Set of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

There are four giants of 20th century American theatre who are also huge figures in American literature: Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Edward Albee. Sometimes added to this list are Sam Shepard, who died in July, as well as August Wilson, Lorraine Hansberry, David Mamet, and Amiri Baraka. As someone who has read and studied plays by all these playwrights, I have come to learn that if you ever have a chance to see a play by one of these American masters, you go.

I met Edward Albee only once. He came to UC Davis 13 years ago, and stopped by Sproul Hall to talk to a small group of professors and graduate students. The iconic playwright was gruff and a bit impatient, as I discovered when I asked him an informed question. He spent a few uncomfortable minutes interrogating me back with his own questions, perhaps to discourage the others from pressing him as I had. Before an audience of my departmental colleagues and mentors, Albee and I talked about his being awarded the Margo Jones Award for the advancement of American Theatre (which my dad also won), and about the local theatre scene, including plays I had recently seen at the B Street Theatre in Sacramento.

Fast forward a decade and a half, and B Street has just launched its first Albee production, the ambitious Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? My wife Kate and some friends and I got to attend the opening night performance this past Sunday, and dine and chat with the director and some of the cast. We talked about Albee and this play, but also about the seemingly decade-long plans to open a brand new B Street Theatre in the almost-finished the Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts at 27th and Capital Avenue, a block from historic Sutter’s Fort, and near a great number of fortunate restaurants and coffee shops.

Having been a subscriber at the B Street since before I moved to Davis in the late 1990s, I am certainly partial, but we just loved this production. I was reminded all over again of the impact of watching a world-class play, in this case, one that won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and the 1963 Tony Award for Best Play. It was considered too controversial to be presented the Pulitzer. The favorite play by director Dave Pierini, this production reminded me of a Greek tragedy in its conflicts, revealed secrets, and intensity, but with lots of laughs and intrigue along the way. The substance, complexity, and payoff of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? are symphonic, leaving one amazed and intrigued, even the next day.

The two leads, Kurt Johnson and Elizabeth Nunziato, have more B Street productions under their belts than the rest of the company combined, and their experience really shows, convincingly inhabiting their roles as they exchange lines such as these:

Martha: Truth or illusion, George; you don’t know the difference.

George: No, but we must carry on as though we did.

Martha: Amen.

Great actors do indeed find truths to share in the communally fabricated illusions of a play. Taken up by the intensity of this production, I couldn’t help but (positively) compare Johnson and Nunziato’s portrayals of George and Martha to those of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the B Street production offering somewhat more subtlety and somewhat fewer broken dishes than in the Mike Nichols film, nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, in every eligible category.

The psychologically gladiatorial combat between George and Martha provides the play its ruthless power, as well as some of its best lines. Jason Kuykendall and Dana Brooke co-star as Nick and Honey, the audience for and recipients of some of the older couple’s derision and academically-informed wordplay (George and Nick are history and biology professors, respectively). As an actor, Kuykendall in particular has really matured, his characterization becoming necessarily deeper than other roles given him in recent years, such as that of often shirtless Spike in the B Street production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Dana Brooke does a fine job letting her boozy expressions and tremulous voice reveal her growing understanding of the play’s dark narratives and startling enigmas.

The play’s tone alternates between comical and brutal, but at the end I found the play to be cathartic and appropriately exhausting. The friends with whom we saw the play harbored none of our preformulated positive biases, but still loved the play as much as we did, one of them writing this: “Amazing. If you’re anywhere near Sacramento and can spare 3+ hours, I strongly recommend it.” I understand that enthusiasm, and share the recommendation. If you have a chance, go see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” showing at the B Street Theatre in Sacramento until October 29th.


Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions about some of the topics raised above, as well as about maritime travel, favorite channels, chiefs, deltas and gulfs, Academy Awards, piano instruction, breaking one’s own record, social media, people named Rousseau, delightfully cute meerkats, picking out the American actors, fabrications, advertisements, normalizations, Italian job titles, marines, people named Simone, American heroes, UC Davis, antlers and shoes, famous couples, those Russians, current events, American football, murderousness, fast runners, people named Jones, Batman, chairmen, Frenchmen who may not be French, about five other topics yet to be named, and Shakespeare.

See you tonight at 7 for our own show!

Your Quizmaster


Here are four questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Irish Culture. What Irish actor starred both in the big-budget epic Alexander and the dystopian black comedy The Lobster?  
  2. Countries of the World.  What is the most populous Province in Canada?  
  3. Local Libraries. After what UC Davis founder was the primary library building at UC Davis named? Last name is sufficient.      
  4. Science.  The lightest of all the metals (an alkali metal) has an atomic number of three. What is it?  


