Monday, August 27, 2012

Back from Out of Town

When away, the New York City newspapers are bypassed for the local ones. Only those, and of course the Daily Racing Form, are actually paid for and left with. But a well-stocked Cumberland Farms, or Stewarts, will always have all downstate papers ready to be scanned, or purchased. Thus, I didn't miss viewing one single New York Post headline.

Certainly the one, "Break Point..." about the U.S. Open tennis umpire who clunked her husband so sufficiently hard on the head with a coffee mug that she rendered him lifeless caught my eye, and tickled my mind.

Cups and saucers are not found in much use anymore. It's a mug, or a take-out container that delivers the tea or coffee to the lips. But I was confident that if mugs hadn't become so popular the New York Post would have easily been able to claim that the woman killed her husband with a Loving Cup.
Life goes on.

Obituaries. Left town not too long after Gore Vidal had passed away. Then, while away, I saw and read, even locally, that Phyllis Diller had passed away. All we need now is for Joan Rivers to stretch out lifeless and we will have a triumvirate of comedians who appeared on the 'Tonight Show's' couch with Johnny Carson who have now left us. Things come in threes. Even while in surgery, Joan might be found by the Grim Reaper to complete the trifecta. As always, choose your surgeon wisely.

Sa-ra-to-ga, that lovely span of a's is noted for many things, the spring water and spas being some of them. The spring water is potable, but way too nasty tasting for me to consider even brushing my teeth with. It is so full of metal and minerals that I suspect a mouthful of it would cause the Transportation and Safety Board to pull you of of line and examine you further for explosives.

And then there's Poopie's, the East Glens Falls breakfast and lunch place that we will look forward to going back to until we die.  Located in a plain residential part of town, Poopie's has been serving the public well since 1954. There is a Mamma Leone-type picture near the cash register of the owner's decreased mother.

The owner does all the cooking, and the three members of the all female waitstaff hustle the floor and counter so well and so fast you'd think the coffee pots were an extension of their hands. After a few visits it occurred to this customer that they coordinated the color of their tops to be different each day.

After observing this trend it was asked what color would appear the following day. I guessed orange and two of the three said orange would be good. Try and as I might to match, I had already won my two near-orange shirts. Even though the next day I was out of uniform we still got the same speedy service.

On leaving the last day I offered that now given the knowledge that the coffee jockeys appeared in different colors, I would be better prepared next year to match. After the first trip in I would still have enough clean clothes that matching at least once for the rest of the week shouldn't be a problem. I can even do burgundy.

Of course I brought home a sack of dirty laundry. I'm not sure if my wife loves me, or just loves to do laundry. Perhaps both. I always have clean clothes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Aside from being the name of our current cat, the word "Cosmo" meant a good deal in the middle sixties. "Cosmo" of course was short for Cosmopolitan, the magazine, that once Helen Gurley Brown took over, unfailingly had a different, very attractive female on its cover, showing the same amount and shape of cleavage, edition-to-edition, along with some blurb, preceded by numbers.  In fact, the cleavage looked so similar cover-to-cover that you might have wondered did they just somehow fill in the rest of the image. But, I never complained to anyone.

Helen Gurley Brown has passed away at 90, and today's Times gives her a well-acknowledged existence at the hands of Margalit Fox. The lede alone shows what you can get away with these days. Very Cosmo

Helen is considered to have done a lot for women of that middle 60s, 70s era, as well as having created a slew of publishing imitators that still exist over 30 years later. But she did something for guys too.

As a teen-ager in the 60s a Cosmo cover was nearly as good as Playboy, It also was educational, especially to someone who liked math. Until Cosmo, numbers were never associated with sex and feelings of any kind. But now you were informed there were "6 ways...21 things...7 building blocks..." that you should be aware of.

To this teen-ager this was gratifying news. The world ahead held numbers, and an opposite sex that was being tutored in how to enjoy things.  I could hardly wait.

I never did read Cosmo, and I never even saw a Cosmo-type female anywhere. Of course they must have existed, they just didn't hang-out in the wholesale flower district where I'd find myself at six in the morning ordering flowers for the family shop.  Cosmo-type females never seemed to come into the shop, or get any flowers that I was asked to deliver to either. They must have all existed above 59th Street.

Ms. Fox, in her lively obituary, notes the absolute truth: that HBG and Cosmopolitan created a slew of imitators. "The look of women's magazines today--a sea of voluptuous models and titillating cover lines..."

The other day at Hudson News in Penn Station I glanced down and had a view of any number of such magazines, with one that caught the still math-seeking-eye, proclaiming "352..." of something.  I thought, "jeez, the numbers are really getting higher as I get older."

I nearly bought the magazine.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Christopher Buckley, fils WFB

Certainly when someone like Gore Vidal passes away you have to expect that he will be written about and commented on by those who lived in his wake.

But, when you go at 86 those talking about you are not likely to be your contemporaries, but rather the offspring of your contemporaries. I found such is the case when I followed a link to an article in the New Republic by William F. Buckley, Jr.'s (WFB) son, Christopher.

