Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blessedly Brief Button Blog! -- A "Theme Thursday" Post

The prototype touch-tone telephone pictured above sold on eBay for almost $18,000 less than a year ago! You probably figure that I've included it here because today's Theme Thursday subject is "BUTTON," and touch-tone telephones have buttons, right?


I'm showing it to acknowledge the fact that today's post is pretty much "phoned in," due to all-too-pressing concerns in the real world.

So now that I've wasted your time for a bit, allow me to showcase the real subject of today's brief post:

My first three cars (purchased & owned circa 1973-1976) were made by the Chrysler Corporation. My very first automobile was a tan 1964 Plymouth Belvedere. My second car was a maroon 1964 Dodge Polara 440. The third was a blue 1964 Plymouth Fury, like the one shown above. (A '64 Fury was basically a '64 Belvedere with fancier chrome).

That second car, the Dodge, was bought from a "motorhead" co-worker who had pulled out the stock 318 engine and replaced it with a 361. He'd also installed a three-speed manual transmission. But before he'd done that, my little Dodge had had what the two Plymouths had...

And that was a pushbutton transmission.

I've been feeling rather nostalgic about my early Plymouths -- I even immortalized the pushbutton tranny in several parts of a recent multi-part story -- and would like to own either a 1964 Belvedere or a 1964 Fury again sometime in the relatively near future.

So. If you made it this far, and would like to know more about these cars, you can start by clicking here!

That's all you get this go-round, fellow babies!

Thanks for your time.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

That's What She Said

You're probably familiar with the phrase "That's what she said," and its uses. Adding those words to almost anything said by someone else can turn the original comment into a sophomoric sex joke. (Click here for some Star Wars-related examples.) It's a routine that -- IMHO -- gets tired quickly, and is rarely incredibly funny, but...

Having said all that...

One night I was with a group of friends, male and female. We were congregated on one friend's back porch, having a few beers, when someone made some innocent comment. Someone else followed up with "That's what she said!" which made a joke of the previous sentence.

A guy named Randy made a remark to the effect of, "You know, nine times out of ten, you can add 'That's what she said' to anything someone else has said, and it ends up being really funny!"

Most of us nodded in agreement. And then, after a pause, someone took the conversation in a totally different direction. I don't even recall what he or she said... but Randy followed it up with "That's what she said!" and in this case, it was such an unfunny non sequitur that absolutely no one laughed.

I shrugged. "I guess that was your 'tenth time,' Randy," I told him.

Randy just grinned, and replied, "That's what she said!"

Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My First Starring Role? -- A "Theme Thursday" Post

This is the book that introduced me to the fairy tale, if memory serves.
And the elf on the left is a male,I believe! (Note the subtle differences in his eyes,
lips, and "skirt.") Effeminate-looking cuss, isn't he?

This week's Theme Thursday topic is "SHOE."

I'm not going to relate the actual story of "The Elves and the Shoemaker." (If you're unfamiliar with the old Grimm Brothers fairy tale, and want to read it, here it is. It's shorter than almost everything I've ever written!) Instead, I'm going to tell you about my being in a play based on that story, a play in which I starred -- well, okay, co-starred -- in fourth (or maybe fifth) grade.

This was either my first or second real performance before an audience. This was long before any public speeches I've had to make. This was years before I ever sang lead for various rock'n'roll bands. This was before I'd ever appeared in any of my high school's annual "Dippy Day" skits on April first. This was four or five years before I ever appeared in any of my high school drama club productions, and four or five years before a play I was in at summer camp one year. This was before I ever sang a solo in my church choir. This was even before I ever performed in my grammar school glee club!

Members of my fourth-grade class -- there were two others in my grammar school, IIRC -- rehearsed it for a few weeks, and then performed the play for the two other fourth-grade classes. All of this occurred during school hours. But it was still a "performance," as it were, albeit a severely limited engagement.

And I was one of the elves.

* * * * *

A brief -- for me, anyway -- digression: I said that this was either my first or second time before an actual audience. The other occasion vying for the coveted role of "my first time" -- and get your mind out of the gutter! -- would have been the time I stood next to three other Cub Scouts from my "den" at our monthly "pack meeting" and read aloud from a comic book called The True Story of Smokey Bear.

This comic has been reprinted several times over the years.
Notice how the title kinda looks like a paste-over? It is!
Earlier editions are entitled The True Story of Smokey the Bear,
which,technically, is the wrong name for the little critter!

people -- adults and children -- told me that during the section I read, everyone in the crowd paid very close attention to me, captivated by my voice! (And keep in mind, Cub Scouts were comprised of boys from eight to ten years old, a fidgety group under the best of circumstances!)

That was the night, moreso than the day I performed in "The Elves and the Shoemaker," upon which I truly became hooked on the whole "performance" thing.

* * * * *

So, why am I focusing instead on "The Elves and the Shoemaker" (besides the fact that "SHOE" is this week's theme)?

Actually, it's because I want to share with you how supportive my mother was of my schoolwork and extra-curricular activities.

There wasn't a heck of a lot of thought given to the play's costuming... at least, not until I went home and told my mother about my class' upcoming production.

This was hardly the first occasion I recall where she went "all out" for me -- I remember her scurrying about to whip up the proper German boy's outfit for a song I had to sing, and the little touches she added to my costume when I had to play a bartender at a Cub Scout function -- nor would it be the last.

In short order, she'd stripped the white cottony trim off of a Santa Claus hat, and removed the big white cottony ball from its end. She removed the collar from a red shirt I owned -- or more probably, just folded it inward to hide it, I don't recall which -- and replaced it with a green collar that looked sufficiently... elfin? Elfish? Whatever.

The masterstroke was what she did with the hat. She had me pull it down to cover my ears, after having sewn on two pink pieces of felt, cut to look like pointy elf ears. (If she'd been working on the original Star Trek, she could have saved Paramount's make-up department a fortune.)

