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They have better beds on the A ward.

S.F. 2001 Chinese New Year Parade

February 10th, 2001

Stomach and All
Wet outside, thunder and rain last night, rain this morning when I went grocery shopping and just beginning to break up when I had breakfast at the cafe down near Lake Merritt. It's been clear since mid morning, but I decided to crawl back into bed and finish L.A. Confidential. Haven't done that in some time, crawl into bed and read. Fuzz out and let the hours flow by. I did that all the time, once, especially in the evenings, knock a book like L.A. Confidential back in one sitting.

I read The Black Dahlia last week, another James Ellroy book published three years before L.A. Confidential, thinking at the time about the emotional energy that was obviously invested in the characters. L.A. Confidential doesn't have some of the really intense imagery of The Black Dahlia - I'm thinking of the trip the protagonist takes to Ensenada, a weird little juant into the mouth, if not the bowels, of hell - but L.A. Confidential rides the same territory and is an interesting parallel to the movie. Mr. Ellroy's characters do seem to be driven by meanie demons, though, big meanie demons.

Well, none of it is here nor there. Enjoyed the movie, enjoyed the book. I see why they wrote the movie script without the plot reference to the obvious Walt Disney character, as in old Walt himself. "Moochie Mouse"? OK. Why not? I go back to the energy - read obsession - the writer has infused into the characters, energy I myself can't seem to muster on any subject. Hi, ho. I'll put off reading Ellroy's The Big Nowhere until I have some distance. See if it's any different. And maybe put this guy on my 100 Books list which I have not modified, in looking at it, in six months. I'm up to something like 72 rather than the full 100. I look over at my book shelves, still out of order, stacks and piles, and think: "oh, well". "Oh, well."

I suspect this will not be posted until Sunday. I have some sort of low SF Chinese New Year Parade level stomach thing going, something I picked up last Thursday or Friday. Or today. Whatever. I looked at the TV schedule and see they're running Hello Dolly followed by Rhapsody in Blue later this evening. I am not a Hello Dolly fan or a Barbara Streisand fan, but I would watch Rhapsody in Blue on every possible occasion, from my days as a teenager in New York, to maybe my early thirties when they stopped running the film on television. Shot in black and white, a real 50's Hollywood musical with a super soft never see a hint of an Ellroy edge plot and great music.

Some of Gershwin's contemporaries are in it (or were in it), Oscar Levant, whom I've always admired, and Paul Whiteman among them. Whiteman I seem to recall was called the Kind of Jazz in the 20's, although (having watched the ten part PBS Jazz series that finished up recently), this was an early racist thing. Louis Armstrong was the King of Jazz. And the Prince and the Count and the Knight, all of them except the Duke, who's name was Ellington. Still, Whiteman understood and readily admitted this to be true and he was the man who used his muscle to perform Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue for the first time at the Aeolean Hall in New York City. I have not seen it in decades, again, a wet dream of my youth and with the next paragraph I'll tell us all how it turned out.

I said the plot was soft, ever so soft. You had the feeling they'd have skipped the messiness of Gershwin's death at the age of 38 from a brain tumor altogether if there'd been any way to arrange it. The music is still wonderful, the story, no matter how soft, of making it in New York City as a song writer, the voice of an age and a generation. I lived near New York City in the mid fifties and the Broadway culture was still going full blast, rock and roll having just arrived, the new kid on the block, and movies such as Rhapsody In Blue were part of my education of what it might mean to live a certain kind of life in a certain kind of New York culture, great penthouse parties, two grand pianos, Gershwin and Levant and whomever playing into the early morning light. Porgy and Bess was my introduction to opera, one of the great wonderful musical achievements, and opera led me to through my high school and college years until I rediscovered rock and roll and the Beatles.

Ah, well. Nice movie. Better watched as a youngster, no need to watch it again for a very long while. Stayed up late to see it, queasy stomach and all.

The photographs were taken at the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade this year. The quote is by Karen Horney.