The Girl Who Loved Lenny Bruce

Lenny Bruce portrait in oil by Dale Hartman

(I wrote this in 1968 for a college freshman writing class. The teacher gave it A+ and suggested sending it to a magazine.)

My brother barged into my room just as I was starting to get undressed for bed. I opened my mouth to yell, and closed it again after a quick glance at his face. He looked kind of strange, almost like he been crying or something.

“Are you drunk?” I demanded.

“Keep your voice down and sit for a minute. I’ve got to talk to you.”

I sat on the edge of the bed and waited. Donny walked around the room, picking things up and putting them down. He regarded the picture of my army boyfriend that was stuck in the mirror frame.

“You in love with that kid?” he said abruptly.

“I happen to think so.”

“Then you’ll help me,” he said determinedly.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m in love with this girl. You’ve got to help me.”

“Now I’ll tell one,” I thought, but said aloud, “What did you have in mind? A Captain John and Priscilla sort of thing?”

“Be serious dammit and listen.” He sat at the desk and lit a cigarette. “This girl, she works in Kresge’s. I got to meet her. What you use for an ashtray?”

“The wastebasket.”

“Good way to start a fire, Genius.”

“You’re welcome to go to your own room and use your own ashtray. Why not just go up and introduce yourself, or pick her up her hankie, or something? I notice you scored pretty good so far. What was that blonde’s name? Desiree?”

“Shut up. This girl doesn’t talk to guys.”

“Not any?”

“None. I hang around there on my lunch hour and after work, and I’ve seen her give the brush to every man who comes within 10 feet of her.” Donny’s voice was despondent.

“If they all look the way you do on your lunch hour, covered with grease and crankcase oil and whatever else, I don’t blame her,” I teased.

“It doesn’t matter,” he insisted. “College types, creeps, businessmen, Boy Scouts, freaks, it doesn’t make any difference. She won’t give them the time of day.”

I was completely in the dark. “So what do you want me to do?”

“Well, you could sort of make friends with her. Be pals. Just bring her over to the house once, and I’ll take it from there.”

“Donny, are you nuts? You think I can just walk up to some standoffish girl and invite her home, and she’s going to fall all over herself thanking me and run right over here and dive into your waiting arms, and marry you, and everybody lives happily ever after. Right?”

“For God’s sake, Chris, you know how to warm up to somebody. And I don’t care how long it takes.”

Obviously he intended to stay planted in my chair and keep me awake all night, if necessary. I gave up and said, “Okay, tell me about this peerless specimen of womankind.”

“She takes care of the counter where they sell scarves and gloves and things. Near the lunch counter – that’s how I got to see so much of her. She’s small, has dark brown hair to her shoulders, wears a lot of black. About your age, I guess. Yeah she looks maybe 19.”

“Do you know anything about her? Where she lives, who with, where she hangs out?”

“She disappears at 5 o’clock. I’ve watched all the doors and she must have a private tunnel.

None of the guys has seen her anywhere either. Except in that store.”

“And you do get around, don’t you? Well all right. I’ll think about it. I’ll let you know tomorrow.”

Donny started to go to his own room. “Wait a minute,” I called. “Do you happen to know her name?”

“That’s your job.” He disappeared into the darkness of the hall

I had to laugh, even though it was kind of sad. My poor helpless big brother, 23 years old, a Navy veteran, and the most-chased guy in the neighborhood – in a situation like this! It really was pathetic,

The next day was Monday. I took a bus home from school, borrowed the car, and drove to Orange Street. Surprisingly, there was a parking space in front of Kresge’s. Once inside the store I headed straight for the lunch counter. A bleached blonde waitress asked for my order and fetched a cup of coffee. It arrived half in the cup and half in the saucer but I didn’t bother to complain since I hadn’t wanted it in the first place. I poured in some sugar and stirred the mess, glancing casually toward the glove and scarf counter.

So this was a Donny’s intended. She did have shoulder -length brown hair, but it was a fall. Men never noticed those things, while I could tell from 15 feet away. She was wearing a dreadful red lipstick and a black sweater and skirt. A very confused man was trying to pick out a pair of gloves for his wife, and the girl assisted him politely. Her voice sounded shockingly young, coming out of that red smeared mouth.

