Thursday, June 30, 2016

FAREWELL TO JUNE



 Sunrise today, with morning fog


Many thanks to everyone who appreciated my previous post, Wild Ride. And thanks to everyone who didn't appreciate it. What the heck - - I'm in a rare good mood today.

There's something that has been bothering me about my previous post. It has to do with the part where I said that Nancy and I removed the back seat of the Camaro through the trunk of the car. It didn't make any sense to me.

The incident happened long ago, when we were teens. My memory has since been clouded by booze and hard living. After I posted the story on my blog I kept thinking about it.
Then! Suddenly! Last night at around 3:00 a.m. I remembered!

My cousin Nancy didn't lock her keys in the car. She locked them in the trunk! We removed the back seat to get into the trunk.
Note: I just revised Wild Ride and made the correction.


I happened to stop over at Nancy's house today and she mentioned my blog and confirmed the back seat incident. She also said that the guy who worked at the stables helped us with our effort to remove the seat.

I've always kept very detailed diaries, and I also wrote down all of my youthful adventures with Nancy in a notebook. Unfortunately, these were all lost by the movers when I came to Tennessee.  Now I only have my rapidly deteriorating memory to rely on.

The past few days have been gorgeous - - but rain is predicted for the weekend, Independence Day (Monday), and most of next week. It's no exaggeration when I always say that Tennessee is the most rainy place I've ever been. That's why I've given up on maintaining the weeds. They would have to be cut at least three times a week. My feeble efforts are constantly thwarted by torrential downpours.

I drove into town today to buy some necessities before the chaos of the upcoming holiday weekend. Everything went alarmingly smoothly, which makes me suspicious. As an avowed pessimist, I always worry when things go well. It's not normal.

But, as usual, I did forget one thing on my list of supplies. I got beer and cat food, toilet paper and cat litter, milk, bread, even a watermelon.....

.....but I forgot to get lemon juice, which I desperately need.

Why don't you just use fresh lemons, Jon?

Hey, Pancho - - did you ever try to find a fresh lemon in rural Tennessee? It's easier to find a Gay Pride Parade. Besides, I'm not in the mood to cut and squeeze anything. Who do you think I am - Julia Child?

My entire life revolves around a large bottle of lemon juice, reconstituted (whatever that means).
Well, that and a keg of beer.
I drank a few beers today to mellow out. 

My cousin Nancy's daughter moved back in with her for awhile. Nancy's daughter is a parrot connoisseur. I'm not joking. She moved her entire pandemonium of parrots into my cousin's house.
I'm almost positive that a group of parrots is called a pandemonium of parrots. In any case, any large number of parrots can definitely cause pandemonium.....

Anyway, I counted about seven parrots - all beautiful birds in huge, gorgeous cages: cockatoos, cockatiels, a macaw, a Senegal.
I recognized the Senegal immediately because I used to have one. It lived twenty years....and then had a tragic, accidental death. It still upsets me to think of it. Someday, I might write about it.  

The parrots are all fantastic - - but my cousin Nancy is a much more tolerant soul than I am. My three cats are enough to drive me to the brink of bonkers. 

Living with a pandemonium of parrots could turn a vegetarian into a killer and a meat eater.

Ponder that for awhile. It might get funny. Then again, maybe it won't.

Farewell to June??
Yup. Tomorrow is July.    



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

WILD RIDE





My cousin Nancy and I are the same age. Well, actually I'm five months older. Our mothers were sisters (both now deceased). Nancy grew up in New Jersey and I was raised in Southern California. Despite the span of three thousand miles, we always shared a close bond - more like siblings than cousins.

Now - at this late point in our lives - we both live in Tennessee (only a few miles from each other), and we enjoy remembering the youthful adventures we shared.

 Sixteen years old

I always savored the summers that I spent in New Jersey, staying with my aunt and uncle. It was like a prison break - - being away from my father and all the trauma, chaos, and stress he constantly caused. The freedom was exhilarating.

My cousin Nancy and I shared an inherent knack for courting adventure and getting into various degrees of trouble. On this subject alone I could write a book.

This story doesn't necessarily pertain to trouble, but rather it's about a ride I'll never forget. We were sixteen years old that summer.

Nancy always loved horses and is an expert rider. She rode very frequently when she lived in New Jersey. The closest I ever got to a horse was watching Gunsmoke on TV.

It was inevitable that she'd ask me to go riding. I suppressed my intense apprehension and summoned the paltry portion of machoism that I kept on the bottom of my Keds tennis shoes.

"I'd love to!" I said, while visions of my obituary raced through my head - Headline: California Kid Clobbered in Colossal Riding Catastrophe.

My fear was momentarily sidetracked when we got to the stables and Nancy accidentally locked her keys in the trunk of the car. Actually, it wasn't her car. It was her parent's treasured Camaro -- which was more sacred to the family than the gigantic Catholic Bible they kept stashed in the dining room closet.

After exhausting every conceivable attempt to extract the keys without damaging the car, we resorted to one final desperate ploy: removing the back seat.

How exactly we removed the back seat I can't remember - - but after some laborious maneuvering, the seat finally popped out and we had access to the trunk.

Putting the back seat together again was a challenge worthy of minds far more sophisticated than our own. After an hour of agony (or so it seemed) we completed the task.

  Our inept handiwork didn't go unnoticed. Ever since then, every time the car was used, the back seat would slowly but steadily pop out and had to be forcefully pushed back. My aunt and uncle never knew why.


  But I've sidetracked my story.

We eventually made it to the riding trails, and I  managed to mount a horse. In consideration of my apprehension and minimal riding experience, I was given a horse aptly named Mule. To say that he had been ridden by General George McClellan during the Civil War might be a slight exaggeration - but nevertheless, Mule was undeniably old. He was also slow, gentle, and clockwork predictable - - which suited my timid riding personality.

I won't mention the painful saddle sores that inflicted my tender virgin ass during our early evening rides. I will say that I eventually got used to Mule and enjoyed our rides on the trail.....

....until the fateful day when Mule was suddenly incapacitated. I don't exactly remember why he was unavailable, but I vividly remember the substitute horse with which I was provided. His name was Pal - - and a more inappropriate name for a miserable mount was never devised.

Pal was not only mercilessly stubborn, he could instantly sense that an inexperienced sissy was in the saddle. And he was determined to make my equestrian experience as unbearable as possible.

He stopped when I wanted to go. He went when I tried to stop. He deliberately maneuvered his stride into an unpredictable clumsy pace, which elevated the pain of my saddle sores to new levels.

Halfway along the trail was a house where an old lady lived who hated horses and their riders. On previous occasions, every time Nancy and I rode by, she would inevitably come out of the house and scream at us to keep away from her flowers.

She had a large and very impressive-looking flowerbed at the front of her property. We did our best to avoid it at all costs.

Pal, as if eagerly sensing an invitation of danger, stopped by the flowerbed and began nibbling the begonias. When I frantically tried to pull him away, he ventured farther into the vast roadside bouquet and greedily chomped every flower within reach. I panicked.

"Nancy!" I yelled. "What should I do?"

My cousin jumped off her horse and took my reins - but Pal was obstinate, even with an expert. He refused to obey Nancy and wouldn't budge from the midst of the fragrant blooms.

Fortunately, the old lady didn't seem to be around. I figured either she wasn't home, or she saw us from the window and dropped dead.  

After Pal had his fill of flowers, I desperately tried to steer him back to the trail but he had other ideas. He headed for the open door of the old lady's garage and went right in! Fear turned into shock as Pal and I were suddenly occupying the empty place next to a big Oldsmobile.

It took a Herculean amount of persuasive power to finally, somehow, maneuver Pal back onto the trail. After completely trampling the flowerbed and touring the garage, he seemed a little more calm and agreeable. I actually felt confident enough to retrieve a cigarette from my pocket and light up (smokes were one of our secret pleasures).

