Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Crosswords That Will Never Be, Part II

Okay, here's the thing. I was watching The Sea Hawk on TCM, which stars, in one of her standard roles as the ditzy old servantwoman, Una Merkel. And it suddenly struck me that UNA MERKEL is NAME inside URKEL (the nerd from "Family Matters.") But that would never work in a crossword, because the few people who could be relied upon to remember Una Merkel are probably unlikely to know "Family Matters." So that's a clue I can never write.

But then I got to thinking: wait a minute! We've gone way beyond Steve Urkel! We could do an entire crossword about famous African-American nerds in pop culture! And I don't mean hip-hop artists like Del tha Funkee Homosapien, who can out-Star-Wars, out-gamer-speak, and probably out-Monty-Python-quote the best of them. I'm talking fictional characters. To take only a few, you could have "African-American nerd from 'Family Ties'" for STEVE URKEL (10 letters), and "African-American computer geek from 'Bloom County'" for OLIVER JONES (11 letters, alas, not a balancing 10). [And I know his full name was Oliver Wendell Jones, but that takes us to a completely unworkable 18 letters] And then throw in "African-American techie from 'Star Trek' " for GEORDI LAFORGE. (13 letters. Will none of these balance? Damn!)

And I was all set to do a little research (was there a black nerd in any of the Revenge of the Nerds movies?) when I realized there was no point at all to my search. No one would ever print the puzzle, even though it is---if I may say so---a hilarious idea, and one that would work just fine in a comedy sketch. (Does Franklin from 'Peanuts' count as a nerd? How about Tony Sinclair from the Tanqueray commercials?) There ought to be a way to talk about, and make fun of, the way in which, right around the late eighties, white writers with guilty consciences helped create the early images of black nerds. And in so doing, paved the way for actual black nerds like Wayne Brady and Condoleezza Rice.

Anyway I'm saving the idea. And maybe I'll dust it off again in six years. I imagine crossword editors will be a little more open-minded once Barack Obama becomes President.


Blogger tmcay said...

The African American nerd from "Revenge of the Nerds" was LAMAR LATRELL. I also thought of JIFF RAMSEY from "Bowfinger" and RAJ THOMAS from "What's Happenin!!" Maybe RUSSELL COSBY from "Fat Albert?"

6/29/2006 10:20 PM  
Blogger Tristram Shandy said...

You’ll be happy to learn the the Onion isn’t afraid to address the issue you raise. Too bad they don’t print crosswords…

6/30/2006 2:28 AM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

I'd forgotten about Jiff Ramsey! Between him and all the others you mention, we may be approaching a 21 by 21 Sunday puzzle ... that no one will ever publish.

6/30/2006 6:13 AM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

I may have had that Onion article bouncing around in my unconscious mind when I thought of Urkel and wondered "Who else?" Yes, it is a shame they don't run a crosword. It's even more of a shame that they continue to run Red Meat while my much funnier comic strip--Things--goes begging.

6/30/2006 6:16 AM  
Blogger Brian Reeves said...

You know, Dave, a few weeks ago I was thinking about Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (don't ask) and it occured to me that SARGEANT PEPPER has 14 letters, as does COLONEL MUSTARD... And as often happens these days, having once had you as a roommate, I suddenly thought, "aha! Potential crossword puzzle!" But then I hit two snags: I couldn't think of a third entry, and I was pretty sure you'd tell me someone did this eons ago.

6/30/2006 1:27 PM  
Blogger Toonhead_NPL said...

It extended to TV cartoons as well.

Most people don't realize that Valerie of Josie and the Pussycats was the only character NOT from the Josie comic book. She was created for the cartoon and replaced Josie's similarly smart friend Pepper. (Actually the band was a creation for TV as well.)

Even in the (terrible!) Little Archie cartoon of the 1980's they replaced brainiac Dilton Doiley with a black version (Eugene, maybe?)

6/30/2006 3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

STEVIE KENARBAN (14) from Malcolm in the Middle; many of the characters on Head of the Class.

Maybe one day there may be a Jonesin' crossword in The Onion, or something similar...


6/30/2006 3:32 PM  
Anonymous Jangler said...

There was a CrosSynergy puzzle by Harvey Estes called "Sandwich Islands Recruits" or something similar...SERGEANT PEPPER, COLONEL MUSTARD, CAPTAIN COOK. The third was stretching it a bit, but I don't think there's a better one.

6/30/2006 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Ellen said...

No one will ever publish it because, aside from Urkel, none of them are well known (at least, I don't know them).

7/03/2006 5:23 AM  
Anonymous Mark Newhouse said...

OK. This is odd. I clicked the link to the above Onion article, and was greeted with an ad for the movie Word Play.

I think you're on to something, Dave.
(Yes that Mark Newhouse...)

7/03/2006 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Ben Tausig, editor of the new Onion crossword puzzle premiering this week! You can get it on newsstands, or through my weekly crossword puzzle listserv:

The themes will be precisely along these sorts of lines.

10/05/2006 1:18 PM  

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