Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A Book

At my house, when I was a kid, The Lucy Show was a must. All that iffy black and white TV.....“Queen For A Day”, “As The World Turns”, game shows, and pathetic, overly dramatic, even sordid specials, paled in entertainment value to good ol’ Lucy, and that wacky cuban bongo playin’ hubby, Desi Arnaz.


Those of you in your fifties, and possibly your forties, would likely know the word “vitavitavegemin”, penned by some comedy writer for Lucille Ball, to use in one of the zaniest Lucy skits of all time. Lucy, recruited to tape a television commercial for the stuff, some type of liquid vitamin, becomes utterly smashed drunk, after repeated takes of her dosing. It’s classic Lucy. When I envision my Mom, laughing herself to tears, she is watching that skit.

Desi Arnaz, as the straight man, was great, too. Of course, cranking out weekly shows as they did, not every moment was up to the standard of the “vitavitavegemin” bit, but Lucy and Desi (as “Ricky Ricardo”) were one dang funny, and hugely popular, comedy duo.

In 1975-76, I was in the process of starting my first bakery in Tualatin, Oregon. My family was living in Lake, Grove, Oregon, a stone’s throw from Tualatin, and I was busying myself acquiring bakery equipment, hammering out a 10 year lease, and other tasks associated with going into business.

But besides being an energetic twenty something with a dream, and a garage full of dirty sheet pans, I needed to work while the process of going into business was unfolding. So I would grab anything I could, a day here and there at different bakeries in Portland, anything I could get. It was a trip. I learned a ton.

But one job that came up, offered by a family friend, was at a company in Portland called “Bay News”, and had nothing to do with baking. Bay News was in the business of distributing paperback books and magazines. Basically, the job at Bay News was the sorting of paperback books, by publisher, for hours on end. The books were returns from stores, which then needed to be sorted for other uses, for example, shipped in other directions, even back to the publisher. I stood between two huge book shelves, with a pile of boxes in front of me, all filled with books, and sorted, sorted, sorted. The job only lasted for a few weeks, but I was grateful to have it.

One day, zoning out on sorting, there in the lonely Bay News basement warehouse, I heard some chatting behind me, above the din of the warehouse machines and factory sounds. Suddenly, I heard someone say, in a cuban accent....”Allo, Dare!” I turned around, and standing there, about a foot away, wearing a huge pair of dark sunglasses, and sticking out his tanned cuban hand for me to shake, was Desi Arnaz. He was wearing a dark blue double breasted blazer, and, even in pre-bling days, major bling. So I shook his hand, as he spoke, “I’m Desi Arnaz”, and then, in a sentence that made me feel like I myself was in a Lucy show, “Can you tell me where the office is?”

Desi had published a book that year, some might say, appropriately titled, “A Book”. And it had just been released in paperback, so he was on the road to glad hand the powers that be, radio and tv personalites, distributers, and, evidently, book sorters. It was cool to see him up close, shake his hand, smell his cigar breath, see him smile right at me, and have this story to tell. But that book title of his, “A Book”, I dunno, maybe it just hasn’t stood the test of time.

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