Monday, May 22, 2017

Dogs Life

I am currently sitting in a McDonalds across the street from the Doggie Dental Clinic. I am waiting for Boo to have her teeth cleaned.  With Pet care a $60 billion dollar industry in America (that is with a B - billion) it was only a matter of time before veterinarian specialist would be open up. They have made it as much like a human doctors office as possible.   I could have waited in their lovely waiting room but it reminded me too much of being in a hospital.  
 Nurses in uniform greet you to fill out forms just like the last time you changed doctors.  It was all very professional. Boo is an extremely healthy dog (partly because we have her teeth cleaned on a regular basis) so the questions were mostly answered in the negative.  At one point Boo was being very friendly to the nurse, who said,
"My you are a very sweet boy".  To which I replied,
"Sweet yes and she's a girl". The nurse craned her neck down to look between Boo's hind legs and said,
"Well of course she is".  This would have been the same scientific method I would have used to make that determination.  Who knew I had a natural talent for veterinary medicine.  

It did, however, make me think of the whole issue of transgender identity and states like Texas which are struggling to understand.  Boo is a great example of how much it really doesn't matter.  It happens quite often.  She is a cute dog,  her gender is not really a major factor in her existence. I don't know what gender her inner canine identifies with but I have the feeling she doesn't care.  Her thinking is probably no more complicated than: "Do trick, get treat."  The point is, it doesn't bother her to be identified as a male, even when a trained nurse has to glance at her genitals to affirm she is a biological female.  No one has ever said, "You know Jay's dog Boo? He is really a she." 
So why is it an issue when humans look different than their biological equipment that identifies them.  Unless reproduction is the goal, a human is just a human. 
This has always been an interesting statement to me.  Jesus was asked a question about marriage in heaven.  It seems a man had remarried after his first wife had passed. It was asked, which wife would he be with in heaven.  He said, "They neither marry nor or given in marriage, all are like angels in heaven".  Some other translations say "they are neither male nor female but are like angels in heaven." So.... it would appear that there are no genders in heaven.  Why do we get so concerned here on Earth about gender since for the rest of eternity it doesn't matter?
And I am sure, if there are also dogs in heaven they look exactly like Boo - angels.

As you were,

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sweeney Trump

Every morning when I wake up I check my email.  Most of my business communication revolves around this process. It is the "self employed" way of checking in with the office now-a-days.  That in itself would not be a problem.  I actually like addressing business issues in my bath robe, but this enjoyment has been grossly interrupted by something called "push notices" on my computer.  Like most of us I get headlines for stories of the day in this manner.  They just pop up. Before I have had time to even think about the news of the day, they require that I see them if only to dismiss them. This has proved to be a terrible distraction to my creativity.  

The headlines for the last 110 days have mostly been about the incredible ineptitude of the current government.  I get pissed off and that sour feeling seems to cramp any humor that might be ready to come out later in the day.  I end up writing, not some new show or routine, but a missive tainted by my utter disbelief and anger.  I really thought by now the distraction would settle down, but it hasn't.  Every Presidential tweet, that is reported, inflames my senses.  Each time I see one of those tweets I realize, instead of addressing the Nations needs, the Korean threat, the war in Syria, the war in the Ukraine, the extreme division in the country, filling governmental appointment jobs or just doing the job of the President, Donald Trump is ignoring those duties to craft some 4th grade 140 character snipe. 
Saturday my routine was altered.  I got up early to go participate in the reading of a new play directed by a friend of mine. I didn't have time to even check my emails that morning. No push notices to know what was going on. I didn't turn on any news. By one o'clock I was so energized with the creativity I participated in that my whole day felt, enlightened.  The Muse of art resurfaced and briefly held the "anger demons" at bay.  Suddenly a song became an ear worm and would not go away until I wrote it down.  This is the result of that worm.  I share it with you giving apologies to Steven Sondheim and in homage to Randy Rainbow:

Donald Trump – the Demon in charge of the Whitehouse 
(To the tune of "Sweeney Todd – the Demon Barber of Fleet Street" opening song.)

Attend the tale of Donald Trump
He can’t distinguish his head from his rump
He wanted America great again
But now it’s clear he’ll never begin,
That’s Donald…. Donald Trump.
The dodo in charge of the Whitehouse.

