Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Final Stretch

In the last few days I’ve made great progress on my book. I think I really like it. (That’s like saying I think I’m pretty.) 

I like Fairhaven too. 

I’ve unfairly drawn an unflattering picture in black and white. It’s a very pleasant town and I’ve been very comfortable in my little cottage. 

I’ll post better pictures later and leave it at that. 

Here’s an excerpt from Frats and Cats:

“For just a brief moment, my attention shifted from the drone of Mrs. Jensen’s monotone recitation of roll call to the buzzing of a horsefly that landed just inches from my Civics textbook. I was fascinated by his size. He was a fat old sucker. And he just laid back and looked at me.

“Harvey Morris?” As luck would have it Mrs. Jensen called my name just as I was pushing my textbook over the head of the fat horsefly. The book dropped right off my desk.

“Here!” I answered an octave higher than usual.

“I think we all noticed that you were, Mr. Morris.”

Giggles erupted behind me as I sunk lower into my chair with that damned horsefly still sitting in the same place, daring me into action again. I picked up my textbook and looked at the floor. 

The horsefly finally made his way back through the classroom window closest to me. It was slightly cranked open like it always was with a moss covered oak branch on the other side. The temperature inside the classroom was maybe two degrees cooler than the 85 degree temp outside. My shirt clung to my body. I felt like I was bathed in sweat and continually wiped my hands on my pants just so my pencil wouldn’t slip through my fingers. There were a/c units in some of the classrooms at Upperline High School but not that one.

Truth be told, Upperline High School could barely afford to be open. It was the worst high school in New Orleans. Actually, it was the worst high school anywhere. Even the Wikipedia listing for Upperline stated that “based on test scores, dropout rates, and socioeconomic status of the students, Upperline High School is one of the worst schools in the country.” That was written in 1992. In 2003 it made the list of “academically unacceptable” and in 2008, the school closed its doors for good.

Sitting in my desk on the 6th day of May in 1971, I was one of the many socioeconomically and educationally impaired students in Mrs. Jensen’s Civics class to answer the roll call. That’s me. Harvey Morris … better known as R.V. Morris, a nickname given to me by my older brother Stan.

Needless to say, I learned very little throughout my high school years other than “how to leave in the middle of the day and not be missed” or “how to avoid being beat up by using the right exit doors”.  I could have chosen to study “illegal habits that could get you killed or at the very least, arrested” but stuck with the basics instead. 

I wasn’t a stellar student, not by any stretch of the imagination. I wasn’t on any superlative list and not really known for any particular great accomplishments. In fact, the only notable thing that I ever did prior to my senior year didn’t even happen at Upperline. It happened in the sixth grade at Lafayette Elementary School. The school held a talent show on a stage that was set up on the playground. For some unknown reason, my mother signed me up to perform in a clown costume, playing the ukulele while singing Dean Martin’s That’s Amore while Peggy Marchelli did a ballet dance around me in a tutu. The judge and MC that night was Dick Van Dyke who worked at the local WDSU TV station before he became THE Dick Van Dyke. Peggy Marchelli and I came in 24th out of 25. Johnny Kushner’s tuba came in 25th.  

Some of my Upperline classmates who were also classmates with me at Lafayette remember the talent show well and would often serenade me with That’s Amore in the cafeteria. Thank you, Mom.  

There were two entrances into Upperline High School. One was on the Joseph Street side and the other was on Nashville Avenue. Students who used the Joseph Street side were known as “frats”. Frats wore weejuns (Penny loafers), had button down collars (usually madras) and listened to John Fred and The Playboys at The Valencia Club on Saturday nights. 

The Nashville side was where the “cats” or  “hoods” parked their ’57 Chevys. Greased down hair for guys and teased up hair about the size of a basketball held in place by lots of hair spray for the girls. They typically spent their weekends at the LaPlace Drag Strip.”

Sunday, May 15, 2022

More From Fairhaven

 

Just taking a break from writing the great American novel because I know that you ... my dear readers ... are dying to know what I've been up to up here at the cottage. 

1. Here's a picture of the neighborhood. The mist you see moves in and out at various times of day. I am waiting for my first sighting of Steven King's clown ... Pennywise.

