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Random musings on a writer's life & times, with occasional input from acquaintances

 

Saturday, December 21, 2002

 
What with my own penchant for cracking wise and my friends’ tendencies to do the same, this weblog seems to have degenerated, if that is the proper word choice, into a sort of Comedy Central operation. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. When I wrote a weekly newspaper column, it evolved the same way. In fact, it was kicked off the editorial page of the newspaper for Insufficient Seriousness and exiled to the general news section.

I do think serious thoughts from time to time, though. And I even write serious things. This being the Christmas season, I thought I would share one of them with you.

Below is a poem I wrote. It deals with the Christmas following the death of my daughter, Dawn. She was killed at the age of 17 by a drunk driver who slammed his pickup truck into a car in which she was a passenger. I miss her very much.

Stained Glass Flower

On Christmas eve of 1982, I drove
to Pilot Butte Cemetery
with a flower made of stained glass to place
on my daughter's grave.
It was eight-thirty and very dark. The radio
in my VW bug
said the temperature was seventeen degrees.
Snow drifted so deep
it blocked the cemetery road. I abandoned the car
by the west gate.

Wind snatched at my eyes as I trekked
across the snow.
Crusted by daytime thaws and nighttime freezes,
drifts popped
and hissed beneath my feet. My fingers tingled. I stumbled,
fell to my knees
by a barely visible gray marble headstone. I scraped
away ice,
read what it said: Dawn Lee Jordan, 1965-1982,
Beloved.

I reached with the two-foot-long metal stem of my
glass flower,
poked down into snow. The stem struck iron ground,
stopped.
I tugged it free, jabbed at another spot. Again the stem
refused to penetrate.
I pulled it up, knelt there in the dark cradling
the flower
in my arms. Wind scoured the cemetery, lifted
scarves of snow
off low hills. "Oh, Sweetie," I whispered, "this is
not right.
This is just not right." I struggled up, circled the headstone,
crouched, stabbed again.
The stem sank into the ground a bit. I leaned hard.
The stem went down
an inch. I let go. The flower wavered on the wind,
petals of green,
red, blue and gold glass glinting in the glow
of a distant
streetlight. "Merry Christmas, Sweetie,"
I said.

I trudged back to the car and drove home.
Two days later,
a thief stole my stained glass flower
from the grave.

--by David Jordan
(originally appeared in The Raven Chronicles, a Seattle magazine)



Friday, December 20, 2002

 

In my own experience, nothing is harder for the developing writer than overcoming his anxiety that he is fooling himself and cheating or embarrassing his family and friends.
--John Gardner

 
T-Model Tommy Goodloe writes again:

Dear Dave de Peoria,

I see pitcher Brian Anderson has rejected arbitration on his contract, meaning he probably will leave the Arizona Diamondbacks as a free agent. He wants to be a starter, and Arizona doesn’t have much room in its rotation. I don’t much care where Anderson winds up playing, but I’m pleased to see him in the news again. Last thing I remember reading about him was when he missed a game after he tried to iron a shirt while wearing it and burned himself. He’s left-handed, of course. Lefties do things like that.

Oregon’s previously undefeated basketball team flamed out against twice-beaten Cincinnati U. the other night and got bombed by 25. Big surprise. The Duckinis shouldn’t have been ranked fifth in the country to begin with. Anybody who knows the history of UO basketball understands that. Oregon’s approach in basketball has always been to play just well enough to make fans hopeful before going in the tank (that’s the strategy with its “good” teams; its bad teams just stink from the get-go).

It was ever thus, back to the days of Steve Belcho and Dick “Try” Harder. Even last year’s team, Oregon’s most successful if you exclude the 1940s squad that won the NCAA tournament when nobody cared because the best teams played in the NIT instead, was up and down throughout the season, then warmed up enough in the NCAA’s to make fans think a Final Four appearance was possible before collapsing against Kansas. Worst thing about the Cincinnati debacle was that it was televised nationally by ESPN. Maybe the much-touted two Lukes didn’t make TV watchers roll their eyes as much as Tonya Harding did from Lillehammer (my shoe is untied, sob!), but they didn’t help Oregon’s sports rep any.



Thursday, December 19, 2002

 
This missive just in from T-Model Tommy Goodloe:

Yo, Peoria Dave!

Did you see how John Canzano, the new Oregonian sports columnist, ripped OSU football coach Dennis Erickson?

Said he oughta take another coaching job and get out of Corvallis before he lands the Beavers on NCAA probation like he did the U of Miami when he coached there. Canzano talked about bad academics, sportsmanship “issues,” hoodlum players. He didn’t directly mention crooked recruiting or paying players, but that’s what a serious NCAA probation usually punishes, so he I gather he was indulging in a bit of verbal sleight-of-hand.

