Monday, October 31, 2011


Welcome to "H-Owl-O'Weenie Horror", or better yet, "The Village Idiot's Guide To Exploring The Okefenokee Swamp".

Perhaps a couple of you remember my special Halloween blog bit of a couple years back. It was a true story pertaining to the haunted or demon-possessed building I work in.

Well, this year’s special is another true story. Imagine being lost at night in Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp, alligators are moving in for the kill and you’re armed with nothing but a bottle of Lowenbrau beer and a flashlight. In October of 1983, I really did find myself in that predicament. But first, a dedication and the backstory . . .

I want to dedicate this blog bit to ‘Mr. Halloween’ himself, Arlee Bird of the blog ‘Tossing It Out’, who indirectly provided me with the inspiration for it.

In April of 1983, I visited New York City for the first time and stayed with my friend Eric Anderson who was attending art school there. I remember it was April because I spent Easter Sunday there and had a heck of a time finding a chocolate bunny.

During that first trip to “The Big Apple” I took a picture from the ground, looking up Eric’s nose and up at the two World Trade Center towers that later fell on 9/11/2001.

And after arranging all the elements to capture the photograph I envisioned, Eric took the picture of me guzzling Jack Daniel’s whiskey at the Statue Of Liberty [full story found HERE]. I think it’s the coolest photo ever taken of me.

Late in the Summer of ‘83, I received a couple letters from Eric. He was graduating from art school and returning to Los Angeles, and he proposed that I meet him back East and join him on a cross-country road trip, from THE BIG APPLE to THE PLACE. The return address on his letters indicated that they were from “Anderson Tours Inc.” Naturally, I signed up for the “Deluxe Tour Package” because I was young, carefree, I had a young man’s untamed adventurous streak in me and I was full of vim, vigor, verve, vitality, and alliterative synonyms.

The “Deluxe Tour Package” consisted of driving south from New York City along the East Coast to the Florida Keys and then begin working our way West. Eric wrote:

I just got your letter the other day and I must admit it’s a very creative piece of communicative journalism. Amusing as always. And the photographs, what can I say? They came out much better than I thought they would … especially the Statue of Liberty shot. Of course a good photographer helps too.

Anderson Tours Inc. has pulled out all the stops this time. Over 5,000 miles of grueling asphalt. We’ll conquer such unexplored, uncharted lands as the Epcot Center in Disney World and the casino floor of the Sands in Las Vegas. We’ll battle and overcome such woes as speed traps, maddened truckers, and engine fatigue. Above all, we’ll have all the time in the world to go as far as our minds will take us. I believe this is a memory in the making.

I have about $600 for expenses and $600 for drinks. Just kidding. … I also like your brilliant idea of the airplane (Jack Daniel’s?) bottles full of East/West ocean water. I had been trying to think of an appropriate symbol for the journey. This is perfect, especially the tying of the knot.

[I had proposed that we toast the start of the trip in New York with little airline bottles of Jack Daniel’s, then fill them with ‘Big Apple’ Atlantic Ocean water. When we arrived in Los Angeles, we’d drink another J.D. toast to the trip’s conclusion, fill the little bottles with Pacific Ocean water and then tie our two sets of airline bottles together with leather laces.]
It should be much more successful than your Mexico trip. All I can say about that one is, “UHP!! YOU’RE AN IDIOT.” Well, it’s good you moved out of that mad house on Bay Street while you still have some sanity left.
Let the good times roll . . .

Indeed, “let the good times roll, let them knock you around!”

Eric and I spent about two weeks “On The Road” in his semi-automatic tomato-red 1972 VW Bug and although the money didn’t hold out long enough for us to visit all the places we’d planned to, we did have a number of notable adventures and one location I had my heart set on seeing we made sure to visit. Goblin Valley, Utah . . .

[A bottle of wine acting "cool" in Goblin Valley.]

[Goblin Valley, Utah.]

But this Halloween story is more about ‘gators than goblins.

For two decades it was my custom to name all of my trips. Some examples: ‘The Show No Emotion In A Big Way Tour’; ‘Sniffy’s Damn German Fudge Fiasco Trailblaze’; ‘The Last Vacation We’ll Ever Take Together...Again’; ‘Where Da Ghosts Finnin’ To Be? Search’; and ‘The Blistering Bicker Brothers Tour’.

I was blessed to have been able to make a number of memorable road trips in my life and to see so much of my country. But I would have to say that ‘The Jack Daniel’s Cross-Country Tour’ of 1983 - the one time I went from coast to coast on the road – would top my list of favorite trips.

A good portion of ‘The Jack Daniel’s Tour’ was of the hard-core “young men roughing it” variety; we’d usually get designated camping spots but we had no tent, nothing to really establish a campsite with. We’d just lay our sleeping bags on the ground next to the car. In the mornings it was a contest to see which of us had acquired more mosquito bites on our face during the night. About every third or fourth night we’d splurge for a motel room because we needed to recuperate a little from the poor sleep and grunge.

