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Less money, more happy

If my dad was alive, he'd say to me, "Doug, you've really screwed things up to be handing out flyers for a living at your age." He always had after-the-fact advice, and he'd see my last ten years as an uninterrupted series of mistakes.

I've enjoyed every mistake I've made, of course. and I'd make the same mistakes again.

Dad would say my string of screw-ups began a decade ago, when I quit my semi-yuppie job to go full-time at a second job that paid less, but which I enjoyed more. Money makes the world go 'round, yeah, but I prefer my world rotate really slow.

When I left everything behind and moved to California, it was the same decision all over again. Likewise, when I quit my 'real job' in February, and instead started pinning up signs offering to do odd jobs. All my big choices made me less money, and more happy.

Poverty takes some getting used to, though. For example, there's no soap dish in the shower at this apartment, and my instant inclination is to buy one. Reality argues back, and points out that I'd have to stand on my feet and hand out flyers for an hour to earn the price of a soap dish. Is a soap dish worth an hour of my life? No, it is not. It's not worth even fifteen minutes, so the soap balances on the lip of the bathtub instead.

I'm doing laundry by tossing it into the tub when I shower, letting it soak up the soapy run-off, then wringing it and rinsing, wringing again and letting it dry. It all dries kinda wrinkly, but what do I care about a wrinkled shirt?

Milk, lemonade, soda, and beer? No, no, no, and no. Despite all the advertising, water tastes good, quenches thirst, and remains the only liquid that's essential to human survival — and it's free, so water is what I'm drinking, unless you're buying.

I'm out of toilet paper, but that's another unnecessary expense, so long as I bring a newspaper to the potty. The Chronicle isn't quite so soft and absorbent as Charmin, but it's a more philosophically satisfying wipe — at last, there's a purpose for all the paper's pages of stock tables.

Another idea, though I haven't tried it yet, is that the next time my hemorrhoids flare up, maybe mayonnaise will work instead of a suppository. 

Living lean is my quest! If you have cheapskate suggestions, please send 'em in. I'll try anything once, and print any suggestions that make sense.

♦ ♦ ♦

Today I finally met Pike's fraidy-cat, a black and white thing that's fairly friendly but very nervous. For as long as we've lived here, the cat's always been hiding. 

Pike says pets weren't allowed at his last place, so the cat spent several months at some other guy's house. He thinks the other guy must've ignored the cat or treated it cruel, because it used to be brave but now it cowers and runs in terror every time a passing car honks its horn or someone slams a door.

Terry said "Uh-huh" several times as Pike was telling me about the cat. She says "Uh-huh" a lot, whenever Pike is saying anything. She's annoying, and I wonder whether she even has an apartment of her own — she is always, always here, and she never hides like the cat does.

From Pathetic Life #11
Wednesday, April 5, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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47 comments:

  1. I'm not much of a fan of music lyrics as poetry: they're two different forms of verbal expression. But occasionally one runs across a songwriter whose lyrics more or less work as poetry, usually less.

    Mary Lou Lord has always been one of those songwriters for me. This is a song that was featured, by coincidence, in my favorite movie. It's way back in the audio mix, so you might have missed it if you were one of the hundreds of people who purchased a ticket at the box office or, more likely, got comped. Jeff will review this movie and hurt my feelings when the weather changes, what with hell freezing over and all.

    In the mean time, here are the lyrics. They are not poetry, but strike me as close enough for rock & roll.

    SOME JINGLE JANGLE MORNING
    by Mary Lou Lord

    Song about a sun beam song about a girl
    Your voice still rings and echoes in my mind
    So many words unspoken so many worlds apart
    Your memory is all you left behind
    Somewhere it all got crazy and now it's like a dream
    And I knew that I blew it from the start
    I was too freaked out to deal with it all
    And too fucked up to care
    I stood right there and watched it fall apart

    Now LSD and Ecstasy don't help me
    And my dance with Mr. Brownstone got too rough
    Will you wake me without warning some jingle-jangle morning
    We'll fly away to heaven on a star

    Cause I love to watch you walk
    And I love to hear you talk
    But there's nothing I can say
    To make you feel the same

    My friends are all I have now
    But they're so far away
    They all moved out of Seattle back to L.A.
    They ask me how I'm doing
    And I ask them if they've seen you
    But no one sees much of anyone these days

    Now LSD and Ecstasy don't help me
    And my dance with Mr. Brownstone got too rough
    Will you wake me without warning some jingle-jangle morning
    We'll fly away to heaven on a star

    Cause I love to watch you walk and I love to hear you talk
    But there's nothing I can say
    To make you feel the same
    the same way

    .
    .
    This is a song Mary Lou wrote about her relationship with Kurt Cobain, which started at a time almost nobody outside of Aberdeen knew who he was and ended sometime before Mr Cobain became betrothed to an evil, crazy woman.

