Your Guide to the Entertainments

Green Lights, Blue Skies, Lollipops and Rainbows, etc.

Frenchie's Bar

“We could always go to the store and get some real ones...”
— John Cage on mushroom hunting

About Rain of Frogs

“I’m afraid there is no escape for us — we shall have to give to civilization upon this earth some new worlds. Places with frogs in them. The outrageous is the reasonable, if introduced politely.”
— Charles Fort, on anomalous phenomena  read more »


A compendium of not gone, not forgotten, sort of obsolete technology. Although the forms of circuit design and the platforms for its implementation have changed (i.e. to the digital domain, which was a laboratory phenomenon in the era you are interested in), what we are dealing with in manipulating media — audio/video paths, the human/machine interface, and the basic laws of electricity — have remained the same. This makes for some interesting anomalies for me, the engineer, but is a godsend for you, the writer, for although the platforms have changed, the names for what they do and what the operator is attempting have remained unchanged through the decades and into a not-so-perfect digital world.  read more »

A Writer’s Guide to Self-publishing

Self-publishing takes either a lot of money or a lot of work. You’re a writer, right? You can, with a semester at a community college and a stack of books, build your own website, a piece of virtual real estate where folks can find you, with only a text editor (Notepad, Notepad++, or a Web browser) as I was taught at my local Voc-Tech.  read more »

The fastest hound dog in the State of Maine

I came from Wytopitlock, where I was living at the time, down to Mattawamkeag on the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad one day to buy myself a hound dog. Up to Wytopitlock we was having a run on long-legged rabbits then, I didn’t want none of these short-legged dogs that can run all day and not move any. I wanted one with rangy pins that could get close enough to a Wytopitlock rabbit so he’d exert himself and know he was chased. The short-legged dogs we’d been using was no good at all, and I says to myself, “The Hell with that!”  read more »

* The whatness of if, once called  quiddity. When politicians avoid answering a question while pretending to answer it, they often do it using quiddity, or by bringing up irrelevant and distracting points. Quiddity is a usefully underhanded tool if you want to evade an argument or question. The noun quiddity has a philosophical meaning too, "the essential nature of something," or the unique thing that makes it what it is. The Medieval Latin root, quidditas, translates literally as "whatness."

Martha, the Last of the Passenger Pigeons

A lone passenger pigeon, stuffed, returned to Waukesha, Wisconsin, a town where I once went to high school. Stuffer and stuffee, are they an analog for the buffalo hunters with their stacks of skulls set to bleach on the prairies? Also — a brief from Aldo Leopold. Let’s see how they come together along with John Herald, angular and introspective, a singer and guitarist, and Martha, another wild bird likewise gone extinct.  read more »

The Passenger pigeon in Pop Culture

Before the country was settled, while the birds were unmolested except by natural enemies, they bred in large colonies. This, in itself, was a means of protection, and they probably doubled their numbers every year by changing their nesting places two or three times yearly, and rearing two or three young birds to each pair. Later, when all the resources of civilized man were brought to bear against them, their very gregariousness, which formerly protected them, now insured their destruction; and when at last they were driven to the far North to breed, and scattered far and wide, the death rate rapidly out ran the birth rate.  read more »

Jay Gould’s Daughter

Musings on a multiplicity of Goulds and the foreverness of Peter Pan: “Ideal design is a lousy argument for evolution, for it mimics the postulated action of an omnipotent creator. Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution-paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce.”  read more »

Harry and the Mudman

Harry had studied the Mudman’s early recordings, slowing them down to pick up the difficult passages. At the bottom of the grooves, struggling against a tidal surf of record noise, lay genius. These recordings, the Mudman’s grip on history, had been made at an Alabama prison camp in the 20’s. The Mudman had killed someone at a card game. With an axe handle.  read more »

The diary of an Ohio farm wife

Winter smelled like wet wool, oatmeal and coal oil, and lungs gurgled with persistent coughs. When it snowed, the mud of the dooryard was dotted with great, plashy wet flakes, piling into drifts in a day; the brown mud seeped up as the coal smoke seeped down. Wind-blown snow exposed striations of white, black, and brown eddying in the gritty film that covered all outdoors. Soot clotted on the snow, the walls, the curtains, and in the lungs. Two kitchens and four stoves — the soot and ash filtered into every room of the house.  read more »

