WAY BACK IN THE DAY — EXCERPTS

HOT COPY

SEXY WHITE BOULDERS… I admit that the quality of the copy coming in on that weekly was so depressing that—to maintain my sanity and to cheer myself up—occasionally I would write a “society page” headline for this weekly such as “Couple Honored in Shower.”

…. And not least, of course, the headline that noted, in concert with the call for the city council to recommend abstinence—“City Council Takes up Masturbation.”

STOPPING THE PRESSES…. Actually, I didn’t think the headline [A society page headline by Ron] was all that bad, hardly so offensive as when many newspapers in those days—‘50s and ‘60s—and some much later yet, ran only pictures of white brides on the [newspaper society] wedding pages so that one might infer….

HOT COPY…. I had mounds of AP copy and the like, twenty-inch stories that often had to be cut or rewritten into five or six inches; headlines to be written; and of course there was that Mobutu and Lumumba stuff going on, which was all Greek to me, though everyone enjoyed the stories about fearless soldiers supposedly told by Mobutu or Lumumba that they had magic bullets—and antidotes to magic bullets—and so on.

       

TO BE RATHER THAN NOT TO BE

Armed with one of those exclusive "hot leads," one that eventually would bring him face to face with the famed attorney Clarence Darrow, and motivated by an urgent need to keep his editor happy, Coughlin went out into the cold dark night to take his chances sneaking around a prison….

… “I tell you, there were people everywhere we stopped who actually took her candidacy [Gracy Allen for President] seriously,” he told me one day, incredulously, while I sat in my chair, which Gene had dubbed “little chair,” and he sat in his chair, “big chair,” in a funny Los Angeles apartment we shared once with lots of big things and little things….

 

VICTOR’S SQUARE

PRELUDE TO VICTOR’S SQUARE

5/10/98 …. Anyway, I wrote a review on a book about life in Kentucky, then showed it to a few of the old timers, some of the more disgruntled ones, including Don Ryan, who was from Kentucky, a nice guy even if he never did wear socks, and the next thing I knew these guys were practically splitting a gut laughing at me as if this just had to be one of the dumbest book reviews of all time….

ABOUT VICTOR’S SQUARE  (a segment of "Way Back In The Day")….

Traveling in Los Angeles on the Boulevard, to the Sunset Strip and back to Hollywood, Ron takes us on a circuitous route to Victor’s Square. Dealing with “Uncharmed particles” and the “curious balance of the universe,” we come eventually to the highly acclaimed “don’t miss” book: HASTENED TO THE GRAVE: The Gypsy Murder Investigation,By Jack Olsen

VICTOR SQUARE – EXCERPTS

1          A LITERARY TRYPTICH….

5/18/98 …. In such work, as I’ve learned and know well from personal and sometimes painful and exhausting experience, one can’t just imaginatively create certain shaped pieces as needed (as, say, one might do in a novel); you have to hunt through history and traipse over a seemingly endless multitude of pieces of all shapes until you can “find” what you’re looking for….

2          ON THE BOULEVARD & THE SUNSET STRIP

5/19/98…. After dropping Mary off and getting my kiss, I completed the U in front of the horseshoe that once had served as the ready-made set for the entrance to “The Young Interns.”  The show had long been off the tube but you may remember it as the one with the three (young interns) running out of the front door, kind of stupidly and yet with great fervor as though maybe it had been a long day’s work and, as author Stanley Elkin once said, “Enough is enough.”

3            RECOLLECTIONS OF PEPE (THE POODLE), EN ROUTE TO BOOK SOUP

5/19/98 …. There was a small library nearby where I’d drop off Mary at the hospital for work and of course the beautifully remodeled library downtown, if you felt up to fighting the traffic coming and going. They’d spent some $214 million dollars and did a fine job on the remodeling, I thought, but so far as I knew they hadn’t added 214 books from that expenditure and meanwhile libraries throughout the city and county had been laying off (or early retiring) workers and running on shorter hours and fewer days. (Los Angeles wasn’t alone that way, of course.)