When Pal suddenly stopped and reared up on his hind legs, I choked on my smoke and realized I was in big trouble. Before I could get my breath, the horse did a quick about face and --Hi-Yo Silver!-- we were off!

In my wildest cowboy fantasy, I never dreamed a horse could gallop so fast. We were racing back towards the stables at breakneck speed - bounding over rocks and ruts, leaping over bushes, and zooming past dangerously close trees.

"Nancy!" I shrieked in an alarmingly high falsetto. "How do I stop him?"

Nancy was now very far behind me, but I could hear her shouting "Pull the reins! Pull the reins!"

I pulled - and the harder I pulled, the faster Pal went. I was eventually pulling so hard that his head was all the way back and I could see his denture work.

The cigarette blew out of my mouth, my feet slipped from the stirrups, and I was clutching Pal for dear life as I repeatedly ducked to avoid being decapitated by low overhanging tree branches.  

When I glanced ahead and saw the tall fence that surrounded the stables, my pathetically brief life flashed before my eyes. If I wasn't so terrified I would have screamed - -  my scream was merely a silent gesture of farewell.

I opened my eyes after enduring a hard and sudden thump and saw a cloud of dust. We had successfully leaped over the fence and were now galloping toward the barn. I didn't have time to thank God that the door was open. In another instant we were inside, in total darkness, and Pal didn't stop until we nearly plunged into the opposite wall.

I slid off of that horse onto skinny legs that were weaker than two strands of spaghetti. I was shaking like a pansy in a zephyr and it took all my effort to emerge from the barn.

Nancy was there - - unquestionably concerned but erupting in convulsive laughter. After realizing that I was still alive and reasonably intact, I started laughing, too. 

If any event in my life could have been captured on film, that ride with Pal would be my first choice. It was far beyond priceless.

Did it dissuade me from ever riding again? Not much. A few days later Nancy and I were on the trail again - - and I was safely back on Mule

 Nancy still rides here in Tennessee.
So far, I haven't. 



 

Monday, June 27, 2016

SELF-PORTRAIT




A postscript to my previous post:
Now that I'm sober, I've assessed my previous blog post and have some misgivings about writing it. There are times when I think I'm hysterically funny and in retrospect I'm probably not.

There are also times when I come across as being arrogant, rude, and full of myself (as my critics have pointed out). I've bitched about the people who have abandoned my blog - - yet, some of them probably had plausible reason for leaving. Not everyone understands or appreciates my unique and enigmatic personality (and "unique" doesn't always mean good).

On a positive note, my previous post enabled me to reconnect with the guy in Montana, and (as I had already surmised) he's a very decent dude. My criticism of him was harsh and - although it was done in jest -  might have been over the top.

And I reconnected with someone else, who I always knew deep down was a genuine sweetheart.

Much of what I write on my blog is definitely over the top. Everything I write is genuine and from my heart (yes, I have one) but my words sometimes have dangerously sharp edges. Many unsuspecting strangers don't understand me - or my caustic humor. I can't blame them.

Does this mean I'm going to change and turn over a new leaf? Hell, no. Not a chance. What you see is what you get. My only regret is that some people don't "get it".

As I've said many previous times, this blog is one of the few places where I can be myself and say what I think. I've spent the best part of my life catering to others and bending over backwards to please. It didn't get me anywhere - - and it didn't make people have any more respect for me. I'm finally being true to myself.

I learned at an early age to feign toughness and to wear a mask of defiance and defense. I assumed an attitude of hurting others before they hurt me. 

I'm not fond of using excuses or giving sob stories of heartbreak and victimization, but I will say this:
I survived the agony of an abusive father who beat the living shit out of me and delighted in tearing my confidence to shreds. He nearly destroyed my life - and later I continued destroying it myself.

I survived the streets of L.A. and Hollywood, where I learned to wear a mask of toughness and indifference that was in complete contrast to my genuine self. 

I embarked on a long dark journey of rampant self-destruction, self-hatred, and the  solace of sex, alcohol, and other devices of escape. Later (and astonishingly) my work as a published writer and professional pianist did absolutely nothing to buoy my confidence.

