I’m about to cross the Park onto the running track.
It’s first light, and not quite that, when I see two dark figures padding in the distance as if they’re doing a soft-shoe.
I stop to observe two raccoons of medium size, making me think, they were teenagers en route home.
One is leading the other by a few feet (practicing social distancingperhaps?) before stopping at a tree. He looks up, then back at his pal as if to say, nope, this ain’t it, before moseying to the next.
Again, no cigar as I watch them stop at three more before climbing up, what appears to be home, making me wonder if they’d been drinking?
During the editing of Ken Burns’s epic film, The Civil War, when they came to the part where Abraham Lincoln gets shot at Ford’s Theater, he and his colleagues sat there, not wanting to lay the track for the sound of Booth’s bullet, so they could keep Abe alive, a little while longer.
Elephants make friends, bury their dead, and travel for funerals.
Beatle, George Harrison’s last words were,
LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
OJ Simpson, whenever he earns money, insists on being paid in cash, so he doesn’t have to pay the $58 million in damages awarded to the victim’s families who won a civil suit against him for the murders, of Nicole and Ron.
Beneath Manhattan’s Washington Square Park built in 1871 over the city’s Potter’s Field, 20,000 bodies are buried, mostly dead from the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1795. For ID purposes, they’d wrap you in a yellow blanket, so still on occasion, a Con Edison worker will find a shred of yellow, peeking from down below.
When the late comedian, David Brenner, at the height of his fame ate at a restaurant, he’d often order a Chef’s Salad, because being besieged by autograph seekers, his food would get cold.
Anything left in remembrance at the Vietnam Wall, in Washington D.C., gets collected and archived, be it a Flag, Teddy bear or note from the grandchild he never knew.
Bruce Springsteen’s signature song, Born in the U.S.A., was about his anger towards the ill way we, at the time, were treating Vietnam Veterans.
Writers, W. H. Auden (66), Brendan Behan, age (41), Truman Capote (59), Raymond Chandler (70), F. Scott Fitzgerald (44), Patricia Highsmith (74), Jack Kerouac (47), Sinclair Lewis (65), Carson McCullers (50), O’Henry (47), Dorothy Parker (73), Edger Allan Poe (40), Dylan Thomas (39) and James Thurber (66), all died from the effects of alcoholism.
During William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous March to the Sea, his men mangled all the railroad tracks, coined Sherman’sneckties, so the starving south couldn’t get their food.
William Howard Taft, 5’11, at 350 pounds, Grover Cleveland, also 5’11 weighing 275 pounds, and Donald Trump, 6’3 at 243 pounds, are listed as the three fattest U.S. Presidents to date, the weight of one and two, contributing to their demise.
In 1961, when the U.S. had a new glamorous First Lady, Gucci named a handbag after her called, The Jackie, becoming an instant bestseller, tripling in worth, after her death.
The late, great Carrie Fisher, often worked as a script doctor on other writer’s screenplays, including Steven Spielberg’s Hook, and Sister Act, starring Whoopi Goldberg.
Some still think, Walt Disney, who in 1966, at 65, died of lung cancer, was freeze dried in liquid nitrogen to be preserved till they found a cure, though there is no documentary evidence to be true. What is well documented, is what a first class prick the father of Donald, Goofy, Micky and Minnie was.
What Joe Biden, Carol Burnett, Vanessa Bryant, Johnny Carson, Eric Clapton, Judy Collins, Jerry Lewis, Abraham Lincoln, Loretta Lynn, Mary Tyler Moore, Paul Newman, Sylvester Stallone, Mike Tyson and Gloria Vanderbilt have in common is, they all suffered the loss of children.
John F. Kennedy was the only U.S. President to receive a Purple Heart.
In 1948, when Babe Ruth died of cancer at 53, his two day wake was held at Yankee Stadium, where 100,000 fans came to pay their last respects to the Bambino, resting nobly, in his pinstripes.
This may be my favorite.
In 1963, 34 year-old, Jacqueline Kennedy, after replicating Abraham Lincoln’s 1865 funeral to honor her late husband, made the decision to walk behind his casket from the U.S. Capitol where he laid in state, to Saint Matthews Church where his funeral mass would be held.
The Secret Service, after just losing their Commander-in-Chief, on their watch, asked her not to, worried for the distinguished group of dignitaries who came to pay their respects, since they still had no idea, who had killed our President.