Then, realizing that my costume was going to totally eclipse that of the other elf, played by a kid named Steve, she sewed together a matching green hat for him, and created a red collar as counterpoint to my green collar. (She didn't make a shirt for him. She just had me tell Steve to wear a crew-necked green shirt when he got dressed for school that day.)

The teacher took a photo of the play's cast, in costume. My copy disappeared years ago (damnit). In it, Steve adopted a flashy pose... feet splayed, hands on hips, big grin. I stood there like a serious little soldier. He was the "ham," while I almost looked like I wanted to be somewhere else.

Hm. I guess this was before the "Smokey Bear" incident.

Anyway, with all the crap going on in my personal life lately that involves my mother's various health issues -- friends and certain other Blogger-bloggers know the "issues" to which I refer -- I wanted to take this time to give credit where credit was/is due... even if it's more than forty years overdue.

A little sentimental for me, perhaps, but... there it is.

Thanks for your time.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Walter Cronkite, 1916-2009, R.I.P.

I'm not sure when -- or even why -- Walter Cronkite became "important" to me, when or why I first realized the impact he'd had (and, at that time, was continuing to have, if that makes any sense) on broadcast journalism.

He became the anchor of CBS Evening News when I was not quite six years old, and at that age, TV news programs were incredibly low on the list of things which interested me... probably a notch or two above getting clothing for Christmas or birthday presents.

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I honestly don't know which network's coverage I watched on television. Probably all of them at one time or another, as all three networks showed practically nothing else. I did remain figuratively "glued" to the TV (perhaps in hopes that one channel or another would eventually realize that we young'uns were missing our all-important cartoons and other favorite TV shows, and that our regular programming would be restored).

My "Charlie Farrell" character -- the thinly-disguised fictional version of my seven-year-old self from "The Once and Future Aero" -- explained how he "sat and watched the endless news broadcasts about the assassination, drawing my own ghoulish pictures of my president bleeding all over his limo" because that's exactly what I did.

I wasn't drawing pictures about the moon landing six years later, but I was watching it. Even then, the who (meaning who was broadcasting the event) wasn't as important as the what. It may have been CBS, Cronkite's network... but again, at that stage, I didn't really care.

(If you'll allow me to backtrack for a bit... In the mid-1960s, the long-running children's magazine Jack and Jill published an article about Walter Cronkite written by one of his children. My attitude then was a predictable "Who cares?" I've since tracked down a copy of that issue on eBay, and purchased it.)

However... Sometime long before his 1981 retirement, I learned to appreciate the man. Which is why I so enjoyed the occurrence I'm about to share with you.

First, let me mention that long before now, I have searched the internet in general -- and YouTube in particular -- for a video, a transcript... anything that would give me more details about the following story. Nothing! Zip! Nada! So I'm doing this from a nearly twenty-year-old remembrance. Hardly something of which Mr. Cronkite would have approved, journalistically speaking.

TV commentators -- who, by the way, comment as opposed to "commentate," FYI -- tend to describe events with as many words possible. That's irritating when you think of all the other information they never get to because it was crowded out by their excessive verbiage. (I know, I know... I do it all the time, but I'm not relating anything of national or international importance!) I can't count the times a president has made a ten or fifteen-minute speech which the newsmen have then picked apart with a forty-five minute analysis.

The night the first Gulf War, "Operation Desert Storm," began in earnest, Dan Rather of CBS came on with two guests. One was Cronkite himself, and the other was a retired Army general or some other military expert. (As I said, I'm working from a vague memory.) Mr. Rather began by talking about the beginning of the war, and the possible ramifications of this or that, blah, blah, blah... The general chimed in with even more possibilities and probabilities, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera...!

Then the camera focused on Cronkite. In only a handful of sentences, he pretty much said everything worth saying about what was really going on, in a way that made any conjecture rather ridiculous.

The only thing he didn't say -- because he didn't have to -- was a quote often expressed by another CBS star, Archie Bunker: "Case closed."

Dan Rather and the general almost imperceptively glanced at each other as if to say, "Wonderful. The old man just derailed everything we were going to bullshit about for the next half hour or more."

They went to commercial. When the program returned, Cronkite was gone.

I always had the feeling that the other two had said "Get him out of here! He's ruining our act!" But I doubt anyone would have had the audacity to kick Walter Cronkite off the set, so IMHO it was probably that Dan Rather said, "You know, Walter, we were really hoping we could pad this discussion to fill air time," and that Cronkite replied to the effect of "I refuse to play those games," and walked off on his own.

As I said, over the years -- and not just since Cronkite's recent death -- I've searched high and low for a video, or a transcript, or a "story-behind-the-story," and found absolutely nothing.

Now, as for my closing... I was originally going to replace my customary "Thanks for your time" with "Thanks for your time And that's the way it is," and then thought, "Nahhhh, too predictable. Everybody's gonna be doin' stuff like that."

So I not only have a poorly-researched "news article," I also have a wimpy ending.

Cronkite would be so disappointed. Myself... I can live with it.

Hopefully, so can you.

Thanks for your time.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cute Kid, Eh?

Sometimes I leave a comment on someone else's blog that makes me wish I'd "saved" it for my own blog. Here is one such example, edited only slightly:

By the time I was about six or seven, I had been told the "If you eat the watermelon seeds one will grow in your stomach" lie by well-meaning adults.

Sometime at about that age, I saw a pregnant woman, my "first." She didn't look "fat" to me; it was only her stomach that was outsized.

I walked right up to her, pointed directly at her belly, and loudly exclaimed "I know what you've been doing!"

Thanks for your time. (And sometime soon, probably tomorrow... Walter Cronkite, R.I.P.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Toomey's Rest, Nevada (1889) -- A "Theme Thursday" STAGE Post

I'm notorious for my long posts, but this one's longer than most, and for once, I must apologize. Usually when a story or article lasts too long, I split it up into two or more chapters. I didn't do that for this entry, for two reasons: 1. It'd almost feel like a bait-and-switch for the "Theme Thursday" followers who don't regularly visit my blog, and 2. There wasn't a really good place to end what would have become Chapter One. Best case scenario would have been the set-up for part one, and the "real" story for part two. I didn't like that.

