Friday, September 10, 2021

Mel Tormé - Sky Marshall or (How the "velvet fog" saved an American Airlines flight)

Mel Tormé - Sky Marshall

By Jay K. Johnson

As a modern day foot-note: If you do not know who Mel Tormé is - Google him.  He was an incredible talent, nice guy, ultimate 50's hipster and known by all the crooners of the day as a "Singer's Singer".  

In 1984 Mel Tormé was in the golden days of his career. The music industry had changed and male crooners were seen as "of an era". He was still well known in Japan because of their almost cultural love of American Jazz.  Then Rinehold Wiggie wrote "Night Court" and things changed.  

Since my best friend was cast in the roll of Harry Stone on Night Court, I was in on some of the unpublished moments of that series.  In the pilot Wiggie wrote a line for Judge Stone that spoke to his off beat character.  A court clerk comes into Stone's office and the Judge is listening to  a walk-man with head phones.  He notices the clerk, takes the earphones off and says, "I have every album that Mel Tormé ever recorded." It was meant as a laugh line... the off beat judge was a fan of an obscure crooner.  After the pilot aired Mel called Rinehold Wiggie and Harry to thank them for the shout out.  Harry was, in reality, a big fan of Mel Tormé and the two became fast friends.  For the next decade Mel Tormé became the mascot of Night Court making several guest appearances to an entirely new generation. 

But this it a story about a passenger disruption on an American Airlines flight.  

I was on my way from LA to Chicago to do a show sitting in the fourth row of first class.  We made it to Chicago on time but the airport was socked in. Rain and snow flurries kept us from landing so we circled.  The captain was giving us the updates and said that we had enough fuel to circle for a while until we could land. The circling continued for the next two and a half hours. 

Emotions were running high with frustration as the captain came back on the intercom and said, "Well, we have exhausted all of our excess fuel and we are still not able to land in Chicago. We need to refuel so... we are headed to the St. Louis Airport to gas up.  After that we will head back to Chicago and hopefully the weather will give us a break."

It took us 40 minutes to fly to St. Louis and we landed. However, air traffic held us at the edge of the airport because there were no gates available. Captain said we would have to get to a gate when it became available to refuel.  We waited.  

That wait continued for another 2 hours and frustration gave way to grumbling.  St. Louis was no ones destination on this flight and we could not even get off the plane.  There is suddenly a commotion coming from the back of the plane. I hear a flight attendant yelling, "Sir... sir, sit down... keep your seat. We are on an active taxi way... Sir.... Sir."  An Asian man flew past me running toward the cockpit, yelling he had to get off the plane. NOW. He seemed to be in a classic claustrophobia panic attack, and determined to get into the cock pit.  

He was stopped at the galley by two other attendants who struggled with the man ordering him to sit down. He had adrenline fueled strength and was really a hand full for the crew.  I was craning my neck to watch and it seemed to be at the point of no control. Just then a man sitting in the first row bulkhead seat stood up. With out touching the man, and with a calm beautiful voice said, "Hey, Babe, why don't you go back and sit down, they are doing the best they can," 

The man turned on his heels like he was going to punch the guy when he recognized who was speaking.  It was Mel Tormé.  The man stopped immediately and melted like a fan boy with eyes wide open in amazement. He blurted out, "It's Mel Tormé...Mel Tormé... that is Mel Tormé." Mel sat back down. The man turned into a puppy. As if he had seen divinity he calmly walked to the back of the plane repeating... "That was Mel Tormé... Mel Tormé" and took his seat.

In less than half an hour we were at the gate getting fueled up.  We all got to get up and stretch our legs. I had met Mel on several occasions with Harry so I made my way up to the front and said to Mel, "Thanks for saving the flight from being taken over."  After what was then 8 hours locked on this plane Mel says,

"Jay, Babe are you on this flight?"  

Today when every new cycle has a story about violence on various airplanes, it is a shame we don't have more legendary iconic crooners to defuse the situation.  Hope you and Harry are having a good time, up there together,  Mel. I'll see ya both some day.

As you were,




Monday, May 03, 2021

Saved by Instict

A company has a problem if you remember the commercial very well, but not the product being advertised.  Such is the case with an ad going around television now days.  The premise of this commercial is the narrative of a spoof seminar/life coach who is teaching people how NOT to act like their aged parents.  If I say “The waiter does not need to know your name” it might spark a  recollection of that ad for you.  It is similar to a real life ongoing conversation I occasionally have with my youngest son. 
When I walk Harry the Wonder Dog I have a habit of saying “Hi” to people I pass in the neighborhood.  Some will wave back or say hello, some will ignore me and others have headphones on and never know that I said anything.  I admit it is more of a habit than a real interest in a friendly encounter.  The times my son has walked with me he will say, “That is not necessary, Pops, they do not care and they don’t want the intrusion, so why do you even bother?” 
He is right.  Rarely do people in the neighborhood say hello to me first, so why do I bother?  Like I said it is mostly an involuntary habit.  

While walking this morning I suddenly had an epiphany.  I might have come to the realization of why I have a habitual instinct to say hello to strangers.  

If Mr. Peabody will set the “way back” machine to sometime during the fall of 1974, we’ll start there.  Back then, Sandi and I worked for a supper club called Charlie’s Place.  Charlies Place was a club located in the basement of the Texas Hotel in Downtown Fort Worth, Texas.  It featured a variety show with dinner a couple of times a night, and if there was anyone left to watch, a “Good Night Show” which was a short choreographed medley of songs containing the words Good Night.  Of course we had to wait around till the beginning of that show before we were dismissed for the evening.  I would say it was a 70 percent chance we wouldn’t do a Good Night show on the week nights.  

The show changed every couple of months or so and for this particular show I did my guitar act, which involves my wrist watch and the guitar coming to life an taking over a song I was trying to sing.  Squeaky,  my main partner before Bob, was featured in the goodnight show.  It was my habit to take the guitar out to my car before the Goodnight Show so I didn’t have a double load at the end of the night.  
Downtown Fort Worth was at the time not a bustling metropolis after hours so it was usually very dead when I went to the car.  To save a dollar and a half we sometimes parked in a deserted alley a block away from the hotel which was the case this night. 

I remember my thoughts were a million miles away that night.  I had no sense of my surroundings as I walked the dark streets to the alley, I was remembering the show that particular night and doing a critique in my mind of the performance.  As I crossed the street to the spot I parked I suddenly became aware of something.  It might have been the acrid smell or the weird gutter mumblings of  the person sitting on a curb between me and my car that hooked my attention.  I made a halting step which caught the eye of the man on the curb. He was dressed in clothes that had clearly been worn for too long in too many dirty places.  His hair was tangled and ratted and the incoherent mumbling stopped abruptly as his reddened blurry eyes locked on mine.  I continued walking past him thinking that if I didn’t act completely at ease it might be seen as a threat.  His eyes narrowed as I got closer, and in a nervous reflex I said, “Hi. How you doin’” like we were old friends.  That seemed to work. He went back to his guttural mumblings and strange forward and backward rocking in his position on the curb.  

Trying not to stare but taking in every detail I could,  I saw that as he was rocking back and forth he was brushing a very large hunting knife up and down on the outside of his bent leg.   There was very little light on the street but the chrome blade of the knife flashed at the apex of each upward brush.  I was relieved  to get past him and to my car  twenty yards behind him in the dark alley.  I took out my keys and opened the trunk of my 2 door Plymouth Scamp.   As I placed the guitar into the trunk I heard the sound of shoes scraping the concrete behind me and got a whiff of that acrid smell again.   I felt the man behind me and shut my trunk  before turning around.  

He was 6 feet away from me in an aggressive posture with the knife pointed at my upper torso.  I was frozen with indecision. I had never been in a situation like this before nor felt this threatened.  I do not know exactly how long this stand off lasted.  His blurry reddened eyes narrowed.  It felt like this was the moment something was about to happen.  A strange glaze took over his eyes and he said,  “No.  NO. You are a good dude.”

His posture changed. The arm with the knife dropped to his side and he turned his back to me and shuffled away.  I carefully retraced my steps back to Charlies Place.  Safe in the bowels of the Texas Hotel I sat down in the green room.  One of my performing friends looked at me and said,  
“Oh my God are you okay? you are white as a ghost”.  
The color had drained from my face as reality set in.  I told the story to my wide eyed performing mates.  It was decided at that moment that a dollar fifty was not too much to pay for a safe place to park.

I don’t know much about what makes the human mind work, but I do know this.  I saw this would be mugger and thief make a decision standing in front of me.  Was he going to mug me, cut me, stab me, steal my car and the guitar or not?  I saw the indecision in his eyes as he contemplated his next move in that alley way.  He sized me up and the only thing he knew about me was that I said, Hello to him on the street just moments earlier.  I didn’t back away, I didn’t look at him in disgust or disapproval I just said hello and continued on my way.  He decided that I was a “Good Dude” based solely on a three second interaction.  Never mind that for me it was an instinctive knee jerk reaction to being suddenly startled, what came out was not threatening to him.  I will believe to this day that had my instincts been anything other than to say hello to a stranger on the street, this story would not have a positive ending. 

