2 min read

Burma-Shave

Existential doom never goes out of style for long.
Burma-Shave

Friday morning I'm driving to Kansas. I was invited to participate in the very first Paper Plains Zine Fest. I'll get to shill my crap and talk to writers and artist who do the same. That night there's supposed to be a reading at Flagship Books (which seems to only have Facebook and Insta accounts I can't open.) Anyways, if you're in the area, come say hello. Maybe buy a book.

I picked up a book on Burma-Shave road signs a little while back. From the 30s into the 60s there was poetry by the sides of America's highways courtesy of a grooming product's ad campaign. I won't get to see any of their couplets on my drive west but they've been on my mind. The book I got is falling apart and has a dust-jacket. I cut up the crumbling yellow paper. Used it to make bookmarks I'll sell in Kansas.

There's a noir festival at the Music Box this weekend. I saw a movie about twin brothers: one was sent away to school; the other's death was faked and he was imprisoned in the basement of his family's creepy castle before escaping and going on a killing spree. Not a great one but it had moments. Probably most notable for featuring two actors who met fates as ugly as any horror movie: Frances Farmer and Albert Dekker. Look them up if you wanna get sad. It also has a very young Susan Hayward, who didn't live to old age either but whose life circumstances weren't as tragic as her costars', so far as I know. Movie's called Among the Living appropriately enough.

In the second movie of the afternoon, Burgess Meredith is hit on his head with a falling brick from a construction site and forgets who he is. As the story goes on, it turns out this is the second time within a year that he's gotten amnesia. What are the chances? There are two women in love with him from his two different lives and some guy chasing him trying to pin a murder and collect a rich man's inheritance. No rhyme or reason to any of it and things end badly for everyone involved as they must in any self-respecting noir. It's called Street of Chance and it's a masterpiece.

If the people in these films hit the road, they'd doubtless be treated to Burma-Shave signs. From my book I learned that the company was swallowed up by Philip Morris in the 60s. That's when the poetry stopped. Noirs were superceded by westerns about the same time. They come back now and then. Saw a good one called The Forgiven with Ralph Fiennes and Jennifer Chastain earlier this year. It's an evergreen mode for movies. Existential doom never goes out of style for long.

Unlike certain men's grooming products.

—Wednesday I talk to musician Sam Wagster. While you count down the minutes, listen to the one with Mick Collins.