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Jean Shepherd Bobblehead!
Does Mark Twain have a bobblehead? Does George Ade have a bobblehead? Does Mort Sahl have a bobblehead? Only the truly great should have bobbleheads. Like George Washington and Derek Jeter. And Jean Shepherd.
This magnificent bobblehead will stand as a focal point in my SHEP SHRINE. In the shrine he will star and he will glow, he will be in the spotlight.
HE WILL BOBBLE!
With his magnificent cleft in his chin (coincidentally, I have one also, but it’s hidden by my magnificent white beard). Most of us never knew about the super spandex undergarment hidden by the deceptively, unprepossessing, white shirt.
Bobbling, he represents the early Shep, where he smiles out at us from the front of his first comedy album, “Jean Shepherd and Other Foibles,” created way back in 1959.
So I present to you the unique, plastic, 6.5″ high,
Jean Shepherd’s true,
J E A N S H E P H E R D !
more overwhelming sight,
I never expect to see.
It’s the old crowd! It’s everybody again! It’s everybody I’ve ever known again!…Oh! They’re all here again. All of them. All of them. I mean, why? Look at the confetti!
—-September 4, 1960. Jean Shepherd imagines
looking out of his window in the middle of the
night and seeing a procession passing by.
Was it the parade of his real/fictional life–
was it a dream, were they illusions,
shades out of his past?
Many listeners owe Shep their life
and a debt to him
because of what he gave them.
I am one of those listeners.
My first debt to Shep
There are many of us. When I was a sophomore in college I began listening to him in the early fall of 1956, just after he began his Sunday evening broadcasts. I sat in our kitchen and listened on my AM and FM, maroon, bakelite radio with the big simulated gold dial.
I was sort of a loner. I didn’t have many friends. I read a lot. All kinds of serious literature. Shepherd talked to me alone. He made me think and laugh–tickled my mind. He influenced me to subscribe to The Village Voice and The Realist. He was the next step up from Mad, which I’d been reading from the first issue. He got me to read what he suggested and listen to what he liked. He was my mentor.
My mother thought he was literate and witty. My father thought he was subversive. They were equally right.
An elegantly composed message says that Shepherd’s broadcasts taught listeners that observation and clear expression could be great rewards, that language was a vital thing when used both precisely and as spontaneously as one dared, and that the most sensible topic was the commonplace–which is full of nuance, humor, and grace. Many people express how wonderful Shepherd was for them, selflessly giving of himself through personal contact and through his program. Among these tributes are comments of many who found Jean Shepherd a guide and a comfort throughout their teenage years, such as one fan who remembers how she was struggling to survive adolescence, and through listening to him, Shepherd gave her a sense that she belonged to a sympathetic group who understood him as she did. She comments, “He saved my life.”
He didn’t save my life but he made my life better in many ways–in my way of thinking, my way of observing, my way of comprehending the world, and in other ways that I can’t even begin to grasp, though a friend of mine commented that Shep also must have made me a better speaker and story-teller. For all these probable and possible ways I’m grateful.
Back in 1956 I’d bought and had him sign my copy of I, Libertine. I continued recording and listening to him into the 1960s. I began watching his first series of “Jean Shepherd’s America” in 1971, but, because “it wasn’t like his radio programs,” I gave up on it. (Years later I’ve come to recognize the series as an imperfect, incomplete beginning of a potential Great American Television Documentary.)
After that I mostly forgot about him, I’m ashamed to say. Then, in October, 1999 (yes, 28 years later) I read his obituary in The New York Times and immediately realized that I’d lost an old friend.
My second debt to Shep
In late 1999 I began to listen and research and read a lot more about Shep. I made contacts with people in the world of Shep. I began to write hundreds of notes and stashed them into file folders because I was beginning to help accumulate information for a biography about him. Soon the author of the proposed biography disappeared from view (and, I later found out, had given up on the project) and I began to write–not a biography, but much more important, I believe, a description and appreciation of Shep’s work. Going through an arid period in my professional career, I spent much time working on my Shep-manuscript. It kept me occupied and excited.
