Saturday, March 29, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part Sixty-Four: like the beat beat beat of the tom-tom...

Arnold Schnabel -- poet, brakeman and possible saint -- continues his Casanova Award-winning memoir.

The time and place: 1963; an August evening in the quaint seaside resort of Cape May NJ; a gathering of some of the leading lights of the entertainment and literary worlds on the second-floor porch of the charming Biddle residence...

(Go here to review our previous chapter.)

Fortunately Elektra got up voluntarily from my lap soon after — she had to go to the ladies’ room — and so I’m happy to report that I am not yet a paraplegic.

I stretched out my legs and wiggled my toes in my Keds.

Sammy had finished his “new dawn new day” song and now he asked Frank if he would like to sing another one. Frank said sure, they exchanged a few more words, Sammy strummed a few introductory chords, Frank cleared his throat, coughed gently, tapped his cigarette ash into a nearby standing ashtray, and sang:
Like the beat beat beat of the tom-tom
When the jungle shadows fall
Like the tick tick tock of the stately clock
As it stands against the wall…
“Why are you torturing me?” whispered Miss Evans in my ear.

“Pardon me?”
Night and day, you are the one
Only you beneath the moon or under the sun
“Torturing me. Sitting here like that, stretching your legs like some great panther.”

Night and day, you are the one
Only you beneath the moon or under the sun
“Showing off your muscular legs.”

She ran her hand over my right thigh. I unstretched my legs, and tried to unflex their muscles as best I could.
Whether near to me, or far
Its no matter darling where you are
I think of you, day and night
Larry had put away the hashish pipe, and had lit up another fine-smelling cigar. He was ostensibly watching Frank sing, but I noticed him looking at Miss Evans and me out of the corner of his right eye.
Night and day, why is it so
That this longing for you follows wherever I go
“Such sweet torture,” said Miss Evans into my ear.

I made bold enough to lift her hand away and I dropped it on her lap.
In the roaring traffic’s boom
In the silence of my lonely room
I think of you
I noticed Steve staring at us wide-eyed, and even Miss Rathbone was observing our shenanigans from over the crest of her regal nose.
Day and night, night and day
Under the hide of me
I stood up, swaying slightly, from the drugs, from the alcohol, from sitting too long with Elektra on my lap, from everything.
There’s an oh such a hungry yearning
burning inside of me
“Where are you going?” said Miss Evans.
And this torment won’t be through
Until you let me spend my life making love to you
“I want a drink of water,” I said.
Day and night, night and day
“I want one, too,” she said, and she too stood up. 
I went over to the screen door, opened it and went through, and Miss Evans was right behind me.

I made it out to the hall and I was heading for the staircase when Miss Evans grabbed my arm.

She hauled herself in to me.

“Don’t think I didn’t see you looking at me,” she said.

It’s true, I had been shooting her the odd glance, but only in the way one would keep an eye on a large cat known for sudden attacks of hysteria.

“Um,” I said.

“I know your type,” she said. “You like to use your power over women.”

“Pardon me?”

She looked to her left, saw a door. Without letting go of my arm she reached over with her other hand and opened the door. The room inside was unlit. She pulled me into it, swinging me around as she did.

Still without letting go of my arm she reached behind her and closed the door.

Frank and Sammy had started on “Old Man River”, and I could hear Frank singing:
Tote that barge, you gotta heft that bale
Once again Miss Evans drew herself close to me, and now she gripped my other upper arm with her other hand (thus gripping both my arms, in case you’re trying to keep track).

Some faint light came in from the porch. Her face was like an enormous close-up from some old black-and-white movie, the part where the heroine says something extremely dramatic.

“You’re like Howard Roark, aren’t you?” she said.

“Who’s Howard Roark?”

“The protagonist of The Fountainhead. But that’s right, you haven’t read it.”

“I did see the movie,” I offered.

“Howard Roark is the Gary Cooper part,” she said.

“You must be kidding,” I said.

“False modesty will get you nowhere with me.”

“I assure you my modesty is warranted,” I said.

“Come to my room tonight.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said.

“You find me unattractive?”


“Is it because of Elektra?”

“Uh, yes,” I said.

“You don’t sound so sure. Are you sure that’s the only reason?”

“No,” I admitted. “It’s not the only reason.”

“Then what’s the other reason.”

“Oh, nothing.”

“Tell me.”

“I’d prefer not to.”

“Tell me.”

Her long red nails bit into my biceps, like two small but powerful ferrets.

“Um —”

“Tell me!” she said.

“You terrify me,” I said.

Finally, she let go of my arms. She straightened my polo shirt sleeves. She looked away, and then looked back to me, up into my eyes.

“You wicked man,” she said. “You wicked, wicked man.”

(Go here for our next steamy chapter. And kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for an up-to-date listing of links to all other extant episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, a Shel Talmy Production.)

And now a word from the Shangri-Las:

Thursday, March 27, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Fifty-Eight: happiness is a warm gun

Master novelist Larry Winchester returns us once again to those thrilling days of yesteryear, September 1969 to be exact.

Woodstock, the Moon landing and the Manson murders have all gone down the previous summer, while “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies continues its relentless climb to the top of the pop charts.

It is not quite midnight, not too far from a town called Disdain...

Grupler was determined to bring matters to a head, and tonight if possible.

Caution and planning and chess-like mind games were all well and good in their place but when it came right down to it what Grupler and Marlene really loved was action, violent brutal action.

Certainly they loved money, but they loved it all the more through getting it by intrigue and treachery and murder, and no sooner would they make a big score than they would blow it on fine hotels, caviar, cocaine, champagne, high-stakes gambling and squalid affairs with beautiful languid young persons found sipping absinthe and smoking Silk Cuts in some chic café or lounging on some financially if not socially exclusive beach; and oh how many of these lovely young creatures would soon after be found washed up liked used condoms on that beach at dawn? Thus sated and refreshed, blood money spent, Grupler and Marlene would set out gleefully and hungrily on the plunder trail again.

They had been trailing the Ridpaths for two weeks now, watching, listening, biding their time, waiting for the propitious moment, but now they had wearied of all that. And besides, too many players were crowding the stage. The two CIA men -- Philips and Adams -- had been trailing Grupler and Marlene since San Francisco; Grupler was fairly sure Philips and Adams would not make a move until they thought they were sure exactly what he and Marlene were up to; but he was not quite so sure about this nice new couple, these “Baxters”.

No matter, the time for sophistication was over. It was time for mayhem. They would do some killing.

Hans and Marlene had parked the Range Rover behind a big barrel-cactus on a rise overlooking Paco’s Quonset hut and its little private cemetery of disemboweled cars. When they heard the Baxters’ car approaching they hid behind some rabbitbrush and watched as the Baxters’ car stopped and the young couple got out and came slowly up the hill, following the tracks of the Range Rover.

