The Big Geek Photo

Actor, author, blogger, and proto-nerd Wil Wheaton (left) – an example of somebody associated with the “ghetto” genre of science fiction, or of tv, though he is actually a broader and deeper thinker/performer than most give him credit for.

[ Today, a sort of “greatest hit” post from a few years back… in which I rewrite a re-discovered piece from 2007, my last stint teaching English Lit and Drama to Grades 6-12. ]

People are kind. They find it easy to forgive you in the name of tragedy or insanity.”

-Walker Percy, Love In the Ruins, 1971

Such is the kind of snickering philosophy and anthropology you get from Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, and a plethora of other classic practitioners of what is called literary fiction.

“Literary fiction”… kind of off-putting, isn’t it? It’s a misnomer in many ways. Everything that uses written words is technically “literary”, if one wants to be literal about the word itself:

  • {circa 1640–50; Latin līterārius, or litterārius = “of reading and writing”. See letter1-ary }

I think the designation literary fiction can become a catch-all category for anything that doesn’t easily fit in the category of a certain marketable genre of fiction. It’s a publisher’s or college professor’s designation, nothing more. Salman Rushdie, for example (a writer whom I adore), has written YA Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Historical Fiction, Political Satire and so forth… he’s all over the map! Is it all literary fiction, or none of it, or only some of it?

Plus, some genre fiction writers are excellent literary practitioners as well. If they’re out to explore the human condition in-depth, not just out to entertain us, but they happen to do this through fantasy or horror or romance or a spy thriller, then they’re actually writing literary fiction in the guise of genre fiction. It’s a marketing term, a branding thing… nothing more. It can either free people up, or it can be a trap. 

Further complicating the issue: the age-old Art vs. Commerce debate: if an author has a hit book or series that seems to fit a known genre, they can make serious bank through film adaptations, but may suffer dismissal by “serious” critics, academics, or non-fans of that particular genre.

Case in point: how many fans of The Color Purple –by a black lesbian writing in the realistic or “literary” vein– would also concede that white, straight fantasy, sci-fi and YA author Ursula LeGuin (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Left Hand of Darkness, and other speculative fiction which often featured heroes of color and/or androgynous sexuality) had as much to say about race, gender bias and prejudice as Alice Walker did in The Color Purple? It’s not that the authors or their fans would even disagree on this point… it’s just that they didn’t know. Very few of them had occasion to even talk to each other, given all of their separated, partitioned, unique “tribes” and lingo that would have to be learned and translated. They were in their own separate subcultures –the feminists, the sci-fi nerds, the black activists, the LGBTQIA+ community, the college professors specializing in postmodern criticism, the network tv producers and consumers, etc.– each existing in different contexts, practically on different planets, within the baffling American landscape. 

And yeah, I’m wimping out by not naming more actual author names here. But I didn’t set out today to recommend specific books or authors.

What I did set out to do was to discuss a “community of readers”. I’m looking to recommend reading older books from your local public library, instead of buying them. Not because I’m looking to take money away from anybody, or to save a few trees. 

No. I prefer my books to come from the library partly because it’s less expensive, but also because I enjoy the little notes and dog-ears on the pages, and being out amidst many shelves of well-loved books, and seeing what is unavailable for checkout because it is still relevant, if not popular (which it may well be). All that extra information about a book serves to remind me that I am not alone, but instead I am part of a reading community.

The Walker Percy quote above, for example, had some very light pencil marks around it. They weren’t obtrusive –just enough to help me see that it was actually a subversively funny line, and I should pause to appreciate the artistry in it before continuing. That’s the other nice thing about reading: you can pause, pace yourself, and actually contemplate an idea without the distraction or the “rush” of the next line being spoken, or without the picture in front of you (if it’s a stage play or tv/film presentation) adding a secondary tone or color to the original written words.

This is not the first time that I’ve seen this kind of pencil mark/highlight indicator. It seems like these close-reading marks have been in a dozen or more library books I have picked up over the years. It’s as if I have a Reader’s Guardian Angel looking over my shoulder, saying, “See that? How cool is that?!

(Either that or I have a Reading Soulmate in my old hometown — whom I’ve yet to meet, but I accidentally stalk by reading her favorite books right after her… but we won’t go there today… that’s just crazy talk.)

Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but the biggest kick that I get out of reading fiction of any kind is that moment when plot becomes secondary, and the author puts in something bigger, maybe more universal; a new take on a common theme, or a powerful philosophy embedded in a tiny little joke. Or maybe the author simply uses a moving and imaginatively described detail, so beautifully rendered that it makes you stop and think about your own life.

Reading is like swimming: Sure, you can do it alone, but it’s much more fun with friends. So go grab your favorite library book and make a few notes in the margins, or underline a word, or fold over a page –all gently and responsibly, of course. With discretion and restraint. Maybe your personal note will lead to bigger things.

Or maybe I’ll be the next person to grab that book off the shelf, and learn not just from the book, but from you.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | April 21, 2019

Anxiety and Consciousness -an Eastern Easter Meditation

Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul,
except sin.
God commands you to pray,
but He forbids you to worry.

St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)

* * *

“And I pray that I may forget

These matters that with myself I too much discuss

Too much explain…

Teach us to care and not to care

Teach us to sit still.”

Ash Wednesday,

T.S. Eliot (1930)

* * *

laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph
and death i think is no parenthesis

“since feeling is first” by E. E. Cummings, first published in 1926 in the book is 5.


Thich Nhat HanhVietnamese Buddhist Zen Master, poet, scholar, and peace activist who was once nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr.—

On the Christian Eucharist, eating, mindfulness, and awareness

For more, start with Hanh’s

Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting through the Storm

+ + +

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.John 20

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | April 19, 2019

The 5am Thugs (original poem by Mark Nielsen)

Dixie da Dog is whispering in my ear: “Feed me, Seymour… or I will bite your ear off.”


Scout sez: “This couch ain’t big enough fer th’ both of us, pardner.”


The 5 a.m Thugs
by Mark Nielsen, 4/4/19


Go back to sleep, it’s not time yet–

before I do something we’ll both regret.

Ssshhh! Be quiet, you’ll wake your sister.

Can’t we train you coonhounds to whisper?


I know you’re hungry, and if you could talk

you’d constantly bug us for longer walks.

But me, I’m tired. I need to sleep

another half hour, or I’ll be a creep


the rest of the day, just ask my friends.

So just be patient, and when this ends

and I’m well-rested and fill your bowl,

and put you out, all will be well.


.  .  .  .

The Treeing Walker Coonhound is a breed of hound descended from the English and American Foxhounds. The breed originated in the United States when a dog known as “Tennessee Lead,” was crossed into the Walker Hound in the 19th century

Read More…

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | April 5, 2019

CBD, Pot and & Me: Not the Last Word, But a Good Word

Olivia Newton-John recently went public about using medical cannabis to help fight her cancer.
Oh, Sandy! Really? How are we supposed to feel about that?

I have been immersed in the “cannabis community” for about a year now, as the receptionist at a medical cannabis dispensary in Illinois that serves several counties. While I’ve been there, I have seen/heard an explosion of information, opinion, new media coverage, and a rapid increase in casual discussion by mainstream people both in that cannabis community and outside of it (with both pro-cannabis and con opinions). It may still be “alternative medicine” for many, but the implied meaning and stigma attached to “alternative” ain’t what it used to be. We can at least talk about it without feeling weird, or like it’s a risky subject.

The point is, people are talking. But unfortunately they may or may not know the facts. Furthermore –and I say this as a former teacher of writing and rhetoric at the high school and college level — they may or may not know how to recognize bias, manipulation, or who might be putting this discussion information (or disinformation) out into the world.

It takes some skill, for example, to recognize a paid (but disguised) article (basically an advertisement) intended to do good P.R. for a CBD company, and how that would be subtly different from a neutral journalistic or medical approach to the same subject.

Disclaimer time:

I’m not here to deliver all of those facts. Or certainly not all at once.
Most importantly, I’m no doctor, biologist or chemist. (On the other hand, I’m also not a salesman or cannabis/hemp cultivator asking you for money, which goes to the subject of bias. Even though I work as a sub-contractor at a dispensary, by industry standards I’m a nobody. I don’t have money to be gained or lost on the basis of whether you read this, or whether you believe me.) Plus many facts, at least on the scientific/medical side, are still being studied. But if I can dispel a few myths and rumors, and clarify the questions you should be asking, then that’s a good step in the right direction for anyone considering using CBD/hemp oil or medical marijuana (not the same thing, see below).