His hair is long and his temper short
He has no income that he’ll report.
He changes his mind in the blink of a eye,
It doesn’t matter, it’s always a lie,
That’s Donald … Donald Trump.
The one that’s ruining the Whitehouse

Swing you golf club high, Donald
Tweet to make them cry, Donald.
If you get into a bind, bomb Syria.

Donalds bitch is that Putin Red
The ones who know are currently dead.
He only wants to be admired,
Disagree and your suddenly fired,
That’s Donald…. That’s Donald Trump. 
The asshat in charge of the Whitehouse. 

It’s off to Mar-a-Lago again.
He’s there to work, on his Cheeto tan.
He surrounds himself with billionaires,
And Congress tells us that nobody cares, 
That’s Donald… Donald Trump
The Cheeto that lives in the Whitehouse. 

Donald can’t keep his story straight,
He should be studying Watergate.
Everyone knows the reason why,
You never should piss on the FBI
That’s Donald… that’s Donald Trump
The con-man in charge of the Whitehouse.

What will we do with this piece of shit?
We’re all just waiting for the fan to hit.
How will America ever survive,
If he does manage to stay alive,
That’s Donald That’s Donald Trump.
The looser in charge of the Whitehouse. 

Before he even ties his shoes
He tweets out hatred for all of the news.
At this job he certainly sucks
But he’s just in it for all of the bucks,
That’s Donald Trump
The demon in charge of the Whitehouse. 

As you were,

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dear Mr. Trump:

I know you are not a politician. I know you are not a traditional leader. I know you aren't bothered by integrity nor personal honor, and I know you lie.  I know your vocabulary and tweeting skills are on par with a fourth grader. I know you are mentally unfit for the job, based upon your own actions and words.   I know you are not a scholar, nor a historian, nor a student of civics nor a believer in the Constitution. I know you said this job of President was a lot harder than you thought, almost as complicated as health care, but  then as you said, "who knew".
Until now I also thought you were a pretty good Con-man. Now I "bigly" realize that you are not even an adequate con-man, Mr. Trump.

I'm no expert but I know one of the "con-man ten commandments" is: "Don't run when no one is chasing you."

Let me try to explain that in fourth grade English.

Don't act guilty if you are innocent, and if you are guilty, try your best to look innocent.  Every action you have taken has a veil over it like you are a bad magician trying to provide distraction for an ill rehearsed trick.  Your timing sucks.  A real con-man would know when the time is right.  A good con-man would not be so ham fisted with his manipulations.
Mr. Trump,  you have no grace, even for a con-man thug.  If your action toward Mr. Comey was completely justified and without hint of a Russian cover-up why was it handled in such a humiliating way?  In front of his peers and FBI employees at a meeting in Los Angeles, a media capital, Mr. Comey sees the announcement of his firing on television.  The meeting is cancelled.  It is not even certain that he has the authority to fly home in the FBI plane.  His "perp walk" to the airplane was broadcast by television helicopter for all to see. Do you understand that humiliation was not called for nor necessary? Perhaps you thought this was better than brining him into the oval office as you sat between Ivanka and Steve Bannon, telling him"you're fired" on camera.
Mr. Trump, I know your American history is fuzzy but Nixon was eventually brought down by a source named "deep throat".  Now there has been an immediate comparison of the Comey firing to Nixon's time in 1972 when he also fired someone investigating him.  Here is the historic part you should have thought about before you sent your body guard over to the J.Edgar Hoover Building to deliver your letter.  Forty years after Nixon's resignation, and before his own death, it was reveled that "Deep Throat" - the whistle blower who brought down Nixon... was a high ranking FBI agent at the time.  I know,  who knew?
What I am saying Mr. Trump, is this: A good con-man would have known all that.  And of all the things I thought I knew about you, I thought for sure you were a better crook than Richard Nixon.  But you are not.
Mr. Trump, I did not know Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon was not a friend of mine, but I can tell you sir, "You are no Richard Nixon."   You are just another crooked Dick.

With the saddest of thoughts toward you and your family,
Jay Johnson


Sunday, May 07, 2017

Vive la France

France has just announced that the Trump loving, immigrate hating, compromise fearing, Putin loving candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen has lost "bigly" in the election for President. Early reports suggest that Russia employed the same covert game with Emanuel Marcon (the centrist candidate) as they did with Hillary Clinton last year, hacking documents and releasing them at literally the last hour of the campaign.  Unlike here in America the French did not fall for it.  Why?
The French are not smarter than Americans, the French are not governed better than Americans, but in an election that had similar over tones to ours they chose the more moderate and centrist leader.  Why?
I have a theory that may or may not be a factor, those more politically astute can correct the thesis if they wish.
Unlike Americans the French know what fascism is.  They were conquered and ruled by the poster boy of fascism, racism and idiocracy in the 40's.  Even now they can see the wolf in sheep's clothing who might be parading as a contemporary choice for leader.  
Americans have no experience in this area.  We dream along in the belief that we were the ones who conquered fascism.  We believe that we are too smart, too strong, and too Godly to become the serfs of fascism.  Those who believe it "can never happen here" are the very ones who are ripe for the jingoism that fascism spouts.  In fact believing a country is better than, smarter than and superior in attitude to others is the very germ of fascism.  
Oh Americans like to shout about fascism, and call every leader they don't like Hitlerish and claim they know how to spot it.  In reality we Americans have no idea what it is like to be ruled by fascism.  Here is an instructing quote from Benito Mussolini:

With court rulings like Citizens United, orders to roll back environmental regulations,  ease up the banking regulations, and give higher tax breaks to the wealthiest, we are goose stepping into fascism carrying the flag of a free market.  What politicians tell us is: the rules restricting "big business" is hurting our capitalistic society, which is Un American.  The truth is government restrictions on corporations and big business is not hurting America it is America.  America is the land of the free, where everyone has the same chance to become anything they want given their own hard work to accomplish it.  Fascism is business in partnership with the government unfettered by any restrictions that might lower the bottom line.  
I am always amused by people who vote against progressive public policy because, "No government is going to tell me what I can and can't do."  Right. Let's make sure that Goldman Saks, Enron and Monsanto tell us what we can and can't do.  Let's solve the opioid addiction problem by getting the government totally out of the drug regulation business. The drug companies will see the error of their ways and voluntarily give up the billions of dollars they make off selling the opioids they manufacture. 
The government should be the referee in the corporate world, not the team owner. The government should make rules and establish rulings that are not bias for one side or the other, but make the game safe and equal for all the players.  Right now we have a President who knows nothing else but corporatism and his similarity to Benito Mussolini in style and look are frighteningly obvious.  Unfortunately until America understands what fascism is, and what it looks like, we will be lead by big money.  Perhaps before this "Era" is over we will know how easily a country can become corrupted and never again elect a liar, cheater, narcissist and complete fool for the job of President.  Until then.... join the "resistance".
As you were,

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The National Mob Museum - Las Vegas

It was back in the middle 70's, coincidentally only a few days before my first appearance on "SOAP", when I flew with a very prestigious group to perform in Pennsylvania at a banquet honoring this man.  It was a weekend I will never forget.  I drop a name or two just because, well, they were there too. 
I was told by my manager at the time, who also handeled Andy Griffith and Frankie Avalon, that this was a banquet of "made men".  The manager told me to "shut up, keep my eyes open and don't ask any questions." We were honoring a man named, Russell Bufalino. So when I visited the National Mob Museum I wondered if they would have any information about Russ, so I went looking for his name.  I found it along with his picture. It reminded me of that interesting week-end in Pennsylvania. There are so many stories that came from that show weekend but one is shorter than the others. I feel the need to write about it.

The banquet was over and Andy Griffith and I stood in line to say thank you to the Honoree. Russ could not have been a nicer person.  He graciously invited Andy and I out for a night cap at a little pizza place at the edge of town.  It seems out of the group of performers doing the show that night, Andy and I were the only ones who had never met or worked for Russ.  
It was almost a scene out of a 1930's movie as we enjoyed a beer or two with "the guys". They loved the show, loved Andy, and if I was with him, I must be okay too.  They would give us big bear hugs and call us friendly names in Italian.  Once in a while the uncomfortable outline of a hand gun would press itself into my side as I was getting one of those hugs.  
It became obvious there was a pecking order in this group. The closer a person sat to Russell the higher up in the pecking order he was, with the exception of a few guys who were obviously drivers and body guards.  After a time Russell said he wanted to call it a night.  Andy and I got up thinking he party was over and Russell said, "No, No.  You guys don't have to leave. Stay. Enjoy." He turned to a big man who was one of the driver/bodyguards and said, "Stay with them and take them anywhere they want to go." It was more of an order than a request.  From that moment on this big guy was never more that an arms length away from us but never said a word.  
After a few more beers, Andy and I decided it was time to go back to the hotel.  The driver showed us to a standard black Limo parked in front of the "joint".  He  said,  "Gentlemen, where too."  Andy and I became two little kids.  Andy thickened his North Carolina accent and delivered the line as if it was straight out of Andy of Mayberry, "Well, let's see... I know this nice little place at 5th and 55th street in Manhattan, how about that, Jaaay".  I just giggled. We starting comparing notes on what we had experienced during the evening like we were the country mice in the big city, laughing and rolling our eyes.  
I'm not sure when we realized that the trip back to the Hotel seemed to be taking much longer than it should.  We were not seeing anything along the road  but Pennsylvanian country side.  There wasn't a city light to be seen for miles.   I think it crossed my mind that perhaps we had not done that good of a show and we were being taken out to a "special place" never to return.  Andy finally said to the driver, "Where is it that we are going?"  
The driver said "Fifth and fifty-fifth in Manhattan."  We both realized that the driver had taken Russell's admonition of  "take them anyplace they want to go" seriously.  We were off to New York City.  Andy finally said, "No I was just kidding we need to go back to the hotel."  Without a word the driver made a U turn on the highway and we headed back into town.  Had we not noticed, we would have been to New York around dawn.
We had chosen the wrong time and the wrong person to joke with. 
With my fascination for the "Mob" I would occationally see Russell's name came up.   I could not resolve the idea that the nice man who had been so gracious to me and Andy would also be so ruthless.  Russell is gone now.  I never saw him after that, but I will never forget him.  Some day when we are sitting around having a drink I will tell you the more juicy stories of that weekend. 
As you were, 


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

If you knew Sushi... like I know Sushi.....

 The drawing muse has come to visit for the last few days and this is the result. I titled it "Sushi". The meaning has a cautionary tale. "Becareful what you wish for."  Most of the time we go through life never realizing that we bait our own hook, which means we are mostly responsible for what we get.  I think a wiser philosopher than I said it better, "What you sow you reap." Duck hunters don't use a moose call to catch ducks.  The call you put out is the answer you will get back. But that has little to do with the rest of this blog.

Although I have not lived in Texas for the last 40 plus years, it is hard not to think of a thick juicy steak and baked potato as my favorited dinner.  However, an evening out for Sushi may be giving that traditional dinner some competition to my dining desires. This is quite a pivot for me, although I do miss going to Sushi the way it used to be.
I was introduced to Sushi by Ted Wass and Billy Crystal.  It was when we were doing SOAP on the ABC lot in Hollywood for a half season.  One day Ted and Billy decided to go to lunch "off Campus" and invited me to go along.  I did not know they planned to make a lunch of raw fish until we got to a small out of the way Sushi Bar 10 minutes from the studio.  It was located in Chinatown and at that time one of the few Sushi bars in the city.  It was only after my second time there that I was able to find my way back.  It was traditional in every way.  There was low hanging cloths on the door way, and traditional Japanese music playing.  The Sushi Chefs were all decked out in traditional white with scarves rolled and tied around their foreheads.  They were welding sharp knives with Ninja precision.   A very calm and inviting place that was like no other restaurant I had ever been too. There were no tables only the long bar with personalized wooden sake cups on wall shelves. As we walked in the entire staff yelled something in Japanese.  Since we were the only "non-Asian's" there I thought they were yelling at us to leave.  There were no menus just a glass counter in front of us with various kinds of raw fish.   I remember thinking it looked like a butcher shop more than a restaurant.  
Billy and Ted began to utter a different language to the chef. They ordered things like Magura,  Neghihama, Yellow Tail and sea ell.  When I found out that one of those items was tuna, I decided to give it a try.  I didn't jump off into the deep end, Ted, however, ordered Sea Urchin with a quail egg.  It looked like something that was ready to be prepared not yet ready to eat, but Teddy gulped it down.  After I got past the idea that a "hot" lunch was out of the question I settled in.  Every thing I ordered, most of the time not knowing what it really was, tasted great. It was a new adventure and an unrealized turn in my eating habits.  
Back then there were so few Sushi places that it became an event to have a Sushi dinner.  To introduce Sandi to my new passion we had to drive over to Hollywood, there were no Sushi places I knew of in the Valley.  But, before long Sushi places starting springing up like Starbucks.  It was not long before  LA had a glut of Sushi bars. We didn't have to travel to Hollywood any longer to get our fix.  TerraSushi opened on Ventura boulevard not far from the Radford CBS lot and it became the "in" place for the young Turks of Hollywood to hang.  If you wanted to see celebrities and be seen by those looking for celebrities TerraSushi became the place to be.  We used to joke that to get a good table or preferred place at the bar you needed to be wearing a satin production jacket from a hit show. Satin production jackets were also the rage at the time and I will admit to wearing my SOAP jacket there more than a few times.  In those evenings of just hanging out with friends, I learned that a fine compliment to any Sushi is Kirin beer and hot sake.  I salivate now just thinking of that combination. 
It was at a Sushi bar in New York during that time that I had an unforgettable "fan" experience.  I was in town doing some promo for ABC and had gone out to Sushi on Columbus Ave. with a friend.  
As we were ordering our second round a very nice asian woman came up to me.  In very broken English she explained she was a reporter/writer from Japan.  She knew that I was a "television man" and wondered if I would have time to do an interview with her.  In anticipation of just such an occurrence the publicist at ABC had given me a dozen of her business cards.  She told me that if someone wanted to set up an interview, give the person her card and they would set up something at a convenient time.  Being a good network employee, I said, "Sure we can do an interview" and I reached for one of the cards.  Before I could say, "Give ABC a call and they will set something up..." The woman retrieved a small tape recorder and a very large professional microphone from her bag and said, "Good... we do it now?"  It was a rhetorical question, she immediately launched into it tuning on the recorder, clearing her throat and checking the level. It went exactly like this:
She held the mic to her face and started speaking in Japanese.  It was very lyrical in sound but the only thing I understood was my name.  She sprinkled it into the monologue occasionally saying, Mr. Jay Johnson San.  After what seemed like a long time she paused looked me in th eye and said very seriously, "Mr. Johnson San..... what you eating?"  In all my years of being interviewed it was the first time and perhaps the only time that question had been asked.  I said, "I am eating Tuna sushi."  
She seemed delighted at that response and moved the microphone back to her face and said, "Ahhhhh, Mr. Johnson San, yadda yadda, yadda, Tuna Sushi.... yadda yadda." This Japanese monologue went on for some time until once again she paused, looked at me and said, "Mr. Johnson San..... what you order next?"  
I hadn't really decided until that moment but I boldly went out on a limb and said, "I think next I will have California Roll." 
Same reaction..... "Ahhhhhh,   Mr. Johnson San, yadda yadda yadda, California Roll.... yadda yadda yadda."  The yadda's continued in the same manner as I had become accustomed to.  Once again she paused getting ready to ask me another question.  I was prepared with all the answers about my career on SOAP, our new season, what happened at the end of last season, and what it was like to be on a show like SOAP.  So, she looked at me with all seriousness, took in a deep breath as if this is the question she had been waiting to ask.  It was a little slower and more deliberate in the delivery, she paused a longer time between my name and the question.  
"Mr. Johnson San...... what you order after that?"  
Now I am set on improv mode. One of the great things about eating at a Sushi bar ordering a selection at a time and waiting until you are ready for the next taste.  I was not sure at all what I would order after the California Roll, but I usually ended my Sushi dinners at the time with Sea Ell Sushi.  As if I was considering the question longer than the first two I finally said, "I guess I will have my favorite dessert, Sea Ell."  
"Ahhh.... Mr. Johnson San, yadda yadda, Sea Ell yadda yadda yadda.  She giggled as she yaddaed some more.  Finally it was back to me as she said, 
"Mr. Johnson San......... thank you very much."  
The interview was over. The mic and the recorder went back into the bag, she bowed and returned to her table.  Noting more needed to be said.  I have spent years reliving that interview wondering what was really said.  I decided she was probably a food critic rather than an entertainment writer but I will never know.  To date it is still one of the strangest interviews I have ever done.  
As you were,

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Left Coast Easter

This is Bruce. He sits guard on the brick column by the pool.  He scares evil spirits away from coming near our orange tree.  He seems to be very effective except in the case of squirrels. I have seen those furry tailed rats standing on Bruce's head to get the advantage on a particular orange.    I think it was my oldest son who named the gargoyle Bruce when he was young, my son, not Bruce. This gargoyle has been around a long time and has refused to state his actual age. He is the old friend, always looking out, always guarding my back.
Today Bruce is my secretary, my receptionist and my collaborator.  I have moved the main office of Jaysons Imagination, Inc. out doors today.  It's one of those perfect California days, Spring has sprung.  From the few rain showers everything brown has turned green.  Unfortunately my collaborator does not seem to be inspired at the moment and has assumed his "thinking" position.  I totally understand because the perfumed air, the gentle breeze and song of the wind chimes makes it impossible to think clearly enough to write. At my desk the smell is of orange blossoms.  If you walk around the neighborhood you find the orange blossom scent mixed with some sort of jazmine.  It is a distinctively California Spring smell unlike any other place except perhaps Hawaii.   
So Easter is this weekend.  Funny that Easter always lands on a Sunday.  Unfortunately no little kids to hide eggs for and no old people to attend a sunrise ceremony with this year.  We will have a brunch for the extended California family but no Easter egg hunts.  
I remember one Easter when the boys were 8 and 5 years old and their Asbury Grandparents were here to celebrate with them.  My mother-in-Law, Grammy, found some plastic Easter eggs at the store and meticulously spend the night before Easter Sunday stuffing dozen's of them with candies and small change.  She placed them carefully around the dwarf peach tree in the back yard..  
The next day after Church the boys were very excited to start their egg hunting.  We gave them their baskets and set them to the task.  Grammy was particularly interested in their hunt and "steered" them to the peach tree.
Excitedly the boys ran to the tree and gathered the plastic eggs.  My oldest son quickly opened the first egg, and to everyone's surprise it was empty.  His little brother did the same thing and his plastic Easter Egg was empty as well.  We watched as they progressively got more excited that the next egg would not be empty only to be disappointed by more empty eggs.
Grammy was totally baffled. We all watched her prepare the plastic eggs but we were not seeing the results.  Grammy wondered if squirrels had eaten the candy.  I was not sure that was the reason.  First squirrels don't eat chocolate and I was certain they would not cover their theft by re-assembling the egg halves.  
The boys were filled with such hope for the next egg they opened to be anything but empty.  They seemed so very disappointed when there was, once again, nothing inside.  It was a panic for grandparents and new parents who wanted Easter to be a perfect memory for the kids. Grammy replaced all the candy in every egg that was opened and empty.   The grown ups were all baffled.
I am not sure exactly how we solved the mystery, perhaps it was the five year old who cracked.  Turns out, that while the "grown ups" were getting ready for the big hunt, the boys covertly invaded the backyard.  They took all the candy and coins out of the plastic eggs, reassembled them and placed them back in their spot.  The whole disappointment and bewilderment at the missing candy, was only a completely realized scam.  They were able to get double the candy treats with this ploy.  
I realized then that the apples do not fall from the tree.  I was secretly proud of the guys for coming up with that plan on their own.  However it was a harbinger of things to come as they later approached puberty.  Knowing what they were capable of as kids helped me stay only half a step behind them as they grew up.
Easter is a time to renew, recommit and remember that the future is beautifully unfolding after a long gloomy winter.  I understand the symbolism that has been co-opted by the Christian Religion to renew faith and love.  I have no trouble in seeing how both the secular and the religious come together in one celebration of renewal and rebirth at Easter.  Enjoy every aspect of this season.
As you were,