P.S. Poetry Night (with Lisa Abraham and Denise Lichtig) is Thursday. Have you joined the Poetry in Davis Facebook group? Sometimes I sneak clues in there, as well.

A lot of books


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

I spent a few hours in the Davis Public Library with my son Jukie on Saturday. Sitting at a high table back in the “Friends Book Sale” area, I could see down the aisles of books and audio books to the library entrance and the checkout desk, both hubs of activity. A Sacramento City College professor I know came almost to our table, looking at books and magazines, and then made a turn and thus didn’t see me or Jukie (whom I have taught to keep silent in this Mecca of books). I saw a mom checking out out a pile of books for her ten-year-old daughter, who suddenly felt compelled to turn around to give her mom a long hug, even before the mom could get out her library card. The librarian waited patiently.

On Sunday morning, I wrote most of the pub quiz without the help of internet access, for I was sitting at a shaded picnic table in Arroyo Park while Jukie frolicked on the play structures, sometimes giving pause to the smaller children. Nearby a soccer coach was teaching a team full of tweens how to make “crisp” passes to their teammates. Occasionally earbud joggers would lumber past, some of them carrying their water in various plastic containers, either strapped to their hips or nestled in their loose grips.

Surrounded by halcyon scenes of learning, prosperity, and calm, I couldn’t help but think of the libraries in Houston and other cities drowned by Hurricane Harvey, with the water in some places not measured in inches or even feet, but in storeys of buildings. Some residents were told not to congregate in their attics, but instead to gather on their roofs to await rescue by the Coast Guard or other emergency personnel or, even more likely, by fellow Texans who might have lost their homes, but not their flat-bottom power boats. I learned from news coverage that one can survive being trapped in a flooding vehicle by opening the window, not the door, and then swimming out of one’s car.

Sunday Margaret Atwood tweeted her concern for all in Florida, singling out her friends at the @MiamiBookFair and the @MiamiPublicLibrary. So many books were lost in recent weeks in Texas, and so many over the last couple days in Florida, along with the homes, historic buildings, pets, and their owners. After Katrina, some schoolchildren never returned to their flooded schools, and even missed an entire year of instruction. I was thinking of these storm-surged disasters and their victims while typing peacefully in our public library, or watching Jukie swing on the swings. How different these scenes would be if they were submerged in six feet of water, or if they were battered by a 12-foot storm surge.

Last week as we listened to Hurricane Harvey coverage on NPR, I told Truman that if such a storm were to visit Davis, I would grab Kate and the kids, my backpack (with laptop), my Kindle, and our wedding album. Truman said he would grab his GrandDavey’s favorite bowler hat, and the Roald Dahl bookmark that had kept his place in so many books, including the Harry Potter books. Speaking of books, Kate said that she would grab the book I presented to her on our anniversary Thursday, a collection of 25 new and original love poems, one for each year of our marriage. When our public libraries are threatened, we might all consider what books we would reach for in a time of disaster. In this disaster scenario that we were imagining in the car last week, I see that, even if we remembered to bring our phone chargers, clearly there would be lots of reading going on in all those evacuation centers!

The need is great on this national remembrance day, and the federal leadership is suspect, so all of us should consider how we might help those in need. Like me, I hope you are considering making a donation for Harvey or Irma hurricane relief.


In addition to the topics raised above, expect questions on the following topics: Tuesdays, national mottos, heaths, book markets, osteoporosis, actresses, Canada, dystopias, rakes, black comedies, challenging anagrams, Rubies in 1950, biopics, people named Shonda, books about pants, major mistakes, rhombi, rockets, yarn, little women and big women, names with three and a half vowels in them, people who moved to London, the help of Ken Jennings, identical one-word song titles, best friends, simultaneous threats, years that end with a 4, the initiation of mock joy, geese, the National Weather Service, mountain sports, lonely souls in 1942, pregnancies, cities in California, extortion, disaster days, film pioneers, green fields, storm surges, and Shakespeare.

And I hope you and your teammates can join us this evening. I can’t do the Pub Quiz without you!


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Current Events – Names in the News.  Of all the current U.S. governors, only the governor of Texas has a last name that starts with an A. What is that last name? 


  1. Sports.  From 1996-2010, what wide receiver holds the record for the most seasons with four or more touchdowns, at 15? 


  1. Shakespeare.   Later this month the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble is presenting a production of a popular Shakespeare comedy that includes the characters Robin Starveling, Francis Flute, and Tom Snout. Name the play.  



