Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Romance of Air Travel

In my 50 some odd years of air travel I have watched the industry decline exponentially. Recently, we all have have seen the American Airlines video as well as the United Airlines video of passengers being treated badly by airline officials. One can make the case that because of the access to our cell phone video camera we are just seeing more of these types of events, but I think this is a symptom of a bigger problem that is growing industry wide, if not Nationally.   I think I am qualified to make an observation since I am a permanate Platinum Flier on American because of the 3 million miles I have flown on that Airlines since they started their Frequent Flier Program.  I have almost a million miles on United Airlines as well.  
As a Platinum Flier I get treated better than most flying on the same flight.  However, I think I have been involved most every bad situation that can happen on an airplane except a fatal crash.  All I can say after all those experiences is this:  It is getting worse.  I have a theory on why this is happening industry wide now based upon my 50 plus years of air travel.   I have watched the airline industry decline in my almost 50 years of air travel.  I have flown extensively on both of these airlines through my career.  

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,
Jay

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,
Jay


Friday, April 07, 2017

My Day in Court

 California statute requires one day or one trial every 12 months as far as jury duty goes. So on Sunday night I call in to see if I am needed... No... Yea.. Monday I make the same evening call... Not needed on Tuesday. I repeat this process the next two nights. Thursday I call in.... I am told to report at 7:45 am on Friday. Damn. One more day and I would have served my time without leaving my phone.
So Friday... frikin' FRIDAY at 8:00 am, in the jury assembly room at the Van Nuys Superior Court building in Van Nuys, we unfortunate participants, have jury duty orientation. This consists of a video telling me what a wonderful service I am about to perform for the State of California.  I am not swayed.
At the end of the video, a nice young Woman comes to a podium with a  wireless microphone.  She repeats this same speech every morning, 5 days a week as a career. It is a pleasant "reading" but the freshness of the script has run its course. She will say the words, "Any questions" every few seconds for the rest of the orientation. 
She starts repeating most of the information we just had to sit through.  I am thinking that if we have to be reminded of what we just heard moments before, maybe we do not have the brain capacity to serve on a jury.  None the less we listen to her "sort of".  I see several people texting covertly, and one old man continues to glance at his LA Times, or he was nodding off it was hard to tell.  
The nice woman gets to the part about "postponements and excuses not to serve". I was not listening very closely. None of this section applies to me, because if I could come up with an excuse that worked I wouldn't be sitting here this time of the morning. 
The woman says, "If you are over 70 and have a medical condition, you must state the condition on line 7 of the form...".  At that moment some man  in the middle of the room almost shrieks, "Wow. Unbelievable"
This stops the process in its tracks.  The lady turns to the man as if she had not understood the questions.  
He says, "Possum"
She repeats, "Possum"
Now the jury room of the Van Nuys Superior court house is located on the ground floor with plenty of windows. It is not a bad view of old trees and official buildings. It is not however, a place that seems to inspire creativity.  I guess I would call it an institutional environment.  It is easy to get distracted by the people walking on the sidewalk through the trees. No one is just enjoying the stroll. Everyone on this property has some legal reason to be there.  As I watched people make their way past the window I played a game in my mind.  The game is called "Lawyer, Planiff, Defendant".  As quickly as the people passed by was all the time I had to cast them (the movie in my head) as a lawyer, planiff or defendant in some Superior Court drama to come. 
I am sure that is exactly what the man was doing when he said, "Possum." For indeed now everyone in the jury room is looking at a very large possum peering into our window.  As an indicator of the boredom factor people began to act like they had never seen an animal off -leash and ungroomed.
No one is listening to the jury Woman, everyone is giggling at a possum like it was a giraffe giving birth.  In fact the jury woman herself has moved closer to the window to see the possum. She is able to continue repeating the speech while clearly expressing more interest in the possum. Just as everyone in the room had taken their seats convinced the possum show was over, the jury woman says, "I think that is security trying to get the possum."
Indeed the cops had shown up to arrest the possum. Perhaps for trespassing, I suppose. Or maybe for being out after possum curfew.  Whatever the charge it became difficult to subdue the possum. The possum refused to obey verbal commands, and was already down on the ground.  I am sure their Smith and Wesson handcuffs do not ratchet down to possum size.  
Before too long the possum decided to take it on the lam and took off to parts unknown. It was back to the boredom of civic duty.
Soon we were called to various courts and the process began.  Since we were admonished not to talk about the case, and we were not allowed to take any photos, you'll have to take my word for all of this.  However, I can tell you with complete candor that the Possum was the highlight of my day in court.
As you were,
Jay

