Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye and Good Riddance


You thought I was talking to you, dear readers and fellow babies, when I said "Goodbye and Good Riddance?"

No, of course not!

I'm talking to 2016!

Let's face it, 2016 has really sucked in a number of ways. I can't help but hope that 2017 will be better. (But... I also know that such is not necessarily gonna be the case. In addition, I don't put too much importance on the changing of a silly calendar page.)

Nevertheless, I won't miss 2016, and I'm practically forced by circumstances to think that 2017 will be an improvement.

But one never knows...

(And let's hope we get through the next few hours without any celebrity deaths!)

Thanks for your time.

P.S. ~~ Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Debbie Reynolds, 1932-2016, R.I.P.

Now I'm really sick, with an attitude that 2016 is (still) out to "get" me.

Unbearably soon after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher, actress Debbie Reynolds has died at the age of eighty-four, apparently from a stroke brought on by the stress of her daughter Carrie's death.

I've been a fan of Debbie Reynolds' from the moment I was able to attach a name to that actress on the screen. Like everyone else (it seems), I loved her in movies like Singin' in the Rain, but I loved lesser-known efforts such as Goodbye Charlie and Susan Slept Here as well. And it was a particular treat to see her teamed with Albert Brooks in 1996's Mother.

She had it all: talent, looks, class.... So often in these little tributes of mine, I write "he (or she) will be missed," but for me, it's especially true in this case.

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Carrie Fisher, 1956-2016, R.I.P.

2016 couldn't say good-bye without a few more kicks below the belt, could it?

At the risk of blaspheming against my fellow geeks, I've never been a huge Star Wars fan. But Carrie Fisher's death this morning was still quite a shock to me. She was only 60. (I say "only" to make myself feel better. She and I shared a birth year, 1956.)

I was and am less of a Star Wars fan and more of a Carrie Fisher fan. She was, for instance, quite enjoyable in her role as the crazed stalker in The Blues Brothers. And let's not forget that she was a successful author. And of course, I'm old enough to remember her when she was "just " the daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds!

Whether you know her only as Princess Leia, or from her other roles, her writings, or any combination thereof, her death is a tragedy and she will be missed.

Thanks for your time.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

John Glenn, 1921-2016, Greg Lake, 1947-2016, R.I.P.

Well, I don't think we really needed proof that 2016 has been an all-around awful year, but today we have not one but two celebrity deaths to note. (Actually, I learned of both deaths yesterday, but I didn't have the chance to write this until this morning.)

1. John Glenn, 1921-2016

When I was a kid in the 1960s, the space program had the country -- well, the world -- enthralled.  John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth (in 1962) in his space capsule, the Friendship 7, was a real  hero to us all.  He saw himself somewhat differently. “I figure I’m the same person who grew up in New Concord, Ohio, and went off through the years to participate in a lot of events of importance.”

Glenn also served four terms as a Democratic senator from Ohio. He even got to go back into outer space at the age of seventy-seven!

John Glenn passed away at the age of ninety-five.

*  *  *  *  *

2. Greg Lake, 1947-2016

The "Lake" in Emerson, Lake and Palmer has died from cancer at 69.

Greg Lake was a founding member of both ELP, and King Crimson before it.

King Crimson's first LP, “In the Court of the Crimson King,” is often referred to as the first progressive rock album.

To  quote from The New York Times, "Mr. Lake sang lead and played bass and guitar with Emerson, Lake and Palmer. He also produced several of the group’s enormously successful albums, contributed most of the lyrics and, with Mr. Emerson, wrote the music for many of the songs."

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Van Williams, 1934-2016, R.I.P.

Van Williams, best known for his portrayal of The Green Hornet in the 1967 TV series of the same name, has died at the age of eighty-two. Mr. Williams died on November 28 of renal failure.

Before playing that role, he was best known for his character Kenny Madison, who appeared on two separate series, ABC's Bourbon Street Beat and Surfside 6

The Green Hornet was produced due to the popularity of TV's Batman series. Williams, however, insisted that the show did not descend to the silliness level of Batman. The Green Hornet -- which introduced American audiences to actor and martial arts expert Bruce Lee -- was about as serious in tone as a show about a superhero could be.

 Batman and the Green Hornet appeared together in a two-part crossover.

Thanks for your time.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ron Glass, 1945-2016, R.I.P.

Actor Ron Glass, best known for playing Detective Ron Harris on Barney Miller, has died at the age of seventy-one of respiratory failure.

You may also know him from his roles on (among other shows) The New Odd Couple, Firefly, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Unfortunately, I don't have any anecdotes to add today. I don't really know anything about Mr. Glass' personal life. But I was (and am) a big fan of Barney Miller, and Mr. Glass played his character, a detective who worried more about his attire and his authorship of a book called Blood on the Badge, to perfection.

Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Angelina -- A "Dover Street" Story -- Part Four -- CONCLUSION


Angelina -- thin, blonde, and pretty -- was somewhat dramatically summoned to the loft apartment of her fiancé, Marty. After playing a recording of Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love" for her, Marty told her the song's history -- that it was inspired by tales of the Nazi death camps -- and that a song's inspiration may or may not always be obvious in the end product.

Then Marty told Angelina, "I want you to hear another song, my new one."

At the conclusion of Marty's new song, "The Life You Never Find," he informed Angelina that the song was more than just the tale of two star-crossed lovers that it appeared to be. The man in the song was actually Marty himself... and the song was about a man who'd fallen in love with a heroin-addicted prostitute.