Truth, Justice, and the American Way

In an early draft of The Runaway Bungalow, I had taken a notion to mix Shakespeare with the Sopranos and leave the stage littered with the dead and dying. Alas, I fell for the young lovers and their fairy god-something, a plaster icon of a voodoo saint, San Expedito, “Hodie,” his motto. I would cut my losses and knock off Romeo along with a small town cop whose most grevious sin was bachelor housekeeping. Juliet would live on. No, I couldn’t do it. Like freehand linoleum cutting and cordon-bleu cookery, killing is not my strong suit. On the other hand...  read more »

McMuckle makes a Minyan

Ivor McMuckle, a song plugger, has been summoned to Hyperion II, planet of the Last Diaspora, where all faiths mingle in a shared state of abject poverty. He sells off shares in excess of 120 percent of a bad, really bad, pop tune. His client, Maven Lipchutz, a lounge pianist with a dream, is not beyond a little interspecies hanky-panky: the Maven’s light o’ love, Heidi, is a singing fish in a gold lamé shimmy. Final judgment devolves upon a Higher Power, said Higher Power being among the company of the conned.  read more »

3 Days with Claudette Colbert

The single rose in the bud vase made everything else look incredibly tacky. John Malkovich, Meryl Streep, Keir Dullea and Kelly McGillis hadn’t rated this treatment. They had put up with the accumulated crud just like we did. This time we were getting a visit from a real star, from when there were stars. Claudette Colbert.  read more »

Alistair Cooke’s Bones

For more than 50 years Alistair Cooke lived in a rent controlled apartment in Manhattan, easily outliving several property owners and all fellow tenants. The joys of rent control were offset in 2004 by the theft of his bones.  read more »

The Folio of Dorian Gray

Latin Reconstruction and John Cage Backwards.  read more »

Duct tape references in the Bible

Maine is big on signs. I live on a fjord, a fresh water river that connects with the sea — the Bay of Fundy, eventually the Atlantic Ocean — and turns brackish twice a day as the tidal surge backs things up just like the tenement plumbing that serenaded us in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal basin. A Marine Patrol detail must have slipped up in the middle of the night. The rationale behind night sign-posting is if the wardens can get past a native Mainer, a carnivorous whelk will be a pushover. “Humans are amphibians — half spirit and half animal... As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time,” a saying attributed to C.S. Lewis of Narnia fame.  read more »

Life in the Foley Pit

The effort of creating the sound clusters for a fantasy tale, Mark Twain in Milan, with lovers separated by two hundred years of shimmering parallelisms and an eighteenth century mathematician trying to keep himself warm inside the prize wallpaper of a Mafia don, had me crying “Uncle.” Paul Peterson, a New York sound man and film editor, gave me this tip: When you’ve got a music edit coming up that’s bad, really bad, try knocking over a tray of dishes, blow up a tank, anything to cover the cut. The Freesound Project to the rescue — duck, here comes another load of dinnerware.   read more »

Mister Apology

Sid and Howie’s Famous Egg Cream had stood at the corner of Houston Street and Avenue B since 1946 when their converted luxury liner dropped them off at the West side French Line pier, home from the Salerno beachhead. Two kids from Brooklyn, they had thrived on Army life, parlaying their meager GI salaries into a sizable nest egg playing cards on the troop ships. They opened their luncheonette, a lifetime dream, and ordered up three New York Bell call boxes for the back of the store.   read more »

The Palm Court Cellist

Cindy Maxwell wakes to a placid dripping sound; she is inside a Lost World waterfall. A secret vacation getaway for her alone says a soothing announcer, to be revealed as Tarzan, who strides through the cascading water. She must have won something, the lottery, a TV game show. A groan; it is her voice, glottal and frightened. “Help,” softly, in case she is heard by unfriendly ears. A tiny echo and the mild odor of urine with scented toilet cakes.   read more »

Play it (again), Sam

That Casablanca might be available for consultation as a spirit-channel from the Great Hereafter, I did not guess. But, wait! It had in its day been intended as an ad hoc guide to the dilemma of an isolationist America. Lucky Lindy loved Hitler; Errol Flynn revered the Fuehrer by most accounts. But then, no one took Flynn too seriously — his premier accomplishment was playing "You are My Sunshine" on a piano with his penis, a party stunt.  read more »

