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D.R. Haney

I Was a Child Porn Model

July 29th, 2009
by D.R. Haney

LOS ANGELES—

When I was ten, my parents sent me to summer camp for two weeks. They made the arrangements secretly, knowing a fit was inevitable the minute they broke the news. I was an explosive kid, coming as I did from a histrionic family, and my parents wanted me gone for a while so they could rage at each other without me around to upstage them.

In any case, they announced at the last minute that I was camp-bound, and I characteristically threw a fit, to no avail. The camp, for boys only, was located somewhere in the Appalachians and administered by the Elks Lodge. Boys from all over the state of Virginia were attending, and it must have been a big deal, since, the morning I left, a photographer from my hometown paper materialized to snap a picture of me and twelve or so others awaiting deportation in the Elks Lodge parking lot. One kid cried. I frankly felt like joining him, never having been separated from my family for more than a couple of days, but I choked back my tears, afraid of appearing as pathetic as the crybaby. Besides, I didn’t want to give my parents the satisfaction. I was still pissed at them for their Pearl Harbor ambush. Even so, I hugged them just before I was packed in a car by an Elk driver and shuttled to the gulag.

Well, of course it wasn’t nearly as bad as anticipated. I enjoyed the camp, in fact. I met a real live Jew, and, as a Southern Baptist, I was able to interrogate him as to why his people had crucified Christ. I listened to Jimi Hendrix for the first time and perused our counselors’ girlie magazines, hoping to catch one of them bang a chick in the woods, as rumor said they did. Still, I never got to see any chicks get banged, just as I never got bit by a timber rattlesnake, which was something of a goal at the time. Not that I sought the pain involved; I just thought a rattlesnake bite would make for a great story. Plus, I wanted to be a herpetologist. Adults would stare at me with bugged-out eyes when I mentioned that. They’d say, “You want to be a what? I don’t even know what that is.”

I was a brilliant child. Everybody always said so. The sky was the limit, people said. Instead I became a writer.

But the best thing about that camp was its heavy emphasis on American Indians: their crafts and ceremonies and so on. I was obsessed with American Indians. I read every book I could about them. I had favorite tribes, changing preferences based on new information about methods of warfare, or because unbiased study revealed the Crow pompadour as infinitely superior to the Blackfoot bangs. The camp counselors were wowed by how much I knew about Indians, and they singled me out to Bobby, the camp director.

The Crow pompadour versus...

The Crow pompadour versus...

...the Blackfoot bangs (prototype of the Misfits' forelock)

...the Blackfoot bangs (prototype of the Misfits forelock)

Bobby was probably in his early fifties. In memory, he looks like the director John Huston: white-haired and rope-thin, with a perpetual, lupine smile. He was the oldest person at the camp by far, and everyone there looked up at him; during meals, his table was unfailingly crowded with campers and counselors who hung on his every word. We’d ask, for instance, if he believed in Bigfoot, and he’d say, “Well, I’m certainly open-minded about the subject. I mean, the gorilla wasn’t discovered till the turn of the century. And I’ve seen the photos of Yeti footprints taken on Mount Everest, and to me they look authentic. So it’s possible Bigfoot is related to the Yeti.”

And so on. Bobby was intelligent and a lay scholar when it came to Indians. I soon became his protégé: the shining light of the Indian Club, to which half the kids at camp belonged. I was even allowed to try on his hundred-year-old Lakota war bonnet, with its crown of eagle feathers and ermine tails that dangled from beaded medallions. No other kid could touch that thing, just as no other kid could leave the camp; but one night Bobby drove me to his mother’s house—he lived there with her in the off-season—to show me his collection of arrowheads and pre-Columbus pottery fragments. He let me pick out a fragment to keep. I didn’t realize he had an agenda. My parents were concerned about pedophiles, as parents invariably are, but any fear they had was expressed to me in the usual admonitions: Don’t accept rides from strangers, and so on. And Bobby wasn’t a stranger. On the contrary, I regarded him as a friend, not to mention mentor.

But Bobby liked naked boys. Games were played in which we disrobed. For instance, we had a water-balloon fight, in which the camp was divided into two teams—red and blue—and, running around in loincloths, we splattered each other with balloons filled with red and blue paint. Bobby photographed the fight, which was innocent enough, but afterwards he shot us skinny-dipping as we washed off the paint. We thought it was funny. We posed for him, mugging. Even the counselors, who were almost all in their late teens, posed and played along. No one, I’m sure, suspected Bobby’s motives. Child porn hadn’t yet become a hot-button topic, and a respectable organization like the Elks Lodge couldn’t possibly place a pedophile in charge of 200 boys.

“Oh, yeah, that’s funny stuff, Buzz. Hold it right there.”

Click.

The two weeks passed much too fast, and they climaxed with a public presentation of Indian dances, mostly performed by the counselors, who knew their stuff. One could do the hoop dance: a perennial favorite at powwows. Loinclothed campers served as extras, and one was chosen for the star spot: the dance at the end of the show. I don’t remember the name of the dance, which wasn’t truly a dance at all and may not have been traditional, but it went like this: a slain warrior is woken by the Great Spirit, who beckons him with waving arms to the happy hunting ground. The Great Spirit, wearing Bobby’s Lakota war bonnet, was painted white from head and toe—by Bobby. There was never any doubt as to which boy would play the Great Spirit. I had a lock on the part.

The night of the presentation, I went as scheduled to Bobby’s cabin, accompanied by friends from the Indian Club, though I was the only one allowed inside. Bobby had the paint ready. He also had his camera. He wanted to take some “before” pictures, he said, which struck me as logical and part of the fun, so I took off my clothes and stood naked before him as he snapped the shutter. He didn’t ask me to pose provocatively. I’m sure he’d long since determined just how far he could push things.

Then he painted me. I don’t remember if he used a brush or his hands, but there was no fondling or lingering, though he painted my privates along with everything else. Then, after the paint had dried, I put on a loincloth, as well as the war bonnet and tassels that hung from my wrists and thighs, and walked outside for my friends to admire me. Jokes were made—“Man, you’re whiter than Casper!”—but I knew they thought I looked badass. A tipi had been set up in the woods near the presentation site as a makeshift greenroom, and I had to be sneaked inside it so the crowd wouldn’t see me, since my appearance was meant to startle. I stayed in the tipi till the close of the show, and the number went off as practiced, though the war bonnet, designed for a grown man, was weighty and hard to balance. Then I returned to Bobby’s cabin, where he photographed me in the shower.

I left the camp the next day, driven home by a gruff Elk, and maybe two weeks later a letter from Bobby arrived. Enclosed were photos of the dance, but none of me naked, of course. Even so, my mom was aghast at the sight of me dressed only in a loincloth. I thought she was being ridiculous. I was an Indian, Mom. That’s what Indians wore. Don’t you know anything?

In fact, I think she did. I never returned to the Elks Lodge camp. Instead, for the next few years, I was sent to a Christian camp in North Carolina, where my body held no interest for people so bent on controlling my mind.

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424 Comments »

Comment by Zara
2009-07-29 16:35:33

Hey Duke,
I was hoping the story wouldn’t take that turn…
You told it so well. Painted the picture. Tied a knot in my gut.
This piece is so great because your innate sympathy shines through. Nothing is what it seems on the surface, but nothing is black or white either. So many hidden things but you manage to shine a light right under those rocks… Bravo.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 21:05:39

Thanks, angel.

As per your “black and white” comment, there’s a very, very slim chance that Bobby wasn’t a pedophile; that in fact he was simply recording life at the camp. I raise this possibility because if he was in any way into me, it seems like it would’ve been hard for him to control himself when we were alone. At least I‘d have trouble controlling myself with an object of desire.

Then again, he knew there were kids waiting just outside.

Comment by Zara Potts
2009-07-29 21:23:24

You hit all the right notes, Duke. You really do.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 21:32:36

Well, maybe my lack of perfect pitch is paying off — you know, because I have to work hard to compensate for it. The naturally super-gifted don’t have that problem, and that’s why their gifts often go to waste.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Greg Olear
2009-07-29 16:56:47

Now those pictures are what we need to have in the 1000-word coffee table book…

I enjoyed reading about you when you were younger — pre-punk, if you will. And while I wouldn’t have predicted a rabid fascination with Indians, it does square with everything else.

“…I never got bit by a timber rattlesnake, which was something of a goal at the time” = my favorite line. And the captions are great.

Excellent piece all around, as usual.

Greg

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 21:15:31

I definitely think there’s a connection between my childhood interest in Indians and my later taste in music. I’ve always been attracted to the visceral, to the wild and ferocious. I hear a lot of people talk about the “spirituality” of Indians, but the more warlike they were, the more I responded to them as a child.

Glad you liked the rattlesnake line. I used to lie to people about having been bitten by a snake. That’s how much I wished it would happen — in theory, anyway.

 
 
Comment by Brin Friesen
2009-07-29 17:32:41

Have you by any chance read The Laughing Man? Your piece reminded me a fair bit of it. Very complex stuff, beautifully told. Have you read much on Lewis Carrol’s practices with kid photography? You can correlate his diary pleadings to God for strength with the dates he photographed kids and draw some sad conclusions.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 23:02:00

You know, it’s been so long since I read Nine Stories that I’d forgotten about “The Laughing Man,” and had to Google it to jog my memory. Now I’ll have to reread it.

It’s funny with Salinger; I’ll tell you in all honesty that I’m probably influenced by him tremendously, but I don’t like to admit it. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the old Harold Bloom anxiety-of-influence thing. But he wrote the best dialogue of any American writer of his generation, and possibly of any writer of his generation, period. I’m sure you’d agree. Mailer put Salinger down, when the fact is that Mailer could’ve taken pointers from him, since Mailer’s dialogue was one of his great failings.

I don’t know much of anything about Lewis Carroll, except that he liked to photograph young girls, obviously. But that’s fascinating about his diary. Interestingly, Walt Whitman’s diary — or, in any case, journal — was written in code. It wasn’t originally, but at some point he appears to have recognized that the journal would be subject to scrutiny, and rather than destroy it, he substituted numbers for names, and that kind of thing. Yet the code was easily cracked, and it must have been vanity that saved the journal from the fireplace; the idea that anything written by Walt Whitman was worth preserving.

Comment by clint
2009-10-08 18:38:12

that an interesting comparison, especially once you throw in salinger’s preferences in women.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-10-08 21:38:12

I take it, Clint, that you’re referring to Salinger’s later interest in college girls.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Amy
2009-07-29 18:00:06

Excellent post. I have been to camp (none like this) and experienced the relationships with the leaders—they can be so important when we’re young. I’m sorry the story took the turn it did. Loved the closing line, though.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 21:27:27

Thank you, Amy.

You know, I really wasn’t harmed at all by this incident. I don’t look back in anger about it. It’s more a funny feeling of retroactively realizing what going on and wondering how it is that nobody knew. I mean, it was so glaringly obvious.

But, as I say, my mom smelled a skunk right away. Maternal instinct, I suppose. At the time I thought was being a prude.

Comment by Nicole
2009-07-30 07:50:46

Major kudos to your mom! You talk about Indian warlike behavior being of an interest…look out for a mother whose child has been intentionally hurt in any way. I don’t think Bobby deserves the slightest bit of “benefit of the doubt” that you considered in your reply to Zara above. I’m sure he knew exactly what he was doing and how inappropriate it was. Thankfully, for you he may have just begun acting on these desires of his. Hopefully, they didn’t progress into something more down the road.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-01 02:25:59

I somehow missed this comment earlier, Nicole, so on the off-chance that you now see it: I’m sure my mom would’ve gone ballistic if she’d known about Bobby’s behind-the-scenes photography, but, by way of protecting him, I never mentioned it. I knew she would misunderstand (or so I reasoned), because she was already upset by the loincloth business. But now that I think about it, if I’d said anything about the nudes he’d taken, it might have had prevented him from doing that kind of thing in the future — or worse. Ah, well. My intentions were good.

 
 
 
 
Comment by jmb
2009-07-29 18:59:44

This was a post I had to read
and then read again
because there are twists here that make you think
and that’s a good thing indeed.
See Haney, he makes you think on different levels.

Like one, I thought
of what if Blackfoot & The Misfits
mixed?

We Are 138 by Blackfoot
and Highway Song by The Misfits

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 21:45:53

If it’s true that I make others think on different levels, I’m relieved to hear it, because I personally feel I only think on a ground-floor level.

That’s funny about Blackfoot and the Misfits. I very nearly cut the parenthetical line about the Misfits, because it seemed to belong to a different piece. I’m glad now I didn’t.

But it is true, huh? Danzig, meet your style daddy!

 
 
Comment by Erika
2009-07-29 19:14:09

Duke,

What a beautifully written story yet so disturbing.

It makes me sick to my stomach that people like Bobby exist in this world. Even more so that he would be in charge of a boys camp.

Thankfully you were never harmed but who’s to say that sick bastard didn’t take further action with other boys attending his camp.

So tonight I will put a curse on him (being, that I now have superpowers)… what it will entail is still in progress (I’m still trying to get a full grip on my the extent of my powers, as well as, detailing a punishment for someone as vile as him will take some time)… simultaneously thanking my mom for never sending me to camp.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 21:21:38

And you know the funny thing? When I got sent to the Christian camp, it was another “Guess where you’re going?” deal the night before.

But in all fairness to my parents, I was a difficult kid.

As for Bobby and people like him, they’re excellent con men. I have no idea what became of Bobby, but there’s a chance he was later busted. If not, and if he’s still alive, I have great faith in your supernatural powers.

Three cheers for Erika’s mom!

Comment by Erika
2009-07-29 23:30:37

How about giving three cheers for your mom as well. The fact that she never sent you back to Camp Neverland Ranch is great on her part but sad that they then sent you to Christian camp.

Growing up in my part of the world it was very uncommon to hear of anyone getting sent away to camp…maybe its just not a Mexican thing.

Anyhow our version of summer camp was taking turns spending a week at various cousins’ houses. However everyone tended to spend more time at my house because my mom was the “cool” aunt of the family.

Oh but the things we used to do while she was at work.

Creating our home version of Double Dare was our favorite. We would recreate the obstacle course, which entailed us sticking our hands in a toilet full of oatmeal to find the flag or dumping cups of OJ, coffee, and flour over our heads to find the flag. We did some crazy disgusting shit trying to find that flag.

My mom never found out about our shenanigans until we were all way over 20. She was pretty shocked being that by the time she got home from work the house was spotless and we were all tired out from our daytime exploits and laying around watching the Brady bunch when she got home.

This has now made me miss my family…totally weird that your sad stories of a foul pedophile lead me to this. On a side note I am now reminded how the first porn we (my cousins and I) ever saw, was shown to us by a very drunk uncle, but that a story for another time.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 02:27:39

Well, any story involving pornography, particularly a virgin watch, is a story that must one day be told.

Your home version of Double Dare sounds inadvertently very punk rock, but that’s true to me of anything involving a mess.

I’m surprised at the number of people who’ve commented so far about not having been to summer camp. I thought it was kind of a universal experience, even outside the U.S., though with variations. Anyway, like you, I used to spend time with relatives, or specifically with my material grandparents. They lived on a dairy farm–one of my favorite places on earth, or at least it was. I’ve almost never visited since they died, though it’s now run by cousins.

It was good that I never went back to that place, you’re right. I’m afraid I didn’t portray my parents in a very flattering light in this piece, but that was more my ten-year-old self speaking. As an adult, as I somewhat commented elsewhere, I wonder how they managed not to kill me. I was a very challenging kid, in the best of ways and the worst. One day I’ll have to write about my various crime sprees.

 
 
 
 
2009-07-29 19:25:24

I love how this piece is told - like the matter of fact way
that a ten year old can experience something that would horrify an adult.

I agree with Greg that it’s nice to hear about pre-teen Duke.

The last line is brilliant. Funny how acceptable it is to mess with a young person’s mind.

And, as always, your writing is moving and begs to be read and re-read.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 22:02:50

Have I told you lately that I love you?

Christian camp was non-stop Bible talk, from the minute you got up to the minute you went to bed, with a few brief respites. I mean it was to the point where, if you picked up a rock, a counselor would want to initiate a prayer:

“Dear Lord, we thank you for the gift of this rock. It’s a fine rock, Lord, and You in Your almighty wisdom have allowed this boy, Your humble servant, to pick up this rock of Your making…”

Of course, it had no payoff whatsoever. The kids at camp were evil little fuckers, and the second the counselors turned their backs, the evil began.

That wouldn’t include me, naturally.

 
 
Comment by Zoe
2009-07-29 19:47:08

I had to read this a couple of times as well…and I agree, its nice to hear about you before your punk rock days.

This is written so frankly that I was taken back the first time. I hate that people like Bobby exist and can even think of doing these things (and worse) to a child. I’m glad it was never worse for you.

The last line is my favorite. I went to an all girl’s Catholic camp when I was in junior high…and it promptly fucked me up.

Great writing as always.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 21:40:27

To tell you the truth, there were things done to me by others as a child, but I don’t want to write about that because they’re relatives. And I honestly don’t think they meant to harm me. If you knew the circumstances, you might agree.

You went to a Catholic girls’ camp? If I’d gone there, I don’t think I‘d have been fucked up, particularly if the girls were in uniform.

Seriously, though, I’d much rather have been Catholic than a Southern Baptist. It’s strange, but a disproportionate number of my good friends have been Catholic, as are most of my favorite artists, and I’ve always been attracted to Catholic women. I’ve sometimes thought it has to do with the Catholic emphasis on corporeality; on the material.

Thanks, as always, for the kind words about my writing.

Comment by Zoe
2009-07-29 22:14:20

yeah, thinking back on it, you would have had a ball at that camp. uniforms, the whole nine. there are so many stories I could tell you….

I can understand wanting to be Catholic as opposed to southern baptist. My dad was raised as a southern baptist and, well, it showed in his discipline styles. Though I have my own issues with the Catholic religion, the camp was kind of fun. I didn’t make it through the second summer…something about being a heathen…I can’t remember.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 22:41:50

Yeah, Southern Baptists are fast to pull out a belt or switch. Which reminds me: an Indian once said, “White men beat their children and love their horses. We beat our horses and love our children.”

A heathen? You? No!

But I was obviously a heathen myself. We heathens are the best.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Lenore
2009-07-29 20:16:24

good heavens. how nice of him to stop short of actually molesting you.

did you find out why we jews killed christ? if you didn’t, let’s get together soon and talk. i’ll fill you in.

oh, and i love “instead i became a writer.” ha! so very very true.

i went to summer camp for girls in Wisconsin. it was called Marimeta. I started going when i was seven and it was eight weeks long. and no one ever asked me to get naked and pose for pictures, so i’m a bit concerned now that i was an unattractive child. anyway, i once killed a frog there. it was an accident. i boiled it to death.

Comment by Zara Potts
2009-07-29 21:26:09

Lenore!!!!
How can you ‘accidentally’ boil a frog to death?
I feel I’ve missed out on my youth after all these seminal camp stories. I may have to go and have major surgery on my face to compensate, like MJ.

Comment by Irwin
2009-07-29 21:39:10

I had a friend of repeatedly killed his hamsters.

I say friend, he was a weird kid I kind of knew. When he tells the story it seems like a perfectly reasonable mistake to make.

Wet hamster + microwave = dry hamster, right?

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 22:26:24

Jim, that’s really horrible about the hamsters in the microwave. Why, then, am I laughing?

The hamsters I had as a kid always died almost as soon as I bought them. That doesn’t speak well of me as a pet owner, huh? My backyard was like Arlington Cemetery for hamsters, except there was no eternal flame for President John F. Rodent, or “Jack” as he was more familiarly known.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-29 22:54:15

Duke, not at all. It would be funnier if you could see the kid. He was about 4ft tall and looked kind of like Steve Buscemi. He was also kind of a Goth: long black coats, heavy boots, etc, etc.

The thing he ever said to me was ”I trust… no one.” He signed my leaving book as ‘Mr Chuckles’ with a message urging me to ”rock through the ages.”

I quite by chance bumped into him on a bus a few months ago. he works in a cinema and has a girlfriend. I was pleased for him, although the conversation was awkward and stilted.

Hamsters are notorious for dying young— they’re like rock stars.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 23:05:38

“Hamsters are notorious for dying young— they’re like rock stars.”

Greatest. Line. Ever.

And I would imagine that the conversation would indeed be awkward and stilted for anyone who trusts no one, though presumably he trusts his girlfriend. And what will happen if he doesn’t? Will he attempt to dry her wet hair by placing her head in the microwave?

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-29 23:56:49

It was a few years later. He’d mellowed.

 
 
 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 22:13:36

Lenore, it was nice of Bobby, but I have a feeling his restraint was due to other factors, such as fear of jail and unemployment. Or maybe he was the of the “look but don’t touch” variety.

Now, if I’d had to go to camp for eight weeks at the age of seven, I would’ve had a nervous breakdown. (Don’t you love how I worked in the title of our beloved site?) But I have every confidence that were a very attractive child, and if you think hard enough, I’m sure you’ll recover some repressed memories of having been stripped and photographed.

Have they come to you yet? I’m waiting. Because I just know you’re going to feel so much better when you remember. We all need to have been stripped and photographed as children. It’s a rite of passage we deserve, and if I ever become president, I intend to pass into legislation a No Child Left Behind Unstripped and Unphotographed bill.

Alas, as you’re only half-Jewish, you can only provide me with half an explanation as why Christ was killed. But that will do for the time being.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 22:19:16

Zara, I suspect that Lenore may have boiled that frog to death by way of proving that frogs don’t experience change of temperature. This experiment has been the death of many a frog, I’m afraid.

Or possibly Lenore was simply hungry. Which reminds me of a really bad joke: What did the two frogs say to each other after a session of 69?

“Holy shit! We really do taste like chicken!”

And don’t you dare pull an MJ on your lovely face. All you have to do to compensate for the lack of a summer camp experience is having someone photograph you naked. Much more pleasant, don’t you agree?

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Comment by Zara Potts
2009-07-30 00:20:54

Ha!
Okay, I’ll leave the nose job(s) and find me a photographer.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 02:11:55

Yes!

Pornography heals. I’m glad you’ve seen the light.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Nicole
2009-07-29 20:34:35

This starts out so innocent; what a horrible turn. I found it amusing in the beginning that you wanted to be herpetologist. My 7 year old has the same career goal in mind. Although, he simply states that he wants to be a “reptile scientist”, studying their DNA. Herpetologist sounds much more serious, as does the subject matter as your tale progresses. What vastly different perspectives these events have in the eyes of a child compared to that of an adult. I’m sorry you have to reflect upon these events with more discerning eyes. I’d take Christian camp over this any day.
I spent 3 summers at a Mormon camp with a friend growing up. Everything was fun and everyone was welcoming. I made many friends, but after a few summers without any sign of my converting to Mormonism all those friendships quickly dissolved. Is there a camp out there without an agenda other than just innocent fun? I hope so…

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 21:53:30

The Christian camp was good just because it was co-ed. I fell in love with a girl my first year at Christian camp, and she wanted nothing to do with me. The next year I had a girlfriend, who was really cute, but I carried a torch for still another girl named June. Every guy at that camp was in love with June. What a beauty.

I always fall for the femmes fatales.

Your son is three years younger than I was when I at the height of my interest in snakes, so he should start referring to himself as a prospective herpetologist any time now. Although it’s interesting that he wants to study reptile DNA; I just wanted be around snakes, to stare at them and admire them. I thought they were beautiful–or some of them. And, of course, I always favored the poisonous species, just as I always favored warlike Indian trips over peaceful ones.

How is that you ended up at a Mormon camp when you weren’t a Mormon?

Comment by Nicole
2009-07-30 08:28:29

Haha, I’ll introduce my son to the term. Maybe he will start talking about being an actual herpetologist. He can shock and awe the adults around him with his amazing vocabulary as you did as a kid. :)

I was raised in a small Lutheran church. We didn’t have any organized summer activities of interest, so when my Mormon friend invited me to her summer camps I was excited to get out of the house and explore the outdoors. My mother has always been “fancy shmancy” as my father put it, so family camp outs were out of question. This was my chance for river walks, hiking and dirt…I love it! Unlike your Christian camp experience, there wasn’t a lot of religious propaganda going on. We had Sunday morning service and prayers at night, but it was very general. No Mormon specific doctrine pushed on us. My parents were very open to their children being exposed to all sorts of different religions, people and ideas. It wasn’t a concern of theirs that I may convert. I can’t say the same for our neighbors, who were mortified that my parents would let their daughter walk into the arms of a “cult”. They were terrified for me. The fear of the unknown is amusing and baffling to me.

Sounds like your Christian camp focus was more on girls than praying over the beauty & gift of the rocks. Can’t really control and influence a distracted pubescent mind. God is powerless to the power of teenage hormones. :)

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 08:52:17

Well, God put them there, if you believe in God, so by obeying them, you’re in line with the will of God. But theology was never my strong point.

It’s funny that your Mormon camp experience was so different from mine with the Baptists. I guess that shows which is the more permissive sect — and Mormons don’t even allow the consumption of tea.

Your son sounds terrific. Is there any chance of your showing up at Nick’s event on August 22nd? I’m driving up with Rich Ferguson and Reno Romero, and I would love to meet an aspiring herpetologist. Besides which, I could use a little shock and awe in my life.

Wasn’t that, by the way, the name given to the initial assault in Gulf War II? Shock and Awe?

 
Comment by Nicole
2009-07-30 11:46:02

“Well, God put them there,” by “them” do mean the girls at camp?? If so, I’m in full agreement with your theology of obeying “them”. Sounds like the perfect scenario to me. ;)

Actually, I think that’s the trick with Mormons. They dazzle families with fun, wholesome get-togethers and welcoming events. You get drawn in and then BLAMO; no more alcohol, caffeine or even skimpy underwear. It is a clever little ambush going on.

I would love to go to the August 22nd event! Now that I’ve been reading your work and Nick’s as well it would be wonderful to actually meet you clever men in person. Living so far away and having such little children is an impediment, but I hope to make it happen. I keep telling Nick he needs to expand to more AZ locals for his book tour. Any chance that you may be reaching out beyond Cali??

