FRIDAY: My Book World | Amburn Ellis's Subterranean Kerouac
My Book World
Smith, Chris. The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History As Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests. With a foreword by Jon Stewart. New York: Grand Central, 2016.
For those who watched Comedy Central’s The Daily Show for many years, this book is a joy to read. It allows one to revel in its hallmark moments, following the script as you remember watching it. As the title suggests, a panoply of people, in short bursts, tell this story. Smith has done an admirable job (à la George Plimpton in his biographies of Edie Sedgwick and Truman Capote) of threading together this massive narrative by way of individual recollections, sometimes contradicting or engaging one another, as one might do at a table reading of a script. Below I list but a few nuggets gleaned from the text.
Rory Albanese (executive producer):
A WRITER'S WIT
For the last two Christmases a kind friend has left on our doorstep an icy milky potion that leaves the body relaxed, the mind supple, clear. But because it is a family formula, our kind friend will not release the recipe. And I respect that. Sort of.
So what does one do but head for the Internet, the god of all knowledge, and Google (the Internet's favored son) "drinks with milk and bourbon." One can determine that much. There one finds several of the recipes lacking, not quite like the friend’s mixture, so one tinkers with them a bit and the following is what one comes up with:
2 oz. of Jack Daniels
1 or 2 oz. of Amaretto (or some other tasty liqueur)
3 oz. of Half and Half (some recipes indicate whole milk, ye gods)
1-2 tsp. of powdered sugar (to taste; I happen to have TWO sweet tooths . . . teeth)
Caloric Intake: at least 5,000
This is one of those concoctions that MUST be shaken with ice until homogeneous, never stirred or mixed. Save the nutmeg until you have poured the drink into a tumbler and sprinkle a tiny bit across the top. The pleasing arrangement, rather like tea leaves, will forecast which team is going to win the Super Bowl. If you do it right you won't care. Otherwise, the dots of nutmeg may spell out your future, if you’ll win that case in court, whether the boss you hate will choke on his or her sandwich and die all alone in his or her chair. It’s powerful stuff, so be careful with the knowledge you attain.
Finally, you must be sitting down. The effects of this drink—mesmerizing, enlightening, need I say intoxicating—may last up to an hour or two. Consume a second at great risk.
The world has a long history of gathering in an arena to watch men smash each other up. It's the reason why high schools still teach Beowulf. Even today we must have dragons to slay, and as we look on, we must have grog . . . gobs of mighty grog!
TUESDAY: MY BOOK WORLD
My late mother was half German and half Welsh, having arrived on earth with the birth name of Richards. My father was Dutch, both of his parents having immigrated to the U.S. in 1911. Yet I had always wondered if, in my mother’s lineage that included John Howland, who crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower, there might be a bit of Native American or First Nations blood running through my veins. I wondered if there would be a way that I might find out.
Then I saw a program on TV about the National Geographic Genome Project. All one had to do was fork over $200 and send for a kit in which one swabbed one’s cheeks and mailed in the results. Last April, after a number of false starts—several swabbings were inadequate and NG mailed me a new kit each time, or they revamped it altogether so that one tested for both sides of the family—I received my results. Simply, the document showed that my deep DNA fell out like this: I was 41% Germanic, 41% Mediterranean, and 17% Southwest Asian.
In some ways I was not surprised, given what I knew about my family: the Danes, to whom my aunt had traced my maternal grandfather’s ancestors; my maternal grandmother’s parents who immigrated from Germany in the nineteenth century; paternal grandparents who came over from Holland in 1911. But what about the 17% Southwest Asian? Well, in examining the map [find download below this paragraph], I saw that my father’s people had tromped through that area ages ago and mingled long enough to acquire a bit of that particular DNA. It may explain some things about my family and me, but I'm not at liberty to say what those might be.
Why do I write of this? I’m not sure. I've always been curious about my family, but I’d love to learn more. I know, for example, that the Jespers family’s whereabouts can be tracked back to the same few towns in Holland in the 1700s, as recently traced by one of my cousins. And as I said, my aunt, on the other side, traced the Richards family to the 1600s. Where were we before that? All the fathers and grandfathers I’ve had? All the mothers and grandmothers? To think that my traits, adorable and infuriating as they are to those who love me, are owed almost entirely to this large family of people I never knew and never shall. Will the next generation leave behind more clues than our ancestors did?
If this subject piques your interest, check out these two websites:
If you participate in the study, be sure and let me know what you find out!
Thanks to all the TMTW officers and members who made my third spring conference such a great one. Anyone who attended knows how much work it took to get it to run so smoothly, and we are most appreciative. I have posted selected photos of those who presented or read throughout the weekend.
