Monday, January 30, 2017

Your Next Home

One of my vicarious activities is the pursuit of inspiration in architect-designed houses.  

The Sorenson Residence, by William Wesley Peters (a Frank Lloyd Wright protégé who also married Stalin’s daughter!), is currently on the market for a sliver under 2 million.

Equidistant from three Wisconsin cultural Meccas (Madison, Spring Green, and Nature’s First Green), this curvilinear abode is situated on 80 rugged acres at the terminus of a dead-end road. 4 bedrooms, 5 baths, 5200 sq. ft., garages for 8 cars, this one has it all:

What are you waiting for?

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Reader - Week 4

The next morning Andy woke with a start. The house was quiet: there hadn’t been Evelyn’s usual clattering to disrupt his final dream, the dream that was always the sweetest one. He padded out to the kitchen in his bathrobe, started coffee and then went into the bathroom. After performing his toilet, he dressed and, by the time he returned to the kitchen, the coffee was done. On the top of the stack on the table there was another installment of the ongoing memoir queued up for his inspection:

Londa and the Gang

The older city buses had character. The buses had been built in the early 50s, cheaply, to drive out the perfectly serviceable trolley service. The city had sent the old streetcars to Mexico City where they were still being used. The old buses were being replaced by newer ones, slowly. The one we were riding in was probably overdue for replacementthe shocks certainly were.

Londa and her “boys” were riding to the hockey preview. I had heard about Londa, nothing bad, just that she would rather hang out with guys rather than girls. She didnt do it to lead them on; the twinkle in her eyes was never a come-on. No guy would ever consider her a femme-fatale, not with her goofy grin, one that wasn’t always in sync with the situation. It was coldtypical January weather on the Northern Plainsthe aged transport they were using wasn’t much warmer.  Londa was in a seat mounted over the rear wheel-well, facing sideways, it offered her better dramatic opportunities. She was visible to the rest of the gang who sat in across from her and in the adjacent back row. When she was sure everyone was looking, she he leaned her head back against the window behind her and let her mouth hang open, slack-jawed. Whenever the bus ran over a rough patch of paving her whole face would quiver uncontrollably, making the guys laugh. She would then pull her head forward, the jiggling ceased and she acted as if nothing had happened. The guys found that to be even funnier. She kept them all amused with antics of this sort for the twenty minutes it took to get downtown. When they reached it they had to transfer to a different route. The guys formed a tacit cordon around her as they waited for the next bus. There were plenty of undesirable types on the street: guys who considered sixteen-year-old girls fair game. As well as thirteen-year-olds. None of the guys wanted any trouble for Londa, she was an alright girl, so they kept close to her. The second bus ride was shorter, they were out of their turf now, they kept hi-jinks to the minimum. After they arrived at the arena they paid their admission and went in.

The “ice barn”, as it was known, was old and constructed of wood. It had a narrow causeway around the arena proper: the rink and the seating. It was a firetrap. There were eight high school teams playing, two each in four quarters, it was the season preview. I found another friend from school and left the group to sit with him. Londa smiled as I left, opening her eyes wide, suggestively, but any malice she may have intended was betrayed by a giggle. Play began, but I quickly lost interest. I had never grasped the finer points of the game: there was a lot of “icing” and penalties and face-offs, none of the teams seemed to be very good. From time to time I would look over at Londa and the guys, trying to imagine how the dynamic of her “group date” was developing, but even when viewed from across the ice it was evident that she didn’t play favorites. The matches went on, my high school’s team played last and, much to everyone's surprise, decisively beat the other team. By this time it was after nine and there was a ten P.M. curfew, although if you had a ticket stub you wouldn’t be picked up. I took different bus home so I left the others. When I joined the throng in the corridor on the way to the exits a young rowdy, presumably from the team that had just lost, ran up and hoisted me off my feet and sneered “Are you from Henry?” he huffed. I actually was, but quickly denied it, saying I was from another team that had been beaten in the first round. The punk let me go and I went the other way. When I looked back, the punk had evidently gone looking for another victim.

