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Category Archives: fiction

That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird

So, the biggest news of the week, publishing-wise, is that Nelle Harper Lee, the beloved author of To Kill a Mockingbird, will have a new book coming out in mid-July. Go Set a Watchman is supposedly the book Lee submitted before submitting Mockingbird, and follows Scout as an adult, going back to the small town that shaped her. Cassie wrote a beautiful piece about the upcoming release, and asked that I write about my thoughts about the release, and I told her I was scattery (as I am!) but I’d been thinking about it a lot this week. I didn’t think I had it in me to write a whole post about it, but started writing…and here we are.

I’ve talked about this before (probably ad nauseum) but Mockingbird is, most sincerely, one of my favorite and most formative books. I think it’s the same for so many people. We want to be (and hope we are, deep down) Atticus; we identify with tough little scrappy Scout; our collective hearts break for Boo. Some of the most beautiful lines in literature come from the book…

“Atticus said to Jem one day, ‘I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. ‘Your father’s right,’ she said. ‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’”

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.” 

His lips parted into a timid smile, and our neighbor’s image blurred with my sudden tears.
“Hey, Boo,” I said.
“Mr. Arthur, honey,” said Atticus, gently correcting me. “Jean Louise, this is Mr. Arthur Radley. I believe he already knows you.”

“Atticus put his face in my hair and rubbed it. When he got up and walked across the porch into the shadows, his youthful step had returned. Before he went inside the house, he stopped in front of Boo Radley. ‘Thank you for my children, Arthur,’ he said.”

 And in looking for these online to get the wording exactly right, I teared up at the power of them. It’s been so long since I read the book for the first time – I don’t even remember the first time I met the Finches, honestly, whether it was in high school or early in college – and I’m still moved to tears by the simple beauty in Lee’s words.

I’ve read the book more times than I can count; I held off on watching the movie because I didn’t think it could possibly have the power of the book, but oh, was I wrong. Gregory Peck was Atticus Finch. His calm authority gave me chills. I saw a beautiful production of a theatrical version of it a couple of years ago which moved me to tears; the actor who played Atticus gave the most beautiful reading of “Thank you for my children, Arthur,” perfectly tear-choked and stiff-upper-lipped, and I audibly sobbed in the theater. (I wasn’t alone in that.)

All of this to say, when a friend posted that Go Set a Watchman was going to be published in July, my heart jumped. Of course it did. These characters have become my family over the years. A book showing me what happened to them? A book following Scout into adulthood, giving us a peek at Jem, seeing if they’ve kept in touch with Dill, letting us know if Atticus has kept his idealism with everyone around him trying to beat it out of him, letting us know if Mayella turned out alright? How can I not want that?

Then news started coming out that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t what Lee wanted.

Short version: Everyone knows that Mockingbird was Lee’s only book. She’s been a bit of a recluse ever since – not Salinger-level, or anything, but not going around the world singing “I WROTE MOCKINGBIRD, WHOO-HOO, LOOK AT ME!” (And side note, there have been rumors for years that her dear friend Truman Capote actually wrote Mockingbird – because of course a woman couldn’t have written something that luminescent, and she never followed up on it, so WHAT IS SHE HIDING? And then there are other rumors that Lee wrote Capote’s In Cold Blood, so how about we just assume they each wrote their own books and let people have their successes as neither of them have, that I know of, ever accused the other of nefariousness?)

Her sister was her lawyer for years, until she recently passed away. Lee has had a stroke and, by most reports, isn’t of sound mind. Her sister was very protective of her, and it’s come up that it’s very suspicious that this long-lost manuscript has suddenly surfaced upon her death. People are saying she’d sign anything anyone put in front of her these days, and without her sister to look out for her, she just might have signed off on a book she never wanted published. It’s a savvy move from the publisher – the book was announced just a few days ago, and is currently #5 on Amazon’s pre-order list of Contemporary Fiction and#10 in the Kindle Store for Contemporary Fiction. And Mockingbird? #1 with a bullet, baby. Topping the list currently on Amazon in the Kindle Store for Literary Fiction, #1 in Literature and Fiction in the United States, and #1 in Legal Fiction. Take THAT, John Grisham! I’m not saying, if this is true, it’s not a completely slimy move…but financially, it’s savvy.

She's kind of adorable, right? I want her to be my neighbor. I want to hang out with her and talk about birds and crocheting and words, words, words.

She’s kind of adorable, right? I want her to be my neighbor. I want to hang out with her and talk about birds and crocheting and words, words, words.

So what’s a reader to do?

There’s no way I couldn’t read this book. I have to. Everyone’s going to be reading it. It’s going to be like when the last Harry Potter book was released and I couldn’t go three feet without seeing someone with that gigantic book in their hands because they didn’t want to go even minutes without reading it. This is going to be a global discussion when it comes out. A global discussion about a book? How can I not be part of that? And the sheer fact that more people are reading Mockingbird – how can I not love that? But I’m torn. What if Lee – this woman who introduced me to Atticus and Jem and Scout and Dill and Boo – didn’t want this book flying around in the wild? What if it’s not up to her standards and that’s why it hasn’t been released until now? Don’t I owe more to this woman who’s been such a force in my life, whose given me so much? None of us will ever really know what she wants, will we? Do we let the book speak for itself?

Yes. Of course I’ll read it. And I have the highest hopes that seeing all of my old friends again, these people that I consider family, will be everything that I hope it will be. I will talk to my most beloved readers about it and we will discuss and argue and fight over our favorite lines and characters and it will be glorious.

And I will hope in my heart of hearts that my beloved Nelle Harper Lee, even if she didn’t want the book released, will understand that I’m reading the book out of love. I’m being given another chance to see people I love. How can I say no to that?

It’s just that it feels a little like killing a mockingbird.

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More Adventures of Our Fancy World-Traveling Bon Vivant (yes, with jaunty hat in tow)

You of course all remember the continuing adventures of our favorite bon vivant, right? What’s that? Some of you are new around these parts? Well, you’re going to want to catch up before you read this, otherwise you’re going to be coming in in the middle of our stories, and you won’t know who the characters are, or have the rich backstory we’ve worked so hard on around here. First, our bon vivant went to London, saved all the tea and his BFF-ship with Kate Winslet, and foiled that dastardly L. Ron Hubbard; then our bon vivant went BACK IN TIME to hang out with J.S. Bach and Kate Winslet, and save music as we know it, and ran afoul of his NEMESIS, Jeff Goldblum DUN DUN DUNNNN; and most recently, our bon vivant went to Japan, where he rescued all tea from becoming obsolete with the help of Rachel Weisz and his most amazing dogs, Ella and Louis.

Are you all caught up? Good. As you can see, Ken (the bon vivant in question) has many adventures. MANY adventures. These adventures, were they not documented by The Person Who Writes These, might fall by the wayside. Which would be a crying shame, really. These things are GOOD. They are WORLD-RENOWNED. However, The Person Who Writes These has been busy. She has been SO BUSY. So she doesn’t always get to document them in a timely fashion as nature intends.

But the other day, our bon vivant made an offhand comment on a blog that The Person Who Writes These likes very much – THIS VERY BLOG RIGHT HERE – and it made her head-wheels turn so she decided, yep. It’s time. Time for another tale of high bon-vivantery. Wait. That makes it sound like someone’s smoking weed in this story. NO ONE IS SMOKING WEED IN THIS STORY. Oh, wait, yeah, later someone might be smoking weed in this story. I take that back.

So…without further ado (with me, there’s always ado. You know that. I bring ado wherever I do. I am awash with ado) I bring you…

The latest tale of bon vivantery…complete with jaunty hats…

THE INVASION OF THE BON VIVANT SNATCHERS (aka DOPPELGANGER AHOY!)

One day, our bon vivant went on the internet. Listen, bon vivants go on the internet, much as anyone might. It is a good way to keep up with far-flung friends. Bon vivants have MANY far-flung friends. They make them as they bon vivant, you see.

“Huh,” said Ken. “This is strange.”

Where he had had many, many bon vivanty friends on Facebook only a week or so ago, he noticed the number had dropped. Substantially dropped. There were many notifications; he clicked on the little red number curiously.

“What the hell is wrong with you? UNFRIENDED,” said one.

“I can’t believe you would say that to me. We’ve known each other for YEARS,” said another.

“Last night was great! CALL ME!” said a third. (This one was worrisome, let’s be honest. FLATTERING, but worrisome. Because he didn’t THINK he’d had any sort of “last night” with this person.)

One of the messages was from his good friend Helen. Helen lived in Taos, New Mexico. The bon vivant likes Taos very much. He also likes Helen very much, and they had many cups of tea together back when he was a much younger bon vivant.

“This is a very destructive path you’re on, Ken. I don’t think we can be friends anymore if you’re going to act like this,” her message said.

He sent her a message. “Helen! What are you talking about? What happened?” Since Helen was online, she responded.

“You know what you did, Ken,” she said.

Oh, no! People don’t say “you know what you did” to Ken! That’s what KEN says to HIS NEMESIS JEFF GOLDBLUM! Well, THIS couldn’t be more worrisome if it tried!

“I’m sorry, Helen, but I don’t know. Did something happen?”

“I don’t think I can talk about this,” she said. “It’s too fresh in my mind. Too raw. Maybe someday we can rebuild our friendship, but you really need to work on you first.”

Then she logged off, and would not respond to Ken, no matter what he wrote.

He looked at his faithful dogs, Ella and Louis, with a worried look.

“This is not good news, Ella and Louis,” Ken said. “Something’s going on in Taos. I think I’ll have to go there to see what’s happening. What do you think? Want to go to the States with me? I think I will need your help. You’ve been such help in the past.”

Louis was very excited and ran in circles. Ella blinked once, sagely, to show her approval.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Can a person just BRING dogs from GERMANY into the UNITED STATES? Because SOME people (who are writing this) thought until VERY RECENTLY that was NOT ALLOWED and there was some sort of insane quarantine period and the dogs had to sit in doggy-jail for like ever until the quarantine period was up. But NO! It is a TRUE FACT that isn’t the case at all and if you tell a bon vivant you think that they will chuckle at you (but most politely, of course, I mean, the bon vivant is nothing if not the most kind person ever) and say, “Um. That’s an urban legend, you know that, right?”

No, I’m pretty sure they don’t get to ride like this. But this photo makes me laugh like a moron.

So Ella and Louis are TOTALLY allowed to come along for the U.S. bon vivantery. Don’t even think they’re not. Which is good, because listen, this story was going to be a lot less interesting without happy red dogs. I mean…um…not that this is a STORY, this is TRUE TALES OF BON VIVANTERY AS TOLD TO THE PERSON WHO WRITES THESE BY THE BON VIVANT HIMSELF.

So off to the States the bon vivant went! With Ella and Louis! And with many worries, because WHAT WAS GOING ON? Oh, also, well of course he brought many hats. Why would you expect otherwise? I mean, he is the bon vivant, of course. You don’t just TRAVEL across the WORLD without HATS.

SO.
MANY.
HATS.

When Ken landed in Taos, he realized something was going on. Everyone was looking at him. But not in the way they usually looked at him. Listen, Ken is used to being recognized. He’s the bon vivant. He goes places and people say, “Oh, it’s you! Ken! The Bon Vivant! I recognize you! And your hat!” and although that’s always a little humbling, he’d gotten used to it by now. I mean, you have to. As a bon vivant. If you ever become a bon vivant, you’ll understand. But people weren’t looking at him in a bon vivanty way. They were looking at him in an ANGRY way. Ella looked at him, worried. Louis tried to eat an empty Mountain Dew bottle.

