Dan Valentine — where are you?

Readers of the Salt Lake Tribune in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s probably recall the work of Dan Valentine in his daily “Nothing Serious” column. Don’t they?

A friend recently sent an old piece of schmaltz from Valentine, “I trust you’ll treat her well,” about sending a daughter off to the first day of school. It was misattributed to Victor Buono (now you start to see my interest).

Valentine’s column was a rambling collection of not-serious observations about people the newspaper covered and events in Utah and the Intermountain states. Occasionally he would write about some event in a memorable fashion — the first day of school for his daughter, the first day of school for his son — and occasionally he’d do a tribute to some underappreciated profession, like truckers, waiters and waitresses, young mothers, secretaries. In those tributes, there was almost always a line like, ‘She’s America’s [future (teachers), heart (nurses), breakfast-tomorrow-morning (truckers)] with a smile on her face!’

Old columns appeared in paperback print collections sold in every truck stop and diner in the west — at least, that’s what it seemed like when the University of Utah debate squad travelled, and found the things everywhere we stopped. Standard breakfast behavior was for someone to grab the sample and perform one of the columns, for sport, to irritate the other debaters — but often enough to the appreciation of other breakfasters who found Valentine’s columns appropriate and touching, rather than out of place and out of time in the Vietnam era, especially at breakfast.

Dan Valentine passed, and his son, Dan Valentine, Jr., took over the column briefly. Valentine joined our writing team with Orrin Hatch for a brief time, too, later.

Query — Does anyone know: Are those collections of Dan Valentine’s old columns still available anywhere? (I don’t find them on Amazon as currently published.) Does anyone know where Dan Valentine, Jr., is these days? If any reader knows, please put a note in the comments.

Looking around, I found the column below, written a few days after the Montana-Yellowstone Earthquake of August 1959. On one hand it makes one shudder at the thought of producing a humor column in such a natural disaster (there weren’t many attempts for Hurricane Katrina, for example). On the other hand, you can see the reason Valentine’s stuff hit home, especially in his closing line (Valentine was steadfast in his opposition to communism; can you tell?).


By Dan Valentine
Even sudden disaster can’t stop American laughter . . . even crushing catastrophe that strikes in a spilt second can’t dull the American sense of humor.
A California woman, Mrs. James Pridgeon, was in the center of the Yellowstone earthquake. She stopped off in Salt Lake City Wednesday with some light side notes on the shattering quake.
Mrs. Pridgeon, her husband and son were in a cabin near the Old Faithful Inn when the quake hit Monday evening.
“There was a roar and a rolling,” she said, “then there was a deathly quiet . . . the next thing I heard was the high-pitched voice of a woman in a cabin across the way who yelled to her husband, ‘Henry get up, there’s a bear outside shaking the cabin.’ ”
Mrs. Pridgeon, who is the wife of the superintendent of schools at Chula Vista, Calif., said the Yellowstone Park bears didn’t seem to mind the quake at all.
“They just went about their business as usual,” she said, adding, “Which is more than I can say for some of the people.”
Two park visitors not ruffled at all by any of the earthquake commotion were two farmers from Iowa.
Tuesday morning at breakfast, one of the Iowans came up to Mrs. Pridgeon, his eyes aglow with excitement.
“I tell you, Ma’am,” he said, “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Last night alone was worth the $3 I paid to get into the park.”
The morning after the quake, the restaurant at Old Faithful Lodge was jammed with customers asking for coffee to settle their nerves. The coffee demand must have been too much for the cup supply–because customers were being served hot coffee in water glasses.
Mrs. Pridgeon reports that one waitress approached an elderly man with a glass full of steaming coffee.
“Sir,” the waitress said, “do you mind drinking coffee out of a water glass?”
“Young lady,” the man answered, “after last night, I’m just happy to be drinking at all . . .”
On Monday evening, several hours before the first shock waves of the earthquake, Mrs. Pridgeon attended a lecture given by one of the park rangers.
Over and over again the ranger emphasized, “Don’t throw anything in any of the geysers . . .”
Mrs. Pridgeon said “The ranger warned us of all sorts of dire consequences if rubbish or trash were thrown in a geyser . . . and, when the first shake was felt about 11 o’clock that same night, one of the ladies who had attended the lecture said, ‘I’ll just bet somebody threw some trash in one of the geysers.’ ”
Mrs. Pridgeon said one of the most humorous comments during the entire upheaval came from a grizzled old fellow wearing fishing boots.
He was standing near the lodge, and when the earth started to shake he said to no one in particular, “I hope this shakes some of those gol darned stubborn bass out of the stream . . . Lord knows I ain’t been able to get em out.”
One of the truly disappointed people in all Yellowstone Park Tuesday morning was the Pridgeon’s 11-year-old son, Jimmy.
He slept through the entire quake.
“Sure I felt some rattling and some shaking,” Jimmy admitted the next morning, “but I just thought it was the usual bedsprings you find in a tourist cabin.”
Mrs. Pridgeon said it was “sort of inspiring the way the people could laugh and joke about the sudden disaster.”
She said the morning after the earthquake, she asked a tourist from Texas if he planned to leave the park right away.
“Not on your life,” he said. “I paid three bucks to get in here, and I’m aiming to see my three dollars worth before I leave.”
Mrs. Pridgeon admits with a tired smile that she and her family got more than their money’s worth!
How could Russia ever defeat a people who can laugh and joke through an earthquake?
[Salt Lake Tribune; August 20, 1959]

Three dollars to tour Yellowstone! A bargain, even in 1959.

Dan Valentine, where are you?

90 Responses to Dan Valentine — where are you?

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    I had him on e-mail ever so briefly; Dan finally connected through Facebook.

    If you check this blog, under the category “Dan Valentine,” there are a half dozen or so posts under his by-line, the only other person I’ve allowed to post here. [Just checked: 36 posts.]

    But he got ill, and we lost contact.

    I believe he’s back in Ensenada, keeping a hostel there going and thriving as a destination for thinking Bohemians.

    Try Facebook.

    If you can get him, tell him I said howdy, and good luck.

    Try here, and good luck: https://www.facebook.com/daniel.valentine.353?fref=ts


  2. Hi! I am also looking for Dan Valentine as well


  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Good news! I would have thought they’d have gone to the University of Utah — but they’re only 40 miles apart. Still wish some of the stuff could be republished.


  4. Don Coplin says:

    The Dan Valentine Collection is in the L.Tom Perry Special Collections at BYU. They were donated in 2004 by Dan Valentine, Jr. It is wonderful that they have been preserved.


  5. Ed Darrell says:

    Sandi Greever,

    Check with Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore in Salt Lake City — probably your best bet to get any of the books you don’t have (but not guaranteed by any stretch). Here’s the URL: http://www.samwellers.com/

    I’ve had great service from them over the phone, too.

    Dan, Jr., provided several pieces carried on this blog — each of them is tagged with “Dan Valentine,” or you can search for them in the search box.


  6. I was so happy to see that others like D.Valen. works as well as I do. We found the books traveling across country from Ca.to Chicago in 1972.I have 7 of them and I wish that someone would reprint them all so I could collect them all. They would really sell well, I am sure. Maybe his son could check into it. I read above that he had a son. I don’t know anything about him.I too, would like to know more if anyone knows anything at all. Do get the books if you can find any.You won’t be sorry.


  7. Daniel Valentine says:

    Words by Daniel Valentine/S.H.
    Copyright © 2011 Daniel Valentine/S.H.

    Quarter past five on the clock
    While you were sound asleep,
    I took our Lab for a walk,
    Humming the blues, another year gone,
    Heart in my shoes till we came upon:

    Two party hats on a park bench;
    One clacker; one tin toy horn;
    One hollow bottle of bubbly,
    Popped when the New Year was born.

    Two party hats on a park bench,
    Those pointy without a brim;
    Two plastic glasses for toasting,
    One sporting a lipsticked rim.

    New Year’s Eve, the morning after.
    To see where two had raised the rafter
    Brought back memories of us in ’91:
    Dancing well past four
    And the carriage ride to our steps and door,
    Tux and gown on the bedroom floor.

    Two holding hands in the moonlight
    Came running to pet our Lab.
    Then wishing us Happy New Year,
    They hurried to hail a cab.

    New Year’s Eve, the morning after.
    To see them smile, to hear their laughter
    Brought back memories of us in ’99:
    Counting 6-5-4
    And the kiss at twelve on the ballroom floor,
    Auld Lang Syne and balloons galore.

    Two party hats on a park bench —
    One sight for sore eyes to see.
    Two party hats on a park bench —
    One for our Lab, one for me.


  8. Daniel Valentine says:

    by Daniel Valentine
    (c) 2010


    (4 F, 2 M)
    CAROL-LEIGH, owner/bartender
    ORSON, regular customer
    SHANNON, cocktail waitress
    BULLET, exotic dancer
    ROCKY, exotic dancer
    Unnamed customer/corpse.

    SCENE: A hole-in-the-wall “gentlemen’s club” on the second floor of a three-story building just a few blocks from Chinatown in Washington, D.C. A bar with stools is situated by a small elevated stage, with “Merry Xmas” scrawled in white shoe polish on a mirror behind it. A neon sign above the bar reads “lST LADEEZ Show Bar”. Stairs near the bar climb to a dressing room on the third floor. On one wall, there are several windows with floor-to-ceiling velvet curtains pulled closed. Outside the entrance door, which is kept open during business hours, there is an ill-lit landing. Unseen stairs lead to the street below. There are tables and chairs, a booth or two, and a decorated Christmas tree. A sign on a wall reads “Exotic Dancers – No Cover – No Minimum.”

    It is a late afternoon on the day before Christmas during one of the worst blizzards of the year.

    Before the curtain rises, various voices from a TV, separated by white noise, are heard as someone yet-to-be-seen channel-surfs:

    “The clock is ticking for today’s guests. This may be their last Christmas. So, please, stay with us and help us get them into the holiday spirit. Today! Surprise holiday make-overs for death-row inmates” … “Hundreds of years ago, did he predict this season’s Super Bowl winner? Next. The amazing Nostradamus!” … “It’s a little crazy out there on this Christmas Eve afternoon” … “Everybody’s kind of shivering” … “More than a foot of snow is predicted” … “Today! Some of your favorite movie stars get the surprise of their lives when convicted stalkers reveal their secret celebrity crushes. How will our stars react?” … “Look, Daddy, Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings” … “Omigod! This is so amazing. It’s so cute. Have you ever seen a prison uniform on a convicted mass-murderer that fits like this? So, Franco, what did you do? Tell us about the hair.”

    (The curtain rises just as CAROL-LEIGH, remote in hand, clicks off the flat-screen TV behind the bar.)

    CAROL-LEIGH: (Disgusted.) There’s nothing on.

    (She places the remote beside the register. Standing at the cocktail station, cutting lemons, is SHANNON. ORSON, the lone patron, sits with a Corona before him, his coat hangs from the back of his stool. BULLET, fully-dressed, is dancing halfheartedly on the stage, one eye on the clock.)

    CAROL-LEIGH: (To Orson.) So, Congressman. How come you’re not back home in your district caroling with constituents?

    ORSON: I’d rather look at naked women.

    (He swivels on his stool to watch the dancer.)

    BULLET: Carol-Leigh, I’m not taking my clothes off for one customer. Congressman or no. I don’t think I should have to.

    (The sudden sound of the howling snowstorm outside is heard momentarily as the door to the street opens and closes.)

    ORSON: (Turning back to Carol-Leigh.) Who’s dancing besides Bullet?

    (A lone man in an unzipped jacket, sporting a Redskins ball cap, holding his stomach appears in the doorway. He is missing one shoe. He looks around, then makes his way to a semi-secluded table by the Christmas tree. Picking up her cocktail tray, Shannon leaves to serve him.)

    CAROL-LEIGH: Rocky is here. (Gesturing to the upstairs dressing room.) Cricket or Ursula or Shiloh or whatever Laura is calling herself these days is a no-show. She simply didn’t come in. Candy was supposed to dance but called in sobbing. Her dad died.

    ORSON: Poor kid.

    CAROL-LEIGH: It’s the fifth holiday he’s died on this year.

    (Shannon sets both napkin and coaster down in front of the new customer.)

    SHANNON: Can I help you? We have a holiday special on pitchers.

    (The customer rocks back and forth on his seat, clutching his stomach.)

    CUSTOMER: How much is a beer?

    CAROL-LEIGH: So, anyway, Bullet and Rocky are tag-teaming it.

    ORSON: That’s it?

    CAROL-LEIGH: Hey, it’s Christmas Eve. It’s snowing. It’s cold. A person would have to be crazy … Like me.

    (The customer struggles to rise.)

    CUSTOMER: Seven bucks! SEVEN BUCKS? For a beer? (Looking around.) Where am I? The Four Seasons? (And he collapses onto the floor.)

    CAROL-LEIGH: I called Wendy. She doesn’t feel well. I called Breezy. She has a cold. Stormy didn’t answer her phone. I called Fury. She has a twenty-four-hour virus. I called Moonflower. She has a bug. I called everybody. Bambi, Barbie, Bunny …

    SHANNON: (To customer.) Sir? Excuse me. If you’re going to stay, you need to buy a drink. You can’t just flop out. We’re running a business here. Sir? Sir?

    CAROL-LEIGH: (To Orson.) You want to fill in?

    ORSON: Sure. If I can dance on the bar. (He loosens his tie and unbuttons a shirt button.)

    (Carol-Leigh takes a dollar from the tip jar and slaps it down on the bar before him.)

    CAROL-LEIGH: Please. Business is bad enough.

    SHANNON: (Poking the body with her big toe.) Get up, you. Get up, honey. You okay? Are you alive? Damn!

    CAROL-LEIGH: (To Orson.) Another Corona?

    (He checks his watch.)

    ORSON: You’re open till seven tonight?

    CAROL-LEIGH: Somewhere thereabouts.

    SHANNON: (Now at the service bar.) Carol-Leigh, there’s a dead man under the Christmas tree.

    ORSON: (Re: beer.) Sure. Why not? One more.

    (Carol-Leigh uncaps another Corona.)

    SHANNON: I’m not lying. We’ve got a problem.

    (Carol-Leigh sets the bottle on the counter.)

    CAROL-LEIGH: Did you say there was a dead man?

    SHANNON: Take a look for yourself.

    (Orson swivels around on his barstool.)

    ORSON: Somebody died? You’re kidding. What now, just now?

    (Carol-Leigh comes from behind the bar and goes with Shannon across the room, passing the stage.)

    BULLET: What’s up?

    (Orson follows close behind.)

    SHANNON: Look!

    (The music on the jukebox stops and Bullet steps down from the stage and hurries to see what’s happening as Carol-Leigh kneels down and feels the man’s wrist for a pulse.)

    CAROL-LEIGH: Oh, my God! (She flips the left side of his jacket open and puts an ear to his heart and holds it there.) My God, he is dead. (She gets to her feet.) I thought you were joking.

    ORSON: Well, so much for Happy Hour.

    BULLET: (Upon seeing the body.) Oh, man! Is he dead?

    SHANNON: Oh, yeah.

    ORSON: (re: Bullet.) Wish I’d had a camera. You should have seen your face. Your eyes went–

    BULLET: Hey, man, some things still surprise me. A dead body is one of ’em. What happened?

    (Orson crouches and flips open the right side of the man’s jacket.)

    ORSON: Looks like he’s been stabbed.

    SHANNON: Stabbed?!

    ORSON: Looks like. Check that out.

    BULLET: Merry Christmas.

    CAROL-LEIGH: (sighing) I don’t need this.

    ORSON: (Still squatting, puzzled.) There’s not much blood.

    BULLET: Depends on the weapon. An ice pick doesn’t draw blood.

    ORSON: That true?

    BULLET: An ice pick’s quite a weapon.

    ORSON: Better than a knife?

    BULLET: Oh, yeah.

    ORSON: (Standing). Really? (To no one in particular.) Every day you learn something new.

    CAROL-LEIGH: Whether you want to or not.

    BULLET: You can stick a knife cleanly into someone and not kill him. But an ice pick causes internal bleeding.

    ORSON: How do you know that? What are you, some sort of expert on ice pick-related homicides?

    BULLET: Yeah, man, matter of fact. I know all about it. My ol’ man showed me. You gotta know where the organs are. An inch either way and you’ll hit a rib.

    ORSON: Bullet, you’re so full of it.

    SHANNON: I believe her. Ever seen her boyfriend? He looks like Ted Bundy should have.

    CAROL-LEIGH: I’m just glad he didn’t get his brains blown out on the carpet.

    SHANNON: Hey, it just hit me. He’s missing one shoe. Maybe somebody stabbed him for his shoe.

    BULLET: That could be. Some mugger doing some last-minute Christmas shopping for a one-legged friend.

    ORSON: Who is he? (To Shannon.) Do you recognize him?

    SHANNON: It was his first time here.

    BULLET: Welcome to 1st Ladeez Show Bar! We obviously made a good impression on him.

    CAROL-LEIGH: Does he have any I.D.?

    (Orson crouches on his heels again and rolls the body on its side a little to get at the man’s hip pockets. He gets to his feet.)

    ORSON: Nothing on him.

    CAROL-LEIGH: Beautiful.

    BULLET: Another day at the office.

    CAROL-LEIGH: If D.C. ever gains statehood, a good state flag would be a black banner with the chalk outline of a corpse in the upper left-hand corner.

    ORSON: What are you going to do, Carol-Leigh?

    SHANNON: Sshh! She’s thinking.

    CAROL-LEIGH: (Beside herself, tapping a finger on her forehead.) No brains suddenly.

    BULLET: Take your time, Carol-Leigh. The dude’s not goin’ nowhere.

    CAROL-LEIGH: (At last.) We have to get him out of here.

    ORSON: You’re not going to report it? Call 9-1-1. I’ll call. (He turns to go get his cell from his coat.)

    CAROL-LEIGH: Wait a minute. We don’t want the cops here.

    ORSON: (Sarcastically.) Oh, you’re worried about the cops. Well, when you put it that way. (Losing it.) Have you lost your marbles?!

    CAROL-LEIGH: Orson, it’s Christmas Eve. By eight I want to be home. I don’t want to stay around here all night answering questions from the police. I have two dogs who depend on me.

    BULLET: (Agreeing.) We call the cops, we could be here forever.

    SHANNON: And I’m starving! Big-time. I haven’t eaten all day. I skipped breakfast. I had a birth-control pill for lunch.

    BULLET: Carol-Leigh’s right. We’re talking about Channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 11 outside and all that stuff.

    CAROL-LEIGH: Exactly.

    ORSON: Did you say Channel 9? (Reconsidering.) My mother watches Channel 9. (After a pause.) Get rid of the sucker. Like roll him down the stairs and out the door. See ya bye!

    BULLET: Now you’re talkin’!

    CAROL-LEIGH: Shannon, take him outside. Immediately.

    SHANNON: Who, me? You want me to pick up a dead body? I don’t think so. Sorry, no way.

    CAROL-LEIGH: I’m very, very serious.

    SHANNON: Oh, yeah, sure-sure. Gimme a break. Bill Gates could walk in here and he couldn’t give me a big enough tip.

    CAROL-LEIGH: Stubborn one. Pleeeeeeeese?

    SHANNON: No, period. I ain’t gonna do it.

    ORSON: Guys!

    SHANNON: Forget it. Not me!

    ORSON: Guys!

    SHANNON: It’s not in my job description. If you want him outta here, you do it.

    ORSON: Guys! Guys! C’mon! I’ll do it. Let me get my coat. (To himself on his way to the bar.) Channel 9. My mom watches Channel 9.

    (Rocky, the only other dancer, appears on the stairs from the dressing room above. She is sporting reindeer antlers and a Santa’s hat.)

    ROCKY: (Upon seeing Orson at the bar.) Hi, guy. What’s happening?

    ORSON: Oh, not a heck of a lot. A customer just got murdered.

    ROCKY: (Laughing.) You’re teasin’. You like my holiday headgear? (She turns around modeling it for him.)

    ORSON: (Eyeing her curiously.) I wouldn’t wear it.

    ROCKY: On me, dummy! Isn’t it cute? I’m Dancer, one of Santa’s reindeer. (She striking a serious pose.) Because I, too, am a dancer. (Then she laughs at herself.)

    ORSON: (The politician.) Yes, very lovely.

    CAROL-LEIGH: (Shouting.) Hey, Orson! C’mon!

    (Orson shrugs into his coat.)

    ORSON: I’m coming. Excuse me, Rocky. I’ve got to take the body outside.

    ROCKY: You’re just pulling my chain. (She gaily walks with him, her only concern in life at the moment: the antlers.) They’re not very practical for dancing. In the dressing room, they were off and on. But– (She stops in her tracks. Stocked.) Gosh, business is sure the pits. Where are all the customers? (Then she sees the body. She gives a little gasp and looks away, then looks, then looks away again.) Oooooo! Somebody close his eyes. Put a tablecloth over him! Put something on him!

    BULLET: Where’s my body glitter?

    ROCKY: Don’t be bad. Where’d he come from?

    CAROL-LEIGH: (To Orson.) Ready?

    (He nods and grasps the dead man’s ankles as Carol-Leigh clears a path of chairs.)

    ROCKY: Oh, my gosh! What are you guys doing?

    ORSON: (To Carol-Leigh.) Where to?

    CAROL-LEIGH: Down the back fire escape.

    (He drops the legs–kerplunk.)

    ORSON: No way. Impossible. This is a big guy here. He’s not big-big, but he’s big. He’s tall.

    (Bullet uses her fingers to tabulate on an imaginary hand-held calculator.)

    BULLET: (Aloud to herself.) Just how many does it take to carry a dead body down a fire escape in a snowstorm?

    SHANNON: Sssh.

    (Carol-Leigh gives the problem some thought.) Out the front. But don’t let anybody see you.

    ORSON: Yes, Ma’am.

    CAROL-LEIGH: Just make sure.

    ROCKY: You’re going to take him out into the street?

    (Orson bends down, gripes the dead man’s ankles again, and begins to tug the limp body toward the entrance.)

    BULLET: Welcome to Carol-Leigh’s Carryout. Yes, we deliver.

    ORSON: (Panting.) Damn. (Puffing.) He’s heavy.

    CAROL-LEIGH: Don’t strain your back.

    ORSON: I can’t tell you … how much … I looooove doing this … Hell, I don’t even know this guy.

    (He stops to catch his breath, letting go of the man’s legs again–plop.)

    ROCKY: (Sighing.) Boy, I’ve just about had it with this place. I’d like to find a real job. This is not a fun place anymore.

    CAROL-LEIGH: (To Shannon.) Go look out the window. Tell us when it’s clear.

    (Shannon hurries to one of the windows, throws open the curtains, and rubs off the steam. Snow is falling, wind howling, and it’s hard to see anything clearly.)

    ROCKY: How can you do this, Carol-Leigh? (She fiddles nervously with the crucifix at her throat.) This is bad. (Orson repositions the body and grabs it under the armpits.) This isn’t good. (He walks backwards in a half-crouch towards the door.) This is bad. (The dead man’s head dangles between his knees.) Don’t you feel this is wrong, Carol-Leigh?

    CAROL-LEIGH: Not at all. It’s Christmas Eve. I don’t want to stay around answering questions from the police all night. (To Shannon.) Tell me when it’s clear.

    ROCKY: (To herself.) I want to leave. I want to go home right now.

    BULLET: Take the body with you.

    ROCKY: (Glaring at her.) I love you, too. (Chants.) I want to get off work, I want to get off work, I want to go home.

    CAROL-LEIGH: Exactly. That’s what I’m saying. If we call the police, we won’t get out of here till late. (She pats Rocky tenderly on the shoulder.) It’s going to be all right, Rocky. Just relax. Get it together. Don’t go off the deep end. (After a pause.) Sit down!

    (Rocky sits. Orson, winded, pauses to catch his breath again.)

    ORSON: How did I get myself into this?

    CAROL-LEIGH: (Humoring him.) Hey, you said last night. “I sure wish this place would get some new bodies!” Quote unquote.

    ROCKY: I heard that.

    CAROL-LEIGH: You only get three wishes. That was a dumb one.

    (Orson pulls the body out the door onto the landing.)

    CAROL-LEIGH: Watch your step.

    ORSON: Yes, Ma’am.

    CAROL-LEIGH: Just be careful.

    ORSON: Yes, Ma’am

    (And poof!–he disappears backwards out of sight with the body. There is a quick succession of heavy thumps and Rocky leaps up and flinches to each one as if her own head were being bounced on wooden steps)

    ROCKY: Oh, boy! (THUMP, THUMP, THUMP.) Oh, man! (THUMP, THUMP, THUMP.) We’re going to get in trouble! (THUMP, THUMP, THUMP.) Oh, my gosh! (And KABOOM!) FUCK!!!

    (And they all turn and stare at her, mouths agape. Prim-and-proper Rocky has never uttered a bad word in her life! All are stunned, so much so that they don’t hear Orson screaming for help at the bottom of the steps.)

    ORSON: (Off.) Get him off ‘a me!

    ROCKY: Oops! Four-letter word. Did I just say one?

    ORSON: (Off.) Get him the hell off ‘a me!!

    ROCKY: Sorry.

    CAROL-LEIGH: (Returning to Planet Earth.) ORSON!!! (She rushes to the landing, afraid to look but does.) You okay?

    ORSON: (Off.) If I can get myself untangled here. (After a pause.) Someone get the door.

    BULLET: (Volunteering.) I’ll get it. I got it.

    (Carol-Leigh makes a last-minute look-see around the area.)

    CAROL-LEIGH: Wait a sec! He’s gotta hat. (She scoops the dead man’s ball cap up from off the floor and hands it to Bullet who rushes off down the steps, twirling it on a finger.)

    BULLET: (Half to herself.) What’s he gonna do without his hat?

    ORSON: (Off.) Is it clear?

    CAROL-LEIGH: (Relaying the question to Shannon.) Is it clear?

    (Shannon takes a good look.)

    SHANNON: Okay, now!

    CAROL-LEIGH: (Relaying her reply.) GO, GO, GO!

    (There is the sound of howling wind from outside as the street door opens and shuts.)

    SHANNON: (Like a sportscaster.) He’s out the door. He’s slipping and sliding, but he’s still on his feet. So far so good. Bullet is standing look-out on the corner.

    CAROL-LEIGH: Smart girl.

    SHNNON: Half-nude.

    CAROL-LEIGH: Oh, terrific.

    SHANNON: She’s stepping from foot to foot. She’s either cold or she’s gotta pee.

    CAROL-LEIGH: I love it.

    (Rocky stands clutching her crucifix, eyes shut, praying silently but mightily, crossing herself from time to time.)

    CAROL-LEIGH: What now? (She hurries to the window.) What now?

    SHANNON: He’s dragging the body, leaving a corpse-trail in the snow.

    CAROL-LEIGH: For crying out loud! (She stands on her toes attempting to look over Shannon’s shoulder.) What’s going on? What’s going on?

    SHANNON: (Whirling around.) What’s going on! What’s going on! Stop asking me what’s going on! (She looks out the window again.) Oh, no! (She taps her nails frantically on the glass. She tries to open the window to no avail. She throws her arms up in despair.) I want a Christmas bonus.

    CAROL-LEIGH: What’s going on?

    SHANNON: A patrol car’s coming!

    CAROL-LEIGH: (With outstretched arms heavenward.) Why me, Lord?

    SHANNON: (Shouting, horror-struck.) LOOK OUT! COME BACK!

    (There is the sudden wail of a police siren and all three freeze, panic stricken, as the red beam of the siren lights up the room. The patrol car zooms by, the siren growing gradually fainter, as Shannon takes a quick sneak-peek down below. Sighing with relief, liking what she sees, she pulls the drapes shut.)

    SHANNON: Let the wake begin!

    (Rocky opens one eye.)

    ROCKY: Mission accomplished?

    SHANNON: Party down!

    (Orson and Bullet come up the stairs.)

    ORSON: Well, that’s enough of that. Let’s have some fun. I’m through with dead bodies.

    (The two join the others now at the bar.)
    CAROL-LEIGH: Thank you very, very much.

    SHANNON: You guys are great. (To Orson.) Gimme a cheek. (She gives him a peck.)

    (Bullet hugs her breasts, shivering all over.)

    BULLET: It’s cold out there. My God, it must be two degrees. When I got outside, I thought: This is really stupid. I’m not dressed!

    ORSON: You have goosebumps all over you.

    BULLET: I’m cold! (Teeth chattering uncontrollably.) Never been so cold.

    (Orson takes his coat off.)

    ORSON: You’ll catch pneumonia. (He drapes it over her shoulders.) Don’t you drop dead on us. Have a brandy to warm you up.

    CAROL-LEIGH: On me. I’d like to buy everybody a round.

    ROCKY: (A teetotaler.) Can I have a drink of water, please? (She fumbles in her purse and produces a tiny bottle of pills.) I have a bad headache. (She flips the top off with a thumb) I need Advil. I can’t work here without Advil. (She shakes the bottle. It’s empty! She’s crushed.)

    (Orson pats her tenderly on the back.)

    ORSON: Hey, it’s going to be all right. Smile. ‘Tis the season. (Then cheerfully to the others.) C’mon, lets get this party started. Let the good times roll.

    (Carol-Leigh lines up a row of snifter glasses and fills them. They hold up their drinks and toast, ab libbing “Merry Christmas,” etc. Then throwing their heads back, they all down the contents in one gulp, except for Rocky who takes a hefty-sized organizer from her bag to make an entry.

    CAROL-LEIGH: (To Orson, re: the body.) Where’d you put him?

    ORSON: Where else? In the rear of the alley. Beside the Dumpster.

    ROCKY: (To herself, half-aloud as she writes.) Advil.

    ORSON: On an abandoned La-Z-Boy. Where he’ll be comfy.

    ROCKY: (Rethinking her entry.) A crate full of Advil!

    (Carol-Leigh collects the glasses and gives the bar a once-over with a bar towel.)

    CAROL-LEIGH: (Half to herself.) I can’t believe there was a dead body in here.

    BULLET: (Blowing on her hands.) With the crowd today, he fit right in. He didn’t tip me, either.

    SHANNON: I’m disappointed there wasn’t more blood. He looked like my ex.

    ROCKY: (Shocked.) Shannon!

    SHANNON: Just joking.

    BULLET: Wishful thinking, you mean.

    SHANNON: You’re right. If I had an ice pick, I’d like to put fifty holes in him.

    ORSON: (To change the subject.) Did he pay his tab?

    SHANNON: Who? Oh, the dead dude?

    BULLET: Yeah, did he pay his tab?

    SHANNON: He stiffed me!

    ROCKY: Ho, ho, ho. I want to take a shower. I feel dirty. Don’t you guys feel dirty? This was bad.

    ORSON: I’ll take a shower with you.

    ROCKY: Don’t be naughty!

    ORSON: C’mon! It’ll be fun! I’ll get a room.

    ROCKY: No! (A pause.) But you can tip me if you want to. (She lifts her gartered leg.)

    ORSON: Don’t trip on the body going out. (Laughing.) That’s a good tip. That’s a good one, isn’t it? (No one laughs.) Hey, what do I look like, the Federal Reserve? I’m not.

    ROCKY: (Pouting.) Aren’t you going to tip me for Christmas? (Orson reluctantly peels off a single from a wad in his pocket and slips it in her garter.) Only one? I have a ten, a five, and three ones. If you give me two dollars, I can get a twenty-dollar bill.

    ORSON: (To the others.) Miss Sting here. (To Rocky, rolling his eyes.) Okay, okay, give me the ten and the five and the two ones and I’ll give you a twenty as a Christmas gift.

    (The two carry out the transaction, much to the amusement of the others, and Rocky tucks the twenty in her garter.)

    ROCKY: What time is it?

    (Orson checks his watch.)

    ORSON: Not even six.

    ROCKY: That’s all it is? (She straightens her antlers.) I don’t feel like dancing another set? (To Orson.) You have five singles for the jukebox? It only takes dollars and I only have a twenty.

    (It is then that another sudden gush of wind rushes up the stairwell from outside. There is the sound of footsteps and all eyes turn toward the entrance. A solitary figure, not unlike the dead man, in a Redskin ball cap, appears in the doorway, his shadow stretching across the floor, falling just short of their feet. The figure gives no greeting, just stands and looks about.)

    STRANGER: (After a glance.) Dead, huh? (After a long pause.) Catch you later. (He descends the stairs.)

    (For a moment, it is very quiet. All are noticeably startled. Bullet breaks the silence.)

    BULLET: Man, was that weird, or what? (She turns to the others.) Am I the only person who thinks that was weird?

    SHANNON: Weird. That was weird.

    CAROL-LEIGH: Bizarre.

    SHANNON: Certainly was that.

    CAROL-LEIGH: Strange.

    SHANNON: That, too.

    ORSON: As much as I like here, I’m getting the hell outta here. One more drink and I’m outta here. I don’t want him catching me later.

    BULLET: What’d he say? “Dead, huh?” I hope he meant business.

    CAROL-LEIGH: Who was it, someone taking a sneak peek?

    ROCKY: (Terrified.) I’m not so sure. (Clutching her crucifix once again.) For a moment, I thought it was him.

    SHANNON: Me, too.

    ROCKY: Maybe the Man upstairs is telling us something.

    SHANNON: That’s what I was thinking.

    ROCKY: It’s Christmas Eve. Santa knows who’s been naughty and nice.

    CAROL-LEIGH: What if … I don’t know. This is exhausting me. What if …

    BULLET: Spit it out, Carol-Leigh. What are you trying to say, we should bring him back in?

    ROCKY: (All for it.) Yeah!

    SHANNON: Maybe we should.

    ORSON: I like the idea.

    BULLET: He’s upstairs, he’s downstairs. Corpse in, corpse out. I wish y’all would make up your minds.

    ROCKY: Hope he’s still out there. I had CDs stolen out of my car a week ago. It was the second time.

    SHANNON: (Taking a cell phone from her purse.) Carol-Leigh, what do you want?

    CAROL-LEIGH: I want to wake up and say I had the weirdest dream. I want to go home. I want my mom.

    SHANNON: No, on your pizza. (And dialing Domino’s

    The Curtain Falls)


  9. Daniel Valentine says:

    Words by Daniel Valentine
    © 2010

    “Why did I have to go and fall for a soldier?
    Soldiers march off and oh how I long to hold yer
    Face and mouth to mine
    While arms and legs and tongues entwine.

    Other than in my dreams it’s, like, been forever,
    So late at night it seems, since we kissed, and never
    Have I missed your touch —
    Your lips and fingertips — so much . . .”

    Such are the thoughts inside my head,
    Alone and lonely home in bed.
    Thoughts better left for now unsaid.
    So this I wrote my love instead:

    “Missing you,
    I miss kissing you
    Under the mistletoe,
    Three or four sweet sips
    From a cup of hot cocoa on your lips . . .

    Missing you,
    I miss kissing you
    Under the town hall clock —
    Friends and fam’ly there —
    Colored bits of confetti in our hair.

    I miss kissing you,
    Curled up in your arms,
    In the glow of firelight.
    I miss kissing you
    And making up
    Those few foolish times we fight.
    I miss kissing you
    Good morning.
    I miss kissing you

    Missing you,
    I miss kissing you.
    When I think the last time
    We kissed was goodbye,
    The day you left for the war,
    I’m sad for a while
    But force a brave smile,
    Counting the days and living for when
    You walk through the jetway to kiss you again,
    Baby, and then
    Hold you and kiss you some more.”


  10. Daniel Valentine says:

    I’m back and back is beautiful, to tweak a phrase. Where have I been? Taking care of business with the helping hand of a special-special life-long friend.

    For now, I’ll simply say: Life is an adventure, a gift and a grand adventure, and more than just a mite irksome at times.

    These many weeks, in what little spare time I’ve had, I’ve also been writing lyrics. Everyone needs a hobby. Mine is writing lyrics.

    Thus, the following song regarding our times:

    By Daniel Valentine
    (c) 2010

    The wedding ring
    In the pawnshop window.
    The price tag on a string,
    Tied to the wedding ring,
    Says it all, says ev’rything.
    Life seldom ever goes as planned.

    The wedding ring
    In the pawnshop window.
    To think the joy it must
    Have brought once. Now it’s just
    Sitting there collecting dust,
    Pawned for a fast few bucks in hand.

    That said, a future groom and bride,
    Their savings on the meager side,
    Stop to sneak a peak, beguiled and starry-eyed.

    And what they see are tons and tons
    Of rare old coins, guitars and guns,
    One music box, two cuckoo clocks,
    Plus a fly or three dead on the sill.
    Then they see the ring and all is still.

    The wedding ring
    In the pawnshop window.
    It glimmers and it gleams.
    It’s ev’rything that dreams
    Are made of, or so it seems,
    And all for less than half a grand.

    And so, like tens of times before,
    The tiny bell above the door
    Jingles as the lovers step inside the store.

    And, oh, the sparkle in her eyes
    When first she tries it on for size.
    It fits just right and in the light,
    When she holds her left hand out to show,
    Like her heart, the diamond’s all aglow.

    The wedding ring
    In the pawnshop window.
    The register ka-chings.
    An angel gets its wings.
    And a tweetie birdie sings.
    All while a credit card is scanned.

    The wedding ring
    In the panwshop window.
    A mom with bills to pay
    In need without delay
    Pawned the ring to save the day,
    Such are the times in our fair land.


  11. Ed Darrell says:

    I was just sending you a note to see how you are . . . watch e-mail and Facebook, okay?


  12. Daniel Valentine says:

    I like a hostel. More than once I’ve said I love a hostel. I’m downgrading my heartfelt affection a notch or two.

    My stay here, which up to now comes to a little more than four months — twice as long as my second marriage — has been killing me from day one, or so I believe — little by little, slowly but surely, softly with its song.


    I don’t feel well — and haven’t for weeks. I can hardly lift a finger, take a single step. I walk around like — well, like the living dead.

    For many months now — no doubt, way before I ever arrived — there has been a leak in a gas pipe just outside the kitchen door, which is left open during the daylight hours. It’s a miracle of sorts that nothing disastrous has happened despite the fact that guests have been cooking all the while on the gas stove, the leak just a short ways away.

    From the online edition of The Hindu, India’s National Newspaper, 2008: “Two died as gas exploded in a hostel kitchen in Bangalore. The explosion damaged window panes of the hostel as well as those of neighboring houses.”

    From BBC News: “Last September four Brits were among 13 guests at an alpine hostel in Tyrol, Austria, who were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning from a leak from a faulty heating system after some of the guests complained of dizziness, headaches, and blurred vision.”

    Dizziness? I can relate to that of late.

    A few weeks ago, I got up one morning, lit a cigarette on the back veranda, took a puff or two, stood up, and had to catch myself, gripping firmly onto the iron grate of a nearby Spanish gate, afraid I was going to faint.

    Headaches? I can relate to that, too.

    When I was younger, I suffered mightily from severe migraines. After getting the holy crap beat out of me in D.C. a few years ago, the migraines mysteriously went away. I was mugged and beaten so bad that the culprits, afraid they had killed me, ran off without taking my wallet and money. As a result of the beating, my daily migraines vanished. Poof! Some good came from bad. But, in the past few weeks, the headaches have returned.

    Blurred vision? That, too I can relate to, but it’s not a recent development. In my youth, I worked for Sen. Orrin Hatch. That’s what brought me Washington, the nation’s murder capital at the time.

    From “Messageboards – Bolivia: “Our first night we had carbon monoxide poisoning from the hostel we stayed in. People were passing out, being sick and we all had massive headaches.”

    Being sick? That I have been. Very, very sick. Massive headaches? Not massive but, as I mentioned, headaches have become a part of my daily life once again.

    I haven’t passed out, but I can barely stand at times. One morning Rodreigo, daytime receptionist/nighttime musician, happened to come out the back door to the veranda, where I was bracing myself again, one hand grasping a nearby rail. I had just had my first morning puff of a cigarette. I handed him my newly-bought pack. “Take ’em!” I said. “They’re killing me!” I went for a long walk along the beach down the road.

    From Wikipedia: “Oxygen works as an antidote as it increases the removal of carbon monoxide.”

    Soon after talking in the fresh sea air I felt much better — for a short time.

    From Wikipedia again: Symptoms of mild acute poisoning include headaches (check), vertigo (check), and flu-like effects.”

    A few weeks back a visitor from Finland stayed here for a time. We became fast friends. He was moving to Canada for the warm weather. (That’s how cold Finland is!) He did not enjoy his time here. He was sick with the flu almost his entire stay, as I was long after he left. He thought he had caught it from two visiting Germans who had the flu. They, too, without knowing it, may well have been suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

    From Wikipedia once again: “Chronic exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can lead to depression.

    I was sitting one day on the veranda. Two guests were sitting talking at the picnic bench — one from the mainland of Mexico, one from Switzerland. Both where jovial and happy — on vacation from worry and woe. The Mexican smiled and asked me, “Enjoying life?”

    “Nope!” I replied and I was deadly serious.

    Shortly after, the two rose from their seats and returned inside. I could read their thoughts: “What’s his problem? He’s no fun!”

    I’m almost always “up”. I rarely, if ever, get depressed. And when I am, I try my best to hide the fact. But when you feel like you’re dying . . .

    From the website “Silent shadow : silent killer”:

    “Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is a potentially deadly gas that can have devastating effects upon your life — assuming, of course, that it doesn’t kill you.”

    I’ve been inhaling the fumes for months now. One day, some weeks back, I felt so sick that I strolled slowly up the street to the nearest hospital, which wasn’t that close, to the emergency entrance. Gathered outside were countless poor. Standing and sitting in the waiting room were countless more. The receptionist didn’t speak English. We tried to communicate with each other best we could. She asked one of those waiting to show me her card. It was in Spanish, but I got the gist. It was a Mexican social security card. The receptionist wanted to know if I had one. I shook my head no and went on my way.

    From some internet source (I’ve misplaced my notes; I’m not thinking straight): “Exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to confusion.”

    To say the least! A month or so ago, I lost my debit card. The cash machines here are in Spanish. Of course! I pressed the wrong button and it ate my card. I had to take the bus to the border an hour and half away, to the closest Chase Bank to get cash. Gabrielle/Gabby, the hostel manager, lent me money for the fare.

    The bad news: Chase won’t mail me a new card until I have a U.S. address to mail it to.

    The good news: When I withdrew much-needed cash, I found several hundred dollars that I didn’t know was there. My bestest best friend in the world had deposited it into my account. Who does that but a saint? She has little money to spare. She was up for tenure this year as full professor at the University of Houston-Clear Lake but was let go — only to be rehired directly afterward as an adjunct professor, teaching the same classes she’s been teaching the past five years at the same university at half or so the salary. And she’s not the only one! Class-action law-suit stuff!

    In the movies. Not in real life.

    Once again, from “Silent shadow : silent killer”: “The effects of carbon monoxide poisoning can and does kill thousands of people each year. Some people simply slip away into unconsciousness or a deep sleep from which they will never reawaken.”

    Thank heaven for the frequent all-night drinking parties on the back veranda. Few guests if any — carbon monoxide or no — are likely to slip away into a deep sleep here.

    From some source on the internet (I forget which one): “Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause memory loss.”

    Memory loss. Memory loss. Hmmm. What’s that? Oh, yes, memory loss! (Check.)

    Just kidding. I can well remember the night a gas leak was first suspected. Three or so weeks back, I was out on the back veranda again, chatting with a young London couple and a young backpacker from Australia.

    One of them asked, “Can you smell that?”

    I said, “No, what?” My nose has been broken so man times I can’t smell a thing.

    “Smells like rotten eggs.”

    “It’s gas,” said another. “Leaking gas.”

    “Holy shit!” said a third.

    From “Silent shadow : silent killer”: “Carbon monoxide has no taste, color or odor, and can be breathed in over a short or long time without you ever knowing that it is present.”

    Suppliers add a rotten egg scent to signal that harmful gas vapors are loose in the air. Until that night, no one had complained about it. Except for the Danes, and they had pointed their fingers at me! Those damn Danes!

    I immediately informed Gabby, who wrinkled her brow and said she had been having headaches for months.

    A few days later, the owner — of the business, not the building — who lives in Switzerland, paid a short visit with his wife, whom he had met here at the hostel. He’s Mexican-born and very dashing. She’s Parisian and very lovely. They both look like movie stars. I like movie stars. But, at that present time, for this particular precarious predicament, what the place needed was a GLS — a Gas-Leak Specialist.

    Hostels are wonderfully inexpensive because they’re run on the cheap. A buck saved here, a buck saved there. Some bad comes with good. Life is a two-sided coin.

    Shortly after his arrival, the owner of the hostel business (not the building) smeared soap suds from a cloth on the gas pipes in and around the boiler, watching for bubbles to arise, exposing the leak. Unable to detect one, the dashing pair dashed on their way — they were on vacation — the scent of leaking gas still in the air.

    The task and glory of finding the leak fell upon the shoulders of Rodreigo, the daytime receptionist/nighttime musician. Several days went by without success. Then one morning on bended knee, he leaned an ear down to listen.


    The sssss-hissing sound was coming from a puncture in a very thin pipe on the ground by the kitchen door. He smeared soap on it and the bubbling suds billowed up as if it were a boiling mud pot in Yellowstone National Park. You had to see it to believe it! Caught on film, it surely would have been a huge hit on YouTube. Rodreigo covered the leak with a wet towel. Ole!

    A professional Gas-Leak Specialist was contracted to replace the punctured pipe. While doing so, he told Gabby a story about another leak he had recently fixed. After leaving the premises upon completion of his task, according to the specialist, the gentleman residing there had lit himself a cigar and — boom! — one of the walls exploded outward in flames, leaving a major peep-hole in his bedroom. Fumes from the gas leak had seeped into the paint on the wall.

    But, anyway, back to the hostel here . . .

    So all’s well, right? Perhaps, perhaps not. I can’t breath. I can’t think. I can’t write. I can’t walk but for a few short steps at a time. When I’m not resting in my bunk, I’m resting on the one “comfortable” chair on the back veranda.

    Gabby has told me more than once: Everyone else is okay! — though, she herself experienced headaches many days after the leak was fixed. (But, then again, perhaps the headaches were caused by me! That could very well be!)

    I, in rebuttal, have replied: Most everyone else stays for a couple of days or so. I’ve been here for four straight months. Most everyone else takes in the sights, so they’re out and about. I’ve been staying inside, day in and day out, writing and typing away at the computer here. I rarely leave the place.

    A couple of nights ago I came out from resting in my room for a bite to eat in the kitchen. “Are you okay?” she asked. She, too, now is concerned about my health.

    I lied and said I was.

    First thing the next morning, gazing at me with deep concern, she asked, “You want me to take you to the Red Cross?”

    I told her there was a VA medical center in La Jolla and that I was going to take the bus there in the next couple of days.

    “i have business to do in Tijuana,” she said. “I will drive you to the border.”

    From googling again: “In many cases, the symptoms may wear off within a short period.”

    Good to hear, comforting to know!

    “However, in some cases the effects are permanent, particularly in the case of brain damage.”

    This, I must admit, is worrisome. When you’re down and out, you get through each day thinking to yourself that you’ll get out of the mess you’ve got yourself into — somehow, someway. There are still opportunities out there, you tell yourself, if you can just hang in there and brave it out.

    But with brain damage, well, you have no options but one: being bused to Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin rallies.


  13. Daniel Valentine says:


    One magical, fairy-tale of an evening, back in 1998, my baby sister Valerie—she is eight-years younger than myself—was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

    And I was there!

    She is one of the few ballerinas and/or Americans ever to be so honored.

    Funny, just a few short years before in Manhattan, after my sister had performed onstage with the great Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev—yes, that one!—my mom had doused out a cigarette in the Queen’s half-empty cocktail. At a reception for members of the Dutch community in town (Walter Kronkite was there), my mom, looking around for an ashtray and not finding one nearby, spotted a half-filled drink and plopped her cig in it. A moment later, the Queen came back, after a brief newspaper interview, to finish her toddy, only to find a, well, you-know-what in it.

    But back to little sister’s knighthood.

    Earlier that morning, I had attended a ballet class with my sister. Ballerinas and their male counterparts take class every day of the week to brush up on their technique and such. They stretch, move to the Barre, and do sequences in the center of the floor for an hour or so. This is followed by grueling hours of rehearsals for upcoming and/or present performances. So, anyway, I was standing by the wayside watching a Russian ballerina from the Bolshoi twirl around and around and around. We made eye contact and she fainted, dead away. In my dreams, I caught her in my arms. In reality, she slumped to the floor. I like to think it was caused by my George Clooney good looks, but it was probably caused by exhaustion.

    That day, for a short time, I was the talk of the company.

    Her lifemate, Roeland Kerbosch, an award-winning Dutch film director, had informed me a short time beforehand what was to take place that evening. I remember smoking—of course! as they say in the Netherlands—by the stage door of the Muziektheater in Amsterdam when my sister showed to suit up. She told me that she was worried about that night’s performance. Can’t remember why. All I was thinking was: Val, this is going to be one of, if not thee greatest night of your life.

    Later that evening, Valerie—I call her Val, sometimes Vali—was dancing onstage when suddenly everyone but herself stopped in their tracks. The conductor put down his baton. The music stopped. The performance came to a halt. My sister, in the middle of a pas de deux or whatever, looked around perplexed. What the heck is going on?

    After a moment, the Mayor of Amsterdam walked on stage and bestowed upon her the Order of the Dutch Lion—the highest honor a non-military person can receive in the Netherlands—in recognition for her 25 years of “significant contribution to the art of dance.”

    He read from a scroll: “Admired for her energy and dedication to her work, Valerie Valentine’s beautiful sense of line, strong technique and expressive, magical stage presence have inspired not only choreographers, but photographers and filmmakers as well . . .”

    Needless to say, there was a party afterward. Cocktails, hor’dourves, a band, dancing, etc. I was very happy for my sister, ecstatically so. But I left the celebration shortly after it began.

    I can’t remember feeling sadder.

    Sitting at an outside cafe, just a few a blocks away, was my artist brother Jimmy, uninvited (and rightly so; he was literally crazy as hell), doing his best to drink himself to death, an endeavor he would shortly accomplish.

    He died four years later, age 48, in Terremonlinos, Malaga, Spain . . . on Valentine’s Day.


  14. Sue says:

    Hi Dan.
    I love reading your stories. I just wanted to let you know that I have a ton of your columns, as well as a bunch of both you and your Father’s books. Not all of your memories are in a dumpster…. many of them are here, at my house. I hope you are doing well.


  15. Daniel Valentine says:

    So I’m sitting on the back veranda of the hostel here having my first cup of coffee and my first cough from a cigarette—it’s what I do best—when a guest here for relaxation and rest joins me. Best, guest, rest. Perfect internal rhymes and, so far, a perfect morning.

    I tell her what I’ve been writing about for the past week or two or so and she says, off the top of her head: “The gays of our lives.”

    Now, if that’s not the greatest title for a book on such a topic, I don’t know what it.

    In the beginning, I was merely going to write about my gay-bashing. But night after night, culling through my mind subconsciously, I sit straight up in bed and say to myself, “Oh, yeah! The two gay guys the manager at Trevi Towers in Salt Lake found nude in the sauna!” Or: “The time I was called a poof by a Glasgow taxi driver when I didn’t tip him enough!” Or . . . well, the list gets longer every night.

    I think I have a book whatever it’s called. But I’m going to think on it for awhile, a day or three.

    So, last night, instead of writing another pink-cigarette-lighter piece, I put the finishing touches on a Mexican balada.

    In English, of course. I took two years of Spanish in high school, but my mom did my homework. She had spent half of World War II in Chile, Peru, and Boliva. Her first husband was a mining engineer, and back then she spoke fluent Spanish. She wanted to prove to herself that she still had the skill. So, not only did she help me with my homework, she did my homework! As a result, she got an A, I got a D—which averaged out to a C. And I didn’t learn a goddamn thing.

    I told my sister this once and she said our mom had done her homework, too. As a result, my mom got another A and my sis, she got a—I didn’t have to ask.

    Neither of us can speak Spanish, though she can speak fluent Dutch after living in Amsterdam for some-forty years.

    My brother couldn’t speak a word of Spanish, either, though he died in Malaga, Spain, the birthplace of Picasso.

    But back to my Mexican balado—a sad, Spanish ballad, sometimes called a tearjerker. In the background, picture mariachis. More than anything else, I guess, it’s a concert/nightclub/theater piece.

    * * * * *

    By Daniel Valentine (c) 2010

    I’ve total recall
    Of the summer we met.
    That fall and that Christmas
    I’ll never forget.

    And now, close to Easter,
    With thoughts of that year—
    Spring break all but here—
    Reminiscing, as ev’ryone does,
    I remember the spring
    That never was.

    I imagine a flight and a window seat,
    Waves dancing below in the shimmering heat,
    Cancun just beyond the wing.

    Sometimes late at night,
    Quarter past one or two,
    I’ll smile on those seasons
    So sweet, oh-too few.

    But round about three-ish
    Or four-ish, I find,
    What creeps into mind,
    Uninvited, when slighted hearts stir,
    Are the four days, three nights
    That never were.

    I imagine a towel for two in the sun,
    Our bodies so snug passersby swear we’re one
    Whenever we closely cling.

    Mescal to consume!
    Spring break in full swing!
    While friends toured the tomb
    Of some Mayan king,
    I sat alone in my room
    By a phone that didn’t ring.

    My folks are concerned,
    As our others, because:
    What good is obsessing
    On what never what?

    But spring’s here and lovers,
    They stroll hand-in-hand,
    Barefoot on white sand,
    And I can’t help but think of back when.
    I remember the spring
    That might have been.

    I imagine a kiss on a moonlit beach,
    Each star in the sky within fingertip reach.
    Nearby mariachis sing.
    The god-damnedest dumbest thing?

    Cancun is a spring break paradise, attracting some
    200,000 college students. The 16-mile long island is
    located on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, between
    the Caribbean Sea and the lovely Nichupte Lagoon and
    boasts all a spring breaker could ever hope to die
    for: beach volleyball, beautiful people, spectacular
    sunsets, and lots of other fun stuff, too, like
    tequila shots and celebrity sightings. And, though,
    I have never been there, I hate the place like I
    never hated any place on the face of the Earth

    Mescal to consume!
    Spring break in full swing!
    While friends toured the tomb
    Of some Mayan king,
    I sat alone in my room
    By a phone that didn’t ring.

    My folks are concerned,
    As are others, because:
    What good is obsessing
    On what never was?

    But spring’s here and lovers,
    They stroll hand-in-hand,
    Barefoot on white sand,
    And I can’t help but think of back when.
    I remember the spring
    That might have been.

    I imagine a flight and a window seat,
    Waves dancing below in the shimmering heat,
    Cancun just beyond the wing.
    The god-damnedest dumbest thing?


  16. Daniel Valentine says:


    When my bestest friend and I first moved into our new one-story home in Friendswood, TX, the fellow next door, who owned a nice three-story house, came over and said how happy he was to have a nice couple such as ourselves now living next door as neighbors.

