Lee GoPicserveldberg recently mentioned "Caffeine Free Diet-Rite Cola." When he was 15 years old, this product had a different name: "RC 1000"  Yes, that was a stupid name for it, as "1000" didn’t reveal much about the product’s features or benefits.  It was test marketed under that name in Washington State when Britt, baby Anea and I were living in Woodinville, Washington, and I purchased a sixteen ounce bottle at Zip’s Market on the Woodinville-Duvall Road.  I have always had a soft spot in my stomach lining for RC. Soldhere

Royal Crown Cola was always innovative. Back in the "real old days," Royal Crown was "The King of Colas," and it was caffeine free. By the time I drank RC from glass bottles, ice cold from Duff’s Creamery on Alder Street in Walla Walla, it had caffeine again. Maybe I preferred RC for the same reason people gravitate towards Dr. Pepper — most people drank Coke or Pepsi, so swigging RC made you "different."  Then again, so did being excused from school for Yom Kippur. Nehi

  The other soft drinks that we guzzled with glee were from the same company that created Royal Crown Cola — NEHI. There was NEHI Grape, of course. NEHI just about everything. 

Notice that gas was 17 cents, not $3.17. When my sister Janice would have me plead "Mercy" for my dad to give her the keys to the car so she could take me to the A&W Root Beer stand on East Isaac’s, a gallon of gas was only 7 cents more than a Poppa Size Mug (LARGE) of Root Beer. Amazing the things that come to mind at 4:50 am. I can see so clearly my brother, Stan, proudly washing his recently painted 1954 Buick. It had been green, but Stan customized it to glorious black and white. That made sense — Stan is color blind.  The ’54 Buick was a wonderful family car. If you didn’t have a family, there was enough room in the back seat to start one.

And when it came to cream soda, it had to be Nesbitt’s Cream Soda in a glass bottle. There were some strange brands to which we became attached — DOUBLE-COLA at Loon Lake was one of my favorites, too.  In fact, the only place I ever had DOUBLE COLA was Loon Lake. The last time I was there, they still had the DOUBLE COLA sign on the door to the store’s little "cafe."  Don’t bother asking for one, expecting it to be served with your JUICY-RAY Beef Sandwich — meat kept horrifically overcooked by infrared heat lamps, ’cause neither is available. I just tell myself they are on back order, and will arrive the same day that the ROYAL FLASH pinball machine is repaired and the songs change on the jukebox. Circlerc


insomnia: The best time to chat on line with most of my relatives is about 3:15am–4:45am, or 4:45am–6:57am because we all get insomnia about the same time and after exhausting TNT (naw, I’ve seen that episode of Angel/Charmed/Pretender five times already), AMC, (Imitation of Life, AGAIN? Okay, I love Claudette Colbert, but any movie that ends with "I want my quack-quack" gets stale eventually), TCM (My God! When Turner bought EVERYTHING in the catalog, he sure as hell did buy EVERYTHING — who the hell is that playing Philo Vance THIS TIME? And how can a full length feature film have a running time of 57 minutes, counting credits?) — well, you get the idea: when we’ve seen it all, we turn to our primary addiction. No, not the internet, the keyboard.  I dont have a notebook computer with me here at the luxurious Garden Hilton Hotel in Milpitas, CA where the future of hospitality meets the aroma of the landfill, and my daughter’s computer is designated "WORK ONLY" by the fine folks who paid for it — her employers.  In the middle of the night, when personal demons are more ubiquitious than Law and Order reruns, it’s the kinetic sensation of touchtyping that calls to me. I don’t know if there is an official name for it, but i’ve termed it a "personality adjustment compensation strategy" comprised of distinct stages and attributes:

TYPISTOMANIA — the channeling of one’s nocturnal manic phase into productivity via typing.

TYPISTACAUCUS — this is several nocturnal manics commiserating together while typing.

There are subgroups, of course, such as "TypeATypingTrype" and there are even a few of the rare "OralSubmissivesFingering" which is very dangerous — obsessive fast talkers using voice recognition software,   I think my nephew Tod falls into this catagory, as voice recognition software will render "Sally, you are fondly regarded," as ‘Sadly, you’re a fuctard."  Then again, Tod speaks with exceptional clarity. Maybe Sally is sadly a "fuctard" after all.  At this stage of the conversation, (or monolog), my weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet. (For God’s sake! Don’t sing THAT TV theme!) I think it is time for me to take a nap — after all, it is 6:11pm and I’ve had my keyboard fix.

LIFE COULD BE WORSE/ i look famous

I just ate lobster with drawn butter. Life could be worse.  No one is attacking me with machettes, hand grenades, or knives. No vicious snakes have been stuffed in my sleeping bag. I have not been shot at, stabbed, thrown from a cliff, or tossed from a moving train all week.

