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

 

Friday, February 07, 2003

 
“Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal.”

So said noted literary critic Lionel Trilling. Being a mature artist, I stole this idea from a 16-year-old Colorado girl named Baylee, who presides over an endearing weblog called “Pink Explosion” (www.pentico.net).

101 THINGS ABOUT ME

1. I was born in Peoria, Illinois.

2. My father was stationed in Peoria with the Coast Guard, and I’ve always wondered what coast he was guarding in central Illinois.

3. I left Peoria when I was two weeks old and I’ve never been back.

4. I consider Nebraska home, although I haven’t lived there since I was five.

5. My mother and father were born in Nebraska, and my beloved maternal grandmother is buried there.

6. I graduated from high school in Cottage Grove, Oregon, a logging town twenty miles south of Eugene.

7. I own a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon.

8. I am a Phi Beta Kappa.

9. During a year of graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, I accomplished little more than freezing my beau-tocks.

10. I hold a master’s degree from Kansas State University.

11. I have three sons -- Andy, Mickey and Joe.

12. My daughter, Dawn, was killed at age 17 by a drunk who crashed his pickup truck into a car in which she was a passenger.

13. The drunk was convicted of manslaughter and went to prison for three years and ten months.

14. I played four years of high school football, despite maxing out at 135 pounds.

15. I broke my nose playing high school football.

16. I broke my wrist playing rec league softball.

17. I broke my hand umpiring Little League baseball.

18. I attended two Olympic Games (strictly as a spectator), in Los Angeles and Barcelona, and thought they were way cool.

19. I suffer mightily over the Oregon Duck football and basketball teams.

20. I helped pay for my college education by working part-time as a newspaper sportswriter.

21. I quit covering sports because I wanted to do “significant” work.

22. I have yet to determine what is “significant.”

23. There are two cats at my house -- Phoebe Caulfield and Miss Kitty.

24. I used to have a basset hound named Kirk Gibson, but he died.

25. I live in Portland, Oregon, just down the street from Reed College, which is famous for its brilliant but semi-psychotic students (think “A Beautiful Mind”).

26. I am a former newspaperman turned poet/fictionwriter.

27. I taught college journalism for two years, but quit because I wanted to do, not teach.

28. I have lived in 11 states: Illinois, Nebraska, California, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Tennessee, Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Kansas.

29. Growing up, I bounced around a lot because I was a military brat.

30. My parents split when I was a toddler and my mother remarried to an Air Force sergeant when I was six.

31. My last name was changed legally to Jordan, my stepfather’s name, after my mother remarried.

32. At birth, I was given the name David Chandler.

33. I am married to a woman named Cookie Jean Chandler.

34. My wife kept her maiden name when we married, but if mine had never been changed we would have same last name anyway.

35. My wife and I are not related by blood, as far as we can determine.

36. I was once married to a woman named Janet.

37. My ex-wife now calls herself Jan and is married to someone else.

38. Janet/Jan was the mother of my daughter, Dawn.

39. I don’t tell people my middle name, because I hate it.

40. My wife and I gave all three of our sons Chandler for a middle name.

41. None of my sons is married to Monica.

42. I am addicted to stat-league baseball, which some people call “fantasy” baseball.

43. I don’t call my addiction “fantasy” baseball because that sounds dumb.

44. I have won several stat-league championships.

45. I have coached real, live youth baseball for several years.

46. I used to coach youth basketball but I quit because the boys grew too obnoxious when they reached middle school.

47. I drink way too much coffee.

48. I loath soccer.

49. My eldest son loves soccer, but he is deranged.

50. I used to be a newspaper film critic, but I seldom go to theaters any more because the tickets cost too much and people talk during the movie.

51. I am a computer retard, and it is frustrating.

52. I am a registered Democrat, but I agree with H.L. Mencken, who said: “I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.”

53. My sister-in-law used to refer to me as “Little Napoleon.”

54. I am 5-foot-6, but I was never emperor of France.

55. I ran seriously for years, and completed three marathons.

56. I kept hurting my back, knees, etc., so nowadays I walk for exercise.

57. I am fifteen pounds overweight, at least.

58. Because I am a die-hard fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I bought a framed picture of Sandy Koufax pitching a no-hitter to hang on my wall.

