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JEAN SHEPHERD TRAVELER 2 of 4 & (71) A.F

 ASSASSINATION OF JOHN F. KENNEDY

November, 1963

jfk-nyt-dead

In my memory, Shepherd never made a political comment in his decades on the air, although some of whom I interviewed for Excelsior, You Fathead! said that, privately, he often spoke vociferously about political and social matters. A few months after the March on Washington, President Kennedy was killed in Dallas. Shepherd’s wife at the time, actress Lois Nettleton, said in a recorded interview that she, her mother, and Shepherd, were intensely disturbed by the news, watching on TV, “We even went down, walked around, went over to St. Patrick’s and saw all the people sitting on the steps and everything.  And he was—he had a very emotional side—very strong feelings, but I think you have to know that if you know his work.”  Nettleton commented that she and Jean had been strongly pro-Kennedy.

In regard to the assassination, Shepherd did not travel to another geographical location as he did in the other experiences gathered here, but he used the occasion not only to express his strong feelings about Kennedy, but his strong feelings about the state of the American psyche in those early days of the 1960s. He took a heart-felt journey–a 45-minute odyssey–into the psychic innards of the deep mental and emotional problems he saw in the American culture of that time.

The power of his words about the president and about the feelings he had might be compared to Walt Whitman’s elegy upon the assassination of Lincoln in 1865: Whitman’s ruminations on death, and his homage to the president he loved, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed.”

*

Shepherd’s style the week after the assassination was not typical in that, instead of his usually engaging in an apparent, informal dialog with listeners, he spoke as though delivering heartfelt lectures regarding Kennedy and American culture and personal psychology. 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 that America had  problems, 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 was not playing his usual, ironic, pompous, musical theme music at the programs’ beginnings and endings. Shepherd talked about Kennedy’s intelligence, humor, zest–all of which make people nervous. He talked about the problems of being a president in a democratic system.

I remember the first time I heard about Kennedy, and I suppose many of you remember… I’ve always been a Kennedy man. And–for probably different reasons than you can always state–how you like a certain person–very hard to know all the personal things that make you lean towards a man–make you believe in a man, and so on. The one thing that I have always noticed about Kennedy, that appealed to me specifically, was that Kennedy was a realist. And being a realist in today’s world is very dangerous. Because realism is not a thing that is easily accepted by Americans in the 1960s. And I always felt sorry for Kennedy because I recognized the fact that Kennedy did not give people a soft pap that most of them somehow wanted–on both sides of the political fence….

*

Noted by Shepherd–and probably by no others–at the end of the

Arlington Cemetery’s TV coverage:

Here was just this little, simple grave–and–it was just a hole in the ground–there was this little, simple bronze coffin. And there was a quick shot, which they cut away from, I don’t know whether you saw this or not–but it was one of the most poignant shots of all. It was a little moment after the funeral party had left Arlington and–the cars were winding back up the drive over the bridge, back over the river to Washington. And the four soldiers were still standing guard over the grave. You saw coming down from the lower left hand corner, two workmen. Did you see them? Dressed in overalls? Just two workmen with baseball caps, and they were coming to do the inevitable.

 And I have a–tonight I have a feeling inside of me–there is a great sense of–apprehension–I suppose you might say–a kind of feeling of–I hate to say fear, because it’s not that clearly defined. It’s a kind of free-floating thing–a strange unreasonableness–a fanaticism that brought about this unbelievable weekend–is not only still around but is slowly beginning to grow in this land.

For the days right after the assassination, regular broadcasting on Shepherd’s station and most others was suspended for coverage of the event. Shepherd was quoted as saying, “For crying out loud, finally have something to talk about–they took us off the air!“ But it gave Shepherd some time to think carefully, not be forced to immediately improvise as he usually did on his broadcasts. It gave him time to compose his elegantly crafted eulogy for his first night back on the air, in which he suggested how the mood of the country had been changing to an unsettling dissatisfaction with the world, and that this mood-change probably contributed to the tragic events. He ended by saying, “It was a terrible weekend. And I’m not so sure that we’re not in for a few more in the next hundred years.” He concluded the broadcast in a way very unusual for him, that suggested to me that he knew he had expressed something very special in this night’s program–he did the equivalent of signing his name to the eulogy, ending it with: “This is Jean Shepherd.”

jfk-portrait

*

A close friend and I had taken a train from New York to Washington

and we stood in line overnight to walk past Kennedy’s coffin in the Capital Rotunda.

