New Friends and Neighbors

My mother and I were driving around with the new girl in school, who’d just moved to the area. We passed a tract of cheap ticky-tacky houses going up over by the expressway. I said, “My parents say that crappy new housing development is going to hurt property values in town.”

Was my face red when my new friend told me her parents were planning to buy one of those tacky houses!

| Published in children

H. K. Thompson: Trollmeister

My theory on feds is that they’re like mushrooms: Feed ’em shit and keep ’em in the dark.
(Mark Wahlberg’s character in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed)

The gracious and courtly Harald Keith Thompson (he told me to call him H. K., as we had too many Keiths around) would never put it that crudely. But when it came to disseminating (mis)information, H. K. and Marky-Mark were very much on the same page.

The wonder is that some investigators would gladly repeat his stories as gospel truth even when they knew Thompson liked to tease and deceive.

I’m thinking in particular of two Left-wing journalists, Kevin Coogan and Martin Lee. Colleagues and sometime collaborators (they shared bylines at Mother Jones), each of them spent most of the 1990s cranking out an impressive doorstop of a book. Coogan called his Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International (1999) while Lee’s was simply titled The Beast Awakens (1997). 

I should add that these are good, well-produced books, and often hard to find. If you can find them, you should buy them. But be aware they’re chuggy-jam with nonsense.

Like the Synoptic Gospels, they have the same cast of characters, cover the same territory, and promote the same thesis. To wit, that there is an secret international network of Fascists, or Nazis if you please: an intricate, exclusive web that connects doddering SS officers in ODESSA to Willis Carto’s Liberty Lobby to the truck bombers in Oklahoma City.

Or perhaps I should say “connected”…the present day in these tomes is around 1995. Ancient history, maybe inaccessible to anyone under the age of 50.

Preposterous? You bet. But it’s also a spicy, irresistible idea. I mean, think of the movie scripts you could write!  And don’t tell me it’s been done to death. This subject will never be done to death.

As with Levy’s Real Jewish Rye, you don’t have to be Jewish to see the attraction here. Coogan and Lee both laid the pastrami on thick, and they had a helping hand from the master prankster himself, Mr. Harald Keith Thompson. Because both books basically consist of interviews and memoranda from H. K. Thompson.

And H. K. really piled it on. Some of the more piquant allegations have achieved the status of quasi-history.

For example, the story that in the early 1950s G. Sylvester Viereck held sex orgies in his suite at the Hotel Belleclaire, which is portrayed as a kind of a Hellfire Club of the early 1950s. This demimondaine circle brought together such unlikely stablemates as F. P. Yockey, Viereck’s friend Dr. Harry Benjamin (Mischling, but fellow German nationalist), Hazel Guggenheim (Solomon’s niece and definitely not a Mischling), and the novelist Charles Jackson (The Lost Weekend), with maybe Alfred Kinsey and Wardell Pomeroy stopping in for scientific-sexual observation.

It’s all a lovely tale—Nazis and Jews and Jewish Nazis and sexologists doing the swinger thing, very comme il faut. But, alas, not very likely. There are simpler, more obvious explanations. The truth seems to be that these people were connected by a literary circle appended to Tiffany Thayer’s Fortean Society. You can research that on your own. The Fortean Society still exists, although without the exciting cast of characters.

If H. K. was straight-up lying to Lee and Coogan, that would be one thing. (Master Prankster Scores Again!) But no, his whole spiel was about how he continually gave misinformation to the FBI and other investigators. He gave the Feds false leads, putting them on the wrong track. Back in the 50s, H. K. would tell them that he’d seen Frank Healy (i.e., Yockey) at a party or someplace, but this would be months after Yockey had fled the country. H. K. did this simply to get the Feds chasing their own tails for a while. 

Lee and Coogan knew Thompson wasn’t on their side, but nevertheless he was the gold standard of sources. He evidently knew Otto Skorzeny and Otto Ernst Remer; he most certainly knew Yockey and Viereck. He was part of ODESSA, man!