Together the man and the girl found a satisfactory pair of gloves. She put them in a bag, rang up the purchase, and returned the change. The man said something in a low voice and the girl’s salesclerk smile disappeared. She turned quickly away and walked to the other end of her counter. The man looked bewildered for a second, shrugged his shoulders, and left.

When I got home that afternoon Donny was in my room, sitting at my desk. He started questioning me even before I had my coat off. To get him off my back I said, “All right I’ll take the case. I’ll need your car a lot though. Daddy’s not going to let me use his every day.”

“Did you find out anything? Her name? Nothing?”

“No, I just looked at her. She was giving the brush to some married guy. I don’t blame her. Everyone seems to think that girls who work in public places have loose morals or something. She probably gets 100 propositions a day.”

Donny groaned. “Chris, get busy. You can have the car every day. I’ll give you money. Anything.”

I couldn’t let him down. I don’t know, the offer of payment was just too much. It was surprising enough to hear him give me unlimited use of the car, when I usually had to twist his arm. I laughed and said, “Come on, you make me feel like a moneygrubbing creep. Consider it a favor. You can do one for me some time, ‘kay? Now get out of here.”

The next day I parked in front of Kresge’s again, this time in my brother’s car. At 5 o’clock I started scrutinizing everyone who came out the door. I saw Donny’s secret love, although he never would have recognized her. She had removed the fall, scrubbed her face, and put on dark glasses. Her hair was boyishly short. She wore loafers and a tan all-weather coat, and carried a huge brown purse. In the car, I followed the girl by circling blocks and catching up with her again until she reached a three-story apartment house on the edge of the downtown area. She went in by a side entrance, and I drove home.

So that was how she got away without being noticed. Poor Donny was so dumb. He had probably stood in front of the store every day for a month, and she could have stepped on his toes every day with him none the wiser. I had to admit that her appearance off-duty was 100% improvement over the way she looked while working. High school age girls just don’t wear red lipstick!

I reported to Donny at home. “First,” I told him, “you wouldn’t know her if she walked in here right now.”

“Are you telling me I wouldn’t recognize the girl I’m in love with, for Pete’s sake?”

“Right. Her hair isn’t hers, if you follow me. It’s what you call a fall. The front part of her hair, the bangs, is real. The long part is hooked on with hairpins and stuff. She takes it off at 5 o’clock and probably carries at home in that big purse.”

Donny looked like a person in shock. Up until that moment I don’t believe he’d even heard of such a thing as a fall. “That’s not all,” I continued. “She takes off that ghastly eye makeup and lipstick, and wears shades. She really is quite pretty.” I promised Donny again that I would get his girl, and he went away to dream his dreams

On Wednesday I bought a pair of gloves. I waited until there were no other customers nearby to interrupt, and started a conversation with Donny’s love. Somehow I found out that she lived alone and that we were indeed the same age. I waved a cheery goodbye and left Kresge’s. It wouldn’t be quitting time for another hour, so I put in time lurking around a department store. At five minutes before five I was back at the now familiar counter in Kresge’s. “Forgot to get a scarf to match,” I explained, holding up my new gloves. Just then an older saleslady bustled over to us.

“Janet, remember to tape up that tax schedule before you leave. It’s just too much trouble opening the book every time.”

Janet asked me if I could find a scarf tomorrow, since it was too close to closing time and it would inconvenience several people if she made another sale. I said that it was perfectly all right, I’d be glad to come back another time, and turned to go.

“Oh,” I said, turning back, “do you know a good place to eat around here? I mean cheap but edible food, you know?”

Janet thought a minute and said, “Wait for me out front. I’ll introduce you to a friend of mine down the street, and you can get a discount at his place for ever after.”

I pretended not to recognize Janet as she came out of the dime store. “Come on,” she said. I let a suitably surprised expression cross my face for a second, and we started walking toward Arnold Avenue.

“I would never have guessed you were wearing a fall,” I said innocently.

“Really it’s kind of an infantile attempt at a disguise. Working in that place is such a comedown. That job is only until I find something better. Here we are. See, it wasn’t far.”

We entered a modest-looking coffee shop that was impeccably clean from floor to ceiling. Janet took me to the huge man behind the cash register and said, “Ernie this is Chris. She gets the discount just like me. Right?”

“Anything you say, baby.” replied big Ernie with an obviously fake leer.