Starter Guides

If you want some starter info about cannabis in general, the Chicago Sun-Times had a very good marijuana article by Tom Schuba back in September of 2018. Embedded at the bottom of that article is a link to another good article by Tom, on CBD oil: “Cannabis 101: A guide to CBD oil, what it is, how it works, who can use it”. Most of the information there in both articles still holds true, though I’m betting that things in IL will be heating up and changing slightly, and soon, with the election of governor J.B. Pritzker in November 2018. He is already making headlines with this issue pretty regularly here in early 2019.

Recreational Adult Use in Illinois?

As for the hype that marijuana in Illinois will be recreational and legal for all adults [which became the case in Michigan last fall], I believe it’s not going to happen as fast as the industry and politicians say it will here in Illinois. It’s more likely to take two years, and probably longer, for people to be able to go their local dispensary –as if it’s Walgreen’s or a liquor store– and pick up an eighth of bud.

Why? Illinois is a “purple” state politically, and the dirty, racially-charged brand of politics peddled here has seldom followed national trends. Marijuana law– and who benefits from the business boon that cannabis is– will be fought over. Business, political, agricultural and law enforcement careers will be made or lost over how that fight goes. Plus the naysayers will not go away quietly –nor should they, since it is a democracy, and since some important fact-checking is not conclusive yet. Illinois is already one of the most stringent and cautious medical cannabis states in the U.S. in terms of quality control. They won’t suddenly throw all caution to the wind now that Gov. Pritzker is in.

Not to mention the national context: with the FDA, EPA and Trump’s Cabinet waiting everyone out (and with the first two likely underfunded by Trump’s anti-regulatory policies), who is monitoring how pesticides –just for example– are used on the hemp plants currently being grown and consumed? How responsibly are they packaging that CBD oil which is made from the industrial hemp plants? Are the lab results calling it “safe” as stringent in Kentucky or Colorado as they are in Illinois?

If China, by comparison, gets into the CBD game, then it’s even more likely that lab-testing and other checks-and-balances will be very lenient overseas. So the U.S. has to go slow. There is a lot at stake. And while the medical aspect is a high priority, the business and political aspects should not be the tail that wags this fat dog (a cash cow, getting fatter every day, to mix my metaphors).

So slow down, calm down, and let the professionals do their jobs. Sorry if this feels like I’m peeing on somebody’s parade. I’m just a realist, and that’s my opinion.

But in a two to three years, yes, I think recreational marijuana is coming to Illinois… and maybe within a decade, it goes national.


Current stats for Illinois about the average holder of a medical marijuana card –these are official government stats, people– are that she is a white, employed woman between 50 and 60 years of age, with a good family income around the national median. This is the exact profile of a person looking for good, safe medicine –but unwilling or unable to go the “street drug” route. She might have lupus, or M.S., or any number of qualifying conditions where the medical studies of its effectiveness for reducing inflammation and neurological pain are pretty clear by now. I’ve seen direct evidence of the “rise of the Oprah Nation” at the dispensary where I work.

The old ladies be gettin’ high… the numbers don’t lie.

Of course, the black or gray market is still strong, partly because many younger or more recreational users decide not to get medical marijuana cards. Especially when they find out that it will cost $300+ to get a 1-year card (if you include the fees paid to a doctor, whose sign-off is still required on the “recommendation” form in order to apply). Plus they’re probably more willing to settle for affordable borderline ditch weed than middle-aged, cautious connoisseurs –due to their “workin’ at the Steak ‘n Shake” limited income.

Nevertheless, with all the new middle-class, middle-aged users, the hippie/stoner-on-a-couch/gateway-drug vibe formerly attached to marijuana is burning off fast — as it should. Marijuana was generally seen as a problem (or more accurately, a symptom/scapegoat in targeting other social problems) only in the second half of the twentieth century. It spent thousands of years prior to that comfortably under the radar, at least within Western civilization. However, once it became more politicized in the U.S. –similar to alcohol and Prohibition, but with plenty of differences– we got thrown into the murky, frustrating debate that we still have not emerged from.