59. I have a mustache.

60. My wife does not have a mustache, usually.

61. When I grow up, I want to be Jack Nicholson.

62. I am right-handed.

63. I ascribe to writer Tom Wolfe’s theory of fashion, which is that a man should dress well while giving offense.

64. I once won third prize in an Halloween costume contest when I wasn’t wearing a costume; I wore baby blue pants, a yellow shirt and a yellow polka dot bow tie to work, so judges of the office contest ruled I “seemed to be impersonating a jonquil.”

65. I own a navy blue wool cape with a red silk lining, but I’ve only worn it two or three times because even to me it seems a bit much for visiting the dentist or shopping at Safeway.

66. I fear snakes.

67. I love tropical sunsets.

68. I hate rain.

69. I live in the wrong part of the country.

70. The best vacation I ever had was ten days in Paris.

71. The worst vacation I ever had was a week in Palm Springs when I experienced a back spasm the first day and spent the rest of spring break in a hotel room, crippled and moaning.

72. My favorite color is red.

73. My house is half brick and half wood.

74. My favorite movie is “You Never Can Tell,” in which Dick Powell plays a murdered dog who is reincarnated as a private detective and sets out to solve the crime with the help of Goldie, his secretary, who is a reincarnated race horse.

75. People tease me about my favorite movie.

76. I can’t stand Mia Farrow, and I think she ruined many of Woody Allen’s otherwise great movies.

77. I like the poems of Billy Collins, even if they are insufficiently difficult and overly humorous.

78. My first writing hero was Ernest Hemingway.

79. I have read all the Harry Potter books, and when I took the internet quiz about Harry characters it said I most resembled Harry himself.

80. I get a kick out of the nasal singing of country-rocker Jimmie Dale Gilmore, which causes many people to shake their heads.

81. I hate my glasses, but I failed miserably at wearing contact lenses.

82. My favorite food is cinnamon rolls.

83. My late grandmother, Ruth Quigley, was the world’s greatest baker of cinnamon rolls.

84. My mother had nine brothers and sisters, and I have 37 cousins on her side of the family.

85. I was the first person on either side of my family to graduate from college.

86. I admit to being an autodidact, but I’ve never been arrested for it.

87. When I sing, I sound like a frog gargling molasses.

88. I take five different kinds of vitamin every morning.

89. My mother used to sell vitamins, and she got me hooked.

90. I think Liv Tyler is hot.

91. I hate giving money to the electric company, so I wander around turning off lights other people leave on.

92. I wash the laundry at our house.

93. I am lousy and lazy at cooking, which aggravates my wife no end.

94. I am prone to visual distraction, which causes me to do things like compulsively pick up trash off the tee when I am golfing so I won’t glance at it in mid-swing.

95. I have been told I have a type-A personality.

96. My youngest son says he and his friends think I am “a presence.”

97. Miss Kitty, my wife’s lone female ally in our household, likes to sleep on our bed, which makes me sneeze and have sinus headaches.

98. Miss Kitty and I are not friends.

99. The first girl I ever fell in love with was Becky Thatcher, when I read about her getting lost in McDougal’s Cave with Tom Sawyer.

100. I am part Comanche on my father’s side.

101. I’m the only person in my immediate family with brown eyes.



Thursday, February 06, 2003

 
Once again, it is time for yours truly to offer meaningful comment on important news events. Such as:

--A 31-year-old government lawyer in San Francisco has developed a side business that manufactures and sells silicone dildos in the shapes of religious icons, such as Moses, Satan and a nun. One model is called “Jackhammer Jesus.” The dildos cost $54 to $65 each.

We are lapsed Protestants, but my son attends a Catholic high school. I wonder if I could turn a buck peddling these religious icons on the sidewalk out front. Maybe the science-teaching nun the kids call Mister Sister would buy one.

--A judge at London's Old Bailey released Mark Patterson, 42, after his thirty-second conviction for burglary, because Patterson argued he needed drug rehabilitation so he could fulfill his calling as a poet. (His subsequent ode to the judge, in part: "I've now been set free / in a blaze of publicity / so that everyone can see / my great ability.")

If peddling religious dildos doesn’t pan out, perhaps I should try burglary as a gig to support MY poetry habit. Peoria Dave, the burglar/poet. It has a nice ring. Maybe I could specialize in book stores.

