Eat Bray Shove

In the November 2017 Travel + Leisure, Jeff Gordimer wrote about his visit to the Dordogne, France’s “bucolic gastronome’s paradise.”  Gordimer confessed to going overboard on the plentiful cheese carts several nights followed by pleasant strolls in the countryside. His conclusion: “’Eat cheese and take a walk’ strikes me as a sensible approach to life.”

Taking a hint from this well-seasoned traveler, I present mottoes appropriate for tourists visiting other countries.

Botswana: Munch maize and get lost in a maze.

Burkina Faso: Chew peanuts and pull cotton-picking lint out of your pockets.

Chad: Suck a manioc, sock a maniac, and search for Jeremy.

Belize: Eat cacao and flee the cartel.

Australia: Snag a barbecued snag and load 16 tungstens.

El Salvador: Sort through sorghum and lift light metals.

Fiji: Crack a coconut and go dancing in the copra.

The Gambia: Palm kernels and take a gambit.

Costa Rica: Glom gallo pinto and ride a gallant pinto

Guatemala: Eat cardamom and cart your mom.

Jamaica: Peel a banana and spin a yarn.

Kosovo: Pick berries and smell leather.

Luxembourg: Harvest wheat and take it to the bank.

Mauritius: Suck on pulses and take your pulse.

Micronesia: Nibble on betel nuts and say, “Nuts to the Beatles.”

Malaysia: Eat nasi lemak and caper with a tapir.

Oman: Put the lime in the date and eat it all up.

Panama: Drink 20 cups of coffee and keep it under your hat.

Paraguay: Stuff down chipas and chip off the old block.

Peru: Eat asparagus and spare the gas.

Saint Lucia: Drink cocoa and corrugate boxes.

Serbia: Bite burek, grade the bel, and bell the grade.


By all means, do not miss Morocco where one can pit the olives and hit the road with Bob and Bing.



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Tourneur on Top

My favorite film noir remains Out of the Past directed by Jacques Tourneur, a versatile artist behind the camera who was also responsible for the scary Cat People and Night of the Demon, high adventures (The Flame and the Arrow, Anne of the Indies), thought-provoking dramas (The Leopard Man, Stars in My Crown), and distinctive westerns (Wichita, Canyon Passage).

While most of Tourneur’s best films were atmospheric black-and-white pictures, the gorgeous scenery of Canyon Passage got the full color treatment it deserved. A good portion of the location shooting was done in the Medford and Diamond Lake area of Oregon. Those color films of the 1940s loved redheads like Rhonda Fleming so in Canyon Passage Susan Hayward’s radiant tresses got much exposure in both the outdoor and interior scenes and the camera also dwells on Patricia Roc’s auburn locks in one of her final scenes with Dana Andrews who plays hero Logan Stuart.

Tourneur’s penchant for pricking the imaginations of viewers (made famous in the long walk and pool sequences of Cat People) is present in Canyon Passage as he stages deaths of significant characters off-screen. George Camrose (Brian Donleavy), a banker who had been paying gambling debts by stealing gold dust entrusted to him, fears the worst when drunken depositor McIver returns to town one night and will be withdrawing his gold the next day. Twice the camera dwells on George with his face turned left toward McIver and friends as the audience studies how the only way out for the desperate banker fixes in his mind. The murder of McIver is not shown so there is a shadow of a doubt when George is found guilty by a kangaroo court. After Logan frees George from a makeshift jail and gives him a gun, the hunting down and killing of the escaped man is simply reported by Johnny (Lloyd Bridges) as he returns Logan’s gun.

Even the real villain of the film, Honey Bragg (Ward Bond), is not shown committing his most dastardly deed or dying horrendously as he deserved. After spotting an Indian girl swimming in the woods, all that is suggested is a slight smile of lust on his face and her terrified paddling away from his leer. His act of murdering (and possibly raping) the girl is given as the cause for the Indian uprising that results in the death of settlers and the burning of homes. The slaughter of women during this sequence is hidden behind wagons or hedges. When a handful of Indians finally corral Bragg and bring him down in the distance, his violent end is suggested when a brave victoriously raises an arm that presumably holds the scalp of the dead Bragg.

