Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Conversation in a Lounge, 1970

25ish Chick: "What interesting books have you read lately?"

Donnie (yours truly), age 29: "The French Lieutenant's Woman."

25C: "Oh, that was a wonderful read!"

Enthused Donnie to 35ish Future Boss: "Did you read it?"

Future Boss: "Yes."

Donnie, to Chick and Future Boss: "Which ending did you prefer?"

Lying Future Boss: "What do you mean which ending? How many endings can a book have?"

Amused Donnie: "Wrong book to lie about reading."

Disgusted Chick to Donnie: "Let's go get something to eat."

In defense of my future boss, Jack, he couldn't help it - his lying was pathological. Seriously, it was. (I've only met one other pathological liar, a young woman whom I loved - from a distance - for her entertainment value.)

During the six or seven years that I knew him, Jack made the following claims:

  • He was seduced by a nun at age eleven.
  • He had been a member of the Italian Olympic Skeet Shooting Team.
  • He had participated in voodoo rites in Jamaica.
  • He had been kicked out of medical school in his senior year for punching a professor.
  • He and Dustin Hoffman had shared an apartment in Boston.

There were many others, but there's little chance I'll remember them all. I once made a written list of them, and it came to a double digit number.

At one time I thought that he came to believe the lies he told, and that may have been the case with some of them. But it was certainly not the case with all the lies. One day, for no discernible reason, he reintroduced the subject of Dustin Hoffman, this time saying that he and Hoffman were good friends, " . . . to the point that when he was in town he would stay at my apartment."

I silently noted the transition from sharing an apartment to visiting, and wondered what caused it. It turned out that Jack was a Playboy subscriber, and he knew what was coming. Not long thereafter I was in a drug store and when I walked by the magazine rack I saw Dustin Hoffman's name on the Playboy cover. Jack's conversational tidbit popped into my mind and I snagged the magazine and later read the interview. Sure enough, there was sufficient detail about Hoffman's life that the "sharing an apartment" lie wouldn't stand up. Jack had begun covering his tracks in case anyone read the article and put two and two together.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Memories of My Father

  • My father used two expressions to demonstrate exasperation with my brother and me: "Jesus wept!" was used when we did something stupid but were too young to know better and "Goddamn kid!" was used when we did something stupid even though we did know better.

    Dad and I never could do anything together in the way of manual labor without ending up convulsed with laughter. This sometimes occurred with other things as well, but always occurred when there was physical exertion, such as heavy lifting. We would lift a bed, a bench, a dresser, and get two feet down a hallway or a sidewalk and begin laughing. We would try to keep moving but in no time at all we were helpless. We could not laugh and hold the weight. It might take four or five tries to get the object to its destination. During one of those tries I would hear him say, "Goddamn kid!" and I would collapse again.

  • Dad was "handy," but I am not. He could fix cars, shingle roofs, whatever, whereas my practical skills are limited to changing the filler in a ball point pen. On a good day.

    (As an aside: I actually knew a man - a colleague - who was more helpless than I. In his middle age he married a European woman who could do anything. At one point she went to Europe for a couple of weeks to visit relatives. While she was gone a light bulb burned out and he called her in Europe to ask what to do about it.)

    Dad had remarried (my parents divorced when I was in the sixth grade) and lived in the boondocks. One day, when I was perhaps 30, I visited them, and he grabbed me and hustled me up to the roof to assist in some reshingling. I could not imagine why he thought I would be useful, but it turned out that the plan was for me to pass him tools, shingles, etc., while he did the actual work.

    I swear, we were not on that roof two minutes before we were both laughing hysterically and hanging on to the roof's peak in order to avoid sliding off.

    "Goddamn kid!"

  • I was perhaps six years old. It was a Saturday and my parents were going to have adult company that evening. My father announced that he was going to drive downtown to a "package store." My folks were not drinkers and there was no liquor in the house, so I didn't know what a package store was, but I knew what a drive downtown with my dad was and I asked if I might go with him.

