This Is My Life Starring Moss Jervins

Everybody's favorite forgotten star of screens large and small, and also now those plasma screens and satellites and so forth. That's me—I'm the favorite forgotten star etc. I now have this wonderful BLOG and I have turned over a new leaf and want to tell you about my new life and I also want to hear about YOURS but please be nice.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

They have little parachutes

—Did you hear?
—Did I hear...?
—Did you hear!
—What?! Stop shouting at me. Also stop hitting me like that with your finger.
—OK OK. Did you hear that His His-ness was cleaning out of his office and found all this old stuff that he wrote years ago? Stuff that I and thou assumed was lost to the ages.
—What's it like?
—Most of it's totally inscrutable but some of it's great.
—Well, not great, but good.
—I can't wait to see it.
—Maybe not exactly good, but—how to say—somewhat interesting. That counts, no?
—In this day and age?
—No. [Cue: theremin.]
—How about in the past?
—Say, the 19th century?
—Yes, in the 19th century, particularly in Spain, that would count for something.
—Let me read you something he wrote.
—Please don't. I'm late for my thing.
—Your what?
—Exercise thing, where I climb a wall and my trainer throws cats at me.
—Kittens. Don't worry. They have little parachutes so they don't get hurt when they fall. Though some do.
—Oh OK. I won't read it. Oh! Can I type it out and fax it to you?
—YES! I have my fax right here.
—That little thing?
—It folds out. [Folds it out.] See?
—Ja. OK. Let me first copy it onto an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet. Then I'll feed it through the fax. What's your number?
—Area code 000, country code 5, city code 1.555, then 3, then 435698, then wait for the tone and then it's 3989.
—Got it. Here goes.
—And then when you hear another tone, you punch in your birth year.
—Oh cool. My mini foldout fax machine is whirring. OK. Here it comes! [Several minutes pass as gray sheets emerge.]


Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Grade A Distraction

Florida spotted someone he knew. "Ah, Lexington. How goes the paper-blackening?"

The man in question looked unwell, rather like he had mistaken an ashtray for a Pimm's Cup. "I learned that the novel does not write itself. The words do not magically appear unless you are seated at the typewriter and are actively pecking away, creating an ungodly racket and swearing at your pets. Make no mistake, my child: The novel does not write itself when you are playing Billy Bragg songs on the ukulele."

"So the uke has reared its ugly head again."

"I'm afraid so. It is a Grade A distraction and the devil's handiwork. Why have pastors and rabbis not spoken out against it? What I need to do is to give it to someone—say, you—and tell that person not to relinquish it to me, no matter what threats or promises I might devise."

"Then how will you ever get it back?"

"Once the novel is
completely finished, revisions and all, I will show you the MS. If it meets with your approval, I may allow the blasted note-maker to reenter my possession. Does that sound feasible? I will of course pay you a nominal retaining fee."

"Your proposal has solidity."

"Shall I draw up the papers?" He found a napkin unmarred by drinking glass stains. In handwriting illegible save for the word "infernal" somewhere in the middle, he made official their agreement. "Sign. And sign."

They shook hands. Lexington tore the napkin's top layer off. He handed Florida the even less legible remainder, onto which some of the ink had leaked through.

—From Chinese Whispers

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Socratic Method

—Before we begin cleaning your teeth in just a moment, I want to read you today’s special words: allow, friend, self, image. Today’s special sentence, created from these words, is: Allow your friends to create your self-image. Do you have any questions before we start?


—Do you remember when, as a child, you would read in the car at night, your parents in the front seat? You would try to read a sentence whenever the car passed under a streetlamp. Stopping at a red light was an outrageous luxury: You could finish a whole paragraph sometimes. You’d finish entire books this way, as your parents drove on. Where were they going? Why did you think it was normal that there should be so much traveling by night?

—[Gurgles. Raises eyebrows in alarm.]

—Have you noticed that all babies have Brooklyn accents?

—[No response.]

—Walking along the beach, the sand silver from the sea, we noticed that seaweed had left delicate impressions before being pulled back by the waves. We’d never seen this before. OK. Now this might sting a bit. Do you want bubblegum or mint?

—[Nods vaguely.]