    The couple before us, he said, were “f**king faggots!” and used to host poolside orgies in their backyard. It disgusted him. That, he informed us, was the reason for the extra-high security fence separating his back property from ours.

    I met him again while getting the mail shortly after Hurricane Ike. He asked me if I had gotten my $500 check from the government. They were handing out checks to those in need with property damage.

    Hurricane Ike had missed us. There WAS no property damage. But his kind, they know how! His grandfather had developed the neighborhood and, as a result, the fellow next door was living the good life. He spent the majority of his time at his beach house on the Gulf.

    Shortly afterward I read a story in the Houston Chronicle telling of how the poor were finding it almost impossible to collect that much-needed check.

    A few months later, I met him for a third time walking out to get the mail. He told me: “That sure is a purty little gal you got there.”

    Only a fat f**k (and I’m speaking of his head, though, his body was a monument to the god of saturated-fats) could make such a remark sound perverted as all-get-out. It made my skin crawljust to type the phrase and hear his voice again inside my brain.

    Extra-tall security fence or not, he obviously had been peeping out of his third-floor window when she was sunbathing by the pool–oftentimes topless, thinking she had the privacy to do so, unaware a pervert was watching, gleefully. He may very well have been doing something else, gleefully, while watching. I picture him snacking on pork rinds.

    She never felt comfortable poolside again.

    We sold the home a couple of years later to a NASA project manager for a future manned-flight to Mars.

    I had left a couple of things behind in the confusion and commotion of moving and one afternoon I returned to retrieve them. I knocked on the door and the new owner answered.

    His male companion stood close beside him, wearing tight-fitting speedos! Not that there is anything wrong with tight-fitting speedos, as they would say on Will and Grace, but he might as well have been wearing assless chaps. They were obviously lovers.

    I went off to Austin, then Provo, then Nashville, and many parts in between, and when my bested friend bought a home close by to NASA, I flew back to Texas, and I’m walking down the street one day, stop at a “Don’t Walk” sign, and a fat fellow behind the wheel of a somewhat familiar-looking SUV, waiting to make a right turn, waves me over through the darkened windshield.

    I thought I must still have that look of homelessness and the fellow wanted to give me a quarter or so to help himself get into heaven when the time came to fill out the application. (List any or all good deeds: “Gave 37 cents to a homeless person once.”)

    It turned out to be our former fat-f**k of a next-door neighbor in Friendswood. He rolled down his window and said, “Y’know, I think that couple you sold your home to are goddamn queers.”

    It made my day. “Oh, yeaaaaah!”

    And pickled pink, I went on my way, picturing him in my mind peeking out of his third-story window, cursing under his breath, while two fellas playfully in the pool next door below splashed water at each other–him, the fat-f**K, crunching on a pork rind and thinking to himself, “I sure do miss that purty little gal.”


  17. Daniel Valentine says:


    Shortly after my little episode with Melody–y’know, the brigadier general’s daughter, so on and so forth, the one with the butcher knife, etc., etc., with the crazy ex-boyfriend–I soon found myself a studio flat of my own in downtown D.C.

    The Westpark Apartments, 2130 “P” Street, just west of Dupont Circle and the Metro stop that took me straight to work at the Russell Senate Office Building. The Ritz-Carlton was just around the corner. My good friend Paul Smith, Orrin Hatch’s former press secretary, and I saw Peggy Lee perform there one evening. She had fallen shortly before the engagement and sang on crutches.

    The residents at the Westpark were mostly students and professionals. There was a grocery store next door and some of Washington’s better restaurants nearby. Georgetown was a ten-minute walk.

    Great location but noisy on weekends. Across the street, I soon learned, was a stretch of very popular gay bars: a gay dance club, a gay sports bar, a gay piano bar, a gay you-name-it. “The cutting edge of Gay nightclubs,” I later read in a local rag.

    I lived there for some two years without incident.

    Flash-forward half a decade. I had moved my folks from Salt Lake to Arlington, Va. A three-bedroom penthouse apartment, above the Balston Commons Arcade, with a view of the Nation’s Capital. It was to die for! Fourth of July, it was the best seat in the house. Fireworks galore sprouting above the Washington Monument During Bush I’s term, when the troops returned home victorious from fighting in Kuwait and Iraq and the whole town celebrated, it was the best seat in the house. Fireworks galore.

    One evening, shortly after returning for the second time to the District, I joined my bestest friend for a cocktail or two. We may have even had dinner.

    You could smoke in bars and restaurants back then and, like many times before in the past, by the end of the evening, her cigarette lighter ended up in my blue sports coat pocket. She doesn’t smoke cigarettes; though, she’ll light herself a cigar every once in a great while. She prefers to smoke, well, let’s just say she likes to laugh. As I do. Laughter is a sound foundation for any relationship. (My ex-mother-in-law once asked my ex-wife, in front of me, “Why did you marry him?” “He made me laugh,” she said. Her mother sniffed and replied, “I’ve never thought he was funny.” I had to laugh.)

    Anyway, the lighter ended up in my pocket when I used my last match and she lent me hers. It was pink.

    Many a time I have sat at a table with friends and, by the end of the night, everyone’s lighter or matches or both have wound up in my possession. I’m infamous for it. And many a time, a friend during the evening has slapped his pockets or searched her purse only to find that his or her light is missing. “Where’s my lighter?! Where are my matches?!” Friends always turn to me. “Valentine! Not again!” I get caught up in the conversation at hand and, without thinking, I slip them in my pocket after lighting up.

    We had met at a restaurant nearby Dupont Circle, close to my former residence. After biding goodnight, call-you-later, I thought I’d save a buck or two–I was raised by Depression Kids–and catch a cab to Georgetown for one last drink before going home to Arlington.

    In D.C., at the time, there were taxi zones. When I lived on “P” Street, I soon discovered if one wanted to save some cash one had only to stroll a few paces and cross the street at the end of the block to hail a taxi. Back then, every zone your cab entered cost you an extra-added fare.

    So, I’m on “P” Street–familiar and friendly territory, or so I thought at the time–a few steps from saving a dollar or so, when I stop to light up. I pulled out my friend’s pink one. I lit my cigarette, pocketed the rest. It was then that someone head-butted me in the back like an NFL guard, plunging me face-first to the pavement. Another man, from out of the shadows, joined in the fun, kicking me in the head and ribs, both of them shouting, “Faggot!” and other slurs I suppose.

    I can only suppose that the pink lighter offended them.

    I was knocked unconscious. When I came to, I opened my eyes to see two Pink Angels gazing down on me, one with a flashlight beaming on my face.

    Every Friday and Saturday, near the stroke of midnight, a group of volunteers, dressed in black berets and jackets, pair off and walk unarmed up and down the gay sections of D.C., making sure gays get home in one-piece. They’re known as Pink Angels. Such groups exist from San Francisco to Greenwich Village.

    The two helped me to my feet and guided me to the gay piano bar on the corner. Upon seeing me, the bartender immediately began dialing an ambulance. He didn’t have to pick up the phone book and thumb through its pages to look for the number. I told him to dial me a cab instead. Save a buck here, save buck there. I was raised by Depression Kids.

    No doubt, the bartender poured me a drink on the house. And, no doubt, I lit myself a cigarette. Can’t have a drink without a cigarette, swollen-bleeding lips or no. And, without any doubt, I pocketed a book of matches with the bar’s logo on them. Can’t have a cigarette without a light.

    The pink lighter was missing, glimmering in a moonlit gutter somewhere.

    I was in the Men’s, cleaning up best I could, when the cab arrived. The driver took me to the Georgetown University Hospital emergency room for my wounds. Broken nose (again, for the umpteenth time), multiple bruises, battered ribs, fractured jaw. I may have even had a minor concussion. Can’t remember. That wasn’t meant as a joke. It’s just been that long ago.

    Later on that week, I saw a specialist, etc. In all, visits, procedures, more visits, more procedures, it cost me some several thousand dollars. I was unaware at the time–no one volunteered the info–that there is some sort of city fund for such incidents.

    The time was the late ’80s, but little has changed.

    Just recently I came across a news story on the internet The head read: Wearing Pink Gets Straight Man Gay Bashed. The date: October 2009. The story: A straight man who wore pink to aid breast cancer charities was bashed by men at a Kansas City Chiefs game. The victim, a father of three, had volunteered to wear pink clothing to draw attention to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. He raised a few hundred dollars, vending pink ribbons and shirts and hats, among other things. Third quarter, he decides to call it a day. He’s heading out of the stadium when two men, drunk, began harassing him because of his pink clothing. One of them punched him in the face. The second threw him to the ground. Both began kicking him in the ribs and head. I can relate. Managing somehow to get to his feet, he scurried for his life, the men chasing after him. Dodging them in between parked cars in the stadium’s lot, he finally escaped.

    Sometimes, looking back, I think it may not have been the pink lighter at all. Maybe they were simply hard-core anti-smoking activists. They could very well have been paid assassins hired by my ex-mother-in-law. They may have been Danes! One thing’s for sure: The two wanted to hurt somebody, badly–gay, straight, or Martian–and they did. Me. Wrong place at the wrong time. A lot of life is timing. You win a few, you lose a few.

    For some time afterward, I smoked very little, if at all Wired-fractured jaw. When I was well enough, I visited my bestest friend.

    THAT didn’t make me feel better! She was seeing a cop. Upon hearing that, no doubt, I lit-up a cigarette. I left shortly afterward.

    A few weeks later, I visited her again. Just happen to be in the area. Yeah, right! I asked how she and the cop were doing. She said she had broken up with the fellow. She had discovered he was gay.

    This was at the height of the AIDS scare. AIDS was somewhere in everyone’s mind, in flats on “U” Street, where she was living at the time, and in dark, shadowed doorways on “P” Street.

    “He told you that?” I asked.

    “No. Not exactly.”

    “So, how do you know?”

    He, too, it seems, had visited one day, and after he’d left, she had found a book of matches from a gay bar.

    “I know you’re not gay. So–.” She showed me the matches. They were mine. From the gay piano bar on “P” Street.

    You win a few, you lose a few. One day you’re lying in a puddle of blood, your own; the next day, you’re soaring, eagle-like, high above the clouds, a big-big smile on your face, fractured-jaw and all.



  18. Daniel Valentine says:

    When I was four or five, early ’50s, my dad quit The Salt Lake Tribune and we moved to San Francisco.

    Actor Peter Lorre, who was known for his bulging eyes and for co-starring alongside Humphrey Bogart in films such as Casablanca, was in Salt Lake to perform in a stage reading from George Bernard Shaw’s play Don Juan in Hell, with Charles Laughton and two others. I think one was Agnes Moorehead. Charles Boyer may have been the fourth.

    My dad wrote: “The man with the ping-pong eyes is in town.” He was quite proud of that lead.

    He woke up the next morning, picked the paper up off the front porch, and flipped to his column. It read: “The man with the table-tennis eyes is in town.”

    Didn’t have same ring to it. Though, it had his by-line.

    Someone on the rewrite desk had changed the lead. My dad blew a gasket and was told that Ping Pong was a brand name and the paper didn’t give free advertising. Back then, Coco-Cola wasn’t allowed in a story. Instead, carbonated beverage was substituted.

    My dad quit shortly there after. One straw too many (in the carbonated beverage.) They had cut his column time after time.

    Many years later, when I took over his column, one of the first bits of advice he gave me was: “Don’t read your column in the paper the next morning. It will give you high blood pressure.” I ignored this little nugget and I’ve high-blood pressure ever since.

    One evening that very week, the phone rang at home. (We were living on Grove Avenue. The house is still there. I walked by it just a few short years ago.) My dad answered it and the voice on the other line said, “This is Charles Laughton. Join me for a drink.” Get outta here! My dad hung up on the voice. The phone rang again. “Seriously. I’m Charles Laughton. Let’s have a drink together.” Yeah, riiight! My dad slammed the phone down a second time. This little incident haunted my dad for many a year. Was it, indeed, Charles Laughton? I like to think, now that the two are both long parted, that my dad finally joined him for a toddy.

    My dad got a job as a reporter, working for the San Francisco Examiner. He was given the Suicide Watch on Golden Gate Bridge, among other things. Yes, there was such a beat back then. Perhaps, still is, with the present economic woes. My dad’s job was to stroll up and down the bridge at night, waiting for distraught people to leap to their death, then write the story.

    Noticing that there were many people with a sexual preference other than the so-called norm in the City by the Bay, and with time on his hands during the day, he asked a copy boy or girl to bring him all the files the Examiner had on homosexuals. He thought it would make an interesting human-interest story. The copy person brought him cart after cart, filled with file upon file, and my dad came to the conclusion that the story had been done before, many times, even back then.

    My dad returned to Salt Lake a year and a half or so later when Art Deck, The Tribune’s senior editor, who liked my dad and liked the popularity of his column even more, asked him to return.

    My first introduction to gays was, no doubt, TV and film. Liberace, Truman Capote, Charles Nelson Reilly, and rumors, just rumors at the time, that Rock Hudson was a member of the select two/three/four/ten/lord knows percent club.

    Paul Lynde, who resided in the center square on Hollywood Squares for a long, long time, also comes to mind. He made many a guest appearance on Donny & Marie, filmed at the Osmond Studios in Orem, Utah.

    In 1978, in Utah for a guest appearance, he had one too many drinks at the Sun Tavern, a gay bar on the west side of Salt Lake. The police were called. Finding him intoxicated and more than a little belligerent, one of the cops called to the scene reached for his cuffs. Lynde was told to take off his Rolex. Struggling to free it from his wrist, Lynde broke the clasp.

    “Now, look what you’ve made me do!” he said, no doubt with that over-the-top way of saying things, sneer, snarl and all, only more so with a few drinks in him. And he slammed the Rolex to the sidewalk and stomped on it with both feet.

    It’s in the police report. My dad brought a copy home from The Tribune. Also, in the report, was this: “In case of emergency contact Olive Osmond (Donny and Marie’s mom).” Soon after, he was dropped as a guest star.

    The Sun Tavern.

    There was a time, at the peak of my dad’s popularity (and, indeed, WAS he ever popular. He was a house-hold name in Utah and parts of Nevada and Idaho. In a well-respected survey conducted by those who did such surveys at the time, his readership in the Intermountain West was shown to be higher than that of the nationally syndicated columnist Ann Landers)–where was I? Oh, yes, at my dad’s peak, celebrity’s in town for whatever reason (Myrna Loy, in town to film Airport; Martina Martin (Dean Martni’s daughter), in town with Holiday on Ice or Ice Capades (can’t remember which); Gale Storm, TV’s My Little Margie; in town in a play; Ricardo Monteblan, in town for a play; the list goes on and on), they all would pay a call on my dad for publicity for whatever project they were involved in at the moment.

    One who walked into The Tribune city room to pay his respects (in exchange for a well-read column item) was Charles Pierce. (Wikipedia: “One of the 20th Century’s foremost female impersonators.”) He was particularly known for his impersonation of Bette Davis. He also did Mae West, Tullulah Bankhead, Gloria Swanson, Katherine Hepburn, Carol Channing, and Joan Crawford, among many others.

    My dad interviewed Joan Crawford once. She was in Salt Lake representing Pepsi, her second career. Her fourth husband was president of the carbonated beverage company. After his death in 1959, she was appointed to its Board of Directors. At a Pepsi reception at the Salt Palace, she took a liking to him. So, someone at The Trib told me later. Of course! He made her laugh.

    When Charles Pierce invited my dad and mom to come see the show at the Sun Tavern, a gay bar, my mom didn’t say, “What will people think?” She looooved Bette Davis. No matter that it wasn’t really her, it was her spirit that mattered. Bette was her role-model. A piece or two ago, I wrote that my dad looooved Elko, Nevada. Picture my mom saying, “What a dump!” and you’ve got my mom.

    My dad looked important, as did my mom. On a flight once a passenger sitting next to him, turned to inquire, “Are you somebody?” My dad replied, “I’ve always thought so.”

    When I caught up with my first ship in the Navy, it was docked in Guam. I was buffing a passageway or whatever, as a member of deck force, when a boatswain’s mate, extremely excited, hurried below to tell everyone that Jackie Gleason and Carol Channing were on the pier. You must be kidding! Guam!? We all were allowed to go topside to take a gander and, lo and behold, there they were. My dad and mom.

    In my mom’s middle-years, when dressed to the gills, she could pass as Carol Channing’s twin. Both were blondes. (My dad looooved blondes. He used to say, “I don’t know if blondes have more fun, but the people with ’em do.”)

    And my dad, he was often told he looked like Jackie Gleason. Same bulging eyes (ping-pong like, not tennis-table like), same weight near-bouts, both funny as can be. The territorial governor of Guam at the time was from Utah–local angle–and he had flown there, along with my mom, to interview him. Yeah, sure!

    I mention this because I can picture my mom dressed to the nines, standing in line to use the Sun Tavern’s only restroom–no need for two!–in between acts and the fellow in front or back complimenting her on her impersonation of Carol Channing. My mom, bless her soul, she was a trouper! But that’s how much she loooooved Bette Davis.

    My first recollection of what could be called a gay experience happened in Bountiful, Utah, at a theater-in-the-round musical production of Peter Pan, starring Victor Buono (reputed by some to be gay) as Captain Hook and Ruta Lee (reputed, without question, to be straight) as Peter. I was thirteen or so.

    Onstage–scene/act/whatever/I’ve forgot–Tinkerbell was dying, poisoned by Captain Hook, the deadly brew meant for Peter. Kneeling beside her and beside himself, as they say, Peter asked her what he could do to help. She told him that she thought she could get all-better if children just believe in Fairies.

    So, in desperation, to save her life, Peter (Ruta Lee) ran to the footlights and asked the audience, “Do you believe in Fairies?”

    Children, one and all, me included, shouted, “YES!” (Si, indeed! Hey, Fairies depend on the belief of kids, of all ages.) A very poignant moment … ruined just a tiny bit by a few grown-ups–not many but enough to be heard by me and others–snickering in their seats, aloud, to themselves. (Oh, yeah! I believe in fairies. One styles my wife’s hair.) Very sad and truly scary when you stop to think about it.

    A few weeks or months later, another play came to town. It was called Pajama Bottoms. The gist of the play: A gay man–though, the word gay was never uttered–doesn’t want to be a gay man. So, he decides he is not going to be a gay man. He starts pursuing women. Finally, by the end of the first act, he meets up with one who makes his wish come true. The first act curtain falls as he walks out of the bedroom, a smile on is face. He’s a straight!

    The second act consists of him dating woman after woman, sleeping with each of them, because now he’s a man. Still, something’s missing. Love. By the time the final curtain falls, he has found true love.

    Very politically incorrect! But, oh, how I loved that play! And I’ll tell you why. The male lead was a friend of Victor Buono’s. I can’t remember his first name, but his last name was McMurtry. And he was told to look up my dad. He got us front row seats and after the show, my dad, mom, and I joined him and the cast (and the cast, other than himself, were all beautiful actresses, six in all) for drinks at the Manhattan Club in Salt Lake. I was, like, fourteen or so then, way underage. But Tony Hatsis, the owner, sat us at a table in the back, and, oh, what a night! When you’re fourteen, you’re not a threat. So, all the young actresses loved me. Oh, what a night! They signed my program and I kept that treasure until just a few months ago. It is now in a Houston dump. But, oh, what a night!

    I didn’t give gays much of a thought, good, bad, or indifferent, until I moved to San Francisco in the late ’70s for some-two years.

    I was there the night Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in the state, was assassinated. It happened just a few blocks from where I was living at the time. Parked cars were set on fire. Police sirens screamed all night long. I’m a very curious fellow, but I stayed put in my room that evening.

    Once, while having a drink in a bar, an older gentleman sitting next to me, after conversing some, inquired politely if I wanted to go home with him for the night. I politely declined. I took no offense and went on my way.

    In San Francisco, I met a nightclub entertainer at a piano bar on Powell Street. Lucina! German-born. Sang Marlene Dietrich songs. Still is German. Still sings Marlene standards. Still lives in the Bay Area. She used to call me Dahling.

    Late night once, she took me to one of the many after-hour gay dance clubs in town, where those dancing up a storm on the floor would inhale Poppers, amyl nitrate, that came in small ampoules. “Pop! Release the fumes! Snort!” Back in the ’70s, in Baghdad by the Bay, young, old, straight, and gay, were “enhancing their lives” with ’em. I can’t remember my charming, street-wise chantreus taking a trial sniff. But, fool that I am, I did. Just a whiff or two. Research for a future whatever. Yeah, riiiight!

    Flip the calendar pages.

    After two years in San Francisco, I was given the opportunity to write my dad’s column. He was written out, as they say, and ill. First, it was complications from diabetes. Then, he got shingles. Then, anorexia. And, then, he fell and, well, I’ll write about that some other time …

    So, anyway, one day I was flipping through some out-of-town newspapers, looking for a germ of an idea or two for a column, when I came across an item that read: Virtually all the early patients diagnosed with AIDS have used Poppers at least once. My heart sank. I thought to myself: Man, oh, man, am I in trouble!

    Soon after, Poppers were found not to be the cause of AIDS. I wiped the sweat off my brow. Whew!

    In 1980, Paul Lynde was found dead in his Hollywood home with a bottle of Poppers. Double whew!! I’d only had a whiff or two.


  19. Daniel Valentine says:


    From the Urban Dictionary: Midnight Cowboy. A 1964 movie starring Jon Voight (Jolie’s daddy) as Joe Buck, from Texas, who comes to The Big Apple, thinking he can make a living selling his body to women. When that fails, he resorts to seeking gay male customers. Hence, the slang term “midnight cowboy”–a male (straight or gay) who seeks gay men who will pay him for sex.

    In the fall of 2009, while I was at The Music City Hostel in Nashville, a kid from the backwoods of some southern state, I forget which one, checked in. Both his parents had recently died and his elderly grandmother had given him what little cash she had so he could come to Nashville. Why Nashville, of all places, I can’t remember. He had no dream of being a singer or a songwriter or anything else connected with the music business.

    Many of the regular guests there took an instance dislike to him. The kid’s backwoods accent offended their ears. A lawyer, who had given up his practice in Wisconsin to follow his dream of becoming a music producer, said one night, “I can’t understand a word he says.” “That’s what he says about you,” I said. One and all laughed.

    Ron, the owner of the place, had taken me in when he learned I was homeless–bed and breakfast in exchange for chores. But he told me not to mention the word “homeless” to anyone. He didn’t want to upset his guests. Heaven forbid! “And don’t bum any cigarettes from the guests!” Who me?

    Funny, many or most of the visiting guests are European, and those in the European Union are a strange breed, indeed! Whenever they take out a pack of cigarettes, they always–and, I mean, always–offer those present a cigarette first before lighting one up for themselves.

    One of the first things the young man from the backwoods told me was: Clerks would not accept his I.D. when he tried to buy a bottle at the liquor store down the block. And he had just turned 21! And he couldn’t understand why. In truth, he couldn’t have been more than 19.

    What do to? he asked.

    “Enjoy a Coke!”

    But the young, they rarely listen to their elders. Instead, he soon discovered that he could quench his thirst by simply opening the fridge outside on the porch, when no one was watching. Guests would buy twelve-pack upon twelve-pack, put ’em in the fridge to chill, drink most of what they had purchased but not all, and go on their way.

    As a result, the kid was drunk most of the time. Did I say, most? He was drunk the entire time he was there. Guests were complaining. His backwoods accent was hard enough to take when he was sober.

    One night I’m sitting with him outside. I was the only one who would. I felt sorry for him. He had just lost both his folks. Time after time, he would offer me cigarette after cigarette (European-style), as he lit one for himself and popped open the flip-top of another can of beer. Evenings past, I had always declined. This particular night, after hearing pretty much everything the lad had to say, I asked, “Can I bum a cigarette?” just as Ron came over and said he wanted to talk to him. Timing is everything.

    The two went inside. The kid came out a short time later and told me that Ron wanted him to leave the premises immediately, if not sooner.

    What to do? He had no money. He asked me to talk to Ron on his behalf. So, together we went inside. It was late. Past midnight. I said something like “you just can’t toss the kid out on the street at this hour. I’ve been homeless, and–”

    “Follow me,” he said. And I did. Outside. “I told you never to use the word homeless while you’re here.”

    “Hey,” I said, “he’s a kid. Both his folks just died. It’s my duty as a fellow human being. Tomorrow he can go to social services.”

    Ron said he’d play the kid’s car fare to The Mission.

    I don’t think so. The Mission! Stabbings. You name it. Worst-case scenario. “I was told by one-in-the-know NOT to go to The Mission,” I said. “I wasn’t ready, and HE (the kid) really ain’t!”

    Ron said he’d drive the boy to the all-night cafe up the block. Give him money for coffee.

    I can live with that, not that it was my call, and not that it had anything to do with me at all.

    “But I don’t want to hear you say the word ‘homeless’ ever again.”

    “No problem. Got a cigarette I can bum? Just joking.”

    Funny, he had told all those who worked there that I had been homeless for a short time (very short, three days) and they, in turn, had informed all the regular seasonal guests. At a hostel, you soon learn most every little thing that’s interesting about a person. Unless, of course, your middle name is Clueless.

    A few nights later I’m in the hostel lobby–computers, big-screen TV, washer-dryer, dining table and chairs, etc.–when a guest comes in and informs each and all present that he had seen the kid from the southern backwoods standing on the corner by the gay bars, presumably selling his wears.

    I like to think he was lost. But probably not.



  20. Ed Darrell says:

    Pink Cigarette Lighter, Part II, is also posted here:

    Magnet schools? I like the idea, generally. I know a number of grads from various magnets in New York City, and generally I think it’s a good idea.

    Their success is a function of their selectiveness, however, and we have been unable as a human race to figure out how to take the lessons learned from magnet schools and turn them into effective, practical lessons for the rest of the students.

    I also wonder how my life would have been different had I been able to get out of high school for a magnet. I had a chance to skip my last semester and enroll at BYU, which I turned down because BYU was such a weird place, and I wanted to have that “senior fun” people talked about. Forced to stay in that school for four years, I found myself participating in a broad range of activities I probably would not have done at a magnet school.

    So, I don’t think magnets are a panacea, but I envy the love of faculty shown for teachers at magnet schools, by the administration. I wish we could clone that.


  21. Daniel Valentine says:

    Ed, can you give me your opinion, as an educator, on magnet schools, pro, con, or indifferent?

    And oh yes! The idea my dad had for a play, it was called “Ballerina Baby”, not “Ballerina Bay”. The computer I’m writing on here at the hostel has a very, very old keyboard. The keys stick. It’s very frustrating and stressful. Proof-reading is an art in itself. When proof-reading your own copy, cognitive-wise, you tend to read what you thought you had typed.


  22. Daniel Valentine says:


    I was out on the veranda–inhaling my first drag from a cig, slurping my first sip from a cup–when the morning receptionist appeared.

    Upon seeing her, I took a look at an imaginary watch on my wrist (my true watch is in my carry-on–the band broke months ago) and said, “You’re late!” I was joking. I didn’t have the slightest idea what time it was. I wrote into the wee hours.

    “You, too?” she said. “Nobody lets me be me in this world.” She was half-joking, but all humor has a serious side, or it wouldn’t be funny. No identification.

    I guess, she WAS a little late and Gabby, the manager, had gotten on her case. I can relate. She’s gotten on my case more than once, and I’m a guest.

    The other night I was outside, having a cigarette, thinking, pacing, when two Mexican gentlemen stopped to inquire if I had any food to spare. “We not eat.” They were homeless and penniless. They had just come from L.A. where they had found little or no work and had returned home across the border. I told them to wait a sec.

    I poked my head inside and told Gabby, “There are two gents in need of something to eat.”

