Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mi Vacacion de Verano

We flew down to Puerto Vallarta this past summer. It is a small Mexican town on the west coast of Jalisco, situated on the Bahia de Banderas (the Bay of Banderas) with well- founded contentions of grandeur. It has always been known for its beaches, which run for many miles, and its forest iguanas—of which there are fewer and fewer.

Jeanne and I have taken occasional day trips to Mexican border towns over the years, but this was a full week. We lived in a mountainside villa (Villa Las Palmeras) within walking distance of the town center, in the company of our son Dan, his partner Rick, and about 25 other hard-playing, hard-drinking 30-somethings—their pals. And though it was sub-tropically hot, and in the middle of the August rainy season, since Dan had offered to fund the whole thing, who could turn down such an adventure?

Several rivers run through the town, and in the rainy season uncountable side streams and freshets tumble down through the hills and mountains that form the sheer backdrop along the coast. Intense greens and browns are the landscape colors that strike the eye. Tropical jungle foliage clings to the sides of the nearly vertical mountains. Rockslides are not uncommon—driving along its twisting main road up through the countryside is a jarring, tooth-grinding venture. Most everyone speeds, giving little care for safety. It can be fatal. Several weeks ago, a sight seeing van, much like the one we piled into occasionally, plunged over a steep embankment and crashed on the rocks seventy feet below. All eleven occupants died.

The town, viewed from the elevated vantage point of the Villa, was quite beautiful. When it was not raining, the sunsets were an orange-pink magnificence, and fireworks often lit up the night sky. To me its crowning glory is the main church in the center of town—Our Lady of Guadalupe—whose tower is in fact topped with a huge facsimile of Empress Carlota’s crown. This struck me as odd because, as you will no doubt recall, Carlota’s husband, the Emperor Maximillian, Arch-Duke of Austria, and she were installed as rulers of Mexico by Napoleon the third—all backed up by his French army. The Mexicans themselves for the most part didn’t take kindly to this colonialist incursion. Eventually, in 1867, a few years after our civil war, we told the Frenchies to withdraw their forces. Their army left, but through a misguided mixture of hubris and noblis oblige, Maximillian stayed—only to be shot full of holes by the Republican minions of Benito Juarez. My question—why would the Mexican Catholic establishment in Puerto Vallarta chose to venerate the crown of an oppressor? Life is full of mysteries. The crown is mighty pretty though.

The town itself is generally driven by a tourist economy. It is clean and cheerful. You find many jewelry stores selling a great deal of silver, restaurants of all sorts (HOOTERS and HARDROCK CAFÉ are oddly prominent), and in every third store it seemed, large signs boast genuine Cuban cigars. I bought two.

But for the glitzy storefronts, there is an ever-present patina of knife-edge poverty slipping out at the edges. The cadaverous, cleanly dressed woman sitting mutely on the steps of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, holding an empty plastic cup just a bit forward of her knee; the ever-present street venders politely but insistently plying their wares. There was no begging, but there was a definite need to sell one’s box of goods, in a town where skilled construction workers make four dollars a day—and it’s a very long day, indeed.

Speaking of the jungle habitat, Jeanne and I had good reason to know the particulars of its flora and fauna. Along with the rest of the young friends of Dan and Rick, and Rick’s parents Jessie and Merla (two people closer to our age than the rest) we went on a southbound rattly open-air camion and drove well into the single-lane dirt road raw countryside. It’s not that we didn’t know what we were getting into. The brochure for LOS VERANOS CANOPY TOUR pictures people smiling, and eventually most of us did too, after it was over. The abomination is called zip-lining.

Steel cables had been strung high in the jungle canopy upon the stronger trees. They lead to a number of platforms from top to bottom. One is fitted out with various hooks and harnesses. Eventually, one is hooked onto a handheld device that rings onto the cable, pushed off the platform with the admonition “Hold your legs straight, Senor,” as you go “zipping” down and across a 500 foot forested abyss on your way to the next way station (there were fourteen such things in all). At one really dicey point of descent I screamed, not intentionally meaning to take the entity’s name in vain—JESUS H. CHRIST!!!

By the way, the young Mexicanos in charge of this operation didn’t call me Senor—there was a certain sense of errant fun and competence in all this. They took to calling me Santa Claus—for my girth and snow white beard, I suppose. And when mis amigos Pablo y Carlos would call me that as they advised me to lift my leg and hold onto the damn rubber handles, as they hooked me up to the cable for the next terrifying descent, I would say to them, “ Que deseas par la Navidad, Chicos? (What do you want for Christmas, little boys?).” They ignored the humor of this bit of Spanish. Just as well—that was not the time to distract them.

Zipping over the terrible chasms I never looked down—always looked straight ahead, but Jeanne told me she did once. Once was enough for her.

We survived and made it to the bottom, where cold beer and DVD’s of our adventure awaited us. Paisanos offered to place a large tarantula on your neck or face, for photo ops. I didn’t bite, so neither did the spider.

More of the Villa Las Palmeras. It was an obscure, private place run by an ever attentive staff who fed us, cleaned, and otherwise saw to our needs. There was air conditioning of a sort in our rooms; mi amigo Jorge saw to the place settings and the delivery of meals, assisted by a dour-faced Jesus. .Oh! For the guacamole y frijoles de Anna Rosa—our cook. Las Palmeras translates literally to “the palm trees” and water coconut palms ringed the villa, with green coconuts ready to fall.

There was one Mexican delicacy that I had looked forward to, which I eventually discovered was not to be had in Jalisco—grilled goat (en Espanol se llama cabrita asada). Some years ago, my friends Bob and Margie Lyons told me about it, and described it as akin to a delicate lamb. Jesse and I were both interested in the thought of tasting it, but to no avail. After an interrogation of Anna Rosa and her kitchen staff en Espanol, we were given the name of Restaurante de O’Reguan situated on the corner of Collonia y Vovadilla. But before Jesse and I made the mistake of going there, we were told that the place didn’t serve grilled young goat at all. They served mutton stew. Have you ever eaten mutton (i.e. fatty old sheep)? Not my favorite. I daresay, not yours either. We were advised eventually, that we’d have to travel to Monterrey, to find it, and that it was certainly not to be found in Jalisco. Chiwawah!

22 Augusto ‘07

Tony Sanchez on the oil nut

Tony Sanchez tells me, on good authority, that the water coconut tree that grows all over town is a transplant, and the oil coconut, which produces a coconut about the size and solidity of a jai-lai ball, is the real McCoy—a native of coastal Jalisco. Tony, an escapee from Mexico City and a self-made Puerto Vallarta entrepreneur (a man with many local connections) was our van guide and driver yesterday, today, and perhaps tomorrow. Tony and his other van driver Jorge—call me “El Indio” he says—took us on the free day tour yesterday. I sat next to him and kept my mouth shut, which is the correct thing to do if you’re trying to find out something about a new place and are seated next to a person who likes to talk—a fellow who feels in his bones that he must imprint his version of philosophy and life on the assembled. It was good. Tony has a rather low opinion of the water coconut (the one that must of us think of when the subject of coconuts is brought up). Now, the little oil coco produces batches of 30 to 40 nuts—now that’s something! It’s tough as steel when it falls to the ground (God help the person who’s head it might hit). It will be green and not quite ripe. It produces an oil that is used in cooking, sun tan lotion, and has many other uses. Caramba.

Journal—25 Augusto,’07
Villa Las Palmeras
Puerto Vallarta
Cuarto Diez
A muggy summer morning (80’s) with the probability of rain later

The room’s air-conditioning is working fine, elsewise we’d be starting the mid-morning sweat—which is not really outrageously unpleasant. It IS the rainy season and this western coastal part of Mexico is semi-tropical. The concentration I put into Spanish vocabulary and relearning idioms and proper pronunciation has helped us somewhat, though it’s not completely necessary, since most people here at the villa and in town have a smattering of English. Since I sport a beard, I had hoped, as a joke, to use the phrase: Se dicen que una barba larga podra dar un aire respectable, pero ya no se usa! (They say that a long beard gives you an air of respectability, but it is no longer in fashion). But the opportunity hasn’t yet presented itself and probably won’t. The most useful phrase so far has turned out to be, ”Donde esta el bano?” [Where is the bathroom?]

