Encyclopedia Skippy and The Case of the Absent Business

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Did I ever tell you that for a few days, back when I was ten and emboldened by the stories of Donald J. Sobol, I had my own detective agency?  Problem was, no one needed anything detected and I soon had a going-out-of-business sale. Which, quite frankly, was made up solely of a homemade sign; I wasn’t allowed to sell the purloined dining room chair and folding table.

No one bought the sign.

You could argue that, as a novice business owner, I ignored one of the most important tenets of  a successful entrepreneurship:  Location, Location, Lotion–wait.  Location.  You might even suggest that an open garage set back from the street and out of the view of most passersby wouldn’t be an ideal office.  You could even say a lack of advertising in the local rags failed to stir interest in my detecting endeavor.  And if you wanted to be a real Santa-killer, you might even tell my ten year-old self that real life ain’t like it’s painted in fiction.

Whatever.  All I’m saying is that the next time you drive by a child’s detective agency, you stop the car, get out, and offer the poor kid a few bucks to find  a lost puppy, your way in life, world peace, a real job, something, anything, and if you do it the great god Encyclopedia Brown will bless you and all your progeny for generations.

Or until the end of the book when Bugs Meany finally confesses to his dastardly deeds.

Actually, here’s a thought about that: the eternal turmoil raging inside Batman is the notion that, unless he kills the Joker, countless Gotham citizens will be murdered by the king clown of chaos.  Yet, Batman doesn’t kill because he’s all noble like that–or he’s never seen Die Hard and doesn’t have the appropriate slogan.

Either way, Encylopedia Brown is Idaville’s analog to Bats.  Would Idaville be a more pleasant place to hang your hat if Bugs wasn’t there to rig a race, steal a few coins or terrorize the local school?  Should Brown and his brawn, Sally, take Bugs out for good?

Right, right, shake your head.  But c’mon, that book would sell like hotcakes and you know it.  Plus, it would have made my novice detective agency a much more interesting place to work if I also had a license to kill.  Frankly, I’m not even sure whether I can get one of those now.  The state of Kansas only recently allowed shipments of wine to be sent directly to your house–who knows how the wheat state’s bureaucracy handles 007 responsibilities, thus disappointing aspiring yet bloodthirsty little kid detectives of all ages.

Way to go, Kansas.

My Garden Was At It Is Best — Stoned in Westport

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Is it difficult to erase stone?

You’ve Lost That Bohemian Rhapsody

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

I was but a wee one in ’86, back when Lionel was ruling the charts with “Say You, Say Me” (naturally), so when the otherwise awesome flyboy action of Top Gun was momentarily interrupted by a silly bar room seduction scene, I didn’t recognize what the hell Tom Cruise was singing as he tried to get into Kelly McGillis’s panties.  Blame me not, I was ten years old and more into Huey Lewis than I was the Righteous Brothers.  Scientology’s (poor) rendition of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ sounded foreign to me, and I couldn’t wait for him to finish singing and jump back into a jet where he belonged.

Still, it was only now, twenty-two years later, this morning, an hour ago, when I realized I no longer associate that song with Top Gun.  That is, when I hear it, I think, “Righetous Brothers”, not Maverick and Ice Man (who had their own love story to work out), and even though I was already familiar with Queen’s Greatest Hits by the time Wayne made his way into the world, it took me years to stop associating Bohemian Rhapsody with Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey.

I’m finally growing up.  Or my brain cells are dying and my memories are kaputing.

Big O’ Tree

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

I had a larger post planned out, but after chewing my pencil and tip-tapping the keys over and over again, I figured my one political post doesn’t need to be eloquent, smarmy or overlong.  All I can really need to say is that while a lot of the usual political issues have and continue to contribute to my decision, I’m voting this year mainly for social issues.  Specifically, I think we’re on the cusp of finally righting the inexcusable wrong of denying same-sex marriages.