Londa and the gang were not to be seen. 

Andy put the manuscript down. He wasn’t in the mood for this coming-of-age story, but it helped to pay the bills.  He made a few short edits and put it back in the unfinished pile. He’d get back to that one later, after he’d done his usual work.

The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Reader - Week 3

Reading After Midnight

When Andy got home from the store, he put the groceries away and turned to the stack of papers on the table. It was more of the same from a client who had been assembling a memoir—a vanity project—Andy thought, but then again, wasn’t everything he read a vanity project? His client’s printouts were carefully double spaced with a wide margin for editor’s comments. Always hard copy, his client didn’t trust the internet. Andy doubted that this uninspiring life story would ever be published, but at least it was a change from the usual daily work of editing catalogs and technical writing. Although it was past midnight, Andy wasn’t particularly tired.

“May as well get some work done,” he mused, “Lord knows I’m wide awake.”

This particular assignment had been going on for several weeks now; if this new bucket of soggy nostalgia was anything like the previous ones, Andy knew that it would quickly put him in a frame of mind conducive to sleep:

The Bohanon Cubs

T-shirt and a cap.

All we needed to make it to the top of the park board junior league was T-shirts and caps. The Macs, one of the other other teams that used Bohanon Park as their home field, had full uniforms—pro style—with matching caps. Some of their players even wore cleated shoes, and they were always the champions. Even their manager had a uniform.

The first year our team was together was pretty dismal. I think we only won one game—besting The Woodsmen. The second year we managed to pick up a coupe of ringers, good players who had just moved in and hadn’t been “scouted.” Fuller was a husky slugger with thick glasses. Barry was a ne’er-do-well who had missed too many practices with his old team, The Stans. He was a good player though, and a natural center fielder who could also cover most of right field when I was playing there. I would guard the line. My other position was second base. Both positions were saved for guys with weak arms.

We won our first four games. Fuller hit homers in each one. The fifth game was against The Shingle Creek Yankees, an odd choice of a name for an integrated team. The “real” Yankees were still lily whitethey wouldn’t field a black player until Elston Howard in 1961. The Shingle Creek Yankees had a tall pitcher called Big George Jackson. He was already more of a man than a boy and would later go on to play basketball in college. His catcher was also mature, but in addition to his atheletic skills he was a pretty hilarious motor-mouth; funny until it was you who was standing in the batter’s box. I struck out a couple of times. In spite of that, when the top of the seventh was over we were up 3 to 2. Our pitcher was a gangly youth named Doug. He wasn’t what you would call dominant, but he could throw it over the plate. “A walk is as good as a hit”, they used to say, and Doug didn’t walk many. He would give up a fair amount of hits, though, and in the bottom of the seventh, The Yankees quickly put runners on second and third. Doug managed to strike out the next batter, so our hopes were high. I was standing out in right field and the coach told me to move back because Big George was up—he was a lefty and he could belt it. If it was hit to me and I did catch it, there was a chance that I could keep the runner from second from tagging up and scoring. We conceded the runner at third.

Big George looped Doug’s first pitch into short right field where it died like a rotten tomato thrown on a sidewalk. By the time I got to it the Yankees had tied, and my feeble throw was too late to stop the winning run from scoring.

Our championship dream was over, I walked home alone, fighting my emotions. When I got to my room, I fell on my bed and sobbed for hours.

The next week we played The Macs and got whupped. The Shingle Creek Yankees had beaten them and also beat The Stans so they were the new champions. In a few years, the best players from The Macs and The Stans would be playing baseball together in high school, while the black kids from The Shingle Creek Yankees played football and basketball. All of that is many years ago, of course; nobody talks about those days anymore.

The Bohanon Cubs are still waiting for their t-shirts and caps.

He thought about the woman he had met in the pub, “Jennifer? That was her name, wasn’t it?” and he found himself smiling.

Andy began to nod.

He would sleep tonight. 

The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Harriet and Desha

Como Park Conservatory,  Luella Busch, C. 1920

A reliable pick-me-up for the mid-winter blues is a trip to the Conservatory. This verdant getaway in Saint Paul, Minnesota, has been lifting spirits for over one hundred years with its mix of plants from around the world:

The Sunken Garden (pictured above), features this charming bronze of a petite young woman as its centerpiece:

This expression of innocent joy was captured by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth in the early 1920s. I think that there would be a public outcry if such a revealing sculpture were to be installed in a public place today:

Play Days, c. 1925

Harriet was old school—she had studied art under Auguste Rodin and Gutzon Borglum—and was unimpressed by Modernism. Appreciation of her art, which had been considered passé for many years, rose again in the 1970s. Harriet managed to live long enough (she died in 1980) to be able to enjoy it. Recently, sales of her large bronzes have brought upwards of a half million dollars. There is another Frishmuth bronze at the conservatory, one that expresses joy in an even more exuberant fashion:

Crest of the Wave, C. 1925

Looking into the story behind these works, I found out that these were both based on the same person, Desha Delteil, a noted dancer, who was the model for these and many other works by Frishmuth, as well as for other artists.  Harriet highly valued Desha’s ability to hold difficult poses for extended periods:

Desha, by Nickolas Muray, 1922, George Eastman House

A cast plaster bust of Desha by Frishmuth has been featured on Antiques Roadshow.

Not a bad way to spend a chilly Saturday afternoon in January!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Reader - Week 2

Boogie-Woogie Country Girl

Andy left the diner and went down the street to the pub. He wanted a stout to erase the stale grease mouth-feel from the diner. “How can you make greasy mashed potatoes?” he wondered. Some of his old high school buddies had a band that was playing at the pub that night: Big Dick and his Hot Dogs.  The Hot Dogs were capable, inspired at times, “Big Dick” had a way with Little Feat covers. He was beginning to look his age. They usually played with an accordionist, but tonight he was missing—recouping from having had his pacemaker replaced. A woman was sitting in, singing Gershwin’s Summertime.

It’s hell growing old… ” Andy thought, “ …and it’s going to be hell growing old alone.

He wasn’t alone for long. Across the bar a slim, well-preserved 40-ish woman sat, nursing a drink. A redhead. Andy liked redheads. He caught her eye and they both smiled. To his surprise she came over, pulled up a stool beside him and asked if the seat was taken. She flashed an unapologetic smile, a smile without fear. She began to speak:

“I’m Jennifer,” she said, holding out her hand. Andy clasped it gently, as if it were a bird. He hadn’t touched a woman other than Evelyn for years. He hadn’t even touched Evelyn for months. Working at home—copy-editing e-files and manuscripts wasn’t the most sociable of occupations.

Evelyn was probably right when she called me socially retarded,” thought Andy, “Although she didn’t have to be so mean about it.

Catching himself frowning at the memory of Evelyn’s slur, he forced a wan smile. Jennifer didn’t notice either emotion. He thought that he’d try a more positive approach.

“Hi, my name is Andy,” he said, “Did you come to hear the band?”

“I saw them play at Minnehaha Park a couple of weeks ago,” Jennifer said, “Old school, a little country, a little boogie. I like ‘em.” She moved closer to Andy, close enough that their thighs were touching.

Andy’s memory was jogged by the contact:
The night club was crowded. Andy had gone to see the most recent incarnation of a band that he had followed one summer a couple of years ago. As he made his way to the other side of the room he saw Sally, a woman who he had also followed that summer. She was usually talkative, sometimes maddeningly so, but Andy didn't mind her loquaciousness; whenever she got wound up he would just sit back and let her words flow over him. Her voice was smooth, and she wasn’t afraid of letting it drop into a lower register; a true contralto. It never had the scratchy “fry” of so many of the younger women that he saw on TV or in the movies.

But tonight she wasn’t talking. Her eyes were on the band. Jessie, one of her former lovers, was on stage with a new group, trying to rekindle the passion he had once held for performing. Jessie would toss a glance her way from time to time. Most of what the group played was turgid blues, but when Jessie counted off an up-tempo version of Big Joe Turner’s “Boogie-Woogie Country Girl” Sally came to life. She started moving her leg in time to the music, her thigh touching Andy’s in a subtle dance: primal, arousing. Sally and Andy were friends, but never in an intimate sense. Once in a while, late at night, before she had married, she would call him and have him over to watch Alfred Hitchcock reruns on TV. She talked then. As Sally got into the music her mouth opened reflexively, she was becoming aroused as well. The song ended, as did her “dance.” She turned and smiled at Andy, her eyes flashing a silent thank-you. The band took a break and she returned to her talk mode, all the while keeping an eye on Jessie. The “fling” that she had taken with him, nearly five years ago now, had ended badly—for her.

All of Jessie’s flings had ended badly for the women.
Andy’s reverie was broken by the touch of Jennifer’s hand on his thigh. Andy had the strange feeling that his flashback had really happened. Was it some erotic fiction that he had once proofread?

“Care to dance?” Jennifer asked, “The band is good.”

”I’m sorry, I have to go,” said Andy, embarrassed, he felt as if she had been reading his thoughts. He stood up to leave. “Some other time, sure… ” he said, and then was out the door. His thigh felt warm where Jennifer had been touching it. Where Sally had touched it.

When he was in his car, Andy thought about going back into the pub. Jennifer was pretty, and not too young for him either. And he thought about Sally for a moment as well. A fling. No. He’d call Sally tomorrow. They’d get together for coffee and talk. It had been too long. Jennifer. A fling. No.

Instead of turning back, Andy headed for the all-night grocery.

The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Pink Guitar Redux

Another guitar with no real reason to exist, this demented double neck has the capability of all the pickups operating at once. The two volume knobs control neck and bridge pickup pairs respectively, while the single tone knob is the master for all pickups. The long neck is tuned to the standard E-E, the short neck is tuned A-A, a fourth higher.

By tuning the standard neck to an open tuning, at high volume the higher pitched chords on the small neck are complemented by various drones or other open notes on the long neck, or vice versa. Both necks and their tuners are 'genuine’ made in Indonesia Fender, the body is MIC (from Guitar Fetish), as are the pickups and other hardware. This originally had two standard necks, but this option is much more versatile. Heavy, but not ridiculously so. That said, it might be better to sit down when playing this.

Lots of barely-controllable fun. Might be a good ax for conjoined twins or even an erotic duet with a simpatico partner. The possibilities, while not exactly endless, are intriguing…

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Friday, January 06, 2017

The Reader - Week 1

Mashed Potatoes

Andy stood at the kitchen door as Evelyn’s car backed out of the driveway.

After the sound of the tires on pavement had faded away, Andy realized that he had been standing there with his mouth open. “Like a goddamn cartoon character,” he mused, “A Goddamn Mickey Mouse.” He slammed the door. The sharp echo from the empty kitchen only added to his sense of unease. While their break-up was gaining momentum over the last few weeks, Andy had still thought that they were a couple: a couple in a horrible relationship, to be sure, but it was, at the very least, a commonality they could share. Now: nothing. He thought that perhaps he should eat something to get the bad taste out of his mouth. Going through the cupboards, he quickly realized that she had removed all the food—no she wouldn’t have just taken it, she would had given the dry goods to a food shelf and thrown the rest out in the trash. That had been picked up that afternoon. The only thing left was an empty jar of turmeric. That was her way, he thought, going the extra mile just to make things difficult for him. “Difficult,” was the world she used when she described their relationship. “When I was young, I thought that living with a man would be fun,” she once said, “But it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” Andy hadn’t thought it was very hard. As he stood alone in the empty kitchen, he was beginning to realize that he really hadn’t thought about it at all. He’d think about it, later, after he got some dinner.

