Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Monday, June 30, 2014

At least the enchiladas were good

Rio Blanco rails (Joey Kulkin photo)

BENNINGTON -- Went out to eat. Shorts and T-shirt, hair undone, completely unpresentable. Sat by myself at the bar at Chili's. Watched Algeria v. Deutschland, start of the second half, and drank iced tea and sat there alone but for me myself and I.

Been doing this for a long time so what's one more night?

Two couples sat just beyond the other side of the bar in attaching booths. Smiles and good vibes in both. Hands touching. I don't even remember the last time I held a girl's hands, or sat in the same booth and shared dinner and each other's presence.

Plowed through chips and salsa; Chili's has improved their nacho chips: not much aftertaste though they're paper-thin and break too easily in the salsa. Plowed through the spicy chicken 'n' tortilla soup. Slaughtered the new sour cream and chicken enchiladas. Watched Algeria and Deutschland struggle on the field -- oops, I mean pitch.

Can't talk the soccer these days without calling it pitch. But I'm stubborn that way.

Probably why I sit by myself at the Chili's bar instead of in a booth full of life.


BENNINGTON -- When you grow up in L.A. with surfer-skater chicks, it's pretty much impossible not to look at someone like Caroline and feel the libido start to spin a little. Tanned with challahesque braids held beneath a turned cap ... Epitome of cutie pie.

She grew up in Orange County New York but lives in Florida with her boyfriend Andrew. He of Bennington Vermont, who graduated Mount Anthony in '09 then enlisted in the Air Force, which is no small feat. Air Force, like Marines, gets a special breed.

He fixes the planes fighter pilots fly.

"I'm a crew chief," he says.

Minutes earlier I ask if he's going to serve overseas.

"I might go to Afghanistan in October."

Nervous? Because it's getting all crazy again.

"Oh, I want to go."

Money's too good to pass up: 4 months, 15,000 bucks.

Caroline stood next to her man the whole time smiling.

Say something nice about her, I say after explaining how L.A. surfer-chick she looks.

"She's exactly like me. She's like my best friend -- No, she is my best friend. Everything just clicks."

His girl blushed something fierce.

Good answer. Her heart is doing somersaults right now.

The skater smiled and his best friend nuzzled into him.

He shook my hand -- Thanks for serving. -- then the future DJ and the surfer-skater chick walked into the sunshine.

On a bright note ...

BENNINGTON -- I sold this hand-carved wood curlew to a woman by the name of Jan who lives in Mass. The curlew had been here for 6 or 7 years. 

That is some highfalutin salesmanship, boy! Ma, look at me! I sell art!

"We forgot about the flowers."

BENNINGTON -- Wasn't it Robby Benson who sat at the dinner table and told Lynn Holly Johnson, to the effect, Not trying is wondering the rest of your life if you gave up too soon -- who needs that?

Always loved that line. Getters get, or go down fighting for what they want.

Anything less is squat.

Go for it, they say, but on the face of it it's so goodamn ludicrous. Why give someone who has zero desire for you in their heart (or head) the satisfaction?

Maybe I should just hang out with the hookers for a few days. Hookers don't judge.

Or maybe I'm just exhausted.


"The second you try
getting serious about
something it loses
its magic."

BENNINGTON -- Pretty much.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Steady Diet of Scardale

Lee and Lori, married 21 years (Joey Kulkin photo)

BENNINGTON -- "Scarsdale."

That near Briarcliff Manor?

"No. We're 18 minutes north of the city and it takes me 23 minutes to get to Briarcliff Manor. So it's 40 miles north of the city. Do you know someone in Briarcliff Manor?"

I dated a girl who's mom lived with her boyfriend there.

Moments later ...

Any good restaurants in Scarsdale? If I were to drive to Scarsdale right now, I'd eat where?

She looked at me like I was a cuckoo bird.

"I'd say keep going and go to Manhattan. Have you ever been to Scarsdale?"

Who hasn't been to Scarsdale?

"It makes Bennington seem like it's BOOMING with restaurants."

Well then.

Her husband joined the conversation.

Every time I hear Scarsdale I think Seinfeld and the Scarsdale Diet. Wait, the Scarsdale Diet isn't in Seinfeld. There's a Scarsdale thing with Kramer going to the Tonys to accept an award for a play about Scarsdale.

But, funnily, the husband asked if I ever knew the details about the woman who killed the Scarsdale Diet doctor. Her name is Jean Harris and apparently she just died. At the time of her trial, the husband said, Harris tried using a facacta defense.

Like the Twinkie Defense?

"Something even loonier than that."

Turns out the husband has a connection to Harris through one of his lawyer colleagues. I can't remember the exact connection because the wife soon asked if I ever saw the movie Kissing Jessica Stein because of its Scarsdale connection.

Did you just say Kissing Jessica Stein?

"Yes, Kissing Jessica Stein. Have you seen it?"

This is becoming wonderfully funny.

I told them that I've never heard of the movie. Oh, you've just got to see it, Lori said. "It's about a young woman whose character grows up in Scarsdale. She's in her mid-20s and happens upon a lesbian and they have a brief affair" and ...

... Lee and Lori conflated a few details about the actresses and the characters and all of the Scarsdale connections. Lee called up IMDb on his iPad and edited the narrative.

This is how it goes: Jennifer Westfeldt is the actress who plays Jessica Stein. Jessica Stein is from Scarsdale, and she has a lesbian affair. Tovah Feldschuh is the actress who plays Jessica Stein's mom, and in real life Tovah Feldschuh is from Scarsdale. Lori knows Tovah. 

As an aside, Tovah's 103-year-old mom just died. She did not live in Scarsdale.

As I wrote down the details I couldn't help but think about the Gotham City writer. Because obviously. This is just too rich of a moment. I began to tell Lori about why the mention of Jessica Stein put a shit-eating grin on my face -- I fell in love with a writer in New York City with the same last name -- and then tried to explain the story vis-a-vis the Old Man and the Sea, but she just wanted to know if I've asked the writer out and I changed the subject.

So why are you up here?

"We just dropped our son off at Middlebury for a 7-week French immersion program."

Is he in high school?

"Just graduated," Lori said.

Mazel tov!

"Are you Jewish?"

Yep, had my bar mitzvah in '84.

"Mazel tov!"

Then I changed the subject to talk about RPI hockey with Lee.

They Align When They Align

Deja spelled out D*E*J*A on the NameTrains (Joey Kulkin photo)

BENNINGTON -- She's 11 and just two months shy of the 6th grade.

What's your favorite book?

Deja, as in vu, stood on the other side of the marble bank counter. The wheels spun but she couldn't think of an answer. Always a tough question when you're put on the spot.

OK then, what book are you reading right now?

Didn't need more than a second: "The Fault in Our Stars!"

Too funny. I told Deja about the Gotham City writer who wrote about the book the other day. It's the rage of the literary world.

So, what's it about?

"It's about 2 teenagers. One of their names is Hazel and the other is Augustus -- the call him Gus. Hazel has cancer in her lungs. She says that one day she's going to blow up. And they fall in love."

I heard there are a lot of themes in the book. And everyone on the planet is reading it.

"It's a mix. It's a sad story and a love story -- and about happiness."

Read the rest of the story at Facebook.

Re-lax, Stay Awhile

Amy and Rob (Joe Kulkin photo)

BENNINGTON -- Many art lovers, and a few intellectually incurious, buzzed in and out of the gallery yesterday. One couple -- a cutie and her escort who looked like he ate one too many laxatives -- left about 90 seconds after coming in. They stood in front of the mosaics, shuffled over to the scarves, then beelined for the door, made a hard right, and walked west on Main Street. Whattaya gonna do? Some folks are just sheepishly antisocial. As they headed to the door I was going to say something to her, because I thought she might be someone familiar. But I decided against it because some folks don't like to be bothered in public.

That example aside, everyone else enjoyed their time in the gallery.

Many of them engaged with me. You may have read about the couple from the farming fields of Iowa, married for 63 years. Those hands don't lie.

Rob and Amy of Erie P-A have been married for 9 years. She bought 6 handblown glass tumblers, because she loves the style and swirls, and a vintage Schlitz sign for her parents. Larry and Anne dated in college, and Schlitz was his beer of choice. He introduced his honey to it and Schlitz became their first beer.

Over the years they moved on to Michelob, then Bud.

Seeing that this lighted Schlitz sign was made in 1976 made Amy's eyes light up because that's year Larry and Anne got married. I have a feeling Amy has been searching for the perfect anniversary gift. She stumbled upon it in an old bank vault.

I asked the usual question and Amy answered:

"They do everything together. They go on long antiquing trips all the time. When we were kids they we would all go on antique trips and my brother and I would get into fights in the car waiting for them."

"And they still go antiquing?"

"They still do," Amy said. "They spend all day doing it."

"And you bought these glasses why?"

"I'm an amateur glassblower. These are really cool."

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Tilling the land, and love

Dave and Corrinne of Iowa (Joey Kulkin photo)

BENNINGTON -- These are the old and weathered and leathered and wrinkled and crinkled and beaten and swollen and diseased and crooked-knuckled hands of land-tilling Iowa man and woman who have been married for 63 years. 

Their son went to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and that's when his mom and dad took interest in Arizona Indians. Their matching wedding bands pay homage to the Hopi.

Wrote a vignette on them today and asked the usual question.

"We have a lot in common," Dave says. "We love art, travel, and classical music."

"Yes," Corrinne echoes, "we have a lot in common."

These are the things that bring me joy.

Intellectual Curiosity

No, really, stay a few minutes longer.

BENNINGTON -- There's a fantastic Brady Bunch episode when Marcia finds her way into the recording studio to get an up close and personal glimpse of Davy Jones as he sings a new record full of syrup. She stands in the back of the room with super composure and swoons while the dreamy frontman of The Monkees croons,

Girl, look what you've done to me
Me, and my whole world ...

Marcia makes a noise, oops, and friction ensues as the record producer tries to shoo the cutie away despite her desperate pleas. But Davy, sitting in the booth, hears every word of the drama because the studio mic hadn't been turned off.

Marcia's wiles pay off: Davy not only agrees to play at the junior prom but escorts her!

Intellectual curiosity spurs us to do crazy things sometimes. Sometimes we know that something exists yet we've just got to see just how real something is.

I'd bet dollars to doughnuts on it. So in that regard, flattery is a nice feeling.

And it's good to feel that way, girl.

Chanticleerian Expansion

"It's quite significant when nothing means
what it's supposed to mean. Then you get
an idea of what a lot means.
Reality is expanded."

BENNINGTON -- Nena gave this one considerable thought.

So sassy and so vibrant, she could have bought a large ceramic bowl or a mesmerizing glass sculpture or several other things that make great wedding gifts. Instead, she did a little mental algebra and bought a 3D laser-cut map of Bennington.

"Because neither of them are from here. They came here because her grandfather used to live here. So no one is familiar with this town. No one will know what this map means but them. They'll look at this on their wall years from now and know that it's where they got married, whereas others will look at it and just think it's graphic art."

Significant. Quite.

(Joey Kulkin photo)

Friday, June 27, 2014

It's actually tough

(Joe Kulkin photo)

BENNINGTON -- It's actually tough to write novelistically on a public forum such as this and especially when reality bends with deep imagination. It tends to confuse people and make them wonder, What the hell is he writing about? 

One hundred and fifty years ago the writers were writing with ink-tipped wing-feather on pulp and no one -- NO ONE -- saw one of their works in progress.

150 years later, I don't mind if people follow me on Carbon Route 66 as I try to collect string for the story that has a few folks believing it's true, and others scratching their heads.

Maybe it adds a little mystery and intrigue, which can only be a good thing.

Maybe you'll wonder, Where's he going next?

One of the joys of reading The Old Man and the Sea comes in the form of the "great" DiMaggio, who becomes a part of Santiago's struggle, mentally and physically (emotionally and spiritually, too). Like when he wonders if DiMaggio could fight the marlin despite a bone spur in his foot.

Joe DiMaggio -- American hero -- appears in a sentimental little story about a weathered Cuban who goes fishing.

It's that marriage of deep imagination and real life and all of the possibilities in between that makes the experience special.

Well, for me it is. Because baseball. DiMaggio is real; maybe Santiago's fishing tale is too. It's a sexy way to engage and bend realities.

Don't ask me why I chose a certain Gotham City writer as a character for the story. I just did. Actually, I did say: because I liked something she wrote. That's the sole reason. Everything took flight from that seedling. Isn't that how writing works? Anyway, 10 years from now she might get a chuckle out of being immortalized in a book

Just remember, those who hear not the music think the dancers crazy.


She bought this mug today ...

BENNINGTON -- A regular customer who bought 2 mugs today asked me what's going on with that girl because she hasn't seen any updates since last week. Told her I moved the story to a different platform but that it's over.

What do you mean it's over? she asked.

Only one other person has inquired about the production, thinking it's real. She seemed bummed out yesterday after reading what she perceived to be brooding.

Your big heart DESERVES to be loved. Sincerely. is what she wrote on Facebook. (For real.)

So it's working, I think. I hope.

Face to face with the customer today I explained that I'm writing a story and that the particular subject of my literary affections is a character. She's a real person but she's just part of a story.

It sounded so real. I was wondering when you were going to ask her out, she said.

Not at all. But it's working, I think. I hope. Took Tarantino 10 years to write Basterds.

... and this mug


Amanda from Hoosick Falls

BENNINGTON -- New pottery arrived from KC-Mo. I love it, especially the deep red soup tureen and funky ladle. First time this potter has sold in the gallery. I can see a lot of his stuff finding homes.


BENNINGTON -- The Lakers drafted attitude and eloquence with Julius Randle.

The United States Men's National Team advanced to the Round of 16 in the World Cup.

Countries that did not advance: England, Italy, Portugal, defending champion Spain.

I just threw packing peanuts away and broke down boxes, then vacuumed.

Two women who were in the gallery late yesterday afternoon said they will come back to hear me tell the story of the old Walloomsac Inn, and this building. I'm going to waste 10,000 breaths of air to amuse them and probably won't spend a penny in here.

These arrived the other day. We've never sold anything like them.

They're described on the invoice as Mini Heechee arched.