The VW Bug was a "trip" in itself. Along with our sleeping bags, tape player, music cassettes, sets of clothing and an ice chest for “road soda” (a.k.a. “beer”) Eric was toting his mountain bike and whatever personal belongings he most desired to keep after two years of living in New York. So, literally every nook and cranny of that car was jammed with something. Packing the car was a science that we quickly mastered out of necessity; a spot for everything and everything in its spot.

I remember that one time in the Deep South we had made some minor mistake in repacking things and as a result I found myself in the passenger seat with one tennis shoe resting in my lap (no, seriously!) And that’s where it stayed until I took over behind the wheel and Eric rode “shotgun with the shoe”. Ha! One of the small but great details of that trip I remember so fondly.

[Eric with Bug in South Carolina.]

["Road Soda" on driver's side floorboard.]

[Eric mountain biking in Arches National Park, Utah.]

Alright, alright, I hear ya! You wanna know about the alligators and the Okefenokee Swamp. OK, I’ll tell it, but don’t poop your pants (like we did). Here’s what happened . . .

In October ‘83, I flew into New York and met up with Eric. We spent a few days in the city, then we drank our first “Trip Toast” from the Jack Daniel’s airline bottles, filled them with Atlantic seawater, and headed south along the coast.

[A J.D. toast before leaving New York City.]

[Me at Madam Marie's in Bruce Springsteenland.]

As I stated, originally we planned to drive along the Eastern Seaboard and out onto the Florida Keys. Although we did drive down into Florida, ultimately we didn’t make it to the Keys because earlier we decided to spend time making a detour into the Okefenokee Swamp of Georgia.

We hadn’t even considered visiting the Okefenokee Swamp because we didn’t realize how near we’d be to it, but when we suddenly discovered our close proximity to it on our road atlas we agreed that a side trip to the Swamp would be worthwhile, even if it caused us to cut something else from the trip’s tentative plan that we’d previously formulated.

Back when Eric and I were teenagers in high school together in the 1970s, Eric owned #6 in the ‘Environments’ record album series which featured an hour of sound recordings made in the Okefenokee Swamp. He and I used to listen to that LP together and we thought it was just “ultra-cool ‘n’ creepy”. We never could have dreamed that someday we’d find ourselves exploring the Okefenokee Swamp together.

So, we drove into the Swamp, rented a campsite, and stretched our sleeping bags out beside the Bug. Eric hopped on his bicycle, each of us grabbed a Lowenbrau beer, and we started off exploring.

[Lowenbrau beer: not exactly an effective survival tool.]

I was walking ahead while Eric was behind me on the mountain bike, jumping logs and such. Then suddenly I heard him make this terrifying sound and I heard the sort of commotion one might expect from a person on a bicycle who had just had a head-on collision with a gigantic spider web. Which, of course, is exactly what had happened.

Eric hadn’t seen the spider web and rode through it, taking it full in the face. Then, looking down, he saw a single thread of web hanging from the right end of the handlebars and scurrying up that thread of web toward Eric’s hand was a massive black spider! I’m tellin’ you people, the creepy crawlies ‘n’ stuffs that live in the Okefenokee Swamp are mind-boggling big, like bugs that have survived an atomic holocaust in a 1950s Horror movie or something. So, this spider that was probably five times the size of the humongous cockroaches that could be found in a Mexican jail (don’t ask!) was practically flying up to Eric’s hand, and I looked back just in time to see him go airborne backwards while, with his legs, shoving the bike as far forward as he could.

There’s the bike lying on the ground, the front wheel still spinning futilely, and one thing was certain: it didn’t belong to Eric anymore. The Swamp spider had taken sole possession of it and we weren’t about to argue the point. So we went on foot toward the edge of the Okefenokee.

At one point we found a path through the foliage and followed it in. This wasn’t an official, designated National Wildlife Refuge trail, but just some trampled plants and vines; a path semi-established by previous visitors. And then eventually the path just came to a dead end, so Eric and I began to blaze our own trail and before too long we found ourselves deep in green and at the edge of the Swamp; we could go no further because we’d hit water.

So, we’re just looking around, taking it all in and thinking how cool this place is. But it was late in the day, and let me tell you, night comes FAST in the Okefenokee Swamp; the Sun doesn’t really “set” there, it “falls”. One moment you’re thinking, ‘Gee, the shadows are getting kind of long', and seemingly the next moment you hear “the insufferable thunderous thump” of the Sun falling into the Swamp and you’re thinking, ‘What happened? I can't see! I once could see but now I'm blind!'

And that’s what happened to Eric and me. The Sun suddenly fell with a “thunderous thump” and it seemed as if we found ourselves in an instant... in the dark... in the Swamp. ...UHP! WE WERE IDIOTS!

And make no mistake about it, despite some peeping moonlight, it gets quite dark in the Okefenokee. It gets darker than an Edgar Allen Poe story; it gets darker than AC/DC when they’re “Back In Black”; hell, it gets almost as dark as a pint of Guinness at midnight during a power outage in the pub!

[A pint of Guinness at midnight during a power outage in the pub.]

