Monday, February 27, 2017

La Quinta

Morning Coffee in Old Town La Quinta

Any time spent in a warm desert is a welcome respite from Minnesota winter. Staying in a VRBO in a quiet residential district (i.e., a real neighborhood versus the gated golf course communities all around it), about 25 miles from the glamour of Palm Springs. After taking coffee, a stroll with my new feathered friend was a great way to start the day:

And lounging (note dorky Batty still wearing his sport coat!) on a private patio was a nice way to spend the evening:

Then, finally, retiring to a bedroom with forty pillows:

Much more to come…

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Reader - Week 8

Freedom Radio

At closing time, Andy and Jennifer left the pub.

“You don’t have a car?” asked Andy.

“No, I took a cab—I wanted to have more than a couple of beers.”

And both of them had certainly downed more than a couple. The summer night air was quite a bit warmer than the air-conditioned pub—Andy liked the way the warmth of it embraced him. By the time they got to his house, Andy was feeling a little woozy.

“I should’ve stopped drinking earlier,” he said, as he opened the door. He wondered if his speech was slurred.

“If one is not enough and two is better, three should be just right right, no?” said Jennifer. They went into the kitchen, “Retro! I love it,” she gasped.

“I think we had five,” said Andy, “Apiece. How ’bout some music?”

“Yes, let’s dance.”

Andy put his phone in the speaker dock that was the only modern appliance on the counter.  Everything else had belonged to his parents. When there was no sound at first Andy thought that he might had hit the mute mode. After a second, however, a strange tune began playing in mid-verse, full of minor sevenths and suspended chords. After a few choruses the sound faded away and a relaxed baritone voice purred from the box:

   “Now,  here’s a blast from the past—In the Summertime—by Mungo Jerry, ” said the DJ, who had an exaggerated epiglottal push. It sounded as if he was puking up the words:
In the summertime, when the weather is hot, 
Drinking beer, until your mind is shot,
In the summertime, you’ve got drinking, 
You’ve got drinking on your mind,
Have a quart, have a pint,
Go out and see what you can find.”
“That’s not the way I remembered it,” said Andy. The song continued to its end, each verse more more twisted than the previous.

"Banner Year for Beer!" an ad on the radio proclaimed. A choral group perkily sang the praises of a cheap beer in jazzy four-part harmonies.

“Freedom Radio request hour,” said the DJ, “… with this one going out to Andy and Jennifer on the Northside… ”

“They’re playing our song, com’on, dance with me…” said Jennifer, pulling Andy closer.
Switchin’ in the kitchen, hey mama on a Saturday night,
Twitchin’ with a feeling, everything is goin’ alright,
She’s dancin’ up on the table, man, this girl is really unstable,
Switchin’ and-a twitchin’, on a red-hot Saturday night…
Andy put his hands on Jennifer’s waist but he was too drunk to dance. She put her arms around his neck and they swayed in time to the music. When the song ended, Jennifer put her lips next to Andy’s ear:

“Nice girls don’t stay for breakfast,” she purred.

The DJ’s voice came on the box:

“And now a slow ballad from Julie London—Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast.” 

Andy wondered what was going on.

The Reader is short fiction, published every Friday.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ouija Board

One of the joys of being at my Grandparent's house was going upstairs, to the attic bedrooms. They had the scent of old wood, I think the windows were only opened when we stayed overnight. There wasn't a great deal of things in those rooms: a bed, a crib, a nightstand and a dresser with a colorful shell on top in the first room; the second room only had two beds and a Grain Belt Beer poster of a jumping Northern Pike on the wall. But in the nightstand were old photographs and some magazines; underneath these things was a Ouija Board. My sister asked my grandmother how it worked- it was merely a piece of Masonite with letters and symbols silk-screened on it, there was a little heart-shaped table with felts on the bottom of its three legs. Grandmother told us that you and a partner would sit on opposite sides of the board with your fingers lightly resting on the table. Someone would ask a question and the Ouija Board would move the table under your fingers and point at the letters or numbers to spell out the answer. When the Ouija was finished, it would point to "Au Revoir."

When my sister and I tried it she asked what the name of her future husband would be. I don't remember what, if anything I asked. The little table seemed to move around on its own accord, but I was old enough then not to believe 100% in anything my sister said or did.

Once I asked my Grandmother if she had ever used the board.

"Oh, yes! Your aunt Selma and I could really make it work! But one of the legs broke off and when we re-glued it it was never the same again."

"What did you ask it?" My grandmother looked a little bit mysterious.

"Well, one time, during the war, your Uncle Bobby was home on leave. He didn't believe in such things, so he asked the Ouija to spell the name of his commanding officer. Selma and I sat down and the board spelled out the name right away. Bobby got mad and walked out the door!"

My grandmother was born in Sweden, she didn't talk much about the spirituality that we heard about in church. She didn't talk about the Ouija after that one day either.
We got a Ouija board for Christmas (?!) the next year, it was new, and its table was made of plastic. I don't recall it working too well either, but we had fun pretending that it did.

First published February 15, 2007

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Monday, February 20, 2017

River Rats

river rats

When our boys were young there was one activity which needed no planning, no preparations, no gear. We would simply walk four blocks down to the river. A child's mind can find infinite things to do with some mud, sticks, stones and water. I would tag along, not saying anything, and the boys would soon be lost in a world of their own imaginings, all the while being enveloped by nature. As they got older they learned to handle a canoe; sometimes their trips ran to the hundreds of miles, with lots of preparation and gear. Being on a wild river on a hot summer's day makes it easy to feel as if one belongs in the world. The river goes on and on, the fish splash, the egrets among the reeds stand guard. All the while the sun-dappled leaves along the shore shiver in their dance of joy. As you float downstream in your tiny craft you cease to exist as you become a part of the scenery.

Some lessons need no professors.

First published , February 20, 2007

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Reader - Week 7

The Swansong of Larry Lovejoy.

Andy was nursing his beer, trying to make it last through the night. The pub wasn’t very crowded; Thursday nights were never busy. When the band took a break, “Big Dick” came over to his table. He had a 45 rpm record in his hand.

“Look what I scored! White Lightning by Melvin Winton. 1963, rockabilly style,” said Dick, “It was recorded at Kaybank.”

“Mel’s still playing, he must be nearly eighty now,” said Andy. “Do you know who was in the band?”

“That’s the cool part. Kenny Haus on drums. Bobby Hull on guitar,” Dick said, “And, Larry Lovejoy on harmonica!”

“Larry Lovejoy? Wow, there’s a name from the past,” said Andy, “He’s been dead now for what—forty years?”

“I met him once, you know,” said Dick, “Actually twice. We had a gig in the old hall above Howie’s, on West Broadway. We were setting up in the afternoon, and Larry just sort of wandered in off the street. Jessie knew who he was and started talking to him. Jessie had his old Gibson then—the 355. Larry said something like ‘Nice guitar’ and Jessie handed it to him and asked if he would like to play it. Larry held the guitar as if he would play, but it seemed that he was already too far gone, his fingers twitched a little, but he couldn’t bring himself to play anything. I saw him about a year later, just before he died, outside of Penny’s Supermarket on Lyndale. He was with a young woman, his daughter? His girlfriend?  They were waiting for a cab. He was looking pretty bad.”

“I had heard stories about him. For a while there, in the mid-sixties, he was a local legend for his blues-rock guitar playing. I never knew that he played country harmonica,” said Andy, “You heard about the time he subbed for Billy Mason, when Billy and the Bears played in Moorhead?”

“He subbed for Billy in Billy’s own band?” said Dick, “When was that?”

“Must have been about 1975. That’s when Billy was drinking so much that the band wouldn’t let him play with them,” continued Andy, “They were worried that he would have a meltdown in a place where they didn’t have anyone to bail him out, so they got Larry.”

“How did it go over?”

“Larry dropped acid just before the show,” said Andy, “The club had a wall of mirrors at the back of the stage and Larry played the whole show with his back to the crowd, looking at himself. He was awful. The guys in the band were pissed, at Larry fucking up and Billy for being drunk all the time. When they got back, they gave Billy an ultimatum: quit drinking or break up the group. Billy went through rehab. Larry never did. That Moorhead trip might have been the last time Larry Lovejoy performed.”

Andy felt a hand on his wrist.

“I love joy,” said a woman who had walked up behind Andy. It was Jennifer, the woman who had talked to Andy the day Evelyn left.

“Now don’t you run away again on me,” she said.

“Hi,” Andy mumbled, “Good to see you.”

“I’m not interrupting anything important, am I?” she said.

“Just ‘band’ talk,” said Dick, “An old story about someone that hardly anybody remembers. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back on stage.”

Andy felt good, and with Jennifer sitting beside him, the memory of Evelyn was fading fast. He would force himself to be friendlier tonight.

“Can I buy you a drink?” he said.

“You can buy me two,” said Jennifer, “I’m ready to rip it up.”

The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


When an industry holds its annual trade show in Las Vegas, surely there will be plenty of distractions to make the experience more palatable. It was the year 2000, the turning of the millennium, when I found myself in the world capital of broken dreams. The hotel package came with some comp tickets to attractions within the complex, the idea being that you will “make it a night” there and then trundle up to your room with empty pockets. The Riviera was an aging casino, built when the Rat Pack was in its prime; it had become a bit faded, but it still possessed a main room, a comedy club, and an “exotic” show: burlesque that had been updated a bit, but only a bit. There were various acts: leggy and busty dancers sporting teased hair in a flashy musical revue (titled The Crazy Girls), a fan dancer emulating Sally Rand, a foul-mouthed comedienne who brought back memories of high-school locker room conversations.

And then, the climax. The lights dimmed, the curtain slowly opened to reveal...

...a woman, totally nude, lying on a platform that tilted as it revolved. Her “artful” poses changed, depending on the platform's position relative to the audience, she was careful to keep her “bottom” concealed. Classical music played. She looked like a piece of meat on a slab in a butcher’s shop; a plucked chicken displayed for the customer’s approval. This went on for several minutes. Then the curtain closed and the lights went up.

Somehow, I had imagined that Sodom would have been more exciting. After a curtain call by the Crazy Girls, (consisting of them turning around and shaking their collective posteriors), I was herded out with the rest of the chumps.

As I left, I wondered what went through the mind of the “girl on the wheel.”

Twenty years of dance lessons and this is what I get? Rolling around naked on a lazy-susan, oogled by a bunch of creepy tourists?

It’s a living, I guess. I’ve had worse jobs.

First published February 27, 2007

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Mid-Winter Getaway

Vintage postcard, provenance unknown
The Professor is on a sabbatical, hob-nobbing with the elite in the deserts of southern California. In the meantime, FITK re-runs will prevail until regular posting resumes.

The Reader will continue as usual.

This swell documentary should keep you entertained for the duration of my absence:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3