And now, fellow babies, as I turn my blog over to the story's elderly narrator... You're on your own.

* * * * *

Gee, don't these old, sepia-toned photographs look
good against the background of this blog's template?

Lemme see if I can remember enough of this yarn -- one that my Grampy told me when I was a little sprout, maybe seventy years gone now -- to do it justice.

What's left of the once-booming Toomey's Rest, Nevada, has been a ghost town for pretty near a century. But in the late 1800s, its silver mine made more than a few town-folk financially well off... and made one man in particular mighty wealthy.

As it happens, that wealthy man, Mordecai Ohrne, is -- or maybe I oughtta say "was" -- this story's antagonist. Can't really call him an outright "villain," 'though he certainly had his faults.

Ohrne -- or as everybody called him, "Orn" -- owned the Toomey's Rest silver mine, and the better of the town's two hotels, and the local saloon (not to mention employing the "soiled doves" plying the world's oldest trade in the fancy rooms above the saloon). Mayor Jasper Cicero was mayor because he'd run for office with Orn's backing. (And Jasper had only earned that by marrying Orn's older sister!) Most of the townspeople owed Orn their livelihoods, and several of the miners "owed their souls to the company store," to paraphrase a line from the old song...

A lotta -- hell, most of -- the citizens of Toomey's Rest didn't even know Orn's full name. Rumor had it that "Orn" was short for "ornery," rather than just a misspelling of his real surname. Orn was a temperamental sort, you might say, but calling him ornery was about the worst you could say for someone as powerful as Orn was.

TV and movie Westerns seem to have one stereotype of the town's richest man, but outside of his "finger in every pie" aspect, Orn didn't fit it. He was fairly honest. He wasn't a bully (except for something I'm saving for a tiny bit later). In fact, he wasn't a violent man at all. Tough, sure. (In fact, if you took a swing at Orn, it's 'cause you were pretty drunk, or pretty stupid, or both.) But not violent.

Folks say that ol' Orn had come to prominence due to a mighty unique combination of horse sense and luck. No one had ever -- and I mean ever with a capital "E" -- gotten the best of him in any situation, business or personal.

Orn was tall, about six-and-a-half feet. He had long, jet-black hair, slicked back... and a beard like Abe Lincoln's, one that ran around his jawline and framed his face, but had no mustache attached.

When he spoke, Orn generally spoke so stiltedly as to sound like he was reading from a script. Hard to have a regular, down-to-earth conversation with him, or so they said. Maybe he was trying to seem more formally educated that he had been. Which is not to say that Orn was a stupid man. Not even close.

He was always flanked by two so-called bodyguards known only as Culhane and Micah. Having two bodyguards was a natural enough precaution for a feller who always wore a fully-stuffed money belt like Orn did, but as for the effectiveness of these two... well, folks could recall Orn saving one or the other of them from a scrape or two or three, rather than vice versa.

Orn had married a buxom Scot named Kate, whom he'd met and fallen in love with in San Francisco years earlier. Once he'd made his fortune, he'd sent for her. Now, ten or so years later, they had a five-year-old daughter named Lucy (not Lucille).

But enough about Orn for now. Lemme tell you about another feller, a feller named Werner Gunderman.

Gunderman was in his late twenties, about ten or twelve years younger than Orn, and he had been very well-educated, somewhere. He was almost six feet tall, and was skinny as a rail. He was clean-shaven, with light brown hair which he kept kinda short. He was never seen outdoors without a beat-up brown bowler hat and a brown leather buttoned-up vest.

Werner Gunderman had married a demure little gal everybody -- including Werner -- called "Peanut," years before he settled in Toomey's Rest. Pretty little thing, with blue eyes and blonde hair... always wore her hair in one long braid. No one ever seemed to use Peanut's real name, so whatever it was has been "lost" over the years, you might say. Anyway, Peanut had become Mrs. Gunderman when she and Werner were both just teenagers.

At the time of this here story, they had an eight-year-old daughter named Anika, who had her mom's looks and her dad's hair and eye color, both brown. Wore her hair in one long braid, just like Peanut, her mom. Anika had the prettiest voice in the whole church choir. She evidently got whatever musical talent she had from Werner, who played an instrument... sorta.

By "sorta," I mean... well... Werner Gunderman played the harp! Kinda girly, if you ask me. More than one feller or another whispered that if it wasn't for little Anika being proof that Werner was a real man, if you know what I mean... Well, let's not even get into it, okay?

Anyway, Werner Gunderman had lived in town about two years or so, and had started helping out at old Ben Butler's general store. Then Ben had a stroke which left him in a wheelchair, and Gunderman became the store's full-time manager. In short order, Ben hired another young man, Tom O'Malley, to help out, and in no time at all, either Gunderman or O'Malley could run the store alone if need be.

So, as you might have guessed, Orn didn't really have any enemies. And Gunderman hadn't made any enemies, either...

Except for Orn himself. He really didn't like Gunderman.

And no one was ever sure why.

Gunderman's soft way of speaking, his politeness, his harp-playing... a few people said he was what they called a "poof," and suggested that that's the real reason that Orn despised Werner. But those folks were usually answered by others pointing out the fact that Gunderman was married and had fathered a child. What more proof was there that a man was a man, right?

Things seemed so much simpler then...

Some people said that "Gunderman" was a Jewish name, and Orn probably didn't like Jews. I don't believe it. For one thing, Grampy himself told me that Gunderman and his family attended the Baptist church every single Sunday, so if there was any Jewish blood in their ancestry, they'd changed to Christian long before moving to Toomey's Rest. And for another thing, no one ever had any proof that Orn didn't like Jews anyway.

There was another rumor that made the rounds back then, and that was that Werner Gunderman (or his wife) had some African blood, maybe as much as a quarter. Grampy heard Anika called an "octoroon" a handful of times when they were friends as kids. (That's a feller or a gal that's one-eighth what polite folks back then would have called "Negro.")

