Excerpts from TODAY,
a catalog of cultural events written for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner,
six days a week, February 1983-December 1986
(ellipses represent deleted addresses and phone numbers)

August 16, 1985
When we got to be a bigger bunny, Daddy said it was time to leave the hutch -- said you'll have to find your own carrots from now on. So we hopped on down the bunny trail until we came to the fork in the road. Now all we lacked was a knife and a spoon, and we had a suspicion where we might obtain those. When the farmer's wife wasn't looking, we went in through the dog door and rifled the silverware. But she caught us by the Sparklett's, and it was only our instinctive cleverness that saved us from a quick fricassee. "Look over there!" we cried. "The 31st annual Southern California Home and Garden Show, opening today at noon at the Anaheim Convention Center.... featuring Antique Row, flowers, actual homes on display, radio stars, Helen O'Connell, wine tastings and more than 600 exhibitors offering thousands of the latest products and services for the home!" And when she turned to look, we scurried away.

On the run, on the bum. Hopped a freight (hopped -- a little bunny humor there), headed west. Learned to play the guitar and sing songs about all the poor disenfranchised bunnies of the world. "Ah'm jes' a lonesome Oryctolagus cuniculus a-lookin' for a burrow to burrow in," we sang. Sure, we knew Woody. Woody Woodpecker. Helluva guy. We teamed up for awhile, cut some sides in Nashville. We were pretty good. Not as good as Prairie Nights, who'll be presenting an evening of free country music tonight at 8 at the Triforium downtown... But pretty good.

Hooked up with the CCC next, kind of a liaison position, explaining to all the little woodland animals just what the Corps would be doing and why we should all pitch in behind President Roosevelt and get prosperity back on its feet. This is just the sort of talk that goes right over the head of little woodland animals. As long as they're getting their nuts, they just don't want to know from anything else. So we had to speak in parables. We said, "Suppose a woman looked like Mae West, and she were to go to Victoria Station in Universal City.... tonight at 7 p.m. She could get herself a free dinner. And then there would be much partying to celebrate Mae West's birthday, and finally, at 10 p.m., there would be a Mae West Look-Alike Contest, with many prizes." Even we couldn't understand what that was supposed to mean. So we hit the road again.

What else? Punched some cattle, a really stupid thing to do -- never pick on anything bigger than you are, especially if it has horns and you don't. Then we decided to be an artist and grow a garret and live in a beard, but a bunny can't live by art alone, and so we looked around for honest work. We wanted to pump gas, but we had to settle for writing about this weekend's Children's Festival of the Arts, today and tomorrow from noon to 5 at Barnsdall Art Park.... featuring magicians, puppets, art workshops, music and film. It's a living. This, too, shall pass. The bunny trail calls.

November 13, 1985
The 1980s? Of course we remember the 1980s! Your grand-granddad's memory isn't that far gone. We remember the 1980s as if they were yesterday. We were working on a newspaper -- paper, that's something people used to write on, when people still wrote -- back in Los Angeles, a few hundred miles off the coast of Arizona. We'd drive to work in one of those old gas-driven cars -- gas, that's a sort of dinosaur residue that once more or less ruled the world -- and we'd pump some change in the parking meter, which was a kind of robot watchdog they had before the Revolution established universal free parking. Then we'd go upstairs -- stairs were like an escalator that didn't move -- and we'd write typically, "Today [that was the name of the column] from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Sunset Recreation Center at UCLA, the County Museum of Art will present its annual Galleria, an arts-and-crafts fair for holiday shoppers, all proceeds to benefit the Museum Council's Acquisition Fund.

Computers had been invented by then, so it wasn't quite the "Dark Ages" -- we weren't scratching cuneiform into clay tablets -- but you still had to do your own thinking, not like now. Sure, it was tough. But ... rewarding. Gave you a feeling of accomplishment and pride to work something out all by yourself. When we'd write, "Today is the entry deadline for Sunday's 11th Annual ECF Volunteer Bowling Tournament, from 10:30 at Holiday Bowl, 3730 Crenshaw Blvd., to benefit the Exceptional Children's Foundation's Snowflake Ball...," that'd make us feel all good inside, like we'd something in the world.