Surprisingly, however, Eric had brought a flashlight in his pocket. Evidently he had a fine intuitive sense. Foresight: flashlight. Ahh, good thinking. I guess Eric just had better survival instincts than I had. So, there we are, our only survival tools being Eric’s flashlight and the empty Lowenbrau bottle in my hand, and we’re wandering around a bit and discussing our situation, when we hear some odd noise off to our left. My friend shines the light in that direction and in the water, between the foliage, we can see a slowly advancing alligator. #%&@!

Eric and I waste no time in moving a good distance to the right. But we hesitate to put a great deal of space between us and the ‘gator because we don’t want to stray too far from the general area, knowing that the path we used to reach this point is somewhere in the vicinity. We didn't want to go from "lost" to "hopelessly lost".

We’re standing there in the dark, wracking our brains and flashing the light around the area, hoping to see something that looks familiar. And that’s when we hear the rippling of water. Eric points the beam toward the Swamp and - #%&@ AGAIN! – we can see another alligator, a second one, eyes above the surface, his webbed front claws sort of dog-paddling in the water and bringing him toward us. The alligators were apparently attracted to the light.

‘Gator to the left of me
‘Gator to the right
Here I am, stuck in the middle with Eric

Now believe me, under normal circumstances, I’m the last one to litter; I absolutely despise littering. But we’re talking life and death here, and I think to myself: I wonder if it would scare the ‘gator off if I threw this Lowenbrau bottle in his direction?

I sure as hell wasn’t going to try to hit him with it, because I wasn’t aiming to piss him off, but maybe a splash in the water nearby would make him rethink his advance. So, I toss my empty beer bottle in his direction. *SPLASH!*

Nuttin’. No reaction whatsoever. He didn’t even blink. His glowing reddish-orange eyes remained trained on us. (And, no, I’m not kidding, in the flashlight’s beam, the alligator’s eyes seemed to glow an eerie reddish-orange.)

Eric shut off the flashlight and we headed a little ways away from the water’s edge. Now there we are, leaning up against a tree and discussing the very real possibility that we might need to spend the night in the Swamp and wait for daylight. And we’re thinking that we’d have to climb a tree because to remain on the ground meant we might become midnight snacks for ‘gators.

To be fully truthful, at no point did Eric or I really panic during our ordeal. Although neither of us ever said it, I think that this kind of trouble was exactly the sort of adventure we were secretly hoping to encounter on ‘The Jack Daniel’s Cross-Country Tour’; we didn’t want to have some completely safe and utterly forgettable trip. We wanted excitement, and, boy, we had it now.

As we’re standing there in the dark, discussing our predicament and creeped out by the thought of nearby alligators and by how many massive black spiders might be all around us, suddenly an unseen owl in the very tree we’re leaning against starts crying out, “Who? Who? Who?”

Oh, come on! Now that was just too much, and I was all set to yell out, “Am I on Candid Camera?” Here we are, Eric and I, lost at night in the Okefenokee Swamp and this potential real-life tragedy was starting to seem cliché. I mean, at this point I’m beginning to feel like I’ve somehow wandered into a really bad Disney movie from the 1960s or ‘70s. With that owl “Who"-ing above our heads, I half expected Dean Jones, Don Knotts, or Hayley Mills to come trudging through the foliage to meet us. Either them or Gilligan and The Skipper.

Honestly, I think it was at that moment I calmly realized we were going to find our way out of the Swamp because the entire scenario had just become too preposterous, and to die in the Okefenokee under those circumstances would have made jokes of our lives and deaths.

And that’s when Eric came up with his A-List idea. (Like I said, he had the better survival instincts in this comedy duo.) He suggested that I remain by the tree so we wouldn’t lose our bearings to an even greater degree, while he tramped through the area with his flashlight. In other words, we would search the area in a kind of spider web pattern with me representing the center point from which the lines of search emanated. The moment his light completely disappeared from my view I was to shout out and he would move back closer to me again, so we wouldn’t become permanently separated, and then he’d try again from a slightly different angle.

So, I stood under that tree with the cliché owl above me, and Eric, flashlight in hand, began to systematically cover the ground, trying to find that thin path of trampled foliage. A couple times his beam became just a small pinpoint of light and then disappeared and I hollered out to him and he’d retrace his steps, readjust his direction and head out again. And it wasn’t more than about fifteen minutes before I heard Eric yell, “I’ve found it!”

Adios, cliché owl; adios, alligators. We’re . . .  OUTTA HERE!

When we got back to the abandoned mountain bike, we looked it over carefully. No sign of spiders. So Eric got on and we headed back to camp (a.k.a. two sleeping bags on the ground).

The next morning, with daylight on our side, my buddy and I again walked down that little path, cut through the foliage where it ended and took some pictures in the area where we had been lost only about 12 hours earlier.

[Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia.]

[Me @ tree.]

[A 'gator skims the water's surface.]

Although Eric and I made many memories on ‘The 1983 Jack Daniel’s Cross-Country Tour’ and had a number of adventures on our way from New York to Los Angeles, the one that I recall most fondly, the experience that was the most fun was also the one most harrowing: a night in the Okefenokee Swamp.

Lowenbrau? Uh . . . no, thanks. Got Milk?

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.