Mrs. Kennedy kindly but firmly said, “They can do whatever they want, but I’m walking behind my husband.”
When the likes of now President, Lyndon Johnson and French President, Charles de Gaulle, among others, were asked to ride in cars, collectively said…
if she walks, we walk…and they did, and a stirring sight it was.
My late step-father had a huge book collection he treated like, pulp Polo ponies. I think it was the reason he married my mother, because she was the only one who was willing to dust them all.
Once visiting, I had asked if I could borrow his Sherlock Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and he and my mother looked at one another like I asked for a kidney.
My mother said, “You want to borrow one of OUR books?” Our books, indeed. All she ever read were Harlequin Romances she’d never finish, but that didn’t stop the two of them laughing, at what they perceived as an outlandish request.
It left a mighty impression on me, which is why I lend, send and give books hoping to ignite reading muscles in my midst, even if I don’t get them back.
I feel they’re better off having the chance to be read by someone, rather than displayed on my shelf like knickknacks.
BOOKS SHOULD BE READ!!!
Sadly, in this day and age, many people don’t read, and your social media page and take-out menus, don’t count (I sighed writing that.)
I can’t say enough how much I love the written word, and when someone says, I don’t have time, or I used to read a lot in school, or I’m just too busy, I want to go to the nearest church to light candles in memory of their wasted intellect.
A favorite story.
The writer, Stephen King, went to a High School to speak to the student body. The first thing he did when he took the stage, was pull a dog-eared paperback from his back pocket, wave it like the American Flag and say…
If there was ever a perfect time to read, it was during our imposed shelter-in-place, forced to be idle, no choice but sitting still.
I, thanks to Amazon, after running through the 9 books taken from the library on their final day, was in literary heaven, jumping from history to memoir, fiction to biography, like a kid loose in a pulp candy store.
I’ve listed 23, like a big, eclectic buffet, hoping there’s something for everyone to woo and tease, tantalizing those literary senses.
Is Paris Burning, Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre…1965. Compelling out of the gate, taking you back to August, 1944, right before those brave Parisians take their beloved city back, more or less intact, a miracle after Hitler’s fiery demand to have it burned to the ground. Charles de Gaulle, along with a German General with the heart of a saint, are the heroes of the story. They don’t call it the City of Light, for nothing.
T.R. The Last Romantic, H.W. Brands…1997. Sitting on my shelf, winking every time I went by, reminding me how much I loved it the first time around, launching my eternal love for Theodore Roosevelt. Brands, an esteemed History Professor at the University of Texas, in Austin, is the quintessential historian. Like Ken Burns, David McCullough and Aaron Sorkin of the West Wing, he slyly educates, while expertly entertains.
The Day Diana Died, Christopher Anderson…1998. When Diana, Princess of Wales, died at 36, on August 31st, 1997 in a fatal car crash, conspiracy theories loomed. Mr. Anderson and his reader, spend that final day with Diana until she breathes her last. His prose travels fast the way she did, making you want to stop it to keep her alive just a while longer, and how you wish, that night, she never left her suite at the Ritz.
Working With Winston; The Unsung Women Behind Britain’s Greatest Statesman, Cita Stelzer...2019. 12 women, 12 bios, one male tossed in like salt, revealing what it was like working for a man during World War II, who seemed to hold his country together with his own bare hands. My favorite Churchill anecdote…one of them had to have her appendix out and was laid up afterwards. Her beloved boss asked, “But can she still type?”
Dead End Gene Pool, Wendy Burden…2010. It’s sordid opulence, on the rocks, as the great-great-great Granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt tells you what it’s like growing up in mind-blowing wealth, laced with lust and alcohol. Ms Burden is a cross between David Sedaris, Carrie Fisher, and Poe, the way she recaps her childhood and Hitchcockian family history.
The Help, Kathryn Stockett...2009. I know what you’re about to say…I saw the film. Let me give you a tip, the book is a zillion times better than the movie, and the novel, all us writers long to pen. As readers, we get a clear glimpse of what it was like in the 60s to be living down south as a person of privilege, and one of color, who with no other means but great magnanimity, helps. I wouldn’t write it off, no pun intended.
The Nasty Bits, Anthony Bourdain; Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps and Bones…2006. 37 diverse essays, drizzled with his imitable, uncensored two cents. What I loved most? The raw, lurid language, rolling off his tongue as if he prepared each word, al dente, in his own kitchen. What I hated most? Alas, there will be no more.
