April 15, 2000
Post #1093 – 20000415
Dear Mr. Pinkwater
Last week, as I was – making my way across midtown Manhattan – cursing and yelling- swerving and screaming and shaking my fist at taxicab drivers – and the bridge and tunnel crowd who never know how to drive their cars worth a damn- I began to hear voices. From the radio.
It was some guy, a writer, and he was reading from some book – about a Gorilla – and a boy – and his mother who mistook the Gorilla for a cat. Suddenly, I realised I wasn’t really paying attention to the other drivers. I was caught up in the lives of this I wasn’t angry at the cabbies any longer. And the bridge and tunnel people? Well its not like I owned those city streets! In fact, I hoped my trip across town would take even longer so I could find out what happened on Phil’s first day of school.
Later, the guy – it was you Mr. Pinkwater! – was reading, and he told the host of the show all about the Gorilla and how it was related to the african brown bat, which I thought was very wise. He fondly spoke of his father;s obsession with Fleetwood’s and a bunch of other profound stuff . . .
When I finally made it across town, and my husband hopped in the car, grumbling about how I had kept him waiting I immediately began babbling about the boy, his mother, his teacher Mrs. Frankfurter bun and Phil the Gorilla. He stared at me blinking. I had stopped his near tirade dead in its tracks.
That night, as I began to fall asleep – I thought of how Mrs Frankfurter Bun had stopped my road rage, How Phil’s first day in school had obliterated my husband’s pissy attitude – and I knew that “Second Grade Gorilla” had real potential – a king of real power – perhaps it should be read at a giant gathering of the world leader’s. That night I dreamt you won the Nobel Prize for World Peace.
When I woke up, I knew what I had to do. I had to find you and the book, and when I do, I will send it to my cranky, and very talented father in law, (he is a cartoonist for The New Yorker). – I figure if its good enough for world peace its good enough for him.
Where can I get “Second Grade Gorilla.” Its truly a stroke of genius!
PS: I thought when I first heard you that you were Gene Sheppard. Did you know him. I was very, very fond of his work. FOURTH OF JULY AND OTHER HORROR STORIES I think was one of them . . .
It's SECOND GRADE APE, published by Scholastic, (under one of their many imprints--I know it's in print), brilliantly illustrated by the great Jill Pinkwater. It is cool in the extreme to know that you heard Chinwag Theater in Manhattan. I used to listen to Jean Shepherd too, and got to write a little obituary piece about him in this past New Year's NY Times magazine. (I think you can link to it from the first page of this site).