“I think I need some tea,” Ken mused. “This is all very worrisome.” He pulled his jaunty hat down a little further over one eye very rakishly and walked toward a tea shop he remembered from his youth. “I will try to find Helen after I have my tea. Maybe she can shed some light on this situation.”

“KEN!” he heard from behind him. He turned and a women grabbed him and kissed him. KISSED HIM ON THE MOUTH! Oh, well this was unexpected. He managed to extricate himself from her clutches. She smelled boozy. And was wearing way too much lipstick. Ella did not approve.

“I’m sorry, do I know you?” Ken said kindly.

“Oh, YOU,” she said, and slapped his chest as brazen hussies do. “You’re such a KIDDER. Like you could FORGET. WINK WINK.”

“I don’t…” Ken started, but then a very large and VERY shady man came up and put his arm around the lady with too much makeup, who pretended immediately she didn’t know who Ken was.

“You hittin’ on my lady, buddy?” the large man said. He was very scowly. Louis hid behind his sister.

“Oh. No. No, sir, I assure you I am not,” Ken said. “I was just going to get some tea. I have no designs on your lady. Please excuse me.”

“NO DESIGNS?” the lady said, who had no idea what that meant. “He TOTALLY has designs, babe. He designed ALL OVER ME last weekend!”

The large man lunged at Ken. Ken does not like to fight. Bon vivants aren’t FIGHTY. They are ADVENTUREY and they are FILLED WITH A LUST FOR LIFE and they like to THINK THEIR WAY OUT OF SITUATIONS. Luckily, at that very moment, Louis flopped down on the sidewalk to scratch a VERY stubborn itch and the man tripped over him, giving our bon vivant an out so he could make a timely escape. (Listen, I don’t want you to think that our bon vivant couldn’t have won that fight. I’m quite sure he could have. I have no doubt that our bon vivant, faced with any obstacle, would find a way to overcome it. He’s kind of magical like that.)

“What is going ON, Ella and Louis? I don’t know that woman! Why is everyone looking at me like I am their nemesis? This is very much like the time I was not welcome in London because of L. Ron Hubbard. What could be going on?” Ken said as he darted down a back alley. Ella looked pensive. “Good boy, Louis. You know just when to stop and scratch an itch.”

Just then! A door opened in the alley and a very beautiful woman came out! Ken stopped short.

“Well, Ken! Is that you? Ken, the World Traveling Bon Vivant? I’d recognize you and your hat and your dogs anywhere. What are you doing in Taos?” she said, and laughed.

It was Grammy award-winning jazz singer Diana Krall!

“Hello, Diana Krall!” said Ken. “I’m a big fan! What a pleasure to see you!”

“Where the hell is that hat-wearing son of a…” they heard from behind them. Diana looked at Ken curiously.

“Sounds like you need to make a quick exit,” she said. “Come on, my dressing room’s in here.”

The alley was the back entrance to the Taos Center for the Arts! Diana whisked Ken and Ella and Louis neat as you please in the back door and closed it quietly behind them. They heard the man run by, then nothing.

“Well, Diana, it seems I owe you,” Ken said. Louis licked her hand exuberantly. Louis does everything exuberantly, you see.

“I can’t imagine why anyone’s chasing you,” she said, “but come on, I was just making some tea. We can chat.”

Ken was very pleased with this turn of events, as you might imagine.

As Ken and Diana Krall enjoyed a very nice cup of oolong (Ken was pleased to see that Diana made her tea the CORRECT way, WITHOUT teabags) he explained the situation, from the beginning to the end. She handed him a Kleenex. “You’re absolutely covered in lipstick. It’s very unseemly for a bon vivant,” she said, and laughed winningly. Ella seemed to agree in a very wise dog-like way.

Diana was in town for a concert, which was happening in a couple of days. She was just checking out the dressing room in a very lucky turn of events, because otherwise, there might have been fisticuffs for our bon vivant.

“So what do you think is going on, Ken?” she said. “This is all very mysterious.”

“I’m not sure,” Ken replied. “I want to go talk to Helen, but on my way, I was accosted by that unsavory woman and her consort. She seems to think I had relations with her. I am quite sure I did not.”

Diana nodded. “I wouldn’t think so. That was a very ill-advised lipstick color. I would assume a bon vivant would choose his companions more wisely. So, let’s go see your friend Helen, and find out what she knows. Ooh, this is VERY EXCITING. I’ve always wanted to have a bon vivanty adventure. My husband Elvis Costello ran into Kate Winslet just the other day at a royal event, and she told him about some of the capers you two have pulled! This is a dream come true for me. I’m so glad I was in the right place at the right time!”

Ken smiled. He was very pleased to have such an intrepid companion for this adventure. Ella and Louis were already quite keen on her, and she had a very melodious speaking voice. Plus, such excellent taste in tea!

Diana had a limousine waiting outside for her, so she and Ken and the dogs darted into it and directed it over to Helen’s house. Ella and Louis were big fans of the limousine and sniffed every single surface twice. Ken was less impressed. I mean, you’re a bon vivant, you’ve seen one limo, you’ve seen ’em all, I guess.

Helen answered her door, saw it was Ken, and tried to close the door in his face. “Please, Helen, I’ve come all this way, can’t we talk?” Ken said. Helen glowered at him from around the door, then nodded curtly and waved him in. He and Diana and the dogs went into her house. She was quite impressed to see Diana Krall, but even MORE impressed to see Ella and Louis.

“I wondered where these two were when I saw you last week!” she said, getting many pets and many licks from the happy red dogs.

“Wait, what? Saw me last week?” Ken said. “Helen, I haven’t seen you in years! I haven’t been back in New Mexico for over a decade!”

“Very funny, Ken,” she said. “Just last week, I was walking out of the library and you were hanging around outside with some very shady people. I saw you and went over to say hi, and you GROPED ME IN PUBLIC. It was very unlike you and not at all bon vivanty. When I asked you to stop you said I wasn’t cool, man and then you and your friends laughed.”

“Oh, Helen,” said Ken, giving Diana a very worried look, “I hope you know I would never do that. This person looked like me?”

Helen nodded. “Yes. He even had a very jaunty hat! And mutton-chops!”

Ken managed to convince Helen that it had not been him last week by showing her many photos of him doing bon vivanty things in Germany like having tea with Angela Merkel while discussing his thoughts on the debt crisis…

and playing much fancy music in the park with his partner-in-idling, Jarrod.

“I’m so glad it wasn’t you, Ken,” Helen said. “It made me very sad, to think you’d become some sort of weird street-groper.”

“I solemnly promise I will never become some sort of street-groper, Helen,” Ken said.

“Wait, what about Twitter?” Helen said. “You’ve been saying all these things on Twitter!”

“What? I have? No I haven’t. Well, yes, I HAVE, but…wait, what kinds of things?” Ken said.

Helen showed him her Twitter timeline. “See?”

There was his profile picture! And his Twitter account! But the things that were being said WERE NOT THINGS HE’D SAID! Like “Just saw a girl with a monster rack, yo” and “Where can I get some action up here in this joint?” and “Hang in there, kitten.” Ken would NEVER say “hang in there, kitten.” KEN HATES PLATITUDES.

“Wait!” Diana Krall said. “This is not your Twitter account! Your Twitter account is @lahikmajoe. This Twitter account is @lahikmijoe. IT IS A TRICK!”

Well, now this was just getting WEIRD.

Helen explained that a lot of people in Taos were very mad at Ken because he’d been groping people in public, cussing loudly on the streets, yelling out loud things like “baby got back!” at passers-by, and hanging with an unsavory crowd. “People don’t even like to go into the public library anymore,” she said. “You…well, the not-real you…and your friends…I guess HIS friends…are always out there.”

Diana and Ken exchanged a look. They knew that they’d have to go to the public library to track down this doppelgänger. This not-Ken. This bon-vivant wanna-be. WHO WAS DOING IT WRONG.

Diana and Ken and Ella and Louis said goodbye to Helen and went back to the limousine. “How can we go to the library where these seedy types hang out?” Ken said. “They’ll recognize me, especially if I look just like this dastardly foe!”

Diana laughed. “Oh, Ken. I have the forces of the entire staff of the Taos Center for the Arts on my side! There are MANY costumes there. We’ll just go in disguise, and no one will recognize us!”

“Will I have to shave my beard?” Ken asked skeptically.

“No. No, you will not,” Diana said.

“Well, then this is an excellent plan,” Ken replied.

Ken was impressed with this high level of bon vivantery.

BUT WAIT!

“What about Ella and Louis? If this person is pretending to be me, he’ll have done his homework. He’ll know about my dogs,” Ken said. Ella and Louis looked worried. Well, Louis did. Ella looked like a LADY. She always looks like a lady.

“Don’t worry. I have a plan for Ella and Louis, too,” Diana said.

They got back to the Center for the Arts and Diana threw herself into the preparations for their adventure. She dressed herself and Ken up as the kind of shady people who might be hanging out outside of a library. Ken got those terrible low-riding pants that the kids are all wearing nowadays and one of those douchey Ed Hardy t-shirts. Diana wore a tube top and very tight pants. They both got makeup so they were in TOTAL DISGUISE. Much mockery was made of one another. If this was a movie, a music montage would happen here, I’ll have you know. Ken thought the disguises needed some shady hats, so he found some in his bag. Ken has hats that cover all eventualities, don’t even think he doesn’t.

Ella and Louis got dog-safe water-soluble fur-dye. Ella became a pointer with very dashing brown spots over her eyes…

and Louis became a Weimaraner. Louis liked his new getup very much and pranced around looking at himself in mirrors. Ella gave Ken a long-suffering look and sat calmly. She was aware, you see, that the disguise was NECESSARY, but didn’t think it was very DIGNIFIED.

“To the library we go!” Diana said. She looked like a totally different person. “No one will recognize us for who we are now!”

They went off to the library to confront the false-Ken. No one looked twice at our bon vivant! The disguise was just that good! (Well, the classier people in Taos looked at him with disgust. An Ed Hardy shirt will do that to you every time.)

When they arrived at the library, there were unsavory types sitting on the stairs and laughing troll-like laughs. Some of them were smoking MARIJUANA CIGARETTES! (The Person Who Writes These TOLD you someone would be smoking weed in this story.) They looked at Ken and Diana and the dogs, but not for long. They blended right in!

“There he is, Ken!” Diana hissed.

Ken looked to his left. And there he saw…

HIS DOPPELGANGER!

He looked just like him! The same hair! The same beard! The same type of clothing! The same rucksack! And…what’s this? A VERY JAUNTY HAT! “Wait,” thought Ken. “I recognize that hat.”

“WELL HELLO!” said the False Bon Vivant, who had seen the new arrivals. “Welcome to the Library of Decadence and Bon Vivantery! My name is Ken!”

Ken wanted to out him then and there but Diana stopped him. “Yo, Ken. I’m Gina and this is my main squeeze Hank.”

“I don’t think people say ‘main squeeze’ anymore,” Ken whispered. “Also, ‘Hank’? Really? Huh.”

“I PANICKED!” she said.

“Nice to meet you! Would you like some illegal drug substances or perhaps gambling? Also, probably later we will have hookers or maybe gin. As Ken, the very famous bon vivant, I support all of these things!” the False Bon Vivant said.

Well, that’s inappropriate. Ken couldn’t stand for this a moment longer. “TRUE BON VIVANTS DO NOT CARE FOR THOSE THINGS AT ALL!” he roared, and pulled off his shady hat to reveal his true countenance. “TRUE BON VIVANTS ARE ALL ABOUT BON VIVANTING FOR THE SAKE OF BON VIVANTERY AND ALSO DRINKING TEA AND GALLIVANTING! SOMETIMES ALSO IDLING! WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, SIR, SULLYING MY GOOD BON VIVANTY NAME!”

