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

 

Saturday, February 22, 2003

 
Hey! I’m a finalist for a fourth quarter 2002 Diarist Award.

Go to diarist.net, hit the button on the left under What’s New and when the awards page comes up look under entry award finalists. My nomination is in Best Dramatic Entry. It bears the hot title “Nov. 6, 2002 from Writeright.” (I’m too dumb to figure out how to put headlines on my weblog posts).

You can read the other two nominated pieces, too, but you’re only allowed to vote if you operate a weblog of your own. Also, you’re only allowed to vote for me. It’s a rule.

Balloting ends March 2.



Friday, February 21, 2003

 
As a semi-loyal Oregonian (the rain does grind me down this time of year), I feel obligated to help preserve my state’s cultural heritage.

With that in mind, I offer today a recounting of the finest movie scene ever shot in Oregon. This was filmed just southeast of Eugene in a chain restaurant off Interstate 5 -- a Denny’s, if I recall correctly, although it has changed names since. In it, Jack Nicholson, as lapsed classical pianist turned oilfield roughneck Bobby Dupea, tries to order breakfast from a snippy waitress.

BOBBY: I'd like a plain omelette, no potatoes, tomatoes instead, a cup of coffee, and wheat toast.

Waitress: (She points to the menu) No substitutions.

BOBBY: What do you mean? You don't have any tomatoes?

WAITRESS: Only what's on the menu. You can have a number two - a plain omelette. It comes with cottage fries and rolls.

BOBBY: Yeah, I know what it comes with. But it's not what I want.

WAITRESS: Well, I'll come back when you make up your mind.

BOBBY: Wait a minute. I have made up my mind. I'd like a plain omelette, no potatoes on the plate, a cup of coffee, and a side order of wheat toast.

WAITRESS: I'm sorry, we don't have any side orders of toast . . . an English muffin or a coffee roll.

BOBBY: What do you mean you don't make side orders of toast? You make sandwiches, don't you?

WAITRESS: Would you like to talk to the manager?

B0BBY: You've got bread. And a toaster of some kind?

WAITRESS: I don't make the rules.

BOBBY: OK, I'll make it as easy for you as I can. I'd like an omelette, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.

WAITRESS: A number two, chicken sal san, hold the butter, the lettuce and the mayonnaise. And a cup of coffee. Anything else?

BOBBY: Yeah. Now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules.

WAITRESS (spitefully): You want me to hold the chicken, huh?

BOBBY: I want you to hold it between your knees.

WAITRESS (turning to look at a sign that says, "No Substitutions"): Do you see that sign, sir? You'll all have to leave. I'm not taking any more of your smartness and sarcasm.

BOBBY: You see this sign? (He sweeps all the water glasses and menus off the table onto the floor.)

Ah, yes. The Chick Sal San Scene from “Five Easy Pieces.” Better even than the wagon-chase scene from “The Apple Dumpling Gang” (filmed south of Bend) or a slice and dice scene -- pick one -- from “Dr. Giggles” (filmed in my Eastmoreland neighborhood of Portland).



Thursday, February 20, 2003

 
Have you ever noticed there are people in this world who are interchangeable?

It’s a phenomenon that manifests itself in stat league baseball, for instance. Take Bobby Higginson and Rusty Greer. Each has a childish first name. Each plays corner outfield for a bad team (Detroit and Texas, respectively). Each will give you, year after year, unless there is an injury, a stat line that goes .280 batting average, 15 home runs, 75 RBIs. I suspect they are the same guy.

For a long time I was convinced Michelle Pfeiffer and Melanie Griffith were the same woman, but I eventually saw enough of their movies to realize Pfeiffer is the gorgeous one and Griffith is the one with the ridiculous Betty Boop voice (and, nowadays, the paraffin lips).

So who else is interchangeable? Let’s see . . . Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney; Jon Voight and Christopher Walken; Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qadaffii; Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck; Thomas Pynchon and Tom Robbins; Betty Grable and Betty Hutton; Flannery O’Connor and Carson McCullers; any actors named Baldwin; Bob Kerry and John Kerry; any baseball players named Hernandez; Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan; Henry Thomas and Wil Wheaton; any basketball players named Muhammad; C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

See what I mean?



Wednesday, February 19, 2003

 
This just in from T-Model Tommy Goodloe:

Peoria Dave --

Did you see the San Diego Padres have sold naming rights to their new baseball stadium to a chain of pet-supply stores? It’s going to be called PETCO Park.

I hope this doesn’t mean the Padres will play like dogs. The manager needs to crack down on any horsing around. Of course, the players probably will give him the bird. Players like to go tomcatting at night, you know. Besides, managers always parrot the same old stuff. Stubborn as mules, they are. But I guess you wouldn’t want a mousey manager. A soft boss would be a ratty deal. You want a guy who doesn’t allow any monkey business.

Maybe the Padres will trade for Mike Lamb and Brandon Duckworth. That could lead to a lot of carping by fans, though. I suppose the Padres will just have to bear up under this fishy stadium name.

Hasta banana,
T-M T.G.



Tuesday, February 18, 2003

 
My phone rings. When I answer, Buford A. Chase’s voice booms: “Jordan, boy, is that you? We need to talk about this shoe scandal.”

“Yeah, it’s me, Buford,” I sigh. “I hate to ask, but -- what shoe scandal?”

“What’s the matter, boy?” he says. “Don’t you read the newspapers? Here I thought you were the big journalist. You gotta keep up on these public issues, son.”

“Buford,” I say for the thousandth time, “I am not a journalist. I quit newspapering years ago.”

“Once a newspaperman, always a newspaperman,” Buford assures me. “It’s like a prostitute or a nun. It doesn’t wash off, even if you quit.”

“Never mind,” I tell him. “What about this shoe scandal?”

“I read in the Oregonian that President George Dubya Bush and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein wear the same brand of Italian handmade shoes. Vito Artiolis. Bought at $970 a pop! They even own three identical black pairs -- one plain leather, another a brogue and a third with crocodile skin. This is unconscionable!”

“Why’s that?”

“It’s disloyal, boy! We’re about to go to war with Iraq! Our president can’t be sharing shoes with the enemy! Do you think Franklin D. Roosevelt wore the same jockey shorts as Adolf Hitler? Did Woodrow Wilson swap socks with Kaiser Wilhelm? I think not!

“As the Greed and Indifference Party’s candidate for president in 2004, I denounce Mr. Bush’s heinous gaffe! Not only does Dubya share shoes with the enemy, they aren’t even American shoes! Italian shoes, for criminey’s sake! What, he couldn’t find any Florsheims to buy? No Hush Puppies? It’s disloyalty all the way down the line!”

“So where do you stand on the shoe issue, Buford?”

“Here in Dufur, we stand four square in Nikes. We support not only American capitalism, but Oregon capitalism. I myself prefer the Nike Staggerlee model. It’s designed for walking home from the tavern after a night of striking blows for liberty, but it’s okay for general wear around my TV repair shop in the daytime, too.”

“You know, Buford, most Nike shoes are made in places like Korea.”

“Doesn’t matter, son. The money comes home to roost in Oregon.”

“True.”

“George Dubya Bush needs to wear American,” Buford proclaims. “I pledge that if I am elected president of the United States, I will buy a pair of Nike soccer shoes and personally use them to kick Saddam Hussein’s butt.

“Remember my campaign slogan: Ask not what Buford can do for you, ask what you can do for Buford."



Monday, February 17, 2003

 
Did you catch the remake of “The Music Man” on the boob tube last night? What did you think?

I enjoyed it, but then I am a sucker for “The Music Man.”

My family is from a little town in southeast Nebraska, Falls City, and the River City setting of “Music Man” always provokes memories of my pre-school days there -- the brick streets, the courthouse square, the town water tower. I read a squib on the internet the other day saying Mason City, Iowa, is the real River City, the boyhood home of playwright Meredith Willson. It must be a lot like my hometown.

It’s kind of amazing, too, that so many well-known songs come from this one musical: “Seventy-Six Trombones,” “Marian the Librarian,” “Ya Got Trouble (Right Here in River City),” “Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little,” “Gary, Indiana,” “Til There Was You.” I guess there is good reason why the play ran for 1,375 performances on Broadway after its 1957 opening. The movie version was nominated for a 1962 Oscar as best picture, too, but lost to “Lawrence of Arabia.” All in all, it was a decent result on the thirty years Willson invested in writing the book, music and lyrics.

The biggest flaw in the TV remake was Matthew Broderick playing the lead role, Professor Harold Hill. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Matthew Broderick. I have enjoyed just about all of his movies, from “War Games” to “Election,” and I got a large charge out of seeing him on Broadway in “The Producers.” I am impressed that Ferris Bueller can sing and dance.

The problem is that the role of Harold Hill is so identified in my mind with Robert Preston. He played it on Broadway and he played it in the movie, for which he -- amazingly -- did not earn an Academy Award nomination. Preston gives a huge performance, all glibness, charm and bluster. You can see him conning a whole town through sheer force of personality.

Broderick, on the other hand, comes across as too young (he still looks more like high-schooler Ferris than the 40-year-old he is) and too innocent (that big-eyed naiveté worked on Broadway when he played a starstruck accountant in “The Producers,” but in “Music Man” it’s hard to buy Broderick as the veteran crook who initially relishes the idea of gypping the townspeople and seducing the local librarian). Broderick carries a tune better than Preston and hoofs adequately if not gracefully, but he just can’t match Preston’s bombast.

I’ve always been intrigued by the route Preston took to River City. He was a Hollywood prettyboy for years, gradually descending from male ingenue parts in big pictures like 1939’s “Union Pacific” to roles in early-1950s B flicks like “My Outlaw Brother.” The size of his talent seemed to get in his way -- he appeared too hammy in a medium that was moving toward the brooding inwardness of Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and James Dean. But then he reinvented himself on Broadway with his Tony-Award-winning “Music Man” performance, and went on to win another Tony in the 1960s for the musical “I Do, I Do.” His stage work seemed to legitimize his acting approach, and Hollywood brought him back to play flamboyant roles that suited his personality -- such as Julie Andrews’ gay manager in “Victor/Victoria.” F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, famously, that “there are no second acts in American lives.” Robert Preston was a walking contradiction of that idea. To me, he will forever be Professor Harold Hill.



Sunday, February 16, 2003

 
Drum roll, please. It’s the return of the Sunday Seven! Hold your applause until the end, if you would.

1) What are you wearing?

A purple “Goofy” sweatshirt (souvenir of a spring-break cold snap at Disneyworld), a Lowe Tech tee shirt (I am not a grad of that fine school like Bucky B. Katt’s owner, but I am an athletic supporter -- and I have the droopy elastic to prove it), blue Levi jeans, white Nike (go Phil!) sox, sweat boots.

2) What are you reading?

Sporting News Fantasy Baseball magazine. Spring training is underway and I already botched the first stage of my Scoresheet Baseball stat league draft (no pitchers -- just like last year!), so I am playing catch-up.

3) What’s for dinner?

Because we ate home cookin' Saturday night (Rueben sandwiches), odds are on take-out tonight. Perhaps sweetheart chicken from Ho Ho’s Chinese restaurant at 39th & Powell.

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

I had an essay accepted for publication by The Dead Mule, an internet publication out of North Carolina [www.deadmule.com]. I get a big kick out of Editor Valerie MacEwan’s take on Southern Literature -- no good Southern story is complete unless it contains a dead mule. My piece doesn’t contain a dead mule, alas, but it does offer live alligators.

5) What’s bugging you?

I wrote a weblog entry Saturday evening in which I misspelled Renee Zellweger’s name (I put two g’s in it). My 15-year-old son, Andy, woke me up at 12:30 a.m. Sunday to announce he had discovered this egregious error on my part. I tried to fix it five or six times before AOL and/or Blogger finally cooperated. By then, it was 8 a.m. My wife replaced me at the computer and found on the internet a video of the Volkswagen commercial featuring Nick Drake’s song “Pink Moon,” which caused me to realize said commercial does not contain the tinkly piano passage I mentioned erroneously in a blog entry Thursday. I felt compelled to post a mea culpa on Writeright about that. Sheesh! I am learning why newspapers and magazines employ copy editors.

6) Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?

Estiffanulga, Fla.

7) What’s it all about, Dave?

Love is all there is, babe. Love is all there is.

 
My wife tracked down on the internet a video of that Volkswagen television commercial featuring a Nick Drake song I discussed on Writeright the other day. I watched the video with her, and it turns out the tinkling piano part of "Pink Moon" is not in the commercial. The ad ends just before the tinkling begins on the recording. Boy, do I feel dumb. I wrote that I recognized "Pink Moon" when I heard it, despite not knowing the title, because the piano riff stuck in my head from watching the commercial with one eye (or listening to it with one ear, as it were). Now I'm left wondering where I DID hear that piano tinkle. Maybe I imagined it. Oh, well. They say imagination is a good thing for a writer.





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