True, my pay is overdue, and my life is like one of those 1965 radio commercials for Credit Advisors: Ring Ring Knock Knock "OH NO! NOW THEY ARE AT BOTH DOORS!" Except I don’t have any doors.

Once I get paid, things will be much better — I’ll get health insurance, a place to live, my dog out of the kennel, and some new socks. I’ll take beautiful women out to dinner, lovely women out to lunch, = charming women out to breakfast, and then there will be some women I’ll never take out in public<<< element of humor.

I LOOK FAMOUS:  My daughter doesn’t believe me, but I look famous in Santa Monica. Everywhere I go, people say "Hey, aren’t you….???" and i say shhhhhhh….no, you just think I am…"  They ask if they have seen me on television (i tell them that’s possible, because it is…albeit remotely) or if they have seen me in the movies (I say probably, i go to a lot of films).  There must be some way I can cash in on this peculiar situation. Maybe I can carry a sign: "Will look famous for food"


There was more than one "Green River Killer" — at least three killers with different methods and behavior all dumped their bodies in the same general area. One of the killers was most likely a fellow who was never captured, but now deceased. He had a full collection of police uniforms and automobiles that looked exactly like real cop cars. It is believed that he used this ruse to pick up his victims. This was discovered, along with other incriminating evidence, after he died. The best known and the only "convicted" Green River killer was Mr. Ridgeway. They knew about him for years, but had messed up the original evidence. DNA was his final undoing. Another alleged Green River Killer was Paul St. Pierre and perhaps his friend, Andrew Webb. St. Pierre died from supposedly shoving feces filled toilet paper down his own throat while under guard in prison, and Webb is still in Walla Walla (the prison) serving a sentence for the murder of Damon Wells.  I wrote a book about St. Pierre and Webb entitled HEAD SHOT. Buy several copies today!

Webb’s nephew, Travis Webb, appears as himself in both HEAD SHOT and HEADLOCK — no relationship between the two books. HEAD SHOT is non-fiction true crime; HEADLOCK is a private eye mystery set in Walla Walla starring an author protagonist who is remarkably just like me only younger, better looking, and stronger — but no smarter. Oh, and his books sell more copies than HEADLOCK has sold.
HEADLOCK is one of my favorite  books — probably because it is written in first person (I’m the person)present tense, takes place in Walla Walla, and even though it is fiction, it incorporates a great deal of true Walla Walla reality. It was the #1 best selling book in Walla Walla for over a year, outselling Harry Potter — which means it sold at least 10 copies. It suffered from being a POD (print on demand) title from a small publishing house, DEADLY ALIBI PRESS. I do get royalties on it — so far, almost enough to cover the cost of the Squirts I drank while hanging out at the McFeely Tavern soaking up atmosphere and authentic dialog. A Hollywood production company that produces Made for TV Movies asked about buying the TV rights – –  they were interested in making a TV movie pilot for a proposed series based on the book, but (so far) nothing has come of it. <sigh>  It was fun speculating on who would play "me" — perhaps the actor who played Balki in "Perfect Strangers," or maybe Joey Heatherton…nope, she would play my sister, Janice. I would probably wind up being played by Bob Sagget or Angela Basset. Any suggestions? (Yes, Lee, Pierce Brosnan plays you, Jon Lovitz plays Tod, and Zamphire plays the Pan Flute.)


The DIrectors Guild theater was surprisingly full for a Monday night, 9:30 showing of WAR OF THE WORLDS. The movie, with destruction that makes INDEPENDENCE DAY look like a WB cartoon, is actually "disturbing" — this is not a "popcorn movie" — especially at the Directors Guild theater where food and drink are not allowed. Something about the invaders, and Americans being refugees in their own country, strikes a chord resonant with the upsurge of fascism. Other flicks where aliens attack have people running and screaming, but this film shows the displaced, homeless, bereaved, searching, fearful aspect of those "running extras" that we’ve not seen except in newsreel footage of armed invasions and other wars. And this was WAR OF THE WORLDS — so it was.  Morgan Freeman narrated,  Tim Robbins received applause when his face came on screen, and Dakota Fanning solidified her reputation as the best screen actress under five feet tall. Tom Cruise is over five feet tall, isn’t he? He worked hard too. Special effects were astounding.

Next up for critique: The Devils Rejects. Haven’t seen it, but sure have it on my to-do list.


<<<<<<<< Dangerous Desperados Drink in Blackpool

See the woman over there with one eye going the opposit direction of the other? That’s Donna. The excessively unusual fellow next to her is her boytoy, Russ.  This couple recently caused an uproar in Blackpool when they showed up sober. As anyone familiar with Blackpool knows, anyone in that vacation spa for more than 45 minutes is required to (a) be intoxicated (b) wear a funny hat.