Yes, shock and awe was used in both Gulf wars. It is a common military strategy; an airborne blitzkrieg.

Haha, my aspiring herpetologist awes me everyday. He is an incredible kid!

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 15:50:22

Actually, I was referring to the hormones, but girls are even better.

The Mormon ambush is something I should’ve seen coming. Yes, that’s a much more effective way to harvest souls than waving a Bible. Baptists should take note.

I’d forgotten that you live in Arizona. Darn. Nick has mentioned appearing elsewhere and invited me to participate. Hopefully one of his tour dates will be in AZ.

I hope your aspiring herpetologist has spent his day in loving scrutiny of reptile DNA.

 
Comment by Nicole
2009-07-30 17:53:03

Nick does have a Tuscon, AZ date scheduled, which is closer. A Phoenix signing would be perfect! We shall see… I’m suddenly wishing I was a Cali girl. I hate to miss all the fun. :/

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 21:22:04

I’ll have to word with Nick about his Tucson date. (The way I phrase that makes it sound like he’s got a woman waiting in Tucson.)

Oh, and your Cali line immediately calls to mind the Beach Boys — or was that your intent?

 
Comment by N.L. Belardes
2009-07-31 09:26:48

Correction, Reno is out. I hope you and Rich stick with your commitments! Your names are coming out in a magazine, being mentioned on Bako radio, etc… I’ll miss Reno though.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 12:22:24

I will, too. That’s too bad.

I’m sure Rich has every intention of making the trip. And, as I wrote to you before, I’ll take a train if necessary.

 
Comment by Nicole
2009-07-31 12:37:07

No, I didn’t intend to bring up the Beach Boys, but now “California Girls” is playing in my head (the David Lee Roth version). Some phrases are just impossible to use without invoking a pop culture reference. Like will we ever be able to use, “Who you gonna call,” without thinking of the Ghostbusters? I know I can’t. :)

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 12:59:24

Yes, well. I’m in the middle of an ongoing interview, conducted by e-mail, in which “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys came up, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. Fortunately, it’s a great song.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-29 21:46:43

”Bobby liked naked boys” is… I don’t know if it’s intentional… but it’s really quite funny. I think that’s good, cloaking such a shock in laughter.

This post is really quite magnificent— fascinating on many levels. Told beautifully and, thankfully, without self-pity— I’m not sure about the US but over here the fastest growing genre of book, the best selling, is something along the lines of ‘real life stories.’ Of course the stories are all pages and pages of self pitying people going on about being abused/molested/ignored.

People love to read a good horror story I guess.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 22:38:26

“Bobby liked naked boys” is much funnier when you say it–or write it, in any case.

Anyway, yes, it was a conscious decision on my part to try tell this story with humor. And, yes, the “true story” genre does very well here, and has almost completely supplanted fiction, but I think it has to do with the fact that people, being so literal-minded, now regard fiction as having no practical payoff. I mean, why read about something if it didn’t really happen? It’s a waste of time, don’t you know.

But I personally love fiction–or good fiction–because it reaches much deeper than so-called fact. Had Madame Bovary been a living person whose story was told by a journalist, she’d now be forgotten. I’m truly sorry that the world is no longer so amenable to novelists. It’s everyone’s loss.

Comment by Irwin
2009-07-29 23:01:46

I’m not sure it would have worked without the humour element. I mean the way you tell it is just a few steps removed from ‘oh! I’ve got a funny story! One time I was at camp and sort of got molested.’

But too far the other way and you’ve got something that would just be sad and frightening.

I’m pretty sure most of the ”true story” audience are morons with no imagination. Especially as a lot of fiction is based on real life.

Hunter S. Thompson’s reporting style was more akin to fiction, and had many fictional elements, because there is often more truth in fiction than in fact. I believe I read that, anyway.

It saddens me, not just as an aspiring writer with a desire to have money for food in the future, that people hardly read— or when they do they read shit. I’m not a snob, really I’m not. Most of what I read isn’t terribly highly regarded amongst British academics etc.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-29 23:19:30

There’s always a blending of fact and fiction, in stories told and stories written; it’s only a matter of degree.

With Thompson, you have a guy who continues to be read with great enthusiasm by the young — people like yourself who weren’t even alive during most or many of the events he reports — but in many cases, though they try to emulate him, they fall short because they have no grounding in literature. Reading great novels is key not only to writing fiction but, I’m convinced, writing well as a journalist.

I wonder how the tastes of British academics differ from those of their American counterparts? Not by much, I imagine. But do you have anyone specific in mind when you say what you do? In other words, aside from Hunter S. Thompson and that terrific new novelist D. R. Haney, what writers are you presently reading?

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-30 00:22:43

Thompson always wanted to be a novelist, even though it would seem journalism turned him onto writing.
I would call him an influence, certainly, but more in terms of language and attitude. Obviously it was he who made me want to write— and I happen to have a particular interest in the early 60s/70s.

When he was about my age he would type, word for word, The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms.
I’m learning a lot about Thompson from reading his letters ‘55-’67. He’s always making references to classic literature and mentioning books he has been reading.

It also reveals the amount of work he out in, which I think has rubbed off a little. I’m impressionable like that. Yes— I have become a responsible and dedicated writer from reading the words of a man famous for sending his reports at the last minute, without the editor able to censor him!

When I studied English at college (high school) I nearly couldn’t do my proposed essay because none of the staff had heard of ‘Cannery Row’— my favourite Steinbeck novel. I wanted to write an essay comparing Steinbeck’s portrayal of the Depression in Cannery Row and The Grapes of Wrath.

At university it was a little different, before university Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Whitman, James are all ignored. That is obviously just an example of a few.

British academia only really focuses on Shakespeare, which completely disengages most of the students who (I think rightly) view him as irrelevant. Especially as in his own time, like Dickens, he was regarded the same way Rowling and Dan Brown are— popular trash.

Then we get a classic British novel. I got Jane Eyre— most of the book choices are chosen to appeal to girls because there are only ever about 4 boys in a literature class.

The 20th Century is almost completely ignored. Kurt Vonnegut is one of the greatest writers the world has ever had— of course he’s American and funny, that’s just not literary!

Ah— Mark Twain! Standard reading for American school kids, a rare treat for anyone who manages to haul themselves into an American literature course at university!

Presently I am reading:

The letters of HST
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (after reading a few pages of Infinite Jest and deciding I’d need to get into Wallace via shorter material first.)
I have several Hemingway novels waiting to be read, Ham on Rye (the only book on my shelf that matches BFL for height and width). I also have a Tom Robbins novel and A Confederacy of Dunces waiting.

Many more books I want to read, but I’ve fallen behind onmy reading. In fact the last book I finished was Banned For Life.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 02:43:55

I know it’s heresy, but I favor twentieth-century literature over any other, particularly books from the early part of the century. And I prefer American lit to European, which is also heresy.

I’d heard that story about Thompson typing and retyping The Great Gatsby (though never A Farewell to Arms), and I daresay that’s something you won’t find anyone doing today. Of course, it’s nothing I ever did. It would never have occurred to me.

I like Shakespeare quite a bit, I have to say. I’m aware that he was seen as trash, not only in his time but later, up until the Romantic period, I think, when he was dusted off and finally appreciated. The level of wit in Shakespeare is dazzling–and I don’t mean wit only in the “ha, ha” sense. I recently rewatched Olivier’s Hamlet, and I couldn’t get over the volume of genius lines, one after another after another.

I doubt I’ll ever read David Foster Wallace. David Briethaupt, who just left a comment here, wrote a marvelous piece about him a few weeks ago, and I know David’s been reading, or trying to read, Infinte Jest, but my one experience with a piece by DFW was permanently offputting, I’m afraid.

Meantime, I’ve never read Tom Robbins, either, and Ben Loory wrote a devastating remark about him on TNB recently that made my aversion to TR feel justified.

I’ve mentioned my indifference to A Confederacy of Dunces to you before, but that’s still more heresy. I just didn’t find the damned thing funny, except for the mumbling black guy and one or two other anecdotes, and a comic novel lives or dies by its laugh meter.

Hemingway I love, though the novels are inferior to the stories, and Ham on Rye is a hoot. If I were to recommend anything on your list to get you back on a reading track, that would be the one. Like all Bukowski, it’s very easy, and also very funny.

I’m going to resist making another egocentric joke about Banned for Life or its author. That’s a habit I don’t want to acquire.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-30 03:34:35

It is some sort of twisted heresey to say so, but as far as I’m concerned the most exciting period for literature was somewhere betweens the ’20s and early-to-mid ’70s. Most of my favourite books come from that time.

I’d always heard about Thompson typing Gatsby, but I only heard he did ‘A Farewell to Arms’ whilst watching a recent documentary.

The with Shakespeare is I was never introduced very well. Other people in my school got to study Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello whilst I was stuck with Romeo and Juliet, and then Antony and Cleopatra, which is basically the same story. It’s hard to engage kids with that stuff, my school did a bad job and I’m put off permanently. I have appreciated several of his lines.

Ordinarily I would not try and read such a large book— I prefer books around 200-400 pages. However a good friend of mine read it and loved it. As we have fairly similar tastes I thought I’d give it a go. I don’t like to admit it but I was done after about the third page. So I’m going to try and get into him as a writer and hope for the best.

I’m undecided on Tom Robbins. Another roadside Attraction was a good book, but it was kind of hard work, very confused and, although the shocks and laughs were constant, not that great. The other one I have a I read a few pages of and got a bit bored— but the first 50 or so pages of Another Roadside Attraction were difficult, so I’ll plough through.

I bought Confederacy of Dunces purely for it’s reputation as being very funny. However, I rarely laugh when I read and even more rarely find books labelled ‘funny’ as funny. It may take me years to get around to it, I have ever changing fancies and buy a book, but then get hooked on something else. For instance, I only started reading ‘The Proud Highway’ (HST’s letters ‘55-’67) whilst I was waiting for something else to arrive. Of course now I don’t want to stop reading, so I won’t. Who knows what I’ll feel like reading when I’m done?!

Hemingway I also love, but sometimes get bored in the middle. My attention span is horribly short. Bukowski I’ve been meaning to get to since before almost the start of the year.

Ah well, there is (hopefully) plenty of time.

For now another book has arrived— a photographic biography. I won’t say whose, because after my comments today and the post yesterday I’ll look like an obsessive. I assure you, it was only purchased because it’s something I’ve wanted for ages, and it finally appeared at the low, low price of £12.

Egocentric jokes are marvelous things— I’m brilliant at them!

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 05:04:31

Well, I think you just said whose biography it is. But that’s okay. Is it the oral bio that came out a couple of years ago?

I really encourage you to get started on a Bukowski spree. I have a feeling you’re really going to like him (even though his style is spare to the point of non-existent), and he’s made for people with short attention spans. It’s one of the reasons his work continues to do well with younger readers.

As for Shakespeare, rent films. That’s a great introduction, if the films are good. My favorite filmed Shakespeare is probably Polanski’s Macbeth. First-rate.

I would close with an egocentric joke, but I’m too tired to make one — or for one, as I mistakenly typed and then corrected.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-30 05:17:15

I tend to forget what I’ve said almost instantly; I think this is a family trait as both my mother and grandmother have a tendency to repeat the same stories over and over. But yes, it’s the big coffee book table thing that came out two years ago— is it really that long?! I remember reading an article about it in The Times, which had a few pictures from the book. I knew there and then that I wanted it: it sounds incredibly pathetic, but whilst I admire many writers HST remains my hero and I’ve always felt some sort of spiritual connection with the man. Since the book came out I’ve taken a brief glimpse and then not bought it.

I just skimmed it after lunch, it’s really quite fascinating. It actually works well as a companion to the letters too. Of particular interest to me are typed pieces with grammatical corrections/edits— yes, even the best misplace commas!

I like spare style, the main reason I have not yet got around to it is because the book is so large. I usually carry a book in my pocket if I know I’m going to have time to read a good deal and recently I’ve been doing a lot of reading on trips, so Bukowski has lost out to coat-pocket size books. I think after my new Wallace book I shall make sure that definitely comes next. Although I remain uncertain as to whether I shall finish even his short stories. I do think that some people can be too clever for there own good— in fact if what I’ve heard is accurate that is quite literally true.

My brother got to study more exciting Shakespeare plays and watched, I think, Macbeth or Othello. Either way he’s much more into it than I’ve ever been able to get.

How this reply got to be so long I shall never know!

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 05:35:20

Oh, no. The coffee-table book isn’t the one I meant. I meant the other bio; I can’t recall the name. But I think the coffee-table book was put out by a new press in L.A. My friend Erin Broadley, who’d reviewed the book and had a friendly relationship with the press, suggested that I send them the manuscript of BFL, and I wrote them and never heard back. I hate that. Even one line to say “Sorry, but…” is better than crickets.

HST for you is what Kerouac was for me. I know you don’t like Kerouac, but On the Road changed my life. I wouldn’t be writing this, or writing at all, if I hadn’t read that book. It showed me that a writer’s life could be adventurous in ways I’d never imagined. I mean, here were these young guys who were not only driving madly around the country, drinking and carousing and romancing girls, but they were talking about Proust and Joyce and Dostoevsky — it was that combination of the intellectual life mixed with the sensual life that opened my eyes. I wanted to be one of those guys, or to be a guy like them. That’s when I became a serious reader. I’m forever indebted to Kerouac.

I say ditch Wallace as fast as possible and move on. You can always return to it later.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-30 05:49:49

There are so many Thompson books out— a veritable deluge and I have no interest in most. There are new ones constantly. The coffee table book looks like a new press— Ammo or something. It’s wonderfully produced, although most of the work was done by Thompson himself; he was working on it just before he ended it all.

I’ve never not had a rejection letter, but I’ve only submitted something twice— I’m waiting to hear from McSweeney’s, although I strongly doubt I ever will.

HST was no fan of Kerouac, apparently, but he was at least appreciative of the fact that Kerouac paved the way for him much later. The worst thing about On The Road is I sort of liked it, as I sort of liked Big Sur, but I hate Kerouac’s writing. Very whiny, and also I’m no fan of extreme casualness with language— ‘thru’ and ‘biz’ for examples are words only to be tolerated amongst the pages of trashy magazines.

I’ll give Wallace a shot with his short stories, I’ll read one or two, but yes— life is too short to struggle with books you don’t enjoy.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 08:11:17

Ammo was the press I meant. Yes, we’re speaking of the same book.

It’s funny for me to hear Kerouac’s writing described as “whiny.” Maybe that’s true. I never thought it about that way before, though I certainly think he was self-pitying. But I always gave him a pass on that, knowing how sensitive he was.

I’m with you on his slangy abbreviations and the like. I never cared for it, but I forgave it.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-30 08:26:44

Whiny/self-pitying/sensitive— whatever you want to call it it makes for, in my opinion, hard reading.

It’s the same reason I wouldn’t have much time for a friend so self-pitying. I’m a nice guy, really I am, but there is a point when people are just too pathetic. Especially when they’re closer to their mother than Norman Bates, or Adolf Hitler.

I always fall into this trap— I never want to dismiss what other people cherish, but I can’t help myself.

I’m partially joking for the sake of making a cruel joke. I don’t hate Kerouac, I’m just not a fan.

I wish I was— I’ve tried a few times, but I never ‘get it.’ I’m not so forgiving…

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 08:40:24

Well, the mother thing was his Achilles’ heel. It’s very Catholic, apparently. I’ve heard for years about Catholic guys who continue to live with their mothers.

But it’s fine to differ. I happen to love a few books by Kerouac, but I’m also intrigued by his life, or a specific period of it. And there are very few, if any, sacred cows for me. Joke at will, and if I find it funny, I’ll laugh.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-30 08:57:51

Yes— it’s very common in Italy. I knew an italian in fact, 25 or so, a fully qualified doctor and very handsome young man who still lived with his mother.

And, sacred or not, I’m not going to joke without reason— most jokes I make are from opportunities arising. I respect Kerouac and his fans at least, even if I don’t like his persona or his writing.

I have said, many times before (mostly to Becky) that I want to like him. I did enjoy the first few pages of ‘Big Sur’ which he described beautifully. But then he started bitching about being hungry and I got bored pretty fast, which was a shame because the premise sounded promising.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 21:39:04

There’s an Italian expression for men who live with their mothers long after we in the UK or US consider normal or appropriate: mammoni.

I’m sorry you gave up on Big Sur. It contains the best description I ever read of a nervous breakdown — or account, maybe I should say. But it takes a while to get to that, and it may be a hard book to read without comprehensive knowledge of Kerouac’s life.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-30 22:21:01

I’ve read alot *about* Kerouac, I can’t argue that he’s not a fascinating figure.

A monor coincidence: I settled down last night to read more of HST’s letters. The very first one I read, sometime around 1958, concerned Kerouac. A friend of his had sent him On The Road and The Subterraneans which he described as ”weird, even for MY taste.”

I will no doubt try Kerouac again later in life— tastes change. I mentioned earlier that my enjoyment of Catcher in the Rye decreased through time. I never used to like coffee, now I do. Maybe, just maybe, I will later come to read something of the great Jack Kerouac and enjoy it immensely.

Genuinely, I do hope so.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 02:44:27

Did HST describe both OTR and TS as “weird”?

Interestingly, that’s the word that Montgomery Clift used to describe James Dean, when asked about him. “Dean is weird,” he said.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-31 02:56:57

Yeah, both together— Kerouac’s writing in general.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 03:26:43

Well, he was young. His opinion may have altered once he began to write in weirder style himself. But you would know far better than I.

I’m glad you’re reading his letters, by the way. Practically no one reads volumes of letters these days. Flaubert’s letters are said to be the best ever written, and Byron’s a close second. I’ve read the latter — they’re excellent — but not the former.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-31 05:06:02

I already heard a quote of his from years later— if anything his attitude towars Kerouac became increasingly indifferent towars his style, although he acknowledged, and was grateful for, the importance of Kerouac in paving the way for ‘gonzo.’ I may well have mentioned this before.

I bought the letters on a recommendation from an even bigger fan than myself, but was immediately put off by the size (bought online, as the only HST works on sale in bookstores are ‘the book,’ ‘The Rum Diary,’ and ‘Hell’s Angels’).

The letters of Groucho Marx are, although less literary, incredibly entertaining. With Thompson’s letters (I couldn’t say on anyone else’s, sadly) it feels like the autobiography he never wrote. Kingdom of Fear had many anecdotes but they were scattered and, as he was much older, of lower writing quality.

Also reading the letters you see his style change— several letters are imitations of Fitzgerald’s style. Having read a lot of his later stuff it becomes apparent his style never changed that drastically— the subject matter merely got more crazed and weird. His humour becomes much more apparent too, not the cruel humour that Nixon was always at the end of, a different, less aggressive humour. His letters attempting to avoid payment of bills are amusing.

I may have digressed.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 12:49:00

I’m sure the letters of Groucho Marx would be very entertaining.

Interesting that HST’s style never changed that dramatically. Maybe it rarely does with most writers, though most of us would likely insist otherwise, dividing our work between the mature and juvenalia; between this period or phase and that one.

A few years ago, I remember a friend showing me a letter from HST sent to a landlord in which apologies of a kind were made for damages to the property. Are there more like that one?

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-31 13:40:44

The Marx letters are entertaining, although memory brushed aside the more personal, less amusing ones. Did you know that Groucho became good friends with Alice Cooper? The letters end well before that period, but it is a true story. They were neighbours somewhere in Hollywood and would reguarly stay up late watching movies together.

At first it seems strange, but then you realise that they both gained fame by appearing on stage with distinctive black make up.

His style changes, but there is always something there. And this is very young Thompson— I only realised last night that the period I’m reading is when he was my age and doing exactly what I do— imitating styles of great writers. But thorugh this the ’something’ grows and becomes more prominent, and in fact is recognisably Thompson by around the start of the ’60s.

I like to think my ’style’ has changed but I know damn well it hasn’t. It’s merely a matter of what I’m writing about. The silly humour stories ripped off from Vonnegut, the war stories ripped off from Hemingway and the non-fiction all appear wildly different but look close enough and little stylistic things become apparent.

Having said that I just wrote a long letter that didn’t sound as though I’d written it; it felt, on reflection, incredibly mature and grown up. I think I can credit this to you— since I’ve ‘known’ you we’ve exchanged e-mails. These have always been slightly more formal. Of course it’s nothing like ‘Dear Mr Haney…’ but more formal than most correspondence. Hear on the comment boards as well, my ‘voice’ appears to change.

I think that letter may have been from the next volume. I can’t be sure, I’ve only just caught the early ’60s and it ends before his Kentucky Derby piece and the start of ‘gonzo.’

There may be though. He writes about orgies and rape a lot, in a series of letters to woo a young girl back home. He talks often about having his own compound too. Interestingly he did exactly do that with Woody Creek. He also wuite reguarly remarks that he doesn’t much care for degeneracy, as great as it is he is contantly in search of privacy, peace and quiet.

If I find anything like the letter you describe I shall return here immediately.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 21:38:39

I think the letter in question was written in either 1960 or ‘61. In the summer, I believe. I was shown it twice by two people. That book was a favorite at a house occupied by a handful who were reading it simultaneously, and though the letter was obviously striking to them, I have to confess that I wasn’t nearly as blown away. I think it was addressed to a woman and ended with a tacit threat, since the landlord was (I believe) seeking payment for HST’s damages or making noises about legal action.

It’s true that when you first wrote to me off the board, I commented that your “voice” sounded different. Thank God most of my correspondence at nineteen hasn’t survived. I was, at the time, trying to incorporate my reading of nineteenth-century literature, and came off like a supercilious ass. That’s a horrible phase undergone by most young writers, and one that you seem to have fortuitously bypassed.

Of course, I love to receive credit for anything–even most things. Thank you.

Did HST participate in more than his fair share of orgies? I haven’t been able to finish Hell’s Angels, but apparently there’s mention in it of a gangbang at a party in SF, and the woman involved was Neal Cassady’s ex-wife. At first, when I heard this in the Gonzo documentary, I thought the ex-wife was Carolyn Cassady, who wouldn’t have been the type. Then I realized it must be LuAnne, who married Neal when she was sixteen or so. Like Carolyn, she had a fling with Kerouac, though it wasn’t as complicated as Kerouac’s affair with Carolyn.

Meantime, yes, I think I did hear somewhere that Groucho was friends with Alice Cooper. It makes sense to me, beyond the eyeliner. Like Groucho, Alice Cooper was a satirist, as well as a student of pop culture. I love the image of them watching movies together late at night. That’s about as L.A. a thing as I ever heard.

Oh, and as it happens, I just saw the Ammo HST book at the store where I read last week with Brad. (I had to run down to settle some business with them.) I flipped through it. A good-looking book. For any fan of HST, it must amount to a treasure.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-01 01:15:06

Ah, I should get to it soon. As it is HST has only just got his first apartment, although being 1959 and having just read a tale about throwing a garbage can down the stairs in a fit of intoxication I can it ending in some sort of legal threats.

I must confess that no letters so far have truly blown me away; they’re fascinating, certainly, but my love of HST is far less fanatical than most of his fans.

I remember your comment, yes. Although now I think my comments have gone that way. I always left long comments, but now they tend to read almost like letters.

My writing does include many imitations of my reading material, but most of my reading is mid-20th stuff and so therefore more ‘normal.’ I would probably try and rip off the 19th century writers if I was a big reader of them. I was actually a big reader of the classics a few years ago— before I was a ‘writer.’ So maybe that’s why, I wasn’t writing when I read them.

A friend of mine, several years older, imitates the classic writers constantly and comes off like a pretentious fool quite often. He also dresses like an 19th century poet. He did however write a brilliant parody of classic poetry when I left university, which I still have and hopefully always will. I tend to hang onto stuff.

For all his talk of orgies he wasn’t so much a fan. He was, I suppose, all talk and no action. In his letters his talk of orgies is almost always followed by a declaration that the orgy would be short so he could get back to peace and quiet. So far almost all the letters seem very concerned with finding peace, quiet and privacy.

Much like Hemingway the public persona and private man where very different people.

There is a gang-bang in Hell’s Angels. Which actually forces me to consider this: when Thompson talks of orgies in his letters I think he’s referring to the Roman style orgy of food, drink and women, as opposed to the term as it’s used today. More evidence to support this theory is HST’s digust as the scene. He writes about it much better than Tom Wolfe— the same event is mentioned in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Wolfe was following Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, Thompson the Hell’s Angels and one sunny afternoon Kesey invited the Anglels over to his place.

The version of Gonzo I have seen was edited to be part of BBC’s documentary series, so around half an hour is missing. The orgy part must have been part of that half hour.

But either way, Thompson was no fan of gang-bang rape and only enjoyed madness, drink and drugs for short periods. I mean what happens at the end of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? He flies back to Woody Creek, a private, heavily fortified compound in the mountains. He has referred to it as his ‘anchor in the world.’ It was the only residence he was never evicted from.

I love Alice Cooper and Groucho Marx. I always considered Cooper a novelty act, having only really known Poison and School’s Out. But he has a radio show which is syndicated and is the breakfast show on the classic rock station I listen to. He frequently plays his own music (not too much, two tracks at most in a three hour show) and is a charming and very funny host. He’s another guy whose image is nothing like his true self, although that may be more to do with the christian re-birth.
Groucho, of course, is one of the finest comedians to grace the planet. I would love to have been able to hang out with them. Pretty cool.

Also, I never knew this until Cooper revealed it on his show. The Doors song that begins ‘Woke up this morning and got myself a beer’ was something Cooper said to Jim Morrison after Morrison asked him what he’d been up to that morning. I may have mentioned this before.

And yes, the HST book is a treasure. It’s rare to see so many gimpses into a writers life, and Thompson was obsessed with photography. He was also pretty good at it.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-01 02:42:57

I think I saw a nude of HST’s first wife in the Ammo book. Were my eyes mistaken? I was having a conversation with someone at the store as I flipped through it.

