Hillary Clinton Visits My Old Ghetto School!

[The following article is written by Elizabeth Rogers especially for Frankly Curious. I’ve been to a total of two political rallies: both with Jesse Jackson. Let me just say that you have not seen Jackson until you’ve seen him live. At one rally, I saw him in a church in Portland. I was following along with a journalist I knew who worked for SF Weekly. I totally had a crush on her. But Jackson was amazing. Anyway, that is the past and this is the present. Enjoy! -FM]

Elizabeth and Sister Selfie at Clinton RallyOne of the fun things about being an American is our political rallies. And so on the 21st I went off to what is probably my seventh millionth rally and saw Hillary Clinton along with a local all-star lineup speak at my high school alma matter-Carl Hayden Community High School. This was impressive since no one goes to Hayden because it is a west side ghetto school.

So first things first! The waiting in line. One hallmark of going to a political rally is having to stand around endlessly in line or in a group wondering when things were going to start happening. In Arizona, this can and almost did cause heat exhaustion. I was stuck in the sun portion for about two and a half hours, as the temperature slowly rose to 94 degrees. Cue nearly falling over and becoming so shaky that my photos are, well, not exactly Ansel Adams quality.

The second thing is that events like this attract odd types — Frank will hopefully write about one so I will leave that.

It did attract this van that drove around for a while. Rocky De Le Fuete is one of the perennial candidates who never goes anywhere on the ballot. Just the same, he did manage to get 95 votes in the New Hampshire primary, which put him in 8th place out of 28. Who says we have no candidates to choose from?!

Rocky 2016

There were also protesters who were Trump supporters including one who was armed because that is what you want around a high school. One of the women waiting in line with me was a teacher and she kept asking the police to arrest him as he was right across the street, but they didn’t do anything.

When we got inside, the gym had room for something like 500 people. No one goes to sporting events at Hayden so they never really needed to have space for that many people. Unfortunately because of how much space the media took up we couldn’t use the much more comfortable and spacious auditorium. So here are some of the people that were comfortably gathered, waiting for the big event:

Crowded Room

The all-star lineup of local people started with Arizona State Representative Lela Alston. Then we had Dolores Huerta. [Co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association (later: United Farm Workers) with César Chávez.] Next up was my friend, Representative Ruben Gallego who is one of the most energetic campaigners out there and yes, he does so even when he wins his primary. I cannot wait to see where he wants to go politically.

Dolores Huerta

Next up was Tom Perez, who is our current Labor Secretary. He gave an amazing stem-winder of a campaign speech. I actually wondered if his voice was going to hold up.

After him, Mark Kelly escorted his wife on stage, former Representative Gabby Giffords. The crowd, already hyped up, went nuts when she started to speak. She isn’t back 100% and she never will be but she is really well loved.

Gabby Giffords

Finally the actual person to introduce Clinton was Gila River Indian Community’s Governor, Stephen Lewis.

Clinton Finally Arrives at Her Rally!

Then Clinton came out and did her standard stump speech. It was about 15 minutes long. What struck me as significant is that Clinton is a great deal like me in one aspect. I hate giving speeches. I talk too fast and I get nervous and forget where I am in my speeches. But I love one on one. So after she finished talking, she spent way more time walking along the line and taking photos, shaking hands and looking like she was having a blast just being one on one with people. Probably because you can be yourself in a way that you can’t be in a speech. Especially with someone with her history of being attacked for saying pretty much anything. (Although I probably will agree with the regulars on the AIPAC conference.)

That is why she works the room after those debates instead of running off to her next event. It looks like this is the fun part of campaigning for her. Yes there are fun parts and people don’t always find them to be the same thing. Some candidates love giving speeches; Trump loves the sound of his own voice. Some like fundraising… Okay no; no one likes fundraising.

After the rally my mother, sister and I made our slow way back to Mom’s house — we were exhausted after all of the excitement and standing in the sun. That was my adventure with the Clinton Rally. And I didn’t even get a decent picture of her!

Afterword

Here is a picture of Hillary Clinton by Gage Skidmore. It was taken at a town hall meeting at Hillside Middle School in Manchester, NH. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Hillary Clinton

Morning Music: Mason Jennings’ Simple Life

Mason Jennings - Simple LifeAfter spending seven hours editing highly technical material and managing what feels like a million things, it’s hard to come back here and write about anything but myself. Or to just ramble about the state of the world. But I have these music and anniversary posts to do. I still kind of enjoy them. That’s especially true of the music posts when I’m doing someone like Mason Jennings.

