it wasn’t when I thought

I discovered Pot Shots when I first arrived in Claremont in the fall of 1971. Maybe I even discovered them when I attended the summer program there in 1970. Pot Shots are post cards containing an aphorism and a line drawing.

A while back GoComics on the web started offering Pot Shots on a daily basis. They started at the beginning in the late 1960s and moved forward one Pot Shot at a time. I tracked my own experience at Pitzer College in the seventies as I saw each entry.

When 1975 rolled around I thought I had pretty much stopped paying attention to Pot Shots. That was my second semester as a senior at Pitzer and I was looking ahead to the next phase of my life. Then this Pot Shot show up on GoComics. Oh yeah. I remember that one. I remember it well. It resonated deeply with me.

Obviously, I was still an active Pot Shots follower in 1975.

I have abandoned my search for the truth and am now looking for a good fantasy

Dick Cavett

Dick CavettI wrote last week about literary smackdowns, and I mentioned Dick Cavett. That made me think to look to see if he has a presence on Facebook. He does. And he was posting about rebroadcasts of his show airing on a network called Decades. Hadn’t heard of that. Turns out that it is a secondary digital channel broadcast on CBS-owned stations. And my television provider offers it.

What a delight. Programs air Monday through Friday. Decades offers shows from Cavett’s ABC program from the early 1970’s, his PBS program from the late seventies and early eighties, and his short-lived series on the USA Network from 1985. Now I admit that I have three box sets on DVD from the ABC show and I haven’t watched all the programs, but how convenient to have the programs right there on my DVR.

As someone with a permanent 1970’s mentality, this is a real treat.

photo credit: Nick Stepowyj. Cropped. Creative Commons License.

literary smackdown

There is a column each week in the Sunday New York Times Book Review called “By the Book.” Each week a different author is interviewed with a more or less standard set of questions. Here is an exchange from a recent interview with author Daniel Silva:

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer, with William F. Buckley to serve as referee. I think I would set the table with paper plates and plastic utensils to avoid any undue bloodshed.

I posted this to Facebook and commented, “Can we somehow involve Dick Cavett in this as well?” After I wrote this I realized that Cavett had both Mailer and Vidal on his weeknight half hour PBS program in the mid and late 1970s. I don’t recall Buckley ever being on the show, but this was when Buckley was ascendant with his own weekend program in which he engaged in an intellectual smackdown with whomever his guest might be.

In fact, if I recall correctly, Cavett once had Mailer and Vidal together on the same episode, and there was something of a smackdown on that show.

There was some marvelous television in the 1970’s.

I don’t like the math

I received a fresh copy of the Pitzer College alumni magazine, The Participant, last week. It contained a piece about the retirement of a professor who arrived at Pitzer ten years after my graduation.

PitzerftnsmHow could that be possible?

I graduated from Pitzer in 1975. I would have attended my 40th year reunion last year with my friends Laurie and Ron had Terry and I not been right smack dab in the middle of our move from Silicon Valley to the eastern reaches of the Inland Empire.

This woman joined Pitzer in 1985 and retired last year. That’s thirty years. By any standards I guess that is a career.

The math works out. But I do not like the math.

the Olive Street neighborhood

An Olive Street recollection.

My Olive Street apartment in Claremont from 1975 to 1977 was in a convenient location. The main north-south thoroughfare, Indian Hill Boulevard, was just a block over. Olive Street ended at Arrow Highway, and we were just a house or two up from there. On the other side of Arrow Highway was a strip shopping mall that contained useful establishments from a practical, everyday perspective.

There was an old Safeway store that was not fancy, but had what we needed. There was a desk where you got your check approved before checking out. Sometimes we preferred a newer, nicer, store and so would drive to Ralph’s, Alpha Beta, or Lucky. But Safeway was always there for ease and simplicity.

Then there was a laundromat. It was very nice not having to go too far to do our laundry.

The strip mall also had a newsstand. The books were not a big deal as I worked in a bookstore, but I enjoyed flipping through the Village Voice and New York Review of Books.

Finally, there was a TG&Y variety store (remember those?). We didn’t shop there much, but sometimes we would try to change our bills for quarters there so we could do laundry.

Our Olive Street apartment. Convenient and appreciated.

some things don’t change

During my Claremont days in the 1970’s there were a few choices for classical music on the radio. One of the main options was KFAC, a commercial station. People, myself included, liked to complain that the station played too many war InternetRadiohorses. Too much Beethoven, Brahms, and Strauss (any or all of them). The non-commercial KUSC was something of an alternative.

These days when I experience news overdose and need to turn away from NPR, often my first thought is to tune to KUSC. But it is now KUSC that tends to be somewhat heavy on the war horses. The Los Angeles commercial classical station, KMZT, is generally worse. I often end up tuning to the NPR classical service, which I pick up via a secondary channel on KPBS in San Diego.