Hoagy Carmichael, who plays Hi Linnet, a nosy and colorful character who strums a mandolin and sings portions of four songs, offers a few stanzas of the Oscar-nominated best song “Ole Buttermilk Sky” at the end. “Ole Buttermilk Sky,” perhaps Carmichael’s best-known song after “Stardust,” became a standard in his repertoire when Hoagy visited radio shows like The Jack Benny Program and The Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show.

Out of the Past was Tourneur’s next film after Canyon Passage so a case could be made that the director was right at his peak in the post-war years.


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Get a Grip

In the days of flaming redheads like Rita Hayworth we could, according to the song in Gilda, “Put the Blame on Mame.” In the present day and the present place (the greater Milwaukee area) the wording might be “Because They Put the Bronze on Fonz.”

It is likely that had not a statue of Fonzie been erected on the Milwaukee Riverwalk there would not be a campaign to build a life-size replica of South Milwaukee’s famous son, wrestler Reggie Lisowski, better known as The Crusher.

Lisowski, who died in 2005, seemed to enjoy life both inside and out of the ring. Legends like a Reggie regimen taking the form of running with beer barrels on his massive shoulders endeared him to fans both near and far from Suds City. Inside the ropes, he and tag team partner Dick the Bruiser used every shady maneuver to get the best of their opponents and bring out the jeers and cheers from the crowds. In 1959 the Novas immortalized the grappler in song, encouraging dancers gyrating to “The Crusher” to do the eye gouge and the hammerlock on their partners.

So far a small amount of the $40,000 goal has been raised through GoFundMe. It is obvious more effort needs to be exerted at the grass roots level if a bronze figure of Lisowski flexing his sizeable biceps is going to become a landmark. Here are some helpful suggestions to induce people to contribute without resorting to the head squeeze.

Children can start their own ComePinMe fundraiser by flopping back on a mat at school, getting friends to slap the mat three times, and then snarling “I wuz robbed!”

Shoe clerks can ask for a donation each time they use a stepover toe hold to put footgear on a customer.

Karate students can temporarily replace the traditional “Kiai” with “Grrrr” as they body slam each other at $5.00 a throw.

Butchers can add a surcharge for each tasty tidbit of Galliformed nape they sell from now until Thanksgiving and growling “Take that, you turkey neck!”

Newlyweds can raise large amounts of money simply by asking everyone invited to the wedding to donate for the privilege of witnessing the couple bend ring fingers back mercilessly until each one screams out “I give up!” instead of “I do.”

Delis could add 25¢ to phone orders received for hero sandwiches as a “Sub Mission Hold” fundraiser.

In an homage to the favorite ploy of diverting the referee’s attention so a forbidden move could be made on an opponent, April Fools’ Day tricks can be employed anytime of the year with the person made to look the other way or to open a door when no one is there compelled to “feed the kitty” as a way to “rush the Crush.”

There will be no griping in this corner if a statue of Lisowski becomes a reality, although I would be more in favor of raising a memorial to a wrestler known for sportsmanship and positive behavior in the ring such as longtime heavyweight champion Verne Gagne. I would willingly contribute to see a sculpture of Gagne placed somewhere in his home state of Minnesota showing him in his famous pose of administering the coup de grâce to one of the bad guys. It may be a long shot; I prefer to call it a sleeper.



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Even the Odds

I look forward to receiving each month’s issue of the Maine Antique Digest in my mailbox and paging through the six or seven sections of newsprint devoted to auctions, shows, and sales. A highlight of the “A” or editorial section is a small display ad featuring the wares of a New Hampshire dealer. Above a few black-and-white photos of some of his stock such as vintage dolls, weathervanes, and rustic signs and a whimsical line or two about the items displayed appears his name and what he offers for sales: Thos. Bartlett Antiques & Oddments. Not “Fine Antiques” or “Fine Period Antiques,” just “Antiques & Oddments.”