The truth is that I can imagine meeting him in a bar. We both slump down across from each other on those wooden benches that the best bars have. And we wouldn’t even have to talk. He’s ten years younger than I am, but we’re both old enough to know the truth of life, which is a quiet acceptance of the way things are. We have no illusions that the universe can be any other way. We just drink our pints and leave. And we go out and continue on doing what we do. Because that is what we were born to do. There are pleasures, certainly. But mostly, there is regret. And the regret just gets bigger and bigger until we think it is more massive than our souls.

Mason Jennings’ fourth album was Simple Life. Yesterday, I had the thought that he sounded a lot like Nick Drake. Obviously I’m not talking about his voice or guitar style. But his outlook on life. That feeling is even more clear on this album. And what’s amazing is that he wasn’t even thirty when he made the album. But then, I’ve always been a slow learner.

Today, I’m featuring “Hospitals and Jails” off Simple Life — a song that tells the story of true love. But in a Jacques Brel twist, we learn in the last verse that she is gone and that he never managed to tell her that without her, he was damned to hospitals and jails. It’s a beautiful song.

Anniversary Post: Kundun and Dalai Lama’s Escape

KundunOn this day in 1959, the Dalai Lama escaped the People’s Republic of China and made it to safety in India. I don’t have a lot to say about it. I don’t believe in theocracy. Just the same, I’m not sure it is any worse than any other form of government. It seems like it is just luck of the draw: who happens to be in power and where you find yourself in the pecking order. And the current Dalai Lama seems like an all right kind of guy.

But I do want to talk about something: the movie Kundun. I was dragged to the film by my girlfriend. And I loved it. I thought it was an amazing piece of cinema. And it isn’t surprising. It’s a Martin Scorsese film. What I always find interesting is that Scorsese makes brilliant films like Kundun and New York, New York and Bringing Out the Dead. But it’s films that are far more pedestrian like Raging Bull and Taxi Driver and Goodfellas that are held up as great works of art.

Look: I’ll give you Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, which have something to say, even if they are thoroughly unpleasant films. But Goodfellas?! I know so many people who love that film. They apparently think it is some kind of accurate depiction of organized crime — the truth compared to the romanticism of The Godfather. But Goodfellas has neither the art of Greek drama nor a spark of truth other than that there are people who use violence to get what they want.

But when it comes to a really compelling film like a healer losing his mind because of his incompetence or the true story of one small man coming to terms with the destruction of hundreds of years of tradition he’s been raised to uphold, it isn’t interesting. These films lose money. But more important: they are neglected by “critics” who should expect something more from a movie.

Thank You for Friedrichs, Mr Scalia

Antonin ScaliaAs I write this, I have a great big smile on my face. The Supreme Court handed down a one sentence judgement in the case Friedrichs v California Teachers Association. This was a case where a handful of teachers sued the teachers’ union, claiming that it violated their rights to have to pay the union an agency fee. But maybe I should back up for readers who are not so up on all this union business.

People cannot be forced to join a union just to have a job. This is considered coercive. If only our judicial system were so protective of workers’ rights when it comes to the coercion that employers inflict on them. But the law is the law. However, these workers who think that unions are bad still have to pay what’s called an “agency fee.” This is the money that it costs the union to do the collective bargaining that gets the workers higher compensation packages.

Friedrichs v California Teachers Association was designed to destroy even this requirement that employees pay the agency fee. In the short term, it would mean that the workers would get the service for free. But in the longer term, it would mean that the unions would be destroyed. This latter effect was what the plaintiffs were looking for all along. So the case went before the moderate Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where it was struck down. This was expected. The whole point was to get this in front of the Supreme Court where the conservative justices would show as they always do that they are are just conservative hacks.

“I don’t care about teachers’ unions — I’m dead!” —Antonin Scalia

The Supreme Court heard arguments on the case on 11 January 2016. It was certain that it would overrule the Ninth Circuit Court. But then Justice Antonin Scalia did one of the best things in all his career: he died.

Even though he was there for oral arguments of Friedrichs v California Teachers Association, it doesn’t matter. The rules are that if he isn’t there for the final decision, he isn’t there. It appears that despite all of its problems, at least the Supreme Court follows its own rules. If this had been up to the US Senate, the Republicans would have said, “Scalia would have voted with the conservatives, so it’s a 5-4 decision and the Night Circuit is overruled!” But that didn’t happen.

The Supreme Court released a single sentence opinion (pdf):

“The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.”

