some joggers watched as a man drove his car into the bay. It was deep enough at that spot that the car was completely submerged. Watkins body was found in the driver’s seat of the car. Pinned to his shirt was an envelope in a ziplock baggy. Inside the envelope was a note that simply said: “all I did was call him fucking ni--er. NOT FAIR!”

The darn guy couldn’t even spell the word out.

18 June 2017

HEY REMEMBER ME?! I'm Finally Back With a Blog Post After Overcoming a Horrible Case of Writer's Block


That's Rihanna, she's mentioned below.

Some people say that writer’s block doesn’t exist. Some people also say that global warming doesn’t exist. In conclusion: some people are idiots.

I’ve had a case of writer’s block -- okay forget block it’s more like that monolith from 2001 -- and it has been sucking all of my writing ability into a black hole. I thus been rendered  incapable of stringing together more words than it takes to write an email. Mind you, I’ve written some nice emails, a few have displayed the wit and grace that have personified my writing lo these many years, while others have been most informative and still others have included a lone pithy remark and a link to a hilarious video.

What causes writer’s block? Fuck if I know. I don’t get it often and it usually just drops by for a few days, maybe a week. This has been a particularly virulent case aggravated by various factors. The most notable of which is some pretty bad ass depression. I’ve written enough about said depression lately so suffice to say that this has been the darker, deeper, more numbing variety. (As of this writing I am enjoying a depression free day as I did for four consecutive days recently.) I’ve also been wrestling with various nettlesome, though not serious, physical ailments, most notably a rash. Add to this coming to terms with the pending death of another good friend (that will make two this year) and it's little wonder that my fingers have not been dancing about the keyboard at their usual pace.

So it seems that I’m over the dreaded block (monolith) and boy don’t it feel good. Not being able to write is like not being able to speak coherently or to be sexually impotent or to have lost memory. Writing is my past, present, and future and it keeps them all alive just as a well rounded human needs. I do not suggest that I am particularly well rounded though if someone else does I’ll not issue a denial.

One of the problems with writer’s block is that there is no topic that seems worth scribbling about. Of course when you’re in the zone you hardly need a topic, a kernel of an idea, an image, a quote, an event will suffice. When free of the dreaded block I can write about your dog's fleas. Anyway I've got other topics of more importance and interest than fleas to write about...If I can just think of one....

Let's see there was another white cop who got away with killing another African American in cold blood. It's not just about cops, its really about the system and the institutionalized racism. We can't continue to accept this.

The jury in the Bill Cosby rape case couldn't reach a verdict because in this country an African American can get "justice" if he is rich and famous (see Simpson, OJ).

There were a couple of more mass shootings this week and the NRA still has a sizable number of congressmen by the balls so no gun laws will change and there won't even be much, if any meaningful dialogue on the subject.

Senate republicans are crafting a new health care bill behind close doors, it's all very hush hush although other republicans support the bill despite not having seen it. It will doubtless favor the huge pharmaceutical companies and insurance conglomerates with nice fat tax breaks for the already wealthy. Meanwhile screwing millions out of their health care. These are a people without compassion, without a soul who are available to the highest bidder.

We still have an idiot for a president who's favorite subject seems to be himself. He is a liar and a cheat and a sloppy businessman and this is all empirically verifiable. As is his obstruction of justice and his fuck buddy relationship to any Russian who can help get or maintain power or cash. Especially Boss Putin.

A "man" (alex jones) who claims that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in which 28 people died many of them small children, did not take place, is being given air time on NBC tonight. How is this different than putting on a guest who claims an alien abduction or that Elvis lives or that the moon landing was faked? I'll tell you how it's different, it's worse. Any of those three would have more credibility and do far far less to unnecessarily hurt any feeling sthan this rabid dog in human skin.

See? There's ever so much to write about and for the sake of balance I'll close with some pleasant topics.

Rihanna.

Season five of Orange is the New Black, seasons three of Better Call Saul and Fargo. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Simpsons.

The resistance is strong and the pushback to Trump's reign of error is effective and predictive of great change in the days to come.

It's Gay Pride month and celebrations are taking place all over the world.

Strawberries are delicious. So are bagels and smoked salmon. So are the smoothies I concoct after I run. So too my wife's cooking.

The wife is retiring in two weeks and can devote more time to separating Rihanna and I. We're going to Europe in July (the missus and I, no Rihanna).

It's Father's Day and I had a great dad and I have two beautiful daughters who I am enormously proud of.

And the writer's block has been chiseled down to nothing.



03 June 2017

Fragments -- Fighting Depression and Winning Despite the Defeats



"Hey, Ray, I never went down, man! You never got me down, Ray! You hear me, you never got me down." -- Jake LaMotta to Ray Robinson in Raging Bull.

Fragments.

It’s been over a week since I was able to write more than a few paragraphs. In the same time period I’ve been unable to so much as start to practice my Finnish. I’ve meanwhile managed to read only a little. Meditation has proven impossible. Such is the power of the depression that currently occupies my mind, my body, my soul. I am a listless, lethargic lump only able to carry out everyday chores and work. Even sleep is difficult, unless it is day time in which I’m prone to lengthy naps. My body is full of chemicals, those that are supposed to combat depression, those that are supposed to aid sleep and those that successfully stave of panic attack. I’m too numb to feel panic.

Depression has been a constant in my life for 14 months now taking occasional breaks, the longest of which was for two weeks. Depression is the type of thing that makes you feel bad and makes you feel bad for feeling bad. Depression about depression. I write about my depression a lot. It helps to do so. It is also easy to write about because it is so clear and obvious. There is no ambiguity to it. A clear and present danger.

The depression has been given added fuel by the death of one of my closest friends and the fact that a second close friend is in hospice. That’s two major presences in my life that will be forever silent. I feel a little bit more alone. Also I had a horrible reaction to one anti depressant that gave me vicious rash all over my body. It was replaced by a second anti depressant to which my body reacted with the exact same kind of rash.

Yet I can say in all honestly that I’m happy. My life is a treasure trove of gifts and joys. Wife. Children. Nieces and nephews. Grand nieces and nephews. Friends. Co workers. Job. Physical health. The ongoing presence of books, music and films in my life. Travel plans. Exercise. All range from excellent to sublime. Much to celebrate and appreciate. Without these things perhaps I’d be on the verge of suicide. Perhaps not. I don’t know.

I don’t know is a constant theme of mine these days. This lack of surety in all things. This inability to affirm all but the most basic and obvious truths and realities. It is an overwhelming feeling of weakness. At least I know for sure that I suffer from depression.

But I don’t feel sorry for myself. I’m just depressed. I happen to be dealing with an emotional malady rather than a physical one and it does not prevent me for performing necessary tasks like going to work. I also am confident that it will pass. To feel any other way — as admittedly I sometimes do while in the midst of a particularly bad bout of depression — would destroy me. Without hope there is nothing. And I want something.

As I’ve been struggling to write this the depression has had a firm grip on me, a veritable strange hold. But I feel victorious because for the first time in days I’ve managed to write over 500 words. I’ve further managed to address IT. The pain cannot win if I can point to it, identify it, name it, call it out and spit in its face. Obviously I’m down, but not out. Depression deals some pretty powerful blows that can fell me for a time. But I always get up. I've got that and nothing can take it away from me.

24 May 2017

Jumble Tumble Crumble -- A Hodge Podge of Recent Scribblings (Worth a look, actually)



Friday 5/19
In many jobs you have to attend meetings. Some jobs require a lot of meetings. This is generally not a good thing. Actually probably never. I’ve been a teacher for decades, anyone outside the education racket would likely be shocked at how damn many meetings teachers have to attend. It’s a lot. This was much more so when I taught in public school. Staff meetings, faculty meetings, department meetings, team meetings, parent conferences and any committees you may be a part of, either by volunteering (sucker!) or by fiat. If you’re a union rep you’ve got yourself a whole other batch of meetings — in this case for a decidedly good cause.

Meetings can be necessary and productive, especially if they are specific and relate directly to the attendees. Did you know that a lot of meetings are held because they are scheduled and not because they are needed? Did you further know that meetings will sometimes fill a specified amount —an hour, for example — despite the fact that there is only half an hour’s worth of business to attend to?

As I write this I’m sitting in an hour long meeting that has yet to feature so much as one iota of information that is relevant to me. The sum of the presentations — by four different people, so far — could have been condensed into a two paragraph email or a five minute announcement. Yet here I am half listening on the off chance that something will be said that I need to know. I think leading a meeting is like teaching a class, you've got to know your audience and your presentation has to be given with as few words as possible. Also you need to read the room and adjust on the fly. The fact is that teachers are more likely to be presenting relevant material than the useless garbage you're subjected to in meetings.

