January 2011


An Existential
eBay Moment

What is the price of a moment in time long gone? And even a somewhat innocuous one at that?


What would you pay for an object that even the mere sight of, is enough to transport you to a Christmas day of almost a half-century ago? Not to mention the chance to own said object …hold it… see if some muscle memory kicks in?


We got to ask ourselves this question while shopping for Christmas gifts on eBay last month. And as often happens in the course of net surfing, one can easily wander off coarse into tangential, not to mention, expensive waters. Suddenly, as if emerging from a twilight zone, there it was:



…The box has super graphics and is in good condition (it has a small stain on one end where the $3.98 price has been written).The toy is in good condition. The toy is complete including boats and torpedoes in the original sealed plastic bag. The instructions are also included. This is a very NICE RARE TOY!!!"

There are SEVEN—count 'em—exclamation points in the above copy. But that is not what impelled us to put in a bid—they had us at "Hasbro." And upon being out-bid, we responded with a counter offer.


And another.


And still another.


Until the adrenaline rush was such, that we were starting to take leave of our senses. And a plague on the house of the unknown bastard driving up the price!


To repeat the question: What is the price of a moment in time long gone?


As we risk coming perilously close to the sort of hyperbole that can induce vomit in the most forgiving of readers, a back story is in order. And quickly.


1964… Grandma's house… Christmas day.


The family is gathered—all those we love are still alive—and there is an exchange of presents. We don't remember what we got, but one of the toys our ten-year-old cousin received, was that of the "Seven Exclamation Points" above. To put it gently, he was, and still is, a "delicate" sort—not that there's anything wrong with that! Not exactly the type given to firing torpedoes at unsuspecting boats in the (cardboard) water. We on the other hand—age 19 at the time—were. And though perhaps too old to still be playing with toys, we spent part of the afternoon on the day of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace,






"Take that you 'bleeping bleeps'!"

After that Friday of December 25, 1964, we never played with, nor even saw that toy again. Until now.


There are reasons that can only be attributed to what Lawrence Ferlinghetti once called "The Coney Island of the Mind," as to what we remember and what we forget, to explain how this toy…that day… that tiny piece of time …stayed so long at the fair. And as to what we paid for this little collectible almost five decades later? We'll never tell ("Loose lips sink ships!"). But it proved to be exponentially greater in emotional value, than the $3.98 forever written on the box. And yes, it even held up on the entertainment end as well. We could still peer through the periscope and score some direct hits—with the aid of glasses, of course—despite now being on Medicare. Although our son, weaned on video games, proved to be far more adept at this sort of thing.


Maybe it's just the Christmas in us, that will not die. Or: "Who knows what eager lurks in the hearts of men," to rephrase a catchphrase of a hit 1930's radio show. But thanks to the internet, we can indulge in this sort of time travel; play a game with time. Which is only fair, since time always seems to be playing games with us.






The Man...The Book: A "Win Win" Situation


Speaking of time, Winfield Carlton Goulden has spent a lot of it. And spent it well. All 91 years of it so far, living various and sometimes vicarious, lives as: a glider pilot and paratrooper in World War II… a journalist for the New York Daily News… a Minor League ballplayer… Ed Sullivan's road manager... a "Mad Man"… a part-time actor... a self-proclaimed "Human Encyclopedia of Jazz"... a writer and poet...and last but not least, an Outdoor Billboards ad space salesman.




It was in this last capacity that we first met in 1980. He, the seller... we, on the other side of the desk, the buyer. Though as Win likes to needle us, "I don't think you ever bought anything from me." Yet despite these encounters of a "closed mind" (we could be stubborn negotiators) we became personal friends. And we would actually "DO lunch," as opposed to saying, "LET'S do lunch."


Going to lunch with Win is like going to lunch with American History. He's seen it all and done it all. You seemingly cannot throw out a name with whom his life has not crossed paths. FDR? (He once shook hands with him) Joe DiMaggio? (Stood next to him on the field at the 1937 Major League All Star game in Washington) Louie Armstrong? (Interviewed him for a high school newspaper) Duke Ellington? (Introduced him at a concert series at Rutgers University).


Four days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and one day after his 21st birthday, Win enlisted in the Army Air Corp. He fought the good fight, the just war, and experienced up close, the horror of it all. So that till this day, Win cannot stomach phony patriotism and those oh so quick, to send young men off into dubious battles. Yet, despite his adventurous life and accomplishments, he is a humble man easily given to self depreciation. ("Could you imagine a "WASPier" name than mine?").


We tried to capture the essence of Win and those lunches in a short poem we wrote many years ago and had the opportunity to read aloud at his 80th birthday celebration in 2000.



He's against the men who shoot with paint
on weekends. Wounded twice
in World War II,
                         he knows
that pain and death are read
in black and white—
this man in silver hair.
Who takes me to lunch

to talk, to trace,
the parabola of life
and times.

Downing a mixed salad, I watch him soar
high above the green grass of Scranton—
the Penn-Central league—
to jazz riffs only he can hear
his © tie,
a rudder post in the wind.

Ron Vazzano


And now by way of his first book, Glimpses: Short Stories, Win has put to paper, some of the great true stories he's been regaling family and friends with over the years. The pieces (including some poetry) are short and succinct, and play well off each other, as might riffs by a cool jazz ensemble.