It is my hope that such simplicity, wit, and candor can persuade people involved in businesses or organizations to choose the path less traveled. A firm that repairs drills will get the point across by promoting “Bits–& Pieces Left Over.” A secondhand furniture store can be called “Nicks & Nacks.” A pawnbroker would stop passersby in their tracks if they saw in the window “We Have This & What Have You?”  It would be a treat if a sweet shop offered “Fresh Chocolates & Odd Mints.” Apprentice hod carriers could learn their trade faster if enrolled in the “Brick a Brac and Break” program. It is long past time for a fraternal organization to be more inclusive by declaring their halls open to “Odd Fellows & Weirder Women.”

One warning: It would be wise to use caution upon entering a store with “This & That” in the window if the tiny print under it reads “The other thing is chained in the corner.”


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Bittersweet Memories of Summer

Last February I suggested reading David Halberstam’s Summer of ’49 as a way of curing the winter blahs and to get in the spirit for the upcoming baseball season. This year’s recommended reading for the Hot Stove League is Memories of Summer by Roger Kahn.

Kahn, author of The Boys of Summer, captures both the joys and agonies of both his father and himself as lifelong Dodger fans. Current followers of the sport know well how the 108-year drought of the Chicago Cubs ended with their World Series triumph in 2016. Brooklyn won the National League pennant in 1916, 1920, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, and 1953, yet did not win their first World Series until 1955. Kahn reveals how the New York press (and many New Yorkers) viewed the Dodgers as weaklings or chokers compared to the Giants and Yankees who won 21 World Series titles between them before the Dodgers captured their first one.

A good portion of Memories of Summer deals with Kahn’s growth as a writer and the art of writing about sports as suggested by the book’s subtitle, “When Baseball Was an Art, and Writing about It a Game.” He started at the bottom as a copyboy at the New York Herald Tribune before gradually working his way up, learning by observing skillful wordsmiths like Red Smith in the pressroom and by late-night visits to the editorial library to study the well-crafted sentences of Heywood Broun. Kahn soon learned why this New York paper excelled at covering sports: “The Trib’s great strength had been a willingness to tolerate curmudgeons, eccentrics, rebels, provided only that they come equipped with talent.”

In the third chapter Kahn takes readers into the inner workings of newspapers, recreating how papers were put together so they can almost hear the roaring presses producing 35,000 copies of the Tribune every hour, “a daily miracle.” In the same chapter he describes what for many youngsters would be akin to a miracle: the privilege of shagging fly balls off the bat of Gil Hodges during the spring training of 1952 with Duke Snider, Carl Furillo, and Pee Wee Reese. Any grandeur the 24-year-old “virgin in the press box” might have experienced probably dissolved while interviewing Casey Stengel that spring and being subjected to a tobacco-spitting initiation by Yankee pitchers Allie Reynolds and Vic Raschi somewhat like the way cowpokes used gunshots to make tenderfoots dance in the old west.

Stengel, Reynolds, and Raschi figured prominently in the 1952 World Series which Kahn covered as a reporter and covers extensively in the book in an unhurried study of both the players and events of what Tom Meany of Collier’s called “the greatest World Series ever played.” Readers can take time to notice Hank Bauer, “a powerful fellow with the merciless features of a bordello bouncer,”  study Gil McDougald’s unusual batting stance, and observe how Johnny Sain applied the aeronautics he learned as a WWII pilot to throwing curves and sliders. The Yanks prevailed over the Dodgers in seven games to claim their fourth consecutive championship. Kahn’s lead sentence on the front page of the October 2, 1952 Herald Tribune demonstrated he had already learned the art of turning a phrase: “Every year is the next year for the Yankees.”

Regardless of his affection for the Dodgers, Kahn devotes two of the longest chapters to interviews with and recollections of two great New York center fielders, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.

In the final pages Kahn lists his favorite baseball books under the heading “The Golden Dozen.” After reading this account of one man’s admiration for the sport and his devotion to the craft of writing, readers may be inclined to add Memories of Summer to their Golden Dozen.




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Partly True Hacks

Fibber McGee’s favorite magazine was Partly True, an appropriate choice of reading material for a man known for spinning tall tales. McGee’s enthusiasm for the fictitious periodical diminished a bit when 40,000 copies of the same issue were delivered to 79 Wistful Vista in 1954.

