BOT WOT

  Lucy (foreground, scratching) and Rocket in younger days

Lucy (foreground, scratching) and Rocket in younger days

That's texteramus for "Best of Times, Worst of Times" or is it WOT BOT, can't remember the Dickensian book start, but ITM (It Matters Not). This whole summer, for me, is summed up by the Best/Worst deal. Most of us got through it. Even Lucy, as I write this, is hanging in there, but winding down. She and brother Rocket celebrated their 13th birthday October 15th. They got toys, and bless her, she fought for one that he has now hidden. She won, too, keeping her "Toy Retention Champion of the World" title. They are ninety-one in Aussie 50-lbs-and-over years.

 WTF, I  took  my meds, okay? Okay?

WTF, I took my meds, okay? Okay?

Summer, this October, seems ever with us. Global warming, sure. Happens every fifteen or twenty million years I'm told. Finally though, the nights are cool. Soon the days will be. Baseball is still humming along. Cubs and Dodgers are tied 2-2. Indians are waiting for one of them. I didn't regard the Blue Jays as legal anyway. By the time I post this it'll be history. Maybe the weirdass election too. Jeez. Nurse Ratshit (Ratchett?) against Jack Nicholson in that Cuckoo movie.

Expenses were awful. We managed to get the house rehabbed, painted, and F's daughter's place livable, all but the roof. We'll get that soon I guess. You've no idea the horrors involved in those two sentences. And, not wishing to relive them, I'm dropping that whole subject like a dirty shirt. 

This is showing signs of becoming one of those godawful purple mimeographed Christmas letters most of you are too young to remember. (Aunt Maudie broke her whatever and poor Ron was arrested again for a trumped up charge of driving while etc.) Most people hated those yearly missives like kids hate fruitcake, but I read them aloud with glee and appropriate voices for each participant. I miss those like I miss the electric train Christmas display in Macy's window. And ads with a pre-presidential Ronald Reagan shilling for Chesterfield cigarettes.

                                                                                 Simpler times.

  If elected, no unpleasant aftertaste...

If elected, no unpleasant aftertaste...

Poems. I waxed poetic and dropped fiction for awhile. Got twenty-one a' them suckers into the lit rags at most recent count. Everything from Rat's Ass Review (true) to Oxford Magazine. Noble objectif? The New Yorker.  I'm gunning for poet laureate of Resume Speed, Kansas. And trying to finish L.A. Hardscape, a novel which will be published by Black Opal in 2017. I'm at page 157.

Had to quit the novel for show prep for a gallery in sunny Santa Monica. Slow going. They want my work, but they don't want my work that I want them to want. So I'm second-guessing that outfit. Trouble is, welding is hard work. And when you make something it pretty much stays made. If the welds are good.

Plus a freelance job that is a joy but has deadlines and interferes with all else, but I'm committed. Or I will be. Nicholson reference again. Anyway, this is long and disjointed enough. Newsy as a mimeographed crazy-letter at holiday time. Speaking of which, Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas. Or whatever you celebrate. Or don't celebrate. Or want to institute a class-action suit against. This PC shit gets convoluted don't it? Joy to the world.

 

 

 

 

"I knew Tony Schwartz, and you, sir, are no Tony Schwartz."

  Interviewing the cabbie who said, "That's my opinion and it's very true." during his NY radio shows.

Interviewing the cabbie who said, "That's my opinion and it's very true." during his NY radio shows.

I met the real Tony Schwartz back in the 60's when I was looking for me and he helped me find me. The Tony Schwartz that's getting all the ink these days is the ghostwriter/co-author for "Art of the Deal" and I have little to say about that Tony Schwartz, except if he didn't believe what he wrote then, why did he write it? Because, I guess, we all chase the buck in our own way, and we're all guilty of pandering to one degree or another. Heck, I'd have jumped at that deal. So I can't judge that Tony Schwartz. It's the other one, the real one, who is so important and dear to me.

I was an art director in advertising, trying to figure out why I was in that business and what life itself meant. I read Viktor Frankl and Napoleon Hill. I watched the giants in the business--Bill Bernbach, George Lois, Howard Gossage, all the Mad Men, and emulated them. I was an art director, but became interested in media beyond the visual, and found out you could art direct radio. Tony Schwartz was doing big things in sound--such as recording a swath of New York block by block for miles on street level and above. He invented the first portable recorder, taking a bulky reel-to-reel and tweaking it for carrying with shoulder straps and various improvements.