    She’s a teacher. In her spare time, she teaches a small group, of four or five, creative writing here at the hostel, which she was busy doing at that moment. She couldn’t very well say no in front of her students, so she got up and went to the kitchen and filled two plastic bags full of goods. She may have even taken a well-guarded and cherished jar of strawberry jam out of the locked safe and included it. (I shouldn’t be so judgmental. She probably would have done the good deed on her own, without me or her students here or not.)

    She gave the two gentlemen the bags–in return, the two sincerely thanked her and went on their way– and Gabby turned to me and said, “Charming? Yes?”

    Si, indeed!

    Sunday afternoon–the staff’s day off–she’s about to leave with no one here but me. I asked, “Do you want me to stay around?” You know, just in case someone wanted to check in.

    She sad, “No. Leave. Leave forever!”

    I had to laugh.

    But where was I? Oh, yes. “Nobody lets me be me in this world.” I love that phrase. It says a lot.

    I told her so, and she, the morning receptionist, sat to have a chat about this-and-that. Sat-chat-that. Perfect rhymes. Imperfect world.

    During our conversation, among many other things–now aware that I was writing a piece on gays and lesbians and those in between–she informed me that three transvestite prostitutes had been found murdered recently and left on the side of the road between here and Rosarito, a small town up the Baja coast–killed by some macho Mexican male or more, she supposed.

    One may have very well been wearing pink, I just thought to myself. It doesn’t take much–I know from personal experience–to fuel the fervor in some to kill or hurt another fellow human being.

    The Aztecs used to execute homosexuals, and you don’t wanna know the details of how they went about it. Transvestites–whatever their sexual preference–were executed also and, again, you don’t wanna know the gruesome details.

    Under Spanish rule “maschismo” was introduced to the Western Hemisphere: Men are men and should act accordingly. Make war not love.

    In the mid-’90s, a Mexicana airline pilot had security guards at Guadalajara International Airport escort two San Francisco-bound lesbians off the plane for engaging in immoral behavior. They were seen holding hands.

    Two dozen homosexuals were murdered in Mexico during the first-half of that decade, most of them transvestites. And now, years later in 2010, three more can be added to the list.

    My fellow Americans, north of the border, I sincerely and humbly apologize. We are not alone, not by a long shot, not that I thought for a moment that we were. Hatred for those who are born different is universal.

    Pearl Harbor was the home port of my first ship when serving in the Navy. This was many decades before don’t-ask-don’t-tell–1969 or so. The scuttlebutt on board at one time was that several snipes in Engineering–not just two but several–had been swiftly discharged for gay activities. From first-hand experience, I know you can’t believe everything, or anything, you hear aboard a ship.

    To get from the Naval Base to Waikiki Beach, you had to catch a bus that let you off on Hotel Street in Honolulu, where you waited to transfer to another bus. On Hotel Street, at night, you’d see countless prostitutes plying their trade, many with a large pink button–pink! that color again!–that informed those who could read: “I AM A BOY”! It was the law back them.

    You might as well have painted a pink bull’s eye on their chests or backs or foreheads or all three. On the bus coming back at night, you’d see them again, on the side of the highway, plying their trade. I’m sure there were many a gay-bashing. Probably a killing or three. Macho guys just wanna have fun.

    On the other hand–there’s always a flip side–the large pink warning labels may well have saved a life or three. False advertising can very well get one killed, too.

    I believe in education. I believe in magnet schools, comprehensive public schools, high-school level, with different specialized curricula. Reading-writing-and-arithmetic is all fine and dandy, but you gotta teach everyone, as many as you can, how to make a living, how to put bread on the table. The United Kingdom has nearly 3,000 of ’em, each specializing in a specialized trade. My sister attended one. The London Royal Ballet School.

    In Manhattan, I lived just up the block from one. The Fiorella H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art & Performing Arts. I spoke there once, representing the BMI Musical Theater Workshop. Ving Rhames, Freddie Prinz, Liza Minneli, Dom Deluise are/were all graduates.

    But why just the arts? Whether it be plumbing, carpentry, or automotive mechanics, you gotta teach the young how to make a buck, the earlier the better. A magnet school can give the process some intensity and prestige. Just my own personal opinion, but I’m no expert.

    My junior year in high school, I came home after my first day at class, and my dad asked what courses I had signed up for. I told him I had signed up for Creative Writing for one. He told me to check out immediately. Take typing. I did, and it has served me well through the years. In the past, I have always been able to get a job typing. Except in Nashville!

    I was stationed in Bremerton, Washington, in the Navy for a couple of months. While there I signed up to take a course in shorthand at the local junior college, taking my dad’s advice again. I had to check out. I was the only male and all the women in the class, the professor said, were so well advanced that she was going to skip the first few chapters of the textbook. The women in the class had all taken shorthand in high school.

    My dad also told me when I was VERY young to get a part-time job at a Chinese laundry. This was more than 40 years ago. He said Chinese was the future and I could always get a job as a reporter. My dad was a very smart and savvy man. Stupid me, I got a job delivering the Deseret News instead; it might have been bagging groceries at Albertson’s. I can’t remember. I did both at one time or another.

    On one of my first days working for Orrin Hatch, he took me aside and told me what the business at hand was all about. “Economics. Economics. Economics.” He might as well have said the whole world, from beginning of time. Maybe he did.

    It’s all about the money, sad or not. And you gotta teach people how to make some. I believe countless magnet high schools throughout the nation would be a good start.

    Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, or so it’s said. And I believe it. Those who don’t have a trade often choose the oldest one, whether by choice or by circumstance, for there is always–and always will be–those who will pay for a prostitute’s fast-fix accessibility.

    Straight, gay, lesbian, or transgender, many have sexual needs that can’t be met at home by a loved one, if they have a loved one. Some are attracted to transvestites. Some have a desire–it could very well even be sexual–to murder ’em.

    There is a street in Ensenada, I was told by a visitor from San Diego, known by those north of the border and cab drivers here as Tranny Alley. I asked Salsador about it. He’d never head of it. I had to explain to him what the word “tranny” meant. “Tranny” hasn’t entered the Spanish lexicon–as of yet. Where it exactly is, I don’t wanna know. Somewhere in the world–I have no doubt–is a block of ill-repute known as Granny Alley, too. As an aspiring lyricist, I hear a word and automatically match it in my mine with a rhyme. Tranny. Granny. I’d Google it, but I don’t wanna know.

    In the Netherlands, and in a few other European countries, prostitution is legal, as it should be. Take it off the side streets and out of the back alleyways–get rid of the pimps!–and supervise the activity. It’s a revenue-maker for city and state. It’s a good idea just disease-, violent-crime-, and you-name-it-wise.

    In Amsterdam, it’s even a tourist attraction. Tourists go view a Rembrandt, take in a Van Gogh, taste-test some funny stuff at a Coffee Shop, and visit what is called “The Street of Women” to take a peek at “The Women in the Windows”. Not necessarily in that order. My dad, when he visited, took a stroll down the street and even convinced my mom to tag along. At first, being raised a staunch Presbyterian, she said no-way. “What will people think?” My dad replied, “They’ll simply think a beautiful new girl’s in town.” Ha-ha. My mom thought it over for a moment, pursed her Presbyterian lips, and joined him for a peek. She was a trouper.

    I, myself, took my bestest friend for a peek on our first visit there. We walked by a window showcasing a painted woman with a poodle on her lap. “That’s the job I want!” my good friend said. “A job you can take your dog with you to.” She’s very funny. In Houston, she did stand-up comedy for a time–wrote her own material. “How would you come up with the rent?” I asked. “You gotta entertain a customer or two, at the very least. She pondered the proposition for a sec. “Well, that is a problem, isn’t it?”

    All the world’s a Catch-22.

    My artist brother, Jimmy, who inherited more than a drop of my mom’s Presbyterian blood, was on a first-name basis with a number of prostitutes in Amsterdam. He painted their portraits while they sat in their windows waiting for customer. There was a gallery showing of the paintings called “Women in the Windows.” It received good reviews. Most everything I own is now somewhere in a Houston dump. I kept the few paintings I possessed by my dear departed brother. One or two are of the women in the windows.

    My dad often brought copies of police reports home from The Tribune. In his heart of hearts, I think, his dream was to one day write the Great American Novel. One report, I remember, concerned a sex decoy (an undercover cop) and a prospective John. She was standing on the corner of West 2nd South in Salt Lake. It was well-known at one time for prostitutes. Perhaps, still is.

    A customer propositioned her. A twelve- or thirteen-year-old boy. He said he wanted to pay for sex with her. She told him, “Kid, go away.” He said, “I’ve been saving up for months.” “Go away,” she said. “You’re going to get yourself in trouble.” He said, “My girl friend won’t have sex with me. The school slut won’t have anything to do with me. And now, you, a prostitute, won’t have sex with me?!” By this time, a patrol car had arrived on the scene. He was taken into custody.

    Sad, perhaps, but very human …

    Elko, Nevada, last I heard, has legalized prostitution. And, last I heard, there hasn’t been a rape in years. But that I find had to believe.

    As a kid, we visited Elko many times. My dad wasn’t too crazy about Las Vegas–he’d spent a short time there homeless after the war–but he loved Elko. We always stayed at the Commercial Hotel downtown. In the lobby was a huge white Polar Bear, stuffed, standing upright on its hind legs, in a glass case. Very sad.

    When I was little, kids were allowed in the casino with their folks. I remember standing by my dad as he rolled the dice. When he won, he’d give me a handful of silver dollars. And I remember putting them on my bed in our room upstairs and running my fingers through them time and again. Such joy!

    My dad told me to save them. They may be worth something someday. I gave them to a longtime friend of mine, a pawnbroker in Salt Lake, a few years ago to sell. He put them in his safe. When I inquired about my silver dollars some time later, he informed me that they had disappeared. Poof! He didn’t know what happened to them. Hmmmm! I had also given him all the foreign money I had accumulated on my travels to sell. Poof! They had disappeared, too. Hmmmmm!

    But back to Elko. On one visit with my folks–I was in my teens at the time–we checked in, unpacked our bags, and went down to the lobby together. After a short while, I told my dad that I was going up to take a short nap. I may have even stretched my arms out to show how tired I was and yawned. Movie-style. He bid me goodnight, and I caught the elevator upward. I stepped out, pushed the Down button, caught the elevator down to the garage. I had a mission: I was going to loose my virginity that evening at a whorehouse across the tracks. I walked down the street, stepped into the nearest house of ill-repute, and looked around. At the end of the bar–waiting for me–was my dad!

    Needless to say, by the end of the night, I was still a virgin. But it was one of the most memorable nights in my entire life. At the time, The Tribune’s circulation included much of northern Nevada. The working women there were all readers of his column, and huge fans. That night we visited many, if not all, the houses across the tracks. I didn’t smoke back then, but I pocketed a matchbook from each place we visited–their logos on the covers. They, too, are now in a dump somewhere on the outskirts of Houston.

    My dad was ill much of the time in his later years. First, it was shingles. Next, it was anorexia. He was a big man at one time. With anorexia, he lost tens and tens of pounds. He couldn’t get himself to swallow a bite. One time my sister Valerie visited from Amsterdam. She was standing by him at a stop light in front of The Trib, his arms, as always, filled with out-of-town newspapers–a Milwaukee Journal, a Denver Post, etc.–when his pants fell down to his ankles. Very embarrassing. My sister lifted them up and tightened the belt one notch tighter around his thinning-waist.

    He couldn’t eat, but he could drink. And at night I would sit with him until the wee hours while he did.

    I remember my mom walking into the living room one night and saying, “Dan, you’re drinking too much. I find bottles behind the books on the bookshelves. I find bottles underneath the bed.”

    “They were empty, weren’t they?” my dad would inquired.


    “Well, that’s good. I wouldn’t want to waste any good whiskey.”

    “Dan, please come to bed.”

    “I will, Elaine. Just let me sit here awhile and die a little.” And he’d pour himself another shot of whiskey.

    He would sip, and I would listen while he shared plot-idea after plot-idea for movies, novels, short stories, plays, musicals. Titles for songs. I clung on to every word. My goal, up until recently, was to write everyone of ’em. Song title-wise, I accomplished the task. The hooks of many of the songs I have written through the years were first heard in the wee hours from my dad and jotted down by me to write later.

    One idea, for a two-act play, he called “Ballerina Baby!”


    Act One – Scene One

    Place: London

    Father/Husband: No daughter of mine is going to marry a goddamn queer!

    Mother/Wife: Sssh! He’ll hear you.

    Father/Husband: I don’t care. No daughter of mine is going to marry a goddamn queer!

    The plot? Some background: At a very young age, my sister was accepted to learn her chosen craft at the Royal London Ballet School. Foreigners were allowed to take classes and graduate, but they weren’t allowed to continue on and become members of the Royal London Ballet unless they were British citizens. Or married to one.

    Hence, the story: The heroine, the daughter, is befriended by a gay fellow dancer who is a British citizen. Maybe he is Indian or even Jamaican. That would make it even more interesting. Upon graduation, he agrees to marry the American so she can join the Royal Ballet as a corps member. Her father is a Texas bigot–there are some–and is firmly against the idea, to say the least. To make a two-act story short, the gay and the bigot become friends, each learning something from the other.

    Act Two – Last Scene

    The gay lad and the dad are standing together–talking, etc., whatever–when the gay Brit, out of the blue, pinches his the ass of his new father-in-law! Look of dismay on the dad’s face as …

    … the curtain falls.

    Through the years, every-so-often, I would work on that play. What little I had is now in a Houston dump.

    After graduating from the Royal London Ballet, my sister got a job as a member of the Dutch National Ballet. When she first moved to Amsterdam, she had a flat next door to a gay man who made a living working nights as a female impersonator in a drag revue. On the same floor, across from her, was a straight man who took a liking to her and began stalking her.

    One night, late, the straight guy tried to force himself on her. The drag queen next door heard her screams for help, came to her aid, and beat the crap out of him.

    My mom soon after flew to Amsterdam and moved in with my sister. My dad son after that visited and took the professional drag queen/hero out for a drink or two. After which, the drag queen invited my dad and mom to see a performance. I can see my mom pursing her Presbyterian lips and saying, “But what will people think?” and my dad replaying, “There’ll just think a beautiful new performer is in town.” Ha-ha. I can also see my mom tagging along. She was a trouper.

    One last note in closing: I couldn’t help myself. I HAD to Google “Granny Alley”. And, lo and behold, there IS such a block of ill-repute. Of course! It wouldn’t be Planet Earth without one. It’s located in Liverpool.

    You learn something every day, whether you want to or not.

    We all have a kink or two. I’m just glad mine isn’t trannies or grannies. Perfect rhyme. Imperfect world.


  23. Ed Darrell says:

    Happy to see you again, Dan!

    Latest comment has it’s own post, here:


  24. Daniel Valentine says:


    My bestest friend, she loves the color pink. I’ve known her to order a Pink Lady merely for its soothing and appealing color. One year, for Halloween (or some other special occasion–I forget), she paid hard-earned cash for an expensive carbon-copy of the famous pink strapless gown that Marilyn Monroe wore in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes when singing Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.

    When we bought a home together in southeast Texas, one of the first things we did was have the interior walls sponge-painted. One hot-pink wall for her, one sea-green wall for me, one hot-pink wall for her, one sunshine-yellow wall for me. Very nice, very stylish, very Mexican. Who’d a thought!

    Yes, indeedy, she sure loves the color pink! Which is all very fine and well and good. But one late night, many years ago, her color preference came close to costing me my life.

    Upon lighting a cigarette on a street corner in Washington, D.C., with a pink lighter that I had absentmindedly lifted from her earlier in the evening, I was gay-bashed and left for dead. I’m lucky to be alive. But ain’t we all?

    A recent conversation or three here at the Ensenada Backpacker Hostel brought that memorable night back.

    But, first, let me begin by saying, I love a hostel! Extremely affordable and you meet the most interesting folks from all around the world. If I’d been aware of hostels in my youth and middle-age, I’d still be rich. Money-wise. I’ve spent many a dollar, franc, and pound staying in hotel rooms. Oh, the interesting people I could have met!

    At the Austin Hostel, I met a young man who makes a living as a Lab Rat. Austin boasts many a medical research center and drug companies pay big bucks to those willing to act as guinea pigs, having themselves inoculated with some new experimental cure-all. Some are paid as much as $3,000 a swallow. And, odds-wise, it’s not a bad way to pay-off one’s credit-card debt. You’ve got a fifty-fifty chance of receiving a placebo.

    On my first or second day in Ensenada, I met a semi-retired South Korean war correspondent. He was in Somalia during the Blackhawk-Down fiasco. He saved a naked woman’s life.

    He was atop a building, camera rolling, a South Korean competitor–a female–by his side, both doing their jobs, reporting the events at hand, when a naked woman down below on the street appeared, running for her life, chased by dozens of young boys, throwing stones at her. He quickly hurried down the stairs, but all had disappeared. Shortly after, the woman reappeared. He covered her with his coat and escorted her to the roof, just before the young boys returned, searching high and low for her.

    The woman had been seen riding in a Jeep beside a male French soldier, representing the United Nations. In that neck of the woods, a major no-no at the time, may still be. Shortly afterward, his South Korean female competitor was recalled and replaced by a male. The young boys? Some undoubtedly grew up to be pirates, commandeering a yacht or whatnot off the Somalian coast for ransom.

    He was in Afghanistan when the U.S. first did whatever we did there after 9/11, and told me what he thought we (the U.S.) always tend to do wrong after succeeding on such occasions. We replace the defunct leaders with those raised and educated in Britain or in the U.S., those English-speaking, who have long ago lost touch with their own people and their needs. Few could argue with that.

    He left the hostel to travel north. He was seriously thinking of crossing the border with illegals. Once a reporter, always a reporter.

    He and I would never have met but for a hostel. He covered the UN for his country while I was in New York, but we ran in different circles, back then. I just hope he didn’t get shot by some crazy American with a gun in Arizona.

    Another hostel guest I met here is a retired Bronx fireman. In the ’90s, he and others were called upon to extinguish fire after fire. Neighborhood gangs were setting apartment buildings ablaze, one after another, day in and day out, so as to quickly empty the premises, so they could burgle and run off with whatever valuables were left in sight before the fire trucks arrived.

    He had many a story to tell. One afternoon, he was stopped in midtown Manhattan by a cop for walking his dog unleashed. My Bronx friend said he was a fireman. Cops and firemen, they’re a fraternity. They look after each other. The cop asked for picture-ID. At the time, firemen didn’t carry ID’s with pics. So, to make sure he was, indeed, a fireman, the cop drove the offender to his reputed fire station in the Bronx. They walked in, the fireman with the dog explained to his colleagues the circumstances, and they informed the cop, “We’ve seen him around the neighborhood, but God knows what he does.”

    Funny. Every morning he cooked breakfast for them, that’s what he did, among other things, like fighting fires. He told his fellow firefighters that if they wanted fresh coffee in the morning–and that went for all the cops in the Bronx who were known to often drop by–they would vouch for him. They finally did.

    Sometime afterward, he severely sliced a tendon on a little finger, opening up a can of ham while fixing breakfast. To this day, he can’t wiggle or move it. He went before a medical board of three and they told him that if he had the little pinkie amputated he could go back to work. Decisions, decisions. Firemen in New York are unionized and the union has clout. He’s been retired ever since.

    A young man from the mainland of Mexico–I forget exactly where now–stayed for a couple of weeks here recently. What a nice person! The nicest fellow you’d ever want to meet. Always a smile on his face, when he wasn’t laughing. He was in town substituting for a teacher on summer break at a school down the avenida a ways.

    Upon checking in at the desk, he introduced himself with a big jovial smile. An hour or so later, I ran into him coming out of an Oxxo (the south-of-the-border Seven-Eleven) with an even bigger smile on his face and a bottle of wine in hand. I watched him join a woman who was behind the wheel of an SUV. A ladies’ man, I thought. Two hours in town and he was with a beautiful senorita. During his short visit, I saw him with many a pretty woman, never a fella.

    Each night he would mix and fill to the brim a stainless steel pot of Margaritas and place it in the freezer to chill. “Help yourself!” And I did.

    Many a morning in the kitchen, he would say, “Tonight. Margaritas. Yes?”

    Si, deed!

    I could have sworn he said he was going to stay the summer, but something must have come up. After just a week or two he said he was returning home.

    His last night he invited one and all here to a barbecue on the back veranda. Spicy Habernero chicken wings, grilled steaks, and oh yes! Margaritas.

    Shortly after he left, Salsador, who works the afternoon/night reception desk, nonchalantly informed me that the substitute teacher was not only jovial but gay. You’re kidding, I said. “What makes you think he was gay?”

    “It was obvious,” he said.

    Not to me. But what do I know? “How so?”

    “My girlfriends and I, we take him for drinks. He told them how to give a man a good–”

    Sorry I asked.

    “Next day they meet for coffee-time and more instruction, how to give a man a good–”

    Please! I get the gist.

    Who’d have thought! But, then again, so, so what? Who cares?

    A great many, very scary people do.

    Like the father of Melody I wrote about a few weeks ago–the brigadier general who thought I must be gay because I’ve never learned to drive. Heterosexuals drive!

    Or, the kids in the car in Houston who saw me walking along the street and swerved over to scream out a rolled-down window, “Faggot!” and screeched down the road, tee-hee-ing to themselves. Heterosexuals drive!

    A good number of citizens of the U.S. are scared to death of gays. I say citizens of the U.S., and not Americans, because down here folks south the border consider themselves Americans, too. And rightly so. Though, they are a little more laid-back and not as uptight as many of their north-of-the-border fellow Americans.

    Folks in the U.S. are frightened of many things: Illegals (unless they’re blowing leaves off front lawns at a cut-rate price), fellow students (Texas is seriously contemplating passing a law to allow students to bring guns to the classroom to protect themselves from fellow students), Federal troops (many want to start independent militias to protect themselves in case of invasion from ourselves).

    But gays are especially frightening to many. Their inclination may rub off.

    When I was a kid in the ’50s, one of my favorite TV shows was the Cisco Kid, the Robin Hood of the West, based on an O. Henry short story about a carefree Mexican desperado. Before it was a TV show, it was a B movie series. One, starring Cesear Romero, was The Gay Caballero (1940.)

    From the press book: “The Cisco Kid rides again quicker on the draw, more gay, and gallant than ever.” It ever-so-often runs on the Fox Movie Channel. In 1946, a remake was called The Gay Cavalier.

    Warner Baxter won the 1929 Best Actor award for his portrayal of the Cisco Kid in the first talkie shot outdoors, called “In Old Arizona”–though, it filmed in Utah.

    I mention this because gay caballero perfectly describes–to my chagrin; I hadn’t a clue–the hostel guest I knew briefly. Mexican, charming, happy-go-lucky, and gay.

    No, gay-gay! He’s banned from the place now. That’s why he left earlier than expected. He tried to sneak a male lover into his dorm for the night. Not merely once but twice. I hadn’t a clue. My bestest friend thinks my middle name should be Clueless.

    Business is slow here at the hostel of late (many up north think they’ll be mowed down by members of the drug cartel if they visit), so I have a dorm room all to myself with connecting bathroom. He had a dorm room to himself as well next to mine but without a bathroom, So, I would leave my door open at night, just a smidge. I’m a light sleeper. Even though I like to think of myself as a let-live-let-live guy, two male lovers going at it within groaning-and-gasping distance would have been very perturbing, to say the least.

    I told the lovely morning/mid-afternoon receptionist here, the above tale.

    She looked at me, bewildered. “You couldn’t tell?”

    I shook my head. Hadn’t a clue.

    First tri-mester, we’re all the same sex. Or, so I read once. At birth, ten percent are born different, as some like to describe it. Some say three or four percent. Others will tell you two. Many think it’s a life-style choice, being gay being so much fun.

    I didn’t tell her that I had been gay-bashed in Washington, D.C., a few years back. Though, it’s the first thing that comes to mind whenever the subject arises. Two gay men found me passed-out on the sidewalk, badly bruised and bleeding.

    “I think I’ll Google my mind and write a piece about all the gay people I’ve come in contact with throughout my life,” I told her.

    She raised her hand. “You can add me to the list.”

    I hadn’t a clue. She’s engaged to be married to a guy.

    I love a hostel!

    If you’re a writer, it’s like you’ve died and gone to heaven.



  25. Daniel Valentine says:


    In Houston, in the days before I left, I used to pass a homeless black man in his twenties or thirties on the street. I’d go to say, “Hi,” and he would lower his head, wouldn’t make eye contact. You tend to do that when you’re homeless. You feel you’re to blame, that something is wrong with you. He would spend his afternoons at the Clear Lake Library, as I often did. He’d sit at one of the computers for an hour or so and play poker. Soon after, the entire second floor stank to high heaven. But no librarian, not a one, told him to leave. Good for them! It was his only sanctuary in a world of daily/nightly hell on Earth.

    The day the Danes departed for parts down the hall, I picked up their empty glasses and coffee mugs–set here, set here, all around the dorm–and put them in the kitchen sink. A sign reads: “Por favor lave sus trastes” (Please wash your dishes after use).

    Salzador was standing by the counter. I turned to go and he said, pointing to the sign, “Don’t forget to wash them!”

    “They’re not mine,” I told him. “And I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to wash ’em.” And I walked out.

    I believe in helping out. I believe in treating people like you’d like to be treated. As I once wrote before, my bestest friend gave me my present moral compass: If this is all there is (and that could very well be), we have to help one another get through it, best we can.

    I told this to a wanna-be singer-songwriter in Nashville one night, and he was aghast. Without fear of punishment from above, humans would rape, plunder, and pillage beyond belief. (As if they don’t already.) Without the incentive of some sort of reward after death, why bother doing what’s right? I guess that says it all. We all see the world through different eyes. We all sniff the scents of the world through different noses.

    If the Danes had just said something. I would have gladly taken a shower, right then and there; slept somewhere else; removed my soiled clothes from the room. They were in a plastic bag in the corner by my bunk. Whatever. But they were having a grand ol’ time at a fellow-traveler’s expense, a stranger down-on-is luck somewhat. If they hadn’t been drunk, they may have even read the sign above the toilet and put two-and-two together, but they were too busy turning around, male members in hand, and shouting to their fellow mates, waiting in line, to “Suck on this!” “Eat me!”

    But back to Salzador and the “don’t forget-to-wash-them” episode.

    To be fair to him, perhaps he is unaccustomed to seeing a guest return the cups and glasses of others back to the kitchen. And, later that night, after he’d left, I did wash the glasses and mugs. Plus a small saucer half-filled with cooked rice, another coffee cup, a soup ladle, a steak knife, a frying pan, and a spatula with dried egg on it. Oh, and two other glasses on the counter. Hell, why not? Least I could do. Nobody else was going to that night. Not the Danes. They were out drinking again with Salzador, buying him rounds, I’d guess. He’d let them use his washer and dryer.

    Visitors to hostels very rarely read the signs or carry out what’s said on them. At the hostel in Nashville, guests after a night on the town in Music City would wake up hung-over, make themselves waffles, whatever, and leave a mess. The people who worked there–I was one–would clean up after them without a word said. It was our job.

    Another afternoon here, shortly after, I’m telling a single mom from Knoxville, early twenties, on the verge of homelessness, with a baby, about my Danish experience. She, in turn, told me she had been playing with her little girl out on the veranda, splashing sprinkles of water on her from the hose, the baby giggling happily, when a young male guest said, “At least the ‘baby’ is getting a shower.” It hurt her. “He was probably referring to me,” I said. No, she replied, he was speaking of her. (“I smell a rat in Denmark”–Shakespeare.)