--Latest New Year's Eve death toll in Japan from eating traditional mochi rice dumplings, which are notoriously difficult to swallow: six. Twenty-five more people were hospitalized.

Note to my wife: See? I TOLD you Japanese food is inedible.

--Fairway Middle School in Norwich, England, barred students from throwing snowballs at anyone without permission of the target.

Sounds like my kind of middle school. If rules like that had been in effect when I was in eighth grade, big Coy Bullock would have had to ask my permission before routinely whacking me upside the head.

--A study by psychology professor Barry Jones of Glasgow University in Scotland found that men and women who have had three beers perceive people of the opposite sex as 25 percent more attractive than they did before they started drinking.

Did Jones learn that by hanging out with students at taverns near campus? That’s how I learned. But I didn’t call it psychological research. I called it desperation.

--The town of Recklingshausen, Germany, which operates a zoo, learned it could not summarily fire its zookeeper, even though he was caught barbecuing and eating seven zoo animals (five Tibetan mountain chickens and two sheep from Cameroons). After a labor court hearing, the town was forced to give the zookeeper six months' severance pay.

Makes me think of my younger brother, who one autumn had a job on a turkey farm. He got so bummed at the thought of what was coming for the birds in his care, he quit before Thanksgiving and went to work planting trees instead. I guess he’s more kind-hearted than a German zookeeper.

--A man acting as a tree-sitter to discourage logging operations in woods south of San Jose, Calif., fell out of the tree and was killed.

Poetic Justice, for sure. Almost as fitting as the Missouri guy who walked in front of freight train talking on a cell phone.


With thanks to my news source, Chuck Shepherd’s News of the Weird on MSNBC.





Wednesday, February 05, 2003

 
Martin Cruz Smith uses a herky-jerky manner of storytelling that sometimes leaves me going “huh?” as he ping-pongs through a plot, but I enjoy his work anyway. I just finished reading “December 6,” his newest novel. I liked it almost as much as I did a number of his earlier works, including “Gorky Park,” “Polar Star,” “Red Square” and “Rose.”

A big part of Smith’s appeal is his ability to bring a time and a place to life. “Gorky Park,” “Polar Star” and “Red Square” all concern Russia at various points of the late 20th Century, beginning in paranoia-haunted Communist days and ending in the chaotic, gangster-dominated era after the fall of the Soviet Republic. All center on a conscientious Russian police detective who tries to do an honorable job of solving crimes as his world disintegrates around him (he even winds up exiled to Siberia aboard a fishing boat in “Polar Star”). Although Smith is an American, his books give a real feel for what life in modern Russia was/is like. (At least, I think they do -- I’ve never been to Russia.) He achieves the same kind of thing for the coal-mining country of 19th Century England in "Rose." Its detail about how coal miners worked, socialized and survived is utterly convincing, providing fascinating color to a mystery plot.

In his new novel Smith writes about Japan in early December of 1941, just before the attack on Pearl Harbor that triggered America's entry to World War II. His hero (well, anti-hero would probably be more accurate) is Harry Niles, a gambler-con man-nightclub owner-business sharpie who was born American but reared Japanese after his missionary parents brought him to Japan as a small child. He is now a prominent resident of low-life Tokyo, where he runs a night club in a district of geisha clubs, gambling joints, burlesque theaters and bars. He has a live-in Japanese lover, a mistress who happens to be the wife of the British ambassador, and many semi-shady acquaintances. As one reviewer remarked, comparisons between Harry Niles and Rick Blaine of “Casablanca” are inevitable.

As the “day of infamy” approaches, Harry learns of Japan’s plan to attack Hawaii and has to decide whether to risk his neck informing American authorities or keep his head down and stay out of trouble until he can escape with his British mistress on an airline flight to Hong Kong scheduled December 8th. As the last two or three days before the Pearl Harbor attack play out, readers see Harry caroming through Tokyo among his dangerous friends and enemies trying to sort things out. Meanwhile, Smith provides flashbacks to Harry’s upbringing as a “gaijin” (white) boy thrown head first into a Japanese lifestyle he comes to understand and appreciate in a manner most Westerners could never fathom.

I found the book interesting, although some of the plot developments bordered on outlandish. Smith almost lost me with a sequence involving a phony Japanese scientist who tells the government he has discovered how to convert water into oil. Harry gains cachet with important people (like Admiral Yamamoto) by revealing the con and how it works, but the whole idea seems so hokey it is hard to believe anyone smart enough to lead a government or a Navy could have taken it seriously. I pushed beyond that passage, though, and found the book worth finishing.

I wonder what kind of research Smith did to gather the detail that grounds books like “December 6,” “Gorky Park” and “Rose.” He must have spent time in Japan, Russia and England, but he also either interviewed some very useful experts or plowed through a big stack of books.

Overall, I’d call “December 6” a pretty good novel. I’d give it a B. It’s not as well done as the Russian books or “Rose,” but it’s better than Smith’s historical novel about the Manhattan Project, “Stallion Gate.”



Tuesday, February 04, 2003

 
T-Model Tommy Goodloe, finally returned from his outdoor-magazine assignment in the wilds of Milton-Freewater, sends this missive:


Yo, Peoria Dave!

I see the University of Oregon has decided to add lacrosse as its tenth women’s varsity sport. Bum idea.

About 54 percent of the U of O’s students are female, but 62.5 percent of its varsity jocks are male, so I guess the boss Ducks felt compelled, in these gender-sensitive times, to take steps. They made a bad choice of sports, though. I’ve never seen lacrosse played, but I’ve heard it described as a cross between field hockey and football. The uniforms must involve shoulder pads, helmets, shin guards and whatall. Girls in shoulder pads beating on one another? Where’s the fun in that?

The Duckinis should have chosen one of the other women’s sports they considered -- swimming and diving, water polo, or gymnastics. Then we could have watched college girls cavorting in tiny, skintight suits. Possibly even tiny, skintight WET suits. Swimmers shave their legs so they can go faster, too, which is something I suspect female lacrosse players don’t bother with. Think post-talk show Rosie O’Donnell in cleated shoes.

If the U of O really wanted to improve the athletic program, it should have said to hell with gender equity and restored men’s baseball. There you have a real sport, one the idiot Ducks ditched years ago. I’d love to watch a Duck baseball game, and the players wouldn’t even have to wear skintight suits. Although it might help draw a gender-balanced crowd. Didn’t your wife say she used to sneak into Oregon swim team practices to spy on guys in Speedos?

Chow,
T-Model T.G.



Monday, February 03, 2003

 
The other day I placed on Writeright one of my city poems, “Hotbed.” About Salem, Oregon, it originally appeared in Trestle Creek Review, a literary magazine printed in Idaho. “Hotbed” was one of a series of poems about Oregon cities I wrote four or five years ago. Here’s another from that series that has never found a publishing home. I can’t imagine why. Can you?

PPP

Sweet Home is a puddle
of Piss-Poor Protoplasm,
they say over pool tables
in Willamette Valley taverns.
Nothing to do up there
in the Cascade foothills
but screw your cousin,
unless your sister (or brother)
is willing. Leads to a lot
of halfwits and harelips.
Cruise town on a Friday night
and you'll see PPP slumped
on every street corner,
thumb up, hoping
to catch a ride to Albany
and the Fred Meyer store.

Maybe I should send "PPP" to the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce. It could be printed on the city calendar as the caption for a photo of an abandoned sawmill or a rusted-out logging truck.



Sunday, February 02, 2003

 
Well, it’s Sunday again. Time to pose and respond to the Sunday Seven questions.

1) What are you wearing?

Gray University of Oregon sweatshirt (I am a college gradu-eight and everybody’s fool), Eeyore t-shirt (sartorial typecasting), fatboy blue jeans (still haven’t lost that weight), sweatboot slippers, white Nike-logo socks (I support local running dogs of capitalism).

2) What are you reading?

“A Survey of the Atlantic Beaches,” a novel by Don Hendrie Jr.

3) What’s for dinner?

My wife is out of town, so . . . burritos from San Felipe Taqueria? I know, I know, we ate the same thing Friday night, but she’s been gone since Friday morning and the burrito joint is close.

4) What’s the best thing that happened this week?

My 19-year-old son got a job! There is dancing in the streets!

5) What’s bugging you?

I have a sinus headache. I took two blue pills the shape and almost the size of submarine torpedoes, so now I look forward to being dizzy and sleepy instead of headachey.

6) Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?

Saskatoon.

7) What’s it all about, Dave?

Sex, drugs (but not sinus pills) & rock and roll





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