Through that work on Shepherd, in 2005 I became one of my life-long dreams–a published author! I’d gotten to do fascinating research and learn lots of stuff I hadn’t known before. I got to meet and correspond with lots of interesting people. I got reviews, and media people interviewed me. I got royalties. I got compliments and appreciation for what I’d accomplished. I got cards and letters from people I don’t even know! I felt that I’d contributed to humanity!!!
I got another Shep book published!
I even got on TV!
My third debt to Shep
So far I can’t get another Shepherd book published, although I have a couple of completed manuscripts ready to go. I don’t know where I’ll be going from here. What will I do to keep my mind sufficiently occupied? Gee–with all my further ideas about Shepherd and the additional info I’m accumulating about him, why don’t I continue contributing to the Shep-world with a blog?
It keeps me researching and learning and keeps my aging mind active. I don’t know what I’d be doing with myself if I didn’t have my Shep.
59 years, Shep.
and seltzer bottle, too.”
Many locales and situations are subjects for Shepherd
allegories and metaphors. More examples:
Excelsior as a metaphor for unwarranted idealism.
Seltzer bottle as the proper response to “excelsior,” as I commented in Excelsior, You Fathead!” the “self-deluding pomposity of ‘Excelsior’ should deservedly elicit a slapstick clown’s squirt of seltzer in the face!”
Excelsior seltzer bottles in my Shep’s Shrine.
Keep your knees loose as a metaphor for being flexible in life, with its obverse, in the Army’s directive to avoid falling off a pole: “Keep your knees tight,” representing the need to act counter-instinctively in the military.
Og and Charlie, the symbolic cavemen, as not only our former but current selves: not yet civilized. As the old joke has it, the missing link between savages and civilized man is us.
Ludlow Kissel’s giant Fourth of July bomb that goes awry—as Shepherd said, it represents the desire we all have to blow up the world.
Equally, the murderous Mariah and its duplicate, Wolf, the two battling tops that disappear, lost down a sewer, are our seemingly invincible armaments that simply destroy each other. insert image
The great ice cream war, with two stores in competition, each lowering its price to the level of self-destruction. What should be a simple pleasure becomes the subject of conflict and riot. Also a symbol of total war with its mutual destruction.
Shep, Schwartz, and Flick, as youngsters, begin popping pills which they encounter in a medicine cabinet of an empty house. They become very ill. Shepherd, telling this story, says that he is sometimes asked to tell of his first experience with drugs. Obviously the question is asked in order totell some tale of the kind of drug-taking that became so dangerously common in the 1960s and 1970s. He turns this around, telling a kid story in order to give an anti-drug allegory.
The old man’s Chinese nail puzzle and the three ways he has of solving it by destroying it as a metaphor for solving problems by cheating.
Shepherd’s fly hook caught in his ear as symbolic of “doing everything right”—in his radio career— yet having it injure him anyway, by being released by WOR, the firing which was scheduled for a couple of days after he told the allegory.
Seated near the back of the school room because his name started with S in a world of alphabetical arrangements, causing difficulty in hearing the teacher as well as not being able to read the blackboard, suggesting that totally arbitrary circumstances in life can cause important problems.
Morse Code and Mark Twain’s River episode described in EYF! pages 357-360 about being a “sorehead.” He uses expertise at Morse code as a metaphor for there always being someone better than you are. He uses the Mississippi River as a metaphor for life always having some hidden dangers that can kill you. (January 6, 1965)
Eating escargot for the first time as symbolic of all the wonderful things out there beyond the narrow minds of one’s immediate environment.
“Cowboy X” is Jean Shepherd himself, who makes his mark everywhere for what he accomplishes, yet who is unrecognized by the “not very smart” townspeople—the ignorant American masses.