You wouldn't know about that, of course. We mean to say, everything's been done now, hasn't it? No more war, no disease, no parking meters. Everyone's born a millionaire, everyone lives forever. But the 20th century, "those were different times." Youth rampaging through the streets! Power to the people! San Francisco State College president S.I. Hayakawa! An enemy to the counterculture. But the counterculture became the bargain-counterculture, and Hayakawa became a senator and then advised the State Department, and once, on Nov. 13, 1985, at noon, he spoke on his career and on the subject of "U.S. English" (he was a semanticist!) at Cal State  Northridge...

But that's all history, and "history," said St. Henry Ford, "is bunk." It's always a whole new ball game. It's like, Little Feat broke up, and Dixie Dregs broke up, and so guitarist Paul Barrere and keyboardist T. Lavitz formed the Bluesbusters, along with Bonnie Raitt sideman Freebo, Larry Zack and Catfish Hodge, and they played today and tomorrow at the Lighthouse Cafe .... You just never know what'll happen. Who would've ever thought Emmanuel Lewis would grow up to be President of the United States? Life's full of surprises.

January 9, 1986
#111085: "Laughing soap." Turns any bathroom into a situation comedy. Guests will be dropping dead in surprise when the water hits this unique novelty item. Non toxic. #5551212: "Invisible money." Shopkeepers see red but little else when you fork over this humorous "illegal tender." Tell it to the judge! Price varies with rate of exchange. #4-26-55: "Exploding gum." This Bazooka's a real bazooka! Cures even the most inveterate chicle-snappers, for good. A bargain any way you look at it. #8355-21: "Frank Stella Prints: 1967-1982," 83 prints by the famed abstractionist, notable for their ambitious use of color and intaglio, on view at the County Museum of Art.... today through March 2. You can look, but you'd better not touch.

#111459: "Kvetching powder." One whiff turns even the most even-tempered person into a rabid complainer. Sure-fire laffs. Try this one on your clergyman! #12361: "Plastic toxic chemical spill." Ooops! Better mop that up or we'll all ack choke gruggle. Ho ho! It's just a joke! And washable, too. #11235813: "Little Bo-Peep comical toothpick dispenser." No need to be "sheepish" about removing stray food particles when this after-dinner favorite makes the rounds. #2468 who do we appreciate: "Seven little Yippies (and how they grew)." That's our name for "Conspiracy," a 65-minute video, taped in 1970, in which the "Chicago 7" comment on their part in the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention, screening tonight through Sunday at 8 p.m. at EZTV.... Guaranteed 100 percent educational.

#741776: "Gag VCR." It looks like an ordinary videocassette recorder, but when John Q. Unsuspecting bends down to "insert a tape," he gets a faceful of H20! Spring-loaded. High-tech fun for the whole family. #1066: "Malaysian talking monkey box." This is the genuine article. Accept no substitutes. Comes with a certificate of authentication, suitable for filing. #9,#9,#9: "Old Salt Magical Sea-Chest." When Captain Dan goes down for the third time, he takes your money with him. Teaches children the value of a dollar. #16 tons: And what do you get? A James Dean double feature -- "Rebel Without a Cause" and "East of Eden" -- screening at the Rialto Theater, South Pasadena.... Very few laughs.

#10987654321: "Indian rope trick." Indian not included. Rope not included. That's the trick. #32 and falling: "Rubber latke." Chemically altered latex in the shape of a potato pancake. A classic! #1271941: "Finnegan's Wake endless tape loop." The hard-to-understand novel or whatever it is by James Joyce is read into perpetuity when triggered by a doorbell or car alarm. Hours of fun. #4779184: "Pete Christlieb Quartet," featuring Mike Melvoin, Jim Hughart and John Guerin, with singer Yvette Stewart. Sax-led jazz, available tonight at Dino's Italian Inn.... Hours of amusement.

February 9, 1986
May we have your order, please? Uh-huh ... Uh-huh ... Let's see if we've got that. That's 14 Megaburgers, 3 Supermegaburgers, 5 Junior Supermegaburgers, 11 Double Megaburgers, 4 Double Junior Superburgers, 7 Super-Double Tripleburgers, 26 Super Junior Triple Megaburgers, 27 Super Junior Triple Megaburgers with Cheese, 18 Megajumbo Dupleburgers, 4 Triple Double Dupleburgers, 3 Sir Francis Baconburgers, 6 All-Soy Vegetarian California® Healthburgers, 2 Trim-Lite Hemiburgers, 4 Extra Trim-Lite Double Hemiburgers, 6 Super-Extra Double-Trim-Lite Bunburgers, and the Kronos Quartet, opening a six-concert series at UCLA's Schoenberg Hall with works by Carter, Sierra and Schoenberg, today at 4 p.m....