As an independent, I don’t particularly care for either major political party; I think it’s wise to cast a skeptical eye at any person who yearns for and embraces power (very few will wield it justly, or compassionately), and I have few illusions that politicians are looking out for anyone but their perceived voter base.

That said, this year I’m planning on voting Democratic because I feel they have the best chance of creating and feeding the political environment that will help same-sex marriage become a recognized partnership both nationally and in every state.  I’m tired of the bigotry, weary of the injection of religious fundamentalism into our secular government, and just plain sick of the disingenuous, whiny melodramatics given voice by unsupported and patently ridiculous protests such as “It’ll destroy the insitution of marriage!”  Since same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusettes and California, it has destroyed nothing, is destroying nothing and will continue to destroy nothing.  What will destroy a marriage?  The two people involved. (Also, aliens.  Sometimes, vampires.)

So, while I don’t think Obama is the best choice (his election year willingness to back down over the telecoms and the government spying on Americans still annoys me), I do think he’s a step in the right direction.  And I’ll illustrate my decision by marking a giant “X” next to his name tomorrow morning.

… well, I’ll push a button next to his name.  Stupid electronic voting.

My Interview With Softee

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

(From left-to-right: Henry, Ma Kettle, Lollipop Guild, Cleophus)

Softee’s, like, famous!

When the members of Softee walked into the room, I immediately played my hand and tried to join the band by offering up my almost magical harmonica skills.

“I’m sorry,” Steph informed me.  “You have to be pretty to join.  Duh.”

“Also,” Mimi added, “–and please don’t take this personally, because you’ve got red hair, and red hair rocks the Casbah–you can’t actually play, you know, music.”

“I didn’t know it worked like that,” I said.  “I just thought that you all being talented with La Musica was a coincidence.  I thought it was about being on stage and having star power.  I thought it was…”

“Yes?” Sarah prompted.

“… being able to shine!”

Flora looked at me, pity filling her eyes.  “That’s not pity,” she protested.  “it’s just really dusty in here.”

With the realization that, at most, all I would ever be with Softee was a part-time roadie, I thought it best to soldier on with the interview.

“Thanks for coming by, ladies.  I know you’ve been busy with the music scene and having to go to the grocery store at midnight, hair swept up and giant, dark sunglasses hiding your face so you won’t be recognized and swamped by fans, so I appreciate the little time you carved out for me today.”

“You promised us twenty clams, each,” Steph reminded me.  I whimpered a bit.  Of all the Softee gals, Steph is the one you least want to tick off.  Do you recall Jim Croce’s cautionary tale of Jim?  Well, Slim came to town and pulled on Superman’s cape; he spit into the wind, he pulled the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and Steph is his child.  I once made the mistake of snickering at the torrid affair she had with Michael McDonald (of Sprint commercial fame… and, I hear he was in a band), but she heard me, sidled up next to me with nary a sound and whispered, “I’ll cut you.”  She shreds her guitar with effortless style, and one day I fear she will shred me.

“Twenty bucks.  Right.”

As Steph silently mouthed, ‘I’ll cut you’, I tried to move the conversation forward with a safe question.  “So, who are your influences?”

“Mostly Bruce,” Mimi said.


“Lee.”  Oh.  Long before Mimi sat behind the skins and kept the beat for the band, she extensively toured Europe and Asia on the Movie Karate Circuit. Unlike other martial arts competitions where such piddling things as physics help determine movements, the Movie Karate Circuit caters to those fighters who jump, twirl and dive through the air without annoying constraints such as gravity. Lithe and fearsome, Mimi ruled the circuit for years, dispatching each would-be challenger with impossible jumps, unbelievable runs across the surface of lakes and ponds, and a single chopstick as her only weapon.  She called her style, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Valley”.  She once tried to lend her talents to Hollywood (you can see her considerable skills in action in that ’80s cinema classic, American Ninja, where she played the role of Michael Dudikoff playing the role of a ninja), but quickly grew weary of the fame and adoration and moved to the Midwest to escape her throng of fans and ninja assassins.

“Good choice,” I said.  “How about you, Flora?”