Considering the above interpretations, he seemed to be enamored of allegories and metaphors. And, as these are only those that have been easily remembered from the over a thousand available programs heard, and these shows are only part of his radio broadcasts that have surfaced and are available for listening, many more recognizable ones undoubtedly exist out there somewhere, waiting to be found and interpreted—or misinterpreted. As one email correspondent put it: “…to paraphrase Freud, ‘Sometimes a leg lamp is just a leg lamp’” (Frank in Jersey). Ah, yes, some might be wrong interpretations, but Shep also produced many direct, unequivocal doozies:
“New York is a summer fistfight,” and walking up Sixth Avenue “knee-deep in cigar butts,” frequent disparaging comments on the thoughtless slovenliness of Americans.
Warren G. Harding school as being made of balsa wood and silly putty.
A simile from In God We Trust: “[Hohman] clings precariously to the underbody of Chicago like a barnacle clings to the rotting hulk of a tramp steamer.”
His mother’s knee: “She had this huge, giant, wonderful old granite knee. Had these handholds,” as symbolic of a child’s image of the mother as a chiseled-in-stone subject of truth, wisdom, and security.
Kidhood as a jungle is the direct ,extended, many-faceted, hyperbolic metaphor in Shepherd’s own narration at the end of his television drama, “The Phantom of the Open Hearth,” taken from the published script:
“The male human animal, skulking through the impenetrable fetid jungle of Kidhood, learns early in the game just what sort of animal he is. The jungle he stalks is a howling, tangled wilderness, infested with crawling, flying, leaping, nameless dangers
“He daily does battle with horrors and emotions that he will spend the rest of his life trying to forget or suppress. Or recapture. His jungle is the wilderness he will never fully escape, but those first early years, when the bloom is on the peach and the milk teeth have just barely departed, are the crucial days in the Great Education of Life.”
Shep in “Phantom of the Open Hearth”
Pretty strong, that one. But others can hold their own, too. Whether Shepherd used metaphors and allegories consciously or not in every sited instance is impossible to say, but that he used them sometimes is undeniable. In fact, I suggest that Shepherd’s penchant for the vigorous, descriptive language he is so admired for, especially in his writing, owes much to his sometimes strong and surprising metaphors.
A couple of Jean Shepherd-related books in my Shep Shrine are rather rare. I’ve written about them previously, but not shown the specifics that make them special. My two copies of I, Libertine in paperback are signed. One by Jean Shepherd, who created the original hoax and, it’s said, was responsible for the general idea of the book, the other by Theodore Sturgeon, who, it’s said, wrote most of it except for the final chapter. The paper, as you can see, is brown with age and it is very fragile–I took a chance opening it flat to scan the page with Shep’s signature.
Jean Shepherd signing my paperback copy of I, LIBERTINE.
(As I took the photo, I’m not in it. Note date of April 1957,
taken on a Horn and Hardart restaurant balcony
after a mill at the Marboro Bookstore on 8th Street.)
Theodore Sturgeon signature in a separate paperback
copy of I, LIBERTINE I bought years later through the internet.
According to the Sturgeon web page: “The symbol of the Q with
an arrow through it was used by Sturgeon in his signature
after the mid-1970s. He also wore it as a necklace.”
“It means ‘Ask the next question.’ It’s the symbol of everything humanity has ever created, and is the reason it has been created. This guy is sitting in a cave and he says, ‘Why can’t man fly?’ Well, that’s the question. The answer may not help him, but the question now has been asked. The next question is what? How? And so all through the ages, people have been trying to find out the answer to that question. We’ve found the answer, and we do fly. This is true of every accomplishment, whether it’s technology or literature, poetry, political systems or anything else. That’s it. Ask the next question. And the one after that.” – Theodore Sturgeon
English hardcover edition–note text on back of dust jacket.