The very fact that Thompson even spoke to Lee or Coogan was in itself newsworthy, not to mention flattering.

In truth, H. K. hid in plain sight and talked to everybody.  He gave his friend and neighbor Lyle Stuart (alias Lionel Simon) a chapter of a never-to-be published memoir or novel in which H. K. disses Francis Yockey as a dangerous fellow who should be avoided. He did this so it would find its way to the ADL and FBI, whom he never tired of taunting.

H. K. published a jokey “I Am an American Fascist” in Lyle Stuart’s Exposé magazine in 1954. But after that he pretty much went to ground. He wasn’t a person of interest again till the 1980s when the IHR discovered him, largely thanks to my old friend Keith Stimely.

Keith Stimely, sometime editor of the Journal of Historical Review, was led to the other Keith when he was compiling material for a biography on Yockey. A true scholar, Keith Stimely loved to research, hated to write. His biographical notes ended up being the skeleton of Kevin Coogan’s Dreamer of the Day. 

Anyway, Keith found H. Keith Thompson in Hornell, New York, now an obscure town but once a major stop on the old Erie line (and still prosperous—as it’s one of the few places left where you can assemble or repair rolling stock for your railroads or light-rail lines).

By this point, 1984, H. K. was long retired and pretty much out of politics, far-Right or otherwise, apart from the occasional Angry Old Man letter to the newspaper about parking spaces or automobile inspections. On the recorded tape, which now seems to have disappeared (though there is a transcript),  H. K. was very laid-back and self-effacing. Asked about Yockey’s Imperium, he hugged his big Labrador and said, “I believe in the DOG IMPERIUM!”

Often a spot of truth would emerge in the H. K. Thompson narrative; he didn’t so much deceive as make the facts un-researchable. I found this out when I discovered that I knew one of the minor characters in his story.

Back in the 1970s I attended the Lycée Français in New York, with someone whose mother had been a longtime and loyal intime of Francis Parker Yockey. Now, I’d barely heard of Yockey and I certainly did not know Steve’s mother’s connection, which went back to the early 1950s. It was something I got over the phone from H. K. Thompson. 

Anyway I phone-interviewed her, more than thirty years on (we’re talking 1988), and she was not happy to hear the names Francis Parker Yockey or H. Keith Thompson. I believe she was well lubricated when I first called, but there was a lot more to it. Virginia had been hounded many times over the years. I see the FBI grilled her in 1957. My mention of Yockey and Thompson cannot have been welcome.

| Published in Uncategorized

Doubles at Closing Time

Cissy Partridge of Oronoco, Maine favors us with these embarrassing memories of a childhood in the 50s and 60s:

When I was little most people didn’t have television sets, so got I dragged around to bars a lot. There wasn’t much to see except Milton Berle or maybe a prizefight, but it was good to get out of the house.

In those days you could walk up Third Avenue for blocks and blocks, and never miss a word of Uncle Miltie. The whole avenue was bars. This changed when the Third Avenue El came down in May 1955. The neighborhood improved somewhat, and pretty soon all you had left were P. J. Clarke’s, a couple of Italian restaurants, and some bird bars around East 53rd St.

The bird bars were populated mostly by homosexuals. They were called bird bars because they usually had a bird in their name: The Pink Cockatoo, The Blue Budgerigar, etc. I used to sneak in there dressed as a boy just to see what was going on. Homosexuals aren’t interested in kids, so they didn’t molest me. They bought me drinks though. The drinking age in New York was about fourteen then, but you could get served if you passed for twelve. By the time I could drink legally I had a real alcohol problem.

“The year after my father shot himself and we went to Disneyland, my mother went hopelessly insane.
She probably always was, but the booze hid it.”

 

I was a hermaphrodite, and in those days they used to pressure you to declare for one sex or another by the time you entered your teens. They’d tell you, if you don’t decide what sex you are pretty soon, you’ll end up a weird-looking adult, and you won’t get married and have kids. I looked at my mother and my stepdad Dan, and wasn’t sure I wanted to grow up at all.

