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Yours Truly | The Bleat.

It’s the dreaded PHOTO BLEAT, filling up space because it was a night of work and I happen to have some pictures.

Or, I could go with the random picture taken in a second-hand clothing store with plenty of Halloween stock, and note that this description of a fake mustache would be a fine name for a rock band:

Naked Flame would be a good name, too.

Sorry; spent most of the night on the column. You have no idea how hard it can be sometimes to find a topic that’s right for spry, merry, local-based humor, without some polarizing undertone. It’s not that I’m under orders not to polarize; not at all. I just don’t want to. I get a forum in a big paper, and I’m going to strive as hard as humanly possible to alienate half the readers because I HAVE AN OPINION ABOUT THINGS. This is why I compartmentalize my work, really – at worst it’s the illusion of comity, but at best it’s the recognition there are still some shared spaces. I get tired of everything being This or That, Libtards or Wingnuts.

Not to say some opinions expressed in the column wouldn’t be campfire tales at Camp Cranky, but some issues transcend simplistic divisions. That’s all.

So I wrote about a turtle.

Also wrote a Joe Ohio. The new design of the site will impress you, I think. It will knock you back on your ear, as they say. The last three matchbooks have been a challenge: one was a finance company, the second was Macy’s, the third was for a bar in Texas. As I’ve noted, I choose these at random, without looking at them. Macy’s was simple enough – go to New York. But why? When I called up the Texas matchbook today I groaned: how the hell do I fit this into the narrative? Because there is a narrative; one always emerges. There are three plots going on, and I don’t know where they’re going, or whether they’ll be resolved in Volume 2. (The third batch of 52 stories will be released in 2012.) When it’s done the entire opus will be about 150,000 words. I think I know where I want it to go. Don’t know if the matchbooks will let me take it there.

It’s like I Ching + tarot. It’s like Don Draper + Johnny Dollar.

Speaking of which: last night, while obsessively stepping up and down on the step board to burn off supper, I listened to a 1980s radio interview with the daughter of Bob Bailey, who played Johnny Dollar in the finest run of radio noir ever. She was a little girl when her dad was doing the show. She remembered going to the soundstage on Sundays. She remembered sitting in a room with Virginia Gregg – a name that may mean nothing to you, but she appeared in every other Dragnet TV show. She remembered her father confronting the evaporation of his career after the sudden end of dramatic radio, mostly because he didn’t look like his voice. He started drinking – again – and vanished for nine years. He resurfaced, dry, and was involved in an akly rehab program for other sots when he was felled by a stroke, and when the interview took place he was living in a home.

He didn’t have any way to listen to his old programs. It was doubtful he knew they were even out there – but they were, and in the next century they’d all find their way home, one at a time, to archive.org. He died shortly after the interview with his daughter, utterly forgotten.

She noted that her son sounded just like her father, and was in the Air Force. Since pilots often move to the civilian side, I wonder if he went to commercial aviation. Took the mike to announce the details of the flight, and made some old slumbering fellow wake up and think: I know that voice.

Anyway, it’s a lesson in fame and transience and being there when a medium dies. Bob Bailey was a fine talent, but a minor figure at the time – revered now by fans of the genre, but even then his show ran on Sunday afternoons. Anyone on the internet today should hope they have half his staying power, but we won’t. The internet is an enormous propellor that swamps everything, churning and thrashing and driving the great ship forward. There’s hard astern and hard to port but it’s always forward. Seriously: can you imagine someone in 2025 discovering a brilliant five-year run someone had on the internet in 1997 – 2002?

But I was talking about Joe, wasn’t I. I don’t even know his last name. I won’t know it until volume 3. I had a chance today to name it, but I didn’t. Because I know exactly when and how I’ll need to reveal it.

GAAAAH said my daughter when she came up behind me and clapped me on the shoulders. I was sitting in the dojo, waiting for karate to end, writing the story. They’d had class outside because it was a gorgeous day. She asked what I was writing, and I told her.