My adverse reaction to criticism has always been my very greatest weakness. Actually, I can tolerate constructive criticism, but let's face it - 95% of all criticism is intended to hurt.

After enduring a lifetime of ruthlessly devastating criticism from my father, my initial reaction is to lash out in fury and fierce defense. My underlying vulnerability is intense - - a wound that never healed.

Perhaps my over the top reaction to people who abandoned my blog stems from ancient ghosts that continue to haunt me. Abandonment. Rejection. Ridicule, criticism, indifference.
Life - and the impact it has on us - works in very strange ways.

I'm not a philosopher or a psychiatrist. The older I get, the less I understand.
I only know that - for better or worse - my words are always a reflection of myself. I enjoy writing them - and it's satisfying to know that you accept them
and sometimes enjoy them
or at least tolerate them.  

Jon 

  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

AN ODE TO THOSE WHO LEFT ME







Warning: this post was written while I was drunk and might be offensive to sober people.

 Is this going to be about your ex-lovers, Jon?

No, Kemo Sabe. If I ever wrote about my ex-lovers it would easily be a 10,000 page manifesto. This is an ode to all the readers who abandoned my blog.

You've already done that subject to death, Jonathan. It's old news. Nobody cares.

The subject entertains me and irritates my readers. What more could I ask for? Besides, I just drank two or six beers and can feel a sudden burst of literary inspiration.
Or maybe it's only gastroesophagal reflux.

Anyway, it's no secret that within the past few months numerous readers have abandoned my blog (for trivial and petty reasons, but that's beside the point).

Since nearly all of these disgruntled ex-patriots still leave comments on other blogs that I frequent, I'm wondering if there is any special form of blogging etiquette on how I should handle the awkward situation.

No entiendo, senor.

To put it bluntly, I feel very uncomfortable leaving comments on blogs that are frequented by people who hate me. Should I expound?

Not really.

There's one particular lady who's comment addicted. She leaves comments on every blog I've ever seen.  She's generally a sweet, loving, considerate person - and she used to be a faithful reader of my blog, until I happened to mention my disdain for Hillary Clinton. 

This must have coincided with a menopausal chemical imbalance or something, because she completely freaked, lashed out with the fury of a tigress, and dropped me like a newly microwaved burrito.

Problem is - every time I leave a comment on someone's blog, her comment always pops up right next to mine. It's an uncanny coincidence. I've tried leaving comments on blogs that  she doesn't read, in order to avoid her. But - no matter where I go - her comments inevitably appear simultaneously with mine. It's spooky. Should I stop leaving comments on all blogs?

Why don't you just chill out and ignore her, Jon? She probably doesn't even remember you. Few people do.

I'm going to politely ignore that snide remark.

Then there's the old European lady who's a "serious" writer (or so she claims) and a tedious stuffed shirt. She could be Queen Victoria's evil reincarnation. This old broad used to like my blog and occasionally (and reluctantly, I think) admitted that I had an uncanny ability to toss words together. Then one day I wrote a political rant which caused her to go ballistic. She finally found her true tongue and used it to lash me soundly.

After inflicting an enthusiastic chastisement, she told me that I was extremely rude and completely insensitive to people.....and advised me (I am NOT kidding) to take sensitivity training classes!!

I'll have you know that "Sensitivity" is my middle name. I am extremely  compassionate, caring, loving, sympathetic, and wholeheartedly sensitive to the feelings of others. And I'm always tactful.

What did I have to say to her?

Blow it out your ass, grandma!!



 Rats fleeing my blog


I think everybody in Blogland knows about that old man who lives in the desert. He's a blogger and he hates EVERYBODY and EVERYTHING (should "every thing" be one word or two??). 

He's constantly bitching about other people's blogs. When he started following my blog I was admittedly very worried. If this guy hated normal people's blogs, what the hell would he think of mine?

In all my years of blogging I've never felt intimidated by a reader. This old cougar scared the living japoozies out of me. I was afraid to write anything.

