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One From Column A...
by "The Real A"

September 14, 1998 - #51

Here we are, dear readers, writing our 51st column. Yes, you heard it here, our 51st column. Our first fifty columns are a thing of the past, and since we are in the present it is only fitting that we are writing our 51st column. In the future we will be writing our 52nd column because the 51st column will be in the past. Now, if I were feeling daring, I could write our 52nd column in the present (meaning now) and screw up the whole precious balance of our very lives, column-wise. Then our 51st column wouldn't be present, and it also would not have passed into the past. And what of the future? The future is out of luck, frankly, because the present and past will not have reconciled, and an unreconciled present and past does not bode well for a conciled future. You see, when you have a past and present and future you simply cannot mess around with them. They will not be toyed with. So, I think it's best to just write our 51st column right here, right now, so that in the future I can write our 52nd column and keep the past, present and future all happy as clams (smalc spelled backwards). Have you ever been happy as a clam? And just how do we know if a clam is happy? Have you ever seen a clam smile? No. A clam just sits there like so much fish (as well the clam should) and looks slimy. And then someone eats it and so much for the clam even remotely approaching happiness. After all, think about a clam's sorry lot. It is born. It has a brief unexceptional clam childhood, and then some gourmond eats it. No future, really, for the clam. Its past is but a journey to its present and its present is a dead end. And what can you expect for a thing that is named "clam"? I feel, somehow, that I have lost the thread, don't you, dear readers? I feel, if there ever were a thread, said thread is dead. Couldn't be deader than said thread is the way I look at it. And because there is a dead thread, the whole beginning of this column has an unraveled feel to it. I like a nice raveled feel, don't you, dear readers? Well, perhaps we'll have a raveled feel in the next paragraph which is just ahead in the future. For the present, we will end this section so we can move on to the future and let this unraveled section pass into the past. Are you with me?

Well, here we are in a new paragraph. Just a brief moment ago this paragraph didn't exist, it was just a floating idea waiting to come to fruition in the future. But now that I am writing it, it is in the present and will soon be in the past. I hope this is beginning to make sense to you, because frankly I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. I only know that the word "fruition" is rather an inane looking and sounding word. Why isn't it spelled like it's pronounced? Frooishun. I mean, make up your mind, word people. You cannot have it all ways from Sunday or whatever the hell that expression is. Is it "frooishun" or is it "froot-eye-on"? Or, if I feel like having a plum or a pear, do I say, I'd like a nice piece of "frooish"? You see my point, dear readers? One's a froot, one's a frooish. Even though I have been looking very hard, I don't believe I have found the thread yet. I think that has become painfully obvious.

Another paragraph has passed into the past, and been replaced by a paragraph that was in the future put is now in the present. I feel we have order and balance. No thread, but order and balance. If we could just find that damned thread, we'd have a nice little menage-a-trois (order/balance/thread) going. As it is, we'll have to make do with a menage-a-deux for the time being (the present). Moments from now (the future) they will be coming to take my couch (on which I sit like so much fish) away. They will take said couch and then I shall be Couchless In California, but only for a brief moment. Because then, other "they"'s will come and bring my new couch (on which I will immediately sit like so much fish) and all will be right with the world and couchness. I will have a full report for you, dear readers, on said new couch because you have a right to know. But, for now, that couch is simply not present in the present, while my soon to be ex-couch is not present in the past on account of it still being in the present. Frankly, I've just about had it with the present, the past, and the future. I feel we have taken the past, present and future and beaten them to a pulp (plup spelled backwards). I feel it is time to put this entire section of the column in the past, because right here in the present I am totally fed up with it. There is simply no thread here. We have Habeus Threadus here, is what we have. Oh, let's not start with the ten dollar Latin words or we'll be here until the cows come home (the future). This column is starting to feel like the musical Titanic: Sinking and still running at the same time. But enough about me.

The Real A: A Life

Have I mentioned that I am reeking of garlic? Last night (the past) when I ate said garlic I was reeking so badly that dogs were shying away from me in the street. I ate said garlic at one of my favorite restaurants, Dan Tana's. I had caesar salad (in which said garlic resided) and spaghetti carbonara. There was so much food that even I couldn't finish it, which is very unusual for me. You see, when I was a child my mother told me that I had to finish everything on my plate because there were people starving in China. Of course, she didn't know the starving people in China. So what did it matter whether I finished the food on my plate or not? But her ploy ("yolp" spelled backwards) worked. And it was the fear factor that made it work. And the fears that are instilled in us as children stay with us for the rest of our lives (the future).