I am reminded of Partly True when I pick up a copy of a local free paper that features on the front page each week a couple oddities taken from under a “Did You Know?” heading. Recent issues of the newspaper posted such nuggets as “There’s an orchid that looks like a monkey’s face called ‘Dracula simia’” and “In late-1600s London, an attacker called ‘Whipping Tom’ would spank his victims with a rod and shout ‘Spanko!’ before running away.”

Fibber McGee would probably counter with a blurb from Partly True about a monkey’s uncle who looked like Bela Lugosi holding an orchid. Herewith Partly True Hacks spanks the rod and spoils the mild by whipping up some astounding exploits.

In 1930s New York a deranged man raced through the 12th Trust and Savings, tearing up deposit and withdrawal slips and tossing them in the faces of cashiers while shouting “Banko!”

In 1880s Wyoming prospector Sippin’Sam ran through the Last Chance Saloon tossing poured beverages off the bar in the faces of customers while shouting “Dranko!”

During the age of piracy Short Jack Copper went berserk after fifty days at sea on the dreadnought Tublardy and forced the Captain and First Mate into the water before diving off the deep end himself while shouting “Planko!”

In the court of Louis XIV a dandy who coveted lace pranced through the palace at Versailles grabbing kerchiefs and doilies, stuffing them up his frilly sleeves while shouting “Hanko!”

After being declared 4F in 1942, a disgruntled reject named Flatfoot Freddie pussyfooted through an army base in Kansas, tearing stripes, epaulets, and medals off the uniforms of officers while shouting “Ranko!”

Every day at the offices of SoTrueFacts the person who churns out the weirdest tidbit is acclaimed “Cranko!”


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The Plateful Dead 8

While most drivers are pondering over what the combination of seven letters and/or numbers on vanity plates mean, my thoughts are far away as I ruminate about the famous folks no longer with us. Surely in some aery realm the status-conscious who reached earthly heights must be navigating from cloud to cloud or sphere to sphere bearing a badge of identification fore and aft. Look up instead of down and see more plates coming into view right now…    


Van Williams: GRNHRNT

Ray Goulding: MMCGOON

Bob Elliott: WALBALU

Merle Haggard: MUSKOKE

Martin Landau: ROLHAND

Hazel Shermet: MSDUFFY

Zsa Zsa Gabor: SARIGAB

Ty Hardin: BRONCO

Bobby Breen: MAKWISH

Keely Smith: BLKMAGC

Holly Dunn: FACNCRD

Marcel Marceau: BIP

Glen Campbell: RHNCOWB

Shelley Berman: FUNYMAN

Hugh Hefner: BUNYMAN

Bernard Fox: DRBOMBA

June Foray: NATASHA

Don Williams: TULSTIM

Rob Grill: HVNKNOS

Jim Nabors: GOMERPY

George Romero: LIVDEAD

Fats Domino: IMWALKN

Jake LaMotta: RAGNBUL

Dick Orkin: CHKNMAN

Sonny Bono: GOTUBAB

Della Reese: DONTUNO

Dan Haggerty: GRZADMS

David Cassidy: LNLY2LG

Buddy Greco: LIKEYNG

S.Z. Sakall: CUDDLES

Dudley Moore: CUD DUD

Chuck Berry: JONYBGD

Alan Young: WILPOST

Jerry Lewis: NUTYPRF

Lola Albright: EDIHART

Robert Knight: EVLASLV

Roger Moore: SITMPLR

Bobby Vee: RUN2HIM

Karen Carpenter: CLOSE2U

Joe E. Ross: OOH OOH


J.P. Richardson: BIGBOPR

Leon Russell: TITEROP

Tom Petty: NOBKDWN

Robert Vaughn: NAPSOLO

Adam West: BATMAN

Wilt Chamberlain: 100 PTS

Mary Tyler Moore: SPUNKY

Kay Starr: HOOPDDO

Don Rickles: MRWRMTH

Mel Tormé: SCATCAT





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