Saturday 5/20
I watched The Long Voyage Home (1940) directed by John Ford. In my estimation its his most underrated film and it features my favorite John Wayne performance (not that I am generally enamored of Wayne's acting.) The film is beautifully shot with amazing shot composition and brilliant use of shadows and lighting. I'm hoping that the good folks at Criterion will release it someday soon. It deserves the full treatment.

Sunday 5/21
Someone said this about a friend: “he never has a bad word to say about anybody.”  

Fuck that guy. 

First of all he’s making the rest of us look bad. Secondly he’s making the rest of us look bad and third he’s making the rest of us look bad.

Get with the program, buddy, trashing people is a perfectly natural, sometimes healthy practice. Like most anything, overdoing it is bad for you but in moderation talking shit about other people is nothing to be ashamed of. Whattaya gonna do when there’s some jerk at work that everyone is having a go about during lunch? You’re gonna sit there while everyone else is running Sid down one side and up the other? What are you, one of those jerks who says, “aww, he’s a nice guy.” Ole Sid has been getting on people’s nerves for weeks, maybe months, maybe years with his haughty attitude, inappropriate remarks and selfishness, now you’re going to give with the old “he’s a nice guy, bit?” Gimme a break. By your use of the term anyone this said of a serial killer is a “nice guy.” Don’t let people off so easy.

Okay my tongue was spending considerable time in cheek with that last bit but I do doubt those goody two shoes who claim to never say anything bad, they're just not trying hard enough or they're brain dead.

Monday 5/22 


So what’s it like here fully encased in depressed? For one thing it’s slow. Thoughts take their time formulating, speech comes as if I were sedated. Also it’s sad. Very, very sad. Yesterday and all the days before it seem wasted, tomorrow and all the days to follow look bleak. Today is dark and hopeless. 

There’s no reason, no method, just….The dull ache of depression. If you've never had it, depression seems a simple thing to rid yourself. Shake it off. Occupy yourself. Make love. Drink. The words easier said then done come to mind. Distracting depression can be done. An episode of The Simpsons can do it. But that episode ends and you're right back encased in the pain.

Tuesday 5/23
Hospice. My friend’s wife was updating all concerned about Paul’s condition. I told the missus I was dreading the one that had the word hospice in it. Sunday there it was. Fifth word in. Jumped off the page like a blaring siren. Unmistakable. A deceptively pleasant sounding word. Hospice. After all it’s good people performing an important task with great compassion. But it meant that Paul, with whom I go back to freshman year of college, was going to die soon. Heavy heart is an apt way of describing that feeling. Mine felt like a brick.

He will be dead. You can say he passed or that we lost him but that will not alter the grim reality that his life will be no more. My good friend Kevin already died this year. There’s only so much a person can take.

(FUCKING PANCREATIC CANCER!)

Lot of messages on Paul’s Caring Bridge site. Apparently Paul is in a lot of thoughts and prayers as is his family. I don’t have prayers for him to be in but he’s prominent in my thoughts.

There are lessons to be learned like make each day special, live life to the fullest, appreciate every day, they are gifts. That’s the type of thing that sounds great but practically speaking is impossible. Some days just suck. Some days you’re busy. Many of my days I’m battling depression. But I can keep Paul in my heart and remember how he lived with such relish for life. I can learn I can draw inspiration. I’d rather he was cancer free.

Wednesday 5/24
Today on Paul's Caring Bridge site someone named Cindy wrote the following:
"Paul, I have been planning to call you to see how things are going. We miss you tremendously at work. It has been extremely busy- CWF is coming together, and I have been spending more time than I would like in Sacramento. I have been half expecting you to have this cancer thing licked by now, knowing your strength of mind and self discipline. Keep hanging in there. If anyone can conquer cancer, you can."

Poor Cindy is spending more time in Sacramento than she'd like to. The American tragedy that Dreiser didn't write about. But Paul learns that CWF is coming together. That'll be just the tonic for the man in hospice. She also suggests that if anyone "can conquer cancer" Paul can. She is evidently unclear on the concept of hospice. Ya know, some people are better off just sending their thoughts and prayers.



18 May 2017

Tribute to a Friend

Paul on the left with the author circa 1986.
“You have noticed that the truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping. When people are already in despair, maybe the laughing face is better for them; and when they feel too good and are too sure of being safe, maybe the weeping face is better for them to see.” 
-- Black Elk from Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux

Freshmen year in the dorms 1971 at Chico State there was this gangly geeky looking guy. He was tall, slender, face pocked from acne. He wore plain glasses and clothing so ordinary it was darn near weird. He had short dark hair and walked with a stoop. His name was Paul and I’d never seen a nerdier looking guy in my life. He was especially nerdy given the time period as this was when most everyone in their late teens and early 20’s felt free to wear whatever — usually colorful — clothes caught their fancy and let their hair down, figuratively and literally.  Not Paul, though. His roommates once gave me a peek into his chest of drawers and closet. Everything was lined up neatly in order and this included white undershirts, no one was wearing white undershirts then. Well, except for Paul.

One of my first “encounters” with Paul was while walking down the halls of the dorm. Someone said my name. I looked around and Paul was the only person I saw, walking a good 15 yards behind me with his head down. There was no indication that he’d said my name but if not him, who? This was a weird trick of Paul’s. Saying a person’s name and pretending he hadn’t. I never quite saw the point of it but then again if you weren’t the target it could be amusing.

I became friends with one of Paul’s roommates and with Paul himself shortly thereafter. No, I wouldn’t have predicted that I, coming from Berkeley in the Sixties, already a veteran of anti-war demonstrations and LSD trips, would befriend someone who seemed to be the straightest, squarest, white male on the planet. But Paul defied all expectations. He was never what he seemed.

Yes, we were both athletes (Paul was a runner and I was a soccer player) and sports fans and we liked the same teams (SF Giants and 49ers) but our friendship was and has always remained about much more than sports.

Paul won me over when he expressed admiration for 17 year old Jonathan Jackson who brazenly took a judge and others hostage in an effort to negotiate the freedom of the Soledad Brothers. It was a doomed mission and arguably a bad idea but Paul was impressed by young man’s display of courage. Indeed Paul may have looked the young republican but his political views were nearer to my New Left philosophy than to conservatism.

By the end of our freshman year Paul and were buddies. Like all my close friends I was attracted to Paul for two main reasons: he loved life and he marched to the beat of a different and very hip drummer. Here was a man who, far from succumbing to cynicism as many of us then did, maintained an infectious enthusiasm for life. Paul also was gifted with a strong work ethic which accounts for academic achievements and long and successful career in engineering. Paul didn’t just hit the books, he beat them to a pulp; yet he managed to fill his free time with the kind of silly nonsense college males have long been notorious for. Paul and the Durham Boys were a highlight of Chico’s annual Pioneer Week parade.

We were roommates twice in college so I was witness to the long hours he spent sequestered with textbooks, t squares, pencils, paper (graph and lined) and notebooks. But I also enjoyed shenanigans with him a few of which I would blush to make public. Suffice to say we were were rowdy, randy lads with senses of humors that veered between sarcastic, slapstick, bawdy, surreal and outrageous. We also embraced irony. Paul and I hosted what we called the Donald DeFreeze (Cinque) Memorial kegger in “honor” of the slain SLA leader. We didn’t really admire Cinque at all, it was just funnier than naming a party for a real hero or — god forbid — just calling it a party or kegger.

Approaching his mid twenties Paul metamorphosed, his acne was clearing up, his hair was growing to a more natural length. Still around the fairer sex he remained painfully shy. A girlfriend of mine at the time and I took it upon ourselves to set him up with a likely lass. This worked out so well that the Paul and the woman eventually married. Then again they subsequently divorced. In any event I take partial credit for getting Paul active in the game of love. His continued participation bore fruit with his second marriage which remains a raving success to this day. A person like Paul deserves a happy marriage and his second eventually led to two beautiful children who today excel as athletes, students and people. How could Paul produce anything less?

My two turns as a roommate of Paul’s were a delight. He was as responsible as I was irresponsible, as clean and neat as I was sloppy and as reliable as I was flaky. Of course while he was setting a course for career success I was perfecting my drinking and womanizing skills neither, of which do I put to use anymore.

Paul graduated and immediately got a job in Southern California and eventually earned his MA. I stayed in Chico and drank but also started a career in journalism. Over a seven year period we did not see each other and our only contact was one phone call around the time the 49ers won their first Super Bowl. But a few years after that Paul re-located to the Bay Area as I had a year before. We immediately got together and it was like we’d never parted. We knew and understood one another so well that we were more like family than just ole college buddies. I loved the guy.