    This afternoon, I walked into the hostel after a walk, and Salzador was behind the front desk. He smiled and gave me the two-finger Peace sign. All is forgiven. (Valentine, I told myself, don’t take things so personally.) I stopped to chat. I told him I’m seriously thinking of walking across the United States in the fall. San Diego to Manhattan. He said he’d like to join me. He’s always wanted to see Salt Lake City.

    Then he said, “Dani’el, do you want a burrito? I bought three.” And he handed me one, for the second time since I’ve been here.

    Such goes life, ever-so-often.

    But anyway, my present-fellow dorm mate–a retired firefighter from the Bronx–just walked in, after taking in some of the local sites, and said, “Y’know, there’s a big Turkish bathhouse just down the block.”


    “Yeah, you should check it out. It’s just down the block.”

    A not-so-subtle hint-hint? Pardon me while I go take another shower.

    But wait! I hear cars honking on the street outside. Mexico just defeated France in the World Cup! Two-zip! Priscilla told me earlier: Many had sworn their souls on the Good Book that if Mexico won, they would swim nude on the beach. Yes, you can swim naked on the beach here. Salzador says, “You can do many things naked on the beach here.” So, instead of yet another shower, perhaps I’ll simply stroll down to the beach and skinny-dip with the many beautiful senoritas in their victory celebration.


  26. Daniel Valentine says:


    In the Navy, during boot camp in San Diego, I witnessed–heard is a more accurate verb–a G.I. shower. One night, a gang of self-appointed disciplinarians threw a blanket over the head of a new recruit, sound asleep in his bulk, a few rows down from mine. They carried him, his arms and legs kicking, into the showers, and gave him a good scrubbing down with steel-bristled brushes, manufactured for cleaning pots and pans. His offense? They said he stank.

    On a recent night here, I was sound asleep. Five traveling Danes, bunking in the same dorm room, had gone out on the town, which here means visiting strip bars and buying scantily-clad women shots of tequila, with the hope and promise of getting, well, you know. Everyone needs a hobby.

    In the wee hours, the five stumbled into the dorm (three bunks, six beds, adjoining bathroom), drunk and laughing, playfully carrying-on, grab-assing each other, literally. One, talking a leak, would turn around and tell another, “Suck on this!” The other would reply, “Blow me!” Y’know, all the silly little shit young drunks tend to say to each other after a night on the town, half-a-world away from their folks, and almost always while taking a leak, with member in hand. Charming.

    Before they arrived, I’d had the room all to myself. When I was told others were coming, I packed up my belongings, placed my bags (one carry-on, one laptop) neatly beside my lower bunk on the floor; and tidied-up the place, cleaning up after myself. Gabby complimented me on how nice the room looked.

    The Danes arrived with heavy backpacks and carry-ons, two or three or more each. They were on world tour. (Europeans have time on their hands. They’re between world wars.) In short order, their socks and underwear were scattered on the floor, atop their luggage, dangling from the rails of bunks and doorknobs. I had to step gingerly over them to get to the bathroom, as did they.

    After more ass-grabbing and some manly belching, of course, one of the five stopped to sniff the air. “What’s that smell?” The others stopped to take a sniff. “Phew!” And all started laughing and holding their noses. “It’s awful!” “How are we going to sleep?” “Smells like shit in here!” Etc.

    I was wide awake by this time. I thought they were joking about their socks and under things, strewn every which way.

    They were talking about me, laughing their heads off (but far from pleased). Can’t blame ’em.

    I couldn’t smell a thing, which doesn’t mean anything. My nose has been broken so many times, I can’t smell the roses, can’t smell the dog shit. A blessing in disguise, says my bestest friend. There are many unpleasant scents out there. Or so she says. I wouldn’t know.

    Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, they finally hit their sacks, as they say in the Navy.

    Next morning, Salzador motioned for me to join him outside. “The Danes,” he said, “would like you to take a shower. They say you stink.”

    Quite embarrasskng, to say the least. You can imagine.

    But I take a shower every morning, I told myself. Well, maybe not every morning. Often, I rise and shine around six a.m., an hour or so before Priscilla arrives.

    Priscilla. How to describe Priscilla? She spent her early youth in Seattle and speaks extremely good English; works her tail off; never complains; not a mean or lazy bone in her body; tall, slim, and very beautiful, extremely-so inside. She spends whatever free-time she has saving stray cats and finding them homes, and other nice stuff. I once asked what her title was. She answered, while standing tippy-toe on a chair, scrubbing the outside boiler, “Handyman.” I told her I had asked Salzador the same question and he had answered, “assistant manager.” She laughed the hardest I had ever heard her laugh, and she laughs a lot. She’s a happy person. “More like party-boy,” she answered, still chuckling aloud to herself. She calls me Mister D.

    So, anyway, Priscilla arrives on the scene around eighty-thirty, nine. First thing, she lights the boiler outside. Before she arrives, a shower here can be extremely cold or extremely refreshing, depending on your viewpoint on such matters. So I, myself, usually take a shower midday or at night. Some times I forget to, if I’m writing.

    Then I thought, maybe it’s my socks! I’m a walker. I mean, I’m a walker!! When I first started writing these pieces, I paced and paced–before, in-between, and after–up and down in front of the hostel; up and down, block after block, along the city’s avenidas; up and down the shores De Pacifico–thinking and writing in my head–my left big toe struggling mightily to make its way out of the tip of my pacing/walking shoes (Rockfords), struggling its damnedest to breath free. (I recommend them. Very expensive. But they last. I’ve had them for several years now. My bestest friend bought me the pair for my birthday. It’s the homeless who should be doing Rockford commercials; they need the bucks and would know of what I speak.)

    But anyway. My dad traipsed through the jungle trails of Guadalcanal and in need of foot powder for the rest of his life. I’ve walked through the jungles of many a great town and country. I don’t drive. But foot powder I could little afford at the moment.

    Third, I thought, perhaps it’s my clothes. I had room in my one carry-on for very few; though, I had been very careful to change every other day or so, saving a shirt and a pair of slacks for an emergency. On at least two occasions, Gabby had said, “You look very handsome today, buddy.”

    I told Salzador: You’ve no washer, no dryer. No ironing board. No plugs for the bathroom sinks, so as to hand wash things with Wool Wash, as they call Woolite down here. It was one of the first items I purchased.

    That, and I confessed: I’m close to broke. Couldn’t afford to take my things to the dry-cleaners down the block. My friend had deposited my social security check in my U.S. account, awaiting a debit card to arrive in the mail, so she could send it to me when I had an address. When I decided to stay at the hostel, she sent it immediately. Overnight. Cost her thirty bucks! Overnight in Mexico is some sixteen days.

    Anyway, Salzador had been out drinking with the Danes. They were drinking buddies now. That morning, after my little chat with their new best-friend, they asked him if they could wash their soiled clothes at his place. He has a washer and dryer at home. Sure, he said, no problem. Me, he told to take a shower. You stink!

    So, I took a shower and, while doing so, I washed and rinsed and rewashed my socks and underwear with Wool Wash. I stepped out of the stall and I’m drying myself, when it came to me like a light bulb suddenly beaming above the head of Elmer Fudd in a looney-toons’ cartoon.

    A sign above the toilet reads: “For Favor No Tire Papel En La Taza” (“Please No Paper Inside the Toilet”).

    The plumbing here was installed by the Incas in the beginning of, well, pick a single-digit year. A.D. Or before. Or so it appears. They don’t buy biodegradable tissue. They’re operating on the cheap, as they say. So, the paper used tends to clog the pipes, causing it to overflow. As a result, there is a plastic container nearby, lined with a cellophane bag, and after you “wipe clean” yourself, you drop the tissue into the container. Plop, plop, sniff, sniff!

    Salzador empties it whenever it appears to be getting full or close to. (A peso saved on cellophane bags here, a peso saved on jars of strawberry jam there. It adds up.) It’s not the most enjoyable of duties. But someone’s gotta do it. So, you can imagine the stench after six guests, and others from down the hall in dorms without connecting bathrooms, have deposited countless tissues of toilet paper after wiping their, well, you-know-whats, after a night on the town and/or out dining. Plus, the fact that this is Mexico. Don’t drink the water! Plus, the fact that since I’ve been here, a month and half or so now, the toilet has been plugged but once. Guests are fairly diligent about depositing their tissues, with their signature on ’em.

    It’s quite an experience. In the States, we’re used to wiping ourselves and dropping the tissue into the bowl without thinking. I did this a couple of times in the beginning and had to oh-so daintily dip two fingers down to retrieve it. By the sink is a bottle of liquid kiwi-scented soap to wash your hands after such a fast-track learning experience.

    Most don’t know how lucky we are in the States. We tend to take everything for granted. A retired South Korean was correspondent I met here told me that similar bathroom facilities can be found all over the world, in parts of Asia, Central and South America, Africa, the Eastern Bloc, the list is endless.

    But anyway, the Danes moved to another dorm. Salzador told me that he didn’t want their wee-hour antics to bother me. Yeah, riiiiight!

    There was a sort of happy ending, though. One of the Danes left a pair of newly-washed, freshly-pressed, black corduroy jeans behind. I was 160-some pounds a year or two or three ago. I’m 140 now. I tried ’em on. Perfect fit. Thank you, very much. I think I’ve earned them. But, as fate would have it, one of the Danes just happened to enter the room to use the bathroom. He looked at me, looked at the jeans. They looked familiar. After a momentary hesitation, he turned and strolled into the bathroom. Without a word said. Much of living is a daily trade-off. Humiliation for new jeans. At this point in my life: fair exchange.

    That was a week or so ago. They’re long gone. This morning, I go into the bathroom to take a shower. The water’s been turned off for some reason or other. I get dressed, buckling my belt buckle on my new jeans, and I’m on my way out the door, when Gabby says, “Did you shower?”

    Not getting the gist, I say, “The water’s off.”

    “We can put it back on.”

    “That’s all right,” I say. “I’m on my way out.”

    She says, “We don’t want to start ‘that’ all over again.”

    “That”–meaning? For Christmas f**kin’ sakes. I’m a guest here!! I shower. I use underarm sports odor defense. 100% MORE odor blockers! I’ve washed my socks and shorts.

    Such goes life, ever-so-often.


  27. Steven says:

    Dan – great to read you; been busy traveling and returned to find a slew of new stuff; can’t thank you enough for sharing. Loved the “call me anti-american” piece and throughly enjoyed your “perfect day.”

    Wander safe my friend from the back alley….


  28. Daniel Valentine says:

    I took a couple of days off from writing a piece or three here to ponder what I’m doing. What am I writing? A one-man show, a musical, first draft of a novel or an autobiography, scribblings for therapy, etc. Gods knows! I now believe She does.

    I’m writing an “epistolary”.

    Wikipedia: … a piece written as a series of documents. Letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings.

    Mary Shelley used the epistolary form for her novel “Frankenstein”.

    Bram Stoker used the form for “Dracula”, and is complied entirely of letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings, telegrams, ship’s logs and the like.

    Frankenstein and Dracula. Both of ’em horror stories. Both of ’em epistolaries. (So, too, have the last year or so of my life, in large part. Sounds like a match made in heaven or hell.)

    So, the answer is: I’m writing an epistolary. Pieces written for this website, comments from readers, e-mails, Facebook messages, lyrics, notes for novels, sit-coms, plays, etc.–hoping some day down the road it will all come together and make some sort of sense.

    I’m calling it: “Dan Valentine–where are you?” (Don’t ask me how I came up with it, it just hit me in the middle of the night. It has a ring to it! And it says it all.

    Thanks for the title, Ed.

    My sister, Valerie, sent me a message through Facebook a few weeks ago. She wrote: “Danny, I know you like adventure but why Mexico?”

    I “do” like an adventure! I’ve followed the call of the Lorelei most all my life.

    Wikipedia: Lorelei is the name of one the beautiful Rhine maidens who, according to legend, sat upon a rock and lured sailors from passing ships to their doom with her alluring singing, much like the Sirens of ancient Greek myth.

    I’ve been lured many times by her call.

    As a result, all my cargo is strewn along the shores of a dump site outside Houston somewhere, seagulls peeking at a poem or two, I wrote, and giving his or her editorial comment with a plop of poop!

    A few follow the Siren’s call. Most don’t. They have homes, careers, possessions, families, friends. But all, I’m sure, have heard her call … in the middle of the night; at a business conference; on the shore of a beach, sunning …

    Why Mexico? ‘Cuz I don’t have the funds or fare to get myself to Katmandu!

    (c) 2010 Daniel Valentine

    And we will stick decals on our suitcases
    From enchanted lands and places,
    Fabled and far-flung.

    And we will barter with those selling vases,
    Tapestries, silks, beads, and laces–
    Tarry there among.

    And, though, he wanted to,
    Said he, I’ve crucial work to do–
    Faxes, stacked, to sort and shuffle;
    Packets, filled with things and stuff, ‘ll
    Never get to if I come with you.

    And we will climb steps to stone Buddha faces,
    Mingle with the many races,
    Glean the native tongue.

    And, though, he wanted to,
    Said he, I’ve vital work to do–
    Post-it notes with folks to dial;
    Piles of files, a mile high, ‘ll
    Never get to if I come with you.

    So, one day without compass,
    GPS device, or chart,
    With little but a carry-
    On, her passport, and his heart–
    And oh yes! That little black dress!–
    She kissed him sweetly, waved goodbye.
    He watched her plane depart.

    Come to me, wrote she,
    Upon a postcard of some isle oasis,
    Signed: With love, with lipstick traces.
    P.S.: While you’re young.

    And, though, he wanted to,
    Wrote he, I’ve urgent work to do–
    Snakes in suits to slew in battle
    For a corner office that ‘ll
    Never sit in if I come to you.

    Now, with that corner office
    Overlooking Broad and Wall,
    Though, happy and now married
    With three kids, a dog, and all–
    And oh yes! That Park Ave. address!–
    He oftentimes, in dark of night,
    Will hear the Siren call:

    Come to me, says she,
    To Katmandu where, just a few short paces,
    Gurus chant in temple spaces,
    Golden gongs are rung.

    Come to me!
    Come to me!
    Come to me!
    Come to me!


  29. Daniel Valentine says:

    Dear Hattip:

    Call me anti-American.

    When I was in high school, I entered an essay contest, sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, called Voice of Democracy. I wrote about socialism, communism, and capitalism, and how all three were good systems. With a hundred-or-so people! Add five or ten more folks to the mix and all three tend to get corrupted. All three have little or nothing to do with democracy. I was awarded a prize.

    Call me anti-American.

    I joined the Navy to avoid going to Vietnam. My three good friends at the time joined the Army. They were sent to New Jersey. The Almighty, She’s got a sense of humor. I was sent to ‘Nam.

    After boot camp, I caught a flight to Guam to catch my assigned ship, the USS Tanner, a survey ship. It was at sea at the time, steaming from Pearl Harbor. I caught pneumonia, killing time, in a sudden downpour on Gab-Gab Beach waiting for it. Sent to the Naval Hospital to recoup. The wards were filled with Marines, soldiers, sailors, and the like, with major combat wounds. Some missing an arm; others, a leg. Pneumonia or not, I was well enough to swing a mop. So I was given the duty to sweep, swab, and buff the corridors and rooms. The least I could do.

    Call me anti-American.

    I recovered, caught my ship. To Vietnam. Assigned to deck force. Hell on earth, in small quarters. If there’s a Devil, he or she taught boatswain mates all he or she knows. And then some.

    “Just out of boot camp?” There were a handful of us. “Welcome to the fleet!” Initiation time. One seaman apprentice, while chipping, sanding, and painting the side of the ship, was repeatedly lowered by chortling boatswain mates, down and up, down and up, repeatedly, into the water below, swarming with barracudas. From that day forward, he was called Screamin’ Wiley. Another was stripped naked and smeared with butter all over his exposed body, private parts included. He was forever-after called Butterball.

    I was assigned to stand mid-watch in the crow’s nest. In a wind-storm. I’m afraid of heights. How did they know? Their kind always knows. Clouds fast-approaching were grumbling, lightning streaks flashing. I was scared to death. When the winds got to be too much, they brought me down. I planted my feet firmly on the deck, smiling, happy as hell. From then on, I was known as Smiley Face. When I was first learning to man the helm (it was part of our duties, among others), a boatswain mate would stand nearby and kick me in the butt with his boot–wham!–whenever I went off course the slightest. “Keep it on course, Smiley Face.” Wham! You soon learn to keep on course.

    Call me anti-American.

    I served two tours in Vietnam. I was there the night the Tet Offensive began. Tracer rounds flying. One night I was standing the starboard or port watch when I thought I saw a swimmer in the water getting closer and closer to the ship. With explosives? General quarters! Boats were lowered and percussion bombs were tossed all night long. They never found a body. If there was a swimmer, I like to think he or she is escorting American tourists around, telling them war stories, just as Americans in his or her shoes would.

    Call me anti-American.

    Another time I was on day-watch when a Vietnamese junk approached. The Officer of the Deck, bullhorn in hand, warned those on aboard the junk to turn away. I was told, if need be, to shoot the fellow at the helm, dead, on command. The junk turned around. To this day, I don’t know if I could have carried out the order.

    Call me anti-American.

    In Vietnam I wrote a book of short essays in my off-hours called Military Moods. (Moments of Truth; Ports of Call; Christmas: The Loneliest Day of the Year; etc. One was: Love Letter to a Country.)

    Call me anti-American.

    When the Tanner was decommissioned–my book of essays my ticket “outta here!”–I got assigned to the USS Canopus, a submarine tender, which supplied nuclear attack submarines with nuclear missiles to attack with.

    I met the ship in Bremerton, WA, and we sailed to GITMO for a month-long series of sea exercises, preparing for future possible attacks, both chemical and nuclear. As the ship’s journalist, with no duties other than to put out the ship’s newspaper, cruise book, and hometown news releases, I was assigned to save the Old Glory from radiation or chemical exposure. Officers timed us with a clock-watch. Drill after drill, I was killed, and I told myself if there ever was an attack, I was not going to die retrieving a piece of cloth. But, being young at the time, I probably would have. That’s why they draft nineteen-year olds. When there is a draft.

    Call me anti-American.

    In the 80s, I worked for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), in Washington, D.C., for half a decade. Whenever there was a speech to be written “from the heart” (Flag Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Veterans Day, both Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays, I was the one called upon to write it.

    When a Senate colleague died, Republican or Democrat, I was the one called upon to write the floor statement “from the heart”. The New York Times picked up one and reprinted parts of it, saying, “Such eloquence is seldom heard on the Chamber floor.”

    Call me anti-American.

    In the 90s, when my dad died and, later, when my mom died, I had their sealed-ashes placed in Arlington National Cemetery. My dad–he was wounded on Guadalcanal–would have liked that.

    Call me anti-American.

    I was in Salt Lake when 9/11 happened. I had canceled my flight back to New York to see a touring musical at the Capitol Theatre, or I would have been there when it happened. When I did return, a week later, it just so happened to be the first day the subways were running again. I caught one into town from the airport. Dead silence all the way. No one spoke a word. Everyone was stunned.

    I had moved up to the Upper West Side, two blocks from Lincoln Center, a couple of blocks to Central Park. My New York ID, though, still listed my first home address there. On Duane Street in Tribeca, only a stone’s throw away from the Towers.

    I showed an armed National Guardsman my ID and walked to where the Towers once stood. On the way, I stopped to take a look at my former residence. There was a National Guardsman standing close by the entrance, armed and ready.

    Across the street was a firehouse. The firefighters there were the first to be called to the scene after the first plane hit the first building. They were lucky. They didn’t lose a single man or woman.

    Further down the street, by Ground Zero, women were having their photos taken, hugging firemen, the nation’s new heroes.

    The next day, I seriously thought about going to see an eye doctor. I could barely see. It was due to the debris in the air.

    One day, shortly after, I paused on a street corner before crossing and motioned for a cabbie, speeding to catch the light before it turned, to continue on by. He put his foot on the brake and motioned for me to cross. I motioned for him to drive by. He motioned for me cross. Etc. He was mid-eastern.

    Call me anti-American.

    Such courtesy between strangers and nationalities lasted, I’d say, less than a week.

    Later on, one evening, I stopped for a drink at the Russian Tea Room. Took a seat at the bar by a couple, sitting speechless and stunned, as everyone in town was. The two paid their tab and left. The bartender said, “That was Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft.” Elbow to elbow and I hadn’t even noticed.

    Now paying some attention, I glanced around to see two older ladies at the end of the bar, enjoying themselves, laughing, drinking champagne. They looked rather bedraggled. But lots of folks did that first week or so. That, and you never know who’s got money and who doesn’t in New York. They could very well have been ga-zillionaires.

    They weren’t.

    They didn’t have a dime on ’em. When they began to depart, without paying, a cocktail waitress blocked their path. The bartender called the cops. Two were there just like that! There was a battle of wills. Both women started kicking and scratching. One of the cops had to physically throw one to the floor, cuffing her hands behind her. He came over to me and asked if he could have my drink. Sure! He poured the contents on the scratches on his arm.

    Call me anti-American.

    March or April, 2010. In Houston at an ATM drive-thru. My dearest friend and I. Waiting behind a souped-up pick-up with dark tinted windows. On the back bumper, a sticker that read: f-Obama.

    I told my friend, Quick, get a pic of it, along with the license plate, on her cell camera, so we could call some city or county or state or federal agency. But the vehicle zoomed off. Scary stuff. I fear for Obama’s life.

    Call me anti-American.

    Call me a little twerp, too. Childish, self-hating, revolting, juvenile, and beyond shame.

    I’ve been called worse. When my son was four or so, he called me a bastard. Out of the blue. He’d heard it from his mother’s mum. A truer statement has probably never been said about me. I’ve done some terrible things in my life, looking back. One or two beyond shame. A good many of us, by the time we reach our 60s, have.

    My dearest friend’s step-dad once called me “the stupidest person” he had “ever known” in his “entire life”, glaring at me with pure hatred from across a table at an International Pancake House one morning near NASA. He was so mad I could see he wanted to take me by the neck and strangle me to death right then and there. If Bin Laden had been eating pancakes in the booth next to us, her step-dead would have killed me first. We were talking politics. He’s a Republican.

    But enough already.

    Hattip, I wish you well.

    Call me anti-American.


  30. Daniel Valentine says:

    Ensenada Backpacker. “The hostel of the city.”

    Two Italian women–mid-twenties, thereabouts; both beautiful; full of life; educated–walk out of the women’s dorm room, after a night’s sleep.

    They’ve been here a couple of days.

    One blond, one dark-haired. They both speak several languages. Italian, German, English, Spanish. Fluently. Of course! (It’s a European thing.)

    In the United States, we’re lucky to learn English.

    “Where are you going today?” I asked. No need for an answer, really. It was early morning. I was making coffee.

    “We don’t know yet,” said one. “It’s our last night.”

    “Where are you going from here?” I asked. Just making conversation.

    “South,” she said.

    “Less Americans,” I quipped.

    “That’s good!” she said, and meant it.

    “I agree,” I said.

    And they both laughed. No explanation needed. Humor is identification. And Italians, faster than others, should/can/do connect the dots.

    In the eyes of the world, both north and south of the border, across the seven seas, in and around and in between, and to a growing number of citizens born and bred in the United States, we are looked upon as:

    Romans in ballcaps!

    Chain-store togas (“You’re gonna like what you wear”), Nike clogs.

    A nation fast-galloping into its Ben-Hur phase …

    Christians and others fed to the lions on “Dancing With the Stars”. Credit card money-lenders …

    If Christ were to return any day soon, where do you think He’d end up?

    Gitmo is a good guess. No nails but lots of water. If I remember right, Charlton Heston gave Him a much needed sip on His way to, well, you-know-where.

    I, myself, think He’d be picked up as a babbling vagrant on the streets of a southern town, locked up in a prison cell at night, tending some rich cattleman’s herd during the day, a short ways from the facility, and after some twenty years–after a lawyer has proven Him innocent of all charges and collected a large fee–let go. Then, looking up to the heavens, I think He would say, “They do not know what they do. Get me the hell outta here.”

    In short, deja vu all over again.

    Romans in ballcaps.


  31. Daniel Valentine says:

    I had a “Perfect Day” while in Nashville.

    When you’re penniless even a fairly good day is near-impossible to imagine. Even with lots of money in your pocket, you’re lucky to have five or six “perfect days” in a lifetime.

    It happened just a few days after having a perfect-storm of a night in and around Vanderbilt Hospital.

    It began at the Music City Hostel with a freshly-brewed cup of coffee and a stack of free waffles, spread with Nutella.

    Tracee, the owner’s wife, came in shortly afterward, with her French bull-terrier in arm: Google! Jumping up and down on me, tail wagging, paws forcefully tumbling me to the floor onto my back, licking my eyes and nose and ears, in a non-stop frenzy, as if they were covered with Nutella. Pure ecstasy! But, then: I love dogs!

    Start of a Perfect Day.

    I helped Tracee with some daily chores, folding bedsheets and pillow cases, etc., and was free to go enjoy myself, which for me (and for most everyone else at that hostel) is to write and finish a song. Most in Nashville work it out sitting, strumming chords on a guitar.

    I walk, and work it out in my head.

    This particular morning, I strolled down the street to Loews Vanderbilt Hotel. Picked up a free Wall Street Journal at the desk. Put it under arm. I love a newspaper! Better than a newspaper is a free newspaper. Better than a free newspaper are two or three free newspapers. And a cup of coffee. And a cigarette!

    I strolled over to the Embassy Suites Hotel. Picked up a USA Today, poured myself a complimentary cup of coffee.

    I strolled up to the Marriott. Picked up a New York Times left by a guest. Sat down on a lush couch in the lobby and flipped through the pages, in between finger-dipping between the cushions for change. Found 36 cents (two nickles, a quarter, and a penny.)

    A Perfect Morning!

    Now, for a cigarette. A cigarette would be nice!

    I walked outside just as a beautiful woman lit up. Her cab came before she could have one puff. She placed the cigarette gently on the outside-entrance ashtray, still lit but now with an oh-so slight smear of lipstick on the filter. I picked it up. She got in her cab. I inhaled. She drove off. I exhaled. All as if it had been choreographed by Bob Fosse.

    Perfect Morning. One cigarette, one sweet kiss.

    In my head, I was working on a song called “Three Friends.” It was printed here on this site a couple of days ago.

    I still had some minutes on my Net 10 throwaway phone. I called my dear friend in Houston. She was doing well, so were the dogs. Perfect Morning. I read what I had so far of the lyric:

    “Three fam’lies together,
    Fathers, mothers, daughters, sons and friends and wives …
    Three fam’lies together,
    Hearts in a near-crazed frenzy till their dear one arrives …”

    She said, “It’s sexist! Mothers, daughters, wives. Why do they have to have a sex at all?”

    Good point. Perfect Morning.

    I strolled up the street to Borders bookstore (mumbling to myself, alphabetically, “dives, hives, knives, lives–LIVES!), and on the way, spotted a quarter and a penny on the curb by a parking meter. Total (so far): 82 cents!

    By the time, I got to Borders I had rewritten the lyric to:

    “Three fam’lies together,
    Bonded by a war and intertwining lives …”

    Perfect Morning.

    Inside, I browsed the bookshelves, picking up a book here and there, thumbing through the pages, putting it back on the shelf. I was just about to go when I happened upon Walter Kirn’s novel, “Up in the Air.” I flipped through the pages, reading a sentence or two, and then: “That’s it!” A phrase on the page caught my eye: “deplaning now.”

    In the the lyric in my head, I had: “Three friends disembarking.” Disembarking! It fit the meter, though I knew, deep down in, disembarking ship term. Not a plane.