“Oh, lover, you’re a million laughs,” said Janet with mock indignation. She stage-whispered to me, “You got a keep these old goats in line,” and rolled her eyes toward Ernie, who said,

“Sit down, ladies. My head waitress will take your orders. I’m honored” – he bowed so that his head nearly touched the counter – “to see two such lovely young women in my establishment.”

Janet said, “I really got to be going. I just wanted to get Chris settled.”

I quickly begged her to stay, even if it was only for a cup of coffee. We occupied a booth and gave our orders to the waitress. I chose coffee and toast, while Janet asked for a large orange juice. My new acquaintance, Ernie, slid through swinging doors into what I assumed to be the kitchen.

We talked about the weather until my toast and our drinks arrived. As Janet reached for a paper napkin I noticed a diamond winking from her ring finger.

“Oh, are you engaged?”

“The ring? It was my mother’s. I wear it to discourage the sharks. At least the ones who can be discouraged by that kind of thing. Some of them are more persistent.” Janet wasn’t beautiful, but even another girl could tell that she exuded some mysterious kind of appeal that would draw men in flocks.

“How do you know you won’t scare away some nice guy at first glance? The really nice boys are the first ones to get lost at the sight of a ring. They don’t want to cut in on somebody else’s territory.”

“Actually I’m not interested right now in any type of guy, so it doesn’t really make a whole lot of difference. What school do you go to?” Was she ever anxious to change the subject!

“Central. I’m a senior.”

“You live at home?”

“Oh yes. I have one brother. He’s 23.”

Janet didn’t seem interested in this information.

We discussed the educational system. I found out that she had quit school at 16, and that both her parents were dead and she had been raised by an aunt. Soon we got up to leave. When I paid my check I found out that the discount was worth about 30% of the bill. It sure would come in handy.

A few days later I went back to Ernie’s restaurant and had a talk with Ernie himself. I couldn’t get much useful information from him without seeming to pry too much, but I did listen to him sing Janet’s praises for about half an hour. On the way home I reviewed the conversation in my mind. Ernie had hinted about a great sorrow in Janet’s life that had to do with a dead boyfriend, fiancé, or husband. He didn’t really know which. I gathered that she had said something to him once about never being able to love another man. I wondered how I would feel if anything happened to my soldier. Would I think that I would never find love again?

Donny pestered me every day, but I didn’t get time to see Janet again until the next week. I waited for her at quitting time and suggested supper at Ernie’s.

“No, why don’t you come to my apartment instead? I’ll throw together some boxed Noodles Romanoff or something. I don’t feel much like being around people today. If quitting time had been five minutes later I would have screamed.”

So I drove Janet home, pretending of course not to know where she lived. Her apartment on the third floor was a small, comfortable place. We ate noodles and hamburgers in the miniature pink and white kitchen. Janet seem to be in a depressed mood. I asked myself a silent question about her. What was the tragedy she couldn’t forget? Why didn’t she even try to forget? During our second cups of coffee, Janet herself surprisingly began to reveal the answers. She just opened up and started talking, and it went something like this:

“Did you ever smoke?”

I looked at the smoldering cigarette between my fingers and back to Janet.

“No I mean grass. Pot. Weed.”

“Well, at a party once there was some. I think it was oregano though.”

“That happens. I smoke every night. Just sit here and get high by myself. I think it’s the only way to stay in one piece in this world.”

“Well,” I ventured, “lots of people get along pretty well without it.”

“They’re all twisted up inside. I can find everything I want from life right here in this apartment. Groove on grass and forget the weird situation I’m in.”

I hesitated before taking the plunge. “What weird situation is that?”

Janet looked me over carefully and decided to trust me. “I’m in love with a dead man,” she said

I waited, trying not to let the expression on my face change.

“If anyone knew about it, I’d be sent away,” she continued. “Not only am I nuts about a dead man, but it’s a dead man I never met.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“About a year. I was going to see a shrink about it once, but it would be no use. Besides, I like being this way. It’s not a problem. Only people with problems get analyzed.”

“Don’t you plan to get married, have kids, and all that?”

“Oh, sure, in a few years. When I get this thing off my mind. Come here, I’ll show you something.” She took me through the bedroom to a closed door. “It used to be a double-sided closet. Now it’s my meditation room.”