And then, let's see, you've got the 9-piece box of Dixie-Fried Chicken Balls, with the Smorgasbord of Sauces -- Spicy Teriyaki, Colonel Mustard, Red Gloop, Sweet 'n' Tartar Sauce, Hot and Sour Fudge, Jeu de Pomme and Bleu Cheese -- with the Monster Mash Potatoes (6 Superscoops), the Bottomless Cole Slaw and Ma's Special-Recipe Home-Cooked® Chalky White Hot and Piping Biscuits. Plus you want, ah, the Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention, today at the Ambassador Hotel.... featuring lots of comics, pulp magazines, trading cards and movie memorabilia, along with a special appearance by special-effects wizard Gene Warren Jr., who will let a few cats out of a bag, metaphorically speaking.

And you had 4 Cap'n Ahab Fish Legs, 16 Devil's Egg Salad Craw-Sant® Flaky French-Style Sandwiches, 12 Ham and Cheese Product Craw-Sant® Flaky French-Style Sandwiches, 6 Guacamole and Sprouts Craw-Sant® Flaky French-Style Healthwiches, 26 "Toast and Mr. Chicken"® Open-Face Char-Grill Delights, 53 orders of 40-Weight Onion Rings, 69 orders of Extra-Thin Fat-Fried Potato Flakes, and the Chinatown Firecracker 10K Run, which begins this morning at 8:30 on North Broadway near College Street....

And 42 Creamyshakes in assorted flavors -- vanilla, walnut, brie and apricot -- plus a Carbon-o-Lated Raspberry Pop, 16 Koala Colas in the Big Quart Size for which you receive Plastic Premium Souvenir Cups, each bearing the face of a former Secretary of State -- 2 non-dairy Chocomilks, 20 Hermetically Sealed Tubes of Apple Compote, 3 Fairyland Puddin' Cups, and Peter Hall's 1968 film of the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," screening this morning at 11 at the Royal Theater.... Will that be all? It comes to $2,045.67. Drive through, please.

March 9, 1986
You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy. We tried to once, and by the time we were done, all that were left were a snake, some snails and a few puppy dog tails. Count it as a lesson in the folly of going against a wise old saw.
       "But Uncle Today," cry all the little children gathered at our feet like hounds around a treed raccoon. "How can a saw be wise?"
       "Have you never seen a barn dance?" we ask, assuming for an instant the aspect of an old Zen master. "Have you never seen a horse fly? A house call? A truck farm? What time is it when an elephant sits on a fence?"
       "We don't know!" they chirp in chorus.
       "Time for "Working Women on Television: The Situation Comedy (1950-70)," presented by the Museum of Broadcasting tonight at 8 at the Bing Theater of the County Museum of Art..... comprising episodes of "Our Miss Brooks," "Meet Millie," "Private Secretary," "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "Julia," introduced by Rose Marie and Ann Sothern."

That said, we climb the long and winding staircase to our attic room, filled to bursting with souvenirs of yesterday's memories: ticket stubs, dried flowers, dried apricots, rolled oats, whoopee cushions, tire irons, shell casings, sharks' teeth, wooden nickels, broken-down carousels, Casey Stengel, the cast of "Where's Charley?," Bedford-Stuyvesant, the Grand Canyon, the Gobi Desert and every single issue of Look magazine handsomely bound into one very large volume. Sometimes we think we should open it all to tours, much as the Science Fiction Club of Orange County will tonight tour the science fiction special archives at Cal State Fullerton, with all interested sci-fi enthusiasts invited to meet at 7 at Fullerton Savings....

But these are merely the dreams of an old newspaperman we found banging on the office door one day. "I have a hot scoop!" cried the old newspaperman.
       "You have a hot scoop, all right," we catcalled from the safety of a second-floor window. "A hot scoop of mashed potatoes!" And we emptied the water cooler onto his head.
       "We were fast friends after that -- always sharing secrets, trading gossip and making big plans to see Cuban expatriate jazz saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera perform tonight at 10 at the Palace Court....