A certain amount of drinking—let’s face it, A LOT of drinking, has been the motivating force driving the FF’ers (the Family Funners). In fact, for the most part Jeanne’s surprised that I’m drinking a bit less than I might normally, in such a free form environment. Two days ago though, the day of the boat trip and the diving and the beach, I had three margaritas as part of lunch on that hot hot beach, and was emboldened to sing La Cucaracha to the captain and crew of the boat, ferrying us back to port. It surprised them.

La cucaracha, la cucaracha,
Ya no puede caminar,
Porque le falta,
Porque le falta,
Marijuana pa fumar.

Thanks to Skippy of Chico’s Snorkeling/Diving and Boat trips (est. 1968), 23 of us braved the rather calm bay and headed up the coast on a large awninged catamaran. Flotillas of pelicans paddling around, and overhead, squadrons of large coffin birds looking for foods of opportunity to dive upon. Snorkeling and diving were eventually interrupted by stinging jelly fish (I did neither), but we did get a chance to view the site where John Huston filmed Night of the Iguana.

Yesterday, we (Rick, Dan, Julie, Greg, Jeanne and I, and eventually Tommy the Ear) walked a fair distance from the villa through the town and then taxied back to a scruffy part of the beach in old town where they offered lobster, mahi-mahi, or shrimp grilled on a long stick. This food vendor was right next door to an outdoor beach-umbrellaed eatery called Burro’s, whose claim to fame was their never-ending Happy
Hour. They were selling three beers in a bucket of ice for 50 pesos (five bucks), a very good price when you consider that most places charge you 40 pesos per cervesa. We spent close to two hours eating, sipping, swapping stories, and coping with a variety of beach vendors hoping to sell us everything from a song (100 pesos for a mariachi group to play three songs of our choice), to blankets (Dan bought one), to a plastic spiderman tied to a plastic parachute (we bought one for Griffin), to the ubiquitous silver jewelry.

Of John Huston, earlier in the day, we discovered the commemorative statue the town had commissioned in his honor. It sits on a small island in old town, in the middle of the roiling brown Rio Cuale, in a quiet little half forgotten plaza. Most people tour the island for its high-end restaurants and its low-end shops which feature the usual tourist crap—t-shirts, cheaply made sombreros, bad copies of Frida Kalo paintings and the like. Huston’s statue has him sitting in a director’s chair, leaning slightly forward. It doesn’t look very much like him, but one is not so much interested in his facial image as one is taken with the words that he or his family chose to have engraved on the accompanying plaque. It is essentially a portion of his eulogy that he spoke at Humphrey Bogart’s funeral in Hollywood in 1957. It went:

“He was quite irreplaceable. There will never be another like him. Himself he never took too seriously—his work most seriously. He regarded the somewhat gaudy figure of Bogart, the star, with an amused cynicism; Bogart, the actor, he held in deep respect… In each of the fountains of Versailles there is a pike which keeps all the carp active; otherwise they would grow overfat and die. Bogie took rare delight in performing a similar duty in the fountains of Hollywood. Yet his victims seldom bore him any malice, and when they did, not for long. His shafts were fashioned only to stick into the outer layer of complacency, and not to penetrate through to the regions of the spirit where real injuries are done.”

How wonderfully odd and personally heartfelt. It calls to mind Pop’s TIME cover story on Bogart that ran in June of 1954. I’ll attach it as a long footnote at the end of this thing.

When you consider the enormous influence John Huston had on this town, with his filming of Tennessee Williams’ NIGHT OF THE IGUANA here in ’63, bringing in la crème de la crème of Hollywood luminaries: Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, and Elizabeth Taylor (Liz there stalking Richard—not in the film), you can understand why there’s that monument to him. As an indirect result of the film, Burton built Taylor a home in town, the Huston’s ended up with several abodes, and the part of town where they and their retinue settled is still called Gringo Gulch, though many of the original artists have left. And the small town has an international airport that any large metropolis would envy, which was built to accommodate the Huston/Hollywood faction that inspired the steady influx of gringos.

Whereas the Spanish conquered Puerto Vallarta with the sword and the cross, the French with the rifle and imperial impudence, Hollywood seems to have overwhelmed it with glamour and monied star-power. So far, Hollywood is the ascendant victor. And no one that I met in town was exclaiming otherwise. They were simply trying to sell me 100% azul agave tequela and Cuban cigars. I capitulated on both counts.

El fin.