Sunday, October 30, 2011



This is a “super-silly-ous” song I threw together yesterday for my own amusement. Since it is double-themed, pertaining to Pirates (always one of the most popular costumes for kids at Halloween) and Blogging, I am dedicating it to my little community here in the Blogosphere as a Halloween treat. (Think of it as that bad apple dropped into your bag of candy.)

I kind of imagine this song with a Reggae beat, or perhaps a Calypso rhythm. Then again, maybe it should be a Rooskie-like Polka-ski. Well, I’ll leave it to David Lindley to figure out.

It’s a little light on lyrics so I inserted a couple short instrumental breaks to flesh the thing out. I know it’s dumb, but it was first conceived solely to put a smile on my face and a spring in my step... also, I happen to like dumb. The really good stuffs by a real songwriter will follow.

(A Blog Pirate’s Yarn)

[This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.]

I’ll storm the gates, I’ll maim the guard
Ravage the women, raise my flag in your yard
I’m going to kidnap your cat
Put fleas on your dog and when I’m done with that . . .

Wreck your records with a nail
Seduce your daughter, throw your wife in jail
With my eyepatch and my parrot
I’ll shout at your baby and really scare it

I’m gonna dress like Jolly Roger Antichrist and before the next election
I’m-a gonna commit me some outright mutiny in your blog’s comment section

Yo-Ho! Yo-Ho! I’ll drink your rum
And do a Rocky Balboa on your thumb
I’m gonna “Arrrrr!”, I’m gonna brag
I’m gonna rip your jerseys and make ‘em rags

I’ll board your blog, steal your booty
And edit your posts into something fruity
You’ll walk the plank and hit the sea
While I graffiti your blog and boast with glee

I’m gonna dress like Jolly Roger Antichrist and before the next election
I’m-a gonna commit me some outright mutiny in your blog’s comment section

[Instrumental Break:
featuring kazoo and bagpipes]

I’ll make your blog my own forum
Line up your “Followers” and then I’ll gore ‘em
I’ll bind John, Paul, George and Ringo
And ship those pinkos back to where they should-go

I’m-a wreak havoc and raise hell
And duct tape your mouth shut so you’ll never tell
It’s true, dead men tell no tales
S'pose I’ll hafta kill ya if duct tape fails

I’m gonna dress like Jolly Roger Antichrist and before the next election
I’m-a gonna commit me some outright mutiny in your blog’s comment section

[Instrumental Break:
featuring jug and washboard]

I’ll hoist my colors up your mast
And use your own blog to call you “jack-assed”
I’ll commandeer your computer
And I’ll screw it up with a Roto-Rooter

From your site I’ll tell the nation
My humor’s chock full o’ sophistication
As if that crime weren’t sin enoughs
I’ll take over "Russia" with my "fascist stuffs".

I’m gonna dress like Jolly Roger Antichrist and before the next election
I’m-a gonna commit me some outright mutiny in your blog’s comment section
In your blog’s comment section
Your blog’s comment section
Your blog’s comment section
[Repeat to fade out or pass out, whichever comes first]

BONUS TRACKS (The Blues) :

OK, that’s enough of that ridiculousness. I’m done wid it. Now here comes the good stuffs . . .

In my last blog installment, Julie Fedderson left a comment telling me that she’s “recently started a fascination with the blues”. (Incidentally, Julie’s blog is one of the more entertaining I’ve found in the Blogosphere, so I’ll link you to it at the bottom of this installment.)

So, here are a couple of John Lee Hooker songs that Julie and everyone else ought to be familiar with if they aren’t already.

This is my favorite version of “House Rent Boogie” – love the way Hooker delivers this one! He just gets so worked up when talking about his clothes being tossed out in the street. Ha! Funny stuffs! (Do ya think George Thorogood knows this song?)

I first acquired “House Rent Boogie” on cassette at the Watts Blues Festival in, like, ‘84, and for years I went around saying “Yes, yes, yes” and “You don’t like that stuff!”

Now, when you’re listening to this next one (it’s much shorter), see what Texas band of White rockers comes to your mind. (I’ll give you a small hint: ZZ Top.)

Julie Fedderson’s GYPSY IN MY SOUL blog.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011



It was beginning to drive me a bit insane. (OK, that’s more of a putt than a drive but...)

Over the last couple months one of my most frequently used expressions has become “Let’s get ON this thing!”

Then one day brother Napoleon asked me, “Where’d you get that one from?” and I confessed that I couldn’t quite remember. It was definitely something I’d picked up along the way, not an STMcC original, because in the dark recesses of what’s left of my mind I could hear the “correct” vocal inflection, I knew the way it was “supposed” to be said, and so I also knew I was borrowing it from someone.

I continued using that expression while the source of it remained on the tip of my mind, just out of reach, teasing me, itching me. Arrgghhh! I just can't... quite... scratch it ...damn it!

I told Nappy it reminded me of the Howlin’ Wolf expression I’ve used for 30+ years (“Alright, let’s get on it”) but I knew this was something different – it’s meant to be said more forcefully. And yet I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that “Let’s get ON this thing!” went back to the Blues. It seemed, and even felt, “Black” and “musical” to me . . . but if not Howlin’ Wolf, who?  And where?