    “Three friends now deplaning”!

    Perfect Morning. Now, for lunch.

    I walked across the bridge to downtown Nashville and the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. Took the escalator up to the second floor, on my way to the Bistro on the third floor. Many homeless people go to their local library for internet use. I prefer to use the complimentary internet stations in deluxe hotels.

    But I never got to my destination.

    There was a business luncheon in the meeting room directly at the top of the first escalator. I walked over to take a peek in the open doors and a fellow came over, hand extended, and welcomed me.

    Looking around, as if searching for my associates, I said, “Dan Valentine. Imperial Corps.”

    He introduced himself. We shook hands, and he said, “Come join us.” He didn’t say “Howdy,” but he must have been from Texas. No one is this friendly unless they’re from Texas. He led me to his table, introduced me to his fellow execs (“Dan Valentne. Imperial Corps.,” and, well …

    A Perfect Afternoon.

    My brother, Jimmy, had a similar experience when he was homeless. In Amsterdam. With nowhere to sleep, he went to the Marriott there, to the second floor, and slept underneath a banquet table, covered with a large tablecloth. He awoke the next morning to the clatter of dishes and the chatter of people talking business. He crawled out from underneath and found a full breakfast buffet awaiting him atop the tab.

    A perfect morning.

    After lunch, I strolled across the bridge, finding a nickel in a parking lot here, a dime by Coke machine here.

    On my way back to the hostel, I stopped by the Hampton Inn. Filled an inside coat pocket with a bagel or two, filled my outer coat pockets with little packets of cream-cheese spread. Just in case of a midnight-snack attack.

    But, anyway, by now I’m just about strolled out.

    I’m a block and so away from the hostel, standing on the street corner, waiting for the light to change across the way from a mom-and-pop shop, owned-and-run by a Pakistani family.

    I see a straggly-haired, gray-bearded man in a wheelchair come wheeling furiously out of the store with a bottle of wine on his lap. The proprietor of the store comes chasing out after him. (The old man had grabbed it off the shelf and simply raced out with it.) I could see a third man standing in the dark just a few steps from the stops’ entrance, with a 2×4 held firmly in his hand, ready to club the proprietor over the head, if need be.

    I shouted, “Hey!” One word.

    The proprietor stopped in his tracks and looked behind him, as the old man disappeared down the street. The man, on his blindside, dropped his weapon and ran off.

    The proprietor shook his head, without a thank you, and walked back inside his store.

    The light changed. I continued my stroll back to the hostel.

    The end of Perfect Day. With a movie ending.

    I helped an old man getaway with his much needed bottle of wine; saved another man, perhaps, from being arrested for assault or murder; saved a man’s life, maybe.

    What more can you ask for on a stroll through a city?

    I followed him inside for my pack of cigarettes.


  32. Daniel Valentine says:

    Memorial Day. Pt. 2.

    The greatest anti-war/peace song ever written is “What a Wonderful World”. Just one man’s opinion.

    Wikipedia: Clear Channel included it on its list of songs that might be inappropriate for airplay in the period after the September 11 attack.

    The Louis Armstrong version was used ironically in “Dr. Strangelove” over a montage of bombings.

    Satchmo’s version was again used ironically in “Good Morning, Vietnam”.

    It was used again by Michael Moore’s film “Bowling for Columbia”, “where it accompanies scenes of violence about U.S. intervention in international affairs.”

    It has been used many times since. It’ll be used many times more. The song says it all.

    Tho’ many don’t get the gist.

    (c) 2010 Daniel Valentine

    Stand awhile on hallowed ground
    Where heroes sleep and look around.
    Here and there a flag adorns a grave,
    And there are fresh-cut flowers for the brave.

    Walk along the rows and rows
    And read what’s there inscribed on those
    Graves on which the flowers lie across.
    The stones have little room to note the loss.

    Here rests a boy, eighteen-years young.
    Forever lost: songs never sung.
    His dream was to be a songwriter-singer.
    He died when a trigger was squeezed by a finger,
    All his hopes dashed while one wisp of rising smoke curled.

    Here seated are a dad and mom,
    Their son killed by a roadside bomb.
    Their dream for their boy was a long and good life,
    A career that he loved, lots of kids, a good wife.
    Choking back tears, they’re handed a flag smartly furled.

    And Taps is played,
    Wreaths and flowers are laid,
    And down the road by the White House lawn,
    A staffer jogs with his headphones on,
    “What a wonderful world …”

    Here rests a woman, thirty-four.
    She had a child and dreamed of more.
    She grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina.
    Her father was killed in far-flung Indochina.
    Both of them died while overhead chopper blades twirled.

    Here rests one more among the dead,
    El Paso, Texas, born and bred.
    His dream was to help the children, those dying.
    He died kicking down a door, tracer rounds flying–
    Boom!–when a bomb exploded and shrapnel was hurled.

    And Taps is played,
    One or two speeches made,
    And driving by in an SUV,
    A pundit hums to a worn CD,
    “What a wonderful world …”

    Here comes another clean-cut kid,
    A flag draped on his coffin lid.
    His dream was to be a major-league catcher.
    He died crying out for him mom on a stretcher,
    Coughing up blood while all around desert sand swirled.

    And Taps is played,
    Last respects duly paid,
    And fat-cat oil execs, checkbooks drawn,
    Turn up the sound when their song comes on,
    “What a wonderful world …”


  33. Daniel Valentine says:

    Memorial Day.

    War is about death. Plain and simple. It’s been said before. In the past. Many times. It will be said again. In the future. Many times.

    After 9/11 I wrote a lot of anti-war songs. There wasn’t a market for them then. There isn’t much of a market for them now.

    (c) 2010 Daniel Valentine

    THREE FRIENDS on an airplane,
    Passing over streets and squares in their hometown …
    THREE FRIENDS on an airplane,
    Two looking what’s below them just before touching down …

    One says, “Look, there’s the shopping mall.”
    One points out the new town hall.
    One says not a word at all.

    Three fam’lies together,
    Bonded by a war and intertwining lives …
    Three fam’lies together,
    Hearts in a near-crazed frenzy till their dear one arrives …

    One thanks God for a son’s safe trip.
    One’s with child with babe on hip.
    One fights tears and bites a lip.

    On the jet’s PA
    A flight attendant says,
    “Please return your tray …
    Put all electronic devices away.
    We’ll be landing soon.
    Hope you have a nice day.”

    THREE FRIENDS now deplaning,
    Two of whom are cheered, embraced, and kissed heartfelt.
    THREE FRIENDS now deplaning,
    One in a flag-draped coffin on a conveyor belt …

    One’s come home on a two-week leave.
    One has got a pinned-up sleeve.
    One was killed on Christmas Eve.

    THREE FRIENDS on an airplane …

    (c) 2010 Daniel Valentine

    There’s a LONELY ROOM on the second floor
    Where a mother cries when she shuts the door,
    Where she dries her eyes and then weeps some more,
    Hurting, her heart broke in two.

    There’s an empty bed where the mother read
    To a little boy, where his prayers were said,
    Where she tucked him in and then kissed his head,
    Lovingly like mothers do.

    There’s a closet where gremlins used to hide.
    By a window, there is a tree outside
    With a bright yellow ribbon around it tied
    With a perfect bow, tho’ the boy he died.

    And three Marines,
    Standing tall–
    One a chaplain–
    Grand and all,
    Brought the tragic news.

    In the LONELY ROOM is an empty chair
    Where the boy would chat on his cell and share
    Secrets with his girl and at times just stare,
    Dreaming of all he would do.

    There are bedside books and a glove and ball;
    Fam’ly photos, framed; posters on the wall:
    One of George and Ringo and John and Paul
    And one of Spider Man 2.

    All is in its place, all is like it was
    When he left to do what a soldier does.
    Only now it is lonely and sad because
    Wednesday last his mom heard the doorbell buzz.

    And three Marines,
    Taut and tall–
    One a chaplain–
    Caught her fall
    When she heard the news.


  34. Daniel Valentine says:

    Good news! “The economy is growing again!” So said President Obama, just the other day.

    Of course, his opponents would have you believe otherwise. But there are certain solid economic indicators that prove him right.

    Like, for instance, cigarette butts.

    That’s the word from a little-known tobacco expert who calls himself West Virginia Slim. When the economy went bust, he took time off from his job to tour North America–by thumb–after he found a pink slip on the desk of his corner office overlooking Broad & Wall.

    I ran into him outside of Hussong’s Cantina here in Ensenada, said to be the oldest bar in the west. He was smoking a Cuban cigar.

    And he says he has definite proof that the U.S. economy is, in the words of the President, “picking up considerable speed”. He can tell by the half-smoked cigarette butts strewn across the land.

    “After the bust,” he told me during an exclusive interview, ‘cigarette butts flicked on the side of the nation’s streets were short. People took more puffs and got the most out of each cigarette before tossing it.”

    But ever since Obama took office, he has noticed that the cigarette butts are getting, slowly but surely, longer. “People are throwing ’em away, half-smoked,” he says.

    And this, he assures me, is definite proof, regardless of what the naysayers say, that good times are upon us.

    Slim isn’t the only economic wizard who says so. A woman by the name of Gertrude, who made jillions in the stock market before she lost jillions in the market, can prove without a doubt that the country is, in Obama’s words, “beginning to turn the corner.”

    Gertrude, who now makes a living as a waitress–she was here to buy duty-free Tequila to take back over the border–uses the “Parsley Principle” to judge prosperity, or the lack of it.

    “During the last few months of Bush’s presidency,” says Gertrude, “customers ate the funny little green garnishes that chefs like to place on the sides of dishes as tho’ they were going out of style. Fact is, we couldn’t keep enough parsley in stock during the last days of the Bush Administration.”

    But now, in Obama’s second year, very few people, if any, eat the tiny, little parsley garnishes. And this, she says, is a sure-sign that, in Obama’s words: ‘the worst of the storm is over.'”

    Another economist, who uses a somewhat different barometer, says times are getting “much” better.

    Her name is Olive. She spends a good part of her day going through suit pockets. She works in a dry cleaning establishment in L.A. It’s her job to empty the pockets of the suits before they are dry cleaned.

    Says this full-time pocket-picker: “When times are good, people leave all sorts of coins in their pockets. But during bad times, practically no money can be found at all.”

    Since the stimulus package was passed, says Olive, “the pocket-picking has been mighty good.” So good that she could afford a 3-day cruise from San Diego to Ensenada on the “Fun Ship”!

    Another little-known economic expert, a cop from Chicago, told me that he can measure the economic atmosphere of the nation by pantyhose.

    He told me this over several rounds of Margaritas. (Some people drive hundreds of miles to visit the birthplace of Abe Lincoln. He flew hundreds of miles, here to Ensenada, to visit the birthplace of the Margarita. But, anyway …

    Said this Chicago cop, after years on the force, “When times are good, bank robbers tend to wear expensive, luxury pantyhose over their heads to cover up their mugs. They like the confident, silky-soft feel that expensive pantyhose give them during a hold-up.”

    But when times are bad bank robbers tend to buy generic or no-brand pantyhose for a bank job.

    “I remember one time,” he told me, “during the last days of the Bush years, we arrested this bank robber at the scene of the crime and he had several runs in the pair of pantyhose pulled over his face. I really felt embarrassed for the fella.”

    But the cop added: “Right now, since Obama took over, you hardly ever see a bank robber with runs.”


  35. Daniel Valentine says:

    Back to Nashville again and my one-night stand. (Never been fond of one-night stands. Who can stand that long?)

    The doors of Operation Stand Down opened up. I had a MCI calling card on me with a few remaining minutes on it, in case an emergency should arise. Standing at a pay phone, I called my sister, Valerie, in France. Told her my predicament.

    “Broke!!! Danny, how can you be broke?”

    “I only have a few minutes on my card, Val.”

    “Homeless! Danny, how did you become homeless!”

    “Val, you’re using up my few remaining minutes.”

    “Nashville! What are you doing in Nashville?”

    (To be fair to my sister, I had said almost the very same things to my brother, Jimmy, when he was in need. If you’ve never been homeless, you don’t have a clue.)

    “Money?!” she said. “I don’t have any.”

    That was news to me. Last I heard she was a millionaire. Just like I once was. Well, stuff happens, as they say.

    “Just $600! For the hostel here. For a month’s stay.”

    Well, to make a long, minute-munching call short, she said she’d see what she could do.

    Tossing my card in the nearest trash–no remaining minutes left–I made my way to the hostel where I had stayed for a month before going bust. I told Ron, the owner, my plight. Told him my sister was sending money. He offered me board and breakfast in exchange for helping out at the hostel.

    That morning I had waffles with Nutella. Most enjoyable, to say the least.

    I had a Net 10 cell phone, with minutes on it. Not usable for calls overseas. I phoned an old friend from my New York days. Don’t ask me why.

    “Danny!!!” She was happy to hear from me. She is a composer. Very talented. She’s a graduate from the Manhattan School of Music. We were teamed together at the BMI Musical Workshop. We collaborated on what I think are some very good songs. Only one prob: She’s a multiple. Besides her wonderful, talented self, she has some six different, distinct personalities. Each with her/his own, individual name. Of course!

    And only one writes music!

    One personality acts as protector, one is an elderly woman, one is a little boy, one manages all the others. The last, a very important role–time-consuming!

    Not to disturb anyone, I walked from the hostel, cell in hand, to the end of the block, telling her my plight of the last few nights, when suddenly a “crazy black man”, brandishing a baseball bat in his fist, came storming out of the bushes, screaming obscenities and more at me. My talking must have disturbed his sleep–what little sleep a homeless person gets. I could sympathize.

    He was in attack mode. I backed away, told my former New York partner what was happening. She could hear him screaming at me. “Gotta go,” I said. “Call you right back.”

    He chased me to the edge of the hostel grounds. Like a fool, I screamed, “Help, police! Someone call the police!”

    A couple came out of one of the dorms. Saw me. Saw him. Stepped back inside.

    Lesson learned: Never shout Police! Shout Fire!

    Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the enraged man shouted one or two more remaining things on his mind and walked down the street, out of view, with his bat.

    Whew! Close call! I phoned my friend back. And she (the protector, the manager, pick one from a hat) said, “I’m sorry, Danny, but I can’t take the stress!”

    She can’t take the stress?!!

    “I’m at a very sensitive time in my life.”

    So is I!!, to coin a phrase.

    “I’d prefer it if you wouldn’t call. Take care, Danny.” Don’t take any wooden nickels.


    A couple of days later I’m walking down a busy street in Nashville, close by Vanderbilt University, when I hear a booming voice in back of me. “Mutherf**kers, clear the way. I’m comin’ through.”

    I recognized the voice immediately. It was him! Baseball bat in hand.

    He walked by, not knowing me from Adam. Just another white man in a sea of white faces. The enemy. All of us, a major threat. One call on a cell and he could be arrested. For what? Pick a charge out of a white cop’s helmet. Whites are given warnings. I was. Black men are rounded up, locked up, and the key thrown away. It happens! That little bit of knowledge alone can make you crazy.

    I watched him walk down the street, head held high, shoulders back, baseball bat in hand. Proud. Bottom of the ninth. Team down four-zip. Bases loaded. Two outs.

    Without hesitation, all along the boulevard, couples window-shopping; coeds on their way to class (on their cells, tweeting, of course); businessmen and women scurrying to luncheons; camera-toting tourists, with sites to pose in front; they all cleared a wide, wide path for him.

    Moses, baseball bat in hand, parting the Red Sea.

    And I like to think: It gave him great joy!


  36. Daniel Valentine says:

    I had to toss most of my writing when I become homeless again, box after box, file after file, each filled to capacity with hand-scribbled note upon note on menus, cocktail napkins, matchbook covers, etc.

    I was hoping I had transcribed much of it onto my laptop. Not to be. Tho’ I did find file upon file with other notes. Files tagged D.C., Dad, Driving, Mom, Vietnam, 1950s, Hatch, NYC, so on and so on.

    (My friend swims. I take notes.)

    From the Friendswood, TX. file: “Goodbye, Motel 6! It’s been real!! My bestest friend to the dogs: ‘Girls, we’re moving.’ Excited. “Yes, we’re moving.”

    From the Friendswood file: “3 bed, 2 bath, heated in ground pool, ceramic tile throughout, granite counter tops, 2 car detached garage, covered porch, 14,4050 sq. ft. treed lot, formal living room, formal dining room; refrigerator, washer, and dryer, 2,111 sq. ft, built in 1969, in the Wedgewood neighborhood.”

    From the file: “Woke up to hear a woodpecker pecking in the backyard, the sound leaf-blowers in front …”

    From the file: “Watched (my friend) swim: one arm floating out of the water, the other following. The dogs barking and chasing after her on the side of the pool. A Rockwell painting.

    From the file: “Vote for Delay signs are popping up all over our neighborhood. Delay!! He’s our representative.

    From the file: “Not a place where you take a stroll. Had a beer can thrown at my head from a passing car. Couple of weeks ago, a firecracker.”

    I had forgotten about that. That’s why I take notes.

    From the file: “I-Hop. Dinner. Gay waiter took our order. Black, with two earrings. Name tag: Peaches. Wife to her husband in next booth: ‘And they let him have his name on his name tag? I mean, this is a family restaurant, for f**k sake!’ Idea for sit-com: Peaches in Pearland. Black Will and Grace, Texas-style.”

    From the file: Texan complaining in the supermarket check-out line about how much it had cost him to fill up his SUV. Gas was getting so expensive that he’d given up driving his truck at night and was using his motorcycle instead.”

    From the file: “Line for future song: Clearing brush gives Texans a rush”

    From the file:

    “Sign: Moving boxes. (I picture people inside chasing after them.)

    “Sign on back of school bus: Watch for Children. (As if they may harm you.)

    “Sign in window: Office space available. Welcome to month-to-month! Says it all about the present times. You know it! We know it! Let’s not play games! Your business is going to fail!)”

    From the file: Mosquitoes out in force.”

    From the file: “For sure, Texans are friendly. I’m standing at the urinal in the Men’s room at the Olive Garden when a jovial Texan bursts through the door. ‘Howdy!–as if he were greeting a buddy at a rodeo.'”

    From the file: “Idea for the perfect Texas business: Bar-B-Que Motors.”

    From the file: “Mosquitoes everywhere.”

    From the file: “Just returned from Veterans Hospital. Took me 40 buses. Houston. No decent transit system. And proud of it!”

    From the file: “Bumper sticker seen on back of car: Vote against Metro-rail! Stop the homeless before they get to our neighborhoods.”

    And so on and so on …


  37. Daniel Valentine says:

    My dad was a big man. Six-two, some two-hundred-and-thirty pounds. He was two-eighty or so at one time.

    Once, he went on a public diet, along with other hefty local celebs–a radio deejay or two; a politician or three; John Mooney, the Trib’s sports’ columnist. I think Herman Franks, manager of the old Salt Lake Bees and former New York Giant catcher was one. All wanted to thin down. They called themselves the “Blubber Brigade”. Once a week my dad would report to the reading public their weekly success or failure.

    When my mom first fell in love with my dad, friends would say, “But he’s fat.” My mom would answer, “But he makes me laugh.”

    (c) 2010 by Daniel Valentine

    There are men of worldly means,
    Earthly goods, and riches,
    Who’d have set me up in suites,
    Each with household staff.

    But my love I chose because
    He keeps me in stitches.
    He is not a man of wealth,

    There are men of world renown,
    Household names with money,
    Who’d have handed me blank checks
    With their autograph.

    But my love I chose because
    He’s bust-a-gut funny.
    He is not a man of fame,

    Friends wonder why
    I’m no taken with the guy.
    He’s not much to look at.
    Not by half.
    Some would even say he’s fat
    And ask themselves, “What’s with that?”

    There are notables I know
    Who are sitting pretty.
    Each of whom I said no to.
    All must think me daff’.

    But my love I chose because
    He’s side-splitting witty.
    He is far from well-to-do,
    My, how that man can make me laugh!–
    And he thinks I’m funny too.

    (c) 2010 by Daniel Valentine

    If you can make a woman laugh
    In this world of ours gone daff’,
    My friend,

    If you can roll her in the aisle,
    Turn concern into a smile,
    My friend,

    Sure, you’d love to wine-and-dine ‘er,
    Buy her clothes by some designer,
    Send her flowers, bring her candy.
    All of which is fine and dandy.
    But you’re broke! Not to choke.
    Make her laugh. Tell a joke.

    If you can make her slap her knee,
    Grab her sides, go tee-hee-hee,
    My friend,

    If you can bring tears to her eyes,
    Make her laugh until she cries,
    My friend,

    So you’ve none of earthly riches–
    Pal, just keep your gal in stitches.
    You don’t need a lotta money.
    All you gotta be is funny.
    Never mind that you’re broke.
    Make her laugh. Tell a joke.

    If you can make her spill her beer
    While she’s grinning ear-to-ear,
    My friend,

    If you can make her roll about,
    On the verge of passing out,
    My friend,

    Fill her heart and home with laughter,
    Head to toe, floorboard to rafter.
    Let the others buy her toddies,
    Spend their dough as though their Saudis.
    So you’re broke! Not to choke.
    Perfect time for a joke.

    If you can make her stamp her feet,
    ‘Fraid ‘a falling off her seat,
    My friend,

    No need to buy a long-stemmed rose.
    No box of chocks, no card with poem.
    Just make her snort milk from her nose.
    Make her laugh
    To happily-ever-af’.


  38. Daniel Valentine says:

    Victor Buono and my dad were friends. Drinking buddies, on at least one occasion. He was in Salt Lake, appearing as Falstaff in “Henry IV” at the University of Utah. The year was 1964.

    One evening after a performance, they painted the town, as they say. Upon leaving a private club, Buono stepped to the curb for a cab. Upon seeing one, he turned to my dad and said, “What sneaking fellow comes yonder?”

    He stepped into the street to flag it down. “Hark! Do you not hear the people cry?”

    The cab stopped and he turned to my dad, opening the back passenger door for him. “Enter Troilus.”

    A year later he appeared as “Captain Hook” at the Music Valley Music Hall in Bountiful. Believe me, when I say, there has never been a better Captain Hook. Ruta Lee was Peter Pan. He got me an autographed picture of her in her costume. It’s somewhere in a dump in Houston, pigeons pecking away at it. Just one of the many things I had to trash when I became homeless again.

    On the day my sister Valerie started school, late fifties, somewhere thereabouts–she was born in 1955–my dad wrote a column, his best, a “newspaper classic”, to the world.

    “World, I bequeath to you today one little girl in a crispy dress with two blue eyes … and a happy laugh that ripples all day long, a batch of light blonde hair that bounces in the sunlight when she runs. I trust you’ll treat her well …”

    I Googled it. The results: hit after hit, if that’s the right word. Many minus my dad’s by-line. Some have changed “two blue eyes” to “two brown eyes.”

    Many have Victor Buono as the author. He first read the piece on The Joey Bishop Show. When he read it one night as a guest on the The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson–I think the year was 1967–the result was countless letters from viewers pleading for a copy.

    Buono called my dad. He wanted to make a 45 of it. My dad gave his okay.

    It had been read many times on television in the past. Tennessee Ernie Ford read it on his show, Art Linkletter on his, Garry Moore on his.

    There is a picture of the 45 on a site called “Victor Buono Fan Page.” No date.

    Not much came of it. I don’t even think it got as far as the distribution part.

    A copy could very well be in a Houston dump. When I was tossing box after box, I couldn’t look at the contents. It was too painful. There may be a copy in the BYU Achives. That’d be nice.

    Victor Buono came to town and visited my dad several times. At the time, we were living up by the University of Utah. Butler Avenue. My folks had bought a sorority house. I’m not kidding. Can’t remember the name of the sorority. They got kicked off campus. The reason: the sorority members couldn’t keep their grades up or the birth control pills down. That was the often-told joke. For months after my folks bought it, frats would walk into the house without ringing, look around disappointed and say, “Where’d all the girls go?”

    Three stories, a trillion rooms, one bathroom with rows of stall showers and toilets; a huge dormitory. My folks put a pool in the basement. My dad’s mom lived with us in the Sorority Mother’s quarters (living room, bedroom, kitchen.)

    I loved my grandmother. I called her “Mom Mom.” She was my second mother. Her name was Marie. And she was a piece of work. Was she ever! She’d been a Roaring 20s flapper. She loved to party. I mean, she LOVED a party.

    Picture Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard and that’s my dad’s mother. She wore a turban like Norma Desmond. She sported a long, long cigarette holder like Norma Desmond. She wore dark sunglasses like Norma Desmond When she drank, she WAS Norma Desmond.

    I’ll never forget the last time Victor Buono visited. He and my dad and mom would be talking and my grandmother, after a few martinis–no, a lot of martinis–would do her best to change the conversation. “Victor, don’t you think I still look young-young-young?” “Victor, don’t you think I’m beautiful?” Funny/sad. Very embarrassing.

    Can’t remember him stopping by after that.


  39. Daniel Valentine says:

    Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) likes a staffer around when he speaks, so he can get some immediate feedback afterward, and one night the task fell upon me, his speechwriter at the time, because Paul Smith, his press secretary, who usually accompanies him, was off on vacation.

    Afterward I walked him to his car, telling him along the way basically three words. “You were great!”

    “What did you think?”

    “Senator, you were great.”

    “Think it went well?”

    “You were great.”

    He had strayed from the prepared remarks and rambled all over the place, going on a tangent about a recent Supreme Court decision. (“I just want to say one thing … I just want to add one thing … And let me just say …”) But that’s his speaking style.

    As the Senator got into his car, he said, “I’d like to see more like it.”

    I closed the door behind him. He unrolled the window. “I need a speech on drugs. Can you write me one?”

    “Sure,” I said. “No problem. For or against?” I had lots of confidence back in those days.

    He looked at me, shook his head. I watched him drive off. Then, briefcase in hand, I thought to myself: Okay, now for that drink!

    I hailed a cab and said, getting in, “A little muggy.”

    It was mid-August. D.C. was built on a swamp and even at night the heat is stifling.

    The cabbie looked up at me in the rearview mirror. “What’s the–?”

    “Muggy?” How to explain? “You know. Hot. Sticky.” I loosened my tie. “Makes you want to take off all your clothes.” I unbuttoned my top shirt button.

    “Hot? Sticky? You like–?”

    “Muggy? I can take it or leave it.”

    He asked: “You police?”

    I shook my head.

    “Just checking.” He hit the meter. “In my country of Bangladesh, muggi is word for–how do you say?–hooker.” He pulled into traffic. “Redhead, you like that? You want blonde? Two blondes?”

    “Just a minute,” I said.

    “Short one, tall one? Yes? No? Just let me know. I know big, big blonde.” He took his hands off the wheel to form imaginary large breasts in the air–

    “Hey! Look out!”

    –and almost ran into an on-coming car. “Very nice. She does everything.”


    “I think you like her.”

    “Will you listen?”

    “Yes?” he said.

    “I think we have a little misunderstanding here.”

    “No muggi?” He was very disappointed.

    “No muggi!”

    “All right, all right. Relax, my friend. No need to get excited. Where do you want to go”

    A few blocks later the taxi pulled to a stop in front of my destination. I paid the fare and got out.

    “How about twins?”

    “No!” I slammed the door. “No muggi.”


  40. Daniel Valentine says:

    I checked my e-mail this morning. There was a message from my bestest friend, regarding a piece I had written. Two words. “Zehr gut!” Her dad was German, died when she was three. She has one remaining photo of him.

    “Zehr gut”. I had to Google it. Wikipedia: “Germany has a 6-point grading scale to evaluate the performance of school children.”

    “Zehr gut!” “Best possible grade!”

    Thanks, Professor. I needed that.

