Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sydney Duck continued

Before we were married, Julie expressed great interest in having a dog, preferably a miniature Yorkshire Terrier. I wanted to surprise her with a puppy for Christmas, 1960, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy a dog that looked like a large, hairy insect. So I researched somewhat similar terriers and concluded that the Australian Terrier could be a good compromise between Julie’s girlish desire and my macho proclivity. The result was Sydney Duck, with whom she fell in love on sight.

And Sydney loved Julie. For a while. Then one evening during her latter months of pregnancy with Joe, Sydney suddenly bolted from Julie’s touch and ran from the apartment. I saw him get knocked down by a car as he ran across Sunset Boulevard, but quickly gain his footing and continue his run. The last I saw him he was disappearing westward about a mile from home.

Julie was panicked and distraught. We stayed close to home and phone for the next few days, hoping that Sydney’s dog tags would lead him back to us. But that did not happen. Finally, I convinced Julie to go to coffee with me at a bakery patio where I often went, usually with Sydney; who stayed under a tree across the driveway from the patio while I had my coffee and visited with friends. When we pulled up to the curb and got out of the car, Sydney rose from a snooze under the tree, shook himself awake, and gingerly, dolefully, padded toward us. Julie crouched down to embrace the little vagabond with relief and affection, which he allowed, but did not reciprocate.

The bus boy told us that Sydney had shown up at the tree a couple of days before and seemed to be waiting for me. This resting place was familiar to Sydney, but it was located several blocks east of our apartment and when last seen he was running wildly in the opposite direction. When I didn’t show up at the patio, the bus boy gave him food and drink and Sydney spent those days and nights beside the tree. He had obviously chosen to not return home, which was something he frequently did when he became bored waiting for me to leave the patio. We didn’t fully realize it then, but Sydney had stopped being Julie’s dog, possibly a reaction to her pregnancy, and became my charge. Up to that time we had not personally bonded, though I had let him walk or ride to coffee with me. Never on a leash, as neither of us felt comfortable with a tether. But he always did respond immediately to a snap of my fingers or a low pitched whistle signal so we traveled in sync.

Regarding the bus boy, a forty-some year old man with children: a few years later he ran afoul of the DMV and needed to post an insurance bond within days or he would not be allowed to drive legally and travel to work in West Hollywood. When I heard of his problem and desperation, Julie and I agreed to lend him the fairly significant sum he needed. Although it took a while, this is one of the few loans we have ever had repayed.

After his return from the wild runaway, Sydney was calm at home, but generally indifferent to Julie and definitely not enchanted with the baby when Joe eventually arrived. Nor did I come in for any special attention, except when I was ready to go out. It seemed that I could barely start to think about heading out when Sydney would bestir himself from a snooze in the corner and start to pace anxiously at the door. Eventually, I never went anywhere without him.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Action Guys

I don't have anything against Daniel Craig as an actor,

except that he is boring. Even with his steroided uber body. But I do resent the current producers of Casino Royale for continuing the downward spiral of the action series to the point where I checked out after half an hour and couldn't care less what I might have missed.

Crank is a decidely less ambitious and lower tier escapade, which is part of what makes it much more entertaining than the current 007 franchise product.
And its star, Jason Stratham,
a natural athlete with a model's grace and a strong film presence was an obvious oversight in the Bond franchise search for an actor who could have brought off the pre-Connery rough rogue of Casino Royale.

Too bad. But I will look forward to the next Stratham actioner and will probably never see another Craig--pumped biceps or not.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dog time

Now that I live in a house with a yard and walls at least four feet high, I am only a driveway gate away from partnering with a dog. Looking online and thinking a lot about dogs I find that I think a lot about Duck, Sydney Duck, gone now these forty years. But in order to relate fully to a new canine partner I know I will have to relegate Sydney to a true past tense lest my expectations of the new dog become burdensome and odious.

I guess I need to bury Sydney, which upon his death I didn’t really do. The night that Sydney’s Vet explained the cause of his sudden death, Joe, age 6, and I took Sydney’s lifeless body in a box to the West L.A. trash incinerator compound. I don’t know, but don’t think this environmentally unfriendly operation still exists today. Smoke was pouring into the night air as we approached the gated entry. I told the guard on duty what I needed to do. He passed me through and directed me to an active furnace glowing deep within the complex.

I opened the iron door to the hot, orange flames and tossed Sydney’s makeshift coffin into the fire. That may not seem like much of a disposal, but it was personal. And heartfelt. And then Joe and I went home.