As I make my ninth posting since September 2011, I want to say I'm grateful to you for viewing/reading my blog. On the days that I’ve announced my posting, I’ve had as many as 150 page visits (according to the stats provided by my server). When friends or relatives tell me personally that they’ve enjoyed a certain portion of the blog, I’m very gratified to hear it. I hope you will forward each posting to others you think might enjoy reading it.
I want to apologize to anyone who, in the last seven months, has attempted to download copies of my Published Stories and been unable to do so. A friend of mine recently brought the malfunction to my attention, and I immediately logged on to the server to create a link where you can download a PDF file of each story listed under the heading of Print Journals. My baddy bad bad.
In this posting I’m experimenting with font color/size to make it easier to read. Let me know if the changes are effective . . . or not. I shall continue to tinker with both until they seem satisfying to all. Is that even possible?
A Writing Retreat
On April 27-29, several friends and I drive to Fort Davis, Texas, to be a part of the Texas Mountain Trail Writers annual retreat. For Marilyn and me (members of Ad Hoc writing group here in Lubbock) this is our second time. The weekend is a compressed but stimulating time of listening to several authors address our group of forty. The retreat is held at the Davis Mountain Education Center (Mountain Trails Lodge) one mile south of Fort Davis. As it is located between two cemeteries—the Pioneer with a number of graves from the mid-1800s until 1940, and the other, St. Joseph’s, from 1940 until the present—the weekend takes on a particular flavor.
The weekend’s speakers include Suzy Spencer, memoirist and journalist, and best-selling author of Wasted. Her new book, Secret Sex Lives, is anticipated by all of her fans, and will be released by Penguin/Berkley Trade on October 2, 2012 for $16.00. It is available for pre-order from Barnes & Noble. She shares much with us about the eight years it took her to complete this book, but not enough to keep us from buying a copy!
Chantelle Aimée Osman is an author of flash fiction and mysteries.
Mike Blakely is author of seventeen western novels and is also fine musician and composer of Western music.
Like superior writers of any genre, all three speakers transcend the subject to take the reader places s/he has never been before—and with great panache and style. All three are generous with their expertise and advice.
The weekend concludes with volunteers reading 500-word pieces they’ve written especially for the reading. This year’s topics include “Love in the Cemetery,” “Wanderings,” and “Spirit(s) of the West.” I include photos of fellow writers who also shared. Each reader’s mouth is open (of course), but each face includes a certain animation, an excitement that accompanies the act of reading one’s words aloud to a group. I've left out at least one reader because I had to leave the audience for a minute. My apologies, and I hope Kip Piper will have the gentleman's picture when she posts these on the TMTW's Web site. Also, I've not tagged the pictures in order to keep search engines from picking you up.
Yours truly spent a month writing a sestina for the first time in his life, a poem about the two cemeteries, and shares it with the group:
Matt Hall and Marie Townsend
Matt Hall was buried up at St. Joseph’s.
His love Marie across the way at Pioneer.
It was quite a tale about a longneck tenor
Who returned to haunt her as a ghost.
When Matt was dead, Marie proclaimed, “My goodness,
Must we keep closed that dad-blasted gate?”
Yes, we must keep closed that dad-blasted gate
All because dear Matt resides up at St. Joseph’s.
His short life was filled with nothing but goodness,
And daft, daft Marie at the Pioneer—
Was she, too, but a contentious old ghostie
Who on moonlit nights feigned singing tenor?
Yes, on moonlit nights, feigned singing tenor
Her ghost, that’s who, stationed near that dad-blasted gate.
And of course one had to say, “Ghost, I saw no ghost,”
All across the way from the St. Joseph’s
To where one saw Marie at the Pioneer,
Was her life ne’er filled with light and goodness?
‘Deed, her life was ne’er filled with light and goodness,
Marie Townsend had married the handsome tenor
Matt Hall on tall tawny grass at the Pioneer.
She’d tricked him into it at the black gate
And hurried on horses over to St. Joseph’s,
T’was all their trouble, to see an old ghost?
For all their trouble, to see an old ghost,
And should we have announced: Auras of goodness
Surrounded them aplenty up at St. Joseph’s?
T’was the mighty Matt Hall crooning tenor,
Serenading daft Marie Townsend at the gate.
Yet, a death yonder at the Pioneer?
Yes, a death yonder at the Pioneer,
Where all the night Marie fought off Matt’s teasing ghost
Near the gate, yes, yes, near the grave’s wrought iron gate.
He often pining after her goodness,
Ha, the dark, tall, handsome and talented tenor
Who wound up dead, buried at St. Joseph’s?
Yes, Matt wound up at St. Josephs, Marie at the Pioneer
He a fine tenor, and she, like him, a ghostie—
A shared goodness eluding them both at that dad-blasted gate.
©Richard Jespers 2012
Thanks to TMTW leaders Reba Cross Seals, Jackie Siglin, Donna Greene, Elaine Davenport, Kip Piper, and many others for their countless hours of work and preparation, not to mention their flair for pulling off a great weekend year after year (this marks their 20th annual retreat, I believe).