I spent part of every year with my real father in California. He had a ranch in Montecito, and I’d be a boy when I was with him. This was my “Spin and Marty” period. I told people I’d be Tim Considine when I grew up. One day my father shot himself. I don’t know why, he was just drunk. My mother had to fly out and get me. We drove down to Disneyland before we flew back.

Back in New York my mother took me to Dr. Max Josephson, a gland specialist on Park Avenue. He treated old people who didn’t want to be old, and also people who didn’t know what sex they were. Dr. Max was half-Jewish but also a Nazi. His best friend was G. Sylvester Viereck, a poet who was in prison during the war for being a Nazi. They’d both been in America most of their lives but talked in thick German accents, just to show off.

Dr. Max and Sylvester would take me out to a hotel bar around the corner and drink schnapps. The bar was so dark Dr. Max had to take out his pocket flashlight just to read the menu.

“Zo! De cherrystone clams, dey are fresh today!” said Dr. Max. “Ve vill all haff cherrystone clams!”

“Dat zounds wunderschoen!” said Sylvester.

They’d pretend to discuss world events, and then suddenly start selling me on the various advantages of being male or female. “If you don’t decide now, you vill grow up to be ein veirdo,” Sylvester would say.

“Na, ve giff her anudder year,” said Dr. Max. They were like the Katzenjammer kids when they talked.

They’d get me very drunk on liqueurs, which I think they sometimes spiked with truth serum, but I was very stubborn and refused to talk. They told me it was important to choose a sex, because most good colleges were single-sex. In other words, here I was, maybe eleven, twelve years old, and already they were riding me to figure out whether I wanted to go to Yale or Vassar. As things turned out, the colleges all went coed a few years later, so in the end the issue was moot.

Anyway, my attention was on other things. The year after my father shot himself and we went to Disneyland, my mother went hopelessly insane. She probably always was, but the booze hid it. She went to AA meetings for a few months and then the craziness came out. We didn’t have the money for a good private sanitarium, so she ended up being put away in one of the state insane asylums, way upstate in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know what happened to her, but I think she died there.

Then my stepdad Dan left. He took a job building prefab houses on Guam. At least that’s what he said. I moved in with my Aunt Pudge who lived on Perry Street in the Village. I was always just a girl with Aunt Pudge because she did not like weirdness in any way. I went to an all-girls school in the East 80s, and she worked long hours at Time-Life Books, then went out drinking with friends, so we hardly ever saw each other.

On my own in the evening, I would check out the queer bars in the Village sometimes, dressing appropriately. They weren’t as nice as the bird bars uptown. They were mostly patronized by old people. I had to pretend to be looking for my father or mother when I was in there, and nobody ever bought me a drink. A nameless lesbian place under the West Side Highway wouldn’t even let me in. I think you had to be about 40 years old to enter. Julius’ at Waverly Place and 10th wouldn’t serve me liquor but they did have good hamburgers on toast.

One of my Aunt’s boyfriends gave her a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black for Christmas, but as she was not a Scotch drinker, it just sat on the shelf, collecting dust. I thought, “What a waste.” I broke the seal and started to take nips from it. Within a week it was gone. I filled the bottle up with tea and put it back up on the shelf.

Wouldn’t you know it though, right after that Aunt Pudge woke one morning with a terrific hangover and decided she needed some “hair of the dog.” She immediately figured out what I had done, and smashed my head through the window. The authorities came by and tried to put me in a home for delinquents, but then they found out my special condition and sent me back to Aunt Pudge instead. Of course it was all news to her too.

She was mad, but then she calmed down and took me out to the Schrafft’s on Fifth Avenue for a late sundae, only we stayed all night and got completely plastered instead. Schrafft’s closed up and threw us out.

Was our face red!

Note: This originally appeared in SpliceToday on January 1, 2019.

| Published in Intoxication

What a Swell Howard Johnson’s Article

WSJ and other periodicals routinely run stories of why and how Howard Johnson’s died, but for the real skinny you can’t beat this swell takeout!

