Sunday, April 28, 2024

Quips and Quotations (What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas Edition)


We experienced music in the same visceral way. Music ignited a fiery pent-up passion inside Elvis and inside me. It was an odd, embarrassing, funny, inspiring, and wonderful sensation. We looked at each other move and saw virtual mirror images. When Elvis thrust his pelvis, mine slammed forward too. When his shoulder dropped, I was down there with him. When he whirled, I was already on my heel.


Elvis Presley confided in me soon after he did Viva Las Vegas with Ann-Margret that he was considering marrying her. I'm not implying that anything untoward ever occurred between them, but they had marvelous chemistry. But soon after that, I think he might have had it read to him from a review, he heard Ann-Margret described as "a female Elvis," and Elvis reacted negatively. To his mind, it was vaguely homosexual! Whether that's what cooled his feelings for Ann-Margret or not, I don't know.

--Bobby Darin

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Near and Dear


Truman Capote (the author of Breakfast at Tiffany's), Audrey Hepburn (who starred in the film version of Capote's novel), and Mel Ferrer (Audrey's then-husband.) Where are they? In a photo booth! The rich and famous seemed to delight in them just as much as the proletariat. The first viable photo booths emerged in the 1920s, but it was really the introduction of Polaroid, i.e., instantly developed film, in the 1940s that these combination vending machines-kiosks took off. You could find them in arcades, amusement parks, train stations, bus stations, airports, and eventually shopping malls. Remember this was before cell phones, and thus before selfies. If you or a couple of your friends wanted on the spur of the moment to get your picture taken and didn't want to bug some stranger to hold the camera, you just ducked into one of these inexpensive little booths. One drawback, at least back in the 1950s when Truman, Audrey, and Mel flashed their smiles for the lens, was the background was always the same. No getting your photo snapped in front of the Statue of Liberty. It wouldn't have fit in the booth!

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Any Hyannis Port in a Storm





About that last picture. There seems to be a family member...


Friday, April 19, 2024

Quips and Quotations (Free Enterprise and Free Spirits Edition)


Yes, April is just that, and while there's still time I thought I should post a poem--but which poem? There are so many. After much consideration I decided it would be nice to share what... poet thought of...


What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I
walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-
conscious looking at the full moon.
   In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the
neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
   What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping
at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in
the tomatoes!—and you, García Lorca, what were you doing
down by the watermelons?

   I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking
among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
   I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork
chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
   I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following
you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
   We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary
fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and
never passing the cashier.

   Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour.
Which way does your beard point tonight?
    (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the 
supermarket and feel absurd.)
   Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add
shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.
   Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue
automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
   Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what
America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you
got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear
on the black waters of Lethe?

--Allen Ginsberg, "A Supermarket in California", 1956




Sunday, April 14, 2024

Graphic Grandeur (Female Accessories Edition)


Alternative cartoonist Trina Robbins drew the above in 1983. We're now a whole 24 years into the 21st century and I have yet to run into somebody like this in the park or the mall, but if and when I do, you can be damn sure I'll ask her to take a selfie with me.



Thursday, April 11, 2024

Wait Until Dark


You want to experience all four seasons? Spend a week in Cleveland.

What follows two days of rain in Cleveland? Monday.

I must say, nobody tells Cleveland jokes better than Clevelanders themselves. You can't depend on out-of-towners to tell them. They're still making cracks about the river catching on fire. That was 55 years ago, folks! We've moved on. There's a lot of jokes to be made of our weather, but outsiders get that wrong, too. People who never lived in Cleveland or never visited Cleveland think it's this 365-day snowstorm. If that were true it might actually bring some piece of mind as there would be some predictability and consistency to the weather. No, Cleveland is not colder or snowier than any other northern U.S. city that lies just south of Canada. Instead, as you may have gathered from the above two jokes, the weather is erratic. I don't know if it has to do with Lake Erie being the shallowest of the Great Lakes or what, but you just can't depend on the weather to stay cold or warm or rainy or dry or sunny or cloudy or snowy or non-snowy. It plays havoc with people's wardrobes. You can't put spring clothes away for the winter or winter clothes away for the spring because spring at any time could make a cameo appearance in winter and winter could make a cameo appearance in spring. You've heard of the January thaw? I think this year we had January thaws, plural, because every week of that month there was cold followed by warm followed by cold followed by warm again. Not this year, but I remember one winter when a snowstorm dumped a foot of snow, followed a day later with temperatures in the 50s, which resulted in massive flooding. Not that you had to worry too much about drowning, because the next day temperatures were below freezing, and the flood waters had turned to ice! When it comes to climate change, Cleveland has always been ahead of the curve.

I bring all this up because as you may have heard Cleveland was in the path of Monday's solar eclipse, and nobody in our humble little metropolis could quite bring themselves to believe that we were going to be allowed to experience this historic event because something somewhere was bound to fuck us over, mainly the weather. For the first time in my life, I think Clevelanders actually wanted two days of rain followed by a sunny Monday, but with our luck it probably would be the other way around.