I had no idea, meantime, that Alice Cooper is now Born Again. Bloody hell, there’s a shocker. But I would already have assumed that he’s nothing like his public persona. So few outrageous types are. They might start out as outrageous, but it can’t be sustained.

I love the anecdote about “Woke up this morning and got myself a beer,” by the way. That’s another surprise. I guess even Morrison could be out-Morrisoned.

Come to think of it, I believe there was mention in the documentary about the gang-rape bit being included in Wolfe’s book. And as with Cooper, I’m not at all surprised that HST’s private persona differed from his image. You get a sense of that from a recorded conversation in the documentary: a woman coming on to him on the phone and HST seemingly a bit taken aback. In any case, he doesn’t immediately arrange to meet her or talk dirty or any of that. Yet his wife cites that recording as the reason she left him — the final straw.

Meantime, here’s an anecdote that was told to me by an older friend. During his college years in, I think, the early seventies, my friend went to see HST read. HST sat at a table with a big bottle of whiskey and drank from it throughout the reading. Afterwards, as people were huddled around HST, my friend opened the bottle of whiskey, possibly to take a snort, and discovered it was tea. HST was “a pussy,” my friend decided.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-01 07:39:21

There is indeed a nude of HST’s first wife in the book— it was the ’60s! And even in the ’50s he appeared to be a big fan of nudity. He writes to a girl in Kentucky reminiscing about naked swimming in their adolescence. There are more graphic pictures later on, but the genitalia is censired. A mysterious woman in a Nixon mask.

Cooper became born again from his drinking. He was an alcoholic— he used to wake up in the morning and get himself a bottle of beer. He gave it up and got all Christian and into golf. He says he has an addictive personality and he simply replaced one addiction with another. His obsession with golf, he has said, borders on healthy— but its healthier than being a booze addict. He’s also in the fortunate position of having plenty of time and money that he needs not work too hard and can play often.

I believe that may have been the final straw— although I thought it was a different recording where either in jest or for real HST makes a remark about phone sex. She also said that after HST got really big there home was always full of people, the fame went to his head for a period and he got a little crazier, wilder and as a result often more violent. I think she was also incredibly envious of the amount of female attention got.

Your friend sounds like the sort of person Thompson came to hate— the ‘fans’ who expected him to be constantly on drugs, drunk and being all crazy. He later felt trapped by his own persona. He felt the people who came to see him talk hadn’t come to see Thompson the writer but the embellished Thompson in his work.

And naturally his capacity for drink and drugs diminished as he got older. He was in pretty bad shape in the years before his death, which left him kind of bitter and angry. His writing suffered. I don’t read much of his work post-’80s because it’s like reading an angry hobo trying to imitate HST.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-01 20:57:45

That’s the problem with celebrity of his kind. It did in Kerouac and Neal Cassady, who were both trying to live up people’s expectations of them, and it also arguably did in Hemingway, who was trying to live up to expectations of a very different sort.

I don’t know that my friend was really a fan of HST; I think he just went to the reading because it was there to do. But if HST didn’t want to be judged by the standards of the persona he’d created, then why feed into it by appearing with a bottle of “booze” on his desk? Not only did he make his own trap, he seems to have maintained it. Then again, his standard of living was tied to it. He must have feared that once the mask was dropped, the assignments would disappear.

Did he have any specific ailments toward the end? Was he, for instance, diabetic? That was something I should have attributed to Jim Cassady, who almost certainly would have had type-2 diabetes.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-02 06:16:26

I just wrote, for Kerb Magazine, a comparison of HST and Hemingway’s public and private personas. I may have mentioned this before.

That’s really what being trapped is, isn’t it? I don’t know, after the ’70s and his wife left him he was never the same writer. I think even he knew that, for several reasons, he would never reach the heights of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas again. The fame went to his head— fame is addictive. I think he either knew, or was scared of the possibility, that he wouldn’t have such a level of fame without his persona. He also felt obligated to play up to it. He did at least enjoy the attention.

I mean jesus, he must have been in his 50s at least when he started his college tours. What 50 year old man wouldn’t want college girls fauning over them?

And your friend sort of shows that his fears were on the money. Despite the fact that he was clearly much older than he was in his wildest days and despite the fact that he lived harder, faster and higher than most functioning members of society would dare to attempt, your friend thought he was a ‘pussy.’

I don’t know of any specific ailments, I don’t know too much about his later years beyond the fact that he was regularly in agonizing physical pain. It is has been said that his suicide was a ”carefully thought out act… resulting from his many painful and chronic medical conditions.”

He actually, drink and drugs aside, lived quite a healthy life. What a lot of people who try to imitate him fail to realise is that HST was incredibly active, always swimming and ate a lot of fruit. By no means a health nut, but active and fit enough to handle his ingestion of weird chemicals.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-02 11:07:15

Well, again, I think HST baited my friend’s reaction. If you’re going to live up to your image, live up to it, and if you aren’t, then don’t — but filling a whiskey bottle with tea and pretending to get hammered? I mean, hey, I personally would cut the guy some slack, but I can understand my friend. Plus, he was a kid at the time, and he came from hard-drinking Buffalo. Anyone who can’t drink you under the table is a pussy in Buffalo.

I was not aware of the subject of the Kerb piece, but it’s one I find interesting. Hemingway was in fact a soft-spoken, bookish, retiring man. Aspects of his public persona were authentic, but they were far from the whole story. He remains very misunderstood, as does his work, which is assumed misogynistic — on the basis of what? In fact, he wrote sympathetically of women, but the he-man image he created continues to dog him, even though it arguably played a huge role in his suicide — i.e., his inability to live up to it.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-02 11:46:31

He wanted to live up to his image but really couldn’t. I mean I can see why it would provoke such a reaction, but come on. You’ve got a room full of kids come to see this wild and crazed character— what are you going to do? Give them what they want, even if it’s by means of illusion or just not give it to them? Far more people would have been upset if the ‘real’ Thompson had turned up and spoken eloquently and intelligently about the issues of the day and his past work. And he could easily have done so. But he wanted their adoration and they wanted the guy from *that* cool book.

Without wanting to disparage your friend, Thompson in his prime would have been able to drink him under the table several times over. When he was on the press bus in Washington covering the ‘72 election the other journalists were terrified of him. He could drink all day with no apparent effect on his ability to function. They were put in a position where they had to compete with Thompson’s consumption whilst remaining alert enough to do their jobs. Very few could even get close.

Of course the side-effect of such a lifestyle was not being able to keep it up his entire life.

Hemingway ended up with the same sort of problem. You just can’t physically go on drinking that much over and over again. But the more famous he became the more people wanted to drink with him. In reality he was far from that guy. He was a voracious learner and reader and has said himself that he only ever slept with something like three of four women. I think it was three, because the only women he slept with he married. Although he did cheat on his wives, each time he would go onto to marry whoever he cheated with.

And like Thompson he suffered for his lifestyle in the end, although he hand more pyschological problems whereas Thompson’s symptons where all physical or medical. Although it could be argued that he was hugely depressed by the end. In fact in that Gonzo documentary his wife said that after Bush got elected he got depressed rather than angry. He hated Bush far more than Nixon.

Incidentally, my new favourite Thompson fact, learnt through my picture/scrap book, is thus:

Reagan set up the Republican Presidential Task Force. When Bush came in Thompson joined. He got a dark gold card to certify his membership.

All members of the Republican Presidential Task Force are enlisted on that President’s ‘Honor Roll.’ This means that Hunter S. Thompson is on George W. Bush’s Honor Roll.

The Honor Roll is kept, forever, with the President’s Permanent Papers. It will probably end up in, the greatest of oxymorons, the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-02 15:00:09

I love that we’re having a conversation about HST here, after a piece on child exploitation, rather than after your own piece on HST.

It’s true what you say about Hemingway. His problem, as Faulkner famously put it, was that “he always had to marry them.” I don’t know that he only slept with four women, however. He had an affair with a great beauty named Jane Mason (she looks like Grace Kelly in the one photo I’ve seen) when he was married to his second wife, Pauline. Jane was herself married at the time, and she later threw herself off a second-floor balcony in a suicide bid and broke her back — a fact I mention for no good reason. Also, in Nick Adams story that I believe was unpublished in Hemingway’s lifetime, his alter ego Nick fornicates with a character based on Katy Smith, who later went on to marry John Dos Passos. It would appear that this incident was based on fact, though I suppose no one will ever know for sure.

It’s a wonderful irony about Bush and the honor roll and all that. I saw HST interviewed toward the end of his life — about Bush in fact — and he did indeed appear depressed. He sounded like he had marbles in his mouth. I could barely understand him.

I won’t debate what he “should” or “shouldn’t” have done with regard to his public persona. You’re clearly inclined to take his side, and that’s fine. I was simply trying to suggest that there were alternatives but he finally he opted to maintain the legend that destroyed him, both as a writer and as a man. It’s a pity that he valued fame over literature. But he would hardly be the first.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-02 21:40:19

I find it strange too— I frequently kept going to my own post actually, only to remember that this conversation is happening on your post.

I’m not expert when it comes to Hemingway. Really all I know is what Wikipedia tells me.

Yeah, in his later years he was barely understandable. There’s a great video on youtube of HST interviewing Keith Richards, both men mumbling inaudibly and occasionally breaking out into laughter. By those days he’d ‘given up.’ He just couldn’t get worked up like he used to, like he’d finally lost.

I’m not really sure why I am taking such a strong stance. I’m actually of the belief that Thompson after the late ’70s was kind of unlikeable. However he always managed to be kind of lovable.

I will say, however, that I don’t think he valued fame over literature. Not until the 80s anyway. And even then it wasn’t so much choosing fame over literature, but more knowing that his best days were behind him and that playing up to his own myth was the only way to remain relevant and the only way to keep the money rolling in.

The Thompson of the ’50s and ’60s would probably have hated the Thompson of the ’80s and ’90s.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 00:10:23

Wow. A talk between HST and Keith Richards, otherwise known as Mumbles and Mumbles. I’m laughing as I type this, trying to imagine that clip. I’ll have to see if I can track it down on YouTube.

I understand what you mean about not knowing why you’re taking such a strong stance. I find myself in that position at times. It’s like I start off with a certain position, and at some point it feels like I have to maintain it, no matter what, maybe because I’m trying to justify the strong position I took at the outset. But it’s always a bit of a relief when I realize I’m free to back down. Not that I’m suggesting that you should back down.

Also, I wasn’t trying to suggest that HST chose fame over literature – not initially. As you say, that seems to have happened later. It’s funny; Mailer certainly relished fame, but, however poor or uneven his output, he always maintained a strong work ethic. Then again, he was never as debauched as HST, though he dabbled in debauchery — but I think that was more an experiment than anything else. He scrutinized his own reactions, which came to constitute more and more of his subject matter, particularly with his journalism, which was far more his metier than fiction. I’m not sure what lay behind HST’s debauchery, except that he obviously had a substantial anti-authoritarian streak and his drinking and drug use may have been something he did against others rather than for himself. Then, too, it may have been a kind of slow (or temporary) suicide, rooted in a fundamental self-dislike for reasons known only to him — if even he was conscious of his reasons. Many addicts, or quasi-addicts, aren’t.

In a lot of ways, Mailer and Thompson worked the same beat, but Mailer’s fans are few these days, while Thompson’s continue to proliferate. Apparently, Mailer was envious of HST’s capacity to connect with the contemporary reader in a way that he, Mailer, knew he could not. But he grappled with a lot of “big” ideas, where HST kept it simple – or in any case simpler. Also, HST literally became a cartoon character, both in Doonsbury and the Steadman illustrations, which I think helped him to score younger readers. He “branded” himself better than did Mailer, who increasingly seemed old-fashioned, and finally, to the young, irrelevant. Most of his books are now out of print. I don’t think that’s the case with HST — or is it?

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-03 07:52:25

I think the clip has subtitles. It may have been taken down, everything is being taken down now.

I tend to slowly build a stance and then feel bound to stick to it. I’m not really very stubborn, although I suppose I do enjoy arguments and debate. I would say this is more a debate, or is it just a conversation? HST is contraversial, there is no way I would expect him to be enjoyed by all.

Although in line with Simon’s coincidences, I’m currently listeing to a song called ‘Fat City’ which is what Thompson wanted to rename Aspen if he were elected.

Alot of people underestimate Thompson’s work ethic and just assume that he was wacked up in drink and drugs and made it all up. His reporting style was so successfully because it was so largely rooted in facts. It’s like Picasso’s painting— you have to be able to paint/write properly before you can use your own style to create something new and more interesting. I wonder, for example, how many young kids were turned on to politics from reading Thompson compared to a guy like Mailer…

Anyone, Thompson wrote everyday, from the day he started as editor at the Eglin Airbase sports section. He lived for writing first and foremost, which often gets clouded in his image. I’m quite proud of the fact that a lot of people read HST and go out drinking, experimenting with drugs and trying to be crazy. I read HST, tried converse trainers, wild turkey and a few puffs of marijuana. Of those three the only one I really found to my taste was the shoes. What I really took from Thompson is an interest and awareness of politics and the romance of being a young and struggling writer. I think it’s no coincidence that my new found love of editing comes from reading a hundred or so letters of Thompson talking about drinking coffee and editing his days work.

Thompson also overplayed his debauchery to an extent. He could put his drink away, but at least at the peak of his talents he was, relatively speaking, nothing short of professional. I think I’ve mentioned before his work at Rolling Stone could go to press at the very last minute because Jann Wenner knew that not only would it sell millions of copies, but the spelling, punctuation and grammar would be perfect; more so than the rest of the magazine. Of course the risk was getting sued, but that was a relatively small price to pay.

Thompson’s drinking was possibly as a result of growing up in Kentucky. Although from his letters he wasn’t a regular drinker in his youth. Certainly he drank, but whilst a member of the army he had little money and less opportunity. ‘Slow suicide’ is a very high subconscious possibility. He spoke his whole life about suicide. Everyone who knew him knew that he would end his own life. He idolised Hemigway and went to Ketchum; I believe he stole a pair of elk antlers from above the door.

Unlike Mailer, Thompson benefited from several films of his life and work. They also starred popular actors— Murray in 1980 and Depp in 1998. Depp again next year with The Rum Diary. He is also a huge cultural icon, more so than Mailer, which you kind of mentioned.

As far as I’m aware all of Thompson’s work is in regular print. There are hundreds of anthologies too— of both his journalism and letters.

However ‘Curse of Lono’ and ‘Screwjack’ are pretty rare and I’ve not read either, because they both cost about £20 and are short pieces.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 12:25:51

That’s a fantastic anecdote about HST stealing a pair of antlers from Hemingway’s house. It reminds me of the story of John Lennon extinguishing a cigarette on a Picasso at the Playboy mansion. I don’t know why it reminds me of that, but it does.

I never doubted that HST had a strong work ethic for much of his life; it was the end that I questioned. Mailer, just before he died in his eighties, had recently published a massive novel (the first of a projected series!) about Hitler, though I’m sure it’s unreadable. Oh, and Mailer was, incidentally, hugely famous in his lifetime, gracing the covers of most of the celebrated magazines of his day, including Life and Time, but he never caught on with renegade youth to the extent of HST, though he wrote sympathetically of 1960s youth culture. In fact, I strongly suspect that HST was influenced by Mailer, who was among the first practioners of the “new journalism,” and arguably invented it with Advertisements for Myself in 1959. Mailer also acted occasionally, showing up in Ragtime, in which he played the architect Sanford White, who was gunned down in a notorious case at the start of the twentieth century. But Mailer was never portrayed by a famous actor, as was HST. I was unaware that a film of The Rum Diary had been made. I’ll have to take a pass, lacking as I do appreciation for Johnny Depp.

It’s charming that you tried Wild Turkey and pot after reading HST, not to mention the Converse. But I think you learned your lesson about Wild Turkey, yes? Stick with the Jameson of Banned for Life, if I may be so egocentric. Meantime, I certainly emulated heroes in the past. I always wanted to drop acid after getting so heavily into the Beatles as a teenager. Eventually I did drop acid, and loved it. I couldn’t take it now, though, not being in a strong enough state of mind, but I have no regrets about past usage. I don’t have any regrets in the drug department, period, except for the drugs that are legal. Errol Flynn, who tried every drug he could get his hands on, said that alcohol was far and away the most deadly — and that was certainly true in Flynn’s case. He looked like shit by the time he died at fifty or so, due in no small part to his alcoholism. Now, there’s a guy who could’ve drunk HST under the table. And he, in turn, was emulating John Barrymore: his hero.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-03 13:51:29

My word I’m writing a lot lately— sadly none of it in the realm of literature, although I’m feeling strong benefits from it.

Anyway:

It’s suddenly occurred to met that this may be a fairly short response, have the words dried up?!

I think perhaps my ignorance of Mailer may illustrate my point somewhat. Even non-fans could probably identify Thompson today. But could the same be said for Mailer? It’s like the way certain bands were once hugely famous but now obscure. Thompson is like The Rolling Stone, burnt into pop culture beyond his time and place.

The Rum Diary has taken ages to get made, but it is being made by the guy who wrote and directed ‘Withnail and I’ which is one of my favourite films. I don’t know how popular it is in the US, because it was an independent film from the ’80s, but its about two unemployed, alchoholic, out of work actors. I many ways a good preperation for employed, alcoholic journalists.

I’ve always liked Depp. I’ve not actually seen too many of his films, but from what I have read and seen of him he strikes me as a thoroughly wonderful person and was, of course, very good friends with HST at the end. The films of his I have seen though do strike me as fantastic performances.

I read recently in a film magazine that one of Depp’s hobbies on his private island is to feed hot dogs to sharks and quote Bond villains.

Ah— he also played guitar for Oasis, or slide guitar. He happend to be in the studio where Oasis were recording Be Here Now and volunteered or was invited to play. there is a rumour he plays on another, later track.

I shall end now because with all my nuggets of Depp trivia I seem trifle obsessed. I assure you, I am not.

I think I have said before that anytime a book I enjoy mentions a type of drink I endeavour to try it myself. Wild Turkey I like with enough ice, but generally I don’t like whiskey with ice. I was served Jameson with ice and it was horrible— everything good about it was frozen out. It no longer had the fiery burn to the lips.

I never meant to try pot, my friend did though and it just happened. I’m pro-drugs myself, but not a fan of using them myself. I went to Amsterdam at the same time they banned tobacco smoking indoors. This emptied the cafes pretty much. I’m sort of finally writing about it in a mildly fictionalised travelogue. My buddy bought a joint and offered me a go. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t awful. It was far more successful than our attempt at salvia.

With the Converse I had been wearing a cheap imitation for sometime, but I decided to get a genuine pair and in white, as HST did.

I’ve always wanted to try acid, but terrified that I’ll be the horror story. My friend kept trying mushrooms to no effect. I think I might do acid on my deathbed, one last experience before I go…

And clearly, the words have not dried up…

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 14:34:11

Mailer’s profile, though currently lowered, will rise again. His writing about the sixties will almost certainly prove valuable to future scholars, and The Excecutioner’s Song is a fantastic portrait of America in the late twentieth century. I recommend it, Jim. It’s long, but it reads quickly. You might also take a look at Miami and the Siege of Chicago to compare the way Mailer wrote about politics and some of the same figures — Nixon, mainly — as HST. I’d be curious to know what you think.

Withnail and I had a huge cult following in the years just after its release. I never much cared for it, personally. I didn’t think there was much to it, and the lead actor — Richard E. Grant, who played Withnail — kept pulling faces where I thought he should underplay. (”My, this certainly is disgusting!” his expression kept saying.) But maybe I should have another look. It could conceivably have aged well, and there aren’t many others films like it. I think it was fairly autobiographical, written by the same man who directed it — a former actor. Bruce Robinson, is that the name?

I think Depp photographs wonderfully, and when his performances are controlled by top-flight directors, like Polanski and Jarmusch, he’s fine. Unfortunately, he has no real gift for mimicry, though I give him high marks for trying. His performance in Sleepy Hollow was a disaster. I was on the verge of picking up my TV and throwing it out the window, all that eye-rolling and sighing that he’d apparently lifted from Roddy McDowell, just as he usually bases his performances on celebrity impressions. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who really is a gifted mimic, would never do such a thing. Models in acting should be taken from life and not from two-dimensional representations, to be dogmatic about it. Plus, I’ve never seen a truly raw emotion from Depp, and that’s something I greatly value in acting. It requires enormous courage to let your guard down in front of the camera, or otherwise. In general, I always favor honesty over skill, which is finally a trick. Of course, tricks can be great, but I don’t think much of Depp’s bag of tricks. Not that my opinion matters a fig. The whole world, practically, is united in its idea of Depp as a great actor, simply because he “transforms.” “He’s never the same!” people cry. Big fucking deal.

I was never much of a pot guy. My favorite drugs were heroin, acid, and coke, in that order. But I only recently came around to coke, since I was naturally so hyper when I first tried it, and didn’t need the enhancement. Still, I almost never do coke. Every once in a while, somebody will break it out at a party, but I never buy it, though I might if budget allowed.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-03 23:27:37

I think right now the ’60s is still viewed as recent and, although I have studied the period a little, not an ‘academic area.’ Perhaps you’re right about Mailer— wither way, I shall certainly give him a chance once I make a little headway with my current tower of literature.

I also now have plenty to keep me occupied, after kind words from Sheree and some straight words from Greg Olear I’m concentrating once more on CCB.

I can’t believe I referred to Withnail as once of my favourite films. That was a barefaced lie, stemming, I suspect from a tendency to exaggerate. I do like it though, I’m surprised it has any popularity in the US. It is really somewhat English.

I liked Grant’s performance, I think it was supposed to be a little over the top and he did a good job. The character was based on someone Bruce Robinson used to live with; Uncle Monty’s attempt at buggery was also based on a true event…

I can’t say I know enough about acting or Depp’s extended filmography to comment thoroughly. And then there is the fact that my taste in film leans more to the lowbrow. I appreicate film-as-art and do consider it a very valid art form, but I only really watch films to be entertained; somewhere to point my eyes whilst I eat bad food and stop thinking in any meaningful way.

I prefer books. I wish I could remember who it was, but I found someone who agreed with my view that Mario Puzo’s novel is better than Coppola’s film, with regards to The Godfather.

I remain definitely too much of a ”pussy” to try ‘hard’ drugs. I don’t buy into all the ‘makes you braindead’ shit, but at the same time I’m always worried that I have a good thing going with my brain and I don’t want that to change.

Hell, I don’t even like drinking that much!

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-04 03:27:45

I got no ping on this comment, so didn’t know it was here till I stumbled on it a minute ago.

You do for a fact have a good thing going with your brain, and you’re smart not to mess around with it. I’ve always been a dabbler when it comes to drugs, and I think I’m better for it. On the other hand, I could definitely do with less alcohol.

About Withnail: as I said, I should probably give it another chance. Most movies about the sixties concentrated on the usual cliches of stoned draft-dodgers and the like; Withnail, of course, is about a couple of aspiring actors — a much more original take. But I probably wasn’t taking that into account when I saw it last.

Does the Puzo novel feel like a potboiler? Funny; Becca Adler recently reviewed it on her site, The Inside Cover, and now you mention it. Does that mean it’s having a comeback? It seemed to be eclipsed by the film(s) for years — decades, even. Gore Vidal, in his first memoir, mentioned a play he’d written, Visitor to a Small Planet, which was made into a film and later unofficially the basis for a TV show, My Favorite Martian, and that was effectively the end of any theater productions. I think the same has happened with many plays and novels. Adaptations are a mixed blessing.

I’m glad you’ve received counsel from Greg Olear. He knows his stuff. And, in some ways, I think the culture congealed at the end of the sixties — or by the end of the sixties. A new kind of manners had come about — a new kind of informality — that I think had a dramatic impact on everyday dealings. The sixties don’t seem as alien to us as the twenties or thirties seemed to the boomers, though they’ll probably seem more and more alien as technology grows still more pervasive.

I hope you’re working at the moment on CCB. Mush!

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-04 05:34:54

I get no pings at all! recently I’ve spent too much time just waiting for comment replies and e-mails…

I’m fairly sure I could benefit from illegal substances, but whether it would a great enough benefit to risk… well, for me it isn’t, unfortunately. My brother just turned old enough to drink but has never done so and sees no reason to do so now. As I’ve always seen him as my little brother it seemed perfectly normal, but now I consider it it does strike me as a little odd. I suspect he’d be violent and angrey drunk, as he is often a violent and angry little man. I’d like to be able to hold drink a little better, and I see nothing wrong with drinking everyday. I’d far rather have a few beers after a days work than a serious drinking session. I’ve always gotten the sense that America actually has a far better attitide to social drinking.

Well of course Withnail had the adbantage of being British and unaffected by Vietnam or any of that nonsense. I didn’t know it was set in the ’60s until after I’d seen it.

Rebecca! That’s who agreed with me! It’s not a potbpiler at all, it’s an incredibly well crafted novel. As you might expect it’s fairly lengthy— Part One and Part Two of the films were both taken from the book. The flashback to Vito Corleone’s past is a middle section in the book. Everything is far more substantial, more detailed and there are several plotline omitted from the book. The horses head scene, done for Johnny Fontane, the Sinatra-like character, is a small part of the Fontane character in the book. You could make a whole fil about his character. It’s a wonderful novel.
And he helped adapt the screenplay, which probably helped a lot. He may have done Part Two as well.

Greg offered probably the best and most straighforward advice I’ve been given with regards to writing. He told me I was wasting time and money at university, if I wanted to be a writer. I agree with him, I never wanted to go back. The only reason I am, as I explained, is that it means accomodation away from home and the funds to support myself for up to three years. Essentially I’ve got two-three years of financial worry-free time of relative peace coming up. I’m not going to be taught how to write (the tendency is for the teachers not to teach you to write, but to write like them) and if I pass, well that’s a bonus.

I should be able to get a couple of novels (unpublished or otherwise) under my belt before I leave.