    This is Mary Lou with a backup band from her (then) label singing. . .

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIQgdGxPexI

    John

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    1. Please 'splain more about the distinction between poetry and lyrics. The lyrics of pop songs are 99.99% of the poetry I've been exposed to, and the only diff I've noticed is that with lyrics, of course, the cadence is tied to the music.

      "Jingle Jangle Morning" is sweet and beautiful, and so's the poetry, but I tried to find a studio version, which is always preferred because the sound should be clearer and you'll hear no dummies applauding or bozos screaming in the background. Weirdly, the studio versions have really muddy sound. -1- -2- Was that fuzziness an effect the producers were going for? And if so, why?

      I've now seen Zero Effect and hope your feelings aren't too tangled up in a movie, even your favorite. My favorite is probably Close Encounters and there's no defending that but it's all subjective. Zero Effect is not gonna unseat CE3K as my favorite movie but I liked it, and it's on my list to bang out a few paragraphs soon. I even noticed Mary Lou Lord on the soundtrack.

      Major score from my Google travels: Here's Mary Lou Lord's cover of "Sugar Sugar", a grand improvement over the original.

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  2. Hey Doug,

    First, thanks for the extended attention you paid to the song and movie. This is substantially more time than you spend answering most comments/questions, and I really appreciate it.

    One quick movie comment first: I really don't confuse the artistry of Zero Effect with that of Casablanca or The Thin Man. I had never heard of Zero Effect and I rented it in 1996 and the damn thing mugged me. I never saw it coming. The eccentric story, the great acting, the fine score that accentuated the plot and action, and the theme of "being the observer rather than becoming involved" all blew me away. So I rented it again, then bought the DVD, and I've never stopped liking it. Just one of those things.
    -------------------------------------
    Poetry vs lyrics: It's almost five in the morning, and I've not been to bed in almost 24 hours, and this topic is a little complicated. I'll return sometime tomorrow and write about melisma, punctuational timing cues, and other differences between poetry and lyrics.

    Thanks again for apparently taking this stuff as seriously as I do. I take poetry vs lyrics so seriously that I never stop having fun with them.

    Mañana bwana.

    jtb

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    1. I'll always take interesting seriously.

      Expectations are a vital ingredient in my moviewatching. I hated Brazil when I first saw it, because it was so very different from the amusing sci-fi flavored comedy I'd expected. Nowadays I try to have as few expectations as possible...

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    2. Doug, although the song is in the deep background of the movie, it seems to me that it's not a muddy version. If any song should sound un-muddy, this one should. And maybe Yellow Submarine, but you get the idea. It sounds to me like in the versions you listened to, they had the electric guitar over-sampled or too far forward in the mix -- that can make a mostly acoustic song sound pretty muddy.

      Since you listened to other MLL songs, you know that she is pretty true to her busker roots: a clean acoustic-sounding accompaniment behind that almost fragile voice. She doesn't sound much like Janis Joplin, who could sing over any backing.

      As you will notice, I'm poking around the outside of poetry vs lyrics to see what's in the bag. I hope it doesn't bite.

      regards,
      jtb

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    3. Not muddy sound in the movie, I meant muddy sound on the YouTube recordings. Fuzzy, Scratchy. Probably I should pay for a copy and it'll sound great, but paying usually involves money.

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  3. Your idea of doing odd jobs to survive is cool, you found an escape from the BS of work. Did you read any Thoreau, or something else as an inspiration?

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    1. I've never read Thoreau, or known how to spell his name without looking it up. I've also never had an original idea; every thought comes from something I've seen or read or heard, and I'm sure the odd jobs ideas was swiped from someone, too.

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  4. I wrote a longish piece about Thoreau and Walden, and Google deep-throated the motherfucker. Those googley cocksuckers are teaching me how to incorporate both obscenity and profanity in my heretofore Sunday Schoolish writing. Back when I had a memory, there was no googalia to leave skidmarks all over my prose. Fuck them and the search they rode in on.

    love,

    John

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  5. My brother, I assume you understand that I understand that it isn't your fault. Sometimes I just need to vent, like popcorn in a microwave. Since there's little that can be done about it, I try to at least make the vent somewhere between mildly humorous and absurd. control c, control c, control c

    jtb

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    1. It's just that Google software sometimes makes me want to Thoreau up. I feel better now.

      j

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    2. . . . and I'm not been here long, but I can't remember you cursing in any of your writing -- maybe quoting somebody else, but I don't recall any in narration or self-quoting. Maybe your religions training stuck better than mine, or maybe you're just more gentlemanly.