Well, just 15 minutes ago – after many weeks of mental anguish – I finally GOT IT! It struck me suddenly, like a Bolt O' Lightnin’!

I was about to play Gary Moore’s album “Blues For Greeny”, and that got me to thinking about the Blues in general, and the Blues in general got me to thinking about Lightnin’ Hopkins, and that inspired me to look up a certain Lightnin’ Hopkins album on a website. Yes, that Lightnin’ Hopkins (is there another?) – the singer of “Coffee Blues”, “Gambler’s Blues”, “Lonesome Dog Blues”, “Big Car Blues”, and--

"Big Car Blues"? . . . "Big Car Blues"?! . . . "Big Car--"
Holy Amnesia, Batman, I think that’s it!
Mr. Itch, meet Dr. Scratch! Ahhhhh...

So, instead of playing Gary Moore’s “Blues For Greeny”, I put on a certain Lightnin’ Hopkins album I have which contains songs (including “Big Car Blues”) I’ve owned since before my waters were muddy, and here’s what I heard :

OK, so it’s really “Step ON this thing!” rather than “Let’s get ON this thing!” (Please don’t “86” me; I only missed it by that much.)

I loves me some Lightnin’ Hopkins, but more, much more than this,
I’m gonna say it my way!

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


This is for a very special someone named "Emily" . . . or Lisa, or Cindy, or Yolanda, or . . .

Well... you know who you are you don’t know who you are.


The warm safety of daylight yields to the evening
Half of the lake shudders under the moon
While the rusty sky quietly tip-toes away
To cower in darkness

He lies on the new dock and listens to the water
As it gently spanks the shore in contempt
And in the midst of this solitary scolding
He can do nothing but think back on that dream

...and recall her soft face and tender ways

But he knows his arrival is
Years too late
She will not return on this evening
Or any other

There is one duck on the water
Drifting with the current
And, of course, somewhere across the lake
A lonely dog cries into the night

We will walk on frosted fields of juniper and lamplight,
we will get it right . . . someday . . .
somewhere in time.


~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Published on this blog recently was a piece titled “ROCK ‘N’ ROLL.A.” (Or, “The Return Of Warren Zevon’s Pioneer Chicken Stand”) . It featured a number of photographs I took of notable Rock ‘N’ Roll-related landmarks in Los Angeles.

Well, I have just learned something I was ign’ant about when that former blog bit was posted, and so I feel an “Addendum” to that piece is in order.

“I’LL SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD: The Dirty Life And Times Of Warren Zevon” is a book I’m currently reading, which I borrowed from my good buddy DiscConnected on the same day I loaned him a copy of my old screenplay “Billy ‘N’ Billie”. (Anyone wanna bet which of us has gotten further into his respective reading material? Ha!)

[Warren Zevon's cigarette-smokin' symbol]

If you’re new to this blog, then you might not already know that I think Zevon was one of the all-time great lyricists. Heck, he’s the first person I quote here at STUFFS – he’s “the second Z-man”. (What, I gotta ‘splain everything to you peoples? McSheesh!)

As of this writing, I’m up to page 146, and already there have been a few surprises along the way. The following was not one of them:

Warren Zevon could alternately be a lowdown dirty dog or a crying, sentimental kitten. But when he was drunk (thus far, about 140 of the 146 pages) he was either an out-of-control Werewolf or an out-of-control Mr. Hyde. Take your pick.

And like so many of these famous Rock musicians, the “Excitable Boy” was often exceedingly self-centered and self-destructive.

According to many sources, Zevon was one of those mad creative types. There are plenty of them, most of which we never hear about. For every Warren Zevon who makes it big there are ten Stephen T. McCarthys who blog in obscurity.

Success in the arts is dependent upon three things: Who You Know; Lucky Breaks; and Talent. Yes, in THAT order!

“Wait! Is this bloke, Stephen T. McCarthy, really comparing himself to Warren Zevon? Does he really think he’s as creative as Zevon was?”

You bet I am; you bet I do!

Then why have you never heard of me before? Well, who did I know? I knew Pooh, Twinkie and Cranium. What lucky breaks did I get? Well, some dude once hit me in the mouth and chipped a tooth. I was “lucky” he didn’t “break” all my teeth. What talent do I have? Well . . . uh . . . two outta three ain’t bad . . . and it ain’t enough.

No, seriously, Warren Zevon and I did have something in common: both of us done had been in a less than sober condition at L.A.’s Venice canals. (But not together. I didn’t know Warren, and neither did he. At least not for a significant portion of his life he didn't.) And that brings me to the point of this blog bit.

On page 69 of “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” we learn the following about the writing of Warren’s One-Hit Wonder, “Werewolves Of London”:

The story starts out with Crystal, Warren, and me sitting around my house [“little shack on a canal”] in Venice … Actually, Phil Everly likes to stay up all night and watch old movies, and he had talked to Warren about a great English movie called Werewolf Of London that was made in 1930. He thought we should write a song called “Werewolves Of London” and make it a dance craze. So, Warren was telling me the story and I said, “What a great idea.” Waddy [Wachtel] walks in and he said, “You mean, ah-oooh,” We said, “Whoa, great.”