P.S. “There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.” Ella Wheeler Wilcox



Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

This week marks the 30th anniversary of my meeting my wife Kate in London, and the 25th anniversary of our Labor Day marriage. With this in mind, I have been reflecting with wonder on the people we were all those years ago, and on the people we are today.

In the 1980s, I faced many of the same educational and vocational insecurities that my UC Davis students face today, with troubling questions about what I would do and how I would make a living hanging heavy over my plans. While my parents paid for my undergraduate tuition, I was on my own for graduate school, and rightfully so. I moved from my childhood home in Washington DC and my college “home” of Boston to California so I could start reading the books necessary to begin graduate studies in English. I also needed to become a Californian in order somehow to afford attending a UC.

English majors and poets are familiar with poverty, and so it was with me, but Berkeley libraries and the running hills above North Berkeley where I lived provided me the intellectual and recreational resources that I needed to sustain my uncluttered life of reading and running. Owning no television or computer, I read and listened to classical music every evening that I wasn’t out with friends. As the philosopher Immanuel Kant says, “We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without,” and found I could do without a lot.

But I found it difficult to convince others, such as my future bride, living a comfortable life in Illinois, that I had the prospects that would attract an A-list partner such as herself. Kant might have been right about the psychological and intellectual freedom that can come with studious penury, but one can’t pay a mortgage with philosophical truths. As the late poet John Ashbery said, “What is the past, what is it all for? A mental sandwich?”

If one fast-forwards a few decades, I am overjoyed to say that I have found a bride who also doesn’t elevate the material over the familial or the psychological. With a home, jobs, and a family in Davis, we are comfortable enough to help pay for my daughter Geneva’s college costs, and dine out regularly at our favorite Irish Pub. Even more importantly, we fill our days with support, affection, and laughter, as well as time spent with our three kids.

Our needs are still relatively simple. Kate has a ring and a Vespa and wireless headphones, and I will take her and the boys on an additional trip or two this fall. The question presents itself, then: What is the best silver anniversary present for the wife of a poet? The obvious answer is a poem, so I have been searching my heart and rejecting inapt word choices and images. If my task is a poem, let’s just say that I am ready for Thursday, the 7th of September.

At the end of a long and happy life, one is lucky to have family and community of friends, all audiences for great stories. As an essayist and photographer, Kate also offers me and our beloveds a wonderful record of the love we have and share, while I can offer a number of poems that seek to capture a moment’s emotional richness or yearning. As John Ashbery suggested, the poet endeavors to discover if “Sometimes a musical phrase would perfectly sum up / The mood of a moment.”

With these artistic gifts, such as the ones I was developing like a craftsman during my year of studious and literary poverty, poets and other creative professionals can also seek to mythologize the past and the present, creating memories that are so supported with creative works that they are not likely to be dislodged from our private emotional or physical libraries. To put all that more plainly, I have made a vocational life from writing and talking to others about writing, and after 25 years of gratitude, I feel lucky that I can offer Kate celebratory words, a poem or two, that indicate my love and esteem more fully than a thousand ephemeral baubles.

Happy Silver Anniversary, Kate!


In addition to the topics raised above, tonight expect questions on the following: the Mid West, entire sectors that were saved by Republican closet poet Dana Gioia, Twitter, the deep south, best-selling authors, twins, W.E.B. DuBois, bacon, the Choctaw, people named after woodwinds, touchdowns, sites of conflict, mirrors, Texas, Jim Gaffigan, fearful symmetry, jewelry from India, twins, Goliath, monthly rental costs in Euros, hilarity ensuing for three weeks, the demands of Methodists, birds in peril, the letter B, American states, big cities, glib bookings, popular daddy figures, six of ten, unforgotten dignity, whatever CW might stand for, unfurled flags, small streams, white gloves at rest, Houston by the numbers, Stephen King, and Shakespeare.

Welcome to September and, for many players, a new lease in Davis. With all the new puzzling intellects in town, I hope you will invite friends to join your team or to form their own, for we like to keep the pub filled and the competition lively. We also need new subscribers to the newsletter to take the place of those who have moved out of town. Please direct such people to to sign up for this free weekly missive.

See you tonight!


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Film. What is the title of the 2017 Amy Schumer / Goldie Hawn film in which a mother and daughter are kidnapped while vacationing in South America?
  2. Name the State. Buddy Holly died in the same mid-western U.S. state where John Wayne and Buffalo Bill Cody were born. Name the state. 
  3. Science. What six-letter plural word completes this definition? Phytochemicals are chemicals derived from WHAT? 


