An Existential eBay
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
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:
ATOMIC SUBMARINE TORPEDO TOY IN ORIGINAL BOX!!!!
…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 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
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
The Man...The Book: A "Win Win"
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
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
He's against the men who shoot with paint
on weekends. Wounded twice
in World War II,
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
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
a rudder post in the wind.
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
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)."
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
Alexa.com, a web information company, and Technorati,
a search engine that tracks blog traffic, the use of the word
"popular" is warranted:
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:
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
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,
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.
Maybe something will come to me if I
think about magpies. "The Magpie" by Monet is one of my
Monet (1840-1926) The Magpie Musée d’Orsay,
From his portfolio, and for further inspiration,
Mr. Wolf sent back this:
Marvin Wolf photographs ©
To which we responded with ...
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
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
But it takes seven magpies
For a secret never to
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…
(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
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
Auld Lang Sign