Basil Rathbone and Robert Sheckley

The elegant gentleman in the announce booth finished his reading, stretched, and collated his discarded pages back into an impeccable order. The year was 1966 and they still blew up the Bullwinkle and Underdog balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade two cross-town blocks away along Central Park West. John Lennon yet lived and Strawberry Fields was called The Sheep Meadow. The actor looked up, as if for approval. “I wonder what the hell that was all about,” Basil Rathbone said. Well into his seventies his voice had the ring of authority. He kept supple practicing fencing moves in Central Park; it was just that cold reads were not his cup of chamomile. The program being recorded was “Beyond the Green Door,” a radio series written — mostly — by Robert Sheckley.  read more »

Judge Crater’s First Miracle

“Your chastity is safe with me, I am a Democrat,” said the man in the doorway. “Here, accept this as a further token of my sincerity.” The visitor produced a large fruit basket, beribboned and covered with cellophane, of the kind often left by a well-wisher in a stateroom of a great ocean liner.  read more »

Judge Crater’s Second Miracle

“I have been out of things. In... limbo? Heaven, hell? Whatever, a gray place with vapors. Rather like a hot springs health spa, but without the health. No whole grains and celery tonic. No colonics, upper or otherwise. Not much fun, in short. But I am certainly revivified. I don’t feel a day over forty-one. That is the age at which I died. I was garroted and stabbed by a pair of burly policemen and buried in Brooklyn. Coney Island, under the boardwalk.”   read more »

Necrophilia Jones (Judge Crater #3)

“She lured me to my death. Dear Necrophilia Jones — she was such a cozy little piece. I was smitten; what could I do but follow the call of the glands. Tammany. I was as corrupt as any of the ’em. More than most. I allowed myself to be murdered. Anything else would have been unfeeling, insensible. Nekki was a dancer in the Roxy chorus, a showgirl. Breasts like a renaissance whore, tight blonde curls. What we called a flapper in those days. A veritable heart-stopper, sister. She had that indefinable something, a je ne sais quoi. That’s French.”  read more »

Judge Crater and Tammany Hall

That evening the dapper judge, who favored spats and high stiff collars like those worn by President Hoover, joined a young woman named Sally Lou Ritz for lobster cocktails and chicken at Billy Haas’s chophouse, on West 45th Street. He had ordered a ticket to see Dancing Partner, a comedy at the nearby Belasco Theater, afterward Crater presumably went to the theater. Someone picked up his ticket; he may or may not have hailed a cab. In any event, he disappeared off the face of the earth. The papers dug into Crater’s love life. Thousands of copies of his picture were circulated. A reward was offered. The district attorney convened a grand jury to look into the matter. The police followed up 16,000 leads from around the world. Crater had become “the missingest man in New York.”  read more »

The Milwaukee Road

Ed Crowley was a retired brakeman from the Soo Line. Not really old as railroaders go, he was in his mid-fifties and waiting out the years to his pension working at an inside job — night telegraph operator. Ed was crippled with arthritis that twisted his hands and wrists. Thirty years in the yards in all weather had done for Ed as a brakeman. The only parts of his hands that he was still able to articulate were the index and middle fingers before the first joint. With his wrists turned in he would yank at the patch cords and make their weights rattle in the falls, looking like a praying mantis going at its dinner.  read more »

The year we invented rock n roll

Charles Scott King and I leaned on the bar, lost in the wonder of frozen lemonade dished out by Red Margolis, bartender at Martin’s Bar, 59th and Broadway, as a substitute for whiskey sour and collins mixers. At work, across the street, Central Park was spotted with fall reds and slick, sickly silver and gray: native maples and sycamores. The year was 1962 and we all worked at the same radio station. If you accepted as an operating premise that anything west of the Hudson was camping out, the RealLemon Red Margolis concocted his whiskey sours with had made it in stages from the Caribbean to Jersey and thence Manhattan by a kind of reverse osmosis.  read more »

An Eyeball named Claudia

The original eye, which had been hazel, had been lost chucking quoits with the dervishes of the Taklamakan Desert. A native healer grafted on a replacement eye from a pile of battlefield offal. It was of perhaps human origin. A take on Sir James Frazer’s Golden Bough  read more »