Then we stood outside on the curb, watching 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 saw it almost daily

hanging in my workroom

for over 50 years.

no-parking-sign

Yes, it has been over fifty years.

I still can’t think about the events or see documentary footage of them,

without welling up with tears.

I can’t watch those images–I have to avert my eyes.

*

[Now, over 50 years later, Shepherd would advise us

to keep our knees loose and not avert our eyes.]

*    *    *    *    *   *    *    *    *    *    *    *   *    *

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JEAN SHEPHERD TRAVELER 1 of 4 & (70) A.F.

Gang, although the following material previously appeared in my blog posts

on Shepherd’s travels, I feel that this small grouping,

condensed and rethought from the earlier postings,

brings together important elements of Shepherd’s ways of responding

to his experiences of life and to humanity in general.

That all four happened to Shepherd (and to us as listeners)

in only a bit over two years, is extraordinary.  –eb

artsyfratsy 10010

JEAN SHEPHERD, TRAVELER

MARCH ON WASHINGTON

On his radio programs, Jean Shepherd sometimes described traveling–one of the great enthusiasms of his life. Several times on his broadcasts he talked about what it meant for him, once in mock-melodramatic tones, wondering why he did it:

Deep down inside of me is a little violin playing that says, “Yes, why, why me?  Why am I a Flying Dutchman, forever sailing over the seas—the seven seas of this benighted globe?  Always looking, always searching, always hunting and never finding?”

In reality, he was forever finding. He emphasized that being in new places promotes new ideas, new ways of understanding our world. As the cliché has it, “travel broadens one.”  Beyond expressing himself to others–conveying his experiences and observations—broadening his listeners’ understanding obviously added to his pleasure.

Shepherd not only traveled around the world, but to many parts of the United States, including an important bus ride from New York City to our nation’s capital.  He told a lot of fictional stories about his kid-hood in the Midwest. He was an enthusiastic American patriot. He expressed his feelings and understanding of American ideas and cultural attributes in many of these stories–as in much of his work, including his creation and narration of nearly two-dozen half-hour programs in his television series, “Jean Shepherd’s America.” This series, but a partial, potentially much longer opus, should be recognized as a central marker in his creative world:

The period from mid-summer 1963 through late summer 1965 especially, provides important and expressive examples of his special turn of mind, his focus on the American experience, and his proclivity to travel in an engaged and perceptive way.

Because he was a serious traveler, he told a lot of true narratives about his experiences traveling the world. (I chose and edited, in an unpublished book-length manuscript, dozens of his travel-based broadcasts) I believe that his travel narratives are, in almost all details, true, especially because, as a mentor for thousands of listeners, he was expressing to them truly, why experiencing other places and peoples was important for understanding America and the entire human condition. Yes, he enjoyed travel:

“As far as I’m concerned, travel—I have found travel to be one of the most—oh—use all the clichés, but it is the one thing that I find that really, truly, does give me a kind of a final sense of involvement and satisfaction.”

   *

MARCH ON WASHINGTON AUGUST 28, 1963

Most written and spoken words on this great American gathering come from those reporters who arrived in Washington in an official capacity and viewed the experience from an official news perspective. Shepherd however, wanted to experience it as a typical American—he traveled to the nation’s capital on one of New York City’s cross-town buses with other typical Americans. Thus, as a perceptive traveler, he could describe the occasion based on a participant’s vision of what really happened, and describe this to his fellow Americans. (On the fortieth anniversary of the event, National Public Radio regarded Shepherd’s vision highly enough to re-broadcast a ten-minute segment of his original, 45-minute program.) What follows is a collage of comments taken from his original broadcast. This is Jean Shepherd’s unique historical document about what over two-hundred thousand participants experienced, and as such, it contains much objective truth and authentic feeling.  As for Shepherd, he was overwhelmed. [Excuse a few politically incorrect words that were okay at the time.]