I am going to tell some stories about Sydney on this blog, just a little at a time, from time to time, not really to bury Sydney of course, but maybe to entomb some of my grief in order to find room in my life for another boon companion. I am looking forward to this resolution.

The Kid and Syd in '67

Going through the pictures with Sydney one thing you notice is that he doesn't take much notice of others in the shot. Sydney would never make up or play up to anyone; not even for food and never for affection or attention. And that included me.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The crimes continue

David Fincher extends the Zodiac killer's reach into the 21st Century. The Zodiac committed mayhem on a few innocent bodies but Fincher commits tedium and boredom a few million complicit minds. Let's face it, we even paid for the privilege of sitting through over 2 and a 1/2 hours of drab acting and mindless running about in the rain as if every second counted in gathering material to write a book about crimes that took place a decade and two before. Pointless pointless pointless.

The usual critics were also complicit in touting this dour and hang-dog meandering as something carrying meaning and portent. As least now you have been warned.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Maurice's Snack "n" Chat

There was a time when Maurice's (an 89 year-old lady) Snack "n" Chat was about as hot a restaurant destination as there was in L.A. Madam Prince had home cooked for some really upscale Hollywood personages, some of whom helped to finance the restaurant serving her unexcelled southern soul food. Other personages, such as these, helped to popularize Maurice's, but this web site description barely scratches the surface of the appeal Maurice's food had during her occupancy of the building she built and the restaurant she operated, shown in the photo.
Eventually, something happened to diminish Maurice's cooking and stature and about four years ago her restaurant went grimly down and out of business.

But now Maurice's Snack "n" Chat is back, but not really. I just found Maurice again on Pico, a few blocks east of her previous location, with a menu as diminished as her surroundings.

But, hey! Maurice is alive and cooking at 89. And most of us are not what we used to be. Maurice had her great days, and I guess these are still good.

Corrupt Republicanism

'You can't win a war by giving the enemy your game plan.'— Rep. Sam Johnson, Republican from Texas

Will someone inform Rep. Sam Johnson, and other idiotic and venal Republicanists that the United States can not win a war it is not fighting in Iraq. The only war in Iraq is a civil war. We have not declared war on Iraq and Iraq has not declared war on the U.S. We merely invaded Iraq. "Mission Accomplished!" We had our success, now we must get out of the way.

Nobody could have foreseen 9/11/2001 in election year 2000, so I don't blame Nader, Gore or myself for failing to anticipate that George W. Bush and his cohort of millionaire marauders would use that day as an opportunity to unleash the first evil act of the 21st Century.

Yet it is amazing that at this late date of full exposure of the failures and corruption of the Bush regime, that idiots like Johnson and, I suppose, his brainless Texas constituents, still keep their stuck firmly up Bush's asshole.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

BORAT actually finds time to bore in its 84 brief minutes.

BORAT is okay. It has its good moments. But overall I guess I have to say that my expectations, if not my testicles, exceeded Baron Cohen's grasp.

The effort is there, but the Farrelly Brothers are more entertainingly crude with DUMB AND DUMBER, funnier with THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and way more subversive with KINGPIN than anything in Borat; with Kingpin probably being the best of them all.

The good thing about the Ali G show was its brevity; only the best stuff made it to film. Borat would cut down nicely to about six skits and 40 minutes.

Friday, March 02, 2007


My preferred coffee for almost fifty years has been Farmer Brothers. I first discovered its great taste at the Brown Derby in Beverly Hills and was seriously disappointed to learn that it was only available in hotels and restaurants. So I tended to seek out and focus my patronage on restaurants that displayed the Farmer Brothers logo on their coffee-making equipment.

After a few years, however, I contacted the roasting plant and made arrangements to purchase a case of cans - 24 one pound vacuum cans - at either the roasting plant or one of their far-flung distribution warehouses.

So it has been my frequent practice for the past 30 years, or so, to spend half-a-day in travel to whichever location was closest to my current home. But my latest excursion was a shocker. No longer does Farmer Brothers roast that delicious blend that had made their fortune. Their basic case of cans is now replaced with the European style of "Gourmet Roasts" being brewed in our popular coffee houses. These Gourmet Roasts are nowhere as good as their long-standing roast, and not as good as most of the coffee house brews.

So where does that leave me? It leaves me without that great cup of morning coffee and that mellow relaxing cup after dinner.

It's just another problem of old age. As the years go on I find I lose the great pizzas, breads, tacos, dairy, bakery, coffees and so many foods and products that one associates with The Good Life. The tragedy of old age is that the memory of those lost pleasures does not fade.

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