2. The television set in my cottage is limited to reruns of House. This is not a bad thing. It prevents me from being tempted to turn on the tube and detract from why I'm here ... to finish my novel. I'm taking the high road.

On second thought ... it really sucks.

3. My food choices es are pretty good up here. There are 10 pasta "houses", a breakfast place called Scramblers and a fish place. Kidding. There's no fish place.

4. This morning I dropped my EarPods in the toilet. Now I can't complain that the reception is crappy. (get it?)

5. Back to work!


Friday, May 13, 2022

Jaws ain't got nuthin' on me!

Travelled to Fairhaven, Mass. (West Island) last night where I am spending a week finishing my fourth book at a little cottage that I found on Vrbo. 

I sound like I really know what I'm talking about, right? Truth is ... I don't have a clue about all this Vrbo stuff and I've never been to Fairhaven in my life. But I got lucky. I looked it all up and it truly is a cool place to "retreat" and focus on my writing. Also, Debbie is probably happy to get me out of the house. 

I posted this image in black and white because this place reminds me of Jaws and my vision of what Amity would look like. 

I also posted it because I look better without color (okay and without even being in the picture ... but I thought I should at least put myself in so you'd know I was really here. You know ... kinda like the guys on the Weather Channel in the middle of a hurricane who have to foolishly prove that they are in the middle of the storm ... LIVE. )

Okay, back to work on novel number 4! 

More later.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

New York State of Mind

We just got back from NYC yesterday.

I would have told you sooner ... like when we were actually there ... but Deb thought I should wait to blog when we got home, you know, in case someone might be stalking us and watching our house. I get it. The roofers, the window replacement guys, the electricians and the plumber who work regardless of whether we are home or not were deemed safe. The three people who read my blog, we don't trust. (Maybe four).

Our trip began Thursday night. That's when we flew the friendly skies and slim fitting seats of Southwest Airlines into La Guardia, which is beautiful these days (for those that haven't been to New York since the remodel of that musty old  ... go outside ... then inside ... then outside ... airport). 

We took a cab to our hotel, which was the beginning of a semi-nightmare first night ... not the cab ride, the hotel room. To begin with, I think someone was murdered in our room right before we checked in. There were mysterious stains next to the bed, and by the bathroom, and by the windows, and in front of the closet. My God, it must have been a mafia hit on an entire family. Only thing missing was the horse's head. Then we discovered the toilet didn't flush and the phone didn't work.   

Debbie took the first stab at talking to the front desk. They sent a plumber up who tried with a plunger and then later with a snake. In broken English he told us (I think) "It not flush too well but should work okay for .... How long you stay?" 

That was long enough for me. I booked us in a nicer hotel and left that night. When we checked out of the palace we were in, the hotel manager was nice enough to charge us half price because "you didn't tell us sooner that the toilet didn't work." Not making this up. The hotel shall remain nameless... NOT! (It's the MILLENIUM).

Not a total loss the first night. We dined at one of our favs, Carmine's. Always great food and plenty of it. We split a chicken parmigiana and some sauteed spinach. 

Slept like babies and woke up late. Explored Times Square with the three million other visitors that crammed the streets. Clearly, New York is back and no one is afraid to be in crowded areas any more. 

We ate a late lunch at Virgil's Real Barbecue.

Love that place. We got a couple of big old pork sandwiches and fries. I had two strokes on the way back to the room but it was worth it. 

It's always interesting sitting there in the city of Babel where on my right were Eastern Europeans, on my left were Puerto Ricans and behind me were Middle Easterners. And right in the middle of the table was a big old plate of barbecue. 

Everywhere I go, I seem to attract loud talkers. You know the type. They talk to their tablemates as if they were sitting across the room instead of right in front of them. The conversation is always personal "So Madge, the yeast infection is SO MUCH worse. I got a new doctor who poked around down there for hours. SO UNCOMFORTABLE." And poor Madge looks around sheepishly trying to whisper her responses but fails miserably.


Back to the room, changed and quickly out the door to see "Mr. Saturday Night" with Billy Crystal.

What a great show!

Billy Crystal was truly in his element. He was so damned funny and had me laughing even at his setups: "Two jews sitting on a bench ..." 

I thought this play was one of the best I've seen. Full disclosure ... I think anything Crystal is in is the best I've seen, so I'm probably not the most unbiased critic ... but we loved it. By the way, I took a picture of Billy signing Playbills after the show. No one could get close enough so I photoshopped Deb getting up close and personal.  