P.S. Poetry Night continues this coming Thursday, September 7th (a holy day for me). Come see Nancy Aidé Gonzalez and Cathy Arellano at the John Natsoulas Gallery. James Lee Jobe will be the guest-host while I spend some time with Kate.

Not Fade Away with Buddy Holly


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

YouTube recently played me a song that its magic algorithms somehow knew I was ready to hear: The Rolling Stones covering that Buddy Holly classic, “Not Fade Away.” One of the Stones’ first notable songs – Buddy Holly had been dead only a handful of years before the Stones’ version became the British group’s first top-ten hit in Britain – the classic tune still popped with rhythm and blues gusto, mostly because of Brian Jones’ harmonica and Mick Jagger’s vocals and vigorous maracas.

The song brought back mixed memories. On the night of a bad breakup during my sophomore year in college, I played Buddy Holly’s version of “Not Fade Away” on repeat while pedaling full throttle on my absent roommate’s exercise bicycle. Each repetition of the two-and-a-half-minute song utterly exhausted me, so I recovered while rewinding the cassette tape in the huge boom box for 30 seconds before again hitting “play.” Reveling in my precious agony at being dumped, and seeking out physical hardship to match my teenage emotional anguish, I must have thought this obsessive musical reiteration to be delicious torture.

The song’s lyrics were appropriately cruel in their irony, I thought. “I’m gonna tell you how it’s gonna be / You’re gonna give your love to me.” No one ever again will give her love to you, I told myself, pedaling furiously, sweat or perhaps tears pouring down my face. I remember thinking that my love was “bigger than a Cadillac,” not that it mattered anymore. Over and over again, I listened to the song, reminding myself that Buddy Holly’s cheerful brand of bubble-gum pop rightfully went down with his plane outside Clear Lake, Iowa in 1959, never to return.  

After this dark night of the soul, I considered that song to be medicine I never wanted to taste again, even though I later tolerated hearing cover versions by The Stones, The Grateful Dead, or Cheryl Crow. Although I was once a big fan of Buddy Holly, I left that favorite tune alone for more than 30 years.

But then last night I had Alexa call up that 1957 hit from the vault, and played it again on repeat while brushing my son Jukie’s teeth. Dancing with my shoulders to the Bo Diddly Beat, I sang the Cricket’s backup vocals for Jukie – “Mm Bop Bop Bop-BOP!” – and he delighted in the silly rhythm and the wide smile on my face. Daddy’s spirited lullaby, a re-introduction to both of us to early rock and roll, widened Jukie’s eyes in wonder and infectious joy.

With Jukie’s help, the needless 30-year spell had broken. Now after everyone’s asleep, I dance alone in the living room to Buddy Holly’s version of “Not Fade Away,” made possible by Beats by Dre headphones, and perhaps my somewhat more mature perspective on romantic love. I forgave young Andy for having been so histrionic, reminding myself that on that sad night when I cycled to (and through) that song, I had not yet met my wife, Kate. No WONDER I felt so woefully alienated from meaning and from love.

Now as I climb into bed, I reflect on 25 years of marriage and see that Buddy Holly was right. Still winded from my silly dancing, and inches from Kate’s face, I whisper this favorite song’s closing lyrics like renewed vows to my own pretty, pretty Peggy Sue, sleeping angelically beside me in the summer moonlight:

Love to last more than one day

Love is loving and not fade away

Love is loving and not fade away


In addition to some of the topics raised above, expect questions tonight on the following topics: awful hurricanes, discreet madness, rookie records, groundskeepers, teen comedies, Facebook, service to one’s country, U.S. Presidents, significant drives in Latin America, vodka servers, invitations to the Obama White House, invitations to Gerald Ford, Newsweek chiefs, friendly chemicals, Union forces, utmost quasars, the Midwest, even numbers, knee-slapping comedies that were seen by insufficient numbers, smuggled heaviness, sister acts, breezes, Romantic poetry, flowers for the sweet, secret messages about San Diego at the end of this newsletter, cemeteries, letter mysteries, jumps, unfortunate songs, two apologies, improbably three syllable destinations, Mitch McConnell, lovely elements, top states, carpe diem, and Shakespeare.

August has five Thursdays, much to the relief of parents of school-aged children, for it means that the parental summer stretches and stretches. Poetry Night returns on September 7th, but for this evening, I hope you will return to de Vere’s Irish Pub, Davis, despite the heat. Come early to claim your table and to enjoy the air conditioning. For some Davisites, the lease is up, so tonight will be their last chance to play for a while. Let’s fill the place and cheer them with gusto!

Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Countries of the World.  When combining active, reserve, and paramilitary forces, what country has the second-largest army, at about 7.7 million soldiers, as well as the largest ratio of soldiers per citizen, at over 305 soldiers per 1,000 citizens?  
  2. Dr. Andy’s Driving Trip to San Diego.    The four words in our favorite sign on the way to San Diego started with the letters LLCO. You too have probably seen this sign. Name it.  
  3. Science.  What F word refers to “the ripened ovaries of flowers containing one or more seeds”?  

P.S. You might remember the newsletter I wrote two weeks ago about my family’s trip to a San Diego beach. If you’d like to read a version of that again, find it in yesterday’s Sacramento Bee, now retitled “For Californians from all over, a walk on a beach in a gem of a state.” If you are curious or would like to leave a comment, see


P.P.S. If  you haven’t already done so, please follow Dr. Andy or Your Quizmaster on Twitter! See you there!

Total Eclipse


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,


My favorite line from Jennifer Egan’s award-winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, is this one: “Sure, everything is ending,” Jules said, “but not yet.”

A huge fan of vampire movies that I watched obsessively with my best friend Tito, I used to play a thought game when I was a child. If I were a vampire, how would I safely negotiate traveling around my mom’s workplace, the huge public library downtown, during the daytime? The sun’s rays must be avoided, I told myself. I became an expert at a needless skill, knowing which sections of a four-story block-large public building were the darkest.

Fast forward a few decades, and I realize that my wife and I often discuss how to adjust the shades in our south Davis home so that we protect the interior of our home from the summer sun at every hour, and thus save on our air conditioning bills. My daughter Geneva’s room faces due north, so as a vampire she could safely read and sleep in without our even having to buy her room-darkening shades.

As I write this, I am sitting in the direct morning sunlight of my son Jukie’s room, situated over the garage on the east side of our home. Despite the season and the warm morning, Jukie’s curtains have been thrown open, and his room is bathed in light.

While this setup would be unsafe for vampires, I am enjoying the light knowing that it is a finite resource this morning, for today is the day of the solar eclipse. I hear there are certain areas of Oregon where Hotel 6 rooms were rented for $500 or more last night, because of the relative scarcity of space for eclipse-watchers. The camp grounds were awash with tents this morning. Some people are sitting in stadiums today, so they can watch the midday shadows engulf the others like a wave at a baseball game. Others have found perches atop ridges, so that the magic of darkness can be beheld in a valley below before it engulfs the viewer. Today scientists expect animals and even some plants to “freak out.”

Today is the first day of school for my son Jukie, who attends Greengate School in Woodland. With our San Diego vacation behind us, today is the first step in an inexorable countdown towards the end of summer. First the back to school sales, then the five days of vacation, then the “paper parade” at Patwin Elementary where all the students learn the names of their new teachers, then the last weekend of summer (did you enjoy it?), then Jukie’s school-bus arriving at 7 AM on eclipse day, then the newsletter hurriedly typed in direct morning sunshine, then the spooky partial darkness, then the last day of summer for Truman (tomorrow), then the first day of school at DJUSD (Wednesday), and then Geneva flying back to college (Thursday).

Alice walker once wrote, “Time moves slowly, but passes quickly.” Indeed, when one is older, the years pass by so quickly that it almost seems unfair. However, if one is both self-reflective and pays close attention, sometimes one can watch the days, the hours, or even the minutes go by at an unhurried, almost dawdling, pace, much like watching the moments of daylight extinguish during the uncanny, creeping midday darkness on the day of a solar eclipse.


In addition to topics raised above, tonight expect questions on the following topics: the mottos of pubs, particular favorite months, notable antagonists, World War II, Venezuela, end-of-career renunciations, slim people, football, public villains, historians, ovaries, travel opportunities, cities that are bigger than Davis, science fiction romantic comedies, Latino culture, millionaires and billionaires, audited media, Oscar-winners in Sacramento, aimless and boldly impudent women, the nothing that can come of nothing, nighttime, people in low regard, improbable prisoners, Italian words, Science articles from 1990 (the year I moved to Davis), a city of hills, Oscar nominees, Troy Garrity, faraway assassins, and Shakespeare.

Thanks to my colleague Dr. Ted for hosting last week’s Pub Quiz. I will be hosting this evening, and forever more. I hope to see you.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Irish Culture. The flag of India and the flag of Ireland both feature the same three colors. What are they?  