I guess it's so that Orn wasn't all that crazy about Negroes, but I hate to say that a lotta white folks felt that way then. I'm sure not defending it, mind you, but sadly, that's the way it was.

So maybe that's it. Maybe Orn was one of those folks who felt that being a "little bit" Negro was the same thing as being all Negro, and here was this whole damned Gunderman family "posing" as white...!

But me, I like to think better of Orn than that.

Orn never did anything outright to hurt Werner's family. No "accidents" ever befell Ben Butler's store, and no suspicious fires ever threatened the Gunderman's house... but every time Orn and Wenrer happened to be in the same place, Orn would needle poor Gunderman until the younger feller had to walk away silently, with the sound of everybody present laughing at him as he skulked off.

Orn's attacks, for lack of a better word, were all verbal. Some were pretty clever, while others were kinda juvenile, like replacing "Werner" with "worm," dumb stuff like that.

Orn tried all sorts of insults to get a rise out of Gunderman, as if he thought that everything he'd done to the poor little sissy would be justified as long as Werner threw the first punch in a fight... or drew a knife first... or drew a gun first...

Orn was clearly ready to "meet" Gunderman any way that the younger feller wanted. If, that is, Werner ever got up the guts to make the fight a physical one.

I said that Werner had no real enemies except for Orn, but most of the townspeople avoided getting too friendly with any of the Gundermans. No sense taking chances and upsetting Orn, right? But my Grampy's mom and dad liked little Anika Gunderman and let my Grampy -- their son, Artemus -- hang around with her constantly. They didn't mind at all that the two youngsters seemed to be smitten with each other.

For lack of a better way to put it, "the beginning of the end" came one hot August day in 1889. Everything -- or, I should say, everyone -- came together at once.

Orn and his sidekick Micah were doing some kinda business in the town's lone bank. Culhane, his other crony, got bored and slipped across the wide and dusty Main Street to take advantage of the free whiskey available to him at Orn's saloon.

Meanwhile, Tom O'Malley was escorting Werner to the noon stage, leaving for God-knows-where in fifteen minutes or so. Peanut Gunderman was watching Butler's store while her husband and Tom discussed some last-minute business. My Grampy, Artemus, had accompanied the whole Gunderman family into town, and he and Anika were playing in the middle of Main Street.

Culhane knew not to stray too far from Orn, nor for very long. So he probably wasn't too drunk when he came out of the saloon.

Just drunk enough to make a rude comment to the little girl standing next to her friend Artemus.

"What did you say to me, mister?" demanded Anika, eyes flashing.

"Yeah!" said the boy who'd grow up to be my Grampy, "What did you say to her, mister?"

Culhane turned on my Grampy. "I called her a pickaninny! Not that it's any of your business, little Arthur!"

Anika kicked dirt in Culhane's direction. "His name isn't Arthur, it's Artemus!"

"Yeah!" Grampy repeated, "My name ain't Arthur, it's Artemus!"

Culhane laughed, his voice a high-pitched cackle. "You two little tadpoles say that like it's a better name than Arthur!"

Well! That little spitfire, Anika, wasn't gonna stand there and let someone insult her friend like that. Before Grampy or Culhane realized what she was doing, she'd bent down, grabbed a small stone from the dust, and thrown it at Culhane. It struck him in the lip, enough to sting and draw blood, and enough to really rile him! He drew his arm back, as if he were going to backhand her.

He didn't see the solid punch that knocked him backwards and off his feet. But he sure felt it.

Culhane looked up from his seated position in the dirt to see a glowering, wiry figure wearing a brown leather vest and a weather-beaten bowler hat.

"Gunderman?" exclaimed Culhane. "You hit me? You?"

"I'll do worse than that if you ever raise a hand to my child again, Culhane!" said Werner, in a soft voice somehow made ominous by its low tone. Werner looked over at Grampy, who was standing in front of Anika as if to protect her. "Or anyone's child, for that matter."

Culhane didn't even attempt to stand. His upper lip curled back in a sneer as he slowly and almost imperceptively reached for the .45 revolver resting snugly in the holster strapped to his right thigh. "Well, if I do raise my hand to any young'un, you sure ain't gonna be around to see it..."

Culhane's gun had scarcely cleared the holster before a shiny black boot crashed down on his forearm, pinning it to the ground.

The boot belonged to a very unhappy-looking Orn.

"What in the hell is going on here?" Orn demanded, using about as much profanity as anyone had ever heard him use.

"I struck your man Culhane," began Gunderman, totally without emotion, "because he was about to strike my Anika."

"She threw a rock at me, first!" protested Culhane, who was being helped to his feet by Orn's other stooge, Micah.

Orn's eyes flashed with anger as he turned to look at Culhane. "She is a child! And you sound like one as well!"

Culhane was rudely shoved from behind, by Micah. "Shut your damned mouth, you baboon!" hissed Micah. The two men walked away, toward Orn's hotel.

Now it was Orn and Werner Gunderman who faced each other alone. Well, "alone" if you don't count my Grampy, Anika, and Tom O'Malley, who was holding Werner's suitcase.

"Thank you, Orn," said Werner Gunderman, flatly.

Orn whirled around angrily and pointed an accusing finger in Gunderman's face. "Do not dare to thank me! Ever! As I see it, this entire situation is of your making!"

A slight rise to Werner's eyebrows was the only sign of emotion on his face. "My making? Your drunken henchman threatens my daughter, and you consider it my fault?"

"I do," said Orn, "in the sense that Culhane's frustration mirrors my own. His actions, however rash and misdirected, were merely the response to seeing myself grow increasingly weary of your cowardly reluctance to rebel against my disdain for you!"

(See? I told you Orn spoke kinda funny... certainly not like the average cowboy. Either that or Grampy's memory was a little warped.)

Gunderman's voice remained level, but his hands trembled a bit. "Orn, all along, ever since you first showed me this 'disdain' you speak of -- one which you won't even do me the courtesy of explaining! -- I've tried to keep things from escalating into a physical confrontation. And I could live with scorn, and ridicule, and humiliation, as long as it was mine alone! But now, Orn, you've involved my family, and this cannot continue! So I ask you: What will it take for you to cease your tiresome proddings?"