Took another of Deb and one of the costars Chasten Harmon who played the agent. She was also terrific and Debbie didn't need to be photoshopped.


Next day we saw  "Hadestown".

Not one of my favs but the production was really incredible. We were on the first row ... great seats but I think we might have missed some of the big stage effects because we were too close (Can you believe I'm complaining about front row tix?)

Anyway, the storyline is a version of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Orpheus goes underground to rescue his lover Eurydice.  See? That's why I didn't really get into it (Or get it ... at times).

I did get a potato latke at Junior's however ... after the show. And two big black and white cookies for the room (thanks Stever Greenbaum for getting me hooked on those!)

We found another cool place to eat ... Victor's on 52nd. 

Great atmosphere and great food. Interesting placement for the outdoor eatery. 

There are now tons of bike paths in NY and this one is dangerously close to the patrons when they walk in and out of the restaurant. So close that we saw one get hit. The bikers are incensed that anyone would not stop for them of course (much like the bikers and skateboarders in St. Pete and Tampa). I take the high road ... I think they all should use their feet or get off the damned road.   

Okay I'll take my meds and calm down.


Sunday, our last day, we saw "MJ The Musical". Our buddy Quentin Darrington was one of the stars of this show ... BUT as bad luck would have it, he had COVID and was unable to be there. We texted and I told him that the musical ... which was based on Michael Jacksons life ... was really awesome. The music, actors, staging ... everything ... was unbelievable. Helps to be a fan of Michael's music but when the Thriller theme starts playing and you don't at least move your shoulders in your seat, you're probably dead.



New York is still a happening place.

By the way ... Deb snapped this picture of me because my hair had its own trip up there. I look like an author! (or maybe just a little Stephen King ish).   




 


      

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Sometimes it ain’t so cool to be “hip”

A show of hands. How many of you feel like you’re pretty Hip? Okay. Now how many of you feel like you were hip when you were younger? And now for those over 50 … how many of you wish you didn’t FEEL your own hips when you walk, run, lie down in bed or sneeze??

You probably figured out which group I belong to.

Years ago, I always thought I was hip until I had kids who reminded me often that I was not hip, not funny, not cool and embarrassing. I smile often today when I look at them raising their own kids knowing that paybacks are hell.  

Oh course hipness is relative, depending on your stage in life. I mean … I was a musician, an artist, a writer, a teacher … how hip was that? Who cared whether I didn’t sell a lot of books or make it as a painter or that I was reassured by only folks who worked for me later in life that … I WAS HIP. 

So … fast forward to today. Older, not much wiser, my last unhealthy hip replaced by a titanium insert  … definitely NOT feeling hip. For you who have undergone joint replacement … it’s not much fun. 

In the maze of crutches, ice packs, raised toilet seats, compression stockings, vibrating leg cuffs … you wonder when you can not think about your hips! Funny, I did this once before three years ago with my left hip and don’t remember as much pain but I don’t remember what I had for breakfast lately either  

Funny story  

Yesterday, Debbie visited one of her billionaire condo owners to instruct them how to open their garage doors (or something less complicated). Debbie’s been taking care of me since surgery and was afraid to leave me alone for ten minutes (knowing I might get confused and hurt myself).   

I had just taken my 13th pain killer before lunch and suddenly a hawk slammed into my sliding glass doors by the pool. He hit so hard that I swear he pooped all over the deck … then got back up and flew into the glass again. Then he flew off. 

I grabbed my phone.

“Debbie … Debbie … you won’t believe this . A hawk just flew right into our glass doors then pooped himself.”

Silence on the other end.

“Are you making fun of me because I saw a yellow butterfly by the pool and told you that was a great sign?”

“No, no I swear I saw a hawk. You don’t believe me?”

“I don’t” Debbie said. 

“I’m telling you it happened. And if you don’t believe me, ask Bobby Kennedy. He was there. He saw it. So was Ben Franklin.”

I stopped.

“”Oh man I can’t believe what I just said. Ben Franklin wasn’t here. I’m so stupid.”

“No honey. Don’t worry. You’re just hallucinating from all those medicines.”

“I meant George Washington.”

