The dates attached to Thursday through Sunday of this week, or rather weekend, have a series of associations for me. Let me have my coffee, let the old brain percolate on the back burner as to what might be fun to do over those days, and allow me to tell you what those associations are.
April 17 would have been my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. My Dad died in 1968 at the age of 49, and my mother in 2005 at the age of 77, lending a certain amount of spit to the idea that the good tend to go younger. They had met a year and one month earlier at a Saint Patrick’s Day dance at a Catholic church in Chicago. My father, in keeping with the spirit of the event, introduced himself to my mother as Bob O’Lara and supplied a sufficiently Barry Fitzgerald–like Irish accent while speaking to this daughter of Englishman Will Arburn. He tortured her (playfully, I imagine, since that was pretty much him) as he demanded she account for centuries of injustice inflicted by the British on his Irish countrymen. In response, after discovering it was a shuck, she proceeded to marry him and for the next 20 years made him rue that Saint Patty’s Day and every one since. Among the legacies my father left to me (writing this column is certainly one, as it is exactly one of the things he did to pay bills for a family of ten) is, as indirectly as it might seem, an arrest in 2005 for public intoxication on Saint Patrick’s Day of that year. My parents married at Saint Anne’s, April 17, 1948.
April 18, Friday of this week, is the birthday of my son’s friend Curtis. An excellent lad who will be, I think, 26. Live long and prosper, Curt, and please continue to persuade my son to pick up the wet towels from the bathroom floor. Other than that, April 18 is the 20th anniversary of a trip to New York in ’88 to sign a multiple-book contract with Doubleday and an unadvertised book signing at their 57th Street store. I spent a memorable three hours on that day playing five-card draw with the staff, all of whom wanted to be either writers or actors. There were four book sales involved as I entertained the staff between bluffs and 25-cent bets with stories of my stint, 15 years earlier, as a clerk in that very shop. True stories involved waiting on Tennessee Williams, who wore a fur coat and had no money (a handsome boy with a ponytail and matching coat who accompanied him paid for $1500 worth of art books), a lunch one day in the break room with author William Peter Blatty, and looking up Joan Baez’s silver mini-skirt as she ascended a famous spiral staircase at our 53rd Street store.
April 19 I remember as the birthday of an ex-girlfriend. She was one of two women who masterfully, with stunning surgical skill, removed my central cardio-vascular muscle (one that would proceed to enlarge frighteningly, eventually in ten years to be carved up, a good percentage of it sliced away, literally surgically), which she then placed in a metaphorical Cuisinart, set on puree, and hit high — a disintegrating trophy gleefully dancing circles around in a medley of moves, including the mambo, the tango, the Watusi, and the funky chicken.
It hardly seems accidental that only a day later, April 20, is Adolph Hitler’s birthday. It has been celebrated until recently in parts of Fallbrook, I heard, though now, I understand, only at barbecues among certain members of the San Diego County Sherriff’s Department. Few newborns are given the name Adolph any longer.
So there are my associations with this cluster of days, all as a prelude to some suggestions as to what one might do with them — the cluster of days, not the associations.
If you are a compulsive reader, though not necessarily a collector, go to the downtown central branch of the San Diego Public Library on Friday mornings when they open. The earlier you arrive, the greater your chances of beating local used-book dealers to some excellent deals. The hardcovers, many of them, go for only $1 each. Collectibles, art books, etc., will cost a bit more, but it is unlikely you will find better bargains anywhere else. You are welcome to three, I think, mass-market size paperbacks for one buck as well. The beauty of this latter deal is that the library (through Friends of the Library, mostly) get great lots of paperbound novels from the 1960s and ’70s — even as early as the 1950s. This is due to estate sales and deaths among the aged and literate in San Diego County, a place that has possibly a few more of both than its share.
I go whenever I can, and some paperback prizes I have gleaned include Rafael Sabatini novels (what? 33 cents each?) that have been long out of print, novels by Wilfred Sheed and Anthony Burgess, even William Faulkner books with gaudy, sexy-at-the-time cover art, Mickey Spillane (there, now you know), and the occasional Jim Thompson story.
Friday night, try Rannoosh, “The Place for Lovers,” 3890 Fifth Avenue in Hillcrest (619-325-1360), just a few feet off of University. You might sit at the sidewalk cafe and people-watch as I did twice before even entering the remarkably appointed interior. Forty-two-year-old Ken Lander cooks and serves Lebanese food like lamb stew and chicken curry (they inspired my return a third time) and mingles with the patrons offering as much amiable chat as you might care for. He will happily steer you to interesting African wines (“...a plumy, strawberry, even banana and raisin frisson at the back of the tongue”), and ask him about open mike nights on Thursdays, belly dancing on Fridays and Saturdays, and his upcoming program of “speed dating” for straights, gays, and lesbians. This last idea is something I intend to check out soon. Ken told me the concept has been around for a time but naturally the name packs much appeal. “Come here often? Me? We’ll see. What’s your sign? I’m Sagittarius. Herpes? I got it but it never...ah, comes up. Feel anything? Chemistry? Me neither, see ya.”