Warren and I drove to Venice with him obsessed abut Phil’s idea of starting a dance craze. When we got to Roy’s, our first priority was the sinsemilla pot Roy had just bought. We got stoned, and then Warren started telling Roy about Phil’s idea. Waddy dropped in and they wrote the whole song in ten or fifteen minutes. … I knew this song was good…

When I read that, my first thought was:

So, "Werewolves Of London" was written while Warren was high and at the Venice canals. Why... am I... not... surprised?

Here’s the photo of a Venice canal that I took seven weeks ago . . .

And here’s the photo I took of a Venice canal circa 1982, and more representative of what the place looked like during the time that “Werewolves Of London” was written there . . .

Back on June 16, 2010, a few of us participated in the “10 Favorite Drinkin’ & Drivin’ Songs” blogfest. I had Warren’s “Werewolves” on my list. That’s ‘cause I’m in tune with Zevon’s mad creativity, because I’ve been out of my mind on the Venice canals, and because . . . I knows my stuffs! Er . . . well, at least I knows a good “drinkin’ song” when I hears one!

Light up a doobie, brothers, or mix yourself a salty margarita, click on the video below and “Play It All Night Long” (it may not be as cool as a good buzz on the Venice canals but it’s “The Next Best Thing”) . . .

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

10 Favorite Drinkin’ & Drivin’ Songs

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


At the tail end of August and start of September, my brother Napoleon and I spent a few days out L.A.-way - our "homemegalopolis". I promised to post a second installment about that short trip. And here she be.

When Nappy and I left Phoenix, Airheadzona, the highs were topping out at 110 to 113 degrees. We drove 6-hours west, to Los Angeles, which was experiencing highs of 77 or 78 degrees. For that reason alone, the brief trip was worthwhile.

Over the last few getaways that Nappy and I have taken together, we have developed a new “Trip Tradition”: the first compact disc we spin as we’re just getting "on the road again" is Walter Egan’s “Not Shy” album. The light, joyful, catchy Pop melodies just seem to set the perfect tone for some fun, relaxing days ahead.

In L.A. we found a Kaleidoscope O’Changes have occurred since we were "urchining" those streets, and we experienced one big disappointment. Below are some photographs, each of them preceded by a little commentary.

Brother Nappy and I grew up in Santa Monica on Sunset Avenue. Here's our street, looking east from the front of our old house. Overall, the street appears greener than it did in 1969, when we first moved there (and I was just going into the 5th grade). I can tell you that countless hours of Wiffle Ball and football games were played in this street. "Do a Down 'N' Out'; I'll hit you as soon as you cut in front of that red car".

Speaking of red and automobiles, it was also in this street where brother Nappy got hit by a car and had his leg broken:

OK, here's a couple photos of the house we grew up in on Sunset Avenue:

I know what you're thinking! You're thinking . . .

WTF?!  Stephen told us he grew up on one of the lower rungs of the economic ladder. He told us that he and Nappy once played on an otherwise all-Black baseball team! He told us he was a po' boy! Now I find out he grew up in a European-style mansion!

Ha! Believe me, you're not half as surprised as my Brother, my Sister, and I are! If in 1974 we had been miraculously transported to this house as it looks today and asked if we'd ever been in it before, all three of us would have said, "Of course not!" In the 1970s when we were living and fighting in it, this place looked like a rectangular, light beige cracker box. To see the remodeling that has taken place is astoundingly jaw-dropping to us.

Nothing about the exterior of that house suggests it might be the one we were raised in, and there are only a couple indications remaining inside the house that one could point to as clues that it's the same place. The staircase to the basement just inside the front door remains, as does the multi-level shelf running against the wall in my old bedroom. Otherwise one would have a hard time convincing me that this is my boyhood home.

Probably what I found most shocking of all was discovering that in one of the bathrooms in the house where I grew up, one will now find a... a... a... bidet! Hokey-Smoke!

Some photos of my old bedroom follow. Who'da guessed that the bedroom I lived in as a child would one day be a wine cellar? The wine racks are where my closet used to be:

Right about where the large light blue and gold vase stands (in the next photo) is the spot where my stereo system's turntable sat during my teen years. That's where I'd listen at night, with all the lights turned off, to Pink Floyd records, "Revolution #9", and to the Alice Cooper songs "Years Ago"/"Steven", and I'd just let my imagination run wild and freak me out!

Yeah, this is also the room I used to enter bleary-eyed after a drunken night in Westwood Village; where I would daydream about Jean Gonzalez and other beautiful, feminine creatures that I was infatuated with in my girl-crazy youngsterhood:

And there's the big window in my boyhood bedroom - the same place where Nappy went through the glass in 1975 while playing Birdie Ball (a variation on baseball we had invented using a badminton birdie). Nappy came running up the stairs with the severed artery in his arm shooting blood everywhere. After running out into the street hollering insanely, I came back to my senses, reentered the house and literally saved the Napster's life. (He's still holding a grudge against me for that.)