  1. Textiles That Start with L. What word do we use for a delicate fabric made of yarn or thread in an open web-like pattern?  


  1. Science.  What kind of acid gives lemon its sour taste?  


P.S. Cecil Day Lewis, no vampire, says that “Summer has filled her veins with light and her heart is washed with noon.”  

Truman with Shovel


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

As Jukie and I walked south along Coronado Beach, we could see Tijuana, Mexico on the horizon. Called the best beach in the world in 2012, Coronado Beach is home to the famous Hotel del Coronado, filming location for arguably the best film comedy, Some Like It Hot.

During our walk, Jukie and I passed a family of Frenchmen – a dad and three sons – who had made soccer goal markers out of the abundant seaweed. One of them had overshot the goal, sending the ball ten meters into the Pacific, which promptly gave it back. I could almost decipher some of their French exclamations. Perhaps ten years older than me and with a look of concentration, the father had better soccer skills but less gusto than his sons. He had opportunities to hone his skills when each new son came of age, perhaps preparing for this afternoon on Coronado Beach.

Soon we encountered three middle-aged Americans – a man and two women – digging ever deeper with juice pitchers. They were determined, but not frantic. Soon the man got out his metal detector again, and accepted the advice of the women as to where to place and how to angle the cumbersome machine. “We will just have to dig deeper,” one said. I expected that eventually they would find a metal bolt rather than a diamond ring.

Farther along the beach a Middle-Eastern couple in their 50s were walking with their daughter in her 20’s. Thinking of racial tensions in Charlottesville, I offered a friendly greeting, and they returned it. They might have been locals, or they might have been visiting from 8,000 miles away. I’m about as far from Davis as one can be and still be in California, but I still want people to know that we love and welcome strangers here. The most diverse state in the union, we depend upon the great mix of thinkers, inventors, and workers to power our state, and keep the ongoing dialogue lively and engaging.

The Middle-Eastern family had paused to take pictures, and I could see why. Well after 7 PM last night, we had reached that “magic time” for photographers when the sun’s light is diffused by the rising marine layer. It makes us all feel and look beautiful, especially on film. At that hour Jukie and I could see an engagement photographer, a family photographer, and many amateurs who wanted to take advantage of the incredible light.

Jukie lead the two of us for a mile or more on the wide beach. If it were not getting darker, we might have walked for a few more miles until we heard the actual sounds of Tijuana nightclubs. We soon received a text from my wife Kate – I’m freezing, she said – so we started walking back, the setting sun filling our faces with light. By the time we returned to Kate, we saw the photographers packing up their equipment and nodding optimistically to their clients, we saw the French dad walking arm and arm towards the del Coronado Hotel, and we saw the middle-aged Americans climbing out of their hole to exchange a high five.

Perhaps, like Kate with her photography of Truman jumping over waves, and like Jukie and me on our walk, these three prospectors had finally found their diamond ring in the sand.


Tonight’s Pub Quiz will be hosted by my colleague Dr. Ted, heroically filling in for me while I continue to vacate. I will be back next Monday, and, before then, I will be hosting Poetry Night on Thursday the 17th at the Natsoulas Gallery. I’ve written tonight’s quiz, so I know that you should expect questions tonight on topics raised above as well as the following: textiles, championships, smiling doctors, foreign and domestic kings, strange citizens, that Black guy, Aggie standouts, calendar quandaries, favorite acids, Europe of yesteryear, that which is webly, C cities,  meal locations, California history, newspaper headlines, trade colonies, lip hair, pomposity, three-word titles, church leaders, virtuosi, store brand bargains, not Jefferson, people named Ted, frightening ratios, meta-films, Dr. Andy’s summer vacations, and Shakespeare.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.    In what decade did Yahoo start using the slogan “Do you…Yahoo!?”  


  1. Internet Culture. CEO Ben Silbermann summarized his “P” company, founded in 2010, as a “catalog of ideas,” rather than as a social network. Name the company.  


  1. Newspaper Headlines.   In what U.S. state did the governor recently welcome President Trump with the news that he, the governor, had switched from being a Democrat to being a Republican?  


P.S. I appreciate your continuing to support the Pub Quiz when I am on vacation. I have also been working on my Pub Quiz book, out by Christmas and selling for $15 a copy. Unlike (perhaps) my poetry books, this one will make a great gift, even for people who know nothing about the Quiz. How many can I put you down for?

A Star

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

As I write this newsletter, I am struck again by the most famous lines of poetry of former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass:

All the new thinking is about loss.