Mr. and Mrs. Baxter each had a pistol in hand.

So did Grupler and Marlene.

The coyotes started up their howling with the first shots and they were howling still as Grupler examined the dead couple’s credentials by the light of his penlight.

Oh ho, well: Lt. George Schotzbarger and Lt. Myreka Putcheko, agents of Q Section, friend Ridpath’s old outfit.

Grupler’s nostrils flared with pleasure at the smell of fresh blood in the pristine desert air and he felt full of life.

Then there was another sound and Hans and Marlene turned and saw Philips and Adams’s dirt bikes sputtering up the road down below.

Hans flicked off the light.

“Let’s use the dead ones’ pistols,” he said.

“This is fun,” said Marlene. It was true, for all Grupler’s faults she loved him in moments like this.

They snatched up the Baxters’ pistols and scurried back behind the bushes.

Philips and Adams stopped their bikes by the Baxters’ car. They looked up the hill and saw what looked like two dead bodies.

“All right,” said Philips, “let’s get to the bottom of this.”

“Right,” said Adams, drawing out his pistol and racking the slide.

“No more kid gloves.”

They had no sooner realized that the two people they found lying on the hill were the Baxters and that they were indeed dead than they were dead themselves.

Grupler and Marlene put their own pistols into the dead hands of Philips and Adams and then went back and put the Baxters’ pistols into the Baxters’ hands. Then they gathered up their spent cartridge casings and scattered them playfully about the bodies.

“So sad,” said Grupler. “A regrettable instance of U.S. government agencies not working fully in concert.”

Hans and Marlene kept Philips’ and Adams’s guns and ammunition, and started down the hill on foot toward Paco’s house.

The coyotes had never stopped howling, and they didn't stop howling now.


(Click here for our next thrilling chapter. And kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for an up-to-date listing of all other extant episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™.)

And now some music from Ennio Morricone:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part Sixty-Three: never a dull moment for young Arnold

The time: a sultry August night in that forgotten year of 1963.

The place: the screened second-storey porch of the Biddle residence, a large Victorian house (built by Frank Furness) in the quaint seaside resort of Cape May, NJ.

Arnold Schnabel, the author of these K-Mart Award-shortlisted memoirs -- that brakeman, madman and poet -- sits at one end of the porch glider, with his inamorata Elektra on his lap. Squeezed in to Arnold's right is the novelist Gertrude Evans; next to her sits Arnold's friend Steve; and by Steve's side sits his date, the artist Charlotte Rathbone.

Arnold has just had (unbeknownst to the other guests at the party) yet another of his occasional conversations with his very personal lord and saviour...

Now however I had a new problem, viz., my right leg had fallen asleep and the other one was heading there. And as much as I marveled at the impossibility made real of a young and beautiful woman actually sitting in my lap, the bald fact was that Elektra, although a small woman, was still nonetheless cutting off the circulation in both my legs.

Elektra and Larry had started talking about another one of this Godard’s movies, I didn’t catch the title.

I wanted just to lift her gently up off my lap, but of course I was too shy to do so, or to say anything. I might mention here that perhaps one cause of my paralysis of will was the fact that Larry had taken out a small porcelain pipe and filled it with what he said was hashish, and that I had partaken of it.

The pipe made its rounds and eventually Elektra handed it to me again, Larry lighted me up with an expensive-looking silvery butane lighter and I duly dragged away, wondering if it were possible to get gangrene from having a girl sit on your lap too long.

What would it be like if I had to have my legs amputated?

On the plus side I wouldn’t have to go anywhere.

On the negative side I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere, except in a wheel chair.

All in all therefore it seemed like a good idea to lift Elektra up, and after passing the pipe along to Larry I was gearing myself up to do this when I felt something on the side of my leg. At first I thought it was a bug, but looking down I saw that the fingers of Miss Evans’s hand were caressing my thigh. I looked up at her face, but she was looking right past me, at Larry, apparently following the conversation he was having with Elektra. Looking past her I saw with some relief that Jesus had now transmogrified back into good old Steve, who suddenly said to me, “I don’t like foreign movies! Do you, Arnold?”

“I never really thought about it,” I said. And why would I have, since except for the odd Godzilla movie and some Hercules movies with Steve Reeves, and the occasional English Fankenstein or Dracula movie, I’ve hardly ever seen a foreign movie.

“You’re such a philistine, Steve” said Miss Evans, who was sucking on the hashish pipe now.

“I am not!” said Steve. “I just don’t like to read while I’m watching a movie. Is that so horrible?”

“You have no culture,” said Miss Evans, now blatantly caressing the underside of my thigh with at least four of her red-tipped fingers. The funny thing was that I could barely feel her fingers because my thigh was asleep. “What about Ingmar Bergman?” she said.
“He’s one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.”

“Oh my God,” said Steve, grabbing the pipe out of her hand, “I saw one of his movies once. It was the dreariest thing I’d ever seen. I wanted to kill myself after it. Instead I just had a cocktail and then I was fine.”

“You’re an idiot, Steve,” said Miss Evans.

“You’re mean,” he said sucking away on the pipe. “Charlotte,” he turned to Miss Rathbone, who was vaguely staring at Sammy, who was singing a song about a new dawn and a new day. “Did you hear what she said?”

“What?” said Miss Rathbone.

“Gertrude says I have no class.”

“I never said that,” said Miss Evans. I could see that she was fully gripping the underside of my thigh now, but my leg was so numb it was like looking at someone else’s leg.

Larry and Elektra were still holding their own conversation through all this, still talking about French movies.

“At least I’m not a pseudo-intellectual,” said Steve.

“Steve,” said Miss Rathbone, “you’re not any sort of intellectual.”

“Well, that’s true,” said Steve. “And look at your hand, missy,” he said to Miss Evans, “all over or should I say under Arnold’s leg.”

“What?” she said. She looked down and saw her hand attached to my leg like a starving leech. “Oh.” She let go. “Sorry," she said to me, "I was not aware.”

Elektra twisted on my lap.

“What’s going on?” she said.

“Gertrude was caressing Arnold’s leg,” said Steve.

“I was not,” said Miss Evans.

“Liar,” he said.

Elektra simply took the hashish pipe from Steve, turned back to Larry and continued her interrupted conversation as Larry lighted her up with his lighter.

Sammy sang his song.

“I love this song!” said Steve. “Sing it, Sammy!”

I listened to Sammy sing.
And this old world
is a new world
and a bold world for me
Both my legs were more or less completely numb now, my brain a little less so.

(Click here for our next thrilling chapter. Accompanying photo by the great Leo Fuchs. Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for an up-to-date listing of links to other exciting episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, soon to be a major television event in fourteen episodes, brought to you by Masterpiece Theatre in association with The National Endowment for the Arts, Pep Boys, and Pall Mall Cigarettes.)