 

| Published in Babysitting, children, History

Advice to the Young Fry

Notes from the Jane Weir commencement speech, 2019.

Don’t be like Mister Hornblower, kids. Mister Hornblower had one little precious talent, which would have made him rich and famous if he had bothered to exploit it properly. So famous, in fact, that I couldn’t even write about him here, because you’d recognize him right away, the same way you’d recognize a thinly fictionalized version of Andy Warhol or Donald Trump.

But you see, Andy and The Donald early on learned to accept themselves, warts-and-all. And that was the secret of their success. Mister Hornblower by contrast is just as weird, or weirder, but he never owned up to his weird, unique talent or parlayed it into a career. His big special talent is pederasty: picking up teenage boys on the street: luring them to his lair with drugs and alcohol, and then ravishing them like the old-school pederast that he is. A secondary talent is sponging off friends, which enabled him to survive into old age with nary a nod to gainful employment.

He’s 75 now, so he’s got a half-century of juicy degeneracy behind him, and at least a dozen madly brilliant, but unwritten, novels or plays inside him. He fancies himself a writer, but has never written, let alone published, anything you’d ever care to read. Instead of writing pulpy, scathing dialogue with dirty old men and boy hustlers—the world he knows—he keeps cranking out talky, artificial plays about gentlefolk from the world of A. P. Gurney and John Cheever (a world he has never known). Or else he tries to write fluffy, whimsical essays in the style of a New Yorker magazine casual from many decades past. In college had an elderly, bowtied writing teacher, Mr. E. J. Gordon, who liked that jejeune style; so here we are, 65 years later, with Mr. E. J. Gordon long under the topsoil but Mister Hornblower is still writing to please him.

I’ve put the question to him, gently and tactfully: “Why don’t you write what you know, Hornblower? Why not write a stage comedy where an old guy is continually bringing little twinks into his tiny studio apartment, and everyone gets into a whole lot of mischief? Think of the possibilities!”

He makes a face and winces. Hornblower can’t see it; it’s just too perverse.

So Hornblower doesn’t put his genius into his writing; he puts it into his life. He has structured his whole life around his need to pick up boys on the street. He’s practically never had any sort of regular job. Fifty years ago, not long after college, he had his one and only fling with substantive employment. He went to Rockefeller Center every day and wrote questions and answers for a daytime TV game show.

This may sound like a dream job to you, because you don’t know anything. I mean, they paid him like $150 a week and he had to deal with dreadful people. Ron Greenberg Productions, my God. Or maybe it would be a dream job for you. Maybe for most people. It does sound sort of fun.

Anyway, Hornblower quit this after about a year, in which time he saved up a princely thousand dollars or two, and made contact with a couple of outlets for his proposed “freelance writing.” One of these was his college alumni magazine. He wasn’t looking very far and wide. He wrote an article in twinkling prose about a visit to the new “gay” club on campus, but it got killed. It was hardly lurid, but the Secretary and chief development officer of the university found the subject just too scandalous to lay before the alumni.

That’s pretty much where his “freelance” ambitions died. He was smoking too much dope to get off the ball anyway. When money ran out he inveigled a young friend of his to help him apply for Unemployment by claiming that he, the young friend, had employed Hornblower for a couple of months. This project likewise went nowhere.

Finally, out of desperation, he went back to the game show on a short-term basis, then lucked into another position writing for a television program, this time a kiddy show on Boston educational TV. He sublet his New York pigeonhole, took an overpriced studio on Beacon Hill, and moved to Boston. He lasted four weeks.

Hornblower didn’t understand children, or television, since he owned neither and the sum total of his kiddy-show knowledge in the area lay in memories of Andy’s Gang and Spin and Marty, circa 1955. Which weren’t much of an aid in writing educational kiddy fare in the 1970s.