  Tony Schwartz taught with McLuhan at Fordham University, and he held degrees from several colleges and universities.

Tony Schwartz taught with McLuhan at Fordham University, and he held degrees from several colleges and universities.

He's known as a sound archivist, but sound activist would be more like it. He was a colleague of Marshall McLuhan (The Medium is the Message) and McLuhan called him "the guru of the electronic age," and said, when they met, he had met "a disciple with twenty years prior experience."

I wrote to Tony several times, but got no answer. So I took to pestering him with a barrage of postcards with embarrassing messages from a nonexistent paramour, a lady of the night from Iowa where I lived at the time. I discovered a box of starched shirt collars in a barn in Muscatine and found I could send them through the mail with felt tip pen messages and stamps. I sent him one. He sent me a card back, saying "Dear GW, don't give up. I am weakening."

Thus started our friendship.

I came to know him as a brilliant, kind, gentle, inquiring person. And I sent his lady Friday roses on her birthday, called her and we talked often, as did Tony and I. They invited me to NY to their offices (an old church) but I had to decline. He understood, being agoraphobic. So our communication, though strong, was always long distance.

  She is counting petals. Her VO dissolves to that of man counting down to zero...

She is counting petals. Her VO dissolves to that of man counting down to zero...

He was an activist, as I said. Nuclear disarmament, AIDS awareness, smoking cessation, and many other causes were important to him. Gentle though he was, his deep beliefs led him to be ferocious. He was heavily involved in the LBJ "Daisy" commercial, known as the most famous political attack commercial of all time. It opened with a little girl in a meadow plucking daisy petals. LBJ says a few words, then BOOM, the world is obliterated. Implication: Goldwater was a trigger-happy cowboy who would destroy any chances for peace. It was visceral, and it was pulled shortly thereafter. But it was seen by millions.

He also did commercials for Carter, Humphrey, Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy and McGovern. Aside from politics, clients included Coke, (that TV commercial where the only audio is the 'schwizzz" of the cap coming off and the bubbling of a sweating bottle of Coca-Cola), Chrysler, American Express, Kodak, and hundreds of others. 

There's so much I could say about him, and probably will in future blogs. But this was my small tribute to his work and its power, its efficacy: once, when I had control of The KC Art Directors programs as president, I did a Tony Schwartz evening. The room was busy, drinks were being consumed, Tony had been a graphic designer early in his career, and I had shown some award-winning posters of his on the program announcements.

  Tony Schwartz, August 19, 1923 -- June 15, 2008

Tony Schwartz, August 19, 1923 -- June 15, 2008

Then, as people were seated, I had all the lights extinguished. Total darkness, except for the glow of cigarettes (yes, people smoked in places like that back then). Then I played a 45-minute Tony Schwartz tape, starting with a NY cabbie saying, "That's my opinion and it's very true." A classic, now in the hall of fame.

There was some restlessness, some WTF's of the day, then that subsided and these visually-oriented designers and graphics folks were each in their own world of interpretation of what was being said and the sounds that he'd recorded. No one complained. Far from it. If I'd have thought of it, I'd have recorded the applause and the many positive comments and sent them to him. But I'm no Tony Schwartz. He was one of a kind. Thank you Tony, for opening my eyes. And my ears. I'm using your powers of observation to this day.

How I learned to read, write and dream.

  Toad was a hero. A wild thing, and quite a wit.

Toad was a hero. A wild thing, and quite a wit.

When I was small, some kindly people in my family read to me. Winnie the Pooh. Wind in the Willows with the irrepressible, irresponsible Toad of Toad Hall--I met some like him in advertising. Wild Animals I have known, Ernest Seton Thompson. The Jungle Book. And they took me to movies: Bambi, Fantasia, Snow White. Fantasia was psychedelic to my young brain--what a trip. I veered off into comics.