On Wisconsin

As a five-year-old in World War II, I never realized that we were doing without. This was normality — life’s necessities were rationed. We did a lot of things for the war effort. In retrospect, I realize the civilian activities were aimed more at building home front morale than defeating the Axis powers. We saved string in big balls. We saved tinfoil in big balls. We saved bacon fat in big cans. We planted a Victory Garden to supply the family with fresh vegetables so the troops could enjoy canned and dehydrated vegetables. Yummy! There were scrap drives, bond drives, us kids bought Postal Savings Stamps at school. When our little books were filled, we got a U.S. bond.   read more »

That Old-tyme Religion

The goddess got a far-away look in her eyes. She searched the middle distance, a shepherdess seeking lost innocence. Wrist to brow she felt for a fainting couch with her spare hand. “All events that will or would ever occur in each and every universe or imaginable universe from the innards of the dust mote to the googolplex of stars have already happened. All and at once at the moment of creation.” She leaned backwards, then fell down. “Oh bother! There should have been a velvet couch.”  read more »

The Death of James A. Garfield

You probably picked up this tale expecting one of those conspiracy theory tell-alls. I mean from the title and all. Nope. In the middle of the Twentieth Century mysterious things were still reported in the Southern Highlands. However, in real life, hauntings, hexings and supernatural doings were as strange to the post-bellum South as pit barbecue, Winn-Dixie, Dr. Pepper and Royal Crown Cola were familiar. Well, there was this one item about an exploding deer that got buried in the back pages.  read more »

Stuffed Owls and Death by Grommets

“It was July 8th of last year, 1947, a Tuesday to allow travel time over an extended 4th of July weekend. Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees was in the outfield along with Ted Williams from the Boston Red Sox. One hell of a game — Ed and I listened to it on the radio at the Antlers bar — the American League took it 2-1. The St. Stanislaus church picnics were always held during the All-Star break. Six hundred died, but Joe DiMaggio escaped the stain of blame and the buffet caught the rap...” (WWII on the Home Front and Garfield marginalia.)  read more »

The Nooz at Newn

A disc jockey’s life is a permanent disconnect — imagining an audience while staring ahead and counting the holes in the same Celotex wall tile over and over. The resulting numbers are always the same. Every time. Pete Myers was a friend some forty years ago. We were flat, dreaming of a world where we could be round. And I thought I would never run out of words...  read more »

Alternate Side Parking

My old neighborhood, St. Agnes parish, was once Crazy Joey Gallo’s turf. You cleaned up after. One piece of litter — a candy wrapper, a cigar butt, and he’d have your guts for garters. Like kiss your ass goodbye. His mother lived over on Wyckoff Street. Not quite Brooklyn Heights, but close. The real estate speculators who hoped to cash in on the “Brooklyn Renaissance” dubbed it Boerum Hill. Miguel Santandrea was a baseball bat specialist.  read more »

A Stranger at the Gates

“Death is just Nature’s way of telling you it’s time to slow down.” Who said that? Probably Johnny Carson or George Carlin. In the story The Song of the Rice Barge Coolie, written over weeks of radiation therapy, I explored my fear. And met a monster, an everyday predator, a pygmy shrew.  read more »

The Manticore’s Tale

“Level with me. You believe I am a figment when I am only a story that got better with the telling. The telephone syndrome — travelers from the Land of Cathay chat with African merchants who talk to a Turk, the Ottoman natters to a Tatar mujhik who spills the beans to an itinerant Italian who in turn goes home with a marvelous tale of what he expected to see in the first place and tells the homefolk what they already knew. I am an article of faith. Deal with it.”  read more »

Aldo and the Bristleheads

If I could choose, I guess H. V. Kaltenborn would be my bristlehead of choice. I was a kid in the 1940s and 50s, and who you hear first defines the rest as Johnny-come-latelies. Kaltenborn had those rare commodities Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck lack: courtesy and grace. I can’t help notice that through the years, the quality of bullshit has declined.  read more »