A few years after returning Paul and first wife realized that happily ever after did not apply to their relationship. This is always a difficult time for a man and I was more than happy to help Paul through it. He actually rebounded quite quickly and went straightaway into the dating scene. This is always problematical once you enter your 30s and I listened to Paul’s war stories offering whatever hope I could. Meanwhile I had stumbled into marriage with the woman of my dream’s and we had two daughters. I gave Paul the honorary title of Godfather to both of them. This was more an homage to the film and less to religion. He earned the title. I actually bragged to people about how nice my friend Paul was to my daughter’s. Once after a Giant game I lamented that I couldn’t quite afford the Giant’s teddy bear I wanted to give my oldest. So Paul bought it for.

Paul was a frequent visitor to our abode in his bachelor days. I once told oldest daughter that this regular guest was the governor of California and being a toddler she believed her dear old dad. Thus Paul was, for a time, referred to around our place as the governor.

We regularly attended sports events together particularly Giants’ games. The team is Paul’s great love and the two make a great couple because they are both classy as hell. Paul has always possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of sports, particularly in regard to his favorite teams. Going to games with Paul is like being with a walking talking reference book. But it’s also like going with Jerry Seinfeld. I’m a bit of wit myself so even during the most dreary defeats Paul and I could chuckle, guffaw and snicker our way through. You couldn’t go to a game with Paul and not have fun. Of course it wasn’t just giggles, Paul and I have explored all manner of topics such as politics, films, family and history. Paul can talk, but he can also listen.

When Paul met Deb it was a great source of happiness for me. It was clear from the beginning that here was a couple destined for one another. Paul did not gush sentimentally about her, he just matter-of-factly explained why they worked together. Not as romantic maybe but a better sign for the future. I was honored to be part of the wedding party and just being at the wedding was an early highlight in my daughters’ lives.

Paul’s children, Darryl and Chloe have proved what I long suspected and that is that Paul had all the makings of an all star father. His patience and love have guaranteed that his off spring would do Paul proud.

Bu Paul shares a common characteristic with all people I’ve ever met: he’s not perfect. I could omit reference to his shortcomings but that would render this writing meaningless hagiography and deprive of it of a crucial point.

So sure, Paul has his imperfections (I hasten to add they are few in number and none are serious). Over the years with me he became self absorbed and omitted me from our conversations. I often felt that I was sitting through a monologue rather than participating in a dialogue. As my career changed Paul showed little curiosity in my new doings. Often when I made observations or offered opinions Paul would gratuitously contradict me. People have been guilty of far worse. I finally tired of feeling like a second class citizen and let Paul know it in no uncertain terms. Did I look Paul square in the eye and articulate my grievances? No I wrote an email and my tone did not leave open the possibility of reconciliation. I can be and have been a grade A idiot. To Paul’s great credit he responded most graciously and acknowledged his behavior. I then spent several years having second thoughts about what I’d done. And not trying to rectify it.

It is true that I am bipolar. Generally speaking this causes periods of bottom feeding depression. It can also cause me to be impulsive and stubborn and to get stuck in situations. No excuses though, I own what I did. I have learned an important life lesson that I want to here pass along: if you have enjoyed a long term friendship, you have participated in a great gift of life, don’t squander it. If issues arise between you and your friend, resolve them openly and honestly and try to maintain contact. Friends are far too valuable to toss aside.

I finally reached out to Paul after years in an effort to make amends. It was shortly thereafter that I discovered  that he finds himself in a physical struggle. It’s the kind of thing he doesn’t deserve to be saddled with but that he is just tough enough a customer to handle.

I wish I’d been there for him from the beginning of that struggle and I hope he knows I’m with him in spirit now and that I regret those years of playing the aggrieved. When you spend years building a strong friendship there's no sense in abandoning it.

Paul deserves all the love and respect I can provide. He’s a damn good friend because he’s a goddamned good person.

16 May 2017

Happiness, Depression, Wanting More Visions, No High is Good Enough -- The Ordinary Thoughts of a Bi Polar Man

Myrna Loy, I'd welcome a chat with her ghost.


“But I remember seeing a mess of leaves suddenly go skittering in the wind and into the creek, then floating rapidly down the creek towards the sea, making me feel a nameless horror even then of 'Oh my God, we're all being swept away to sea no matter what we know or say or do.” 
-- From Big Sur by Jack Kerouac

I was really happy for a little while. I’d had a good run after seeing my psychiatrist and been productive all day. It can go like that. Pure joy. Body feels supernatural, energy coursing through veins. Anything possible, the future an open lane two carriages wide, lined with flowers and I can stroll, strut, saunter, amble, sprint, dash down it any way I want. Then — clink — something happens. It’s small. No permanent damages, no hurt feelings. Just an annoyance really. And I’m falling through the trapdoor with the nice, tight noose around my neck. Back in the doldrums. And is there any point even trying to crawl back out. Surrounded by the dire black of inescapable sorrow.

These things happen. Endings come. There is death. There is pain. There is suffering. There is injustice. There is the unyielding burden of living with a brain that sometimes sees only the enveloping storm clouds. Bitter. Hungry for hope. Starved.

Anxiety visits from time to time. Reeling and rollicking and kicking up a storm, making the mind a twisting reckless guidance system. It can overwhelm too. Take over the central nervous system. Oh god please not that lack of control that terror, silently hysterical. But I…I who am nothing…I who for some moments of some days is everything…I hold on and carry on.

I don’t miss work. I show up and I never alter a lesson that I’m about to teach because of “how I’m feeling.” Professionalism. For me its power supersedes “feelings” or pain or discomfort of fear or even that horrible rash — rashes — I’ve suffered and I do mean suffered.

Sidebar: My psychiatrist put me on lamictal which is a mostly effective drug for people with bipolar disorder. We gradually started to increase in hopes of positive results. Instead the increase brought a rash — on the arms, legs, back and feet — that was pervasive and angry and itched like hell. I mean it, like hell because surely if there was such a place it would be home to such mad desire to scratch, a desire so all encompassing that one bled from the scratching. Off the lamictal I went and on to abillify which is known to be equally effective. It proved equally effective at causing the rash from hell. Wonder what’s next.

It’s critical to take care of what’s in front of you. Work has to be done, appointments kept, chores finished, exercising and eating and sleeping must be maintained. Sure the depression will fight you on some of these but you’ve got to push through enemy lines whenever and wherever possible. One thing I have had to do is maintain my work ethic. I have students who expect me not only to show up but to put on my usual show. I need to educate and entertain and be responsive and sensitive and clever and flexible and aware of classroom dynamics. This I do. It is what I am proud of. Depression, you do not stop me from teaching. Period.

I see things now. Oh I know they aren’t real, they’re just visions and they only last a few seconds and I generally don’t interact with them but they’re there as projected by my battered tattered brain. Sometimes I see a deceased relative or friend. It’s actually quite comforting. It gives me the feeling that they’re not completely dead that their live force and influence are still present in the world. I’d actually like to have more visions. Allen Ginsberg saw William Blake. How cool would that be? I’ve felt the presence of Ginsberg himself and of Kerouac and other notables but it’s always been rather vague and short-lived. I’d like an extended visit of an apparition that looked for all the world like a regular living human being and whose voice I could hear loud and clear and whose message was unassailable and clear. 

Thomas Wolfe would be nice. Maybe Malcolm X or Bobby Kennedy. I’d welcome Groucho Marx, Thomas Hardy, Christy Mathewson or any of a number of women like Marilyn Monroe, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mryna Loy, Joan of Arc or how about Josephine Baker? Whoever visited could sit right next to me here on the sofa and we could chat. I wouldn’t be freaked out at all. I’d ask some questions, get some advice, share some perspectives. It’d be fun and for me enlightening. If need be I wouldn’t share the visit with anyone. Or if it was acceptable I’d write about on this here blog or publish a piece in Hallucinator’s Monthly.

When I was a teenager I dropped acid a few times. I really like the hallucinations. I loved the way trees would seem to flow and have trails and be different colors and everything was a little off kilter. It was a different way of not just seeing but experiencing the world. I got a lot out of it and have spent much of my life believing that the only way one could achieve true and honest understanding of the world is through having experimented with hallucinogens. Then I had a bad trip. My god that was awful. It was too close to the feeling I got growing up with a schizophrenic mother. Everything was different and everything was bad, very bad, magnified bad. It was like being depressed only the depression was a living force that spoke to you in a maniacal cackle. It was around then that I had my first panic attack and whether my susceptibility to panic influenced my bad trip or the other way around, I cannot say.

A few times subsequent when I smoked some particularly strong marijuana I would get panicky. It was a calm panic. Kind of like receiving sobering news while getting blotto. My brain found booze to be the safest drug although I loved cocaine. Coke was especially good because it kept me awake for more liquor. How I did love to drink. There was never enough. Too much did not exist.