Marty proceeded to tell the story of how he'd met "Sheila" -- a Dover Street hooker whose real name was Cathy -- when he'd first moved to the city approximately six years ago. He'd fallen in love with her, while she drained him financially and emotionally, spending enough time with him to keep him from encountering other women who worked Dover Street as she did.

Cathy had convinced Marty that she loved him as much as he did her. This ruse continued when she briefly went to prison, but ended when she was released, drug-free, into the arms of her husband... a husband whose existence Marty had never even suspected.

As she listened to his story, Angelina was angry and sarcastic, until she realized that she was no one to judge Marty for something that had begun and ended years before she'd ever met him. She was more than willing to let the whole matter drop...

But Marty pointed out that 
"All this crap with Cathy happened over five years ago. But that's a brand new song that I played for you tonight. Don't you want to hear why I wrote it now?" Angelina truly didn't know how to answer him. Did she want to hear the reason?

* * * * *

Angelina suddenly felt drained. "Fine, let's have it, then. Let me have it. All of it."

"Okay. Do you remember two weeks ago, when you and I went to the art museum on Main Street, where Main intersects with the ends of Hampton and Dover Streets?"

Angelina sighed loudly, exasperated. "There's only one art museum in this city, and we've only ever gone to one art museum anywhere. And I know Hampton and Dover both end when they intersect Main... ! Geez, Marty, get to the frigging point!"

"I'm sorry, doll. It's like I said, this has all been very difficult, and... "

"Well, push it a little, will you?"

"I'll try, doll. The day we went to the museum, we had just gotten to your car, and you didn't have your keys because you'd left your coat inside, remember?"


"I offered to go back and look for it... "

"Always the gentleman."

"But you said you'd go, because you knew where you'd left it... "

"On the bench outside of the Egyptian Room."

"Yeah. Well... As you ran in, I noticed a woman walking toward me."

"A woman."

"Yes. And Angie... " He suddenly remembered Angelina had said she didn't like being called Angie "Sorry," he offered.

"Forget it."

"The woman was Cathy. After all these years. Cathy."

"Saw that coming. And?"

"Well, we didn't have much time to talk. I mean, she'd seen you, and... "


("Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!")

"She asked about you, and I said you were my fiancée, and then she said she'd left her husband only about a year after she'd dumped me... "


"I guess I was sort of hoping she'd apologize for the way she'd used me and all, but... No. She just gave me a 'no hard feelings' thing."

Angelina stared at him, still uncertain. "How'd she look?"

"Skinny. Really skinny. Looked like hell, truth be told."

"Using drugs again?"

"She didn't say. And I didn't ask. But if I had to guess... probably."

"Think she's working the streets again?"

"Well, again, I didn't ask, but if I had to guess... yeah, probably. I mean, she was walking on Dover when she saw you and me."

"What did she say about me?"

"Once I'd said you were my fiancée, she just said good luck to both of us, and changed the subject to ask about me specifically."


"Then? What 'then?' There was no 'then,' there was no time. She walked away, you came out of the museum... "

"And you went home and wrote that song?"

"Well, not right away, certainly, but... Yeah."

"So, like, you didn't get her number, or give her yours, or... "

"God, no."

"And you've no plans to see her? At all?"

"No, doll!"

"So all of this" -- she gestured in the air with both hands, wildly, erratically -- "was just to tell me you'd written a song about an old lover?"

"Well, no! I mean... I thought you'd judge me a lot more harshly when you found out about my... experience... with a hooker, so... I felt you had a right to know." She smiled at him, and slid closer to him on the piano bench. "I underestimated you, doll. I love you. You're the last person I should ever underestimate. I hope I never do that again." He thought about what he'd just said. "I mean, I'll try never to... "

She leaned forward and kissed him. "You talk too much, baby."

Within minutes, she'd walked him over to the dusty old couch he slept on, on those few nights which he did spend here.

He fell asleep during a relaxed and extended make-out session. "Ohhhh, poor baby," she whispered, "you either need to drink more, and build up your tolerance, or stop drinking entirely."

* * * * *

Angelina was immediately sober when she hit the cold night air.

It was only about ten-thirty. Instead of heading straight home, Angelina walked briskly toward a different destination, several blocks in the other direction. Her route actually forced her to walk on Dover Street itself for two blocks, before she veered onto Alderman Avenue.

(No one but the area's old-timers and city councilmen called Alderman Avenue by its proper name nowadays. The forty-year influx of Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Dominicans had seen it given the unofficial name of "Alvarez Avenue.")

During her brief two-block walk on Dover Street, Angelina was propositioned not once, but twice.

The first man slowed his white SUV, rolled down its driver's side window, and called out to her. "Hey, babycakes, I got somethin' for you."

Without turning to face him, she yelled back, "And I have three somethings for you: A Glock semi-automatic, a shield, and a really bad attitude! Don't misinterpret my not having a friggin' purse, buddy. Move along!" Not wanting to find out if she was being honest or not, he did so.

The next man stopped his BMW across the street from Angelina, opened the car door, and actually exposed himself to her. The verbal portion of his come-on was remarkably similar to that of his predecessor. "Yo, sweetheart! Look what I got for you!"

She glanced at him quickly, and kept walking. "Wow," she said, with as little enthusiasm as possible, "that looks just like a penis. Only smaller." She didn't bother turning back to look, but she soon heard him close his door and drive away.