“As in Where Is?”

“Yes.”  At first thought this is a surprising answer, but after a few moments readers will likely remember the scandal-sheet sensation of a few years ago–brought to light after nosy paparazzi photographed Flora leaving Waldo’s house in the wee hours of a weekday morning.  The news and accompanying pictures devastated Waldo’s wife, Dora the Explorer (traveling at the time), who briefly went insane, confusing Flora with one of Dora’s constant traveling companions: “Swiper, no swiping. Swiper, no swiping. Swiper, no swiping!”

“I was set up!” Flora exclaimed. “Think about it.  How did the photographer even find Waldo’s place?”

“Where’s Waldo now?” I asked.

“Google Maps, I think.  I don’t want to talk about it.”

I understood.  Past relationships, man, they’re a drag.  “How about you, Sarah?  Who influenced you the most?”

Sarah looked at me with those piercing, glowing red eyes.  “Are you the Keymaster?”

“Not that I know of.  Hey, Sarah, what is it?  What happened?”

“I am Zuul.  I am the Gatekeeper.  We must prepare for the coming of Gozer.”

“Okay, I’ll help you.  Should we make some dip or something?”

“He is the Destructor.”

“Really?  Can’t wait to meet him.”

Luckily, I had my proton pack stashed behind my chair, so I grabbed it, fired it up and roasted all of the Softee girls (you can’t be too careful when it comes to interdimensional, god-like travelers–could have infected the whole group).  Don’t worry, though, they should be scrubbed clean and ready for their VIP playdate at Starlight on the 26th.

“Thanks for coming, ladies,” I told the sizzling containment box at my feet.  “We’ll have to do this again.”

Ahh, The Memories…

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

In “Hey, I Know That Guy!” news, one of my middle school science teachers was sentenced to fifty-one months in jail for, apparently, convincing some young girls to unrobe in front of their webcams.

“Evil mastermind!” I shouted.  “That wasn’t what he taught us in the 7th grade!”  Otherwise, science would have been a lot more entertaining.

Turns out, though, he was undone because he pissed off his landlord:

He saved the images on a computer, and an apartment manager who evicted him discovered them on the computer last year and told police.

Huh.  What have I told you kids about computer security?  Always use a password, and make sure it’s not something easily guessed like, say,  ireallyreallyreallylikenakedunderagedgirls.

On the other beaker (’cause he was a science teacher, right?), I also recall Mr. Hazlett doing his best to save a dying man after a car accident, and when the CPR didn’t work, when the man couldn’t be saved despite Mr. Hazlett’s efforts, our science teacher was simply inconsolable for days after.

So, next time, Mr. Hazlett, avoid the illegal and stick with the heroics–you’ll be a better person for it.

I Swear, I Will Run Over Your Spleen

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

To begin with, it’s a passing lane. You don’t cruise in it, you don’t talk on your cell phone, make dinner plans, fiddle with your radio, or lean over into the backseat to beat your kids. Eating, phone conversations and domestic abuse can be just as easily done–and safely, too–if you pull over to the side of the road and commence with whatever activity helps you get your jollies.

The passing lane, the furthest lane on the left side of the highway, is meant to be a quick kiss, a tantalizing, teasing caress, not a prolonged Stabby-McStabbity thanks to the help of automotive Viagra. Much like your fumbling boyfriend of yon high school days, the goal for the passing lane is to get in and get out. Once your bidness is finished, don’t bother sticking around; move over and let those of us who want to go faster than you slip on by. It’s only nice. Don’t dawdle in the lane, celebrating this one small victory in your otherwise unexamined, unhappy life; don’t stay put, reveling in your small-hearted joy of knowing you’re quickly building up a line of cars behind you, each with a driver ready to visit unholy destruction not only on you, but also on your children and children’s children; and for god’s sake, don’t–please, please–actually slow down.