Orn thought for a long second. "This very moment is the first time you've ever truly stood up to me. Therefore, I entreat you to carry that through to its logical conclusion, and fight me. The weapons may be of your choosing." As he said that, however, Orn looked at Werner to see that the shorter, frailer man wore only one belt, the one which supported his pants. He carried no gun.

"Weapons? I don't want to kill you, Orn, nor do I think you truly want to kill me, or you would have allowed your man to shoot me."

"No, I would not have allowed Culhane to shoot you, even if I did wish you dead. I fight my own battles, Gunderman."

"As you say. As it is... fisticuffs will do." Werner stepped closer to Orn. "But whether I win or lose, our confrontation must have the same outcome for me to agree to this."

"Outcome? Other than the victory of the match itself?"

"Yes. Either way this ends, it will also end your harassment of me. You have always said you cannot respect me for never defending myself physically against your verbal taunts. If I fight you, you must admit to at least enough respect for me as to leave me alone in the future!"

Orn thought for a long second once again. And almost smiled. "Done. Are you ready, then?"

"No. Not now!"


Werner pointed to the noon stage, approximately fifty feet from where this small crowd was standing. "In only a couple of minutes, the stage leaves, and I must be on it."

"You are leaving town. I see. How convenient."

Werner shook his head, as if to brush off the implied insult, which he otherwise ignored. "Today is Monday. I shall return by one week from this coming Thursday, and at three o'clock on Thursday afternoon, I shall be on the stage. If you come to see me then, we shall have this ridiculous battle which you have been attempting to provoke for so long. But you must agree that three o'clock on Thursday will be the time we resolve our differences once and for all... and that is regardless of whether you come to meet me or not!"

"Rest assured, I shall come for you."

"And so you understand and agree to my conditions. I shall be on the stage at three o'clock next Thursday afternoon. If you come to see me then, we shall fight. And our animosity will be ended regardless of the fight's victor."

"Do not attempt to insult me by implying I do not understand your conditions. I agree to everything. One week from Thursday, at three o'clock, I shall finally have my opportunity to soundly and definitively thrash you!"

"Unless I thrash you," said Werner, with the slightest of smiles.

And as Orn walked away, they all heard a sound that few citizens of Toomey's Rest could ever recall hearing: Orn's booming laughter.

Grampy said that the next ten days was the longest ten days of his life, and there were plenty of townsfolk who'd probably have agreed with him.

By the time three p.m. on the appointed date arrived, there were pretty near thirty people gathered around waiting for the stagecoach. Little Artemus -- my Grampy -- was one of the people waiting there to see the big grudge match, even 'though his best friend Anika was in the Baptist church at the other end of town, rehearsing for a solo song she was gonna be singing the following Sunday. (He was a boy, so you gotta excuse him his priorities.)

Right up front of the crowd was Orn, of course, with Culhane and Micah on either side of him, although standing a bit behind him as well.

Orn was wearing a plain, white, collarless shirt with its sleeves rolled up. He was as ready as he was ever gonna get.

The stage approached, stopped, and the passengers started getting out. There were three. An old lady, a middle-aged feller (her son, somebody said), and a second man...

A second man who was not Werner Gunderman.

Something sounding like a snarl came from deep inside Orn, and someone standing close to him said he heard the term "that lily-livered..." hiss from between Orn's lips.

Micah and Culhane both rushed to the stagecoach and looked inside. Micah shouted, "He ain't in here, boss!"

"Obviously not!" Orn thundered. "I am hardly surprised. Once again, Gunderman has played the coward's role."

Culhane meekly walked up to Orn. "Why don't we go to the saloon and have a few? No action happenin' out here, I reckon."

Orn merely nodded.

As the three men walked away, one of the townspeople shouted, "Hey, Orn, this mean you an' th'kid are still enemies?"

Without looking back, Orn replied, "He did not keep his part of the bargain. I am not obligated to keep mine."

An hour... maybe more, maybe less... passed. Orn, Culhane, and Micah were still in the saloon when my Grampy -- who was playing in the middle of Main Street -- saw Anika and her dad approaching. They entered the saloon; Grampy followed.

Culhane saw Gunderman first. "Sweet mother of Jesus!" he said, under his breath.

"Orn," began Gunderman, as if he were already in the middle of a chat with the big man, "I'm only here to confirm that this mysterious and pointless feud between us is over."

Orn sipped at his whiskey, and didn't even bother turning to face Werner. "That is a poor jest, Gunderman. Nothing has changed. I was there, in accordance with our agreement, but you were not."

"Not true, Orn. You are the one who did not show."

Orn's eyes flashed angrily, and his voice raised slightly, but he still did not face Gunderman. "I have more than two dozen witnesses who would disagree. Let me repeat the conditions of our pact, sir! You claimed that you were leaving town, and would return today, on the three o'clock stage from..."

"Wrong. My precise words were 'I shall return by one week from this coming Thursday, and at three o'clock on Thursday afternoon, I shall be on the stage.' Those were my exact words, Orn!"

"I fail to see a palpable difference."

"I said I would return to town on or before Thursday. As it happened, the eldest son of the sick friend whom I'd gone to visit returned me to my home late Wednesday evening... a fact I admittedly did not think prudent to share with you."

"That does not matter. You still promised to be there when that stage arrived!"

"Again, Orn, you are mistaken. At three this afternoon, my daughter Anika and I were alone in the Baptist church, where she practiced her solo song for this Sunday's service. I accompanied her... on my harp, of course, which is a fitting instrument of accompaniment for one with such an angelic voice."

Orn turned to face Werner. The two men locked eyes.

Werner finished his explanation. "As I played for Anika, three o'clock came and went. And I maintain that it was your job to find me... there... sitting at my harp on the cleared-off choir loft which shall be Anika's stage this Sunday!"