Cowboy Duke’s Science Show was the name of the program. Actually it wasn’t; I’m hiding the real name from the search engines. But regardless of the actual name, Hornblower freaked them all out with offbeat ideas. They wanted to do a segment about sound, the physics of sound. Hornblower proposed showing a dog’s head slugged by a hand in a boxing glove; this would be played in slow-motion with a slow bum-bum-bum soundtrack. That’s how sound works, kids!

On another occasion the “science” angle was that people used to  believe in witches. The idea was that everyone should pooh-pooh the idea of witches, but Hornblower excitedly announced that he knew a real witch, a witch who was General Patton’s daughter and lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts, not too far away. She could come on the program and tell the kids what real witches were all about!

The rest of the writing and production staff were aghast. Hornblower was given his walking papers. Cowboy Duke, the host, told him nicely that with his great imagination he should go off and write a novel.

No novel was in the offing. This four weeks’ experience instead led him down a delusional path of imagining himself a kiddy-show producer-writer. For the next three years he lived by borrowing money from “investor” friends. Most of his days he still spent recruiting teenage boys, this time telling them they could become television stars. Because you see, he may have lived in a 100-square-foot flat (by now he’d moved back to Manhattan) but he was a genius and big TV show producer.

Hornblower’s kiddy-show project took a long time to die. He dreamt it up as he left Cowboy Duke’s show in mid-1972, and three years later he was still promoting it to anyone who wanted to hear. By this point he was so hard up his electricity had been turned off. He persuaded an upstairs neighbor to run an electrical cord through the windows, so he could still keep a couple of lights on, in the bathroom and at his writing desk. Friends at a brokerage firm gave him a little work rewriting sales materials, and one philanthropist ponied up the money to send him off to rehab. Poverty notwithstanding, Hornblower had acquired a daily habit of cocaine and vodka. A few years later he got into a drunken argument with some Jew in a gay bar (as Hornblower tells the story), and the Jew smashed a bottle into Hornblower’s cranium, so hard that Hornblower was rushed to Emergency, and ever after had a shallow crater in the crown of his head. But it was a lucky turn; he sued his assailant, a lawyer of some kind, and they settled for enough money for Hornblower to retire from his life of ease and move to coastal Maine.

There, as always, he managed to keep a string of boys around. Now the drugs of choice were heroin and freebase cocaine. (“I can make in three seconds in the microwave,” he boasted.) One of his boys got arrested for holding or selling, and Hornblower too had some minor legal strike against him.

He never had any interest in men his own age—not even when he was in his twenties—which made him sort of Odd Man Out back in the late 60s when he was first announcing himself as “Gay.” He would frequent rather tweedy, grown-up gay bars—Julius’ in Greenwich Village, Sporter’s on Beacon Hill—but never accosted the other patrons unless they happened to have a cute young trick in tow.

What a fascinating oeuvre Hornblower could have parlayed his cockeyed experiences into! Instead of pissing away his energies trying to pretend to be precisely what he was not: a polite writer writing polite plays about the upper bourgeoisie in the leafy exurbs of New England.

Other men with double lives will double-insulate the secret one: build an upright career beyond reproach, surround themselves with wife and kids; and then be free to go to town in the half-world. They might even preserve a measure of imaginative honesty, should they be creative sorts.

But not Mister Hornblower. Don’t be like him, kids.

Revised 4 December 2021

| Published in Intoxication, Television

The New York Times Book Review Caper

Famous Broadway columnist Mr. D. Runyon Smythe tells of the time he moved beyond his showbiz column and tried his hand at book reviewing—to his great regret!

So the year 1962 rolls around and I am fed up with the sort of horseradish that is now being presented in Broadway shows. Neil Simon is just getting started with his cascade of onstage sitcoms, but already I smell the rot in Shubert Alley.

You have straight plays like “Take Her—She’s Mine,” by Phoebe and Henry Ephron, two inveterate scribblers of bad movies. You probably cannot even name any of their scripts, but I assure you such things are in the books, and they are stinkers indeed. Such people ought to be banned for life from Broadway.

The only positive point about this piece of malarkey is a fetching young ingenue named Elizabeth Ashley, who in future days undoubtedly goes the sad way of other ingenues and starlets and debutantes. Although it also has Art Carney, who carries the ball.

Through the grapevine I learn that people do not read my “Lullaby of Broadway” column much anymore. They syndicate me in only 7 papers, including the Yonkers Herald-American, which doesn’t really count. So I decide to take a crack at the book-review game.

My good friend Alston Parker Ellis is the editor of the Herald-Tribune Book Review, which is the premier book rag in New York. Alston sets me up with a desk, and a phone, and a couple of drinks sessions with John Hay Whitney, who holds the purse-strings.  Before long I am whacking out three or four book reviews per week, on such grand titles as Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris, Franny and Zooey, Ship of Fools, and Seven Days in May.

Alston informs me that I am very good at this craft, for I can fill up a 600-word column without saying anything actionable. I merely leave a pleasant fragrance behind. When publishers want to quote me in blurbs and ads, they pull something like,

There are a lot of pages in this book, even more than in By Love Possessed.
— D. Runyon Smythe, NY Herald-Tribune.

Because of this, almost every single one of the books I review receives an option for a Hollywood movie. So I am really cooking.

But now the Herald-Tribune Book Review falls upon some lean years, and it appears this pre-eminent publishing-rag-of-record must be cut back to free up budget for a new Sunday supplement called New York magazine.

This supplement publishes exciting, scurrilous articles by young turks such as Tom Wolfe and Gail Sheehy, however it does not add to the Herald-Tribune bottom-line, for the big old advertisers who support the Trib in its salad days are now going out of business. The retailers we all grow up on—Best & Co., DePinna, Peck & Peck, Rogers Peet—one by one they disappear, and so do their display ads in the front section of the New York Herald-Tribune.

As we like to say at Mindy’s restaurant, I see the handwriting on the wall.  Fortunately I never give up my famous “Lullaby of Broadway” column for the syndicate, so there will always be at least a little something in the kitty. Nevertheless I am now regarded a book-review guy, so I go crosstown to the lowlifes at the New York Times.

At the New York Times Book Review, I work for the editor Chuckles McGrath, who assigns me the “New and Noteworthy” column. Every day a hundred horrible books land on my desk, or rather to the side of my desk, as I have barely the room on my desk-blotter to swing a very small kitten. At random I pick out five or six of these doorstops. Then I pay very close attention to the dust-jacket blurbs and press release, and write witty summaries of what I think the book must be about.

One day a stocky, expensively-upholstered little Japanese girl comes down from Yale—for Yale is now coed, it being the 1970s—and tells me Chuckles McGrath has given her leave to start a column of her own, using the extra books I don’t have time to read. This is about a thousand books a week. So I let young Miss Michiko Kakutani (for such is her name) cart off my extras in a wheelbarrow.

Miss Kakutani finds gold amongst the dross, as they say. Overnight she discovers Jay McInerney, Tama Janowitz, and Brett Easton Ellis, all of whom would lie in my review pile forever if their fate hangs on D. Runyon Smythe.

 

| Published in Books

Bea Lillie and Bert Lahr at the Winter Garden

Ruth Anne Clairison of Upper Montclair, NJ, charms us with this embarrassing tale from 1936:

We had never heard of Beatrice Lillie or Bert Lahr (this was years before Just Around the Corner or The Wizard of Oz) but when our uncle told my twin brother and me that he had free tickets to their new revue at the Winter Garden Theatre, we were on it like a dog on a porkchop.

We had never been to a legitimate theater before, so didn’t know what to expect. Outside a newsboy was shouting: “Extree! Extree! Read all about it! Passenger liner goes down with all hands on board!” So it was a big night for a lot of people, and we knew the revue had to be even more exciting.

The theater manager came out in front of the curtain to announce that Mr. Lahr had been taken ill, and in his stead would be his understudy, the young Byron McBeardsley. My brother and I didn’t know the difference, but I could tell my uncle was profoundly disappointed.