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Swarms of Spring


The Orange Beetle - genis -Trumperius Irritateus 
With Spring comes an infestation of a rare and destructive beetle. The Trumperius Irritateus Beetle is swarming the country and seems out of anyone's control. Like killer bees the Trumperius Irritateus is an experiment gone bad, a genetically engineered bug was released to do a specific job.  The DNA of two bugs was mixed to creat a more aggressive insect breed. The Trumperius is a cross between a New York cock roach (Slimis Bagus) and a Russian louse (Putinus Dic). 
In an attempt to stem the pestilence of the common DC stink bug (Politicus Ignoramus), the Trumperius was introduced to the insect hives of Washington hoping create a new line of beetles.  Unfortunately too much of the Russian louse was reproduced in the hybrid. The engineered insect had more problems than the breeders thought.  Rather than mixing well with its new environment  the Trumperius was angry and provocative to other bugs, ineffective at leadership, and very destructive to the environment.  The Trumperius surrounds itself with other cockroaches and shows  affection for all kinds of Russian louses. Most alarming, however, the Trumperius Beetle has spread up and down the east coast.  Rather than staying in one spot it has established nests from New York to Florida.  
The Trumperius is irritating in actions and expressions.  It attempts to dominate females of all kinds but prefers to stay close to it's own off spring, especially the oldest female Irritateus.  It seems to disdain all other non-native species except itself.  The species is obsessively self aware  puffing up its orange antenna in an opulent manner for attention. The Trumperius is know by its "Tweeting" sounds often trying to imitate fox howls or the shrieks of the alternative white jackal. The tweets are loudest in the early morning hours and annoy most every other species on the planet.  
Exterminators disagree about how best to rid the country of this infestation. It would appear that the mutant bug is immune to most normal forms of elimination. It is not known how much damage the Trumperius will do before it can be neutralized.  In fact there is not a consensus on who should be in charge of the beetle problem. The governmental agency which looks after the environment has been eliminated by the current administration. However, everyone agrees that it will cost a lot of money, time and resistance to keep this infestation from spreading.  

As you were,
Jay

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

You Stole my cart...


As I was walking Boo, or rather as Boo was walking me, we got to the corner of Ventura and Woodley this afternoon.   As we passed by Encino Plaza a mini mall at the corner, a lady almost ran into me and Boo and  said, "Where is my cart?"  She seemed a little panicked and concerned. I said, "I haven't seen any carts, Ma'm" and continued my journey. That did not seem to be the correct response on my part. She ran across the street to the entrance of an office building garage and started yelling at the attendants... "YOU Stole my cart." I could still hear her screaming as I got to the traffic signal to cross a busy Ventura Blvd.  

I happen to be standing next to a very well dressed man who obviously worked in one of the buildings near.  I was just waiting for the light to change as he was also doing when the lady made her way to the corner where we were standing.  She stepped off the curb and faced the two of us.  She backed into traffic as she confronted us. 
She looked at the man next to me and said, "YOU, you stole my cart."  He had the good sense not to answer. She looked at me and screamed "YOU, you also stole my cart where is it." I followed the business man's lead and remainded silent.  She continued,
"You both stole my cart where is it? Where is it you thieving bastards? You murdering sumbags what did you do with my cart." A car has to swerve to avoid hitting her and honks. She throws the car a finger and continues to berate the both of us.  "I know who you are.... both of you... you kill you cheat you steal... you bastards are all alike. You stole my cart." 
The signal finally says walk and we cross the busy boulevard.  I am afraid she will follow us but she stays on her side of the street continuing to yell obscenities our way.  
"You thieving bastards.. They stole my cart.  Those two guys stole my cart. Murderers.. Murderers... cart stealing  bastards both of them." She ran back into one of the business of Encino Place as if to make a full report.
We safely got across the street and continued in different directions. Before we parted we make eye contact and I said, "Okay. What did you do with the cart." 
He didn't miss a beat
He said, "Behind the Coffee Bean. We'll meet up later and split up the goods."  Then he brushed his nose with his finger in a very deliberate way.  I immediately knew this as the "con-man's signal" from the movie "The Sting".  I laughed and returned the nose signal.  He laughed and we parted ways.  I love someone who will go with the situation and Improv an ending.  I will probably never see that guy again, and hopefully I will never encounter the cart lady again either.  Just one more scene in the continuous drama of life proving that "The World is a Stage". 


As you were,
Jay

Monday, March 20, 2017

How I found time for Happiness in Trumpland...

From the Jay Johnson Mickey Mouse Watch Collection
I remember it was an ad in the Houston Chronicle in the late 1960's. I was living in Houston at the time working at Astroworld. The Advertisement was from Neiman-Marcus located in the Galleria and it was a full page.  They announced sale of "Imported" Mickey Mouse Wrist Watches ... imported from Disneyland for a limited time.  The only place you could get this watch was Disneyland, and now for a short time Neiman- Marcus.

I wasn't looking for a new watch.  I wasn't a customer of Neiman-Marcus, I have never seen an ad like that before or since. But, I had to have one of those watches before they were all gone.  The ad said limited time. I assumed a limited number of watches.

I drove to Galleria immediately, and made my way to the watch counter.  Neiman -Marcus hires only top notch salespeople and this guy tried to interest me in a more "mature" watch, but my mind was set.  It was the first watch I ever bought for myself and it replaced a Christmas gift watch my parents gave me 10 years earlier.

I loved this new Mickey Mouse watch. I wore it out after replacing three crystals, and having several major repairs.  Each jeweler who repaired it over the years said the same thing, "The repair will probably cost more than a new watch..." I didn't care.  The minute by minute show that Mickey performed on my wrist daily was worth any price to me.

Wrist watches in the 70's and 80's were fashion statements, and status symbols.  While my television friends displayed new Cartier's or Rolexes, I continued to sport Mickey.  I was known for wearing that watch; it was my personal statement.  I even wrote a ventriloquist act around a "talking Mickey Mouse watch" and performed it on stage over the years. When asked why I wore a Mickey Mouse watch I would always say.. "It puts my daily life in perspective... running late for an important meeting.... you glance a Mickey and when he tells you the time... nothing seems to be so serious." Years later I was completely vindicated when Dan Brown wrote his best selling novel, the Da Vinci Code. His hero Robert Langdon the Harvard professor, wore a Mickey Mouse wrist watch.  I was way ahead of that fashion curve.

After Sandi and I settled in Southern California I discovered that the Clock Shop at Disneyland always had the latest model of Mickey Mouse Watch for sale. It was easy to find a cheap kids version of the Mickey Watch, but the Clock Shop at Disneyland had good watches that happened to have a Mickey on the Face.  Visiting the park over the years I gathered a big collection of Mickey Mouse wrist watches and I still have them.

Sandi would often gift me with more "age appropriate watches", as she put it, in keeping with the style and level of my showbiz career at the time.  Once while on tour with Julie Andrews, she gave me an expensive watch engraved with "Love Julie" on the back. I would wear it to "functions" on occasion when we had to dress formally, but I was never as comfortable nor happy if I wasn't relying on Mickey to tell me the time of day.  Eventually I bought a very expensive 14k gold Mickey Mouse watch from the Clock Shop at Disneyland. It was a  themed out "gold watch" they used to give retiring executives of the Disney corporation.  As a regular customer at the Disneyland Clock shop, I was able to talk the shop keeper into selling me the display model.  As the price of gold began to sore through the years I could only wear the watch to extra special occasions.

So eventually cell phones began to dominate our culture.  No need for a wrist watch you had to manually change for each time zone, and replace a battery at the worst possible time.  The cell phone kept perfect time.  Eventually the battery ran down on my Mickey and by the time I got around to replacing it, I was used to digging in my pocket for my phone to get the current time of day. A wrist watch was one less thing to put on in the morning so... eventually I quit wearing a watch at all. This would be a horrible decision looking back on it.

So now here we are in March of 2017.  We have a complete idiot for President who daily makes news with one statement after the next which turns my blood to acid.  His mere presence in the oval office offends my Patriotism and depresses my entire countenance of good feelings.  Unfortunately he is not going away soon enough for me. He is not getting better, and since I can only be responsible for myself, I have to ignore the orange faced fascist.  This becomes harder to do than I thought.

I have given up watching the news.  I have purged my Facebook friends of those who might be inclined to normalize him or god forbid like him.  I try to avoid speaking his name or engaging in any discussions of his existence.  Unfortunately his kind of "stupid" seems to be epidemic and is infecting everything.

Here is how it happens.  I think to myself "What time is it anyway?" I am currently not wearing a watch, so,  I reach for my iPhone and hit the button. At the same moment I see the time, there, on the same screen, is a push notice, or flash announcement of some ignorant Tweet or other news worthy obnoxious action by the President. My blood boils, my eyes narrow, my teeth begin to sharpen and I'm livid that he is still alive in the White house.  It is not healthy, and all because I wondered what time it was.

Recently I saw one of my favorite Mickey's in a drawer.  I wondered if it still worked so I took it to my watch repair guy at the Fashion Square.  All it needed was a battery.  I placed Mickey back on my wrist and have had a much better attitude toward life in Trumpland since.  Now if I want to know what time it is I look to where Mickey is pointing;  no hint of POS 45 nor any of his lunacy.  Mickey, who four times a day spreads his arms out wide to say, "I love you this much"  Four more times a day, At ten minutes till 2:00 and ten minutes after 10:00 he shrugs a WTF pose and at 6:30 he plays with himself.  I feel like a kid again.  I am not reminded of any election PTSD that pollutes the news these days.  I can pretend that life is caricature of itself and the orange President is just so much ink on a page.  It keeps everything in perspective.... why... because we like you.
As you were,
Jay