Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Book 'Em, Dano!

EAST ELMHURST, QUEENS, NEW YORK CITY. March 3, 1964. Detectives from the Major Case Squad of the Queensborough Library report that a copy of The Story of George Gershwin by David Ewen has now been missing for three weeks beyond its due date. They haven't a clue.

Dear Diary:
They're on my trail. I meant to take the book back but now it's three weeks, I owe fines, and I can't ask my DNA donors for help: The female will verbally torture me, and the male will gently toss me in the air with his left hand, then, both hands gripping the Louisville Slugger with my name on it, swing and swat me going, going, gone! out of the ballpark.

I fear I shall never become the success in life that Mom insists upon.

EAST ELMHURST, QUEENS, NEW YORK CITY. September 21, 1965. Stephen J. Gertz, 14, has won the J.H.S. 141 Talent Show with his virtuoso air-clarinet impression of Artie Shaw playing the opening obbligato to George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue backwards followed by a sophomoric and shameful impression of "a spaz singing I Got Rhythm."

Dear Diary:
I am consumed by George Gershwin. It must stop. I fear I may accidentally confess under the crushing weight of guilt that I bear. The Fugitive, starring David Janssen, is my new favorite TV show. It's about a kid wrongly accused of library theft who flees in order to find the real book thief and on his odyssey meets interesting people who give him food, clothing and shelter because he doesn't have a job much less a credit card. Or a bank account. Or driver's license, for that matter.

EAST ELMHURST, QUEENS, NEW YORK CITY. June 14, 1966. A teenaged boy was stopped by police this evening when the little pisher was observed on the corner of Ditmars Blvd and 80th Street attempting to sing It Ain't Necessarily So, from George Gershwin's opera, Porgy and Bess, in the style of Cab Calloway, who limned the role of Sportin' Life in the 1953 revival of the classic. When cornered by New York's Finest, the boy maniacally crooned, "Hidey, Hidey, Hidey Ho!" slipped his capturer's grasp and shuffled off to Buffalo.

Dear Diary:
That was a close one! I don't know how much longer my vaudevillian evasive tactics will work. There's a somebody I'm longing to see,  I hope they'll be, someone to watch over me  - but not the screws up in Sing Sing, that's for sure. I think I now owe a hundred dollars. The book only cost $5.95! Our local capo must be getting a rake-off.

EAST ELMHURST, QUEENS, NEW YORK CITY.  January 12, 1967. Detectives on the Queens Library Major Case Squad report progress in their three-year quest to capture the "The Smart-Ass Kid" as frustrated police have taken to calling the bold and crafty thief of The Story of George Gershwin by David Ewen. "He thinks he's so smart," Lt. Einstein said. "Well, he's not half as smart as he thinks he is and one day he'll outsmart himself and we'll nab him, yer darn tootin'."

Dear Diary:
Time to lam-ski. I have arranged for my parents to divorce, my mother to get custody of me, and a job for her in California, where a sunkissed miss says, "Don't be late!" that's why I can hardly wait to open up (open up! open up!) that golden gate. California, Here I Come. I shoulda won the talent show with my Jolson impression, singing Gershwin's Swanee. Right now, I'd give the world to be among the folks in D-I-X-I-E - anyplace but here. The heat is on. I still have the book, in case I can plea bargain for a suspended sentence in exchange for returning it.

Dear diary: Love the Boeing 707! I told the stewardess that even though I looked sixteen (only one more month to go!) I was really only six so she'd give me a set of kiddie flight wings and I could flirt with her. I made sure The Story of George Gershwin by David Ewen was packed along with everything else and on the moving truck before we left. With the keen criminal sophistication most often associated with Sherlock Holmes' nemesis, Moriarty, I reason that if I owe $500 buckaroos for the book I might as well keep it; I paid for it, right?

EAST ELMHURST, QUEENS, NEW YORK CITY. August 2, 1967. Stymied in their efforts to capture the criminal mastermind behind the sensational booknapping of The Story of George Gershwin by David Ewen from the Bookmobile back in '64, detectives from the Queens Library Major Case Squad have quietly put the case on ice. "One day, one day," Detective Kramden declared, "pow, zoom, to the moon with this mug."

LOS ANGELES, CA. May 3, 2009. At dawn this morning, members of the L.A.P.D.'s SWAT team descended upon a small, itsy bitsy bungalow in  West L.A. where a man was on his roof, threatening to commit suicide and take the neighborhood with him. The man was reportedly upset that he now owed $1.2 trillion in late fines, interest and penalties for a book he had borrowed from the library forty-five years ago, The Story of George Gershwin by David Ewen, and never returned due to acute irresponsibility secondary to an immature pre-frontal cortex, and he was consumed with guilt and shame. Yet still defiant.

News reporters and cameramen descended upon the scene, along with teams from Entertainment Tonight, Hollywood Insider and the Maury Povitch Show. A circus atmosphere permeated the site with peanut and cotton candy vendors working the crowd.

"J'Accuse!" the SWAT team leader, Lt. Zola, shouted to him.

"I owe $1.2 tril, I'm bigger than Citibank, BofA. I'm bigger than Madoff, whose exploits make Ponzi seem like Fonzi in comparison," the man crowed. "And I don't even have the book; I lost it thirty-five years ago. $1.2 trillion for a book? I thought Heritage Book Shop closed!"

The SWAT team took careful aim.

"Made it, Ma! Top of the world!" were his last words before the fusillade hit home.

LOS ANGELES. May 5, 2009. Funeral services were held today for Stephen J. Gertz aka The Smart-Ass Kid, Peck's Bad Boy, Wisenheimer Jones, and The Bad Seed, who was the subject of an international dragnet involving Interpol, Scotland Yard, and the KGB in connection with the theft, forty-five years ago, of The Story of George Gershwin by David Ewen, from the Queensborough Library Bookmobile. At the request of the deceased, mourners sang Gershwin's tune, Let's Call The Whole Thing Off.


The Story of George Gershwin by David Ewen was published in 1943 by Henry Holt & Co. R.I.P.

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