Oh Scalia, Scalia, Scalia! Now that you are dead, we salute you!

Of course, it isn’t all good news. There are a number of other cases where the lower court decided something horrible. This is why we need a moderate to be put on the court. Let’s face it: we aren’t going to get a liberal. But at least we can get someone who isn’t a reflexive partisan. Having two of those on the Supreme Court is two too many.

But it’s nice to think nicely of Scalia for a change. It isn’t that he was always wrong. His dissent in Maryland v King was bold and inspiring. I’m glad he was dead for Friedrichs v California Teachers Association, because he certainly would have ruled in his usual talk radio informed way.

Morning Music: Century Spring

Century SpringIn 2002, Mason Jennings released his third album, Century Spring. It sounds like he arrived in this album. He just sounds so confident. That isn’t to put down the previous albums, which I think are great. But it’s hard not to think that Mason Jennings’ life is going pretty well at this point. It all makes me think that I’m going to have to revisit this guy in much greater detail when I have more time. It’s always nice to follow an artist who grows, and that’s definitely the case of Jennings from his first album through to Century Spring. I’m curious what tomorrow will bring.

Today, we listen to “Living in the Moment.” I assume that it was meant to be the single from the album. It’s so sweet. It seems to reflect the kind of life that I want to have. I want to be the guy who tells everyone, “No! You’ve got it all wrong: this is the perfect life!” Of course, the thought of living in the moment with the friends I love sounds like something too far removed from reality. But it sounds like a lovely dream

But he is completely right that you can’t construct a meaningful life all by yourself. We are all social — even those who consider ourselves misanthropists.

Anniversary Post: Jeopardy!

[And here I was going to write about Jeopardy! and it turns out I did last year. So I’m just going to run it today because I’m literally falling asleep at my keyboard. I keep waiting for life to get easier, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. Although getting rid of my publisher’s constant insults is a big step in the right direction. -FM]

Jeopardy!The game show Jeopardy! is 52 years old today. But it hasn’t been on all that time. It started on NBC and ran from 1964 through 1979, with a two year absence from 1976 through 1978. During that period, it was hosted by Art Fleming. Then, after four years off the air, it was brought back in syndication with the new host Alex Trebek. It was created by Merv Griffin, who created pretty much every “normal” game show you can think of. (All right, that’s a vast exaggeration.)

When I was a kid, I loved game shows. But I hated Jeopardy! There are good reasons for that. Now I kind of like it because I’m good at it. But it is just a quiz show. Providing the questions for the answers is very slightly clever. But it is designed this way simply to hide the fact that it is a boring quiz show. Eight year old Frank was no fool.

I’ve written three articles about the show. The first was simply, Jeopardy! In it, I explained why I would never try out for the show. Short answer: the up side is not compensation enough for the potential that I would humiliate myself. The second article was, “Power Players” on Jeopardy! Out of Touch. I was shocked that media figures were so ignorant and I commented on how the questions were easier for these elites than they are for normal contestants. And the last one was my finally getting around to answering a question that has been on my mind for years, Maximum Possible Win on Jeopardy! How much money could you walk away with on a single episode if you got every question right and maximized the “daily doubles”? $566,400. But the most anyone has ever won on a single episode is only $77,000. Only ten people have ever made more than $50,000.

Happy birthday Jeopardy!

Editor From Hell and the Freedom of Her Absence

Editor From HellLast night, I wrote a really long article about the problems that I’m having with my publisher and “editor.” But I ran it past a good writer friend of mine and she suggested that I not run it. The problem is that it might be used out of context to label me as a difficult writer — a difficult person. I’m not so much worried about that. I have so many editors and publishers to back me up. What’s more, the publisher is so well known for being a truly awful person, that it is unlikely to hurt me.

But there is another issue here: I like to take the high road. And the truth is that this publisher is a very sad person with almost nothing in her life. I don’t actually want to proclaim to the world just how horrible she is and why it is that she literally does not have a single friend in the world. It’s a funny thing when you think about it.

In the past, I’ve done a number of things that I feel very bad about. But I’m generally liked. I have the reputation of being very easy to get along with. Past misbehavior doesn’t much matter, because it is in the past. I used to think that there was something special about me. If a person is not actively annoying me, I have no problem with them. I find it almost impossible to hang onto anger. But what I’ve found is that I’m actually quite normal in this way.

Most people don’t want to be angry. If others turn their lives around, people are very forgiving. They care about what’s happening now. So the fact that this publisher is widely considered an awful person speaks not to past wrongs but to the fact that she continues to be an awful person — day in and day out. You can’t really have a conversation with her; you can only sit and listen to her lecture. This does not go over well with people who are her peers.