4          IS THERE LIFE….

5/19/98—From Henry’s place on Martel, after picking up the computer for Gordon Keith, it didn’t take all that long to make it out to Book Soup just a little east of Doheny, the boundary for Beverly Hills and from where they’ve long enjoyed the saying, “Is there life east of Doheny?”

5          FIRST YOU’RE AN UNKNOWN, THEN….

5/19/98—Diana [Gabaldon] had written that she’d liked one of my pieces that I’d posted on the net, and inquired about some journalism stuff that might be relevant to a project she was working on. “Wonderful stories—I’m still laughing,” Diana messaged, and so how could I resist an encore and withhold the benefit of any further writerly advice….

6            ‘UNCHARMED PARTICLES’ AND THE CURIOUS BALANCE OF THE UNIVERSE

5/21/98 ….Admittedly I never attached much significance to the psychic world—I was still working on figuring out the material world—but Mary, Jim Holmes and others would tell you that I seemed to have an incredible talent when it came to traffic. No matter where or when, I always seemed to be where the pedestrian action was.

7            GETTING PAST THE BLACK HOLE

5/23/98—I’d been taking my mother, the psychic, around on some errands and my bronchitis had kicked in some. It may not have helped (with the coughing) that recently—talk about doing in-depth research—a colleague and I received that guided tour of work being done on the LA subway some eighty feet below street level. Not eight feet, as noted in an earlier Victor’s Square segment; and any report of my being literally “hastened to the grave” is undoubtedly premature….

8            THE EVIL EYE; SPECIAL TIMING; LESSONS LEARNED

5/24/98—In all too many ways we find that it is, indeed, a small world, after all; and as you shy away from places, things, ideas, experiences where you’ve had some unwelcome results, your world gets smaller yet. The classic case, of course, is the agoraphobic, but there are other examples, too, large and small….

9            A WALK ON THE MILD SIDE

5/25/98—Admittedly, I’d put off exercising for awhile and weighed  maybe forty pounds more than when I joined the Holiday Spa some twenty years go with the idea of losing weight….

10            DEFUGALITY NUMBER ONE!

5/25/95 …. I was reminded somewhat of Thomas Mann’s Mario and the Magician. If someone persists long enough, eventually you’ll break down. You can say “No” almost endlessly, but you only have to say “Yes” once!

11       JUST WHAT YOU’D LEAST EXPECT, AT VICTOR’S SQUARE

5/26/98—The coffee of the day at the Victor’s Square Restaurant and Deli was Antigua, from Guatemala. We’d never been to Guatemala but had traveled briefly in South America and in Central America. The six months we’d spent in Mexico didn’t count because Mexico is in North America, just as Mexico is also “Estados Unidos,” even though us gringos have expropriated the names USA and North America for ourselves.

12       SO GIVE THE MAN A TOASTED BAGEL!

5/27/98….There were always new places coming in but many that you knew were disappearing, such as the cleaners we always went to on Sunset near Normandie [Hollywood spelling], where for years they had the big sign on the front window that said, “WE CLEAN SWEDE,” leaving it up for months, even after I mentioned it one day.

13            HASTENED TO THE GRAVE; AND LOOKING FOR DIRT!

5/28/98 …. Then we were coming in for the landing and suddenly the tower radioed back, “Maybe you better circle again. Let me see if I can get a better look (to make sure the landing gear was down okay).”

14       GUESS WHO CAME TO DINNER!

5/30/98….There would be bad guys aplenty, in this book exploring wide scale deception and murder of the elderly. Yet it was particularly nice, I thought—unlike the run of many post-modern books and novels today about dysfunctional characters and settings?\to spend some reading time, for a change, with someone you thought you might actually enjoy spending time with.

15       TRUE CRIME, AND A GOOD CORNED BEEF SANDWICH

5/30/98…. During what I called my brief “executive period,” putting out the company magazine for a multinational, I gained a little familiarity with the oil industry, enough to suspect that in some ways there may, at least on occasion, have been more insight into the oil industry in “Dallas with JR than in your local Texas daily.