January 4, 2008



Monday, Jun. 07, 1954
The Survivor
By Paul O’Neil
(See Cover) When he advances, greasy with makeup, to his daily toil, a motion-picture actor is engulfed—profile, esthetic sensibilities and nervous stomach—in an atmosphere depressingly reminiscent of a submarine dockyard. The sound stage in which he works is as cavernous and gloomy as a wharfside warehouse. The day's set, thrown up in a distant corner as if to dramatize the phoniness and gullibility of man, is bathed in a glare of blue-white light as blinding as that from an arc welder's torch. Half a hundred hairy union men tinker stolidly with furniture, electrical cables, fuse boxes and cranes, or peer down in boredom from steel bridgework overhead. Half a hundred tourists stand in the outer shadows, looking as if their shoes pinched. Everybody talks.
The actor waits. He is essentially a gear —no matter how large and important a gear—presently to be inserted into the mechanism of moviemaking, and delay is his lot in life. He is called to walk through his part—while the babble of voices goes steadily on—and is dismissed to wait some more. He is called back to pose and turn while a man with a light meter goes over him like some latter-day Holmes peering through a magnifying glass. He is cornered by a harried female in slacks, who stares at him in distaste and pats his nose with a powder puff.
But eventually his moment comes. An assistant director with a voice like a backfield coach bawls: "Keep it quiet now, boys. Quiet. Quiet, if you please!" A gong bangs with doomlike clangor. A horrid silence falls. "Speed," mutters the man in the bucket seat of the huge Mitchell camera, peering through its eyepieces as if appalled. Then, while the 50 hairy ones look on in a sort of belligerent despair, while the tourists stand on tiptoes, while the director and servitors of the camera lean close enough to breathe on him, the actor kneels beside a chaise longue in the awful light, takes the hand of a beautiful, sticky-faced woman reclining there, and says, striving for both articulation and tenderness, "Darling . . ."
Confidence & Command. It is a type of human endeavor that calls for a soul well stiffened with ego. It calls for poise, concentration, vitality and, above all, for a kind of instinctive communion with the camera that comes partly from inner fiber, partly from vicissitude and long practice. Few possess these attributes in such full measure as that seamy, balding and corrosively sardonic old professional, Humphrey DeForest Bogart, soon to be seen as Captain Queeg in Stanley Kramer's heralded Technicolor version of The Caine Mutiny.
In the process of making 68 motion pictures, some wonderfully good, some indifferent and some terrible, Bogart has acquired a brassy air of confidence and command. There is a look of real kingliness about him as he stands, painted, costumed and toupeed ("The rug, old boy, the rug"), barking like a strangled seal to warm up his pipes before a tender scene. Veteran Director Michael Curtiz remembers with rueful admiration how Bogie, in the midst of a long, dramatic speech that would have had many an actor sweating with nerves, snarled, during a moment out of mike range, "God, I'm hungry."
Actor Bogart, now a hardy 54, is one of the most unactorish of his breed. He seems to take genuine delight in the marks of erosion that time and hard liquor have left on his face: once, after signing a long-term contract, he caused Producer Jack Warner to call for his lawyers by predicting in raucous triumph that both the Bogart hair and the Bogart teeth were sure to drop out before it ended. Prattle about theatrical art stirs him to open contempt. But he is full of surly pride in his own competence. "I don't approve," he says, "of the John Waynes and the Gary Coopers saying, 'Shucks, I ain't no actor —I'm just a bridge builder or a gas-station attendant.' If they aren't actors, what the hell are they getting paid for? I have respect for my profession. I worked hard at it."
Elastic & Adaptable. His work has taken him to the jungles of Africa, the mountains of Mexico, the streets of Italy and the islands of the Pacific. But come heat, hippopotamuses or hangover, Bogie will be on time for work, will absorb not only the language but the feel and importance of a piece of script in a few minutes of fierce concentration, and absolutely will not blow his lines. He is not a big man (5 ft. 9½ in., 150 Ibs.), but he can transfer an illusion of size and toughness to the screen and give his faint lisp undertones of unmistakable menace. Though he has the face of an inept welterweight, he can lend moody emotion to a romantic role. Through some inexplicable alchemy, his performance on film always comes out better than his performance on the set.
In a sense, his talent is narrow. For all his technical excellence, Bogart never gets completely out of Bogart and into the character he plays. But few screen personalities are so elastic and subtly adaptable; few stars can so convincingly and smoothly accomplish the trick of fitting a character to themselves. In an odd sort of way, as a result, Bogart manages to achieve surprising range and depth while still remaining the familiar figure with whom millions expect to renew an acquaintance when they pay at the box office to see a Bogart film.
Jaguars & Boxers. Thus equipped, he has not only survived 20 years in the Hollywood jungle but has spent a great deal of that time ferociously biting the hand, that feeds him: he is a man with a raffish compulsion to stick pins in balloons, and few of Hollywood's big shots have escaped his caustic tongue. He breaks the Hollywood taboos with equal regularity. He is a whisky drinker who seems warmed and comforted by disturbances of the peace late at night. When Columnist Earl Wilson asked him if he was drunk five years ago after an ultra-shapely young woman accused him of knocking her down at El Morocco (Bogart said that she tried to steal his stuffed panda), he replied, genially: "Isn't everybody drunk at 4 a.m.?"
In spite of being neither young nor romantically handsome, Bogart is a much-sought-after leading man who gets $200,000 for each picture he makes. He lives with his fourth wife, Actress Lauren Bacall (known as "Baby") and their two children in a $160,000 whitewashed brick mansion in Los Angeles' exclusive Holmby Hills, keeps two Jaguar automobiles (a Mark VII for Baby, an XK 120 for himself), three blooded boxer dogs, and a $55,000 ocean-going racing yacht. Mike Romanoff, the famed phony prince, wise man and restaurateur who is a sometime arbiter of Hollywood society, allows him to appear for meals without a necktie. He is president and principal stockholder of a motion-picture producing company of his own, Santana Pictures, and at times, as in Knock on Any Door, In a Lonely Place and Beat the Devil, is, so to speak, his own high-paid employee.
The Bogart star, furthermore, is currently on the rise. The motion-picture industry, dueling with its enemy, television, is making fewer but at the same time bigger, more grandiose and more expensive films. As in all its hours of trial, its basic schizophrenia stands clearly revealed. It must, quite obviously, make a profit, and in the face of this fact it wavers between prenatal memories of the carnival and feverish dreams of class.
Time has proved that an ex-garment maker can often produce better, more vital, more dramatic, even more sensitive movies than a Yale man. And in yearning for the benediction of the New York critics, the industry can never forget that most of the popcorn eaters who pay its bills, while being good, honest, patriotic, thrifty, well-meaning, healthy, 100% Americans, also tend to be tasteless slobs.
Automatic Excitement. What to do? Whom to trust? In Bogart the harried producer can find comfort. Bogie may bait and bully his betters, but he can act, and he is reliable. His name pulls at the box office. After his years in gangster parts, his appearance on the screen automatically seems to lend a story impact and excitement. Movie fans do not care a whit if he (unlike Jimmy Stewart and Gregory Peck) is killed during the course of a picture. Cab drivers, burglars and women admire him. And on top of all this, as an Academy-Award winner (for his part in African Queen), he also lends a film an aura of distinction.
In the last twelve months, as a result, Free-Lance Actor Bogart has played a surprising variety of important roles. He has not completely divorced himself from gangster parts—he is presently considering a hoodlum role in The Desperate Hours, a Midwestern crime story which he tried to buy himself before Paramount outbid him. Nevertheless, he has not had a gat in his hand in a long time. He not only plays a wealthy Wall-Street type (complete with Homburg, furled black umbrella, Brooks Brothers suit and briefcase), but wins the hand of lissome Audrey Hepburn in Paramount's forthcoming Sabrina. In The Barefoot Contessa, recently filmed in Italy with Ava Gardner, he is a tough old movie director.
Bottled Scream. This uneasy alliance between corseted but concupiscent industry and one of its most irascible critics is, perhaps, more aptly illustrated in The Caine Mutiny, which Columbia Pictures will release this summer. Bogart was Producer Stanley Kramer's instant choice for the role of Captain Queeg when he bought Herman Wouk's novel back in 1951—and remained the choice through the 15 months which passed before Naval objections to the tale were overcome and Naval cooperation was forthcoming. (The Navy finally made impressive sections of the U.S. fleet available to Columbia and converted two modern destroyer minesweepers, the U.S.S. Doyle and the U.S.S. Thompson, into reasonable facsimiles of that peripatetic rustbucket, the minesweeper Caine.)
Actor Bogart, a blustering, secretive figure in Navy suntans, justifies Producer Kramer's hopes. He brings the hollow, driven, tyrannical character of Captain Queeg to full and invidious life, yet seldom fails to maintain a bond of sympathy with his audience. He deliberately gives Queeg the mannerisms and appearance of an officer of sternness and decision, and then gradually discloses him as a man who is bottling up a scream.
Queeg, the audience discovers, is a man who never meets another's eyes. When issuing his fantastic orders for the roundup of every ship's key (in an effort to solve the nocturnal loss of a quart of strawberries), Bogart speaks in a normal, matter-of-fact voice, but betrays Queeg's agitated state of mind by lovingly buttering and rebuttering a piece of toast.* In the courtroom scene, Bogart's Queeg seems unaware that he has reached into his pocket and brought forth the two steel ball bearings which he habitually fumbles in times of stress, and remains oblivious of his own mounting hysteria.
Then, suddenly, he knows he is undone; he stops and stares stricken at the court, during second after ticking second of dramatic and damning silence.
As Queeg, Bogart is likely to achieve a measure of secondhand immortality.* The captain of the Caine has become almost as memorable a figure of World War II as Admiral Halsey, and legions seeing the movie are bound to remember him in years to come as at least part Humphrey Bogart. This gloss of Queegishness seems like a fitting varnish for the patina, formed by rumor, favorite scenes, old headlines, and the memories of a hundred noisy Hollywood parties, which has collected on Bogie during the years of his ascendancy as a film star.
Original Baby. Beneath the well-known Bogart exterior reposes the residue of a nice boy of good family who grew up surrounded by Irish servants in a big brownstone house just off New York's West End Avenue. The Bogarts were wealthy: young Humphrey's grandfather had invented a process of lithographing on tin. His father was a physician with a fashionable practice who knocked off for several months a year to hunt, sail and enjoy life at the family's summer home on New York's Lake Canandaigua. His mother, Maud Humphrey, a woman of queenly mien and iron will, was a watercolorist and commercial illustrator of national repute. Cuddly Infant Humphrey, one of many children painted by mother, was known publicly as the "original Maud Humphrey baby."
Young Bogart was sent to Trinity School, an old and select Episcopal institution in New York, and then on, like his father, to Phillips Academy at Andover, Mass, to prepare for Yale. But he was thrown out after three semesters for what was described as ''incontrollable high spirits." Bogart, 18, was unwilling to face his family. He hustled off to a recruiting ship and joined the Navy. He ended up on troopships and spent most of World War I shuttling between New York and Liverpool as a helmsman aboard the captured liner Leviathan. Meanwhile, the family money was dwindling away as the result of father's optimistic but ill-conceived instinct for investment.
It Isn't Easy. After young Humphrey left the service, one of Dr. Bogart's patients—a cigar-smoking, hard-drinking promoter of prizefights and theatrical ventures named William A. Brady—put him to work at $50 a week as the manager of a traveling road company. His most painful duty was paying the actors—they made more than he did. One night, hopeful of financial advancement, he injected himself into a minor role. "It was awful," he recalls. "I knew all the lines of all the parts because I'd heard them from out front about a thousand times. But I took one look at the audience and I couldn't remember anything."
But he kept doggedly on. He was a passably handsome youth, in a slick, Valentino way, and he had a taste for good clothes. He got the second lead in a Broadway play, Swifty. His performance, Alexander Woollcott wrote, could be "mercifully described as inadequate." But gradually he learned. "There's an awful lot of bunk written about acting," he says. "But it isn't easy. You can't just make faces. If you make yourself feel the way the character would feel, your face will express the right things—if you're an actor. There are lots of things. How you walk. Try walking up to a door and opening it some time on a stage. It isn't as simple as you think. You mustn't stand close to anyone on the stage. Two objects together become one object in the eye of the audience. Here's an actor's trick. Keep looking at somebody's hands. Pretty soon he'll feel like his arms are 16 feet long. He'll fall apart trying to put them somewhere. You have to know what to do with your hands. All these things—you get to do them instinctively. I admire good actors —Spencer Tracy, Clifton Webb, Jimmy Stewart, Richard Widmark—they're good."
Shock & Amuse. During the twenties. Bogart went from one Broadway hit to another as a juvenile in romantic parts. He is remembered by old friends as a "well-behaved, agreeable, serious young man," but one who had no sense of direction. Eventually, setbacks and difficulty seemed to provide him with it. He went to Hollywood in 1929 to be the Fox Studio's Gable: "I wasn't Gable, and I flopped." He came back to Broadway—to the Depression and three long years of disappointment and debt. Then Producer Arthur Hopkins cast him (despite the doubts of Bogart's friend, Playwright Robert Sherwood) in a new kind of role: the Dillinger-like gunman Duke Mantee, in The Petrified Forest.
Both Bogart and the play were tremendous successes. Bogie went back to Hollywood in triumph to play the same role in a Warner version with Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. He stayed—to rebel against Hollywood's mores; to scrabble for its gold; to battle bitterly, in public and in private, for better parts; to shock, amuse or horrify his friends and acquaintances. In part he seemed bent, as his enemies charged, on playing Humphrey Bogart in public. In part he was simply making a shrewd bid for publicity, and in part he was giving irascible voice to his honest hatred of the crass and phony side of motion pictures. He also had personal problems. Life with his third wife,* Movie Actress Mayo Methot, was filled with the sound of violent argument. At times, when drinking, they clubbed each other with furniture and whisky bottles.
Meanwhile, he waged a long, stubborn, personal war of rebellion at Warner Bros, to escape from one-dimensional gangster roles. During one of his numerous suspensions, he told New York newsmen that Jack Warner was a "creep." On his return the mogul telephoned his actor and sorrowfully took him to task. "Jack." he replied, "you don't even know what I mean by creep." Said Warner: "Yes, I do—I've got a dictionary right before me. It means loathsome, crawling thing." "But Jack," said Bogart, "I spell it with a 'k.' "
Faithful Husband. But Bogart did more than protest. He proved and reproved his talent in such pictures as High Sierra, Casablanca and To Have and Have Not. With John Huston (who first directed him in 1941 as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, and with whom he has made Treasure of Sierra Madre, African Queen and, lately, Beat the Devil) he gambled both professional reputation and money on his conviction that motion pictures should break away from the trite and the ordinary. Last year he abandoned the security of a 15-year contract (it had eight more years to run) and left Warner to strike out on, his own.
Increasing success and recognition—and his eminently happy nine-year marriage to Actress Bacall—seem to have made him a quieter man. Baby (actually, Bogie calls her Betty) and Bogie make no pretense of leading the sort of romantic existence which screen magazines have tagged "idyllic." Betty now refuses to put foot on his yacht. Bogie refuses to light her cigarettes (although he has gone halfway and presented her with a cigarette lighter). They have numerous, spirited differences of opinion. But despite the difference in their ages (she is 29) and the fact that both are competitors in a cutthroat business, each reflects pride, affection and great respect for the other. In a city noted for ill-concealed adultery, Bogart is famed as a faithful husband.
When John Huston asked a group of friends last year if anyone had a desire to relive part of his life, all shrugged except Bogart. who said, "Yes. When I was courting Betty." The romance began in 1944 when Bogart was starring in To Have and Have Not with Betty, who was making her film debut. Betty played a sultry siren whose big line in the movie was a hoarse "If you want anything, all you have to do is whistle." (Bogart later presented her with a tiny gold whistle.) It was a noisy courtship—conducted, apparently to the mutual enjoyment of both parties, amidst coveys of newsmen and crushing hordes of fans in Manhattan. They were married on Author Louis Bromfield's farm in Ohio in May 1945. "It was a big mess." says Betty. "Bogie shed tears all through the ceremony. He cries at weddings. He's very cute about it. It was fun. It was exciting. Bogie's a wonderful husband."
The Quiet Life. In the years since he married Actress Bacall, Bogart has not abandoned his interest in the practical joke and the convivial glass, or his feeling that there are nights when a man owes it to himself to stay up until dawn. But for all that, he leads an astonishingly quiet life. He reads voluminously, plays chess, and engages his wife at Scrabble. He often takes afternoon naps and tries hard, when he is working, to be in bed and asleep by 9:30.
None of this, however, has stopped Hollywood from speculating as to what sort of fellow he really is, or kept Bogart from supplying clues. He is willing to speak out on practically any subject.
Samples : On maternal love: "I can't say I ever loved my mother. I admired her."
On whisky: "I never drink when I work. I get loaded now and then. I don't trust anyone who doesn't drink."
On women: "They've got us. We should never have set them free. They should still be in chains and fettered to the home, where they belong."
On money: "The only reason to have money is to tell any s.o.b. in the world to go to hell."
On exercise: "At John Huston's house, years ago, a group of us played football in the living room with a grapefruit. It was late in the evening, shall we say."
On fatherhood: "It came a little late in life. I don't understand the children, and I think they don't understand me, and all I can say is 'Thank God for Betty.' "
On manners: "I have politeness and manners. I was brought up that way. But in this goldfish-bowl life, it is sometimes hard to use them. A nightclub is a good place not to have manners."
On politics: "I'm a Democrat and a liberal."
On bad movies: "I don't give a damn about the industry. If they go broke, I don't give a damn. I don't hurt the industry. The industry hurts itself—as if General Motors deliberately put out a bad car." What is the sum of these attitudes? Says Bogie of his own career: "I'm a professional. I've done pretty well, don't you think? I've survived in a pretty rough business."
* This bit of business, a spur-of-the-moment invention by Bogart, set off one of the many minor crises that developed during the shooting of The Caine Mutiny. Commander James C. Shaw, a World War II naval hero (Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima) who put in a 10½-month tour as technical adviser on the movie, objected to it immediately on the theory that an Annapolis man would never butter a whole piece of toast but would first break it into fragments. "I went to school at Andover," huffed Bogart indignantly. "Are you trying to tell me that Annapolis turns out better gentlemen than Phillips Academy?" Shooting stopped until Producer Kramer solved the dilemma by trimming the crusts off the toast and reducing it partially in size, thus satisfying both parties to the argument.
* Another veteran cinemactor, 50-year-old Lloyd Nolan, will have a share of that immortality. As the Queeg of Author Wouk's incisive The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, now playing S.R.O. on Broadway, Nolan gives a comparably brilliant performance, last week was voted "best actor" of the 1953-54 season in Variety's annual poll of Manhattan drama critics.
* His first two wives: Broadway Actresses Helen Menken (1922-27) and Mary Phillips (1928-37).