      There, a whole comment with no cursing. Well, I came damn close.

      hugs,

      John

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    3. I use naughty language sometimes, but I speak softly when I do.

      And the Blogger comments malfunctions are kinda my fault. I'm aware of the problem, looked into switching systems, but it looked like too much trouble.

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    4. I'm sure it is too much trouble. We're all in this together. I have a responsibility to save comments before posting them. I'll try to do better.

      John

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    5. I've toyed with the idea of turning off comments entirely, and instead requiring everyone to use the big box in the sidebar. But that would sure be slow -- it routes messages to my email, which I check maybe twice daily...

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    6. You didn't ask my opinion, but you might be better off toying with yourself. At least there's some output. I mean, on a good day.

      best wishes,

      John

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    7. Oh, I toy with myself a lot. That's probably why my eyesight's fading.

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    8. Would you mind repeating that comment in a larger font?

      jtb

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    9. Is that a wisecrack about the size of my font? Ha ha...

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  6. And also:

    Doug, I've taken a couple of runs at poetry vs lyrics; not happy with either. I'll write it eventually. Hung up on melisma.

    I hope I get there,
    But I never pray.

    John

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    1. I'm trying to approach the subject without any preconceived notions. Expectations are a vital ingredient in my appreciation of poetry and music, but I suspect they ought not be.

      The first time I heard Bob Dylan I had no idea he had named himself after the Marshall, but everything changed. I was an adolescent and I had a child's preconceived notions, meaning almost none at all. He kicked open the door to heaven and hell and things were never quite the same. That's the power of art or, possibly, commerce. I get them confused.

      j

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    2. "Hung up on melisma." Sounds like a fetish, so I'm intrigued already.

      It's the actor Matt Dillon who stole his name from Gunsmoke, and it always bugged me cuz I loved Gunsmoke when I was little. Miss Kitty later became my cat.

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    3. Well, let's get a couple of things cleared up. Bobby Zimmerman only stole half a name and then changed the spelling, although, despite pretty bad acting on the part of Matt Dillon (the actor), Zimmy was the inferior actor. See also . . . Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. See also . . . "You can call me Zimmy". See also . . . Masked and Anonymous.

      And make no mistake: Miss Kitty was hot. (I mean the original. I'm sure your cat is nice and my entire heard sends their regards).

      John

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    4. Monday nights at 8:00 on CBS: Gunsmoke. That and Mannix were my favorite shows, at least until Star Trek materialized. Other than that I only watched sit-coms and cartoons.

      Some years back, when streaming first became an option, I watched a handful of old Gunsmokes again, and I was impressed. That show was not as brain dead as most TV these days.

      I especially remember an episode where Marshal Dillon is taking a convicted killer to be hung in some distant town. The whole episode they're traveling, talking, eating, whatever, and the bad guy never tries to escape, actually comes to Dillon's aid in a mini-crisis, and it becomes clear, obvious, that this killer isn't a bad guy, and he killed in self-defense, and the judge who ordered him hung is a scoundrel, and the hanging will be the opposite of justice. So what's Marshal Dillon going to do?

      If you're a Gunsmoke bloke, I also must ask: Was Miss Kitty only a saloon keeper, or did she provide other services upstairs? Inquiring minds wanted to know.

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    5. [written by johnthebasket, posted by me because Google/Blogger sucks]

      Older enquiring minds knew. Miss Kitty was variously the manager, proprietor, and co-proprietor of a saloon and eatery with a bordello upstairs. In the early days of the series, circa 1955-1959, men were seen escorting obvious prostitutes upstairs and back down. There were several early scenes in which Miss Kitty was seen escorting Marshall Dillon up or down the stairs. Those scenes were cut in later reruns (complicated by the switch from black & white to color); the cuts were unnoticed, because commercials went from 4 minutes per half-hour to 6 minutes per half-hour between 1958 and 1963 (they take up even more time now). So the producers/directors/editors had to cut about 4 minutes per one-hour show. The FCC was still considering its role in regulating TV content, so cutting the bordello scenes made sense.