Following the link was worth it. The New Republic has never appeared in this house, online, hardcopy or in any place I've called home. I've never even seen it in a well stocked medical waiting room. So, in other words, I wouldn't have gotten there on my own.

Of course it might seem ironic that WFB's son was writing something that appeared in a left-leaning publication, but works of his dad probably did, if for no other reason than that's what these editors do. They're boxing matchmakers who bring the combatants together. And Christopher himself is certainly not coming out of the closet to write about Dad and his Moriarty. He's an established writer in his own right who also happens to be quite funny.

Certainly being the only child of Patricia and William, Christopher couldn't be expected to fall far from the Indo-Europeon family tree of languages I've seen in some dictionaries. When his father passed away no less than two obituaries used the word, "sesquipedalia,"  along with others, to describe him, It's good to keep dictionaries handy when encountering the Buckley family.

The piece in the New Republic is a great read. Certainly not long, but it covers the field. There is perhaps the inevitable use of a Latin phrase, and a reference to another foreign word that I almost knew. Christopher and I, I'm sure would never be confused for each other. Yet, we do share some common recollections.

His father was born in 1925, and mine in 1915. Both fathers have now passed away and both seemed to hold Charles Lindbergh in high regard, although for different reasons. My father saw the Lindbergh ticker tape parade up Broadway, and seemed to have closely followed the trial of Bruno Hauptmann, the man convicted of kidnapping and killing Lindbergh's son.  WFB was closer to relating and explaining Lindbergh's character and political views.

Christopher relates bravely attempting to go through his father's papers when he encountered a huge file labeled "Vidal Legal." He seems to have immediately tossed it, with relief.

My father probably also had a huge file, unlabeled, that became filled with the various legal proceedings against him in light of his ownership of two flower shops, a bar restaurant, (all while working full time at the Brooklyn Navy Yard) and living in a society where people who were owed money wanted it, and if they didn't get it when they thought they should, resorted to legal means. Certainly landlords. I never found such a file, but if I had I would have kept it.

When my father followed his work to Washington, D.C. he told me that perhaps he could only see me on Sundays, since they can't serve subpoenas on Sundays. If he had been Italian and drank from a tiny coffee cup the Daily News would have given him a nickname.

The one Latin phrase that is inserted in the piece is: De gustibus, non disputandum est. My knowledge of Latin is confined to U.S. coins and grandfather clocks.  I do recognize "de gustibus" as probably having to do with eating. Turns out I was getting warm: "there is no disputing about tastes."

For balance, there is the retelling of a book blurb Vidal bestowed on Christopher Hitchens, something about naming a dauphin, or delfino to himself.  Again reference is needed, but it was worth it. Dauphin refers to the eldest son of a king in France, in the 15th century, Delfino means dolphin. Vidal was born in the wrong century. He should have been the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Mr. C. Buckley's essay is hardly all high brow. He does write, and I guess these days the editors of  certain publications allow it, that great Anglo-Saxon word that Richard Burton loved and that I didn't have to look up.

You have to wonder about Christopher's feelings about a father who likely appeared in home movies and pictures, but is still out there for all the world to still see so publicly on YouTube. And without being set in the context of his times. The judgments might not always be so nice, and might veer toward inaccurate, but certainly they've been well handled so far.

Watching the digital confrontations are far better than reading flawed transcripts of the exchanges. The tone, volume, and especially the body language are great. The barley audible words are even better. Vidal just plain liked to aggravate WFB. He seems happiest doing it.

The segment that CB refers to is by far the most watched, and seems to be the one where his father might have socked Vidal. He was perhaps held back by a rush of propriety, or, as CB lovingly relates, a braced, broken clavicle underneath his jacket and shirt. It is perhaps too bad. They both might have been at each others faces like ball players and umpires, or very annoyed subway riders about to go to the next level.

It was, as Charles McGrath closes his NYT Vidal obituary with Vidal's own quote, "such fun, such fun."

When you outlive your adversaries, you add the last word.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Gore Vidal

I must admit I blinked the other day and strained my thoughts just a bit when I saw the NYT online home page announce that Gore Vidal had passed away: 1925-2012. I had just prior to checking the paper's home page received an e-mail from an obituary distribution list that had a quote of Mr. Vidal's, apparently lifted from the obituary, but also one he was likely famous for: "There is not one human problem that could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise." Would make quite a campaign slogan, and it might have been his.

The reason I blinked at 1925-2012 was that I thought, to paraphrase someone else's words, "Vidal was alive yesterday?" Thus, I was thinking 2012 had passed, and why didn't I remember that he was no longer with us? I also worried I was looking at the wrong calendar.

Of course the outquote e-mail was precipitated by the news of his passing. This news wasn't met with any particular respect, or affection on my part for the guy. I long ago came to believe he was immensely conceited and lived in Italy so he didn't have to watch, or hear about, the 'Today" show.

But what his passing did kindle were memories of the time I paid attention to the guy because we was on the Johnny Carson show quite often, and his name and picture seemed to be constantly appearing in bookstore windows. I never read anything he wrote and wondered how did anyone get paid and live with themselves for a book, "Myra Breckenridge," made into a movie starring Raquel Welch? Of course I was much younger then, where today I wouldn't have the same question.