From somewhere deep within Orn it began... a low, rumbling kinda growl which turned into an even louder laugh than Grampy and the others had heard ten days earlier. Still laughing, Orn stood there, looking with new-found respect at the only man who'd ever gotten the best of him. He grasped Werner's arm, and gently tugged Werner toward the bar. "Gunderman... Werner... Have yourself a drink! On the house!"

"I'm afraid I don't drink, Orn."

Orn's eyes narrowed. "I insist. No friend of Mordecai Ohrne's can refuse a drink!" Orn laughed his bellowing laugh once more, even as Werner considered the bestowal of the word "friend" upon him. "So... be it milk, water, or root beer, sir... You shall have a drink!"

And for those of you wondering if Grampy -- Artemus -- stayed friends (or more) with Anika Gunderman... Theirs was a life-long friendship, you might say!

In fact, thirteen years later, Anika was the maid of honor when Grampy Artemus married Orn's daughter Lucy!

* * * * *

So, did I cheat, or not?

Hope it was worth the extra wait, fellow babies.

Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Theme Thursday -- WATCH THIS SPACE!

Greetings, fellow babies. I won't bore you with the details, but there's a lot going on right now which may delay my posting of this week's Theme Thursday entry a bit.

Just check back here at your earliest convenience, until you see a post entitled "Toomey's Rest, Nevada (1889)." When that's up, this post will disappear.

Thanks for your time.

Monday, July 13, 2009

This Just In: VAMPIRES Are REAL!

Last Thursday, the Blogger-bloggers that participated in "Theme Thursday" dealt with "GHOST" as their theme. There was a lot of speculation -- both in the posts and in the various blogs' comments sections -- concerning whether or not ghosts are real.

Well, all I can say is, "Ghosts? They ain't shit! Now vampires... They really exist!"

Don't believe me? Here's proof, fellow babies!

Thanks for your time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

David'Z RantZ: I Have Seen the Future

The incomparable Johnny Carson (left) and "The Amazing Criswell"
(right), someone
who could have laid claim to being a "silver fox!"
(Don't bother clicking on it. It's only a photo, not an embedded video!)

Welcome to "Foxwell Predicts," or, more appropriately, "RantZwell Predicts." (And if you don't "get" those two references, click here, fellow babies.)

The vast majority of the time, I try to speak properly. And by "properly," I mean grammatically rather than politely. To give only one example, I never say "ain't," unless I'm quoting someone else, or using it in an almost sarcastic manner.

But I'm not overly obsessive about speaking correctly. I'll occasionally use "who" where "whom" is warranted. And if I'm sick, I'll say "I'm not feeling good" rather than "I'm not feeling well." (Of course, to my twisted way of thinking, "feeling good" means being healthy, and "feeling well" means that my date for the evening will be speaking very highly of me the next time she gossips with her friends.)

As a writer, I heartily support artistic license. After all, who the hell would want to hear Janis Joplin singing "Bobby McGee and I?"

Just don't get me started on "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," okay?

The English language is a so-called "living" language, and as such, it's constantly changing. I can accept that, even when these changes are made without my being consulted beforehand (which strikes me as being just plain rude).

I don't mind changes prompted by the language's natural evolution.

What I mind are inconsistent changes, and -- even worse, much worse -- changes brought about because people are too apathetic about doing things right.

Ummm... I mean, doing things correctly.

Due to this aforementioned apathy, I predict that in five to ten years -- maybe more, maybe less -- we'll find that the following changes have overtaken our "mother tongue" (Well, those whose mothers speak English, that is!):

1. If you want to make a singular word into a plural word, you'll add an apostrophe, and then an "S." Thus, the plural form of, for example, "egg" will no longer be "eggs." It'll be "egg's." And don't tell me you haven't noticed that half the population's doing that already!

2. The spelling of the following words -- but not their meanings -- will become interchangeable: accept & except, than & then, affect & effect, waist & waste, breath & breathe, who's & whose, clothes & cloths, and where & were.

3. The possessive pronoun, "its," will be permanently replaced by "it's." At least this makes some sense, since an apostrophe so often denotes possession ("David's next class," "the farmer's daughter," etc.). On the other hand, I never saw anyone write "hi's" instead of "his." Well... not yet, anyway.

4. "And" will be constantly substituted for the indefinite article "an." However, the reverse will not hold true.

5. The word "lose" -- pronounced "looz" -- will disappear entirely, replaced by "loose," currently pronounced "loos," rhyming with "juice" and "goose." At this point, "loose" will be pronounced as either "looz" or "loos," depending on its ... ummm... use!

I blame a lot of this crap on the single-mindedness of the spell-checkers upon which so many of us rely. (Okay, I'll admit it: I really wanted to write "the spell-checkers so many of us rely on.") I blame the rest on the apathy I keep mentioning.

The most galling part of all this is that when you do point out these kinds of mistakes, the usual response from people is a dismissive "It don't matter."

Yeah, you read that right. I mean... correctly.

"It don't matter."

In response to that, all I can say is "It does matter."

Or should that be, "It do matter?"

Thanks for your time.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Short Ghost Post for "Theme Thursday!"

So, the Powers That Be behind Theme Thursday decided that this week's theme should be "Ghost!"

My initial reaction to that was something along the lines of "Gosh darn it!" (And I mean "Gosh darn it!" with a capital "F"!) "I just did a four-part ghost story during the last week of June!"

So... how was I going to handle the same subject without repeating myself, more or less?

A few ways came to mind, but the one I settled on was to re-write -- and hopefully, improve -- an article I did several years ago for the newsletter of my former employer, the Worcester, Massachusetts, pop culture emporium known as That's Entertainment, winner of the coveted Eisner Award!*

*In case you're wondering why that sentence included so much detail... It's a running joke around here that I'm always giving T.E. a free plug in my blogs, and it's been a while since I did so!)

This article was about the history of a comic book character called the Ghost Rider.** He was a Western "cowboy" type, not a real ghost, but rather a U.S. Marshal who donned a white costume and pretended to be a ghost in order to scare the crap out of his enemies. The Ghost Rider, created in 1949, was drawn by Dick Ayers.

