I am full of meat. The meat of Friend Cow and the meat of Brother Lobster. Also Sister Cake and Funny Uncle Cabernet. Tonight we attended a lecture-event hosted by the Freedom Society, a local group dedicated to, as you might expect, Freedom. Odd how the term automatically makes some think they must be nutjobs, eh? When I was in my young know-it-all phase I felt the same way about people who threw around the term Liberty; surely they were uptight buzzcut overamped guys who belonged to societies that had a Minuteman on their stationery. (snicker.) For some reason we thought that people who belonged to, oh, the Free Liberty Society, were actually quasi-Nazis opposed to progress and the fun stuff in life, and wanted everyone to form private militias to man the North Dakota border, looking for Rooskies. Silly people!
But now here I am at the Freedom Society, meeting in a vast dining hall overlooking a country club lawn, standing to say the pledge of allegiance to a flag the size of an IMAX screen hung lengthwise, and I’m getting that throat-knot that attends moments like these: sharing a simple communal instance of love-of-country with folks who also regard America, in the end, with uncomplicated admiration. To make it even better, the flag laid against a big window through which you could see another flag, fluttering in the twilight breeze. Double-flag power for the win! A lovely young woman sang the national anthem, followed by an erudite invocation. Then the host said some of my favorite words in the English language: there will now be a dinner, followed by a talk from Mark Steyn.
My wife and I are both over six feet, so you can figure out that he’s HUGE:
It was a grand evening; Steyn in person is the same as Steyn on the page, with all the sardonic incredulity and acidic asides you’d expect.
I’d say more, but it’ll have to wait. It’s late and I have to write a column, since one of my deadlines got moved up to the early AM hours, which means I have to write it the night before. Lucky for all, I banged out something wan earlier today. I almost wrote something about “24” – a subject that draws an equal amount of kudos and brickbats, to use the lazy newspaperman’s words. But I am almost done with the show. It’s come down to Jack pointing a gun at the head of an aquarium manager, shouting “WHERE IS THE SHARK? I NEED TO KNOW WHERE THE SHARK IS,” and then he jumps it, caught in mid-air at the very end of the episode. Will Jack successfully jump the shark before Bill Buchanan solves his evident constipation problems? Tune in next week!
I will, but the thrill is gone.
Anyway, here’s what I wrote around three o’clock or so.
It’s been an . . .interesting day. It began with a conference call with William Bennett. No, really. He’s doing promotion for his new book, the second volume of his American history series. The anti-Zinn, if you wish. They’re sending me a review copy, so I’ll give it, and the conversation, more attention then. Anyway, it was early for me – I’d just got Gnat off to school and run back up the hill to make the call – and it was late for Mr. B, who’d apparently been up for hours. But he was as genial and gentlemanly as you’d expect.
Afterwards, I had the usual morning. Wrote a few things. Edited a few things.
Gosh, I wish I could talk about what I really want to talk about, but I can’t; no tales out of school, and all that. Whatever that means. Tales were only told out of school when I was a kid. School was for reading old textbooks about Chile, textbooks that had strings hanging off the cloth binding. You couldn’t help but pull them.
So, there’s that.
About yesterday’s hotel postcard:
I know that building. restaurant is gone of course. The whole structure was condemned after the northridge earthquake. What you can’t tell is the basement became a pool hall ala “the hustler.” Great dive bar with about 30 tables. All gone now.
Anothrr note from Bruce, part of the parade of French-dip-card-recognizing guys with BR in their name:
When I lived in L.A. (aka "the bad years"), I ate at the French Dip depicted on your site. The sandwich was great. The weird thing, however, is that the place has no ketchup. None. They do not stock it. They will not conscience it. Any attempt to ask for it will be rebuffed, with varying degrees of rudeness.
Weird, huh? That's La-La Land for you.
Oh, and the Mystery Spot with the tilty lady? St. Ignace, MI. There; I think we're up to speed.
And now, to fill out the day, it’s our new weekly feature: old radio shows you could probably find somewhere else, hand-selected for reasons with which you may disagree. Today: The Horla!
It’s from a show called “Mystery in the Air,” which ran in the late 40s. It was introduced, as you can tell, by Harry Morgan, who would later play Sgt. Friday’s partner on “Dragnet,” and of course Col. Potter on “M*A*S*H.” Each of the episodes was the same, more or less: Peter Lorre goes off his freakin’ gourd. Either he goes before the first break, or stores it up until the end; doesn't matter. No one went off his gourd better than Lorre. This one is based on a story by Maupassant, one of those tenebrous tales in which nothing actually happens, except that the hero fears he is going mad. It’s like Poe, without the galloping narrative momentum. (Ahem.) You can listen to this as a period piece; you can enjoy the story and wonder exactly when anything will happen aside from someone moving a water glass; you can ignore it. But. If you listen all the way through for the inevitable shrieking Lorre freak-out, listen very carefully to what he’s saying. It caught me by surprise, and actually gave me a chill. But Lorre could have done that by reading the ingredients on a bottle of water, of course.
His imdb trivia page has a few eyebrow-raising notes. If you are disinclined to listen, that's fine - new Quirk and new Money for you, if you like. Thanks for stopping by; see you tomorrow. (Yes, that's my photo; it's one of my radios, provided by a friend who collects and restores these treasures.)