Pigeonholed, a musician tries to evolve

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Photo by Vlah Dumitru on Unsplash

At first Lou Reed admired Visconti; later, he loved him. Only Visconti could give him the courage to challenge La Scala’s oppressive and conservative approach to bel canto, an approach he would later eviscerate, to his regret, in his 1973 surprise hit, “Walk on the Wild Side.”

Callas, though still obsessed with Aristo, acted like a giggly teenager in Reed’s company. This infatuation was not unnoticed by Onassis, and Lou was discreetly asked to leave the Christina. …


As long as there was Tab Cola, the decade wasn’t over.

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You’re beautiful to me.

I can still hear the jingle in my head.

“Tab, Tab Cola, what a beautiful drink. Tab, Tab Cola, for beautiful people. Tab, you’re beautiful to me. Real cola taste, just one calorie.”

In the commercial, a beautiful bikini-clad woman walks towards camera from the water, wet from the sea but somehow holding a can of… Tab. Apparently, if you drink Tab, one calorie Tab, you will look like her or I suppose the male equivalent. “Promise, large promise,” said Samuel Johnson, “is the soul of an advertisement.” Becoming beautiful because of a soda pop is a large promise.

In…


When snowflakes fall in Buffalo, so do prices at Anderson’s Custard.

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The crème de la custard. Credit: Anderson’s.

When I was visiting my family in Buffalo this March, I stopped by Anderson’s Custard to grab a cone—a chocolate-vanilla twist, to be specific. For someone who no longer lives in the area, it is a difficult place to offhandedly drive by. Not only do they serve an excellent roast beef-on-weck sandwich, but their frozen custard is exceptional. Creamy and flavorful, it comes in a variety of flavors, some of which are rotated in and out, so it’s always worth stopping by to see if black raspberry is on the menu that day.

When I went to pay for my…


In 2020, the grizzly lifestyle is more appealing than ever.

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Holly, role model and resident of Katmai National Park, Alaska. Photo: National Park Service.

There’s nothing wrong with being a human, but other species have a better lifestyle. Like Ursus horribilis, the grizzly bear, whose concentration on eating and sleeping give us much to envy and even aspire to. Especially the bears of Katmai National Park in Alaska.

The biggest and baddest of the bunch live near the Brooks River, which come summer is so chock full of organic wild salmon that it puts Whole Foods to shame. You can’t literally walk across the backs of fish to cross the river, but you could walk across the backs of the bears gorging on them.


Who can resist a church pie sale?

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Pump the brakes.

There are moments in life that leave you flabbergasted at your ridiculous good fortune.

Finding a twenty in an old pair of pants.

Reading Where the Wild Things Are to your kid for the first, or hundredth, time.

The sound of hard rain on an awning, as you sit underneath it.

Goodies, for sure. But they pale to this one: driving down a small town Main Street and seeing a pie sale sign in front of a church. I think I almost got rear-ended as I stomped on the brakes and careened across the road into the parking lot.

The…


The Better Business Bureau’s “Do’s and Don’ts in Advertising Copy” Binder

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Every rule and regulation you needed to break, updated yearly.

No one considers the 1950’s a golden age in advertising, except perhaps for the salaries (if you were the right gender, religion, and color to work in the industry). TV was new and money flooded into agencies trying to reach Americans glued to the three networks.

The real creative revolution began in the 1960s. All the rules were broken.

I know because I have the rulebook.

When one of the big agencies I used to work for was moving offices, lots of decades-old artifacts ended up in the trash…


A British TV show has a fix for everything.

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Steve Fletcher (clocks), Will Kirk (cabinets), Kirsten Ramsay (ceramics), Jay Blades (host, furniture), Lucia Scalisi (paintings). Photo credit: Weald & Downland Living Museum

It’s the office we’d all like to go to. In an historic, thatched-roof barn in bucolic West Sussex, England, a team of expert restorers fixes beloved family heirlooms. Is their work appreciated? Typically, the customers burst into tears when they see the restorations.

The sounds of a music box, unheard for decades, recalls time spent with a grandmother as a child.

A precious antique vase, passed through five generations, accidentally smashed into a dozen pieces, is fitted together as good — or better — than before.

A teddy bear, a comforting companion through a difficult childhood, is given back its…


There’s nothing like a new robe.

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Mom’s robe, circa 1973, Buffalo, NY.

Some things are sacred to a man.

His brand of potato chips. His James Brown Live at the Apollo LP. The inviolability of his shaving razor. And, to be protected at any cost, his robe.

My flannel robe had been under attack by my wife for over a decade, possibly two. I could never really understand why. It was a “black watch” tartan pattern, soft as a misty day in the Scottish highlands, and I laundered it frequently, at least twice a year.

Actually, my wife had one main issue with it. The sleeves tended to droop down into my…


In my family, the paranormal is normal.

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My grandfather, Bengt Paul, was a graphologist, read the future in cards, and practiced automatic handwriting. He also liked an expensive cigar.

Do you believe in ghosts? I don’t. But I admire the people who make a living in paranormal professions. My grandfather dabbled in them.

This might explain my love for any show about ghosts or aliens, or alien ghosts. I will also watch any program about Alaska or ancient Egypt. Recently there was documentary series called “Alaska Haunting” about ghostly visitations. Had they discovered a pharaoh’s tomb on the Chilkoot Trail it would have hit the trifecta for me.

And when I say documentary series, that’s how the show is listed. But Ken Burns isn’t shooting it. …


With apologies to James Lord.

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I am a huge fan of the late James Lord.

Frederick P. Odell

A swimming champion from Princeton, Freddy was extraordinarily attractive to men and women alike. He himself was attracted to anything that smelled of chlorine, and thus passed much of his time with swimmers and later in life, laundresses.

Once on a lark Freddy dog-paddled around the Ile de la Cité, scandalizing not only his wealthy Philadelphia family, but the Philadelphia ornithological community as well, of which he was a prominent member. Roger Tory Peterson tried to intervene and bring Odell back into the Pennsylvania birding fold, but apparently the wound was too great.

It was…

Jim Nolan

Jim’s writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Funny Times, HumorOutcasts.com, McSweeneys Internet Tendency, and on WBFO public radio.

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