I had all kinds of ideas about the way it would be.  Just like all of us have ideas in our head about how history is.  I’m sure you have ideas about how it must have been to be in Germany in the 20s.  Well, it wasn’t.  Not the way you think it was.  I’m sure you have ideas of how it must have been when Washington was crossing the Delaware.  Forget it.  It wasn’t.  I was not there but I know one thing—it wasn’t the way you think it was.  I’ve found that very few things are the way you think they are.

   *

I went down on this thing very specifically as just a marcher.  Just one of the people in a delegation, because I have learned through long experience—and hard experience—that the only real way that you ever get to have even a vague understanding about events is, if you can, possibly, be part of or in the group, or be in with people to whom the event is occurring.

   *

I wonder just how much a newsman ever learns about anything—standing up on the platform.  I’m curious.  I listened to a lot of jazz yesterday from the newsmen and almost all of them were up on the platform, they were in the news section, which was very, very, very much roped off from the great herd of people who walked along the streets.  The great multitude who gathered under the trees, who pushed up through past the Coke stands and finally stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial. 

   *

And every last man that I saw involved in this situation—the police, the MPs, the Red Cross people—was in the most wildly great, holiday mood.  You just don’t expect it from officials.  Everybody cheering when you came in.  I don’t know how much of this has been reported!  I haven’t seen much of it reported in the press.

   *

So we were walking along and thousands and thousands of white people and colored people are standing on the sidelines waving.  Guys in offices are cheering and waving.  Nobody reported on this!  And I want to go on record saying that during the entire day, I did not hear one word that I could construe as being the kind of word that you would hear in demonstrations, I did not hear one moment that I could call a moment that gave me even one instant a feeling of imminent rabble-rousing or any of that stuff.  There was just an amazing attitude towards everything.  You know, I hate to use such words as “love.”  These are ridiculous, meaningless words, but there was a feeling of humanity in the air.

   *

We were coming in and millions of people were gathering, and I don’t know how they can estimate the number of people who were there.  There would be no way to estimate it.…and suddenly through the crowd was this tiny band of people coming with a little sign that said “MISSISSIPPI.”  That was really a moment, I’ll tell you!  That was a moment. They came all the way up on some crummy old bus.  And everybody was hollering at them and talking and they were laughing and hollering.  Incidentally, in that Mississippi group there were more than just a few white people.  That should be pointed out.  People were slapping them on the back as they walked through.

   *

Well, we were all standing around in this great crowd—it’s going to sound like I invented this.  Please listen carefully.  This is exactly what happened.  There was a man standing back of me who had a big white Panama hat on and like so many of the demonstrators, it was obvious that this was a very big moment for him and he was all dressed up, as were so many.  That’s an interesting thing—my delegation was told to wear a jacket and a tie and white shirt, because “this is a thing we’re going to that is very important.”  So everybody was all dressed up.  As we came into Washington, all the guys were putting their jackets on.  And it was hot—oh boy was it hot on the bus.  Putting their ties on.  Trying to straighten up their clothes and everything, because, as somebody said, it was like going to church with two-hundred-thousand people. The man behind me, a great guy, a short, stout, negro man with glasses clouded-up because he was sweating like mad, was holding up his little sign that said, “NAACP Boston Branch.”  It’s a long way from Boston to Washington on a bus.

And Marian Anderson started singing “The Star Spangled Banner.”  The usual kind of “Star Spangled Banner” where it was through a PA system and we were so far away we could hardly hear.  You couldn’t distinguish the words, but it was “The Star Spangled Banner.”  Everybody standing there.