And now, from Jean-Luc Godard's
Vivre sa vie:

Monday, March 24, 2008

A very special holiday rebroadcast

Phil Silvers as "Sgt. Bilko"

It is with great pleasure and laziness that we present to you a beloved Arnold Schnabel poem first published here on April 10th of last year and before that printed only once, in the
Olney Times of April 28, 1962, during that creatively rich period leading up to the poet's complete mental breakdown in January of the following year.

Commenting on this sonnet Harold Bloom wrote, "It makes me almost wish not so much that I could be a Catholic, but that I could be a fallen Catholic."

"The Day After Easter"

The day after Easter, and I am still alive,
And all those entrusted to my care have survived as well;
I walk home longing for leftover ham, with chive,
Through streets which if not Heaven then are not Hell.
From Fern Rock Station to Nedro and B
Is a half hour's walk, but I prefer it to the bus;
This is my time to think, to feel, to merely be,
Whilst ignoring not to tip my hat to those of us
Who live in this fair land that men call Olney;
And perhaps to pick up some treat for Mother,
A coffee cake at Fink's, or maybe a stop at the Colney
Deli, to purchase some fresh wurst or other.
The evening gently awaits before our '51 Philco:
Tonight will be a good one, with my dear friend Sgt. Bilko.

(For links to other Arnold Schnabel poems and to his sprawling memoir Railroad Train to Heaven, kindly check the right hand column of this page.)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Fifty-Seven: Daphne expands her mind

Larry Winchester now returns us to the quaint Quonset hut of the brujo Paco, to which our heroes have gone to partake of the ancient and sacred peyote ceremony.

(Click here for our preceding episode.)

A night in early September, 1969, on a Native American reservation a dozen miles away from a Town Called Disdain...

To combat the dehydration from all the vomiting Paco had served room-temperature Tang in Archie & Veronica jelly glasses. Everyone except Daphne had had to go outside and throw up at least once. Daphne hadn’t felt sick at all, but she was beginning to get just the teeniest bit bored. Paco had been quite monotonously chanting now for what seemed like ages, and with no end in sight.

The only interior light came from the TV set, which Paco had left on with the sound off, and everyone sat on the floor in a circle near the middle of the one large room that comprised Paco’s little corrugated steel house.

The floor was covered with Indian throw-rugs from the Juarez factory, and the hut was actually quite cozy with its piles of folded-up blankets and overflowing milk-crates of Indian artifacts, its smokestained tapestries covering the walls, and its comforting smell of tobacco and marijuana, whiskey and wool. Paco had opened the windows and drawn open his curtains, in order, so he said, to let in the great spirit of the universe or some such. The night air was cool, so everyone had kept their coats on. Paco, oblivious to the elements, still wore only his t-shirt and boxer shorts, and he chanted just blithely away:

“Hey ya heya, hey ya heya, hey ya heya,” et cetera, et cetera and ad what one only hoped would not be infinitum.

And, oh, yes, by the way it’s true she was buzzed, definitely buzzed and getting more so by the second. But if only something would happen besides this endless tortuous chanting.

Couldn’t everyone see that they were wasting precious moments of their lives in this monotony?

The Schaefer Award Theatre was just coming on and the movie was On the Waterfront.

Well, good, she could always watch the movie if nothing else.

Paco’s throat felt a little tender after all that Chinese whiskey* he’d drunk the last few days, and besides, he felt like watching On the Waterfront, which he hadn’t seen in years.

“One of you sing now,” he said.

Oh, God, thought Daphne. India redux.**

“Don’t look at me,” she said.

“Lady Who Dances don’t have to sing,” said Paco.

“Well, hallelujah,” said Daphne. “You’re my kind of medicine man, Paco.”

“’Ere,” said Derek, “no offense, Chief, but why don’t Lady Who Dances gotta sing?”

Paco fixed Derek with his best brujo stare, but to give the English kid his due, he didn’t seem fazed none too much.

“I mean, you know, why the fuck not, that’s all I wanta know, Chief. Just curious.”

“Lady Who Dances don’t have to sing because she is a song,” said Paco.

Derek let this sink in for a moment. He stared at Paco for a couple more moments, just to make sure the geezer wasn’t taking the piss. Then he stared at the lovely Daphne for a moment, two moments, and a long soul-stirring third.

Turning back to Paco he said:

“All right, Chief. I’ll buy that.”

“You sing, English man.”

“All right, Chief. Don’t mind if I do.”

Dick and Harvey and Enid all breathed a sigh of relief. Not that they were that anxious to hear Derek sing. They just didn’t want to have to sing themselves.

Derek reached over to the couch where he had laid his guitar and brought it down. It was a maple ‘63 Gibson Hummingbird with a Cherry Sunburst finish and a Mr. Natural decal.

“What should I sing, Chief? I mean, like do I gotta sing an Indian kinda song. You know, the old hey-ya hey-ya bit?”

“No. Sing your kinda song. Peyotito wanta hear song from your heart.”

“All righty.”

Derek turned a tuning key and plucked a string.

“’Ere’s a little like preview from a new concept album I’m workin’ on. The other blokes in the band think it’s a bollocksy idea so I’m ‘opin’ to put it out as me first solo album. I’m gonna call the album Classics Illustrated."

Daphne tapped Dick’s arm and made a gesture as if she were bringing a cigarette to her mouth and taking a puff. Dick reached into his inside pea coat pocket and took out his case.

“The concept is,” said Derek, “a whole album full o’ songs inspired by the great works o’ world literature. Like I got one called “Me Name is “Amlet, An’ I Don’t Know What the Fuck to Do”. Got another one based on Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, called “Call Me Prince Myshkin, Call Me the Fuckin’ Idiot”. And so on. Bleak ‘Ouse, by Charles Dickens:

The world is a Bleak ‘ouse
a fuckin’ Bleak ‘Ouse
oh ya know it’s just a Bleak ‘Ouse --

he sang, trillingly.

“And I got another Dickens one in there, from Great Expectations:

Miss ‘Avisham,
Miss ‘Avisham --
Miss ‘Avisham, in your tattered
wedding gown
what lays upon the dusty ground,
dear Miss ‘Avisham,
might I ‘ave a bite
of your weddin’ cake tonight?


* See Episode Seven for explication of "Chinese whiskey".
** See Episode Forty-Four.

(Click here for our next fabulous chapter. And hie thee hence to the right hand side of this page for an up-to-date listing of links to all other known chapters of A Town Called Disdain™, a Larry Winchester/Desilu Production.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part Sixty-Two: Arnold gets yet more sage advice from the big guy

In our previous episode of these CVS Award-nominated memoirs, our hero Arnold Schnabel met up with that other towering giant, the film-maker, novelist and all-around visionary Larry Winchester.

A warm night in August, 1963. The second-floor porch of the Biddle residence in scenic Cape May, New Jersey...