But all things must end, even this column -- and where would we be if it didn't? So finally it's off to bed, with a nightcap pulled down firmly over our chin and the electric blanket set to "broast," that the sandman may come to throw his magic dirt into our tightly shut eyes, sending us to blessed sleep and visions of Comedy Night at the Lhasa Club.... with an open mike from 8 to 9 p.m. and the old regular mike from then on.
       And how was your day?

April 3, 1986
Way down upon the Swanee River, we met a million-dollar baby in a 5-and-10-cent store. This was only the beginning of our good luck, as in 25 straight passes we parlayed a pocketful of loose change into a bankroll that would have choked a Clydesdale if we'd been fool enough to feed it to one. Which we were not, and are not. This is a story of persistence, of endurance, a story of laughing in the mouth of fate and flying in the face of the odds. We pulled ourself up by our own bootstraps, though we had no shoes. And yet when we spun through the revolving doors of Rockefeller Center, Mrs. Roosevelt took our hand and said, "There's someone I want you to meet." Ladies and gentlemen, that man was Ty Cobb, and he told us something we've never forgotten. He said, "Today from noon to 1:30 p.m. , in the courtyard of the 400 S. Hope St. building, across from the new Ketchum-Downtown YMCA site, there'll be a fitness festival and health fair, including participatory exhibitions of rope dancing and aerobics and free fitness consultation testing, as well as mimes, the mayor and the USC Women's Gymnastics Team."

It was advice we took to heart, and soon our name was legend all up and down Broadway. "There he goes," we would hear hopeful young chorines gasp as we made our way from the office to Lindy's for our customary morning strudel, "the most powerful man in show business." And for all the truth of it, it was a mantle we wore lightly, for we had been around, and we had seen them come and seen them go. What now of King Tut, whose "Boyhood in the Amama Age" is the first of three Thursday evening lectures on "The Wonders of Ancient Civilization" presented by the California Museum of Ancient Art.... Nowadays, he couldn't get a table at Elaine's.

But we weren't about to go down without a fight. "Janey," we barked, "hand us that flare gun. We've got a plan."
       "It's madness, yer honor," she said, clutching our arm. "A thousand against one."
       "A thousand against two, Janey, if you'll have us."
       "Oh, Rex! How long I've waited to hear those words."
       But there was no time for small talk. Night was coming on, and with it the 8 p.m. performance of I Musici, Italy's most celebrated chamber ensemble, at Ambassador Auditorium....

Well, that's our story. We finally bought that orchard and set about raising the family we'd always wanted. Susan's just starting college and the twins will be getting out of the reformatory any day now. We guess you could say we've done all right. Yessiree. Mel Torme's got nothing on us, except he's guesting today at 2 p.m. on "Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz" (KCRW 89.9 FM), where he'll let his fingers do the talking -- and we're not. But that's a small price to pay for true happiness.

July 19, 1986
       1. Dr. Willard Millbank, "The Allegory of the Bee in Modern Matrimony" (Milwaukee: Discus Press, 1932), pp. 14-100. The conclusions drawn here are clearly syllogistic, but not without entertainment value.
       2. Corny Kelleher, "The Horse in the Bathroom and Other Amusing Stories" (New York: Tidy Books, 1967), p. 10. It is this "horse of a different color" that occupies the professor's thoughts during the penultimate scene. Ethan Johnson proposes alternately ("How I Saved the Day: Sin and Symbolism in a Daily Newspaper," The Quarterly Agon, XVII, 1969) that the horse represents "the failure of the will." This will be seen to be just plain baloney.
       3. The Ellis Islands are nine and a half miles square.
       4. The cabman's "Mssstrk, Glabobabbo. Where to, bub?" is an echo of the professor's earlier conversation with Mary, the Hyacinth Girl.
       5. The Mary Rose, flagship of Henry VIII, sank in the Solent (an English channel between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight) July 19, 1545, and was raised October 11, 1982. A great variety of well-preserved Tudor artifacts found on board go on display today at the Natural History Museum....