My old buddy Kelly "Andy" Anderson committed suicide in 1986. In Part 6 of the blog series "My Homemegalopolis", I posted a very short poem I had written long ago, while Kelly was still alive. It starts out:

The sun yawned and thought about calling it a day
Kelly and I sat at the entrance to his garage on gasoline cans

Well, here's the alley mentioned in the poem. I can't remember with absolute certainty which garage was Kelly's but I'm fairly sure it was the light beige one adjacent to the garage door that's open:

Same location but looking south toward Pico Boulevard, in the direction of the gas station where Kelly once worked:

Near the Anderson family's apartment, at 14th Street & Pico in Santa Monica, is a cemetary. Kelly's sister Vicki and his mother Betty are both buried there. Although Kelly's name is also on the headstone, he was actually cremated and his ashes let loose in free-fall by some parachuting buddies in Kern County.

I remember one night that Kelly and I had been drinking - back when only his Sister was buried in the family plot - he and I sneaked into the cemetary near his apartment, and Kelly who was far more intoxicated than I was, told me how much he cherished the sentiment etched into his Sister's headstone: "Loved More Than Tongue Can Tell". Then he passed out sprawled across her grave. It was one of the saddest things I've ever seen.

Some of you may recall an older blog bit of mine in which I mentioned playing for the chess club championship of my junior high school, and how the opponent who most intimidated me was a blind boy - Glenn Katz. Well, the Katz Brothers - both of them born blind - are buried in the same cemetary, no more than 8 feet from Kelly's Mom and Sister. Note the braille at the upper edge of their headstone:

And surely you remember me mentioning numerous times my "Bay Street Daze" with The League Of Soul Crusaders - the wild partying time of my early twenties.

Below is the infamous Bay Street in Santa Monica, near Pico and Lincoln Boulevards; this is where the insanity occurred. Our house (address: 824) was located where the dark brown condominium stands at left. You can't see it too well in this photo, but on the left at the corner is the dry cleaners where the police department conducted regular stakeouts of our house, (wrongly) suspecting that we were dealing drugs. Hell, we weren't even doing 'em! (Well, most of us weren't, anyway.)

Two blocks from our house at 824 Bay Street was Jolly Jack's, our favorite local watering hole. Right next door was Lucky Liquor store. Over the years, we almost wore a trench into the alley walking from our house to J.J.s or L.L.s and back again.

Lucky Liquor is still there, but Jolly Jack's is now The Novel Cafe, a trendy coffee shop for the tattooed and pierced "In Crowd" trying to fool itself that it is "nonconformist". (Wanna be a real "nonconformist"? Lose the tats and piercings pronto!)

Cappuccino now gets passed across a bar that saw a lot of Bloody Marys in better daze:

I've walked in and staggered out of that front door more than once:

Nappy and I stayed at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on El Segundo Blvd. in Hawthorne (Beach Boys territory). Just a couple blocks from our place on the same street was a donut shop called Christy's. As soon as I saw it I had a kind of deja vu feeling, as if I'd been there before, even though I was sure I hadn't.

And then it gradually dawned on me why the place seemed so familiar. Although I'm not 100% sure, I strongly believe that the Christy's donut shop sign is one of those I designed while working for an Inglewood sign company back in 1984:

One day, Nappy and I went to Santa Monica Beach hoping to do some body-surfing. The last 5 or so times we've gone home to visit, the surf wasn't breaking big enough to bother going in for. I had come to the conclusion that the surf no longer breaks as impressively as it did in our Body-Surfing Era of the 1970s and very early '80s.

Finally, this time, we visited when the surf was at least rideable. It wasn't much, really, but everyone we spoke to was marveling at how big the waves were breaking. "What the--?! Are you serious? You think that sh#t'z big?" One chubby little lifeguard girl from Lifeguard Station 28 even told us we were "crazy" if we went in there, due to a combination of surf size and heavy riptides.

Well, we went in anyway. The waves weren't the least bit intimidating ("back in the day" we would have discussed beforehand whether or not surf like that was even worth getting sandy and salt-encrusted over), but the riptides were ridiculous! Just standing in waist-deep water, I was getting pulled so strongly to the Northwest that I feared I was going to wind up with a hernia!

That was the last straw for me! I am now stating, for the record, that Southern California's Pacific Ocean has gone to hell. I will never even bother to take a swimming suit on any future trips to L.A. I'm really mad at the water, and might even take an axe to it the next time I visit. The P.O. can F.O.! But I am grateful that I did have so many opportunities to ride the waves back when there were waves to ride.

Since the surf sucked, Nappy and I got out of it pretty quickly, dried off, and walked up Riptide City Beach Santa Monica Beach and took the edge off at Big Dean's "Muscle In" Cafe:

We paid a short visit to the Fred Segal store at 500 Broadway in Santa Monica. It was once the Ice Capades skating rink, where Rocky Balboa took Adrian on their initial date in the first “Rocky” movie. There remains almost no evidence of it having been an ice skating rink in the 1970s:

We spent the better part of one day with our old friend Pooh in and around downtown Los Angeles. Here is a picture of what was once Chinatown’s “Hong Kong” restaurant (the red building), which can be seen in the opening credits montage of the great comedy/detective TV show “Moonlighting”. The gift shop next to it is where I purchased my two Sake sets over two decades ago:

Probably few people ever notice the large concrete “planter pods” at Dodger Stadium, but they have been there since the Stadium opened in 1962 and their presence remains a vivid childhood memory of mine.