Fortunately Larry and Elektra began to talk, about Paris; I say fortunately because all I could think about was my erection, pressing up against Elektra’s warm buttocks. It amazed me that she went on blithely talking about Parisian streets and cafés and film-makers and movies and books and writers I had never heard of as all the while this thing with its own mind pulsed up against her.

I realized that I had to do something to detumesce this annoying organ, and so I deliberately tried to think of the most unexciting things imaginable. I cast my mind back to the many dull sermons I had stood through as an usher at St. Helena’s: old Father Peck’s mumbling endless rambles, young Father Murray’s tediously exuberant dithyrambs, Bishop Graham’s somniferent basso dronings, but even after five minutes of this retrospective feast of boredom my erection still pulsed proudly and defiantly.

“Hey, pal, don’t worry about it,” said that familiar voice.

I looked over Elektra’s shoulder, and there — where Steve had been sitting on the other side of Miss Evans — he was: Jesus, with his white shirt, white trousers, and white shoes.  In one hand he held both a Manhattan and his usual Pall Mall, and in the other he held the hand of Miss Rathbone, who, like Miss Evans, seemed only to be listening to Larry and Elektra talk.

“It’s not like this is some major torture for you, some big problem, Arnold,” he said.

“I didn’t say it was,” I thought but did not say, wishing to keep my insanity or my visitation, whatever it was, to myself, thank you.

“Well, you’re sitting there acting like it’s some big problem, instead of taking part in the conversation like a sane person.”

“Yes, like a sane person,” I said (without speaking). “That would certainly be an accomplishment for me, wouldn’t it?”

“Oh, boo hoo. You’ve got it so tough. Well, you know what’s tough, buster? Getting scourged. After being betrayed by one of your supposed best friends. That’s tough. And how about a crown of thorns for a chapeau? Oh, never tried it? Well, how about being cru-”

“Okay, I get it,” I said.

“I hope you do.”

“So I’ll get back into the conversation.”

“I’m not stopping you.”

I turned away from him, and I looked at Elektra’s beautiful face, lifted and in profile to me.

“I loved breathless,” she said.

“Excellent movie,” said Larry. “I’ve met Jean-Luc; nice guy, too.”

“Who’s Jean-Luc?” I said, making, as my mother has often advised me to do, an effort.

“Jean-Luc Godard,” said Larry. (I got the spelling later from Elektra.) “He’s a French movie director.”

“Ah,” I said, and as Larry named some of this Godard’s movies (none of which I’ve seen, the Fern Rock doesn’t show too many French movies) I became aware of one good thing my little colloquy with Jesus had brought about: my erection had gone away.

(Click here for our next thrill-packed chapter. And kindly look to the right hand side of this page for a listing of links to all other existing episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railway Train to Heaven, a Sheldon Leonard Production.)

And now, from Jean-Luc Godard’s Bande à part:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Fifty-Six: the unbearable loneliness of being Big Jake

By popular demand Larry Winchester now returns to that lovable rogue, the rancher Big Jake Johnstone in this our serialization of the "extended director's cut" of the masterwork Harold Bloom has deemed “the only book I would take with me on a trans-Saharan camel trek”.

September, 1969. The Johnstone hacienda, just a short hop through the wasted scrublands outside of a town called Disdain...

Things had broken up back at the ranch, fallen apart, fizzled out. Less than a minute after Enid’s truck drove off Grupler and Marlene announced that they wanted to take a romantic starlight drive; they mounted their Range Rover and headed off down the same road Enid had taken. The nice young couple said they were in the mood for a drive also, and they drove off down the road as well in their old Buick Riviera, followed in short order by Mr. Philips and Mr. Adams on their Yamaha dirt bikes.

Big Jake was rather drunk by this point, and he tried to get the Doc to set and jaw a spell with him. He loved to try to talk with the Doc about the good old days back in the European Theatre of Operations, where Jake had amassed a fortune on the black market in his capacity as a supply sergeant. But the big problem here was that the Doc couldn’t stand to talk to Big Jake at all about anything at any time, and in fact considered him to be one of the two or three most irritating people he had ever met in his half-century of life on this planet.

“Well, Jake,” he said, “I better be hitting the road.”

“Aw, come on, Doc, set a spell,” said Big Jake.

But the Doc was already heading back to the house to get his black bag.

Big Jake sat there at one of the littered and sticky picnic tables, all alone. Hope had bade a fond farewell to Enid and to Dick and Daphne, and then had gone back to the house with barely a nod to Jake, her own father, at least he hoped to hell he was her father. The band still played on, drunker than ever, but everyone else was gone, all his so-called friends who had only come for the free food and drink. Even the ranch-hands had drifted off. A great feeling of depression seemed to invade Big Jake from the enormous dark and twinkling sky, as if all the blackness of the universe had decided to enter into him and compact itself into a black hole inside his chest.

So Jake decided to drive into town and get his pipes cleaned out at Mel’s Photographic Arts Studio. After that he reckoned he’d have a couple-three more drinks and slap a few backs over at Burt’s, and then maybe he’d drive out into the desert and shoot his damn self.


(Click here for our next exciting chapter. And kindly cast your eye to the right side of this page for a complete listing of links to all other existing episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, soon to be a major motion picture from American International Pictures featuring John Goodman as Big Jake.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A poem for the season

Leave it to Arnold Schnabel to leave his inimitable stamp on even such a shopworn subject as the Sunday before Easter.

This dour little sonnet, rescued from the Schnabel Archives in the basement of the Oak Lane Library, first appeared in the Olney Times of April 21, 1962, the year before Arnold’s mental breakdown.

(Rebroadcast courtesy of the Arnold Schnabel Society, all rights reserved. Nihil Obstat, The Most Reverend John J. “Black Jack” Graham, D.D.)

"That First Palm Sunday"

Cheering people laid palm fronds in his path;
Later that week they nailed him to a cross;
Such are the ways of men, such is their wrath;
Each gift is followed by a tenfold loss;
Surely he knew this as he rode his horse
Into Jerusalem; he was the son
Of God, thus omniscient; he knew of course
That death begins as soon as life’s begun.
After mass the ushers go to the Green
for a beer and a whiskey pour
Amid the shouts of drunken louts obscene;
Cigarettes and palm fronds litter the floor.
How soon we forget, how soon but not odd:
Thus the ways of man, thus the ways of God.

(Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for listings of links to many other Arnold Schnabel poems, as well as to our serialization of his Schaefer Award-winning memoir, Railroad Train to Heaven.)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 61: Arnold & Jack

Previously in our CVS Award-winning serialization of these memoirs of the man Harold Bloom called “the poet laureate of the forgotten man”, our hero Arnold Schnabel made the acquaintance of another giant of modern literature (not to mention film and TV), Larry Winchester.

August 5th or 6th, 1963. A happening get-together on the second-floor porch of the Biddle house, Cape May, New Jersey...