I’ll reserve a more technical discussion of medical marijuana, and the rules and governmental aspects of it, for another day. Today’s topic is CBD oil or hemp oil, the unregulated retail OTC product purchasable at health food stores, at pharmacies, at vape and smoke shops, over the internet, and increasingly at even more questionable locations.

(The “jumping on the money train” has officially shifted into high gear, people. It’s a growth industry, it’s trendy, and people looking for something to make or sell in an economy that barely manufactures anything anymore can smell the dollars from miles away. When the AARP and Good Morning America are talking somewhat seriously –and regularly– about CBD oil and pot, it’s a sure sign something has changed the past few years.)

CBD Oil: My semi-informed perspective

I started this write-up today because of a discussion I was having with personal friends on Facebook. I’ll put some excerpts of that discussion up below. But first, a clear and simplified explanation of the biology behind all this, which I found at Medical News Today, which appears fairly unbiased to my eyes and ears:

How CBD works
All cannabinoids, including CBD, produce effects in the body by attaching to certain receptors.
The human body produces certain cannabinoids on its own. It also has two receptors for cannabinoids, called the CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors are present throughout the body, but many are in the brain.
The CB1 receptors in the brain deal with coordination and movement, pain, emotions, and mood, thinking, appetite, and memories, and other functions. THC attaches to these receptors.
CB2 receptors are more common in the immune system. They affect inflammation and pain.
Researchers once believed that CBD attached to these CB2 receptors, but it now appears that CBD does not attach directly to either receptor.
Instead, it seems to direct the body to use more of its own cannabinoids.

Now let me weigh in personally, not even as a CBD oil user yet, but just as an educator and a current dispensary worker.

Below, a few highlights of what I and other personal friends said in that Facebook discussion I mentioned above (all names changed for privacy). We were all responding to a recent item featuring singer/actress Olivia Newton-John, who recently used medical marijuana in her fight to beat cancer. For the record, we are all aged mid-to-late 50s, and all white (not that it matters much, I’m just stating it up front for demographic transparency, since we are talking about race, class and bias here, not just cannabis):

First, my friend Kyle (remember, not his real name):

“Interesting. CBD is also used for treating pain (from cancer to Parkinson’s disease to other neurological diseases). In fact, CBD treatment is excellent for pain, anxiety and sleep. When I see my neurologist next Friday I will be speaking to her regarding CBD. I am glad to hear cannabis has helped Olivia Newton-John significantly. “

And on the other hand, meet James, one of the smartest, most even-handed people I know. So, understandably, he cautioned us by quoting the professionals I mentioned above, in this case at Harvard Health:

From Harvard Health:
“Some CBD manufacturers have come under government scrutiny for wild, indefensible claims, such that CBD is a cure-all for cancer, which it is not. We need more research but CBD may be prove to be an option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. Without sufficient high-quality evidence in human studies we can’t pinpoint effective doses, and because CBD currently is mostly available as an unregulated supplement, it’s difficult to know exactly what you are getting. If you decide to try CBD, talk with your doctor — if for no other reason than to make sure it won’t affect other medications you are taking. “

My friend Anna agreed that not all CBD is created equal. On the other hand, she has chronic Lyme disease and thus has found out from credible sources that actual medical cannabis– because of the extra THC being left in to greatly assist the anti-inflammatory CBD (in what pros call the “entourage effect”)– can put her condition into remission.

And finally, my two cents, or what started this whole thing:

“I agree that neither CBD nor medical cannabis are a cure-all for everything, as some have vaguely claimed. I’ve done a year’s worth of active reading from serious sources. Plus anecdotal interviews with real users of both products, and discussions (slightly) with actual medical personnel. Consensus is that the science to back everything up is still in its infancy, partly because the Feds have closed the door to large population university studies, government research grants, or NIH-level million-dollar funding of large medical studies with humans. This is the way they would go with most other medicines and health conditions/treatments. But on marijuana, they’re still ruled more by social beliefs than actual science, so they’re only moving forward grudgingly. On the other hand, the science that does exist looks pretty good. Plus, use of CBD or hemp oil is low-risk, whether or not it yields the high rewards that everyone is seeking. Still, there is no magic bullet, and the hype and celebrities and faddishness of it all is not helping anyone but the profiteers. However, if one seeks out the high-quality, lab-cleared products, whether regulated (medical marijuana) or less regulated (CBD oil), and can pay the price (because insurance companies sure won’t), then cannabis/hemp is, I believe, an effective if imperfect alternative or supplement to traditional pharmaceuticals.