Of course, the past is what Miss Meryle Secrest is interested in. She continues excavating the archeological digs of my memory. She continues to probe like a doctor checking out a prostate. So, this issue of fears that were instilled in me as a child piqued her interest. And a piqued Secrest is a formidable thing. Because as someone who happens to be my close personal friend once wrote: Careful the things you say, children will listen.

When I was a child of six or so, my cousin Donny would occasionally babysit my brother and me. And since Donny was closer too my brother's age, they would frequently be in cahoots together and torment me if I did anything untoward or if I annoyed them to much. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, they would be in cahoots. So, if I did anything he didn't like, Donny would threaten to call a certain "Mr. Hathaway". Now, Mr. Hathaway is a fairly ordinary sounding name, but Donny said it with such malevolence and dread, said it with such utter terror in his voice, that I would run from the room, shaking in fear that "Mr. Hathaway" would come over and set me straight. Sometimes Donny would even pick up the phone and start dialing Mr. Hathaway's number. He even pretended to talk to Mr. Hathaway on one occasion, and this sent me speeding to my room, where I immediately hid in the closet. Even when Donny wasn't there, my brother carried on and threatened to call Donny who (my brother said) would call Mr. Hathaway. Well, needless to say, no Mr. Hathaway ever showed up to straighten me out because Mr. Hathaway was a figment of Donny's warped imagination. But to this day I hate that name with a passion, which coincidentally happens to be the name of a show by my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim.

Mr. Hathaway was but one of many childhood fears. At around that same age, I came home one day and was told that our house had been robbed. Uncouth interlopers had broken in and stolen things from our house. Our house. Our sanctuary. I didn't even really know what "robbed" meant, but it was the thought that strangers could just come into our house and take things that freaked me out. Right after that, and for several years to follow, I would awaken in the middle of the night and be convinced that uncouth interlopers were in the house and stealing our china. This was because in our dining room we had a china cabinet which rattled somewhat. Now, in the middle of the night, to this scared child, it seemed like those interlopers were opening that china cabinet and taking our dishes! Why they would be doing this is another story. We didn't exactly have world-class china. So, I would lie there in a sweat, shaking because I thought we were being robbed. But in the morning, darned if our china wasn't still safe and sound. Two or three nights later, I'd awaken in the middle of the night, hear the china cabinet rattling and think uncouth interlopers had broken in and were stealing our china. But the china was still there in the morning. You'd have thought I'd have learned after a while, but it never stopped and for years I would have these nocturnal "hearing the china thieves" episodes. Fear. I still have dreams occasionally where I think people are trying to break into the house, and it all stems from that long ago (the past) robbery.

Miss Meryle Secrest has also uncovered this fact about my father. I had wiped out this memory totally, but back it came, hurtling to the forefront of my consciousness. Our family would always eat dinner precisely at five o'clock. Come rain or come shine, we dined at five. After dinner I'd go out and play for awhile, then after that watch tv in our den. My mother would already be in her quilted pink robe and fluffy slippers, sitting on the couch. My father would be sitting in his special "father" chair, a nice big chair right in the center of the room. And here is how my father was attired: In a pajama top. Period. I've already mentioned that my father was a rotund man (and at five foot four said rotundness was even more pronounced), so said pajama top barely came down to below his very ample stomach. Now, I don't know about you, dear readers, but I, even as a child, found it very disconcerting to walk into the den and find my father sitting in his chair, legs akimbo, with his zubrick hanging out for all to see. My mother paid no attention whatsoever, like this was a perfectly normal thing, like this was how all dads watched TV. But the question remained: Why on Earth would anyone sit like that? I don't sit like that, even when I'm alone. First of all, I could be sitting like that and uncouth interlopers could enter my home to steal my china and then what? There I would be in pajama top, genitalia (zubrick or yoni) on view for those thieves to see. But my father did have some decorum (another ten dollar Latin word). If guests came over he would put on his underwear. I kid you not, dear readers, not his pants, just his underwear. Which is why we had very few unannounced visitors.

The one other thing that I remembered recently, which has nothing to do with fear and everything to do with revulsion, has to do with the amount of noise my father and brother made while eating. I just don't cotton to loud eating noises. I don't silk or nylon to it either. My father could be heard eating two blocks from our house. And my brother. It wasn't necessarily the loudness of his eating it was the grotesque nauseating noises he would make. He knew this made me crazy, so he naturally did it more and more just to get to me. He would sometimes bring a banana into bed and then eat it slowly late at night, so that I could hear that heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) sound of banana and saliva and squishing. I seriously thought about doing away with my brother over this single issue, but sanity prevailed (barely) and my brother is alive and well and living in Hawaii, where I'm sure he is annoying someone with the sound of his eating. Perhaps I should call Mr. Hathaway.

An Annoying Thing That Happened

Has this ever happened to you, dear readers? I was sitting here on my soon to be (the present about to be the past) ex-couch, writing the previous (the past) section, when my finger accidentally slipped on my keyboard and I nuked everything I had written. Is that just the most annoying thing? Yes would be the answer. And of course, wouldn't you know it, everything that I nuked was simply brilliant, witty, and filled with pith. Then I had to rewrite what I'd nuked and it's never the same, is it? It's hard to recapture the magic. It becomes labored. So, please forgive me if anything in the last section seemed labored. If it did, you now know the reason why. Isn't it interesting that "know" is just "now" with a useless "k" and a new pronunciation? Are you listening, word people?

A Wonderful Thing That Happened

Well, dear readers, I am happy as a clam. Why you ask, and I will tell you because I want you to know. I am happy as a clam because my old couch is now a thing of the past (at least in this house) and my new (the present) couch has arrived and I am sitting on it like so much fish this very minute! I love my new couch. It is so very comfortable and pretty. Its color is much better for the room in which it resides. I now feel I have a fashionable sofa and chair ensemble and will have a dinner party immediately to show them off. The thing I did not like about my ex-couch is that the cushions were made of foam and if you sat too long in one place like so much fish, said foam just took on the shape of where you were sitting and everything looked askew and akimbo. But now we have down cushions which hold their shape no matter how long your butt cheeks may sit on them. Oh, I am a happy as a clam couch dweller. The squirrel on the roof just came down, walked up to my window and looked me straight in the eye. It then looked at the couch with admiration and then climbed the tree and knocked off an orange.

My Favorite Things

And so we have another chapter in our continuing saga of songs that I have loved, songs that have moved me, songs that are just plain wonderful for their own sake and songs that helped change my life. For this week's column, I thought it would be fun to look at three songs with lyrics by the oh so fabulous Ira Gershwin. Ira, for those who may not be aware, didn't only write songs with brother George. He also wrote with the likes of Jerome Kern, Kurt Weill and Harold Arlen. And each of those composers brought out totally different things. These three songs were/are among my favorites. His lyrics are so telling, so true, so simple when they need be, also fun, clever and beautifully crafted. To start, one of my all time hit paraders.

Music by Harold Arlen
Words by Ira Gershwin

The night is bitter,
The stars have lost their glitter;
The winds grow colder,
And suddenly you're older-
And all because of the man that got away.

No more his eager call,
The writing's on the wall;
The dreams you've dreamed have all
Gone astray.

The man that won you,
Has run off and undone you.
That great beginning,
Has seen the final inning.
Don't know what happened,
It's all a crazy game.

No more that all time thrill,
For you've been through the mill-
And never a new love will
Be the same.

Good riddance, good bye!
Every trick of his you're on to.
But, fools will be fools-
And where's he gone to?

The road gets rougher,
It's lonelier and tougher.
With hope you burn up-
Tomorrow he may turn up.
There's just no let up
The live-long night and day.

Ever since this world began
There is nothing sadder than
A one man woman looking for
The man that got away...
The man that got away.

One of the great torch songs, with one of the great lyrics about loss and yearning ever written, with one of the best Harold Arlen tunes. In short: Magic. Next we have one of I. Gershwin's most poetic lyrics and one I never grow tired of hearing.

Music by George Gershwin
Words by Ira Gershwin

Our romance won't end on a sorrowful note,
Though by tomorrow you're gone.
The song is ended, but as the songwriter wrote,
"The melody lingers on."
They may take you from me,
I'll miss your fond caress,
But though they take you from me,
I'll still possess:

The way you wear your hat,
The way you sip your tea,
The memory of all that-
No, no! They can't take that away from me!

The way your smile just beams,
The way you sing off key,
The way you haunt my dreams-
No, no! They can't take that away from me!

We may never, never meet again
On the bumpy road to love,
Still I'll always, always keep
The memory of-

The way you hold your knife,
The way we danced till three,
The way you changed my life-
No, no! They can't take that away from me!
No, they can't take that away from me!

To say that they don't write them like that anymore would be the understatement of the millenium. Sublime would be a word that comes to mind, especially when the lyric is coupled with the sexy, sinuous and altogether brilliant melody by George. I don't know what it is about this next song, but it's just a perfect little gem, short, sweet and to the point. This melody was key in helping me discover what I love in music.

Music by Jerome Kern
Words by Ira Gershwin

Dreary days are over,
Life's a four leaf clover.
Sessions of depressions are through:
Every hope I longed for long ago comes true.