I just made "japoozies" up. Nothing racial or radical is intended.

When he bluntly informed me that he hates poetry and complaints, I totally panicked. Holy shit - - my entire life consists of poetry and complaints.
He finally abandoned me - - and I breathed an extended sigh of immense relief.
The desert heat does strange things.....

And how about that man from Montana? He has health problems, but - what the hell - so do I. That doesn't give me the right to trash other people's blogs.

This guy used to leave COLD comments on my blog. I could actually feel the chill. They were more frigid than a Montana December.
One day he suddenly informed me that he had read over 100 of my blog posts (no, I'm not joking) and he concluded that I'm completely "full of myself". All I do is talk about myself - - and (get this) I congratulate myself at the end of every post!

I don't know what medications this dude is ingesting, but I haven't "congratulated" myself since Napoleon was in diapers.

And, quite frankly, if I ever read 100 of my own blog posts it would probably drive me to suicide. Believe it or not, I very often hate what I write after rereading it. Really.
BTW - read the comments on this post. There is a happy ending - - a truce between me and Montana!

I won't mention the trio of readers who abruptly abandoned my other blog Cabinet of Curious Treasures
All three were "offended" by my homoerotic implications. 

Hey, I'm almost always halfheartedly careful about the things I post. I try to be tasteful (with great difficulty - but I try, nevertheless). If my readers are homophobic, perhaps they should go to a more benign and wholesome retreat - - like Peewee Herman's Playhouse.

You're good, Jon. Perhaps you should write a Hollywood screenplay.

The real ass kicker is the latest lady who abandoned my blog. She used to love me. She even pimped my blog a few times (nothing sexual, for those of you in Des Moines). She is intelligent, has a great sense of humor, and loves cats. Could I ask for more? Everything was going as smooth as a Dairy Queen Blizzard.....


......until I favorably mentioned Donald Trump and the NRA - - both of which she loathes with pathological intensity. She blew up like the engine in a '59 Edsel.
And, of course, she dropped me like a used condom in an Adult Bookstore parking lot.

Intense visual supplements are my specialty.

I regret that she's gone and will genuinely miss her. Perhaps one day, when she finally sobers up, she'll realize her big mistake.

Curiously, none of my gay readers have abandoned me. Well, not yet, anyway. Give it time. That's because gays have compassion. And impeccable good taste.

It's a rare thing to find a blogger who is interesting, intelligent, witty, and  colorful. Not to mention cute. And who isn't petty enough to abandon anyone  simply because of a silly disagreement.

I was talking about myself, in case you didn't know. 

Actually, I'm delighted when people abandon my blog.  It neatly eliminates the insincere and narrow-minded. I don't need those kinds of lightweights in my life. I cherish sincerity.

If anyone else wants to abandon my blog, feel free to go. The loss will be yours, not mine. And you can be sure that I'll feature you and your impudence on a future post.

Wow! You're pressing your luck, Jon! Arrogance, threats, and back alley intimidation will get you nowhere. Nobody likes a bully.

I'm pressing all the right buttons today, Kemo Sabe - - and it has a joyous, purging effect.


You really get a kick out of inflicting verbal retaliation, don't you?

It's almost better than giving a physical kick in the ass. Almost.....

You can't fool me. Janos the Terrible is really just an old softie - - whose bark is far worse than his bite.

An apt observation, Kemo Sabe. But I do occasionally bark and bite. And I'm sure as hell not always soft.

Many exciting implications can be extracted from those simple words, Jon.


  Amigo, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


 ...off into the sunset together....

There. That wasn't too painful, was it?

  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

MY BRUSHES WITH THE DUKE

A YOUNG JOHN WAYNE


I first wrote about this on my old blog Lone Star Concerto. It's not particularly interesting, but I'm rehashing it anyway.

One night, while surfing the web for no plausible reason, I stumbled upon some old photos of Hollywood celebrities. I was stunned to see one particular photo of John Wayne because it was taken the night that I first encountered him - and it was taken while I was standing there, about five feet away. Unfortunately I'm not in the photo - - the photographer was interested in the Duke, not some unknown 18-year-old kid.

