Saturday, May 03, 2008

A break from the Web and a contest entry

I'll be out of the blogosphere for the next few days, while I'm in Chicago for Amtrak block training May 5, 6, and 7. I'm going up early on Sunday so I can do a little research at the Chicago Public Library. In doing research about the demonstrations during the Chicago Convention, I've relied mainly on four books: Rights in Conflict (The Walker Report), Chicago '68 by David Farber, No one was killed by John Schultz, and Norman Mailer's Miami and the Siege of Chicago. I've also had access to the Chicago Tribune on microfilm at the Bloomington Library. But the Trib was a pretty wacky paper in those days--here's the beginning of an August 25, 1968 editorial about Hubert Humphrey:

It will probably occasion little surprise among readers that in his former days around the family drug store in Huron, S. D., Hubert Horatio Humphrey was known to the clientele as Pinkie. But if the readers jump to the logical conclusion that this appellation had something to do with Hubert's political coloration, which is socialist, radical, and left-wing, if not precisely Red, they will be wrong. The tag was hung on him simply because of his complexion.

The Harold Washington Library will have the Sun-Times and the Daily News, and (I hope) The Seed, Chicago's premier underground paper at the time.

In other news, Tim Hallinan is sponsoring the following contest:

In response to something I wrote in the book roundup for April (about my once having eaten lunch with Cary Grant), Sylvia wrote the following sentence:

I once drank a beer in a dirt pit which had previously been Cary Grant’s swimming pool.

Lisa Kenney, who doesn’t miss much, immediately wrote to say that this was a GREAT opening sentence for a novel. I had thought the same thing; in fact, I’d figured out what the basic setup for the book would be. I’ll show you mine in a minute, but first, a contest:

I’ll give away four autographed copies of my new Bangkok novel, The Fourth Watcher, to the four people who come up with the best ideas for a novel that opens with Sylvia’s sentence. If there are more than four good ideas, I’ll sign and mail more books. Here are the rules:
Entries should be sent in the form of replies to this post.

No entry should be more than two paragraphs long.

Entries should be received by Monday, May 12.

The beer-in-the-dirt-pit scene can NOT be a dream sequence, just because I hate books that begin with dream sequences.

Here's my entry--the paragraphs are a bit long:

I once drank a beer in a dirt pit which had previously been Cary Grant’s swimming pool. It was a strange place for a protest meeting, but it was appropriate. It seemed a perfect way to embarrass the Americans for a Classless Society. The ACS has nothing to do with Karl Marx. In fact, it doesn’t even call itself that. Something about progress. But it’s all about a classless society--a society without any class. I don’t know how long the ACS has been around--at least since 1964, when its operatives tore down New York’s magnificent Penn Station and replaced it with the unspeakably ugly Madison Square Garden. Since then, ACS has been hard at work, demolishing anything with class. If ever there was a poster boy for class in America, it was Cary Grant. Even when he played a millworker and fugitive from justice in “The Talk of the Town,” he had class. And the ACS was out to destroy everything connected with him. Including his swimming pool.

My wife and I got involved when the ACS decided to tear down the Blackhawk Hotel in Davenport, Iowa and replace it with a garish Las Vegas-style palace. We had spent our wedding night at the Blackhawk; Grant had stayed the last night of his life there. I had come to California to meet with others who were fighting the people who wanted to replace class with crass. The dirt pit was chosen because it symbolized just how far the ACS would go. But it turned out the ACS was ready for us. We were like the French at Dien Bien Phu--stuck in a valley and surrounded by the enemy. The cops dragged us out of the pit, just as we were finishing our refreshments. The media people, whom we had counted on, were nowhere to be seen. Round 1 for the ACS.

My wife and I really did spend our wedding night at the Blackhawk, though it was many years before Cary Grant spent his last night on earth there. In 1973 it was a solid downtown hotel, with Maxfield Parrish reprints hanging on the walls. While it's now owned by President Casinos, I know of no plan to replace it with a Las Vegas-style palace.

All the best to my readers. I'll be back in the world of the Web on Thursday.


Lisa said...

Love it! The only detail I'd add would be the type of beer you were drinking. Under the circumstances, I'd guess maybe it was Old Milwaukee or something equally horrible. :)

Good luck in Chicago. I am sure it will be inspiring.

Bill Clark said...

Thanks for the link to the contest, Steve! I can never resist a good contest! :-)

Here's my entry:

I once drank a beer in a dirt pit which had previously been Cary Grant’s swimming pool. The new owner of the house had decided to put in an Olympic-size pool for his trophy third wife and their two young kids, just to keep up with the Jonses and the other parvenu families that were flocking to the area as the old Hollywood stars died or were carted off to nursing homes. I once heard the new owner boast that he never had to buy a drink at his fat-ass golf club anymore - as long as he was willing to describe Grant’s bedroom and attendant fixtures in lurid detail.

But I was in the pool, not the bedroom. I didn’t belong to the FAGC, so I never did learn what the bedroom was all about. But the pool…ah, that was my turf, for tonight at least. This was where Cary had seduced Grace Kelly, then the hottest young star in Hollywood. What a laugh it was to think how he and Grace had managed to convince Prince Ranier that nothing had ever transpired between them - but then they were both excellent actors, so no suprise there. Those two could spend the entire night at that pool in rutting debauchery, and still look like perfect angels in the morning. I hoisted my beer and took a swig in a silent toast to them. As the new owner might or might not ever learn, bigger was not necessarily better….

steve said...

Lisa--Thanks. I think, though that those of us supporting class would be drinking, say, Rolling Rock in the long-necked bottles.

Bill--Tim's going to be running out of books to give away pretty soon. Interesting take on the line.