She veered off of Dover and onto a narrow street called Kelley Drive, and walked four more blocks, finally arriving at the first three-decker on Alderman Avenue. She checked the names on the broken buzzer panel -- the building's security locks were long disabled anyway -- and entered the building. She trudged up two staircases to the third floor and knocked loudly on the only door at the end of a dimly-lit hallway.

("Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!")

The man who answered the knock was far too young to have been a hippie during the 1960s -- he wasn't quite forty years old -- but one would never know that to look at him. He actually resembled Ray Manzarek, keyboard player for The Doors, as Manzarek had looked during the group's heyday.

"Larry!" said Angelina.

The long-haired blonde man stared uncertainly from his well-lit apartment into the dark hallway. "You've got the advantage, here, sweetie. Step into the light." As she did so, his eyes widened. "Gina! Holy... ! Gina!"

"Angelina," she corrected. "Don't dig up the past if you don't have to."

"Oh, hell, I suck at names, anyway. You know that." He walked further into the room; she followed "You want a beer, or something?"

"No, I'm good."

"Damn right. You sure look good. Real good. Life treating you good, then?"

"Pretty much."

Larry produced a pack of Newport cigarettes seemingly from nowhere, and offered one to her.

"Menthol?" she teased. "Oh, hell no." She took her cigarette case from her coat pocket, and removed a Marlboro Light from it. She placed it between her lips and Larry lit it for her, before lighting his own. "Thanks," she said.

"So. Things are going good," he said yet again, nodding.

She smiled. "Larry. You've worn out 'good.' Find a new adjective," she suggested playfully.

He giggled, almost girlishly. "Will do."

"How's Skeeter?" she asked, meaning Larry's older brother. Visually, Skeeter was "Hardy" to Larry's "Laurel"... only Skeeter was shorter than his brother. Maybe an Abbott & Costello comparison would be more appropriate.

"He's great. Don't see him much. He got married. Three years ago now."

"Great! And, hey... I'm engaged, myself."

There was a brief but awkward silence as they both realized that they'd quickly run out of small talk.

Larry broke the brief silence. "So, then... Why are you here?"

"Quick question for you, okay?"


"If anybody ever came around here asking about me... and I mean anybody... "

He placed his free hand (the left one, the one without the cigarette in it) on his chest, fingers splayed, in an almost feminine gesture. "Gina! Lanky Larry's lips are eternally sealed!"

"Even if... ?"

"I don't care who it is who's being nosy. I never do. And that'd hold true even if you'n'me hadn't ended on such good terms."

"I'm just making sure. I'm probably worried about nothing. I'm one of the lucky ones. No record. whatsoever. I never got busted in all my time working with you."

"It's more than luck. You were meant for better things. I always said that. Pretty, smart... Determined, too."

"I had to be, or I'd still be getting high... and working for you."


"That's the only thing I miss, Larry. You. Not working for you, just you yourself."

"I know." He put his arm around her, somewhat affectionately, and guided her toward the door. He had things to attend to, and it was obvious that Angelina hadn't planned on staying long anyway. "That's 'cause I'm one of the good guys, remember? And don't you worry... I don't come back on anybody."

She stopped at the door and turned to him. "Oh, one more thing?"


"I hear Cathy's back in the area. She still flying solo?"

"Yeah. I'm worried about her."

"Me, too," she agreed. Then she continued, more to herself than to him. "It's funny. Two, three hours ago I was ready to look her up and kick her ass. But then I found out she'd done me a favor by keeping her mouth shut when she could have said something to someone... "

"I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, y'know."

She laughed. Larry instantly realized that he'd missed her laugh. He hadn't heard it often, but it had always cheered him up. "I know. I'm sorry." She reached out to him and squeezed his left hand affectionately. "Take care, you."

Angelina stepped into the hallway and almost immediately disappeared into the darkness.

"Have a good life, Gina!" Larry said.

He could no longer see her clearly, but he heard her say, "Oh, I will! Getting married!"

Larry closed the door, smiling wistfully.

Angelina descended the steps to the street level. And as she walked home, she heard -- but was totally unaffected by -- virtually all of the sounds a big city has to offer late at night...

But not once did she hear a chorus of screaming, bratty children.

"Getting married!" she said again -- aloud -- to the cold night air.

* * * * *
Thanks for your time.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Angelina -- A "Dover Street" Story -- Part Three


Angelina -- thin, blonde, and pretty -- was somewhat dramatically summoned to the loft apartment of her fiancé, Marty. After playing a recording of Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love" for her, Marty told her the song's history -- that it was inspired by tales of the Nazi death camps -- and that a song's inspiration may or may not always be obvious in the end product.

Then Marty told Angelina, "I want you to hear another song, my new one."

At the conclusion of Marty's new song, "The Life You Never Find," he informed Angelina that the song was more than just the tale of two star-crossed lovers that it appeared to be. The man in the song was actually Marty himself... and the song was about a man who'd fallen in love with a heroin-addicted prostitute.

To put it mildly? Angelina couldn't wait to hear the rest.

* * * * *

Those damned ghost voices started screaming "Gina Angelina!" over and over and over again until Angelina herself wanted to scream aloud, "Shut up!"

She was afraid of what to ask, but had to say something, obviously. "So, that would mean... ?"

