My Lips Are Sealed!

Like all good citizens, I believe in heaping praise on those who deserve it. That’s why I’m giving a real big shout-out right now to my perceptive editor, the one and only Edgar Reewright. When it comes to the writing game, I’d be lost without him. Edgar watches out for me and tries to keep me on course. Thank you, Edgar!

Edgar demonstrated his concern very recently. Last week, in fact, when I sent him, via email, a book review I’d just written that I was convinced would be a worthy addition to Yeah, Another Blogger. Twenty seconds later he called me.

“Neil, you’re out of your f*cking mind!” he said before I could say hello. “You can’t publish this piece. A few glances at it showed me that you’d be making a huge mistake if you did. You know why? It’s because you’re taking on a subject that’s totally uncharacteristic of and inappropriate for your publication.”

“Listen,” he continued, “you have a cultured, discerning audience. None of your readers would want to read your review of Nomore Limpdikk’s book Getting Hard The Aztec Way. Sure, this might be Limpdikk’s masterwork, like I think you remarked in the review, and undoubtedly it is a valuable addition to the scientific literature about erectile dysfunction. But you should stick with your flimsy pieces about the walks you take, the music you listen to, blah, blah, blah. Your readers seem to enjoy that sort of stuff, so give them what they’re used to, for crying out loud! Why is erectile dysfunction on your mind, anyway? Do you have a problem?”

“Who, me? Edgar, I’m as powerful as a bull, I’ll have you know. Or maybe not, but none of that is any of your damn business! On the other hand, you should be aware that your business is all over town. I’ve heard it through more than one grapevine that your bedroom performances, are, shall we say, lacking.”

There was a long pause before Edgar responded. He broke the silence by calling to his wife, Loretta, asking her to come upstairs and join him in his home office. I heard her footsteps growing nearer.

“Yes, dear?” she asked.

“Sweetie pie,” Edgar said to her, “I have it on good authority that the situation involving my once-mighty sword has become the talk of the town. Who have you been blabbing to? Your mother? Your loose-lipped girlfriends? Loretta, I can’t believe that you’d do this to me.”

“What are you saying, Edgar?” Loretta answered. “I never talk to anyone about our sex life. You know as well as I do, though, that you can’t keep your mouth shut when you have your goofy friends over to play pinochle. So, one of those guys must have spread the word. Maybe more than one of them.” Receding footsteps then told me that she was leaving the room.

“Edgar, are you there?” I asked ten seconds later.

“I’m here. I’m here,” he said. “But I don’t know what to do. Neil, I think I need your help.”

“Edgar, help is my middle name. It’s a good thing that I read Getting Hard The Aztec Way, because it contains information that will solve your problem. Nomore Limpdikk is a brilliant man, a researcher non pareil. If you’d done more than glance at my review, you would understand that. How is it that nobody over the last 500 years, before Nomore investigated the subject, knew that performance-challenged male Aztecs ate the leaves of the bonerium cactus in order to remedy their sexual deficiencies? The leaves contain chemicals that take effect almost instantly, and the results are startlingly good. Why, Nomore Limpdikk proves that today’s ED pills, such as Viagra, are pitiful compared to the wondrous bonerium.”

“Neil, I’m flabbergasted. And I’m relieved to learn that better days for myself are a real possibility. I’ve tried Viagra, you see, but I’m the one-in-a-million male that it has absolutely no effect upon. Bonerium cactus leaves are what I need! Where do I get them?”

“Edgar, they are hard to come by, because nobody is cultivating them commercially. Not yet. But they can be found here and there in the Mexican deserts that the Aztecs once occupied, Nomore says. And, as luck would have it, I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy. Well, you get the picture. Within a week a shipment of the magic leaves will arrive at your doorstep.”