So why do I bother saying hi to people on the street?  I can make a case that at one time 40-odd years ago it could have potentially saved my life.  

As you were,

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Harry the Wonder Dog

Ultimately this is a story about judgement.  Sometimes based on our experiences both real and imagined we draw a conclusions about people not based truth but assumptions.  Unless those assumptions are corrected or proved wrong we carry them around in our mind like it was empirical fact. 

It has been a long time since I felt like I could write again. I lost my writing partner, then there was a Pandemic, I wasn’t doing any shows and soon the news was nothing but the saga of a failed attempt to overthrow an election, by sedition.  All very happy subjects to deal with. And since the Pandemic has us all circling our own nest in continually smaller concentric circles, there has been nothing much that I thought worthy to write about.  My one real obligation, during the shut down, has been to take Harry the Wonder Dog out for long walks.  He is a tiny dog but loves to walk and our average is three miles a day. There is only one distraction to these lovely dog walks through the Encino/Sherman Oaks area, and that is Harry’s agitation toward other dogs.  It used to be aggression but through a lot of patience, treats and training he is doing much better. 
Sandi and I are fully vaccinated as are most all of our friends, so yesterday was the first time since last April that Harry and I took our walk and I did not wear a face mask.  When that is your thrill of the day, you know you have been away from a stage and an audience for too long. Over the past year Harry and I have bonded on our walks and his distrust of other dogs is now “semi” under control.  For the longest time I thought there was some pattern to his barking out.  I thought it was only big dogs he barked at, then he would go crazy when a very tiny dog would walk on the other side of the street and he would dash my scientific theory.  I still do not know what will occasionally cause Harry to turn from Chihuahua mix to Chupa Cabra but I am always on guard when we are approaching other dogs.  
One thing for certain: if the “other dog” shows any sort of aggression or barks at Harry, Harry the Wonder dog  immediately turns into Joe Pesci.(thank you Donna Marie for that image)   If all other disciplinary actions and treats fail, he is small enough to lift off the ground and into my arms by way of his leash and harness.  When approached by aggressive dogs who are not on leash this method becomes very effective.

Needless to say sometimes my walks with Harry could be less stressful if he was less “energetic” but we pick times when there are less dogs on the street.  I would say that most of the time I am on DEFCON 3 when walking Harry. I scan the horizon for any person with a dog on a leash.  We will usually cross the street if they are are approaching us.  There are tense moments as we pass and I feel like I am walking a tightrope for a few minutes.  I pretend I am a member of the Secret Service guarding a President, ready to react at a moments notice. Harry seems to know when my guard is down and turns into the Tasmanian Devil so.... even thought I like the walks I am always watching out for other dogs.  

There needs to be a side bar at this point in my story.  Since the Pandemic I have become hooked on the Judge Judy Show which airs every afternoon here on a local station.  I know that your opinion of me has suffered just a little bit because of this attraction but I am drawn to Judge Judy like a curious fly is drawn to fresh shit..(which is a perfect metaphor).  I know she is a judge but she is so judgmental, so condescending and so sure that she knows exactly who is a loser, I am baffled that anyone could be so much like the second grade teacher I loathed when I was a kid.  She is combative, outspoken, unflinching and opinionated.  

Here is the connection. I would say that a large percentage of cases she hears involve dogs.  The big dog hurts or kills the small dog, the little dog bites a person and there is a dispute on who pays the doctor or vet bills.  Judy herself is an avid dog owner of Shitzus.  It is always easy to predict who will win a case when one of the dogs is a Pitbull.  The Pitbull always loses.  She hates Pitbulls and makes a point to say that home owners must pay extra for insurance if they have such a breed of dog. Judy will berate the owner for being careless with a vicious breed of dog, but will also point out that in her opinion no one should have this kind of dog, period.  I believe it is mostly the fault of the dog owner not controlling these big dogs which are bred to fight, but it appears that Pitbulls like many big dogs can suddenly turn for no reason into a very dangerous animal. 

 We return you now to the story about Harry the Wonder Dog.  

Yesterday when I was enjoying my first “unmasked” walk, Harry and I were strolling though the neighborhood.  I know most of the dogs along this path.  I anticipate the dogs that are likely to bark even from behind a fence which might release the Chupa Cabra I am tending.  We are on a street where I have never noticed any dogs to be cautious about before.  I would not say my guard was down but I would say I was at DEFCON 1 at this particular moment.  Half a block away I spot a large, very well groomed, very muscular, ominous Pitbull ahead of us on the opposite of the street.  I tighten Harry’s leash and began my routine intervention..  Harry notices the dog before I do. I then  realized the dog is not on a leash.  He is standing by a tree near the curb at the edge of the yard.  Harry hesitated but continued walking and began to huff and puff which I know as a precursor to an outburst. I am thinking that if this dog even looks this way, Harry is going to go crazy.  

I did not see the owner of this dog as it looked our way.  I became ready to haul Harry in by his leash.  The Pitbull’s gaze does not linger toward us long enough to light Harry’s fuse. Instead, the Pitbull turns to look at something else: from my angle now I can see a man  with salt and pepper short hair, of medium build standing  a few yards from the dog.  He is standing, in my opinion, too far away to be of much help if the dog charges our way. I am relieved to see him and assume he will take control of this potential killer now that he knows we are across the street.  He does not. 

Harry and I are now across the street and even with the Pitbull.  I am holding a ticking Chihuahua who is ready to explode at any moment. The dog looks in our direction again.   I am  disturbed that the owner has made no preemptive actions to keep this heavy weight from charging Harry and me. He has not even said the name of the dog nor make any sound. We keep walking carefully,  never taking our eyes off the big dog.  I immediately think of the story I will tell Judge Judy.  “The owner of the dog did nothing to restrain the Pitbull who was not on a leash at the time...your Honor.. he is a very irresponsible dog owner.”   
“Judgement for the plaintiff ... and you sir, are a negligent dog owner who probably should not even own a dog of any breed.”  That is what I was thinking.... Judging this dog owner and giving him the worst thoughts I could muster.

That is when the man turned to me and I saw his face clearly.  It was Caesar Millian zen master of dog training and television celebrity.  I was aware  he lived somewhere near but didn’t know where.  If you click on his name link you can see a picture of the Pitbull.  Harry and I could not have been safer at that moment from the attack of a Pitbull.  I was so ready to judge the dog and the man assuming he was a careless dog owner. The facts about this dog and this owner could not be more uninformed.  

Never judge a situation by the worst thoughts you can muster.  Never judge a person until you really know who they are. The evangelicals keep talking about judgement day coming... since we all seem to be judging each other not based on truth, I would say judgement day might just have arrived.

As you were,

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Toxic Tik Tok Primer. (For seniors)

I don’t know if any of my readers are Tik Tok users. Demographics might indicate a low probability. As a geezer representative I downloaded the APP when it was getting trolled by the President. I figured if he was against it... it might be something that I liked.  If you do not know what Tic Toc is,  and don’t want to spend the time to find out, here is a brief indoctrination. 

Tik Tok is a content driven platform for short videos that loop for up to a minute.  You can follow a particular account or just scroll through a feed called “just for you”.  An algorithm based on the type of videos one watches to conclusion, sends more of that genre to your feed.  From my observation there are only a few types of TikToks The one thing they all have in common is the desire, yes even the oft repeated request, to “like and follow” their videos. 

There are a lot of “karen videos” and other “live to tic toc”, camera in your face when you are behaving badly,  sagas.  There are women who are trying to get attention with sexy stories and garments, but with the Tic Toc sheriff taking lots of videos down.... it is mostly PG for language content. There are plenty of jokesters, daredevils and Amazing event observers offering their videos. With filters and editing buttons to click on, that would make a scrapbooking  Granny salivate, it can be a very creative endeavor.  

One of my favorites, therefore,  one I get fed a lot, is  “story time”.  A selfie, usually taken in the front seat of a car, featuring the “self” telling a story.  It can be a joke, anecdote or God forbid a “Karen” story.  If watching a video of a person acting badly is not disgusting enough, hearing the victim recount it is one step below. But there is a pattern to no matter what type of “Story Time” you are fed.  For those who have never Tic-ed nor Toc-ed nor do they plan to... here is my take on the average Tik Tok“Storytime” video. 

Imagine me reciting this in bad lighting sitting in the front seat of my JCW.  

So.... (90% of the people start with So) So, this is Storytime. So (sometimes it is So, Tik Tok).... no more interruptions.
So I was just waiting in line at this Whole Foods here behind me.  I bought a few things to cook but it was not a full shopping cart.  This Karen is in line behind me wearing a mask that did not cover her nose. I am trying not to turn her way and certainly did not want to engage her in conversation. She said, “You don’t look like you are in a hurry.”  
I said, “Not much to hurry about with this Covid madness,”. She said something in her mask and under her breath that I did not understand.  I went back to minding my own business which seemed to upset her.
“Are you in a hurry or not?” There was an edge to her tone suddenly.
“No more than anyone, I guess? We all want to get back to the safety of our own home.”
She said, “Well since you don’t seem to care. You should let me go and check out ahead of you.”  I looked in her basket and it was over flowing with lots of groceries.  Now we all have been in line at the store and the person behind us has two items to our basket full and we invite them to go ahead.  It is only courtesy.   But, Since she offered no reason for her impatience I made the call that it was not necessary to Let her go ahead of me.  I did not reply hoping this would end the conversation.  She muffled another comment. 
The new protocol is to wait on the 6 foot marker until the cashier say something like “next”.  I was watching the person ahead of me pay and wrangle paper sacks out the door.  There was a moment as the cashier readied herself for the next customer.  I could feel the Karen’s shopping cart start to move.

The cashier said, “Next”. And before I could even start to push my cart, Karen has pushed around me and gone into the check stand.  
“Excuse me... Mam I think I was next in line.”  
She quickly said loudly, “Oh no you weren’t”. The cashier looked at her. And I said,
“Yes I was.”  Upon hearing the exchange the guy who was behind her who was now behind me said,
“He was definitely ahead of you Lady,”
“No he wasn’t”, she blasted,  Others chimed in with several affirmations that it was indeed my turn.
“Well, since he doesn’t care, my time is valuable” as she began to  move to the credit card scanner, a rebellion started to brew. People were saying this it wasn’t right, who does she think she is, and such.
“What is this a dem-wit liberal convention of Trump haters...”  
The cashier who was Latina said, “I think he was ahead of you Mam and he doesn’t have that much stuff...”
Karen cut her off with “Of course support the libertards.  And you are not even a citizen. Go back to where you came from...”  Which caused a stir and people started defending the cashier. At that she picked up a can of tuna held it up like it was a baseball and she......
Oops out of time.... Like for part two.

As you were,

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Not Politics and Not the News

This is a story, not an editorial, not a political riff and certainly not a pundit rambling.  There will be no mention of Covid-19 nor an opinion on any Current event.   

I suppose this could be a Tik Tok video. Tik Tok videos seem to fall into only a few limited categories: People caught on camera behaving very badly.  People on camera talking about people behaving badly. Women on camera trying to convince viewers they behave badly.  AND people telling stories....usually badly.  All video presented in episodic  click bait to get you to follow them.   There seems to be a belief among social media addicts that entrance through the Pearly Gates of Heaven will be determined by how many “followers”  And “likes” you have.  

When we moved into this house there was a vacant lot catty corner to us. Directly across the street was a three bedroom mid-century ranch style house set back from the street.  The garage was in the back and the driveway was secured with an  electric gate made of wrought iron bars matching the rest of the fence across the front of the house.  To me it had the appearance of a cage.  An old couple had lived there since the house was built. Mostly staying to themselves I would see the wife leave in her cute red BMW often but never saw her in the front yard.  The old man would walk out to the driveway gate, hold the bars and stare out for a while. He had the look of a lifer in San Quinten wondering what the real world was doing.  He would soon shuffle back to the house, only to repeat this process several times a day.  I would wave when I was outside and saw him, he would wave back... sort of.  

One day after I thought he had made the connection that I was the new neighbor across the street I saw him holding on to his bars, so I crossed the street to actually meet him. He smiled and was friendly but it was obvious after a few seconds of conversation, he was either in a latter stage of Alzheimer’s or simple age related dementia.  From then on I would alway wave and say hi when I saw him at the gate, but he would just look at me with a vacant smile wondering who I was.  

Eventually his son Tim, who lived in the guest house behind, told me that his father had to be institutionalized.  Tim’s advice to me was.... “Just don’t get old”.  I saw Maxine in her red BMW often after that,  but never saw the old man again nor did I ever know his name.  After a time we didn’t see Maxine out and about.  Tim and his wife/girlfriend became caretakers to Maxine who was bed ridden.  Never saw her again either. Tim lived there for five more years or so.  I would take the time to chat when our paths crossed.  One day he rang the bell on my gate to tell me he had sold the house and was moving.  By this time the vacant lot had become a “maxed out property line” two story MacMansion with 5 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms.  It was the style of house that was slowly taking over the single story ranch house neighborhood.  

Soon there was work going on at Tim’s house across the street.  I assumed It was being upgraded for sale.  I was wrong. It was being salvaged in preparation for demolition.  Rising out of the noise and dust came a MacMansion half again as big as the new one on the vacant lot next door.  The new house boasted a plan for 6 bedrooms, 7 and half bathrooms, new pool/pool house, wine cellar, media room, gym and screening theater.  As the house was finishing up on the inside the outside was being landscaped and hard scraped with what seemed like an unlimited budget. I watched as they brought in 300 or so ficus trees and planted them around the property line.  In front of the new Wall/fence there were three different beds of beautiful shrubs and plants.  Against the white of the wall they looked quite stunning.  I was pleased to see that my front view was going to improve greatly when the noise and the dust settled.  

There came a time when I heard a different noise coming from the construction site across the street.  I came out to see a 60 foot crane lifting a 30 foot olive tree into a deep pit the other side of the 8 foot wall.  I thought the pit  was going to be a coy pond or fountain, but it was the hole for the tree.  I watched and wondered “what can’t you do with a lot of money?”  Do you want an old thirty foot grown Olive tree in your yard without planting a small one and letting it grow?  Well, this is how it’s done:  you just have to buy an  huge very expensive tree  and hire a huge truck and a gigantic crane to lift it over a huge wall.  I counted a dozen workers like ants swarming the yard.  A sod truck pulled up and soon the ground around the new tree was green with grass.  The tree looked like it had been there for the 20 years it would take to grow that tall.  

Eventually the house sold for 3.7 million.  I saw a Tesla come and go for a month or so before there was any actual activity at the house.  A family moved in but mainly stayed to themselves.  I became accustomed to Harry the Wonder dog taking his first pee in the  beautiful flower bed of the new neighborhood mansion early on our morning walks. I rescued Harry three years ago and we walk every day. This pee spot had become ritualized by now.  It was one of those mornings recently that Harry the Wonder Dog and I saw 5 trucks and a gang of Gardner’s pull up to the house.  Once again there was an ant hill of activity.  I couldn’t really tell what they were about to do, but during my random checks from my driveway,  I saw they were digging up the front yard flower beds.  They are digging up these expensive plants and throwing them in a cargo dumpster.  They placed black tar paper on the freshly dug up ground and begin to cut and fit artificial grass in the empty space.  I think maybe they will be putting pots with different plants on the glorified AstroTurf , but that is not the case. Gone are the beautiful plants and in their place plastic grass.  

Each time I come out to my drive way gate to look at the work, a man with a bandana handkerchief covering his face nods my way in a friendly gesture.  It seemed like they were winding down so I went back into the house.  Not long after that I hear the distinctive sounds of a chain saw.  I come again out to the gate, nod at the bandana, and see a guy with a chain saw high in the beautiful Olive tree.  I love trees and take special care of the ones on my property.  For this reason I know that it is not the right time of year to prune Olive trees, and to me that beautiful tree was not in need of a trim.  I went back inside.

After the time when a normal tree trimming should be completed, I still here the annoying motor sound of the chain saw.  Here I go back out to take a look.  To my horror they are cutting down the Olive tree. It is terrible to watch. Since there is no place to actually drop the whole tree, they are taking it down one section at a time.  I go back into the house because I can not bare to see that beautiful tree be killed.  There came a time when I realized the chain saw had been silent for some time. It was all quiet.  I didn’t want to see what next door looked like with out that grand Olive, and actually couldn’t see across the street from my window because my big  Tipituana  tree blocks the view.  So I walked out side to take a look.  

The yard across the street was no longer in a cooling shade. It was bright, sun shining on things that didn’t used to reflect back.  The scrubs out front were gone and the tree that stood watch was gone.  There was nothing but the Astro turf and blank white walls.  I thought of the money and man hours it took to get that grand tree placed in that perfect spot, and  now it was being hauled off in chunks.  What a waste.  I was thinking about how the neighborhood where my boys grew up was changing.  No less than a dozen of the houses that were here when I bought  have been leveled, over built and now tower over the single story homes that remain.  I was thinking about time, how it had passed so quickly once.  But now with the pandemic it seems like time has ground to a halt.    

I guess I was really thinking about age as my mind wondered.  As if he had suddenly just appeared, there was the man in the bandana waving to me.  With the muffled voice of a cloth covered mouth he said something like “How are you doing neighbor”.  It took me a moment to realize that the guy I thought was just one of the workers was the new home owner. In the time it took me to process it  all, my new neighbor is on hold waiting for me to respond.  The neighbor is an Asian man probably the age I was when I bought my house or maybe younger.  He is standing there in a frozen wave wondering about me.   Before I say hi back I think I know what he is thinking.  All day long he has seen me shuffle out to my drive way gate, grab the bars of  the wrought iron gate with my hands and peer out with a blank stare, and go back inside, only to return and do the same thing over and over.  It was an awkward pause, but I finally waved and yelled back, “What ever you do... don’t get old.”  

I didn’t.  I wanted to, but I didn’t.   I should’ve but I didn’t.  Maybe some day I will get to tell him this story.

As you were,

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Great 2020 Quarantine

First of all  this is not a political rant. If you are looking for that.... look almost anywhere else on any platform and you will find something that will get your “dander up” as they say in Texas.  I have not written a blog since February, before Sandi and I traveled to Berlin and returned to a United States and world that was shutting down and staying at home.  With what seemed like the twilight zone going on and  chaos surrounding our leadership,  there has been nothing to write about.  Nothing that seemed positive as least.

I don’t have any known co-morbidities except for being in *that* certain age group, but I wear a mask anytime I go outside.  I am not making any political statements by wearing a mask, nor do I understand why wearing one, especially in an enclosed space like a store, is in any way an infringement on my rights.  I wear a mask in public the same way I wear pants in public.  No doubt I could make a case that my freedom to go bare-ass naked any where I want to, and it might be “more comfortable”,  but I don’t.

In the early days of the Pandemic I fired up my mom’s old sewing machine and made masks for friends and family.  I felt like a male Rosy the Riveter doing my part for a national crisis since masks were at that time  in short supply.  Eventually, as I knew the capitalist would, manufacturers ramped up the production of all kinds of masks and they became ubiquitous.  I now have an entire wardrobe of masks that get washed, revamped and put back in rotation.  I have several that reside under the sun visor of my JCW (my red mini) just in case I forgot to get one leaving the house.   

I got the mask in the picture above from an on line site.  It is actually the mouth of Jerry Mahoney especially made for me. I also have a black one that simply has the words “Instant Ventriloquism”. Just trying to keep my career alive.   Upon seeing me in the Jerry Mahoney mask my wife said, 
“You’re not going out in public like that, are you?”  
I said, “Perhaps....” She indicated that in the case that I did wear it in public, she would maintain a double the 6’ recommendation of social distancing from me. 

Now one of the rituals that I have followed during this time of forced retirement, is to take Harry the Wonder Dog on long walks.  He loves to walk and never gets tired.  We average 3- 5 miles a day and I have seen more of my extended neighborhood than ever before.  Most importantly I never walk the dog with out a mask on.   However, if you wear a mask most every day, like underwear, you run out of clean ones and eventually get to that pair of underwear that is at the bottom of the heap.  So there are times when the only mask I have to wear is the “Mahoney”.  

 The other thing that is important to this discussion is: Harry the Wonder Dog is a chihuahua/ pug mix and an alpha male.  He is the greatest, sweetest most loving dog until he sees another dog on a leash and he turns into Napoleon the dog, bearing his teeth in a spontaneous assault.  We have worked with great trainers and slowly he is getting better.  It is not every dog that sets him off now, but it is like playing Russian Dog roulette. One of the things we have found it helps if I am able to wave and say hi to the other dog owner before they can pass us.  If Harry thinks it is a friend, then he is more likely not to turn into the Tasmanian devil.  So I become the masked welcome wagon with a friendly wave and “good morning “ to everyone I meet on our long walks.  In pre-pandemic days I would just smile, but with a mask when my smile is hidden, I find that a friendly voice is necessary to convey the spirit.   Some are friendly back to me, some are dismissive, some are talking on the phone and some have ear buds and never even know that we have passed by.   I would say that about half of the people I see on the street wear a face covering.  There have been mask-less  neighbors who pass by and apologetically say “I forgot my mask... sorry”.  Some pass by without a mask much closer to me and Harry than acceptable and seem to want a conflict as if the mask is some sort of political protest they don’t agree with.  

Sometimes I get a laugh when I toss out a friendly good  morning on our walks. It is then that I realize I am wearing the “Mahoney” and a friendly good morning from me, a guy with a plastic painted on smile, is just what LA needs right now.  I run into neighbors who say,“That is really creepy” but others (usually younger)  say “Great mask where did you get it.”

Yesterday, Sandi and our other dog Boo decided to do a short part of the walk with us.  We were several blocks from the house when I saw a lady approaching with her dog on the other side of the street. I immediately went into “Harry fooling” mode. I held up my hand  with a long armed wave and said, in a very proud voice only slightly muffled by the mask, “Hello, It’s a great morning...”.    She burst out laughing and yelled back ... “Yes it is...Ha Ha” .  The trick worked because Harry did not flinch or try and charge.  Sandi said, “What was she laughing about?”  At first I just assumed it was the Mahoney,  but I had a simple grey mask on with nothing printed on it because I was out in public with the woman I love. I purposefully did not wear that mask.  

I thought back on this event wondering what I had done that amused the passerby.  Then I understood it from her point of view.  The hand I held up to wave at the neighbor was holding a green poop bag  abundantly filled with dog shit.   I held up a bag if shit exclaiming what a great morning it was, like a father excited over successfully toilet training his two year old.  

“Hello, It”s a great morning for shit.”  It’s my new neighborhood pandemic greeting,  Works of me on so many levels.

As you were,

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Happy Birthday up There...

It was with great sadness that I heard  my friend Bob Mandan had passed away.  I don’t have the words to fully express yet another loss of a good friend, so I will just repost a birthday blog I wrote six years ago. Rest peacefully, Mandan.   

I repost this article I wrote about my friend from his birthday in 2012, preceded by this editors note written today.

There are friends, there are people you have worked with and then there is a person like Bob who is both. I recall so many fun times together when we roamed with a group of actor/publicists/writers called the "Terrible 10".  We got that name because we were a terrible table of ten if you were sitting next to us at a restaurant.  We laughed the entire time and were not quiet about it.  If you were looking for a quiet evening's meal we were not the table you wanted to sit close to.
Happy Birthday Mr. Mandan. I cherish your friendship.
Nothing has changed in the way I feel about you since I wrote the blog below.

It's GroundHog Day
On my top ten list of movies "GroundHog" day is near the top.   And here it is in real life, Groundhog day 2012.  But I think the Punxsutawney rodent gets too much attention today.  It is a special day for other reasons.

Robert Mandan, Bob Campbell, Jay Johnson, Jay Sandrich
Opening night of "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only"
It is also the birthday of my friend Robert Mandan: "Better Dressed!" 
Only a true SOAPY will get that reference, but it is how I know my friend Mandan. He is better known to some as Chester Tate on SOAP. 

Robert Mandan
I remember when I moved to Los Angeles I was with my  vacationing folks having dinner at the  Toulca Lake Marie Callendars. Although I didn't know his name at the time Robert Mandan was also waiting for a table.  Mandan is one of those actors I had seen in many staring roles. Bob was my first "celebrity siting" in my new home town.  Bob received the ultimate compliment my Father had for working actors when he whispered to me, "That guy has been in a gillion films." Indeed my friend has been in a "gillion" things. Take a look at his IMDB - Robert Mandan. That impressive list is only the film and television roles. There is an even more impressive list of stage productions that Bob has done, including an Ovation Award for "The CareTaker" and a critically acclaimed portrail of "King Lear", not to mention three Broadway shows. 
 I had no clue that soon I would be working with that "guy who has done a gillion films". We became friends almost immediately.  For a time we had the same personal manager, the same publicist and hung out with the same group of television actors.  We were known as the "terrible ten" because of fun we used to have at various Los Angeles restaurants. The members of the social group changed but Bob and I have remained friends all this time. 
Bob and his wife Sherry have been impromptu godparents to both my sons.  My oldest son will say, "How is Mandan?" even today.
Robert Mandan in "Barney Miller"
Chester Tate and Benson
Bob is an actors actor.  He never stops studying and learning how to better deliver his gift. He is funny and smart and yes, as piss elegant as Chester Tate sometimes. If you're lucky a working relationship turns into a real friendship in this town of huge openings and quiet closings. I am grateful to have friends like Bob and Sherry in my life. On a day like GroundHogs day when the talk is about the weather, I will be thinking about my friend Bob Mandan, certainly not a "fair weather friend".  
Note to Mandan: You are not getting older, like wine you are getting more valuable.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Mandan. We shall celebrate with a bottle of "HOOP DE HAH".

As you were,
Bob Mandan on "Three's a Crowd"
Bob Mandan on "Star Trek,The Next Generation"