Comics and more comics. Mind-warping stuff. The Spirit, Vigilante, Air Boy, Green Lantern, The Shadow, the list is long and loathsome to those who would shape a boy's life. I did read Boy's Life, but only because I was absorbing everything in print. No TV back then. Just imagine. That's what we did: just imagine. And it was mind-stretching.

The closest thing to the internet was short wave radio and at night I could tune in foreign language stuff that sounded like ducks on a pond. I could get XERF Del Rio, Texas, hillbilly and gospel music. If you sent them an article of clothing with return postage and "blessing fee," they'd sanctify it, send it back. I couldn't afford it. My rabbit's foot key chain would have to carry me through the evil times. And my "if I should die before I wake" prayer which introduced a cruddy possibility that I hurriedly glossed over.

Now and then a kid at school would show us an "eight page bible," as pornographic comics were known then. These were slim, palm-sized affairs, on newsprint, horizontal, with panels that revealed a quick and luridly apocryphal story about Olive Oyl and Popeye, or Blondie and a plumber. But I was a comic connoisseur and knew the art was forgery. I missed the point, I was told.

  "That's not MY Blondie. And the lettering is no good."

"That's not MY Blondie. And the lettering is no good."

Then I discovered pulp novels. They lay around the house on side tables or in the trash I'd take out to the backyard to burn. The covers attracted me. Colorful art depicted women in odd circumstances or men in fedoras firing flaming forty-fives. (it's where I learned alliteration, too) At first I was disappointed that the pages of these twenty-five-cent paperbacks were full of words and not pictures with word balloons, but the packed words transported me. The first of these books that I remember reading was Angels Camp.

The banner on the cover said "This savage novel may shock you--but you'll never forget it. Bantam Books Inc. believes its readers want to know the brutal truth about juvenile delinquents--and whether there is any hope for them." It was true. I never did forget it. And I did want to know if there was any hope for me.

Maybe my folks had bought it in hopes of learning how to deal with my coming teen years. More likely they'd plucked it from a wire carousel at a drugstore in a moment of boredom. An attractive woman seemed to be luring young criminals away from a work detail. Was she nuts?! These were criminals, young ones, true, but everyone knew juvenile delinquents were the scourge of the times. I would have to read this. I did. And a lot of other books.

Much of Angels Camp was puzzling. I read the word "causal" as "casual." The name Marijuano Brown made no sense to me at all so I asked about it. And what were goofballs? My alarmed folks asked where I had picked up such terms, plus a lot more questions. I kept later enigmas to myself.

And this sentence, "The G-Man asked me did I use narcotics and I asked him was it soap or hair oil, that sure was a wigger."  (G-Man was Mr. Grozier, a counselor) Wigger had to remain on my puzzling list for a long time, as did "You're looking at the King Pachuco." And why the blonde lady wanted anything to do with these guys. (She did stuff with one of them in the woods, which I vaguely understood. I sure didn't ask my folks about that.) Many words sent me to the dictionary, a good thing. Wigger wasn't in there.

Anyway, I found this vintage book online, and ordered it. It's by Ray Morrison, a former probation officer in L.A. and, upon reading it again, over a half-century later, I found it to be pretty well-written. It was a bestseller, and enjoyed several printings. As did some of the other books I found around the house: Tobacco Road, Grapes of Wrath, Kiss Me Deadly, Twelve O'clock High, and dozens more.

I never stopped reading. And I started writing. Along the way I dreamed a lot. And posited "What if?" And I managed to stay out of prison. Though my aunt Mickey used to look at my hands and say, "Spatulate fingers. Definite sign of a criminal." But I applied two of those fat digits to the typewriter, then the keypad rather than more lucrative criminal enterprise. But who knows, I may hit it big yet.

Resume Speed. And don't hide the madness.

     Somehow, I've avoided the self-publishing route on three books now. The first was published by a small university press, Pecan Grove, at St. Marys University in San Antonio. That was the result of a competition win, and I learned a lot about editing and the process of word to print from the experience. It was an eye-opener. I'll say no more. Except, when an editor tells you they're "not prissy," leave room for the possibility that they are. The book has five-star reviews and one four-star on Amazon. It's more PC than originally written.