And speaking if which, I started part two of CCB but ran into difficulty. I’m currently trying to figure a way of keeping the plot twist and having it make sense, at least within the realms of the story. It is being written though.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-04 05:55:54

I sometimes get pings, and I sometimes don’t. Weird.

I had no idea that you were thinking of returning to university. I thought you were thinking of a move to California.

In any case, I agree with what you say re: teachers having you write like them, etc. But I also agree with you that you’ll get a lot of writing done while at university, and that’s the best (and, as far as I’m concerned, the only) way to learn how to write: practice. Well, that and reading — and I can’t see how it can hurt to take some lit classes.

But is this a definite course of action, or just something you’re considering? Oh, and as long as we’re at question part of my reply: When exactly did you read The Godfather, and how closely do the flashbacks sequences inThe Godfather Part II follow the flashback in the novel?

As for drinking and the effect it has on disposition, you know what they say: in vino veritas. I’m a happy drunk myself. In fact, once at a party I ran into a friend who said, “Duke, you’re plastered.”

“How do you know?”

“Because you’re in a good mood.”

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-04 07:08:32

I’m such a procrastinating sloth that I tend to keep coming back regularly anyway…

I am planning on moving to California— after university. As I explained to our mutual friend Mr Olear, I need to go to university to be able to afford to go anywhere for any period of time. Students are the only people who get halfway decent loans, which don’t have to be paid back until you’re earning over £19,000 a year.

£3000 is for tutition fees and then you get around £3000 a year for ‘maintenance.’ Alot has to be paid towards accomodation, the rest is for food etc, etc. because I’m anti-social and not all that materialistic I don’t spend much. I only went over budget last year because I got a little depressed and started eating junk food and watching films endlessly; and I only went a few hundred pounds over. This year I’m living more frugally, paying off the one debt I need to (bank overdraft) and saving the rest. I mean I’ll still buy beer and decent food, but without the frivolous purchases I made last time.

I have £1,300 already, which I’m not touching. I can leave after two years with a Diploma or stay on for a degree, so I may only wait 2 years.
I’m a better writer now than I’ve ever been and I can actually feel myself getting better sometimes. But I agree, I might very well get something out of my classes, I tend to think of academia in ‘worst case scenario’ terms.

The papers are all signed. I’m comitted to it now. I’ma ctually looking forward to it. Unlike my previous university it is in the middle of a city and it is a lovely city. It boasts ‘the round table.’

I read The Godfather probably just over a year ago. It may have been a little longer, but it was fairly recent. It was after I watched (and didn’t really enjoy) the film. The flashback in the novel is a very substantial part of the novel and the film follows it very closely— although of course the novel is free to go into more detail and tell other small stories that there wasn’t time for in the film. I like The Godfather Part Two, I found the first film a little slow in pace— my attention tends to wander off and I get bored.

I envy happy drunks. After a few beers I start rubbing my face and closing my eyes. Although it depends what I drink. My rowdiest night of drinking I got very drunk and very happy/silly. I don’t know. I don’t like whiskey as much as I used to, I don’t like strong ale as much as I used to. Really I just enjoy a nice cold beer when I feel I’ve earnt one. I used to be a horrible beer snob, only considering ‘British Ale’ to be proper beer. And then it dawned on me that I didn’t really like it. It’s warm and heavy. I like a Guinness every now and then though.

And of course I still like whiskey alot.

I also prefer drinking alone, which is probably unhealthy…

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-04 07:51:45

I feel badly that this exchange is your excuse not to work. (Since I’ve previously damned Simon for less, I will now damn you. Ready? Damn you, Jim. Damn you. Truly superior damnations are doubled.)

Well, this news about university is quite a surprise. I’m sorry that our correspondence lapsed (my fault, being at the moment so overextended), so that I didn’t learn till now. But we’ll be receiving regular updates at TNB, yes?

I’m with you about The Godfather. Everyone, it seems, is agreed that it’s one of the greatest films ever, but something about it never went over with me, though it has terrific sequences. Like you, I prefer the sequel — particularly the flashbacks with DeNiro. I only saw a little of The Godfather Part III, expecting to hate it, but the little I glimpsed wasn’t as bad as expected.

Drinking alone probably is unhealthy, as is the George Thorogood song I Drink Alone. But I’m glad you like your beer cold, unlike others on your side of the Atlantic, who inexplicably prefer it at room temperature.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-04 12:06:03

I don’t need much of an excuse not to work. I’m not in a good writing state right now. I was recently in a good ‘groove’ where I couldn’t wait to get writing, but the last few days I’ve woken up heavy and almost certain I’m not going to write anything— too much to do etc. However, I’m so excited about CCB (which I haven’t been since about chapter 20) and really want to get it going again. One of my favourite commenters, who I rarely see on anyone’s posts but mine, wrote extensive notes on it. I like her because she hasn’t been in school since 10th grade, instead she just reads all the time. She is excellent at reading and has given me excellent insight into what works from a reader’s perspective.

Also, in reading her notes, I had to read over Part One. There are chapters I haven’t read since the day I wrote them. It;s far better than I remembered, scenes and lines and characters which are great and outweigh the negatives.

I think I wrote to you fairly recently without reply, but I get confused and I think I wrote mostly for my own benefit. But yes, I shall still post regularly at TNB at university. Probably more often actually, I wrote my better posts at Essex where I was having more adventure. And naturally I shall probably post every thought I have on twitter during the whole time I’m there.

The Godfather looks beautiful, and technically it is a very good film. I just don’t find it very entertaining. Without wanting to force this back to HST, after I read the book I understood the film a whole lot more. People (kids) who watch the Fear and Loathing film and never read the book annoy me for that reason; the film is incomprehensible without the book and is almost devoid of context.

A lot of the Godfather Part One lacks context because the novel is so rich in detail and characters. Part Two is much pacier and interesting. I have Part Three but never seen it yet. I’m never in the mood for it. I knew a guy who thought Part Three was the best— he liked that it concluded the story.

I don’t view it as unhealthy as such, because it’s in small amounts. And besides, mostly it’s me watching a film and drinking beer, or writing and drinking beer (not properly. However, drinking tends to make me want to write). It’s not like I sit alone singing songs whilst drowing in whiskey. I’m a very quiet and private person and I don’t really like socializing.

And for a long time I drank warm ale to keep up appearances. Only recently have I gone ‘fuck this, I’m not ashamed of my cold beer preference!’ And it’s not like I drink any old shit. I like cold, bottled, imported european beer. The best I’ve ever had is Lowenbrau, a German beer.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-04 18:07:47

I just Googled Lowenbrau, because I wanted to make sure that a version of it is still being brewed in America, and I learned something interesting: the American version contains corn, which is why it differs so dramatically from its German namesake.

Of course! I should’ve guessed there was corn involved. We in America will put corn in anything — including, obviously, our movies and TV shows.

I honestly don’t know what’s missing in the first Godfather; I just know something crucial isn’t there for me. Maybe it’s that the film is trying so hard to be a classic. Or maybe it’s that it feels really Hollywood, even though it was directed by a renegade, as Coppola was already regarded. But that renegade quality comes through much more sharply in the sequel, which feels more European in style, moving around in time as it does.

It’s a pity that Coppola was never the same after Apocalypse Now — which is one of my all-time favorites, incidentally. I even like the conclusion with Brando. Most dismiss it as inferior to the rest of the film, but I agree with my friend George, who once said that the end is like a film unto itself.

Have you ever seen Apocalypse Now? I’d recommend it, except that I’ve recommended so many books at this point, I don’t want to start with movies.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-04 21:26:56

The Godfather? Best. Film. Ever.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-04 23:21:47

I have to say I don’t rate Coppola as highly as everyone else. The Godfather is overrated, Part Two is good, but almost as highly overrated.

Between Part One and Two he made ‘The Conversation’ with Gene Hackman which is one of the most boring films I’ve ever seen.

And then Apocalypse Now… far too long. It has some great, great moments, but it’s very slow for the most part. The ‘Redux’ version takes it even further with a half hour conversation with a French family that doesn’t even make much sense. And then it gets all fucking weird and a buffalo gets cut up. I don’t like it at all. It takes it self very seriously as well; it just seems to scream ‘look what a troubled masterpiece this is! Isn’t it fantastic?!’

Scorcese often makes long films, often quite pretentious too. However, most of his films have either over the top violence, incredibly interesting characters or both.

Pretty much all ‘top’ directors are overrated though, it’s sympton of success and mass popularity. I mean closer to the modern era, look at James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino.

Cameron made The Terminator and Aliens, two of the most brilliantly horrifying films ever made. And the he made Terminator 2 which was good, but made it more family friendly and castrated Schwarzennegger’s Terminator. Although that wasn’t really his fault, it was in Arnie’s contract. But still, no excuses for Titanic which is just fucking awful.

By far the most overrated director of our time is Tarantino. He has, at a push, made one good film. Reservoir Dogs isn’t innovative, the story is a rip off and the film is painfully slow. Reservoir Dogs is 90 minutes, but feels longer than Pulp Fiction, which is really pretty long. Pulp Fiction is his one good-ish film. All the rest are sort of movie collages for his own amusement.

I will however say this for Tarantino: he hasn’t technically ever sold out. He freely admits he makes his films for himself. That I admire; he never wants to make a quick buck by directing someone else’s script. And thats the thing, he’s nothing great as a director, but as a writer he is fantastic.

But no one gets that. They all go around quoting the same scenes and gushing about what a fantastic director he is.

Then again all my favourite films are awful: I would seriously rather watch Point Break than The Godfather. I’m not saying it’s a better film, but certainly it’s more entertaining.

My actual favourite films are the first two Alien films, Dirty Harry and Clerks. And The Terminator.

And the original Star Wars films, although they are fucking awful. They’re like cinematical cheeseburgers; the same can be said of Point Break and Roadhouse. Awfuk films, but I’ll never say no to watching them…

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-05 04:08:31

Huh. Apparently we’re of very separate minds when it comes to movies. I mean, I regard Clerks as a horror. I don’t see one redeeming value in that movie, aside from the good idea of making a movie about people working those kinds of jobs. I also like the photography, though it’s nothing special. But the performances are dreadful, and I hate the way it’s written; yet people like it, including you. It’s a mystery to me — but so much is.

But I don’t like being “entertained” — not when that’s the top (or only) priority of the filmmaker. And the films I like most are the ones that give me the same feeling I get from reading good novels. I like rich themes carefully thought out. I like having the filmmaker share something with me — something precious, in the sense that it could only have come from him or her. “Unique,” I suppose I’m trying to say. That’s my problem with genre: that the singular touches (where there are any) are decorations on a long-running, familiar format.

So, to me, as long as a filmmaker is doing his (or her) job well, I don’t care about the length of the movie, just as I don’t care if a book is long — that is, if I’m enjoying it. But it’s undoubtedly the same with you.

I agree with you about Star Wars; I’m bored to tears by it. (I never bothered with the sequels.) And I like Dirty Harry, though I don’t love it, just as I like but don’t love the first two Terminator movies, as well as the first two Aliens.

But what is it that you like so much about Point Break and Roadhouse? (I never saw the latter, and never will, unless by accident.) Is it the camp value? Are you amused by their silliness? (Of course, silliness is in the eye of the beholder, as with everything else.)

It’s curious, to me at least, that you apparently have one set of values for books and another for movies. I mean, I haven’t heard you so far extoll the virtues of airport novels. But maybe you regard movies as purely a relaxation. I suppose you’ve already said as much. You want to tune out with movies, while you want to be completely tuned in with books, yes?

My problem (and maybe it is a problem), is that I almost never want to tune out. I like to be as fully engaged as possible.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-05 04:58:02

You sort of hit it at the end. Whilst I appreciate film as being an incredibly valid art form I don’t tend to enjoy film-as-art.

I enjoy films as a sort of moronic entertainment. I prefer reading to watching films and even listening to music. In a lot of cases movies are just adapted from books and they’re never as good. Blade Runner is a good adaption, but the Phillip K. Dick novel is better… I’d rather read Gatsby than watch the film. Even No Country For Old Men is better as a novel.

I like Clerks not so much in spite of, but because of it’s flaws. I also tend to claim it as a favourite after not watching it for a while. It also reminds me of the several attempts at ‘independent film making’ my brother made a few years ago, where no one learnt lines or could act.

I’d also like to just say at this point that I’m glad there is something we don’t have a similiar taste in. Almost everyone I’ve known recently shares a similar set of tastes and conversation gets quite dull.

I also don’t like films where the aim is just entertainment; then you end up with shit like Transformers and numerous other explosion orientated films. Most Bond films are awful, but I love them; then again Bond films are part of British culture in a way they aren’t so much in the US. Over Christmas there’s always one on either xmas day or boxing day.

I have to say I don’t hate all serious films, what tends to put me off is length and ‘being boring.’ I could watch a four hour film if it held up a pace and was always interesting, but most long films sag in the middle. I also don’t like pretention, which is usually rife. It’s like films can either be excesively high brow or right down in the gutter…

I like pretty much every Clint Eastwood film because he manages to keep things moving without resorting to constant violence or explosions etc. even his Westerns, which do get quite slow, feel shorter and worth it.

I don’t go into a film negatively, whatever it is. And I also watch a lot of ‘proper’ films because my brother is a proper film enthusiast and likes the more pretentious stuff I don’t. Some serious films can be enjoyable. Rarely though, to me.

Star Wars has too things on it’s side for me: I grew up watching it and obsessed with it. And also it maintains a fairly fast pace and keeps the excitement coming. As a film it is awful, but as entertainment for an occasional moron, it is great.

My love of Point Break and Roadhouse is ironic. I’m well aware how awful they are. The joy comes from sitting down and quoting the ridiculous lines out loud and mocking it throughout. The acting is dreadful, the script is dire in both and everything is just over the top and incredibly cliched. Brad refers to Point Break, in his novel, as an ‘accidental comedy.’ That’s what both those films are, they are so stupid and so bad but take themselves so seriously that the result is a creature of strange comic beauty.

And, being so over the top, Point Break is full of action that never lets up and is, for better or worse, relentlessly entertaining.

I rate it as my favourite film for the simple reason that if you gave me a choice between watching that or watching …*insert any film here*… I would choose Point break. Endless re-watchability. There are a few exceptions, of course.

I get the feeling you take movies and music very seriously, which I would expect. I mean you’ve done both for a living, it wouldmake sense. I really only view music and film as entertainment. I probably take music a little more seriously, because music can impact on me emotionally.

But then I enjoy the musical equivalent of bad movies. I don’t genuinely believe Kansas, Journey or Phil Collins to be better than The Stones, The Dead, Zeppelin etc, but I do enjoy them on occasion.

Books I take more seriously. It takes time to read a book and you usually find a much deeper connection with the characters and get more involved in the story.

I love sitting down to read. I don’t really like sitting down to watch films; however the thought of a few cold beers, snacks and a film that won’t make me think, but will fill me with joy and entertain me is completely different. But only if I want to relax. Which is often.

I get the impression that at the heart of our difference on the matter is a difference in personality. I have a silly side that needs to be nourished on occasion. It is this side that is actually in charge of CCB… which I should get back to…

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 00:30:47

I trust the work went well on CCB.

I’d forgotten about watching things ironically. I’d misplaced that term, which was the one I wanted. But, you see, I just never do that. I feel like I’m sneering. It’s got nothing to do with what I’ve done or I haven’t done for a living, just I don’t differentiate between the feeling I get from a book, film, or record – if it moves me, it moves me. The form changes, but the effect comes out to the same.

Still, it’s a good point about shared tastes and the way it dulls conversation – or it does potentially. I never thought about it before, because I always find grounds for disagreement. Not that I seek it. In fact, I try to stay clear of talk about movies or TV shows that aren’t to my liking, because I hate the awkwardness of saying, “I’m sorry, but I never really cared for The Sopranos,” or “Lost just isn’t my cup of tea.” That’s completely unexpected in Southern California, where singular views are unpopular, to say the least. Of course, this won’t apply to you if and when you move here, because as an Englishman you’re automatically “eccentric” and so allowed to disagree. In fact, it’ll be expected, and you’ll disappoint if you don’t come off as colorful and quirky.

“I met the greatest English guy,” people will say. “Oh, we had a blast. He hates everything.”

“Naturally,” others will laugh, instantly hoping to meet you. Then, when an American expresses the very same opinions, he’ll be given the cold shoulder.

You know, Jim, we could pretty much say anything we want in this exchange, since I’m almost positive no one but us will ever read it. So if you ever wanted to confess something really dreadful – to just stand up and scream: “I’m sexually attracted to turtles!” – here’s your chance.

I’m searching myself for a confession of my own, but I can’t seem to come up with anything all that shocking. I mean, I could tell you that I like a couple of songs by INXS, which I do, but that’s hardly earthshaking stuff.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 00:36:24

Wait. I think I’m wrong about nobody reading this exchange, Jim, because a minute ago I came across a comment by Zara about The Godfather right in the middle of everything, and I never saw that before. And do you know what she said? “Best. Film. Ever.”

I see, Zara. I see. Do you want to fight about it?

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 00:42:53

I’ll fight you, Duke. Put ‘em up….

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 00:46:12

You do realize you’re dealing with a Ninja, yes? We’re, like, dangerous and stuff.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 00:49:37

I can take it. I may be small but I’m quick. Hit me with your best shot…

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 00:54:53

Really? You’re small? I always pictured you as being on the tall side. Not really tall, but tall-ish. I’d supply a number, but I’m not well versed in the metric system.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 00:56:44

Five feet four AND A HALF.
But I have moves, Duke. I learnt them all from The Godfather.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 01:09:47

Ah. You really want to fight about The Godfather, huh? I was bluffing. It’s a fine movie. Just not one of my favorites.

I recommend a few kung fu movies if you really want to kick some ass. And you clearly do.

I wish Simon would pop up here with: “Oh my God! I just mentioned The Godfather and kung movies and Zara kicking somebody’s ass, and then I see this!”

Oh, and five foot four and A HALF is perfect. Now, people who are ONLY five foot four — that’s really fucked up.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 01:14:30

I think we’re getting there, Duke…

You’re right. Five foot four is a joke. The half inch makes all the difference.
And really, I couldn’t kick anyone’s ass. Even if I watched a hundred kung fu movies.

They’d be too busy laughing at my accent.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 01:15:04

Work on CCB has gone… well, not well, but not awful. You see between Part One and Part Two I set up a really exciting twist, but when I sat down to start Part Two I realised that my original idea was impractical and didn’t fit. So I spent most of yesterday trying to figure out a way around it. As I came up the stairs this morning after coming back from town I suddenly had it, so today I should get something done.

I also conjured up, last night, what I thought would be quite a funny scene. But it is the writing that is the damn problem… Last night I read a blog, 3 Guys 1 Book I think. It was a discussion on writing and Jonathon Evison made some interesting comments about writing; how your first two novels will probably never amount to anything and you just have to get into the habit of finishing them regardless. Chilling words about how if you don’t, you become the guy at the party who ‘hasa novel in them’ but has never written more than a few chapters.

I go back and forth with my mood, somedays getting depressed about the fact that I can put all the effort in the world in but it’ll still go unseen and unpublished. Other days I write just trying to imagine how I’d feel after finishing it. Being able to say I’d written a novel… my main advantage is that I have people who’ll always want to read it, published or not.

And as it turns out I’m glad I’ve left it a few weeks. Part One sets everything up, but it’s fairly light and more humorous/comic. Part Two gets a little more complex and I think I’m better equipped for it now than I’ve ever been. And then by Part Three, even better still. That’s the theory anyway. Another thing that keeps me going is the simple fact I’ve never once seriously doubted the story. And now Sheree has read it and, as well as pointing out things that don’t work (mostly parenthetical asides) she has let me know that the characters work, it does flow nicely and the twists and jokes do work.

I’m more confident than I was; I thought I’d made a bit of a mess of Part One… anyway… sorry, I get teribly excited talking about CCB.

I didn’t mean to imply that you take films more seriously because you did it for a living… what did I mean? If anything I guess it would work the other way around anyway— you take film seriously, you make film. Generally, what I mean is really what you say; you don’t see any artistic difference between different art forms. If I didn’t I’d be a bit of a hypocrite. I mean I hate bad books, you know, the ones that get published because they’re popular and make money, but yet I don’t hate all bad films. And I have to say there is a difference between some bad films and others. Films like Transformers, Epic Movie, or most new horror films— these are just awful films with no artistic value and are designed to make money. A film like Point Break is technically awful, but doesn’t feel as cynical. At no point to you feel like you’re being sold something. At no point do you feel like different scenes are put into to appeal to different people: Here’s Megan Fox’s ass for the males 15-35, here’s an explosion for the kids 12-18, and here’s Shia La(or whatever his fucking name is) because everybody loves him.

A film is either good, average, bad, or so bad it’s good. Most films are average or bad. There are very few films that are so bad they’re good.

Incidentally, I watched a few minutes of Transmorphers yesterday. Transmorphers is an unlicesned Transformers film and is brilliant in it’s poor production values.

I try and find grounds for disagreement. With one of my friends this is easy, because he’s heavily into The Eagles. There are no words to describe how much I fucking hate them. Especially Hotel Calif-fucking-fornia. They’re about as average, middle of the road and ball-less as a bad can get.

I’ve never seen The Sopranos. I’ve never seen Lost either. I hate quite a lot of what is popular, and usually get a lot of hate back from everyone else who loves it. amily Guy is a good example, I used to love it. It used to be a very funny and clever show; there were often subtle literature jokes in there to. But I went off it a while ago, it suddenly got extremely unfunny with the result that I’m apparently the only male in Britain under the age of 55 who doesn’t like it.

I hope your right. I shall have to dress in dandy suits and fancy hats too! I’ve been thinking about California recently, as it’s gotten pretty hot. After considering it I think I prefer the heat. Of course if I was living alone in an apartment it would be fine to wear nothing but shorts and I’d have all the cold drink I could afford!

I can’t remember if I mentioned this, but I’ve decided that I actually have a good reason for moving to America, other than just ‘I wanna.’ America has a far larger writing ’scene’ and many more opportunities than Britain, which is still largely closed off to all but the elite. If I want to make it as a writer, to take it seriously, then it makes sense to move to where the action is.

Incidentally, finances depending, I hope to spend a long period of the summer in the US next year. I was going to go as soon as I had the chance, but I’m old enough to drink next year, I should be better off and I’ll know more about what I’m doing with my life. Flights to California are cheap(ish) (cheaper than to NY) but of course it’ll be finding somewhere to stay that may jeapodise my plan… I think I should be ok, providing I can find an early extended-stay discount and nothing awful happens at university.

Do I have anything I want to confess? Not particularly, my life is dull and secret free.

I’ll try and think of something…

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 01:19:15

Zara, in America we’d laugh at your accent, but even that could present an advantage. The element of surprise and all. That’s why I insist on kung fu movies.

By the way, have you heard from Reno lately?

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 01:25:12

Ok I will watch some kung fu movies. But only if they are dubbed badly.
Do you say your name ‘DOOK’? We would say ‘JUKE’.
And no, haven’t heard from Reno lately.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 01:34:38

It’s the former: Dook.

My God. I see why people laugh at your accent.

I asked about Reno because he called today and I didn’t have time to answer. I just thought you might have spoken with him in the meantime.

Isn’t this fun? I mean, I’m having a good time. Subversion is the best!

I’ll be with you in a minute, Jim, if you should see this before I can write you. Zara and I are being subversive. It’s a game you too can play!

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 01:42:47

I’m sick of scrolling down to the haiku comments so I’m going to start here..

You are too much fun
with your subversive ways JUKE
Are you laughing now?

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 01:45:05

I’m still reeling from the ‘DOOK’ revalation.

In my mind it is JUKE, as it should be. Incidentally you are legally not allowed to be named Duke in Britain; it’s illegal to give false titles.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 01:46:29

Incidentally I love both Aussie and Kiwi accents: they’re awesome.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 01:51:11

Oh bless you James! You speak the Queen’s english like me.
Unlike Juke.
Sorry, DOOK.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 01:57:28

So, Zara, you’re sick of scrolling down, are you?

Well, how do you think I feel, huh?! I scroll all the way down to write a haiku and then I come back and find this?

I’ll have you know that the long scroll-down is entirely due to you. Oh, and you, too, Jim. And Simon. And me, of course. We’re the main offenders.

Anyway, I wrote you a very nice haiku down there, which hopefully you will one day read. And now I answer you with:

Yes I am laughing
And I am grateful to you
for your subversion.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 01:57:37

The Queen’s english with a weird twist…

My best friend was raised in the north of england, came down south with a very distinctive accent and then moved to Australia. His voice is strange. He mostly sounds Aussie, with just this weird Mancunian lilt coming off every other word or so. It’d especially weird as I don’t see or speak to him often so his accent is different almost every time.

I have accent envy (there’s my confession Duke!) and try and compensate by putting them on. I have a very plain English accent, proper but not posh. When I was younger I’d spend hours talking like an Irishman.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 02:01:29

And I too just scrolled AAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLL the way down and left you a haiku. But it was an angry one. Because of your secretive ninja ways.
But we are on a roll here…

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 02:01:53

Duke— I’m pretty sure that you, Simon and I are the most prolific commenters at TNB. I’ve yet to see a post that doesn’t have numerous images of our respective faces scrolling down the bottom.

And I think we take most of the responsibilty here…. I mean not only have we now been commenting on this piece for almost a week but we’ve been leaving comments the length of essays and letters….

We are incredibly verbose induviduals. I love that word.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 02:03:51

Also, this is another reason I never do any work.

I have written thousands of words today.

Only 10 of them are anything to do with CCB…

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 02:06:37

Oh, hi, Jim. Wait a second, I have to respond to Zara:

Watch my back indeed!
I feel the sting of your stars!
I beg for mercy!

Ha! A haiku with exclamation points! I bet the Japanese never did that!

It’s nice to know that I’d be imprisoned in England simply for being JOOK. And I, too, like the Down Under accents, and here’s a confession of my own: I used to walk around NYC and pretend to be English, just to see if I could “pass,” and people would say, “So where in Australia do you come from?”