He seriously browned off Beaver Believers, who bombarded the Oregonian’s sports editor with letters decrying his chutzpah. Canzano hasn’t been around long enough to make such allegations and be credible, etc., etc. What a hoot! The new guy may not be a flashy writer like the Kentucky hotshot he replaced, but he’s got balls, you gotta give him that.

What he needs to do now is counter-attack. He should borrow the tactic of an old newspaper buddy of mine.

My buddy talked his bosses into making him the paper’s investigative reporter, then set out to expose such stuff as unclean conditions in meat-packing plants, politicians hanging around with prostitutes, city building inspectors taking bribes. The bosses, cheapskates like all newspaper executives, were nervous about paying a full-time salary to a guy who only produced stories two or three months apart (working up investigations takes time). In self defense, my buddy started writing letters to the editor praising his own stories. He signed them with names culled from city street directories, being careful to choose only people with no phone number so editorial-page honchos couldn’t easily check identities. It worked. The bosses thought his stories were stirring a groundswell of public support, so they let him continue investigating. He had the job for years, and came within a hair’s breadth of winning a Pulitzer.

My pal was no lowdown hack, either, despite his less-than-above-board maneuvering. He was promoted to city editor of his newspaper, then quit to work in TV, where he eventually became co-host of a local talk show (think Regis Philbin, only blond and blue-eyed). Nowadays he’s a college journalism professor.

So what John Canzano needs to do at this point is write a bunch of letters to the sports editor saying what a hell of a good deal his Erickson column was. I’d write one for him, but I probably couldn’t be as eloquent as he would be.

Hasta luigi,
T-M Tommy G.



Wednesday, December 18, 2002

 
Hey! Wanna see four of my poems? Go to www.darkriverpress.com. Click on CBE Book Store, then on the “Read This Book” button opposite Zee Free Reads. Go to Poetry Potpourri on the next page, scan down a ways and there I am! (The first title is “If you would kiss me.”)

David D. Jordan, Esq.



Tuesday, December 17, 2002

 
My son Mickey was yapping to me about what a talented entertainer Prince (or whatever he calls himself these days) is, and I had to set him straight.

“The key with Prince is that he needs a bath,” I said. “I don’t care how many musical instruments he plays. I don’t care if he’s a ladies’ man or a man lady. I watched as much as I could stand of ‘Purple Rain’ and I’ve seen some of his videos on TV, and I’m here to tell you the dude has serious hygiene issues. He reminds me of those 18th Century French countesses who slapped on a new layer of makeup and sprayed on a new perfume every day instead of copping a bath.”

Mickey grinned and rolled his eyes. This is an old topic around our household -- the old man’s judging of stars on the basis of how clean they look. It all dates back to 1988, when my wife, Cookie Jean, and I saw “Bull Durham” for the first time. As we left the theater, Cookie Jean gushed about the beauty of Susan Sarandon. I shrugged and remarked: “Maybe she’d be all right if she took a bath.”

“What do you mean?” Cookie Jean demanded.

“She looks greasy,” I said. “She looks like she needs to take the old Lifebuoy and a washrag to her face and various other body parts.”

“That is idiotic,” Cookie Jean assured me. “Susan Sarandon is a beautiful woman.”

“If you like ‘em greasy,” I said.

Cookie Jean punched me on the arm. Hard.

In the wake of that conversation, I began compiling a list of unsanitary stars. I figured I could demonstrate that Susan Sarandon was but one of many dirty birds in show business.

Now, I’m not talking about stars who donned dirt to play a part. Dustin Hoffman as Ratso Rizzo in “Midnight Cowboy” is one thing. He’s supposed to be a bum. Ditto Humphrey Bogart in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and “The African Queen.” But Sylvester Stallone sweating all over the place is a different deal, whether he’s a nutsoid commando like Rambo or a numbskull boxer like Rocky. Even when he’s not playing an overwhelmingly physical part, such as in “Cobra” or “Oscar,” the guy just LOOKS sweaty. He looks like he needs a shower.

There is precedent for this sort of thing, of course. You can look back through decades of Hollywood movies and find droves of stars who succeeded despite, or perhaps because of (who can divine the depths of depravity in human taste?), hygiene shortcomings. Check out Robert Mitchum, for instance, who started making movies in 1943. That greasy hair hanging in his face as he punched out baddies in a dozen private-eye flicks? Give me a break. You can trace the needs-a-bath trend from at least Mitchum through Victor Mature, Rosalind Russell, Ava Gardner, Tony Curtis, Shelley Winters, Anna Magnani, Lee Marvin, Sal Mineo, Elizabeth Taylor (after about 1960, when she ripened beyond tasty to decayed), Charles Bronson, James Garner, Bruce Dern and Nick Nolte.