I can't remember a single thing he said on the Carson show, but I listened to him because his words, phrasing and appearance drew attention. Charisma, I guess.

I righty remember he was against the war in Vietnam, and he seemed to explain at length why. A lot of people then were against that war. I probably was as well, but never gave voice to my thoughts other than to wonder how a strip of land in a corner of Asia was tactically going to amount to anything. To me, it was not like WWII where Nazis conquering Europe was more of a threat.

But you listened to Vidal, even if you couldn't agree with him less. The only quote I remember about the Vietnam War was one I heard on the Carson show. I remember it came from the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. who made fun of how the news reported the war. At the time, the nightly newscasts would never fail to mention how many North Vietnamese were killed, or captured. The numbers were always seemingly low, and probably not equal to the number of parking tickets handed out in Brooklyn on a given day.

Mr. Schlesinger, famously, at least for me, said, "My God, you'd think we have turnstiles on the Ho Chi Minh Trail." I remember Carson laughed a bit, but not until it sunk in. It was that kind of wording that Vidal presented.

So, what do I miss? I miss the era I came of age in when guys like Vidal and William Buckley were at each others' throats, but with words so well chosen that they made you think--and take out a dictionary. I miss an era that would have produced a far different photograph than the one mentioned in a blog posting of June 8, 2010, regarding the Cafe Nicholson and those pictured there. The same 1949 photo appears above. Some will recognize the faces.

It's hard to imagine either of them, or anyone who wrote in that era, using Twitter to communicate a thought with its 140 character maximum. For them, that would be a third of a sentence.

The NYT obituary, running a full page, is a lovely piece about the passage of a man and his era. A Vidal feud with the NYT is mentioned and might well be true. Vidal's passing was not mentioned on the front page, not even in the teaser portion announcing stories inside. A reference to his TV duels with William F. Buckley, Jr. is mentioned, with no reason given that Vidal's passing had precipitated the story. In contrast, today's paper mentions John Keegan in the teaser space, the historian who just passed away at 78. Vidal was 86 and had written 25 books and many essays. He was the type of literary lion you would expect to at least be acknowledged on the front page. Certainly John Updike was.

Regardless, the passage of time is what the passing is about. Mr. McGrath's piece touchingly reports that Vidal's companion, Mr.Austen, who passed away in 2003 "asked from his deathbed, 'Didn't it go by awfully fast?'" It's equal to the scene in the 2003 movie "Something's Gotta to Give," starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton as they walk along an East End Long Island beach and Jack's character says virtually the same thing.

The Buckley, Vidal and Norman Mailer et al. feuds were great theater. And then I remember something about the British critic Kenneth Tynan, who I don't think liked Truman Capote. In fact, no one seemed to like anyone, only that they said it almost so politely that you might have missed it.

When I was in Toronto in November 2000 there were 80 or so candidates that filed paperwork to run for Mayor of Toronto. The Globe and Mail printed thumbnail bio sketches of the most colorful and quirky. I remember a stripper, exotic dancer, who was running and had some support from other than her high heels in some districts.

It reminded me of the NYC 1969 mayoral race when aside from the incumbent mayor John Lindsay seeking his second term, Norman Mailer, William F. Buckley,Jr. and a few other types were officially running for the office.  Mailer and Buckley. Harvard vs. Yale, but not football or rowing. Words. Religious neighborhoods against bike lanes. All of these individuals became bigger than they were because of the others. No North Pole with no South Pole.

It was, as Mr. McGrath poignantly closes his piece with, as he delivers a Vidal quote from quite late in his life, "such fun, such fun."


Too Good Not to Mention

I was never in a journalism class, but I have been reading newspapers since Eisenhower was president and there were only 48 stars in the flag. I have heard the journalistic phrase, "too good to check." This would seem to mean that a tidbit of news is just too good not to mention and shouldn't be fully vetted, with the possibility of not being able to use it. It's not pure fiction, since it's "plausibly true."

I saw the story in today's newspaper, and heard something on the TV news last night as I walked by it.  Apparently, someone was arrested on Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. for applying a rather high-tech way of being a voyeur on the subway.

The story is unfortunately not bylined, but the gist of it is that a 39 year-old medical professor and doctor was arrested by a transit officer who caught him using a pen camera hidden in a newspaper to photograph women, who, given the summer heat, were wearing skirts and perhaps no stockings, and were perhaps more vulnerable to this type voyeurism than they might be in the winter when there is nothing on the subway that doesn't say "North Face."

This says way more than the arrest of the perpetrator. It says that transit officers/police in general, must be trained in how to spot peeping Toms.  I'm sure if I was within five feet of this perp and his female object it would not have occurred to me that the guy with a newspaper was secretly photographing women's legs, et al. The police surely receive special training to observe this on a rush hour train.

It was not disclosed how long the defendant might have been doing this, nor the hard drive capacity of the pen. Given the heat wave we've been having, the defendant might have missed work for a few days.

The best part might be what was too good to check, or what might be true. I only know what I read. The defendant was described as a urologist and an expect in robotics and minimally invasive surgery.

The belief is even a minimally competent lawyer might offer this in the defendant's defense.