Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Excerpt

From Me, Judy: A Life In (and Out of!) Pictures by Judy Garland, As Told to a Highball Glass

A little known fact about Wizard of Oz. Would you like to know this? The dog. The fucking, goddamn little dog, Sherry was its real name. No, Barry. No, it was a girl, so Sherry. Sherry the Toto wonderdog made nearly one hundred dollars a week more than I made for working on Oz. Can you believe that? Here I was, just coming off of success after success, and who was Sherry? Some nobody just off the animal catcher bus, new in town with not a piss to pot in. Probably gave Lou Mayer better head than I did. The little bitch's breath always smelled like peanut butter.

Terry! Toto was Terry, not Sherry. Do we have any sherry? No. No sherry. And no more Terry either--she died many years ago. As did Mayer.

The hilarious thing about Terry. One of the hilarious things, but the one I found more hilarious of all, like break your whale-bone corset laughing hilarious, was the public relations people at MGM decided, while promoting the film, to leak a story about how I'd grown ever so attached to that money-grubbing beast, and desperately, ever so desperately, wanted to adopt it. Not true, of course, but it made a nice story, and helped sell my fictional relationship with Toto. Which, to be honest, never made sense to me as an actress. Here's a farm girl, raised in Kansas--how the fuck could she be so delicate and so attached to animals. She'd probably seen many animals die in horrid, abrupt ways, and if she were so incredibly delicate she would never have lasted on a rural farm to begin with. No attachments, Dorothy! You're on a farm! Even the dogs are commodity, darling.

My stars! Dorothy almost had panic attacks at the slightest hint of violence. Well, I'm sorry, dear, but life is hard, as any farm girl knows. Read some Willa Cather and get back to me.

But the studio insisted I wanted to keep the dog. Terry. Terry the dog. Yes. They also, the year before, just as Love Finds Oliver Hardy was being released, wanted to plant an item in Louella Parsons' column about how I wanted to adopt Mickey Rooney, but--I'm sorry, not Oliver. Andy. Love Finds Andy Hardy. We all know no one ever wanted to adopt Oliver. And oh my god, I just saw Oliver! and could not believe musicals have become such dreary, colorless affairs. Bring back Minnelli, I say. Put some color in there, dazzle the people. They're already sitting in the dark--they don't need to see the darkness on the screen as well. Would a nice, vibrant purple literally kill the director?

Apparently, Mayer really wanted to sell me as a matronly type that would adopt simply anything. Mickey, the damn dog, simply anything. So I adopted the habit of accepting whatever the PR people wanted me to say.

Love finds Andy Hardy. Isn't that divine as a title? It's so... destiny. As if, when you're lost, you merely need to stand still long enough, and love will find you.

Of course, on the set of Oz, when I stood still, the only thing that would find me was that fucking dog. The only things that got humped more than the Munchkins during that shoot were my goddamn legs.

So the dog made one hundred dollars more than I each week. Couldn't sing. Couldn't dance. I carried her furry ass around for most of the scenes. But there she was, Terry the Totodog, raking in a good chunk of money while I attended countless fittings and screen tests and reshoots. The dog spent most of the downtime licking her nonexistent balls or being petted by the crew, while I had to carry this clunking hulk of a film on my shoulders, and get paid scale for my efforts. Victor would yell at me. With the dog, he was a dear.

Is it any wonder I turned to self-medication? My self-worth was ruined. I was literally worth less than some dog to the studio, to MGM--me, a singing, dancing, performing wingless monkey who had been called 'the greatest entertainer in history' by Fred Astaire himself. Fucking Toto.

Honestly, people think my greatest disappointment is my love life, or my failure to win the little golden fella for A Star is Born. True. True all, those were great disappointments, and there have been many more in my life besides, but knowing I worked for one hundred dollars less than a tiny dog with no lines and no big numbers stung me to my core.

I get the last laugh, however. I suppose. I mean, history knows I am female. Poor little Toto shuffled off this constrictive mortal coil with most everyone in the world assuming she had a penis. And she probably died with a needle in her arm too. Ah, Toto. Not in Kansas anymore. Or anywhere really, since dogs don't go to heaven.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Haunted Houses

While you'd never get me to say for sure, it is possible I grew up in a haunted house.

From the street, the house appeared to be slouching towards you like a boxy creature--there was a front porch running across the front, a long grey slab with bowed white pillars at either end supporting a steeped, shingled, confrontational roof. At the peak of the porch roof was the flat exterior of the second storey, made only moderately more expressive by two windows.

And slatted black shutters. The shutters, which naturally seemed to me like the windows' eyelashes, with the windowed eyes turned sideways because I was a kid and could imagine such things, were inert, screwed into the house's exterior.

Basically useless, those shutters. Ornamental.

And since the upstairs had been added sometime after the initial storey had been built in the 1900s, that second level never appeared quite right. Its slightly-offness combined with the confrontational porch roof and the staunch yet bowed pillars at either end of the porch slab to give the house a prowling quality, a forward momentum ever so slight.

When standing outside on the street in front of the house, my bike-handles in my palms, I'd glance over at the house, and know that the rear of the house was tidy and taught, and think the back legs of most animals are where the true power is. When an animal prepares to pounce, the push-off is from the back. The front legs bow, the forehead pushes outward, and the shoulders lean slightly into the direction of intent.

Anyway. Haunted, this beast of a house. And wonky. It was an old house, rather plain. Like Shirley Jackson's Hill House, none of the interior right angles were exactly right angles, so that the overall
experience of being inside the house gave one a perpetual sense of not being exactly in the right part of any given room--as if one need only to move a few inches to the left or right to stop the distortion the walls and ceiling seemed to encourage in the way they met together. Even peering out of the windows gave one a slight sense of nausea as they were old windows, wavy with time. I used to stand inside the house, and shift from my right foot to my left foot while holding my spine straight. Each shift brought a different view of the houses across Prospect Street. Shift left, and I could see the front porch of the Mann's house, and their patio furniture and gaudy summer flowers. Shift right, and the view would dissolve--I could still see the flowers, but now their front door and a porch swing.

Always in sight was the tree I begged my parents to plant. (Spoiler: the tree survived.) 

Looking out of those windows was looking at a Mad Magazine folding puzzle, without the folding.

Oh, and there was a twisted oak tree that had an aborical osteoporosis. Every bone inside the withered, wrinkled skin of that oak hinted at a tortured existence, and the oak, when taken as a whole, looked like a witch unsure of which direction she wished to strike her first curse. And there was a tiny metal shed next to the tree that had seen better days--had, perhaps, been the victim of the oak-witch's directionless curses. And a wizened old lady in the green house next door who died in a violent way not long after we moved in.

Her name, by the way, was Mrs. Parrish. Her house had right angles, inside and out, as did her car, which was as long as a hearse and drove her to her death.

Prospect Street was a quiet street in a very not-special part near--not in--the historic district of downtown Florence, Alabama. To be in the historic district meant living one block over, where every lawn was manicured and most homes had plaques screwed into them like the slatted shutters of our own home's upstairs windows. To be near the historic district meant being surrounded by old people and lawns converted into parking lots.

So, being near and not in, I grew up in an old house with old people all around me. The Manns across the street were sweet, old, dying. Mrs. Parrish, who tolerated me for a summer or two as I wandered through her yard and occasionally her house, was sweet, old, and dead. Her house remained vacant for quite a while. The Manns, across the street from us and always at deaths door, survived our 7 years tenure on Prospect Street, but not much longer. There were the Terrells at the other end of the block, who were an older couple with, improbably, a daughter merely two years older than I. And that was about it.

The oldness--not quite historic, as that was a block over--quality of Prospect Street was interesting. There's this thing I once wrote about the racial tone of the street, which I won't go into right now, that still existed, for instance. There was the need to be quiet and contained as well, which I didn't get.

And there was the old house I lived in, which seemed always on the cusp of leaping from its foundation and pouncing onto a victim on the street.

Inside the house, the inexactness of the corners, where floor met ceiling and ceiling met wall, distorted perception to the point where one--me--always thought one--me--was missing something out of the corner of the eye. The dissolving windows broke up beams of light in such a way that fractured sunrays splintered in unexpected ways, played across rooms in demented patterns. The age of the structure caused it to make unexpected sounds depending on the weather--like the deformed oak behind it, the house would pop and sigh as the temperature changed. Beneath the carpet and tiles, the floor would give or straighten. The house breathed. It felt its surroundings, and reacted as any organism would  react.

But I said it was haunted. And it may have been haunted. Those distortions of light through imperfect windows may not always have been distortions. Certainly the television turned on and off as it pleased, and more than a few times there were shapes that moved just out sight in the inexact corners of rooms.

Once, a friend of my parents, who slept upstairs in my room as I curled up between my parents, asked, over breakfast the next day, if I'd been running up and down the second storey hallway all night (Nope).

Also, there was a thing living under my bed, a thing that looked oddly like Grover that used to wake me up when my mom couldn't. From a deep sleep, reticent, this thing would squeal, emerge from
beneath my bed, bite me on the nose, and shriek, "Get up Marc!" in such a demented way that I'd fear for my life if I drifted back to sleep.


(Side note: Years later, when I hit junior high, Mom would unscrew the valve of my waterbed and shout, "Wake up or drown!" So it is possible she tired of my inability to wake up as early as 3rd grade, and hid under my bed with a Grover puppet to scare me into awareness... but I never owned a Grover puppet.)

Pretty skimpy haunted house story, yeah?

Yeah.

Then it burned down.

I'd been living with Greg for two years when the house burned down. I had not been living with that odd house for 15 years or so. The house with its strange oak tree in the back and it's prominent forehead and its confrontational front porch roof, just on the edge of the historic district of downtown Florence, Alabama.

Never Google your old home. If you do, you'll start missing every tree.
Like most of the old people who were there when I was there as a kid, the house burned away, dissolved, and left not much more than a place for more trees to grow and develop deformities needed to give angles that aren't quite right.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Five other times the House Stenographer has been dragged from the floor

Tonight, the House Stenographer--the person appointed to sit quietly and carry a big typing hand--was dragged from the floor. She yelled about Masons and God, and perhaps a sticking 'Q' key.