In The Name of Gucci; A Memoir, Patricia Gucci…2016. Think King Lear, swaggering in leather, swapping a Shakespearean tragedy for an Italian one, by the daughter and love child of Aldo Gucci, who built one of the greatest empires of all time, only to be taken down by a greedy, ungrateful family that will make you look at that handbag, not to mention your kids, in a whole new way.
Lady in Waiting; My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown…AnneGlenconner…2020. If you have a sweet spot for English History, this memoir by a woman, now in her 88th year, will regale you with stories about growing up with Elizabeth and Margaret Windsor, until one became Queen, and the other didn’t, the latter not always taking it too well. From being a Maid of Honor at the Queen’s Coronation (see cover), and a Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret until her death in 2002, her tales, though kindly told, read like a brush fire.
Nora Ephron and Other Conversations; The Last Interview Series…2015. I lauded this series in my last list, so here I go again. I’m a HUGE Nora fan, and these four interviews she gave, including her last, are insightful, funny and poignant. It will be the most compelling 84 pages you’ll ever read.
Manhattan ’45, Jan Morris…1986. It opens on June 20th, 1945, when the British ocean liner, Queen Mary, pulls into New York Harbor bringing over 14,000 American service men and women home from fighting the war against Germany. She then recaps what the town of all towns was like in 1945, from the Battery up to Harlem, her language, so fluid, flowing like the harbor, who brought all those heroes home.
The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford….1945 and 1949. Are you romantic and just a tad naughty? Then Nancy and her two timeless novels are for you, the second a sequel to the first. An idol of mine, both for her prose and the way she lived in a time when women weren’t always so independent, her sharp wit will enthrall all who invite her in.
The Bohemians, Norman Ohler...2020. The heartfelt love story of Harro-Schulze-Boysen and Libertas Haas-Heye, two brave, young idealists who led Germany’s biggest anti-Natzi resistance group. Almost poignant to a fault, tough at times to read, but once you start, you’ll be right alongside them.
Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy…1986. Another surprise stumbled upon by accident, left abandoned on a park bench, introducing me to the Wingo family, their southern roots singing Dixie on every page. A delightful read, I couldn’t put down, wishing I could bow before the author. My only regret, is not reading it sooner.
About Alice, Calvin Trillin…2006. Another jewel of a book nesting on my shelf. Mr. Trillin’s 78 page love letter to the woman he lost to illness, will make you smile, as it breaks your heart in two. All I know is, it must be pretty swell to be loved that much.
A Man Without a Country, Kurt Vonnegut…2005. 14 essays written by one of the greatest writers of all time, with his own artwork as an added bonus. Though fifteen years old, they read as if he just wrote them, reflecting where our country stands today. I so wish Kurt were still here, to write 14 more…and so it goes.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald…1925. What’s impressive about a classic is, it never disappoints, and this one, all of 218 pages, is no exception. Based on a real life bootlegger named Max Gerlach, the charm for me is always the casual, careless opulence of Daisy Buchanan. Think Kim Kardashian, with taste.
The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett…1933. Want to take your mind off things, bury yourself in some classic, first-rate fluff? Hammett’s your man. Nick and Nora Charles bray from another time when a man wore a sharp fedora, while a woman asked, are my seams straight sugarplum? What’s that Nick, can you have a scotch before breakfast? Comin’ right up.
When Pete Hamill died on August 5th at 85, I immediately, in tearful tribute, cracked open my Pete vault, spilling treasures like pulp pearls.
A Drinking Life…1994, Piecework…1996, Why Sinatra Matters…1998, andDowntown: My Manhattan…2004, sat beside me like old friends.
The first, a memoir of his drinking days, before he decided to stop pressing his luck, so open and honest that you too might decide to permanently, put down your glass.
An impressive collection of journalistic essays allowing you to be a fly on the wall, as he recaps everything he sees and hears, in a time when, unlike now, the truth mattered.
Next we have an unsugarcoated homage, five months after Frank, Do-Be-Do-Be-Doed his last, yet wrapped in respect as only a seasoned reporter can pen, opening at Manhattan’s legendary P.J. Clarke’s Saloon, while Sinatra, his balls the size of hubcaps, holds court.
Then last but not least, my favorite, Pete’s passionate proof of his love for a city, that might only rival my own.