Andy was a free-lance copy and re-write editor. When asked, he told people that his occupation was “reader”; it was the most fitting description of those various activities that he did for a living. It was also the best description he could think of to end the conversation. He hated talking about himself.

Corky’s Cafe was a throwback to the inglorious days of the local greasy spoon: a diner from the 40s, redecorated in the 70s, but certainly not upgraded since then. Andy made a habit of eating there whenever Evelyn would go out of town to visit her sisters. When he walked in, he saw that the tables were empty. There were some familiar faces at the counter, however, people he had seen around town, although none that Andy would consider a friend. He sat down a stool away from a bearded older man who was methodically devouring his plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

“Hmph,” said the man, looking up from his food, “Now whatcha gonna do?”

“What are you talking about?“ said Andy.

“I heard about your fights with Evey,” said the man, “Word gets around in a small town like this.”

“Is it that bad?” said Andy, “I thought nobody cared about our domestic life.”

“People gonna talk, nothing more entertaining that the misery of others,” said the man with a smile, “Evey told all her friends all about it. She called you ‘That deadbeat.’ You need to get out more, you need to try some new things. You can’t spend your whole life with your nose in a book.”

The man snorted and returned to his meal. The waitress came up and asked Andy what he wanted. He thought that the look the waitress gave him was a mix of pity and disgust. She knows too? he thought.

“Burger and fries,” he said, what he always got. “The man with the mashed potatoes was right,” thought Andy, “On second thought, I’ll take the special,” said Andy, “Just for a change.”

The man with the beard looked up and winked at Andy.

“You know,” he began, “There are more pretty women than one.”

The Reader is serialized fiction, published every Friday.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The Reader

          Abraham Joel Tobias, circa 1939

          The new “Flippist Friday Fiction Feature” starts TOMORROW!

          Ambiguous, Arresting, Alternative, Alliterative.

          Fun for some, not for all.

          Every Friday until it stops.

          See you there!

By Professor Batty

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Mary Ford’s Country Album

Since I was a child I’ve been a big fan of Les Paul and Mary Ford, the husband and wife musical team that had a tremendous amount of success in the 1950s. I found a Les Paul/Mary Ford record at the thrift yesterday, one that I didn’t have. In fact, I hadn’t even known of its existence! Bouquet of Roses came out in 1962, a country album, it was recorded in Nashville with studio musicians and The Jordanaires, the vocal group that had backed Elvis on many of his early hits. This was a departure for the duo, prior to this most of their recordings were done at Les and Mary’s home, in Les’ state-of-the-art studio. Paul’s contribution to this effort was minimal—he took about three or four solos. It may have been made to fulfill their Columbia records contract. Instead of guitar and vocal multi-tracking it was an album of straight-forward country standards—probably Mary’s favorites. The arrangements were pedestrian; the material consisted of radio hits from the previous twenty years, but Mary’s voice never sounded better.

On the final cut, She’ll Have to Go, Mary had the opportunity to use her seldom used but delightful lower register (C# an octave below middle C for those of you playing along):

The song’s theme of infidelity may have reflected the couple’s marital status at the time. They would be divorced a few years later, with charges of adultery and cruelty from both sides. After their divorce, Mary remarried and moved back to California where eventually she died in 1977 from complications of diabetes.

Here is a shot of Les and Mary in happier times:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, January 02, 2017

New Year's Day Bash

The new year found me in the company of my friend Rich’s band, playing their annual holiday bash:

The sax players were there as well:

Rich and his daughter Faye wowed the crowd with their musical prowess:

Everybody is happy when Rich and his band plays:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

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