(For English paperback and American hardcover see http://www.flicklives.com)
A serious, historical book with an 8+ page chapter on I, Libertine
(click on image of text to enlarge)
When I bought my first edition used copy of Shepherd’s WANDA HICKEY’S NIGHT OF GOLDEN MEMORIES–AND OTHER DISASTERS, I had no idea of the bookplate I’d find in the copy when it arrived in the mail. FYI, the over-stamped info in full reads “No longer property of Dover Public Library” :
(Click on image to enlarge.) Bookplate reads:
Dover Public Library
Dover, New Jersey
From the TUBA SECTION of
Dover High School 1971-1972
This has significance only to those Shepherd
fans who know that Shepherd
played the tuba and sousaphone in high school.
A booklet from Camp Crowder, where Shepherd
spent an early part of his Signal Corps training.
(There is less material available from Florida’s
Camp Murphy where Shepherd spent his
radar training time. Maybe because it was supposed
to be a “secret radar facility.”)
N O V E M B E R 1963
A close friend and I took a train from New York to Washington
and stood in line overnight to walk past
Kennedy’s coffin in the Capital Rotunda.
JFK Jr. saluting his father’s coffin.
Then my friend and I stood on the side of the street and watched
with thousands of others
as the Kennedy family and foreign dignitaries
slowly walked by in tribute.
Afterward, the public then dispersing,
I removed one of the no-parking signs
from a street-pole along the route.
I have had it
hanging in my workroom for 50 years.
Shepherd’s style the week after the assassination was not typical in that, instead of his usual engaging in an apparent, informal dialog with listeners, he spoke as though delivering a heartfelt lecture. He suggested that the recent ferment of student unrest, the civil disobedience, demonstrations and riots in the streets, with the America-bashing of those days, probably contributed to the atmosphere that led to Kennedy’s killing. He commented that there was a trend of righteousness in the country, “a super, hyper-thyroid Holden Caulfield.” Shepherd admitted the problems in America, but said that other countries had more problems. He recognized that America was not living up to its ideals.
His somber tone that week was underscored by his comment that he did not play his usual, pompous, musical theme music at the program’s beginnings and endings.
During the eulogy is one of the rare times
that Jean Shepherd is known
to have expressed in public, a political notion.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Yes, it has been fifty years.
I still can’t think about it or see documentary footage of it
without my eyes welling up with tears.
I can’t watch that footage–I have to turn it off.
As the 50th anniversary of the assassination approaches, increased interest takes place in the media. I was interviewed by an NPR station regarding Shepherd’s broadcasts about the event.
Here is the information about part of the interview (heard in the SEG2 portion 3:02-5:40), and the entire Jean Shepherd eulogy about Kennedy. The info also includes the schedule for the live streaming of the interview that will occur on 11/25. The last line has the Internet address for the Shep eulogy. Below is the info from the broadcaster, Mike Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio News :
<The Jean Shepherd JFK show is in the can and ready to air at noon CT on Monday Nov. 25 on Minnesota Public Radio’s news station. You can stream it here when it airs: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/radio/services/nis/listen/live/ It’ll also be archived here: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/radio/programs/mpr_presents/
I also produced a national version for other stations to air, but so far nobody has picked it up. You can hear that here:
“Shep, we love ya.
Shep, your work is on our minds night and day.
Shep, we build shrines to ya.”
Back in February 2013 I published a description of my Shep Shrine. By special request I’m adding a lot of recent photos, because a lot of photos are worth maybe more than the previous 1423 words.
Reference material, written files, audio files of Shepherd radio shows, interviews of him, discussions of him on the radio; audios and transcriptions of interviews I did for my Excelsior, You Fathead!, interviews of me discussing that book after it came out; videos of his TV shows and his films along with odds and ends. A special Excelsior, You Fatheads! bright orange felt banner. And more material stuffed into my hardware/work area.
Props from my Shep play; seltzer bottles; first editions of his books, reference material; nine syndicated radio CD sets for which I did the program notes; assorted goodies of his I got on ebay.com.
Original artwork–the ink drawing of the antique Bugatti, previously posted in my Bugatti article and to its right, the continuation of the same paper towel sheet, individually framed, of the still life of table objects he did. A water-logged copy of Excelsior, You Fathead! sent to me by a fan at my request.
What a lotta stuff!
Excelsior banner by Jackie Lannin.
Boxes of CDs and cassettes of
Shep shows, interviews of him,
interviews by me for EYF! book, etc.
Same model Zenith radio as that on which
I first listened to Shep,
E B bookends my father made for me,
a couple of my Shep manuscripts,
our son Drew’s baseball jersey.
Sub-annex with research, file boxes, and folders,
interviews and permissions for EYF!,
much else, plus Shel Sileverstein books.
fabricated while passing through
one of my many silly moods.
MAIN GALLERY OF SHEP SHRINE
Two props from my Shep play,
artists books I’ve made, and my
EXCELSIOR SELTZER WATER bottle collection.
Director’s chair and megaphone–
props for the Shep play.
First editions of Shep books, research books,
files and publicity for EYF!, other Shep artifacts,
a waterlogged EYF! copy in its box,
in front of it a playbill for “Look, Charlie,”
some Shep ink drawings including the
long Bugatti drawing on the wall.
Shep’s paper-towel still-life ink drawing
mounted to the right of the Bugatti drawing
from which it was severed.
Poster of Jean Shepherd bestowing
benediction upon all who enter the Shrine.
Leg lamp night light below, no longer functional
–now just a nostalgic memento.
(Table-size leg lamp may be seen
in our front room window all year long.)
[Jean Shepherd speaking in a much-exaggerated, mock-sorrowful, pleading voice.] I want to hear one person. Just one small person. That’s all I need. Night after night I wring my poor bones dry. Night after night, out of this turnip—this me, out of this rock—this me—I try to draw a little blood—for you. For what? For what? Do you think it’s to sell Miller Beer? Eh? Do you think I get satisfaction out of selling Miller Beer, eh? Eh? You’re doggone well tootin’ dad, you’re doggone well tootin’! [A Miller Beer commercial follows.]
Ah! That’s all I need. Just one little word—of encouragement. A small word. All I want is just to hear one voice crying out of the wilderness, “Hurray, Shepherd! You’re fantastic! Hurray, Shepherd! There’s nobody in the world like you! Hurray, Shepherd for the president of the world!”
That’s all I want. Just one little word here and there, of encouragement. That’s all we only want—all of us. Just a little cheering, just a little solace from time to time. Just a little indication. Just the smallest clue! That somebody cares. That somebody [said with a sob] cares. That somebody cares [he is crying, pounding on his table]. I sang my heart out for ya, just about five minutes ago. I almost blew a gasket for you. For all of you—out there on the Island, for you, you slobs in Staten Island, and for that nothing bunch up in the Bronx. (Friday night broadcast, March 5, 1965)
Shep, we love ya.
Shep, your work is on our minds night and day.
Shep, we build shrines to ya.
SHORT PLAY INTERMISSION BETWEEN SCENES
During this short break you might hum to yourselves:
“Video Killed the Radio Star”
I’ve been especially focused on the world of Jean Shepherd since he died in October, 1999. The obit reminded me of his importance in my life. So much so that my wife is jealous. I keep most of my Shepherd-related material objects cloistered in my study, which, as it expands into adjacent areas has become known as my “Shep Shrine.” However, at her suggestion, we maintain, all year long, in one of our front windows, a small version of the infamous “leg lamp.”
As you may know, I began listening to him in the fall of 1956, and met him during a gathering of his listeners in April, 1957:
But it was in the beginning of 2000 that I began focusing my thoughts and energies on writing Excelsior, You Fathead! The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd. To show you that it wasn’t all serious pen-to-paper and keyboarding, what follows are a few of my other Shep-related projects. (These images of my stuff I’ve gathered from the extraordinary postings of all things Shep on Jim Clavin’s http://www.flicklives.com site):
I designed a rubber stamp to brand my correspondence. See above.