Some things don’t change.

Foster’s Doughnuts

An Olive Street recollection.

When I was sharing the Olive Street apartment with George, we did some slightly offbeat things. But that’s not unusual for folks of post-college age.

One time I got recruited to take the gang to Foster’s Doughnuts. George had a small Nissan (before the make was called Datsun) and I had a big Ford Galaxy. Foster’s was in Glendora, which was about a forty minute drive from Claremont. I was not told this until we were in the car and driving down Foothill Boulevard. And it wasn’t exactly midday. It was after nine p.m. The thing was, the cinnamon rolls came out of the oven at 10:00 pm, and the idea was to get them as fresh as possible.

This became a regular thing. We would get there about 9:45 or so and wait for the cinnamon rolls to be ready. Sometimes they would be injecting jelly into the jelly doughnuts and our friend Dick would inappropriate sounds. Well, appropriate for what he was thinking.

Then Foster’s changed their schedule, and there were no longer fresh cinnamon rolls at 10:00 pm.

It was fun while it lasted.

The Abortion (or: are you kidding me?)

An Olive Street recollection.

Those of you who are old enough to remember Richard Brautigan will recognize the first part of my title as a reference to his novella about an abortion in Mexico that did not go well. The second part of my title represents this way of thinking: WTF? Why the bleep are we still having to fight this battle?

Last week the South Carolina legislature passed a law prohibiting abortions after twenty weeks. The governor signed the bill this week. The same week the Oklahoma legislature passed a bill making abortion a felony. Fortunately the Oklahoma governor vetoed that one. As I said, WTF?

Let me tell you a story. I’ve told this before, but it’s been some years.

I was living on Olive Street during my Claremont Cockroach days. Beth was my housemate. She was a sophomore at Scripps College. Her boyfriend Ken, who, in fact, arranged for her to help me share in the rent, came back to Claremont from his Ivy League medical school over Christmas. They did what lovers do, and the birth control failed.

Beth had a problem. She got some good advice and signed up for MediCal. Then she talked to the folks at the Planned Parenthood clinic and made an appointment for her abortion. I dropped her off at the clinic on my way to work at B. Dalton Bookseller and she had arranged for someone else to pick her up afterwards.

She had a lot of pain and Ken was a humongous jerk in grilling her over the phone as to how much of that pain was psychological. But she was free of the pregnancy.

Had Beth been required to bring that pregnancy to term her college career would have been ended and her entire future would have been in jeopardy. I don’t know where Beth is today, but I trust that she is successful and doing well.

Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. We cannot allow ourselves to backslide.

All Things Considered

The folks at Current reminded me that the NPR news magazine All Things Considered made its debut on National Public Radio in 1971.

It was in the spring of 1971 that I graduated from high school, and in the fall of 1971 that I started college in Claremont, located on the eastern edge of Los Angeles county. Many of us there listened to classical music regularly. In addition to the commercial Los Angeles classical music radio station, KFAC, the noncommercial station KUSC broadcast classical music. KUSC also broadcast All Things Considered in those days. Today KFAC is long gone and KUSC is all classical. I don’t remember when I first started listening to ATC, but I know that I was very familiar with it by the start of my junior year, when I moved into the quiet suite in Mead Hall at Pitzer College. I remember discussing the program with my suite mates.

I still listen today. The show continues to provide quality reporting. I wrote last fall about avoiding news overdose, and that is still something I need to work on. I listen to NPR news shows more than I need to. Sometimes it is just good to switch to music.

But I’m glad that All Things Considered is there for me.


Rose Parade 1976

An Olive Street recollection.

I last published this here in December 2011, but given my return to Southern California I thought it a good time to share it again. As this essay makes clear, the best place to watch the Rose Parade is in the warmth of your own living room. And, sadly, tomorrow will be the last time we will be able to watch Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards host the broadcast.

December 31, 1975. I had planned on a quiet evening in my Olive Street apartment. My roommate George and his significant other (and my good friend) Alison were at home with their families. I splurged by buying a halibut fillet, which I was just taking out from under the broiler when the lesbian pair Anne and Ann burst into my apartment and told me they were taking me to see the Rose Parade.

I’d always talked about seeing the Rose Parade in person. And it sounded like a lot more fun than spending the evening alone listening to soft rock on Stereo 93, KNX-FM. Besides, the two Ann(e)s can be very persuasive individually, and as a couple were often an irresistible force. I allowed myself to be kidnapped and taken to Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena.

When we got there and we finally found the group with whom Ann and Anne were rendezvousing, I discovered that I was the only male in the group and the only straight person as well. I was in fact in the midst of the undergraduate lesbian elite of the Claremont Colleges.