In fact, one of our favorite passages from the book, suggests a jazz riff in the very writing style itself:

"...I moved with ease, almost daily, from the uptight, Ivy League ad game, with its Brooks Brothers suits, three martini lunches, slogans, jingles and commuter trains to Suburbia where wives and kids awaited, to the dark smoky dives of the jazz world, epitomized by Birdland, with its murky array of zoot suits, peg pants, be-bop horn-rimmed glasses, berets, goatees, silver horns and golden saxes, spaced-out jazz cats, hipsters, hookers and users; all mesmerized, along with me, by the pied pipers of be-bop jazz: 'Dizzy' Gillespie (Trumpet) and Charlie 'Yardbird' Parker (Alto Sax)."


                        Cover art: Sylvia H. Goulden


It is available on Amazon, (GLIMPSES: Short Stories) and as you might have gathered, we highly recommend it. And as Larry King used to say (remember him?), "you'll thank me later".






Is Anybody Out There Reading This Stuff?


We who write in this ethereal world we call the internet, often wonder: is anybody out there reading this stuff? Do these blogs and social media (and er, ahem, Muse-Letters) make a difference to anyone other than to the writers themselves?

Apparently, yes. That is, if we use our daughter's popular blog Apocalypstick as a guide. And this is not just a figment of a proud father's imagination. We were once in the business of crunching numbers. And from what we have seen, according to a combination of data from, a web information company, and Technorati, a search engine that tracks blog traffic, the use of the word "popular" is warranted:

Apocalypstick is ranked in the top two-tenths of one percent(.002) of all blogs in the U.S.(estimated to be well over one-hundred million) and the top three-tenths of one percent (.003) of all blogs worldwide (estimated at two-hundred-twenty million plus.)

While we think—both as a father and a statistician—that these number rankings are phenomenal (not to mention mind numbing), the number that caught our attention last month, and of which we are most proud, is ONE (1). As in, one email that our daughter received just prior to Christmas, in response to her blog. It read:

"Next week I will finish 6 months of chemo and will have successfully beat cancer at 23. Your blog kept me laughing at many a dark time, so thank you!!!! If you were me how would you bring in the new year to celebrate being happy and healthy once again?"

Such feedback speaks volumes. Answers the question. Renders us speechless.






Wolf on Magpies



Marvin Wolf is another renaissance man with whom we have crossed paths.("Win… Marvin. Marvin… Win.") Here are his bio notes from the program of the Independent Writers of Southern California's, recent "IWOSC Reads Its Own" event. (OCTOBER, 2010 MUSE-LETTER):

Screenwriter, journalist, author of over a dozen non-fiction books, college writing instructor, fine art photographer and collaborator with some of the world's most interesting people to write their memoirs, including Native American activist Russell Means and South Vietnam's former Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky.* His career began as a combat photographer in Vietnam.

*(A sidebar we can't resist: "After the defeat of South Vietnam by North Vietnam, on the last day of the fall of Saigon in 1975, Ky left Vietnam aboard the USS Blue Ridge and fled to the US and settled in Westminster California where he ran a liquor store." Source: Wikipedia)

Towards the end of last month we received an email from Marvin, which read in part:


I'm working on a portfolio to present to a gallery… in the form of a book of about a dozen photos taken over several weeks in the winter of 1973-74 of magpies.

Would you happen to have a magpie poem that I could add to this one-off portfolio?

We wanted to reply: "Of course we have, Marvin. Doesn't everybody have a 'magpie poem' in their back pocket for just such occasions?" But instead we responded like so:


At the moment...just one about crows. (True)

Maybe something will come to me if I think about magpies. "The Magpie" by Monet is one of my favorite paintings.


                        Claude Monet (1840-1926) The Magpie Musée d’Orsay, Paris


From his portfolio, and for further inspiration, Mr. Wolf sent back this:

Marvin Wolf photographs © 2010


To which we responded with ...


The Magpies

Where others seek out orange skies
     The magpies bask in the blue light of the moon.

When trees have shed their rustic colors
And life itself has seemed to grow cold
     The magpies in silhouette
     Keep fast to the branches.

While there are those who fly within the lines
     The magpies in loose flock, fly out of the box.

The meek go in search of scattered seed...
     But the magpies, omnivorous, scavenge for food
     Unravel gardens; devour the earth.

Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie
     But it takes seven magpies
     For a secret never to be told.

A sole magpie is said to be Sorrow
     For those who dwell in superstition.

But in the eye of an astute beholder—
Say, Monet who caught one in a field of snow—
Lies a flight of fantasy:
     A magpie perched in thought, randomly.

The beholder and the one beheld;
Passing with flying colors
     The mirror test.

- Ron Vazzano






"Ah Feel Your Pain" (Still)


Bill Clinton. Ya gotta love him. At the recent memorial service following the death of former diplomat Richard Holbrooke, a NY Times article (with the emboldening of words, our doing) reported the following:

… Bill Clinton recalled, standing with one arm around Mr. Holbrooke's widow, Kati Martin…

"he (Mr. Holbrooke) understood the political implications of the psychodynamics of every conceivable permutation, when people sat down together…"

It is a syntax that could make even the dead sit up and take notice.

When we die, we would wish for: "He was smart." Which we think is what Mr. Clinton was trying to say, in so many supercalifragilisticexpialidocious words.



Auld Lang Sign






Web Maintenance by HK Creative Design
Copyright © 2004-2010