• The clientele at Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s Jewish retreat and outreach center, which he named the House of Love and Prayer — was somewhat odd (it was located in Haight-Ashbury, after all), and soon complaints poured in to the landlord, who gave an eviction notice to Rabbi Shlomo. A nun from a nearby convent, which was filled with religious who adored the good Rabbi, saw Rabbi Shlomo looking sad, and asked him what was the matter. He explained the situation, and the nun grew angry, saying about the landlord, who was a member of her church, “He’s got some nerve! I’m going over to give him a piece of my mind right now!” The nun talked to the landlord, and he quickly changed his mind about evicting Rabbi Shlomo. Later, Rabbi Shlomo asked her what she had told the landlord to make him change his mind about the eviction. The nun replied, “It was very simple, really. I told the landlord that if he ever brings grief to Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, he’s going to burn in hell.”
• Opera great Leo Slezak once was concerned about the flooding that occurred in a small Austrian town where he and his family were staying. As the water lapped at the house he was renting, he promised God that if the water should recede, he would give a charity concert to help the inhabitants of the town. Almost immediately, the water began to recede. The charity concert was a huge success, but Mr. Slezak’s landlady was so impressed that such a benevolent celebrity as Mr. Slezak was staying in her house that she raised the rent.
• In the 1920s and 1930s, Albert Strunsky was a dream landlord in Greenwich Village for musicians and artists because he was very forgiving when a tenant was late with the rent. Sometimes he would make the tenant move, but it was always into another of Mr. Strunsky’s studio apartments. Eventually, Mr. Strunsky was owed so much money that his daughter sent out bills in an attempt to collect. This made Mr. Strunsky angry, and he made his daughter apologize to his tenants.
• African-American comedian Angela Scott talks about an apartment becoming vacant in her building. She wanted to have a friend move into it, but the landlord wouldn’t allow that. Therefore, whenever the landlord showed the apartment to white people, she wore curlers in her hair, put on slippers and a housecoat, went out on her landing, and loudly said, “Leroy, don’t start no sh*t. You put that knife down. Come out here, kids, all twenty of you.”
• Early in his baseball career, pitcher Lefty Gomez spent time in the minor leagues, where he didn’t make much money and fell behind in his rent. Because he was lacking funds to pay his back rent, he told his landlady, “Just think, someday you’ll be able to say Lefty Gomez the great pitcher once lived here.” His landlady replied, “If you don’t pay me, I’ll be able to say it tomorrow.”
• Oscar Levant was kind of a perpetual houseguest at the house of Ira Gershwin and his wife, Leonore. Once, he said something that annoyed Leonore, so she told him, “Get out of this house.” Mr. Levant stood up a moment, then sat down again and said, “I’m not going.” “Why not?” she asked. “Because I have no place to go.” This caused Leonore to laugh, and Mr. Levant stayed as a houseguest for two more years.
• One of Jeremy Nichols’ friends had a rather nasty experience with the interior decor of a room that was rented to itinerant actors in England. He saw a fur-covered lampshade in his room. Thinking that his landlady had horrible taste, and wondering whether the fur was real, he touched it — only to discover that what looked like fur was a coating of dust, one-half inch thick.
• Maxim Gorky once stayed at a hotel in Southern Italy. The next morning, he complained that he had not been able to sleep at night because his bed was infested. His landlady denied the charge, saying, “We have not a single bug in this house.” Mr. Gorky replied, “That is true. The bugs are not single — they are married and have very large families, too.”
• A man called a biological supply store and asked for immediate delivery of 10,000 cockroaches. The store was able to fill the order, but the salesperson asked the man why he needed so many cockroaches. The man replied, “I am moving out of my apartment, and my lease says that I have to leave it exactly as it was when I moved in.”
• Groucho Marx’s small son once ran away from home. Groucho, of course, went after his son and brought him back home — but told him to give some advance warning the next time he ran away from home, so Groucho could rent his room out.
• When John Adams was old, Daniel Webster visited him and asked how he was. Mr. Adams replied, “The top is all off the house, the windows are getting dim, the foundation is very shaky, and as far as I can see, the landlord does not aim to make any more improvements.”
• Pablo Picasso often painted over the white walls of the apartments where he lived, turning them into works of art. Early in Picasso’s career, an angry landlord forced him to pay to have a wall painted again. Years later, Picasso said, “What a fool. He could have sold the wall for a fortune.”
• Some of the parties held by Divine, an actress who appeared in many of John Waters’ films, were remarkable. At one party, she auctioned off all of her landlady’s furniture in the furnished apartment.
• George Bernard Shaw was traveling in Italy with a group of men on a train. The train stopped at Milan, and the men got out to eat. When it came time to leave the restaurant, they were unable to make the waiter understand that they didn’t want one bill — they wanted separate bills for each of the men. Mr. Shaw thought for a while, then remembered a line from The Huguenots— “Ognuno per se; per tutti il ciel” (Italian for “Every man for himself, and Heaven for all”). He declaimed the line dramatically, the waiters doubled up with laughter, and Mr. Shaw soon found he had a reputation for being able to speak Italian.