Suddenly, a few feet from me, a big colored lady with a big red hat with big white flowers—the official kind of lady who’s always organizing—starts to holler, “Will the Brooklyn Corps representatives please assemble over here.  Please get over here.  Brooklyn Corps representatives.”  She was hollering in the middle of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Well, the guy back of me says, “Madam, madam.”

She looked at him.  “What?”

He said, “They are singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’  We usually are quiet during the singing of ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’  Please.  They are singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’”

And he stood there sweating, with his hat off, as Marian Anderson sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”  Don’t anyone say to me, “The Uncle Tom.”  Stop it, man.  You know not whereof you speak.

   *

Coming back….It was like a great company picnic where everybody knew everybody else.  Waving, talking, eating.  And finally the busses assembled and one by one the busses took off.  Our bus backed out, going north and, all along the route through town—and this was late, about eight-thirty or so—there were people walking, waving at our bus, which didn’t have any big, jazzy sign, it was just a busload of plain, ordinary people sitting in there.  And they were waving and hollering and grinning.  It wasn’t a feeling of, “Boy, we showed ‘em, didn’t we!” but it was a feeling of, “Boy, it was wonderful that you came!”  People were riding along in their cars, just ordinary people, and they were all waving at the busses from their cars as we were going out of town, going north.

Out along the highway, millions of busses one after the other.  One after the other!  A fantastic parade.  And in the end, I’m sure it was a parade that no one will ever forget.  A truly historic moment.  Not a historic moment politically even.  It was a historic moment for a lot of people who did not conceive of people being this way.  It’s a new concept, really.  For a moment there.  At least for a moment it was there.

*       *       *    *

______________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD–A CHRISTMAS STORY for Christmas

 xmasstorytitle

The film, annotated, in part.

Years ago I wrote and submitted to a movie magazine, my overall description and commentary on that great American Christmas movie. But it was rejected, the editor said, because the mag had published a general article about the movie a few years before. Here’s a slightly-edited part of the introductory matter I wrote, plus a paragraph from the 2016 holiday issue of the magazine Vanity Fair.

•      •   •   •  •   •   •   

“Was there no end to this conspiracy of irrational prejudice against Red Ryder and his peacemaker?”

In case the reader doesn’t know, A Christmas Story (1983) is the movie about a kid who wants a BB gun for Christmas.  His mother, teacher, and even Santa Claus, tell him that he’ll shoot his eye out.  He (a cute kid with glasses), his kid brother (very whiny), his parents and friends, live in the steel mill town of Hohman (actually Hammond), Indiana.  Their world is just as we remember life used to be or feel it should have been.  Yet almost every incident in this sort of picturesque, just-like-it-should-be world, ends in disaster.  But then the kid gets the gun and the parents show mutual affection, so all imperfections convert to life as we dream of it. The End.

•      •   •   •  •   •   •   

NOSTALGIA (Jean Shepherd: “Get it out of your skull!”)

Although director Bob Clark once said that they worked hard to give A Christmas Story a recognizable sense of what many people would remember from their past, he did not suggest that the film was seriously meant to be an exercise in nostalgia.  Clark called it “an odd combination of reality and spoof and satire.”  That is not nostalgia.

Jean Shepherd, for all the humor and joy he expressed in his decades of nightly radio programs, had a negative view of life’s ultimate meaning, and often expressed an intense dislike of nostalgia.  From his earliest radio days he insisted that, despite evoking the past, his stories showed that the past was no better than the present.  On one radio program he put it this way: “My work, I think, is anti-sentimental, as a matter of fact.  If you really read it, you realize it’s a putdown of what most people think it stands for—it’s anti-nostalgic writing.”

A QUOTE FROM THE VANITY FAIR HOLIDAY ISSUE, 2016

Shepherd’s biographer [sic*] Eugene Bergmann points out that the line in the film that best describes Shepherd’s attitude toward life is when they’re getting ready for Christmas dinner and the Old Man is sitting in the living room reading the funny papers. “The viewer can see the Bumpuses’ hounds starting to trot past him, but he doesn’t see them, because the paper is blocking his view. And, of course, we know what’s going to happen—the hounds are going to get hold of that Christmas turkey.” So Shepherd says, in his voice-over narration, ‘Ah, life is like that. Sometimes at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.’”