     The second and third book have been published by an outfit in the Pacific Northwest named Black Opal. No advances, but a nicely structured payout should the book become a decent seller. Maybe I'll experience that someday. The second book was Ruined Days, and while it was read and even enjoyed by a smallish group, my efforts to push it beyond that didn't amount to much. It did get all five-star reviews on Amazon, four and five on Goodreads, and a decent review or two. At any rate, Resume Speed, the third book, is available for pre-order now, and fully released June 18th.

  The blurbs are for the previous collection of short stories. That's what you do when you don't have blurbs for the present book, yet. I will switch these out at a later printing. If I get any good ones. (Cover design by the talented Mr. Carmean)

The blurbs are for the previous collection of short stories. That's what you do when you don't have blurbs for the present book, yet. I will switch these out at a later printing. If I get any good ones. (Cover design by the talented Mr. Carmean)

     This third book, Resume Speed, is a collection of short stories, most of which have seen print in various lit reviews, and even Best New Writing of 2015. An interview about it will appear in July's The Big Thrill, the International Thriller Writers magazine. For now, I'm using the blurbs for Night Train, Cold Beer just to show previous books have gotten accolades. Almost meaningless, they say, but I sometimes buy a book if the praise for a previous book seems good. I never buy Pulitzer winners anymore as they (to me) have been about as enjoyable as a noogie from a drunken uncle. RS is available for pre-order at Kobo and B&N.

  Allen was always such an uninhibited child...

Allen was always such an uninhibited child...

     Resume Speed (buy it, subliminal barely-seen imperative here) runs the gamut of short-short to long stories, with one blurred genre faux memoir that's a smorgasbord of POVs and prose poetry and outright lies. But some of it will piss off distant family members. Some stories are gritty, some are, to me, funny. Most are on the dark side. As Allen Ginsberg said, "Follow your inner moonlight; don't hide the madness." And I have almost done that in this collection. I plan to perfect that in books to come.

     Daniel Saldana Paris, a Mexican writer, says, "I personally feel that no one gives a shit about my books—maybe I'm just a pessimist—and that idea feels horrible and refreshing at the same time. I feel ignored and doomed to anonymity, but free to do whatever I want within the sacred space of literature." Okay. With an attitude like that, I'm free to write The Great American Novel. But first, L.A. Hardscape, a sort of Big Sleep in present day SoCal. Then Hot Rods from Hell, a collection of stories with cars in them.

     That'll be five books and I should know what I'm doing by then. Maybe. Meanwhile I'm betting heavily that you'll find something to like in Resume Speed. The odds and the point spread are good, with twenty-eight stories and about 300 pages. For those of you with the attention span of a duckling, there are even some one-pagers. Remember somebody dug these stories if only a speed-crazed editor of some eastern lit publication coming upon a deadline who said, "Screw it, I'm using this Wise story for the spring issue, then I'm sleeping for four days."

     So this is The Launch. It'll be on Amazon the 18th. You can pre-order it on Kobo now, B&N too. More news to come.

 

 

 

 

July 17, 1955, The KC Drag Strip

  The opening of Disneyland and the KC Drag Strip had similarities...

The opening of Disneyland and the KC Drag Strip had similarities...

In Anaheim, July 17, 1955, it was 100 degrees and a lot of things went wrong at the opening of Disneyland. People said it would never last. The drinking fountains were shut down so the rest room facilities could work. Counterfeit tickets resulted in overcrowding, as did the fact that once in, the crowd didn't leave. It was thought they would head out after a couple of hours but they didn't. The Mark Twain paddlewheeler almost capsized. Murphy's Law prevailed bigtime.

But none of this concerned me, because on that date I was at another opening. The very grand opening of the Kansas City Timing Association Drag Strip. Rat Rod was not a coined term then, but I had a sort of kustom one. A 1949 Ford Tudor with finned heads, dual manifold, Mallory ignition, pipes, cutouts to circumvent the already noisy Smitty mufflers. This car was shaved, lowered, primered and beastly. It just wasn't fast. In my head it was, but my head was wrong, as my folks, algebra teacher, numerous cops and my girlfriend's dad would often remind me.

  The present-day Butchmobile is my link to that day, and it looks the same, actually.

The present-day Butchmobile is my link to that day, and it looks the same, actually.