    We communicate by e-mail. My cell minutes ran out months ago. Back in mid-December, in fact.

    A “good” friend of mine in Salt Lake used up much of them.

    When I was in Nashville, he’d call on a regular basis. Usually from a bar. We’d been friends for quite some time. Going on 30 years. Ever since I first took over my dad’s column.

    He’d call and ask, “How are you doing?” Then he’d shout (to whomever was in the bar.) “It’s Dan Valentine Jr. Got him on the phone.” As if anybody in the bar knew who in hell Dan Valentine Jr. was. Or cared. It had been some thirty years since my last column.

    I’d say, “I’m homeless. In Nashville. I need a place to stay. Till I get on my feet. Can you take me in?”

    When I had the column, and afterward, when I was living in D.C. and New York, I was welcome to stay at his place whenever I was in town. Once, I got in a cab at the airport, gave my friend’s address, and the cabby said, “Oh, you’re going to Valentine’s place.” Funny.

    When you’re famous/rich, friends “want” you to stay with them. Oscar Levant, the great musician/wit/brains behind An American in Paris sold his home and stayed with different friends the rest of his later life. Christopher (The Sound of Music) Plummer sold his home long ago and just stays the night/week with assorted friend. It helps to be famous/rich.

    But, anyway, my friend would call. I’d tell him I was homeless. I need a place to stay. (He’s the proprietor of a very successful shop downtown.) It was Christmastime. He’d say, “This is our busy season.” Then, “We’ve got our house up for sale.” Oh, if he was calling from the shop: “Here, talk to the wife. But don’t tell her your homeless. It would upset her.”

    Wouldn’t want to do that!!!

    One night he calls while I’m tramping through sleet and snow. “How are you doing!”

    “I’m doing fine, blah, blah. I’m going to make it here in Nashville if it kills me, blah, blah, blah.”

    I soon came to the realization, it could very well kill me.

    He calls another day. I plead with him to take me in. He’d been drinking. He’s a happy fellow when he drinks. Aren’t we all! He says, “Sure. I’ll tell the wife.”

    I call him the next day to make arrangements. He’s sober. “It’s our busy season,” he says. “We’ll going to Vegas at the end of the month,” he says. “But,” he says. “Sure,” he says. “Uh,” he says. “You’re welcome to stay with us. You can get a job somewhere.”

    Needless to say, I didn’t go there. Had a change of heart. Thanks but no thanks. He used up my last minutes leaving messages on my cell. Going, going, gone.

    But just before they ran out, with just one or three minutes remaining, I got a call from my bestest friend. “I’ve been trying to get hold of you for days. Why haven’t you been answering the phone?” Then: “Come home. I bought a house. With a pool.” (She swims.)

    Nicer words I’ve never heard. Except for maybe the two words: “Zehr gut!”


  41. Daniel Valentine says:

    Yesterday I wrote: “Everybody in Texas drives. They’d drive to the bathroom if the stall doors were wide enough.”

    I borrowed that line from the script of Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” (1979): “I got a friend who bought a Mercedes just to get to the bathroom.” He lifted it (perhaps, perhaps not) from my dad’s “The Wit & Wisdom of Dan Valentine” (1974). Can’t remember off hand how my dad phrased it. There’s a copy of the book, along with all his columns, in the BYU Achieves. I’m in Ensenada.

    I googled “drive to the bathroom” and came up with:

    “If we Indians could drive to the bathroom, then we would do that.” (TIME Asia, Bryan Walsh, Hong Kong.

    “We are a ‘car’ people and we would like to drive everywhere. We’d drive to the bathroom if we could.” (M. Timothy ‘O Keefe. “Guide to the Caribbean Vacation”.)

    “The urban population, they are driving in cars everywhere. If they could drive to the bathroom, they would.” (David Kohn. “Getting to the Heart of the Matter in India.)

    I like to think that my dad came up with the line first. But probably not.

    The Salt Lake Tribune didn’t pay my dad much, tho’ for many in Utah it was the reason they subscribed to the paper. So he free-lanced to make ends meet. Sold a story here, sold a story there, sold a story to Esquire.

    He wrote a pamphlet called “Pioneer Pete’s Utah Scrapbook,” off-beat tales of Utah history, geared to tourists and distributed at truck/tourist stops. It shot off the shelves. So he wrote “Pioneer Pete’s Idaho Scrapbook, Wyoming Scrapbook, Divorcee Scrapbook, Nevada Scrapbook, Hunter’s Scrapbook, Fisherman’s Scrapbook, the list goes on and on.

    He published a soft-back collection of his newspaper columns, displayed and distributed in these same truck/tourist stops. One the columns was called “Dear World,” his thoughts and wish for me, watching his first-born traipse off to his first day of school.

    “Dear World: My young son starts to school today. It’s going to be sort of strange and new to him for awhile, and I wish you would sort of treat him gently …” It’s been called a “newspaper classic”.

    In 1969, Jerry Herman (Hello, Dolly/Mame) wrote a musical, starring Angela Lansbury, called “Dear World.”

    A few years ago, I met Jerry Herman at the ASCAP Musical Theatre workshop. We had quite a long chat. Wonderful guy! Half-kidding, I told him that he had stolen my dad’s title. He didn’t deny it. He smiled and said, “Nice title.” I picture him in a restaurant, picking up one of my dad’s American Essay books, and getting the germ of an idea for a musical.

    When my sister was born, in 1955, my dad wrote a column called “Hello, Little Girl.” He later included it in a book, sold in restaurants. I googled “Hello, Little Girl” earlier this morning. I knew what would come up. Wikipedia: “The title is reference to the Stephen Sondheim song ‘Hello Little Girl’ for the musical ‘Into the Woods.”

    I like to think that Sondheim was thumbing through a restaurant table-copy somewhere and the title stayed in the back of his mind.

    The first song John Lennon ever wrote was called “Hello Little Girl”. I like to think–nah, impossible. But, then again …

    The book, displayed at truck/tourist stops, sold so well that he wrote and published a series of booklets called the American Essay series, each geared to those on the road, eating at truck/tourist stops along the highway:

    “What is a trucker driver?” He’s a big guy. He’s a small guy. He comes in all sizes and shapes. Short, tall, skinny, fat. Laughing, serious.”

    “What is a veteran? He’s a man who looks the world in the eye. He’s a big man, he’s a small man, he’s a short man, he’s a tall man.” On and on. Corny stuff. But they sold and sold. So much so that he wrote “What is a father/mother/teacher/secretary/nurse/ minister/rancher/farmer/rancher’s wife/farmer’s wife/truck driver’s wife. He even wrote “What is a mortician”, for morticians to hand out to customers.

    He once said, later in life, that he had ruined what little talent he had writing them.

    He sold hundreds of thousands of them. “Sentimental classics designed to make the heart sing”.

    In 2003, the 75th Annual Academy Awards were hosted by Steve Martin. He began his introduction: “What is a movie star?” Tremendous laughter. Immediate recognition. “A movie star is many things.” More laughter. “They can be tall, short, thin, or skinny.” More laughter, stars falling off their seats, as they say. It’s on YouTube. My dad would have loved it!!!

    Most humor is identification, and most everyone in the audience, it seems, had stopped to dine in their travels and read one or two of my dad’s sentimental essays sold at truck/tourist stops throughout the west.

    At Carnegie Hall, Andy Kaufman read my dad’s essay “This is a wife” to the audience and brought down the house. “A sigh in the night … A smile across a room of strangers … A tug at a sleeve in the middle of a sad movie.” People were falling off their seats. It’s on YouTube.

    As Tony Cliff, Kaufman read “This is a wife” on David Letterman, bringing the house down once again. It’s on YouTube. It’s also reprinted in a book of best written humor ever with Kaufman’s by-line. My dad wouldn’t have been too keen about that.

    During the Red Scare, in 1950, my dad hosted a local radio show in Salt Lake. One of his guests was Sen. Joe McCarthy who was traveling the country, spreading the word to one and all who would listen that there were “Commies” in our State Department. Heaven forbid! God save us all! One day the number of “Commies” was 205; another day, 4; next day it would be 81.

    It was on my dad’s radio show that McCarthy first came up with the exact number of “actual card-carrying Communists in the State Department.”


    My Dad: In other words, Senator, if Secretary of State Dean Acheson would call you at the Hotel Utah tonight in Salt Lake City–”
    Sen. McCarthy: That’s right.
    My Dad: –you could give him 57 names of actual card-carrying Communists in the State Department of the United States–actual card-carrying Communists?
    Sen. McCarthy: Not only can, Dan. but I will.

    Flip the calendar pages to 1962 and “The Manchurian Candidate”, starring Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury, based on the Red Scare and Joe McCarthy.

    Mrs. Iselin (at meal time): I’m sorry, hon’. Would it really make it easier for you if we settled on just one number?
    Sen. John Yerkers Iselin: Yeah. Just one, real, simple number that’d be easy for me to remember.
    (Mrs. Iselin watches her husband thump a bottle of Heinz Tomato Ketchup onto the his plate)
    Sen. John Yerkers Iselin (addressing the Senate): There are exactly 57 card-carrying members of the Communist Party in the Department of defense at this time.

    I miss my Dad.


  42. Daniel Valentine says:

    Last night, in the wee hours, I sat bolt upright in bed and shouted, “Texas! He must have been born and bred in Texas!” Melody’s brigadier dad, the guy who thought I was gay because I didn’t drive.

    I resided in southeast Texas–Friendswood, Galveston, Houston, Jamaica Beach, Clear Lake, etc– for some five years without a car. Most times I was the only pedestrian within a five-mile radius. Everyone in Texas drives. They’d drive to the bathroom if the stall doors were wide enough. Many, many times I’d be strolling along, in my own mind, when a car full of kids would swing over, the windows rolled down, and scream, “Faggott!” and race off down the street, gleefully giggling to themselves Or, they would slow down and honk their horn suddenly, scaring the hell out of me, then speed off.

    My friend’s grandfather lived with us when we resided in Friendswood. One time I came home and was flipping through the mail in the kitchen, when I heard him speaking on the phone, talking to his sister. “I don’t know what he does.” I opened up a bill. “He put a small down payment on the house.” I opened up another bill. “He doesn’t drive.”

    Her grandfather–his first name was–was born in Georgia. He’d been a carpenter. He was going on 80. He was suffering from CPOD, Chronic Destructive Pulmary Disease. A grand ol’ man. The best of years of my best friend’s life were spent living with him and her grandmother in Florida.

    He once gave me the greatest compliment I’ve ever been given. Sometimes, not often, at night after writing all day, I would buy a pint of rum/gin/scotch/vodka/whiskey–whatever was cheapest; there was a liquor store down the block–and I would enjoy a drink or ten, standing by the kitchen counter, and talk about his granddaughter. Stories, experiences we’d had together, etc.

    Before he died, he told his granddaughter (this, she told me later): “Y’know, Dan really, really loves you.” A truer and nicer thing anyone could have said about me.

    I don’t drive. My brother never drove. My sister didn’t learn how to drive until late in life. My dad discouraged it, to say the least. He had covered too many traffic deaths as a young reporter.

    But back to Texas. Hurricane Rita! Late September, 2005.

    Some 3 million people were evacuated within a 500-mile radius–the largest evacuation in American history. Wikipedia. After the tragedy of Katrina and New Orleans, authorities were taking no chances.

    My friend’s mom and step-dad–they had moved to Houston to be with their daughter–packed some things, stopped by to pick up Guy and his much needed supplemental oxygen canister, and sped off for Oklahoma.

    My friend has a yellow Jeep. She’d always wanted one. It’s easy to pick out on the highway. She still has an Obama sticker on the back, next to a “I Like To Swim” sticker, below a “Democracy Now” sticker, by a sticker from “The Bulldog”, a coffee shop in Amsterdam. We love bulldogs!!!

    Everything is about the dogs in my friend’s life. They come first and foremost. At one time she/we had five! At the time of Rita, she had three–Daisy (a veteran from D.C. and Manhattan), Bogie, and Rosie.

    We packed their things–food, water, toys, blankets. The TV was on in the living room. as background music, with tales of chaos.

    Texans were driving in multi-car caravans, causing grid-lock. What’s a car caravan? It’s a Texas thing. During a hurricane. When there is little time. You grab your most prized possessions. And make a run for it.

    In Texas, the most prized possession is–you guessed it–a car. No, two cars (a car for work, a car for play). No, three cars (two-doors, four-doors, no-doors). Plus a pick-up or two and an SUV for dumping one’s trash in a river or lake.

    So you’ve got family after family in lots of cars, traveling, oh, so slowly, bumper to bumper, not wanting to get separated from each other. It can cause a problem. One car runs out of gas, all the cars in the family stop. They’re not leaving one of their babies behind.

    Back to the chaos. A bus, with elderly evacuees, caught on fire, killing 24, their oxygen tanks exploded. Cars were running out of gas. Gas pumps were empty.

    Ten thousand homeless were left to fend for themselves.

    My friend, with me in the front passenger seat, a dog in my arms and lap, two dogs in the back, are just about to leave when we get a call from her step-dad. He had pulled off the road for a doughnut, maybe it was flapjacks–and God bless him for it–and had learned that the Hilton was open and was accepting guests. And their dogs! The mayor had a suite, had set up headquarters there They’d rented a room for themselves, rented a room for us and the dogs.

    The bar was open, the restaurant was open, dogs everywhere. In the lobby, in the elevators. A dog lover’s dream.

    Lesson learn: Follow the mayor. If he ain’t leaving …

    Rita made landfall on Saturday, September 24, a category three. It missed Houston.

    Hurricane Ike, on the other hand, that was another story. But I’ll leave that for later.


  43. Ed Darrell says:

    Dan, I’m running behind getting your missives to their own posts. I hope you’re checking them from time to time — there are a couple of comments.

    And, browse over here, there’s a nice comment about your stuff: Decrepit Old Fool (that’s the name of his blog).


  44. Daniel Valentine says:

    Spent last night working on a funny song about homelessness. Tentative title/hook: “Parsley Is For Eating.” My dad once said, “Humor is looking at the world upside down.” When you’re homeless, you’ve got a ringside seat.

    My dad found himself homeless as a kid. During the depression, in Columbus, Ohio, he came home from school one day to find the family’s belongings on the front walk. His dad couldn’t come up with the rent.

    My brother was homeless for a time. In Amsterdam. He hid what little he had behind some bushes in a park. Some nights later he went to a homeless shelter for a meal and stood behind a fellow in line wearing his clothes.

    I’ve been homeless before. Years ago. For three days. In D.C. When I first joined Hatch’s staff. I had all but forgotten. You’ve time to reminisce when you’re broke.

    I was staying at a very nice deluxe motel in Virginia. Pool, sauna, tennis courts, etc., till I found an apartment.

    I don’t drive, never have. So, I would take a bus each morning to the nearest Metro stop, then on to the Russell Senate Building in D.C., where Hatch’s offices were.

    (Lots of people have never driven. Tony Bennett has never driven, Barbara Walters has never learned to drive. Abraham Lincoln never drove. Bonnie and Clyde drove and look what happened to them. In my youth, when I asked a woman out, my line was, “You bring the wheels. I’ll furnish the entertain. But don’t honk when you pick me up. You’ll disturb the neighbors!”)

    After work one night I met a young woman. Can’t remember where. Probably at a bar on the Hill. Her father was a brigadier general, head of supplies for something or other. After a short time, she invited me to move in with her. Split the rent. She had a studio apartment. Sounded good to me.

    Her folks invited us to dinner. Her dad wanted to meet me. They lived in Virginia somewhere. Her car just happened to have been towed away that day at an expired meter so we rented one.

    We drove to Virginia, had dinner, cocktails. A nice time. Afterward, he followed us outside to the rented car. She got behind the wheel. And he waved us goodbye.

    The next day, after work, she told me her dad thought I was gay.

    Gay?! “How come?”

    “You don’t drive.” Funny. Strange.

    A couple of nights later, in her apartment, we’re awakened by fierce pounding on the front door. Bang, bang, bang. “Melody! Melody!” That was her name. “Let me in. I know you’re in there with someone.” Bang, bang, bang.

    She whispered, “Don’t say a word. It’s my ex.”

    “Come on, Melody, open up.” Bang, bang, bang.

    “He said he’d kill any man who even looked at me.”

    That’s nice to know.

    He banged and banged! Finally, after a long time, he stopped.

    I went to work the next day, came home afterward, put the key in the lock, opened the door, and there he was–his name was Rodney–in bed with Melody! I backed out the door, went outside, walked down the block, smoked half a pack of cigarettes. For such times, cigarettes were created.

    When I returned, Rodney was gone. And Melody said, “Rodney wants you outta here. Pronto.” She may not have said pronto.

    I said, “Fine with me,” and went to pack my things. And she said, “Oh, no! Not until you pay your half the rent.” Huh? No way. I went to pack my things–I had a couple of suitcases in the closet–and she grabbed a large butcher knife from the kitchen and blocked my path, waving the blade.

    I said, “Okay, calm down. You’ve got my things. You’ve got my things!” For the time being. And I went on my way. Homeless.

    I walked up to the Russell Senate Office Building and slept on a couch in the conference room. Three nights I slept there. One morning, early, Hatch opened the door, saw me half asleep on the couch, and softly closed the door. He must have thought I’d been up all night working on an upcoming speech.

    Finally, after three days, in the same suit, I told Paul Smith, my good friend to this day and Hatch’s press secretary at the time, my plight. He called Tom Perry, can’t remember his title. But Hatch’s second or third man. I recently heard he had died. He was young. The best die young, as as they.

    I told him my story and he said. “We can get her arrested for attempted assault with a deadly weapon. Her father’s a brigadier general? We can put pressure on her dad. Have you any papers of the Senator’s in your bag?”

    “Maybe a notebook, with an idea or two for a speech.”

    He said, “We’ll send federal marshals to get your things.”

    I told him, “Let me try on my own one more time.”

    I called Melody and told her about the federal marshals, and she said, “Come pick up your things. They’ll be in the hallway.”

    Paul gave me a ride. We picked up my stuff, and he took me in for a week or so till I got my own place. A studio apartment in D.C.

    Funny/sad, I ran into Melody a few weeks or months later in a bar. On M Street. I just happened to sit down on a bar stool a couple of seats down from where she was sitting, alone, having a drink.

    We didn’t speak. I had one drink, knocked it back, and paid my tab with a newly acquired Gold American Express Card.

    As I was leaving, she said, “My new boyfriend has a Platinum Card.”

    Melody. Nice name.


  45. Daniel Valentine says:

    Back to Nashville and my first night homeless. I’ve got four hours to kill until the doors of Operation Stand Down open.

    Lots of time on my hands. What to do? I pace up and down. I stomp my feet. It’s cold. I mean, COLD! My clothes are sopping wet from the sleet and the cop-escorted stroll. The wind is blowing. I watch an empty beer can chase a skittering Big Mac wrapper across the empty parking lot. A lone bird flies by in the night. The cop car cruises by, oh, so slowly ever so often. Just checking. I pace up and down. I stomp my feet. I curse under my breath. Sheeeesch! Fcccccccck! Criss’almighty! I’m chilled to the bone.

    I think about my beloved bestest friend in the entire universe.

    She’d been homeless!! In New York. Rode the subway nights. When I met her, in D.C., she was staying with a friend from Florida. They’d attended the University of Florida together. She had no hair! Shaved bald as a billiard ball, as they say. Punk as they get. Tough cookie! But beautiful!

    In New York, she got by working “shit jobs”. Her words. One was dressing up as a clown and handing out brochures for some coming attraction. A soon-to-be circus in town. Can’t remember.

    At one job, at closing, the manager, a male, said he’d give her a ride home. He drove to an isolated, abandoned strip mall, ill-lit, parked the car. Scary stuff. She took out a knife and started slashing the interior. Overhead, seats, door paneling. He fumbled his way out of the car and ran for his life. Very lucky guy! She’s a tough cookie. A patrol car finally came along and the officer gave her a ride home.

    We hit it off from the beginning. I made her laugh. She made me smile.

    She moved in with me. I had just bought a condominium in Alexandria, VA. One bedroom. I was working for Hatch. Over time, her hair grew. My dad would have loved her. She resembled Marilyn Monroe. Everyone thought so. Friends called her Norma Jean. In D.C., there’s a tall brick building with a huge mural of Marilyn painted on. We caught a cab once. The driver passed by it and pointed it out to her. “Look. Look. That’s you. That’s you.”

    My mom met her a few years later at a Thai Restaurant. My friend ordered for us. My mom and I didn’t touch a bite. We had never had Thai food before. Now, I can’t live without it.

    After meeting her, I asked my mom what she thought of her. She said, “She’s perfect!”

    I said, “She’s the most beautiful woman in D.C.” And she was.

    My mom agreed. “I studied her every feature,” but added, “She’s more than beautiful. She’s nice.”

    And that she is. She gave me my moral compass. I didn’t have one before I met her. She opened my eyes. She gave me my love for dogs. I’m a vegetarian now (when I’m not desperately hungry). She gave me my present political and religious views. She believes if this is it–life, that is (and that could very well be!)–we have to help each other get through it.

    She spends much of her time saving bugs from drowning in our pool.

    We’ve seen much of the world together. After D.C., we moved to Tribeca in lower Manhattan. (The Twin Towers were only a stone’s throw away.) We’ve traveled together to Amsterdam (many times), Paris, Nice (where she sunbathed topless), Cologne, Monte Carlo.

    Here in the U.S.: New Orleans, Minneapolis, Des Moines, the list goes on and on.

    Once, we drove from Iowa City to Oxford, Ms., to New Orleans to Biloxi to Mobile to Tampa. In between, in the middle of the night, semi-lost and famished, we stopped at a little backwoods market, at the end of a dark swamp road in northern Florida. The place was run by two very old women. Scary-looking, a tooth or two missing. The walls were plastered with photos, magazine covers, newspaper clippings, and movie posters of Johnny Depp. We picked up a couple of sodas and sandwiches, something for the dogs (we had three then), and went to the register and one or the other said, very slowly: “Do. You. Like. Johnny. Depp?”

    Both of us looked at each and we were both thinking the same thought: Gawd, are we in trouble! Wrong answer and we could end up at the bottom of the swamp. What to reply? We were thinking of the dogs. We didn’t want them to end up sandwich meat.

    We told the truth. “We love Johnny Depp.” She smiled, pleased, and we went on our way.

    We’ve separated from time to time, to do what one or the other has to do. She went back to school in Florida. Got her masters in philosophy. Got accepted to a top-ten university in the mid-west. Got her Ph.d. (Her thesis was picked up by a publisher and has since been translated into German.) She speaks Latin. She’s a member of Mensa. She wants to swim the English Channel. She swims daily four hours day, without stopping.

    I could go on and on.

    Looking back, the only truly good thing I did when I had lots of money was help her to get her degree, and then only a tiny bit.

    Standing at the entrance way of Operation Stand Down, freezing, lonely as hell, scared half to death, shaking, I thought of my friend. And I wrote. Words to a tune in my head. A song.

    Most or all lyrics by themselves without music read flat. But here goes anyway:

    (c) 2009 by Daniel Valentine

    When clouds, amassing, grumble and groan
    And drench, in passing, the cobblestone–
    Dripping head to toe,
    And with blocks to go,
    Thoughts of you as buckets fall
    Warm body, heart, mind, soul, and all
    With what I call

    When winds, mos’ bitter, whistle and moan
    And leaves and litter are tossed and blown–
    Looking up to see
    Birds on wire flee,
    Thoughts of you as gales brawl
    Warm body, heart, mind, soul, and all
    With what I call

    Whenever the weather is stormy,
    Thoughts of you seem to warm me.

    Tho’ it has been a while or so
    Since I saw you last,
    Thoughts of you bring a smile, a glow;
    And the spell you cast–
    Call it whatever you will–
    Warms me as if it is still July
    And you are here close nearby.

    When lines are down, both power and phone,
    With folk and town both chilled to the bone–
    Huddled by a door
    Of a vacant store,
    Thoughts of you–snow, sleet, or squall–
    Warm body, heart, mind, soul, and all
    With what I call

    A little before seven in the morning, veterans began appearing. An older gent in a wheelchair. Another with a limp. Young, old, and in between. All in great need of help. A counselor with a key opened the door. We all walked inside. Coffee!


  46. Daniel Valentine says:

    My dad’s dream was to be a reporter. His dad was one, for the Detroit Free Press. He adored his dad. His mom? That’s another story. He loved her, but, well, she was a Roaring Twenties flapper. But I’ll leave that tale for another time.

    After the war, my worked for AP/UPI or both in a couple of mid-western towns.

    Lincoln, Neb., was one. Got room and board at a minister’s home. Wasn’t much to do in Lincoln back then. After work, he’d buy a pint of bourbon and polish it off alone in his room at night. One problem: What to do with the empties? Couldn’t put ’em in the garbage. It was a minister’s home, for Christ’s sake! So he hid ’em under the bed, in chest drawers, etc.

    God knows what the minister thought or did with ’em after my dad left.

    He got a job at the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota–my dad, not the minister. Met my mom. Married. I was born.

    My mom’s dad was so taken with my dad’s writing that he offered to support him while he wrote the Great American Novel. But, oh no, my dad wanted to be a newspaperman like his “ol’ man”. He applied for a job at the Denver Post and The Salt Lake Tribune. Got offers from both. Took the Tribune job. Who knows why? He had spent a couple of days in Salt Lake after the war and had gone on his way, unimpressed.

    The year was 1949, the month June. I was going on two.

    He loved his job, so much so that on the side without pay he began writing a weekly humor column called “Nothing Serious.”

    It was so popular he began writing it daily, for free, all the while reporting full-time.

    All this time, Jack Paar is writing him letter after letter telling him to come to New York. He’s got an idea for a late-night show.

    But, oh no, my dad had a love affair with the newspaper profession.

    Cut to: flipping calendar pages. November, December, 1950, 1951 …

    An older, experienced reporter, Chinese-American, forget his name, took my dad under his wing. Taught him the business. Once the two were at the Utah State Prison. Some function. Lunch was served. My dad would dip his fork to take a bit and my dad’s mentor would kick him under the table. My dad would dipped his fork again. Another kick. He finally got the message. Later, his mentor said, “You don’t know what inmates have put in the food.”

    Another time they were covering a story at the Hotel Utah. Governor J. Bracken Lee was there, other VIPs. A luncheon. A waitress came around with a pot of coffee and my dad picked up his cup, which was turned down on the table, to have some. His mentor kicked him under the table again. My dad put the cup back, upside down.

    His mentor whispered in my dad’s ear that if you left your cup upside down, it signaled to the waitress that you preferred whiskey–liquor being a major no-no back then). And, damned, if the waitress didn’t make a second trip, after serving those who wanted coffee, with a pitcher of bourbon for those with other tastes.

    Cut to: the week of July 26, 1953. My dad calls the some law enforcement agency to check a fact for some minor story. Gets put on hold. Gets put back on line and finds himself on a conference call with local police and the feds. At dawn, Arizona state police officers and others were going to raid Short Creek, a settlement of some 400 Mormon fundamentalists. He listens to all the details. Goes to the city editor. Tells him. The city editor goes to the managing editor. Tells him. And the managing editor assigns a reporter to cover the story. Not my dad. Some other reporter!

    From Wikipedia: Short Creek. July 26, 1953. The largest mass arrest of polygamists in American history. 263 children were taken into custody. Big, big story, nationally, internationally

    The result: My dad never wrote another news story for the Trib. To hell with ’em! He concentrated on the column.

    Where am I going with this? Victor Buono and my dad and their friendship and this website, believe it not.