“I can’t thank you enough, Neil. This is the greatest favor that anyone has done for me since my third ex-wife, as part of our divorce settlement, agreed to let me keep our collection of pet rocks. I’m going to repay you by waiving my editor’s fee for the next two years. Thank you again. And please promise me two things. First, that you won’t publish an article about erectile dysfunction.”

“I promise,” I said.

“Good. And second, that you won’t mention our conversation to anybody.”

“Edgar, my lips are sealed!”

A Sunflower Story

What the hell is wrong with you, Neil?” my unsubtle editor Edgar Reewright shouted into the phone a couple of weeks ago. He had called moments earlier with a special request — he wanted me to compose a story about sunflowers — and I had balked at the idea. “I mean, what do you have against sunflowers? Just about everybody likes sunflowers, right? Right. Furthermore, if they were good enough for Vincent van Gogh, who, unlike yourself, was a genius, then they damn well are good enough for you.”

“Neil,” Edgar continued, “have I ever asked anything of you before? Other than demanding high payments to compensate me for the extraordinary pains I take to make your writings intelligible, the answer is no. I haven’t been myself the last few weeks, so a bright, cheerful piece about the sunniest of flowers probably will boost my spirits. Write it!”

“Listen, Edgar,” I said. “I’ve got nothing against sunflowers. On the contrary, I love them. I mean, they’re just adorable. Big and grinning, and their gangly stalks are so improbable. They’re like dogs that want nothing more than to please you, that know they’re goofy and would have it no other way.”

“So, what’s the problem, Neil?”

“Well, it’s just that I’ve written quite a few nature-related articles the last several years. I don’t want to overdo it, you know.”

“Overdo it? Neil, you can’t go wrong with nature. And I highly doubt if you have anything better to write about right now, anyway.”

“Oh yeah? Listen, Edgar, I’m planning to do a piece on the wonders of napping. I’ll explore its ins and outs: how I position my head just so on the living room sofa before nodding off, for instance. And how I awake 10 or 15 minutes later with glazed eyes, uncertain where the hell I am. Edgar, I’m one hundred percent certain that the readers of that article will be enthralled. My exciting revelations will have them panting for more.”

A few seconds passed. And then Edgar had this to say: “A short while ago I asked, ‘what the hell is wrong with you, Neil?’ And I was right on the money, because a better question hasn’t been posed anywhere in the world today! Napping? You’ve got to be kidding me! Listen up, haven’t I always strived to help you create agreeable product?”

“Yes, that’s very true, Edgar. I don’t know how you do it, but you whip my reportage into decent shape.”

“Thank you, Neil. Even though I’ll never figure you out, I have to admit that anybody who unashamedly uses a clunky word like reportage in conversation can’t be all bad. Okay then, I strongly recommend that you drop the napping idea and move on to sunflowers. Are we on the same page?”

We were.

Thus, during three walks in the latter half of July, in my neighborhood and in nearby towns, I kept an eagle eye out for sunflowers, and found about 15 homes on whose grounds they were displayed. Having strolled past hundreds of houses, though, I was a bit surprised by the low percentage that carried this form of joyful flora. But little matter. Every sunflower that I saw smiled at me. They truly were glad to see me, and the feeling was mutual.

But you know what? Despite the time I spent with real-life sunflowers, I have to admit that I much prefer a particular Vincent van Gogh sunflower painting over them. Vincent painted sunflowers a dozen times, and one of those oils hangs within the Philadelphia Museum Of Art, where I have passed hundreds of hours. (I’ve lived in Philadelphia or its suburbs for most of my adult life.) It very well might be the most popular art work in the museum. It certainly is one of mine.

Vase With Twelve Sunflowers, by Vincent van Gogh (image credit belongs to Philadelphia Museum Of Art and to vggallery.com

Vincent had the abilities to find the hearts and souls of his subjects, to bring his subjects alive in both traditional and unexpected ways. And he did exactly that when he painted the canvas in question in 1889. It is glorious and imbued with vigor. It has deep stories to tell. Sunflowers never have looked so good.