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Editor: Mike O’Neil – 101 Rambling Road, Vernon, CT 06066 boreegard@comcast.net
Staff: John Mundt, Karl Van Valkenburgh, David Foley, Jim Duda

Purpose: To entertain and occasionally inform our members.

From DEAD CERTAINTIES (unwarranted speculations)
By Simon Schama

At the Face of the Cliff
Anse du Foulon, Quebec, four a.m., September 13, 1759

‘Twas the darkness that did the trick, black as tar, that and the silence, though how the men contriv’d to clamber their way up the cliff with their musket and seventy rounds on their backs, I’m sure I don’t know even though I saw it with my own eyes and did it myself before very long. We stood hushed on the muddy shore of the river, peering up at the volunteers. They looked like a pack of lizards unloosed on the rocks, though not so nimble, bellies hugging the cliff and their rumps wiggling with the effort. We couldn’t see much of ‘em for they disappeared now and then into the clumps of witherd cedar and spruce that hung on the side of the hill. But we could feel the squirming, pulling labour of it all. And by God they were quiet alright. Now and then a man’s boot would find a foothold he thought secure and away would come a shower of soft dirt, near taking the fellow with him down the cliff. Curses come to a soldier as easy as breathing, but we heard none that night, not at the start of it all. Some scoundrel later put it about that the General himself had struck off the head of a man who curs’d too loud when he dropped his pack to still any who should think to do the same. But that was never the General’s way. Though he had the temper in him of a red-hair’d man, he was an orderly commander who liked things done by the Regulations, and it would go damned hard on any poor infantryman who thought to help himself to the spoils of war, be it just a goat or a pig, when all the killing and running was done.
I suppose the silence told Wolfe the game was in earnest. For had bodies come tumbling down or firing started from the top he would have stopped it right there and then. For all his soldierly zeal he was rattled by the cliff when he had jumpd from the landing boat and come to its face, and could see the height of it, near enough two hundred feet and the sheerness of it. “I don’t think we can by any possible means get up here,” we heard him say, “but we must use our best endeavour.” And so it fell to the turn of the Twenty-Eighth and we started to haul ourselves over the black limestone, reaching for stumps and scrubby patches of chokecherries and hawthorn that covered the nether part of the hill. By some cumbersome means we lugged ourselves up a bit at a time, skinning our hands, dirtying our breeches and praying the next but of scrawny stick and leaf was deep enough rooted to hold us up. One thing was sure, our coats and leggings weren’t made for such work, for they flapped and pinched as we dragged ourselves up; and I could swear the Rangers who were fitter dress’d for it sniggerd as they saw us struggling with our tackle. Indeed the whole business seemd perilous, vertical folly and nothing the King of Prussia would have commended. We all feard it might yet go badly as it had done in July at the Montmorency Falls where the French had peppered us with grapeshot and the drenching rain had turned the hill into a filthy slide. Men had come tumbling down in a mess of blood and mud and fear, and those that couldn’t run were left to face the Savages as best they could, poor beggars.
But our fortunes were fairer that night for when the sentries challengd our boats as we saild upriver, Mr. Fraser he answered them in French good enough to pass and even threw in an oath or two against the English bougres for good measure. And we were all glad of the Scotchmen this time, even the Highlanders, for of Delaune’s first men up the rocks they were all Macphersons and Macdougals and Camerons and the like. A good crew for a general who had fought on Culloden Field! And here too they did the King good service for I had no sooner got to the very top and was rejoicing and taking good care not to look down behind when our men gathered together amidst the tamaracks and the spruce. Before us were a group of tents, white in the first thin light of the coming dawn, and of a sudden a commotion and shouting broke forth. A Frenchy officer came flying out in his nightshirt as we loosd off our first rounds and sent them running across the open fields towards the town leaving a few of their company shot or stuck with our bayonets wearing that surprised look on their face as they lay there amidst the pine needles and brown grass.
Once the peace was broken and we were masters of the place and the French guns, we set up a huzzaing and men down below threw themselves at the hill, Wolfe first of all, they said, and suddenly the rocks were alive with soldiers, Rangers and Highlanders and Grenadiers groping their way to the top. Monckton even managed to find a zig-zag path, two men wide, to lug our field-pieces up. The boats that had dischargd the first men went back to fetch some more from the ships, and after an hour or two we stood in the dawn light, a cool spraying rain coming down, maybe four thousand of us, more than we had dar’d hope but not so many I still thought as would come to a prize fight at Bartholomews Fair, too few for the business.
Monckton and Barre formd us up again in our lines, smartly enough. The Grenadiers formed to our right and the Forty-Third, Forty-Seventh and the Highlanders to our left, Mr. Burton’s Forty-Eighth behind us in reserve and Townshend and the Fifteenth at right angles. Better though our situation was than we might have expected, there was not a man jack of us but didn’t feel the scare of the battle crawling through his uniform and was glad of the two days rum we had got issued. The General put some heart in us, coming to our lines to talk of duty and the King and what our country expected of us and all of Canada at our mercy if we but prevail this once. After he died they made him look like a Roman, even on the penny prints I have seen, but he lookd no Roman to us. For though he was six foot, he carried that height queerly, in a loping gait, with his bony frame and sloping shoulders ending in a poke-up neck. What was on top of it bore little resemblance to the Antiques either, what with his pop eyes and his little chins wobbling under his jaw, his skin the colour of cheese and a snout on him like a ferret. Nor was he much a humorous man, more in the melancholy way. Brigadier Townshend did some scribbles of him peering at the latrines or measuring the height of his reputation which got passed around the camp and gave us some mirth in the midst of our adversities, but they pleasd their subject not at all. Yet he was a good general to trust, even if it was his fancy to call us “brother soldiers,” for he was fearless and would walk before the men under fire, pointing his cane like Old Gideon’s staff, and we followed sure enough.

On the Heights of Abraham
Nine a.m., September 13, 1759

An ill day for a battle we thought, hard to see our enemy with the wet mist hanging on the hill betwixt us and them and the rain falling. When the low sun appear’d it shone straight in our eyes as we faced the town where the French were musterd in front of the walls. So at the start we heard more than we saw, first their drums in the clatter of some pieces and the low sound of men beginning their march. The General knew we were as much afraid as any men in such a position, who could have no way back and were held from going forward, so he came along the line to us and spoke some words to help our resolve and keep us still until it was time to fire.
We were tried, God knows, for as they came closer, the first musket shots came, cracking and hissing through the air and amidst the long grass, and from behind the cover of trees to our right we could make out Indians coming closer, some of them creeping on their bellies. Some of our men fell to their shot without ever making a move, like tin soldiers at a midsummer fair, and this gall’d us so our hands trembled and shook at our muskets and mixd fear and rage, the more when we heard the Savages whooping and yelling. Then we made out the grey uniforms of the French coming at us at a trot and yelling and singing that they supposd us turning tail at the sight of them. If God’s truth be told we damn’d nearly did so for directly behind me, a fellow dropp’d his musket and crumpled on the ground and cried in a low way he was shot before he stoppd squirming and was at peace. And I heard others about me swear and pray and another set up a little moaning under his hat, for we could now see them very plain two hundred yards, no more, coming at us, some breaking into a run then dropping for cover and advancing again. It was an irregular jerky movement like tongues of fire darting hither and thither but all in our direction.
. Still we held our pieces and the General himself he showed us his face and he was smiling an odd smile and holding his arm up and I could see his other hand had been shot away for there was blood on the sleeve of his fresh coat. And I could hardly bear to keep from going off for that flowing liquid feeling poured through my bowels and my heart banged inside my breast. No more than a hundred paces maybe and we could see their own faces now, their wigs all dirty and their run a kind of drunken stumble. Out of the corner of my eye I just saw Wolfe shout and drop his sword, the flash of it in the sun and the whole line barked out its volley; and we were sheltered in the great noise and smoke and smell of powder and dropp’d down to reload while the fellows at our backs let off their shot. We had done this so many times down below on the islands till it seemd a cloddish piece of obedience but now it servd us well as the volleys came so close together they made one great hellish thunder over and over again, echoing inside our heads and making our eyes swim and our throats choke. And when all that working and tamping and discharging were done and Mr. Monckton ordered the cease, the silence seemed to come from a great hole we had torn in the body of their army. For as the light came through the smoke and the din faded, we could hear terrible screaming and saw the slaughter we had done and their backs running to the town. The Highlanders began their shouting and with the skirl of pipes set after the French their broadswords out, but I was glad we didn’t follow for I had little stomach for it.
Then up comes the Captain and tells me to take a message to the General to say our line had held and the enemy was put to flight. And I had rather it had be another man; I was tired at all we had done last night and this morning. But I obeyed and ran over the field stepping through blood and faces upturned in death and a few horses, poor beasts their bellies all spilld open. But the General was nowhere that the Brigadier had said, nor wherever I looked and I was making to go back down our line when I suddenly saw him, lying on a mound beside a sorry little bush attended by just two men, one leaning over and supporting Wolfe with his arm. Mr. Browne, for that was his name, was begging him to lie and shouted at me to come fast and help. I approached Wolfe and saw his face had gone stiff and greenish and his red hair glistened with sun and sweat. Blood had matted his belly where another ball had struck him and now more was oozing through his shirt and coat, so seeing he would not live I told him our news and in a groaning, gurgling sort of way I could hear him praise God for it.