The heat was brain-baking vicious, and if you know flatheads, you know they vapor-lock at sunrise. I rumbled up to the checkpoint, temp needle in the red, where they determined what class I'd run in. I was hoping for some variation of stock, but that was a loud pipe dream. These guys were pros and while they immediately recognized I would topple no records, they said I had to race in a gas class that included some pretty significant speedsters. Mainly because of add-on speed equipment that didn't really amount to that much more speed. I was eliminated early that day, but thrilled anyway. Relieved, actually. The Butchmobile (my nickname was Butch back in the day) was coughing, sputtering, dying of heat stroke. I parked it. No shade to be found.

  This KCTA Guide is a replica, like my Ford. Supplied by Chris Simmons.

This KCTA Guide is a replica, like my Ford. Supplied by Chris Simmons.

Had I run later in the day, the Butchmobile might have locked up off the line making it look as though I had missed my shift, embarrassing me for all time to this very day. I planned to fix it all but the predesigns of a seventeen-year-old are, shall we say, fluid. And lack of funds was endemic to my caste.

But that day on that sun-scorched slab of crackling exhaust and fuel-mix aroma in the bottoms near the Missouri River, was no less thrilling than a Super Bowl. Legends roamed. Street racers smoked and watched. The real rods, '32 Fords bored, stroked and fenderless, lined up to race, their drivers in t-shirts, some showing the red circle of a Luckies pack through the cotton of their rolled up sleeves. Road Knights, Chain Stretchers, Dusters, Hi-Winders...the club names showed on plaques and signs. The Trophy Bandits built the entrance gate and the ticket booth.

Water was free. In fact a popular saying of the day, describing cheap, was "He'd sell drinking water." I spent gas money on Cokes, and returned home that night lobster-red and bone ass tired. I had run at the opening. My time? Not important.  I'd disclose it, but memory's a baldfaced liar. And so am I, being a fiction writer. And, most recently, a poet. I suppose a faux memoir is not out of the question. If you were at the Mickey Mouse event in Anaheim, contact me. I'd like to hear your impressions of that day. Thanks. And a 3-fingered salute to you!

 

All kids are abstract expressionists.

  This Pollock sold for $32million. My stuff is considerably cheaper

This Pollock sold for $32million. My stuff is considerably cheaper

I'm having an altogether undeserved amount of fun preparing for the May First Friday (6th) opening at the Hilliard Gallery. Oh, there's been some angst. A couple of uglies hit the scrap pile for deconstruction; I cut them up and find uses for the pieces that didn't work. Sometimes they fit elsewhere, sometimes not. But the rest of the pieces are coming together in ways that delight me. Whether they'll affect the viewer, or a potential collector in a positive way remains to be seen.

Sculpture, in childhood, was easy. I found stuff and lashed it together, tied it, glued it, bolted it. The creations were made of old radio chassis, light bulbs, wooden shaving bowls, discarded auto parts, shoe boxes, cigarette tins. A certain design intuition crept in making the pieces harder to fit together but resulting in better assemblages. Better to me, and that's what counted.

I didn't know it but I was a kiddie abstract expressionist of The New York School. Like Al Gore invented the internet? I'm sure I invented Abstract Expressionism (The Kansas City School) Junior Division.

  Xray Glasses! How to hypnotize!  Of course  I sent for this free sealed book.

Xray Glasses! How to hypnotize! Of course I sent for this free sealed book.

Others looked at them like they were emitting bell music, or like they were supposed to work. Which they did, to me. But I was a goofy kid. World of my own. I sent for Rosicrucian pamphlets because they were free. I decoded Little Orphan Annie messages. I kept a sharp eye out for communists because the summer McCarthy hearings told me to on black and white TV. But art and writing were my mainstays. I had a little printing press with rubber type, and put out a newspaper with outlandish lies about neighbors. Fiction? Precursor to mainstream media? Again on the cutting edge, this time, ungrounded journalism.

Later, after a couple years at a midwestern college, then a southern university, I ended up at art school. Nirvana! How can I explain it? Late 50's, early 60's with all that implies. Plus Jack Kerouac, Evergreen Review, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Howl, what a time. Late nights listening to Joe Williams, Joan Baez, modern jazz, passionate arguments about classic art as an underpinning, our own revival of Dadaism. Home made beer in (some of) our paint cans in class, along with brushes. (Micro Brew? Hint of yeast, current of Cerulean Blue.)