Tickety Tick Tick Tick
I didn’t intend to use this forum to air difficulties about my medical problems, but something that happened recently has made me reconsider. Mostly, when this sort of event is over, I wish to forget about it. But I made myself write down the details as they occurred because this tale may augur problems yet to come for all of us.
In August 2006 my physician (let’s call him Dr. Smartz), an electrophysiologist, began prescribing the antiarrhythmic drug Tikosyn to treat my atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat). Used in Europe for many years with great success, Tikosyn was relatively new to the U.S. at the time and was put on the market with certain restrictions. Manufactured by Pfizer, Tikosyn is considered so toxic that I had to spend the first seventy-two hours in the hospital so that my bodily functions could be monitored—kidneys are the main concern. Mine did fine and continue to function well almost six years later. By and large the drug does what it should; I seldom have one of the jarring episodes during which my heart speeds up to 150-300 beats per minute, and if I do experience such an episode it is usually over in less than a half an hour. Tikosyn works in conjunction with two other drugs, Digoxin and Metoprolol, to keep my old ticker ticking (without a pacemaker), and I’ve become very grateful for that small favor. Tickety tick tick tick.
The office of Dr. Smartz, whose expertise deals with the electrical impulses of the heart, contacts me on Wednesday, April 18th, and his assistant whom I shall call Aida leaves a message asking me to contact her. By the time I check my phone, it is after hours so I call her the next day, April 19th, but only the service answers—all day long. On Friday, April 20th, I forget to call. On Monday April 23rd, Aida does answer the phone and informs me that because my insurance drug plan (Caremark by way of TRS-Aetna) is now requiring an additional test (before they will renew my Tikosyn) I must drop everything and come in for an exam and lab work to test my blood for toxic levels. Prior to this demand, a one-year follow-up and lab test were all that was required; now Caremark wants me to have the full-range blood test taken every three months. Why? One can only guess. Perhaps before the Affordable Care Act (which limits charges insurance companies can make) fully takes effect, the companies are going to gouge us for all they are worth.
Tickety tick tick tick.
I tell Aida that I have plans to leave town on May 2nd and will run out of medicine on May 7th before I get back. “Can’t Dr. Smartz give me an emergency extension, and then I’ll be glad to come in for the tests after I return?”
In a word, she says NO. To complicate matters, Dr. Smartz himself will be out of the office until the following Monday, April 30th—two days before I am to leave town. Aida, a very capable and caring woman, says she will call me on that Monday. But she does NOT. I call the doctor’s number, but Aida has placed the phone on service, meaning I can only leave a message. I do NOT. Instead, I drive three miles to Dr. Smartz’s office (unshaven and in a dirty T-shirt and jeans), and Aida, a robust woman in flowery scrubs, greets me with glee, as if she’s just been trying to call me. I assure you she has NOT.
“Mr. Jespers, I’m so glad you came in. If you’d be willing to have the lab work done now, Dr. Smartz will see you even though this is not a clinic day (i.e. he is not seeing patients), and we can get you fixed up.”
“I would have showered,” I say. Tickety tick tick tick.
The sequence of events that follows occurs in such a whirly whirl whirl that said events are now difficult to keep in order, but I must try.
Does Aida really write me an order with STAT at the top (from the Latin statim meaning “immediately”)—and do I really drive three blocks to the lab where my blood is withdrawn?
Do I say to the nurse, “And you will send the results to Dr. Smartz right away?”
Does she answer saucily, “That’s what the order says”?
Do I really drive back to Dr. Smartz’s office only to have Aida confront me with a three-page questionnaire? Do I really fill out the form, the same one I fill out every time I come in? Has it really been copied and photocopied so many times that the text is barely legible, the print akilter with the rest of the page? Must I say that I hate, really hate this kind of form, one that screams I could care less about what you write down here? Let’s see if I can recall at least a few of the questions on the form. “Does your heart skip beats?” “Does your heart race?” “Do you cough up blood?”
Tickety tick tick tick and whirly whirl whirl.
Does Dr. Smartz’s nurse really give me an EKG?
Does Dr. Smartz really have the gall to give me his sob story about Medicare?
While he’s holding the stethoscope to my chest, Dr. Smartz says, “What your drug plan is doing is illegal.”
Do I really say, “For asking to have these tests run?”
“No,” he says, glancing over his shoulder at me as if I’m a moron. “For practicing medicine without a license.”
Do I really giggle, then act sheepishly when I see he isn’t joking?
“We’re headed for socialized medicine. Do you realize that my Medicare payments have been cut by thirty percent?”
Do I really say “Yes”? “Aida told me already. It’s awful. Awful.”