"It's something in my past, doll. But like anything else that involves me, or you... it involves us." He paused. "So, naturally, it involves youIn that way, certainly."

"In... your... past?" she repeated, feeling somewhat relieved. "I'm not sure I necessarily agree with that logic, but... you're not telling me you're cheating on me, or even that you have? And..."

"Oh, no! No! I would never cheat on you, doll!" He took her hands in his once again. She allowed the gesture briefly, then pulled away slowly.

"I'll try to keep this part brief," he said.

"Good luck," she caught herself muttering. She knew he'd heard that; he'd had to, as they were sitting right next to each other. She didn't -- wouldn't -- look at his face to see his reaction to her sarcastic comment.

"I came here" -- "here" obviously meant this city -- "about six years ago. A temporary teaching job turned full-time." She nodded. She was aware of how he'd come to live so far from where he'd grown up.

"I didn't have this place then," he continued, referring to the loft. "I didn't have the piano, either. Or much of anything except clothes, and books. Not even a TV. Just a lot of lonely nights in a cheap one-room, a block away from the All-Night."

("The All-Night" was an all-night convenience store. Its official name was, remarkably enough, The All-Night Convenience Store. Some of the long-time denizens of that sleazy neighborhood -- the All-Night was located on Dover Street, after all -- remembered it variously as Gary's All-Night Convenience Store or Bobbie's All-Night Convenience Store. They were never sure which owner had preceded which. The city's really old-timers recalled it as being Simon's All-Night Convenience Store when it had opened in the early 1970s.)

"Not to interrupt," said Angelina, wanting to do nothing more than interrupt, "but I think I know where this is going."

"Please, doll, hear me out?" She shrugged impatiently, leaning toward the coffee table to pour herself yet another glass of wine. She didn't ask Marty if he wanted any. (A good thing, as there was only enough for her.) In fact, she used his glass, instead of searching the floor to see where hers had rolled to.

Marty cleared his throat. "Okay, I guess you do know where this is going, in a sense. One night I walked up and down Dover Street. It didn't take too long..."

"It never does."

"It didn't take too long before one of the hookers walked by me really slowly, giving me The Look. She was about seven or eight years older than I, and actually, rather attractive..."

"I needed to hear that? Geez, Marty."

"Yeah. Sorry. Anyway, we struck up a conversation -- I was still smoking then, so I gave her a light -- and I finally told her that even though I obviously didn't have a car..."

"And still don't!"

"I did have a place that was close by."

"You took her to your apartment? She could have knifed you, or robbed you..."

"But she didn't! Hell, there was nothing to rob. Like I said, it was me, my clothes, my books... And my money, of course, but I was already planning on giving her that." Marty felt like a "bad boy," being lectured and punished in school. Not a very comfortable feeling for a teacher to have. "Look, I know now that that was a stupid thing to do, but I didn't know that then. And anyway, for obvious reasons, nothing like that occurred."

"So what did happen? And Godno, I'm not asking about the sex! I'm just trying to get us from Point A to Point B -- Point B being where you fall in love with this junkie -- a bit more quickly." She stared at the empty glass in her hand. "Damnit," she whispered. "Do you have any more of this stuff?"

"No. Good thing, probably."

"What difference does it make?"

"Well, I'm not sure whether you'll want to stay here tonight after we're done talking, and I don't want you getting too drunk to drive..."

"Don't worry, I walked here."

"That's not necessarily a better idea, either. This neighborhood..."

"Is a lot better to walk around in than the Dover Street area! Can we get back to the story?" She got up from the piano bench and walked over to the chair Marty'd placed her coat on when she'd arrived earlier. She reached into one of its pockets -- she never carried a purse -- and removed a red vinyl cigarette case which contained both an opened pack of Marlboro Lights and a disposable cigarette lighter.

"Sure. Sure. Anyway, I started seeing Sheila..."

"Oh, Sheila. Nice." Angelina sat down again, but on the tall metal chair, and not beside Marty on the piano bench.

"Well, I soon found out that Sheila was just the name she gave to guys, you know... Her real name was Cathy." Marty cleared his throat again. "I started seeing Cathy about three or four times a month."

"On payday, of course." She took a cigarette from the pack and put it to her lips.

"Well, yeah, of course. I mean, it was a... business relationship, of sorts, and... " He watched as she removed the cigarette lighter from the red vinyl case. "Umm... Are you going to light that?"

"That is a rhetorical question, I assume," she said, lighting the cigarette. He fidgeted a bit in his seat, but didn't comment further. She shook her head and looked at him. He looked smaller than usual, if that made any sense. "Didn't you ever think of trying, like, a real relationship?"

"With whom? I didn't know anybody in the city. I was a new arrival. And I wasn't about to start doing the club scene! You know me, doll!"

"Thought I did," she grumbled.

He ignored her wisecrack. "You know what I meant. This one glass of wine is the most I've had to drink since my birthday last March. Anyway, Sheila... Cathy... would show up every Friday or Saturday, to see if I wanted... company. I didn't have to trek up and down Dover Street looking for action. That worked out well, because if I'd ever gotten arrested... "

She nodded. "Kiss your job good-bye. Of course."

"Yeah. So I didn't have to go looking. She was the only hooker I was ever with, and she came to me. I wasn't always in the mood for sex, but sometimes she'd just spend the night with me, holding me. It was actually kind of nice."

"How sweet. And you paid her on those nights, too, though, didn't you?"

