When I was a kid, I wanted to be Jim Rockford.
I also wanted to be Rob Petrie (a writer with a beautiful wife) and Carl Kolchak (a writer who battled monsters), but I never actively did anything to become those fictional people (beyond becoming a writer, of course – but no wife or monsters yet). But I actually tried being Jim Rockford (minus the times he got beat up). When I was around 9 I opened up a private investigator’s office in my bedroom. It didn’t last long, though I did find my sister’s gloves one time when she lost them (they had fallen behind a table near the front door). When I was a teen and looking for a used car, I looked all over the place for a Pontiac Firebird. I didn’t find one, but I did get a Camaro that kinda-sorta passed for one if you didn’t think about it too much. And when I got my first answering machine I tried to make a message that sounded a lot like Rockford’s: a little weary but quick and to the point.
James Garner died over the weekend at age 86, another reminder that all of the people we grew up with are going away. He was one of those actors that was always good no matter what he was in, with an easy-going, unpretentious charm that not many actors can pull off. He seemed like a normal, good guy who just happened to star in several iconic roles (and from what I hear from people I know who worked with him that’s what he was, normal and good). You got the sense that Garner was in on the joke. He took the work seriously but not himself.
NBC tried to remake The Rockford Files a couple of years ago (with Dermot Mulroney – that’s just weird) but no one liked the pilot so it was scrapped. There might even be a big screen version with Vince Vaughn as the star. But we all know it won’t be the same. It just won’t be the same.
Update: TCM is going to have an all-day tribute to Garner next Monday, July 28, starting at 6am. Here’s the schedule.
Today is the 25th anniversary of the most underrated James Bond movie and I wrote about it for Esquire.
I was going through the Professor Barnhardt’s Journal archives the other day and I came across a theme issue we did back in 2003. I asked people to list their favorite songs of the past 25 years. And that got me thinking: what’s my favorite album of all-time? I was wondering if I could narrow it down to one. I discovered that it was actually very easy.
This was the first day this season where the weather punched you in the face and said in a loud voice, THIS IS SUMMER. DEAL WITH IT. It was humid, sticky, and gross.
As I get older I’m trying to like summer more, I really am. But it’s not easy. There are some things I like about summer: watching tennis, watching baseball, the switch to cold drinks and being able to keep the windows and door open to get a nice breeze going. And I’m a New Englander, so I actually like the change of the seasons.
But my God, when July rolls around and the humidity settles in for two months – and you haven’t had A/C in 20 years because of the way your windows and furniture are configured – it not only exhausts you it actually hurts your spirit a little. It grinds at your body and your mind and doesn’t let up until Labor Day.
This was the kind of day where we need something I mentioned on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and with a little digging I actually found a recipe: GIN AND TONIC POPSICLES.
An announcement: I can probably mention this now since the details have been worked out. Later this month I start writing a new weekly column for The Saturday Evening Post. And before you say it, yes, it’s still around! More details on when you’ll be able to read the column will be posted in a couple of weeks.
This is actually a post I did a while back but accidentally deleted. At the time there was a meme going around online, “Things I’ve Done You Probably Haven’t,” and lots of people were making lists. I made a list too. Here’s what I wrote (with a couple new additions):
Was an extra on Wings
Accidentally punched a nun
Once drank Zarex* straight, no water
Got dragged into a bar fight involving the lead singer of The Smithereens
Juggled a loaf of Wonder Bread, an orange, and a piece of hard candy
Interviewed Frank Zappa
Stole a bunch of street signs (while drunk)
Got hit in the head with rocks three different times before the age of 10
Got talked about by Kathie Lee and Hoda on Today
Had sex in a cemetery
How about you?
* A fruit drink you mixed with water. Sort of like Kool-Aid, only in liquid form. Saw an ad for it on TV when I was around 9 or 10 and rushed to the store. Had no idea you had to mix it with water first. Like chugging cough syrup. It made a comeback recently and is available again.
I’m having massive internet problems that might not be fixed for several days, so updating will be non-existent here and on Facebook and Twitter. If you need me…well, you’ll have to call me or knock on my front door.
Update: OK, it seems to be back. I hope. *Fingers crossed.*
Yesterday was my 49th birthday. Now, I’ve never been very good at math, but according to my calculations, 49 is only one year away from 50. BUT THIS CAN’T POSSIBLY BE RIGHT.
I celebrated the day the way I’ve celebrated every birthday for the past 15 years or so: at home, watching TV alone, reading, and drinking alcohol (this year: Sam Adams Summer Ale). Oh, and cake! Red Velvet, which is quickly becoming a tradition. Any day that includes beer and cake at some point is usually a good day.
I also donned my headphones and listened to a ton of music I haven’t listened to in a while. I’ve become obsessed with The Grass Roots. I’ve always “liked” them – a band I thought was good but not one I would think about too much or decide to go out and buy all of their albums – but I’m now of the opinion they were one of the great bands in pop/rock history. The vocals, the melodies, the way the horns have a way of both lifting you up and driving you forward. Put your own headphones on and listen to this:
If I were to list my 10 favorite songs of all-time, that would be one of them. I could listen to The Grass Roots all day long. And yesterday I’m pretty sure I did.
I also did some serious things. I made some hard decisions about my career and my life in general, the things I have to do and the things I shouldn’t do anymore and the things I shouldn’t have done in the first place. I guess when you are rapidly approaching the half-century mark in age these things come into sharper focus, with a power they never had before. This is a good thing. And it was a good birthday.
I wrote a piece for Esquire, if you missed it last week, and I’m working on a podcast which will launch late summer. I have a fantastic first guest lined up.
Have a great week!