      I would say, in summary, that adults who watched the show understood that Miss Kitty (and her mostly unseen partner) ran a bordello above the saloon. And if she wasn't screwing the Marshall, he was doing a lot of premises inspection for a 19th century Marshall.

      jtb

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    6. Thank you sir for sharing something else I didn't know. I'm pleasantly surprised that early Gunsmoke was that bawdy and honest, and unpleasantly unsurprised that latter Gunsmoke backtracked and erased the climbing of the steps.

      How much of that show have you seen recently? I'm sorta wondering whether it's worth a rewatch, but probably not, only because it ran for twenty dang years and I'm a completist — if I watched the first few eps I'd have to give it all those hours...

      Also I'm wondering why 8-year-old me wondered whether there was a brothel upstairs. I did, though.

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    7. I've not seen an entire episode of Gunsmoke since the early 60s. The history of the show is complicated by the fact that the radio version (1952-1961) with William Conrad as Matt Dillon overlaps the TV version (1955-1975), and further further complicated by the fact that, although the shows had similarly named characters, they were quite different shows.

      The radio version, which I won't say much about because it would take hundreds of hours of research to understand, was darker, with more moral ambiguity among the characters. Marshall Dillon fucks up more on radio, and certainly doesn't always get his man, although he gets his woman a little more often. Radio guys consider Gunsmoke to be pretty near the height of adult radio fare. While Marshall Dillon is walking down the street, you can hear dogs barking, children playing, horses clop-clopping, and general street noise, all in the background. These shows were carefully written and produced.

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    8. -----------------------------------------------
      Brief interlude:
      I have no idea what it feels like to be a completist. I have been a book collector, a baseball card collector, a political button collector (sold one a couple of years ago for just over $2K to provide food for the table for a few months; they're all sold now) and a music collector (currently selling my CD collection). My wife would say I am (or was) a slightly compulsive collector, although I would disagree. In any case, I have felt the completist tug but have generally ignored it. But you are you, and I believe you when you say if you watched a couple you'd watch them all. Twenty-one years is a lotta episodes.
      ----------------------------------------------------------

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    9. Early Gunsmoke certainly wasn't bawdy. The couples were climbing the stairs in the background (their own clop clop) so the adults watching could pick up on it, but the kids didn't. The early TV show (from now on, everything is about TV) was pretty carefully made, like the radio show. Important information to follow:

      For its first two years, Gunsmoke wasn't sponsored. In the 50s and early 60s, television shows had sponsors and alternate sponsors. The sponsors had an ENORMOUS say in everything about the show, from script approval to whether people smoked in the background. Unsponsored shows had to pick up groups of smaller sponsors who couldn't afford to sponsor an entire season of a show. But these sponsors didn't swing a big dick in the show's content or style. The producers of Gunsmoke said they didn't want to have to "clean up" the show for a sponsor. This, of course, includes the background action of climbing the stairs. More importantly, it also includes some amount of ambiguity in the characters. All four leads had weaknesses in the pre-sponsor days (roughly, the black and white days) that was lost as the show "matured". In other words, as black and white TV faded into history, the characters on Gunsmoke (and other TV shows) became more black and white. (My guess is that nobody has ever spoken or written those words before, but somebody has surely noticed the startling change from, say, "East Side, West Side" to "I Dream of Jeannie"). Yeah, or maybe, as usual, the Ancient Greeks had it all figured out ahead of time.

      I have a completist recommendation. Although Gunsmoke retained a fairly high level of quality throughout its 21 years, how about just watching the black and white shows?

      This is from our friends at Google:

      "Gunsmoke was originally a half-hour program filmed in black-and-white. The series expanded to an hour in length with season seven and began filming in color in season 12. ... Of the hour-long episodes, 176 were in black-and-white and 226 were in color."

      So you probably remember it in color; I remember it in both.

      So that's 176 shows, but just over half are half-hour episodes.

      I'm running out of ink, but I want to mention the writing briefly. I'm sure you're familiar with the Hollywood 10, forever banned by the US Congress from ever writing for movies or TV again. Maybe you're less familiar with the Red Channels list, which listed 151 more writers, directors, actors, etc., who were considered Communist sympathizers. Many more of these entertainment professionals were effectively banned by the big production companies for having a cup of coffee with somebody named by Red Channels. This cancer lasted from about 1948 into the 60s. Many of these writers developed scripts under the table (for pennies) and submitted them (also under the table) to production companies. It's all hazy, but word is that the best radio and TV shows used the most banned writers quietly. We'll likely never know.

      I gotta go. Wife is bellowing. Hope this helps some.