He stared at her. "You're so cynical."

"Marty, I grew up in this city, while you so obviously did not." She off-handedly flicked the ashes off of her cigarette and onto the floor. Taking a long drag, she repeated, "So, you paid her whenever she stayed with you, even when you didn't get... " She struggled for a polite phrase, but couldn't find anything more suitable than "any... action?"

"Well... yeah. But it seemed logical. She was staying with me instead of finding other guys who'd pay for her time, and after all..."

"Marty, if you say anything as sappy and sophomoric as 'time is money' I will walk out of here!"

"I'm sorry, Angie..."

"And don't call me that!"

He blinked. "Don't call you what? Angie?"

"I don't like it, is all."

"But, you never said--"

"Well, I am now. Finish your story."

"Umm... okay. I didn't have anyone or anything else to spend my money on. Just Cathy. I was always giving her money, not just when we had sex, but whenever she needed it. And... she always needed it."

"Did you know then that she was a dope addict?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I learned that pretty early on, actually. So anyway... I was always buying her little presents, too. Rings, necklaces, bracelets, the best stuff I could afford. But she was always losing them."

"Pawning them," she corrected, and he merely nodded.

"She kept telling me how much she cared about me, how special I was. Then came the day she told me she wasn't going to charge me for sex any more."

"Really," Angelina said, smirking.

"Of course, at that point, I was giving her more money outright than I ever would have figured I could afford to pay her if we'd still been doing the sex-for-money thing... " Marty laughed nervously. "Does that make any sense?"

"Unfortunately, yes."

"Plus, there were times -- too many of them -- when she'd spend the night with me, and I'd approach her for sex, and she'd refuse for whatever reason. Tired, dope-sick, in a lousy mood, even... And that was frustrating, because I no longer had the option of being self-righteous and saying, 'Hey, I just paid for this,' you know?"

"Is it safe to assume that by this time, she was shooting up in your room?"

He was momentarily taken aback by her suggestion's accuracy. He nodded. "That had started almost immediately. I figured it was a lot safer for her to do it in my place, with me watching out for her, as opposed to Cathy's having to find some empty building or alleyway..."

"And you let all of this go on because you felt that you loved her?"

"I did love her. And at first I didn't want to tell her, but I kept getting closer and closer to coming out and saying it, and then one day -- the very day I'd planned my big announcement -- she confessed to having fallen in love with me."

"Wow. This chick was good."

"Don't I know it. But I believed her. I wanted to believe her, so... yeah. I believed her." He sighed. "She played me pretty well."

"No. Ya think?"

"I wanted her all to myself -- no more working the streets, in other words -- but the... umm... 'financial realities' of the whole drug thing made that impossible." Marty fell silent for a long moment. Angelina, a little bit "buzzed" from the wine, remained quiet, too.

"Then," he resumed, "finally, inevitably... Cathy went to prison. Five months, total. She started promising me that we could have a better life together when she got out, if she could only stay off the drugs, maybe stay at some kind of halfway house at first... I borrowed a buddy's car and visited her in jail whenever I could. And of course, I sent her money. A lot of money."

Again, Marty paused before speaking. In fact, a full minute went by before Angelina prompted, "So what finally happened?"

He exhaled loudly before answering. "She got released, without having told me the exact date... and sent me a short letter from Vermont -- or, maybe New Hampshire? -- telling me that she was never going to see me again!"


"Now that she was 'clean,' she'd gotten back together with her husband -- a husband I naturally never knew existed -- and had gone to live with him."

"You must have been crushed."

"Well, yeah."

Angelina looked down at the cigarette butt she'd extinguished in her wine glass. "Marty... baby... I owe you an apology."

"For what?"

"I've been sitting here, judging you and making smartass wisecracks all the time you've been telling me all of this crap from your past, but the whole thing is... This is, or I should say, was... in your past." She got off the metal chair and returned to sit beside Marty on the piano bench. "Outside of the fact that no one likes to hear details about their lover's other lovers, this didn't involve us. You said it did, because we're part of each other, I suppose, but... it doesn't. Not really. It doesn't affect us, baby. It was all about you. Well, and her, too, but... I'm not going to judge you for any mistakes you've made, especially any that didn't directly involve me. And I didn't even know you then. Hell, I'd sure like to think you'd return the favor if you ever found out some of the little stunts I've pulled in my time!"

"That's all well and good, doll, but... there's more."

"Huh? What are you... ? What do you...?"

"All this crap with Cathy happened over five years ago. But that's a brand new song that I played for you tonight. Don't you want to hear why I wrote it now?"

Angelina truly didn't know how to answer him. Did she want to hear the reason?

Right on cue, the obnoxious chorus of "Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!" began again in the back of her mind.

Little bastards.

* * * * *

To be continued... Wednesday.

Thanks for your time.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Angelina -- A "Dover Street" Story -- Part Two

Last time:

Angelina -- thin, blonde, and pretty -- was somewhat dramatically summoned to the loft apartment of her 
fiancé, Marty. After playing a recording of Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love" for her, Marty told her the song's history -- that it was inspired by tales of the Nazi death camps -- and that a song's inspiration may or may not always be obvious in the end product.

Then Marty told Angelina, "I want you to hear another song, my new one."

* * * * *

Without another word, Marty launched into a catchy instrumental riff. Angelina wished she had the musical background to describe what he was "doing," but she didn't. She only knew that she liked it.