**Not to be confused with the flaming-skulled motorcyclist portrayed by Nicholas Cage in the 2007 movie.)

Ayers had started his comic career working for Siegel and Shuster (creators of Superman) in the late 1940s. And Dick Ayers is a name which should be very familiar to those who have even a casual interest in the early days of what has been called "The Marvel Age of Comics."

So... My plan was to add a whole bunch of cool visual images to my re-vamped Ghost Rider article.

Yeah. That was the plan.

However, as Theme Thursday neared, I had several intrusions from that nasty sumbitch called my personal life, and it also occurred to me that just because I love writing about comic books, not everyone else likes reading about them. And while I've often said that this is my blog, and the first person I need to keep happy is myself, I don't want to push too many of you away by constantly having a comics-related theme.

Having said all that, I'm just going to throw a bunch of "teaser" illustrations at you now. But if you're one of those who does like reading about comics, and/or wants to read a lengthy story about a project I worked on with the one and only Dick Ayers himself... click here to read a series of posts called "The Once and Future Aero!"***

***By the way, my multi-part post, "The Once and Future Aero," contains unpublished Dick Ayers art, never seen elsewhere. Let me repeat that, for emphasis: "The Once and Future Aero" contains unpublished Dick Ayers art, never seen elsewhere! So basically, what I'm saying is, "The Once and Future Aero" contains unpublished Dick Ayers art, never seen elsewhere! Got it?)

And maybe some day, I'll take the time to re-work that blasted article anyway!

"The Ghost Rider" was originally published by a company called Magazine Enterprises.
Above is one of their typical "Ghost Rider" covers, with an appropriate horror theme!

The above cover was drawn by legendary fantasy artist
Frank Frazetta! (By the way, I own a copy of this issue!)

Here's the character's second incarnation, when Marvel Comics
revived him. Ayers once again handled the art chores!

And here's a nifty piece of original art from that period!

Boy! Would I like to get my hands on one of these!

Thanks for your time!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

R.I.P. Something REALLY Important!

No, not another damned celebrity.

This probably won't matter to most of you, but...

I recently learned that an incredible blog called Dial B for Blog has not only stopped posting new entries -- that happened a few months ago -- but has disappeared from the internet entirely (so I can't even link to it for you).

Dial B for Blog was primarily about comic books (especially Silver Age comics) and other related subjects. It was an amazingly informative, well-researched, entertaining blog, and I'll miss it a lot more than some of those celebs who've recently passed on. (And no, no names.)

Thanks for your time.

P.S. -- UPDATE -- Dial B for Blog has returned to the internet! Not sure how long ago. Since I thought it was permanently deleted, I wasn't looking for it, of course! But who cares when it returned? It's back, and highly recommended!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Six(ty-Six) Degrees of Separation

Back in the early 1960s, there was a TV show called Route 66. It starred Martin Milner and George Maharis. (Maharis later left the show and was replaced by Glenn Corbett.)

Milner and Maharis

But I'm not here to talk about the show itself.

I'm here to talk about its theme song.

Now, forty-five years after the series left the airwaves, there are people out there who think that the theme to Route 66, composed by the one and only Nelson Riddle, was instead the old standard "Route 66"... also known as "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66."

It's an easily-understood mistake, but a mistake nonetheless.

"(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66" has been performed by numerous artists... everyone from Nat "King" Cole to Chuck Berry to the Rolling Stones to... Well, the list goes on.

There's a little game I play, one where I connect the Route 66 theme to the other "Route 66," using the old "six degrees of separation" set-up.

Here 'tis:

1. As mentioned above, Route 66 starred Martin Milner and George Maharis.
2. Martin Milner went on to star with Kent McCord in Adam-12.
3. Adam-12 was produced by Jack Webb (of Dragnet fame).
4. Jack Webb also produced Emergency.
5. Emergency featured Bobby Troup in its supporting cast.
6. Bobby Troup was better known as a songwriter than an actor... and he had written "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66" in the 1940s!

Bobby Troup

And last but not least, both songs, for your enjoyment!

Thanks for your time.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Thirty-Eight Years Ago Today...

Thirty-eight years ago today (as it says above), Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, died. (And yes, I do believe he's dead, no matter how much hypemasters like Ray Manzarek would have you believe otherwise... when the mood hits him, that is.)

I'm a big fan of his, and theirs. I differentiate between "his" and "theirs" because I appreciate Mr. Mojo Risin' as a poet, and I appreciate The Doors as a group, even after he died and they came out with two Jim-less LPs... which I own.

When the Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman bio of Jim, No One Here Gets Out Alive, came out... I devoured it. He'd only been gone about ten years at that point. But reading that book sent me into several creative avenues. All of them were good, except for my Morrisonesque poetry of the time. That sucked big ones, fellow babies. (Trust me on that, 'cause you'll never see that crap here!)

So, at this point, you probably expect me to fill your little head full of "I'll-bet-you-didn't-know-that!" Doors trivia, and/or embed a bunch of appropriate YouTube videos, right?

Not this time.

Instead I'm going to embed one YouTube video, and it's not even by The Doors! It's the new one by "Weird Al" Yankovic, entitled "Craigslist." Al does an incredible parody of The Doors' style, rather than one song (although there are obvious similarities to both "When the Music's Over" and "Twentieth Century Fox," among others).

And if you're wondering how they got the keyboards to sound so close to Ray Manzarek's style... Ask Ray Manzarek. He's playing them!

Thanks for your... Oh, hell, I said I wasn't actually going to include anything by The Doors, but here goes:

Happy now? Good. (So am I.)

Thanks for your time.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Get Down, Get FUNKY! -- A "Theme Thursday" Post

Today's "Theme Thursday" topic is "Funky."

Lotsa ways to go here. There's the musical meaning(s), there's the "blue funk" phrase that describes a certain kind of depressed feeling, there's "Do the Funky Chicken," there's a comic strip called "Funky Winkerbean"...!

