New Year’s Wishes: George Plimpton at Elaine’s

George Plimpton at Elaine's.

Apropos of New Year’s Eve, Flavorwire’s Emily Temple collected 20 Excellent Photos of Famous Authors Partying. Temple did an awesome job but I submit that she missed the shot below of George Plimpton, the charming and erudite forerunner of New Journalism and a founder of the Paris Review (among so, so many other accomplishments), as photographed by Larry Fink. Plimpton, in sunglasses and blowing a smoke ring after tugging a from a freshly lit cigarette, is not only surrounded by beauties and sparkling wine, there looks to be half empty fifth of gin on the table. Were they mixing their own French 75s? The lack of lemons and sugar suggests, in fact, upon closer inspection, it looks like Plimpton may have been drinking the gin himself if the glass nearest him is any indication.

I had the pleasure of meeting Plimpton outside of Elaine’s sometime in the mid 90s. I stepped out of a car to find Plimpton unlocking his bicycle from a pole of the joint’s awning and, lacking a solid opener, impetuously asked “What are you doing riding a bike?”

Plimpton patiently replied, “Oh, it’s the only way to get around Manhattan.”

The venerable scribe could tell I had more on my mind and indulged me with “And what do you do, young man?”

“I’m a small town newspaperman,” I said breathlessly and listed my then Lumaville affiliations.

Plimpton straightened his back and with utter graciousness appraised: “Ah, a colleague.”

What a class act. I felt as if he pinned a deputy’s star on me.

“I’m George Plimpton and you are?” he continued, extending his hand.

“Daedalus Howell.”

He raised an eyebrow: “Well, then Mr. Howell, a pleasure to make your acquaintance, sir.”

With that, he rode into the night, coat tails flapping in the breeze

The Favours of the Moon by Charles Baudelaire

I want this poem to live here tonight. Baudelaire’s estate and heirs can find me if they care/dare. This bit is my go-to when reflecting on the beautiful and the mad souls I’ve had the privilege of knowing. Goodnight, C.

THE MOON, who is caprice itself, looked through the window while you were sleeping in your cradle, and said to herself: ‘I like this child.’

Continue reading “The Favours of the Moon by Charles Baudelaire”

How to Fail-Proof Your New Year Resolutions

new year resolutionsWhen it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I’ve learned to aim low. Real low, like low enough to shoot myself in the foot. Because that’s what’s going to happen, metaphorically-speaking, if you believe a 2007 University of Bristol study that found 88 percent of resolutions fail.
That we haven’t seen such a study since leads me to believe that the researchers resolved to “do it again next year!” but fell victim to their own statistics. I speak not with derision but with empathy. I’ve never made a resolution that lasted more than a fortnight. By “fortnight” I don’t mean the few hours that your parents allowed you to build a fortress made of couch cushions. I’m talking about two whole weeks of earnest resolutionizing, which, not coincidentally, are always the worst two weeks of the year. Continue reading “How to Fail-Proof Your New Year Resolutions”

Jonathan Lethem on Being Outre

This seriocomic quote from Jonathan Lethem, author of Men and Cartoons and The Fortress of Solitude, succinctly sums up the pervasive sense of outsider-ness many creative types of my generation (x) experience to this day:

“Listen, you can’t imagine what a freak I was. I worked in used bookstores as a teenager. I grew up with hippie parents. I lived in a ten-year cultural lag. At all times. I had not the faintest idea what was contemporary. When I got to Bennington, and I found that Richard Brautigan and Thomas Berger and Kurt Vonnegut and Donald Barthelme were not ‘the contemporary,’ but were in fact awkward and embarrassing and had been overthrown by something else, I was as disconcerted as a time traveler. The world I’d dwelled in was now apocryphal. No one read Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell, the Beats were regarded with embarrassment. When all that was swept away, I stopped knowing what contemporary literature was. I didn’t replace it; I just stopped knowing.”

— Jonathan Lethem in The Paris Review, 2003

Via The Atlantic.

An Unexpected Nod from My Hometown Press

I Heart SonomaThanks to my Google “vanity alert,” I learned that Petaluma360 gifted me some post-holiday cheers in a nice round-up piece on Petaluma authors. Pasted below is a fine quote about having gotten my start in the chapbook trade back in the day (anyone remember Deluge Six or perhaps Ballad of the Saxon’s Daughter and the Book of Job?), which Copperfield’s Books in my hometown of Petaluma, CA, was kind enough grant some shelf space. When you’re a 17-year-old wannabe writer, such gestures mean the world and I remain grateful.

I Heart Sonoma

Daedalus Howell’s “I Heart Sonoma: How to Live & Drink in Wine Country” offers irreverent, but loving verbal snapshots of “Wine Country” depicting the world of vineyards, tasting rooms, and wine aficionados, taken with a dark and comedic zoom lens.

Howell, 40, was born in Santa Rosa and grew up in Petaluma. He credits Petaluma’s Copperfield’s Books Store with providing him his first validation as a writer. In his early teens his writing took the form of homemade pamphlets called “chap” books. They had card-stock covers and were held together with two staples. Copperfield’s allowed Howell and other young authors-in-the-making to display their novice efforts in a professional retail setting. Howell’s “I Heart Sonoma” is available through Copperfield’s Books and in paperback and Internet versions at

Thanks again to Petaluma360 for the press! Click through to meet my colleagues via