But is it? I wonder. Isn’t this what Congress is so insistent upon, cutting Medicare costs? Dr. Smartz may not be guilty of doing so, but haven’t we read study after study about doctors overcharging or running tests or doing procedures that are totally unnecessary, just to gouge the government (a government that doctors claim they hate even though it is a government that makes up the shortfall the elderly can’t pay)? I’m sure Dr. Smartz is still quite well off. Across the top of a shelf in his outer office are located little plastic models of contemporary cruise ships. Methinks that is why he was out of town the week before; I can still see the salt encrusted on the newest ship that sailed the Caribbean perhaps.
Tickety tick tick tick and whirly whirl whirl.
I now recall the cardiologist who in 2006 ordered a pacemaker for my father when he had less than two months to live (though, at the time, none of us knew that). But was that expensive operation really necessary for an eighty-seven year old man with congestive heart failure and imminent renal failure? Was that cardiologist (Dr. Grabzitall) just picking up an extra buck at the government’s expense because he could?
When I check out at the desk, Dr. Smartz seems pleased with my EKG, my three-page questionnaire, my blood work (which has now come in over the phone). Do I really not have to come in for an exam for another year?
“Do I really need to have one of these blood tests done every three months?”
“Yes,” Aida tells me.
“It’s okay,” I say, “as long as we schedule them in advance.” Aida hands me an order to have it tested in July and says she's faxing my prescription for Tikosyn.
Do I really ask, “Wouldn’t it be faster if I walked my prescription to the pharmacist myself?”
Does Aida really say, “Ah, no”? “I’m faxing it right now.” Do I really leave the office before I can see her place the document in her fax machine?
Tickety tick tick tick and whirly whirl whirl.
On Tuesday May 1st, must I really call Fred my pharmacist three times, only to find out each time that he has NOT received a fax from Dr. Smartz’s office? Must I really say to him, “Can you give Dr. Smartz a poke”? He says he will. By 2:00 p.m. when I’ve heard nothing from anyone, must I really drive for the second time in two days to Dr. Smartz’s office? Why? you ask. Because the frigging office isn’t answering the frigging phone again!
Tickety tick tick tick.
I’m wondering, Am I really going to get out of town in the next 24 hours?
When I walk in the office, does Aida really act alarmed as if I might be carrying a gun?
Do I really have to tell her that Fred my pharmacist has told me three times that he has NOT received a fax from their office?
Does Aida really proclaim that she DID send the fax?
Do I then say, “Really?” Tickety tick tick tick.
Does she then say, “Yep, faxed it last thing before I left yesterday. But I’ll fax another order right now.”
Do I really sit for another fifteen minutes while Aida kibitzes with a drug representative and while she fiddles with a foot-high stack of paperwork?
Does Aida finally call me over to the window and show me the confirmations from Fred my pharmacist? Does she hear me curse under my breath? Tickety tick tick tick.
Does Aida really say, “We don’t usually do this, but I’m going to call your pharmacist.” Does she really pick up the receiver and dial? “Yes, this is Aida calling for Doctor Smartz. Have you received our faxes for Richard Jespers’s Tikosyn? Really. Well, I’m holding the confirmation you just sent me. Wait, let me read you the number (about 10 to twelve digits).” She fiddles with papers while she waits. Then she looks up at me and winks. “May I ask how soon you can have this ready for Mr. Jespers? Five o’clock? Is that all right with you, Mr. Jespers?”
Do I really nod? Can I really say anything else but Yes? I mean, I think to myself, Will I now actually get my Tikosyn?
Do I really grin at Aida and say, “You should run for president”?
In the car I call Fred my pharmacist, a young man I really like and who is usually quite efficient, and ask if he can move that pick-up time to four o’clock? “I’m already out of the house and it would make it easier for me to drop by soon.” He says yes.
I drive the 4.6 miles, and Fred my pharmacist offers no apology or explanation as to what has happened to the faxes it is obvious that my doctor’s office sent. Do I actually apologize for bothering him so many times throughout the day? Yes, I’m afraid I do, but I grab my meds, check to see that the pills look right, and run for the parking lot. We will leave town in less than 24 hours. Tickety tick tick tick.
By this time I’ve spent perhaps five or six hours over a period of three days just to solve this ONE small problem. Is this what we’re all in for as we pass into our senior years? What happens when I no longer have the physical stamina or mental capacity to keep up with faulty fax machines and/or their faulty operators?
No, don’t tell me; I think I know the answer. Tickety tick tick tick.
If you feel so inclined, tell of your tickety tick tick tick nightmare of a medical story by leaving a comment below, but keep it short.
I had so much to write about this month that I will save my account of our trip to Crystal Bridges until my next posting—probably in the next few days. Tickety tick tick tick.
Richard Jespers is a writer living in Lubbock, Texas, USA.
See my profile at Author Central: