Multi-layered nostalgia

(2014)

Oy, hockey. What a blow out. Can’t believe I wasted three hours watching the Kings get their asses kicked five zip. Ouch. Not just for the score and humiliation, but for the time utterly wasted. You only get so many three hours in a lifetime, and that one was totally wasted. Sigh….

I switch channels. Wow. Huell Howser. I haven’t seen a Huell Howser since he died. He’s at Musso & Franks Grill and it’s 1995. I recognize all the help. Huell steps out of the kitchen and bumps into Benny Carter. I yell wow, loud. Benny Carter. One of his favorite places, Benny says. I really miss Benny Carter, and I never even met him. Some people you just miss because you might have got to meet them, but didn’t. Huell turns around and there’s Charles Champlin. Another wow. They’re talking about the old days. The Algonquin Round Table West, someone says. Wow, I say. Back when jazz and writing were going concerns. Then it’s Dr. George Fischbeck. Wow. I’m awash in multi-layered nostalgia. Nostalgia for this show which I never knew I’d have, nostalgia for the people he’s meeting who in turn are waxing nostalgic about times past that I’m nostalgic for even tho’ I was never there, or even could have been, chronology being what it is. Maybe it’s nostalgia for a world where writers and jazz musicians were something, and journalists had class. A pre-internet world, basically, I type in electrons. Waxing nostalgic for a hard copy world in the ether, when back then none of you would ever even see this. It’d be notes on paper in a box in my closet. Now everyone reads it and I complain. Some people just can’t be satisfied.

I type a whole other paragraph, think about it, hold down the back space key and watch it disappear, like it never was. On paper it’d still be there, a big line running though its length. Later I could read what I was thinking. Here I’ll never know. That’s language in the digital world. There one minute, gone the next.

Musso’s, though, is analog as it gets. On Christmas Eve my wife left a card for me under the tree…how about dinner at Musso’s? it said. Soon, I said, soon. I love the place. You need cash to do it right, and it’s too soon after the holidays to think about it now. But soon. We’ll sit at an old table and drink martinis and eat pot pie and oysters on the half shell and a crispy iceberg wedge with crumbles of blue cheese and I’ll imagine Bogie at the bar, not in the best of shape, or Orson Welles talking and talking and never shutting up. Or earlier, even, and there’s Charlie Chaplin, and I’m too scared to go up and say you’re Charlie Chaplin because he is Charlie Chaplin.

Old Hollywood, classic Hollywood. Funny that we’ve been here a third of a century now. I remember our first time at Musso’s, and looking at all the old people and listening in on their tales of the silent screen. They’re all gone now, long gone, and we have our own tales of a long gone Hollywood. In Musso’s all that blends together, a century’s worth of Hollywood. You can feel it. Close your eyes and you can see it. I wish I was there right now. I’d go there every week if I could, assemble a little Algonquin West. We’d eat and drink and laugh ourselves silly, then repair to the parking lot for cigars and whatever. The whateverers would giggle, the cigar smokers would blow long plumes of Cuban smoke. Flasks would pass around. See you next week, we’d say, and head off into the city looking for music, live music, and life, real life. Memories. Seeking out memories, and creating new ones.

1/3/2014

Canadians

Hockey season will be upon us soon. Now all this spare time I’ve been so productive with can be properly spent staring at the television in angst. Thank god…I found myself watching Strange Brew just for the evil robot hockey scenes. When it got to the part about the flying dog I felt shame.

In case my fellow Americans are wondering what hockey is, it’s what Canadians do to make money, move to the states and marry beautiful American women. That’s right, just like in the famous Canadian song. Except in the famous Canadian song the Canadians rear back from the beautiful American woman and their ghetto scenes and war machines. Then they grunt, unhhhh. Like a Canadian James Brown.

Moving to the States is also the only way Canadians can win the Stanley Cup, which they then take home for a week, fill with Molson and invite over their friends. Once it’s drained of beer and retrieved from the bottom of the pool, the Canadians return to the States to play more hockey. And now that NASA doesn’t need that arm thing on the space shuttle anymore, playing hockey in America is the only way Canadians can make money.

Whatever happened to that Space Shuttle arm thing? Did the Canadians take it back?  Maybe it’s up in Toronto, in the Hockey Hall of Fame, now the Hockey and Space Shuttle Arm Thing Hall of Fame. I’d go see it actually. Wayne Gretzsky, Gordie Howe, Rocket Richard, the arm thing.

Lorne Greene was a Canadian.

Leslie Nielsen was also a Canadian.

Bachman Turner Overdrive was several Canadians, plus some.

William Shatner is Canadian. And Neil Young. And Joni Mitchell. I never really liked Joni Mitchell. I alluded to that in a Brick’s Picks column once. Said something snide and forgot about it. Some old hippie sent me an angry email. Really angry email. Called me a young whippersnapper. It was some of the only hate mail I ever got. Until the time I said something nice about Esperanza Spalding winning the Grammy and I got angry emails from Justin Bieber fans.

Justin Bieber is a Canadian.

So were John Kenneth Galbraith and Oscar Peterson. So are Rick Moranis and Joey Shithead. And so was the beautiful blonde lady I saw in a movie about car crashes. She had no facial expressions. In a car crash, no facial expression. Having sex in a car wash. No facial expression. Another car crash, no facial expression. Having sex in a junk yard, no facial expression. Or maybe there were facial expressions but she was so blonde, blonde everywhere, that I couldn’t see her eye brows. No eye brows, no facial expressions. Huge eyebrows, huge facial expressions. That’s why Italians always seem so excited and Swedes make those dull Bergman movies.

Most of the Hanson Brothers are Canadian.

Ya know, I got a box from a Canadian once. I can’t remember what was inside. Not the Stanley Cup, that much I know. And not the space shuttle arm thing, because that was still up in space helping and flexing and grasping. Maybe it was a record album. Maybe a fruit cake. I don’t know. I do remember that the box was stuffed with pages from Toronto’s alternative weekly. Kind of like the LA Weekly but without all the ghetto scenes and war machines, or any American women at all, actually. Lots of Canadian women, though, and Canadian men. Not pictures, just their personals ads. I unkrinkled the pages to see what was happening. There were all these people looking for partners into bondage and whips. Dominatrixes and golden showers. I swear, hundreds of ads, all from horny, kinky Canadians. Some countries are into ghetto scenes and war machines. Others like to spank and pee. You can see the advantages. Wars lay waste the land, whereas Canadians can get by with a few rolls of paper towels.

I asked a Canadian friend of mine about that endless personals section once. How it went on for page after page. About the bondage and the pee. Oh yeah baby, she said, that’s how we roll.

She blamed it on the long winters.

I better stop now. I have Canadian friends, all of whom played hockey and can hurt me. And out-drink me. And who make more money than me. In American dollars.

And in what war did Canadians beat the shit out of Americans?

It was the War of 1812, Alex.

And Alex Trebek is a Canadian.

Manon Rheaume, all five feet and seven inches of her. And if you have to ask who she is, you're not Canadian.

Manon Rheaume, all five feet and seven inches of her, is a Canadian.

Canadians

(2010)

Wow, there’s gonna be a hockey season after all. Now all this spare time I’ve been so productive with can be properly spent staring at the television in angst. Thank god…I found myself watching Strange Brew just for the evil robot hockey scenes. When it got to the part about the flying dog I felt shame.

In case my fellow Americans are wondering what hockey is, it’s what Canadians do to make money, move to the states and marry beautiful American women. That’s right, just like in the famous Canadian song. Except in the famous Canadian song the Canadians rear back from the beautiful American woman and their ghetto scenes and war machines. Then they grunt, unhhhh. Like a Canadian James Brown.

Moving to the States is also the only way Canadians can win the Stanley Cup, which they then take home for a week, fill with Molson and invite over their friends. Once it’s drained of beer and retrieved from the bottom of the pool, the Canadians return to the States to play more hockey. And now that NASA doesn’t need that arm thing on the space shuttle anymore, playing hockey in America is the only way Canadians can make money.

Whatever happened to that Space Shuttle arm thing? Did the Canadians take it back?  Maybe it’s up in Toronto, in the Hockey Hall of Fame, now the  Hockey and Space Shuttle Arm Thing Hall of Fame. I’d go see it actually. Wayne Gretzsky, Gordie Howe, Rocket Richard, the arm thing.

Lorne Greene was a Canadian.

Leslie Nielsen was also a Canadian.

Bachman Turner Overdrive was several Canadians, plus some.

William Shatner is Canadian. And Neil Young. And Joni Mitchell. I never really liked Joni Mitchell. I alluded to that in a Brick’s Picks column once. Said something  snide and forgot about it. Some old hippie sent me an angry email. Really angry email. Called me a young whippersnapper. It was some of the only hate mail I ever got. Until the time I said something nice about Esperanza Spalding winning the Grammy and I got angry emails from Justin Bieber fans.

Justin Bieber is a Canadian.

So was John Kenneth Galbraith. And Joey Shithead. And the beautiful blonde lady I saw in a movie about car crashes. She had no facial expressions. In a car crash,  no facial expression. Having sex in a car wash. No facial expression. Another car crash, no facial expression. Having sex in a junk yard, no facial expression. Maybe there were facial expressions but she was so blonde, blonde everywhere, that I couldn’t see her eye brows. No eye brows, no facial expressions. Huge eyebrows, huge facial expressions. That’s why Italians always seem so excited and Swedes make those dull Bergman movies.

Most of the Hanson Brothers are Canadian.

Ya know, I got a box from a Canadian once. I can’t remember what was inside. Not the Stanley Cup, that much I know. And not the space shuttle arm thing, because that was still up in space helping and flexing and grasping. Maybe it was a record album. Maybe a fruit cake. I don’t know. I do remember that the box was stuffed with pages from Toronto’s alternative weekly. Kind of like the LA Weekly but without all the ghetto scenes and war machines, or any American women at all, actually. Lots of Canadian women, though, and Canadian men. Not pictures, just their personals ads. I unkrinkled  the pages to see  what was happening. There were all these people looking for partners into bondage and whips.  Dominatrixes and golden showers. I swear, hundreds of ads, all from horny, kinky Canadians. Some countries are into ghetto scenes and war machines. Others like to spank and pee.  You can see the advantages. Wars lay waste the land, whereas Canadians can get by with a few rolls of paper towels.

I asked a Canadian friend of mine about that endless personals section once. How it went on for page after page. About the bondage and the pee. Oh yeah baby, she said, that’s how we roll.

She blamed it on the long winters.

I better stop now. I have Canadian friends, all of whom played hockey and can hurt me. And out-drink me. And who make more money than me. In American dollars.

And in what war did Canadians beat the shit out of Americans?

It was the War of 1812, Alex.

And Alex Trebek is a Canadian.

Manon Rheaume, all  five feet and seven inches of her. And if you have to ask who she is, you're not Canadian.

Manon Rheaume, all five feet and seven inches of her, is a Canadian.

William Holden

Was watching Stalag 17 again tonight. I love that movie. William Holden is great in it. But wasn’t he always. A great actor and a real movie star. Not sure if he was too nuts about being a movie star. He seemed kind of conflicted. He certainly drank enough. I don’t think he was a happy drunk. He was a moody and temperamental drunk. Not a lot of fun to be around. Certainly no one was around when he fell and hit the edge of the table. It was teakwood and immoveable. He hit the sharp corner edge of that table and his scalp split wide open and gushed blood. It bled and bled. He was awake for a good thirty minutes there on the floor, thoroughly drunk, his lifeblood draining out of him. He would have slipped into unconsciousness eventually and finally his blood pressure would have dropped to a point where it could drop no more and he died. There on the television he was so tough and cynical and independent, a perfect postwar anti-hero, but I saw him on the floor bleeding like a stuck pig.

All this ran through my mind as I was laying on the floor tonight bleeding like a stuck pig. I had awoken there, or woken when I bashed my head against the corner edge of our own immoveable coffee table. I had fallen asleep and rolled off the couch and my head had crashed against the coffee table. I wound up face down on the floor. Bang. I put my hand to my forehead and felt wetness. A lot of wetness. I looked into my hand and the blood was pooling there, a deep gorgeous red. It began sloshing onto the floor. I yelled for my wife to bring a towel and tried to inch away from the sofa. Bloodstains are a drag. Meanwhile, I’m seeing Bill Holden and thinking man, what a ridiculous way to go. Him, a big movie star and me doing just what he did.

It was really bleeding. Soaked a towel, soaked through several paper towels. Soaked a facecloth. I asked my wife how it looked. It looks nasty she said. Do I need stitches? I’d rather not go the ER. That would be a couple hundred bucks. She said maybe if we use compression you won’t need stitches. We tried compression. It kept bleeding. I said OK, just call the neighbor and see if he can take me to Kaiser. But he wasn’t home. My brother wasn’t home either. After all, it’s Friday night. I said OK, let’s not worry about it. She brought me ice. After an hour the compression and the ice stanched the bleeding, How’s it look I asked. It looks like a cut. How much of a cut? About an inch and a third long. Up in the hairline? No, right in the middle of your forehead. Cool, I said, I have a hockey wound.  Like I caught a high stick in the face. Blood on the ice. I’d be back in the locker room getting stitched up. That’s the kind of wound this will be. Though I didn’t get the stitches. I’ll probably regret that in years to come, though. Maybe I’ll think it’s cool. Some alpha male thing anyway. I’ll retell this story, each time with more blood. Men will say dude..that’s fucked up. Women will study the scar and coo maternally.

OK, it’s been two hours and my wife dabbed it with alcohol and I winced and she stuck a big bandage over it. I can only imagine the beautiful bruise I have coming. There’s gonna be some funny times coming up. Especially job interviews. Did you ever have one of those lives I asked a few days ago. This is definitely one of those lives. But I need to finish this up and go get a few Tylenol, I have a headache that you wouldn’t believe. Something William Holden didn’t have to worry about.

William Holden's bruised face, Stalag 17.

William Holden’s bruised face, Stalag 17.

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Just trying to capture the spirit of the thing

(2012)

It just dawned on me that if I hadn’t stopped writing the Brick’s Picks jazzcolumn I could have used my LA Weekly cachet to score some righteous press passes to the Los Angeles Kings victory parade on Thursday. 

I spent seven years writing that goddamned column. I spent twenty years a devoted Kings fan. I hated writing Brick’s Picks…maybe not at first but by the end it was nothing but misery. And you had to be a masochist to be a goddamned Kings fan all those years. Sure jumping on the bandwagon in ’92 was great, but staying on meant getting used to the cellar, humiliation, failure, pitying looks from Canadians or insults from people from San Jose in those fey teal jerseys. It meant watching your team finally make the playoffs only to be swept–swept–in the first round. And then doing the exact same thing two seasons later. It meant only once making it to the second round.  It meant watching the owner go to jail for counterfeiting old coins. It meant watching Rob Blake and wondering why the hell he was still here. It meant saying goodbye to the Great One when he left for a shot at a cup. It meant Lakers fans who had no idea who or even what the Kings were. It meant trying to believe it every time they said the miserable failure of  a hockey franchise was in a “rebuilding phase”. It meant feeling kinda sorry for Bob Miller but never saying so. It meant being a little heartbroken when Warren Wiebe died. It meant watching the Mighty Ducks win the cup. It meant not being sure what was lonelier, being a Kings fan or a jazz fan in Los Angeles. And not caring. Because I loved jazz, and I loved hockey. So what if sometimes it felt like nobody else did. 

But if I had known the goddamn Kings were going to be Stanley Cup Champions this year after one of the most improbably glorious post-season runs in NHL history, I would never have quit the Weekly. I’d still be there, grinding out the column every Sunday night and hating every second of it. I would have done it because I could have called in some favors and gotten me a couple passes to the press section and watch this silly-assed parade. I would have so loved that. I could stop watching the end of Slapshot and being jealous of the extras cheering like mad for a fictional hockey team.

So this is the first time I have regretted quitting my gig at the L.A. Weekly. It’s a dumb reason, I know.  And it’s a selfish reason, I know that too. But it’s a good reason. You see, the Charlestown Chiefs have won the championship of the Federal League. Yup. Finally. And all that stuff before, the failures and disappointments and the what-the-fucks?…well, who cares. It only makes this year even better. Amazing. Miraculous. Great. Just great. Beautiful, even.

Oh…and my second favorite team?  The New Jersey Devils. Now what are those odds?

OK…..and I have another confession, and now that the Kings are Stanley Cup Champions it’s not so embarrassing. Well, it’s embarrassing, but not so pathetic. You see, I have only been star struck once in my life. It was a couple years ago, at the height of my hipness. While leaving the St. Patrick’s Day festivities at LALive (press passes with free everything, of course) I run smack dab into Luc Robataille. Luc. Ohmygod. I said–and I quote–wow, you’re Luc Robataille. He said yes I am. I tried to say something hip and knowledgeable but nothing came out. Just a few incoherent syllables. He nodded and walked on. I said to my wife–and I quote–that was Luc Robataille. She said yes I know. I told everyone I that week that I had met Luc Robataille. They said who? Except for Kings fans. They said wow. And then they said Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuc.

Book ‘em, Dano

(Not sure when I wrote this, but quite a while ago, or to whom even.)

So it was Tuesday night last night. I love Tuesday nights. No responsibility nights. Nothing to worry about nights. Deadline is six days off. I’ve already scheduled everything—bills, whatever—over the weekend. Already did the bigtime job search thing Monday morning. So Tuesday night there’s nothing. Almost never go out on Tuesdays (summer excepted). Fyl cooked up a light dinner. Eat a lot of light dinners. I found a bottle of Giant Chicken wine. (Well, it has a big rooster on the label, but I can never remember the name so it’s just Giant Chicken). Polished off half of that. That’s a lot for me. Then cracked open a good bottle of port. I’m old enough now to enjoy port. (You have another seven or eight years to go, but it happens.)  Looking through a drawer in the coffee table here, behind a stack of Playboys (seriously, a stash of Playboys, somehow I get a free subscription) and I found half a joint. I’ll be damned. Some stoner must have dropped it at my birthday party. They take out the zines and clean their pot on the centerfolds. There’s always an expanse of white ass in the center that makes it easy to see the seeds. This was explained to me. Anyway, I fired it up. Yow. Pharmaceutical grade. The hockey game got very confusing but quite beautiful.  Poured another glass of port. The game ended. Fyl switched to Star Trek.  Cool, my favorite ever episode. Frank Gorshin painted black on one side, white on the other chasing some dude who was white on the one side and black on the other.  Their bi-coloration was unusually vivid this time. I was really getting into it. Settled back on the pillow. So sweet, baby. Closed my eyes just for a second. Opened them. Jack Lord said book ’em Dano. Some guy in a flowered shirt and a lei around his neck. What the? Hours had passed. It was like 2 in the morning all of a sudden.

Seizure meds have made me such a wimp. I love to drink, but man, what a lightweight I’ve become. So I rarely do more than a couple glasses of wine. Open a bottle and it sits there a couple days. Or maybe it’s just that I ain’t used to this new pot. It’s all so potent now. Or maybe it’s both. Whatever. Book ‘em, Dano.