Back From The Dead

One of the things that I love about the Internet is the way that it snatches dormant media from obscurity, allowing us to experience anew that which hitherto existed in the far recesses of our minds as the merest fragments of memory. Whether it’s a long-forgotten commercial or pages from an old Christmas catalog, it seems like everything that was ever broadcast or printed is being digitized, tagged, and archived for our instant access. Can’t get a fragment of an ancient advertising jingle out of your head? Google a few words, and you’ll likely hear it in its entirety. Thinking about the colorful cover of a paperback you once owned? Someone, somewhere, has scanned it, along with the artwork for every other known edition of the title.

Thanks to that other resuscitator of bygone entertainment, Netflix, I recently followed a trail of mental breadcrumbs back to one of my earliest memories. I was watching Who’s Minding the Store, a seldom-seen (and justifiably so) Jerry Lewis vehicle from 1963. Released just five months after Lewis’s brilliant The Nutty Professor, the Frank Tashlin-directed Store is a cinematic abomination that is nevertheless worth watching for its immortal typewriter routine as well as the sheer, audacious chutzpah of its star’s performance.  What caught my attention, however, was the unique diction of supporting player John McGiver.  I knew I had seen him in other productions, yet I could not name any.

IMDb to the rescue!  Soon I was poring over McGiver’s filmography, and while searching for movies and television shows in which I was likely to have seen him, I was absolutely gobsmacked by the presence of a film I had certainly never seen. In fact, I had wondered whether or not my mind had made up this curious title I recalled being promoted when I was quite young. But there it was:  Arnold, released in November of 1973. For years I have carried around in my mind the latent trauma of being exposed to its advertising campaign, which scared the hell out of me as a sensitive and neurotic five-year-old. Read More

Hostel Is A Homophone


The bridge from Sandy Hook to Harpers Ferry…and also from lunacy to sanity.

“Nothing just happens!  Nothing just happens!” thundered the evangelizing voice of T.D. Jakes as I gnawed on fried chicken from the comfort of my hotel bed.  The congregation shouted its approval of their leader’s assertion that there is no such thing as a coincidence.  I pondered the idea for a moment, took another swig of cola, and clicked the remote.  Now The Andy Griffith Show flickered from the screen.  It was an episode I recognized, the classic “Man In A Hurry,” in which a stranded big-city motorist finds his patience tested by the leisurely pace of Mayberry as he waits for his car to be repaired.

“Ah, what luck,” I enthused before it occurred to me that T. D. Jakes would presumably disagree.

I was determined to squeeze whatever enjoyment I could out of my accommodations, as my room was costing me four times what I had budgeted.  Perched high atop Harpers Ferry at the edge of the Catholic cemetery, my lodgings were in every way a far cut above my original reservations.  In order to justify the indulgence of attending a five-day educational conference at my own expense (along with opportunities to do further research for my historical novel set in the area), I had intended to stay a little further down the Potomac, just across the river.  There at the base of Maryland Heights is the small community of Sandy Hook, where a humble hostel offers shelter to Appalachian Trail hikers, assorted vagabonds, and fiscally prudent educators.

The idea of staying in a hostel held no appeal to me beyond its minimal cost.  Multi-bunk barracks and community bath facilities are not what I would consider to be positive amenities.  In addition, this establishment was only open in the evening, overnight and morning hours, outside of which the doors were locked.  Still, I anticipated a busy week, and what more would I need from my accommodations but a safe bed and a shower?  As I was traveling alone, I did not need to consider the comfort of my family.  I could handle roughing it for a few days.  It might even make the whole endeavor more fun, allowing me to assume the role of the itinerant writer, a rugged intellectual who cares not where he sleeps so long as he may practice his craft. Read More

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