In this it resembles all the old thinking.

This past weekend I was waiting for a coffee and a tea at Philz Coffee in North Berkeley. The tea was for me – it came with so much mint that we joked that the barista had drowned a small salad in my cup – while the coffee was for an old friend visiting from back east.

I lived in Berkeley for more than a year after I first moved to California, so I was not entirely surprised when a stranger greeted me by name. As I shook his hand, I scanned my mental Rolodex. This young man named Tyler might have known me from my decades of teaching at UC Davis, or from my years of hosting poetry events locally, or from the radio show. Which was it? He reminded me that years ago he regularly attended the Pub Quiz, an experience that he evidently treasured and misses very much.

I half-jokingly asked if we could pause and then relive this interaction when my friend, visiting from Rhode Island, returned from the bathroom. I wanted her to see that I’ve made friends with an admirer, and that my celebrity, such as it is, stretches all the way to the East Bay. Tyler obliged, acting out his excitement about our “trivial” reunion a second time for my friend’s benefit. I was grateful for Tyler’s performance, and for the opportunity to reconnect.

Later over dinner at Chez Panisse (my first time!), my friend told this story to her former roommate, another of my closest college friends who, thankfully, eventually moved to California from our far-flung corners of the globe (she from Micronesia, me from Washington, DC). At one point my Rhode Island friend paused in the narrative to jokingly refer to me as “A STAR,” and smiled knowingly as she traced a five-pointed star in the air.

This was an allusion to my Dad’s 1980s DC license plate, “A STAR” in capital letters, something I hadn’t thought about in years. My brother Oliver and I thought the vanity plate on my dad’s Cadillac Cimarron to be somewhat boastful, but we knew that my dad took relish in being recognized in our hometown, the nation’s capital, because of his years on TV reviewing movies for the local CBS affiliate. Today Davey Marlin-Jones’ license plate can be seen resting on the lintel in Oliver’s living room.

Now, of course celebrity itself is rather silly. As Elvis said, “The image is one thing and the human being is another.” Some of us have a bit of notoriety in our field, niche, or region; perhaps it helps us consider how we present ourselves in public or with our peers. Such distractions mean that an outsider can see patterns about our lives that we can’t often see from the inside, such as two generations of journalist-performers taking disproportionate delight in their own local celebrity.

This “Cats in the Cradle” moment for me made me miss my dad, who passed away more than a dozen years ago, and made me wish I could share my current life with him, whether it be my literary accomplishments, the weekly fun we have at the Pub Quiz, or the grandson he never got to meet. Sometimes I overhear Kate telling stories to that grandson Truman about his “Grand-Davey.” Sometimes on special occasions Truman will wear my dad’s trademark bowler hat.

While I reflected on the ways that our lives are shaped by loss, or by what Hass in that poem “Meditation on Lagunitas” calls the “endless distances” of “longing,” I knew that at least at Pub Quiz tonight I would get to introduce all of you to two of my closest college friends (both staying in Oakland with family and friends for the long weekend), and I would introduce these college buddies to the decidedly vainglorious and cheeky showman known as Your Quizmaster. Friends who had spent time with my dad, and watched him on TV, and visited my homes in DC, Boston, Berkeley, and London, would get see me perform as my dad once did.

Sadly, as I learned last night, the stars misaligned again, and these friends that I associate with a happy, stumbling time in my young adulthood will not get to join us tonight, and thus will not hear the deafening introduction to the quiz. Along with death and separation, missed opportunity is another kind of loss. As Harry Chapin would say, “When you coming home, dad? / I don’t know when / But we’ll get together then / You know we’ll have a good time then.”

Filled with inside jokes and allusions to Beatles’ songs, children’s books, blackberries, and buoys, the secret messages and allusions that were hidden in tonight’s pub quiz will not be heard by its secondary intended audience, at least not in our pub. Instead, I emailed my friends a copy of tonight’s quiz, something for them to enjoy communally before they fly back to their disparate and far-flung homes, separated by growing distance. Moving always in different directions, the three of us shall remain connected by the echoes of our shared laughter, and by fond memories of fallen stars.


In addition to topics raised above, tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on the following: New England, Pixar films, the circus, olives, Mr. Rogers, reconstruction plans, famous trees, bonobos, agriculture, kleptocracy, holidays, metascores, famous poets, Toni Morrison, the magnetosphere, tempos, rampant vowels, liberty bells, the loss of the whole, potatoes, John Lennon, Hollywood favorites, protuberances, songs with names in them, people named Karen, art history, taxes, social networks, and Shakespeare.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Newspaper Headlines.   Caracas is in turmoil at this hour. Caracas is the capital of what country?  


