Saturday, February 05, 2005

Lefty Frizzell/Dairy Queen

As I was scrolling through the photo images on Tom Sutpen's blog, I was struck by the one of Lefty Frizzell under the heading "Great Philosophers of the 20th Century #5." Why? Because Lefty was born in Corsicana, Texas, a town with which I have a number of personal connections. For one thing, I taught high school there in 1963-1965, the first teaching job of my long career. I had a number of students there who lived in what was then called an "orphans' home." Probably in these PC times that's not the right name. Anyway, one student whom I remember very well was named Beatrice Vasquez. ("It's pronounced Vas-KWEZ," she said when I used the pronunciation I'd learned in Spanish class.) Miss Vasquez told me proudly that Lefty Frizzell had at one time lived in the home. I can't find any verification of that on any of the websites that have biographies of Frizzell posted on them. They all just say that he was born in Corsicana and that the family soon moved to El Dorado (pronounced, as you Arkansawyers know, "El Do-RAY-do"), Arkansas. Be that as it may, there's a statue of Frizzell in Corsicana now. I've never seen it, but one day maybe I will. (There's a photo of it on David Frizzell's webpage.)

Whenever I think of Corsicana, I think of the Dairy Queen. Sometime in the early 1950s, Corsicana got a Dairy Queen. My family lived thirty miles away, in Mexia, but somehow my father heard about the Corsicana Dairy Queen and got very interested in it. I've always thought that he hoped to be able to get together enough money to buy a DQ franchise for Mexia, but if that was so, the dream never materialized. That franchise went to someone else, and by all accounts he cleaned up with it. At any rate, my father was fascinated by the concept of soft ice cream. On more than one summer evening, we'd all pile in the family car (a 1950 navy-blue Ford, no radio, no heater, and certainly no air-conditioning) and drive to Corsicana for a DQ sundae (my father and I always got hot fudge). Believe me, in those days, a thirty-mile drive wasn't something our family undertook lightly. I can't remember ever having gone to Corsicana for any other reason, and a trip to Waco, about thirty-five miles away, was a major undertaking that called for days of planning. Dallas, ninety miles, required months of preparation. But I digress. To make the trip to the DQ even better than a mere sundae could do, we'd sometimes stop on the outskirts of Corsicana at a filling station whose owner had a monkey that was allowed to roam around at the end of a long chain. A monkey and a DQ sundae, not to mention an hour's round trip in the car. Wow. Great days.

Original image here
Posted by Hello

They're Getting Younger all the Time

Times Online - Britain Dragon flies off the shelves for author, 13, in a game of success
By Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent
A SCHOOLGIRL has become a publishing sensation after her first novel sold 50,000 copies in six weeks. A second print run for Emma Maree Urquhart’s Dragon Tamers has been ordered.

THE LONG GOODBYE -- The Altman/Brackett Version

Something Old, Nothing New: "Was there ever a recording of the complete title song from Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye? "

Jaime Weinman begins his post on Altman's movie verison of The Long Goodbye with some comments on the title song, but he goes on to talk about Leigh Brackett (and gives a link to some good info on her screenwriting career), the movie's ending, and some other interesting stuff. Check it out.

Friday, February 04, 2005

HAPPY DAYS -- The Reunion

I'm not proud to admit this, but I watched the Happy Days reunion special on ABC last night. Why? I'm not really sure, but one reason is that I found it hard to believe that thirty years have passed since the show first came on the air. It seems like only yesterday to me, which is pretty scary. In fact, I might not have believed it had been thirty years if I hadn't seen the stars of the show as they look now. It's been thirty years, all right. Geez, I'm almost afraid to look in a mirror today.

When the show was on, I didn't see it very often. In those days I taught a night class every semester, usually on the night that Happy Days aired. I must have caught some of it in reruns, though, because I'm familiar with all the characters and a lot of the shtick. I quit watching completely, however, long before Fonzie jumped the shark and before Joanie and Chachi got romantically involved. And I confess that I've never seen a single episode of Joanie Loves Chachi. Which brings up a question: Is it just me, or did those two seem to be avoiding each other last night? They never spoke or even looked at each other. I know that Erin Moran's had some problems since the show was canceled. Maybe that's it.

One of the things I didn't like about the Happy Days was that for me it never really captured what the '50s were like for a teenager, not like American Graffiti did. Although the pilot for Happy Days was made before that movie (and seems to have led to Ron Howard's getting a part in it), I always thought of Happy Days as a sort of watered-down version of the movie. And one thing that irritated me was that sometimes they didn't even bother to get the details right. There was a good example in one of the snippets last night when Ritchie tossed a copy of Irving Shulman's The Amboy Dukes into a drawer. The cover was clearly not anything from the 1950s. Probably a '60s or '70s reprint.

And of course the show jumped the shark long before that famous episode. It went off the track when it softened Fonzie and made him cuddly.

Still, I watched the whole two-hour reunion and found myself growing nostalgic for the show. Maybe I'll catch a rerun one of these days.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

J. P. Richardson -- The Big Bopper

Posted by Hello

The Day the Music Died - 46 years after crash, 'Big Bopper's' legend alive: "Feb. 3, 2005, 6:42AM
Long after 'day the music died,' the Big Bopper's legend lives on
Rock 'n' roll's 1st tragedy claimed the star from Beaumont 46 years ago today
Beaumont Enterprise

Chronicle File
J.P. 'Jape' Richardson's flamboyant alter ego, 'The Big Bopper,' used a prop phone in his act. The Texan songwriter was 28 when he died.
CLEAR LAKE, IOWA - The plane crash that took the lives of J.P. 'Big Bopper' Richardson, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens is one of rock music's pivotal moments, more significant than an electrified Dylan or that little show at Woodstock.