As it happens, I've been kinda drugged up lately -- legally, due to a minor back injury -- so I'm gonna try to keep my contributions to a minimum of comments between a few YouTube clips.

Anyway, here's my take on the subject:

You know you're "old" when:

1. You can remember when "classic rock" and "oldies" had a different name: "Top 40."
2. You fall down, and more parts of your body ache than just the part(s) that hit the ground.
3. You can remember when Neil Diamond was considered a rock'n'roller.
4. You can remember when Sally Struthers was considered sexy.

[I should add something very recent: "You know you're 'old' when you react adversely to an eBay dealer's description of a 1977 magazine as an 'antique!' "]

5. And finally, you know you're "old" when you can remember the following song being on the Top 40, not once, nor twice, but three times!

Ahhh, yes, Grand Funk Railroad (also known as, simply, Grand Funk, for some reason which must have made sense to someone back then)! They got their name from the Grand Trunk Western Railroad. "Funk" was just a play on words. They weren't really a funk band.

This was the group that gave us the best-known version of "Some Kind of Wonderful." This was the group that gave us "We're an American Band," the first song I ever sang in front of an audience in my very first rock band. This was the group that gave us "Bad Time," a song I still can't hear almost thirty-five years later without thinking of a certain cashier I worked with at my first job. And this was the group that gave us "Foot Stompin' Music." 'Nuff said there, if you've ever heard it.

Then of course, there was a group called the James Gang, which included a kick-ass guitarist named Joe Walsh, who went on to a bright solo career and a stint with The Eagles. The James Gang did a little tune called "Funk #49."

And finally for today, I'm giving you a little ditty called "Funky Nassau" by a group called "The Beginning of the End."

And is it just me, or do you agree that the longer you listen to them repeating the words "funky Nassau," those words start sounding like... well... something else?

Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Death, Be Not Proud. PROLIFIC, Maybe, But Not Proud!

(Gotta post this quickly, before somebody else who's famous dies!)

In the past (on my David'Z RantZ blog), I've stated that "I've devoted a lot of space in these RantZ to celebrity obituaries. Well, not obituaries per se, but little tributes of my own, as it were. And not just any celebrities -- Lord knows, there are plenty of places on the internet which fulfill that particular function! -- but those celebrities for whom I held a particular respect, fondness, and/or admiration. And I've tried to say something with my own personal slant each time."

Today's post will be slightly different from the norm. A little less structured, and a little more irreverent than my usual tribute(s)... You'll see what I mean.

As I'm sure you're aware, there have been more than the average amount of actors, singers, and whatnot dropping off of the planet during the past week. And I'm forgoing my usual take on these multiple deaths, even going so far as to omit my standard "R.I.P." notation.

I don't even have my own so-called "personal slant" for some of them. I was only familiar with actress Gale Storm by reputation, having never seen My Little Margie or any of the programs in which she was prominently featured in. In a similar vein, although I'd enjoyed impressionist Fred Travalena's act whenever I'd seen him perform on TV, I can't really go so far as to list him as someone "for whom I held a particular respect, fondness, and/or admiration."

(By the way, today's post won't talk about Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson's second banana on The Tonight Show. Ed will get his very own write-up in an upcoming post.)

So here's my take on a few of the ones we've just lost:

Sky Saxon

The leader of The Seeds, the group that gave us "Pushin' Too Hard" and "I Can't Seem to Make You Mine" in the psychedelic sixties, never really escaped his hippiedom... and I'm not necessarily saying that's a bad thing.

Sky "Sunlight" Saxon, man!

Michael Jackson

*sigh* There's been so much speculation about this incredibly talented dude's personal life, it's almost... almost... over-shadowed his tremendous contribution to the world of music. Maybe you're as sick as I am of all the news coverage of his unexpected death. If so, I'll just take up enough time to say this: I saw the Jackson 5 debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in the late 1960s, and it was obvious that the dynamic little shit zipping back and forth across that stage, belting out "I Want You Back," was going to become a huge star.

Michael Jackson was one of the few who could get away with singing a love song to a rat ("Ben"), and he went on to even bigger success, culminating in the multi-million-selling "Thriller" LP (which some eBay dealers insist on describing as -- I swear to God -- "rare!")

It's the earlier version of Michael Jackson that I'd like to remember, rather than the creepy and controversial object of curiosity which he became.

And, in that spirit:

This is my personal favorite of the half-dozen or so
computer-generated images I've seen showing what
Michael Jackson might have looked like if he'd never had
any of his disastrous cosmetic surgeries. (Full article

Farrah Fawcett

I was a young adult when Farrah first hit the big time, so I was a bit older than the teenage boys who bought her famous poster for Lord knows what kind of inspiration. But I did watch Charlie's Angels for a season or so, and casually -- as opposed to slavishly -- followed Farrah's career as she did her damnedest over the years to be taken seriously as an actress.

In projects like The Burning Bed and Extremities, she earned her spurs, and I hope she'll always be given credit for those kind of roles in between mentions of a "jiggle show" like Charlie's Angels or a series of jokes about her semi-lucid appearance with David Letterman back in 1997.

A slightly different shot of Farrah, from the same
photo session that produced the iconic poster!

And last but not least, someone whom I was... umm... slightly less than kind to over the years: Billy Mays!

In a previous blog post (again, on David'Z RantZ), I wrote "I love oxymorons. Probably at the top of everybody's list is the oft-mentioned 'military intelligence.' But I also like to list 'disco heaven,' 'happily married,' and... Billy Mays."

In keeping with that sentiment, I later wrote an entire post about him called "Billy Mays, The Oxy-Moron!" in which I said "I really can't stand this guy. If I wanted someone to scream at me like that, I'd turn up the volume on my television."

But gee, folks, I never wished him dead or nuthin'...

As I've said previously, this is a rarely-seen nude photograph
of big, bushy, bearded Billy Mays. Or should I say it this way:


Thanks for your time.

P.S. -- I don't think Fred Travalena really died. He's just doing an impression of one of the others who did.
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