Thursday, March 09, 2006

This is when I know I've been watching too much television

Now, I know that the television networks are supposed to be in competition with each other -- but for ratings, not over which one sucks the most. If ABC is going to run a bunch of Wednesday night re-runs, then I wanna see a fresh episode of Veronica Mars. I know I'm a bad, bad American consumer-- I don't have TiVo. And I'm not a very good gay, either-- I don't care at all for America's Next Top Model. Now, some of my best friends and family members do like ANTM, but that won't stop me from being exiled from the Abbey. If I'm going to vegetate in front of the television as is my right as a God-fearin' 'merican, I want at the very least some fresh, sharply written and entertaining Veronica Mars that I haven't been able to see because it now airs at the same time as Lost. At least they repeated the episode with "La Mer." And every time they repeat an episode of Lost, you have to wonder if they're jiggling some newly pertinent clue in front of you for a future plot twist, or if they're just screwing with you.

There was, at least, a fresh episode of Invasion. And what an episode! Eddie Cibrian didn't take off his shirt once and yet still I was at the edge of my seat! Hey! Network suits! This is good television! Of course, so was The Book of Daniel, and is/was Love Monkey, which appears to have fallen into the Bermuda Triangle. Does anybody remember Jay Mohr's short-lived series that had all of Hollywood obsessed and roaring with laughter at their incredibly inside jokes? I could understand if most of the humor on that show made no sense to anyone outside the industry, but it was damn good.

Is there some f-ing rule against intelligent television?

The recent death of former LA Times publisher Otis Chandler brought up his pointed criticism of the Times' faux pas regarding the Staples Center. Who does ABC think they're fooling when they keep running features on Disneyland like they were events of Earth-shattering importance on Eyewitness News?

The Cuban-Americans on Miami talk radio might declare a fatwah on me for saying so, but there's the unvarnished truth: Eyewitness News is no different than the evening news in La Habana. I've watched them both, and while there are a lot of advantages to living in a free United States, believe me, as opposed to a repressive dictatorship, a corporate controlled media with their eye on the bottom line keeps us from unfettered and independent news. Like I'm saying something you don't already know. There, now, I'll let you back to your nice, comfortable denial. After all, denial was created by nature for a purpose. We need our denial. But I do want intelligent fare on the idiot box (like that isn't the contradiction in terms that should tell me I might as well be buying lottery tickets).

Meanwhile, I managed some delayed gratification with Tom Corcoran's latest mystery, Air Dance Iguana. I timed when I came to the last page just as I finished my espresso at the King's Road Cafe. It wasn't a cortadito from Five Brothers, but it was good. I was surrounded by people talking some serious show business talk as I came to a very satisfying end of the book.

How lucky you people are who haven't yet started reading Tom Corcoran's mysteries. Now you have five books you can read in rapid succession: Gumbo Limbo, The Mango Opera, Bone Island Mambo, Octopus Alibi and Air Dance Iguana, that will drop you into the heart and the heat of the Florida Keys. Ah, to devour them one after the other without waiting a year for the next one!

If you're contemplating a trip to the Keys, or merely dreaming vicariously from your armchair, Corcoran can create mise-en-scene that doesn't just put you there, but let's you experience the change that happens on a daily basis to a place as a resident (or in this case, a virtual Conch) feels it. Like they say, it's not the heat, it's the humidity.

To further get you drawn into the mood of the Keys, which as you might have guessed is one of the most unique and atmospheric places in these United States, here's a few of the books Corcoran himself has mentioned in his books:

The Young Wrecker and the Florida Reef --Richard Meade Bache (first published in 1869 and republished in 1999)
A Key West Companion --Christopher Cox
The Florida Keys and The Coral Reef --Oliver Griswold
Ninety-Two in the Shade --Thomas McGuane
The Sibley Guide to Birds
Reap the Wild Wind --Thelma Stradel

Other authors he's mentioned include Ian Rankin's Black and Blue, the great John D. MacDonald's Cinnamon Skin (although my personal favorite MacDonald novel that explains Florida in one nice easy package--as well as gives you an appreciation for his style-- is Condominium), Alan Furst, S.J. Rozan and Tim Gautreaux.

Some titles that I would add to the ultimate Key West booklist (if you want to truly immerse yourself in the place) include:

Conch Cooking --A.J. Artman, Jr.
Houses of Key West --Alex Caemmeker
Memories of Key West --Lee Dodez
Key West Tales ---John Hersey
Key West Writers and Their Houses --Lynn Mitsouko Kaufelt
Cruising Guide to the Florida Keys --Capt. Frank Papy
Key West Collection --Dorothy Raymer
Mile Zero --Thomas Sanchez
The Walking and Biking Guide to Historic Key West --Sharon White
The Florida Keys: A History and Guide
--Joy Williams

...and of course, when I sit down to read about the Keys, I always have a Dolph's map of the Florida Keys beside me along with Capt. Papy's Cruising Guide.

If you are so fortunate as to win the lottery so that you can afford a house in the Keys*, these are required reading. If you want to have any chance in Hell of being accepted as a freshwater Conch, you better study them (but you'll never truly become a native). If you're even going to write about the Keys, you'd best devour them. If you're going down there on a visit, this is merely the short list, mind you. There are some great bookstores there to fill out your knowledge.

Some haunts that Corcoran mentions (of which I've been to most, but not all, since I'm not a bar drinker) include Captain Tony's, the Hog's Breath Saloon, Fast Buck Freddies, Rick's Bar, Mangrove Mama's, The No Name Bar (on No Name Key, of course, with no address), Pepe's, Louie's Back Yard, Cafe Med, Ambrosia, the Turtle Kraals, and of course, the Five Brothers Market for a cortadito and pan cubano or a cuban sandwich. And if you're really lucky and pure of heart, you'll get a chance to see the Key Deer as you make your way down the Overseas Highway. This is a journey words only partly do justice; you do it and you'll know what I mean.

But if you don't have time for all this, just do yourself a favor and read Tom Corcoran's mysteries.

*Don't furnish it with your family heirlooms. The humidity will warp the wood and if you have to evacuate in a hurry ahead of a hurricane, and you will, it'll all end up in the ocean.

No comments: