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“Where else but in America would our beastly relatives have had the freedom to behave as abominably as they did?”

Last night I heard this line on the 1960s Dobie Gillis show and immediately thought of the present day and of a certain person whose descendants might need it.

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“When you get born your father and mother lost something out of themselves.”

In writing a 2/20/18 column for Late Last Night Books online magazine, I included the quote, above and below, from Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. In his momentary thinking, a young man is trying to free himself from what he sees as parental expectations for him.

As a preface, I want to say that my own life experience was quite different from that of Warren’s narrator. I felt my parents wished me the best, but I never felt they cared whether I did one thing or another, as long as they thought whatever I did made me happy or would make me happy. Warren’s narrator had a completely different parental experience, but he expresses himself so well that I want to share his words here:

“When you get born your father and mother lost something out of themselves, and they are going to bust a hame trying to get it back, and you are it. They know they can’t get it all back but they will get as big a chunk out of you as they can. And the good old family reunion, with picnic dinner under the maples, is very much like diving into the octopus tank at the aquarium. Anyway, that is what I would have said back then, that evening.”

The high schooler in the photo above is me, as is the senior citizen below. You can put another candle on my birthday cake this month, if you can find the room. Be careful not to burn yourself trying to light them all.

Care to join me and Judy Collins in wondering Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day in Annapolis signals the approach of Spring, often with daffodils already up. It’s a day for a manhattan and a chocolate eclair.

It can also be a day of comedy, as Niles Crane proves while getting ready for his Valentine’s Day date.

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I entered the dining room of the lodge on the Brazilian side of the falls, Hotel Das Cataratas, where we were staying, and found a long table set with a breakfast buffet and my laughing sister sitting alone at a clean table for four. I sat down across from her. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” she said and kept laughing.

Only her silverware, rolled in napkin, lay in front of her. She’d been waiting for me and for Todd, who’d be along in a moment.

She laughed till tears rolled down her cheeks. I started laughing too. “What are we laughing at?” I asked.

“I’m just tired,” she gasped in her laughter. “When I’m tired, I laugh.”

We lived on opposite coasts of the U.S. but usually talked every week. I notice the absence of the phone calls, yet it seems to me that she’s still in her Southern California apartment. Only at Christmastime, which Todd and I usually spent with her, does the fact that she isn’t there seem real to me.

This Christmas I chanced to hear the song Rainy Day People, by Gordon Lightfoot, which always brings to mind hearing that song on a sunny, winter afternoon in the company of my sister and Todd at a restaurant with a light wood floor in a remodeled shopfront that might have been in Georgetown but was in fact in Colonia, Uruguay.

For the few minutes the song played, we were there again.

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The Joey Bishop Show (ABC) 1961-1969
Shown: Host Joey Bishop

On The Joey Bishop Show last night I heard two jokes. Maybe riddle is a better word than joke, because these aren’t laugh out loud funny, yet interesting.

There’s a builder who always does a perfect job. When he finishes a project, he never has anything left. He knows his work so well that he orders just the right amount of all materials.

Except one time he finishes a building, and he has a brick left, one single brick. What does he do with it? He throws it out.

(If you don’t get it, give it a minute. I promise you will get it.)

A woman on a train has a little dog. It’s eating a pickle. A man, a stranger, sharing the compartment with her has an aversion to pickles. He can’t stand to watch the dog sucking on a pickle. “Lady,” he says, “can’t you feed that dog something besides a pickle? It’s making me nauseated to watch it suck on that damned pickle.”

But the woman refuses to do anything. She says the dog likes pickles.

When the train stops at a station, the man grabs the pickle from the dog’s mouth and throws it out the window. The little dog hops out the window after it. The woman is hysterical, afraid the train will leave before she can get her dog. But it comes trotting down the aisle to the compartment. What does it have in its mouth? The brick.

Joey Bishop’s sitcom ran four seasons, 1961-1965, and is available from Netflix. Many people probably remember him better for hosting late night talk shows, both his own and guest hosting others, or for his part in Ocean’s 11. He died in Newport Beach, California, in 2007 at the age of 89.

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