I had the good fortune of being able to spend a day with my friend “The Flyin’ Aardvark”, and we went to The Getty Center together where for the first time ever, I got to see a Vincent Van Gogh original. What a thrill for me! This is his famous painting “Irises” :

Van Gogh “laid it on thick” . . .

Below is a signature worth millions! (I wonder if anyone has yet noticed the ballpoint pen scribbling in the bottom left corner of the painting that says, “Stephen wuz here”.)

On the morning of our last day, Nappy and I went to the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Arlington Avenue, where my dear acting buddy Martin Brumer was killed in 1989 at the age of 28.

You’re looking at the last street my friend ever drove down. He was heading south on Arlington (i.e., driving toward the camera in this view) and got to this cross street - Washington Blvd.

As I stated in a much older installment on this blog, at the very moment Marty Brumer entered the intersection (seen below), a car thief traveling west on Washington Blvd. and trying to elude the police in a high-speed pursuit, ran the red light and plowed right into Marty’s car. My best buddy was killed instantly, right there.

[Here’s a LINK to the old blog bit about this sad story.]

Although I have visted Marty’s gravesite numerous times, this was the first time since the fatal accident occurred 22 years ago that I was able to bring myself to visit the site of his death.

Considering that Marty was in the midst of fashioning a professional acting career for himself, it’s almost ironic, really, that from the intersection where he was killed, one can see the “Hollywood” sign in the distant hills:

A photograph of the accident scene that appeared in the Los Angeles Times newspaper a day after Marty’s death indicates that JR’s Mini Market (seen below) was also there at the time.

So I went into the market to get something – something somehow related to Marty. I wasn’t sure what to buy, but after being in the market for less than a minute, I knew what I should get . . .

Back when the rest of us boys were running wild and drinking like sailors at ‘last call’, Marty was taking care of his body. He only rarely drank anything more potent than Evian water or orange juice. When I saw the 10 oz. bottle of orange juice in the refrigerated case, I knew that’s what I should get.

[Sorry, Marty, but “from concentrate”  was all they had. I looked for “fresh squeezed” , believe me, I did! But I wasn't going to find "fresh squeezed O.J." in that neighborhood.]

I had gone to Antonio’s Mexican Restaurant on Melrose Avenue (my all-time favorite eating establishment) two days earlier with the lovely Flyin’ Aard. But I managed to get one more visit in, with Nappy, just before we left town.

Below is a life-sized cardboard standup of Antonio that greets you at the door (well, you can’t expect the real Antonio to stand there all day, can you?)

In the background is Antonio’s bar – in my entire life, that’s the only bar where I ever put drinks on a credit card. General Poohregard and I were at Antonio’s one day in the mid-1980s. We’d had lunch and as we were walking out, I saw that the Dodger game was on the bar’s TV set and that Fernando Valenzuela was on the mound.

But what really sealed the deal was when I noticed the advertisement mirror on the wall proclaiming the quality of Jameson Irish Whiskey. I thought about McDole putting away six doubles of Jameson from the bar and sinking into a deep, apathetic slumber, mumbling, “Blinkin’ Cowboys, Blinkin’ Cowboys…”

So I pulled Pooh to the bar and said the Jameson was on me. That was all the arm-twisting Pooh required and we put away a couple drinks of Irish whiskey that I put on my credit card ‘cause I was outta cash, and then we headed back to the house on Bay Street to see what was being poured there.

Man, look at the melted cheese hanging off Nappy’s plate of Chili Rellenos! That big brown mess in front of me is an Antonio's special: Enchiladas En Mole Poblano. Delicioso! (Do you know what that word means?)

Another “Trip Tradition” that Nappy and I have developed is - when going to Los Angeles - we always make a stop at the Hadley’s Fruit Orchard store on Seminole Drive in Cabazon, CA. Sometimes we stop on our way to L.A., sometimes we stop on our way back from L.A., and sometimes we stop both coming and going. But one way or another, we always stop.

Hadley’s has date milk shakes and like eleventy-million prepackaged snack stuffs you’ll probably not find anywhere else.

Hadley's also sells a large variety of unique, hard-to-find soda pops. I bought a bottle of something I’d never heard of before: KICKAPOO Joy Juice . (Don’t worry, Pooh, I would never really kick you!) The label boasts that it’s made from “The Original Dogpatch Recipe”. Uh... OK... whatever that means.

But I gotta tell ya, KICKAPOO was really good! I can’t say, “It tasted something like this or something like that” because it didn’t taste like any other soda pop I can think of, but I would definitely buy this stuffs regularly if I found it selling anywhere near me.

And that covers the trip out L.A.-way. Next thing we knew, Nappy and I were back in Phoenix, Airheadzona, again - enjoying a high of 110 degrees. Ahh... “Home, Sweat Home”  .

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.