       6. Pas si bête: "Not so stupid.
       7. The original manuscript adds: "She had a kind of slam-bang pizzazz; she was one in a million." No mention is made of the carving knife (line 47) or the airplane engine (line 64).
       8. Cf. Caroline Gurk, "Our Bodies, Our Hobbies" (Chicago: McTavish Goldfarb Reed, 1970), pp. 102-104. Professor Gurk takes the Platonic view.
       9. Ibid, p. 162.
       10. Exene Cervenka and Modi Frank, "Bad Day" (Super 8 film transferred to 1-inch videotape), an L.A. underground western, featuring, among many local celebrities, Kevin "Silverado" Costner, screening tonight at 8:30 and 9:30 at the Lhasa Club....

       11. Dobzhanksy, Theodosius (Grigorievich), 1900-75. U.S. geneticist, born in Russia.
       12. See Kathy Wells, "Living in L.A. .... and Loving It!" (Sarasota: New College Press, 1976), pp. 1234-1241, for a concise discussion of the pros and cons.
       13. Obviously a joke. And not a very good one.
       14. A pun on the word "peduncle."
       15. James Newton, premiere American jazz flutist, appearing tonight at Hop Singh's... to perform music from his recent Ellington tribute album, The African Flower, upcoming Blue Note LP and who knows what else.

       16. This argument is further confused by Willikins (Samuel Jane) in his "Bicycles Bicycles Bicycles" (Berkeley: Turkey Lurkey), p. 3.
       17. A woodchuck is made neither of wood nor of chuck.
       18. Bluto did it.
       19. Federico Fellini, "La Strada" and "Ginger and Fred," the first starring Anthony Quinn, the second starring Marcello Mastroianni, and both starring Giulietta Masina and screening tonight at the Beverly....
       20. Ibid. Ovid.

November 2, 1986
I wanted to tell you about my new band, the Surprising Metaphors -- what we do is stand up and scream surprising metaphors (hence the name), while whoever draws the short straw bangs along on an assortment of pots and pans -- but I think I'll tell you instead about a band I used to be in, the Unabridged Dictionary. We had this one song -- it was our one song -- based on the 1974 edition of "Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary" (which is, in fact, abridged, but which we chose because it had all the dirty words in it, and we meant to be provocative), but we were only ever able to perform it as far as "aardwolf" before emptying the house. Well, you can imagine! Eventually, we just had to admit the truth -- the Unabridged Dictionary would never be as famous as incendiary rocker Iggy Pop, formerly of Detroit's The Stooges, whose first tour in four years stops tonight and tomorrow night at the Palace....

After the band broke up, I drifted around for a while, did a little journalism, hung out in coffeehouses snatching leftovers. I wrote 7,000 pages of an unfinished novel, but show business was still the siren that sung to me most sweetly, and so I hooked up with a tall blonde from the cafes and we whipped up a folkish duo we impishly yet prophetically named Rice & Beans. For it soon became apparent that we were more of a side dish than a main course. Rice ran away with our manager, while I turned for solace to the reggae exhortations of Bunny Wailer, who appears tonight at 7:30 at the Greek Theater....

That was fairly inspiring, and so I decided to form my own reggae band, which I called Hollywood Babylon. I stopped washing my hair and wrote worshipful songs to Jayne Mansfield (whom I "dubbed" Jayne Rastafari) and Marilyn Monroe, but they were too dull even for me to listen to, let alone perform, so I added another 7,000 pages to my novel and thought about going back to school to major in video art, such as will be featured in the program "Bay Area Video," screening today at the Newport Harbor Art Museum....

But I thought better of it -- I mean, there's got to be even less money in video art than in popular music -- and after writing another 7,000 pages of my unfinished novel (another 7,000 pages ought to finish it, I'm almost positive) I put together the Surprising Metaphors. This may be my last shot. I'm not as young as I used to be. Sometimes I think I should have taken my mother's advice and studied ballet. Why, if I had, I might today be a member of Los Angeles Choreographers and Dancers, offering a free program of modern dance today at the Brand Library .... Or I might even be internationally acclaimed Chitresh Dash, who presents the classical Indian dance "Kathak" at 3 p.m. in the Bing Theater of the County Museum of Art .... Well, that's the way the cookie crumbles into the shifting sands of time. And how's that for a surprising metaphor? Stinks, doesn't it?