The current state of things is that the book will be published. She’s just going to hire an “editor” to do the things that I, as “writer,” will not do. That’s ironic, right? If an editor is doing the work, then how is it the work of a writer? The point of this is to hire this editor and then charge me for it. This shows the mentality of the publisher. I didn’t agree to re-publish this book for the money; I did it because she begged me to. I didn’t want the book published at all.

As it is, the advance for this 200 page, 60,000 word book is $750. And it isn’t even paid all at once. A third is paid on contract signing; a third is paid on book acceptance; and a third is paid on publication. For a first time writer, that makes a certain amount of sense. But for a writer who has already published two books with this publisher? And for a book that is already written? What can I say: this publisher hates books and writers and most other things as well.

But I feel free! I have submitted all the material for the book. She will steal money from me. Eventually, I will have to take her to arbitration, where she will lose badly. Meanwhile, I will have a life with friends and family, and she will be alone with nothing to keep her company but the melodious sounds of Michael Savage’s bigotry wafting through the air.

Morning Music: Train Leaving Gray

Birds Flying Away - Train Leaving GrayGeez! I’ve spent half the day dealing with my publisher. I’ve written over a thousand words explaining in some detail just what is going on, but I’m not sure I will publish it. There’s one thing about this woman: she loves attention, which is not surprising because she literally has no friends. In my article I am quite explicit about who she is and what she’s done. But I just want her gone from my life. I get no joy out of fighting with her, but it’s clear she does, since anger is about the only thing that she has left in her life.

So let’s move on to Mason Jennings’s second album, Birds Flying Away. It is much more of a regular folk album than his first album. But I’m not going to spend time analyzing it. I’m too stressed out. So we are just going to listen to “Train Leaving Gray.” It is very relaxing. And it reminds me that there are people out in the world who try to make things better. And then there are rageaholics who take steroids to make them all that much more horrible.

Have you ever noticed that in dysfunctional families, there will be “good” children and “bad” children. The “good” children can’t do anything wrong. There is a set narrative for them. If one of them gets caught shoplifting, it is just because of that bad kid that they are hanging around. And the “bad” children can’t do anything right. If one of them graduates at the top of their class, it will result in at best a grudging “congratulations.” That’s where I’m at, but I’m not beaten down. And that just makes this woman all the more hostile.

But “Train Leaving Gray” is a beautiful song and a good reminder that there are nice things in the world.

Anniversary Post: Yaoya Oshichi

Given my state of mind and all the time I wasted on the Worst Publisher in the World, I’m just going to reprint last year’s anniversary post about Yaoya Oshichi’s murder. It seems to go along with what I’m going through. I’m dealing with a selfish person who only cares about her own sense of entitlement. She really thinks she is doing me a favor, when it is just the opposite. And she’s making my life a living hell. So why not reprint an article about powerful people who lack empathy and dehumanize others? Sounds perfect!

Yaoya Oshichi - Utagawa KuniteruOn this day back in 1683, Yaoya Oshichi was burned at the stake. She was 16 years old. Apparently, she had fallen in love with a temple page during a fire. So the following year (1682), she set a fire, hoping that she would get a chance to see him again. But she was caught. Apparently, the magistrate at her trial tried to save her life by claiming that she was 15 years old. (You had to be 16 to get the death penalty. This is accepted everywhere — except in Texas.) But the clueless girl corrected him and ended up burning. The story is a very famous one in Japan and has been broadly romanticized in literature.

This took place toward the beginning of the Edo period. At that time, the government applied the death penalty in cases of murder and, as with Oshichi, arson. And the ways they killed people were varied. The less terrible ones are decapitation, waist-cutting (just what it sounds like), are crucifixion. The more terrible ones are sawing (mostly what you are thinking), burning, and boiling. I really don’t understand these torture deaths. I can understand the eye-for-an-eye philosophy of the death penalty — even if I don’t accept it. But these torture deaths can only be the result of psychopathic minds.

So 334 years ago, a girl was burned death. I can’t say that we humans have gotten any better. And I am definitely not just talking about the recent activity of the Islamic State. Sometimes I think the one thing that binds together all of the “great men” of the world now and forever is a lack of empathy.

Happy anniversary of the sadistic murder of Yaoya Oshichi!