    To be continued …


  47. Denis & Steven & Howard And Songwriter's Club says:

    DAAANNNOOOOO! Big shout out from the boys at the Campus Songwriter’s club all saying HELLYA! Keep on writing and truckin but we miss you at the group! We needed your input for that one big song, baby! We all hope you’re hanging in there, have been able to eat something besides oranges and those raunchy crackers you used to swipe from the hotel! :-)

    Hope you one day are able to visit – Steven’s wife is headed out of town again next month so you can crash in the spare room again! (It’s one of the few dry places left in Nashville!)

    Take care, keep writing, we love to read and hear about your exploits and are glad you’re alive and kicking!


  48. Daniel Valentine says:

    No tale of trial and tribulation today.

    These past many years, I’ve been writing lyrics, a trunk full, concentrating on what they call “money” songs–holiday songs, city songs. One hit Christmas song and you can retire for life, or so they say; same goes for a hit New York or San Francisco song.

    There are only a handful of Salt Lake songs. John Lange, the father of Hope Lange, the actress, wrote one: “I Lost My Sugar in Salt Lake City”. Johnny Mercer recorded it and made it a hit for a time. The Beach Boys had a hit with “Salt Lake City”. And that’s about it.

    They say write what you know about. So, here goes. I wrote it pacing up and down Jamaica Beach, TX. I had the series “Big Love” in mind.

    (c) 2010 by Daniel Valentine

    Salt Lake City! SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH!
    As nice a town as any ever you saw …
    Lovers zig-zag down the slopes and embrace.
    I put my bag down and said, “This is the place!”

    Salt lake City! SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH!
    I found the sweetest angel ever you saw.
    When I walked by ‘er, she smiled and I swear
    Hymns from a choir singin’ filled the town square.

    Lost my last buck
    Shootin’ craps in Las Vegas.
    Thought I’d run plumb outta luck,
    But I rolled a seven
    When I hitched a ride
    To a suburb of heaven.

    Salt Lake City! SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH!
    Of all the happy fellas ever you saw,
    Sisters and brothers, I’m lovin’ my life,
    Tho’ unlike others I’ve got only one wife.

    Lost my last buck
    Shootin’ craps in Las Vegas.
    Thought I’d run plump outta luck,
    But I rolled a seven
    When I hitched a ride
    To a suburb of heaven.

    Salt Lake City! SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH!


  49. Daniel Valentine says:

    Where was I? Oh yes, the law!

    I came to Nashville with a trunk full of songs–just like in the movies–plus a screenplay, a short story or two, and some summer clothes. And my resume.

    I was staying at the Music City Hostel. Free waffles and coffee. $600 a month! Not bad! Embassy Suites is some $150 a night, if you’re lucky. I know. I stayed there my first night in Austin. Free breakfast, free cocktails at night, well, y’know …

    Back to Nashville.

    A few days before running out of money, I read a story in the local paper about an organization called Operation Stand Down, a group that looks out for honorably discharged veterans in need–in particular, those homeless or about to be.

    I looked up the address and walked to their headquarters, several miles away, and was greeted with open arms, as is every vet in need.

    Earlier in the day, I had asked the owner of the hostel if he could store my suitcase for me for a time. He said sure, but only for three months. That was nine months ago. I’m afraid to inquire about it.

    Back to Operation Stand Down.

    I told a counselor my story: onetime daily humor columnist, former special assistant to a US Senator, onetime member of the BMI Musical Theatre workship in New York, etc.

    We hit it off and he offered me a bed in his home until his wife returned. She was out of town visiting relatives or friends. I stayed three nights. In a bed in a room of my own! It had been awhile. (At the hostel I was sleeping in a bunk bed–the top berth is murder to get into when you’re over 60–in a room with several others.) Then his wife called, said she was returning early. She was just a few hundred miles away, in fact.

    He let me off in the parking lot of Operation Stand Down, giving me some survival pointers, one being: “Don’t go to the Mission.” (A refuge for homeless to sleep the night and get a meal.) “You’re not ready.”

    I walked down to Vanderbilt University, spent the day in a bookstore reading a hefty Stephen King novel. I had the time.

    That night, now homeless and penniless, I stayed up all night in the cafeteria of Vanderbilt Hospital, writing.

    Second day, back to Stephen King.

    Second night I returned to Vanderbilt Hospital and the cafeteria, writing, where a cop asked me why I was there. I told him my wife’s grandfather was in surgery.

    Third day. The book store and Stephen King. Then back Vanderbilt Hospital. I hadn’t slept now going-on three days. I was exhausted. I went outside and found a fairly hidden place in the bushes, took my sport coat off, laid it on the ground, and tried to sleep. Impossible. The spot I had picked was right where the medical helos were landing and taking off. What a nightmare–soundtrack straight from a Vietnam flick.

    I donned my coat and returned to Vanderbilt Hospital, roamed the halls, found the cancer ward. There were chairs and couches with some thirty people sleeping and waiting for the outcome of a loved one’s operation or something.

    I found an empty chair, took my sport coat off for a blanket, and went fast to sleep.

    Cut to close-up of boot nudging me awake. I opened my eyes to find three cops staring down at me, one in riot gear–helmet, billy club, gun in holster, etc. (in case of a terrorist attack, I guess.)

    I sat up and said, “I’m-a-Vietnam-vet-I-have-two cents-to-my-name-I-haven’t-slept-in-two-days-I-haven’t-eaten-in-three.” (That last was a lie. I’d had more than my share of complimentary oranges at the downtown Marriott.)

    What gave me away? I had forgotten to brush the leaves off the back of my coat, I was that tired, and someone doing his/her civic duty must have called the cops.

    I was led downstairs and interrogated. One of them was the guy I had lied to the night before. A nice guy, he didn’t take offense. Finally, after an hour or so, they said they’d drive me to the Mission. I said, “I’m not going to the Mission. I was told not to go the Mission.”

    It was three in the morning now. To make matters worse, it had started snowing. Cold as hell outside.

    I mentioned Operation Stand Down and said I’d go there, and off I went into the night, in the freezing cold, snow coming down. A cop car followed closely behind, making sure I went to where I said I was going.

    I stood in front of the entrance of Operation Stand Down for some four hours, in the freezing sleet and cold. I can’t remember being so cold. Every once in awhile the cop car would drive by, checking on me.

    Welcome to Nashville. Welcome to the real world, as they say!


  50. Daniel Valentine says:

    Ever so often my dad would write a column tagged “JUST RAMBLING”, bits and pieces of off-beat facts and observations and tidbits, a little this, a little that …

    Hence, today, “JUST RAMBLING:

    To save money, when I had a little, I had a routine in Nashville. I would walk downtown to the Marriott, pour myself a free cup of hospitality coffee, and put a free hospitality orange or two in my pocket.

    One morning I’m standing on a corner by the Marriott, peeling an orange, in my own little world (my friend calls me The Man Who Isn’t There; inside my head I’m always writing), when it dons on me that the street is jam-packed with bystanders gathered around watching a bench being hosed down.

    I asked a cop what was up, and he told me somebody had put a couple of bullets into the body of a homeless man sleeping there.


    A few days later a homeless man sleeping in a dumpster was found burned alive. Someone or three had poured kerosene on him and lite a match.

    I googled “homeless” “murders” a couple of months ago and found a website–can’t remember what it’s called–listing murder after murder, day after day, of homeless people all over the country. With pics! It doesn’t make the nightly news. Cable is all commentary now, little news. They don’t want to upset the viewing public, I guess …

    When I was in Austin, there was a story in the local paper about the many people who would back up their pick-ups and dump their trash into Lake Lady Bird.

    I don’t get it.

    I stayed a month in Jamaica Beach, down the road from Galveston, by a canal. I’d be sitting on the porch and every so often someone in a pick-up would back up and–you guessed it–dump his/her trash into the canal.

    I don’t get it.

    In Nashville, this past September, when classes first started at Vanderbilt, I’m walking down the street and a young college kid with a beer in his hand, chugs the contents and tosses the empty on the sidewalk before walking into a bar. He was two feet from the door. He could have just as easily put it in the trash inside.

    I don’t get it.

    But bless their kind!

    The first day I was homeless, I’m walking down the street in front of Embassy Suites when I happened to look down and see a discarded room key-card on the ground.

    Thank you, thank you. Bless you, bless you.

    From that moment on, I ate very well. Eggs and ham and bacon, hash browns, coffee and cream, orange and tomato juice, fresh fruit …

    At night I would go to the free cocktail hour for a couple of V.O.’s-and-water. The first few days the bartender on duty would ask me if I was a guest and I’d show my key-card. But, after a week or two, the bartenders simply poured me drinks.

    Funny. It’s a cognitive thing. The more they saw me, the more important and successful th thought I was. Only a big music exec with a large expense account could afford to stay at Embassy Suites that long.

    I was dressed well. A blue sport coat, pressed shirt and slacks, polished shoes, neatly-trimmed hair.

    Then reality sets in. The shoes start to show their wear and tear. Your shirt and pants begin to wrinkle. Your hair grows and starts to look unkept, and, well …

    To be continued.

    Tomorrow, the night I was awakened by the police, hands on holsters …


  51. Bob says:

    Daniel – it is SUCH a joy to read about what you’re doing, where you’ve come from and what’s happening in your life. As you may recall when we were desperately seeking the most basic things for your survival and you shared with me some of your history, I told you you’d be writing about this experience and this is what would bring you back to prominence. I will admit that you had some amazing music, but I knew you’d be an unbelievable writer about the trials and tribulations of homelessness, once you got beyond that initial fear and found your niche. After reading your latest entry, I must say that you’ve found that niche, my old friend. Although your life may never be the same, the images, experiences and information you impart to the rest of the country will fascinate, inspire and hopefully stoke the fires of compassion within many.
    If you’re ever back in Nashville, please do drop me a line or give me a call. You know where to find me and I’ll take you out to dinner. I promise, it won’t be at the Wednesday homeless lunch at the Downtown Presbyterian! :-) Good luck, Godspeed and great travels, Dano!


  52. Mikell says:

    So love hearing from you and reading your musings. Where are you now and do you have a place I may snail mail to you?
    Loving You with deep Respect,
    Your Forever Friend,


  53. Ed Darrell says:

    Dan, take a look up at the top of the blog (click the masthead if you’re not getting today’s posts).

    Does that work for you?


  54. […] thoughts: Dan Valentine, Jr. Some months ago I wondered about a guy who wrote a column for the Salt Lake Tribune, before we were colleagues on the Senate staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch.  (How many incredible things in […]


  55. Daniel Valentine says:

    Everywhere in America now you’ll see homeless pushing shopping carts filled with their last remaining possessions.

    Yesterday I saw a disheveled-looking older gentleman, straggly-hair and all, right out of one’s worst nightmare, pushing a wheel barrel down a very busy highway here in Ensenada, two large black plastic bags filled with his remaining stuff.

    Very, very sad.

    He would push it, rest for a moment, then push it some more, going somewhere/nowhere with it.

    Humans! We’re collectors.

    When my friend and I sold our home in Texas, and I went off to Austin to start anew, we had a garage sale. Paintings, furniture, knickknacks, etc.

    On a table in the driveway, we laid out trinkets. I had a large bag of refrigerator magnets from almost every place I’ve ever been. Vietnam, Scotland, New York, Philadelphia, South Dakota, Denver, St. Louis, New Orleans, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Capri, Berlin, D.C., Geneva, Amsterdam, London, Glasgow, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, Guam, Micronesia, Belize, Cuba (twice), Charleston, Seattle, Las Vegas, etc. One time my friend and I were in Kansas City. I had her drive me across the border to get an Arkansas magnet. It really irked her. To this day I hear about it.

    Well, anyway, an older woman purchased them all for $5 and came by the next day to say how much pleasure she had had that night. She had laid them all out on her living room carpet and simply looked at them, and it gave her great joy.

    Where is this going? When I left for Austin, I had to put all my personal effects in storage. Some 60 boxes.

    (When we bought the house in Friendswood, the movers came with my stuff–it had been in storage in Salt Lake–and my friend didn’t talk to me for three days.

    In Nashville and Austin, I was paying $64 a month for storage. When I became broke, my friend picked up the tab for a while. Ron, at the Music City Hostel in Nashville, picked up one month for me, tho’ he looked at me bewildered as if to say: Why are you hanging on to it? You’re old, broke, homeless, your life is over.

    Anyway, when my friend bought a place, and I returned to Houston, we got my stuff out of storage.

    Two weeks ago–two days before I was to leave again–she said her I had to do something with my boxes or her parents, who were moving in, would.

    What to do? Get a grocery cart? A wheel barrow?

    The boxes were filled with files. My dad’s letters to me when I was in Vietnam, my mom’s letters to me, photos, all my by-lines, hundreds of thousands of words I had written and had been honing for decades. Plays, songs, screenplays, musicals, my dad’s unfinished shorts stories, poems, etc. Everything I treasured. Every piece of writing I had been working on and polishing for years. I went through each file in each box the first day, thinking to my self, “Well, I can’t throw that away. I can’t throw that away. I can’t throw that away.”

    Next day, with no time remaining, I had to toss it all. Three car trips to the dumpster down the road.

    Earlier that week I had to sell all my books. One signed by Richard Nixon, a hundred or so first edition books of musical plays. One had I paid $65 for. At Half-Price Books, I got $85 for ’em all. There’s not a big market for bound musical plays in Texas!

    After tossing everything, my friend said: Don’t you feel like a gigantic weight has been lifted off your shoulders?” Noooooo! But she knows how I feel. As I kid, she moved a lot and she was forced to give up everything through the years as a result. She has a few cherished photos from her childhood, and that’s it!

    I’m slowly getting over my grief of losing everything, tho’ in the middle of the night, I’ll wake up and go, “Oh, no! I threw that away? Oh, my god, I tossed that?”

    People lose everything all the time. In fires, earthquakes, in wars. You move on. I guess.

    I have a small travel bag. I have my laptop. Hopefully, some of the printed stuff I tossed is on my computer. I’m afraid to look.


  56. Daniel Valentine says:

    What an enjoyable time I had yesterday. I hadn’t written off the time of my head–without rewriting and rewriting, polishing and polishing (taking all the life out of it)–and pushed “submit” in years, if ever.

    It was so gratifying I asked Ed if he’d permit me to write a daily (or sporadic) piece on his website, about my adventures; how someone like me, or anyone, can become homeless; how you lose a million bucks; about my dad and mom and sister and brother; my years with Sen. Hatch; working for the Tribune; my years in New York, my travels; the times; my two marriages;; my beloved friend in Houston; my love for dogs, etc. I have just enough–well, not quite–social security coming to travel from town to town, hostel to hostel, state to state …

    And he said go ahead.

    So here goes. No polishing, no rewriting, no editor (this could be a mistake). So forgive the grammar and spelling and typos. I reread yesterday’s comment and found the word “message” typed instead of “massage”.

    Where to start?

    My dad was a genius. IQ-wise. During World War II, he served in the infantry. Got malaria storming Guadalcanal. Sent to Suva to recuperate. Become editor of the South Pacific News. Wrote for Armed Forces Radio. Became good friends with two fellow soldiers. Together, the three had dreams of conquering Hollywood. One’s name was Jack Paar. Yeah, that Jack Paar. The other was Hy Averback, who produced “F Troop” and directed “MASH.” After the war, they got together in Hollywood, but my dad’s dream was to be a newspaperman. His father was one. So he left Hollywood to become one. My dad was born in Saginaw, Mich., and the state of Michigan gave a free car to every returning veteran or something like that. My dad drove to Las Vegas, decided to see if he could double his money. Lost the car, hitchhiked to Salt Lake. Looked around. Decided he didn’t want to stay there. Got a job in Nebraska with UPI or AP. Can’t remember which.

    Back to the IQ-story. He got in an argument with an officer over something, words were exchanged. My dad said he was a stupid son-of-a-bitch or something like that and could prove it, spotting him 10 points on an IQ test. And the officer wrote him up for it. He was found innocent when an officer upon hearing the story said, “There’s no law against an enlisted man thinking he’s smarter than an officer.”

    Which reminds me of another story. As I said, my dad was editor of the South Pacific News, and one night he got a call from another officer to deliver a paper to him, hot off the press. My dad said, “I stopped delivering papers when I was ten,” and hung up.

    A few minutes later, an admiral showed up and said, “Who said?”

    It was Admiral Halsey.

    My dad meekly said, “I did, sir.”

    And Halsey supposedly said, “That was a damn good answer, son.”

    My point being? How does someone like me, with more than a million bucks at one time, become homeless? The answer is: My dad was a genius. His first-born son ain’t!!!

    Tho’ my dad has been wrong about some things. He used to say, “I’ve never been rich and I’ve never been poor. I’ve had the best of both worlds.”

    Joe E. Lewis used to say, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.”

    My dad was wrong. Joe E. Lewis was right.

    Tho’ I would not trade this experience for anything in the world.


  57. Ed Darrell says:

    There’s a great travel article in there somewhere. Probably a great essay, too.

    And maybe a great country song . . .


  58. Daniel Valentine says:

    What a pleasant surprise! I’m in Ensenada, Baja California, at the present time. Very friendly place. My first day here a total stranger on the street offered me: “Girls? Massage? Happy ending?” Decisions, decisions. I’ll take curtain 3.

    Five years ago my good friend of some 25 years now (we lived in D.C. and Manhattan together) and I bought a home in Friendswood, TX, a suburb of Houston. And then the economic bust! We had to sell. That was a year ago come June. And I went off with her blessing to start over.

    The past year I have been in Austin; Provo; Salt Lake; Galveston; Jamaica Beach, TX; Atlanta; and Nashville. I didn’t travel this much when I had money. For several months, I worked for room, board, and breakfast at the Music City Hostel in Nashville. (Ron and Tracee, who own the place, are wonderful people as are all who work there.) Then a few days before Christmas, a friend in Salt Lake finally said he’d take me. I had to beg verbally on my knees. (Funny, when I was an eccentric millionaire, friends would ask “me” to come stay with them.) Folks don’t like to take in homeless friends. I think they think it may rub off on them.) But, to make a long story short, my good friend in Houston, who was now living with her parents, called just before I was about to leave and said, “Come home. I bought a house. With a pool”

    Happy ending …

    … for several months. Then she got laid-off just before getting tenure at the University of Houston/ Clear Lake as did dozens and dozens and dozens. Class-action-suit stuff! As a result, next year there are going to be more adjuncts than professors. And to add insult to injury, the same professors are being rehired as adjuncts for less than two-thirds their former salary.

    So I’m on the road. Mexico City, La Paz, and now Ensenada (a 22-hour bus ride from La Paz, with five stops in between, where your luggage is searched for drugs by armed Mexican military wearing masks so they won’t be targeted later by the cartel)

    One can stay at the hostel here for $300 a month–the “Happy ending” is extra!–with free breakfast! That’s what sold me. The free breakfast! I woke up after the long trip the next morning to find a loaf of white bread waiting me by the toaster on the kitchen counter and a jar of strawberry jelly, which I’m sure is kept in the hostel safe when not in use!

    Next stop? God only knows!

    Bob, thanks for helping me in my hour of need.

    Phil, I’ve rewritten a lot of those songs we worked on. They’re better now–I think. They’re shorter.

    Sue, what a surprise!! It’s been many years now! I think of you often. How are your kids? Say hi to them for me.

    Two good friends and an ex-wife! Who could ask for anything more.

    I AM on Facebook. Daniel Valentine. There’s a pic of me picking up tree limbs in the hostel yard after a storm.


  59. Bob says:

    Hi Sue – I haven’t seen Dan now since the fall, when he was here in Nashville working on some music. I know someone from Salt Lake made contact with him and asked him to return home to work on his father’s books. Dan was also trying to make contact w Sen. Hatch again and I believe he may be in the Salt Lake area by this time. He received a bit of assistance from his sister to get back on his feet here in Nashville, and I haven’t seen him since he left the Music City Hostel.



  60. philip.t says:

    Hung out with Dan for about a month in Nashville 2009. Worked on a couple of songs together.


  61. Sue says:

    Hi .. Bob.. I would like to get contact info for Dan. Please reply.



  62. Sue says:

    Desperately Seeking Dan Valentine Jr.!
    Salt Lake Tribune Sally is looking to reconnect with Dan. If you know of his whereabouts please contact me at this email address. The cards said this is our year, Dan. Wishing you the best.


  63. Gary Moore says:

    I have a 1968 volumne of American Essays/Vol.2 by Dan
    Valentine. Art work was done by Ralph Butler. Some people call it smaltz. Since I lived through the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s I call it beautiful. It’s to bad so many Americans have lost that zeal for freedom and truth. It was published by Geo. Mc. Co. Salt Lake City, Utah.


  64. Bob says:

    I’m telling ya, Dan Valentine Jr is staying at a hostel here in Nashville TN, writing songs and trying to get them published. He left Austin TX several months ago and has been living hand to mouth here in Nashville as he tries to break into the songwriters market here in Music city.

    If you’d like to actually contact Dan, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with him. Believe it. I’m as serious as a heart attack here.


  65. Ed Darrell says:

    I found one guy named Dan Valentine on Facebook, but it’s not the former columnist from Salt Lake City.


  66. Dan is on FACEBOOK says:

    You can find dan Valentine Jr. on facebook. What a great spirit!


  67. Bob says:

    I found Dan Valentine. He’s homeless and broke and living in Nashville TN. I’m working with him to get him back on his feet, and I’m not kidding. Mark my words, he’ll be writing about this experience and I guarantee you’ll one day read about his trials and tribulations in trying to get back on his feet here in Nashville Tennessee….


  68. Ed Darrell says:

    I see on Ebay some sales of Dan Valentine’s American Essays 2 with lists including a title, “No Sad Tears for Me.”

    Alas, that volume name does not appear in Sam Weller’s computer.

    If you’re pretty sure it’s a Dan Valentine piece, call the Salt Lake City Public Library, maybe.

    There are some odd pieces that sound like Valentine’s stuff under that title on the internet, but usually not with his name. See this poem, for example:

    So, check Ebay, check the Salt Lake Public Library, and good luck.


  69. Tom Vogleman says:

    You’ll find several copies of Dan Valentine books including one that’s autograph


  70. Janet says:

    My co-worker has been very bravely fighting the good fight with cancer. In her battle, she has been searching for the text of one of Dan Valentine’s poems called “No Sad Tears for Me” that she recalls reading many years ago on the back of a booklet. Does anyone have any knowledge how to access this poem? Today was a bad news day for her, and I am determined to help her find this poem.

    I called Sam Weller’s, but there was nothing in their store that matched my description.



  71. Mikell says:

    I would like to find Dan, as well. Last we spoke he was leaving NY for Europe to visit Valerie and Jim, then further south. Did receive a post card from Madrid. He is a dear missed friend.
    Thank You


  72. Barb Jones says:

    I have a booklet, No. 1 of American Essays and it is by Dan Valentine from the 1960s. I will be putting it up for auction on Ebay in the next few days. It has some great schmaltzy old essays about how to choose a husband, what is a father, etc. It’s sure fun to read about beloved newspaper columnists from other parts of the country. I think most areas have them and they are usually associated with heartwarming memories!


  73. Jill Carpenter says:

    I grew up in Escalante in mid-40s and 50s and read Dan Valentine’s column religiously. In “Today’s Valentine,” the section at the end of his column, he recognized unsung heroes, just regular folks who helped others. My dad (d. 1986) was the topic of one of those tributes, and I still have the column somewhere. On Valentine’s Day each year, Dan’s “valentine” got a very BIG tribute.


  74. Ed Darrell says:

    Years ago, when I staffed Congress, somebody on our staff got a grand old historic book out of the Library of Congress (LOC), and then lost track of it. I was detailed to handle the nasty overdue notices from the Library of Congress (I had visions of the overdue notices escalating, to the FBI, from the federal courts — it’s not that bad, fortunately). I explained the book appeared to be lost and asked what we needed to do. The book was out of print. The LOC sent a list of used book dealers of great repute and fine selection, and asked me to find another copy of the book.

    At the top of the list was one of my favorite stores, Sam Weller’s Zion Book Store in Salt Lake City. I called them, they had several mint condition copies of the book in stock, and we replenished the LOC collection. Of course, then the lost book turned up. We sent that back, too.

    Sam Weller’s is still in business, and privately I’ve heard from several people that they have mint condition copies of several of the Dan Valentine books. Get ’em on the phone and see what they have that you don’t have in your collection (800-333-SAMW, or by e-mail at books@samwellers.com).

    The Salt Lake Tribune has been particularly unhelpful in such searches. When I got them on the phone, they said “it is not our responsibility to track people who worked here.” So much for journalism being the first draft of history.


  75. Brandon says:

    Thank you for this tribute to Dan Valentine. I began collecting his paperback books in those truck stops and diners when I was a little boy. For some reason, I was bound and determined to collect every one. Some time in the late 80’s, the books became very hard to come by. The last ones I found for sale were in a little bookstore in Park City, UT in 2002. Every once in a while, I find something on ebay that Dan wrote (that I don’t alreadyh own), and I still get excited to buy it. I would be VERY curious to know if there are any other collectors out there. Thanks…


  76. Lynne Valentine says:

    I last heard that Dan Valentine jnr was living in Dallas Texas.


  77. Ed Darrell says:

    Michael, would you mind asking your father if he has any clue as to where we might track down Dan, Jr.? You could e-mail me if you want to keep it out of the forums.


  78. Michael Johnson says:

    My father was the art director at the Tribune. My father illustrated Dan’s books. I have a signed book in my collection.


  79. Richard Colbert says:

    Will do if I can track him down. You do the same


  80. Ed Darrell says:

    Your best bet, probably, would be to call the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve had no success tracking him down since I first put this post up. I know of people who have heard from him within the past two years, but none with a phone number or address.

    If you find him, will you tell him I said “howdy,” and ask him to at least drop by this blog? About once a month I get a query from someone looking for rights to one of the columns of Dan Valentine, Sr. There’s probably a small business waiting there.


  81. Richard Colbert says:


    I’m looking for my cousin Dan Valentine Jr. My mother and I use to visit his Mom and Dad in Salt Lake City. Do you know how I can get in touch with him?


  82. Ed Darrell says:

    Your search is more serious than mine, then. Dan Valentine wrote a lot about his family. Why don’t you see if your local library has access to archives of the newspaper? The column ran on the front page of the local section, every day.

    Also, you could check with the Salt Lake Tribune itself. Somebody there may still know a lot — and there is probably still a wonderful library of clips (known in newspaper parlance as “the morgue”). The keeper of that library may be able to guide you.


  83. Deseree Knight says:

    I am trying to find my sister, she was born 1964 or 1965. My grandmother just told me that Dan Valentine had adopted her and that he wrote for the saltlake tribune. If you locate his son, could you please give him my information. Thank You


  84. Ed Darrell says:

    The Dan Valentine who wrote these pieces died circa 1980. His son, Dan Valentine, Jr., was in New York City, last I heard. If you are in great need of contacting him, e-mail me and I can refer it through other parties who should know where he is — I think. I’ve been trying for a couple of weeks to track him down.


  85. Doug Elam says:

    Hi! I am looking for Dan Valentine as well. Do you know if he is still vibrating at this resonance or has he go on to a higher one? I am in need of copyright info. Anything you may have will be a great help. Thank you. Doug


  86. Doug Elam says:

    Hi! I am looking for Dan Valentine as well. Do you know if he is still vibrating at this resonance or has he go on to a higher one? I am in need of copyright info. Anything you may have will be a great help. Thank you. Doug


Please play nice in the Bathtub -- splash no soap in anyone's eyes. While your e-mail will not show with comments, note that it is our policy not to allow false e-mail addresses. Comments with non-working e-mail addresses may be deleted.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: