More like Olde Engligh 800 Law if you ask me

“There is no pleasure which men of every age and sect have more generally agreed to mention with contempt than the gratifications of the palate, an entertainment so far removed from intellectual happiness that scarcely the most shameless of the sensual herd have dared to defend it: yet even to this, the lowest of our delights, to this, though neither quick nor lasting, is health with all its activity and sprightliness daily sacrificed; and for this are half the miseries endured which urge impatience to call on death.” Dr. Johnson

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After struggling with finding some material to put on this site, it struck me this week that a carefully worded, albeit lengthy, post revolving around how to deal with the waiters who are constantly asking the noxious question, “How is everything tasting?” might just be the ticket. But Mom put the kibosh on that idea saying that I’d need a whole ‘nother blog to recap the many times we’ve been kicked out of restaurants by waiters who found my responses to not be what they were expecting. The now quashed post began with such an incident. After the kid asked how everything was tasting I smiled and said, “Suspiciously like it came from the take-out place up the street.”

His manager supervised our trip to the curb.

Instead what follows are some observation which need to get rolled out before the subject matter becomes too stale.

Are You an Audience or an Oil Painting?

A very tardy elf finally dropped of my last Christmas present a couple of days ago, Kliph Nesterhoff’s The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy. Thanks to WFMU’s now defunct web site, Beware of the Blog, I’ve been able to keep up with the always fascinating Mr. Nesterhoff for years, but none of what he wrote prior before prepares you for his absolutely addictive page-turner, Comedians.

Two examples:

– The chapter on Vegas includes a page about Shecky Greene and Buddy Hackett getting into a fistfight in the middle of a Las Vegas street in the middle of the morning. The dispute had started over paying their mutual gardener to have his teeth fixed after a recent dispute over services rendered. Greene hauled Hackett into some off-Strip joint, willed three 7’s to pop on the craps table and handed the money to Hackett. Despite the quick resolution the fight ensued. Hackett was left in the street after beaten beaten by Greene.

Hackett called Green a few hours later and said, “Ya know, if anybody saw us they might think we don’t like each other.”

– Joan Rivers thought Johnny Carson was far smarter than Dick Cavett. She told Mr. Nesterhoff she loved Cavett, but anybody could talk to Orson Wells and come off looking great.

She added, Johnny Carson could talk to morons and make them look good.

Therefore Ms. Rivers conceded point, game, and match to Mr. Carson.

My That’s a Big Hat! Can I stand Under It if It Rains?

The militia/patriot/ol’ boys in big ol’ hats has been something of a constant in life for almost 40 years.

My first encounter with such folks, or at least the Australopithecine version of those folks, came shortly after I got my first job as a professional pain-in-the-ass. Back then my Monday mornings were spent chronicling the wit, wisdom, and unchallenged decisions of county commissioner, G. Harold Steffens.

G. Harold had been county commissioner for so long that we were – even then- rapidly reaching a point where no one could prove that anyone else had been commissioner. Ask most people that they’d tell you G. Harold had been commissioner since “Jesus was a buck private.” Talk to the Catholics and they’d go with the more classically themed, “Since Hector was a pup.”

Nuns.

What can I tell you?

Where were we?

G. Harold was a curious man. After seeing me in the back of the gallery for several weeks he approached me and introduced himself. Obviously he looked past the long hair and unruly sideburns to see that I probably wasn’t carrying fleas, ticks or mites, much less anything else us dirty hippies had to offer. I stood, shook his hand -firmly- and looked him the eye while he asked me a couple of questions about downstream water rights. I gave him what I thought was a reasonable, informed, and well thought-out opinion on the matter. That’s when he let go of my hand and said, “Nobody wants to hear about your book learnin’, son.”

From that moment forward I was on G. Howard’s shit list. Not that it bothered me because being on his shit list was much like being born with blue eyes- that’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s gonna be until you die.

Here’s the part where you have to deal with my ancient first-world problems.

Finding lunch at that job was a bitch. The only thing nearby was a lunch counter/newsstand operation which thankfully had pretty good food. For $1.98 you could get a chicken fried steak with coleslaw and mash potatoes. If you wanted fries instead they wouldn’t look at you funny and still you’d get just as much gravy. A biscuit to go all that was 25 cents more, but G. Howard always got a biscuit for free as a small thanks for his many years of public service. One afternoon I stopped in to get a large coffee to go and a pack of Marlboros. My purchase, as well as G. Howard’s swiss steak, was interrupted by a group of men who loudly told G. Howard that they had no intention of paying their property taxes for the following reasons:

– The dollar was not backed by gold.

– G. Howard’s meeting sported an American flag with gold fringe so no decision made with that kind of flag in the room was legal.

– There’s lots and lots of Old English law to back this up!!!

– Besides – they needed the money to buy weapons as the Black Panthers had raised an army and were – at that very moment – doing drills in the hills above Oakland.

At that point two things were immediately noticeable. The cash register clerk was so nervous she tried to give me a pack of those lemon-lime dainty dame smokes that were all the rage in the 70s. One of the protesters stood on the table of an empty booth and shouted, “A WISE MAN SAID,‘IF YOU’RE NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION, YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM! CAN ANYBODY TELL ME WHO THAT WISE MAN WAS?”

I spoke up and said, “Eldrige Cleaver, one of the founders of The Black Panther Party.”

What can I say?

Book learnin’.

G. Howard got up and walked over to the main standing on the table. In a very quiet voice he asked the gent, “Does a man take care of his family?”

A wobbly nod was seen.

G. Howard wiped his mouth, paused for a few beats and said, “One way a man takes care of his family is to do the right thing and pay his bills. Are you man enough to do that?”

The man on the table got down and slunk out with the rest of his pals.

G. Howard fixed me with a look and went back to his swiss steak.

As far as I know – to this day and throughout eternity I am still on his shit list.

But I’d like to believe I’m still on his shit list with an asterisk next to my name.

Goodbye David and thank you, thank you thank you, thank you.

Home entertainment systems are such interesting things. Mr. Sharp’s first one was a cassette player that came with TWO speakers. In what must have been an idle moment of no import, Mr. S was going through the bargain bin at the local Woolworth’s when he came upon The Man Who Sold the World, something that had no proved to be a local best seller. He phoned and said I had to hear this.

This week the tributes to David Bowie came in two types. First there were those who said he gave us the permission to understand that we are fluid selves that we cannot be bound by conventions. Others said he was their gateway into a world of adventuresome listening that has lasted a lifetime. Bowie leads to Roxy which leads to Eno, which leads to Robert Fripp getting out of ditch digging, which leads to…

I turned on the CBS morning news and when Charlie Rose said David was dead there were tears streaming down my face.

One of the first Bowie songs that got our attention was Andy Warhol. Mr. Sharp sent this a few days ago. It’s a video of Dana Gillespie, the singer who Bowie wrote the song for.

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