Then Marty began singing. She'd never had the nerve to tell him that his voice reminded her of Barry Manilow's -- mainly because she wasn't sure if he'd be complimented or offended -- but it quite often did. This time was no exception.

Shuffling through some broken glass, I found a diamond.
Stumbling through a field of weeds, I found a rose.
In with icy things I should stay far away from
I found something warm enough to draw me close.

He paused briefly -- very briefly -- and she realized that his piano playing had improved considerably since last she'd heard it.

You may never know the ways in which you’ve touched me,
'Cause you’re so much more than what you had to be,
So instead of using you, I grew to love you,
And my tears mean I may never set you free.

Marty shifted slightly as he played the song's chorus for the first time.

As I look into your eyes,
I see your pain, and all the lies
That you were told
About that better life
That you never seem to find.

Wow, she thought, what woman can't relate to that line!

If I stooped to label you, then I could judge you.
If I judged you, girl, you’d probably start to cry.
If you started crying, I would feel my heart break.
As it broke, I’d wonder who the hell am I?
I could make a lengthy list of all my problems,
And by 'problems' I mean those that are my fault.
So if ever I should dare to act superior
Know the truth, and take me with a grain of salt.

Here, he repeated the chorus, then began the third verse.

I’d give anything if I could sleep beside you,
But I only have to give you up each night.
I can hope and pray we find a way around this,
Or else nothing’s ever going to make it right.
But reality keeps messing with my dreaming.
So damned many things keep getting in our way.
I’m no optimist, but with some perseverance,
Maybe you and I can work things out someday.

She couldn't recall ever having heard the word "perseverance" in a song before. But Marty never had been one to talk down to his intended audience.

He repeated the chorus again, then once more, only with different inflections. His reworking of the chorus' tune made him reach to the top of his somewhat limited vocal range. Successfully, she was glad to see. Damn, his voice has improved, too, she thought.

Shuffling through some broken glass, I found a diamond, he sang, repeating the first verse.

Stumbling through a field of weeds, I found a rose.
In with icy things I should stay far away from
I found something warm enough to draw me close.

As he'd sung the last line of the song, he'd slowed his pace. And the very last note he played on the piano coincided with his final lyric.

"Damn," she said softly. "What do you call it?"

"It's called 'The Life You Never Find.'* Like it?"

"Baby, that has instantly become my favorite thing you've ever written," she said, truthfully.

"Really? You mean it? Really?"

"Hey, I'm a Scorpio, remember? Don't ask me my honest opinion unless you've got the strength to take it. And baby... I loved it. I thought it was great." His face was unreadable once again. "I mean... shit. You did want my opinion, right?"

"Of course, of course!" he answered, motioning for her to sit beside him on the piano bench. She did so, seating herself on his right.

"Now you can tell me why you played both songs for me," she stated, hoping that such was the case, and that she would finally learn what all this drama was about.

Marty's face clouded.

Angelina continued, "I mean, you weren't simply asking me to compare the two songs, I hope... ?"

"What? You mean, me compare myself to Leonard Cohen? I'd be setting myself up as a pretty big target."

"Don't be too hard on yourself. It's not a case of whose song is better or worse, more like an apples & oranges kinda thing... " Marty nodded, placated. "But... Why did you play both songs for me, baby?"

"Part of it has to do with the teacher in me, I suppose. I wanted to present one example of a song which grew beyond its origins, and then present another."

"So, you're saying that... "

"My song, 'The Life You Never Find,' is about -- or was about -- something much different from what the song may seem to be about to a listener now."

Angelina smirked again. "Mm-hm. This is the part where I'm really hoping you'll just tell me what it 'really' means." She looked at Marty's face. Unreadable again. She sighed. "But you're not going to make it that easy on me, of course."

He smiled, and shook his head. He pointed beyond her, to a piece of paper on the coffee table. She hadn't noticed it whenever Marty had put it there. It was a copy of the lyrics to "The Life You Never Find." As she picked it up, and looked at it closely, he explained, "I knew that after hearing it only once, you wouldn't be likely to have memorized the damned thing, so this should help." Angelina nodded. "So, as before, if you had to guess what the song's about, what would you say?"

("Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!")

The spotlight was on her again, and not in a good way. She poured herself a third glass of wine. "Umm... Well, to a casual listener, it seems pretty simple. Obvious, even. These two people are in love, but one -- or both! -- of them is married, or has another lover... Anyway, they can't be together full-time." She gulped down half the wine. "How'm I doing so far, Teacher?"

Marty slid closer to her, so he could read his own printed lyrics over her slender shoulder. "Well, what about lines like his comparing her to being a diamond in the broken glass, or a rose in a field of weeds?"

"Maybe she lives in a bad part of town? Or... God, I don't know! Maybe he's comparing her to all the women he dated before her, saying she's so much better?"

He pointed to another lyric, which he read while giving it his own special inflections. "Here, then. 'So instead of using you, I grew to love you?' How about that?"

He was sitting so close to her that it made her uncomfortable... and that was never the way she wanted to feel when Marty was around.

"Marty, take it easy!" Angelina forced a wide smile to belie her uneasiness, and her mild anger. "You're the one who already has all the damned answers, okay?" She emptied her wine glass, and held on to it. "Maybe he's just the kind of guy who'd always used women for sex before, but this one was different, so he fell in love."

"No," he muttered. "No. He's not that kind of guy."