“Is this the newspaper murder mystery?” she asked. We walked over to the Chinese food joint. I said it was a different story, based on matchbooks. “You have a lot of matches,” she said. “How long is the book?”

Well, three volumes, 50 stories each, 1000 words per story . . . what’s that?

She frowned and did math and said WHOA.

After dinner she decided to write a story, and so she sat at the kitchen table and typed and typed, and there it is, on the desktop, with a filename that says DONTREAD.

Oh, the shoals I will be negotiating in the time to come.

Did I say pictures? I walked to the Army Surplus Store today to buy some goggles for her Halloween costume, and the trees by the First Bank building were lovely. High Fall.

Warm, too. The change in the foliage hues, the low slant of six o’clock light, the leaves in the parking lot whipped up by the wind and chasing each other in circles – novelties, diversions, amusements. But three months ago you would have crossed to the shady side of the street, because it was hot. Now you cross to the sunlit side, and you take what you can get. As long as it’s offered.

 

41 Responses to Yours Truly

  1. Ed Driscoll says:

    Speaking of Dragnet, did you see that Art Gilmore, voice-over artist extraordinaire, who also played the captain in 72,623 episodes of both the 1950s and 1960s-era Dragnet, Adam-12 and Emergency recently passed away? (He was also the announcer on a little 1964 TV special called A Time for Choosing).

  2. Kerry Potenza says:

    Seriously: can you imagine someone in 2025 discovering a brilliant five-year run someone had on the internet in 1997 – 2002?

    Perhaps not, but I DO imagine that the Bleat and The Institute of Official Cheer will be fondly remembered by many.

  3. Dreeana says:

    I love IMDB; someday maybe it will include radio performances.
    Your post the other day about radio shows and Ipods floored me, because it was on an afternoon that I had been listening to the OTR channel in the car, raced in to see if I could find the rest of the show on archive.org, and so on. Even something that seems totally quirky turns out to be more common than one might think.

  4. PersonFromPorlock says:

    Typo: ‘astern’ should be ‘astarboard’.

  5. Joe Sixpack says:

    High fall, indeed.

  6. Mr_Hat says:

    “Carnival Article” reminds me of a cheap firework I got when I was sixteen. The entire label: “Light fuse, smoke pot”.

  7. Mxymaster says:

    Sure I can remember someone who had a brilliant ‘Net run in roughly that time period: Steven Den Beste.

    Heard a few “Johnny Dollar” episodes recently and thought man, this concept deserves to be brought to TV. There was a graphic novel about Johnny done a couple of years back, but I believe it’s OOP.

    Steptoe trivia: “Steptoe and Son” was the British original for “Sanford and Son.” (All of Norman Lear’s decent ideas were stolen from British TV.) I doubt Carnival Articles had any connection.

  8. Nancy says:

    The color of fall skies can make me stop mid-walk and look–the contrast of the leaves against the sky–and breathe in the clear air. It has only been a few weeks since the last hot day here. But a hot day in September is not nearly as sincerely hot as August. And what a year it was for heat.

  9. hpoulter says:

    Perhaps not, but I DO imagine that the Bleat and The Institute of Official Cheer will be fondly remembered by many

    Interesting thought – nostalgia of the future? Old Time Internet? Of course, we don’t know how to market it because we don’t know what media will be available – jacked-in (wireless) brain plugs?

  10. Brisko says:

    I can’t wait for new Joe Ohio. His “real” last name had never occurred to me; I just assumed, in the back of my mind I suppose, that he was the precursor to such *ahem* luminaries as Hannah Montana and Ollie Oregon.

  11. dcmatthews says:

    The reason the name “Virginia Gregg” means anything to me is that she was the voice of Tara in the 1967 Hanna-Barbera series “The Herculoids”. Not the most demanding role she ever had – she could probably have recorded her role in the entire series run in a three-hour recording session because most of it was variations of saying “Zandor!” But finding out she was a very prolific radio actor led me to an appreciation of old-time radio, and the Bob Bailey episodes of “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar”.

  12. Jeff says:

    Maybe “dontread” is the story of the Michelin Man, whose name is actually Donald Tread…

  13. JohnW says:

    Mxymaster says:

    Sure I can remember someone who had a brilliant ‘Net run in roughly that time period: Steven Den Beste.

    I miss Kim du Toit.

  14. rbj says:

    I’m not seeing the foliage changing here yet in Toledo. Weird that most leaves are still green.

  15. wiredog says:

    What about the Wingtards and Libnuts? Huh? What about /them/?

    I think there will be some websites that will be remembered fondly for the way they were in a certain era. Kuro5hin was great until 2002, when Rusty decided not to do any heavy (or any) moderation. At which point it got overrun with trolls. Still is. Not sure why Rusty keeps it open. Slashdot was much more fun in its early years. Dave Barry’s blog is a fun place to hang out.

  16. All the YT Johnny Dollars I listened to were multi-parts that ran over several weeknights.

    Did it run in both formats?

  17. GardenStater says:

    I miss the Buzz.

  18. answered own question, I now see the one episode stories of YTJD.

  19. Bill Peschel says:

    There was a poster at the Straight Dope whose name I’ve now forgotten. Canadian, I think. He told long stories about his various adventures. A very funny fellow whose catchphrase, “Putz” has been preserved as a special symbol posters who never heard of him now use.

    He’s dead now. Working in a warehouse when a compressor, being brought down by a forklift, shifted and crushed him.

    I wonder how many still remember him. I hope they remember his name.

    (BTW, Den Beste was great. I’ve still got his essays on my hard drive, and he was a great influence on my politics. He’s still out there, but commenting on Japanese animation.)

  20. swschrad says:

    @Jeff: the Michelin Man’s name is Bib. it has been a long time since he started throwing slices out of his middle, but it’s on. that was allegedly the ad campaign in native France in the 50s.

    a stack of tires of various sizes, off the truck, coming to life.

    nightmare fuel.

    but I’ve never had one let me down, ever.

  21. winterhawk says:

    Bill Peschel: The Straight Dope poster’s name was WallyM7. Sadly, the “Putz” smiley was retired a few years ago, along with the “Happy Orthodox Jew” smiley. (I’m a longtime member of the SDMB–cool to see two of my longest internet connections converge. :) )

    I totally know who Virginia Gregg is/was! We used to watch Dragnet every night on Nick at Nite (back when it was good and actually showed *real* classic TV instead of stuff from 10 years ago). The thing I most remember her as is the pyramid scheme lady, but she was on a bunch of episodes.

  22. Spud says:

    In the Michelin Corporate halls he’s referred to as Mr. Bib. Well, at least in the US. In France he’s probably Monsieur Bib. Any time you need an IT service you go through BibRequest, a site on the (internal) intranet. Isn’t that cute? Enough company “secrets” for now …

  23. I liked Peggy Webber on Dragnet. She always played a lady with a hard luck story. On the radio she was Joe’s mother and any other number of ladies.

    IIRC she was a radio writer and producer at a very young age, kind of a real-life Peggy Olson.

  24. JamesS says:

    The sky in those photos reminded me of the first line of William Gibson’s Neuromancer:

    The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

    It sounds depressing at first — dead channel and all — but when you realize what a brilliant, almost unworldly blue that is, you know he’s actually describing a beautiful day.

  25. The shoals you will run, indeed. It is a scary world, being the father to a teenage girl (or several). Stay connected. That’s my best advice. There will be secrets, there will be private matters… but staying connected is essential for both of you to navigate through those years that lie just beyond the rocks.

  26. Mister James “Jim” Jimmy, I have four novels commercially published with two more in the on-deck circle, and don’t have clue one why, of all the semi-literate people in my family, the muse decided to alight on me.

    And I guess it’ll leave with me too, as neither of my grown sons has shown any inclination to take up the mantle. Maybe in two or three generations the fair lady will once again visit a Robinson, but for now, I’m it.

    All that to say, not only is Natalie a fine young artist, but may be glomming her old man’s stellar writing chops as well. Not a bad deal, that. Congrats!

  27. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – jennicam had a pretty good run…

  28. jennicam* reminded me of the “Modern Ferret” magazine and the associated website run by the Sheffermans who had a good run and many awards but, had much fall apart after 9/11.

    *”Jennie” was a ferret owner and was once featured on the cover of “Modern Ferret” with her ferret.

  29. swschrad says:

    tasty bits from the technolgy front held a good fortress until about 2001. the archive of http://tbtf.com still exists, as kdawson continues to moderate tech news with the slashdot crew.

    which also deserves mention.

  30. hpoulter says:

    bgbear – Greg Bell (XM OTR guy) played an interesting multi-part interview with Peggy Webber a couple of weeks ago for her birthday. He sat in her Hollywood home and ate tea and cookies while she exercised her amazingly detailed memories of her early career (she is way up there now, of course). She started writing radio scripts in elementaru school, and when her father moved to Tucson, she went to the radio station with a big box of scripts and got herself a gig. She says she looked like she was about 10 at the time, though she was a bit older. When she auditioned as an actress (still a kid) she did a whole stable of vocal impressions of famous actresses, and soon got steady work.

    Of course, she became a great friend of Jack Webb’s. We take it for granted now, but she talked about how exciting and revolutionary it was when Webb made the actors stand well back from the microphones and potted them up so they would pick up a great deal of background noise. It gave radio a new gritty realistic quality.

  31. browniejr says:

    Other great Dragnet regulars (many were on radio):
    Olan Soulé- always in the lab- CSI 1967 (!)
    Harry Bartell- he also played a US Senator/ KAOS agent on Get Smart, always found that funny…
    Vic Perrin (Star Trek connection)
    Ralph Moody- think Grampa Simpson…

  32. RobertB says:

    JamesS, I’m not sure William Gibson was describing a deep blue sky. At the time he wrote “Neuromancer,” it was just as likely that a “dead channel” looked like dirty snow. Most TVs did not yet shield sensitive viewers from such things.

    Given the tone of the book, I think the depressing interpretation is more likely. But the advance of technology has changed the meaning of the line for anyone younger than a certain age.

  33. Daniel says:

    The last picture, dtown2, is so lovely it made tears start in my eyes. Usually you make me laugh: “LOL”. I wonder whether this is like what my father used to say: “Ah, for crying out loud!”? “COL”? (Well, not *literally* out loud.) You know what I mean. Thank you, sir.

  34. Mxymaster says:

    Hey, forgot Brunching Shuttlecocks — another great site once upon a time.

  35. GardenStater says:

    @JamesS: “It sounds depressing at first — dead channel and all — but when you realize what a brilliant, almost unworldly blue…”

    I have to agree with RobertB. The first vision that comes to my head when I think of a “dead channel” is what we used to call “snow.” Grey bits and harsh static. Not exactly my idea of a beautiful sky.

    That’s probably another sign that I’m getting too damned old.

  36. cnyguy says:

    Since nobody else has pointed it out yet, I will: the Michelin Man’s full name is Bibendum.

    And Steptoe Product is another good name for a rock band.

  37. Johanna says:

    Hi, I finally had the crazy idea to comment on your blog. I’ve been reading it faithfully for months now. Thanks for what you write! I have two small kids, and I don’t have much time to read. But this is what I read. I always manage at least a couple of good laughs each time I come here.

  38. Claire says:

    I’m tired of it, too.

  39. Joni says:

    I’ve never been concerned with Joe’s last name, which is strange, since I’m normally such a completist. But I have a perfectly clear mental image of him. Joe’s hair is blond and beginning the slow inevitable march back from his forehead (and since the second batch is set two years later, I suppose it will have progressed a bit further); he has blue eyes and a nice face. No stud muffin but he looks good in those Fifties clothes.

  40. Ross says:

    Garden Stater:
    I’m with you–I miss Lance Lawson Thursdays, and some of the funnier regulars who don’t seem to have stayed with us. I know it’s inane, but I would let out an involuntary snort/chortle whenever I used to see (IIRC)Foamer’s tag line, “Oooh! Shiny!”

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