The people on the steps got very quiet. The False Bon Vivant looked at Ken with anger in his eyes. “NO,” he said. “I’M Ken. You can’t be here. YOU CAN’T BE HERE. This guy’s pretending to be ME, everyone! GET HIM!”

There was much hubbub. The shady people lunged at Ken and Diana and the dogs. The False Bon Vivant disappeared into the crowd. “Don’t let him get away, Ken!” Diana said. Ken was trying to get away and could see the False Bon Vivant and ALMOST HAD HIM when he heard Diana cussing. “Let me go, you bastard!” she said. Well! If there’s one thing a bon vivant hates – a TRUE bon vivant – it’s when someone shady grabs their lady-friend. Ken immediately turned around and went back for Diana. He heard the False Bon Vivant scream, once, and Louis bark. He got Diana away from the ne’er-do-wells using various bon-vivanty techniques learned in many bon-vivanty locations that I can’t really go into here because they’re for bon vivant use only, and called to Ella and Louis, and off they ran in the general direction of the False Bon Vivant – but he was gone.

“What do we do now?” Diana said. She was none the worse for wear for her manhandling, but her tube top was all askew. Tube tops are very impractical when faced with a group of unsavory characters.

HIGHLY ill-advised.

“Let’s go back to the Center for the Arts and regroup,” Ken said. “There’s tea there. I think we could both use some tea.”

Diana most wholeheartedly agreed.

They went back to the Center for the Arts and put on NORMAL clothes (and threw the Ed Hardy shirt and the tube top in the garbage, where they belonged) and washed the dye from the dogs together and had much fun with water and soapsuds and two wiggly red dogs who made many wet footprints all over the dressing room. To keep their spirits up, they sang a rousing duet of “Mustard and a Piece of Bread,” which of COURSE Diana Krall knew. Everyone knows this song. Don’t be absurd. It was very nice for Ken to sing with Diana Krall and Ella and Louis liked it very much as well. After much tea and much singing and many shenanigans they went to sleep, because tomorrow they had to figure out what to do about this False Bon Vivant. This kind of chicanery cannot stand.

The next morning, Ken was awoken by the sound of Louis gnawing on something and Ella sighing heavily. “Louis, what do you have there, old boy?” he said. Louis looked up at him and gave him a doggy grin. He had a piece of cloth hanging out of his mouth. “Bring that here, Louis. Good boy.” Louis brought it over. It was a piece of pants-fabric. Very bon-vivanty pants-fabric. But it wasn’t KEN’S pants-fabric.

“Louis, did you try to stop that false bon vivant? Did you tear off a piece of his pants?” Louis wagged his tail so hard he almost fell over.

“What’s going on, Ken?” Diana said. She had very sleepy eyes. Not a lot of sleep happened the night before for the two bon vivants. She handed him a cup of tea. “What do you have, Louis?”

“I think I have an idea,” Ken said. “That’s a piece of that False Bon Vivant’s pants. We can use the dogs to track him. Ready for our next adventure?”

Diana was ready. Diana was proving a very capable bon vivanting companion!

Louis and Ella passed the piece of Bon Vivant pants back and forth as they tramped through the streets of Taos. Louis got distracted by many good smells along the way. Ella did not. Ella is very single-minded when she is concentrating on a task.

“Where are you bringing us, Ella and Louis?” Ken said. They stopped in front of one of the old pueblos in Taos and looked at Ken expectantly. “In here? Is he in here?”

“Well, let’s go in and see!” Diana said, and they snuck into the old pueblo.

The dogs assiduously led the way while Ken and Diana followed. There was a light burning behind one of the walls. When Ken and Diana went around the corner, they were dumbstruck.

“These are all…photos of me!” Ken said. “And printouts of my blog posts! And pictures of my Tweets! And pictures of the dogs! And pictures of my friends! And many drawings of jaunty hats! What is going ON here?”

“How could one man DO all this?” Diana wondered, as she looked around with wide eyes. “This is INSANE!”

Louis sneezed and knocked over a stack of papers. Ken picked them up because bon vivants hate messes. “Wait. These are…these are printouts of my crazy-eyed blogging friend’s blog! There’s one phrase highlighted and circled and highlighted and circled over and over and over and OVER. It’s…”

“IT IS DING DONG JOE!” they heard from behind them, and when they turned, the False Bon Vivant was there! With a crazy look in his eyes! “SHE HAS MADE THE WHOLE WORLD LAUGH AT ME! But you. YOU! The whole world LOVES you, Ken, with your HATS and your BON VIVANTERY and your HAPPY RED DOGS! So I knew what I had to do. Ding Dong Joe had to become Lahikmajoe! It really wasn’t so hard. WE ARE BOTH JOES! AND NOW I AM THE BON VIVANT!”

“You’re not the bon vivant,” Diana said. “You can’t just DRESS like a bon vivant and BE a bon vivant. It’s more than clothes or facial hair, Ding Dong Joe.”

“DON’T YOU CALL ME THAT!” Ding Dong Joe screamed. “My name is KEN now!”

“Um…’Ken,'” OUR bon vivant said, “just be calm. I’m sure if you let people get to know the real you, they would love you, too. We can call Lucy’s Football and ask her to stop calling you a pervert on her website. She will, if you want. I’m sure she will. She only pretends to be crazy online. She’s really very nice.”

“NO! It’s too LATE!” Ding Dong Joe began to pace around the room frantically.

“Ken, I think he’s lost it. Also, Ding Dong Joe is real? Huh. That’s a twist I didn’t anticipate,” said Diana.

“He couldn’t have done this alone,” Ken said. “He had to have had help. But, who?”

Ding Dong Joe kept pulling his jaunty hat on and off his head as he paced. On and off; on and off. “I know that hat,” Ken said. “Why do I feel like I know that hat? It’s the most real part of his costume. For some reason, it reminds me of…penguins? Wait. WAIT.”

“Well, hello, old friend.” The oily, unctuous voice coming from the dark hallway chilled Ken to the bone. “So, you’ve stumbled upon my little protegé, have you? How astute of you. How utterly SCRUMPTIOUS.”

“Dammit. DAMMIT. Goldblum. WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE GOLDBLUM?!?!” Ken said. It was the hat Jeff Golblum had stolen from him in Japan, of course. What other hat could it have been?

Jeff Goldblum came out from behind the wall, as high-strung as ever. He put his arm around Ding Dong Joe’s shoulder. “Oh, Joe. What happened, my good friend?”

“HE FOUND ME, JEFF!” shrieked Ding Dong Joe. “You PROMISED I could be the Bon Vivant! YOU PROMISED!”

“I know. I know. We’ll figure this out, buddy. We will. I promise.”

“What was your plan, Goldblum? To have Ding Dong Joe pretend to be me? To what end?” Ken said. He waved Diana toward the exit. She shook her head resolutely. She is stubborn, that Diana Krall. But she doesn’t know how nefarious Jeff Goldblum is, now does she?

“Once everyone hated you, KEN, it would be only one quick step to make them love and respect me. Nature abhors a void! I would take your place as the most beloved international icon. You don’t deserve it, Ken. You’re just a MAN. I’m a CINEMATIC IDOL. I was in JURASSIC PARK and EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY. Your fame should be MINE. WHY CAN’T IT BE MINE?”

“What about me?” Ding Dong Joe asked, a shocked look in his eyes. “You said I could be the bon vivant!”

“Yes, what about poor Ding Dong Joe? Why don’t you tell him he was just a pawn in your ongoing war with me?” Ken said.

“That’s not true, is it, Jeff? You said we could be BFFs! You said we were a TEAM!” Ding Dong Joe whined.

Jeff laughed. It was a terrible, soulless thing to hear. “Oh, Joe. Sad, foolish Ding Dong Joe. I’m sorry. I have one BFF; that BFF’s name is…JEFF GOLDBLUM.”

And with that, Jeff Goldblum screamed an utterly maniacal scream and ran from the pueblo.

Ding Dong Joe collapsed in a puddle of weepery on the floor. Louis looked askance at Ken. Ken nodded. Louis went over and nuzzled Ding Dong Joe. Listen, this wasn’t all Ding Dong Joe’s fault. He’s just a pervy little dude who wants to be liked, is all. Isn’t that what we all want? Well, other than the pervy part. We don’t all want that. At least, I hope we don’t.

“What should we do with him, Ken?” Diana asked.

“Nothing,” Ken said. “He’s learned his lesson. He knows what he did was wrong. He was led astray by Jeff Goldblum. He isn’t the first to have been; he unfortunately won’t be the last. That Goldblum. He’s insidious. Let’s go, Diana Krall. You have a concert to get ready for!”

“It’s amazing, Ken, how far he went to try to be you. You’re in high demand,” Diana said, as they walked back to the Center for the Arts. “And how badly he failed, too. It’s sad, really.”

Ken chuckled. “Well, what people don’t understand is that being a bon vivant carries with it a heavy responsibility. You can’t just bon vivant all the time. You also have to live up to the bon vivants who have come before, and you are a model for those who cannot bon vivant themselves. It’s not all traveling and eating exotic cheeses.”

Diana nodded. “And that is why you are the one and only World-Traveling Bon Vivant, Ken. Because you understand that. I believe maybe a person isn’t just a bon vivant; they are CALLED to be a bon vivant.”

“Diana, you can bon vivant with me anytime. That was very wise,” Ken said.

Diana blushed. It’s not every day the bon vivant calls you wise.

Diana got Ken a front-row seat for her concert. It was an amazing show, and Ken was so glad he got to see her perform. She even got the Center to allow Ella and Louis to watch with him! If you are the headlining act, you can do such things, I would assume. Elvis Costello joined her on stage for the encore, and she hushed the cheering crowd.

“I had the honor of spending time with someone very special for the last couple of days. He’s gotten a bad rap here in your lovely town for the last few weeks, and it was unwarranted. He is still the bon vivant you all know and love. I’d like to invite him up on stage with us to sing one very special song. Ken, the World-Traveling Bon Vivant, would you join me and Elvis?”

Well, of course Ken would. How could he turn that down? And did he have his ukulele with him? Of course he did, don’t be foolish.

So that is how Ken, our most favorite world-traveling bon vivant, got to sing “Mustard and a Piece of Bread” with Diana Krall and Elvis Costello in Taos, New Mexico while everyone forgave him for the events of the past few weeks and Ella and Louis watched. Well, Ella watched. Louis was sound asleep, dreaming, no doubt, of something utterly joyful and guileless.

In the parking lot, in a very long stretch limo, gritting his teeth as he heard the cheers and the music drifting out of the side doors, Jeff Goldblum talked to the only person he trusted in all the world. Jeff Goldblum.

“He always wins, Jeff Goldblum.”

“I know. Jeff Goldblum. I know. It hardly seems fair.”

“It is MOST unfair. We never can seem to beat him. He has these amazing FRIENDS! And he’s so SMART! And those DOGS! THOSE HAPPY RED DOGS!!!”

“I know, Jeff Goldblum. Listen, don’t frown too much. Your face is your living, you know. You can’t afford frown lines.”

“I know. Thank you, Jeff Goldblum.”

“We just have to try harder, Jeff Goldblum. There has to be a chink in his armor. There has to be a hole. A way in. A way to win.”

“Heh. You said ‘hole,’ Jeff Goldblum.”

“This is hardly a time for sophomoric humor, Jeff Goldblum. Really. I expected more of you.”

“I’m sorry, Jeff Goldblum. It’s been a tough day.”

“I know. I’m sorry I jumped down your throat.”

“We just have to BELIEVE, Jeff Goldblum. One day. ONE DAY, we will beat him. We will. We will be victorious.”

And with a “Driver! Onward!” Jeff Goldblum drove off cackling into the New Mexico night.

THE END!

(Only, of course, not really the end. These things never really end. Not as long as there’s breath in the bon vivant and there’s power in the laptop of The Person Who is Writing These. Stay tuned, my little blueberry muffins. Stay tuned.)

(Psst: thank you thank you, my real-life bon vivant, who totally lets me mine your life for bon vivantery and turn it into blog fodder and never ever gets huffy when I bug you for details or photos or random crap. How empty would all of our lives be without you? I don’t even want to think about that. THANK YOU.)


The Continuing Adventures of Our Favorite Fancy World-Traveling Bon Vivant (yes, he still has those jaunty hats)

Now you all remember the story of Ken, the fancy world-traveling bon vivant, I hope. It was quite a hit, celebrated globally. If you don’t, or if you’re new here, you’re going to want to click that link, and catch up. It’s important you have the background information. Also, it’s kind of kickass. I mean, I don’t want to toot my own horn, or anything, but the person who wrote that was kind of irrationally proud of how it all came together, all-told. AND, I mean, you could do worse than a little bon vivantery in your day. Who doesn’t want more bon vivantery? Boring people and weirdos. Are you a boring person? Or a weirdo? I’d think not. Oh, wait, maybe you are. I’m sorry if you’re a boring person or a weirdo. You should still click that link, maybe it would cheer you up, or non-weirdo-ize you, I don’t know.

Anyway, in Ken’s last adventure, Ken saved the day. As Ken does. We also learned about Ken’s bon-vivanting ways, and his friends Fabio and Kate Winslet, and his wife Mrs. Ken, and his dogs, Ella and Louis. And his world-traveling ways. And his arch-nemesis, L. Ron Hubbard. But L. Ron Hubbard died when he fell off the top of the London Eye while attempting to steal all the tea in London. That’s what happens when you cross a world-traveling bon vivant. Oh, shit, I guess I totally just recapped that link. You STILL should click it, there are a lot of other good things in there. Photos and wackiness. It’s worth it. I promise.

But, were you all wondering, are there other Ken stories? The only story of the bon vivant can’t be the one about ALL THAT LONDON TEA. Right? Are there more? MORE STORIES?

Oh, yes. Yes, there are.

But which to tell? There are JUST SO MANY.

What’s that? You’d like to hear the story behind this tweet RIGHT HERE?

Ok. I can do that. All for you, all for you.

Without further ado:

The Mystery of the Missing Concertos (AKA Get Bach to Where You Once Belonged)

When we left Ken, our world traveling bon vivant, he had just saved London and all the tea, and won back the friendship with his BFF, Kate Winslet. All was well in Ken-land. Ken-nebunkport. Ken-ya. It was quite a big adventure.

In the meantime, he didn’t rest on his laurels. Oh, no no. He traveled to an archaeological dig in the desert and found an undiscovered cache of treasures that led to many new historical discoveries; he climbed Mount Everest, saved a Sherpa, and earned the love and approval of all of Nepal; and he drank tea. OH DID HE DRINK TEA. All the tea. Of all the nations.  And of course, Mrs. Ken and Ella and Louis came with him and played a large role in his adventures. His adventures wouldn’t be the same without Mrs. Ken and Ella and Louis. Whose would, really?

Doesn't your life feel more cheerful right now? Mine certainly does.

One day, Ken was reclining in a mountain chalet in Switzerland and reading his many, many newspapers from many exotic foreign lands, as keeping up with news from many locales is important when you are a bon vivant.

This is where bon vivants go to kick back and relax and drink much tea.

Ken noticed there would be a special performance of the Brandenburg concertos at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, where Bach had worked for a time in the 1700s. Ken had always wanted to visit the Thomaskirche. This seemed like an opportune time, and he did so love Bach’s music.

“Mrs. Ken!” he said. Only of course he did not call her Mrs. Ken. Don’t be absurd. That’s what WE’RE calling her, interwebs. Because we’re POLITE. “Would you like to go to the Thomaskirche with me to hear some Bach as no doubt the composer intended it to be heard?”

“Oh, Ken,” she replied. “That would be the best adventure, but I have been called away to Antarctica to help save an endangered penguin species. Can you take Ella and Louis with you to Germany? It’s much too cold for dogs in Antarctica. Plus they might frighten the penguins when they tried to play with them.”

Ken agreed. Anything for penguins. PENGUINS ARE VERY IMPORTANT. Bon vivants know that, too, you know. I mean, everyone does, but especially bon vivants.

Ella and Louis were very excited to go back to Germany. Well, Louis was very excited. Ella was much classier and reserved about the whole thing. Because Ella is a LADY.

Ken thought, you know who also loves Bach and would love to see the concert?

His BFF Kate Winslet.

So he called Kate Winslet.

“Ken!” she enthused. “Yes, I would LOVE to go to Germany with you! Let me just get my things together and I’ll meet you there soon. Oh, won’t we have a brilliant time? Can we nip over to the Zoological Garden while we’re in town?”

Ken laughed. “Of course we can, Kate Winslet. I wouldn’t possibly expect you to not visit a Zoological Garden if one were available to you. Plus, our favorite crazy-eyed New York blogger would never forgive us if we went to a city with a zoo and didn’t visit that zoo and take many animal photos, and at least one of us making animal-faces.”

So Ken and Mrs. Ken said their goodbyes, and Ken headed off for Germany, while Mrs. Ken headed off for penguin adventures. And now, listen, this story is not about Mrs. Ken? But let me just tell you, she had many adventures in Antarctica. Penguin-saving and dastardly nemeses and celebrity cameos and a TREASURE frozen in the ICE. I know, it’s all very exciting. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Mrs. Ken’s not also a bon vivant. She totally is. Also? PENGUINS. Whoo.

Ken arrived in Leipzig with Ella and Louis,  and decided to check out the church beforehand. He’d heard how beautiful it was. He also wanted to check out the organs. That is not a euphemism OR a metaphor. ACTUAL ORGANS. That play MUSIC. The church has TWO ORGANS. One that’s over 100 years old and one that’s more recent that’s made especially for playing Bach music. Minds out of gutters, you, with your assuming that organs meant something else. He called Kate Winslet and asked her to meet him there so they could investigate.

When Ken got to the church – and had a joyous reunion with his BFF Kate Winslet, who had brought a variety of the finest British teas for him, courtesy of the Queen, who loved Ken for saving all the tea from that evil L. Ron Hubbard – no one was there. The concert wasn’t for a couple of days. But the side door was open. Now, Ken’s pretty law-abiding. However, he really wanted to see those organs. And with no one there, he could bring Ella and Louis in. Yes, yes. It was a LITTLE naughty. But not TOTALLY naughty. He and Kate Winslet giggled a little, as you do when you’re doing something a little naughty, and snuck into the church.

Many oohs and aahs resulted. Ken checked out the organs. Both were quite grand. Ella and Louis were very well-behaved. Ella sat very prettily while Louis sniffed all the pews and was very excited about all the new scents and such.

“Ken, play the organ,” Kate Winslet whispered.

“Oh, no, I couldn’t,” he whispered back. “I’d be afraid they’d catch us.”

“Pish-posh,” Kate Winslet said. “There’s no one around. And you know you’re DYING to play the fancy organ. This one’s from over 100 years ago! How many people get this opportunity? Go go go.”

Ken peeked around and decided that yes, it was probably worth it to be able to play the Sauer organ. A little known fact about Ken, the bon vivant, is that he is also a musical virtuoso. Yeah, you were thinking he was just some yahoo, weren’t you? Shame on you.

Kate Winslet and Ella and Louis snuck upstairs with him to the organ, and he sat down and played a few bars of Chopin. The organ sounded stately and official. He was very pleased.

“Play some Bach,” Kate Winslet urged.

“This organ isn’t the best for Bach,” Ken said. “The other organ is better for Bach.” But he turned back to the keys and played the first few notes of the fifth Brandenburg Concerto, which had always been his favorite, if he had to choose.

Suddenly, Ken felt very woozy. The room started to swim. “Ken?” Kate Winslet said, but it sounded like it was coming from far away. He heard Ella and Louis barking. The organ started to fade in and out. But he could still hear the music, even though he wasn’t playing it anymore. What was going on? He closed his eyes to stop the spinning.

When he opened his eyes something was wrong. He wasn’t sure what it was at first. Then he realized – he wasn’t sitting at the organ anymore. He was on the floor. And the floor looked different. And something was wet against his face. He turned and realized it was Louis, who was assiduously licking his face clean, as Louis sometimes was wont to do. Ella was lying next to him, looking very worried in her intelligent dog-like way.

“Kate Winslet?” he said. “Where are you?”

“Over here. Ouch.” He lifted himself up from the floor, his head still spinning, and saw her a few yards away, also on the floor. Louis, of course, went over to clean her face off, too. It probably needed it. Louis always knew about such things.

“What happened?” she asked. “One minute you were playing the organ, the next minute – what?”

Ken looked around. The church looked different. Smaller. Darker. And the organ was gone. “I’m – not sure?”

Kate Winslet looked at him very sternly. “Ken. You have never been not sure of anything as long as I’ve known you. This is very bad news.”

Just then, Ken realized he could still hear the music he’d been playing when everything started to spin. The fifth Brandenburg Concerto. He looked around and saw a harpsichord, with a very stern-looking man wearing a wig playing it. A very stern-looking man who looked VERY FAMILIAR.

The music stopped abruptly. The man banged his hands on the keys. “Scheiße!” the man cursed.

Ken stood up gingerly and walked over to the harpsichord. Kate Winslet and the dogs watched with wide eyes. The man frowned at Ken.

“Guten Tag, Herr Bach,” Ken said.

Johann Sebastian Bach, who was MUCH scarier in person than he is in all of those busts you see on affected people’s pianos, glared at Ken, who was, obviously, NOT wearing a wig like people were supposed to.

“Ken?” Kate Winslet whispered. “Did you just call that man Mr. Bach? What the hell is going on?”

“I think…we’ve gone back in time somehow,” Ken said. “I’m guessing it’s because I played Bach in the church where he used to work? Stranger things have happened. I mean, remember the time we found the dinosaur in the abandoned Tube station, and trained it to fight the dragon that was terrorizing Dubai?”

Kate Winslet nodded sagely. “You’re right. You’ve very wise, as always, my world-traveling BFF. This is certainly something, isn’t it?”

Bach stalked over to Ken and Kate Winslet. “What are you two doing here?” he said, gruffly. Only, he said it in German, of course. And The Person Who is Writing This knows that you all don’t speak German. So she’s helpfully going to write it all in English. I know. She’s the best, isn’t she? And it’s not because her German skills are so awful that she can’t write it in German because Google translate always lies to her and then Ken laughs and laughs at the mangled German she comes up with. THAT IS NOT AT ALL WHY.

“We’re…um…visiting. From…another church. Sorry we’re dressed so oddly. That’s how we dress there, sir,” Ken said. He was very good at thinking on the fly. That’s what you get when you’re a bon vivant. Quick thinking. On the fly. All seat-of-your-pantsy.

“The church is closed. I’m trying to work,” Bach said. Ken noticed he had some crumpled papers in his hand with musical notes written on them.

“Sir, I couldn’t help but overhear. Are you working on the Brandenburg concertos?”

Bach glared at him in a most glowery way. “What? However could you know that? I haven’t even NAMED them yet. And no one has heard them. ARE YOU A SPY?”

Kate Winslet helpfully stepped in. “We’re acquainted with a mutual friend of yours, sir. You played some of the concertos for him recently, I believe?”

“Christian Ludwig?” Bach said, skeptically.

“Yes, of course, Mr. Ludwig,” Kate Winslet said, and gave him her most winning smile. Bach began to thaw. Kate Winslet is just about the  most disarming. It’s a fact.

Ella and Louis chose that moment to come over and check out the situation. Bach saw the happy red dogs and any reservations he had about these strangers dissolved. Listen, you can’t resist Ella and Louis. Just try. I dare you. You’ll lose. They’re purely joyous.

After they’d all spent some quality Ella and Louis time and drank some of the fine British tea together than Kate Winslet had brought for Ken and were therefore the best of friends, Ken broached the subject of the concertos once more.

“Johann, I noticed you were getting pretty frustrated with the concerto you were working on. What’s wrong?”

“Well, Ken, I had the concertos all written and ready to go. I left them on the harpsichord and ran off to take care of something. I was only gone for a few minutes. When I got back, they were gone. Now I have to recreate them from my mind, and they’re due to Christian soon. I can’t remember everything I’ve written, and I’m under the gun. And I’m worried whoever stole them will claim them as his or her own.”

This was worrisome. How would this impact the future if the Brandenburg concertos were not written the same way? Or if they were credited to another person? Ken didn’t like this at all. He’d been forced to watch that horrible Ashton Kutcher Butterfly Effect movie once while on a plane, and he knew this was SERIOUS BUSINESS YO.

“Do you have any ideas who could have stolen them, Johann?” Kate Winslet said, after sharing a worried look with Ken. She, too, had to watch the horrible movie. She knew about butterflies and effects and what a bad actor Douchebag Jesus Kutcher was.

“There was a man I didn’t recognize around the church for the past few days. I thought he was a cleaning person. I didn’t pay a lot of attention,” Bach said.

“What did he look like?” Ken asked.

“Very tall. Kind of gawky. His eyes were very intense and a little buggy. And he was talking to himself. He kept saying the oddest thing. ‘You got this, Goldblum. You can do this.’ What could that mean, do you think?”

Ken’s blood ran cold. He knew exactly what it meant. Kate Winslet looked at him, her eyes wide.

“You don’t think-” she said. Ken nodded slowly. Even Ella and Louis whimpered.

Evil. EEEEE-vil.

“It’s Jeff Goldblum,” Ken said. “Jeff Goldblum has stolen the Brandenburg concertos. The only man to ever best me. My nemesis. Dammit. Why did it have to be GOLDBLUM?”

“Who is this Jeff Goldblum?” Bach asked. At the repeated utterance of the ne’er-do-well’s name, Louis covered his muzzle with his paws. Ella simply looked worried, but in a stately way. As she does.

“Jeff Goldblum – it’s a long story,” Ken said, with a deep sigh. “HE KNOWS WHAT HE DID. Let’s just say it involved deception. And chicanery. And impersonation of high-ranking officials. And tea-smuggling. Not to mention the wearing of many false mustaches. And, to top it all off, one of my most jaunty hats was stolen in the escapade. Worst of all, he hides in plain sight. No one believed me when I told my tale, because Jeff Goldblum is one of the world’s most beloved actors. It’s like the old saying: the devil’s greatest trick was convincing the world he didn’t exist. If Goldblum is involved with the theft of the concertos, this is serious business. WE MUST GET THOSE CONCERTOS BACK, BACH.”

(I can assure you that “back, Bach” didn’t sound at all humorous in German, even though in English, it’s totally giggle-inducing. The Person Who is Writing This would prove that by showing it to you IN German but Google Translate is not being helpful. It’s a possibility it’s been taken over by that dastardly Jeff Goldblum.)

“Ken, how will we lure Jeff Goldblum to us? And once he’s here, how will we get the concertos back?” Kate Winslet asked, in a worried tone.

Ken thought. And thought. And thought some more. Bach brought him a fresh cup of tea, in a very helpful manner. The tea helped clear his head. A plan began to form. A very good plan indeed. A BON VIVANTY plan.

“I’m going to need a signboard, some paint, a brush, and a town crier. Kate Winslet, we’ll need your acting skills. You’ll have to find a costume so you’ll blend in. Bach, we’ll need you to play background music.”

(This is the point where, if this was a show or a movie, there would be a montage. It’s not, though. And The Person Who is Writing This JUST learned how to use her webcam. There’s no way she could cobble together a montage. Pretend this is montage-y. It’ll be better.)

Ken advised the town crier as to what he’d need to announce. As he didn’t have any currency of the day, he paid him in the excellent tea that Kate Winslet had brought. The town crier was happy to accept it, as usually people paid him in livestock and tea was easier to transport, and also much tastier. Ken painted a sign for the front of the church. Kate Winslet found some period-appropriate clothing in the donation bin in the back of the church that just about fit her. Bach quickly composed some music that would fit the scheme, and when he was done, Ken taught him one other tune that he’d need, if the plan worked as he hoped it would. Ella daintily checked out what was happening. Louis galumphed around being cheerful and at one point put his paw in a paint pot and then made painty pawprints all over the church floor.

Ella was less than amused at these antics and refused to look her brother in the eye because he was embarrassing her.

“I think that’s it,” Ken said, surveying the scene. “The trap is set. Now, to wait for Goldblum.”

“What will we do while we wait?” Kate Winslet asked, trying to clean paint off Louis’s paw while he gleefully licked her face.

“Drink tea,” Ken said, very seriously. “We will need all the fortitude we can get. This is the final showdown, and Goldblum is a worthy foe.”

MEANWHILE IN THE TOWN SQUARE!

“Hear ye hear ye!” the town crier, well, cried, I guess, what else would a town crier do? Don’t be silly. “Auditions for the world’s first crime procedural being held RIGHT NOW at the Thomaskirche! Looking to cast the lead actor, a tall, devilishly handsome man. Extra points given if the actor has ever worked in science fiction before and can act both quirky AND studious! HEAR YE HEAR YE!”

A man carrying a heavy satchel bulging with papers, wearing a jaunty hat that didn’t quite look right on his head – almost as if it belonged to someone else – and a long, dark coat, stopped to listen to the town crier. He listened to the announcement twice. He looked at the satchel of papers, then began walking briskly toward the Thomaskirche. Once in a lifetime experience, this. Yes, he had another caper he was involved in – but the world’s FIRST CRIME PROCEDURAL? It was too good to be true. He had to at least audition.

When he arrived at the church, he saw a sign outside. “AUDITIONS TODAY,” the sign said. It had a painty pawprint in the corner, which the man found a little perplexing, but he thought that maybe it was just there to provide panache. If there was one thing this man liked, it was panache. Also verve.

He entered the church and was met by a woman wearing clothes that were totally appropriate for the time period, if not a little large for her frame. “Hello! I’m so glad you’ve come to audition. What a jaunty hat!” the woman said. “You look perfect for the role. Would you like me to take your satchel? And is there any chance you’ve got experience in science fiction?”

“DO I?” the man said. “I’ve been in a number of science fiction movi…plays. Plays, I mean, of course. No, thank you. I never set down my satchel. Thieves abound, you see. Hey, you look familiar. Do I know you? For some reason, I have the song ‘My Heart Will Go On’ in my head. Isn’t that weird?”

“Ha ha!” the woman laughed. “I of course do not know what you are speaking of because it is the early 1700s and that song does not exist yet! We are complete strangers, you and I! Please follow me, the director will see you now!”

The man followed the woman to a brightly-lit part of the church. A man at a harpsichord started playing mood-appropriate music. He saw a man wearing a similarly jaunty hat sitting in the shadows. When he started to greet the director, the woman stopped him. “The director doesn’t like to talk to the actors until after the audition. I’m sorry.” She handed him a script and said, “Whenever you’re ready, just introduce yourself and begin.”

The man did some vocal and physical warm-ups – LION FACE! LEMON FACE! And also The Geographical Fugue, which any good actor knows is very important. For example, The Person Who is Writing This is EXCELLENT at The Geographical Fugue, and could NOT be more excited that she just discovered from Wikipedia that it was originally in GERMAN and will now memorize it in German as well because that seems like a fun thing to do – and then began his audition.

“Hello! My name is Jeff Goldblum. I will be reading the part of Wolfgang in this scene from CSI: Leipzig. ‘YES! It was I who stole the concertos! And also your jaunty hat! And I’d do it again! I pretend to be everyone’s friend and a really nice man, but underneath it all my soul is BLACK AS PITCH and I am EVIL AS SIN! And I am no match for you, Ken, the World-Traveling Bon Vivant!’” Um, this doesn’t seem like a speech the lead in a procedural would give. Why is the lead in a procedural admitting a crime? HEY WAIT A MINUTE!” He glared in the director’s general direction. Hee. Director. Direction. Good one, Person Who is Writing This.

“Yes! We have CAUGHT YOU, Jeff Goldblum!” the director said, standing up and coming into the light. THE DIRECTOR WAS KEN ALL ALONG YOU GUYS CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE HOW TRICKY THAT WAS? “And I have your confession recorded with my phone, which I brought with me when I came through, and somehow still works DON’T ASK ME HOW I DON’T KNOW EITHER, so when I get back to Germany of the present, I can show people your TRUE COLORS! Also, GIVE ME BACK MY BEST JAUNTY HAT!”

“Ha ha!” Jeff Goldblum sneered. “You’ll have to CATCH me first, Ken! As I am very wily and also wiry! I WILL get away with these concertos, and then will present them as my own work – and then the name Jeff Goldblum will be as well-known as Bach! Throughout all of time, people will say my name with reverence and respect, not ‘oh, Goldblum, remember that time he was in The Fly and that was so effing gross, seriously?’ Did you know there is a meme called ‘Jeff Goldblum is watching you poop?'”

“I DEMAND THE RESPECT I DESERVE, Ken, you world-traveling bon vivant and BUZZKILL! THE CONCERTOS ARE MINE, NEMESIS! AS IS THIS HAT! MINE! MINE! MINE!”

Jeff Goldblum darted to the left and to the right. Ken attempted to stop him but slipped on a painty pawprint. This cost him precious seconds. Goldblum cackled evilly and rushed toward the door.

Suddenly, Ella and Louis ran out from between the pews! They came at Jeff Goldblum from two directions, snarling and snapping. Jeff Goldblum didn’t know they were just the nicest dogs ever and just playing a role because Kate Winslet had coached them because she is the best actress ever and also so humble that you’d totally want to hang out with her in real life! He thought they were going to eat his face!

“NO NO YOU FERAL CURS! NOT MY FACE! NOT MY PRECIOUS FAACCCEEE!” Jeff Goldblum screeched. Ella grabbed the satchel with her teeth, daintily, while Louis continued to growl. Jeff Goldblum fought for the satchel. Ella stood her ground. Louis rushed over to help her. Two red dogs pulled the satchel one way. One crazed nemesis pulled the satchel the other way.

“NOW JOHANN!” Ken cried.

Bach began playing the orchestral theme from Jurassic Park on the harpsichord. Jeff Goldblum began to sway and spin. Ella and Louis kept their grip on the satchel – BUT SO DID GOLDBLUM.

Ooh, you guys. What will happen. WHAT WILL HAPPEN. I don’t know about you, but both myself AND The Person Who is Writing This are TOTALLY on the edge of our seats.

Suddenly, Jeff Goldblum disappeared with a “pop” and a disappearing cry of “I’ll get you next time Keeeennnnn”. There was a swirl of dust. Ken, Kate Winslet and Bach began to cough.

“Ella? Louis?” Ken called.

Nothing.

Then: a joyful bark. And Ella and Louis trotted out of the cloud of dust. Ella with the satchel gently in her teeth; Louis with something in his. What…

“My hat!” Ken said happily. “Louis, old boy! You got my hat away from him! What a good boy you are!”

Louis dropped the hat on the floor, only a little worse for wear having been worn by a ne’er-do-well and also carried in a joyful red dog’s mouth, and rolled around with glee.

“Oh, no, Ken!” Bach said, from his place on the floor where he’d sat with Ella to look over the concertos. “The concertos are all here, except the fifth concerto! It’s damaged beyond repair! It must have been torn in the melee, or when Goldblum disappeared! What will we do?”

This was grim news. Grim news indeed. The fifth concerto was Ken’s favorite.

“Can you remember enough of it to recreate it?” Ken asked.

“I’m not sure. Some of it, I think. But I had musicians to help me when I was writing. I don’t have any musicians now. What will I do? It’s too late to get anyone in here to help me. I can’t both write and play. It will take too long. And I have to get these to Christian right away!”

Ken thought a moment. “You need – what. A violin, flute, harpsichord, viola, cello, and a violone, correct? Do you have the instruments here?”

“How could you know…yes, but –”

“No time, my friend, no time. I can help you with most of those. I studied most of them in school, and the ones I didn’t, I can wing. But the cello. Damn! I can’t play the cello.”

“Oh, that’s not a problem,” Kate Winslet said. “I’ve been studying cello since I was a wee girl. I’d be happy to help with the cello bits.”

And that is how Johann Sebastian Bach, Kate Winslet, and Ken, the World Traveling Bon Vivant, recreated, from Bach and Ken’s memory, the fifth Brandenburg concerto, while Bach and Ken played, alternately, the violin, flute, harpsichord, viola, and violone, and Kate Winslet merrily helped with the cello (and very well, too, as she does everything well that she tries because, let’s face it, the woman’s kickass.) When Bach couldn’t remember what came next, Ken helped. When Ken couldn’t remember what came next, Bach helped. And Ella and Louis ate the roast beef that Bach had brought for lunch, because he was so pleased the jolly red dogs had saved the day he was happy to give them his lunch.

When they were done, and everyone was pleased all around, and they had many cups of tea to celebrate, Kate Winslet gave Ken a worried look.

“Ken, how will we get home? Sending Jeff Goldblum home with music from his greatest film triumph worked. But how will WE get home? Do you have any ideas?”

Ken smiled. “I do, Kate Winslet. Of course I do. Strangely enough, it’s Jeff Goldblum who gave me the idea.”

Ken quickly taught Bach a song, while Kate Winslet tidied up and gathered up their things.

“Johann, thank you. It’s been a pleasure,” Ken said. “I’ll never forget meeting you. This truly has been one of my most impressive adventures.”

“Thank you, Ken,” Bach said. “If you ever come back my way, please stop in. I’d love to see you and Kate Winslet and Ella and Louis again. I mean, we’re thick as thieves now! You’re welcome here anytime.”

Ken and Kate Winslet gripped each other’s hands, and each of them put a hand on a happy red dog. “Thank you, Johann! And goodbye!” Kate Winslet said. Johann was sad to see her go. He, like most people that interact with Kate Winslet, was a little in love with her.

As the strains of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” poured forth from the harpsichord, Ken closed his eyes and hoped that this worked. Although it was nice to bon vivant around all bon-vivantily in the 1700s, he missed Mrs. Ken, and wanted to know how the penguin adventure had turned out.

When Ken opened his eyes, he was in the loft with the organ. Kate Winslet, Ella, and Louis were by his side. In the music stand on the organ was the fifth Brandenburg concerto. And on his head? His jaunty, not-that-much-worse-for-wear hat, rightfully returned to his head.

“Ken! Did that really happen? Or were we dreaming?” Kate Winslet asked. Ken picked up the score. There, written in small letters, was the publication date – just as it should be, 1721 – and that they’d been written by Johann Sebastian Bach. And, what was that, written underneath the credits?

“With special thanks to Kate, Ken, Ella and Louis, without whose intrepid day-saving this concerto would not be possible.”

Ken showed the note to Kate Winslet, who laughed merrily. “Oh, Ken. You are the best BFF. Things are always an adventure with you! What should we do now?”

“Well, let’s do what we planned earlier, Kate Winslet.”

“What’s that?”

“Go to the Zoological Garden!”

So Ken, Kate Winslet, Ella, and Louis (because Ella and Louis were known far and wide as very special and happy red dogs and could often get into places like Zoological Gardens just on the sheer force of their joy alone) went to the Zoological Garden, and spent the rest of the day looking at all the animals, such as these happy playing tigers:

and, of course, the penguins:

and reminiscing about the time they saved the day from that evil Jeff Goldblum.

While Jeff Goldblum, back in Hollywood, waited. And watched. And bided his evil, evil time.

THE END. (For now.)

(The Person Who is Writing This would like to extend VERY SPECIAL THANKS to Ken, who gave permission for ALL THE PHOTOS of the most beautiful dogs in the world to be ganked from his Tumblr. So go check out his Tumblr, because on top of being a world traveling bon vivant and being able to play just about all the instruments and writing beautifully and answering bon-vivant related research questions on a moment’s notice without ever asking “why the hell would you need to know that?” and making people laugh like a moron on a regular basis, especially when they are having a horrendous day and really need that laugh, he takes amazing photos. Also, he doesn’t seem to mind that he is an character in a series of very exciting adventures on a somewhat overly-enthusiastic person’s blog. No, really. He doesn’t. The Person Who is Writing This ASKED HIM. And he gave his blessing. That is because he is the best. THANK YOU KEN.)


The Adventures of One Fancy World-Traveling Bon Vivant (with a jaunty hat)

Last week, Ken went to Berlin, and took the whole internet with him, because he’s kind of the best. But we are not here today to talk about Berlin, no no no. That’s for another day.

Today, we are here to hear a tale of intrigue and skullduggery and hell, possibly even CHICANERY. I know. I KNOW!

So when he was in Berlin, Ken mentioned something about going to London. Now, listen. Ken lives this international life of mystery. This is a well-documented fact. He’s super-duper posh. He visits places that have names like Poing, he goes to castles, he gets to hang out in morgues, he gets his photo taken with goats. He’s kind of like the fanciest person I know in real life. Or on the internet, which I suppose is kind of MY real life, so same thing. (Oh, by the way, Dad’s latest thing is KEN DOESN’T EXIST. Not even that he’s an assassin, but that he isn’t even a real PERSON. When I asked who would have made Ken up, he replied, “Someone who is trying to scam you.” My question of, “If they are scamming me, there must be a reason; what, pray tell, could that reason be, as Ken, or this imaginary pretend cardboard cutout they’ve named ‘Ken,’ has neither asked me for money nor attempted to show me his ding dong on the interwebs?” was answered with “You’re a smart girl. I’m not going to tell you. You’ll feel better about this if you figure it out yourself.” So of course now I’m trying to figure out what scam “Ken”‘s running that doesn’t involve telling me I won the Ugandan lotto or sending me photos that make me scream BAD TOUCH, you know? It’s all I can think of. WHAT ANGLE IS KEN – OR THE PERSON WHO INVENTED IMAGINARY KEN – PLAYING????)

That needs a new paragraph. Like a palate-cleanser. Like a nice sorbet. Oh, anyway, for the purposes of blogging, let’s just pretend I don’t know that Ken’s imaginary and go along with the ruse he’s real. It makes it easier than typing “imaginary Ken or the people attempting to scam me by inventing someone then taking the time to befriend me but not asking me for anything” every time I write his name, you know?

So I asked Ken if his next fancy-ass international jaunt was to London, because I totally wanted to virtually go to London with Ken, and he said he couldn’t just GO to London. He needed a REASON. (Yes, I realize this is where I should have responded “One does not simply walk into Mordor” but I haven’t read those books or watched those movies because I like being the only human on Earth who hasn’t done a thing so I’m not allowed to reference that meme.) Well, shit. I make things up ALL THE TIME. This seemed like a damn CHALLENGE.

Then yesterday, Ken tweeted the following:

So THIS was curious. Not only was there a “why would Ken go to London” challenge on the table (ok, I put it on the table, no one else cares what’s on my damn table, except Dumbcat, I suppose, whose life goal is to knock everything off my table and then meow triumphantly over his work), then there’s this whole “who the hell puts this kind of language in a contract, and why would they do that?” mystery. So I decided BAM I’m totally combining the two into the MOST EXCITING MYSTERY EVER.

Ready? Ready for the most exciting mystery ever?

The Mystery of The London BFFs (AKA Not for All the Tea in London)

Once upon a time, there was a man named Ken. HE TOTALLY EXISTED NO MATTER WHAT PEOPLE SAID. I mean, I don’t know what you’ve heard about PLOTS and shit, but he was totally in existence, seriously.

Ken was fancy. He did many fancy things in many fancy places. Hey, who’s that guy on top of the pyramids? Oh, just Ken. Hey, check that out over there, who’s that helping to repaint the Sistine Chapel? Oh, that’s Ken. Oh, did you see the new piano player at the Moulin Rouge? Ah, yes. Ken. Whoopsie, sorry, sir, didn’t mean to step on your toes as I leaned over to take a photo of the last white tiger in existence! Quite alright, ma’am. Wait, aren’t you… Yes, ma’am. It’s me. Ken.

Ken ALSO tweeted and blogged about his adventures, so people in small towns all around the world could giggle and squee and aw. Also whenever there were penguins, he sent photos of them to this insane person he knew who lives in New York who writes these psychotically long blog posts that seem like good ideas at the time of coming up with them but then at 11pm they seem kind of cuckoo-bananas.

Oh, ALSO, you might be wondering, when Ken was doing all this traveling, was he assassinating people? Because we’ve all heard that rumor. No. Ken was not assassinating anyone. Someone started that rumor because they were jealous of all the bon vivanting. That’s what people do. Try to bring bon vivants down with stories of assassinations. That’s where the saying “haters gon’ hate” came from. No, seriously, it is. What do you mean, you can’t find proof of that on the internet. I just told you that’s the case, why do you need to go research it? It’s like you don’t even trust me or something.

(Now, I know some of you are wondering, what was Mrs. Ken doing during all of this? She was there, too. She was very helpful on all of these adventures. She made sure Ken wore sunscreen, and didn’t drink tea that smelled questionable, and was very kickass in her own way, I’m sure. However, the person writing this story knows very little about Mrs. Ken and does not want to risk pissing her off because she is QUITE SURE if they were to meet they would TOTALLY BE BFFs so Mrs. Ken will not be much maligned in this story like Ken is because the person writing this story knows Ken won’t mind but has no idea if Mrs. Ken would, so just to be on the safe side, is leaving Mrs. Ken right out of the story other than to tell you she was totally the most helpful and also there. OH, also Ken’s dogs came along, because they are awesome and the person writing this loves them and couldn’t leave them out, seriously, it would hurt her heart if she tried.)

But Ken had a problem. He could go anywhere. He could do anything. But he could not go to London. Not without a reason.

See, many years ago (cue sad violins and a misty flashback scene) Ken was in London. It was his favorite place to go. He’d gad about town, all footloose and fancy-free, bon-vivanting with style, panache, and verve. People would see him and say, “Hey! It’s Ken! You’re back, Ken! Oh, how we’ve missed you!” It was like a real-life episode of Cheers, being in London if you were Ken. And the whole city was the bar. THE WHOLE DAMN CITY.

But one day, a man came up to Ken. A man who hid his face and talked quite low. Ken thought he had no enemies, so knew no fear. Ken was wrong.

The man took Ken to many popular drinking establishments and they drank many beverages of a dubious nature. None of the beverages were tea. This should have been Ken’s first clue something was amiss. At the end of the night, Ken was sure this man was his best friend. Hell, after all those beverages, Ken was sure the following things were his BFFs: a urinal, a tree, a small dog being taken for a walk, a sign that said “No Trespassing,” and a Tesco bag blowing down the sidewalk. When the man asked him to sign a paper to celebrate their BFF-i-ness, Ken did not hesitate. He signed with flair. The man laughed and secreted the paper away into one of the many pockets in his voluminous jacket. (Never trust a man with a voluminous jacket, ladies and gentlemen. It can only lead to trouble.)

Ken didn’t remember how he got back to his flat that night, but the next morning, when he went out and about, quite headachey, he realized that people were not overcome with joy to see him. There were no shouts of “Ken!” as he walked his beloved London streets. What was wrong?

The man selling papers on the corner accosted him. “Issue? Issue?” he whined. Ken gave him a pound just to make him stop, as his head was aching and this was all very confusing. The paper-salesman thrust the paper into his hand and ran away, cackling. Ken looked at the paper. On the front page, he saw the headline. THE HEADLINE THAT WOULD CHANGE HIS LIFE.

“KEN DECLARES BFF-SHIP WITH L. RON HUBBARD. LONDON AGHAST, AS THEY ALL THOUGHT *THEY* WERE KEN’S BFF.”

What? Ken leaned against a quaint postbox to get his bearings. The man last night was…L. Ron Hubbard? Of Scientology? Who died in 1986? What strange alchemy was this?

It was true. The man, his supposed friend, had plied him with alcohol and had him sign paperwork claiming his alliance. L. Ron Hubbard had faked his death. All of London was miffed with Ken. Ken was no longer allowed in London. Unless – because Londoners are actually very, very nice and super-polite – he had a VERY GOOD REASON.

So Ken traveled the world. He spent weeks in the desert; months on the Riviera. But as much as he enjoyed his travels, his heart was empty. He missed London, and the fog, and the rain, and the excellent and easy-to-navigate tube system.

One day, when Ken was waterskiing with the Pope, a man rode up to him on a Jet Ski. “Ken!” the man said. It was international superstar Fabio!

“Fabio!” said Ken. “What are you doing here? I haven’t seen you since we rescued that princess from that undercover sheikh back in Minsk!”

“No time for silly reminiscing, old friend,” Fabio said, and brushed back his luscious locks. “I have a message for you. It’s from Kate Winslet.”

“Kate Winslet?” Ken said. “But I haven’t heard from Kate Winslet since…”

“I know, I know,” commiserated Fabio. “Since the…Hubbard imbroglio. She needs help, Ken. Help that ONLY YOU CAN GIVE. Please! You must away!”

Ken spent a moment thinking about Kate Winslet. They were good friends, he and Kate. The best! Until L. Ron Hubbard tore them apart. Then she could not be seen talking to him, or communicating with him, or the British people would turn on her, and she would not win any more BAFTAs. She would lose her career. He’d told her he understood. But he still missed their long talks and how she said the word “schedule.” And oh, the tea they would drink! Tea was Ken’s kryptonite, you see. And Kate Winslet loved tea like no other. Oh, the tea-soaked conversations they’d lost. All because of that evil L. Ron Hubbard.

Back on land, Ken read the note.

Dear Ken:

All of London is in trouble. L. Ron Hubbard has resurfaced. He’s holding all the tea in London hostage on top of the London Eye. He’s demanding undying fealty or he will throw it all into the Thames. It will be the Boston Tea Party all over again. Only, in London. So, then, the London Tea Party. Only on a much grander scale. Please, Ken. You’re our only hope.

Most sincerely hoping you can fit us into your schedule,

Kate Winslet.

Ken was very put out. All the tea? ALL THE TEA IN LONDON? On top of a VERY FANCY FERRIS WHEEL?

It didn’t hurt that Kate Winslet used the word “schedule.” She knew it was his secret British-pronunciation weakness.

“Let’s go, Fabio!” Ken said, getting his best travelling hat ready.

“Oh, Ken. You will have to go this alone. I’m too afraid, Ken. Too afraid of what might happen, were I to enter London.” Fabio quivered in fear. His locks shook alluringly.

Ken shook his head sadly. “Oh, Fabio. I always thought you were braver than this. You seemed so brave on the cover of the book ‘Thrusting One’s Way into Pirate’s Cove.'”

Fabio began to weep as Ken left for what would be, he was sure, the most difficult task of his life.

When Ken arrived in London, he wore his most incognito hat. (Ken has many hats. It’s part of his charm. I think it’s what fancy world-travelers do.) He also spoke in a deep voice like James Earl Jones. This was so people would not recognize him and then kick him out of London.

He made it to Kate Winslet’s house and tricked her many butlers and maids and such into letting him in to see her by pretending to be a Hollywood agent. He knew that Hollywood agents said things like “blockbuster” and and “Oscar-winning” and “treatment” and “ingenue” so he used these words to his advantage.

“KEN!” cried Kate Winslet, who looked amazing and kick-ass and like she totally could be the person who is writing this’s BFF like, right now, if they were only to meet. “I KNEW you would come! You must help us, Ken! All the tea is at stake!”

“Kate Winslet,” Ken said (he always called her by both of her names, because the person writing this does, and that’s the way this story rolls), “I will do what I can. For our friendship. For the love I bear for the fair city of London. As revenge against L. Ron Hubbard, who tricked me most heinously. And, most of all, Kate Winslet, for the tea. For all the tea.”

Ken stole along the backstreets of London, hiding his face from the denizens of the town he so loved, feeling a little like Jack the Ripper, only without the prostitute murdering. When he got to the London Eye, he saw, at the very tip-top, L. Ron Hubbard, with many large boxes.

“Dammit,” thought Ken. “That must be all the tea. Damn you, L. Ron Hubbard. Damn your tea-thievery!”

Ken’s years of bon-vivantery had trained him well. He rappelled up the London Eye like a boss. No one saw him. Their eyes were too tear-soaked, looking up all all of their precious tea.

He snuck up behind L. Ron Hubbard, who was cackling and rubbing his hands together like Mr. Burns and talking to himself.

“L. RON HUBBARD!” boomed Ken. “STOP WHERE YOU ARE! STEP AWAY FROM THE TEA!”

“Well, Ken, we meet again at last,” L. Ron Hubbard said, as he slowly turned. “I wondered when our paths would cross again. How are you, my good friend? As you ARE my good friend. THIS PAPER PROVES IT!” L. Ron Hubbard pulled the paper Ken had signed while under the influence from his highly suspect voluminous jacket. The people down below noticed what was happening and gasped.

“It’s Ken!” one said.

“Has he come to save all the tea? Ken always did love all the tea,” another said.

“Or has he come to hang out with his BFF L. Ron Hubbard?” a third groused, very put-out that Ken was not HIS BFF, as he’d always thought.

“L. Ron,” Ken said, “that paper was signed under false pretenses. I am not your BFF. I am Kate Winslet’s BFF. For the love of all the tea, man, think about what you’re doing.”

“Oh, I HAVE, Ken, you foolish, foolish man, without even a voluminous jacket to call your own,” L. Ron Hubbard crowed. “Either all of London tells me they are my minions forever, or I throw this tea into the Thames. It’s all quite simple, really.  Think about how quickly these people turned against you, Ken. You owe them nothing. Stand with me, and you can rule all of London with me. And you can have as much tea as you’d like. ALL of this tea, if you want it. Are you with me, or against me?”

Ken thought about it. L. Ron was right. London had turned its back on him, and he’d loved it so. It had hurt. And…all that tea. All the tea IN LONDON.

But…he was Ken. And Ken didn’t deal well with bullies, or crazy people.

“I can’t stand with you, L. Ron,” Ken said. “You know what they say. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on ME. And I don’t like to be shamed.”

L. Ron’s face grew very red. “You’ll pay for this!” he growled, and rushed at Ken.

“NOW KATE WINSLET AND FABIO!” Ken called, and the London Eye, operated by Ken’s loyal friends who had trickily been there all along which is totally allowed and not at all a deus ex machina because the person writing this is getting SO EFFING TIRED SERIOUSLY, started turning just as L. Ron started running toward Ken. Caught off-balance, L. Ron went flying off the ferris wheel, through the air, and hit the ground with a very satisfying thwack. The paper Ken had signed under impaired circumstances flew out of L. Ron’s pocket. Ken’s loyal dogs, Ella and Louis, ran up, caught it in mid-air, and ripped it to shreds with their teeth.

“Not even his voluminous coat could save him, in the end,” Ken mused.

“KEN!” Kate called. “WE CAN’T TURN OFF THE EYE! WATCH OUT FOR THE TEA!”

Ken realized the tea was about to go over the side and into the Thames. “What will I do?” he thought, a moment of panic, much unlike him, crossing his mind. Then he realized there was only one course of action.

“Sorry, old friend,” he said, taking off his trusty hat. “Sometimes those we love most must be sacrificed for the greater good.”

He quickly jammed his hat into the gears of the London Eye. The ferris wheel attempted to turn, but was quickly jammed by the sturdy German workmanship of his stylish chapeau. (YES, I know chapeau is French. The person writing this researched the German for hat. It is “hut.” That’s not as fun to say as chapeau, now, is it? No, the person writing this didn’t think so.)

The cheers from the people on the ground were deafening. A helicopter was sent in to lift and carry off all the tea. Ken rode the helicopter with the tea to the ground, even though he could easily have rappelled down, as fancy people can do.

“Ken!” said Kate Winslet and Fabio as he landed with all the tea. “You saved the day! And the tea! And all of London loves you again! Hooray for you!”

“All in a day’s work, my friends,” Ken said. “No kudos needed. As long as the tea is safe, I can sleep easy tonight.” Then Ken and Mrs. Ken and Ella and Louis went to a hat shop (it didn’t normally allow dogs, but it made an exception for Ella and Louis) to buy him a new hat that was not all chewed up by London Eye gears, and the Queen gave him the key to the city and a little piece of paper that entitled him to free tea in London for life, as long as he didn’t lose that little piece of paper. I know, you’d think she would have given it to him engraved on a coin or something, right? That seems super-cheap of the Queen. Who knows what she was thinking. Cost-saving measures, I guess. We’re tightening our belts all over the world these days.

Ken was a very happy man. Most of all, he could chat with Kate Winslet about tea again. Also, he could tell her about this crazy-eyed blogger in New York that he knew that would TOTALLY be her BFF if they would just meet IRL, seriously.

THE END (OR WAS IT?!?!?!)

(No, probably it was, I mean, L. Ron Hubbard was smashed to a smashy pulp, but probably Ken had a lot more adventures with Kate Winslet and Fabio and Mrs. Ken and the dogs and the world traveling and the free tea and such. I don’t mean to imply that Ken’s adventures are over. I’m sure they are not.)

And…SCENE.

(I think it is quite obvious that the person writing this is the best at storytelling. The person writing this also is ready for a long, hot shower, a popsicle, and bed.  Because that’s how famous writers do it, you guys. THAT’S THE MYSTERY OF VERY FAMOUS WRITERS.)

(Also, Ken, you totally have to go to London now. I’ve given  you your reason. YAY WE’RE ALL GOING TO LONDON!!!)


Work is what you do for others, liebchen. Art is what you do for yourself.

We haven’t had random crap day in a while. Did you totally miss it? Probably not, it’s pretty disjointed. TOO BAD CHARLIE. You’re getting it ANYWAY. Who’s Charlie? I don’t know. My dad used to randomly say Charlie when I was little so I say it now. It’s a thing. I DON’T HAVE TO EXPLAIN MY CHOICES TO YOU.