The first thing I saw in the gloom was a 2-foot-high reproduction of the face of so-called sick comedian Lenny Bruce. Janet switched on the electric light, which filtered dimly through a gold filigree fixture on the ceiling. Two more posters were on the other walls. In one of them, Lenny Bruce had a beard. Plump, many-colored cushions were stacked on the floor, and there was a bronze candle holder sitting on a low table. The table also offered a small Chinese lacquer box and sheesham wood Koran holder, which embraced a hardcover edition of the comedian’s autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People.

“Would you like to smoke?” Janet asked. “There’s a nickel bag and some Zig-Zag papers in the box.”

“Not right now. Let me take all this in first.”

There were a couple dozen bits of paper taped to the wall next to one of the personality posters. I took two steps into the tiny room and read a few of them.

“Any man who calls himself a religious leader and owns more than one suit is a hustler as long as there is someone in the world who has no suit at all.”

“I saw ethics erode according to the laws of supply and demand.”

“Do you believe that good nuts, the ones who blow up trains with 300 people or repeatedly try to kill themselves, should be sent to Bellevue or other institutions equipped with mental health programs, but bad nuts, who try to kill themselves with heroin and other narcotics, should be sent to jail?”

Churches: “Since they condone capital punishment, I want them to stop bitching about Jesus getting nailed up.”

“God made my body and if it is dirty than the imperfection lies with the Manufacturer, not the product.”

Janet interrupted, saying “I’ll be in the kitchen.” I read one more slip of paper which said:

“Wouldn’t it be nice if all the people who are lonesome could live in one big dormitory, sleep in beds next to each other, talk, laugh, and keep the lights on as long as they want to?”

I switched the light off and rejoined Janet in the kitchen. She poured fresh coffee and we sat down. Janet spoke first. “Do you think I’m crazy?”

“A little mixed up, maybe. I really don’t know what to say. If you’re happy, who’s to say you’re wrong? Except for grass being illegal, of course.”

“I’m careful. The thing is, I’m not really sure I am happy. But I’m too scared to get involved with anyone. My parents didn’t exactly have a heavenly marriage before they were killed.”

“You know, I should have been home a long time ago,” I said. I didn’t want to say anything wrong, so it seemed best to leave and therefore not be able to say anything at all. “Tomorrow I’ll pick you up from work and you come to my house for dinner, all right?”

“Oh no, I couldn’t.”

“Come on, you fed me tonight so of course you should be my guess too. My folks will love it.”

When I got home I alerted my mother to expect an extra mouth at dinner the next night and walked slowly up the stairs to face Donny.

“I think she’s going to be too much for you,” I began, and went on to tell him all that I had seen and heard.

“Just never mind,” he said. “After tomorrow night I’ll take over.”

The dinner was a success. Janet, in another black outfit, liked Donny right from the start. Even my parents were on their best behavior.

Donny drove Janet home. At 11 o’clock there was a knock on my bedroom door and Donny stuck his head in and said, “I’m getting married.”

Well, he did it. My big brother did it all. First he got Janet to stop blowing grass, by taking her out so much that she didn’t have the time or the desire to smoke. He gave her sweaters and dresses in bright or pastel colors, and she stopped wearing black. He didn’t try to pry her loose from her idol, but read How to Talk Dirty and enthused with her about Lenny Bruce. Once he took her to a city 100 miles away where they saw a movie of Lenny at an art theater. She was hooked. Five months to the day after I first met Janet, I was maid of honor at her wedding.

Advertisements

One of Many Small Deaths of Innocence

cuffs

In the spring of 1970 I walked around downtown Buffalo every day, picking up and delivering legal documents. One day, I was crossing Delaware from the Sheriff’s office to County Court, and passed within two feet of where a cop was putting handcuffs on a guy. You work downtown, you see stuff, and I didn’t think any more about it until the newspaper came out. The story was titled, “Police Deny Jail Escape; Witnesses Disagree”

Although several persons reported observing what appeared to be an escape attempt, the head of the police City Court detail Tuesday denied that a man sentenced to the County Penitentiary managed to break loose from detention….

Reports were circulated about 11 AM that the defendant managed to free himself… and run through a parking lot to Delaware Ave, between West Eagle and Church Sts.

This was denied by… head of the police City Court detail. He said that a member of the detail… had trouble with a prisoner in the detention cells but subdued him, that the prisoner never made his way out except under police escort…

Sadly for the City Court detail, another branch of law enforcement ratted them out.

Officials of the county sheriff’s office, asked if a prisoner had escaped from their custody, said they had been informed the prisoner escaped from Buffalo police.