—Later we walked along the canyon on a paved trail. Cracks had been caulked over in black. The lines branched wildly, like diagrams of sentences out of Proust,

—[Drifts to sleep.]

—You have a cavity the size of the San Ysidro Valley. Microbes are snapping up real estate.

—[Eyes widen. Nostrils flare.]

Monday, April 17, 2006

Yes, right, exactly so

—Peggy Guggenheim?
—Sorry, she’s not in. May I help you?
—This is John Ferrar Holms.
—Farrar as in Farrar Straus Giroux?
Nein. Ferrar as in Ferrari without the i.
—Holmes as in Sherlock?
Ja, but without the e.
—Sorry, you have the wrong number.
—This isn’t 3530 North Fremont Street?
—The address is right.
—I wonder what could be amiss.
—It’s puzzling. Perhaps you’re in the wrong city.
—Is this Detroit?
—No. It’s Chicago.
Scheiss. I am in the wrong city. No matter. I will be happy to see anyone who happens to be in.
—There are no people in this house. Only voices, mice, and the soft eternal dust. The sunlight comes and the sunlight goes. The shadows multiply here and in the winter all is silent.
—That’s fine. I just need a moment of your time.
—I am just a voice. One might say I am time itself. But anyway what are you selling?
—Memories. Iron-clad memories. Capacious, oiled like a bear trap, repellent, unfathomable.
—That doesn’t sound so good. Can you remember something for me?
—What did Kirkson Davies say about my first girlfriend?
—This was when?
—Before the war.
—Which war?
—The most recent several.
—Well let’s see then. I’ve got it. Yes. He said, didn’t he: “She looks to be a very fertile woman.”
—Yes! My God. You’ve nailed it. And what was her name?
—Zenny? Zenny Bridgehampton-Flores?
—This is incredible. You’re a gemius.
—Thank you! Wait. A what?
—A gemius.
—G-E-M-as in mayonhaisse-I-U-S?
—Correct. It’s almost a genius but not quite. You have to do one more thing to prove yourself. You have to remember what it was I was reading last weekend at the Chelsea Market as I was waiting for my wife to finish haggling with the lobstermonger.
—Why, that’s simple. A magazine for the country-house set. There was a painting of a leaping horse on the cover, or maybe just a hoof. It was oddly comforting. You skimmed several articles. Your eyes landed on a byline. The byline read: “Kirkson Davies.” Incredible. It said “Kirkson Davies is a free-lance writer living in Green Brook, New York. He writes for Avenue, Advertising Age, Tennis, and Penthouse." You were thinking, What a freak.
What a freak. Yes, right, exactly so.
—You were wearing the shorts they issued you on your first day at Yale.
—So I was. With the orange pinstripes.
—You sipped a lemonade and dangled your sunglasses from your mouth, as you “sipped” at one of the ear-handles.
—Great heavens, this is the height of uncanniness.
—I have a confession to make.
—This isn’t a church, but still.
—I was watching you on a closed-circuit television. In fact, I watch you almost every weekend. During the week I watch other people, including Peggy Guggenheim, Guggen Peggyheim, Heimy Peggengu, and Gengy Pegaheimu. I’m a professional watcher, you see. It all started when I was tutoring Sony executives’ daughters in English, back in Tokyo before the war, the most recent several. I bought a pair of binoculars from a pair of longshoremen who were about three feet high. The binoculars were so powerful I could see through clothes, skin, bone, dirt, brick, concrete, stone, and water. I could see the inner folds of the brain, the ocean floor, passengers in an airplane high about Mount Fuji, mountaineers traversing Fuji’s other side, the dark side of the moon, the light side of life.
—Could you see into the past?
—Yes. That is the twist.
—It’s all coming together now.
—Your name is Peggy Heimengugg, isn’t it?
—Alas, yes. Yes it is. And you must be John Ferrar Holms, Holmes without the e.
—Or without the l.
—Don't let's be sad again.
—Let’s not
—Don't let's. [They embrace.]