Kamping on Asphalt: Too Many Pets

Well, this is it. Now I’m going to have to get back to work. This is a good place to end, because it really does end the first act. The stuff about the answering machine establishes that something bad has happened. As I recall, chapter 10 ended similarly with a cryptic note that leads to the denouement. If anyone is interested, I’ll tell you “what happened.” But it doesn’t much matter. What most comes across in my fiction is the fact that I really do find women deeply mysterious. The central plot element of both my first and second novels are abortions. That wasn’t intentional. I only realized it later.

Chapter 5: Too Many Pets

Lenny had cultivated, over years of what he considered abuse at the hands of the loves of his life, an outward emotional detachment that had worked well for him recently. Indeed, as fond as he was of Andrea, he felt he had maintained a proper aloofness to keep her always hungry for his presence. But that appeared not to be the case or perhaps it was imply too much to ask of an abandoned wife to forget her husband.

His life had changed so radically almost in an instant. He was living alone, then living with Andrea, and then alone again–in a day. Actually, he was more pissed off than hurt. How dare she? Bill was such a twit. Lenny had know him since they were kids in Junior High. They were already close when they played opposite each other in The Zoo Story. Lenny played Peter–the respectable middle class family man. Bill was Jerry–the alienated person desperate for any kind of human contact. Lenny was perhaps a better choice in terms of alienation, but Bill was bigger and looked the part. Junior high school casting.

Bill came from a good family–at least it was a lot more sedate than the explosions of rage that typified Lenny’s childhood home. Not that Lenny didn’t feel loved, and there was an austere aspect to Bill’s parents, like if he died it would have been a minor blip in their lives. But the trappings were all there–nice house, pleasant parties, concern for the children’s education. At Lenny’s trailer, parties often ended in drunken brawls, and at school–well, the police never showed up at the trailer.

In high school, Bill because an Intellectual. He started reading books he disliked and keeping notes: number of pages, how long it took him to read it, and anything noteworthy about the book. He read a lot of good books this way but it was hard to escape thinking that he was going through the motions. It looked like he shared in the plight of the family in “The Grapes of Wrath.” But he was aloof to real suffering around him as long as his father let him borrow the car and his mother had dinner prepared at six each night.

Their friendship had always been strained, the way boy’s relationships usually are. They had met halfway through the 7th grade when Lenny’s parents had moved to Greenboro. Bill was the nerdy tall kid with the wild strawberry blond hair. He was hard to miss, even without his blue Start Trek shirt–the one Spock wore. But what was most notable was his continual critique of all thoughts within earshot. Whales were not fish–they were mammals–warm-blooded. Electricity only moves at about two-thirds the speed of light inside copper wire–of course, it doesn’t move inside the write at all but on the surface and this is why wire need to be insulated. Monkeys with steel mothers grow up less well adjusted than those with terry-cloth mothers. He was the breathing version of Discover Magazine. You had to love him, Lenny thought, but you could help hating him too.

When they first met, Bill was using the library typewriter to type a script to A Charlie Brown Christmas which he had transcribed from a cassette recording he had made when it played on TV over the Christmas break. It was his plan to put on a play version of this masterpiece with funds to benefit blind people or something. Mostly though, it seemed like a way for him to get to perform Linus’ eloquent second act speech in front of a bunch of people. Lenny, easily excited about such projects, became intimately involved. He couldn’t be Charlie Brown–too scrawny. Snoopy, it was decided. This was not much of a part–but given Lenny would be responsible for almost every aspect of the play, it didn’t really matter.

Recruiting actors? Bill was collecting cardboard for set manufacture. Reserving theater space? Bill was collecting more cardboard. Rehearsing the half of the cast that managed to show up for rehearsal? More cardboard! The performance was six days away and they still had no sets. They were over-flowing in cardboard. Bill’s father had begun to complain. But today, Bill had accomplished something else: an interview with the Press Herald–publicity for the play. That was something, Lenny thought. But he was unprepared for Monday’s paper. It was not the smiling picture of Bill or even the incendiary caption: “Junior high producer, director, and actor Bill Edwards.” That bothered him, but who could control captions. The text, however, indicated a kind of hoax or “bait and switch” had been perpetrated on Lenny:

Greenboro Junior High Student Bill Edwards does it all! He has adapted, produced, directed, and starred in a theatrical version of A Charlie Brown Christmas, showing this Friday and Saturday at the junior high auditorium at 7:00 p.m. Also in the play are Dean Whitmore as Charlie Brown and Dennis Morris as Snoopy.