Also, several people, including court officials, told the news reporter they had watched from courtroom windows as an officer waved a revolver at a fleeing man, and fired at least one warning shot.

Most importantly, I saw the cop handcuff the guy. I didn’t know it at the moment, not until the next day when I read the paper, but I had seen a thing the authorities definitely, undeniably lied about. Granted, as a participant in the dope culture, and a consumer of subversive literature, I was pretty sure the cops lied a lot.

But having suspicions, and seeing the proof right in front of you, those are two different things. That day made a difference in my life.

——–
Photo credit: glennshootspeople on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC

What Facebook Thinks it Knows about Me

facebook head

I looked at certain areas of my Facebook archive, including “Ads Interests,” described as “based on your Facebook activity and other actions that help us show you relevant ads.”

Many of the terms ring a bell – sure, I love Jen Kirkman. But others of my interests, as logged by Facebook, are mystifying, such as Best Week Ever, Entre Rios Province, Federal Criminal Police Office (Germany), Green Party of Switzerland, Liberty (department store), Mazel tov, Owl City, Pop-up Ad, Pro-ject, Solera, The Epoch Times, The Young and the Restless characters (2012), and Western (genre)

Whut???

Facebook also claims to have perceived my attraction to such generic categories as:

Agriculture
Time
Reality
Boredom
David

Another list is “Advertisers Who Uploaded a Contact List With Your Information

This list is a long, long one. So long I can’t be bothered to count the entries, not even for purposes of ridicule. A cursory scan reveals that the very, and I do mean very, great majority are products, services and causes I have zero probability of ever enriching by so much as a dime. These advertisers are wasting their money.

The roster of “Advertisers You’ve Interacted With”

This list contains a total of three (3) items, of which one was a single-question survey on marijuana decriminalization.

Things People Don’t Know About Me (not all the things)

Two New Years Eves in a row, I lost a $20 bill in a cab

I was once given the deed to a square inch of the Moon.

I have a certificate from Worm University, and for a while actually tended a worm farm and harvested the poop to enrich the garden.

I took 4 years of Latin and 6 years of French – in the public school system.

When I got mugged in Venice CA, my tape cassette machine was playing “Jungle Land.”

I once slow-danced with a very short man whose hard-on repeatedly bumped against my knee.

I once fast-danced with a Down Syndrome guy.

For more than 25 years, I’ve kept my clothes in a cardboard chest-of-drawers that a woman gave me when she relocated to Alaska for the sake of love.

I did Kirlian photography with a kit from Edmund Scientific.

At age 8, I had a broken finger for 9 days before being taken to doctor.

I once sat for many dark hours at a kitchen table clutching a large knife.

My paintings have been in 20 group shows (including a juried national show) and 8 one-person shows.

I’ve been drunk three times, and recall in hideous detail how each time proved that booze is not my jam.

I saw and heard Willie Nelson and his band – from just a few feet away — at Floore’s Country Store.

At age 21, I was accepted into Mensa.

My second ex-husband and his friend shot a game of pool to see which one would go home with me one night.

In seven consecutive grades, I was awarded pins for perfect Sunday School attendance. (Later stolen by a burglar.Sunday school pin

One of my short stories was published in Choppers magazine.

I sold my mother’s engagement ring, and also a good watch that some guy gave me.

I lived in a house with two kids and a man who kept a loaded gun under his pillow, and he was blind.

Trygve Bauge stored his grandpa’s corpse in a freezer, which led to the annual Frozen Dead Guy Days festival in Nederland, Colorado. Before he was deported, I met him once.

I moved to California with the intention of training to become a sex surrogate. Yes, that was a legitimate profession. Maybe still is.

In the high school orchestra I played first stand violin.

I was in group therapy with the mother of a guy I occasionally hooked up with.

I spent 7 years mentally and emotionally enthralled by a man I never met in person.

Back in 1969 I flipped a table in a very cinematically dramatic way, and made an angry mess.

My first son-in-law was connected with the Wu Tang Clan.

My second husband married me so his grandma could die happy.

I have five portraits of me, done by two different artists, and there used to be more.

In the home office of a man with brain cancer, I covered one wall with a mural in colors recommended by a healer.

Taken all together, my contributions to the original Hite Report made up about 6 pages of the book.

I took a course called Silva Mind Control.

I stole something from the FBI. (Surely, the statute of limitations has expired. Besides, I no longer have it.)

For a while, I took belly dance lessons.

Once I picked up David Carradine’s hitchhiking daughter, and later had the chance to tell him that.

When falling asleep as a child, and with no preconception of how a celestial chorus was supposed to sound, I sometimes heard an angel choir.

Many times, I stood with one foot on either side of an international border.

The community college I attended was housed in an old elementary school, a Ramada Inn, and the former Shredded Wheat Company headquarters.

In group therapy, I was designated most intimidating.

I’ve owned only two cars, and worked on them both. I’ve replaced three alternators, a water pump, and a whole lot of oil and spark plugs. And patched a gas tank.

I ghostwrote a political article published in Hustler magazine. (They pay great.)

I can set my brain to wake me up at a certain time.

My second son-in-law was killed by an unlicensed, underage, uninsured drunk driver.

I was once deemed an honorary (n-word).

On KCRW radio I did an interview in the character of erotica writer Felice Jordan.

Like comedian Ari Shaffir, I once took a dump in Griffith Park.

For a former Hells Angel who is serving a life sentence, I maintain a website.

I used to make X-rated cookies. Some were bought by the owner of a shop called Debbie Duz Donuts. Some were served at a meet&greet with a presidential candidate.

One night I got away with driving 40 miles of freeway, criminally drunk.

I tried an isolation tank, at what I believe was the first float-tank establishment ever to open in Los Angeles.

I shared an elevator ride alone with Arnold Schwarzenegger (and was not molested.)

The third time I got married, a guest brought her pet snake to the wedding.

As a grownup, I was scolded by another adult for something I said out loud in a restaurant. (The offending word was “abatement.”)

My only car accident was right at the entrance to Santa Monica Pier.

I helped Ace Backwords publish one of his books, Acid Heroes.

I went to Assertiveness Training.

I worked for a show business professional who had worked with Charlie Chaplin. Shook hands with this person who had shaken hands with Chaplin. Two degrees of separation. That blows my mind.

Also, I met someone who had known Duncan Grant. Few things in life have thrilled me to such an extent.

More than once, a guy drove from Odessa to San Antonio just to see me. That’s an almost 700-mile round trip.

I believe that women can be pricks and men can be cunts.

I have anniversaries that mean a lot to me. They’re just not the same ones you celebrate.

There are very few people whose company I enjoy as much as my own. And only a couple of people I care about being famous to, and one of them is dead.

I knew a man who backed a truck over (and killed) his two-year-old son.

In my teens, favorite radio was the Buffalo R&B station WUFO.

I knew somebody who was later on Howard Stern’s show.

When West Side Story hit the theaters, the piano teacher let me choose its songbook for my lessons.

In my teens, my literary heroes were James Baldwin and Lenny Bruce.

I was told more than once, by subjects I profiled, that it was the most interesting interview they ever had.

As a kid I listened repeatedly to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1 in B Flat Minor.

I knew a blind vet who, one Halloween, removed his prosthetic eyes and, with empty sockets, answered the door to trick-or-treaters.

I was invited join a cult in Brownsville, Texas, who were building a landing pad for the spaceship that Jesus would return in.

I was once forced to learn the team sports song “Buckle Down, Winsocki.”

I met a man whose wife and girlfriend had babies on the same day, both his.

As a “tween” I was allowed to join choir practice at my girlfriend’s church, even though I couldn’t show up to sing on Sundays.

I find it in my heart and philosophical repertoire to defend Assata Shakur, the Branch Davidians, Bradley Smith, and a motley assortment of dissidents.

As a kid, I used to draw elaborate, complicated house plans. Not just a music room, no. A piano room, a violin room, a harp room…

I’m an est graduate, and still think it was the best $300 and two weekends I ever spent.

I knew a woman whose house was the set for the film Transamerica.

I made the National Junior Honor Society in middle school, the Honor Roll in high school, and the Dean’s List in college.

I have really good book-scout instincts.

I once learned a card game called Knucks.

When I was a kid, my cavities were drilled and filled without anesthetic, by a dentist who believed that children didn’t develop pain nerves until they were older.

I once participated in the effort to remove a pair of corrupt judges. It was successful, and extraordinarily satisfying.

My first pot dealer had lost a couple of fingers to a power saw, which did not faze any of his customers.

I knew somebody who had known Lenny Bruce.