I designed and made a couple of my version of Shep’s “brass figlagee with bronze oakleaf palm”:
I branded my car, sort of, with Shep’s immortal word:
I gathered my Shepherd material into my “Shep Shrine” and I never stopped writing about him, as my various publications, several book manuscripts, and this blog attest.
MUCH MORE TO COME
(For example, the next scene in my Shepherd play.)
The biggest “miscellany” in my life is a section of our house in which I store all my Jean Shepherd material. This interconnected space of three rooms began as my large study (large enough to fit my forebears’ heirloom pool/billiard table), full of books and artwork and odds and ends that strike my fancy; a smaller “annex” area also full of books and off-season, stored family clothing and decorations; and, beyond a locked door, the “hardware area” with its sharp and otherwise dangerous equipment in which I sometimes make minor handyman repairs. As I began my intense re-interest in Shepherd back in early 2000, the previously sedate but impressive collection of books, artwork reproductions, and hardware inherited from my father, began to be muscled aside by Shep-materials in those three rooms. I do my best to keep the mess organized. (My wife, a genius of categorical organization, refuses to participate as my Shep-oriented organizer and file clerk. She has her own hobby horses to ride.) Now the three rooms and a few minor outliers form a rich and complex conglomeration which I self-deprecatingly, yet with humor and kindly forbearance toward myself, refer to as my “Shep Shrine.” This miscellany I’ve compiled here may well be, for Shepherd’s wide-ranging creations, and for my collecting and organizing the related fragments, a decent description of his and my efforts and an all-encompassing metaphor.
I won’t mention all the effluvia which, in these Shep-cavalcade areas of our home, must remain on the sidelines without description. (Nothing about my reproductions of astrolabes and a small collection of kaleidoscopes; nothing of several shelves filled with a chronologically arranged collection of books on art through the ages and my collection of that insufficiently appreciated field of art, artists’ books; nothing of my collection of poetry books and volumes on music I treasure; and I won’t say a word about books on Spain and bullfighting and a small, shriveled, desiccated pomegranate sitting atop a little paper model of the Alhambra, with all its associations that hark back to my previous, disastrous marriage to a woman from Granada. Nada.) None of those who drive by this otherwise undistinguished house in Massapequa, New York could imagine the dusty but stalwart clutter inside that helps keep alive the memory and artistry of an insufficiently recognized genius of their recent American past. I must focus on this that I have found, written about, bid on and bought, gathered out of the electronic ether, archived on printouts, clustered on real shelves and in real boxes.
This is the biggest and most impressive exhibit in my mini-museum. The dominating pool table in the middle of the room has a scattering of tear sheets and printouts waiting to be dealt with and filed in Shep-folders. On one corner of the table is the enlarged repro of the cover of Excelsior, You Fathead! attached to the stick I held high, advertising my forthcoming wares to conventioneers as I did the rounds of the annual Old Time Radio convention in late 2004. There is a bookcase with a miscellany and shelves devoted to creativity and writing, on one side of which is a signed letter from Norman Mailer and an Esquire magazine cartoon showing Charon’s boat to Hell, filled with despairing sinners, Dante, complacently in the back, commenting, “I don’t mind it really—I’m only here to gather material for a book.” Most importantly, I maintain several shelves with first editions and signed books by Shepherd, including all four different editions of his I, Libertine, some books with introductions by him, such as The Scrapbook History of Baseball, several books with partial chapters discussing him, and other books focusing on nighttime radio and talk radio. Various Shepherd ephemera fill out every spare inch. There is a set of the nine CD boxes containing my program notes for the Syndicated Shep audios being produced, and copies of my Excelsior, You Fathead! alongside my scrapbook loose-leaf books containing reviews of it and other noteworthy collectables. There is a loose-leaf book I’ve titled “Lois Nettleton’s Jean Shepherd Album,” full of reproductions of the many Shepherd-related materials she had saved and that were auctioned after her death.