Oh, and the story you tell about your friend reminds me of the many accents briefly employed by Christian Bale as he told off his camerman. That was a regular trip around the English-speaking world.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 02:08:07

Sweet subversive pal
I asked Simon here as well
for the haiku war.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 02:09:49

This is definitely going to crack the number one spot, isn’t it? I have a feeling now, like I’m part of something special. The same feeling when I was up at about 4am commenting on a post o Brad’s as he claimed the number one place.

When I come to the US I want to see if I can pass as an American or an Irishman. I think I could.

And Bale is an excellent accent-absorber. I always thought he was American.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 02:10:17

Mercy won’t help you
remove the stars from your back
on your knees, ninja!

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 02:12:10

Yet I quake in fear
if we overtake Nick B.
He toiled for his spot.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 02:17:00

We are toiling too!
What kind of ninja are you?
Quake not, my dear friend.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 02:20:46

Very well, O wise one.
I heed your words and move on.
The top spot is ours.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 02:20:50

Nearly there… I’m excited.

Also sad.

I can’t haiku.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 02:23:47

It’s okay. I had to reacquaint myself with the rules of haiku after Zara requested one when she broke the (first) bank.

This board is a mess! What haven’t we fucking talked about, Jim? And I still owe you a reply to the essay you left earlier.

 
 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 02:23:24

Sure you can James.
5 syllables, 7 syllables then 5 again.
Come on! Give it a try. I know you can do it!!

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 02:30:26

James and Duke hurry
we have three more left to go
then I need to sleep!

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 02:30:39

You can do it, Jim.
Listen to we, your elders.
You can break the bank.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 02:33:13

Oh fuck it, I will
congratulations my friend
this post is NINJA

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 02:33:39

I know. I get syllables wrong, and I fear exposing myself as the charlatan I am…

okay:

five syllables
sandwiching seven
that’s a haiku!

I’m pretty sure I counted the syllables wrong.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 02:35:32

Wait. Who broke the bank? Was it Zara or Jim?

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 02:35:39

305. Smashed it.

Congratulations.

I can see this carrying on for a while though…

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-06 02:36:41

I laughed long and hard in disbelief the first time I heard an American say puma as ‘pooh-ma’. It’s pewma, damnit!

I was wondering that about you as well, Duke.

I too fear Nick B
He is not a man to cross
Lord of Bakersfield

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 02:37:36

It had to be me didn’t it? Sorry Jim, I’m so damn competitive.
Shit. What can I ask for now? I’m haiku-ed out.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 02:37:44

It was either you, Duke, or Zara. You got 303, I think. Zara pushed it over to 304.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 02:39:16

Okay, I’m going to drop the haiku thing. It takes time to write a haiku!

Welcome to the victory party, Simon!

Nick is not going to be happy about this.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 02:39:19

I can’t even comment in the right place now.

*shaking fist at Zara.*

I feel like I’m at a party; I’m glad Simon has arrived.

That felt like a haiku.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 02:39:41

Oh Simon, you’re here!

And you haiku-ed.

Nice.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 02:40:29

Simon?! Check the time-codes! Jim and I simultaneously declared this a party!

Huh? Huh?

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 02:42:04

I appreciate what the haiku does as an ecercise in word economy, but as we’ve discussed, I am a verbose induvidual.

I demand my verbosity be accepted!

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 02:42:10

That’s the second time this week someone has *shaken their fist at me*.
I think I may need your kung fu movies, Duke. DOOK.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 02:43:58

That is awesome Duke— synchronisty, perhaps?

If only I hadn’t wasted time with that needless last sentence!

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 02:43:59

Damn! Let’s all grab a drink, each in our respective corners of the world, and have a toast!

I only wish the original piece were signed by all of us!

Oh, and Jim? I accept your verbosity. And Zara? You broke the bank both times. And you ask in return…?

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 02:45:58

We’re a second out with our last comments.

I have a drink (ginger beer).

I wish it was root beer, it’s much nicer but it’s almost impossible to get here. There’s one store in the country.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 02:47:31

Cheers, Duke.
Cheers, All.
It was a great piece and it’s a great comment board.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 02:48:49

I’m going to have to think on that.. any suggestions? NO HAIKU. or limericks. Please God.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 02:50:41

I prefer the comment boards to the posts.

When I was first here I used to get involved in huge discussions of Brad’s posts (rarely about the actual post) but he doesn’t post much, busy as he is.

It’g good then that the overly long comment discussions/party atmosphere live on with other posters, even if it feels like more of a private party…

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 02:53:00

Well, Zara, I owe you a great deal. You were the very first person to comment, and, as I said, you pushed it over the counter on both important occasions.

[splash of gin raised]

To Zara!

[gulp]

Tastes like shit.

However, a quick question: Did we just pirate the number-one spot? And, if so, is that a bad thing?

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 02:56:55

No piracy involved at all. Totally legit.
I think it was Brin’s magical power. He WILLED it. We were just pawns.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 02:57:30

We didn’t pirate it because we didn’t deliberately set out to claim it.

We were commenting, we got close and started talking about it.

When Listi got to number-one (a spot that seemed unbeatable) he was pushed over in the same manner.

You win fair and sqaure!

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 03:01:10

Zara isn’t it funny? Brin said some time ago that he saw this thing going to 300, and he was right.

Honestly, I never thought it would happen.

But here’s a funny thing: the other day, when this post was about to disappear off the splash page, it was maybe twenty comments shy from going into the Most Comments box, and I thought, “What a shame, to get so close, and now it’s never going to happen.” And then, a minute later, you wrote that you were going to make sure it got into that box, without me ever coaxing you.

But maybe I did it from afar.

Or maybe it was Brin.

Or maybe it was Simon: the Shaman!

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-06 03:02:11

Ha! I was just writing an email to someone about synchronicity, and now I come back to find Jim and Duke have gone and created another one.

Thanks guys! Nice to be here. Sorry, I was in one the upstairs rooms, trying to chat up Duke’s neighbour. But now I’m back, I’ll have some of that gin, please.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 03:03:36

If only I could pass it through the screen to you, my friend, I would.

But which neighbor is that? It wouldn’t be John/Jeanette, would it? The one with the waffle iron?

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 03:04:29

I think the splash page becomes unimportant when you get the ‘private parties’ like this.

I was never going to stop commenting just because it was harder to find— and now being top its easy to get to.

What can I say? Child Pornography is always a winner amongst internet communities.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 03:04:45

The problem with this being the most commented on is that I’m now seeing the title meshed with Nick’s. I keep seeing it as I WAS A MAGICAL CHILD PORN PIG OF AKRON.
Frankly, it’s disturbing.

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-06 03:05:26

What can I say? I like a crazy lady.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 03:05:57

F. Scott Fitzgerald drank gin because he was convinced the smell would be undetectable on his breath.

Gin is horrible.

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-06 03:06:14

And I say that as the song Crazy by my new favourite band, Kidney Thieves, comes on.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 03:08:33

Zara, that pig-porn thing was the loudest laugh I’ve had all night. I’m still laughing.

And by all means, Jim, keep commenting.

I seem to recall posts by Brad during his MySpace days with as many comments as this one and more.

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-06 03:11:18

HA!

I second Duke on that front, Zara.

I found myself getting more into gin with international travel, Jim. Gin and tonics are just the thing for a long flight.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 03:12:51

His MySpace blog was more popular— it was easier, insular to MySpace.

For whatever reasons many of those people couldn’t cope with typing in bradlisti.com or thenervousbreakdown.com into their browsers.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 03:13:11

It’s making me laugh out loud too. My dog is looking at me funny.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 03:17:43

It’s strange, isn’t it, Jim? When I first arrived at TNB, I expected Brad’s blogs to have as many comments as they did at Myspace. It’s almost like Howard Stern’s move to satellite radio.

Oh, and here’s another bit of gin literary history for you: Hemingway used to have his canteen filled with it during WWII.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 03:19:34

Great party, huh? Intimate. Just the four of us, plus Zara’s dog. I didn’t even know you had a dog, Zara.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 03:22:10

Gin and tonic is alright. I experimented with different drinks at university, except they never had any lemon or lime, so it was always worse than it might have been.

Dogs are awesome.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 03:24:59

Great party. The dog is having the time of her life. She’d haiku if she could but she doesn’t have opposable thumbs..

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 03:26:55

There’s a good tv ad on at the moment with a dog that is slightly sad about not being able to read.

Wow. What a story that was. I bore myself sometimes.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 03:27:56

Well, I knew you have a dog, Jim.

I’m kind of lost at the moment, because I can’t locate the new comments. I’m told by the counter that there are a couple.

Success has its price!

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 03:32:32

Sometimes the number doesn’t always go up immediately.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 03:33:08

A few matters that I wanted to address earlier but didn’t:

Kidney Thieves is a great band name.

Zara’s dog not having opposable thumbs recalls the “dingo war” thread on this board — i.e., Aussies like Simon being able to play guitar and rubbing it in the faces of the dingoes that they cannot.

Simon’s remark about drinking gin on international flights surely anticipates his forthcoming trip to L.A. And we certainly expect Zara and Jim to arrive at some point also.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 03:34:02

And sometimes people somehow post twice. I don’t know how that happened, especially as I seem to have replied to myself.

Maybe I’m a schizophrenic but my personalities have found something to agree on…

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 03:36:22

I’ll correct it now, Jim, and leave this exchange as a memorial. Your doubled comment will be like Elvis’ twin brother: stillborn but not forgotten.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 03:40:19

It’s especially weird as there is a comment between the phantom double post and the schizo comment.

You’re trying to get me committed. aren’t you?!

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 03:44:40

Sectioned, I believe you Brits call it.

I learned that from you, Jim. Or was it your double? I mean, you do have a double, don’t you?

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 03:48:23

I went with the American version because, as well as prefering it, it was just easier.

My brother, apparently, looks a lot like me. I don’t see it as he’s shorter, stockier and far less handsome.

But anyway, people at school assumed we were twins, even though we were in different years.

I’d always get asked if I was James or Luke by people who didn’t really know either of us. Eventually I pretended to be ‘Kevin’, the slightly stupid third brother.

People fell for it.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 04:07:00

You’ve mentioned your brother before, Jim. Are you older or younger?

Meantime, to address part of the longer comment you posted earlier: moods wildly fluctuate, and often, during the writing of a novel — and it doesn’t end with publication. One minute the book seems utterly fantastic; the next it’s a piece of shit.

I’m with you on The Family Guy. I have to admit to occasionally laughing, but the voice of the baby creeps me out, and always did. As for Transformers, that’s a movie I will never see. I loathe Michael Bay as I loathe no other. He’s notoriously a wretched person, as well as a wretched filmmaker — though “filmmaker” and “Michael Bay” hardly belong in the same sentence.

And the Eagles? Quite possibly my least favorite band. I believe the Eagles may be the reason for global warming: every time one of their records plays, the world inches a litttle closer to wishing itself free of animal life.

Oh, and I’m sure there’s more opportunity in the U.S. than there is in the U.K. I can say that pretty much across the board. That’s something to be said for America: there’s greater opportunity here.

I think I’m now going to take a walk. The sun is rising, and you can surely appreciate the night it’s been.

Thanks, Jim, for everything. I’ll e-mail you later today — and quite possibly as soon as I’ve returned from my walk.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 04:27:26

I’m older by… two years. Yes, he was 18 a few weeks ago and I’m 20 years old tomorrow… This is the first birthday I’ve had in England for 2 years, the last 2 years I’ve been America at this time and it’s making me quite sad to think about it.

Writing doesn’t seem easy— but then on the other hand it’s infinitely more fun than just about anything and much more rewarding.

The baby on Family Guy doesn’t creep me out, although it’s a British accent so maybe that’s why… It hasn’t been funny in seasons. As for Transformers I have to say I may easily be wrong— I’ve never seen it aside for endless, endless trailers and a bit I saw by accident. It’s sort of wrong to criticize something you haven’t seen, but I’m pretty sure my assertions are justified. And I only used it as an example because I couldn’t think of any other appalling films.

I heard somewhere that Megan Fox’s audition for Transformers involved washing Michael Bay’s car in a bikini— with the tenuous excuse that there would be such scenes in the film. He looks like an asshole.

The Eagles are not my least favourite band for the simple reason that ‘Hotel California’ looks like Beethoven’s 9th Symphony next to the work of Coldplay— and they have the additional irritation of being one of those bands that think they’re much more important than they are and try and save the world Green Day have the same problem. But U2 are the worst offenders. And to top it all there’s an ad running at the moment which is Bono singing his latest drivel before a logo comes up with ‘Blackberry thanks U2′ or something.

Because nothing says rock and roll like corporate sponsorship.

One obvious reason for the US having more opportunity is simply it’s just a bigger fucking country… I mean Britain is about the size of Connecticut. Then there is the fact, as I mentioned, that in the US the wirld of literature isn’t so stuffy and exclusive. The big example for that is clear here. Brad and Nick Belardes have got me writing for their sites (I never asked) whereas I can’t even get work experience at a small local paper with a circulation of about 35.

Hav a great walk. I look forward to hearing from you.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-06 06:57:05

*Have

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-07 02:29:59

“Because nothing says rock and roll like corporate sponsorship.”

That ranks right up there as one of my favorites of your lines. And I bloody hate Coldplay, although I’ll confess to this: a friend once played me a song and asked for my opinion of it, and I said, “It’s not bad,” and he said, “Ha, ha! It’s Coldplay!”

Nobody’s perfect.

Oh yes, and I wish to fuck that Bono would drop his Jesus act. In general, I tire of the charitable works of celebrities. It’s like the royals of yesteryear distributing alms to the poor.

As for Michael Bay, here’s a story for you: I knew a girl who worked as an extra on one of his movies, playing someone at work on a computer, and after he’d thrown still another tantrum and called for action, she typed “Michael Bay has a tiny dick” again and again. I love that she can be seen onscreen doing it, even though her words aren’t visible.

It’s charming that you took a moment to add the *correction.

Happy birthday, Jim. My God, that’s a frightening shot of me currently on display on the TNB splash page. That’s what I get for not having a look at it and demanding a better shot. But, of course, Brad looks terrific. I mean, which book would you buy, if you hadn’t bought both already? I doubt the one written by a zombie.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-07 04:12:31

Thanks— most of my ‘best lines’ stem from my vehement hatred of banal popular music…

Was the song ‘Talk’? I… bought that album…— in my defence it was part of a ‘giving things a chance before dismissing them’ phase. That song was on the album as was actually pretty good. It had a good riff. The good news: it was ripped off from a Kraftwerk song, so it wasn’t technically Coldplay.

The thing is, amongst other things, he (Bono) goes on about saving the planet etc, etc. But the crew and equipment his stupid pub band are hauling around the globe— includig THREE SPARE ‘claw’ stages— is monumental; not to mention incredibly hypocritical.

It also pisses me off to hear a man who earns more than most Britons combined saying how we should donate more to charity etc etc. He and Chris Martin are two of the richest men on the planet and they’re only going to get richer.

I love the Michael Bay story and the correction was because it was irritating me.

To be honest if it wasn’t for TNB I probably wouldn’t have read either of those books. I wouldn’t have heard of either of them, hadn’t heard of you or Brad and as such wouldn’t have been interested.

I never used to read much new fiction. However, based on the photograph I would probably assume that Banned for Life was a biography of an aging punk (which I guess it is in a way…) and that Brad’s was a psychology book (as people have assumed before).

Of course, this is points to the classic rule: never judge a book by it’s cover, or by the undead author holding it.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-07 04:16:35

I only meant italicize the word ‘we’ but I guess I did it wrong.

I also think I spelt italicize wrong, but I can’t be bothered to check…

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-08 22:51:06

I corrected your code error. It’s an easy mistake to make. I do it all the time.

I don’t remember which song by Coldplay it was, but I hope it was the one by Kraftwerk. As for Bono, he’s like every celebrity involved in the save-the-planet movement. All of them jet around while wagging their fingers at the rest of us — in fact, they often jet around to wag their fingers at us.

The problem with the photograph on the current splash page is that I do look undead. That takes your description of the book — “aging punk,” etc. — to whole other level. Brad’s winning smile, meantime, could easily be that of a well-adjusted pop psychologist, though his book, unlike mine, contradicts your impression of the photo.

I wish I could better set you up for another sterling line about rock & roll. What if I mentioned, say, Jefferson Starship (as opposed to Jefferson Airplane)? Does that do anything for you?

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-08-09 02:02:17

Cheers. It was the first time I’ve tried coding in a comment.

I hate most celebrities— most of the really famous ones anyway. I have a lot of respect for the huge, huge ’stars’ (I hate that word but I can’t think of any others) who just get up on screen, into the studio or whatever and do their thing and go home. I think it’s because it’s then obvious that they’re the ones doing it for the love of doing it, not just to get in the papers etc…

I’ve decided if I ever become a published writer I’m going to have to be like Pynchon and never let my face be seen. I don’t photograph well— in fact I often look undead. Or like I’m crying angry tears.

I’m almost certain that A.D.D owes at least 10% of it’s success to Brad’s winning smile. I jest, of course. But it really is a winning smile. The first thing that struck me actually is that neither of you are dressed like writers. I have no idea what that means, or how writers are supposed to dress. It’s very humid here and my mind is slightly melted.

Surprisingly Jefferson Starship doesn’t fill me with much rage. I think probably because it was a natural progression for them. it’s because Grace Slick is too pretty to get angry at. Maybe it’s because they were in the Star Wars Christmas special as a hologram.

Either way, they don’t fill me with the rage that U2 do. Pretty much every ‘indie’ band does though. British indie, I’m not familiar with US indie.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-13 04:57:46

It’s hard for me to see U2 as an indie band. I think they were signed with a major label from the very beginning. But maybe I’m wrong about that, never having been a huge U2 fan, though I don’t hate them as you do. I think, if and when I’m in the old folks’ home, I may very well warm to U2. And that could be any day now.

I hear you on the Pynchon thing. But have you ever seen a photograph of him? I did, recently. He looked nothing like I expected — or “looks” I should say, since the photos were all very old.

Meantime, we both hate really, really famous people — still more overlap.

I wonder what will become of this exchange when I post my next piece, as I plan to do later today? Anyway, it was nice to return to it after being away for a while. It made me feel instantly nostalgic for the great time we had posting one comment after another, you and me and Simon and Zara.

 
Comment by James D. Irwin
2009-08-13 07:32:30

I didn’t mean to imply U2 were indie. That was just another angry statement.

Early U2 isn’t that bad. But everything after that is a rehash of their old songs. Also, the biggest cunt I’ve ever known was a diehard U2 fan.

Isn’t there just one photograph of him or something? A character in CCB is kind of based on Pynchon. A wealthy businessman who isn’t even known by name, surrounded in rumour etc etc made more extreme by the state of celebrity obsession in the near future. (incidentally that gives completely the wrong idea about CCB).

Hatred of famous people plays a part too— there is yet another character who is an amalgamation of various ’starlets.’

You’re posting today! Dammit! I was planning to start a tangent to up my comment rate!

Actually, I was on the top of the page for longer than usual and I’m getting more comments than usual. Complete waste of a day novel-writing wise. I’ve just been talking about it instead.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-13 21:34:41

That’s the danger of a plentiful comment board, as I’m learning: the time it can potentially steal.

I agree with you about early U2. That was the best stuff.

I saw about three photographs of Pynchon, all taken in his late teens and/or early twenties. He looked kind of goofy. I’m sure you can locate them online.

I love the word “starlets.” I don’t know why. It may go back to my having first heard it on The Flintstones.

You ought to initiate a haiku thread on your piece. Maybe I’ll jump-start it. I hadn’t realized how popular haikus can be.

 
 
 
 
Comment by David Breithaupt
2009-07-30 02:01:50

What’s summer camp without pervs? At least you had a creative one. Having grown up on 80 acres of woods, my parents never had to send us away so I’ve always had a kind of summer camp envy. Now I see all the fun I missed. As for Christian camp…remember what Melville said in Moby Dick, “I’d rather sleep with a drunken cannibal than a sober Christian.” There you have it. Thanks for that childhood tale.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 02:11:00

Yes, well, Zara mentioned having camp envy, and I recommended that she be photographed naked as therapy. She appeared to warm to the idea, so perhaps I’ll make the same suggestion to you, and risk getting punched in the nose.

Fantastic Melville quote. Ah, cannibals and Christians, forever being compared. Yet the Eucharist makes them one.

Always a pleasure, David.

 
 
Comment by Elizabeth Collins
2009-07-30 02:42:26

The title of this made me have to read it…though I would read it anyway.

Loved the phrase, “perpetual, lupine smile.” Also loved the ending line…

There’s something about boys, I think, not feeling weird getting naked that makes this work. Which brings me to an interview of Ruth Bader Ginsburg that I read recently in the NYT Magazine, where she explained how it was hard to make the male SC justices see that strip-searching a girl in high school is a total violation…they just didn’t really get it.

Anyway–you are lucky that this man just painted and photographed you! Could have been worse. But it is pretty nearly as bad just imagining his nights alone in his mom’s house, staring at the snapshots of your little boy body.

I like getting a view of a much different life–I went to sailing camp in Cape Cod. I was raised Catholic. I was also a difficult child and basically got the camp ambush treatment, although I pitched a big enough fit that I was finally allowed to choose my camp…my “ambush” took place in May…”You’re going to camp this summer. Pick out some things from this L.L. Bean catalogue.”

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 03:24:14

Sailing camp in Cape Cod. Wow. Yeah, I think I’ll go there. I’ve had quite a hankering to get on a boat of late.

It’s true about boys and nudity. My friend Jane has a four-year-old, and she has to force him to dress. Meantime, I live across the street from a terrific couple with twin sons, probably also around four, and one of them (or is it both at different times?) is always running around naked. Are boys intrinsically more pagan than girls, or is it due to socialization? I have one sister (and three brothers), and when, as a child, she sat with her legs open, my parents would go bonkers.

I am lucky that Bobby didn’t take things any further. But, you know, I never conjured up a picture of him staring at my photos till your comment. I suppose it’s something I hadn’t wanted to consider.

I’m glad to know I’m not the only TNB contributor who was a difficult child. I would never have guessed it about you. And you were likewise ambushed. But do you think there was any wisdom in it? In my case, I’ve come to see it that way.

 
Comment by Gina Frangello
2009-07-30 03:44:04

Great post, Duke! It’s all in the telling. What I love about this most is the sense of how something that seems disturbing and criminal in retrospect was utterly “not an issue” at the time, not for you as your 10 year old self or, apparently, for the other kids or counselors at the camp, and everyone was kind of blithely happy and ignorant of the ways they were satisfying this pedophile’s pervy inclinations. It’s sort of fascinating. I mean, the guy painted your privates but you were cool with it cause you were an Indian. Of course! When you’re 10, that makes perfect sense. You thought your mom was being weird, etc.

Then a few years later, suddenly it dawns on you, and that icky feeling of realization starts spreading . . .

Obviously kid activities like camp and sports are great hiding places for pedophiles, but even now that we all kind of “know” that, it’s weird how so much of the anxiety still focuses on “strangers” instead of the people who have tons of access to our kids.

But you can’t go around paranoid all the time–easier to distrust a stranger than to have to be skittish around everyone you know.

As pervs go, Bobby seems like at least he didn’t want to be busted and didn’t want anyone (including the kids) to be upset. Man, there’s nothing funnier or more creepy, in some ways, than a pedophile with a heart.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 04:14:46

I agree with you. I’ve sometimes wondered if he wrestled with himself, or if it was something he accepted while setting certain conditions for himself: You can do this and this, but you can’t do that and that.

I’ve also wondered if he was trading the pictures he took with others of a similar disposition. That’s very common in the cyber age, but I expect it’s probably an old practice, since that kind of material, being contraband, can’t even be bought in “adult” stores.

One thing I didn’t mention in the piece was that Bobby once treated the camp to a slide show, and he included a couple of the nudes he took, and they brought down the house. Everyone thought it was a riot to see one of the counselors in the altogether with droopy balls. I remember kids still talking about it days later: “That one, picture, man…” Very strange that nobody regarded it as creepy in any way, including me. But I also think I was taking my cues off others: if they’d seen it as creepy, I probably would’ve joined the chorus. Coming from a religious family, there was an emphasis on modesty, but once I got to camp, I let all that go. When in Rome, etc.

Your remark about paranoia hits the mark, by the way. Yes, that makes perfect sense: scapegoat strangers and alleviate any anxiety felt around those you know. I think there’s a lot of that kind of thing these days, and not just where it concerns children.

 
 
Comment by Elizabeth Collins
2009-07-30 03:52:13

I guess the camp ambush is like tearing off a Band-Aid…but I am already telling my kids they’ll go to camp (I hope, someday, so I can write). I think it’s good for kids to go to summer sleep-away camp–it’s a formative experience, although it does seem scary at first, and might be scary, depending on the camp! I was thinking, for my kids, a farm camp up in Vermont or something. My old summer camp no longer exists…sold for prime waterfront real estate.

I *was* difficult, a bit, and an only child, unfortunately, which exacerbates the situation, makes for constant parental criticism. My mother tried a few times to send me to Outward Bound. That scared me to death–the idea of being left alone in the woods for three days on a “solo.” I still get shaky thinking about it. I don’t know how I got out of that one…and I don’t care if that sort of challenge would be good for me; I would lose my damn mind.

Back to boys: I think they just don’t get the lectures about not “flashing” that girls do. They don’t even think about it, I suppose. In general, boys/men seem not to care what people think of their bodies…case in point, the man in the office who saunters down the hall to the bathroom, whistling and carrying a stack of good reading material. A woman would *never* do that, and women hate seeing men do that in the workplace. Men just don’t care, think it’s funny, etc. I think it ties in to the whole way boys feel about nudity–they don’t care, think it’s funny, etc.