I've met a lot of famous people during my adventurous Hollywood years. I also had  brief, casual encounters with others. I saw John Wayne twice. Both times were brief, casual encounters. 

My two brushes with the Duke didn't happen in Hollywood. They occurred in Orange County, where he lived (Wayne lived in Newport Beach).

Just for the record, I've never been a John Wayne fan. Never cared for any of his movies and couldn't remotely relate to his personality - - on screen or off. Seeing him in person didn't generate much excitement on my part. And I doubt if it generated any excitement in the Duke.

My first encounter with Wayne happened when I was eighteen, before I ever went to Hollywood. I was living in Orange County. Sometimes, on warm summer evenings, I'd walk to Knott's Berry Farm (in Buena Park) which was about two miles from where I lived. Hanging out at the "Farm" was a pleasant way to kill a few hours. I'd smoke a few cigarettes, get something to eat, and amuse myself by watching the tourists. Often I'd sit by the antique carousel and listen to the music.

One night it was getting late, near closing time, and I was almost ready to leave. I happened to strike up a conversation with a girl who worked in the Candy Shop. She told me that John Wayne was going to arrive for a private party in the Banquet Hall. "Do you want to go see him?" she asked.

"Sure, why not?"  We walked to the Banquet Hall and waited by the entrance. No one else was there. Only me, the girl, and a couple of photographers from local newspapers.

A long, white limo pulled up and out came John Wayne, his wife Pilar Pallete, their daughter Aissa, and actress Maureen O'Hara. I think Wayne's son Patrick was there, too (well, one of his sons was there).

Wayne was so close to me that I could have easily picked his pocket. He was tall. I'm six-foot-one and he towered over me. Maureen O'Hara was beautiful, all decked out in a green silk gown. She and Wayne were close friends for nearly forty years and they made five films together.

Daughter Aissa kept smiling at me and I would have been flattered - - if it wasn't for the fact that she looked exactly like her father. Picture John Wayne with a long blond wig.

The photographer snapped the photo that I discovered on the Internet. I think it was used in the Orange County Register (I was a proofreader there briefly).



John Wayne and his wife Pilar Pallete.
This is the photo that was taken while I was standing right by them.

My second encounter with Wayne happened about four years later at a party in Newport Beach. I went there with an actor friend and the Duke happened to be one of the guests. My impression of Wayne could be summed up in three words: aloof, gruff, and soused. He was always soused. It seemed to be his trademark. Maureen O'Hara was also there and she was very lovely and gracious. O'Hara  seemed to be the Duke's constant sidekick. It's rumored that they had an affair long ago and I strongly tend to believe it.

Ironically, around the same time, my mother happened to meet John Wayne at an Orange County cocktail party. My Mom was an executive secretary for a top honcho O.C. businessman. He invited her to the cocktail party. My mother generally disliked parties and mindless social gatherings, but she went anyway and she did meet John Wayne. Much like myself, she wasn't particularly impressed.



What do I know about John Wayne? Only the basics. He could be nasty at times, and I've heard a few firsthand stories about his unpleasantness from people who knew him. He was a hardcore drinker. Smoked five packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day. Battled numerous serious illnesses, including lung cancer and a stroke. Suffered fractured ribs and broken limbs while making movies. Wore a hairpiece. Had plastic surgery for eye bags and sagging jowls. Was a staunch Republican and member of the John Birch Society. Believed in conservative values. Real name was Marion Morrison. Nickname came from a dog named Duke that he had as a child.

Wayne holds the record for the actor with the most leading parts in films - - a total of 142.

What have I observed from my personal encounters with Wayne?
One thing for certain, his personality wasn't fake. What you see in his movies is exactly what he was in real life. He wasn't acting. He was merely being himself. I don't think he was ever comfortable with all the Hollywood fluff.

Anyway, that's my take on the Duke.



If you hate this blog, you'll really hate my other one.
Here's the link: 
Cabinet of Curious Treasures