Wednesday, October 06, 2004

North of the Border

In an hour or so, Judy and I will be heading for Houston Intercontinental Airport, where we'll board the big silver bird for Toronto and the Bouchercon. I might as well admit that I hate air travel. Not the flying part, though that's bad enough. It's the "security" part that gets me down, all the lines and waiting around. Flying just about anywhere has become an all-day proposition. So today is pretty much going to be devoted to travel. Monday, when we're returning will be the same. In between, maybe we'll have some fun at the convention, see some friends, maybe even have a look at the city. I'll be back at the keyboard next week with a sketchy report of our activities. Try not to miss me too much.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

This is from a 1961 Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalog. I was too old by then to be interested, but this page is similar enough to one from ten years earlier to be representative of the kind of thing I'm talking about below. I could look at a page like this for hours, trying to decide just which set of holsters would look the best on me. Posted by Hello

The Sears Catalog

Someone mentioned something to me today, and it sparked a veritable frenzy of nostalgia. Yes, I can even get misty-eyed when I think about the Sears & Roebuck catalog.

When I was growing up in Mexia, Texas, there weren't a lot of fancy stores. We had three five and dime stores: Perry Bros., Duke & Ayres, and Ben Franklin, all with limited stock. There were some department stores with shoes and clothing, but I wasn't interested in things like that. So the way I got to see all the latest stuff, from bikes to guns to toys, was in the Sears catalog. When the new one arrived, I'd study it for days, looking at the baseball gloves and shotguns and just about everything else. One of the happiest days of my life was when I saved enough money to order myself a J. C. Higgins baseball glove. I could never have afforded it if it hadn't been on some kind of sale as a discontinued item. I still have it, as a matter of fact. It's pretty worn, but I can't part with it.

And then there was the best thing of all: the Christmas catalog. Zowie! I can't even begin to describe what a joy it was to pore over that one, with toys galore, few of which we could afford and fewer of which I ever got to order. Just looking at them, however, was just about enough of a thrill for me.

eBay item 6929031456 (Ends Sep-30-04 17:00:00 PDT) - ATTENTION TO ALL YOU WELL KNOWN, AUTHORS!

eBay item 6929031456 (Ends Sep-30-04 17:00:00 PDT) - ATTENTION TO ALL YOU WELL KNOWN, AUTHORS!: "So that is why I am selling my manuscript mostly to well known authors and whether Oprah Winfrey reads this or Stephen King or the ever so popular J.K. Rawlings, if they bought my book for my price and put there name on it as the author, everyone will pick up the book and read it, because these authors have already earned a reputation. Now I have actual pictures of my manuscript and a legit publshing Co. that will put my book in print for 695.00 dollars. The book will then be advertise to over 25,000 different book stores through the internet only"

I read about this on Lee Goldberg's blog, and my mind is boggled. If the guy got a buck-fifty for the book, I'd be surprised, but $150,000? How depressed would I be if he got that much? Don't ask. You can tell from the small sample above that there might be a few problems with hiw writing.

Roy Drusky

Somehow I missed the news that Roy Drusky died back in September. I heard him a lot on the radio in the early 1960s when I was working at Red Arrow Freight Lines in the summers. The radio was always tuned to KTON in Belton, Texas, which was a country station. I especially remember "Three Hearts in a Tangle" and his duet with Priscilla Mitchell, "Mr. Peters." He did a great version of "Red, Red Wine" around 1970. He had a distinctive voice and was a good songwriter, but he never achieved the fame that he deserved. RIP.

Monster Blog!

Monster Blog!

Another link via Rick Klaw: a blog devoted to the monster comics of Jack Kirby. Great stuff.

Monday, October 04, 2004

eBay item 2492392403 (Ends Oct-11-04 10:46:05 PDT) - DOUGLAS CLEGG Lmtd Edtn HC Publishing Rights for Novel

eBay item 2492392403 (Ends Oct-11-04 10:46:05 PDT) - DOUGLAS CLEGG Lmtd Edtn HC Publishing Rights for Novel: " DOUGLAS CLEGG Lmtd Edtn HC Publishing Rights for Novel
Limited Edition Hardcover Rights Novel 'The Abandoned'"

I found out about this from Rick Klaw. Maybe I should give it a try. But then Clegg claims that he sold 250,000 copies of an e-book. Zowie. I never had sales like that!


Judy and I will be taking off for the Bouchercon in Toronto on Wednesday. Toronto isn't all that far, but it will take a full day's traveling for us to get there. Naturally all my usual travel anxieties are setting in. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if I thought the new airport security measures actually made me safer, but I don't. They seem to me to be the equivalent of busy-work, and some of them seem ridiculous. From what I can see, they've made air travel highly unpleasant, if not impossible, prolonged the agony of the trip, and done nothing at all that's practical. But what do I know? I'm sure that after we arrive in Toronto and clear customs, we'll have a great time, and I might even enjoy a day or two of the convention before I start to worry about the trip home. My panel is at 2:00 on Saturday, and it's on "being prolific" or something like that. I'm not worried about that part of things. I can always find something to say if called on. And I have no trouble keeping quiet if not called on.

It's been 24 years since we first attended a Bouchercon. That one was in Washington, D.C. It was very small. I doubt that more than 250 people attended. Maybe not that many. One-track programming, and only a few programs at that. But we had a wonderful time, which is why we've been to so many Bouchercons since then. We've missed only three, I believe. The best one was in Austin, because I could just get in the car and drive to it. What a pleasure that was!

Janet Leigh, bathing beauty. Posted by Hello

Yahoo! News - 'Psycho' Star Janet Leigh Dies at 77

Yahoo! News - 'Psycho' Star Janet Leigh Dies at 77: "'Psycho' Star Janet Leigh Dies at 77"

I really hate that headline. Makes it seem that Janet Leigh was a psycho, which I certainly hope wasn't true. I suspect that there's hardly a guy of my generation (Old Guys, again) who wasn't struck by her beauty now and then in movies like Houdini, Prince Valiant, The Black Shield of Falworth, The Manchurian Candidate, Bye Bye Birdie and plenty of others. She never did much cheesecake, and a lifelong dream of mine was fulfilled (sort of) when her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, whipped that sweater over her head in Tradiing Places. I always thought of Janet Leigh as a class act. RIP.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Old Hometown

I spent some time in my hometown of Mexia, Texas, this weekend, and, as usual, I left feeing about a million years old.

This time I did a couple of things. I stopped in at the site of the former Eubanks Hardware Store (which is now a sort of antiques mini-mall) to buy something to read (more about that later, maybe). Standing on the sidewalk out front, I noticed how oddly quiet it was. When I was a kid, the whole downtown was alive on Saturday afternoons. Now, there wasn't a sound. Nothing. There were no cars parked along the street, and the buildings on the other side have long since been knocked down. It was an eerie feeling, standing there in all that quiet.

After I left there, I drove down the block and stopped in front of the lot where the Farrar Lumber Company once stood. My grandfather worked a the lumber yard for many years, and I used to walk there from our house to visit him or just play around in the lumber. I could still draw you a pretty good floor plan of the main office, with its high counter on one side, the stairs at the back leading up to the second floor, the bench and the big pot-bellied stove opposite the counter. There's nothing there now.

Across the street is the building that once housed the town's Buick dealership, where my father bought our baby-blue Buick Special four-door hardtop in 1956. I can't even begin to describe what a thrill it was to drive around in a car like that. (It drove like a tank, by the way, since it didn't have power steering; but who cared?) The building became a pawn shop at one time after the Buick dealership closed, but even that sign is pretty much faded away now. There are bushes and trees growing all around the building, right up against the brick wall. A big portion of the roof has fallen in, and you can see the sky through the second story windows.

The back of the second floor used to be some sort of residential hotel. The roof is still over those rooms, but the windows are completely missing. You can look through them at see how small the rooms were. You can see the transoms over the doors. There appears to have been one light in each room, a bulb screwed into a socket that hangs down from the ceiling on a braided electrical cord. The odd thing is that in all three rooms I could see into, the light bulbs are still there, right where they've been for who knows how long. I never knew who lived in those rooms or what their lives must have been like. I probably couldn't even guess.