I think it’s ironic that young boys are oblivious to their own sexuality–I mean, the way they might be perceived by others. That certainly changes; when I teach college classes, I am routinely amused by the outright flirtatiousness of my male students. They will stand right next to me, practically breathing in my ear, while they ask for an extension on their paper. I don’t think they are interested in me that way at all, I just think they are trying to use their sexuality to get what they want. It always makes me laugh. I have no interest in boys, and student-teacher relationships are so verboten that I can’t even believe the male students don’t get how untoward it is to flirt with me. Anyway–sorry to go on so long. One thing always reminds me of another.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 04:52:49

No apologies necessary. I’m exactly the same. Ask Greg Olear.

You know, even with what went on with Bobby and the Christians in North Carolina and all of it, I’m retroactively glad to have been sent to camp. As you say, it’s a formative experience, and it’s something I remember sharply, as opposed to other memories that have faded. It’s because it deviated from my norm, I suppose. Irregularities stick.

I’d never heard that about only children. I always thought it was sort of the opposite: that only children are more grown up because they spend less time with other children and more with their parents, who’d find less cause for complaint with their kid being so mature. But, now that I think about it, I can also see it working the other way: the child has to bear the brunt of all of his or her parents’ anxiety and hopes and expectations, since there’s no one else to share it. My own parents used to threaten me with military school — especially my dad. That was really scary. I was always a free spirit, so anything that smacks of the military would never have worked for me.

The attitude that men have about nudity, at least their own, carries over into popular culture. I mean, if I have to see one more movie where it’s supposed to be hilarious that a guy has been trapped outside without his clothes or the like… And I guess my male friends do head off to the john with reading material, as they certainly sometimes return from it to report what a great crap they had and so on, but it’s so familiar that I never think about it. Nor do I work in an office, and so many of my friends, including women, are disreputable types, so it’s interesting to hear this perspective. Likewise your students flirting with you. I’m kind of amazed by that, actually, because I never think of guys as using their sexuality in that way. If they do — and they must, since you’re reporting they do — it shows that they think women are exactly like them: easily distracted and persuaded by pretty young things. Which is surely the case at times, but I think it’s far more characteristic of the male of the species. I mean, the cliche is the male professor being manipulated by the flirty female student. The video of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by the Police comes to mind.

 
 
Comment by Rich Ferguson
2009-07-30 05:24:17

Jeez, Duke. You were *such* an Indian suck-up. And you see were it got you, huh?

That’s right…Naked.

Naked in the shower with some guy taking pictures of you.

Sitting Bull is probably rolling in his grave right now.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 05:38:40

Hey. At least I got the old guy moving. And if he were here right now, I’d take him to a show. I bet he’d like rock & roll.

Comment by Matt
2009-07-30 07:17:34

Well, based on this post, you seem to have a knack for getting old guys moving….

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 07:38:11

Rimshot!

 
 
 
 
Comment by Irene Zion
2009-07-30 07:01:15

Duke,

That was a bait and switch

“A photographer from (your) hometown paper materialized to snap a picture of me and twelve or so others awaiting deportation in the Elks Lodge parking lot. ”

hysterical. Worded perfectly for comedy.

Hugging your parents just before you were “packed in a car by an Elk driver and shuttled to the gulag. ”

again, hysterical.

THEN innocent prepubescent you become a subject for kiddie porn pictures and, at the time, thought you were not only having fun, but that you were special.

Good job, Duke. Every reader has to have a punch in the gut now and then.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 08:05:38

I’m glad you cited the bits you did. They certainly made me laugh. And you’re one of the funniest writers at TNB, along with one who shares your name, so if you found anything I wrote here funny, I feel I’m returning a favor.

As for the bait-and-switch thing, well, the writing follows what happened in life.

Comment by Irene Zion
2009-07-30 08:46:30

Ain’t it the truth.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 08:54:24

I love you. Can I be a Zion now?

 
Comment by Irene Zion
2009-07-30 15:49:58

But of course!
I love a big family!

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 16:25:49

At last. Duke, thy name is Zion. I have arrived.

I could even be the Duke of Zion, huh?

 
Comment by Irene Zion
2009-08-02 07:10:44

Duke. Duke. Duke. Duke of Zion. Duke. Duke.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-02 10:36:33

In light of Simon’s recent piece on coincidence, I should have you know that someone else just sang “Duke of Earl” to me.

This is seriously getting really weird.

 
Comment by Irene Zion
2009-08-02 10:50:59

Simon has mad skills.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-02 11:11:09

Doesn’t he?

But, you know, he’ll probably never see this exchange, so if you want to talk some dirt about your future son-in-law, here’s your chance to do it publicly.

 
Comment by Irene Zion
2009-08-02 17:32:56

Wait.
Which one?

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-02 23:18:24

Touché.

Simon, I meant.

Quick! Before he returns!

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-02 23:24:28

Too late!

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 00:24:00

Oh, hey, Simon. Yeah, Irene and I — we weren’t — we were just talking about, like, chewing gum. Would you like some chewing gum, Simon? It sure is good. Oh, and hey, isn’t the weather nice? I mean, we don’t share the same weather, but isn’t it nice anyway?

What? Why are looking at me like that? We were just talking about chewing gum. Really. And the weather — isn’t it nice?

Well, I guess I’ll be going now. See you guys. Don’t catch a cold or anything. I mean, that would be really awful, ’cause I sure do like you both. Especially you, Simon. I would never talk about you behind your back. Nope. Absolutely not.

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-03 00:29:35

OK, come on now - I was just watching the weather report.

While chewing freaking gum.

I, also, would never talk about you behind your back, Duke. Toilet walls, maybe. But behind your back, never.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 00:38:48

So that explains the strange call I received from a self-identified transvestite who was looking for the “hot time” promised on a Melbourne toilet wall. I had no idea what he/she was talking about. It never occurred to me that — oh my God, I’m shocked, I really am. And to think I offered you chewing gum!

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-03 00:41:10

What can I say? Barry/Barlene seemed like he/she was genuinely looking for love. And a hot time. And I thought Well, I know one man who is guaranteed to provide both!

But I couldn’t find Joe Biden’s phone number, so I wrote yours instead.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 01:05:36

Your fancy thought-italics won’t help you out this time. You have crossed a line, bub. And you know what I’m going to to do? Huh? Do you? Just listen.

“Hello, John/Jeanette? I live across the street from you, and I heard you crying a little while ago? About that guy you were stalking that you burned with a waffle iron? Yes, I’m sure it was an accident. Oh, I know. Yeah, I totally understand. I mean, it’s perfectly reasonable to make waffles outside the house of the person you’re stalking, and it’s not your fault if they walk out to investigate and just happen to get burned. Anyway, now that he’s in Intensive Care and I guess you won’t be able to stalk him for a little while, I know a great guy that you’ll want to stalk right away, and I have it on very good authority that he loves the smell of waffles. So it’s really not going to be a problem if you — what’s that? Sure, okay.”

I just got put on hold while John/Jeanette does a shot of syrup, but as soon as he/she comes back, you’re in a lot of trouble.

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-03 01:12:46

Eek!

Although, I do miss waffles, as they’re very American. Oh, man, there was the place on the corner of Sanchez and 18th Street that did the best waffles. Man. I could sure go one of those right now.

Hmm. That’s odd. It’s almost as if I can smell them now. And what is that gentle rapping, as of someone gently tapping, tapping at my chamber door?

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 01:24:02

I honestly don’t know. I couldn’t go through with it, Simon. I know you gave Barry/Barlene my number even after I offered you chewing gum, but, hey, people make mistakes. And I honestly don’t want you to get burned with a waffle iron. Yes, I had a feeling that you had enjoyed great waffles at the corner of Sanchez and 18th and would therefore be vulnerable to John/Jeanette’s waffle-stalking, but in the end, I forgive you.

Want some chewing gum?

Please say yes. If you will only say yes, that will solve everything.

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-03 01:32:16

Yes. Yes I do.

And that will be a line that I will carry with me through my life, written on my heart:

‘Please say yes. If you will only say yes, that will solve everything.’

That’s actually quite poignant.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 01:49:11

Yes, well. I was no doubt emerging from a manic state. Got to love those irrational highs.

By the way, only now do I get the reference to Nevermore. Well done.

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-03 02:11:48

One does what one can.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 02:26:44

Actually, some don’t.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Matt
2009-07-30 07:35:03

Nice post, Duke.

I was never sent to any of the two-week summer camps, mostly because I did a few years in the Boy Scouts and we went camping all the time, including two sessions of Scout Camp in the summer, where all the troops gather in one place for a few weeks. No one ever photgraphed naked (that I’m aware of), but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a greater display of male homoeroticism than at those camps. It seems that without any girls around, massive hordes of early adolescent boys will quickly descend into talk–both derisive, and more often, suggestive–of male/male oral sex, anal sex, and group masturbation (Scout Camp is where I first heard the term ‘Dutch Rudder’) than any place I’d been before or since.

As a teenager, though, I did hold a summer job as a counselor at one of these camps. While Bobby sounds like the obvious pervy type, I have to wonder about some of those teenage counselors you described. We were all certainly willing to be amused by someone else’s nudity, but if the camp director had told us all to disrobe…well, there probably would have been a few comments of “Wait…what?” at the very least.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 08:00:13

He never asked the counselors to disrobe. Rather, he found opportunities in which clothes were already shed, such as skinny-dipping after the water balloon fight, and already having photographed the preparations and the event, it seemed “natural” to photograph the aftermath. And the counselors got dirty along with everyone else, so they’d strip down with the campers, and Bobby was sort of pointing his camera in all directions and people would do silly things to get him to snap a picture of them. Even the counselors did that, though I don’t think he was interested in them. But that’s speculative, obviously, based on his interest in me. He never asked anyone but me that I ever saw to stand and pose nude for him. With a camera in his hands, he usually presented himself as a photojournalist or an uncle shooting a family barbecue.

Unfortunately, what you say of the talk of boys in early adolescence applies to a few guys I know in their early thirties: constant jokes along the lines of “You want take me from behind, big fella?” Being familiar with Freud, I’m always slightly amazed that more of those jokes aren’t stifled with an eye toward what’s being unwittingly revealed. Plus, they usually don’t strike me as very funny. That’s true of a lot of sex humor for me: it sounds like six-year-olds giggling as they talk about ca-ca.

 
 
Comment by Rachel Pollon
2009-07-30 08:07:53

Oh, Duke.
Well, it turned out as best it could, right?
The psychology behind it is so weird, though. The idea of him pushing it as far as he could without completely, arguably, crossing the line. Arguably. But, the line was definitely moved.

You struck the perfect line between truth and humor.

I agree about Salinger and I feel like a dope at times, too, saying for instance that Catcher In The Rye is my #1, most probably because it seems like a cliche. Everyone knows he was a genius writer. But what are you supposed to do, deny that you recognize it? I’ll say it here loud and proud, thank goodness for Salinger.

As for camp, I went to day camp every summer for most of my childhood and then to sleep away camp one summer. No creepy hijinx went on in either venue. But they were Jewish camps. You didn’t have to be Jewish, nor were they extremely Jew-y — we’d do a Friday Sabbath ritual, and sing some Hebrew songs, but they were mixed in with “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”, and “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and swimming and sports and arts and crafts so it just seemed like plain old camp to me. It occurs to me that questionable behavior between adults and children might be less prevalent in Jewish-centric settings because it’s well known that the Jews tend to talk. And no one who’s trying to get away with anything wants that tsuris. (Am I right, fellow Jews?)

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 08:31:30

I also came clean on the Salinger thing, as you obviously saw. A terrific writer. Lately, I’m hearing a number of people put down Catcher in the Rye, and I don’t get it. I mean, I see flaws in the book now that I didn’t see when I read it as a teenager, but it’s thoroughly engrossing and entertaining from start to finish, and then to hear people dismiss it as trash? Maybe it fails to live up the hype, but it’s a good book by almost any measure I can name.

As for Bobby, he did cross a line, absolutely. But as others have pointed out, he could have crossed it ways far worse. I’m just glad that he didn’t. And whenever I think of Jewish camp (and I have), I immediately go to that South Park episode in which Moses is conjured up by the fire and he’s asked what he wants.

“I want…” he says. “I want…popcorn necklaces.”

I also think he requests macaroni figurines — all the things kids make at camp. I’m doing a very poor job of making this sound as funny as it is.

Comment by Nicole
2009-07-30 11:56:10

I was laughing at your South Park episode description, so no worries. :D

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 15:36:54

God bless you, Nicole. You’re like the only person laughing at a comic bombing onstage.

Did you never see that episode? I wish I had a link.

 
Comment by Nicole
2009-07-30 17:39:07

No, I missed that one. I’ve missed a lot of South Park. One incredibly unfunny episode featuring Barbra Streisand and Godzilla turned me off to the show. After so many laughs I’d received from South Park I finally had to call it quits. I was in college and possibly thought it was time to grow up and be more of an adult. What a ridiculous plan that was.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 21:26:22

It’s a very uneven show. It always was. Even the Jewish camp/Moses episode isn’t uniformly funny. But I figure if I get even one good laugh out of a half-hour of TV, that’s something.

 
Comment by Nicole
2009-08-01 11:50:29

Lo and behold I decided to watch some South Park reruns playing in the wee hours of the night last night…guess which episode was on?? The Barbra Streisand/Godzilla one. With 13 seasons under their belt, that was the one playing? I couldn’t believe it. It still wasn’t funny. Darn. :/

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-01 20:25:52

Yeah, that happens a lot with that show. Here in L.A., it used to come on every night in syndication, and I was always hoping to catch new episodes. It rarely happened.

I personally think the Barbra Streisand episode has one funny moment: when, as Godzilla, she’s asked for an autograph by Kyle’s Jewish mother, and in the middle of wrecking the town, BS/Godzilla reaches for the tiny autograph book and signs her name, then hands it back and resumes destruction. A funny jab at the enormous ego of BS, which was obviously the point of the whole episode.

 
 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-30 12:16:18

James D. Irwin attempts to provoke yet more literary outcry…

I don’t like Catcher in the Rye, I sort of want to punch Holden in the face.

Of course as a story it is fantastic, has a book ever had such real characters? (Other than Banned for Life of course, by that wonderful new writer… what’s his name? Doug Hanley or something….?)

And the first time I read it I loved it. I read it over one night; I started reading at about 10pm and finished just as the sun started to creep nervously over the horizon. The light and early morning feeling complimented the atmosphere of the closing pages. I really was quite a fan.

The second time I read it Holden came off, rather than a cool induvidual, as a pit of a phoney and poser himself, and his ‘voice’ grated me a lot.

That doesn’t make it bad of course— again, how many books raise such passions?

I could never argue that it is trash. It’s a fine novel, the narrator however, is somewhat of a marmite character.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 15:41:51

Doug Hanley responds:

My problem with Catcher is simply that I can now see, as I couldn’t initially, Salinger’s eyes peering out from behind the holes of his Holden mask. I wish he wouldn’t feel a need to maintain the Holden persona all the time, always reinforcing the teenspeak. I get it, I get it; you’re Holden, and this is Holden’s voice.

Meantime, in a fight between you and Holden, Jim, I don’t know… There’s a lot of anger in Holden, much of it barely expressed.

 
Comment by Irwin
2009-07-30 22:29:56

Holden is sort of one dimensional— but thats ok, because he’s an angry teenager, and most are.

I think when I first read it I was younger than Holden is supposed to be and he seemed cool. But then when I read it when I was a few years older, had read more and had new definitions of cool, he seemed kind of whiny and self-pitying, and not very likeable.

I wouldn’t mind losing the fight. I don’t like being beaten up, but when it happens I feel like an action hero in the middle of the movie. I got kicked in the neck once, as I remember it it was quite cinematic.
Also, anger doesn’t make for a good fighter— boxing is all about discipline and control. Being a little older and much more level headed I think I could take him— use his aggression against him. Like a jedi or something.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 02:40:48

Now, this is a fitting sequel to Catcher in the Rye: an imaginary fight between a writer and Holden Caulfield. We’re even discussing strategies!

I will say one thing about anger, however, with regard to fighting: it makes you more inclined to do anything. Then again, I was almost never in a fight when the other party didn’t pick up whatever was nearby and use it as a weapon. Fair fight? It’s an oxymoron.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-07-30 13:26:49

This is what happens when I arrive late to the party - the comments I had planned vie for space in my brain with the million thoughts sparked by references to Danzig, Moses on South Park, Hunter S., and Holden Caulfield getting it smack in the kisser, courtesy of Jim D. Irwin, Esquire.

Duke, I read and re-read this, and then re-read it again. The Great American Summer Camp is a mystery to me, something only hinted at in half-remembered TV re-runs and envy-provoking stories from friends. This one… well, not so much envy-provoking as surprising. As others have said, it all started out so well.

American Indians, Kerouac, punk… yeah. I can see the link.

I had an editor once who invited me down to pose for photos in his ‘private studio’ in a g-string and silver mesh top; I was about nineteen at the time. I declined, and strangely, never got any work from him, ever again.

Sorry about Bobby, man.

Comment by Irwin
2009-07-30 13:42:20

I’m always envious that I never got to go to anything like summer camp. Well, I used to be anyway…

I had concerns over my editor at Kerb when I was invited to a meeting in a coffee shop located in the one street in London famed for it’s pornographic theatres and homosexual gentleman. It wasn’t homophobia, I’d only met the guy once and people sometimes assume I’m gay (I desperately want a girlfriend, but no girls desperately want me…)

As it turns out he is homosexual, but the reason for that venue was simply because, as a younger homosexual, he had spent much time in the area and knew it well— simply a convenient location based on nothing more than geographical knowledge. I remember being further concerned because he was much more enthusiastic about my writing than I was.

Alas, no one has ever tried to molest me. I was an ugly child.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 15:44:47

Jim, I refer to my earlier comment to Lenore: You may well have been molested, only you just don’t know it. Keep trying to remember. Come on. It’s going to come back to you. There! See? You were indeed molested, and this proves that you were not an ugly child; that you, too, were loved by pervs.

I hope this also goes some distance toward curing your summer-camp envy.

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Comment by Irwin
2009-07-30 22:22:45

I really don’t think I was. I mean who doesn’t wish they had a funny molestation story? But alas, it is not to be.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 02:36:55

You have to love that the word “alas” comes up with regard to not being molested.

 
 
 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 15:31:34

Simon, I was propositioned a couple of times as an adult by pornographers — once by husband-and-wife porn stars who owned their own video company — and I have to say I was tempted, if only for a second. Then again, in the instance I cite, I was invited to perform, shall we say, with the wife, who looked like a very young Ellen Barkin, and not to pose in a G-string and silver mesh top.

But why did the editor have those particular items picked out? Was it a personal fetish, or did he simply think, acting as his own stylist, you’d look good in them? Or did you never learn either way?

It’s funny about the re-read thing; a few people have mentioned re-reading this piece, as they’ve never mentioned doing it with others, and I have to wonder if it’s due to a tonal shift halfway through. In fact, if I could’ve found a way to make it funnier in the Bobby bits, I would’ve. I just kind of started to run out of humor juice round about then.

Of course, even late to the party, I’m glad you arrived. I like to think of it as fashionably late.

Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-07-30 16:46:22

I never found out why those particular items… sometimes, in the dark of night, as I lie awake and the cold winds shive across the rooftops… I wonder still.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 21:45:14

Only on darkened, cold, windy nights as you lie awake? Good. Because I’m thinking that happens very rarely, as opposed to those nights when you’re riding a kangaroo past croc-infested waters, which I would think happens routinely.

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-07-31 14:09:21

Well, like ancient Athens, all Australians have to spend some time doing their civic duty. Dingo Patrol.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 19:09:00

And yet dingos eat your babies. Clearly, new methods are required.

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-02 23:27:10

It’s an escalation thing. We get semi-automatics, they get automatics. We get kevlar, they get armour-piercing rounds…

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 00:32:36

Yes, well. Maybe it’s time you guys outgrew your Ned Kelly fascination. I mean, even bullets fired by dingos could pierce Ned Kelly armor. Also, maybe you ought to look into finding the parties responsible for arming the dingos in the first place. And maybe they’re also selling booze to the dingos, did you ever think about that? And drugs. No wonder they’re out there shooting people and eating babies! They’re all drunk and on drugs! Something must be done!

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-03 00:34:33

It’s the poverty cycle! We try to educate them, but the young dingos are still angry and disenfranchised. Unfortunately, they can’t play guitar, so there’s no way that they can let their frustrations out through punk rock.

We darkly suspect the Kiwis may have something to do with it.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 00:45:45

No, I think it’s you Australians. I think you’re deliberately selling them booze and drugs to keep them down. You want them to be poor. You live in fear of a dingo planet. And I think the Kiwis are the good guys, supplying them with guns and ammunition so they can fight back.

I am with you my dingo brothers and sisters! Rise up against The Man! You really have no choice, since, like Simon says, you can’t play guitar. Not even he can play guitar, though he purchased one for $20 on eBay. But that’s $20 you‘ll never have. Rise!

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-03 00:50:30

Hey, we tried to do the same with The Wiggles, and everyone held us back - and look what happened there! And I’ll have you know that when the revolution comes, and the dingos are roaming the streets, setting fires in trashcans, I’ll keep myself safe on the roof of my house, playing the introductions to Paint it Black and Trouble, which are just about the only things I know how to say.

That is, apart from the stand-off music I wrote where the lyrics begin ‘I’m a cat and I will fight you.’

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 01:16:26

Yeah, I hope you know those lyrics really stirred them up. It only made them want to play the guitar that much more, and you know they can’t. They can’t, Simon! They have paws! How cruel can you possibly be, to taunt them that way?!

When they’re roaming the streets and setting fires, while you look down from your safe harbor on the roof, I hope you’re pleased with yourself.

“I’m a cat and I will fight you.” What a joke! You never had any intention of fighting! You just wanted to tease those poor dingos for having paws that made playing guitar impossible, and leave the fighting to everyone else! You’re a monster!

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-03 01:30:23

Ha! And to think, I started the day describing myself as a monster to someone, and now, at the end, we come full circle.

Hey, if the dingos were that deserving, they’d evolve themselves some finger-pickin’ skills. Also, some fingers with which to pick.

I will be so very pleased with myself, because it will be any of the hours from 6am - 5:59 am, on the days Monday - Sunday.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-03 01:41:55

Please refrain from dragging the good Kiwi name through the mud. Keep your dingo-tassie-devil-roo- lovin’ ways to yourself.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 01:45:28

More synchronicity, I see.

And it’s just like a monster to blame the dingos for lacking fingers. But they will one day. They will, damnit, come the revolution!

Wait. What the hell happened?

I have besmirched my own piece. One minute I’m earnestly writing about Hunter S. Thompson, who of course has absolutely nothing to do with said piece, and the next I’m encouraging dingos to take up arms as they can’t take up guitars.

I’ve never vandalized during a fugue state before. I hope this isn’t a harbinger of things to come.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 01:55:40

Zara, you’ll notice that I defended the good Kiwi name. Unlike certain dingo-tassie-devil-roo-lovin’ people who shall remain nameless.

(Here’s a hint: SS. I hope that doesn’t give it away.)

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-03 02:16:08

My apologies, Zara. I had dug myself a dingo-shaped hole and reached for the easiest possible scapegoat. As I’m Australian, that was of course the good Kiwi name. But I’ll refrain from here on in. Together… together we will heal the divide.

With any luck, the synchronicity will up and synchronise itself with the lottery tomorrow night. Then I’ll be able to escape this dingo-riddled country, and Duke will be able to give me the guitar lessons that they will never be able to learn.

Yes, it was quite an about turn, all right. But, should I be mauled to death by dingoes in my sleep tonight, I will die satisfied that I was right about the bizarre nature of coincidence. That will be indisputable proof.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 02:48:55

A heartfelt apology. I stand at the ready to provide you with lessons. However, I think being mauled to death as you sleep is going a step too far in proving that coincidence is more than just that. Please, sir, saddle your kangaroo and ride it to safety, past the croc-filled waters. No one will think the worse of you for it.

I think this is about where the movie started, yes?

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-03 12:20:23

Duke, I DID notice that you were defending us from Simon’s slanderous attack on our good name, and I thank you. We need all the help we can get.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-03 12:24:33

And as for you Simon, my bogan-loving friend. I’ve got three words for you - ‘CHK CHK BOOM”. Fully sick.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 12:39:55

Oh, I think you Kiwis are much better off than we are in the States, government-wise. But maybe your profile could be raised a bit higher, since your leading export, Russell Crow, is now claimed by Australia, much as the English have commonly claimed successful Scots and Irishmen.

But never fear: I hereby dedicate myself to raising the profile of New Zealand, and together we will fight the slander of the nefarious SS, assisted by many an oppressed dingo.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 12:41:34

Oh, and Simon? Like she said!

Actually, I have no idea what she said, but apparently it’s sick, and I always go along with the sick stuff.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-03 13:38:27

Ok Duke, I’m dedicating myself to bringing the comments on this crazy post to 200. You’re at 191 now, so I know we can do it. I’m also going to award you with honorary Kiwi status for your work on helping raise our profile.
As for Rusty Crowe - Australia can have him.
You know that Russell used to be a rock star her in NZ? His stage name was Russ Le Roq.
Cock.

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-03 13:51:14

She promised she’d say some sick stuff, but she never followed through. It was disappointing. I was looking forward to it.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 13:54:31

I just knew my work on behalf of raising the profile of Kiwis was going to pay off somehow. Yes, let’s erect a monument to this weird-ass post. Thanks. Then we’ll get to work on the Kiwi-profile thing.

Actually, I didn’t know that Russell Crowe was ever a rock star, though I did know about his band. Forty Odd Foot of Grunts, is that it? Phallocentric, yes?

I’m friends an actor, whom I was about to name, but I guess I shouldn’t, in light of what I’m going to say. He co-starred with RC in one of his first American movies, and he hated him. I mean, he really hated him. When I saw the movie, I told him I thought RC was pretty good, and he turned purple and cursed me so loudly that a cop stopped by our table (we were at a diner frequented by cops) and threatened us with ejection. My friend hated RC for, among other reasons, the horrible way he treated the women on the set, bonking them and tossing them aside. I guess he left a lot of hearbreak behind him. Weird. To me he looks like a bearded baby.