Oh, wow, Holly's back on TV! That's almost as newsworthy as the eclipse (all you out-of-towners needn't concern yourselves with what I'm talking about.) As you can see, the prediction early Monday morning was a mixture of sun and clouds. In fact, I only remember the sun so it was a rare occasion of normally pessimistic ol' me seeing the glass as half full. What follows are pictures from around Northeast Ohio on the day of the eclipse, and after that some personal recollections. 

As with any historic event that you're fortunate enough to know ahead of time is a historic event (so that leaves out the eruption of Mount Vesuvius) there were souvenirs.

Does that mean I'm allowed to run a red light?

Wear special eclipse glasses and you won't go blind (not even if you're spanking the--well, this is a family blog, so I won't say.)

Edgewater Beach, about two hours before totality. See Downtown Cleveland in the distance? 

Downtown's center, Public Square.

 Cleveland Clinic Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This infant girl is well-protected from the harmful rays of the sun.

Cuyahoga Falls.

Final score: Guardians 4, White Sox 0.

Terminal Tower. When I was a kid, this was Cleveland's tallest building. It's since been surpassed but is still the city's most iconic structure. 

Totality over Cleveland.

39 miles southeast from Cleveland, Akron also got to experience totality.

Totality over Akron. I know, it looks a lot like totality over Cleveland. Well, what did you expect? It's the same sun and same shadow of the moon, just taken with a different camera in a different location.

I was on the road by 6:15 AM, and it was raining. Just as I thought, I thought, Nature's Cleveland branch isn't going to let us see this thing. I arrived at work thinking this much-hyped eclipse was nothing but a celestial tease, God having the final say on who tells the best Cleveland jokes. However, when I emerged from the building later on, the sun was out with nary a puddle on the ground.

I headed home but I wasn't going to stay there for long. Despite all the dire predictions, the traffic hadn't seemed all that busier than usual. I figured I'd go watch the eclipse in the Cleveland Metroparks, a swath of which isn't far from where I live. I turned into the park and then into a picnic area, a place I'd been to many, many times before, and where there's usually ample parking. Well, not this time. Cars everywhere as well as people everywhere, the first real evidence I had that, yes, this eclipse was in great demand. I turned around to leave, which proved a bit tricky. As I said, there were people everywhere, including right in the path of my car. Somehow, I managed not to hit anybody, and was back out onto the parkway. Now, the Metropark system (dubbed the "Emerald Necklace") is countywide, so there are plenty of picnic areas to choose from, but I figured if this one is jam-packed with cars, by now they're all jam-packed with cars. So I left the parkway altogether and went back on the main road.

Not too far away was a suburban branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. More cars than usual, but I easily found a parking space. From there it was just a short walk to a small park of sorts, really just an expanse of lawn, in front of this bedroom community's City Hall/Police Station. There were people, but not too many (I now pitied those poor fools who chose the crowded Metroparks.) I decided to try on my eclipse glasses:

What th--?! These glasses that were supposed to protect you from becoming blinded by an eclipse did that by blinding you before the eclipse! How the hell was I supposed to find the eclipse when I couldn't even see the sky? Sure, I could just lift my head up, but in what direction? I took off the glasses and looked at the people around me, and decided the best I could do was to look in the same direction they were looking. I put the glasses back on, and viola! There was the sun, or rather, a portion of the sun.

This was about an hour and fifteen minutes before totality. If you scroll upwards to that one picture of the various phases of the eclipse, the phase I first saw was maybe the third phase on the left. I have to admit I was a bit startled by the sight. In fact, I almost fell backwards. Seeing the sun with a bite taken out of it in a photograph just isn't it the same as seeing in real time. I almost felt like I was at Fatima (yes, I know that wasn't an eclipse, but still) and a LeBron James-sized Virgin Mary would show up at any minute and entrust me with three secrets, a responsibility I'd just as soon not take on at this point in my life. Somehow, I managed to compose myself. It helped that I took off the glasses.

Nothing I saw from there on in, including the totality itself, filled me with as much wonder and awe (as well as unease) as that first look at what was after all only a little bit of the eclipse, which is a good thing because it meant I could be analytical, my preferred state of being. Leave the visions and apparitions to the prophets. It's what they're paid for. Now, I didn't continuously look at the eclipse. The glasses went on and off. In my present analytical state, I wanted to see how dark it was getting at ground level as the sun gradually disappeared behind the moon (or the moon's shadow.) I was surprised to see it wasn't much. Even at the point where there was more moon than sun, it was still fairly bright outside. Shows you the power of the sun's rays. So why do clouds give it such a hard time?

Finally, maybe about 20 minutes before totality, by which time there was just a skinny crescent sun, was there a dimming of light that I recognized as "dusk". Then came nightfall. I looked up and actually couldn't find the corona at first. Only for a moment. Then there it was. As I said, I wasn't as transfixed as when I first saw the earlier more-sun-than-moon eclipse. Still, I was planning to spend the whole four minutes examining it when I heard a horn honk. Back here on Earth, the few cars on the road, headlights now on, made it clear that the vehicle's drivers weren't indifferent to what was going on. After that, I just marveled--my analytic state was taking a beating--that 3:15 in the afternoon looked like 9:15 at night. 