      John

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    10. I've only heard a few episodes of radio Gunsmoke and it's been a long while, but old-time radio is marvelous. Listening to a Gunsmoke radio show right now, and someone said, "Get that god damned thing out of here." Glad the music is the same — always loved the main theme, and still whistle it now and then, without even thinking about the show. Sadly, no Festus. Gotta make due with deputy Chester.

      My nature is addictive, I guess. I never just re-watch an episode of Doctor Who, I start with the first episode of the reboot and watch them all in order, and then I go back to the start and start over again. Watched some episodes of Mannix a few months back, and they were pretty good, and it still nags at me that I should watch every episode from all nine seasons, but there's not enough life left for such pursuits. Mannix is good but it's not as good as Doctor Who. Not sure even Gunsmoke is as good as Doctor Who. Nowadays even Doctor Who isn't as good as Doctor Who.

      My family didn't get a color TV for a long time, so I remember even the color Gunsmoke in black-and-white.

      Red Channels. Never heard of this, but what shit. More blacklists, from the same bastards who complain now about "cancel culture."

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    11. Doug, there are five Gunsmoke made-for-TV movies made between 1987 and 1994. I assume you already know that, but I thought I'd pass it on just in case.

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    12. What did you think of those shows? I saw one of them when it was new, and man I was disappointed -- it was all Matt Dillon, with none of the ancillary characters that made the show what it was.

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    13. Doug,

      I was more of a fan when I was younger; I didn't catch any of the "made for TV movies" of Gunsmoke, but that's a cumbersome way of making a few bucks off the fond memories of fans of an older TV show. These days they sometimes call it a "Reboot" of a show, but when they didn't have 400 channels and 100 "network" subscribable delivery services, they just called it a made for TV movie and made an 80 minute episode 15 years after the show went away and fluffed it out to two hours with commercials.

      Lord knows they did it with my favorite 60s/70s show, Columbo. Columbo ran on NBC (as part of the NBC Mystery Movie Program) for seven years. Then, after taking ten years off, moved to ABC for a series of, in effect, made for TV movies. They made about 24 of those suckers over fifteen years, and some of them were terrible. I'm sure I only caught about half of them. I've seen all 45 original NBC shows multiple times. But they lost a step or two when they tried to "reboot", and toward the end Peter Falk lost more than a few steps.

      jtb

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    14. Columbo was a show I never missed, but I never watched any of the follow-up movies. I watched the very first episode (from 1971) a few months back. Jack Cassidy was the special guest bad guy. Still fun, but I don't think I could watch a cop show and root for a cop any more.

      These days every show that was ever semi-popular gets a reboot or a reunion. Most of them don't interest me, but I'm intrigued by the return of King of the Hill...

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    15. We love the things we love for what they are.

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    16. I kinda love Star Trek for what I wish it was. Not always but usually when I watch any iteration of it, I wish it was more what it pretends to be — adventures in an idealistic future — and less what it sorta is — a glorification of all things military.

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    17. Doug, you nailed the denotation and connotation of that line of poetry and, adding a couple of your own inflections, found a few more ways of looking at that blackbird somewhere between Hyla Brook and Old Man Frost's place. I tried to slip in a backdoor slider and you punched it right where they ain't for a Texas league double. Not to insult you, but I believe you have the pinstriped heart of a poet.

      John

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    18. Why thank you sir.

      I wrote a crude limerick in response, but it was too crude, so I decided against sharing it. Sorry.

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    19. There once was an actress from Venus . . .

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    20. There was a young man named Horatio, but I couldn't get the meter right.

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  7. I've been working on this and I only have one more line. Yeah, I get the joke, but a great poetry challenge, in itself, constitutes art in the street. So, line 2

    Who enjoyed making love where the sun don't go


    If you want rhyme, just ask it, from your friend

    johnthebasket

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    1. They got intertwined
      and she read his mind
      with teleketic felatio

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    2. Ten syllables in three words. You might be up for the Booker Prize this year. Or at least the Hooker Prize.

      jtb

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    3. Couldn't have done it without you.

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  8. . . . and I had one more Columbo tidbit. Columbo, as you will recall, hated flying and, in fact, had a fear of heights. You might also recall that Peter Falk was advertised at 5' 6", but I suspect he wore lifts to attain even that altitude.

    A character in an episode (I think it was the Johnny Cash episode) asked him if he had an aversion to heights. Columbo answered (I paraphrase) "To tell you the truth sir, I'm not even comfortable being this tall."

    A piece of pretty good writing, although it sounds suspiciously like an old joke.

    best,

    jtb

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    Replies
    1. Good joke. If it's an old joke that just proves it has long-lasting appeal. 99% of good writing is stealing from good sources.

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