Getting high was like searching for the ultimate. But the ultimate what? The ultimate high? Sure, there was that but that was just part of the picture. I wanted women, the perfect one and the perfect night of sex and I wanted to have great deep conversations with brilliant people and reach profound insights. I wanted to hear the best music and dance and feel the glory of a thousand victories and soar among the clouds and travel the world all in that one night. Usually I just managed to get stinking drunk and wake up the next day with a vicious hangover that I would eventually require a hair of the dog to assuage.

I've been clean for decades. Better to wage the wars against mental illness. Somehow I never despair. Not even when in the worst of depression. There is still a voice somewhere telling me that there is an end to this tunnel and I will reach it. Just hang in there. And so I do. I'm sticking around for when the good days start piling up, dozens upon dozens in a row and I can smile everyday and not just pursue happiness, but be pursued by it. Right on.

10 May 2017

What's Happening With the Usually Benighted Author of this Here Blog

My good friend Rihanna who I recently accompanied to a dental appointment.
Some people have told me that they keep up with my doings by checking my blog every now and again. I imagine this is not an ideal way to follow yours truly as quite often I write reminiscences or about films or my views on pterodactyl hunting. Then again if depression, panic or paranoid delusions have me in there grip readers will be kept up to date. Be that as it may, as a service to those of you who want to know “waz up?” with me, I provide this laundry list of my recent doings. I do this primarily because there’s been a lot going on with me lately that I’ve not taken time to write about and I believe much of would be of interest to the general reader, not to mention my acquaintances, friends, associates, colleagues, confidants, paramours, chums, pals, homeboys, bitter rivals, enemies, neighbors and stalkers and stalkees.

So here’s the latest.

Two weeks ago I continued my top secret work as an agent for a foreign country (you seriously don’t think I can tell you which one, do you?). I snuck into the pentagon and took photos of highly sensitive documents. Later I did the same over at the CIA. Was caught in the act at one point so had to liquidate a security guard — my condolences to the Clank family of Virginia Beach.

I recently dined with the Baron and Baroness Von Hapsburg at their lovely chalet in the Strudel Mountains. The Baron had recently defended his wife’s honor (which is more than she's ever done) in a duel with a Romanian Count and was none the worse for wear.

Last week I looked up the word "sonorous" in the dictionary and spent a few days inserting it into conversations. My friends found this to be somewhat sonorous on my part while co-workers found me sonorous for doing it. Family members responded sonorously.

My bagpipe lessons have continued with great success. My teacher, Mr. McGillicuddy, says that within a few decades I'll be able to graduate from rank beginner. Neighborhood dogs continue to howl in protest whenever I play but I carry on undaunted.

Discovered that the capacity to forgive and the willingness to do so is the greatest power we hold as humans.

Whirled and whirring and finding folly in loving lashes of pure perfection made me more happily heroic. Sorta.

Ran afoul of the law. Nothing serious, mind you. Suffice to say that that's the last time I carry explosives with me. The officers were pretty good about the whole thing although my bazooka has been confiscated. Thank goodness I'd left my howitzer at home.

Created a bridge of understanding between people of divergent backgrounds with dissimilar life experiences and world views. Ate a muffin.

Vacationed in the Congo staying at my cousin Mugabe Hourula's house. Wrestled a gorilla. Then stopped off in Haifa to see my cousin Chaim Hourula. Sat seder.

Watched some re-runs of The Newlywed Game and thereby gained insight into the origins of the solar system. Witnessed the big bang during a hallucination which was precipitated by viewing too many car commercials.

Learned to speak fluent Iroquois. Carried on a long but one sided conversation with a deaf mute who turned out to be Apache. Sometimes I've got no luck.

Translated the Merriam-Webster dictionary into pig latin with the help of my friend Vaughn Castlemack who, it turns out, is deceased. He fooled me.

Babysat some Victoria Secrets models. We had a pillow fight and ate fennel.

Continued to dig for buried treasure, have thus far been only to find some priceless relics which I'm selling on eBay.

Danced by the light of the silvery moon. This was my first such experience having mistakenly danced by the light of the slivery moon in the past.

Tried to write a list of people who are bigger idiots than Donald Trump. After managing only the names of a few Fox News commentators, republican congressmen and tin pot dictators I gave up.

Bought low and sold high. Made a nickel in the process.

Performed my one man show at Carnegie Hall. My revue included a full orchestra and a group of actors and some can can dancers as I am unclear on the concept. Also played the trumpet for an a cappella choir, further establishing my bona fides as Mr. Unclear on the Concept. Thank you. Next I will be writing scripts for my improv group and dialogue for a mime troupe.

Dug in my heels. Made a stand. Refused to yield. Stuck to my guns. Held firm. Double downed. Battened down the hatches. Held the fort.

Personally escorted Rihanna to her dentist appointment, sat in the waiting room reading Redbook which was not a book at all.

Having developed the capacity to read minds I wondered the city streets and was shocked to find out how many people were thinking about micro waved macaroni and cheese. Was mildly surprised that so many women found me irresistibly attractive.

Join the US navy and promptly went AWOL. Am working on a full length novel regarding this experience.

Led a polar expedition only to find out once there that the North Pole has long since been discovered. Still wanting to make history recorded the first polka danced on the polar surface. New dance craze started called the Polar Polka performed by Pete and Pat Patterson the Polar Polka Princes. High Times magazine gave us four stars.

And just the other day I diverted attention, stole the spotlight, hammed it up, ran the gamut, played the fool, kept it on the down low, reached for the stars, chased my dreams, stooped to conquer, picked my spots, went all out, left nothing to chance, played the odds, waxed poetic, said my piece, played a hunch, ran amuck, took it to the limit, threw caution to the wind and wrapped it up.

As for today, well, I wrote a rather silly blog post about my recent doings. Am thus far undecided about whether I should post it. Will consult with my imaginary friend, Olaf. “What say you friend, Olaf?”

So it appears to be a go.

09 May 2017

The Code Word is Aardvark - or - How Antonioni's L'Eclisse Could be a Spy Movie


I was watching Antonioni’s masterful film, L’Eclisse on DVD. Early on two characters are speaking. I know a little Italian but not enough to render subtitles extraneous. So I’m reading them during the conversation. The male character asks the female (played by Monica Vitti) if she’d like him to call her later. This is ably translated and shown in the subtitles. Vitti’s character responds by saying what sounds like the word, “no.” However this is not translated and viewers not conversant in Italian are left to wonder if the Italian sound “no” means the same in their language as it does in English. For all anyone knows the “no” sound in Italian could mean something else entirely like, “aardvark.” (It doesn’t but I’m making a point here.)

So you’re watching L’Eclisse let’s say for the first time, you’re still in the first scene and a character utters a word that you can’t be sure means “no” and may in fact mean “aardvark.” So if the latter you’re going to speculate as to why a person would answer a question regarding making a phone call by naming an animal, one that is, according to my good friends at Wikipedia: “….a medium-sized, burrowing, nocturnal mammal native to Africa. It is the only living species of the order Tubulidentata, although other prehistoric species and genera of Tubulidentata are known. The aardvark is sometimes colloquially called ‘African ant bear’ ‘anteater’ (not to be confused with the South American anteater), or the ‘Cape anteater’ after the Cape of Good Hope.”

You’d likely consider that perhaps the use of the word “aardvark” was code and that the two characters were spies. This would lead to speculation regarding the sudden use of a code word. Did they suspect that there were listening devices in the house? Was the question about calling later a coded message? Could there have been other coded messages within their dialogue? Will all this be revealed to us later in the film or is this one of those deals where we’ll have to ‘read the book.’ And if we do have to read the book what if it’s out of print and hard to get? Or what if the book is really long or what if it sucks or what if it is both long and sucks. That could put one in a deuce of a pickle.

All of this confusion is just based on a supposition that aardvark was the untranslated word. Maybe the untranslated word was “sure.” Thus the woman was inviting a phone call later in the evening. Changes everything though not as much as if the word was aardvark. Of course if the answer was “sure” maybe it was sarcastic. It’s not worth thinking about. It’s also perhaps not worth thinking about the thousands of other words that he woman might have said. A lot of them would be similar to aardvark in that they would not seem to make sense in answering the question. Examples include: sycamore, lioness, pulverize, curricular, bassoon, ensign or umbrella. Again if it was one of these words or a similarly obscure one, it could only mean that the word was code.