In addition:

  • If you’re over 70 (or just look like you’re 70) don’t chance it; stay in the furthest lane on the right.
  • If you drive a truck, SUV or mini-van with tinted windows, hie thee to the middle lane so the rest of us can see past you and decide whether we need to gun it around you because you’re going so slow, or because there really is a traffic snarl ahead and that’s why you’re driving like a turtle stampede.
  • I’m flashing my lights because you need to move over. There’s an opening to the right–take it! And if by some glancing miracle you do move over thanks to my skilfull use high beam morse code, don’t get all pissy and immediately move back into my lane, behind me, and start tailgating and flashing your lights. Bitter passive-aggressiveness will never make you any friends. (But it might secure you political office.)
  • Finally, if you’re towing anything, anything at all, stay in the furthest right lane. Be it a U-Haul, rowdy children, or grandma’s dog on a cross-country vacation, if it’s tied to your car’s back end, stay out of the passing lane.

And hey, if I missed anything, feel free to add in comments.


Sunday, September 14th, 2008

Look who finally decided to return to Blogsville.

Give Me Some Boo, Baby

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Speaking of Halloween, what the hell is it with those sound effect CDs where they lump in such non-October 31st-ish sounds such as “Alien Laboratory”?  Aliens?  Really? I suppose if you lived in a trailer park, drove a pick-up held together by three wheels and a body of rust, and had a third grade education, yeah, I can see you being afraid of aliens.  Especially because of the anal probing.  (Not that anal probing is bad, per se; all I know is it’s not for me.  When I introduce people to my brown-eyed-girl, I’m speaking solely about my wife.)

Halloween is about more earthly frights such as vampires, werewolves, witches and the religious right.  I know I’m old and the kids need to get off my lawn and all, but remember the old sound effects albums our parents used to play?  Vinyl albums, man, those 12-inch discs of death could decapitate your brother or sister if thrown just right (Tip: also good against zombies).  That was a medium meant for Halloween.  You can’t get a-scairt much by cassettes or, for god’s sake, iPods.  “Oh, no!  My iPod has come to life and is… biting my ankle?  Also, why is it telling me I need to sign up for iTunes before it can kill me?”

Where was I?  Oh, yeah, Halloween albums from the good old days.  These suckers knew how to dampen your pants.  They had the screaming, the hollerin’, the wolves howling, the cats screeching, the bubbling cauldrons, witches’ laughs, and best of all, the moaning and groaning of the evil Count mixed in with the piercing shriek of a young (and assumedly hot) maiden.

That’s right, they sounded like they were bumping nasties.  On Halloween!  See?  A treat for the kids and the parents!

Nowadays I have to mix my own playlist of Halloween sounds if I want to avoid “Exploding Bowling Alley” (Seriously, it’s an honest-to-goodness real track), or “Underwater Madness”.  That last one’s just gonna make all the little kids take a piss.

I tell you, someone should put me in charge of the world so I can fix things.

Danse, Danse, Macabrelution

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

As a fair number of you know, Fall is my favorite season of the year.  Specifically, I get pretty wound up when October knocks on the door with its gift basket of chilly wind, gray skies, and general fear of something creepy lurking around the corner.

You know, Halloween.

This year, because of an unexpected turn of mildly unpleasant weather, the cool temperatures, sunless sky and constant drizzle have fooled me into thinking October 31st is waiting to spring at any moment.   I’m okay with that.  So, this morning (like, say, 4:00 when the Insta-Princess insists–for some silly reason–my proper place is in bed), I stumbled downstairs and starting rooting through our vast but only semi-organized collection of CDs.  Finally, after agonizing minutes of searching (where I accidentally found my long-lost Bat Out Of Hell II disc inside a Doobie Brothers case), I managed to pull free from the grabby mountain of musical clutter my Devil’s Dance CD.

Devil’s Dance isn’t entirely filled with spooky music, but it tries, and because of that attempt, the numbers chosen, and the masterful playing of Gil Shaham on his Comtesse de Polignac Stradivarius (accompanied by Jonathan Feldman on piano), it is, for me, the quintessential Halloween album.