November 6, 1986
Julius Caesar turns to his wife and says, "Honey, do you mind?" She shoots him a look no kinder than any she's given him for six or seven months now and rises, gathering her skirts. The Imperial Guard exchange glances, snicker. Calpurnia walks out into the garden. She can count the stars -- she is a very good counter.
       "One," she says, "two, three, four, five...." And so on, until she has counted herself to sleep upon the terrazzo. Pixies tiptoe from the bushes to braid her hair in comical design. She appears to have a topiary upon her head.
       Calpurnia has a dream. She dreams she is piloting a zeppelin high above the French countryside. Her co-pilot is a geranium. How lovely are the chateaux! And the winding rivers, so serene that in them she can see the reflection of her airship. Now to her mind waft gently thoughts of "The Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Knidos," to be discoursed upon by Iris Love, tonight at 8 at the J. Paul Getty Museum....

Calpurnia wakes to the patter of rain upon the bridge of her Roman nose, upon her arms, her legs, her topiary hair. Her toga is nearly soaked through. She smells the wet earth, the cypress trees, her own perfume. Far off in the distance, a train whistle blows.
       Slowly she stands, and slowly she makes her way back inside to where the servants are busy erasing all traces of last night's fiasco. She goes to her dressing room, where she exchanges her soggy garments for a terrycloth bathrobe. Sartorially, her tastes are simple. Not for Calpurnia the stunning examples of 17th- to 19th-century European embroidery represented in "With Needle and Thread: Recent Acquisitions from the Dixon, Horowitz Collections," opening today at the County Museum of Art....

Sliding her small, perfect feet into a pair of fuzzy blue bunny slippers, she makes her way back through the house to the kitchen. She asks the cook for some coffee, sits down, finds a cigarette in her bathrobe pocket, lights it, opens the morning paper. The news is all bad. A set-to in the Forum, traitorous rumblings. She things of moving back home, back to the Rockies, as seen (along with other snowy locales) in Warren Miller's latest ski film, "Beyond the Edge," offering glimpses of slopeside daredevils and Dr. Ruth Westheimer and screening tonight at 8 at UCLA's Wadsworth Theater....

Julius Caesar lies in bed -- it's round, it revolves -- sleeping fitfully, grimacing under a hangover. He does not hear his wife come in, does not see her linger momentarily by the bedside, does not stir as she changes into her traveling clothes. He'll be sitting alone tonight at 8, when the Guarneri String Quartet and the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio appear in tandem concert at Ambassador Auditorium.... But he doesn't know it yet.

November 9, 1986
A tiger got loose from the city zoo and came to our house. He was a white Siberian tiger and very rare. We called him "Snowy," after Tintin's dog. I taught him to respond to his name and to eat with a knife and fork. Inside of a year he was doing trigonometry. I rode him to school every morning to the delight and terror of my classmates. Finally, the principal called my parents and said that it was no business of his what kind of pets I kept at home, but that if tigers had been meant to come to school there would be bars on the classroom windows. Of course there were bars on the classroom windows, this being the 20th century, but what was the use of arguing? Snowy was big enough about it not to take it personally. Daddy offered us as a consolation a trip to Hop Singh's ... to hear jazz trombonist Michael Vlatkovich and his quarter, along with the Vinny Golia Ensemble, tonight at 8. But Snowy hates the trombone.

My teen years were, I suppose, as terrifying as yours, but even in my worst moments, the thought that I had a tiger sleeping at the foot of my bed and tutoring me in math gave me a kind of confidence, a feeling of being somehow special, out of the run of the mill. It emboldened me to ask out the prettiest girl in school -- a girl graceful and lovely enough to be a member of Los Angeles Choreographers and Dancers, who will perform a free program of modern and tap dance works today at 3:30 p.m. at Plaza de la Raza.... So what if she turned me down? I still had my tiger.

Later, when I had conquered adolescence and gone away to college, I kept up a correspondence with Snowy, who was by this time sharing a loft with a French pop singer named Cherie Cherie. Maybe you remember her -- she had a big hit with that song about the boy with the round eyes and the girl "who couldn't say maybe."  It was all very European, with lots of heavy breathing. She was working on a follow-up song, to which Snowy would contribute the lyrics. He was writing quite seriously then -- stories, plays, poems -- and each letter from him read like a syllabus. "Have you read Raul Zurita?" he would ask. "The Chilean poet will appear today at 5 p.m. with translator Jack Schmidt to present a reading of his recently published "Anteparaiso/Anteparadise" and other words at Midnight Special Bookstore....

The last time I saw Snowy, he was bicycling down the boardwalk. The usual wide berth was being afforded him. "Hello!" he cried, pulling to a shaky stop. "I've almost got the hang of this."
       I had never seen him on a bicycle before. "This is new."
       "Mmmmm, yes. I'm thinking of entering the Swatch Turkey Climb. Have you heard of it?"
       "Sure. It's a bicycle race against the clock, up super-steep Mountaingate Drive this morning from 9 a.m. to noon (free to spectators)."
       "Do you think I stand a chance?" he asked, grinning. But the question was rhetorical.

November 16, 1986
William Wordsworth pulls the rig out of the weigh station and rejoins the interstate. He sights along the Mack bulldog vibrating tightly atop the grill: His target is the horizon, he's a bullet, the highway describes his flight. "The world is too much with me," he thinks and turns on the radio. Static.
       He remembers the poet in Cocteau's "Orpheus," guided by a voice out of the ether, and wonders if such a thing might happen to him. He lets the static run for 20, 30, 50 miles.
       Occasionally, he'll catch a garbled bit of Tammy or Hank, or a fragment of a weather report, but nothing of any practical use, nothing that decently scans, nothing fit for a good Romantic ode.
       He turns off the radio, drums his fingers upon the steering wheel. "Your cheating heart/Has (hath?) made me blue/Low clouds with a chance of rain/High of 78, low tonight 52."
       Well, there might be something in that, after all, just as there might be something at the Dominican Sisters' Grand Charity Boutique, today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Monastery of the Angels.... offering handmade items, hand-dipped chocolate, pumpkin bread and more.

Wordsworth sees the revolving neon of the Tintern Eatery ("Good Food/All the Time") flash on in the thickening dusk.
       He swings the wheel, downshifts into the sagging asphalt of the lot.
       Inside, an orange light predominates. It ricochets off the restaurant chrome, settling into the vinyl. A waitress named Star turns a wet rag across a patronless counter. "Bill," she says, "how're ya?"
       "Been better," says Wordsworth. An hour of radio static has given him a headache. "Coffee, Star, please."
       He walks to the jukebox, punches in some organ music by Bach, Franck and Dupre, to be performed by award-winning organist William Charles Beck tonight at 7:30 at St. Cyril of Jerusalem Church, Encino.... and looks up at the window. Rain.

"Your pal was in here not two hours ago," says Star.
       "Coleridge was here?" Wordsworth finds a stool. "I thought he was in Denver."
       "Well, he isn't now. He's driving a Peterbilt full of trash compactors down to L.A. Said he was meeting your sister later, in Little Tokyo, where at 1 p.m. in the North Library of the Japan America Cultural and Community Center.... ten finalists will compete in the second annual Japanese Speech Contest, for orators who speak Japanese as a second language (free)."

Wordsworth is back on the road. It's dark now, and the rain is exploding off his windshield. He unwraps a candy bar, bites off the end.
       That was a mistake, he decides. He rolls down his window, spits the chocolate out into the night.
       Turning on the radio, he hears a report that Mickey Mouse will celebrate his birthday today from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles Children's Museum....
       "Coleridge!" says Wordsworth to himself, and wonders why he's always the last to know.

November 24, 1986
Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he. Everybody knew that. "Old King Cole? Why, he's a merry old soul. And a merry old soul is he." But three broken fiddles played a different tune. And that's where I came in. Call me Goose. We can leave my first name out of it. I didn't choose it, and it's always been kind of an embarrassment to me. Mr. Goose is all right, if you want to be formal about it, but plain "Goose" is good enough. I've never been one to stand on ceremony. That's a luxury I can't afford. Like silk underwear or cars that actually run or saxophone lessons from Branford Marsalis, who appears in concert, along with jazz singer Bobby McFerrin tonight at 8 at the Beverly Theater....

The place was a real mess. A "shambles" is what my ex-wife would have called it, before that big spider frightened her off her tuffet. The king's pipe still lay on the arm of his throne. I swept it into a plastic bag, stuffed the bag into my pocket.
      "You," I said to the crone they'd left to hover over me. "Old Mother Hubbard. Where's the cupboard?" She lighted a candle and shuffled away down a corridor, her fleabag mutt skulking around her ankles.
       The cupboard was bare. That was no surprise. A pro job. It was a cinch they hadn't left even fingerprints. "Anybody been in here" I asked the crone. "Since yesterday?"
       She shrugged and cackled. I sensed a loose screw. Call it a hunch. Maybe she'd spent too many hours listening to the music of cracked composer P.D.Q. Bach or to depraved DJ Dr. Demento, both of whom appear tonight at 7:30 at UCLA's Royce Hall to discuss "The Wonderful World of Spoofing and Poking Fun: A Musical Tribute." I don't know. But it gave me the creeps. I hate the creeps.

That's kind of funny, isn't it? You'd think I'd have gotten used to the creeps by now. Most do. Some get so they even look forward to them. They go out of their way to put themselves in "situations." It's entirely unprofessional. I knew a girl, Mary -- she was good, one of the best I ever saw -- who took to dragging this lamb around, just to complicate things. One day things got a little too complicated. You can guess the rest. Suffice it to say, it's nothing you'd ever want to see on TV. Not like "Black Accent on L.A.," which focuses on the political, social and artistic life of black Los Angeles, tonight at 10 over KSCI-Channel 18. Not like that at all.

I found my own way back to the throne room. Curtains blew in the breeze. I felt the pipe in my pocket. A clear picture began to emerge. Old King Soul was a merry old soul, all right. They're all merry, until the well runs dry. I thought of Jack Horner, slumped in his padded corner, poking a purple thumb into his Christmas pie. "What a good boy am I," he said to me. His eyes were black and empty. Suddenly, I felt like chucking the whole thing. I felt like lighting off to "Ride the High Country," with Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott, screening tonight with the Nicholas Ray western "Johnny Guitar" at the Nuart.... Looking back on it, I probably should have.

December 24, 1986
Marley was dead to begin with, her long, blond hair spreading like melting pools of butter across the carpet. There was a funny smell in the room, the smell of electricity, the smell of bad nerves. I didn't like it.
       "You touch anything?" It's not a question I like to ask, but I have to ask it. It's my job to ask it, and I do my job well. I don't like my job, but it's my job. And I do it. Because I have to. Because it's my job.
       "No, not a thing," he said. He was standing behind me, all the way into the corner, putting plenty of space between himself and the stiff. He was a shifty old buzzard. I could see without a fluoroscope that he was steel clean through. And he was lying through his teeth.
       "She was my ... protégé," he said. "We were supposed to go to the movies. 'Children of Paradise,' Marcel Carne's epic film of love and the theater in 19th-century France, is playing tonight and tomorrow at the New Beverly.... And this is how I found her."

"Tell me, Mr. Scrooge. Why didn't you call the cops? Why did you call me?"
       "I-I-I don't know, really. I suppose I was thinking about the newspapers, the bad publicity. I'm a man of business, you understand."
       "Yeah," I said, crushing my smoke on the heel of my shoe. "I just bet you are."
       Outside, the neon flashed: "New Works by young ceramicist Anthony Mangliomot, displaying a sense of humor and fantasy and bold use of color, on display through January 11 at the Pacific Asian Museum...." It was a big sign, but it wasn't the sign I was looking for.

"Can you help me?"
       "I don't know, Mr. Scrooge. Can I? Can anybody? It all depends on what you want."
       "I'll pay. I've got money."
       "Rich men usually do. It's what makes them ... rich. I'm $250 a day, $100 expenses, and I get a bonus if they don't hang you."
       "That is rather more than I expected," he coughed.
       "Listen, pal, I've got better ways to spend a Christmas Eve than running a bargain fair." That was a lie, but a necessary one. "Nothing in life is free, except for the gift certificate offered to all diners for the equivalent amount of any meal consumed tonight between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m. at JAX.... And technically, that isn't free either. Take it or leave it."

I went back to the office and poured myself a couple of slugs. They slithered away across the desk top. God, they were disgusting creatures. But they couldn't help it. They were just slugs. Those were the cards they'd been dealt.
       But we were supposed to be different, to know better. Free will -- wasn't that the whole "advantage" of being human? To be able to decide for oneself whether or not to support U.S. intervention in Central America, one byproduct of which is the exhibit of drawings by children from Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugee camps, on display through January 4 at the Los Angeles Children's Museum.... I thought of Scrooge, and the money I was taking from him. But I knew I'd never get that bonus and, frankly, I liked it better that way.


Copyright Robert Lloyd © 1985, 1986, 2006