But I have to say that he was really charismatic in Romper Stomper: one of the high points of Australian cinema, along with Chopper.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-03 13:56:33

I didn’t think it would be appropriate to start in with the sick stuff on a post about child molestation.
You Australian’s… you have such filthy minds. It’s grouse.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-03 13:59:24

Duke, don’t get me started on the Russell stories… there are too many to tell. When do we start our work on lifting NZ out of Australia’s big brother shadow?

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 14:41:39

Clearly, there have been some private exchanges, which I wish one of you would share.

Funny, Zara, your remark about Australians and their filthy minds. My friend Burke recently said, “Chicks love Australians, but they’re so sleazy.” I had no idea what he meant, but apparently others do. I repeated Burke’s remark and people said, “Oh, of course. Yeah, Australians are really sleazy.” I guess I’m unobservant.

Meanwhile, on the subject of Australians, I’ll likely speak to my friend Daniel in Melbourne in a bit, and maybe he can help me to figure out some ways to lift NZ out of Big Brother’s shadow. He’s subsersive, as I am.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-03 14:53:24

Oh now I feel like I need to defend Australians. They are absolutely the best at swearing/cussing. There is not a race of people better at it than Ockers. My favourite phrase is ‘Super Rooter’ Rooting of course being a quaint down under term for sex. I guess Super Rooter is a nicer way of calling someone a slut.
I have met some sleazy Australians - but unfortunately most of them were New Zealand born. Damn it!
Simon - you owe me for defending your homeland.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 15:04:07

Yes, well. My friend Daniel has been supplying me with a rich Aussie vocabulary. It’s fun to say “bar up” in the presence of a woman and not have her know what I’m talking about. But I’m afraid you do, Z.

The Serbs, incidentally, are no slouches in the swearing department. I still know all my terrific Serbian swear words, and I sometimes lapse into them without realizing it. “Jebiga!” I’ll shout as I stub my toe.

Oh, and speaking of Daniel, he’s just phoned. You were the one, Z. You just pushed me into the TNB Hall of Fame. So I owe you, though I don’t owe you as much as Simon, what with your defense of Ockers.

XX

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-03 15:11:59

Oh god, bar up. You don’t REALLY say that do you? You are very subversive.
I’m glad I put you into the hall of fame. I feel like I’ve acheived something today!

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 19:23:00

You definitely did. It was like that scene in old movies or TV shows where somebody enters a supermarket and sirens go off and confetti falls and a clerk runs up and says: “Congratulations! You’re our 100,000th customer!”

Consider me the clerk.

 
Comment by Simon Smithson
2009-08-06 03:20:58

Baaahahahaha!

Is ‘bar up’ not something that Americans say?

Also, Zara, duly noted. I’ll write to the Prime Minister.

Hmmm. I’m going to have to ask the Americans of my acquaintance if I am sleazy.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 09:35:29

Well, until recently “bar up” wasn’t something Americans said. But now I’m saying it, and a trend is sure to follow.

Have your American acquaintances gotten back to you yet? I eagerly await their verdict.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Don Mitchell
2009-07-30 14:50:27

Christian church camp, yes. In high school I’d get a week at one over on Oahu. This was camp for regular generic Christians — you know, Congregationalists and the like. Nothing too heavy-duty. Two things stick in my mind.

First was the preacher’s daughter from Maui, she of the richly-endowed chest, wowing all the boys. I, however, was the one with several packs of Lucky Strikes, and she was a smoker. So out in the naupaka (beach plant; good for hiding in while lying down) she was mine, mine, all mine. Obviously this was a heterosexual camp.

But the best of the camp stays with me even unto the present. Sitting on the beach, morning, sun coming up, all the kids there . . . I looked at the ocean, looked at the others, and said “You know, life is like the ocean.” Chorus of yeahs. Even had the preacher’s daughter disrobed for me at that moment I could not have said why, precisely, life was like the ocean. But oh man, it sounded good.

In my household, even today, that immortal line is called up.

“Watcha thinking about, Ruth?”
“You know, life is like the ocean.”
“Yeah.”

Christian summer camp! Sex! Cigarettes! Profound insights! It’s unbeatable.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 16:00:38

I know a guy from Hawaii whose parents are missionaries. He got heavily into punk rock and started a band–several, actually–and became somewhat famous.

Alas, I was a bit too young when I went to summer camp to have had my way with a preacher’s daughter. But that’s a marvelous anecdote that reads almost like a porn fantasy: the preacher’s daughter, first cousin to the farmer’s daughter and the librarian who, with her hair down and glasses removed, is a scorcher in the sack.

As for “life is like the ocean,” that’s straight-up surfer philosophy. I bet surfers have even written papers entitled “Life is Like The Ocean,” the same way that football players have have certainly written papers entitled “What Athletics Can Teach You About Life.” First sentence: “I believe that there is much that can be learned about life from playing athletics.”

Thanks for the read, Doug.

Comment by Don Mitchell
2009-07-30 16:08:38

Doug?

The Mighty Christian Chest must have made you think of dugs. By now, sad to think of it, the MCC no doubt comprises a pair of withered dugs.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 16:21:27

Oh, shit.

I had, moments before, written a comment to Jim in which I referred to myself as Doug, so Doug was on my brain.

No, really, DON! Go and check, DON! It’s right up there, DON!

Now I’m going to have Don on the brain, and someone named Doug will comment and I’ll respond with: “Thanks for the read, Don.”

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 21:28:16

I don’t think I should’ve capped your name as I did, but I’ll leave it on the off-chance that you already saw it, and explain that the caps were meant for me, not you, as I was attempting to drill my mistake into my head. Just in case that wasn’t clear.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Erika Rae
2009-07-30 17:50:53

Amazingly told, this piece. Ah, camp. So many memories. And Christian camp, too. Remind me to tell you of the time we performed an exorcism in one of the cabins. (What? One of the campers was possessed!)

You had me laughing out loud and then cringing. (He painted your genitals??? Aaack!) I love that you got to meet your first Jew and quizzed him about why his people killed Christ. Hilarious. Laughed out loud. Also, I’m with you on the pompadour/bangs debate. Pompadour all the way! Oh, but Counselor Bobby. Yeesh.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 21:53:44

I’ll remind you immediately about the exorcism story, but maybe it’s better left to a full-length, forthcoming piece, yes?

We tried to hold a seance, which was quickly busted. But an exorcism–we probably wouldn’t have considered ourselves sufficiently qualified. Then, too, some of us were on much better terms with Satan than with Jesus.

Glad we see eye to eye on the pompadour. The Crows rocked. Oh, and I’m wondering if my comment ever showed on your last piece. It still hadn’t materialized when I last checked a couple of days ago. Strange. When this problem first developed, my comment would take a while to appear, but appear it eventually would. That’s why I didn’t try to recreate and repost the one I made to you.

Any day now, I’m going to switch back to my old computer, which has recently been repaired, and life is going to get a lot easier.

 
 
Comment by Marni Grossman
2009-07-30 19:26:45

G-d, you probably scarred that poor Jewish kid for life.

Have you seen (or read) “Mysterious Skin”? You touched on some of the same things here, with equal delicacy.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-30 22:00:15

You know, my discussion with the Jewish kid was actually sort of civilized. It was more a case of exchanging beliefs than anything else, and I was curious and open as to what he had to say. I think he was already familiar with my beliefs. He would’ve had to have been, surrounded as he was by Baptists. I was proud of our talk. I felt a bit like a junior ambassador at the U.N.

I’ve never seen Mysterious Skin, but I’ve heard about it. I’ll have to now have to put it in my cue at Netflix. Funny; I was just talking about Greg Araki the other day. He was strangely very popular in Serbia when I lived there — “strangely” because Serbia is so inundated with the macho mindset.

 
 
Comment by Reno
2009-07-31 06:12:52

haney!

sorry, i’m late. pearl harbor ambush. that’s nice. ooh, you wanted to be a snake guy? you never cease to amaze me. never. i went to camp once and the counselors were groping this one HOT blondein the back of the bus. i think that’s when i got a taste for blondes. i’m a sucker for them. i was six.

this was fun. indians and all. two weeks is a long damn time. you would have thought after that time a rattlesnake would have tracked down your brilliant ass and bit you right on your tree trunk.

i mean, right?

say, haney: dontcha think if you made me up like one of those indian dudes above you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference? i’d look just like them. bangs and all.

thanks, homes.

PS: the jews killed christ? funny, i thought christ killed christ. or that it was part of his daddy’s master plan. wait! ain’t they the same? who fucking knows. and truthfully i don’t care. so there.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 12:09:48

Yeah, I guess you could easily pass for an Indian. Then again, with the right hairdo, including a forelock, you could pass for a Misfit. You’re kind of Danzig-esque in stature and body type.

As to Jesus, there are numerous ways to look at the Crucifixion, including the Suicide/Necessary Death/Daddy’s Plan approach. But you don’t care, which means you’re going to Hell. But you would have as an Indian or a Misfit anyway. And I will see you there, as I’m apparently not going to see you in Bakersfield. O unhappy day.

 
 
Comment by N.L. Belardes
2009-07-31 09:33:09

There are stories like that about some of the Boy Scout people in the Bakersfield area. One director was thrown in the slammer. And of course, my book Lords: Part One is all about those kind of people…

And now with the death of a local gay real estate agent who was found floating in the Kern River a week or so ago, the stories are all pouring back… Men on men, men on boys… all hanging out by riverbanks at times like some kind of bizarre adventurous gaytasmic camp.

I just posted a timeline.

Sorry that shit happened to you. Fuckers are always trying to steal innocence where they can.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 12:40:47

There’s a male relative, on my dad’s side of the family, who was arrested in the course of an adventure on a riverbank, and he used to work as a volunteer at a boys’ home. Which leads to all sorts of conjecture as to what he did there.

Fortunately, he never tried anything with me. But maybe, as I’ve speculated about Bobby, he’d established certain rules for himself as to what he would and wouldn’t do.

I was shocked to hear that, after the catastrophic tsunami of a few years ago, pedophiles from around the world embarked on the stricken areas to exploit the orphans. But that’s perhaps just an apocryphal horror story.

 
 
Comment by David Breithaupt
2009-07-31 11:37:35

What color did he paint your wang?

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 12:00:02

I was painted white from head to toe. The only thing that wasn’t painted was my hair.

Comment by Zara Potts
2009-07-31 12:03:03

I’m sorry, but that is really funny!

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 12:10:33

The wang or the hair?

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-07-31 12:12:35

Definitely the wang. Just the word makes me laugh… was it fully painted? or just a stripe?

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 12:30:06

Ha! At that age, fully painted and a stripe would amount to pretty much the same thing.

I don’t remember him lingering him down there, so it wasn’t too thorough. But I do remember having a paper-white pecker. I think he just kind of gave it a quick wash as he daubed me with paint in that general area.

Also, the soles of my feet weren’t painted. That would have have been it.

 
Comment by David Breithaupt
2009-08-02 06:01:23

That could be a new color; “Wang White.”

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-02 10:38:54

A plaque commemorating the First Laugh-Out-Loud of the Day is forthcoming, David.

 
 
 
 
Comment by wade
2009-07-31 14:50:56

In my way of thinking Haney, no grown man should be spending prolonged periods with another grown man’s child…it’s that simple. Overnight camp? perhaps, but ONLY co-ed, give the boys a real lesson in life; “how to deal with women”. When I went to the same kind of camp in fifth grade I managed to escape with my clothes on (dignity), and I learned how to break stained glass and shoot a bow-and-arrow, but I was in no way ready to lose my virginity 2 years later in 7th grade when I was offered the chance on a school trip to williamsburg (still pissed at myself). Man, if only that damn camp had taught me something worthwhile 2 years prior…

Summer camp is for kids to learn how to tie knots and maybe milk a cow or some shit, and for 18 year olds to make six bucks an hour in between semesters. As for old gray hair with the short tan shorts and matching top, try first base coach on the little league team. Six innings go by quickly, then maybe a cookout and a few orange peels, but naked photos and bedtime stories, not a chance.

I’m on round two of Banned, highlighter in hand this time. I’m tracing anything that is “compelling” to me. You’d be surprised how much of that fucking thing is already piss yellow.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 20:59:18

Good to hear from you, sir. I’ll admit to a little apprehension as to how some of the gang might react to thing, but I mean, hey, it wasn’t like I asked this guy to take the pictures he did. It’s kind of an embarrassing memory; but sometimes it’s good to air the embarrassing stuff. I always end up doing it anyway, I guess because I figure we’ve all got embarrassing memories, so why not put it out there?

By that logic, on the other hand, we should all be flaunting ourselves in the altogether. Thank Zeus that isn’t the case.

Christian camp was better than my first for reason only: it was co-ed. I said that earlier someplace. And, yeah, I learned one of my first lessons in dealing with the fair sex. The lesson was outright rejection. Then, the following year, I learned another lesson: pining after someone who wants to be “just friends”–excellent preparation for the years ahead.

But did the first-base coach ever get familiar in the touchy-feely sense?

It’s a tangent, but here’s a story that might interest you. When I was six or seven, there was a cop who was working the crosswalk near my elementary school, and for some reason I decided I wanted to dart across the busy road on my own, rather than have him stop traffic for me. Anyway, after I’d gotten to the other side of the street, he came after me and said, “I saw what you did, and if you ever do it again, I’m going to take a knife and cut off your little thing.” I was in shock. I never told my parents about that, or anyone else. I didn’t think they’d believe me.

I’m relieved that parts of the book are piss-yellow because of the highlighter, and not because they’ve been pissed on.

I am now going to go play your record. You know Dave gave me a copy, yes? And did Monica mention that we actually exchanged a few words? I ran into her at a party right after my bookstore reading. She looked fantastic. Unfortunately, I left that party and went to some fucking warehouse thing with Burke where hipsters we used to call glitter goblins were attired like Bollywood starlets and dancing on a runway. Little wonder that I spent the next two days in a state of depressed torpor.

Comment by wade
2009-08-01 12:05:31

yeah, monie told me. she also told me she is obsessed with bfl. however, i guess i ruined it for her because i blurted out the ending to her. i couldnt resist telling her the fate of jason & irina (me & her). haha.

the cop story doesn’t surprise me. i’m actually surprised he didn’t shoot you. public servants do so much for me, and you.

embarrassing stories are my favorites.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-01 20:20:47

Oh, I think I get why you told Monica the ending. It’s a pity that it probably ended her obsession. I like hearing that kind of thing, obviously.

Of course, you realize that there are plenty of other embarrassing stories I could tell. Got forty minutes?

Later, tornado bait.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Don Mitchell
2009-07-31 15:12:02

What does Amazon know about us (the TNB folks)?

I figured I’d better read Banned for Life, so just now I ordered it, two day one click.

Then — you know the Amazon page that pops up suggesting more things you should buy –
there’s Brad’s and Greg’s (preorder for Greg’s).

WTF? That’s some serious tracking, networking, combining, somewhere, somehow.

Anybody else notice this? It’s very exciting, really — absolutely. Don’t miss it. And the only way to experience it is to buy Banned for Life from Amazon. Do it!

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-07-31 21:05:34

I’m flattered and humbled that you bought a copy of my book, Don. Strange that Brad’s book and Greg’s don’t show up on the “Customer who purchased this item also purchased…” thing at the bottom of the Banned Amazon page. I myself have bought copies at Amazon and picked up other items with them, but the other items have never been linked to Banned. Strange.

Anyway, thanks again for the buy and the plug, and by way of gratitude, I will summarily execute a mongoose or three.

Comment by Elizabeth Collins
2009-08-03 15:01:51

The books *are* linked on Amazon. If I look at one of your books, I see the others on the bottom of the screen…all of you in the TNB clique are being cross-marketed, never fear.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 19:26:28

But that only happened recently. I went over to check after Don posted his comment, and my book was still linked with Pop Salvation (hopefully not to Lance Reynald’s horror), with no other books save for Gina’s on the page. Now, my book is linked to Brad’s. Which is kind of funny to me, because Brad and I ended up buying one another’s books at the reading we did. In fact, I started A.D.D. the other day, and I’m really enjoying it.

 
 
 
 
Comment by chris
2009-08-01 12:40:25

Haney:

Wonderfully written. The story was captivating yet disturbing.

I once had the non-pleasure of attending a Catholic summer camp. It sucked, I cried every day and declared I would never again be sent to such a horrible place. Our Fathers and Hail Marys, what the hell? A miserable experience. I attended basketball camp every summer after that. I find athletic camps much more appealing and productive.

Thanks for the read.

Christy

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-01 19:53:08

Way above in the comments, Zoe remarked on attending a Catholic camp. I was never allowed to pick my camps. Now, if rock & roll camps had been around when I was a kid, that would’ve been my choice for sure. Those lucky bastards.

Thanks for the read and sweet words, Bellin.

– Haney

 
 
Comment by Colleen McGrath
2009-08-03 10:10:39

God Duke. I have so much to say about this and so little at the same time. You wrote it so beautifully. Really. Funny, vulnerable, honest. As you began, I was laughing and thinking about my own childhood and the focus on Indians we all had at that age, camp. So American. I recognized all of it. And then it changed. And I recognized that too. The subtleties that aren’t subtle any more. What can I say? Brilliant writing. And at the same time, I wish that hadn’t happened. That and more. But as it did, congratulations on this.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 11:50:32

Thanks much, Colleen.

It’s funny; this is one of those things that I never expected to materialize in writing, not in such a direct way. Maybe aspects of it would’ve shown up in an anecdote or a Bobby-style character in a work of fiction, but this is probably the fullest account of it that I’ve ever given, and it would never have happened under any circumstances other than TNB. I never even talked about it much in therapy, though I’m sure it came up, along with those times when I really was molested. But that’s something I’ll never be able to write about, not at TNB. Family concerns, and so on.

Do people in Berlin ever talk about a writer named Karl May? He was a German who never visited America, but he wrote extensively about Indians in a potboiler kind of way, with much European success. He’s frequently been cited to me by Germans when the subject of Indians arises: “Do you know Karl May?” But he’s all but unknown in America.

Oh, and watch out for that Simon. Yes, I’ve observed him trying to sweep you off your feet with his handsomeness. The belles of the ball indeed! True or not, don’t listen, otherwise you’ll start proclaiming yourself a belle of the ball, and modesty is far more becoming. That wicked, wicked man.

Comment by Colleen McGrath
2009-08-04 00:30:43

No you’re right. There are things that are much too personal to share, writers or not. I will happily defame myself over and over but draw the line at outing other peoples shortcomings. Everyone has their comfort level with “sharing” and I respect both those that can and those that can’t. Good to know where your own line is and it still doesn’t seem to prevent you from being a sensitive and honest writer. I admire it.

I haven’t talked with anyone about Karl May but Germany is a little obsessed with the American Indian. The preschool I teach in has named all its groups after tribes. Can you imagine being a three year old German kid trying to pronounce Tlingit? Yeah. Kind of weird. Every Christmas there is a group of NAs who get dressed up in traditional head gear and clothing and offer a street performance of traditional chants and dances at Alexander Platz. It’s always a winner. I find it odd particularly as the real fascination with that culture in our own country ran its course through the 70’s and early 80’s.

Wicked Simon! Don’t worry, Duke. I’m a self deprecater not a touter and am too aware of my own flaws to think myself the belle of any ball. Bell as in ding-dong is more like it!

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-04 01:28:22

Yeah, I think there was a massive reconsideration of Indians in America starting in the late sixties, when they went from being bloodthirsty heathens, as popularly depicted in movies and TV and novels, to neo-hippie ecologists. The latter was a variation on their Romantic-era image: the noble savage; man in his natural state. But that was purely a European outlook, created by the likes of Rousseau, who never laid eyes on an American Indian. Those in frequent contact with Indians weren’t so enamored, obviously. Hence the aggression visited on them, and the inevitable Indian counterattacks.

In any case, I imagine the fascination that Germany continues to have with Indians is rooted in the Romantic era, and possibly reaches further back still, since the Germanic barbarian tribes were famed by the Romans for their ferocity and fractiousness. In other words, Germans may be projecting themselves as they were 2,000 years ago onto American Indians. I don’t know. I’m trying something out here. But it is funny to imagine a German three-year-old trying to pronounce “Tlingit.” As enamored of Indians as I was as a child, I know for sure I wasn’t aware of the Tligits at age three.

Hang on to your self-deprecation. Simon is a wily one, and charming as all get out.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Elizabeth Collins
2009-08-03 15:00:17

Is it a deuce yet? It deserves to be.

EC

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 15:06:56

Yes! Zara broke the bank, as I wrote in a comment a few minutes earlier.

 
 
Comment by Zara
2009-08-03 15:01:43

200!!! Do I get a prize? Oh and by the way, I love how wonky this comment board is. What a strange and lovely journey it’s been….

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 15:10:20

Bizarre, huh? I mean, for a post about (almost) child molestation, the comments sure took some strange turns: everything from Hunter S. Thompson to Russell Crowe to a war between Aussies and dingos (or dingoes, as Simon spelled it, and he would know).

As for a prize, what would you like?

But I’m being rude to my friend on the phone, talking as I type this.

XX — again!

Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-03 15:14:57

I think my prize should be a poem from you about why Kiwi’s are better than australians. I’ll accept a haiku.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 19:27:50

And I shall supply you with one. Allow me, please, to marinate on the subject.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-03 19:30:44

Marinate away, Duke. But it definitely has to include my name. The comment count is getting ever higher.. New total!!!

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 19:38:59

Okay, “Zara” is part of the assignment.

Frankly, it’s been so long since I’ve written a haiku that I’m going to have to refamiliarize myself with the syllable count. I mean, that’s the number that matters at the moment.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 20:44:27

Okay, how’s this?

Under Zara’s thumb
the croc and roo chew kiwi
and swallow with “Yum!”

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-03 20:55:57

Jeez, it takes a long time to scroll to the end of your comments.
Nice job on the haiku! Glad the kiwi didn’t taste bad.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 21:02:39

Yes, well, the long scroll-down is the negative side of what you, in your beneficence, helped to make.

By coincidence (??), I in fact had a kiwi earlier today, and it tasted great, as always. But too bad I couldn’t think of a one-syllable Aussie carnivore other than “croc.” I mean, the idea (and here I assume a haughty, professorial tone) was that even meat-eaters will gladly eat fruit if served by the ineffable, powerful Zara: ruler of down under.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-03 21:25:31

Oh! oh, the kiwi got a little bit lost in translation. You were talking about the fruit! A kiwi here is our native bird. A flightless, almost sightless nocturnal bird. So when people refer to kiwi’s we automatically think of the bird. Or ourselves. Hardly ever the fruit, which we know as Chinese Gooseberry or Kiwifruit or Zespri (?!)
I’m liking being the ruler of down under. It appeals to my inner dictator. Now I just need an army.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-04 02:11:30

Well, you’ve already got a vigilante duo. I hope that’ll do in lieu of an army.

I’m familiar with the kiwi bird; I just didn’t realize a kiwifruit wasn’t a fruit without the “fruit.” Meantime, having broken the bank, you’re certainly entitled to a haiku that stands up to scrutiny.

Ocker to kiwi:
“When my team has a Zara
we’ll be number one.”

I guess this means you’re not a dictator anymore. But isn’t being a top-ranked player almost as good?

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-04 11:05:08

I can give up my dictator dreams, seeing that I have my own vigilante squad. Will you wear a uniform? And what can we call you?

The new haiku is excellent, by the way.

D R from the states
now makes the new zealand squad
kiwi in my eyes.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-04 17:51:58

I’ll have to consult with Simon as to our vigilante name, though I think it’s already been established that we’ll wear black. I’m seeing something kind of cat-burglar-esque. Also, we’ll be a team of equals — in other words, no Batman and Robin.

Thanks for the kind words about the haiku. I’m honored by yours, and in response:

The vigilantes
will seek out the enemies
of their patron Zed

I always make them rhyme, huh? But it keeps happening by accident!

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-04 20:13:04

I’m all for black. And boots. And equality.

huh.. another lost in translation… you say zee for Z, we say Zed. But in your accent it rhymes so you’re covering both bases!

My super heroes
Simon and D R Haney
Rescue me today.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-04 21:13:34

I’d forgotten about Zed, but I knew about it. I have made the adjustment!

Simon we are called
Don your black attire like me
To smite Zara’s foe

I hope nothing is again lost in translation. But no rhymes, you’ll notice. I’m getting all modern and stuff.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-04 21:31:20

Nice one! Very modern.

Duke’s haiku’s are post
modern and full of action
He is a ninja

Now that is just silly.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-05 02:29:28

Silly? I’ll show you silly.

Delighted I am
to come home from a night out
and find your message

Actually, I guess that’s not too silly. Just mundane.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-05 10:30:10

Bring on the silly!

D R, my ninja
Glad to have given delight
to an assassin.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-05 18:42:38

Ninjas aren’t silly
And assassins aren’t either
Just ask JFK!

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-05 19:43:59

I can’t. he is dead
If he were alive then I
would. He would praise you.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-05 19:45:19

(I thought the JFK effort was sterling by the way!)

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-05 22:07:38

I answer, of course, by way of a haiku:

Posted from afar
your praise and smiling image
are sterling indeed

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 00:19:08

Kind words across miles
result in broad happy smiles
it’s haiku heaven.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 00:44:44

Your heavenly smile
never changes on my screen.
Do I need glasses?

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 00:47:30

Your eyesight is fine
twenty twenty I would say
How is your hindsight?

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 01:03:08

I’ve seen some behinds
but I had to turn my head
to get a good look

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 01:09:18

I’m surprised at you
Ninjas are higher beings
they don’t look at butts

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 01:14:54

Ninjas aren’t special
except they’re invisible
and they kill with stars

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 01:20:22

You would kill with charm
stars cannot match your power
Ninja’s run and hide.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 01:30:34

My charm is hidden
since nobody can see me
so stars are a must

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 01:37:57

Hidden ninja charm?
In secret ninja pockets?
Tell me the secret.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 01:51:06

I’m sworn to the code
to which all Ninjas adhere:
no telling allowed.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-06 01:54:30

Now you’ve made me mad
with your silly ninja ways
Watch your back for stars.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 01:58:50

As per your recent complaint about scrolling down (made way above), I will retort in our new meeting place, O fellow subversive!