And i would also concur that CBD or cannabis/marijuana interactivity with other medications needs to be studied much more as well. James is right to offer cautions, about internet/celebrity mythology and who the stakeholders are that might be pulling these “rah rah CBD” strings, …as well as cautions about the actual medical/scientific evidence still being fuzzy in some areas .”

So now it’s on you, to keep doing your homework. Or check back with me later. Or just decide. Because I run a mini-democracy too. Or a divinely-inspired socialist collective. Or something like that.

I can’t do everything for you, and if I tried, the fascists would win.


Posted by: Mark Nielsen | April 4, 2019

Anglo-American Franco-Afghan Tibetan Mantra Blues

God’s Woodshed” , Near Downs, IL

. . . . .

English Apocalypse American science Greek rhythm Tibetan mantra Blues

(after Allen Ginsberg’s “What I’d Like to Do”, London, 1973) [

[composed 4/4/19 in honor of National Poetry Month]

Change the title of Allen’s never-begun poem so it flows,

For once get the clean, well-lighted spot on the couch without fighting the dog for it,

Know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Fraud In Chief will do time

(or at least go down in a bloodless coup),

Understand what the Greeks –classical and current– have to do with anything,

Finish my novel so the damned Apocalypse can come already,

Step in that river naked again and come out finally clean and free of poison

(inside and out),

Put a pin in that and come back to it later,

Out-Blake Willie Blake by combining collage, poetry, music, projected video and live dancers in a blindfolded rhythmic homage to Laurie A.

(featuring Trump standing trial for eating Chuckberries off the Obama bush),

Finally mix apples and oranges without anyone giving me a hard time about it

(hey, I like apples and oranges exactly equally),

Compose songs to the sun and the son and the Son, and soon,

Find me guilty and give me a full pardon already,

Learn to play and sing “House of the Rising Sun” without reading, without stumbling and without stopping,

See London, see France,

See and be everyone everywhere all at once

(with their eyes but with my own heart),

Reverse-interpret Lorca, Rimbaud, Eliot, cummings and Scooby Doo, back into “tongues of angels” as they were originally composed and intended,

Eat a… Heck, eat whatever I want, without consequences,

Get over myself,

Bring home the troops,

Send the Afghans their heroin back– along with some books, clean water, and carpentry tools so they can do their own nation-building,

Seek peace, find it, and give it away.

–Illinois, 2019

Neal Cassady  by Ettore Sottsass (1962)


Cowboy in Paris (after Neal Cassady and Pope Gregory Corso)

      by Mark Nielsen……………………………………………………………… 3-26-19


Clear the cobwebs out the inside

of your stetson, your brain pan, your faded and dying

Soul, that shell, no longer wide nor deep enough

to contain all of what we ‘uns got to pour into it.

Whether it’s the easy-access absinthe –down the gullet an’ then

right back up the circ’latory elevator to the blinkin’ stars in your brain–


or be it the coal-black skin o’ that Malawian gal across the street,

an’ her eyes, into which you look, like a mirror, staring

into whatever the opposite of a void might be,

this 27,000-horse town got so much love an’ energy to give

–enough to make a gent like you

shout yippy-ki-yay, loud enough fer the gendarmes

to haul any old coot or young gun off to the pokey,

with him (or you) smiling every chain-bound step o’ the way.


(for Graham B. Nielsen, who’s in France as I write this…)

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | March 22, 2019


“Comeback Special” Elvis, 1968

. . .

I watched the hilariously weird movie “Bubba Ho-Tep” on Amazon Prime last night, featuring Evil Dead cheese legend Bruce Campbell. It’s about a still-alive Elvis hunting an Egyptian zombie on the grounds of a Texas old folks’ home, assisted by a still-alive John F. Kennedy, whose brain was transplanted into the body of a formerly deranged black man (Ossie Davis).

Put it on your Watchlist if you’re a fan of any of the above references. If The Rock’s latest flick is more your style, you probably won’t enjoy Bubba Ho-Tep. It ain’t exactly action-packed, but loved it anyway.

And it got me thinking about this:

“Elvis Is Dead” …by Living Colour, one of the best rock bands of all time, of any color, creed, or nationality (though yes, they happen to be black, and yes, they still tour)

[link above, original and hilarious music video at YouTube, featuring a cameo by Little Richard

… Song info here, at Allmusic –>

(Living Colour, Epic Records, 1990)

. . .

Which all feeds into our question of the day:


An old (in several ways) friend on facebook, audio engineer and lesser Rock God, Jim Roll, coincidentally asked the following question today:

ROLL CALL ULTIMATE: as we all know, rock n’ roll is dead. Who was its last rock star??”

I enjoyed my response so much, I decided to re-post it and expand upon it, above. But my original, knee-jerk response was this:

“My vote is either Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day, or possibly Bruce Springsteen and Bono if one thinks Rock and Roll is still alive.

(and I do… It’s not near as relevant, nor often as much fun or as nasty as Chuck Berry, The Who, Joan Jett, The Clash, Soundgarden, or Metallica tearing up a muthafuckin’ stage without limping, but there are occasions where it proves to live on)

…cue Grapes of Wrath-style Tom “Ripper” Joad speech:

“Wherever there’s an emotionally abused teen plugging into a Marshall stack, I’ll be there; wherever there’s a babe with a bass who knows how to howl and has nothing to lose, I’ll be there; as long as there are high schoolers still doing the “We Will Rock You” stomp in the football stands instead of watching the game, look for me. I’m ROCK AND ROLL, you little shits, and trust me, I WILL BE THERE!”

Any thoughts of your own, rock and rollahs?

For extra credit, suggest some music videos to prove your point, or disprove somebody else’s. Let’s start a fight!

“White Riot! I wanna riot!” , as The Clash once sang…

And for my closing argument, as seen/heard above: at least most of the rockers, both great and awful, could play a goddamned instrument.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | March 13, 2019

Murder In Birdland (a proposal)


Birdland+4AM+NY+1960 - zombie sax player photo

via Murder In Birdland (a proposal)

Click the link above to read my new 1-page “elevator pitch” or book proposal for Murder In Birdland, the work-in-progress novel and companion nonfiction podcast about the Mafia and the music business in Early Sixties America… right here alongside my Marking Time blog.

Watch this space for more material, as it comes in. I’m more than half done, friends. And with a lot of momentum lately. So it’s going to be a mad dash to the finish, hopefully by Christmas 2019.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 28, 2019

Celebrities, Doughy Fanboys, and Playboy Models

Boggs 87 Playboy snip

Snippet of a 1987 Playboy cover.(Edited for good taste…you’re welcome.)

.      I was listening this week to Marc Maron’s WtF podcast interview with Yeardley Smith, who plays Lisa Simpson on The Simpsons. She gave a warm, humble and engaging interview on the podcast …plus, don’t miss Marc’s hilarious and large recent guest appearance on the Feb. 17 episode of The Simpsons, wherein he interviews Krusty the Klown.

Marc and Yeardley –two only semi-recognizable C-list stars, by their own admission– amusingly got into the subject of mid-level stars and the “doughy” fanboys seeking multiple copies of their autographs at places like an airport baggage claim. Yeardley says she looked into it, and most people can only sell an autographed photo for $3 on eBay (since, as she herself says, there ain’t a big market for Lisa Simpson memorabilia).

It made me think about my MLB Hall of Fame member Wade Boggs-autographed baseball, and whether it will be worth more than the average Boggs ball. It might, if only because of my goofy “brush with greatness” story that goes with it: the day in 1987 when Boggs traded places with a Playboy photographer, and when I was on the video crew that documented it.

It was around May or June 1987, at the Playboy Building in downtown Chicago, and later at old Comiskey Park. I suggest this based upon the only printed news reference I can find in a quick Google search (see below). Boggs was also interviewed for a longer story that later appeared in the July ’87 print version of the magazine. But on that interview day (most likely), he traded places for the day in Chicago with a Playboy photographer. I was on hand as a young P.A. to hold a boom mic and otherwise help shoot video for the Playboy Channel’s half-hour cable news magazine program. It was a one-day gig, one of a handful of contracted Playboy freelance dates for my buddy and mentor, cameraman and master video technician Jim Morrisette:

The Town Talk from Alexandria, Louisiana on June 4, 1987 · Page 17

Jun 4, 1987 – Thursday, June 4, 1987 Thursday, June 4, 1987 B-5 Boggs, playboy photographer Macey …trading places… Wade Boggs is no dummy. “There is a …” 

Maybe Boggs is from near Alexandria, LA? Why else would they give this story much coverage? Doesn’t matter. Movin’ on…

Billy Buck

Bill Buckner, later Boston’s favorite “goat” due to his famous World Series error– but one of my favorite as a child. I got his autograph too, …but years later.

The highlight for me that day was seeing some great Red Sox in the clubhouse, including the brooding Jim Rice, my boyhood hero Bill Buckner (icing his bad knees before the game, of course), and a young Curt Schilling, who on his later second stint in Boston would eventually lead the BoSox to their first World Series win in over 100 years.

Surprisingly, despite what one would think about such a salacious and weird event being perfect to splash all over the internet… it isn’t there. Of course, the internet itself didn’t exist yet, which explains a lot. So unless I’m prepared to do some deeper digging, and probably pay to do it, the video material is possibly lost to history, at least for the general public. I’m sure Playboy has it in archive, but as news it’s quite outdated,  so why would they bother re-releasing it? 

In any case, it left me with a story I’ve told for over thirty years now: the day I attended a faked-up Playboy Playmate shoot, went into the visitors’ clubhouse at the old Comiskey Park (where the BoSox were playing the White Sox), and fielded grounders at shortstop on that same classic ballfield.

I’m now just one of those doughy late-middle-aged fanboys (like the comic book store guy on The Simpsons, or the role-playing tabletop gamers that Maron made fun of on his Twitter-obsessed episode of his former IFC series Maron.) And I’m not even running in such C-list celebrity circles anymore. Nor am I insecure enough to try using such experiences to be vicariously famous or funny, by riding the coattails of the above-average, or by overvaluing their autographs.

Or, on the other hand, is that what I’m doing with this post?

You be the judge.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 23, 2019

Bohemian Dream: AKA “Freddy Mercury’s Ghost Buys Some Pot”

Freddy Merc

“I want to break FREE!” – sings man of the hour Freddy Mercury.

I have more dreams featuring real-life celebrities than anyone I know. For example, Robert Downey Jr. once shared a drink with me and talked me down from a horrible crying jag. But this week– most likely in honor of the upcoming Oscars and the #bohemianrhapsodymovie nominations– my dream’s starring roles go to Freddy Mercury and Brian May of Queen!

This morning’s time-bending #Surrealist style dream featured a circa-1982 #FreddyMercury –complete with that classic mustache-and-short-hair combo– and guitarist/co-writer Brian May, who wore his signature long curly locks, but they were jet-black, not gray. They come into my workplace (the local #medicalcannabis dispensary here in central Illinois), and they’re quite dressed-down for a pair of British glam-rockers. But the oddest thing is that it’s present day (2019), and even though Freddy’s dead, he’s also right here in front of me, and he’s trying to buy some pot.

Without a word, a stone-faced Freddy struts up to the counter and puts a fake Illinois medical cannabis card onto my desk. The name on the card is just “Richard II” (as in King Richard II of England). His driver’s license has the same name on it. I look at the cards, I look up at them, and I tell them sheepishly that I will have to confiscate these fake ID’s. When they try to argue, I explain it’s both because I know the cannabis ID is fake, and more importantly because “I KNOW WHO YOU TWO REALLY ARE!”

(I am a big fan, and probably would have been able to recognize Freddy from about age 11 onward… meaning age 11 for ME, not him. Heh.)

At the above confident pronouncement from me, the two musicians bust out laughing, which makes me laugh. Then they explain they just came in “for a lark”, to goof off. They wanted to see what this kind of place was like, a slumming sort of middle-American field trip for them. But they were very nice, very real, not the least bit elitist or jerky. I think I called my co-workers on the intercom to come to the lobby and meet them, but the details get fuzzy, after the point where Freddy admits he’s not really the king of England who reigned from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Whether Brian has a “Queen Elizabeth” fake ID is anybody’s guess. Maybe somebody on the Academy Awards red carpet should ask him.

I probably got to take a photo with them, in the dream. And I got a good story to tell for the rest of my days.


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