"Well, how the hell would I know that?"

"Because you know the guy. It's me, Angie."

Grrr! she thought, Stick to "Doll!" She hated being called anything but her full name of Angelina -- with the sole exception being when Marty called her "doll," as he so often did -- but she'd never had the heart to tell Marty this whenever he'd called her "Angie" or even "Ange."

She watched as Marty finally finished his very first glass if wine. "So, baby," she asked, "you're not just the guy singing the song, you're actually the guy in the song?"

He nodded. "And... looking at the lyrics in a different, almost specialized way... would you believe me if I told you that the song's about... a guy... who falls in love with a woman who's a prostitute... and a heroin addict?"

Wide-eyed, Angelina didn't even feel the wine glass slip through her fingers and fall. It hit the hardwood floor at just the right angle, so it remarkably didn't break.

Her fiancé -- the man she loved deeply, more than any other in her past -- was telling her... what... exactly?

* * * * *

To be continued... Monday.
Thanks for your time.

*Lyrics to "The Life You Never Find" © David M. Lynch.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Angelina -- A "Dover Street" Story -- Part One

From November, 2008:

Introduction: I don't usually reference an example of someone else's work as heavily as I've done in this story, unless I'm doing some sort of parody, or a review... and this story is neither.

I'm hoping that printing the lyrics to a song by someone as gifted as Leonard Cohen in a tale which also showcases lyrics written by one of 
my characters -- in other words, actually written by myself -- doesn't invite comparison. This definitely is not a case of my including two songs so that anyone can decide which is "better," for that would only be asking for trouble.

As mentioned above, the following story, "Angelina," is only one tale in an ongoing group of stories which will be known as the "Dover Street" series.

More on that later...

* * * * *

"Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!" screamed the other kids. They sang it, actually. The tune was the same tune children applied to almost every sung taunt, that abrasive "nyah nyah, nyah nyah, nyahhh nyah" -- or "neener, neener, neener," depending on your own neighborhood -- which evidently began with traditional children's songs, but had invaded everything from later pop/rock songs to Wisk detergent's old, irritating "ring around the collar" commercials.

She was six or seven when one of the other neighborhood children had combined "Gina" with her own name of Angelina. Why he'd done that made no real sense to anyone, but it was never questioned. And as for why she took it as an insult? That could only be explained by the fact that it was meant as one.

Such was the mentality of the children in Angelina's hometown. And everyone else's, too, she assumed. For that reason, and no doubt several others locked away in Angelina's subconscious, she hadn't really cared for her so-called peers and equals while growing up. She continued that disdain for children into her own adulthood.

That "disdain for children" disappeared immediately and for no apparent reason, however, on the day that Marty Shulman asked Angelina to marry him "and have my children."

Marty had proposed seven months earlier, four days after Angelina had turned twenty-eight.

Tonight, she stood on a sidewalk, in front of a door. The bangs of her short, curly blonde hair had started to grow past her eyebrows, blocking her vision a bit. She brushed them out of the way. Through a barred glass window, she could see a staircase.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she heard the long-ago screech of the "little brats" she'd known while growing up. "Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!" Those damned kids! Their voices always intruded during moments of nervousness.

("Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!"

Little creeps.)

Angelina pressed the buzzer for Marty's loft apartment, and was answered in kind by a clicking sound which told her she could now enter.

Marty rarely brought Angelina here, or invited her here. The loft was certainly large enough for entertaining, but it was sparsely-decorated, only to make itself functional. Marty himself didn't care to spend much time here. He mainly stayed here long enough to write his songs, and practice/play his piano. He usually spent his nights at Angelina's apartment, so he didn't even sleep here much.

But he'd called her three hours ago, and told her to show up at "sometime around eight." He made it sound important, without actually saying it was important. Angelina was often able to infer quite a bit from the tone of Marty's voice. She knew him that well.

Tonight, however, she was baffled. She was nervous.

Her skinny frame ascended the stairs slowly. She entered the loft apartment itself through its unlocked door at 8:02. She had wanted to be respectful of Marty's "sometime around eight" designation, and not rush things, but she was apprehensive, and impatient, and...

("Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!")

Marty greeted her warmly with a hug and a kiss. "Hi, doll," he said cheerfully. "Cold out tonight?"

"Hi, baby," she replied. "No, it's not bad for November." She removed her coat and handed it to him. He looked at it uncertainly for a couple of seconds, then draped it gently across a nearby chair. "So," she asked him, "what's up?"

The cheerful look on Marty's face was immediately replaced by a more serious countenance. "Um. Not quite yet, okay?" She nodded, following him further into the large room. He stopped at the piano, sat down upon its bench, and motioned to an opened bottle of red wine on a low-set coffee table. The wine was flanked by two glasses; both had already been filled.

They'd been dating for about a year now. Marty had "summoned" Angelina here before, twice actually, to debut a new tune for her, so she was used to this ritual... but the wine was a new touch.

Next to the coffee table was a tall metal chair. Angelina sat on the chair, and bent to take one of the wine glasses. She couldn't; the table was too low, the chair too high. She got off of the chair, reached down to pick up a wine glass, and seated herself once again.

They were separated by three feet, maybe more. She looked into his dark brown eyes, a match for the long, wavy brown hair on his head. (The rest of his face resembled the actor, Michael Imperioli.) "So, baby, whatcha got for me tonight? A new song?"

"Yeah," he replied, nodding. "But I have something else for you first." Angelina saw that Marty was holding a small, battery-operated cassette tape player. He placed it on the coffee table.

"Listen closely to the lyrics, okay, doll?" he said, as he pressed the "play" button.

She'd never heard this song before. Its arrangement made her think of Gypsy music, but the song was slower than what she'd expect them to play for some wild-eyed young woman cavorting by a campfire. The singer obviously wasn't Marty, as she'd expected at first. Whoever the artist was, he had a strange tone to his voice, something Angelina immediately thought of as "different," but nothing she had words to define.

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love*

Marty clicked the "off" button, then casually hit "rewind."

"Leonard Cohen," he said simply.

"Ah." She'd never heard of Leonard Cohen.

Marty looked at his lover expectantly. She said nothing more.

Finally, after having taken his first sip from his own glass of wine, he asked, "Soooo... What did you think, doll?"

Angelina smirked; she felt like Marty was putting her on the proverbial "spot," and didn't really like that fact.

("Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!")

"Umm... I liked it?" she offered, searching his dark eyes for a reaction. (But there was none, damnit!)

"And if I were to ask you what it was about, what would you say?"

"That's a weird way of... I mean, you are asking me what it's about, right?"

"Yes and no."

She took another sip of wine, draining her glass. "Thanks for clearing that up, baby." They both laughed uneasily. "Your tape's done, by the way," she added, referring to the fact that the cassette was done rewinding. The cassette player's motor was making that faint straining sound a rewound tape always caused it to make.


"Well, it's... Hell, Marty, I don't know. It's a very pretty song. Kind of... kind of... haunting? Is that the right word?" He smiled and shrugged as if to say that her opinion was what mattered here, and that he wasn't going to make any suggestions of his own.

"Go on, doll."

"Marty. What else... Look, maybe it's just my impression, but I don't think he's necessarily talking... I mean, singing... about dancing. Not literally."

("Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!")

She poured herself a second glass of wine and drained it in one gulp. "Baby, what... What do you want from me here? I feel like I'm being interrogated. It's a very nice song, but I didn't write it. It's not necessarily my place to say... " She cleared her throat, and repeated, "What do you want from me here?"

Marty got up from the piano bench and walked to her. "Take it easy, doll. I was just trying to make a point."

"Which was?"

"Okay, as the song exists in its current form, it could mean a lot of things." She smiled in spite of herself. Marty was sounding very much like a thirty-year-old high school music teacher... which is exactly what he was, of course. "But would you believe me if I told you that the song's inspiration came from the Nazi death camps?"

"Oh," she teased gently, "This is all about the Jewish thing again?"

"Cute," he said, taking her hands in his. "The Nazis often pressed Jews into service as musicians -- in string quartets, sometimes even full orchestras -- who were expected to play while their fellow death camp inmates were sent to the gas chambers. Forced to play, I should say."

"Wow, baby. That's... pretty sick."

"Yes. And that's where Cohen got the basic idea for 'Dance Me to the End of Love.' Can you recognize that?"

She thought back, trying to remember any lyrics that could be interpreted as backing up Marty's explanation of the song's genesis. She thought of the line about "the panic," and the image of the "burning violin," but those were all she could think of at this moment. "Yeah, in at least a couple of places... I can see it."

"But the song evolved beyond that, eventually."

"Okay, sure."

"Now it can mean a lot of things to the different people who hear it."

"Fine," she agreed. "Baby... What's your point?"

"I want you to hear another song, my new one," he said, releasing her hands and seating himself at the piano once more.

* * * * *

To be continued... Friday. Keep watching the skies blog!

Thanks for your time.

*Lyrics to "Dance Me to the End of Love" by Leonard Cohen © Stranger Music, Inc.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Leonard Cohen, 1934-2016, R.I.P.

Those of you who know me well probably think it's odd that I should be posting about Leonard Cohen 's death a few days after the fact. After all, I usually post a tribute to a celebrity within twenty-four hours of when I hear of his or her passing.

Well, instead of my usual type of tribute, in Mr. Cohen's case, I'm going to do something different.  I used the lyrics to one of his songs in a four-parter I wrote during the early days of this blog. I'm going to republish that story starting tomorrow, continuing through Friday, Monday, and the following Wednesday. I hope you come here  for all of it.

And as far as Mr. Cohen? We can still count on hearing his great song, "Hallelujah," whenever movies or TV have a dramatic moment....

Thanks for your time.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Robert Vaughn, 1932-2016, R.I.P.

Actor Robert Vaughn has died at the age of  eighty-three, eleven days short of his eighty-fourth birthday. An excellent obituary may be found here.

Vaughn was best known as Napoleon Solo, the "man" in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., NBC's mid-1960s spy program. Those who know me well know that I was and am a big fan of the show, having watched it in my youth. In fact, three of the first four comic book scripts I ever had published (one as writer, two as co-writer) were in Entertainment Publishing's The Man from U.N.C.L.E. comic book when we revived the series in 1987.

Even before U.N.C.L.E., Vaughn was a critically-acclaimed young actor. His second-best-known role is probably that of Lee, one of the seven in the original 1960 The Magnificent Seven.

Younger TV viewers may know Vaughn from his role of Albert Stroller in AMC's Hustle.

I often end these little tributes of mine saying that so-and-so "will be missed," but in my case that's more than true as it applies to Robert Vaughn.

Thanks for your time.
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