Nuts Templar—Ayn Rand and the Fountainheads

I knew Ayn Rand. OK, half an hour each week. She recorded a weekly commentary; I was the recording engineer. Rand spoke with a broad, husky comic opera Russian accent not unlike Hans Conried’s Professor Kropotkin on the “My Friend Irma” radio show. Ayn Rand rambled and wrote, working Hollywood and Gotham, perhaps dreaming that she would be the darling of disaffected divorcées with time on their hands in the coming century. And even death — thirty-five years ago at this writing — would not hold her down.  read more »

Lady Ada and the Moose

Nunzio Calabrese did not think of himself as a bad person. He loved his mother, most black people because the insides of their mouths were so pink, and his pigeons. He flew his pigeons from a rooftop. He felt joy at their tight formations and gratitude when they returned to his lure, a scrap of red bandana flown at the end of a bamboo pole. Where a lesser man would unburden his sins at Confession or between the polished pillars of a willing woman’s thighs, Nunzio partook of the freedom of the skies. He was a born killer.  read more »

St. Velcrotm and the swan

St. Velcrotm had a nagging feeling he had forgotten something. He squinted myopically. No, he had always stood here on a precipice at the banks of a wide muddy river.  read more »

Dave Van Ronk and Llewyn Davis

We headed to the Kettle of Fish over on MacDougal Street. It was a short walk so we took the subway. Three stops, two transfers and 45 minutes later, we had spent as little time as possible in direct sunlight.  read more »

Invocation for a Bowling Tournament

By the second visit, Tom and I figured out we were being led in a circle. We were in the older wing of the building, parts of which went up just after the Civil War. Metal reinforced doors with hatchway windows at eye level. Most were closed. “Hi,” said an inmate. His barred window had been left open, fresh air was a reward for good behavior. “Hello there,” we said. “Albert Desalvo,” said our guide. “The Boston Strangler.” Albert wiggled his fingers as we turned a corner. Albert was in for rape, a psychiatric patient; he was never convicted on thirteen counts of murder.   read more »

Lucy and the Mouse

Explosives would hold the horizon of Lucy’s fantasy life for the next two years, before testicular murmurings signaled the awareness of a second softer sex in the box of his being. His attention drifted from the wizardry that made unwanted structures disappear to learning to balance and ride his new bike, the better to overtake the feminine eternal, which often fled.  read more »

3000 Beatniks Riot in Square

Ken Haferman sang This Land is Your Land, a request from the crowd. “Just like Woody did it,” said a well-kept white-haired woman. She patted Ken on the shoulder and gave him a hug. “Good.” She introduced herself as Margie Guthrie, Woody’s ex, Arlo’s mom. Quite a compliment. We packed it in and headed to the falafel parlor on MacDougal Street. With Emma passing the cigar box we made enough for falafel for five kids and three adults plus the subway fare back to Brooklyn.  read more »

Zeitgeist is the Right Geist

The baby was named Oversight. Sophie Rae Shufflebeam picked her up from a dumpster behind the Pick ‘N’ Pay. She had been shopping for olives. Presumably some young mother-to-be had evacuated her bundle of joy and was not thrilled by the prospect of returning home to inquisitive parents. The baby, Oversight, had been saved for Sophie Rae’s arrival by the dumpster’s missed pickup that week.  read more »

Hooray for the Pulps

There once was a golden age of the pulps. The pages were raggedy-edged and they were expensive. Well, twenty-five cents mostly, but they were thick. Tales of wonderment and awe, a life of adventure and romance and as close as the corner drug store. Good stuff.  read more »

The Prosper Triad

I watch a lot of TV, so sue me. One morning as we shoveled her car out from under a waist-deep drift of snow Bonnie said, “If you’d spend more time writing and less time with reruns of The Young and the Restless, you’d have a Pulitzer by now.” Bonnie was our sole source of income. I chucked the remote and unplugged the TV. No soap — opera or otherwise. And no Great American Novel. Nevertheless, thanks to my shoveling skills, my wife was never late for work. I spent my days alone, staring at an empty computer screen. Then Apollo, driver of the Chariot of the Sun, sent me an emissary with an offer of a steady job.  I Want to Share Your Wheat »  The Perfect Homburg »  An Unwarmed Fish »

In Praise of the Banjo

A tremulous high tenor sang through the groove noise on the Columbia shellac disc. Clarence (Tom) Ashley was recorded in 1930, a young man with a banjo. In 1964 I sat with him and a pint of gin beside a motel swimming pool in Galax, Virginia.  read more »

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