This actually might serve to pique the viewer’s interest. Someone without foreknowledge of the movie could find themselves excited at the prospect of a spy thriller with Miss Monica Vitti as the lovely heroine. Maybe this would also feature the Italian James Bond. After all Alain Delon, then a young dashing figure, was the listed co star and he could more than fill the bill as a suave secret agent. Could this mean that Monica Vitti would be a fellow agent? Surely not an enemy one? It would not seem that she would be a vulnerable femme fatale who needed rescuing or an evil seductress. Too big a star for that.
Further complications would arise as the viewer was forced to look for other spoken words that contained hidden meanings. The mind boggles. A couple of scenes early in the film would compound the viewer’s confusion. One takes place in the apartment of a friend of our main character. The friend is recently returned from a long stay in Kenya and has an apartment decorated with African art. Ms. Vitti’s character dons some African attire, darkens her face and dances to tribal music. It’s an odd scene but if one is convinced that they are watching a spy film it takes on additional and more mysterious meanings. Especially when the hosts tires of playing African. Another scene (and indeed there are others there) unfolds in Rome’s stock market and of course international financial intrigue is just the stuff of the spy genre. At one point Ms. Vitti follows a man who she has been told has that day lost millions. We were to believe that she is curious about how someone reacts to taking such a beating but our heroine pilfers a napkin he doodled on. She shows the doodles to Alain Delon. Surely they contain a message central to the entire plot. The failure to translate the word sounding like “no” has now born serious consequences in the mind of the viewer.

Later Mr. Delon’s car is stolen. This would further suggest to confused viewers that spy games are afoot. Surely the car contained vital secrets or was specially equipped. The next morning the car is dredged from a river. There is a body in the car but does it belong to the thief or more importantly to an enemy spy? Was something extracted from the car? One is left to wonder.

The mysteries pile up for our befuddled viewer. The languid pace, the long silent stretches, the shots of buildings, trees rustling in the wind, street lights, people walking seemingly without direction. What does it all mean? And how does one explain the ever-changing nature of the Vitti-Delon interactions. Of course there are no references to aardvark anymore, at least nothing that one can detect.

L’Eclisse finally ends, more like stops and the word “Fine” appears on the screen. Is this the Italian variation of “The End”? Or is this another message? Does it mean everything is fine? One can go mad trying to decipher the hidden meanings. All this because of the failure to translate the “no” sound. But this may be a wasted exercise, though, because sometimes no means no.

07 May 2017

My Previous Post was About My Love of Films, Here are My Top 111 and then a Bunch More

Here they are my favorite films in order. Please note I do not claim them to be the "best" just the ones I like the most. You will also note that I tacked on another batch of films that I also love. That list is in no particular order, although many of the films are grouped by common director.

1.  Manhattan (1979) Allen
2.  The Godfather Coppola (1972)
3.  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Capra
4.  The Seventh Seal (1957) Bergman
5.  His Girl Friday (1940) Hawks
6.  La Dolce Vita (1960) Fellini
7.  Duck Soup (1933) McCarey
8.  Winter Light (1963) Bergman
9.  Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) Malle
10. Goodfellas (1990) Scorsese
11. Heaven’s Gate (1980) Cimino
12. Amarcord (1973) Fellini
13. Fanny and Alexander (1982) Bergman
14. Chinatown (1974) Polanski
15. Cabaret (1972) Fosse
16. Sunset Blvd. (1950) Wilder
17. Casablanca (1942) Curtiz
18. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) Capra
19. Europa (1991) Von Tier
20. Tess (1979) Polanski
21. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) Coens
22. Sullivan’s Travels (1941) P. Sturges
23. The Third Man (1949) Reed
24. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) Herzog
25. L’Eclisse (1963) Antonioni

26. Godfather Part 2  (1974) Coppola
27. Roma Citta Aperta (1945) Rossellini
28. Dead Man (1995) Jarmusch
29. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970)
30. Annie Hall (1977) Allen
31. A Clockwork Orange(1971) Kubrick
32. Apocalypse Now (1979) Coppola
33. The 39 Steps (1935) Hitchcock
34. Midnight in Paris (2011) Allen
35. Persona (1966)  Bergman
36. Holiday (1938) Cukor
37. La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928) Dreyer
38. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (1948) Huston
39. Le notti di Cabiria (1957) Fellini
40. Inglourious Basterds (2009) Tarantino
41. The Emigrants/The New Land (1972/1972) Troell
42. Match Point (2005) Allen
43. No Country for Old Men (2007) Coens
44. The Searchers (1956) Ford
45. Raging Bull (1980) Scorsese
47. Pulp Fiction (1994) Tarantino
48. Red Desert (1964) Antonioni
49. Through a Glass Darkly (1961) Bergman

50. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) Ford
51. The Big Parade (1937) Vidor
52. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Lumet
53. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) Milestone
54. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1967) Kubrick
55. The Big Sleep (1946) Hawks
56. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) Allen
57. Foreign Correspondent (1940) Hitchcock
58. Platoon (1986) Stone
59. Network (1976) Lumet
60. Wild Boys of the Road (1933) Wellman
61. Schindler’s List (1993) Speilberg
62. The Silence (1963) Bergman
63. The Big Lebowski (1998) Coens
64. La Grande Illusion (1937) Renoir
65. Blade Runner (1982) Scott
66. Rushmore (1998) Anderson
67. L’Aventurra (1960) Antonioni
68. The Talk of the Town (1942) Stevens
69. I Knew Her Well (1965) Pietrangeli
70. Citizen Kane (1941) Welles
71. The Bicycle Thieves (1948) DeSica
72. Odd Man Out (1947) Reed
73. Vertigo (1958)  Hitchcock
74. La Strada (1954) Fellini
75. Barry Lyndon(1975) Kubrick

76. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) Cassavettes
77. Requiem for a Dream (2000) Aronofsky
78. The Flowers of St. Francis (1950) Rossellini
79. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Penn
80. Elevator to the Gallows (1958) Malle
81. Andrei Rublev (1966) Tarkovsky
82. Radio Days (1987) Allen
83. Zodiac (2007) Fincher
84. Ivan’s Childhood (1962) Tarkovsky
85. Stagecoach(1939) Ford
86. Heroes for Sale (1933) Wellman
87. Y Tu Mama TambiƩn (2001) Cuaron
88. Paths of Glory (1957) Kubrick
89. The Wild Bunch (1969) Peckinpah
90. The Exorcist (1973) Friedkin
91. Viridiana (1961) Bunuel
92. Groundhog Day (1993)  Ramis
93. Ariel  (1998) Kaurismaki
94. The Last Picture Show (1971) Bogdonavich
95. Bride of Frankenstiein (1935) Whale
96. La vie de Boheme (1992) Kuarismaki
97. The Great Escape (1963)  J. Sturges
98. Ride the High Country (1962) Peckinpah
99. Das Boot (1981) Peterson
100. Stromboli (1950) Rossellini

101. Birdman (2014) Inaruttu
102. If…. (1968) Anderson
103. Sunrise (1927)Murnau
104. Shadow of a Doubt (1943) Hitchcock
105. City Lights (1931) Chaplin
106. Umberto D. (1952) De Sica
107. The General (1926) Keaton
108. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Gondry
109. The Lady Eve (1941) P. Sturges
110. The Man Who Would Be King (1975) Huston
111. Army of Shadows (1969) Melville

And a bunch more:  Chimes at Midnight, Sansho the Ballif, Mean Girls, 8 1/2, Variety Lights, Passion of Anna, Wild Strawberries, Face to Face, Shame, Cries and Whispers, Virgin Spring,  Moonrise Kingdom, Broadway Danny Rose, Hannah and Her Sisters, Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Stardust Memories, The Great Dictator, Gold Rush, Modern Times, The Deer Hunter,  Christmas in Connecticut, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Conversation, Band of Outsiders, Silver Linings Playbook, Downfall, The Shop on Main Street, Rear Window, The Lodger, Notorious, A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, Spartacus, MacBeth, The Match Factory Girl, The Man Without a Past, Midnight, A Hard Days Night, The Getaway, Three Days of the Condor,  The Aviator, Mean Streets, King of Comedy, Animal House, Jackie Brown, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, Morocco, Hail the Conquering Hero, Run Lola Run, Bullit, The Letter, Il Posto, I Findinzati, The Truman Show, Jules et Jim, Shoot the Piano Player, 400 Blows, Horsefeathers, A Night at the Opera, The Long Voyage Home,  Fort Apache,
My Darling Clementine, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,  Our Daily Bread, Public Enemy, White Heat, Closely Watched Trains, Gods and Monsters, Port of Shadows, Short Cuts, Nashville, Gosford Park, MASH, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Gold Diggers of 1933, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, Yojimbo, Rashoman, Tokyo Story, The Burmese Harp, Black Narciccus, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, ET…, Stripes, Shadows, Diary of a Lost Girl, The Strawberry Statement, Exterminating Angel, Down By Law, Local Hero, All the President’s Men, Stalker, The Mirror, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Silence De La Mer, Ice Storm,  Journey to Italy, Reds, Separation, Hamlet, Richard III, Il Divo, Cache, The Parallax View, Medium Cool, Bitter Rice, The Roaring Twenties, Wings of Desire, A Serious Man, Habla Con Ella, Mafioso, Letter Never Sent, Shoeshine, Trading Places, Jaws, Bull Durham, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, The Marriage of Maria Braun, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, The Crowd, Il Sorpasso, Some Like it Hot, Dances With Wolves, Glory, Mama Roma, Gods and Men, Barbarians at the Gate, Playground, Lost Weekend, The Conformist and Take Shelter.