*As I continually explain, my book is not and never was intended to be a “biography.” It’s a description and appreciation of his art.

With all of this, A Christmas Story is the funniest, most enjoyable, wittiest, clever and most satisfying film you’re ever likely to see yearly for twenty-four hours straight starting Christmas Eve.

Over fifty million people watch at least parts of it every year as it’s shown on Turner Cable television.  Some families, in their Christmas passion, have memorized the dialog and the narration, repeating them along with the film.  (Despite watching it yearly and remembering most details, my wife and I laugh unfailingly at the same places.) Most watch it yearly, filled with the teary-eyed nostalgia they bring to it, though most of them undoubtedly do not know what the film is meant to be about and that there is only the tiniest bit of authentic happy-days that I think was probably (through a producers’ arm-twisting of the script-writers) tagged onto the end.  The viewers’ ignorance is bliss.  Yet, they might increase their pleasure in this delightful creation by understanding more about the film, because knowledge and insight, as we know, is a very satisfying sort of adult bliss worth adding to one’s heretofore innocent enjoyment.  Viewers will come to understand why the kid nearly shoots his eye out.

•      •   •   •  •   •   •   

Let’s follow A Christmas Story

from its opening titles to its picture-postcard, sugarplum end.

Of course not enough people read opening titles, but in this case, it’s worth taking the trouble,

because who created the film and narrates the entire thing is of much relevance to what it’s all about.

OPENING TITLES

Probably a vast majority of viewers don’t know who Jean Shepherd is, despite the fact that,

prominent among the opening titles they would read the following four:

Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Presents

A film from the works of Jean Shepherd

a-film-from-the-works-3

•      •   •   •  •   •   •   

Ralphie as an adult

Jean Shepherd

•      •   •   •  •   •   •   

Based upon the Novel

In God We Trust

All Others Pay Cash

By Jean Shepherd

•      •   •   •  •   •   •   

Screenplay by

Jean Shepherd & Leigh Brown

& Bob Clark

•      •   •   •  •   •   •   

The title “Ralphie as an adult,” refers to Jean Shepherd doing the entire narration we enjoy so much.  He had previously used this narrative style in his 1970s television drama, “The Phantom of the Open Hearth,” and he described the style in his introduction to the published script of it, writing: “The Narrator is actually the voice of Ralph, grown up, but at the same time he is somehow mysteriously in communication with the viewer.”  Fans of the 1988-1993 sitcom, The Wonder Years may well recognize that form of narrative.  Shepherd, who, because of his use of it for A Christmas Story in 1983, had been considered for the narrator role in the sitcom, but had then been turned down, apparently because his adamant beliefs regarding his creative endeavors were considered too difficult to deal with.  Bitter for many years, he claimed that The Wonder Years producers had stolen from him not only his technique, but some plot lines.

For those unfamiliar with Jean Shepherd, note that he improvised his nightly radio program in the 1950s through early 1977, and that most of the film’s content was told by him on his shows in the early 1960s without a script.  Then he wrote down the stories and they were published in Playboy, then in his books In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’ Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters.  Shepherd, a major jazz personality in the late 1950s, is also known for his other films, several television series he created, as well as for hundreds of live performances around the country for decades, and for perpetrating one of the great literary hoaxes of all time: the I, Libertine affair. (You can look it up.)

Merry Christmas to all,

and may none of you ever

(even metaphorically)

shoot your eye out.

•      •      •      •   •   

__________________________________________

SHEP WORDS TO LIVE BY Part 4

In Hoc

“In hoc Agricola conc” would appear to be a spoken shrug of the shoulders.

