I don’t know about your week, but mine ends like a balloon with a slight leak. Daughter has a sleepover on Friday night, which means an absence in the house; rasp in the throat may presage a cold, which wouldn’t be surprising. There’s one going around. When isn’t there? How wide a circle does it travel? At what speed is it going? My God, we’ve clocked this cold at 95 MPH, and it’s accelerating. All the work is done save one column, and I have the idea in hand. Friday won’t be a slide into home plate, but a saunter, a trot.
The office is a strange place these days, and next week will be almost a dream. Really: one of those dreams where everything is going differently but everyone behaves as if nothing is happening. The halls are full of boxes and shelves headed for the new building. The library emptied out completely today - just yesterday I was looking at some books I hadn’t opened since 1999, reference tomes that sit bereft of consulting patrons for five years on end. Today: gone. Off to a new home where they will be ignored in an entirely different context.
Ancient troves of review materials are being forced to the surface; our TV critic is putting out DVDs from shows that never staggered past the first network order, or complete boxed sets of VHS tapes for long-forgotten series that make you think “I wonder if the company that catered that is still in business. I’ll bet one of the guys who helped with the catering drifted away from LA eventually and now sits in a Vegas apartment as the building manager, playing the lottery and wondering if he should try to reach out to his daughter again. Maybe she’s forgiven him.” All these random lives that combined to make this thing, these shades on tape held in place by magnetism, sheathed in plastic then framed in cardboard. A solid discrete unit that represents the fortunes and failures of hundreds of people. No one wants it. Format’s wrong.
Everything is off my desk. I have a yellow box for stuff I want to move. There is nothing I want to move. Clean start - except, as a private joke, the pencils purchased my first day at the job. I had nothing to do that day, which seemed odd. I started work two weeks before my first column was due. So I took long lunches. Went to Crate and Barrel and bought the most beautiful pencils I’d ever seen, so beautiful I never had the heart to sharpen them. They’ll sit at the new place. When I leave for good I plan to hand them out to the interns, except for two. One I will save and the other I will snap in half before I leave.
Sounds very theatrical, like some old Mongol warrior breaking his sword over his knee to show he will fight no more or some such noble gesture accompanied by flutes and the cries of a falcon wheeling in the sky. Doesn’t mean I would stop writing. The new space has an office for our sports writer, who is 95. People wonder why he still writes at the age of 95, and I know he’s 95 because he still writes.
Maybe I’ll sharpen the last one and leave it on my desk.
The Mongol reference above is due to watching Netflix’s “Marco Polo,” two episodes of which have provided great satisfaction. It had a silly scene where a concubine turns into a fierce warrior, because the producers may have worried that the show seemed too realistic and requested a scene where a young woman disrobes and turns into Naked Ninja who skewers three professional soldiers, but I’ll excuse the lapse. The history is not exactly quite accurate - imagine a movie about Rome where Brutus and Augustus have a fistfight to the death, and you get the idea. But it’s grabbed me, and I have almost no interest whatsoever in Asian historical dramas.
I suppose this should go in Black and White World, but it's Sepia. So. I've been watching "Wings," the 1927 movie remembered as the first winner of the Best Picture Oscar. It’s remarkable. I’ve seen enough silent movies to know I shouldn’t be surprised. Even cursory study of the period teaches you how quickly the art grew up, how the language of film was almost perfected in the 20s at a pace no other art form had matched. The acting can be . . . broad, let’s say, and there’s lots of beseeching and arms thrown out and heads tossed back and those chaste-but-brutal kisses where the participants are grinding their faces together like bowling balls trying to merge into a single sphere.
But “Wings” was a surprise. The aerial combat sequences get all the attention, because they’re actually flying the planes. But now and then something came along that made me sit up and whistle. (Sorry for the jerkiness; it’s not a reflection of the source material.)
That was cool. But later, in Paris, this - taken from the unrestored version.
The happy couple - the beaming dowager passing something to a shady man - the lesbians - the couple worried they might be seen - the arguing couple - then our hero, hammered on French champagne. Twenty-one seconds and a world is born and filled with stories.
One of my favorite archaic spaces in the paper: the Clark Kent Memorial Phone Booth, second floor. Right around the corner was where I wrote the entire Joe Ohio story sequence over lunch.
The flowers have always been there. The decorator who designed the space would probably be amused to see they survived untouched, but perhaps not; I guess that's the point of fake flowers.
Ripped out soon and thrown away. The phone? It belongs to the building, and the building doesn't belong to us anymore.
As usual for Friday, the Music Cues. Of course we begin with the Couple Next Door. As we end the series' run, they changed up the cues a lot more. Except for these two - they're standbys, but they have that cheerful 50s domestic industriousness I love. Even though it's 1960.
CND Cue #528 Always love it when the cue's allowed to run its course.
CND Cue #529 They grafted the last five notes from another cue. Sure of it.
Moving along with the innumerable Gunsmoke cues:
Gunsmoke #67 I think they used this for "Indian" episodes.
Gunsmoke #68 Huh: seems like Chester got a hotfoot while the band played.
More Johnny Dollar, from the later years.
YTJD #15 WTH? Electronic music?
YTJD #16 This is so swank. Paul Drake never had it this good.
YTJD #17 And this is just plain BOSS.
To round out the radio offerings, the weekly ad. A short promo from an insufferable jerk who stayed around long enough to see his genial image blown apart.
Oh, dry up.
It has the feel of something knocked out with ease and pleasure. Recorded in one day, August 13, 1947.
How High the Moon.
And with that eminently civilized note, we end the week. Thanks for your patronage - see you on Monday!