 



Monday, July 26, 2021

I'm POSITIVE You Will Love This Show


I try not to watch the news any more. 

Oh...  I'll listen to a podcast now and then. Certainly, Debbie will keep me informed about all the really important things happening around town ... like what a good deal she got at Sam's Club on peanut butter or why the lawn people didn't show up on Friday or the rain percentages for mid afternoon.

The world is a crazy place right now. Every day there are stories about people who lie, cheat, murder, steal, plunder ... and those are just the people we voted for. What happened to the NICE people? What happened to the people that we LIKED?  

Well ... There is HOPE ... he's called TED LASSO.

Ted Lasso is a GREAT TV series that airs on Apple TV+ and could not have come at a better time. Jason Sudeikis created Ted, a cheery football coach with a goofy moustache from Kansas who is recruited to coach a soccer team in England. It’s a sport he never coached and never played. It would be like putting Andy Griffin in charge of Scotland Yard. The reason he was picked? The owner of the team is the ex wife of the former owner and (just like in the film “Major League”) she wants to LOSE every game to destroy her ex husband’s first love. 

Ted Lasso is ridiculed for his folksy demeanor by the fans and the press and the players. Every day he faces an impossible task ... to create a winning environment with a team that has no respect for him at all. And through it all he remains POSITIVE. He has an undying spirit and smiles every day. He is never negative and always sees the bright side to the worst situations. 

Sudeikis could have played this part like a slapstick buffoon ... just for laughs, but instead took the high road. And boy does it work. It makes you laugh out loud and shed a tear or two at the same time.


Here's an example:

The opening show on Season 2 starts with a penalty kick from his best player. As he strikes the ball, the greyhound mascot Earl slips out in front of the goal to chase a bird. He is hit by the ball and killed. 

Everyone is devastated. 

In the press conference that follows, one of the cynical newsmen asks Lasso, “So do you have any comment about Earl, the greyhound?"

Ted pauses a few minutes and says, "You know when I was a kid, a neighbor's dog attacked me. It was pretty bad, my mom told me. I was too young to really remember. Well, years later, my neighbor passed away and I helped out around the house. I walked and fed the dog ... took him outside and played catch. The next couple of years the other spouse passed and there was no one to take care of the dog. This was the same dog that attacked me when I was little. But I decided to take the dog and care for him because there was no one else. He lived a long life until I had to put him down when he was older. You know ... funny thing about life. The things that you hated years before ... you hate it more when it's not there any more. Well sir ... I just hope our mascot Earl and him are running around in heaven just as happy as ever."

Ted Lasso works. It's a series that is such a great reminder that good guys DO finish first and that kindness can in fact create winners. There are better ways to lead your life and treat others.  

Tune in ... YOU WILL THANK ME.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Wayne’s Song


 I’ve been spending time at the keyboard remixing old songs and tried my hand at a little montage for my brother. 

Wrote this 20 plus years ago. Wayne died of a brain tumor at 40 … far too young. 

Seems like yesterday. 

Hope you enjoy. 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Fishy Story


I ate lunch today at Doc Ford’s, a very cool new restaurant at the pier approach. The food is delicious  and atmosphere is pretty delicious too. 

After lunch I wandered over to the old jetty that juts out into the pass between Albert Witted airport and the Pier … where it has sat for years … kind of like an old friend that you pass as you slowly cruise past in your boat. 

I have memories of that jetty especially when the kids were small and we would drift by with fishing poles to hook whatever we’d find … pinfish, flounder, catfish, random trash that shouldn’t be there. 

Once, when my brother in law at the time … Myles took the kids Nikki and Shane … we ran out of bait. Myles announced we’d head back but Shane stood, took his fishing rod and cast it out with just the hook. 

“I will catch fish for us because I have the magic touch!” 

We went along with a Shane and smiled as we patiently waited. In a few minutes, his rod bent and Shane caught the first fish of the day. In shock … we congratulated him. 

“I will catch more!” He announced. 

“Let’s not push our luck Shanie.” I think one of us said. 

But undeterred, Shane caught not one but three fish that day. He was the only one and we still have no idea how he did it. 

I tell that story because there’s a big sign by the jetty today. NO FISHING. It really struck me. Why on earth can’t there be fishing by the jetty anymore?