Here are five other times in this history of the US House a stenographer has been pulled from the House floor.

1776. Luddy Cartwright took the initial notes of the second Continental Congress. He was removed from the hot Philadelphia room when he insisted the Continent was not represented, and therefore should not have a Continential Congress. Instead, he suggested a Colonial Congress.

Cartwright was later proven to be a Navajo.

1860. On Oswald Clemmons first day as House stenographer, he shouted, "Gentleman! I support President Buchanan. I support him so much, I am carrying his child!" When asked for proof, Clemmons cited the recent Dred Scott decision, insisted he was a free-born white man, and denounced his own pregnancy as against the State. I had sex with that President, Mr Buchanan, and as a free man I am still a victim of the Dred Scott law. Dred Scott is to blame! Long live Oswald Clemmons. The outburst was stricken from the record. The typed pages, however, are still accessible in the Library of Congress, with a notation from Helen Thomas: Wow, I'm impressed he managed to write all this while being ripped from his pen.

1942. The only thing Stenographer Jed Susaki managed to type: Help, America, I'm being dragged right now from my assigned po. Port of call? Post? Point of origin? No one knows what Susaki meant to type when he typed 'po'. He was in a position to do a lot of things, but Susaki never managed to complete 'po.'

1953. While waiting for the Senate to end, because Strom Thurmond wouldn't shut up, the House stenographer sent a note to the Senate stenographer: It's okay. We'll always have Paris. 

2002. Gordon Gorson typed a few words, then looked to the House. "You saw me type everything right?" he asked. Speaker Dennis Hastert asked for a review. The House went into recess. Gorson never returned, and his stenography machine remains under investigation. Hastert, who currently credits Scientology as his stenographical hero, refuses to speak of Gordon Gorson.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

God Bless You, Mr. Boehner

This is inspired by the brilliant commenter who has been doing fanfic of the government shutdown. His David Foster Wallace is spot-on.


Listen. John Boehner has come unstuck in time. He went to sleep one night with a bottle of whiskey beside him, a teddy bear in a glass case, a comfort and a joy. Then he woke up in a bathroom stall in a truck stop, his breath smelling of mustard gas and roses.

John Boehner said this to himself: What the fuck.

His ass, hovering above the water in the basin of the toilet, replied: Poo-tee-weet.

***

John Boehner remembered a fallen comrade. He remembered Newt Gingrich. Poor old Newt Gingrich, who had been run out of office for stealing a good deal of money. So it goes.

***

Sitting on the toilet, in the restroom in the truckstop, Boehner spied notes scrawled on the fake porcelain walls. He spied this: Shit it down. And then he spied this: You mean shut. Shut it down, not shit it down.

Boehner's ass replied: Poo-tee-weet.

His skin was the color of a Tralfamadorian. His bottle of whiskey was somewhere in the past. Boehner sat on the white toilet, his pants around his ankles like House pages, wondering how he had arrived at this moment. Wondering, of course, what Newt Gingrich was doing right now.

***
Newt, by the way, was on television, telling people exactly what he would do in Boehner's shoes.

So it goes.

***
Boehner stared at the words before him. Shit it down. Shut it down.

Pure art.

Next to the 'Shut it down' comment was this: For a good time, call the Salvation Army. Boehner considered this, and even reached for his phone. He bent down to his ankles and fished through his pants pockets. No phone. So he settled back onto the toilet seat.

Poo-tee-weet.

***

Tralfamadorians were orange. He knew that. They were the color of two-day salmon left in a warm refrigerator. And they were in his mind, which was currently more busied (busy busy busy) by the graffiti in the stall than by the alien life. "My name," he said to himself, "is John Boehner. I have a penis 3 and a half inches long in the fourth dimension, and I am currently the color of a Tralfamadorian."

"And I have no idea where my whiskey is."

The last line was thrown in for comfort.

***

Poor old Newt Gingrich resigned because of publishing shenanigans.  He saw the wreckage of a political system he helped shut down in '95, and grabbed a book deal from it, and paid the ultimate price.

Poo-tee-weet.

***

Shit it down.

Flush. Except not flush--there was no handle to flush the toilet where Boehner, orange skin and whiskeyless, sat. There was a sensor. If Boehner stood up, the toilet would flush. If he remained seated, the cloudy water in the toilet basin would remain still.

So it goes.

***

Shit it down. Boehner read the words. Considered them. Shit. It goes down.

Shut it down. Boehner read those words as well. Considered them.

Poo-tee-weet.

Boehner was forced to consider his own ass.

***

Orange skin. Talkative ass. A toilet reluctant to flush until someone stood up. Boehner longed for the whiskey teddy bear, and he loved his new orange skin. He stared at the words on the bathroom stall, and made his decision.

His ass, again, went Poo-tee-weet.

And he remained seated, knowing there would be no flush until he stood.

Gingrich, meanwhile, continued to speak about his own government shutdown.

So it went.

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