   GW wall piece titled "Parade Route." Colorful, childlike, happy. Abstract Expressionist, with a little Dada thrown in.

 GW wall piece titled "Parade Route." Colorful, childlike, happy. Abstract Expressionist, with a little Dada thrown in.

And now, with the sculpture I'm doing, that time is back. I am reveling in bright primary colors and chrome accented with rust and old signs. It has that feel to it, the free expressive content and spontaneity of The New York School I so admired. Full circle. And such an unfettered joy to make.

So, that's it for now. Back at it. This is better than all the decoder rings and weird secrets of the universe tracts ever made! I hope you are having as much fun. G

This just in from Pitch: May 4 Metalsmith Guinotte Wise keeps cranking out the ab-ex sculptures — and has just completed his first novel. He’ll be on hand to sign copies of Ruined Days during the opening of SLAG at the Hilliard Gallery (1820 McGee).

Yonder Stands Your Orphan

  This bank of the Wabash, but a different time of year...

This bank of the Wabash, but a different time of year...

This is years ago. Late summer. I'm sitting on a park bench facing the bucolic Wabash River in a picturesque setting in New Harmony, Indiana. Sitting next to me is a giant. Not a literal one but a literary one: Barry Hannah. His legs are stretched out in front of him and he's musing, "Why would anyone want to write a novel?" He's saying it quietly and it requires no answer. He wears jeans, a shirt open at the neck, a blazer, loafers, maybe Chucks, time has rusted my image of everything but his manner, his eyes, his sudden smile.

This is the guy who wrote "Yonder Stands Your Orphan," "Ray," "The Tennis Handsome," Eight novels, Five short story collections. I'd brought "Bats Out Of Hell," my all time favorite short story collection for him to sign. All of his writing is stunning. I won't go on about it, but if you've not read him, just do. Just do.

s-l225.jpg

Deciding for the workshop in Indiana was not a struggle; I would have two instructors, Mr. Hannah and Bob Shacochis, two scary-ass lions in my opinion. Two sui generis (generi? Can't be a plural since it means one of a kind, but there you are. Two ones of a kind.) The struggle I'd have would be showing them anything I'd written. I half expected guffaws turned to laughter-disguising coughing.

The materials said I would have so many classes (small) with each, then a one-on-one half-hour with each.

My alone time with Mr. Hanna was by the gently rolling Wabash River. With Mr. Shacochis the time was in a bar booth with sunlight slanting in at our table through windows that could have used a washing. He slapped my papers, said "Silver bullet, front to back. Keep writing. Stay away from the passive voice you fall into." Then we just talked. Both took longer than the half hour. Neither looked at his watch. I'm sure it was the same with all the attendees. These are (were, was, in Barry Hannah's case, the world lost a great talent in 2010) gracious authors, charismatic and confident, humorous and empathetic. Back to Mr. Hannah.

"A novel," Hannah went on to say, "is tough work." He thought for a second, looked at me, and said "You know, the cruelest thing I could do is to tell someone who didn't have what it took, to write a novel." And he looked at me. "My God, that would be mean." He smiled as though he might tell a sworn enemy to write a novel. Then he said, "You, I'll tell, write one. Although I'm not sure why anyone would want to. Why do you want to?"

"I just do. I really do. Not just one."

th-1.jpg

"Do it!" I thought our meeting might be over. Then he said, musing again, chuckling a little, "There's a person writing about the Ozarks and a wise old toothless granny that imparts wisdom and so on, and I said, wait a minute, if she's so damned smart why doesn't she get her teeth fixed? Why isn't she driving a red Sebring convertible?" Then he looked at me and laughed. "I have a red Sebring. I get my teeth fixed. And I'm not very damned smart at all!"

We walked away together. He with his hands in his pockets, looking about. Me on a cloud with my autographed copy of "Bats Out If Hell." Later on I wrote some stories. And a novel And I'm working on more. Thanks to this gentleman. Although he's right. Why would anyone set out to write a novel?