Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Goodness

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I’d love to lure Thomas Pynchon to Lunch on the Moon with some killer chimichangas or burritos, since I understand he likes Mexican, but I respect his space and will just blither about him for a while here.

I finally got to see the cinematic version of the Thomas Pynchon novel Inherent Vice. And it was good. Masterfully directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the darn thing was nominated for two Oscars (Writing-Adapted Screenplay & Costume).

Not surprisingly, it has a huge cast, with potent leading characters. I can’t begin to comment on all of them, and apologize for anyone I’ve left out, but I do have to mention cameos by Maya Rudolph, Benicio del Toro, Martin Short, and Richard Nixon.

Josh Brolin stole the show, in my mind, portraying Bigfoot Bjornson. He was as big and anomalously conflicted as the originally written Pynchon character. He looks like Ol’ Flat Top, straight-arrow detective, and he’s obsessed with nailing Doc, or at least tromping on him when he can. He’s also a cop movie wannabe. I suspect Josh read the book.

Joaquin Phoenix did as good a job playing the protagonist, Doc Sportello, as he did portraying Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line,” in my estimation. He played a brooding, semispaced, quite intuitive private detective in search of Shasta, elusive mystical hippie goddess in the story.

Shasta was played by Katherine Waterson, Sam Waterson’s progeny, a brunette, said in an interview that it took her ten hours to become the natural blonde, Shasta. It was her first time on the big screen, but she was a joy to watch.

Reese Witherspoon, playing formidable D.A., Penny Kimball, reunites with Phoenix again after their stint together a decade ago in “Walk the Line.” She secretly desires Doc’s free life . . . lightly engaging with him in an affair of sorts. I also just saw her in Wild, which is another story altogether. I’ll likely be talking about it sometime in the future.

Owen Wilson, God love him, is Owen Wilson. His fans, myself included, count on that in the same way we expect John Wayne to be John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart to be Jimmy Stewart and Robin Williams . . . well, you catch my drift. Anyway, Owen plays Coy Herlingen, a Police informant. He tips Doc off about the Golden Fang. Beware the Golden Fang!

I “read” Thomas Pynchon’s most readable novel (Inherent Vice) when it was released on audiobook a couple of years ago. That’s how I know it deserves its Oscar nod. I also read Mason & Dixon, but I think an unfortunate life or two in the South colors my perception.

Pynchon was born in 1937 in Glencove, New York, on the north coast of Long Island. He served two years in the Navy, and was 26 when his first novel V was published in 1963.

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Pynchon moved into prominence with Gravity’s Rainbow in 1973. It was slated for the National Book Award in 1974, but because of its controversial nature, no award was given that year. I’m still reading this too. My son Jake accidentally left it behind on his bookshelf after he moved out. I saw an art exhibit at The Walker in Minneapolis in 2004 or so where Zak Smith, the artist, created a graphic novel of every single page of Gravity’s Rainbow and plastered the entire book to one wall of the museum. Talk about awesome. Jake says that the secret to reading Pynchon is to read the entire book in one sitting.

I really dig the company he kept. Richard Fariña was a good friend and contemporary of his. Fariña wrote the novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me. I read this novel during my freshman year at Piper— all the way through. It’s companionate to Kerouac’s On the Road, Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, and Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Fariña was married to Joan Baez’s sister, Mimi, and prior to his tragic motorcycle accident in 1966, was expected to be the next Bob Dylan. Ironically, this happened within months of Dylan’s motorcycle accident which put him out of commission for a few years, himself. More on this in a future blog.

My good friend, Tommy Dorsey (not the band leader), gave me an LP Richard and Mimi Fariña recorded together called Reflections in a Crystal Wind because he lost the jacket and needed to buy another copy anyway. More about Richard Fariña in another blog too.

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What’s big and fat and white? Pynchon’s 2006 novel Against the Day. I thoroughly immersed myself in the adventure of the book’s opening scenes aboard a hot air balloon. I’m still reading and enjoying the hardcover version nine years later. I pick it up and put it down. I sent it to my brother for Christmas in 2006 before reading it myself. He says he gave up on it, but he forgives me. I dare you to read it.

I’m entranced by Pynchon’s writing. His worlds are infinitely complex, but inherently great. I find it totally worth the investment in time and mindstretch.

More on Thomas Pynchon and his works:

Inherent Vice

Against the Day

Gravity’s Rainbow


More on Space Larrabee:

By the Time I Got to Woodstock—or Space Meets Thyme in the Shadow of Atlantis



Have A Seat. Join Us for Lunch on the Moon

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You know, we’re funny. For time untold, mankind has sat on earth dreaming about the moon. Forty-six years ago, man finally set foot on its surface, helping us get a much clearer picture of what it’s like to actually be there and see ourselves on this beautiful, big blue marble from afar.
Let’s do that! Imagine we’re sitting in a diner on the moon and our table is outfitted with a telescope in addition to the remote jukebox. When we point the telescope at the earth, we can manifest who or what we see in the diner with us.
This is our intent with Lunch on the Moon, to invite creative people with great stories, inspiring visual arts, and music too share what inspires and moves them, and if they wish, their favorite dining experience.
Despite all of the jokes about restaurants on the moon having no atmosphere, Lunch on the Moon has plenty. And it has since I started frequenting it. There was a time I didn’t know it existed. It never came to mind. But once it did, in an inspired flash, I was hooked. I must confess that I never existed before I came to mind either, since I am a fiction.
Aren’t we all?
I’m not going to go waxing philosophic on the nature of existence. But we are who we believe ourselves to be. And though you may not be able to see, touch, smell, or punch my physical body, you can still hear me. Eventually you’ll be able to see me in your mind’s eye. Plus you’ll be able to physically experience some of what we’ll be sharing with you.
I was made manifest in a book called By the Time I Got to Woodstock—or Space Meets Thyme in the Shadow of Atlantis. I am Space Larrabee, and from here on, I’ll be sharing tasty delicacies I’ve experienced in the experiential arts.
Now that we are launched, you’re welcome to get lunch and join me every Wednesday at noon. I’ll be sharing stories of diner experiences, authors, musicians, artists, and filmmakers. In other words, creative, inspirational people I either met (thru my doppelganger D. E. Munson) or whose creations I admire. Not to mention favorite diner experiences.
I will be sharing some of my own adventures. Hopefully together we’ll be learning a bit more about life, the universe, and everything.
Sound like fun?
Let’s go!