‘Twas the Week Before Christmas”
A Trout Fisher’s Wishes

By Judy O’Brien Van Put
December 20, 2007

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through our streams
The trout were the subject of trout fishers’ dreams.
Both children and grownups were snug in their beds
With thoughts of “the big one” that danced in their heads.
Ed had shut down the woodstove and added a log,
And I’d just finished walking dear Tessie our dog.
I looked up above and saw stars shining bright,
A comfort to see on this cold winter’s night.
The horses were fed and asleep in the barn,
And the chickens were roosted, all fluffy and warm.
With a sigh of relief that the chores were all done,
We retired to our bed and were glad we were home.

When out in the yard there arose such a clatter
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Then Tessie the beagle let out a big howl,
To protect all her family from beasts on the prowl.
With the moon shining brightly and stars all aglow
It appeared to be daytime on objects below.

As I peered up the mountain, no beasts did I see
Just an owl that hooted from his perch in the tree.
The road was quite empty, for it was dead of night
But from down by the river I saw a great light!
There was no time to waste as I pulled on my hat,
Jumped into my boots, coat, and tripped o’er the cat

I raced toward the river, through the woods I went crashing –
Saw the light in the sky and then heard a loud splashing
My heart was a-thumping, I wanted to shout
As I saw a tremendous and colorful trout!
He was big, he was bold, and he made quite a sight –
He was covered with scales that reflected the light
but what was most amazing, too strange to be true
was the fact that he had not just one head, but two!

The great trout of legend, I’d discovered the BEAMOC!
Who lived in both Beaverkill and Willowemoc!
The fish who inhabited the Junction Pool
Had swum near our house, this was totally cool!
As I thought about taking a photo or two,
The light started to fade, and the big fish did too….
I felt myself slipping into the “green deep”
When I found Ed was shaking me out of my sleep….
It was all a great nightmare (but one without fright!)
Happy Christmas to all fishers, and to all a good night!

Baby Jane and the Skunk
(A springtime reminiscence from Boreegard)

It occurs to me there are certain words that are seasonal, to the point of being used or even remembered, just once or twice a year. And after their brief run up the verbal flagpole they are taken down, refolded, and stored neatly back in the hope chest, there to rest patiently among the mothballs until next year’s resurrection. “Ides” is one of them—how often do you think of that word except around March 15th? The one I really love is that lumpy three-syllable presager, HARBINGER—you know, as in “the harbinger of spring.” [Editorial aside: did you know that there’s a wild flower called harbinger-of-spring? I didn’t. It’s a small tuberous early blooming North American herb (Erigenia bulbosa) of the family Umbelliferae, with ternate leaves and umbellate white flowers.]
Besides the arrival of robins and the renewed chorus of peepers, the vernal signs we contend with at 101 Rambling Road are the evidences our various cats bring us that nature is indeed awakening. This was overwhelmingly evident last Saturday night around 10 o’clock when Baby Jane scratched at the back door to be let in. Baby is one of our daughter’s two cats currently in residence (along with us and our four) here at Casa O’Neil. She is a sweet little three-year-old marmalade hunter who doesn’t like it when you pet her on the back—head only, please.
It was immediately and shockingly obvious that she’d just tangled with a skunk. Loudon Wainwright III (son of Life Magazine’s stylish essayist Loudon Wainwright) once wrote and recorded a tongue-in-cheek folk masterpiece titled “DEAD SKUNK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD—STINKING TO HIGH HEAVEN.” His song’s refrain cautioned that the realities of a dead skunk “are gonna make you swoon.” But the smell of an incautious highway polecat, perceived as you whiz by at 55 MPH, is nothing. It is a mere ghost compared to the real flesh and blood thing.
There are no words adequate to describe what a serious, close range application of a skunk’s glandular secretions really entails. Webster’s refers to it as “intensely malodorous”. Its pungency is over powering. It causes headache, runny evacuation of the sinuses, shortness of breath, and a compulsion to get as far away from it as possible. Baby Jane’s face and head were literally dripping with the stuff.
This, in retrospect, reinforced two things that I knew about her. She is, true to her species, curious—much too curious. And she is dumb as a post. This was the second time in less than a year that she’d made such a nocturnal overture to a skunk—each with the same result. Even now, a week after the incident, having been thoroughly scrubbed twice (bath # 1 was a mix of tomato juice and cream of tomato soup; bath # 2 was a concoction of white vinegar, dish detergent, and pure well water) she carries the faint hint of her former rankness. You notice it when you bend over to kiss her on the head or to whisper a secret in her ear.
Yes, we’re close to our cats in this house. Love me? Then love my cat.
Spring has sprung around here, for sure.

“Whan that Aprille, with her showres swete,
Then skunke inspir’d is, to wolk on padded feete,
And younge feline, is drawn to walk apace,
Perchance to lerne a lesson, as the perfume hits her face.”

Vernally yrs,

Geoff C.

Dialogue on the Ausable
By Oscar Godbout
(from The Gordon Garland)

He said he was an old man. He said it with a touch of pride. His age was indeterminate; his seamed face gave few clues.
Clearly, he was worn and tired. His hands were gnarled and twisted, crafted that way by a lifetime of hard work and arthritis. He worked on construction jobs six days a week. He spent his last winter in a hospital, but didn’t say what the trouble was. His name had a Chaucerian ring to it, but he asked not to have it printed.
He squatted beside my campfire and accepted a cup of tea, offering a cigarette in return.
“I thought you looked like a fly fisherman,” he said, looking at the rigged rod. “I’m a wet fly man. Never could seem to get the hang of dries. But I get enough fish. Not enough really big ones though.”
He flipped the creel open with the tip of his boot. Inside the firm-fleshed bodies of rainbows and browns glistened.
“Guess I got enough for supper,” he said. “I’m camped below you here aways. Pretty river to camp on, ain’t it?
“Course, it ain’t like the old days. Fish this river all my life. Back before the war, why I’d go down on that big flat stretch below here and I wouldn’t have to move out of that one pool.
“The fish were big then. What I mean is, you could expect to get into a four or five pound fish. It wasn’t surprising then. I mean, now to latch on to a three-pounder, why that’s something.
“That’s all gone now. Just about nobody came back in here then. Still ain’t too many bothered to get down here in the woods. Fishermen are lazy, you know that?
“It’s all going—fun, The fishing, the hunting—you know that? This is the last of it, and a sorry end too. Ten, 12, 13 inch fish.” He snorted with disgust.
“Eating fish. That’s all. I got five kids, one’s 5 years old. You know what I’m teaching him? To fly fish for bluegills. There ain’t nothing left here on the streams for him.”
He adjusted his hat, stiff with age, grime, fish blood and many wettings.
“I don’t want him to think that catching these miserable little hatchery trout is fishing,” he continued. “Oh once in a while you get hold of a nice fish now, but not often. I mean, the really big one that makes you know what you are standing in the water for.
“Guess if I had the money and time I’d go up to Canada for the big trout and salmon. But five kids and a wife take a lot of groceries. So I sneak out here and camp when I can get an extra day off. Does me good, I mean, just to be fishing the river and out in the woods. I guess that’s all I want.
“But I don’t think I’m going to be having that much longer. They don’t care about the fish and deer, you know that? The politicians, I mean. Every year they got a new bunch of kids buying licenses. That’s all they want. The license sales.
“Well, he said rising, “guess I’ll go fry some trout. Love trout. My wife says if she had spots, I’d fry her with a little butter.
He laughed at the family joke and picked up his creel and rod. A few steps took him outside the light of the fire and into the blackness of the woods.
“Enjoy yourself,” he called back. “There ain’t much more left. If you need anything just come down the river and ask.

The Editor’s Canard

People have their own idea about how to cook duck properly. That makes sense, because there are so many different types of canard. Not being a hunter—thus not privy to the more natural, athletic wild bird—I must make due with what the supermarket offers. This is a rather fat-laced farm bred bird, known generically as Long Island Duckling here in the east. Not sure what they might call it in Seattle. To make it palatable one most somehow deal with the excess fat, so that the final presentation has melted and drained most of it. What follows is a method of roasting that allows the melting fat to self-baste the duck, even as you apply a more traditional basting liquid for taste.


A five to six pound duck.


A mixture of dried or fresh herbs and garlic (tonight I’m using rosemary, thyme, and sage).

A cup of orange juice and white wine for basting.


Split the duck—i.e. cut it in half.

Prick the skin (not the meat) thoroughly with a fork or other sharp instrument.

Place the duck on a roasting pan with a rack* in a pre-heated 400 degree oven—cover with aluminum foil and cook for 20 minutes.

Remove foil. Prick skin. Cut off the breast portion and set aside.

Spread a layer of honey on the leg and thigh portion and cover with herb mixture.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and return to oven for 15 minutes
Return breast (covered with honey and herbs) to the roasting pan. Prick, prick, prick. And baste all with the OJ and wine. Put in oven for 15 minutes.

Continue basting and pricking every 15 minutes for the next half hour (for medium rare) or 45 minutes (for medium). You do not want a well done, juiceless, dry ducky. Yucky.

To make cleanup much easier, you might do this: Presuming you’re using the conventional oven roasting pan, equipped with removable slotted cover, put a layer of aluminum foil on the cover. Slit the foil over the slots. Fill the pan itself with about a quarter to a half inch of water. If you don’t do this, be prepared to scrub burned duck fat drippings half the night through. You don’t want to do that, now do you Ducks?

Mike O’Neil
December 9, 2007

Auld Lang Syne
By Robert Burns

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,And never brought to min'?Should auld acquaintance be forgot,And auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear.For auld lang syne,We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,For auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes,And pu'd the gowans fine;But we've wander'd mony a weary footSin' auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidled i' the burn,From morning till dine;But seas between us braid hae roar'dSin' auld lang syne.
And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,And gie's a hand o' thine;And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught,For auld lang syne.
And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,And surely i'll be mine;And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yetFor auld lang syne.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Christmas at Six

Somewhere is the Christmas list I crayoned out to Santa,

Somewhere are the ashes from the evening’s lovely fire,

Somewhere are my parents, who swept me off to bed,

To dream of the saint who would soon shoot down our chimney.

All of that is here, as I number sixty-six.



December 24, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy X-Mas to Us

Happy X-Mas to us

First Lady Patty Rowland's poem

(WTNH) _ Here's the transcript of First Lady Patty Rowland's poem delivered at the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce breakfast delivered Dec. 17, 2003.

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
not a creature was stirring, except me, the first spouse.
I was waiting for Santa, that jolly old elf,
to give him the list I'd drawn up for myself.

For I'd hung all the garland and tinsled the tree,
and festooned the house for the public to see
.I'd sent all the card to our friends far and near,
and thanked all our staff for their hard work this year.

I'd shopped and I'd wrapped all my gifts full of love,
for our five picky teens, the black lab and the gov.
I'd kept quiet and calm, through December's dark storms,
protecting my family from those who wish harm.

So now it was my turn to get Santa's ear,t
o tell him what I wanted for Christmas this year.
When out on the yard there rose such a hub-bub,
I thought maybe Jon Lender had jumped in the hot tub.

Now surely that man needs to go soak his head,
but there on the lawn stood Santa instead.
Come in dear Santa, and rest for a while,
I've got cookies and milk, I said with a smile.

I'm late said Santa, my last stop took hours,
all that coal I delivered down the (Hartford) Courant's tall towers.
They used to be good girls and boys, Santa said,
but the poison pen's power has gone to their head.

And I had the same problem at the media stations,
they've just simply forgotten good human relations.
Their thirst and their hunger for the day's biggest story,
has earned them black coal for their ill-gotten glory.

Oh Santa, I said, that is sad I agree,
they've acted like Grinches who've stolen our tree.
They've whipped themselves into a mad feeding frenzy,
they've embarrassed our children and our mamma McKenzie.

For this is the season for joy, peace and love,
of forgiveness that comes from our Lord up above.
Time for compassion to give what we can,
to lift up the spirits of our dear fellow man.

Ho Ho Ho, said Santa, I'd say that's the gist,
now why don't you tell me what's there on your list.
Dear Santa, this year, bringing warmth to those cold,
and safety each day to the young and the old.

Bring our soldiers home safely, without any hitches,
and give evil-doers a kick in the britches.
Help the lonely find love, and the lost find their faith,
take the drugs off our streets so our children can play.
Give our teenagers wisdom and courage and health,
show them family and friends are the best kind of wealth.

And last but not least for the man next to me,
a new year that's peaceful and refreshingly free,
of rumors and hearsay that do nothing but smother,
the positive works we should do for each other.

This man who has given you many years of his life,
who has stood tall and strong, throughout good times and strife.
He has championed our cities, our schools and our arts,
he's made sure that our children are ready and smart.

He doesn't get bullied by big union bosses,
who picket and whine and dwell on their losses.
He's the man with the plan for the good of our state,
and he won't let the press twist and turn our state's fate.

So please Mr. Santa, won't you grant me this plea,
And tackle this list that I've drawn up for me.

Santa stood up and gave me his hand,
That's quite a tall order, but I'll do what I can.
I'll spread Christmas cheer to each city and town,
to each man, woman, child, and I won't let you down.

He jumped in his sleigh, and as he flew out of sight,
he said Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Former Gov. Rowland gets a year in prison for graft

By Matt Apuzzo and John Christoffersen, Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Former Gov. John G. Rowland was sentenced to a year in prison and four months of house arrest Friday for selling his office in a corruption scandal that destroyed his career as one of the Republican Party's brightest and fastest-rising stars.
The judge imposed the sentence after Rowland pleaded for leniency and confessed that he had lost his way morally and developed "a sense of entitlement and even arrogance."
"I let my pride get in my way," the three-term Republican told U.S. District Judge Peter Dorsey.
Rowland, 47, pleaded guilty in December to a corruption charge, admitting that he sold his office for more than $100,000 in chartered trips to Las Vegas, vacations in Vermont and Florida, and improvements at his lakeside cottage. He resigned last summer amid a gathering drive to impeach him.
The sentence was less than the 15 to 21 months called for in the plea bargain, and well less than the three years prosecutors said he deserved. He was also sentenced to three years of probation.
"I am ashamed to be here today, and I accept full responsibility for my actions," he said.
Dorsey has a reputation as one of the state's most sympathetic judges and Rowland's attorney is trying to cast the three-term governor as a dedicated public servant who was betrayed by his subordinates.
He recruited dozens of people to write letters on Rowland's behalf, including state officials and Yale University President Richard Levin.
"I truly hope that people would remember John Rowland for the good he has done, rather than the mistake he committed," wrote state Rep. Selim Noujaim, a Republican from Rowland's hometown of Waterbury.
In a sentencing memo filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, Rowland's attorneys blamed his former co-chief of staff, Peter Ellef and contractor William Tomasso for much of the corruption. Both are under federal indictment.
Prosecutors, in their own sentencing report, argued Thursday that Rowland has a history of deceit and unethical behavior and that he only admitted and apologized for after it threatened his political career.
Rowland is expected to address Dorsey before he is sentenced on Friday.
Rowland soared through the political ranks, rising from legislator to congressman to Connecticut's youngest-ever governor at 37. He was an admirer of President Reagan and a friend to the Bush family. President Bush appointed Rowland to White House advisory committees and affectionately called him "Johnny."
But since the corruption scandal broke in 2003, Bush has kept his distance. Rowland resigned as chairman of Bush's re-election campaign in Connecticut, and when Bush came here to speak, Rowland stayed away.
Through it all, Rowland maintained that he never did anything wrong and predicted the corruption investigation would never touch him.
But with his former deputy chief of staff, Lawrence Alibozek, cooperating with prosecutors and Ellef under federal racketeering indictment, the pressure on Rowland became too much.
Rowland's plea deal avoided almost certain indictment.
If a judge sends him to prison, Rowland will become one of more than a dozen former governors to serve prison time and only the second in New England. The first was former Rhode Island Gov. Edward D. DiPrete, who was sentenced to a year in prison in 1998 for bribery, extortion and racketeering.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Here’s a recipe and little story about what Mima and PaPa are going to have for dinner tonight in a snow and ice-laden New England home.