 
 
 
 
Comment by Brin Friesen
2009-08-03 15:09:30

I did reply via text from a double bill at the local movie house of Easy Rider and Dr. Strangelove. The package has not arrived! Nor am I aware WHAT the package is.

I predict you’re gonna top the list of most commented. I feel it.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-03 19:34:49

I don’t know, pal. I think Nick is going to own that spot for some time to come. Besides, I’m a fairly recent contributor, and, as such, Brad might have me shot if I shoot to number one. But, you know, it was only in the final stretch that I realized the possibility of slipping into that box. (Perhaps I should rephrase!) And — sniff — I couldn’t have done it without you folks. I want to thank…

Ah yes, and your text: I got it, thanks. That package sure is taking its damned time. But you’ll let me know when it arrives, right?

 
 
Comment by Brin Friesen
2009-08-03 20:25:03

Indeed.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-04 07:38:24

By the way, how does Easy Rider hold up? Haven’t seen it in forever.

But I’m sure you’ll never read this.

 
 
Comment by Cassels
2009-08-04 07:21:05

Wow. It makes me ponder just how much of this sort of thing many of us block out of our own childhood memories. I vaguely recall you relating an rather abridged account of this event to Jane and I at our place late one evening. Even though I consider myself an armchair historian with a fond appreciation for the spoken account of peoples’ experiences, this version certainly packs a more punch. Fantastic writing, my friend.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-04 07:36:39

Brian! An unexpected delight, to find you here!

Yeah, I probably did talk about this with you and Jane at one point. As I wrote somewhere above, this is undoubtedly the longest telling this story has ever received. I never discussed it with my parents, though maybe I will ask me mom if she has the photos Bobby sent me. I came across them at one point, tucked in a box somewhere. Too bad I couldn’t excavate them to accompany the piece. Then again, I’m in LA and they’re in New Jersey.

Thanks again for a thoughtful and well-worded comment, sir. See you and the missus soon, yes?

Comment by Cassels
2009-08-04 09:06:51

“The good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.” Very soon. And I have some strong, tasty Hawaiian coffee waiting in the freezer for you.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-04 09:52:17

You’re starting to sound distinctly Southern Baptist all of a sudden. I’m having a Christian camp flashback. Oh my God. Yes, I could use some coffee. A visit is forthcoming.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Brin Friesen
2009-08-04 16:45:01

Easy Rider was fucking awesome. Nicholson’s performance is so fascinating on so many levels. Terry Southern is another interesting guy to ruminate on. What you think about him?

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-04 17:42:48

Nicholson in that film is fantastic. You know the back story on that, right? He wasn’t even supposed to do it, originally. He stepped in when Rip Torn backed out. Rip would’ve been great (I was friendly with his family when I lived in NYC; his daughter was a St. Marks Place gutter punk), but Easy Rider is unthinkable without Nicholson. He’s said to have first seen the film at Cannes and known instantly, watching himself, that he’d hit the big time. It would’ve been hard to miss.

Of course you realize that Easy Rider is an updating of On the Road, yes? Too bad Peter Fonda was a stick of wood. I’m sure he’s still living in Livingston, Montana, where I once saw him at a gallery opening. What a dull-looking guy. Stoner kids in Livingston told me they’d fuck with him because of his “loser” bike helmet.

As for Southern, I tried to get through The Magic Christian, but, short as it was, I couldn’t make it. I just found the satire so shrill and obvious, like satire with a capital S. I wanted to like it, but I couldn’t. And it’s Southern’s contribution to Dr. Strangelove that makes that movie problematic for me. It’s wonderfully directed (though as usual for Kubrick, coldly, with nothing personal revealed), and the photography is genius, as is Sellers of course, but the satire is finally just too broad. I seem to be alone in that opinion, except for Joan Didion, who shrugged off the movie in her great essay about Hollywood (one of the best on that subject ever written), I Can’t Get That Monster Out of My Mind. I recommend it.

And now that I’ve said all this, I’ll bet you’re a fan of both Southern and Strangelove, huh? But please don’t be another Kubrick flag-waver. Yes yes yes, he’s a great director, but he’s not the greatest of all time, as I keep hearing people insist.

 
 
Comment by Brin Friesen
2009-08-04 21:35:22

Well… *I* just finished a book on Stanley that revealed two interesting things: The Shining is an ENTIRELY personal movie and Stanley seriously considered moving to Vancouver. The book was called Wolf At the Door: Stanley Kubrick and the Holocaust. And the Shining, apparently, is glaringly steeped in Holocaust stuff. But beyond that obsession of Kubricks, Nicholson and little Danny explore a great deal about Kubrick as an artist. Jack’s at his iconic Nazi bureaucratic table with typewriter leaving his family aside while Danny, the artist, penetrates the horror of the Holocaust without any power to do a fucking thing. The elevator gushes the blood of an enormous slaughter, not the 3 murders we’re privy to knowing have occurred. The indian burial ground the hotel was built on (not in the book). “All the best people” having stayed at the hotel. The White Man’s burden Jack references to the bartender. The twins in the hallway reminding of the Mengele “experiments” on twins. The score to the movie is largely calibrated by a composer detailing the horrors of Hiroshima and the Holocaust. Etc etc.

Southern I’m interested in and root for but I agree with you, he’s tricky. I’m for anyone who’d name a character Bat Guano. But his books I find unreadable. In interviews he’s maybe one of the best I’ve ever read. Always fresh and funny and witty and searing.

That Didion thing I have to get to. I just bought Play it as it lays. Mainly as a fly swatter but maybe there’s something inside worth reading. Who knows.

People in the theater cheered when Jack was waiting in the cell of Easy Rider. That was sweet. And all the great lines of Jack’s I’m sure were Southern’s. His eye was always on the America as much as Thompson’s was. Suicide of the American Dream etc.

I fucking hate Peter Fonda and REALLY hate Dennis Hopper in that movie. His whole life is as lucky as Yoko Ono’s. He strikes me as a pretentious, sanctimonious fuck. But he was good in a few things. That Dana Page rip off performance in Apoc Now chief among them.

Hate Peter Fonda though.

“We blew it.”

Kung fu, fuck you on that front, Captain america.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-05 03:22:08

Well, when I later read the rationale behind “We blew it,” I was more sympathetic to the line than I was when seeing it performed. It didn’t help that, again, Fonda was wood. He wasn’t good at being pensive, maybe because it was a state unknown to him.

I’ve read quotes from Southern, though never any interviews in their entirety, and he does seem interesting. I wonder why that never translated into his novels (or novellas, or what have you)? I know that, after he died, his son took up his cause, trying to better establish him as an important voice of his time. Didn’t Southern die penniless? In any case, he never made much money. But he was celebrated by the hip young of the sixties for his movie work alone: Candy, The Magic Christian, Easy Rider, Dr. Strangelove.

Virginia Woolf once said of the poet Rupert Brooke: “I never think his poetry good enough for him” — or something to that effect. That’s somewhat my opinion of Didion’s fiction. I can’t see you liking Play It As It Lays. Yes, for you that book might function better as a fly swatter. But she’s a great essayist — one of the best. That’s the stuff to look into.

On a related note (fiction poor, non-fiction outstanding), I think I should finally read Charles D’Ambrosio after hearing so much about him. Is there one book that particularly stands out for you?

Though we’ve never discussed it, I’m now of the impression that you’re a Kubrick fan. It’s not that I don’t like him; I simply think he’s overrated (though he certainly made some great films, with Paths of Glory for me at the top of the list). At the same time, I can’t buy into the argument made in Wolf at the Door. I mean, it’s critical conjecture, yes? Is there confirmation, from the lips of Kubrick himself, that he was really making a film about the Holocaust with The Shining? But even if that were the case, it wouldn’t convince me that The Shining is a deeply personal film. Kubrick always hides behind craft. It’s marvelous craft — or it usually is (his final film being an egregious exception — and, no, I don’t believe it’s really about Scientology, or any of the other crackpot interpretations that proliferate among those who insist on the hidden depths of the banal Eyes Wide Shut) — but Kubrick, once he became successful, always based his films on books, concentrating on production design and bravura sequences (too many to name) and never allowing for chance. Certainly, there’s never a feeling of spontaneity in the performances he got from his actors. He had great taste in performance, as he had great taste in almost every other way, so his actors are rarely (if ever) stiff. At the same time, they’re not especially lively.

But if he truly wanted to make a film about the Holocaust, why not do so? Why sew it into the seams of a movie that’s ostensibly about another subject? Again, I don’t think that’s what he did with The Shining at all. Rather, I think it reflects his contempt for America, as embodied by the philistine wife played by Shelley Duvall and, to a lesser extent, the deluded artist-wannabe Nicholson character. I also find it hard to believe that he ever seriously contemplated a move to Vancouver. He was a functional agoraphobic, and he may have liked to hear himself speak of relocating because it implied that he was free to move about, as he was not. There’s not even any “freedom” in his work. He was a control freak through and through, though at his best a brilliant one.

 
 
Comment by Brin
2009-08-05 06:19:22

Kubrick spent most of his life obsessed with the idea of making two movies: Napoleon and one about the Holocaust. His view, and this was shared by Salinger (who was personally involved in liberating several of the worst concentration camps), was that such horror could NEVER be addressed directly. So to say, “why didn’t he make his movie about it?” He was never going to make that movie on those terms. Never. Salinger either. He only shows the after-effects. What’s Salinger’s art really about except the struggle between spirituality and materialism? I’ve read the letters he sent Hemingway while recovering from a breakdown directly about seeing those horrors at the camps. And if you don’t think Catcher in the Rye is a MASSIVE statement about the evil Salinger saw in WWII and it’s just about a rather tiresome kid etc etc then one of these days a rolled up Joan Didion is going to be coming for you. It’s half of what those letters are about. Hemingway intimately knew about Holden long before he’d (Holden) seen print. It doesn’t seem a coincidence that was where Salinger was going at that time in his life. And what’s the result? The first time in history an adult society wondered if young people knew something they didn’t. I don’t know that any artist in the 20th century, besides Warhol, did more to change society in mentality more. With both those guys there’s such a clear America before and after. Anyway, back to my little point…

A horror movie is largely about an audience enjoying watching people suffer. As I mentioned, the elevator blood sequence (”elevator music” tuned up to the Holocaust) was invented by Kubrick and not by Stephen King (who hated the Shining, hated that his stand-in Jack wasn’t entitled to a happy ending of fighting for his family etc and blowing up the hotel—urgh). King’s book is not complicated. It’s his own struggle with addiction and writing at the expense of his family. Dippity do. That elevator sequence, as the movie’s most iconic statement, has to point to something MORE than just, as it did in the original trailer, a wonderful horror moment. The blood crashes into the camera. An audience *enjoys* it. Weren’t those Nazi guards reading Shakespeare and Goethe while pleasantly listening to Bach as they gassed away? I think Kubrick’s joke with that elevator music is an enormous ruse essentially saying: we’re going to have a history lesson and this is how BLIND you are to *what* you really are. Think of the references in the film that have NOTHING to do with the story King told that Kubrick injected: racism against blacks, native slaughter (13 million in NA), the repeating of the date 1946 throughout the film, white man’s burden, and the music (ALL world war 2 themed rigged to the most horrific events the world has ever seen).

I thought it was bullshit when the author presented his theory, by page 50 there was such ENORMOUS evidence this was clearly what Kubrick was doing it was impossible to argue otherwise.

The only book of D’Ambrosio’s really worth reading, in my monstrous view, is Oprhans, a book of essays. They’re spectacular. Michael Herr quality. Michael Herr was who reported the Vancouver thing. He gave no qualification as to WHY. Naturally I assume it had something to do with the Greatest Living Author Since Byron living there at that time and Stanley wanted to pick up a few things here and there but modesty forbids me pressing further in proving this.

I don’t care for D’Ambrosio’s stories in the slightest. He’s not a story teller. And I don’t think he can write a word without 400 people around the world sighing and announcing how “literary” is defined by this man putting pen to paper. But I don’t buy that. He’s a remarkably good thinker as he seems so emotionally fragile and he’s just so stuck up that his mind goes all kinds of places that are quite unpredictable and moving almost. I think his dad wrote text books. It’s rare to find thinking that produces emotion of any quality in a reader. He can do that.

I would have to forgive Peter Fonda when it comes right down to it mainly because of Jane Fonda in Barbarella. Dear god that was an attractive woman. Seeing her ass knowing I’m seeing Peter’s sisters ass redeems him for me (and you and Stanley). One of the great asses put on film. Though I can’t stand her.

We’re going for 300 or broke here.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-05 23:54:17

Hmmm. I guess I’m about to get hit in the head with a rolled-up Joan Didion, because I don’t see Catcher in the Rye as a “massive” statement about the evil seen by Salinger during WWII, though I’m sure his war experiences informed that book and others to come. How could it not? I think the war was a subtext in almost every cultural artifact produced in the US (as well as in Europe) for years to come, present where no one consciously recognized it. But that’s all I see it as being: a subtext. Maybe this points to a literal-mindedness on my part, and if so, well, it’s so. At the same time I’m always suspicious of reading too much into a work; of affixing too specific a meaning to a symbol, such as the blood rushing from the elevator in The Shining. (By the way, I don’t necessarily regard that as the movie’s most iconic image. That could be said just as easily of the snowy maze at the end of the movie, or the ax crashing through the doorway, or the twins in the hallway–an image borrowed from Diane Arbus.) A cheeky comment on the audience’s latent bloodlust? That seems a reasonable interpretation. But there are numerous other ways t could be interpreted, and convincingly, I’m sure. From the little I know about Kubrick, he had a lot of problems with the book, and he must have wanted to dress it up with a deeper context and, as part of that, may have added a few historical allusions such as those you cite. But, though you make an interesting case, I just can’t see Kubrick methodically creating a connect-the-dots allegory, like a kind of intellectual scavenger hunt to be played by cinephiles and liberal-arts majors.

A little while ago, I had a long talk with a friend in which this exchange came up, and he said, about the notion that the horrors of the Holocaust couldn’t be addressed directly, “Well, it’s been done—and very successfully. Alain Resnais did it with Night and Fog, and it’s only twenty minutes long.” My friend is far brainier than me. He added that Kubrick seems to be a favorite of grad-school thesis writers, who knock themselves out to explain what he really meant by such and such. David Lynch is another filmmaker who inspires that kind of treatment. Funny that others similarly quirky or evasive are ignored.

But back to Salinger. Though a very good writer, I simply don’t ascribe the monumental importance to him that you do. I think he was part of a wave that also included his contemporaries, the Beats, who were similarly interested in questions of, as you put it, spirituality versus materialism. They, along with Salinger, helped to popularize Buddhism. But Salinger could never entirely cut his ties to the bourgeois life, as did the Beats. For me, that’s the critical difference. Kerouac’s characters are wildly exploring new ways of living: roaming like nomads, and doing drugs, and fucking with abandon. Salinger’s characters stay true to their middle-class upbringing, and spiritual questions are apt to result in crippling depression, as with Frannie Glass, or, as with her brother Seymour, even suicide. They’re closer in that way to the characters of Updike and Cheever. Holden Caulfield postures at rebellion, but he returns to the fold, and narrates his story from the institution where his parents have placed him, the better to help, or force, him to adjust. And will he adjust? Well, one thing’s for sure: he’s not going to move downtown and hang out with the Beats, who, again, were exploring ideas of spirituality similar to Salinger’s, anticipating the youth movement of the sixties in which many of them participated, while Salinger retired to a nice house in the country and took smitten English majors as mistresses. But he absolutely had an influence that I would argue is no more and no less important than the influence of the Beats and rock stars—the Beatles and Dylan—who were the Beats’ spiritual children. Meantime, if you’re right that “adult society wondered if young people knew something they didn’t,” that was the product of a gestalt of which Salinger was a part, but not, as I see it, the crucial spark.

Warhol, meantime, is a whole other can of worms that I can’t for the moment open. But we’re in complete agreement about Jane Fonda. She was something. And she’s still a looker — but is that enough to forgive her brother? Oh, hell, why not? Besides, there are far worse crimes than being wood.

On I solemnly march to 300 — unless I’m mortally wounded by the Didion.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-06 02:32:57

Um, Brin? Guess what happened while you were sleeping?

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Comment by Brin Friesen
2009-08-06 05:34:47

!!!!!!!!!! What the fuck, Mr. Top of the Pile. Awesome.

 
Comment by Brin Friesen
2009-08-06 05:42:24

Didion has gone limp at the new top dog of comments.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-26 11:22:01

Some would say she’s limp already. I wouldn’t.

 
 
Comment by Melissa
2009-08-07 20:39:31

Your words continue to make me smile, laugh, frown, feel deep sadness and anger. In my younger days, I too had a fascination with Indians and the desire to say I had been bitten by a snake. Maybe it is a Virginia thing! I never got bit by the snake but I did have a great battle with 2 doberman police dogs! I truly look forward to reading more from you.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-08 22:34:01

Thanks, Melissa.

I had a battle with a pit bull once, but I somehow managed to avoid getting bit. But if you’re right about an interest in Indians having something to do with being from Virginia, I wonder at the connection. Virginia Indians were quickly decimated once the English took up residence. That was one reason I disliked my home state as a child: I wanted to live someplace with a more colorful history in the Indian department — Montana, say.

 
 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-09 14:07:22

Three hundred six four
Now it’s three hundred six five
It goes on and on…

(That’s the last haiku on this post. promise. )

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-13 04:52:19

Three hundred six six
When you’ve got haiku fever
It’s so hard to stop.

Comment by Zara
2009-08-13 15:46:00

Is it serious?
Will haiku fever kill me?
Can you cure me, Duke?

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-13 21:28:41

At a distance, yes,
as I sent you chicken soup
in a note online

Oh, and one more for tipping me over 100, yet again:

What luck you bring me!
Is it effort or magic,
or do you not know?

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-13 21:33:20

Okay.

chicken soup is good
but won’t cure haiku fever
something else required

and

Yes, it is magic
too lazy for much effort
just call me Zhaman

(like Shaman except with a Z.. oh you get it, I’m sure)

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-15 09:05:06

Two haikus by Zed.
Do I answer the first or
the second instead?

I’ll answer them both
in two haikus, tit for tat,
running back to back.

Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-15 12:33:52

I just penned a page
of linked haiku’s as poem
one day you’ll read it.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-18 00:13:40

When? That’s the question.
You know I love your haikus.
And linked? I’m intrigued.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-18 00:20:19

It’s a good question.
It’s a work of art if I
may say so myself.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-18 00:27:27

Well, if you say so,
it surely has to be so.
Correct? Yes or no.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-18 00:32:13

I think it is so.
but the better judge is you.
one day you’ll decide.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-18 00:38:02

I’m decided now.
You aren’t one to use a word
like art without cause.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-18 00:40:54

I hate odd numbers
and i can’t resist haiku
I am caught like fish.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-18 00:47:37

An odd fish I am
and so make odd numbers,
catching all I can.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-18 00:50:28

You force me to write
to change odd back to even
you know I’m helpless.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-18 00:54:57

And so you remain,
as odd as me in your way,
helplessly writing.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-18 00:57:37

it’s the haiku drug
i am a hopeless addict
I’m off to rehab.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-18 01:25:03

And I’m soon to bed.
Three hundred and eighty-five:
a good odd number?

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-18 22:56:20

It’s three eight seven
remedied by a haiku
three eight eight better.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-19 11:07:40

Your remedy worked.
And this board grows longer like
Pinocchio’s nose.

 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-19 11:20:23

You are just taunting
now. You know I am powerless
to stop. Haiku mad!

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-26 11:15:10

Crazy, isn’t it?
Not just you and your haikus
but the whole damned board.

 
 
 
 
Comment by chrissa
2009-08-18 09:32:42

Wow, so whatever I was going to say I’ve long forgotten as I became lost in your after commentary of which I was entralled.

I haven’t read you before, which was surely unfortunate on my part.

I love how you tell a story.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-18 11:09:41

Why, thank you, Chrissa.

But surely you didn’t read all of the commentary. Some sort of prize would have to be given, if so — possibly a compass. I myself might require one to navigate my way through this particular board. Madness!

Comment by chrissa
2009-08-19 08:16:47

Oh, but I did. Mostly.

Okay, 75% of it anyway.

Which, by golly, was a lot.

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-19 10:56:08

One compass, coming right up!

It’ll be a broken compass, naturally, befitting the madness.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Brin
2009-08-24 09:50:08

I mean seriously, it would be nice if you could write something that would at least have a faint hope in hell of promoting a little discussion.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-26 11:20:39

Yeah, I’m lazy.

Rich Ferguson is another D’Ambrosio fan, by the way, as I just learned when Rich and I drove up to Bakersfield for a Nick event.

 
 
Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-26 10:55:02

This board is crazy
from Russ Crowe to HST
covered lots of ground.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-26 11:17:50

Harry S. Truman
is another HST.
Why not cover him?

Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-26 11:40:32

Alas, I don’t know
my American Hist’ry
well enough for that.

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Comment by Zara Potts
2009-08-26 11:43:06

But for the record
this board is now historic
A magnum opus.

 
Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-26 11:52:24

You did it again:
pushed me to a new record.
History indeed.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Brin Friesen
2009-08-26 18:36:55

Hooray.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-08-31 00:56:40

Indeed, as you said earlier.

I think a comment other than yours was recently added, but I can’t for the life of me find it. Bloody hell, how could anyone find something on this board?

 
 
Comment by Jessica Anya Blau
2009-08-31 13:40:38

Beautifully written. Horrifying story. I don’t have the patience to read through everyone else’s comments, so maybe this has been asked already: When did you realize what had really gone down with the master Elk man? Years later? Months later? The day you sat down to write the post? Did your mother read this?

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-09-01 01:13:13

I wouldn’t expect you, Jessica, or anyone else to read through the entire board. It goes off on numerous tangents, as you might expect.

I don’t know when, exactly, I realized what had happened with Bobby, but it was years later, though not recently. And funny that you ask about my mom, because a few days ago I discussed this piece with her, though, no, she hasn’t read it. I’d called to ask a few questions with regard to my latest piece — if, for instance, she remembered the name of the teacher I had for most of the first grade (she didn’t) — and I mentioned Bobby and the camp and all that, which she remembered at once. She said she had a “funny feeling” when she saw the letter and pictures he sent, but she figured I’d tell her if something really bad had occurred. We both speculated as to what had become of Bobby, but that’s something we’ll almost certainly never know.

I’m glad you liked the writing. I think highly of yours.

 
 
Comment by PHM
2009-09-01 00:25:00

I think you’d have easily made some money off this by selling it to Nerve.com. Keep that in mind, dude…

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-09-01 00:36:27

Oh. Okay. Never occurred to me, obviously. Thanks for the thought.

 
 
Comment by sheree
2009-09-01 15:49:01

The stories I could tell but not in public. I ended up in the latter part of my life taking a job monitoring pedophiles released from state hospitals. I lasted nine months. Long enough to learn what I needed to about them to make peace with a childhood that almost broke me mentally. I was never molested because I was always way more trouble than I was worth. My level of violence came natural at an early age. I’m not proud of that fact about me but I am grateful as hell for the level of violence i was capable of early on. It saved my ass many a time in my youth.

Your post angers me beyond words. Not because you wrote it after living it but because it happened to you.

Your a brilliant writer.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-09-02 03:52:11

Thanks, Sheree. Maybe, if my parents ever read your comment, it’ll justify their belief that I was a brilliant child. They’ve probably since reconsidered.

I was violent in some ways as a kid — or aggressive is maybe a better word — but it never occurred to me that this guy had designs on me, so my defenses were down. Technically, however, he didn’t molest me, though I was molested by family members, whom I’ve forgiven, since they were teenagers at the time (I was around eight), and I honestly don’t think they knew what they were doing.

I’ve just written and struck a few sentenes of explanation, because I don’t think it’s a good idea to put it out there. There are limits to what even I‘m willing to post publicly, and I’ll generally talk — or write — about anything.

Comment by sheree
2009-09-02 09:05:38

Heh I know the feeling. Sometimes I am way too much information and other times I am a clam in deep waters where not even a burp leaves my mouth. I’ve had to learn to reel it in over the last couple of years. I went from utter silence to yaking my head off. I geuss I just got tired of keeping those dark secrets. Some of them I didnt remember until I was an adult. A long story I plan on blogging someday. Anyway thanks for chatting with me. I really do like your work and find you to be a decent sort of human. Cheers to living!

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Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-09-02 13:20:00

I’ll drink to that. And I try with the “decent” thing. I try hard, in fact.

Your comment about silence giving way to yakking reminds me of something Camille Paglia said of herself. She was apparently a quiet kid, which many would find difficult to believe, given how notorious she became for shooting her mouth off.

Let me know when you blog that particular story, and any other. And the thanks, and the pleasure, is all mine.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Sirje
2009-09-25 13:06:48

I’ve nothing insightful or technical to say, other than I really enjoyed reading this. Love your voice, vivid, just aggressive, and snakey. Whatever snakey means.

Comment by D.R. Haney
2009-09-30 05:30:12

I think I understand your meaning, Sirje. And interesting that you also say “aggressive,” because I think that’s there as well.

I appreciate the read, just as I appreciate mention of the piece on TNB’s Facebook page that may or may not have led you to it. That isn’t often done with archived stuff.

 
 
2017-02-25 23:58:35

An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who
had been conducting a little homework on this.
And he actually bought me lunch due to the fact that I found it for him…
lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this topic here on your site.

 
2017-04-08 01:52:42

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Your website offered us with useful information to work on. You’ve done a formidable task and
our whole neighborhood will likely be grateful to you.

 
2017-04-09 17:22:13

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