Posted by: Brad Nixon | October 19, 2010

Editorial Outrage at the Buggy Whip

It was raining in Los Angeles. It was too early in the season for that kind of rain. The phone rang.

“We have to talk.” It was Brumfield. He never said “Hello” or even something cute like, “This is a voice from your past.”

“What about, and when and where?”

“I’ll tell you when I see you, today, and maybe that place up in Hollywood, Musso and Frank.”

“Today’s okay, but you’re going to have to come down to the South Bay. It’s raining and I’m not driving to Hollywood in the rain because I have a job. Besides, you’re not ready for Musso and Frank yet. You haven’t been to The Buggy Whip yet. La Tijera, just west of The 405. I’ll meet you there.”

He didn’t sound happy about driving, but that was his problem. I walked into the place and didn’t have to look farther than the bar on the left. He was sitting there talking to one of the waitresses who’ve all been in the place since just after the War. In fact, looking around at the red plush and the dark paneling of the place, it looked as if it was just a few years after the War. I sat down and confirmed that there was a sweet Rob Roy in front of him. It’s impossible to conceive of ordering anything but a Rob Roy there. It’s that kind of place.

“How’s Attila?” I asked as an opening attempt at conversation.

“Gone. He went to Colorado or Nevada or Delaware or somewhere to ‘help out’ on the last stages of some campaign for the Senate.”

I considered that. It seemed about the right gig for Attila, who’d been cooling his heels after his mercenary career in Africa bottomed out. “Figures,” I said. “Lots of candidates could use a good attack roach at a time like this.”

“Well, that’s what has me all worked up.”

Uh, oh, I thought. “Politics? You’re concerned about politics? You come back after 25 years and the entire world has changed except for that one field and that’s what you’re thinking about?”

“Whaddya mean ‘hasn’t changed?’ Don’t you read or listen to radio or TV? When did it happen that there isn’t any more reporting on issues and facts and candidates’ qualifications, and all you get is an endless spew of opinions? Did they kill off all the journalists and reporters in a pogrom and replace them with out-of-work snake oil salesmen?”

“Um, well …. ”

“It’s crazy, I tell you. I can’t imagine how the editorial desks have any work to do. Their job has been preempted by an infinite stream of bozos on every newspaper and TV station who wouldn’t know a fact if it crawled into bed with them.”

“Have you considered just not paying attention?”

“How? How in the heck not to? I turn on the TV to get the weather forecast and the weather man says it’s a great day for a Tea Party, or blames the government for global warming! It’s crazy!”

“Okay, okay. So let me ask you this one question: don’t you think that our fellow citizens are able to understand the same thing you understand: that all this opinionating needs to be taken with a grain of salt?”

He turned and looked at me, and rolled his eyes. “What do you think H.L. Mencken would’ve said in answer to that question?”

“I think that Mencken would’ve been in his element. In fact, I wish he were here right now. He’d probably tell us we have nothing on the idiocy he saw come across his desk every day at The Sun.”

“Yes, but that’s the point. In his day, unless they got a letter to the editor published, the big morass of idiots out there couldn’t get any attention for their crackpot ideas about government and the Constitution and all the other baloney. Now everyone’s in my face all day, and there’s no telling the reporters from the crackpots, because not even the people running the papers and the TV stations and the online media want to stick to the facts. It’s discouraging, I tell you.”

Poor Bob. I was thinking that I’d made a mistake in bringing back an old-time newspaper man into this free-for-all, always-on media world. Nah!

I spoke sharply to him: “Bob!” He looked at me, startled. “Why the heck are you here?” I asked him.

“You tell me.”

“THIS is why you’re here. This very moment. The media have expanded to forms that you could never have imagined back there at The Enquirer in downtown Cincinnati, and every single channel is full of inane drivel and half-baked ideas that wouldn’t withstand examination by an intelligent 5th-grader. Candidates who think the Constitution was written as a license for greed and exclusion of the unenfranchised and the freedom to carry automatic weapons into restaurants throw around words like ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’! YOU are the guy who wrote four columns a week skewering the foibles of society’s idiocy and never ran out of material. This is your DAY! The guy who created Attila the Attack Roach and the Mount Adams Army of Liberation should be reveling in this stuff.”

He was thinking. Well, really he was ordering another Rob Roy, but I could tell he was thinking, too. He looked at me.

“Um, so. Tell me how you get one a’ those blog sites like yours?”

Ahh, that’s our Bob!

Bob Brumfield wrote a regular column for the Cincinnati Enquirer for approximately 15 years, from about 1966 onward. Eventually he had a four-times-weekly column in the paper. In 1980 his self-published collection of pieces, “Brumfield!” appeared, and is out of print. You can find copies on online sellers. Mr. Brumfield died in 1981.

I located this link to a story about his book in a back issue of Cincinnati Magazine. which includes some photos and the caricature that accompanied his column. I’d be glad for any pointers that anyone has to other work of his that’s available.

For more encounters with Bob, click on “Brumfield” in the “Categories” widget in the right-hand column.

Todays opening lines are a loose quotation from Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, one of, if not the greatest story with L.A. as its setting.

© 2012 Brad Nixon

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