• Learning languages is difficult because so many expressions are used in only one language. For example, an American says that you are driving too fast by asking, “Where’s the fire?” However, this expression does not translate literally into other languages. Ruth Sasaki once thought her taxi driver in Tokyo was driving too fast, so she asked him, in Japanese, where the fire was. This confused the driver, who replied that he did not know where the fire was, but if she would tell him the address, he would drive her there.
• Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes) and his wife were believers in spiritualism; escape artist Harry Houdini was not. Nevertheless, they all became friends. Once, Lady Conan Doyle held a seance and attempted to contact Houdini’s deceased mother. She fell into a trance and wrote down a message for Houdini from his mother, then she came out of the trance. The Conan Doyles regarded the seance as a complete success; however, Houdini did not. The message Lady Doyle had written was in English — a language his Yiddish-speaking mother did not know.
• While in San Francisco, Mark Twain undertook to learn French. One day, a Frenchman who knew no English started asking questions of a group Mr. Twain was in. Because Mr. Twain was the only person in the group who had studied French, he listened to the Frenchman. However, before Mr. Twain had said a half-dozen words of French in reply, the Frenchman fainted, possibly from hunger. Mr. Twain said later, “I’ll learn French if it kills every Frenchman in the country.”
• Pope John XXIII spoke several languages fluently, but he had trouble with English. During an audience with President Dwight David Eisenhower, he spoke English only at the beginning and ending of the audience. When President Eisenhower congratulated him on his English, Pope John XXIII replied, I’m going to night school. But I’m not doing very well. … I’m always at the bottom of the class.”
• In the TV series Hogan’s Heroes, extras frequently had to speak a little German because the series was set in a World War II prisoner of war camp (not in a concentration camp). Chris Anders once played a German guard who had to tell some trucks to take off, so he said, “Fahrt Los.” However, because the German word “fahrt” sounds like the English word “fart,” the director stopped the scene, saying, “We can’t use that!”
• Ballerina Alice Patelson had a grandmother who had come from Finland, immigrating to the United States in 1912. When she was a little girl, Alice asked Grandmother Eine to teach her Norwegian. One day Alice decided to memorize a poem in Norwegian, which she then recited at school during show-and-tell. Her teacher was pleased, but the students were bewildered.
• In the 19thcentury, when singer Emma Abbott was a little girl, she was intrigued to hear about bouquets of flowers being thrown to a prima donna on a stage. However, she worried that the prima donna would fall off if the stage should start going. Fortunately, her father was able to explain that there is a difference between a stage and a stagecoach.
• It is possible to be affected by a play even though you don’t know the language the actors are speaking. Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) saw a dramatization of Madame Butterflyin London; however, even though he didn’t understand English, he was affected by the passion of the story — a story that he turned into a famous opera.
• Olin Downes, music critic of The New York Times, once objected in a review to mezzo-soprano Risë Stevens’ German in her appearance as Octavian in Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier. Finding herself seated next to Mr. Downes at a dinner party, Ms. Stevens spoke to him in German, forcing him to admit that he didn’t speak German. She smiled and then said, “I do.”
• Andrei Kramarevsky taught classes at the American School of Ballet despite knowing very little English. According to ballerina Darci Kistler, one of his students, he knew only two English words. Ballerinas who made mistakes, he called “cheap.” Ballerinas who didn’t make mistakes, he called “expensive.”
• Alexander Woollcott and Harpo Marx were in a Paris hotel where Harpo upset the management with his shenanigans. Mr. Woollcott tried explaining Harpo to the management, but gave it up, turned to Harpo, and said, “How can I explain you? There’s no French word for ‘boob.’”
• Orchestra conductor Hans Richter didn’t speak English well. While crossing the Atlantic on a ship, he asked for a deck chair for his wife, explaining, “When she doesn’t lie, she swindles.” (The German word schwindelnmeans to get dizzy.)
• Thomas Jefferson used to order different copies of a book in the same-sized edition, but in more than one language. When the books arrived, he had them re-bound together. That way, he could read the book in, for example, Greek and Latin.
• In 1921, a Metropolitan Opera production of Modest Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunovfeatured Feodor Chaliapin singing the title role in Russian, while everyone else sang in Italian. This production was a great success.
• Long ago, Church of Christ preacher J.D. Tant got in trouble for using the word “bull” in a sermon. The congregation thought that the word was indelicate for a woman’s ears and preferred the use of “Mr. Cow.”
• In America in the 19th century, citizens loved Italian opera. William Henry Fry wrote his opera Leonorein English, but when it was performed in 1858 in New York, it was sung in Italian.
glistened all at once as I entered the bar then a sad, unoccupied octopus caught my eye she could see the calamari smile flit across my lips a tentacle snatched my leg as I turned to leave silence gripped the bar as she reeled me in a group of groupers laughed at my panic, as I slid by never again will I wear “Chicken of the Sea” cologne
We’ve actually had a little argument about this.
Tony reckons that this is Von’s extremely clever attempt to raise our communal poetry making efforts to new creative heights.
But Tati is convinced that Von’s a cybernetically enhanced ex-Navy dolphin whose current aim is to hack into Open Source Poetry using SQUID technology and other sensors implanted in his…