Dispatch from Desolation Row

When I began The Chet Helms Chronicles I said that the contents would mostly be about Chet and my experiences researching his life .  I have pretty much stayed true to that, with only a periodic divergence into non-Chet territory.

Well, here’s another one.

On my 47th birthday a friend gave me a hardcover book that was filled with blank pages of unlined paper.

“Thanks,” I said, “I’m sure it’s very good. I’ll let you know after I’ve read it, which shouldn’t take very long.”

My friend patiently explained that it was a journal.

“I knew that,” I lied.

“I know you did,” my friend lied.

My new journal sat empty for several months. Then one evening I was on the phone listening to my other friend talking about her most recent relationship difficulty when she said something I wanted to write down before I forgot it. I grabbed the journal and scribbled her words at the top of the first page. Here is what she said:  “I say black, he says apples.”

Since then, my journal has been a repository for all kinds of miscellany- Grateful Dead set lists, notes for a baseball short story entitled “Chin Music,” notes for a children’s book called “A Cat Named Bark,” a long list of odd, but real names (Pink Schoolcraft, Ovella Bowlegs, Hardkeep Gill), and a whole bunch of other stuff whose significance escapes me. But the centerpiece of the journal, which is now falling apart, are the mixed metaphors, Malaprops and other amusing verbal statements I have heard and documented over the years, many of them courtesy of the aforementioned friend who kicked things off.

Here then, are several examples of real things that were said by real people:

“I’m going to see The Bridges of Madison Square County.”

“They held a visual for Jerry Garcia at the Washington Monument.”

“And that’s just the tip of the icicle.”

“Well, it’s back to the drawing room.”

“My favorite Disneyland ride is Pirates of the Penzance.”

“I can sue him for deprivation of character.”

“My condition is generic.”

“I love where I live because it’s so close to home.”

“She cutting her own rope.”

“She’s all boom and gloom.”

“We went to Hertz Castle.”

“I really like that ‘Thank God It’s Not Butter.'”

“I saw the place where they made that movie Three Coins on the Mountain.”

“There’s no place more French than New Orleans.” (Uh…France?)

“It’s a recipe from Sara Linkey.” (Sri Lanka)

“He really opened a book of worms.”

“You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to figure it out.”

“We were just chewing the breeze.”

“A leopard can’t change its stripes.”

And my all-time personal favorite, which was uttered by an officer in the midst of a high speed chase on an episode of Cops:

My backup’s in front of me.”






Published in: on June 13, 2009 at 6:39 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Okay, okay, so you made me laugh.

    One of my favorite malaprops was a friend’s reply to her doctor when asked what form of birth control she used. “Obstinance”, she replied. When the doctor started laughing, she quickly corrected it to “abstinence”. Both were accurate.

  2. Classic, man. Of course you realize there is a successful, money-making book lurking here.

  3. Yeah, a really, really short book.

  4. Well, true. You will have to collect a few hundred more. But that shouldn’t take too long, the circles you travel in.

  5. I think one of my favorites was a woman friend who insisted that “it’s a doggy dog world”.

    Now, if you would please
    ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy….

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