    We climbed into Old Betsy, the 1939 Chevy, and I got to ride shotgun, which was a rare treat. It was no more than a ten minute ride to town. Dad parked the car along the curb and went into a store, returning a moment later with something in a brown paper bag. He set it on the seat between us and began the drive home.

    "What's in the bag?"

    "Adult Pepsi-Cola."

  • I was back from the Army, and my dad and I were visiting my dad's mother and aunt, my grandmother and great aunt, both of whom loved to play Scrabble.

    At some point Dad was playing the game with one of them. I was reading a book when I heard him say, "Donnie, how many effs are there in 'pontiff?'"

    I said, "Two," and stood up to look over his shoulder at his tiles, which were P O N T I F U. I continued, "'Pontifu,' however, has only one."

    "Goddamn kid."

  • Early in my grammar school years, perhaps around the time of the second grade, I acquired for a brief period an obnoxious habit, a sort of oral nervous tic. Whenever I said anything or anyone said anything to me, I would repeat the end of the sentence under my breath. under my breath

    I recall that I did it for several weeks, but the only conversation I remember was with my father.

    "Donnie, come here a minute." come here a minute

    "Stop that!" stop that

    "Stop what?" stop what

    "Goddamn kid!" Goddamn kid

Blog Introduction

I thought I might tell you a little about the blog and my self-imposed guidelines and rules for posting.

I am in my anecdotage, and in general the site is about things that I have witnessed and things that have happened to me, not about things that are happening now. Typically, I will post something because I hope you will find it amusing or otherwise interesting. I might occasionally post an opinion - or even a rant - about something current, but this will not be a political blog or a blog with an agenda other than that of telling my stories.

I am not going to use asterisks or anything else to indicate that the names I use for people are not their real names, because most of the names I use will not be real names. Exceptions will be noted unless the people are or were famous. Place names, however, will be genuine. I'll take the name Donnie Richards before anyone else snags it.

Anecdotes will not appear in chronological order for any number of reasons: I'm sure that if I took that approach then I would remember and want to post about some things long after their time slots passed; I don't want to focus too long on one period of my life because of the risk that it might drive away some who just aren't interested in the subjects covered for that period; and I want the ability to post a few times in a row about some subjects which span a number of years, and that would throw the chronology all out of kilter when I abandoned those subjects. When it comes to time, we'll be hopping back and forth.

That's true of subjects too. Often enough there will be no segue connecting two posts regarding entirely different subjects. Although necessarily biographical in nature, this blog is not intended to be a complete biography, but only to present interesting or humorous scenes from my life.

It seems to me that you would have to be very sensitive indeed to be offended by anything I intend to post, but . . . my life has been less that of a saint than that of a sinner; still, I've never been evil. I've never committed a crime more serious than smoking the occasional joint, a habit I have not yet abandoned and I speculate that I never shall. For several decades my personal life was more promiscuous than it should have been. There were a couple of periods during which I drank too much, not for the sake of drinking but because of the people I ran with and the places we went.

Language in my posts will contain some vulgarity from time to time, including - yes - the "f" word, but it will not be rabidly coarse. Relationships, affairs, even one night stands might be discussed, but there will be no bedroom scenes.

Are the anecdotes true? You bet. But . . .

  • They stretch back as far as sixty years. In some (many? most? all?) cases the edges may have been smoothed by the passage of time.

  • There is some embellishment of course, but nothing outrageous. In a very few cases I have changed characters around a bit to make a story more coherent. To the extent that it would be possible, complete accuracy would require complex explanations of who people were and how they came to be in particular stories. I'm going to avoid "complex explanations" like the plague. It's the flavor that I'm after, not historical footnotes.

I have followed several blogs and for me the single most annoying thing about them has been their irregularity: you might see posts two or three days in a row followed by a ten or fifteen day gap. I've watched as the bloggers began to lose interest in the blogs, posting less and less frequently, and then not at all. I hope and expect to post here twice a week and for a long time to come. Barring acts of God I will post for at least a year, as I have taken the precaution of compiling a supply of one hundred posts before activating this blog. No promises, but I will try to post each Sunday and Wednesday.

With that I bid you welcome.