Lenny Morris as Snoop! Lenny was outraged, despite Bill’s assurance that he had told the reporter they were co-directing it. Co-directing! “Let’s see, I’m responsible for staging the play and you are responsible for cardboard,” was Lenny’s response though he never had the courage to say so to Bill. Dean pointed out that Lenny would be glad to be forgotten if the play was a flop. But one brief mention of the play in the Herald, Lenny knew, would not attract a single person–especially since it was just an ad for Bill. Publicity was Bill’s job and he hadn’t even managed fliers at school. The only people attending this opus would be parents of the cast members. So stardom was the newspaper article. This fact pissed off Lenny and it made him feel bad that he cared.

After the $12.50 proceeds from the two performances of the play had been properly donated to the Optimist Club (followed by another news ad for Bill: “Junior high super-kid makes $12.50 for local charity”), Bill and Lenny avoided one another until they were both thrown together for the official junior high play. With just the acting to deal with–and set parts–they got on well and remembered why they had liked each other in the first place. As the “star” of the play, with another long speech, Bill was inclined to be amiable. Even when the school newspaper called Lenny’s performance “subtle, complex” and Bill’s “over-blown, arrogant” it only served to sooth the wounds of the Christmas play.

When he thought about it, Lenny was glad that he had managed to bag Bill’s wife. He loved Andrea, but that was another issue. He liked being able to stick it to Bill. Of course, now that they were back together, she would tell Bill (would she tell Bill?) that he was a better lover than Lenny. Just what she had told Lenny about Bill. Women were so duplicitous when it came to sex. Lenny had never asked but every woman he’d slept with had told him he was the best and the biggest. He wondered if it was meant as encouragement–like he was inferior and inadequate. He couldn’t say about the quality issue, but he checked Masters and Johnson on the quantity issue: he was average–painfully average. That meant Bill was below average. Lenny smiled at that thought–hating the fact that it delighted him so.

He was dreading speaking to Andrea, but it was driving him crazy not doing so. This was not from lack of trying. He had called at many different times over the past two days but he hadn’t managed to hook up with her. Maybe she was screening her calls. Normally, if she wasn’t at home she was at work. He never did figure out exactly what her work schedule was. If she was avoid (ah, the guilt served her right!) he didn’t want to just show up and cause a scene. Nor did he want to drive to her apartment and find Bill’s truck.

Even if she didn’t want to speak to him, Andrea had a bunch of his stuff. In particular, she had his 27-inch Quasar Stereo TV–made by Panasonic for half the price–and his Sony Stereo VCR. Plus there was his collection of letterboxed videos: To Kill a Mockingbird, Chinatown, even Jaws. Lenny had engaged in bitter arguments with Bill over the issues of letterboxing and dubbing–Bill would not watch a dubbed film.

“And yet you will watch a non-letterboxed video which destroys the visual integrity of the film?”

“I’m not saying I like it–I would prefer letterboxed. But I can’t take their lips not sinking up to the words. And the actors always sound so stupid.”

“What about Italian films?” Lenny asked as Bill stared blankly. “Those are almost all dubbed.”

“They are not! I just watched Amacord and it had subtitles.”

“Felini! It’s all dubbed. All his films are shot silent and then they go back and dub in the Italian afterwards. And when they dub it into English, Felini uses the original actors.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Fine, but any film you watch is going to be at least 10% dubbed because they can’t control the sound that well on location.”

“It’s different when they dub in the same language. Anyway, I like hearing the other languages.”

“Then buy a language cassette. Film is a visual art form. I want to watch it, not read it.”

“I can’t believe an intellectual like you would make such a low-brow argument.”

“I’m not an intellectual. You’re the intellectual. I’m just smarter than you.”

“Dork.”

“Pud.”

Lenny decided to stop by Sabrina’s and ask a few questions. The tavern was on the first floor of a three story apartment building–the upper stories jutting out ten feet toward the street from Sabrina’s front door, acting as a canopy covering the sidewalk below. It would not be open for a half-hour when he drove by the front that was decorated with black outlines of large-breasted women on a red background. There wasn’t a car on the street. He pulled his Opel around the corner of the building and into the gravel parking lot in back. There were two cars in back, neither of which was Andrea’s: a Subaru Outback which he thought belonged to Mikhail–the new owner of Sabrian’s–and a late model burgundy Escort. He parked across from the two cars.