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Real-life conversation (part two)

—I’m no longer thirsty. Your speech has slaked my thirst.
—Our sink is now a beverage unit. The cold water tap emits coffee. The hot water one delivers milk.
—Is the coffee cold? Is the milk warm?
—You always question. You never just accept the way things are. You should get back on the yoga wagon before it’s too late.
—It’ll never be too late for yoga.
—That’s not what my sources tell me.
—I’ve already said too much.
—They live in Canada and the Republic of SMOGG.
—They send me a newspaper every fortnight chock full of obscure but essential information.
—It’s written in hieroglyphics inscrutable to all but a few former students of Professor Trent O’Brien Yuengling, of East New York, New Jersey.
—East New York is in New Jersey?
—It’s akin to how Kansas City is in Missouri, or Missoura, as the natives call it.
—What about East St. Louis?
—I don’t know anything about East St. Louis.
—What about East Orange?
—I don’t know anything about anything.
—What about Easter Sunday? Are we inviting the Morrisons again next year?
—The Morrisons!
—The Morrisons!
—You hate them. You love them. The Morrisons. Season begins next Wednesday at 8:30 Eastern, 7:30 Central.
—I only heed Mountain Time.
—Mountain Time has been outlawed. Pacific is on probation. You grew up in Hawaii so you keep time by the sound of the waves. How they crashed onto the shore in your youth. Your youth of surf and fresh fruit.
—Not to mention fresh fish and the occasion luau.
—A nascent vegetarian, you objected to the perennial trotting out of a porker with an apple in its mouth.
—My cousin Rocko always got to eat the apple. I always only ever got the snout.
—Dreadful youth in the tropics.
—It helped me develop my psychic powers.
—I knew you were going to say that.
—I knew you were going to say that.
—Repeating what I say doesn’t make you a psychic.
—Repeating what I say doesn’t make you a psychic.
—Oh now stop it.
—Oh now stop it.
—There’s a culture-bound syndrome in Malaysia where the victim is incapable of resisting the temptation to repeat another’s actions.
—What about words?
—I don’t know. I read it in an article.
—Something in your so-called mythical newspaper from Canada and the Republic of SMOGG?
—It’s 3 o’clock. We’ve been talking for several hours already.
—Talking to you is like talking to myself.
—I don’t know whether to understand that as a compliment or an insult.
—Don’t seek to understand. Just accept.
—I can no more accept than the drop of dew can choose the flower it forms on.
—You really should look into re-upping with the yoga. You will achieve a breakthrough. You’re already like a zen master. You will receive vibrations of many colours through your ears, spine, nose, feet, in roughly that order.
—The CD player is broken. It’s been playing this same note for 18 days.
—I don’t hear a thing.
—I turned the volume down. Here.
—I see. Well, it’s a good note. It tells you a lot.
—Is this you talking or the Republic of SMOGG talking?
—Neither. I’m just inhabiting the music right now. I’m not speaking with my conscious mind. I am not a mouthpiece. I am simply investigating the streams of data that the speakers are unleashing.
—Those speakers, by the by, come from a small mom-and-pop factory in Germany. It’s true. It says so on the box.
—You still keep the box.
—Of every appliance, baby.
—You are a mad creative genius and a man worthy of becoming president of the Republic of SMOGG.
—It’s a duty I would not accept lightly.
—You would need to consult with a team of specially assembled advisers from all walks of life.
—My spiritual masters are all dead. They exist on another plane.
—That’s OK, as far as the Republic of SMOGG is concerned.
—I’m relieved. Also, I will require seven servants. One will make my bed. One will lie in it. One will open the curtains. One will draw them. One will wax the floor. One will scuff it. And servant number seven is responsible for alphabetizing my large collection of Beach Boys albums, which I listen to every evening and petulantly scatter upon the parlour floor.
—I have seven people in mind who will serve you well. One is Anna, who comes from the west. Another is Loretta Sabor-Junker, whose parents once ruled Canada. Third is Joyce James, a beer enthusiast who used to direct music videos. Numero cuatro is Billy Manchego, who I believe you know from your days as sous-chef at Manchego Brothers on East 19th Street. The fifth person doesn’t have a name. She’s a former systems analyst with pearl-coloured hair. Number six is your brother, Jacob. And last but not least is Betsy Wellington-Sousa, wife of Stefano Sousa. And there you have it.
—That sounds lovely. Have the transcript of this talk sent to my office. I’ll see you next year.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Real-life conversation (part one)

