Yellow Press Fever
I’m Art Kumbalek and man oh manischewitz what a world, ain’a? So listen, sorry to say I’m not able to squeeze out a lucid loaf of essay for you’s this week. Instead I’ve got to assess whether or not I got the bile in my belly so as to throw up my hat into the ring to be your next governor here in the great state of Wisgunsin, I shit you not.
I don’t have any big-time dough for the campaign yet, but I’ll tell you what I do have. Vision. Yes, sir. That’s what I got, ’cause if you don’t have vision, what do you got? You got a tin cup and a cane, that’s what you got. What the fock.
I’m supposed to meet with my brain trust over by the Uptowner tavern/charm school. But they’re not open yet, so I’m headed over to my favorite open-daily 23-hours-and-59-minutes restaurant. Come along if you want but you leave the tip. Let’s get going.
Bea: Hey there, Artie, nice to see you. What’s your pleasure?
Art: How ’bout a nice cup of the blackest, thickest and cheapest cup of whatever you’re calling plain-old American coffee today, thank you very kindly. And by thickest, Bea, I mean this coffee ought to come out of a mold, not a pot.
Bea: Coming right up, Artie. And here’s a fork and chisel to go with it. So what do you hear, what do you know.
Art: Went the other day by the doctor’s for a little checkup. He told me, “The best thing for you is to cut out the sweets, the fatty food, give up alcohol and stop smoking.” And I said, “Well sir, not to be overly humble, but I believe that I do not deserve the best. What’s second best?”
Bea: You got to have your health. He write you a prescription, Artie?
Art: That he did. Near novelistic it was, in scope and length. Upon fulfillment, sure to afford some honcho at Pfizer the cost of Mediterranean beachfront property. You ever write anything, Bea?
Bea: I write a shopping list. Every week. Like clockwork.
Art: You betcha. Writing’s hard work—discipline, dedication. It’s a lonely, solitary life. But at least you get to drink on the job; so I guess there’s worse ways to make your buck two-eighty. Anyways, I hear the new season of “Game of Thrones” is starting soon. You ever seen it, Bea?
Bea: Can’t say that I have, Artie.
Art: It’s a medieval fantasy show with kings, knights, incest and piss-ants based on about a hundred books by some guy named George R.R. Martin. It’s focking fabulous, but then you got your hoity-toity knuckleheads who always say: Don’t see the movie, the book is so much better.
Bea: I’ve heard that.
Art: HEYYY! The book is never better than the movie. Cripes, these days, the book costs three times what you fork out for a movie and it takes about five times longer to get through. Take that book Hamlet by what’s-his-name. You spend days reading it and all that happens is everybody sits around talking and then they all get killed one way or another.
Bea: Sounds familiar.
Art: Now, I could write a movie version of Hamlet that the people would say is better than the book. I’d have some snappy one-liners, a car chase with a little gunplay, couple of musical numbers with some stacked chorus gals and, bingo!—boy gets girl in the end, everybody’s happy and it only took 70 minutes, tops, to get to the focking point.
Bea: Is that right, Artie.
Art: Darn tootin’, Bea. People benefit more from the “craft” of writing than they do from the “art” of writing. Regular society benefits more from the writing of a parking ticket than it does from the writing of another weepy, mopey poem. Of course, when you combine craft with art, then everybody wins.
Bea: Really, Artie.
Art: I’m not joking, Bea. Listen: In olden days, when knights were bold, a beloved noble knight was to leave on crusade and called for his trusted squire. “I am leaving on crusade, trusted squire. I trust you with the key to my wife’s chastity belt. If, in 10 years, I have not returned, you may use this key to unlock said belt, as I am sure she will have needs.”
And so the beloved, noble knight sets forth upon the dusty road. He takes one last loving look at his castle. In the distance he sees a cloud of dust. Within this cloud rides the knight’s trusted squire, breathlessly calling to his master: “Stop! Stop! Noble knight! You’ve left me the wrong key!”
Bea: That’s art, all right.
Art: God bless you, Bea. I got to run, so thanks for the coffee and for letting me bend your ear there, Bea—utiful. See you next time.
Bea: My pleasure, Artie. Always nice getting talked at by you. Take care.
(OK, off to the Uptowner, where the show’s about to begin. If I see you there, then you buy me one ’cause I’m Art Kumbalek and I told you so.)