Larry and Elektra continued to chat, and I checked out again, another one of my fade-outs into my own merry little world.

Occasionally I’ve gotten into a little trouble or embarrassment because of this proclivity.

One time in 1942 I was sitting around with some other railroad guys at Oscar’s Tavern down on Sansom Street and they all started saying “All right! Let’s go then!” And they clapped me on the back and said, “Let’s go, Arnold!” And I, having no idea what they were talking about said, “Okay!” And followed them out the bar and down the street to the recruiting station where we all joined the army. But the thing was, as railroad men we were exempt from the draft, and all we had to do was keep working for the railroad and we wouldn’t have had to go to war. Which would have been fine with me. But there I was with all the rest of them, volunteering, just because I hadn’t been paying attention.

I lost my virginity that way, too. A few weeks after V-E Day I was sitting with some of my buddies in a café in Frankfurt, drinking peppermint schnapps and beer, dreaming of God knows what, when one of them said, “You up for it, Arnold?” And I said, “Sure.” Next thing I knew I was being frog-marched into a brothel, gibbering with fright as if I were being dragged to the electric chair. And as terrified as I was going in I was even more terrified an hour later when I shuffled out, expecting a lightning bolt to strike me down at any moment and cast my wretched unshriven soul screaming hellward.

This daydreaming was also how I joined the Democratic Party, why I came to be the boxing coach of St. Helena’s Parish CYO, and why I often found myself volunteering for extra shifts on the railroad or for extra masses as an usher. It’s only by sheer luck that I have never been sitting obliviously woolgathering with some guys at a bar while they all agreed that we should tear off our clothes as one and run screaming out into the street naked or pull an armed robbery of the PSFS Bank or jump off the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

So I knew that Larry and Elektra were chatting, I just had no idea what they were chatting about. Until Elektra tweaked my cheek and said, “Arnold, answer Larry.”

“Um —” here we go again, I thought, desperately trying to tread water until I could figure out what the heck was going on.

“If you don’t want to say,” said Larry, “I understand.”

“Oh, no, I don’t mind,” I said, thus throwing away the out he had just handed me.

“So?” he said.

“Well, I’d have to say —” might as well be affirmative — “I’d have to say yes.”

“Ah,” he said. “So tell me about it.”

“Oh,” I said.

“I mean if you’d like to.”

“Sure,” I said.

“Aren’t you working on a memoir?” said Elektra.

“Yes,” I said, wondering what this had to do with anything.

“So tell Larry about it.”

“Well,” I said, at long last realizing that he must have been asking me if I was working on anything special in the literary realm, “it’s — it’s just about my life, really.”

“So you’re writing your autobiography?”

“Well, I thought it was going to be like that at first, but mostly it’s more like a sort of diary, I suppose. Just the little things I do all day.”

“Like Jack Kerouac,” said Larry.

“Uh, maybe,” I said. I remembered seeing Jack Kerouac on Steve Allen, although I’d never read any of his books because they didn’t have scantily-clad women with guns on the covers.

“Do you have a publisher yet?”

“Oh, no, no one would ever publish this stuff, Larry. I’m only writing it to —”

I stopped in my verbal tracks.

“To what, Arnold?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“You’re a true artist, Arnold," said Larry. "I’ll be honest with you, I used to think your poems were — well, what do I know?”

“Oh, no,” I said, “They were.”

“Were what?”

“Bad?” I said.

“I wasn’t going to say bad exactly.”


“Well, the point is, I looked at some of your most recent poems on my mother’s Frigidaire, and I thought they were quite good.”


“Arnold, I think you and I might be able to work together.”

“Doing what?”

“Writing movies.”


“Sure. Why not? I like to work with other guys. Somebody to kick around ideas with. Bang the typewriter keys when my fingers get tired.”

“Well, I don’t know.”

“Oh, I get it. You feel you have to concentrate on your memoir. And your poems.”

“Well, no, not really.”

“Then what’s the problem? There could be a few bucks in it for ya, kiddo.”


“Sure. I don’t write anything on spec. I get the contract, then I write the goddamn script, and not one second before.”

Scripts, specs, contracts, it all seemed somehow so tedious to me.

“It’s like I gotta shoot a picture in Paris next month, Arnold. I got the cast and a budget, but the script they want me to do stinks.”

“Well, I don’t know, Larry,” I said. "Is there a murder in it?"

"Yeah, a GI on leave in Paris gets mixed up with a dame and a killing."

"I don't know."

“You’re tough, Arnold. You’re very tough.”

“Arnold’s tough all right,” said Elektra, and she moved in my lap.

It was then that I realized that I had an erection.

(Turn here for our next thrilling chapter. And kindly turn to the right hand side of this page to find listings of links to all other extant episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, soon to be a major TV series from Desilu Productions starring Ralph Meeker, Barbara Steele, Ellen Ankers, Marie Windsor, Roddy McDowell, and Brad Dexter.)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Fifty-Five: “Mannix” interrupted

September 1969, New Mexico.

Our merry crew -- the returned non-hero Harvey, the mysterious and glamorous Dick and Daphne Ridpath, the local sculptress and café owner Enid, and the British musician Derek Squitters -- have all decided to head out to the reservation and take part in a peyote ceremony with the Native American medicine man Paco...

(Go here to refresh yourself on what if anything happened in the last episode of our serialization of this complete and uncut, never-before-available version of Larry Winchester’s sprawling epic.)

What happened was that Enid wound up driving out to Paco’s with Daphne beside her in the cab and Derek and Dick and Harvey in the back, and as the boys bounced up and down in the bed they put away a fat Thai stick that Dick pulled out and they washed it down with a couple of cans of Falstaff apiece.

Derek opened up his guitar case and took out his old Gibson sunburst and bumpily sang some Jim Reeves and Jim Ed Brown songs in his nasal and whiny but somehow lovely cockney voice.

Harvey had put on his army field jacket for the cool night air (he’d cleaned and reloaded Mr. Johnstone’s revolver and stuck it in the right side pocket, and he had two loaded speedloaders in the left pocket).

Paco’s house turned out to be a small tarnished Quonset hut on the outskirts of the local Mescalero reservation. A 1955 Plymouth wood-paneled station wagon was parked next to the hut, and the wheelless hulks of several other automobiles sat here and there nearby in the moonlight.

Enid knocked on the door. They could hear the sound of a television. She knocked again and called out Paco’s name, and finally Paco opened the door. He was wearing a faded and torn green-and-white University of Hawaii t-shirt and a pair of striped boxer shorts.

“Hey, Chief,” said Derek. He had his guitar at his side with the strap across his shoulder.

“Derek,” said Enid.

Paco looked from Derek to Enid to Dick and Harvey and Daphne.

“Look, Paco,” said Enid, “this is Derek. He’s the guy I told you about.”

To tell the truth Paco had completely forgotten about the whole deal.

“Got the loot, too,” said Derek, and he took a wad of bills out of his PVC trousers pocket.

“And, Paco,” continued Enid, “this is my friend Daphne.” She reached past Derek and pulled the gorgeous Daphne to the fore.

Daphne flashed her most winning smile as Paco looked her up and down.

(Be it noted that Paco had a wife and five children, but they lived in another Quonset hut about five hundred yards down the road.)

“And this is Daphne’s husband Dick, and you remember Harvey? He just got back from the army.”

Dick and Harvey both raised their hands in tentative salutation and quickly lowered them.

Enid had made the proposition to Paco a few days ago at the little roadside stand where he sold local Indian artifacts which he bought direct from a factory down in Juarez. When Enid promptly accepted his jocular but deadpan price of five hundred dollars he just as promptly closed up shop and proceeded to tie a terrific load on. This particular evening he had been sitting on his couch watching Mannix and nursing a world-class hangover and wondering why he had gotten so damn drunk when Enid knocked.“’Ere ya go, mate,” said Derek, and he proffered the wad of bills to Paco.

Paco didn’t take the money but continued to look from one to the other of the white people.

“Daphne was wondering if she could take part in the peyote ceremony too,” said Enid, as if she were reading an unfamiliar cue card.

“She got money,” said Paco. He had a disconcerting way about him of asking questions in the form of statements.

“Paco,” said Enid, “Derek’s already giving you five hundred bucks. You can spare Daphne a few buttons.”

It was true, he did have a decent supply of peyote on hand, having recently gotten a good deal from the Motorpsychos.

“’Ere, Chief,” said Derek, “take the bread, man.”

But Paco still wouldn’t take it. He was staring at Dick.

“My friend,” he said.

“Hiya, fella,” said Dick.

For Paco was indeed no other than the Indian Dick had bought a shot for the other night. Dick put out his hand in his polite way, and much to his relief Paco, after only a moment’s hesitation, took it.

“And you the lady who dances,” said Paco, looking at Daphne.

“I am?”

“On the bartop with no shirt.”

“Oh.” Now she remembered. At least she had kept her bra on. She was pretty sure she had kept her bra on. “And how are you, Paco?”

“You all want to meet Peyotito,” said Paco.

“Who the fuck’s Peyotito,” said Derek.

“Derek,” said Enid, “put a lid on it. Peyotito is the spirit of peyote. Right, Paco?”

“Yeah,” he said. He was still gazing at Daphne.

“Cool,” said Derek. “Let’s go meet the geezer then.”

“Yeah, sure,” said Paco, “come on in, we all meet Peyotito.”

“Uh, wait, Chief, I mean Paco,” said Dick. “I should say that Harvey and I are just along for the ride here. We’d like to watch if we may, but --”

“No watch. If you stay, you meet Peyotito.”

“Oh,” said Dick. “Well -- maybe we should just sort of camp out in the truck then --”

“No camp out. If you outside your spirits interfere. You come in, meet Peyotito.”

“Well --”

Paco took the money out of Derek’s hand and turned back into the little house, leaving the door open.

Dick looked up at the starry sky for a moment. Stars. Billions of them. Ten billion species of sentient beings. Each creature with millions of moments of life. When he looked back down the others were all looking at him, as if waiting for him, as if he were in charge.

He damned well didn’t feel very much in charge.

“Okay,” he said. “let’s go meet Peyotito.”

They went in.


(Go here for our next exciting chapter. And kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for a listing of links to all other extant episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 60: Mlle .38

Mara Corday

Return with us now to a certain hot night in August, in that forgotten year of 1963, in the quaint seaside resort of Cape May NJ, the second floor porch of a stately Victorian house.

Onstage at present:

Arnold Schnabel, brakeman, poet, whilom mental patient, the author of these memoirs.

Elektra, his bohemian lady friend.

Steve, his friend.

Charlotte Rathbone, art teacher, Steve’s date.

Gertrude Evans, novelist.

Frank Sinatra, singer and thespian.

Sammy Davis Jr, singer and thespian.

Dean Martin, singer and thespian.

Shirley, singer, thespian, dancer.

And, finally, Larry Winchester, film-maker, living legend...

I assured this Larry Winchester that I was pleased to meet him as well.

“And who is this lovely young lady sitting on your lap?”

Only then did I realize fully that Elektra was indeed sitting on my lap. The thing was that Miss Evans had squeezed onto the glider between Elektra and Steve, and so to make room for her out of politeness, or more likely so as not to be in too close propinquity to her, Elektra had slipped onto my lap.

This was categorically the first time anyone had ever sat on my lap in my entire life.

Another big first for our hero.

Caught up in these reflections I forgot to answer Larry Winchester’s question, but fortunately Elektra did.

“My name’s Elektra,” she said, and she presented her hand.

Mr. Winchester took her hand and brushed her knuckles with his somewhat scarred lips.

He and Elektra exchanged pleasantries having to do with her name and how she got it, and, as I so often do when people talk, and sometimes when I talk, I checked out mentally, thinking about anything but the present subject of conversation, and then I suddenly realized that Mr. Winchester was addressing me.

“You know,” he said, “my mother is obsessed with your work.”


“Yes. She cuts out your poems from the Olney Times and Scotch-tapes them to her refrigerator.”

“Aww,” said Elektra.

“She’s going to be so impressed that I met you.”

I didn’t know what to say, which is not unusual for me of course. However, after many years of social doltishness, I’ve gradually realized that people are much more comfortable if you say something, anything other than saying a great resounding nothing, no matter how dull, so I scrabbled around on the littered floor of my brain and brought this gem up:

“So, you’re from Olney, Mr. Winchester?”

“My mother lives there,” he said. “I’ve mostly lived out in L.A. since the war. Now I’m based in Europe. But I was just visiting in Philly, and good old Mom is still cutting out your poems every week.”

“Tell her I appreciate it,” I said.

“Don’t worry, I will.”

That was it for me, I had exhausted my supply of sparkling repartée.

Sammy was still playing his guitar through all this, although no one was singing.

Mr. Winchester gazed at me, smoking his cigar.

Fortunately Elektra rescued me again.

“What do you do, Mr. Winchester?” she asked.

“Larry,” he said. “Please call me Larry.”

“Larry,” she said.

“You too, Arnold. If I may call you Arnold.”


“Sure, ‘Larry’,” he said.

“’Larry’,” I said.

“I’m a movie director, darling,” said Larry in answer to Elektra’s question. “I’ve also done a lot of TV work.”

“What movies have you directed,” asked Elektra.

“Well, we just opened a picture called The Return of the 300 Spartans, with George Maharis –”

Elektra cocked her head and twisted her lovely lips.

“And earlier this year we had a little thing called Stopover in Singapore,” tried Mr. Winchester. “With Dane Clark?”

“Umm,” hummed Elektra.

“How about Bayonets of Blood? With Rory Calhoun?”

“I don’t think so,” she said.

Two For Tortuga? With Lex Barker and Tina Louise?” said Larry. “The Vacant City? With Dennis Hopper?”

“Um, no,” said Elektra.

Several Lonely People? With Eddy O’Brien? Mademoiselle 38, with Mara Corday?"

“I’ve seen them all, Larry,” I said. (Basically, if it’s come to the Fern Rock Theatre on Fifth Street, I’ve seen it.)

“Well, that’s gratifying” he said. “I was beginning to think my career was for naught.”

“Oh, please don’t go by me, Larry,” said Elektra. “I just don’t see too many movies.”

“A sign of intelligence, my dear.”

“I would rather read a book, usually.”

“Who are your favorite authors?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy. Proust I suppose. Henry de Montherlant.”

(In honesty I have to say that the last two names she mentioned were gibberish to me, but afterwards I asked her to repeat them and spell them out for me.)

“Beauty and brains,” said Larry Winchester. “You’re not an actress by any chance are you?”


“A pity. I would cast you in a minute. With your looks, your presence.”

What a racket I thought. I made a mental note that if there was anything to reincarnation I would become a movie director in my next life. It had to be a better job than being a brakeman. Or a poet. Or a madman, for that matter.

(Click here for our next unforgettable chapter. And kindly go to the right hand side of this page to find a listing of links to all other extant episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Pabst Blue Ribbon Award runner-up Railroad Train to Heaven ™, soon to be a major mini-series event on the Gimbels Channel.)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 54: what a girl

Deftly Larry Winchester now switches back to the inimitably suave voice of that man of mystery Dick Ridpath as the tension builds in our serialization of this sprawling (and Rite Aid Literature Prize Third Place-winning) epic...

The night was growing cool, so I went back upstairs to grab us some outerwear. Took off the tweed jacket, opened up the big canvas Asprey’s suitcase, dug my old pea coat out, threw that on. Stood there a moment, then took the bullet-ridden transistor out of the tweed’s pocket and dropped it into the left side pocket of the pea coat. Took the .38 out of the tweed’s other pocket, weighed it in my hand for a few seconds. Laid it down and took the Hi-Power out from under the mattress. I had a fresh loaded clip in it, thirteen rounds. I stuck it in the right pocket of the coat. I knew we were only driving out to the Indian reservation, but still...

I got the red trench coat Daphne had asked for, then paused again. I took the little .38 off the bed and put it in the right hand pocket of the trench coat for her. The way things were going lately it seemed like a good idea, and as she had proved earlier that day with that rattlesnake she’s an excellent shot and a very cool head.

Saw her shoot a guy with that pistol once. This was in Bangkok, back in ‘66 I think it was. Very nasty scene outside this den of iniquity. I won’t go into the whole thing but I had accused a local of using loaded dice in a crap game and the upshot was I’m being absolutely pummeled senseless by four or five kick-boxers in a dark alley outside this place. Well, Daphne, no screaming or shrieking for her, she just whips that little Smith out and fires a warning shot into the wall to get their attention. This one tough guy doesn’t care, he rears around to throw a kick at her and she calmly put one right into his chest, knocking him back against the wall. The other guys couldn’t believe it, they all turn and hightail it out of there. The shot guy couldn’t believe it either. He just stood there against the wall, holding his chest, the blood pouring through his fingers. I got up off the cobblestones and Daphne pulled me away and out into the street. We caught a cab and told the driver the name of our hotel. Daphne made me promise not to make an ass of myself in foreign gambling dens. I promised. In the hotel lobby Daphne took two bellboys aside, sent one out for some iodine and Band-Aids, and told the other one to bring us up a bottle of Boodles and some ice. Then we went upstairs and she ran me a warm bath.

One in a million that girl.


(Click here to experience the magic of our next thrilling chapter. And go to the right hand side of this page for up-to-date listings of all other extant episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, a Quinn/Martin Production.)

And now a brief word from Mr. Reg Presley and the Troggs:

Friday, March 7, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part Fifty-Nine: Arnold makes yet another new friend

When last we saw our hero, Arnold Schnabel was experiencing a rare moment of -- dare we say it -- happiness, sitting on the second-floor porch of the Biddle residence with his “innamorata” the Bohemian Elektra.

Also in attendance, Sammy (strumming a guitar), Dean (crooning), Shirley (sitting on Dean’s knee), and Arnold’s friend Steve with his date Miss Charlotte Rathbone.

Dateline: Cape May NJ; August, 1963...

Next Shirley sang a song with Dean:
If our lips should meet, innamorata
Kiss me kiss me sweet, innamorata…
The words were pretty inane, but who was I to be critical? After all, just now I found on the floor a clipping of a sonnet I wrote last year, it must have fallen out of my scrapbook when I took it down to Miss Rathbone:
"First Communion, St. Helena’s, 1962"

The little children pass all dressed in white,
their first communion gravely to receive,
that they might not dwell in eternal night;
the Good Lord has granted them His reprieve.
but what of the Hindu, Jewish, Moslem,
and Protestant boys and girls, whom, through no
fault of their own, God chooses to condemn
to at best an afterlife in Limbo?
He has His reasons for this I am told,
but still it seems a little harsh to me,
a bit arbitrary, a trifle cold;
and worse, some say that they might even be
sent to Purgatory or even Hell;
this seems far from fair to me, truth to tell.
What the — go on, say it, they can only damn me once — what the hell was I thinking?

It wouldn’t be so bad if the above lines were a joke, but at the time I wrote them I was quite serious.

I’m becoming convinced that I didn’t just go mad this past January, oh no, I think I was secretly quite mad for many years, perhaps since birth.

And for that matter how mad is my longtime editor at the Olney Times, Mr. Willingham? (An Episcopalian I might add.) He’s the one who printed this rubbish. But then I’ve suspected for some time he only glances at my copy once or twice a year, if that.

So, yes, I had been a madman. But was I still a madman?

Frank Sinatra and Miss Evans came up and joined us. More songs were sung. Frank did a nice version of “The Lady is a Tramp”…

Then the guy who had been in the car with Frank and Sammy and Dean and Joey came through the screen door, the guy that neither Steve nor Miss Rathbone nor I had recognized.

He was a hearty, muscular guy of about my age, with a receding hairline and a face like a boxer’s. He wore khakis and a pale blue alligator polo shirt, and he smoked a fine cigar.
He said hello to Sammy and Frank, Dean and Shirley, how-do to Steve and Miss Rathbone, to Miss Evans and to Elektra. Then he said to me that I must be this Arnold he’d been hearing about.

I said I was, and he put out his hand. The knuckles were scarred and gnarled.

“My name’s Larry,” he said. “Larry Winchester. Pleased to meet you, Arnold.”

(Click here to dig our next grooving chapter. And kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for listings of links to all other existing episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, as well as to many of his classic poems.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 53: bad karma

Larry Winchester now shifts his cinemascopic gaze to the young recently-returned soldier Harvey in this, our Costco Award shortlisted serialization of the “director’s cut” of the novel Harold Bloom called “an epic on the order of Moby-Dick, except not nearly as boring”.

The time: an evening in early September, 1969.

The place: the Johnstone Ranch, just a couple of hoots and a holler outside of a town called Disdain...

Harvey wandered off a ways to take a leak behind a scrub oak that stood alone like sentry in front of the grey prairie stretching out to the lumpy foothills and the black mountains behind them.

He had been very stoned by the time they got back to the ranch that afternoon, and after leaving the stable he had to lie down in his bungalow for a while. He dozed, and in his dreams he flew over the desert, not exactly flying but leaping effortlessly, and each leap vaulted him miles and miles over the desert. He only had to touch down and make another easy bound and he would go sailing up again over the desert and over the hills and the mesas, and then he sailed out toward the little atomic town.

In the atomic town he landed in the town square, and Mrs. Smith or Ridpath walked up to him holding a martini and a cigarette, and then she was Hope, and then Hope became Attie Parsons.

And then he and Attie were in bed with Miss Enid in one of the split-level houses in the atomic town and Cleb sat there on a big chair watching them and then Mr. Smith or Ridpath came into the room and said something to Harvey except it sounded like he was underwater, and then the house began to rise up in the air above the desert and into the sky. Then he woke up.

Harvey didn’t feel like going back to the party yet so he lit up a smoke and sat down with his back against the scaly bark of the oak and looked in at all the people and the glowing fire-pit with the ragged remains of the side of beef skewered across it. A cool breeze rolled in waves down from the mountains in back of him and when a gust hit the fire-pit a sprinkling of red sparks swirled up and then disappeared.

It felt good just to look at all the people for a while but not be with them. He’d gotten a little bored sitting with the rest of the hands, but he’d figured it wasn’t really his place to go sit where he’d rather sit, with Mr. and Mrs. Ridpath or Smith and Miss Enid and that English fella and Hope and Doc Goldwasser.

Tip came moseying over. He rolled a joint while he moseyed, and by the time he got to Harvey it was rolled up tight and licked. He hunkered down, lit it up with his Zippo and passed it to Harvey.

Harvey stubbed out his ciagrette in the dirt, took a couple of hits from the joint and then passed it back.

Tip sucked deep twice, exhaled, and then said, “Your rich folks want you.”


Tip grabbed another good hit and passed the joint to Harvey.

“Yeah,” he said, holding in the smoke.

Harvey took another hit, and holding in the smoke himself he said, “They ain’t really rich.”

Tip exhaled and reached for the joint.


“Nah,” Harvey said, letting out his own cloud of smoke. “The dude told me they’re broke.”

“No shit,” said Tip. “So what’re they doin’ here then?”

“Beats me,” said Harvey. There was no point in going into all the weird shit Mr. Ridpath had talked to him about. No point at all. “I don’t think they know either,” he said.

“By the way, did ya really bang that lady Mrs. Smith?”

“What? No. Who says that?”

“The whole town’s sayin’ you was bangin’ her in that T-Bird when them Motorpsychos came up on y’all.”

“That’s bullshit.”

“You didn’t bang her.”


“Damn, that’s what everbody’s sayin’.”

“These people are pathetic, man. This whole town’s pathetic. That’s why I’m leavin’.”

“It’s the noble west, man.”

“Fuck ‘em.”

Tip took another long toke and slowly exhaled.

“Here, boy.” Tip handed Harvey the joint. “Take a good one now and get on back to your lady friend.”

Harvey took his hit, and they stood up.

The world rocked back and forth, like a great ship on an even greater swell. And then it settled down.

“Whoah,” said Harvey. “Stoned again.”

“Righteous shit,” said Tip. “Get it from them Motorpsycho dudes.”

“Really?” said Harvey.

“Yeah. What the hell.”

They started slowly back.

“You thinkin’ it’s bad karma, Harve? Smokin’ this Motorpsycho weed?”

“Yeah,” said Harvey.

“Well, ya smoked it last night, and it didn’t feel like bad karma then, did it?”


But now it sure did.


(Turn here for our next exciting chapter. And please feel free to check out the right hand side of this page for up-to-date listings of links to other episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, a Sheldon Leonard production.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Arnold sings the body electric

Our recent publication of Arnold Schnabel’s poem “Cuban Missile Crisis” generated such a wave of appreciative e-mails that we have decided to bow to popular request and broadcast another of his fine pre-breakdown poems, only recently unearthed from the Schnabel Archive in the basement of the Oak Lane Library of Philadelphia PA.

(This sonnet originally appeared in the Olney Times of August 19, 1962, and is presented thanks to the kind permission of the ladies and gentlemen of the Arnold Schnabel Society, all rights reserved. Nihil obstat, His Reverence John J. "Jack" Graham, SJ.)

“St. Helena’s Parish Carnival, 1962”

I wander through the carnival, but why
I don’t know. I don’t gamble, and I don’t
Shoot guns, I don’t do much in life, and I
Generally prefer to say “I won’t”
To “I will”; but this evening an odd thing
Happens, I suddenly feel the thick rind
Of myself melt into this air ringing
With shouts and with laughter, and then, my mind
Replaced with popcorn and cotton candy,
My soul spinning round like a carousel,
For an hour I forget to be me;
But then I awaken, and I come back
To this abundant and eternal lack.

(Kindly look to the right hand side of this page for listings of links to many other classic poems from Arnold Schnabel, as well as to our serialization of his sprawling memoir Railroad Train to Heaven.)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A particularly grey October

The recent retirement of El Jefe, Fidel Castro, reminded us of one of Arnold Schnabel’s more disturbing but nonetheless oddly beautiful poems, here republished for the first time since its début in the Olney Times of October 26, 1962.

It is perhaps worth noting that Arnold suffered a complete mental collapse just a little over two months after writing this poem.

(This sonnet brought to you by the kind permission of the Arnold Schnabel Society, all rights reserved. Imprimatur: Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.)

An ash-grey morning, I stare at the sky;
Will this be the day that the missiles fall?
There’s nothing to be done, except to pray
Upon our knees, and ask the good Lord why
He cannot spare some of us, if not all,
If we promise to worship Him each day
And every night for the rest of our
Portion of what He should grant us of life,
If only a year, or a month, or just
A week, or a day, or even an hour,
No matter how fraught with fear and with strife,
Before we are blown into cosmic dust.
An ash-grey evening, I stare at the sky;
Will this be the night that you and I die?

(Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for a listing of links to other classic poems by Arnold Schnabel, as well as to his Schaefer Award-winning memoir, Railroad Train to Heaven.)