DOING IT FROM WINDOWS

“Hurling invectives” is a funny/hostile activity Shepherd did from time to time, but hardly any have been described/recorded by his listeners. The best known reference in the media is the one where, in the film “Network,” the TV broadcaster tells his listeners to open their windows and yell, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Also, with a small variation, Ronald Reagan, in a political speech, quoted this phrase from the film.

More importantly, wherever they may have gotten the idea,

Twisted Sister’s most popular song is, “We’re Not Gonna Take it!”

They yell part of “We’re Not Gonna Take it” from windows:

Twisted S. windows (3)

“Razzmatazz”

“Razzmatazz” is a less frequent Shepherd saying, but it refers to a very important aspect of his early-career interest in jazz and his continued jazz-related improvisational monologs.

Shep CD sayings 4

Final set of Shep’s words from my large spreadsheet

just perfect for printing and taping together.

[See previous blog posts for first three parts.]

Other important Shep material forthcoming!

_____________________________________

SHEP’S WORDS TO LIVE BY Part 3

“Keep your knees loose” is certainly another major saying of Shepherd’s. Especially as it also expresses a major part of his overall philosophy—emphasizing that in reacting to all of life’s potential successes and potential failures, flexibility in one’s response is crucial!

Shep CD sayings 3

FINAL SET OF SHEP WORDS TO COME

_______________________________________

SHEP’S WORDS TO LIVE BY Part 2

The first interior part of my Shep booklet contains three of Shepherd’s best-known sayings, beginning with the most important one of all: EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD. The self-contradictory implication seems typical of Shepherd’s way of thinking.

Shep CD sayings 2

Several well-known people have done parodies of the Longfellow poem, “Excelsior.” Shepherd commented in several different ways on his references to the saying, but, considering one of his well-thought-out comments where he says that “excelsior” refers very closely to his own life while noting the Longfellow poem, and also, the way I describe his usage in Excelsior, You Fathead! (see pages 214-217. For the poem itself, see the front section of EYF!) The one aspect I hadn’t realized at the time of writing the book is that the response to the phrase, being “Seltzer bottle,” probably refers to the fact that there used to be an Excelsior Seltzer bottling company.

kykl-cover-by-eb0002 (2)

Next set of Shep’s words coming soon.

_________________________________

SHEP’S WORDS TO LIVE BY Part 1 (ALSO AN ARTSY)

Jean Shepherd, master raconteur and wit, in his several decades of radio monologs, entertained and enlightened radio listeners with his commentaries, anecdotes, and stories. Frequently sprinkled among his talks were various words and sayings for which he became known.

In the spring of 2001, after I’d begun listening more and delving deeply into his radio broadcasts, I put together nine of his better-known sayings and, for my own benefit and for those who might be interested, I described them and organized them into a CD jewel-case-sized artists’ book.

One side of the large, folded paper sheet contains these nine sayings along with my short interpretations of the background and meanings, superimposed on a grayed-out reproduction of the best-known, iconic image of Shep broadcasting. (Photo by Fred W. McDarrah, November 30, 1966.) For those inclined, the complete set could be printed out and attached to form the front of the sheet as I produced it. The back side of the sheet contains, in enlarged-type, just the nine sayings themselves along with the enlarged image of Shep. As some time has elapsed since I made this booklet, I might alter it slightly, but I’m still satisfied with it.

First, here is the opened-out case with the back, spine, and front.

This view: the back shows one of the sayings.

Shep CD cover 1

SAYINGS WITH DESCRIPTIONS TO COME

_________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD–His Now and Future U.S. of America Part 2 of 2

Part 1 has the most variety of subjects for additional

Jean Shepherd’s America subjects.

_JS_America_logo

 

usa flag of jsa

Remember that I feel there should be at least a couple of hundred programs

to make complete his

TELEVISION DOCUMENTARY MASTERPIECE

±

SUSTENANCE

 Food    Beer

Ice Cream Parlor    Drive-through    Diners

hot dogs & hamburgers    elegant dinners (escargot, lobster, filet minion)

ethnic foodAfro-American Spain.Germ.Ital.Chinese.Mex.Hisp,Jap, etc.

take-out and eat-in eating Italian, Chinese, etc.

restaurants–varied decor

Jewish delis, pastrami vs. corned beef, Cel-ray soda, Shep’s whitefish sandwich

breakfasts around the U.S. and in restaurants

Drinks–coffee weak/strong, wine, milk, mixed drinks, hard liquor, specialty (Kahlua, etc.)

