« One From Column A...
August 31, 1998 - #49
Anyway, the reason I feel that we are in some kind of netherworld of between two worlds otherworldliness is because I am writing column number 49, which, of course, is the column just before column 50, which, of course, is our big five-o, the column we're going to treat as our anniversary column even though it isn't quite our anniversary column. Because Mr. Mark Bakalor's handy dandy computer electronics had a little hissy fit, we missed a column (well, we had a paragraph, which hardly constitutes a column). So, my point, yes you heard it here, dear readers, my point is that this here column should be column number 50 and yet it is in reality column number 49. Hence, I feel like I'm in The Column Zone. Part of me wants to celebrate right now because if we hadn't had that fershluganah foulup we would be celebrating right now. The other part of me knows we can't celebrate because this is only column 49, just another column in a long line of columns. You see my point, don't you, dear readers? Perhaps Mr. Mark Bakalor can put up a picture of my point right now.
Well, well, well. That is three "wells" sitting in a row which seems both appropriate and redundant, well-wise. Have I said that there is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man? I may have said it, but let's remember that Rod Serling said it first. I know there was a Fifth Dimension because I have all their albums. They sang excellent songs. I especially like Wedding Bell Blues, with that wonderful Marilyn McCoo warbling the immortal "won't you marry me, Bi-hill, I've got those Wedding Bell Blu-hooz". I think it has now become painfully obvious that there really is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man and that this here column has taken up permanent residence in said dimension. I mean, here I am, sitting on my couch like so much fish, and I cannot stop singing "won't you marry me, Bi-hill". I cannot get this song out of my head. Don't you just hate that, dear readers? When you get one song stuck in your head and you just can't stop singing it? Oops, I almost had the urge to eat a cheese slice. You see? There's that instinct to celebrate rearing its ugly head again. Because, in case you've forgotten, we're in that netherworld, knowing that we should be celebrating yet can't be celebrating because of that fershluganah missed column. But let's remember, whenever frustration begins to set in, that we are on the cusp of celebrating. Said celebrating will be happening all too soon. But for now, we'll just have to carry on and suppress our urge to celebrate. Meanwhile, this whole column so far is starting to feel like the new musical Fosse: We're just dancing around with no plot. But enough about me.
You know, the more Miss Meryle Secrest elicits forth these ancient memories (some from Roman times) the more those memories ignite other memories, and suddenly things you hadn't thought of in years come tumbling out of you like so much fish. While we were talking about The Metricola Story I casually made mention of my mother's prediliction for punishment by hanger. I hadn't thought of The Hanger Incidents since I was a teenager, and let me assure you my teen years didn't happen yesterday. In order to understand The Hanger and Its Uses As According To My Mother, you have to understand my home situation and my parents. This might be difficult, as I have never understood my parents or home situation as I knew them at that time. Today they call anything "dysfunctional". But back then, "dysfunctional" was just another ten dollar word in the dictionary.
My parents were older when they had me. My mother was forty-two and my father, forty-five. They'd already had one child prior to my arrival, three years earlier, which was still somewhat late, parenting-wise. Why my parents wanted children in the first place is a question no one has been able to answer. They never seemed to like having children, they just sort of tolerated having children. Having children was just a thing to have, everyone did it. It was not as much fun as going to Vegas or playing Canasta. My mother was a somewhat hysterical woman, and I don't mean "hysterical" in the sense that she was a laugh riot. I'll give you an example: Once, we came back from some errand. We all walked in the house and went our seperate ways. A moment later we heard a blood-curdling scream from my mother. This was the kind of scream that would lead you to believe she was either having a knife thrust into her eyeball or that her teeth had gone missing. And what was the cause of said blood-curdling scream? And what was it that, a moment later, caused my mother (who had undressed as soon as she got to her room) to run about the house like a crazy woman in her girdle and brassiere? A mouse. That's right, you heard it here, dear readers. A mouse. She must've run about screaming her lungs out for five full minutes, before my father had thrown a dress over her head and trundled us all out to the car and driven us to a motel. When we came home the next day, the exterminators had been to our house and all was well. My mother never mentioned this episode, and when I brought it up she refused to acknowledge it.