(My editor has been getting on my frigging nerves big-time. So, you know what? F*ck him! I won’t allow Edgar to edit this article. I’m going to press the Publish button right now. Please don’t be shy about adding your comments. Mucho gracias.)

Art On Wheels, Part Seven: And The Winner Is . . .

My editor, Edgar Reewright, couldn’t restrain himself when I told him last week that my next opus would be another entry in the Art On Wheels series.

“Neil, you’re straining my patience, not to mention your readers’ patience, with your ridiculous Art On Wheels stories!” Edgar shouted into his phone. “Good lord, one episode would have been enough, and yet number seven is in the works. What’s the matter with you? Can’t you think of something else to write about right now instead of trucks and vans that catch your attention? Sorry, fella, but I’m not going to edit this one. You’re on your own with it.”

Edgar paused for a couple of seconds before continuing. “Listen, Neil, I have to end this conversation. I’m about to head out to an appointment with my psychotherapist who, unbelievably and thankfully, is also a proctologist. He’s trying to help me understand why I deal with writers who turn out so much shit, such as you.” Without another word, he hung up.

Eh, screw Edgar! He’s a philistine. As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing wrong with spending some time now and then in search of snazzily-adorned motor vehicles. It gets me out of the house. It helps me pay attention to what’s going on around me. And it pleases my artsy-fartsy side. I’d rather look at works of art in museums, true. But I’m decently content to gaze at those that rest above axles and wheels.

I used to try to track down in a single day or two all of the good-looking vehicles that I would need for a story. And, by dumb luck or who knows what, I met the goal several times. But I missed the goal for episodes five and six (click here to read number six). And was even farther from it this time around, as I needed four days in January and February 2021 to encounter enough attractive vehicles for this story. What’s more, there were a few more days during those months when, on the prowl, I didn’t find any examples of vehicular art that met my standards or were capturable.

Now, capturable is a key point. Generally I locate my victims in the parking areas of supermarkets, strip malls and other businesses. And occasionally I run across them on residential streets. Usually they are making deliveries or service calls, so getting close to them and taking their portraits at those times is a relative snap.

However, sometimes things don’t work out. On more than one recent occasion, for example, I spotted fine specimens in parking lots that I was walking or driving around in, but they were pulling out and too far away for me to photograph. And, needless to say, I often see beauties on the road while I’m on the road. No way, though, that this ol’ boy is going to try and grab their pictures when he’s behind the wheel. If I were dumb enough to give that a go, I’d pretty much guarantee myself an ambulance ride to the nearest hospital emergency room or, even worse, a journey in a hearse!

I like the designs on all of the vehicles that illustrate this essay, some more than others. Big-Lil Heads is cooler than cool. Have green, orange, white and black ever looked better together than they do on that bus? And the Target truck’s design, so goofily minimalistic, is irresistible to me. I’ve never owned a dog, but if the Target dog should become available for adoption, I’ll be first in line to fill out the required papers.

Still, as much as those two ring my chimes, neither is my favorite. I have to give the nod to the W.B. Mason vehicle. The Mason design is, to me, perfection. Bright, solid and beautifully balanced, it is impossible to ignore and easy to love. W. B. Mason, as is noted on the truck, was founded in 1898. Based in Brockton, Massachusetts for its entire life, the company distributes office and janitorial supplies, and numerous other products, throughout the USA. Whenever I see a Mason truck I find myself attracted to it like a magnet. But I normally spot them when they are in motion, not when I can have a good long look at them. February 24, 2021, then, was my lucky day, because on that date a W. B. Mason truck was sitting quietly in the parking lot that surrounds the Wawa food market in my suburban Philadelphia town.

Yes, the W. B. Mason truck is number one in my book, followed, respectively, by the Big-Lil Heads and Target vehicles. I’d be happy to learn which of the artworks on this page you think are the best. Thanks for reading, girls and boys. Goodbye till next time!