I HAVE HELP
Writing these columns, you know. No one Thesaurus-cribbing non-original thinker could produce alone this massive volume of malarkey. Seven and a half years worth of CURIOUS CITY, nearly two years of NOTEWORTHY, more than 400 columns total. (But I’m a novice compared to Laughing Matters’ Jack Neworth, heading towards 700.)
My wife, God bless her, thinks I’m Mark Twain. Delusional. My moustache is not nearly so fabulous, my hair too tame and I don’t own a single white suit. And where’s the 12,000 sq ft, 25-room mansion in Hartford, I ask? On the other hand, I think we’ll both take our small condo six blocks from the beach over cold Connecticut winters.
But when she found out Mrs. Clemens edited all his writing, that was a picture she liked. Everyone needs an editor, even MT. Fortunately, my wife’s really good at it. And fortunately, convincing but gentle enough to not destroy the marriage in the process. My usual response is, “I’ll think about it… I’ll consider that,” and then more often than not I take her advice. I do get the final say, and she gets high praise for never, ever looking at it in print or online and saying — you didn’t change it…
TWAIN USED TO READ TO HIS KIDS
What he had written, and let them chime in too. That was smart. I’m smart too and I usually send a copy to my daughter, who almost always praises the work. And then lets me know if I’ve blown it anywhere. With a big age difference, she is much more tuned into modern mores, while I am working just to keep my dinosaur bones and brain out of the peat bog. She’s especially useful on the NOTEWORTHY music column, since she is a dadgum paid, working expert. I think American rock and roll 1955-75 may be the only slot where I know more than she does (because I lived it), but she’s gaining ground there too.
I think too much about Mark Twain. It’s crazy and frustrating to aspire to be even a shadow of the writer he was. He built his reputation on satire, and humor is the hardest thing you can attempt on the written page. Just ask Neworth. 700 columns, and even his book reviews and sports columns have a dash of humor to them. That takes a lot out of you. It’s why no one ever sees Jack. He has to save his strength. And besides, you wouldn’t want to hang out with him. He’s too grumpy. Comedians are usually so neurotic they can barely breathe.
Was a favorite pastime of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Of all his famous pithy, funny lines, one of the most quoted is, “Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed regularly and for the same reason.” Unfortunately, he never said or wrote that. But might have wished he had. It’s so much his style he often gets the credit. He did write something much of our nation seems to have forgotten: “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”
Mark Twain rarely called a politician out by name. Didn’t have to, once he became famous, I suppose. He probably had no complaints with how Hartford was being run. I would imagine no politician there dared to cross him. But when he made those trademark cutting remarks I’ll bet any pol who thought people might apply it to them made themselves scarce. Like our late great Daily Press columnist Bill Bauer, he probably thought, when he looked around at continuing corruption and incompetence, that what he wrote didn’t make a difference. But when you make people think, and bring attention to things they may not have been aware of, and give them a perspective they may not otherwise get, I feel that’s important and in the long run does make a difference.
Jack Neworth is not really grumpy. Probably not even neurotic, though he is a bit anxious. That was an attempt at that thing I mentioned that is so tricky, humor on the printed page. If you think his columns are humorous, you should chat with him on the phone. Henny and Rodney got nothin’ on Jack.
QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK:
If you’ve lived in Santa Monica a while, do you think the quality of life has gotten better in the last two years? Five years? Ten years? Based on what you see around you, construction and plans for the future, do you think it’s a good direction? Good or bad, approve or disapprove, who do feel is responsible?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“It is not only for what we do that we are held responsible, but also for what we do not do.”
“Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.” (when do I get to that last stage, Sam?)
— Molière (maybe)
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com