The first lunch on the moon
Setting aside any antediluvian or superannuated alien cultures that may have inhabited the moon, the first lunch enjoyed on the moon was . . . Well, I’ll get to that in the moment.
Anyone alive at that time will remember the first time man set foot on the moon. As recorded in the aforementioned book, I’d just returned home after an ultra strange month living in Atlantic City with my best friend Frodo and a couple of other roommates.
Before I left Piper College I daydreamed of watching America’s historic moon landing in the great room of the Piper student union building.
That day was coming up soon, and I’d made no plans. I didn’t even know how I would get there. I think it was Saturday, July 12 when I got Frodo’s excited call. “Hey Space, I just found the perfect car for you!”
“Geez Frodo, I don’t even have my license yet.”
“You don’t need your license to just check it out, Space. Look, this is a great deal . . .”
“What’s the car? How much?”
“It’s a 1962 MGA. It has red leather interior and a walnut dash. It’s only $500, man! ”
My first car . . . a sports car? I wondered. But then this could be my ticket to Williamsport.
When we approached the seller’s driveway on Hayes Avenue in Endicott, New York, there it sat, black and beautiful. The evening sunlight bounced off the chrome grill and bumpers. Red leather bucket seats accented the fancy walnut-wrapped instrument cluster. O my God, I thought when I finally got the keys and fired up the English engine. This is like flying a Spitfire!
A week later, on Saturday, July 19, I was zipping down route 220, lost in thought and anticipation, and it struck me, I better slow down. Here I am driving a 250 mile road trip on a learners permit!
Apollo 11 made its spectacular launch from Cape Canaveral that Wednesday, July 16. The moon landing would be on Sunday, July 20, at 3:17 PM. Soon enough, we pulled up in front of the Piper College student union building and parked. The snack bar was still open, so we each got a hotdog, Coke, and a big basket of fries — the best. “Tomorrow I’ll treat you to a Cosmo at the Hilltop Sub Shop,” I told Frodo.
“You think that will make up for dragging me down here?”
“You’ll see.”
Next day, as 3:17 PM approached, we gathered around the console TV in the Northeast point of the giant compass inset in the tile floor of the great room. The crowd included Frodo, Preacher, Gretel, Marcus, and me.
At North was the big fireplace. At Southeast, the couch where I met Odetta and Josh White Jr. after they’d performed at the school.
Before us sat the large black and white Motorola TV in a mahogany cabinet. On the silver screen, NASA Mission Control announced, “We now have a live transmission from the LEM, that’s the lunar excursion module . . .” The television screen went black, then the horizon of the moon appeared on the lower right. It slowly filled the right side of the screen, cut off at a roughly 45-degree angle, which was the edge of the LEM’s window. The moon’s surface now filled half the screen, small craters growing larger, and moving out of the picture.
Walter Cronkite said, “The Eagle has begun its descent to the surface of the moon, to the sea of tranquility.”
Audio feed trickled in from the LEM, “60 seconds . . . lights on . . . 30 feet down . . . Two and a half down . . . Four forward . . . Drifting to the right a little . . . 30 seconds.”
Rays of light cut through a swirl of dust disturbed by the Eagle’s engines.
“Contact light . . . Okay . . . Engine stop . . .
“Tranquility Base here . . . The Eagle has landed.”
“Roger Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”
Our unified cheer echoed throughout the huge room, filling it with a joy and hope that mankind seldom experiences. Walter Cronkite, overwhelmed, shook his head and removed his horn-rimmed glasses. He wiped the tears welling in his eyes. Then, after replacing his glasses, he rested his elbows on the desk. Rubbing his palms together, he issued his immortal words, “Whew . . . Boy!”
The moment could not have been more eloquent. We wept with him.
But in the interim before Neil Armstrong made his historic footprint in the dust, Buzz Aldrin had a breakfast of bread and wine– communion.
This communion was not broadcast, and it was not an oversight on the part of NASA. They were still reeling from a lawsuit brought as a result of the Apollo 8 crew’s reading of Genesis. The experience was originally meaningful for Buzz, but even he admits in his memoir that, had he the opportunity to do it over again, he wouldn’t.. “Apollo 11 came to the moon in the name of all mankind,” he said.
Now, lunch is in another matter. Would you imagine they had a cheeseburger, shake, and fries? Well, we can imagine it here, but the reality they faced was a different story. Hamburger buns are banned because of potential crumb casualties. The same with fries and salt.
Maybe they could’ve gotten away with the shake, since it would be pretty well contained. But who’d want a warm milkshake? Oh, they didn’t have freeze-dried ice cream, either.
To quell their lunchtime tummy rumble, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first lunch on the moon was–drum roll please–gelatin-coated bacon squares, peaches, strawberry cubes, and the choice of orange or grape drink. Yum!
Now, onward and upward.
Join us next Wednesday at noon Central Time for the next Lunch on the Moon!
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