Without a doubt its best number–and the most fitting for album–is Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre.  Both Shaham and Feldman are at their best playing this selection; a dynamic duo without the tights and with slightly more diginity.  It was this playing that tripped my old desire to learn how to play the violin.  Unfotunately, I have little musical talent, which is probably why I’ll forever crush on Flora when she strokes the strings of her cello.

A slightly more bombastic tune, but still ghoul-worthy is John William’s Devil’s Dance from The Witches of Eastwick.  Yeah, I know, the guy who wrote the Star Wars theme and the Superman March hit one out of the ballpark for Satan.  That’s cool.

Of particular note is Giuseppe Tartini’s Devil’s Trill –or, Sonata in G Minor.  Supposedly the devil invaded Tartini’s dream and played a brilliant tune on his violin; upon waking, Tartini then tried to record what he heard.  The end result isn’t frightening (the legend of its origin is what ties it to this collection of musical pieces), but it is a very demanding piece, requiring almost insane speed and accuracy.  You don’t hear it very often for this reason, but Shaham takes it on and does a wonderful job.

So, Halloween, I have your soundtrack and await your arrival.  You great pumpkin, you.

Free To Be… You And Me – A Lesson

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Having briefly touched on Free To Be… You And Me in my last post, I wandered over to the glorious video archive of YouTubia and watched a few segments of the film, briefly reliving my elementary school days where we were first introduced to Marlo Thomas and friends through a reel-to-reel filmstrip while sitting cross-legged (back then known as sittin’ “Indian-style”).  It wasn’t class, it was almost like watching a movie, so we grooved to the already outdated music and watched people whose celebrity power had dimmed before my generation had grown cognizant enough to learn to keep our nose-pickings private. (Stupid rules of social etiquette.)

Now, almost twenty-five years since I first saw the film, that time capsule of charming yet corny childhood lessons has new meaning.  Yes, the music is still outdated, and yes, Michael Jackson looks normal in his song-and-dance scene with the talented Ms. Flack, but holy cow!  How in the world did I not realize back then that Marlo Thomas was incredibly hot?  Phil Donahue, you stud!  That Girl, indeed.

I’ve also learned new lessons from old friends.  Do you recall the segment where our noble heroine, Tender Sweet Young Thing, learned a thing or two about being uppity?  If not, here’s a refresher:

As children we were supposed to come away with 1.) A fear of tigers dressed like raccoons, and 2.) An appreciation for the comeuppance of those who are rude and arrogant.  But, as an adult, I’ve finally learned the real list of lessons:

  • Don’t be proud of who you are, for you will be killed.
  • Even those whose tires are less inflated with hubris are left to die (the video never explains their fate).
  • Consequently, since your time is short no matter the social niceties you’ve mastered, you might as well go hog-wild and set free your inner-Tender Sweet Young Thing.  Besides, she was the only happy one in the bunch.
  • Mangoes are the ambrosia of Satan: eat one and bring doom down on your group.
  • Tigers wear jerseys.

Frankly, I’m not sure how I missed such wisdom the first time around.

Un(Del)ightful News

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

In a sad turn of events, recently married and longtime civil rights advocate, Del Martin, died yesterday.  On June 16th of this year, after 55 years together, Del and her partner, Phyllis Lyon, were finally, legally wed.  I’m thrilled they got the chance to do so after so many decades of discrimination and bigotry, and that their nuptials were celebrated before Ms. Martin passed away.  I only hope the rest of the country soon follows the lead of California and Massachusettes and allows all of its people to marry.

Rest in peace, Del.

A Brittle Lump of Green Mills

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

So, does anyone in the Kansas City area remember the Green Mills Candy Factory?  Or, as I like to refer to it, the Green Mills Candy Factory of Repugnance and Disappointment?  That second title, the true one, you probably wouldn’t think that way about a place that makes chocolate.  You’d be wrong, and let me tell you why.

For those of you not “in the know” (which usually includes me–except in my blog, where I happen to know everything, and can edit posts later on in case I don’t), the Green Mills Candy Factory of Repugnance and Disappointment was a local maker of chocolates and other teeth-rotting goodies, holing up somewhere near the Plaza.  I think.  I mean, yes, I know it was a candy factory (of repugnance and disappointment), and I know it was in Kansas City, but I can’t swear that it was in or near the Plaza.  I just remember it that way, so there.

In an attempt to foster generations of addicts, Green Mills used to offer tours to groups of kids.  “Come hither yon Boy Scouts, elementary soldiers, and migrant labor off-spring!  Come see our treats and delight in our secret home base for the nefarious Captain Cavity!” It’s possible, however, they didn’t say it that way, and probably just stuck up a sign saying, “Tours open to the public.”  But my recollection is better.

One Spring day my elementary school in Prairie Village decided to load us impressionable yoots on to a giant yellow metal Twinkie (sure, call it a bus, but it’s lunch and I’m hungry) and field trip us all the way over to the Green Mills Candy… you know.  We got to see how they mixed the chocolates and poured the chocolates and cut the chocolates and separate the chocolates and lovingly tongue the chocolates and package the chocolates and otherwise prepare them for shipment.  So, we spend an hour–maybe two–wandering around the factory, listening to some middle-aged PR guy blather on about the factory’s history, its output, the people who work there, and yada.  All we wanted, however, was for the tour to end so that we could score ourselves the inevitable reward for acting decent and not setting fire to the place.  It’s a candy factory, right, so we’re bound to get candy as a treat (luckily, the next month’s field trip to the sperm bank was indefinitely postponed).

The tour, thankfully, comes to an inglorious and boring end.  Still, we were excited.  Candy!  Finally!  Would it be the fudge, or the chocolate malt balls, or the long-lasting chocolate suckers, or the three-course-meal chewing gum (some of us wanted to turn into giant blueberries)?

None of the above.

Seriously.  Know what we ended up with?  Go ahead.  Guess.

No, not that.  Not that, either. (I told you the trip to the sperm bank was postponed.)

Peanut brittle.  Yeah, you read that right: pea-the fucking-nut brittle.  That foul, stick-to-your-teeth plasticine-like concoction of dog poop and sugar.  It was a candy factory, not some proto-Abu Ghraib where good children who didn’t maim anyone don’t get their ration of cocoa bean goodness, but you couldn’t tell by the events of that day.  What’s worse is that they handed each of us a bag of treasure, tightly sealed and not to be opened until we left the factory.

We didn’t find out about their depravity until we were on the bus on the way home! See?  Seeeee the repugance and the disappointment?  There was no chocolate, no gum drops, no anything resembling sweetness and light.  Just pain and misery; so-called “candy” not even fit for violent dictators or politicians.

My inner-child is forever wounded by that unhappy memory, unable to heal because the factory is no longer in business; I can no longer invade the place, ninja-style in the middle of the night, and gobble up whatever chocolate to be found so my soul could mend from the terrible, destructive damage.  My salvation, wrest from my hands long before I could buy a ninja suit over the Internet.  Oh, how I weep for such travesty.

Alas, alas.

Fun With Octopodes

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

From News of the Weird:

Higher-Order Animal Research: Britain’s Sea Life Centre announced a study in July that would give octopuses Rubik’s Cubes to play with, to ascertain whether they use a certain tentacle for such activities, or any tentacle at random. [Daily Mail (London), 7-7-08]

An hour later (if memories of childhood serve correctly)…

Observers were stunned when hidden cameras filmed one octopus making off with his Rubik’s Cube into a dark corner.  Further investigation revealed his tentacles were covered in brightly colored square stickers.  “What?” he asked when questioned.  “They just came off.  I wasn’t trying to cheat!”

Today’s Public Service Announcement

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Am I the meanest?


Am I the prettiest?


Am I the baddest mofo, low-down around this town?


Well, who am I?


Who am I?


I can’t hear you!


–This message proudly brought to you by Shogun of Harlem productions.