On the wall near that bookcase is one of the elaborate, hand-crafted valentines Lois made for Jean and the lone hand-drawn valentine Jean did for Lois, plus several framed original ink drawings by Shepherd. Filling out the crowded walls are reproductions of paintings and drawings by Picasso, Miro, John Marin, and Arthur Dove. Small photos of Picasso, Hemingway, Cummings, Mailer, Blaise Cendrars, and Charles Wright hang near the window. Among them, two disparate American masters, Henry James and Henry Miller face each other. Up near the ceiling, right next to a grouping of Excelsior seltzer bottles, and dominating the room, is the framed, poster-size version of the photo of Shepherd that also graces the cover of my Excelsior, You Fathead! His upraised hand seems to bestow his benediction upon the scene.
Opening from the study is the small area I call the annex, full of important but less picturesque items, although it does contain a copy of my favorite Van Gogh, a Krazy Kat poster, a personally autographed eight-by-ten photo of Soupy Sales, a signed, original Cerebus drawing (he’s the hero of the graphic novel originally issued in a three-hundred-month, comic book format), a very small bobble-head of American Splendor creator Harvey Pekar, and a very large hand-made banner of the saying “Excelsior, You Fatheads.”
Less visually impressive but having exceeding import for me are: in plastic shirt-storage boxes, many hundreds of cassette tapes and CDs of Shepherd audios covering his broadcasts from 1953 through 1977; CD copies of my special Shepherd high-light selections; copies of my manuscripts on CDs; the original tapes of my dozens of interviews done for Excelsior, You Fathead!; a file box of my promotional ideas, a file box of folders containing materials of special Shepherd-related people; and my treasure chest—a file box with notes and ideas for the still hoped-for TV documentary featuring Shepherd. I can dream, can’t I? As for family-related nostalgia, there in a net bag are the finger puppets I used to tell and sing to our two very young sons, the ditties of Old McDonald, Red Riding-hood, Goldilocks, and the Three Little Piggies.
Originally muscling aside the tools had been those cassette tapes, but, realizing their vulnerability in the unheated room, I’d shifted them to the Annex and left the space for other Shepherd matters. Besides reference books about the Beats, Lenny Bruce, Lord Buckley, and others, there’s a collection of Shel Silverstein volumes and a file box full of miscellaneous folders labeled “Shep, Shel, and Herb,” etc. There are many file folders based on the wide-ranging chapters of Excelsior, You Fathead! , full of an ever-expanding collection of notes and references to Shepherd’s career; there are folders with Shepherd’s occasional writings, articles and obituaries of him; a pile of stuff about the Hammond, Indiana A Christmas Story/Jean Shepherd celebration; and, to appropriate the “Rhinestone Cowboy,” regarding some of the comments about my book, cards and letters from people I don’t even know. There is also a small box of Shepherd-related musical instruments: nose flute, kazoo, and jews harp, plus a couple individually designed and made brass figlagees. And, a large box of real excelsior.
In addition to the main Shepherd rooms there are a few odds and ends scattered elsewhere. On my wife’s desk in her study is a zip-locked bag with an inscribed copy of Excelsior, You Fathead! and our living room coffee table has my worn reference copy of the book I use all the time. On the dining room bureau, where my wife says we can keep it all year long, is an eighteen-inch high version of A Christmas Story’s infamous leg lamp. On my bedroom bureau, courtesy of our younger son, are bobbleheads of Ralphie and the Old Man. In the small room we call “The Attic,” with its computers and wrapping paper, is a framed photo of Shepherd, virtually unknown except maybe to myself, because it came from the photographer’s studio, taken in 1956, showing a young, confident man at the beginning of his New York career. Maybe for me, the most important object in our house, aka The Shrine, is The Attic’s authentic piece of nostalgia—recently bought on ebay.com, the exact model of my original “maroon plastic Zenith AM/FM radio with the big simulated gold dial” on which, fifty years ago, I had originally heard and recorded ol’ Shep.