03 May 2017

I Love Films and Here's Why



Ingmar Bergman  Woody Allen  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington  Humphrey Bogart  Jules quoting bible verse in Pulp Fiction  The way John Ford frames shots  Barbara Stanwyck seducing Henry Fonda in Lady Eve falling for Gary Cooper in Meet John Doe making a monkey out of Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity  Europa switching from black and white to color and back Chaplin's Little Tramp  Jake Giddes being told it’s Chinatown  Redford and Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein  Psycho  Joel Grey MC in Cabaret  William Holden  Denzel  Fellini  The Bicycle Thieves  The exquisite beauty of Barry Lyndon  The exquisite mystery of 2001  Happy couple in the city in Murnau’s Sunrise  Brando and Leigh in Streetcar  The tracking shots in Goodfellas

Franklin Pangborn perennial bit player in 30s and 40s  Vivre Sa Vie  Battleship Potemkin  Indiana Jones outrunning a boulder  Alec Baldwin’s pep talk in Glengarry  Michael Keaton and Edward Norton in Birdman  The shadows in The Third Man  Llewyn Davis gamely trying to become a star Faye Dunaway more than holding her own opposite Nicholson McQueen Hoffman Beatty Some Like it Hot  Finding out who Tyler Durden really is  Tarkovsky  The cinema photography in Raging Bull  The soundtrack to Midnight in Paris  The helicopter and The Doors in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now  Myna Loy and William Powell on screen banter  The ending of Melancholia  The ensemble cast of Down by Law  Anton Chigurh played by Javier Bardem Harold Lloyd  The dialogue, the humor, the story in His Girl Friday  Cary Grant opposite Irene Dunne Ann Sheridan Jean Arthur Constance Bennett Rosalind Russell Katherine Hepburn Ingrid Bergman  The Great Escape  The climactic dance scene in Footloose  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  Antonious Block vs. The Devil in Seventh Seal  It’s party time in Animal House Jimmy Stewart transforming Kim Novak in Vertigo  Marlene Dietrich  Hearts and Minds  Wes Anderson  Au Revoir Les Enfants Chimes at Midnight  Persona Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott in Ride the High Country  The Bride of Frankenstein  The Rug and White Russians in The Big Lebowski  The flawless career of Finland's Aki Kaurismaki  Ping ping ping in Das Boot  Taking your date to see the Sorrow and the Pity in Annie Hall  Monica Vitti   I'm funny how? in Goodfellas   Umberto D  Once Upon a Time in Anatolia   Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence Polanski's gorgeous Tess starring the gorgeous Natasha Kinski   You're going to need a bigger boat   The Passion of Joan of Arc Roma: Open Citti  Rufus T Firefly Wolf T Flywheel J Cheever Loophole Otis B Driftwood Quincy Adams Wagstaff  Dr. Hackenbush S Quentin Quale Taking Omaha Beach in Saving Private Ryan  Christmas Eve in Fanny and Alexander  Angels watching over Berlin in Wings of Desire Two men drinking milk and talking in Inglourious Basterds  Ossie Davis saying 'you've got to do the right thing'  The shrinking jury room in 12 Angry Men   Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper tearing it 

up in Silver Linings Playbook   Sunset Blvd.   Claudette Colbert  The brave pacifism of All Quiet on the Western Front  Bull Durham  Jules et Jim  It's A Wonderful Life a Christmas staple  The road trip in Y Tu Mama Tambien The long shots in Grapes of Wrath  A Sea of umbrellas in Foreign Correspondent  Investigation of a Citizen Beyond Suspicion The transformation of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day Cinemaphotographers: Haskell Werner Gordon Willis Gregg Toland Sven Nykvist Vittora Storaro Robert Richardson Vilmos Zsigmond Jack Cardiff Robert Burks Kazuo Miyagawa The key in Notorious Duck Soup Isaac Davis railing about intellectuals in Manhattan Red Desert  I am Spartacus!  The car chase (of course) in Bullitt  Rosebud A woman saying goodbye to her lover going off to battle in The Big Parade The Exorcist Every second of Heaven's Gate The Emigrants and The New Land La Haine Olivier as Hamlet and as Richard III  The dance scene in Band of Outsiders Akira Kurosawa  Holden says 'let's go' in the Wild Bunch Melville's brilliant debut Silence De Lar Mer  Bonnie & Clyde reimagines cinema  The Stunning Stefania Sandrelli in I Knew Her Well  Bogie goes mad in Treasure of the Sierra Madre Joan Blondell Rushmore The starkness of The Last Picture Show The best of pre code from William Wellman: Wild Boys of the Road and Heroes for Sale  The ultimate musical A Hard Day's Night Buster Keaton's The General  Sullivan's Travels Jeanne Moreau walking in the rain in Elevator to the Gallows  Attica! Attica! Cate Blanchett Ice Storm Fred & Ginger dancing cheek to cheek Intertwining stories by Altman in Nashville Gosford Park and Short Cuts  Diane Keaton The doubting pastor in Winter Light  Matti Pellonpaa and Kati Outinen sharing screen time Paths of Glory Jean Harlow Max von Sydow  Zodiac: the soundtrack, the re-creation of 70s SF, the cast  Anna Magnani in anything but especially Mamma Roma Germano Maccioni a directing star on the rise Early 1900s New York in Godfather Part 2  Match Point  Wes Anderson's casts Elizabeth Taylor  The storms of Take Shelter The ending and all of Personal Shopper La Dolce Vita                        


29 April 2017

La La La Life Goes On Plus My Exclusive Interview With the Almighty



We are the Village Green Preservation Society.
God save Donald Duck, vaudeville and variety.
We are the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society.
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties
-- From Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks

People often ask me the following question: who the hell are you and what are you doing in our living room?

But seriously folks, they do, they really, really do.

Fact is I don't know how I keep ending up in other people's houses, especially their showers. I do like to rinse off fully clothed and the desire to do so often overcomes me while I'm engaging in one of my midnight strolls through strange neighborhoods.

I also like to collect strangers' toothbrushes. Some people find this to be a weird hobby. Some people find me a to be a weird person. Some people have trouble finding me at all because I'm really good at hiding. (The key is to hide in places that people don't end up looking for or at or in.)

I also have a tendency to do things that I'm prone to do but if only if it fits into a consistent pattern of my behavior which is manifest by my usual habits and daily activities.

At this point I have to acknowledge that much if not all of what I've been writing has centered around one person. Now if I can just figure out who that person is maybe I can find a corrective. If I'm correct about correctives they can correct situations that are in some fashion incorrect. Fashion being something of little interest to me except as it pertains to attractive women wearing something fashionable or not fashionable or not anything at all which I suppose reads like I enjoy seeing women naked and as a matter of fact I make no apology for the fact that I do. (So here I risk charges of sexism, posting inappropriate content or appealing to prurient interests to which I say the following: I very much doubt that at my age I appeal to prurient interests, my wife finds me appealing but beyond that I am more known for my wit and charm than being an adonis.)

I now interrupt this blog post for an interview with The Creator, the one and only God. I came across the deity during a prayer. I was in the midst of asking for gold, Rihanna and perfect health when the holiest of holies cut me off by saying: why not save your breath? You're always asking for some crazy shit that's pretty much impossible. Maybe try some questions that you can get answers to. Fine, I retorted, I'll ask you different questions, how about an interview? The Almighty (who refuses to identify by either the feminine or masculine pronoun) agreed. Here is a transcript.

Me: Is God your last name?
God: Seriously? I don't have a last name. Duh.
Me: A first name?
God: Craig.
Me: So you're male.
God: Dude, I'm totally kidding no first name. I'm just plain god.
Me: I gotta get this one out of the way, is the apocalypse coming?
God: I assume you mean to Earth. Well I'll tell ya I've got a lot on my plate right now but its on the back burner. Not sure when I'll get to it.
Me: Yikes! How's it going to come to pass?
God: Gimme a break, I haven't even decided when. Baby steps.
Me: Baby steps?
God: Yeah, it's a core philosophy of mine. Actually I stole it from a Bill Murray film called What About Bob? Murray cracks me up.
Me: You laugh a lot?
God: You're kidding, right? Watching the mess you people make of things is non stop hilarity, except for the uglier things like war, genocide, torture and all that inhumanity. That's not funny. But some of your politicians, priceless stuff.
Me: How do you listen to everyone's prayers and know what everyone is doing at all times?
God: Who said I did?
Me: I thought you were omniscient.
God: Yeah but I'd like to know who spilled the beans.
Me: I think its pretty common knowledge among most religions.
God: Shit, that was supposed to be a secret.
Me: What do you think of Muslims, and them calling you Allah.
God: Hey, they're no worse than the fucking Christians. And I'm not hung up on God as a name. Allah is just as good. Actually I'd kind of like a nickname. Like Kizzy.
Me: I'm not even going to ask....
God: Good call.
Me: Do you have any siblings?
God: A younger brother Larry and an older sister Ruth Ann.
Me: You're jerking my chain again.
God: Nope. I'm on the level.
Me: How come your big sister isn't lord and master of the universe?
God: She had a drunk driving bust freshman year so that took her out of the running.
Me: If you've got siblings you must have parents.
God: Yeah, the Rosebergs of Fort Lauderdale.
Me: They must be so proud.
God: No, they wanted me to be a doctor. Anyway, I gotta split, its the weekend and athletes are in full prayer mode. Check ya later.
Me: Peace out.