Dragged before the local magistrate, the couple was soundly upbraided for conservative behavior, and ordered to make fools of themselves immediately. As you can see from the photograph, they complied. You may say "OK, Russ is wearing a funny hat, but Donna simply looks as if she is on her way to the Pendleton Roundup." You must understand that she is wearing a cowboy hat and she is Irish, living in Oxfordshire, UK. They don’t even have horses in Ireland yet, and rodeos are not the seasonal event in Oxfordshire. They were finally allowed to leave on the condition that if they ever return to Blackpool, they must start drinking a good one hour before arriving, preferably behind the wheel of a careening vehicle.

Tonight I’m going to the Directors Guild screening of WAR OF THE WOLRDS.  Hopefully, they will have a special feature explaining how Tom Cruise held AUDITIONS for the role of his new girlfriend! Yes, AUDITIONS! "Have you ever played the girlfriend of a movie star previously?" A friend of a friend was one of the starlettes called in to test for the part of Tom’s new love. "Do I have to sleep with him," she asked with trepidation and loathing. "Yes, I’m afraid so," replied her agent "but you put on a fake mustache, use a deep voice, and wear this unique device." 

Meanwhile SpongeBob Squarepants was arrested in Florida for indecent exposure after My Little Pony and Rainbow Brite joined him at an adult XXX Japanese anim screening. Details are not yet inked in, but the first sketchy reports paint a  not-so-pretty picture of our underwater role model waving somthing about resembling a small sea urchin.


Today we have a licensed character endorsement for race unity. For those of you who may worry that this is an extension of “fan fiction,” or the utilization of a licensed logo without appropriate approval from the legal rights holders, relax — it’s legal and approved. Race unity, and the elimination of racial prejudice was an issue close to the heart of the Saint’s creator, Leslie Charteris, who experienced racism first hand. His father was Chinese, his mother British. This is preferable to having one of your parents being a hamster, and the other smelling of Elderberries. According to sociologists and social psychologists, racism, nationalism, sexism, and anti-Semitism have increased in America. So has the cost of health care and the price of a Big N Tasty at McDonalds. Obviously, the answer to the question, “How do we reduce prejudice in America,” is “government enforced price controls on medical care and fast food.” A forced roll back of the Big N Tasty to 99 cents is the first step, never allowing the McRib to see daylight again is the second. Yes, ever since I had a heart attack, I’m more conscious than ever of what I eat — and as I only eat fast food from Micky D’s or BK’s value menu, Kosher deli items such as the “ALL SALT SANDWICH” at Nate n Al’s, or the KASHA & BOWS Special “Save Money, Retain Fluid!” at Sid’s, this stuff is important to me. So is the price of Rx drugs. They have become so expensive, that there is now a black market of Plavix and Inderol, smuggled into America in innocuous looking bales of contraband marijuana from clandestine pharmaceutical labs in countries we call “Third World.” Like me, you’ve probably asked yourself a thousand times, “What is Third World?” No one knows. We just know that America is FIRST WORLD and that’s all that counts!
You have also probably asked yourself, “What kind of gun would Jesus use?” Obvious answer: “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” The classic Colt Single Action Army “Peacemaker” was introduced in 1873, and remains in production today. In our collective consciousness, it remains the gun most associated with the American West, where it was unquestionably the most popular full sized revolver of the late 1800’s. Yep, Jeus may have ridden an ass, but today he would fire a Colt. You may quote me on that.


I eat Jewish food which, as everyone knows, goes in and NEVER comes out. There is farfel in my system from 1963, and a matzoh ball from Passover, 1956. Each item of Jewish food is tagged as if on Wild Kingdom and then tracked laboriously through the digestive system. There are kasha and bows in the belly of Shelly Berman that date back to before the flood. As for my photo on my blog – yes, i keep changing it. Why? Because I get complaints that either I look too serious, too silly, too old, too young, or too constipated. I am changing the picture again — I’m going to use a picture of a Las Vegas Cam Model who, for $4.95 a minute will show you how to make sure NOTHING gets out of ANY opening EVER!


Dan Brown is a best-selling author.  People buy his books. That’s what makes him a "best-selling author."   Being the best-selling salesman does not mean that you are a salesman whose books sell as if written by Dan Brown. This is all very complex.  Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code has sold more copies than …well….just about everything on Earth.  My books only sell well to the people who buy them — women who date serial killers because it’s a makes a statement. The statement is "I’m out of my mind!"

I do keep track of my sales — or someone does. Writers get royalty statements which make perfectly clear why you can’t pay your bills — they send out books, the store sends some of them back, but as they dont know how many will come back, they TAKE A GUESS and deduct that from what you are paid.  Why can’t they take that guess BEFORE they ship out the books?  I’ll tell you why. Because if they are wrong and send out too few, then they will lose sales. This happened with my book MURDER IN THE FAMILY when it was on the second tier of NYT Best Seller list. It was heading for the top when, yes, they ran out of books. You can’t be in the top 10 if the book is on backorder.  What i dont understand is why my first royalty check for MITF was three times more than the royalty checks for my next three books combined – and the sales are consistently THE SAME for all of them! Yes, it must be the GUESS HOW MANY WILL BE RETURNED factor.  This is all too confusing for me, as you can tell.  It could be worse — i could be a musician, song writer, or other fictional character. Brian WIlson was owed $33 MILLION in back royalties from Capitol Records. "OOOPS, sorry Brian we somehow didn’t notice that $33,000,000.00 we didn’t pay you."

When it is easy to overlook $33 million in royalties, it’s a miricle that I get anything at all. 

Writing the Short Story

I was thinking tonight about my nephew, Tod Goldberg. He is a brilliant author, as is his brother Lee, and his Uncle Burl. All three are shy, modest and ever-so-helpful to the surging sea of pre-published (unpublished) would-be-writers who continually (a) kindly ask for our insightful advice, or (b) tell us that because we are published authors, we are clueless fools.

The best safeguard against the "b" category is to charge for insightful advice, guidance, and homework assignments. This is called "teaching," or "instructing."   All three of us have managed to fill anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes per class with sufficient anecdotes and re-phrased verities to suck up the alloted time while successfully sustaining our students’ voluntary consciousness.  Tod, however, is the only one of us who pulls this off with profitable, respectable consistency at an accredited institution of higher learning. In celebration of the release of Tod’s new book of short stories, Simplify, I present this 500 word short story starring — Tod Goldberg.

Mr. Goldberg’s Class: Writing the 500 Word Short Story

“The essential problem with your story, David,” explained Mr. Goldberg politely, “is simply that you set your sights too high for a first effort.”

“Meaning what, exactly?”

“You’re trying to run before you walk, pardon the cliché,” said the instructor. “Your title, `A Perfect Murder’ is a bit grandiose – in real life, a murderer can’t drag a dead body all over L.A in public without someone getting wind of it, so to speak. Write what you know, David.  Perhaps something such as `How I Feed the Dog’ would be more appropriate.”

David stared at Goldberg quizzically. “I don’t have no dog.”

“What I mean, is that I want you to write something less complex. Keep it simple.”

“Well, yeah. I did write on both sides of the page,” admitted David. “So, I should just do one side? That would be more simpler?”

“Simpler, yes,” said Mr. Goldberg, smiling and sighing and glancing at his watch. “However, I do admire that you put so much effort into it. I recognize that you are a very dedicated student.”

David shifted his weight, cleared his throat and stammered out what was obviously an important question. “What do I do about the ending?”

“Well, the ending has to make sense in light of everything that came before it. As it is now, the story sort of…well…just stops.”

Perspiration dripped from David’s forehead, translucent drops plopped on crude pulp pages, puckering the author’s erratic Scripto scrawl.

“Here’s my best advice, David,” Goldberg said, offering a warm smile. ”Re-write the story at the end of the semester. By then, you’ll have mastered the basics. I know you’re eager, David. That’s good, really it is. You’re just a little impatient.”

“Thanks for your encouragement; Mr. Goldberg,” said David. “I really want to write good ‘cause it’s important to my mom. She had a book published once, you know. So, she’s always been on me to write good, .too.”

The student hurriedly gathered his things. “I almost forgot,’ he said nervously, “she’s waiting for me in the car. See you Monday.”

Goldberg responded with appropriate social echo; David quickly walked out of the classroom and down the stairs to the parking lot. On the way, he crumpled the story’s pages into a sweaty ball and tossed them in the trash can.

“I’m sorry for making you wait. Mom,” he said, splaying his denim clad posterior across the driver’s side cracked black plastic bucket seat.   “I was talking to Mr. Goldberg, and guess what? He says I’m a good student. Really! I’m learning just fine, he said. I’m just impatient, that’s all. I need to be patient, you understand, right?  So, you gotta be patient with me too, okay?”

Mother nodded as David fumbled the key into the ignition, started the engine, and forced the gear-shift into drive. “There’s just one problem Mom.” His tone was as cautiously casual as trepidation allowed. “It will be the end of the semester before I know what to do with your corpse.”

Copyright 2005 Burl Barer. All Rights Reserved