They did come well provisioned. Included in the supplies were vodka, pineapple juice, and a tray of brownies. There being no orange juice, I started fixing myself pineapple juice and vodka drinks (what would you call that?) and munching on the brownies. It didn’t take me too long to start feeling sleepy and light-headed. It was only months later that I understood the true source of my condition. I don’t remember how the topic came up, but I remember Ann saying to me in a tone of voice that betrayed her impatience with my naiveté, “Mike, it wasn’t the small amount of vodka you drank that caused you to feel that way!” Oh, yeah. Right. Got it now.

The evening wore on, and eventually 1976 arrived. There was a brief burst of energy at midnight when people driving by honked their horns and everyone shouted “Happy New Year!” back and forth to each other. Things calmed down before too long, and we eventually decided it was time to get some sleep. I got into the sleeping bag that had been provided for me, and found myself wedged in between two members of the Claremont lesbian community.

I quote from an essay I wrote in the summer of 1976, something I aspired to get published, but which in fact never made it out of draft form.

I slept about as well as one might expect when lying on a street with a jacket for a pillow, but it was better than no sleep.

About five a.m. I was awakened by the sound of a car idling nearby and the voices of four or five men and women. Apparently the people next to us, a group of three couples, had decided that they had no intention of sleeping on the pavement, and so set up six chairs and took turns guarding their claim. I was hearing the final changing of the guard. After a lot of details being worked out in voices a good deal louder than I would have liked, the car drove off and a new couple took command of the post. It was at about this time that my bladder had begun hinting to me that I wanted to do something other than merely sleep, while the new woman next door found it necessary to do a commentary on what she saw about her.

“Look at those people in their sleeping bags,” I heard her say, “They’re so cute!” Perhaps to someone who had just gotten out of a warm bed my companions and I looked cute.

I, of course, felt anything but cute. I was sore, sleep-deprived, and wanted nothing more than a shower and a shave. I extricated myself from my spot on the street and made my way to the nearest set of portable toilets. When I returned the spot I had occupied had of course been filled in, so there was nothing for me to do except sit and take in the sights and sounds.

The morning wore on and eventually my companions started to stir. Those organizing the event started making quesadillas on a Coleman stove. They were quite good, actually.

The street was full of vendors, including one very clean-cut young man who struck me as perhaps a law or accounting student walking up and down the street with a cart and megaphone saying repeatedly in a pleasant, mild tone, “Good morning. Kodak film.” I wasn’t sure whether we was really trying to sell film, or simply wishing it good morning. I still wonder whether he actually sold any.

Eventually the streets were cleared and the parade started. It was fun seeing the flower-covered floats in person, but we were also all tired and happy when the parade was finished.

Anne had dropped Ann and me off at our camp site the night before and then parked the car. We headed off to where she said she had left it, only to find no car. Again, I quote my essay:

Both Ann and I had shared an apartment with Anne [Ann at the time, me earlier the previous summer ], and we knew how scatterbrained she could be. Our immediate assumption was that she left the car in a no-parking zone and it had been towed away. Anne insisted that she had done no such thing, and that we call the police department at once. One would not have guessed just how difficult it is to find a phone booth in downtown Pasadena.

After walking twenty or thirty blocks, and asking innumerable people where we might find such a rarity, we found a pay phone on Colorado Boulevard, next to an abandoned automobile showroom. The phone shortage in Pasadena that day was acute, and Anne had to wait in line for ten minutes before even getting to use it. I don’t suppose that we could have expected otherwise, but once she got through to the switchboard, she was put on hold. After just enough delay to make us fidget a bit more, Anne discovered that she had, in fact, parked legally, until the police decided that they needed that particular street for through traffic, and summarily towed away all of the cars parked thereon. But she did not tell us this until she finally returned with the car. She merely mumbled something about a high school and 200 blocks, and went wandering off, leaving Ann and me to sit, dressed for a cold night, in a sun that was becoming increasingly warm.

Nor did we have a particularly panoramic view front of us. It was past noon by this time, but traffic officers were still at all of the intersections directing an interminable flow of departing spectators. The gutters were a mass of trash, and tired purveyors of pretzels were returning their carts to some spot near where we were waiting. I had some change in my pocket, so I wandered across the street to a tiny and somewhat seedy-looking liquor store and picked up a soft drink and candy bar for Ann and myself. Then we sat and waited. I tried to write a letter and got nowhere. It got warmer. We became more sore and more tired. At length Anne reappeared in front of us and asked, “Anybody want a ride home?”

We were too exhausted to even throw our empty soda cans at her.

We headed back to Claremont and piled into the local Howard Johnson’s. We were slightly surprised that they let us in given how we looked: three people who came straggling in off the street. But then, we did just come straggling in from off the street. We had a mid-afternoon breakfast, and the Ann(e)s dropped me off at home.

I don’t recall what I did when I got inside, but I must have either taken a very long soak in the bathtub or stood under the shower until the hot water ran out.

Since that adventure, seeing the Rose Parade at home on television has always been more than adequate for me.