18 April 2017

The Secret History of William Henry Harrison's Post Presidency



William Henry Harrison did not die in office. The commonly held belief is that the nation's 9th  president expired a mere 31 days into his presidency. It is maintained in standard history books and texts -- which is somewhat understandable, if ultimately unforgivable -- but it has also somehow still repeated in such alternative histories as Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen and A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn. That this canard is still put forth with few even questioning it, is one of the great mysteries and scandals of U.S. History. True enough Harrison ceased to be president on April 4, 1841 but the man known as Old Tippecanoe lived for another 12 and half years. The record on this speaks for itself.

Harrison, you may recall (born on February 9, 1773) was a former Indian fighter (famed for defeating Tecumseh at Tippecanoe), general in the war of 1812, congressional delegate, territorial governor, member of the US House of Representatives and plenipotentiary to Gran Colombia. He was the Whig party nominee for president in 1836, losing to Martin Van Buren, but won the rematch four years later with John Tyler his running mate.

History records that he became ill with a cold on March 26 (likely contracted during his marathon inauguration speech given on a frigid afternoon) and the illness progressed and became fatal. Poppycock.

In the time between Harrison’s electoral victory and his inauguration he came to be under tremendous pressure from his creditors which comprised over a dozen people and organizations. Some of these creditors saw in Harrison’s ascension to the presidency an opportunity to cash in big time. They didn’t want their money back so much as they wanted favors that would substantially boost their own interests. Also many falsely reckoned that, as president, Harrison would have ready access to the treasury and be able to, as one allegedly put it, share the wealth. Some of these creditors were people who had incriminating evidence of Harrison’s peculiar sexual practises which, it was said, ranged from minor peccadilloes to bizarre fetishes including elaborate role play.

By the time Harrison took the oath of office he had been besieged by charlatans, scoundrels, blackmailers, and those aforementioned creditors and was a nervous wreck. Harrison quickly realized that he could not properly fulfill the duties of his high office in such circumstances and a mere resignation would not be enough to ease his woes. He would be hounded onto his grave. Harrison did indeed have a nasty cold, and he cleverly used it to surreptitiously leave the White House for good and all. With the help of an aide, one Lloyd Charles Peckerhand, he decided to feign serious illness and then death. Only Harrison’s inner circle was aware of the plan and only Peckerhand and Harrison’s faithful valet Cicero Morningguard, an ex slave, knew the full details. Harrisons’s family, including his wife Anna, were left completely in the dark. Even vice president John Tyler was out of the loop. He assumed that Harrison was really quite ill and never dreamt that the president was biding his time to escape, playing cards with intimates while Peckerhand made arrangements for the most amazing disappearing act in the annals of US political history.

Harrison by this time had grown to detest his wife and was ambivalent about most of his children having particular contempt for John Scott who would go on to sire president Benjamin Harrison. Ole Tippecanoe was far more enamored of some of the female slaves he had taken as lovers, a number of whom bore him children. Indeed it was with slaves and whores that WH (as he liked to be called) exercised his flamboyant sexual practises. Wife Anna could not abide anything sexually save the missionary position, and even then with her eyes tightly closed.

On the date that the nation told of the president’s death, Harrison -- in the dead of night -- snuck out of the White House and got in a coach headed for Florida. With him were Peckerhand, Morningguard and Harrison’s current favorite sex partner, a white whore named Millie Strang. Left behind was much of Harrison’s fortune. Left in the lurch were his creditors.

For Harrison's body, Peckerhand had substituted a recently deceased indigent old Indian killer named Claude Lupus, who bore an uncanny resemblance to the 9th president. With a little bit of surgery performed by a quack plastic surgeon, Eli Culpepper, and a lot of makeup, no one noticed the difference. Culpepper's services and silence were handsomely rewarded.

Once in Florida the “deceased” president changed his name, with the help of a friendly forger named Callidew. WH's new identity was as Peabody McCorkle, land speculator. Little is known of Harrison’s three years in Florida other than he discovered a knack for real estate and made a small fortune. He also married an escaped slave named Clovis. The whore Millie Strang had been taken by cholera shortly after their arrival in Florida. However Harrison’s happy life in Florida was interrupted when he tried to sell some property to one of the very gentlemen who had been a creditor. When said creditor, one Hobart G. Mellow, recognized Harrison he insisted on restitution for the debt and accumulated interest. Being quite wealthy anew, Harrison readily agreed wanting only to be free of this man. However immediately upon receiving payment, Mellow threatened to expose Harrison if he didn’t “sweeten the pot,” with a few extra thousand dollars.

Harrison had felt it reasonable to pay Mellow back in full and even to include interest, but was damned if he’d allow himself to be extorted. WH made his excuses for the day and promised to meet Mellow 48 hours later by which time he would have collected the requested sum. Harrison alerted Peckerhand and the ex slave Morningguard (who incidentally had become lovers, Harrison was surprisingly open-minded about homosexual relations, likely because they figured into some of his own sexual experimentation) and his wife Clovis and they immediately absconded. Peckerhand had long prepared for this day, so making arrangements to flee took only a matter of hours. Joining them was the forger Callidew and his wife Lynis now fast friends of Harrison and company and in on their secret (unconfirmed rumors suggest that Harrison and Lynis were occasional lovers and that Callidew was not averse to their dalliances, evidently honored to have such a renowned figure diddling his wife).

The six went by boat to Nova Scotia, it being Summer the journey was quite pleasant. From there they went to Toronto to start their new lives. Pooling their resources the sextet bought a saloon and adjoining restaurant and started a very high end bordello in the upstairs apartments. The madam was one Mrs. Beatrice Bromwich (nee Lakeside) a widow who was a long ago lover of Harrison’s. Within months the saloon, restaurant and bordello were doing great business and Harrison could indulge himself with, as he put it, “the ladies upstairs” whenever he wished.

By all accounts Harrison was a far, far happier man as Peabody McCorkle, than he had ever been in his former life. He took long daily walks to supplement the exercise he got in the boudoir, maintained a healthy diet, drinking alcohol sparingly and smoking no more than a cigar a day. His wife Clovis indulged his extra curricular carnal desires, proud to have such a virile older husband. Peckherand, Morningguard, the Callidews and Beatrice Bromwich were steadfast and loving friends. Such was Harrison’s happy life for almost a decade when in late 1852 calamity struck. A fire swept through the restaurant and saloon, inevitably reaching the bordello. Peckerhand and Morningguard were immediately consumed by the conflagration and soon Clovis and Callidew lost their lives. Harrison escaped with Bromwich and Lynis Callidew but the latter tried to retrieve a precious heirloom and fell through a ceiling to her death.

Harrison had lost everything.

Fortunately the man everyone knew as McCorkle, had built up enormous good will throughout the city and community leaders were happy to find him accommodations in a small but comfortable furnished cottage. He was joined there by Bromwich who now lived with him as wife. The former US president lived another year. By all accounts he was happy enough but his indomitable spirit had died with the fire. Gone were his sexual forays, the long walks and the healthy eating and drinking habits. He was still able to enjoy relations with Bromwich, he still ate heartily -- only too much so--  and his occasional drinks became binges.

In early November of 1853, 13 years after being elected president, he took to bed quite ill. Harrison lingered for three weeks, going in and out of consciousness. When alert he would reel off the names of his many past lovers. It was said that the only reason he managed to live the three weeks was because he’d wanted to name each one of them. Beatrice Bromwich was at his side and perhaps fittingly it was after he uttered her name, that Harrison expired.