PaPa Bo
December 19, ‘07

Julia’s Happy Anniversary Soup

Dateline: San Antonio, Texas, February 21, 2005

In order to celebrate their wedding anniversary and go to a warmer place, Mima and PaPa flew down from the wintry land of steady habits to the sunny land of the Alamo and mooched off Daddy and Mamma, Griffin and Julia at their newly erected yellow and white palace which is situated on the South Central Texas ridge known as Silent Hollow (where the deer and the antelope play—well, the deer anyway).

The day before they marked their anniversary, Mamma and Griff and Julia took Mima and Papa to the zoo. It was a fine warm day, and after visiting their favorite animals (the kangaroos, the lion and tiger, and of course the giraffe), they settled in at the wading pool on the sandy beach, where the management had thoughtfully provided a good number of plastic buckets, trowels and other implements to have fun with the sand. And while the little possums had worn their bathing suits for a bit of wading, they spent most of their time making an imaginary soup that later inspired the real thing. Griffin used the big shovel and provided the stock (sand) for the bucket (soup pot), while Julia provided handfuls of sandy ingredients with PaPa helping with a little culinary advice. It went something like this:

Julia: Should we put in carrots PaPa?
PaPa: Good idea.
Julia: Otay (as she put a handful of sand in the bucket).
PaPa: How about some white beans and chopped arugula?
Julia: Good idea (as she put two more portions in the pot).

And after the soup was completed, Mamma said, ”You know, I think I’d like to have soup for dinner tonight.” PaPa volunteered to make it, which he did, with Julia standing on a chair helping. It was a mighty fine soup, and not surprisingly it had many of the ingredients from Julia’s sandy zoo soup, without the sand of course.

Here’s the recipe:


2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
1 pound chouriso, cooked and chopped
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced and chopped
1 medium sweet pepper, chopped
a 14.5 oz. can of Italian diced tomatoes.
2 14 oz. cans of chicken stock.
2 16 oz. cans of white navy beans
Fresh spinach, rinsed and chopped.

Baby carrots, as many as you think there should be.
Salt and pepper to taste.


In a pot, cook the chouriso in the oil. Then drain on paper towel and dice.
Add butter and sauté onion, garlic, and sweet pepper.
Add tomato and diced chouriso and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.
Add stock and beans, bring to boil and then simmer, covered, for twenty minutes. Stir occasionally.
Add spinach and carrots, cover, and continue to simmer until carrots are tender (about 10 minutes).

This produces enough soup to feed the remnants of Napoleon’s army after his winter Russian debacle. Six or seven hungry Americans will also do it justice. Serve with warm French bread.

Soups on!

PaPa Boreegard.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


By RUSSELL BAKER (NYT) 723 wordsPublished: December 25, 1983

Thirty-four years ago, I inherited the family fruitcake. Fruitcake is the only food durable enough to become a family heirloom. It had been in my grandmother's possession since 1880, and she passed it to a niece in 1933.
Surprisingly, the niece, who had always seemed to detest me, left it to me in her will. There was the usual family backbiting when the will was read. Relatives grumbled that I had no right to the family fruitcake. Some whispered that I had ''got to'' the dying woman when she was in extremis and guided her hand while she altered her will.

Nothing could be more absurd, since my dislike of fruitcake is notorious throughout the family. This distaste dates from a Christmas dinner when, at the age of 15, I dropped a small piece of fruitcake and shattered every bone in my right foot.

I would have renounced my inheritance except for the sentiment of the thing, for the family fruitcake was the symbol of our family's roots. When my grandmother inherited it, it was already 86 years old, having been baked by her great-grandfather in 1794 as a Christmas gift for President George Washington.
Washington, with his high- flown view of ethical standards for Government workers, sent it back with thanks, explaining that he thought it unseemly for Presidents to accept gifts weighing more than 80 pounds, even though they were only eight inches in diameter. This, at any rate, is the family story, and you can take it for what it's worth, which probably isn't much.

There is no doubt, though, about the fruitcake's great age. Sawing into it six Christmases ago, I came across a fragment of a 1794 newspaper with an account of the lynching of a real-estate speculator in New York City.
Thinking the thing was a valuable antique, I rented bank storage space and hired Brink's guards every Christmas to bring it out, carry it to the table and return it to the vault after dinner. The whole family, of course, now felt entitled to come for Christmas dinner.

People who have never eaten fruitcake may think that after 34 years of being gnawed at by assemblages of 25 to 30 diners my inheritance would have vanished. People who have eaten fruitcake will realize that it was still almost as intact as on the day George Washington first saw it. While an eon, as someone has observed, may be two people and a ham, a fruitcake is forever. It was an antique dealer who revealed this truth to me. The children had reached college age, the age of parental bankruptcy, and I decided to put the family fruitcake on the antique market.

''Over 200 years old?'' The dealer sneered. ''I've got one at home that's over 300,'' he said. ''If you come across a fruitcake that Julius Caesar brought back from Gaul, look me up; I'll give you $10 for it.''
To cut expenses, I took it out of the bank. Still, there was that backbreaking cost of feeding 25 to 30 relatives each Christmas when they felt entitled to visit the family fruitcake. An idea was born.
Before leaving town for a weekend, I placed it on the television set. When burglars came for the TV, they were bound to think the antique fruitcake worth a fortune and have it in some faraway pawnshop before discovering the truth.

By Monday morning the television set was gone, all right, but the fruitcake was still with us. ''I should have wired it,'' I told Uncle Jimmy. ''Burglars won't take anything that isn't electronic these days.''
Uncle Jimmy was not amused. ''You're a lucky man,'' he said.

Lucky? Bankrupted by an idiotic faith in higher education was what I was.
''Lucky!'' he shouted. ''Don't you know there's a curse on the family fruitcake? It is said that a dreadful fate will fall upon anyone who lets the family fruitcake pass out of the possession of the family.''

That didn't really scare me. Still, it couldn't hurt to play safe. After that, I kept the fruitcake locked in the crawl space under the kitchen. This afternoon, I shall bring it out again when 25 to 30 relatives come to dinner, and afterward we will all groan as people always groan when their interiors feel clogged with cement.

I now suspect Uncle Jimmy of lying about the curse. I suspect the dreadful fate carried by the family fruitcake is visited upon the one who inherits it. I wish I had a relative in the higher-education business so I could will it to him.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Now, here's something of a curmudgeonly nature for you.


When I Am Old

by Ray Nargis

When I am old I shall wear a ball capFrom the St. Louis Browns
Because my grandfather once played in their farm system,
Or maybe a John B. Stetson hat, three-corner fold,
Four X and black chinos with both suspenders and a beltAnd the knees ripped out,
not as a fashion statement,But from work.
And black biker boots and a T-shirt with the slogan"I'm Working On My Issues.

"I'll use a walking stick and not a cane
And have a key ring with about a hundred keys
And I won't know what any of them open and I won't care.

When I am old I'll drink whiskey in the morningAnd coffee at night
And laugh and spit and swear wherever I want.
When I am old I'll help Girl Scouts across the street
Even if they don't want to go

And I won't have a car
And I won't have a bike
And I'll walk everywhere.

When I am old I'll have a dog named Sam Peckinpaw
And some summer's morning I'll lock up the house
And old Sam and I will walk over to see one of my sons
Even if he lives two states away

.When I am old I'll tell people exactly what I think of them
And surprisingly, most of the time it really will be good stuff.
When I am old I won't have a TVAnd I won't have a radio
And I won't have a computer or a clock or a phone in the house.
I won't read books and I won't read magazines
And I won't read newspapers and maybe,
finallyI'll learn something just watching the birds and the weather.