Long ago and far away,
I dreamed a dream one day-
And now that dream is here beside me.
Long the skies were overcast,
But now the clouds have passed:
You're here at last!
Chills run up and down my spine,
Aladdin's lamp is mine:
The dream I dreamed was not denied me.
Just one look and then I knew
That all I longed for long ago was you.

What a dreamy song that is. I'll have to go find a version and play it right now. In fact, I'll have to play all three of these because frankly they make me happy as a that slimy, gelatinous fish known as a clam.

The Gluckman and Fitz Songbook

Yes, another song from the seemingly bottomless trunk of Morty (Adolph) Gluckman and Herman Fitz. This song is very sensitive and yet makes you hungry at the same time.

Music by Morty (Adolph) Gluckman
Words by Herman Fitz

Anyone for brisket?
Corned beef on rye?
Anyone for brisket?
Or Matzoh Brie?

Some noodle kugel,
Some kishka or a knish.
Or latkes served with fish,
I wish...

How I'd like a bagel,
Brimming with lox.
I'll take what you're leaving
Home in a box.
Some nice chopped liver,
Some pickles on the side...
Top it off with knaedlich,
Maybe a blintz,
Prunes that are dried...
A nice glass of tea...
So, bring on that brisket,
Brisket for me.

So downright poignant (a word beyond help). Next week we'll have more Gluckman and Fitz, who, as you know, were in cahoots with each other.

Letters... We Get Letters

Ring dem bells! Cheer dem cheers! Why you ask, and I'll tell you because you have a right to know, dear readers. Because we have received our 1000th letter! Yes, you heard it here, our 1,000th letter. So, drum roll if you please...

...the winner of the brand spanking new handy dandy fish socks is:


Yes, our very own Tiffany wins dem fish socks, which will look wonderful on her feet, presuming she locates the lower half of her body before they arrive. Congratulations to Tiffany and may she wear dem fish socks in good health. Please allow two weeks for delivery. Meanwhile, no slacking off, dear readers. Keep those cards and letters coming and then, who knows, there may just be a surprise waiting come Christmas time, for each and every dear reader who keeps on writing. Thanks to Mr. Mark Bakalor for that impressive drum roll graphic.

1,000 letters. Can you imagine? Well, here's to the next 1,000. Yes, keep on writing because the twenty-five people who've written the most are going to get that special Real A Christmas gift. And now, on to this week's letters.

Matt has sent an activity photo to share with us. This photo was taken at the top of the Empire State Building on a recent trip to New York.

Isn't that a wonderful activity photo? However, if I were Matt (and I may well be) I'd be just a little concerned about the bottom half of his face, which seems to be disappearing.

Anna has written to warn me that she feels it is not safe to stand in front of a microwave oven (it might explode, feels Anna) and that if you look into said microwave oven that you could go blind. Rest easy, dear Anna, because I do not own a microwave oven. Ever since I saw the motion picture The Fly, I just get the willies over the idea of molecules rearranging themselves. I must say, though, that Anna seems to have an unnatural fear of microwaves, just as I have an unnatural fear of uncouth interlopers stealing my china.

Rafael bought Songs From A New World, and, like me, has found it not to be his cup of tea. He also got the cd of Steel Pier. He wants to know if I saw the show and if so what I thought of it. I did see it and, while I liked some of the songs, the show did not work at all. It could never make up its mind what it wanted to be. The book didn't work, and the direction and choreography of Scott Ellis and Susan Stroman failed to bring the show to life. But I remain a loyal and true Kander and Ebb fan. Rafael also points out that the film version of Bells Are Ringing contains a slightly revised lyric for The Party's Over. Instead of

No matter how you pretend
You knew it would end
This way.

The lyric was changed to:

They've burst your pretty balloon,
And taken the moon

I like both and don't really know why the change was made. Perhaps Mr. Hathaway has the answer.

Tiffany (she of the fish socks) wrote to say she loved our little stroll down memory lane, but wishes I'd printed her favorite What If - What If Stephen Sondheim had written The Life. Well, since wishes sometimes can come true, here it is.

Into the whores,
We have to pay,
Cause that's the only
Way they play.
Into the whores
Without delay
I've got a hundred dollars!

Into the whores,
They offer sex;
But just for cash
No cards or checks!
They'll sleep with scum
Or with execs
That's how they earn their living.

They'll do it straight,
Or kinky, too.
They'll say you're great
Though it's not true.
They'll do it in chains
If chains are your thing.
They'll dress up like a sheep, dear,
But costumes don't come cheap, dear

Into the whores,
On beds or rugs;
They don't have time
To give you hugs.
They've got to run
And go buy drugs
To keep their boyfriends happy.

Into the whores,
You pay your bucks;
For large amounts
You get "deluxe".
After a while
The Life just sucks...
They pay the pimp,
They do the dirty
They flaunt
They flirt
They touch
They do
They smile
They moan
They tell you you're fabulous...

Into the whores,
Into the whores,
Into the whores,
Then out of the whores
And home to your wife.

Tiffany also informs me that her ever lovin' Nellie hasn't been feeling well. We wish Nells a speedy recovery. Perhaps when Nellie gets a load of those fish socks that will be just the tonic Nellie needs.

mrsmig tells me she definitely remembers the song Be A Santa but never realized it was from a musical. It was, and the answer is provided in the trivia section soon to come(the future).

annyrose has officially finished Driver's Ed. Having finished said Ed, she wants to know if I play Euchre. I certainly would if I knew what it was. I presume it's a card game of some sort. What I'd like to know is, are the Euchre cards ochre? annyrose would also like to know if I can tell her the name of the main guy in Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms. I have never read Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms, but I did read the sequel A Hello To Feet which I enjoyed tremendously.

Lindsay writes to see if I still remember her, as she has been errant in her letter writing to this here column. She wants to know if she can still be a dear reader despite her errant ways. Yes, I remember Lindsay, and yes, of course she can be a dear reader. Once you're a dear reader, you're always a dear reader in my book (chapter 126 - The Dear Reader Syndrome). We welcome Lindsay back with open arms (unlike Hemingway, we have never said Farewell to said arms).

steve g (not steve s) has informed me that this here column's very own Barbra Brolin (nee Streisand) is his wife's very own first cousin. No, they did not attend the wedding. steve g also tells me that he's been reading this here column since its inception, which, as we all know was fifty long columns ago. Steve has stuck with this here column through thick and through thin, through fair weather and foul, and we thank him and all our other dear readers who have done the same.

Pat King (he of Wheaton North) wonders why I didn't make the fish socks musical fish socks. I would have, of course, had I made them. But I do not, nor have I ever, had the ability to make fish socks. I cannot darn or sew. I cannot knit or tat. I, in short, cannot make fish socks in any way, shape, or form.

sparkleneelysparkle tells me that I referred to Francoise Sagan as Francois Sagan. Well, what a difference that "e" makes. That little "e" marks the difference between a male and a female. No "e" = male, "e" = female. That was simply heinous (heinous, do you year me?) of me. With the slip of a letter I turned a she into a he. Doctors in Sweden might be very interested in this discovery.

Michael wrote to say that his close personal friend Michael Tough, the singing janitor, would be touched by my kind words. I, too, am touched at the mere thought of Michael Tough, the singing janitor being touched by my apparently touching words.

Kristina will be trying out for the role of Sally when her school does its production of Tommy. We wish Kristina luck with said audition.

Trivia and Other Useless Knowledge

Oh, I'm so happily sitting on my brand spanking new handy dandy sofa (which came with matching chair, very important, that) like so much fish. As to last week's (the past) trivia question, what show is the song Be A Santa from, and who in the chorus went on to be a major force in the musical theater, the following people guessed correctly:

  • gavin (well, half correct)
  • cheshirecat
  • steve g.
  • William Franklin Orr
  • Vladimir
  • Pat King
  • Andrew Milner (half correct)

And the answer: Subways Are For Sleeping, which features a terrific score by Jule Styne and Comden and Green. The chorus boy was Michael Bennett.

This week's (the present) trivia question: Another of my favorite songs when I was growing up was a very sweet song called Never Before. The song is from an obscure musical which I discovered in a most curious way. My A&P market used to have LPs for sixty-nine cents, mostly junk, but sometimes nice stuff, too. I once found the stereo soundtrack to the film Gigi there. When I got home and opened the album, the wrong record was inside. It was a Broadway musical cast album. It quickly became and has remained a guilty pleasure. So, what show is Never Before from and who wrote the score? I know I will not be fooling many of you musical comedy experts, so send in your guesses.

Send all answers to me at or use the form below...



Questions? Comments?

Well, dear readers, the present is about to be the past and the future about to be the present. Order and balance abounds. But, have you realized that I have never found the thread of this column? The thread has remained elusive. Perhaps next week (the future) the thread will reveal itself to me and then we shall have order, balance and a thread. And aren't you proud of me, dear readers? Not one cigar joke in the whole column. Now, that is restraint.

Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...

Yours, yours, yours, yours, yours.

The Real A

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