I thought Shane would probably have the answer  … “Is it still fishing if you don’t use bait?”


Sunday, May 9, 2021

Welcome to New Orleans (Make That Philly)

"So guess what?" I asked Deb about a month ago ... after planning a trip to New Orleans as our first big outing. "I bought us NBA tickets to the Philly/New Orleans game on Friday."

"That's great," Deb said. "I've never been to an NBA game. Are the seats good?"

"The seats are great!"I said, "... except we would be sitting in Philly."

"On the Philly side of the stadium? That's okay."

"No. IN PHILLY. I screwed up and brought tickets for a game that is in Philly, not New Orleans."


Thus began our whirlwind trip to New Orleans AND Philly (the tickets were non refundable and we decided against reselling them online)

I'll start with Philly. It was the last stop ... but the craziest. We did it in one day. Rushing to the airport at the last minute as is the case with most of our planning, finding our seats on Frontier Airlines (truly no frills, no food, no leg room and seats that were carved out of a forest somewhere) we got there an hour before game time. 

Wells Fargo Arena is in the Navy Yard section of Philly amid the other sports complexes (Baseball and Football) and a short walk from the Marriott Courtside. We hadn't eaten anything all day so we were starving by the time we got to the stadium. As luck would have it, Deb found a salad place and I bought a chicken sandwich that I managed to take one bite of and had to throw the rest out. It was bad ... I mean really bad. Soft served ice cream was my dinner that night.


The game turned out to be pretty great (for us). Philly blew a 16 point lead and fought back in the last few minutes to barely beat the Pelicans. We spent the night in our little Marriott bed and visited old friends, Steve and Colleen Klasko, the next day ... hustling back to St. Pete in the afternoon.


By the way, we ate our way through New Orleans, days earlier. 

There were the crawfish beignets at Grand Isle Restaurant, shrimp and corn risotto and flourless volcano dessert at Superior Seafood and a big old shrimp po boy at ACME Oysters.



 It was heaven.

Sometimes the trips that seem to have gone awry turn out to be some of the best trips ever.



Friday, April 2, 2021

Sammy ... Are You Listening?

 

"You know ... I am VERY proud of me!"

That was one of my dad's favorite things to say. The funniest thing about that line was that he didn't use it to be funny. And ... it was often said when he was talking about his grandkids. If Nikki, my oldest daughter, was given special recognition in the medical community for something that she accomplished as a physician ... he would say, "I showed my friend Stan the article in the paper about Nikki. I am VERY proud of me. I'm her grandfather, you know?" 

I just finished a screenplay adaptation of my second book "SAMMY". Sending it around to people I know in the industry who might give it a read or share it with others. You never know, SAMMY just might find his way to the silver screen (if they exist any more after COVID darkened movie theaters everywhere). 

Audio sales have been doing well for the new audio version of SAMMY as well. It's on Amazon and Audible if you want to check it out (I never pass up a chance to beg). 

I often wonder what Sammy would say about all the attention he has gotten from the fictionalized account of his life. Like all of us, his life was filled with ups and downs. I know there were things left undone that bothered him. 

That's one of the reasons I wrote SAMMY ... to give him virtual closure. 

Maybe if he were alive today, he would give Stan a copy of the book and say "I am VERY proud of me! That's my son, the author, you know?"

Monday, March 8, 2021

Only Keli Would Ask


The other night the siblings went out to dinner on PAG beach (Pass a Grille for the out of towers). We started out at our condo drinking wine and then walked to Grace Restaurant. Sitting there at Grace, my sister in law Keli (who may have consumed the lions share of the wine) looked at the silverware which was wrapped in baggies for all in attendance and asked me a question. I’m sure she didn’t look at her silverware first. 

“Joel ... is that special silverware that you bring with you?” 

“What?” 

“Your silverware  ... it’s wrapped in plastic. Is that Diabetic silverware?”

I wasn’t sure what to answer first. I thought about saying “duh! Everyone has wrapped silverware and what the heck is diabetic silverware?” But the fact that she even asked left me speechless. 

Without having to answer she finally laughed and said. “Oh sorry. Never mind. I thought you had diabetes.”


Final Stretch

In the last few days I’ve made great progress on my book. I think I really like it. (That’s like saying I think I’m pretty.)  I like Fairhav...