Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Did I Ever Tell You About the Time ...

Today is Hump Day and you are probably thinking about what to do this weekend.  Here's a suggestion for  you.  Attend the 4th annual presentation of the South Bay Stories Show.  I'd never heard of it (no surprise there many of you mutter) until founder Jim Mueller joined the South Bay Writers Workshop and mentioned it.  It was a tasteful hint - a shower of vividly colored postcards and the touching way he got down on his knees and begged us to come.  None of us can resist a grown man's sobs, so we paid attention as he enlightened us as to what it is and writer Maureen did 20 minutes on stage fright and her pending appearance in this very production.

A select group of writers, singers perform on stage for a discerning audience at the Hermosa Beach Community Center - Pier and PCH.  The show schedule is:

Saturday, March 24th at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 25th at 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 25th at 4:30 p.m.
Tickets are $20 at the door - the Website is

Here is the line-up and their subjects:

Wanda Maureen Miller - "The Miracle" growing up in rural Arkansas

David Cook - "Ben and Me" friendship of Vietnam vet buddies

Shanti Friend - "My Awakening" finding her life's passion

Scott Fellows - "Aspen - A Tale of Two Cities" life in Aspen then and now

Jane Porter - "Mama" and "Dragonflies" two original songs about life on a farm

Kyle Cohen - "Welcome to LA" moving to LA and lookin' for love

Mike Shields II - "The Day the Music Died" growing up with his father

Avra Diamond - "My On-going Battle with Big Brother" trying to get her Global Entry Pass

It is a great showcase for a variety of writing styles and subjects.  Post-event you may even feel a little itch to write yourself.  Take a gander at the  - we welcome all comers. Think about it during the show - the South Bay Stories Show.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ooo! Excellent Dish!

Yesterday morning I touted a couple of books that might be of interest, but that same afternoon (!) I came across The Best for a rainy day.

Anyone Who's Anyone by George Wayne.  George Wayne emigrated (legally) from Jamaica, driven by a need to report gossip about the high and mighty of NY society, celebrities from movies, plays, fashion, the arts...and he succeeded.

He is absolutely the epitome of the witty homosexual.  Which, incidentally, he would be the first to tell you.   I haven't run across any "Girrrl, you (fill in)" yet but am only on page 127 of 280.  I have hope.

His GW Q and A column ran in Vanity Fair for 22 years.  According to him, they were eagerly sought out each month and I know I did look for them as I enjoyed some of his barbs which should have gotten him a left straight to the chin or at least, a tap on the arm with a folded fan by an irate lady.

The people in this book include:
David Copperfield - not a sunlamp tan; real deal
Debbie Reynolds - reported on a sit with Elizabeth Taylor (and Richard Burton) 38 years after Liz skipped off with Tony Curtis.
Ivanka Trump - has a good friendship with her ex, currently the President of the United States.  She advises not to wear endangered furs, but mink "are raised like chickens," so go ahead.
Milton Berle and his famous 13 in. penis - he was snarky about it

Still to come -  Martha Stewart, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York; Eartha Kitt, Donnatella Versace, and many more.

It's a real celebrity salad and if you're as big a gossipeuse as I am ... can we talk?  (Joan Rivers was interviewed, too.)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Rainy Day Reading

Incredibly enough, the weather forecasters are predicting rain for the So. Cal. area starting Wednesday and if they are right (emphasis on "if") we have some lovely curled up on a favorite seat, eating bits of this 'n that in a toasty warm house comforts coming up while the winds howl and the rain lashes the windows.  Oops - wrong place.  The Moors, maybe, but nothing so dramatic here.

Seizing every chance I can get to do nothing around the house, here are some recent reads that some of you might enjoy.

Chick Lit - The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman  Thumbnail:  widowed mid-30s woman with two small daughters and a job with a publishing company as an illustrator, gets inveigled into attending gardening classes for the publisher.  She and her sister are besties because they had a shitty mother.

(yawn) you say.  But this book is amazingly sophisticated, largely from such as:  "She has people skills like lions have gazelle skills."  "We had as much in common as a roller skate and a race car."  This makes for interesting reading for me because it is crammed with steal-able stuff.

Historical Chick/Women's Lib Lit - The Coroner's Daughter by Andrew Hughes  This tale is set in Dublin in 1816.  Apparently Dublin consistently has bad weather (fog, heavy rains, snow) or else Hughes just likes the dramatic possibilities.  The heroine is an only child, her father is the Dublin coroner; her mother is dead, apparently a suicide due to acute depression and fear of leaving her room.

Abigail Lawless shares an interest in her father's job and amazingly, he began teaching her science and dead bodies when she was 10 or 12 years old.  His job includes dissecting the body for cause of death and then presenting the findings to a jury which gets to see the dead body.  Clearly, they were hardier back then than today.  Our courts admit ghastly photos which can be bad enough.   Bonus Points:  Remember that they didn't have air conditioning in 1816.

Amazing Science - The Body Builders - Inside the Science of the Engineered Human by Adam Piore    Random chapter headings: 
The Woman Who Can See With Her Ears - Neuroplasticity and Learning Pills
The Birth of Bamm-Bamm* - Decoding the Genome and Rewriting It
The Telepathy Technician - Decoding the Brain and Imagined Speech
The Bionic Man Who Builds Bionic People

* Age three, Bamm-Bamm had six-pack abs, could scale a gym rope unassisted and waved 5 lb. barbells around like rattles.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

St. Patrick's Celebrations - Then and Now

Once upon a time ... in 1960 when I was a Junior at KU, my buds and I had a favorite bar.  It was Kelly's Westport Inn, shortened as you may imagine to "Kelly's."  It is a one-story brick building on a corner in Westport which was Kansas City's modest attempt at cool.  The building was believed to be the oldest building in KC, having been built in 1850 where it sat complacently until this moment.  We were told that there were chains in the basement walls for slave owners to park their property whilst having a convivial drink upstairs.  None of us were ever invited to take a look.

The building, if not Kelly's itself, was designated a National Historic site in 1959.  Post Prohibition was when the bar got a liquor license.

Today, you can see the ashes of George Wiedenn, Sr. in a Ten High bottle behind the bar.  Unf. the Website never discloses who he was in the life of Kelly's.  Whatever it was, he's still around.

"What does all of this have to do with celebrating St. Paddy's?" you ask.  Because in 1960, I drove my mother's car from KU direct, non-stop to Kelly's to celebrate it.  You know that a bar named Kelly's is going to be doing a good business on March 17th.

Such was the crowd attempting to pay tribute to St. Patrick that it spilled out onto the sidewalk and over the curbs.  To get a drink, you handed your money to a person closer to the bar than you were, the money made it's way through the crowd to the bar, the drink was made (Brandy Alexanders in my case and no, I don't know what I was thinking; I was 20) and sent back over bobbing heads to the person who ordered it.  No one ever kept the money sent to the bar nor drank the drink it bought.  People were honest back in those days.

Now fast forward 57 years and this is how Richie and I celebrated St. Patrick's Day.  He and "D" went down to the Hermosa Beach parade, had corned beef and cabbage at Scotty's on the Strand and a couple of beers at The Deck which used to be a dive bar named the Poopdeck.  Lucky bastards got window seats.  Himself came gliding in at about 5 p.m. after a 10:30 a.m. start where they waited and waited for the parade to begin which is typical and why I didn't go.

So what did we do together?  He had a gin and tonic and in the spirit of "green" the color of the day, I made myself a Green Martini.  We sipped our libations and waited for the pizza delivery guy.  And then we watched "The Quiet Man" with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.  Neither had to do a lot of "acting;"  in fact, all Maureen had to do all the movie was run like a deer, throwing alarmed looks behind her.  Her two expressions were doe-eyed fear and red hot rage.  Wayne just had to show up. He never played anyone but himself in any event.

So that is the contrast between back then and now.  If we're still able to get around without wheelchairs next year, we could fly back to KC for St. Patrick's Day at Kellys though ... writing about it has made me nostalgic.  Except for the part when I went to go home, found the driver's window of my Mother's borrowed car busted in with little round pebbles of glass all over the front seat.  At first Alexander and I thought they were rain drops.   They weren't.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy St. Patrick's Day

When a Bush Stopped Construction into Shannon Airport
Back in 1999, a new roadway into the airport was being constructed.  One fine day, the bulldozer operator was happily digging his way along when as he came to a blackthorn tree.  His blade was down to get this bush, right in the middle of what would be the road, out of the way, when he was stopped when an old woman suddenly appeared out of nowhere, screaming, "Do not touch the tree!  If you do, you will have fatal accidents right here!"

The bulldozer driver can't in good conscience run over the old lady, so he stops.  And then more people appear, all shouting with the old woman "Do not touch the tree!"

It turns out that the blackthorn tree is a meeting place for dueling fairy clans.  Reminder:  we're in Ireland, okay?  This minor, but sincere uprising made the papers and television.  The upshot was that the engineers divided the lanes to put the tree in the center.  Completion took 10 years.

And then in 2002 I think it was, some nut case attacked the tree with a chain saw and cut off many of the branches.   Ahhh, twas a serious mistake - anyone who cuts off a branch of a blackthorn is cursed and the curse is that the perpetrator will never have a good night's sleep ever again.

The Curse That Lasted 90 Years
The County Mayo hurling team had finally made it to the finals.  They were ecstatic!  But nervous. In previous years, they had not had the best of luck.  How to ensure victory?

A visit to Biddy, a well-known white witch who had a blue jar of magic, was in order.  The team wanted to take the blue jar to the tournament, sure that it would give them a win.

Biddy was adamantly against this separation from her magic blue jar.  Back and forth they went.  Finally after an appeal to her civic pride, she did give them the magic blue jar. with many a warning.  "Do not lose my bottle!"  Promises flew through the air as to the future safety of the blue jar.

Magic blue jar or not, the County Mayo team won the tournament!  They repaired to a riverside pub and the celebration went on into the night.  They proposed numerously toasts to Biddy and ... the inevitable happened.  The bottle fell into the river and although they searched frantically (and drunkenly), it was never seen again.

Biddy retaliated and put this curse on them:  "You will never win again until every last one of you connected with the team is dead," she screamed.

This was in 1905.  County Mayo did not win another tournament until 1995.  And the newspaper headlines screamed in 36 font, "Curse Finally Broken!"

Friday, March 16, 2018

Mixed - True and Maybe Not

This happened a long time ago - despite the TV series "Victoria" which might make you think the following anecdote was more recent than it really is.

It was the custom back then that if royalty came to visit, you had to not only feed and drink them lavishly, but if they admired, say, a decorative item in your house - a gold tablecloth?  A finely-wrought bit of sculpture? - you had to give it to them, then and there.   The poor hosts had to have been torn between showing off -"Oh, this - my grandfather brought it back from India - pure jade" or else hide everything of any value whatsoever and apologize for your house being so bare - "Ah, the winter floods - did terrible damage in the salons - everything has to be repaired to explain the rather bleak look you see around you."  Both monarch and host knew exactly what was going on.

And this is one story of host and monarch.

The owner of Muckrake House outside of Killarney went broke entertaining Queen Victoria.  When he died shortly after her bank-breaking visit, near death, he asked to be buried in a standing position.  "On Judgement Day, I want to wake up looking out at my beloved lake."  And upped and died shortly thereafter.

The tenants - who, by the way, hated him - buried him in a vertical position all right - upside down.

Meaner spirits declared that he wanted to be buried standing up to keep what few coins he had left in his pocket!

Murphy's Bar, Galway
Richie tried to get a free drink in every bar named "Murphy's we passed by waving his California driver's license around and wheedling, "Sure and you don't have a beer for a thirsty cousin?"  We got laughed out of every bar named Murphy's all over Ireland.

Others have a system.  Four women and a man strolled into the Galway laugh fest, asked for a clean glass and they all put money in it.  They paid for beverages from the money glass.

Cistercian monks
Their first job of the day is to go out to the private cemetery and dig a shovelful of dirt from the grave marked for them.  This was done to remind them of their own mortality.  They then put the shovels back in the shed, went in for breakfast and started their day.

Choctaw Indians and Irishmen
During the Great Famine, the people of County Mayo were hit especially hard.  They died of hunger by the hundreds at the sides of the roads, trying to escape.

Somehow, the Choctaw Indians of Florida who had been moved from their own lands heard about the this Irish plight and collected $405 among themselves and sent it to Ireland.  This began a great friendship between the people of County Mayo and the Choctaw Indians who still trade visits to this day.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Banshees Screams Mean You Are Doomed! But Maybe Not.

Tour guide Dominic said to us, "I don't think of myself as a nervous man, but I was terrified as a child by the Banshees.  They were old women who sat on the fence outside your house and screamed all the night long.  This meant that someone in that house was going to die!  Or, that someone far away had died!" and shuddered delicately.

He probably didn't know it as a child, but because his last name is Dixon, he is spared the Banshee's warning.  There are only five families in all of Ireland that need to fear them.  They are:   the O'Connors, the O'Gradys, the O'Neills, the O'Brians and the Kavanagh.  They are thought to be the first families in Ireland.

The Banshees are still feared today (by some) and the reason is that their legend has become increasingly evil.  In olden times, the Banshee's provided a service - a warning of death.  This devolved somehow into the Banshees want to kill you!  They are said to fly through the night looking to feed on sadness.  Their screams are believed to be so high-pitched that they can break glass and blow out every artery in your body so that you die, awash in your own free-flowing blood.
From a scholarly point of view, this blood bath (literally) conjures up visions that the traveling companions of the Banshees would be Vampires.  Pur them on the To Be Feared List, too.  And if visiting Ireland, stay in the town centers - not out in "the country" where they may still have Banshees.