On behalf of Pete and myself, we wish you a most happy read.
It’s so hard to shut-up…to refrain from comment, silence your tongue, hold that verbal fire.
They should teach it as an alternate language, same as Spanish, or French.
When the woman rubbernecking me at the market, her cart, scraping my heels making me squeal, without even looking at me said, “Excuse me,” as if she were merely passing me on the 18th hole, I took it on the heel, so to speak.
My floor mate, still convinced I’m a leper, inched her way against the wall before running down the stairs, so rather then asking for some of Patrick the cat’s poop to leave in front of her door, said a prayer for her since, she may very well end up in the psych ward, minus her Prada belt.
Speaking of Patrick, whose dad sometimes forgets to feed out of his own pandemic panic, is smart enough to come over to my house for his Chicken of the Sea. When dad said, I’m coaxing him over and could I please stop, once again, refrained from putting a head through a wall. Patrick, who has the patience of a cat, just shook his head and said…pay no attention…I’ll be over later. And yes, I also didn’t say…WHO THE FUCK LETS HIM OUT!
Nope, I was as quiet as a mouse who I’m told, is lurking under 8B’s fridge like a Natzi Spy. This woman, who feels we’re friends since, I’m the only one in the building who speaks to her, keeps leaving me notes warning me about Mighty Mouse. I did smell a rat, finding out she has a little drinking problem. Having one of my own I’ve managed to quell, I would never throw stones, so when her last note, as if she wrote it with a pencil in her mouth, said…
YOU BITCH…I THINK YOU SENT HIM UPSTAIRS!!!
I simply slipped it into the shredder, gave her the finger two floors down, and got out the tuna fish since, Patrick was due any minute.
We’re designed to get through everything, big and small, so the way we’re adapting to the presence of a pandemic should come as no surprise.
We’re such a great model we humans are, IKEA could easily sell us in plexiglass or chrome.
That’s not to say, we’re happy about it.
I make myself go out in the late afternoon, to get another walk in because complacency can be catchy, after all.
I even dress for my half hour excursion so not to slip into the habit of…oh what’s the point of clean pants and mascara.
There is a point, of no return, if you don’t take the time to kick your own tires, and keep that oil changed.
I usually go to my friend’s store to glean some fruit and his homemade potato salad I’ll bring home, washing off the mayo, managing to save the dill…a culinary trick that would even impress Anthony Bourdain from the ether.
I’m cheerful, say thanks when he refuses my money, the pal that he is, and try to ignore the masked snipers in my mist.
The band of non-brothers who aren’t taking life as it’s been handed to us, quite as well as you.
I still smile, and say…you can go first if you’d like, hoping the cloud will disperse, or open the door, or close it tightly when that cloud takes leave, trying not to clap.
Going home too, can be rough, dodging those who feel entitled to be more pissed off than you, jumping out of the way, marching in the street like an alternate army.
We shrug it off, grateful to behave better, though that good cheer of ours may have slightly frayed.
When I walk through the door, stripping off my mask feeling as if I’ve made it across one more minefield, I still think, we’re designed to adapt to anything.
What God forgot, was to add built-in humility that would activate, all on its own…tsk tsk.
It’s close to 10 as I sit on a bench hoping no one joins me besides the breeze that’s blowing through my hair.
All I want are a few minutes of mask-less reading time.
Is that too much for a girl to ask?
Suddenly I hear sharp voices coming from somewhere slicing through the quiet like razors.
I look up to see a couple going at it verbally like boxers in ‘out there’ attire, making me look like a nun, in comparison.
She’s a woman of color with bright red hair and cleavage that could derail a train.
He’s white as chalk, wearing army shorts and a guinea tee, with tattoos on every inch of his exposed body, including his neck the width of a bulldog’s.
They match like a set of punk salt and pepper shakers you could easily pick up on 8th Street.
Me and my book, which seems perfect for the occasion since it’s Anthony Bourdain’s, The Nasty Bits, dedicated to the Ramones, sit there watching them duke it out.
Sadly, my clipped hearing doesn’t allow me to be privy to their particular patois, though I’m catching a fuck and a shit here and there, mesmerized by her boobs heaving, reminding me of the cantaloupes I just saw at the fruit stand, on special.
Even Anthony can’t top that.
I know, why don’t I just mosey onto another bench.
My writer won’t hear of it since, we just may have an essay at hand, after all. Right Tony? 🙂