Then the natural light gradually came back on, and the artificial light gradually went off. I looked at the emerging sun maybe two more times, and that was it. I walked back to the library. As the Weather Channel guy says in the accompanying video, there was a poignancy to the eclipse's slow demise. Of course, if there was a solar eclipse every day of the week, or even once a week, there'd be no poignancy or wonder or awe or unease, and certainly nothing of a spiritual nature. It's the rarity, the out-of-the-ordinariness, the uniqueness of the event that warrants out attention.


Post-eclipse weather forecast. Also rare, out-of-the-ordinary, and unique--if you live in the Mojave Desert.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Night and Day, You Are the One


We interrupt this broadcast to bring you this important message:


Tomorrow, April 8, 2024, from 3:13 p.m. to 3:17 p.m., Cleveland and its many surrounding suburbs will experience a total solar eclipse, in which the moon blocks out all sunlight, temporarily turning day into night. The hotels are all booked as out-of-towners flock to our fair city to witness the event. Most schools will be closed that day to give children the opportunity to view it as well, and for all those going into work (after all, it's a Monday) if their bosses have any sense of decency, they'll be allowed to take a break from their duties, walk out of their office buildings, factories, retail stores, or fast-food restaurants, and cast their collective gaze upward toward the skies.  

Oh, about casting that gaze upward. When viewing the beginning and the ending of a solar eclipse, it's extremely important that you wear special ISO 12312-2 filtered glasses, which are 1000 times darker than standard sunglasses, and capable of blocking out 100% of ultraviolet light, 100% of infrared light, and 99.99% of visible light. Failure to take such a precaution could lead to permanent...

...eye damage.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Under the Radar: Joe Flaherty


Circa 1971: Here's several members of Chicago's improvisational comedy troupe Second City (the group took its name from a 1950s New Yorker article by A.J. Liebling in which he mocked the Midwestern metropolis for always coming in second to the East Coast metropolis.) You probably recognized John Belushi right off the bat, but maybe not the others, so let me tell you who they are going from left to right. First off is Judy Morgan, followed by Eugenie Ross-Leming, Jim Fisher, and, towering over Belushi, the subject of this post, Joe Flaherty. Flaherty and Belushi acted alongside each other in three Second City revues and were also castmates on the National Lampoon's Radio Hour: Odd to say this about a radio program, but I actually found a 1974 video clip from the latter. Very much of its time (but nevertheless fairly amusing in ours), part of it satirizes Watergate criminals sent off to college dorm-like minimum security prisons, and the other part the era's courtship etiquette:

Along with Flaherty and Belushi, you may have recognized Gilda Radner, Harold Ramis, and two guys who looked like either one could be a young Bill Murray. Well, the one with the beard is a young Bill Murray, the other is Bill's older brother Brian Doyle-Murray.

Belushi's subsequent life and career is pretty well-known by now. He and Gilda ended up on Saturday Night Live, and were joined by Bill in that show's second season. Belushi at first was overshadowed by Chevy Chase on SNL, but then saw his celebrity rise after Chase's departure. Actually, it was a movie he did when the show was on hiatus, Animal House, playing a college student who parties more than he studies, that really secured his stardom, a stardom cut short by a fatal heroin overdose. As for Flaherty, even if he never achieved the same level of success as Belushi, his career was no less interesting (to me), with the added bonus that he got to live a whole lot longer.

After 13 successful years in Chicago, its owners decided it was time for a second Second City, and somehow Toronto was chosen. Sent to that Canadian metropolis as a kind of advance man, Flaherty found it was a very good choice indeed, as the city had as much a performing arts scene as Chicago, and a plethora of comedy talent. Dan Ackroyd, John Candy, Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas Catherine O'Hara, Eugine Levy, as well as aforementioned Americans Ramis and Radner and Flaherty himself, and probably a few others I'm unaware of, were earning laughs onstage with a mixture of improvised and (this sometimes gets overlooked) scripted material, as had the folks back in Chicago. What didn't happen in Chicago that did happen in Toronto was a television spin-off. Why in one city and not the other? Apparently, the person who owned the Canadian Second City rights wanted to explore new ways make money off the brand, and the Chicago folks didn't. Who says it always has to be the Americans who are the entrepreneurs?

What became known as SCTV ran from 1976 to 1984, first on Canadian TV, then in United States syndication, then as an expanded show on NBC on Friday nights, and finally on premium cable. SCTV had a TV show-within-a-TV show premise: a bunch of people who wanted their own program were turned down by CBS, NBC, and ABC and so, undaunted, put on their own show on their own station. Truth be told, I usually paid no attention to the framing device, and just enjoyed it as a series of unrelated sketches, except when Joe Flaherty showed up as the TV station's sleazy intermittently wheelchair-bound owner Guy Caballero:

Reminds me of a certain orange-haired politician.