—It’s Feb Deux in the oh-six, baby.
—Did I ask for the date?
—Did you ask me for a date? I’m startled and flattered, in roughly that order.
—Let’s go see that movie tonight. The one with the yoga instructor.
—Your yoga instructor or mine?
—I don’t have one. I don’t do any yoga anymore, remember? I got tired of taking my mat everywhere I went. It became a professional liability. I think the perpetual yoga matting was a reason I got fired at the Institute.
—You weren’t happy there anyway. You would always complain. And what it did to your breath, skin, mind, soul.
—In roughly that order.
—You were a zombie. You would come home and play the harpsichord and not talk to me. Did you strategically forget to remember this? You would drink scotch and stare at the dog. I wasn’t attractive to you anymore. You accused me of bearing another man’s child.
—Yes. The thing was, I didn’t know a Toby. Neither did you.
—In my mind, Toby was the editor of a ladies’ undergarment trade journal, a roguish sort who always got his way.
—I was powerless to resist.
—It was the way his gel-slicked pompadour captured the rays of a dying sun.
—It was the way his eyes seemed to draw one in.
—Music could be heard every time he walked into a room.
—Toby. Toby the psychic. Toby the thaumaturge. Toby the rebel leader.
—He wore a loincloth to the office. He came from a family of Thibetan nomads.
—He could levitate entire bodies of water. His followers would quickly duck under the floating H20, scamper to the other side. In his later years, what they call “after years” in certain books of yore, his powers waned a touch. Some of his devotees got a bit wet when the agua came crashing down.
—Nothing too serious, though.
—No. He was well-liked by all. Though he was a rogue. And though he impregnated every woman he so much as glanced at. His eyes.
—Supernaturally potent.
—I’m getting a drink. Do you want one?
—From the fridge? There’s nothing in the fridge.
—Oh? Nothing, really?
—We no longer have a fridge. They confiscated it last week, after the blackout.
—What blackout?
—You were sleeping. Actually, you had blacked out.
—After a night of drinking with Toby, I expect.
—I think you OD’d on frog’s legs. It’s a nasty meal. I don’t see why you persist.
—It’s the way my parents brought me up. But I can see how, in this country, such tastes could be considered aberrant, even dangerous, by the powers that be.
—I’m one of the powers that be now, in case you didn’t know.
—That’s awesome. Can you make a fridge appear, full of beverages and week-old Chinese takeout.
—That can be arranged, yes.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Feisty McArgumentative Pays a Visit to Moss

—Who are you?
—I’m Feisty McArgumentative, always ready to wade into linguistic fisticuffs. I am your embarrassment and your pride and your defender. I have your best interests in mind.
—That’s nice, Feisty. Thanks for swinging by.
—Swinging by nuttin’. I’m a permanent resident of your head. I’m part of your mental hardware. Mostly I’m fast asleep but feel free to call on me whenever you need my services.
—I think I’m all set for the moment, Feisty.
—Are you sure?
—Nothing bugging you right now? Unfair billing? Yelled at by porters? Lost your keys? Object to a magazine article? I can write in a letter to the editor that will curl your chest hairs and turn your eyelashes blonde.
—There was a piece last week, actually, that kind of annoyed me.
—Let me at it!
—It was about the fate of the letterpress in the age of computing.
—It took an overly luddite posish. My feeling is, the letterpress can still be a viable source of inspiration and income, given proper exposure.
—So I was thinking, Mr. McArgumentative—or Feisty, can I call you Feisty?—I was thinking this might be something you could help me with. A letter to the editor. What do you say? A knockout punch—elegant and potent and impeccably reasoned.
—Yes, well, it sounds like something you need to work out with a professional.
—You mean a therapist?
—Someone like that, yes. I think that would be best.
—Can you give me a referral?
—There is a rather good Brentian analyst on West 14th, just by the Victual Building. She’s rather expensive, though I daresay she’s worth it. How are the funds these days?
—Never been better. Just scraping by. Story of my life.
—Tell it to this Brentian. She’ll screw your head back on the right way. You’ll come out smelling like a rose.
—Ah, Feisty. This is terrific.
—Famous last words.

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