±

Let’s think about a few of these, and in what way Shep could do his bit with them:

Ice Cream Parlors  Beyond the usual neighborhood ones country-wide, there are some special ones that should be visited. For most of my life, Jahn’s in Richmond Hill, Queens was “world famous” in Queens. It closed in 2008!

jahns_menu

Hardware Stores  There are still neighborhood ones that sell hammers and screw drivers and light bulbs, but some of the new ones, like Home Depot sell everything in enormous quantities–they are warehouses. This year we bought our Christmas tree at Ace Hardware.

Drug Stores These sold only pharmaceutical stuff. When I was a kid, the local one also had a soda fountain and a small comics rack where I first discovered Mad Comics, etc. Now they sell lawn furniture and whatever.

Think of the delightful discussions one could have.

For example regarding the best coffee, between the typical weak stuff

in most American restaurants to the stuff now in Starbucks.

Nowadays, even Dunkin’ Donuts has good cappuccino comparable to Starbucks.

And Seattle has become famous for its focus on coffee.

±

Oh, I wish Shep could have made 300 more episodes!

_______________________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD–His Now and Future U.S. of America Part 1 of 2

“…ONE MAN’S VERSION OF HEAVEN IS A SUPER HOWARD JOHNSONS

WITH 28 FLAVORS AND NO LINES FOR THE REST ROOMS. MINE IS A FAST-MOVING STREAM.”

_JS_America_logo

A fast-moving stream in Maine. His version of heaven. One of Jean’s childhood joys was fishing for crappies in northern Indiana. And fishing for crappies is just another name for snagging hooks on beer cans and old submerged tires. The “dream” was to fish from the banks of the Kennebec River. And that’s what he finally gets to do. That’s not all you’ll hear about, because Shepherd doesn’t just follow the camera around, explaining what’s being seen. And he is definitely not into show-and-tell. When you see an unbroken stand of Maine forest, he’s telling some great fishing story. And it’s beautiful. Shepherd himself puts it this way, “If a guy sees a glass of beer on the screen, he knows what it is and I don’t have to tell him. My series isn’t a documentary. It’s going to be hallucinogenic.”

usa flag of jsa

I’ve commented before that Shep’s two series of Jean Shepherd‘s America

are the flawed beginnings of what had been a potential Great American Television Documentary.

What more should be added to the subjects of this series? Here’s a few I’ve thought of to help fill the near-infinity of possibilities in our culture.

(Existing programs 4/11/1971   Existing programs 4/1985   Future subjects)

SUSTENANCE

 Food    Beer

Ice Cream Parlor    Drive-through    Diners

hot dogs & hamburgers    elegant dinners (escargot, lobster, filet minion)

ethnic foodAfro-American Spain.Germ.Ital.Chinese.Mex.Hisp,Jap, etc.

take-out and eat-in eating Italian, Chinese, etc.

restaurants–varied decor

Jewish delis, pastrami vs. corned beef, Cel-ray soda, Shep’s whitefish sandwich

breakfasts around the U.S. and in restaurants

Drinks–coffee weak/strong, wine, milk, mixed drinks, hard liquor, specialty (Kahlua, etc.)

