Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, May 20, 2017


Spanky and Our Gang.


Adventures into the Unknown has the distinction of being the first ongoing horror comic title.  It lasted for 167 issues from Fall 1948 to August 1967.  I remember reading a lot of issues when I was a kid.

Issue #1 is a Pre-Code dandy and has five --count 'em, five -- stories scripted by Frank Belknap Long.  (Long was a good friend of H. P. Lovecraft and had a seven-decade distinguished career writing in the horror field.  He received Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the Horror Writers Association and the World Fantasy convention.)  Notable in this issue is Long's 7-page adaptation of Horace Walpole's classic gothic novel The Castle of Otranto.


Friday, May 19, 2017


Wanna dance?  Martha and the Vandellas do.


The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop (1954)

Douglass Wallop (1920-1985) received some critical attention with his first novel Night Light, a nuanced story of man trying to understand his daughter's murderer.  It was his second novel, however, that made his reputation.  The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant transferred the Faust theme to the world of professional baseball and became a best-seller.  The following year, Wallop and George Abbott adapted the book into the Tony Award-winning (seven of them for the original run, plus two other nominations)  musical Damn Yankees.  In 1958, it was a major film release from Warner Brothers, garnering a number of award nominations.

The time is the 1960s and in the world of baseball no one can touch the Yankees, who have won the pennant for so many consecutive years that it was understood that they will keep doing so into the far future.  This does not sit well with Joe Boyd, a die-hard Washington Senators fan.  Joe is in his fifties.  He's out of shape, his children have left the nest, and his relationship with his wife is strained.  Joe and his wife have more or less gone their separate ways -- she can't understand his fixation with baseball and he can't understand her interests -- yet, in his unhappy way, he still loves her.  One day after another humiliating loss by the Senators, Joe off-handedly remarks that we would sell his soul for a winning season for his team.  He should known better.

Joe soon meets the mysterious Mr. Applegate, a smooth talker who lights his cigarettes without any matches.  Applegate offers Joe the opportunity to take the Senators all the way to the pennant.  Joe, who is in the real estate business, begins negotiations -- the result being that Joe can get his wish on a trial basis but that he can opt out on a certain date; if he doesn't, then the deal is permanent and his soul belongs to the devil.

Applegate transforms Joe into Joe Hardy, a twenty-one-year-old baseball phenom.  Joe tries out for the Senators and wins a spot on the last-place team.  He hits one, two, sometimes three home runs a game and his fielding is incredible.  The Senators begin a steady move up the League, even beating the Yankees every time the two play.

Pre-Joe Hardy, the Senators' biggest draw was Roscoe Ent, a former vaudeville comic and terrible pitcher whose antics liven up the fan's spirits.  The Senators were all that Roscoe had going for him and he realized that, with the popularity of Joe Hardy, his days om the team were numbered.  Roscoe quits the team and begins a downward spiral.  Joe feels guilty about Roscoe, he also feels guilty about his new-found talents.  Joe knows that it is not fair to use supernatural means to upset the natural order of things.  And Joe misses his wife and looks forward to the day he can void his contract and return to her.

On the other hand, the Senators are winning.  And that's a good thing for all those Yankee-hating baseball fans out there.

Applegate introduce Joe to Lola, the most beautiful woman in the world in an effort to distract Joe from missing his wife.  Lola, it turns out was another of Applegate's "clients."  She, too, had argued for an opt-out portion on her contract but, despite her best efforts, Applegate sure that she did not  opt out when the time came.  One way or another, Applegate always wins.  And, much to her surprise, Lola falls for Joe and she's perfectly willing to wait until Applegate claims his soul to have him.

Anthony Boucher ho-hummed this book, saying it was "just another Pact-with-the-Devil story, somewhat brightened by its Major League baseball setting."  My reaction is more kind.  The story itself is ordinary but the characters are well-nuanced and the author's love of baseball shines through.

I was a little bit irritated to find myself humming "Whatever Lola Wants" while reading the book, however.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Hoyt Axton.


The Clock was a half-hour suspense program narrated by Father Time himself.  The U.S. version ran for 82 episodes in the U.S. (November 3, 1946 to May 23, 1948) on ABC radio.  Beginning in 1955 the series ran in Australia for 52 episodes using the U.S. scripts but with completely different actors and a completely different feel.  The American version of the show was narrated by veteran radio actor William Conrad (and occasionally, Charles Webster).  The majority of the episodes were produced in New York but for the last thirteen, the show shifted to Hollywood.  Rather than using original scripts, these last thirteen recycled scripts from Suspense and The Whistler.

The episode linked here, "Nicky," aired on March 4, 1948, and starred the popular, real-life radio couple Cathy and Elliott Lewis.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017


I've mentioned before about the love, admiration, and respect that I have for my daughters, both of whom have turned into remarkable adults despite having me as their father.  Today, let me brag about my youngest daughter, Christina, as she celebrates her birthday.

Where to begin?  With the smart and determined three-year-old who never of a game of Memory and who could easily zip through a Find the Word puzzle?  The preschooler who was both so calm and concerned during a medical emergency?  The girl who wouldn't speak to me for three days because I send her doll down an escalator unescorted?  (You had to have been there.)  The one who wanted to be a mailbox for Halloween?  Or the thirteen-year-old who designed her own strikingly beautiful cat costume which left everyone flabbergasted?  The girl who would regale us with stories about dissecting a cat for her biology class?  The girl who, from the time she was ten, helped us at the local equity theater, earning the respect of the actors and our audiences alike?  (While in high school, she would invariably get a crush on one actor in each play, and invariably that actor would turn out to be gay -- one of the perils of theater life.)  The mischievous girl who could pull a trick on her high school dean with a straight face?   The studious girl who struggled with high school German, and later, with college organic chemistry (and let us never forget the Summer of Physics)?  That girl.

She went to George Washington University.  As a freshman she tagged along with a roommate who was interested in the school's Tae Kwon Do club but did not want to go alone.  The girl soon dropped out, but there was something about the sport that interested Christina.  Christina stayed with it but it wasn't easy.  She would hit a plateau but would stay working with determination until, suddenly, she would take a large step forward and eventually hit another plateau.  This cycle continued, but she won the respect of everyone there.  She eventually won her black belt and was elected president of the club.

One of her roommates, Heather, was a very light-skinned African-American.  On day Heather was telling Christina about how her high school guidance counselor that is she marked "other" under race in her application, that would increase her chances of getting into college.  Christina was puzzled, "Why would you do that?"  "Christina, I'm Black!"  "You are?" "Yes.  You've met my mother.  You've met my brothers.  I'm Black."  It wasn't that Christina was clueless, but that she did not see color.  That was never anything important to her

In college, she worked part-time in a coffee and muffin shop in Pentagon City.  At the end of each day, she would take a bag of Muffins that were to be thrown away and give them to the homeless on her way back to the dormitory.  One man burst into tears.  "My kids will appreciate this," he told her.

After college, he began working for an ambulance company, which is where she met her husband, Walt.  From the ambulance company, she went to work for an OB-GYN, and then to the emergency room as an emergency tech as Fairfax Hospital.  There, the doctors said that they always checked to see if Christina was working their shift.  If she was, they knew that everything would run smoothly and they could concentrate on their patients.  And it was there that Christina would sit with dying patients because nobody should die alone.

Christina was also volunteering for the local rescue squad, where she became an EMT and a paramedic. eventually serving as the squad's lieutenant.  Once she and her partner responded to a call and met an elderly man whose wife had collapsed.  He was in tears, 'I'm afraid she's dead."  Christina's partner said, "dead we can handle" as they brought the heartbeat back.

Christina studied to be an echocardiologist and worked at a number of hospitals and medical offices in Virginia, Maryland, and Florida.  Often she would catch something that others had missed, allowing some patients to get treatment they might otherwise have not given.  For a time, she was also an adjunct teacher at George Washington University.

Constantly bending over, shifting patients, and lugging around a 500 pound sonograph machine can have a physical effect, so Christina began another career shift and studied to be a sign language interpreter.  Currently she's working with a deaf girl in a local junior high school while taking other assignments as they come up.

As far as family life goes, she married Walt and they had two wonderful children, Mark and Erin.  Christina has wonderful pregnancies and terrible births.  With Mark we came dangerously close to losing both her and the baby.  Erin's birth was also very difficult.  Mark's facial muscles were damaged during his birth and it took years of therapy to overcome the results of that trauma.  Despite her difficult birth, Erin turned out fine.

Both kids are now active, strong, intelligent, and good-looking.  They are decent, well-liked, and kind-hearted.  Christina and Walt have done a wonderful job as parents.

Christina really wanted another child.  She and Walt began fostering.  The Kangaroo came along.  He had been born to an addicted mother and spent the first six weeks of his like at Children;s Hospital detoxing, then went immediately into Christina and Walt's care.  The Kangaroo's birth mother had visitation rights and the State's plan was to eventually reunite the two, but she kept going in and out of jail until finally she gave up her rights to the child.  Jack Harold Roof was officially adopted into our family.  He has had a lot of medical problems that have been overcome and there will be more in the future.  Jack will turn five in two months.  He's bright, active, loving, and well-liked by everyone in his pre-school,   Christina is an ace at parenting, just as she is with everything else.  (Although she will be the first to tell you that that isn't true.  But what the heck does she know, huh?)

They live in a house chock full with kids and animals (three dogs, three cats, a ball python, a tortoise, a bearded lizard, and a giant South American tegu -- the two hedgehogs sadly passed away) and noise.  They make soap in their spare time (Cove Lake Soapworks.  Fantastic stuff.  Check it out on Etsy.)  This past month, Christina was seriously considering buying a zoo, but the numbers didn't work out.  What they did buy is a boat because the Gulf of Mexico beckons.

I can't help but admire all the things Christina has done and the things she will do.  My family makes me proud and Christina is just one reason why.

Happy birthday, my darling.  We love you and your family very much.