A revue is a series of short plays with songs and music. Our uncle pointed out Bea Lillie to us. She was not a nice lady. She was very mean to the young man who was replacing Bert Lahr.

In the second scene he was playing a piano, and she closed the key-lid on his fingers, just to be mean. Then she laughed.

“I think she is drunk,” said our uncle. “Come children, we are getting our money back.”

But at the box office they said we couldn’t have refunds because they were free tickets. My uncle became very angry, and the manager had to bring in five policemen to calm him down. He ended up putting us on the train to Upper Montclair, but we missed the last one that evening and had to sleep on a bench in Penn Station.

It was not a fun night.

 

| Published in theater

Hankey-Poo for Bitty-Poo

Captain R. S. Wembsley, late of the North German Lloyd and White Star lines, shares with us this whimsical anecdote:

So it was 1914 and we had just finished building the grandest ship afloat, the SS Commander Triton. We were about to set sail for Southampton, when war broke out in Europe and we found we had a delay.

The fact that we were bringing 300 cwt of munitions to Imperial Germany, by way of England, meant that our ship was certainly liable for impoundment.

As executive officer of the ship, I declared that we would take a roundabout route through the Canary Islands, which at that time were owned by the Kingdom of Spain.

At the Canaries we would reflag ourselves as a Spanish ship, and thereby pass unnoticed direct to Hamburg.

Alas, I forgot to take down the Stars and Stripes at the Starboard Stern, and a German U-boat sank us off Cap Finisterre, although the Stars and Stripes were a neutral flag.

I survived, along with 17 members of the crew, but my face was very red.

The End.

| Published in History

Stephen King’s Lonely Man TV Dinners

I try to restrict my Twitter activity to less than 12 hours a day, because sometimes I need to work and sleep. However there are some obsessives you just can’t miss.

And then there’s Stephen King. He was a big, famous writer, some thirty or forty years ago. He was even more famous than Cathy Young. I think he even did one of those “Do You Know Me?™” American Express Card® commercials. Well now he’s old, and lonely, and eating TV dinners in Maine.

He likes the Hungry-Man™ line of TV dinners, apparently. Recently he tweeted about how he likes to eat the frozen brownie while he nukes the rest of the dinner. This is the proper way, he averred, to eat a Hungry-Man meal.

Recently I was dog-tired after a long day of writing and gymming, and I ended up guzzling vodka (in bed) at 11am the next day. Sun over the yardarm, you know. I got curious about these Stephen King TV dinners. I went to Amazon-dot-com and looked up the Hungry-Man line. Apparently the one with a brownie is the boneless-fried-chicken meal.

So I ordered two of those. You know, just as an experiment. But I felt foolish ordering two TV dinners, so I ordered another two, these with chicken-fried steak but no brownie.

Amazon/WholeFoods asks you when you want these things delivered, and I don’t know what I put down, but apparently I defaulted to the ASAP choice. Because at 5 the next morning, the concierge was calling up from the lobby to tell me Amazon Prime had delivered.

I dressed and went down. Two enormous bags, with boxes of dry ice inside. Two Hungry-Man TV dinners in each. I debagged them and stuck them in the freezer before the spouse woke up. How embarrassing!

Was my face red!

P.S. Stephen King is right about the brownie.

| Published in Intoxication

The Magical Space Fountain Pen

When I was little we couldn’t write with ballpoint pens in school; only fountain pens were allowed. Ballpoints would ruin our handwriting, we were told. And looking around today, I can see that this is so!

So I stopped at the stationer’s in Berwyn to buy a fountain pen before starting back to school, and the big featured item was the Esterbrook Fill’er Up No-Leak Space Pen. It was the same kind of fountain pen used in NASA missiles. The kind gentleman at the counter showed me how to fill it up from an ink bottle, using the little screw-plunger doohickey at the end.

“That’s right, miss,” he said, “once you fill up this pen, you’ll never have to fill it again.”

Then I took it out of the bottle and twisted the plunger again to tighten it. And I sprayed blue-black ink all over the poor gentleman’s face!

Was my face red!

| Published in school days