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HOLIDAY CUSTOMS

Santa Claus and Easter Bunny in varied stores, malls

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SPECIAL STORES OLD FASHIONED VS MODERN

Hardware, drug stores (from only medicine, then ice cream fountains, to lawn furniture)

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PLACES

Alaska    Florida    Hawaii    Wyoming

Okefenokee Swamp    South    Death Valley    New Orleans    Chicago

New York    San Francisco    Las Vegas    Dallas    Wash.D.C.    Hawaii    Boston

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ACTIVITIES

 Trains    Driving    Flying     28 Flavors (This is about fishing)

Vacations    Cruise Ship    Cars

Surfing    Skating    Factory work     Hiking    Tourist-vacations    Cooking

Fastfood-work    Exercise(with/without machines)    Kite-flying    Frisbee throwing

Camping    Dog shows    Horse & harness racing    Greyhound racing    Sailboat racing

State fair-going    Street fair going    Off–road riding    Square dancing

Concert-going: classic, jazz, rock     Buying a house    Automated factories

Two-wheeler biking the countryside   Motor biking

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WAYS OF LIVING

Filthy Rich     Houseboat     Mobile Home           Guam

Artists of any/all kinds     Retirement home living   Poverty

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More to come–plus suggestions and new thoughts

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JEAN SHEPHERD–“I know how you’ve gone wrong!” Part 3 of …

STOP!

[Music stops.] Now look. Now look–we’re gonna level, we’re gonna level here. Just for one minute. And don’t you think that I’m here just–night after night just to entertain you, do you?

The more I read and type this Shep-rant the more I see that this form that he’s using is so very different than that of his more familiar 1960-1977, 45-minute programs! I’ve said this before? I’m saying it even more vociferously now!

As much as I like this free-er form Shep, I wonder. Is this earlier Shep actually the more unforced, just talking, just musing, “letting it all hang out,” unstudied Jean Shepherd persona that Lois Nettleton and he preferred–sustainable? When he switched to the 45-minute format, did he realize that not only did a 45 minutes format work against this unguarded Shep, but, if one was going to continue this radio gig  for untold years, one could probably not keep this mock-hostile (?) attitude up.

You can’t improvise one’s (rather nasty) curmudgeonly self five nights a week for years. Is it too much all of a sameness after a while? One has to have a format that allows one to bring forth and attach ideas to (improvising in a more controlled format environment). In that one can expand one’s attitudes–downer, funny, informative, mix-em up more.

Is this what I’ve been grasping for in each attempt to analyze and distinguish Shep’s performance variations over the years?

And furthermore I’m going to tell you another thing. We’re gonna have to–this is a moment now, since its almost time to quit. Almost time to quit. We might as well shell it out. I’m not here to play for laughs. I’m not here to entertain you really, you know? I’m here for a much more devious purpose than that.

To begin with, many people here at this very radio station do not even know I am here. They just see it on the log–“The Jean Shepherd Show.” They’re all home there watching television. Doesn’t make any difference. They don’t know.

But I’ll tell you what I’m here for. I am here, and am an extension of–your conscience itself. I am here because I know where you went wrong. I know where you went wrong. The reason I know where you went wrong is because I know where I went wrong. And since I know where I went wrong, I know darn well where you went wrong!

[All this is spoken in mock-argumentative terms.]

So don’t give me any of that jazz! Do you hear me? Any of you! You have fouled up too! You are caught in the same thing. All of you. So don’t–give–me–any–of–your–lip.

life is reminder...0009

STUDY THIS REMINDER!!!

 That’s what I’m here for. [Music starts.] So play it cool and easy. I know. You know. We should be honest for the first time. You are not fooling me and I am not fooling you. The thing to remember most of all is that you’re not fooling me. Just because I come out of that crummy little plastic box on the top of your refrigerator does not mean you can push me around….The wrong spot! Yes, by the short ones. So–you know– in the end you’re just gonna have to rely on style. Because you got no content! So don’t try to get by with a message–you ain’t got it….

I am not here to play those old familiar melodies that all of you whistle in your sleep. Not a bit of it. Not a bit of it. I am not here to mouth those old familiar platitudes that fall like autumn leaves from the bottom of bank calendars. Oh no.

Enough? He goes on and I’ve got a bit more transcribed, but enough. I know he had to quite this earlier style, or maybe even I could not have followed him, with all his incorporated funny bits, into the future.

life hangingByBranch

Even so, he could not last forever.

He let go in early 1977.

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