My mother and father both had what you might call "short fuses" as far as I was concerned. They never had "short fuses" where my brother was concerned, because my brother was a bit of a psychotic and would have killed them. So, whenever I would do something that my mother would perceive as being wrong (I was a perfect child and never did anything wrong) she would run - that's right, not walk, not trot - but run to the closet. This running to the closet could only mean one of two things and they were both heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) as far as I was concerned. It meant she was either going to vacuum or get a wooden hanger and beat the "living daylights" out of me. Since I had the willies over the vacuum cleaner, a scary old upright Hoover, which made a hideous sucking whooshing noise that sounded like some deranged thing that was talking personally to me - "Come here, little person, and I'll vacuum you up" it wheezed at me - it was no consolation whatsoever if she brought out the Hoover. Sometimes I felt it was better to be hangered than Hoovered. So, for whatever terrible infraction of rules I never knew, I would get a "licking" (as my father so quaintly called it) with a nice hard wooden hanger (no wire hangers for my mother - she and Joan Crawford would have gotten along famously). All one could do was "take" it, because during these episodes my mother was like a lunatic, actually rather like the possessed Hoover vacuum cleaner.
The Hanger Incidents came to a head one fine day when I was eleven. I'd been out playing with some neighborhood kids (including the egg sucker himself, Mr. Paul Needle). We were all arguing about something or other (I'm sure Paul was Needling as he always did) and someone in the group said the "f" word. When I was growing up, one simply did not say the "f" word. I, in fact, hadn't even really heard it before this utterance. I certainly didn't know what it meant. And I only knew it was bad because the other kids said "oooh, that's a bad word". The next thing I knew, the kid who'd actually said the "f" word was pointing at me and saying I'd said the "f" word. Before I could even open my mouth at this outrageous lie, all the kids were marching to my house, where they promptly told my mother that I'd said the "f" word. She got that insane look in her eyes, and told me to get in the house. She slammed the door and looked at me with red-faced anger. I told her the kids were lying and that I'd never said that word (the kid who'd told her had actually said the word itself to her, but that didn't seem to phase her). And did my mother believe her precious child? No. She ran to the closet, got out the hanger and proceeded to beat the "living daylights" out of me. But when your own mother doesn't believe you when you speak the truth, it does something to you. Something just snaps. And that is precisely what happened that fine day. Something snapped. I just looked at this raving woman and then I grabbed the hanger from her hand. For a moment, she just stood there, so swift and so shocking had my action been. She then started screaming at me to give her the hanger back, that she wasn't through, that she'd only just begun. She tried to grab it from me. This was her big mistake. I took the hanger and hit her across the arm (breaking the hanger) and I said "if you ever hit me again I will take every single hanger in this house and I will systematically break each and every one of them across your arm". I said this with such a calm and steely voice that it worked. She never hit me again. There was much talk that evening about what a bad child I was, and there was much breast-beating and crying, but in the end she knew I would keep my word.
You see, I hold nothing back, dear readers. My mother and Foxy Sondheim would have been fast friends. I could never forgive her for having believed a bunch of neighborhood scumsuckers over her very own child. That just rankled me. My father would also give the odd spanking, but he favored the belt, and he was so obvious about when it was coming (his tongue would suddenly protrude from his mouth, like some rabid dog) so we had plenty of time to run and hide and by the time he'd find us he'd have forgotten what it was he was angry about and he'd go have a sandwich.
Does this all not explain so much about me, dear readers? The lesson, if there is one, is that, through it all, I never lost my sense of humor, of how absurd it really all was. Certainly I think my parents meant well, they were just ill equipped to be parents. They would have been much better off without kids. But then, if they hadn't had me, this here column wouldn't be having its big five-o next week, now would it, dear readers? If they hadn't had me then who would be sitting on their couch like so much fish, right this very minute, spilling their guts to Miss Meryle Secrest? This week's revelations have been really cathartic. And I hold no grudges or bad feelings about my parents (they have both passed on). But you will find no upright Hoover or wooden hanger anywhere in my house.
Well, it's always a pleasure to get back to the wonderful if totally forgotten songs of Morty (Adolph) Gluckman and Herman Fitz, especially after stories about malevolent vacuum cleaners, wooden hangers, mice run amok, and protruding rabid tongues. I'm sure there's a thematic point to all this, but at the moment said point is in some netherworld of points which have gone irrevocably astray.
I finally unearthed the song that one of our dear readers had requested, The Little Things Jews Do Together. It was stuck to the back of another song which I'll get to in a bit. But for now, I'm pleased to be able to print some of The Little Things Jews Together (only part of this brilliant song survives).
It's the little things Jews do together,
I am having such fun getting to call attention to the songs I loved while I was growing up and discovering and learning about music. I do hope you're enjoying it, too, dear readers. Before I get to this week's three songs I just wanted to remind everyone that there is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. This week, I offer three songs from the musical theater. Each of these songs was important to me for different reasons.
For some reason, I've talked about Bells Are Ringing a lot in the last few weeks. It's not the most original or the most brilliant musical ever written. But it has an absolutely wonderful score and it has, in abundance, something that is surprisingly hard to achieve in musicals - lovable characters for whom you can root. The character of Ella Peterson was written for the show's star, the incandescent Judy Holliday. I never saw the show on stage, but the film version is somewhat faithful to the musical (with the exception of a few differences in the songs) and so one can get a real sense from the film of how the stage show worked. Judy Holliday repeats her one-of-a-kind performance in the film, and while the film is sometimes problematic and not especially well directed by the usually cinematic Vincente Minnelli, Judy comes through with flying colors. She is, in a word, adorable. Her opening song, It's A Perfect Relationship, is one of the great character introduction numbers, perfectly capturing the essence of Ella, and the show's central situation. As a youngster, this song just put me away. Musically it was everything I loved, and lyrically it was funny and charming and just right. To set the stage, Ella works for Susanswerphone, a telephone "service" in New York. Remember, this was before voice mail and answering machines. Even I had a service right here in Los Angeles. Ella takes and delivers messages for the service's clientele, and one client in particular is the reason she sings this song.
It's A Perfect Relationship
Ooh, My Feet
I don't want to get you all het up, but we are getting very close to our 1,000th letter according to he who knows, Mr. Mark Bakalor. He who knows (Mr. Mark Bakalor) says we are very close, and I for one believe him. Perhaps the 1,000th letter will coincide with our 50th column, and then we can have even more to celebrate. What a wingding we're going to have! I feel we are on the cusp of said wingding and that said wingding is right around the corner. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Have you ever gotten ahead of yourself? That is just very annoying. You have to turn around and look at yourself and say "come on, yourself, can't you keep up?. Then yourself has to catch up and all because you got ahead of yourself. What the hell am I talking about? Is there a point? Where was I? Oh, yes, letters.
Elizabeth writes to ask if I play a musical instrument. Yes, I do. I play the musical instrument known as the piano. I am not an especially wonderful player of said piano, but I get by. Elizabeth also warns me to not eat any ice cream which has pumpkin flavor. I assume she feels that pumpkin flavor is heinous (heinous, do you hear me?), hence the warning. Said warning has been duly noted.
annyrose spent her entire Driver's Ed class doodling pictures of fish with her friend Kristina. That is not to say that the doodled fish were with Kristina, but that Kristina was also doodling. In other words, two doodlers were doodling fish. This is known as Duelling Doodling Fishes. annyrose doesn't really care for Driver's Ed, but she likes it a damn sight better than William Faulkner. Faulkner is to annyrose, what pumpkin flavored ice cream is to Elizabeth.
sparkleneelysparkle, a fellow Diet Coke junkie, asks when Tab (the original Coca-Cola diet drink) was replaced by Diet Coke. I can't really remember when Diet Coke hit the market, but I think it was the mid-70s. It didn't replace Tab, which was and is still available, and which was and is still one of the most disgusting liquids known to man. No, Diet Coke is its own thing. Tab, on the other hand, would be the Faulkner and pumpkin flavored ice cream of diet drinks.