EPILOGUE

American historians have almost universally neglected the real WH Harrison story -- despite the wealth of evidence that he lived on after his three month presidency. Many simply and stubbornly refuse to believe it. There are a number of excellent sources for Harrison’s life as Peabody McGorkle. Primary among them are the detailed diaries of LC Perckerhand and the memoirs of Beatrice Bromwich. One can also check contemporary newspaper accounts in the Toronto Bugle and the Weekly Maple Leaf. The leading authority on the McGorkle portion of Harrison’s life was the late  historian Welles Summerset (1867-1951). His interest in the Harrison “after life” stemmed from his grandfather Chuck who had been a frequent visitor at the Toronto brothel. Chuck Summerset formed a strong friendship with McGorkle and managed to figure out his friend’s true identity.

Wells Summerset’s book, “The Unknown After Life of William Harrison” was never published. Summerset completed the book in 1931 and spent the last two decades of his life trying to find a reputable publisher for it. No one would touch it, ostensibly because of its graphic sexual content. After Summerset’s death, his son Wiley managed to get a few copies printed as a lasting tribute to his dad’s work. A few libraries carry still it. Wiley’s son Angus Summerset has renewed efforts to publish the book, thus far to no avail.

A US Senator, who for now wishes to remain anonymous, is planning to submit the real story of America's 9th president into the congressional record in a huge first step toward correcting history. "People need to know the truth about all their presidents," he said, "even those who flew the coop."

14 April 2017

A Guardian Angel Brings Bad News

My guardian angel’s name is Chuck. Can you believe that shit?

I know this because he appeared before me yesterday in human form. “Hi, I’m Chuck,” he said. “Do you know who I am?” he asked.

“Yeah, you’re Chuck, you just said so,” I replied.

He looked maybe 30, was wearing a red striped long sleeve tee shirt and corduroys and Keds sneakers. He was a little on the tubby side, medium height with bushy red hair.

“Yes, I know you know my name is Chuck but do you know who I am?”

I was standing in my backyard looking up at this big tree we have --it seemed kind of spooky with no leaves and the sky being all cloudy --when Chuck, I’m gonna say, appeared. I mean suddenly he was there. But I wasn’t freaked out, there was something calming about him.

“Well no, Chuck, I don’t know who you are so why don’t you dispense with the mystery and tell me.”

“I’m your guardian angel.”

I chuckled at that one. Not really a full throated guffaw, just a light chuckle. See the thing was that I half believed him. Why? It was just the damn feeling I got from him like he wasn’t real, not in the sense of regular human beings.

“No disrespect there Chuck but you don’t look like an angel.”

“Well of course your basing your conception on what angels look like from classic art, probably mostly from the Renaissance. Actually the film It’s A Wonderful Life gives a more accurate picture of us angels.”

I knew the movie well as most people do so naturally I asked him, “are you trying to earn your wings like Clarence?”

“Heavens no. There are no wings for angels. That’s just storybook stuff.”

“Excuse me but it seems like the whole deal with guardian angels is storybook stuff.”

“I can see where you might think so, but that’s part of human mythology that is in a general sense quite true.”

“Thing is there Chuck I find it hard to believe you. I admit I get a funny feeling from you but come on, what proof is there?”

“Fair enough.” And with that he disappeared then reappeared standing right next to me, shoulder to shoulder. I damn near fainted.

“Enough proof?”

“Plenty,” I said and went over and sat in a lawn chair.

I offered Chuck a sit. “We don’t sit,” he said.

“Ever?”

“Never.”

That’s gotta be rough. Do you at least get to lay down?”

No things are very much different for us, in fact we don’t usually take human form."

Looking back I'm amazed at how quickly and easily I accepted the reality of angels existing and one visiting me. I credit Chuck himself for that, it was just the vibe of normalcy that he gave off, like everything was cool. If he’d produced a talking bunny rabbit I don’t think I’d have flinched. More than anything I just found myself to be curious.

“Why this particular body, Chuck? I mean how is it you come to look like you do?”

“Well we have choices as angels for what we look like when, out of necessity, we have to take human form. I chose the body and clothes from the time of my death.”

“So you were human too?”

“Of course its a prerequisite to being an angel.”

“How’d it happen?”

“What?”

“How’d you die, you must have been no more than 30.”

“Twenty seven to be exact. I was drunk — first time in my life, as a matter of fact — was driving on icy roads, lost control of the car and went down a deep embankment, flipped once and landed on a boulder. You should have seen me, what a mess.”

“How can you —-”

“Right, how do I know what I looked like in death. Well I’ve watched replays of it several times. In fact we’re required to watch replies of most major events and incidents in our life and a lot of ones that seem minor but had great significance.”

 “I can see where that would be pretty rough. There’s a lot of times in my life I hate to think about let alone would want to watch a replay of.”

“You get used to it pretty quickly. In fact you learn to study and learn from it. I should think it would be especially difficult but ultimately quite constructive for someone such as yourself.”

This took me aback. “Whattaya mean for ‘someone such as myself’?”

“Come now. You work with organized crime, cheated on your wife, or should I say wives. Why you’ve committed all manner of crimes both in the legal and moral senses. You’re practically bereft of ethics.”

“Now you’re just being hard on me. I ain’t so bad, not compared to some guys I know.”

“You will learn in this life or the next that comparing yourself to others is of no value. You must be judged and you must judge yourself on your own actions.”

“Say what’s this all about, anyway? Why the visit and why the sudden dressing down?”

“I’m afraid I bring some rather bad news. I meant to ease into a bit but you’ve asked so…”

“Bad news from my guardian angel? That’s got to be the worst kind of news.” I was actually very scared, more so than I had ever been and I’m a guy who’s been in some pretty tough jams. “Okay, well lay it on me, I suppose I can take it.”

“I’m being re-assigned.”

“What? You’re not going to be my guardian angel? So I get some rookie instead?” I was relieved. This didn’t sound so bad.

“I was a rookie when I started with you.”

“By the way when did you start with me?”

“When you were born. I’ve been with you along for all of your 52 years.”

This sent a chill down my spine. Chuck had been watching me my whole life. But something didn’t make sense. “When’d you die, Chuck, I mean what year?”

“1986.”

“Well hell that was just over 30 years ago, no way you been watching me my whole life. You showed up when I was 22.”

“Here’s something you’d have difficulty understanding. Time is different, very much so, in the afterlife. Someone who died today could be the life long guardian angel of a man who’s turning 100.”

I trusted that what Chuck said was true even though it didn’t make the slightest sense to me.

“Okay so bottom line I’m getting a new guy.”

“I’m afraid not. You see the things is that when death approaches your guardian angel can no longer do anything for you. I’m to take on a new human. Tomorrow.”

“Death approaches? You mean mine?”

Chuck just nodded, slowly and sadly. I felt my heart drop into my bowels. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead and yet I felt chills.

There was quiet for a bit before I could muster the courage to ask: “When? How?”

“Honestly I have no idea. Soon though, I’m sure.”

“Why did you come to tell me this? Won’t you get in some trouble? This has to be a major rules violation for you.”

“It is considered bad form but you are my first so I’ll get a slap on the wrist but I’ve earned a lot of points for my protection of you. You were a difficult first client.”

“Yeah, I’ve had a lot of tough scrapes. Some I don’t know how I got out of. That was you I suppose.”

Chuck nodded then he looked real sad like and stared at me with sympathy.

“I’ve got to go,” he said.

“But wait!” I stood up and reached out like I was gonna grab him. “What’s going to happen to me? I mean, after, when I’m…?”

“Dead?”

“Yeah.”

“I honestly have no idea. Goodbye.” And he vanished.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening thinking over everything Chuck and I had talked about. I felt resigned to the idea that I was gonna die soon. My great fear was not that but what would happen after. Maybe like Chuck I’d be an angel or maybe — cause of the life I’d led — I’d be in some place like hell. The whole idea made me damn nervous so I took out a bottle of whiskey and went at it. My wife was out of town visiting her mother so I was all alone. I sat in the kitchen with the whiskey and some Sinatra records playing in the background.

At 9:00 I got a call from Vinnie. He wanted to see me the next morning over at the warehouse. I’d have thought nothing of it if it hadn’t been for Chuck, now I figured it’d be where they bumped me off. We had meetings there, sure, but a few guys had been whacked there too. It was a good place for it. They must have known I’d been skimming a little each month. I never thought it was enough for them to get wise, but I was never very good with numbers.

I drank enough that I slept like a baby despite my date with a bullet. Least I hoped it was that and not strangulation. I’d seen guys strangled before and its awful. I was pretty sure they wouldn’t torture me. I was part of the outfit after all and besides I’d confess everything before they had to.

I put on a nicer suit than I normally would, had a big breakfast and spiked my coffee with brandy. I know what you’re thinking, -- I should have taken a powder -- but they’d a tracked me down soon enough. You can't escape these guys. So here I am, about to get into my El Dorado for the last time. I know I should be scared as hell but for some reason I'm feeling calm, ready for what happens, besides I’ve had a good run. Gee it was swell of Chuck to give me the tip.