My internal time clock is all off this week because I’m attempting to be one day ahead with my posts because I know how busy I am this week. So when I write “today” I have to be sure I’m really meaning “today” and not “tomorrow” or “yesterday.” It’s totally like writing from the past. Or the future. I don’t know how time travelers do it, I really don’t. Poor Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap. If he blogged it would have been a mess. Oh boy.

Stephen Sondheim. STEPHEN EFFING SONDHEIM.

Doesn't he look like we could totally be BFFs? YES.

So the other night, I checked my feed reader (can I just give some love to my phone’s feed reader? I don’t have to ask your permission. I’M GOING TO. I mean, it’s buggy as hell and keeps shit unread that I’ve totally read but how much do I love that no matter where I am or what I’m doing, every hour, whatever blogs have been published pop up like magic on my phone, ready for my perusal when I am ready to read them? It’s the best, seriously) and All Over Albany (I totally am like their biggest cheerleader this week, rah, rah) had published a post so I was all “la la la what’s this” and I clicked and then I seriously died, then I revived, only to die AGAIN.

STEPHEN EFFING SONDHEIM IS COMING TO THE CAPITAL REGION IN SEPTEMBER.

OK, now, you probably know who Stephen Sondheim is. But you might not. I mean, you might not be a musical theater person. That’s fine. Well, no. It’s not FINE. It’s totally sad and what’s wrong with you, honestly. But I get it, not everyone knows who Stephen Sondheim is.

Stephen Sondheim is the Tony, Oscar, Pulitzer, and Grammy-award-winning composer and lyricist for such brilliant works of musical theater such as Sweeney Todd (see? You’ve heard of Sweeney Todd. I mean, come on. It was a movie. Johnny Depp was in the movie. YOU’VE HEARD OF JOHNNY DEPP YOU GUYS), West Side Story, Into the Woods, Company, Sunday in the Park with George, Gypsy, and, the musical that changed my entire life and made me love musicals more than anything in the entire world and remains, to this day, even though I’ve seen, and I’m not even exaggerating, probably at least 100 musicals over my lifetime, Assassins. He wrote a MUSICAL about REAL-LIFE PRESIDENTIAL ASSASSINS. And it is AWESOME. I’m not even kidding. NPH was in the revival recently. You’d love it, I’m serious. He’s also a wonderful author and wrote two annotated books about his works, Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat which have all the lyrics to all of his musicals, plus stories about his life in theater, his thought processes behind writing, and photos of the productions, which make a musical theater nut such as myself kind of squee all over when she reads them.

He’s also quite elderly (82 in March!), so the sheer fact that he’s coming to town is really the most awesome thing EVER. I have a list of people I want to see speak before I die. I’ve seen one of them – Kevin Smith (as mentioned, I actually got to meet him and geeked out embarrassingly) – and never, ever imagined I’d ever get to see the others. Stephen Sondheim is ON THE LIST. ON THE LIST, you guys. And the list is three people long. So really, if I get to see Stephen Sondheim in September, all I have to do is figure out how to finagle my way into seeing Stephen King someday and then I guess I can die? That’ll be nice, I could use the rest. I’m totally exhausted.

This is such recent news that the HVCC website doesn’t even have anything about it yet. And All Over Albany says that HVCC students (that’s Hudson Valley Community College, sorry, I’m kind of the most excited so not being explainy enough) get first dibs on tickets. What if they buy ALL the tickets? I don’t want to have to mug a community college student in a dark alley for their Sondheim ticket, but I’m saying right now I totally would if I had to. I TOTALLY WOULD. And I would use jazz-hands. I mean, if you’re mugging someone for their ticket to see the god of musical theater you have to mug them using musical theater dance moves. It’s a given.

So I really think it’s in everyone’s best interest if they just let me buy a ticket as soon as they go on sale, to ensure the safety of their student body. Thanks in advance.

The fun of live theater is that it’s LIVE.

This is totally me in the light booth at my theater, only female. And without an afro. And we can't afford a monitor, even one like this that seems to be from the 80s.

So we’re in tech week for Rumors this week. We had tech on Sunday, we had our first dress rehearsal Monday, then another last night, then tonight is the pay-what-you-will preview, which is also our final dress rehearsal. It’s coming together beautifully, and the show’s going to be great. Lots of laughs. Everyone’s going to be pleased. I’m proud of the cast and crew. It’s been a great experience so far, and listen, I’ve worked on a lot of shitstorms, let me tell you, so I know when something’s a good experience. All is well, my little boysenberries!

Except I totally effed up like every single cue in Act One on Monday.

I feel bad for the director, who is my lovely friend K. and sometimes we start giggling about shit because we can read each other’s facial expressions like we’re talking when we’re not even talking, like from across a damn ROOM, it is awesome. It’ll be fine when we have an audience, but I’m sure it’s not engendering a lot of confidence in my skills that I didn’t seem to be able to get a single cue right the whole first act.

First, instead of a phone ringing, I had a buzzer. This wasn’t 100% my fault, as the sound designer, who I love like a crazy person (LOVE YOU A.!) had been fixing the sound cues because on tech day, there was something wrong with the buzzer sound, and so he re-recorded it so it didn’t sound like a joy buzzer underwater and sounded like an actual intercom buzzer. But he accidentally inserted it into the list of cues where my phone ringing cue should be, and it was labeled “office phone buzzer” so I wasn’t sure – was this going to be a phone ringing, or a buzzer? Should I play it? Was it going to be right? A. wouldn’t lead me astray, would he? So I played it. Yep. Buzzing instead of ringing. The actors were awesome and pretended it was a phone ringing and now I know better but that was kind of embarrassing.

Also, it’s the first show I’m running from a laptop. Now, I’m getting a laptop for my own personal blogging uses soon, so I really should figure out how to USE a laptop. It’s like learning a new skill for me.  I kind of feel like a cavewoman mastering fire. THIS SHOULD NOT BE THIS DIFFICULT. Listen, THE MOUSE IS A PAD NOT A MOUSE. This is worrisome. And sometimes I click on things and it’s not clicky. And sometimes I just get overall confused by the setup. But! I soldier on. Because dammit I refuse to be conquered by a laptop. I mean, CHILDREN can use laptops. I’m a grown-ass WOMAN. I can figure this shit out.

Then I was supposed to make headlights happen so people could say, “I think a car is pulling up!” but I didn’t hear the cue line where I was supposed to walk over to the light board to get READY to do that so by the time I realized I was supposed to be over there, that had already come and gone. Embarrassing.

Also, the intercom system shit the bed about 10 minutes before the show, so when I gave them places, they didn’t hear me, and when we started the show, no one came out on stage, and they were all, “We didn’t know it was time to start the show” and then the whole show was thrown off because of the stupid intercom system.

It was kind of a gigantic mess.

In better news, last night it went much better, with only a couple little tweaks for me to make for the audience we’ll have tonight. WHEW. I’m sure K. is not as freaked out as she was when she left the theater Monday thinking “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH AMY.” I don’t know. I was broken, I guess. It happens. ALL IS WELL NOW.

I’d be just about the best pimp. I’d rock a cane and big sexy velvet hat.

Alan Rickman, I love you truly, madly, AND deeply.

Just a quick pimp of something I wrote elsewhere in case you haven’t already read it – here’s my Reading Rage Tuesday article over at Insatiable Booksluts: How to Ruin Your Young Adult Fantasy Novel. People seem to have enjoyed it, and we’re having lively discussion. Some of this discussion is Twilight-bashy, and if you like Twilight, I apologize. I have officially stopped Twilight-bashing on that post, or even DISCUSSING Twilight on that post, because it was getting a lot like a political discussion with my dad and arguey and “I am right” and “NO I AM” and that makes me nervous and rock in the corner and I LIKE THINGS TO NOT BE LIKE THAT. I do so try not to bash people for their taste in literature, I really do, and try to just be happy they read at all? Twilight just makes me so irrationally upset. I’ll stop now before my head explodes. WAIT ONE MORE THING. I will just say, I can recommend you a number of other series you might like better than Twilight, if you’d like? I’d be happy to do that. Just let me know. I feel like it’s a public service I’d be doing, honestly. ALL FOR YOU DAMIEN.

I’m totally going to win German

As soon as I learn German, I'm sure I'll be sending out awesome cards JUST LIKE THIS ONE.

So Ken’s going to teach me German, so look out Germany, because I’m going to win your language.

OK, so maybe he didn’t really SAY he was going to teach me to SPEAK German, but I like to make shit up and also exaggerate for effect. He IS going to teach me random German WORDS and PHRASES. I’m very excited about this project.

SO FAR, I have learned the words for “gravestone” and “jelly doughnut” (“grabstein” and “krapfen,” Andreas taught me the jelly doughnut one VIA Ken, and aren’t they the most awesome words? Grabstein. Hee! And krapfen! I LOVE GERMAN) and how to ask for more mustard (“Ich will mehr Senf” which probably won’t come in the MOST handy since I don’t dig mustard all that much, but it’s a start) and an awesome phrase that I’m totally in love with – “Eine Krähe sticht der anderen kein Auge aus” – which means “One doesn’t peck out the eyes of a fellow crow,” how much does THAT rock as a phrase? the most, is how much – and from my dad’s time in Germany I know the word “scheiße” which I like to use because it’s naughty, and from being a musical theater nerd I know “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” which is A Little Night Music (ahem, ANOTHER SONDHEIM MUSICAL.)  Also, I’m in love with that squiggly-thing up there which I believe indicates two ss’s. Let’s look up what that’s called. Wikipedia tells me it is either called a “Eszett” or a “scharfes S.” I love both of those names. KEN. I suggest we work on this word next: “eichhoernchen.” This means SQUIRREL. Have you ever seen a more consonant-laden word in your LIFE? I am madly in love with it.

So it is only a matter of time before I am totally fluent in German, just like I am in French if by “fluent” you mean “I can say about fifty words and understand the alphabet if its spoken slowly”, and can say such amazing phrases as “Help! My grapefruit is on fire in the library!” which is a TOTALLY HANDY FRENCH PHRASE. I can also say “Stop! I don’t like bread!” in French. Which isn’t true, I love bread, who doesn’t love BREAD? but I can SAY it, so that’s kind of exciting, right? Ladies and gentlemen, 7 years of French education at work!

But Ken! I have to learn to SOUND German. Germans always sound very gruff. I assume even when they’re talking about rainbow kitten unicorns. We’re going to have to figure out a way for me to sound gruff. Mostly when you talk to me I sound like a cartoon character on speed so this might be an issue.

OK. That is a lot of random crap, and I think you’re all on crap overload, so I’ll stop now. Send out break-a-leg vibes to my gorgeous cast, have a wonderful shiny happy Thursday, and vermeiden Sie rasende Vielfrass. Babelfish tells me this is a VALID TRANSLATION. Except when I translated it BACK from German to English, it said it translated to “avoid racing much-ate.” Which is SO FUNNY TO ME that I totally spit-took. FINE. This is SUPPOSED to say, “avoid rabid wolverines.” I’m pretty sure I’m not winning German yet. GIVE ME TIME SHEESH I JUST STARTED. (Also, Ken, what’s up with the random capital letters in German? Or is that not really a thing and I shouldn’t be doing it? SO MUCH TO LEARN!)

HAPPY THURSDAY!!!

(Psst, the title is a Sondheim lyric quote – from Sunday in the Park with George – AND has some German in it. And relates to both my work at the theater and my writing for the blog. So THEREFORE, it ties in to ALL FOUR OF MY TOPICS TODAY. Are you suitably blown away? Yeah, I thought you might be.)


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