If you lived inside Sabrina’s, you would not know the time of day without a clock. Like most strip clubs, it hadn’t a single window. Lenny walked through the front door. When the tavern was open, most of the illumination came from the black-lights that colored the strippers smooth and tan and removed any hint of cellulite or stretch marks. But off-hours saw the house lights up so the bartender could stock the reefer and count the register. When he came around the corner into the bar area, Lenny saw a woman he didn’t recognize adjusting one of the beer keg taps. When she looked up, he saw she was in her mid-forties with long early gray hair.

“We’re not open yet. Another half-hour,” she said.

“I’m not a customer,” Lenny said a little defensively. “Have you seen Andrea?”

“Andrea?” She looked puzzled for a second. “I’m new here. I don’t know any of the dancers.”

“No. She’s a bartender.”

“Oh! That girl. I guess she’s sick or quit or something. That’s why Mikhail hired me. I’m Dana.”

Lenny hardly had time to consider this thought when the reefer door swung open and Mikhail backed out yelling syllable by syllable: “Mother fucker!” He slammed the door and began ranting. “That cock sucker Bud driver! We have one case of Bud! I kill that knobby-kneed son-of-a-bitch. I rip off his testicles and shove them up his nose. Mother fucker!” He stopped abruptly when he saw Lenny, and scowled.

“Where the fuck is Andrea?” he yelled.

“You haven’t seen her?”

“Sure I have! She’s in back! That’s why I ask where she is. She don’t come in Thursday night. I call. Nothing. Friday afternoon. She’s nowhere.”

“Her husband came back. Maybe she’s with him.”

“Husband? I thought you was her husband. How many husband she have?”

“I’m not her husband.” Lenny said sternly. “Look. Her husband…” He trailed off. He was not going to give Mikhail Andrea’s life story if she hadn’t given it to him already.

“Did she tell you anything?” Mikhail demanded.

The new bartender was slowly wiping down the bar several feet away. She was intent on her task but quiet so as not to miss a word Lenny said–Mikhail’s words were hard to miss. This was definitely the most interesting start to a job she’d ever had.

“I took her home Wednesday night,” Lenny answered.

“To her husband?” Mikhail smiled arrogantly at this jab.

“Her husband’s been gone. I mean. He left her. He just showed up Thursday morning. I know they met at least.”

“What did he say?”

“Nothing. To me. I haven’t talked to her since he got here.”

“What about him? Or you too guilty?”

“Hey, I’m worried. Why are you flicking all this shit at me?”

“I got one case of Bud. One! She always keeps that Bud guy–piece of shit–in line. I got one case. And I’m here all day Thursday, all day Friday. She’s never missed a day or even been late. Now she just disappears. Mother fucker!”

Dana smiled as Mikhail went ballistic again and kicked a barstool–sending it flying. “Easy there, big boy,” she said.

“I’ll let you know if I find her,” Lenny added hoping to calm the situation.

“It’s too late now. I hired another girl,” he said pointing down the bar. “I have no beer to sell!”

“I’ll let you know if I find her,” he repeated thinking there was real concern beneath his rage. As he walked out of the bar, he heard Mikhail yell, “Push the Pabst!”

Lenny decided to drive the several blocks to Andrea’s apartment. Her car wasn’t there, nor was Bills’ truck. He parked and walked up the front steps. Andrea lived in a converted Victorian. The downstairs was rented by Juanito, a gay man whose compulsive nature produced a gorgeous backyard garden but also much aggravation to Andrea. Lenny unlocked Andrea’s front door with his key. As soon as the door was cracked open, Psycho–Andrea’s orange tabby burst out onto the landing and around the side of the house.

Psycho was the best cat Lenny had ever known. A co-worker had brought him into her work at the State Building. Someone had thrown him into a dumpster and he was almost dead from any number of things when he was found. She brought him home even though she knew Bill would complain–he hated cats. It cost her $300 to get Psycho back to good health. After that, they made an agreement: she would have no little box and the cat would be free to come and go as he pleased. This had worked well in the suburbs but her new landlord had vetoed her cat door idea so she had to let Psycho in and out as necessary.

Andrea’s front door opened onto two staircases: one heading up to her apartment and one heading down into the shared basement. Lenny shut the door behind him and climbed up to the apartment. The place had not been kept up and there was a lot of dry rot. In the winter, it was incredibly drafty so Andrea had installed thick velvet curtains at almost every entry to cut down on the heating bill which could be sizable. He passed through her living room–past her Victorian sofa and his TV and into the dining room, which Andrea used primarily as a workroom. Everything looked fine–there was no disturbance. He walked into the bathroom. It looked fine except Psycho had apparently defecated a few times in the bathtub drain. This disturbed Lenny. He could imagine Andrea forgetting him–but Psycho? She was fanatical about that cat.

The answering machine was blinking. Even under the circumstances, he felt very strange as he pushed the play button. There were three messages.

“Andrea. Mikhail. I have you scheduled tonight. You forget? Call right away.”

“Mikhail. Where are you? I got no one to work. You get home come right over!”

“Where the fuck are you? You work this afternoon. You have to deal with this cocksucker Bud man! Get here!”

The machine beeped and stopped. Lenny took the cassette out of it and put it in Andrea’s boom box beside her bed. He pressed play and sat on the edge of the bed. No sound came from the player even though he could see the wheels of the cassette spinning. He turned the volume up to half maximum. Still nothing, or at least nothing discernible–just hiss and an occasional pop like someone had erased it and that wouldn’t be Andrea.

About a month earlier, they had spent the weekend in Oceanside. When they got back, there had been a power outage and her answering machine was all screwed up. They couldn’t find the messages they had played them on the boom box. It was like archaeology. There were messages from a year earlier–some quite amusing that Andrea had tried to save–others that just never got recorded over.

Lenny fast-forwarded a ways through the tape. Still silence. Forward some more. Silence. He checked the flip side with the same results. He rewound the tape and put it back into the answering machine. After looking around for a note, he headed downstairs and locked the front door behind him.

He walked down the front steps just as Psycho was trotting up. They stopped midway and Psycho rubbed against Lenny’s leg. He picked the cat up and held him as he purred.

“I’m getting too many pets,” he thought.

Anniversary Post: Mario Vargas Llosa

Mario Vargas LlosaMario Vargas Llosa is 80 years old today. I thought I would combine a few things that I’ve written about him in the past. I really ought to read more of his work. I’m still stuck mostly with Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. But it is such a charming book — I’ve read it twice. Back in 1990, my wife was an undergraduate at Portland State University, where I would become an infamous assistant professor of physics just five years later. And there was a movie theater nearby. After picking her up one afternoon, we went to see a film called, Tune in Tomorrow.

We both loved the film. And as is my nature, I went looking for the source material. It was a very clever Americanized version of Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. But I don’t think I managed to read it for another decade. I was, after all, in graduate school myself. And at that point, I was still in the “class taking” part of the program and feeling rather over my head. I still don’t remember much about it. I remember that I mostly was at the top of my classes but without having a clue what was going on. That was especially true of thermodynamics. Anyway, I had things to do other than read Mario Vargas Llosa.

When I finally did read Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, I was struck by the density of the prose. The content is so light and funny. But the descriptions were so detailed — it seemed like it could have been written in the 19th century. The book is divided into alternating chapters. The first is about Mario and Julia and their budding relationship. The second are a bunch of short stories, supposedly the stories that are broadcast on the radio and written by Pedro Camacho, the scriptwriter in the title.

The first time I read it, I was focused on the Mario and Julia story. The second time I read it, I was focused on the short stories. They were filled with so much love in the ancient sense of the word: love of humanity. In many ways, they remind me of Irwin Shaw. (I highly recommend Shaw’s Short Stories: Five Decades.) If you haven’t read the book, it is well worth the time. It’s touching and fun.

Hopefully, next year, I will have read another book by Mario Vargas Llosa. But probably not. I just don’t get much opportunity to read books these days. But I just requested The Discreet Hero, so who knows. Anyway, happy birthday Mario Vargas Llosa!

Mario Vargas Llosa on Film

It is a poor substitute, but I still like the film. I wrote about it before, Tune in Tomorrow and the Search for Light Comedy. So if you haven’t seen it:

Morning Music: Mason Jennings

Mason JenningsThis week I guess we are going to do Mason Jennings, because James Fillmore suggested him and James has good taste. I’d never heard of Jennings and I really don’t know much about him. But his first album was, Mason Jennings. It’s quite an eclectic album. But what it most reminds me of is Violent Femmes — but with more range and more heart. Someone put together a playlist of the whole album. But you know: support independent music: buy the album.

The most impressive song on the album is “Godless.” It asks the question, “Would you kill the man who raped your wife?” But it’s deeper than that, because it also asks, without doing so explicitly, “Wouldn’t that make you just like the man who raped your wife?” Or maybe it means something else entirely. I can’t say. It isn’t clear. But it does seem to be about a man who is on the run for an act of vengeance.

The whole album is what every artist should aim for in their first outing. I want to know what’s next for this talented young man. But people back in 1997 had to wait for three years to find out. I only have to wait until tomorrow.