After the crash in Clear Lake on Feb. 3, 1959, rock 'n' roll changed. Singer Don McLean immortalized the moment as 'the day the music died' in his pop-dirge American Pie. But it was Holly, Valens, the Bopper and their pilot who died. The music (and the audience) merely changed forever."

The whole article's worth a read if you can get to it without having to register. This is another one of those days that I remember all too well.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

OK, It's Official - Kinky Friedman enters governor's race With poll: "Feb. 2, 2005, 3:20PM
Kinky Friedman entering race for governor
Associated Press

Some 13 months before the established political parties select their nominees in the state primary elections, Friedman and his trademark black cowboy hat and Cuban cigar were entering the political arena Thursday morning for what he's promised will be an unconventional campaign.

'I want the thing to be fun,' he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. 'But you can do something fun and still have it be important.'

The 60-year-old Friedman, whose nearly two dozen books include 'Kill Two Birds and Get Stoned' and whose campaign bumper stickers proclaim 'Why Not Kinky?', chose the grounds outside the Alamo, the symbol of Texas independence, to officially begin his independent campaign."

Lee Goldberg and his brother Todd occasionally have a few unkind words to say about fan fiction. I read them and, for the most part, agree. But today I started thinking (a rare and dangerous thing). Sure enough, in a way I've been plenty guilty of perpetrating fan fiction. For one thing, I've written several Sherlock Holmes stories for various anthologies, and I've written a story about Dickens' Mr. Pickwick and other characters from The Pickwick Papers for Death by Dickens. But the most fun I've had with someone else's character was writing a story called "The Captive Soul" fan Pawn of Chaos, an anthology of stories about Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion. I remember many happy days spent with my nose buried in the tales of Dorian Hawkmoon, Corum, and Elric. Being invited to write my own Elric story was a fan's dream come true. It's also true that I didn't bother to bring much of my own to the table. I was writing an Elric story as much like the ones I'd previously enjoyed as I could, with no doubt a little Robert E. Howard thrown in. It was a pleasure to write, and I can see why fans of a certain TV series or movie or fictional character might be tempted to write their own stories about their favorites. The fact that I was asked to do it (and that I got paid) might make my case a little different, but now I'm wondering just by how much. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

January 27, 1969

Everybody remembers where he was and what he was doing at some significant moment in his life. For example, everybody my age remembers where he was and what he was doing when he heard about the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

As for me, I also remember another day with startling clarity. It was January 27, 1969, when my daughter, Angela Antoinette Crider, was born in St. David's Hospital in Austin, Texas. In those days, in what I now think of as a more genteel and civilized time, fathers weren't allowed into the delivery room. Now, of course, they are, and they later invite friends and family over to the house for the showing of the full-color sound video they made of their children emerging from the womb. While I'm sure that's very enlightening for all concerned, I was quite happy to be shunted off to the waiting room to sit with other nervous fathers-to-be and wait until Angela was born.

So what did I do in the waiting room? I read a book, naturally, and I remember exactly which book it was: File on a Missing Redhead by Lou Cameron. A Gold Medal Book, as you might have guessed.

The other day on Angela's 36th birthday, in a fit of nostalgia, I pulled the book (sure, I still have it) off the shelf and read it again.

It was pretty much as I remembered it. Short, fast, and twisty. The narrator is Frank Talbot, a state trooper, which is kind of unusual when you think about it. He's investigating the murder of a redheaded woman found crammed into the forward trunk of a VW Beetle, and in the course of things he gets involved with the skip-tracing agency for which his former girlfriend (Hazel Collier) works. Hazel, as it turns out, dumped Talbot because he sent her current sweetie to the state pen. There are lots of entertaining details about skip-tracing in the novel (probably all outdated now, what with the Internet), and lots of nice CSI type stuff (also probably outdated). Plenty of procedural details, too. The violence is gruesomely described.

It turns out that the suspected killer of the redhead is being helped out by one of the agency's former workers, who knows all the tricks of the trade. And someone's trying to assassinate Talbot.

All this is wrapped up (maybe at a little too much length) in a surprising way. It even surprised me this time, on my second reading. And the final couple of pages were just great. I remember how much I liked them 36 years ago, and they're still satisfying today. Definitely not what you'd expect.

Cameron went on to create (and write a lot of books for) the Longarm series of adult westerns. I hope it made him rich. Posted by Hello

Monday, January 31, 2005

My Adventures in Peru: Chapter Three

As I mentioned in another post, the complete, uncensored story of my adventures in Peru can be found here. However, as there are no photos, I thought some of the idly curious among you might want to see a shot of the plane in which we flew over the Nasca Lines. Judy and I were in the back seat, which was a little more cramped than the middle seat, I think, not that it made much difference. Given my tendency to motion sickness, it's a miracle that I didn't get sick during the plane ride, but I didn't.

How much of a tendency to motion sickness do I have? Good question. Here's how much: I've been known to get sick in high-speed express elevators in New York hotels. I've been known to get sick while floating in the gentle surf off the beach at Galveston Island. But I was determined to survive the plane ride (especially after my little contretemps at the Lima airport). Posted by Hello

It's National Gorilla Suit Day!

news from me - ARCHIVES

Are you dressed properly?

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Roadside America - Guide to Uniquely Odd Tourist Attractions

Roadside America - Guide to Uniquely Odd Tourist Attractions: "Muffler Men
Fiberglass giants observed."

This is a cool site. Be sure and check out the section on Texas' own Cascade Caverns, and don't miss the Muffler Men!

Andean Adventure

Those of you who have nothing better to do, you can read the entire uncensored account of my trip to Peru, which is now posted on my homepage, here. No pictures, though. You'll just have to imagine how intrepid I looked.