Nowadays, we are being overrun by the hygienically challenged. Here’s a list of stars who need a bath: Russell Crowe (probably First Among Dirty Equals at the moment), Nicolas Cage, Marisa Tomei, Matt Dillon, Danny DeVito, Rosie Perez, Peter Boyle, Thora Birch, Dennis Franz, Rose McGowan, Anthony LaPaglia, Rosanna Arquette, Tim Roth, James Gandolfini, Angelina Jolie, Forest Whitaker, Margot Kidder, Michael Pare, Paul Sorvino, Maura Tierney, Jim Belushi, Sean Penn, Gerard DePardieu, Madonna, Daniel Day-Lewis, Demi Moore, Jim Belushi, Gary Oldman, Burt Reynolds, John Malkovich, John Goodman, Roseanne Barr (or whatever she calls herself these days), Alec Baldwin, Cher (although I don’t think plastic surgery washes off), Ben Stiller, Courtney Love, Debra Winger, Johnny Depp, Gina Gershon, James Woods, Angelica Huston, Dennis Quaid and Laura Dern (a second-generation dirty bird).

Then there is the ultimate unclean actor cast, that of 1997’s “Cop Land.” The movie not only features Stallone, but Ray Liotta, Harvey Keitel, Janeane Garafalo and Cathy Moriarty, all of whom could use a Prell/Irish Spring workout.

Of course, all of this is a tad subjective. For instance, these days when I start in on how Susan Sarandon should slide into the nearest shower, my wife counters by saying Sandra Bullock is the actress who really needs to bathe. Sandra BULLOCK? Sandra Bullock is one of the best-looking women on the planet. She doesn’t need a bath. Cookie Jean must be crazy to talk about her that way.




Monday, December 16, 2002

 
I grow old . . . I grow old,
I shall wear the colors of my toupee bold.

--The Fond Song of A. Alvin Frockpruf,
As stolen by D.D. Jordan from T.S. Eliot



Sunday, December 15, 2002

 
My sister-in-law Peggy calls up and says, “Hey, have you ever heard of a movie called ‘A Face in the Crowd’?”

“Yeah,” I say, “Andy Griffith’s first flick. He’s the hillbilly radio guy who gets to be a big star and it goes to his head.”

“That’s it,” she says. “It’s pretty good, I think. I just turned on the TV and there it was, so I’m watching.”

“It’s kind of creepy, as I recall,” I tell her. “But a good movie.”

“It’s not creepy yet. Andy Griffith is just starting to be successful so far. I’ll keep watching.”

Which points up once again the value of serendipity in watching movies on television. There is no greater entertainment treat than turning on the TV when you’ve got a spare moment and discovering some cool movie playing. Maybe it’s a movie you always wanted to see but never did, or a good one you’ve seen many times but not lately, or one you never heard of but it’s intriguing (like “A Face in the Crowd,” made in 1957 with new faces -- in addition to Griffith -- like Lee Remick and Walter Matthau; it gets creepy when Griffith turns his celebrity into a Huey-Long-like form of homespun fascism).

I’m forever thinking of movies I want to watch and missed in theaters, such as Denzel Washington’s Oscar-winning performance in “Training Day,” but I never get around to renting them at the video store or looking for them at the library. If “Training Day” showed up on television at ten o’clock some night, though, I’d sit and watch it with a gleeful sense of opportunity, even if I missed the first ten minutes of it.

Likewise, I have recordings of many favorite movies on DVD or tape -- “Casablanca,” “Blade Runner,” “Top Gun,” “The Terminator,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Leon” (the director’s cut of “The Professional”) -- but I almost never pull them out of their cases and pop them in the viewer. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s just the sense that they are always there on the shelf and I can see them whenever I want, so why bother right now? Let “Casablanca” show up on TV at nine o’clock some Sunday morning, though, and I’ll watch the whole thing, standing part of the time in the doorway intending to go somewhere else and do something else but waiting to hear just one more deathless line for the seventy-third time: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

As far as dragging movies I never heard of home with me goes, I seldom do that any more. I’ve paid good money for too many dogs at the video store because the obscure bow-wow featured some actor I sort of like (Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Raw Deal”) or had a plot summary that sounded promising (“Hanging Up,” starring former cute person Meg Ryan as crazy Walter Matthau’s dutiful daughter). It is a far, far better thing I do when I flip TV channels and stumble across “Ever After,” in which Drew Barrymore plays Cinderella, more or less, and I say to myself “Hey, this is pretty good” and watch the whole thing. I would never actively pursue a movie because it had Drew Barrymore in it or because it ripped off an old fairy tale plot, but if I bump into “Ever After” on TV I can appreciate it. Serendipity, you see.

So go ahead, Peg. Enjoy the movie that was just there when you switched on the TV. It is of the finest kind.






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