Jon B. sent us a wonderful activity photo. Unfortunately, Jon B. isn't in the photo. No, this photo shows the wonderful actress Karen Ziemba (currently starring on Broadway in Chicago) videotaping Jon B. as he was photographing her, so in reality it was a double activity picture of which we only have one half of the activity. Here is the picture, which we have entitled: Karen Ziemba Videotaping Jon B. As He Photographs Her Doing So.
Richard, a new dear reader (and wouldn't you all just hate it if a new dear reader won those fish socks?) recommends Ginger Ale as a cure for nausea. He once had bad gefilte fish and said Ginger Ale was just the ticket. Richard also wants to know if the theme of these columns is always bodily functions. While we have had our share of bodily function columns, I like to think we don't dwell on them. Except for the Coprophiliac Joke Book, that is. That was just dwelling in extremis.
kokol is all moved and settled in at her new digs and she is happier than she's ever been. She has new e-mail account and can now e-mail her parents all the time to assure them she is safe and sound and snug as a bug in a rug.
Mordecai comments on the misspelling of Hari-kiri. Both hara-kiri and hari-kari are listed in the dictionary and while this column was being spell checked Mr. Mark Bakalor opted for hari-kari even though I'd used hari-kiri. I changed it back after the column had gone to print, as I prefer hari-kiri to hari-kari. Mordicai informed me that Harry Carey was a sports announcer, which isn't quite accurate, unless there were two Harry Carey's, in which case we've got a Terrence Mann thing going on here. No, Harry Carey was an actor, and a fine one, who played in many John Ford westerns, including my favorite, The Searchers.
Ted also loves Bells Are Ringing. He loves the humanity of Ella Peterson's character and the way she makes a difference in people's lives. And I couldn't agree more.
Tiffany has hurt her back while moving her residence. It is very difficult to move a residence and usually it takes huge trucks to move buildings that large. The thought of poor Tiffany moving an entire building is too much for me to bear, unless, that is, she was contemplating the word "pecker" as she did it. Because Tiffany's father and I both know who wrestler Freddie Blassie is, Tiffany presumes that I am close to her father's age of fifty, which some people consider "over the hill". I think I've implied since the beginning of this column that I am at least two hundred years old, but that is neither here nor there. And when something is neither here nor there it must be in that fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. I feel age is a state of mind. I know some twenty year olds who are "old souls" and I know some two hundred year olds that are younger than any child I know. People are who they are, and age cannot change that. We should, none of us, ever be put off by a mere number. And just remember, whatever age I may really be, I am buff and toned with abs and buns of steel. So there.
I am so impressed that the following people all got the answer to last week's trivia question: Where did the heroine of Bells Are Ringing work before her job at Susanswerphone? FutureDiva, Ted, Josh, Steve G. and Michael all correctly guessed: The Bonjour Tristesse Brassiere Company. But only sparkleneelysparkle guessed the what the Bonjour Tristesse was referring to, which was the then scandalous "adult" novel by French writer Francois Sagan entitled, you guessed it, Bonjour Tristesse, which was made into an "adult" film by Otto Preminger and which starred the beautiful and tragic Jean Seberg.
Since no one got the other question I asked last week, I will make it this week's official question:
Where does our dear reader's name "sparkleneelysparkle" come from?
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...
Assassins is about how society interprets the American Dream, marginalizes outsiders and rewrites and sanitizes its collective history. "Something Just Broke" is a major distraction and plays like an afterthought, shoe horned simply to appease. The song breaks the dramatic fluidity and obstructs the overall pacing and climactic arc which derails the very intent and momentum that makes this work so compelling...
- Mark Bakalor
Which is not to say that it is perfect...
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