  1. New Jersey Cities. Starting with the letter P, what New Jersey city is one of two American cities with a greater population density than that of San Francisco?   


  1. The Films of 2017 – Dunkirk. Dunkirk held the top spot in domestic grosses for two weekends in a row. What 2017 film most previously did the same?   



P.S. Davis poet Lauren Swift will open for poet, novelist, and musician William Greene at Poetry Night on August 17th at the John Natsoulas Gallery. You are invited!

Three Musketeers

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Something magical happens when a play comes together as it should. What may seem miraculous to the director and cast just seems like a collection of wonders to the audience member who is willing to suspend disbelief for a couple hours.

I know this feeling of a project “coming together” from teaching a class that depends upon the insightful participation of my students, and they come through for me. I’ve known this feeling when hosting fundraisers, coming up with quips and jokes on the fly that show I am paying attention and that I care about the cause. On the radio, a promotional interview can sometimes turn into a real conversation, one where I forget to remind listeners of the name and book title of my guest. These moments of linguistic, participatory tightrope-walking must be what inspire and attract improv comedians, freestyle poets, contact jugglers, and certain con artists, those whose flirtations with danger, with failure, are fun to watch.

The Davis Shakespeare Ensemble has put on another terrific show as part of their Davis Shakespeare Festival. And although the plays do not offer as many improvisational elements as 2015’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood (for which the audience got to vote for the ending of this play based on Charles Dickens’ last and unfinished novel), many times while watching the plays of the current season, I asked myself, “Now how did they pull THAT off?” I’ve seen a lot of plays, but I rarely do I come away amazed at what I’ve seen.

As a fan of martial arts, I’ve always admired daring fight choreography involving athletic masters like Jackie Chan or Donnie Yen. I’ve also enjoyed watching my daughter Geneva confidently spar with larger opponents as she was earning her second degree black belt with Steve Rodness here in town. But rarely does one get to see fight choreography in person, especially with the sort of rapiers once wielded by musketeers serving the King of France. Such is the case with The Three Musketeers, one of the two shows being staged now by our own Davis Shakespeare Ensemble. You will also love the characters, sets, and acting of the troupe of actors, which grows larger and more talented every year.

Playing in repertory with The Three Musketeers is a play I saw Friday night, Wonderful Town, a Leonard Bernstein musical that features the charismatic acting and virtuoso singing of the Battista sisters, Gia and Gabby Battista. They play sisters in this musical, as well, and joyfully interact with a host of eccentric and hilarious characters in Greenwich Village. The set changes in this play amazed me, reminding me that grand spectacle and top-notch shows can be enjoyed here in Davis, as well as in Sacramento, San Francisco, and New York City.

This coming weekend is your LAST opportunity to enjoy these two productions. Visit to find out more about the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble. Tell them that Dr. Andy sent you for VIP treatment (though everyone gets VIP treatment).

Need some hints for tonight’s Pub Quiz? In addition to topics raised above, tonight expect questions on urban turmoil, repeated cinematic success, Smokey Mountain towns, threads, gold, comedies and tragedies, biographies in India, repeals, blood vessels, ballet, French benefits, ladies named Eileen who turn out not to be Irish, unusual berries, sergeants, science fiction, farmers, famous clocks, unusual words, flood waters, first children, shrubs, queens and presidents, numbers that are divisible by 20, birth states, the unusual word “oeuvre,” passing of the musical torch, zombies, Spanish phrases, unbelievable in North America, ruggedness, Fred Perry, oddly-spelled silhouette, New Jersey, dancing, mergers and acquisitions, insurance policies, and Shakespeare.

Poetry Night is Thursday the 3rd at 8. Details below.

See you this evening!


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.    What retail chain uses the slogan “Dress for Less”? 


  1. Internet Culture. What animated destructive protagonist is returning in a film sequel in which he supposedly “breaks the internet”?  


  1. Newspaper Headlines.   We learned from the New York Times today that what percentage of law school graduates are women? Is it closest to 12, 25, 37, or 50%? 


P.S. The Poetry Reading Series is proud to feature two outstanding poets: Mary Barbara Moore (visiting from West Virginia), and Susan Kelly-DeWitt. Both will read on Thursday, August 3rd at 8 P.M. They will be performing at the John Natsoulas Gallery at 521 1st Street in Davis.

Mary Barbara Moore began giving poetry readings in Sacramento and Davis in the late 1980s, and returns to us after a multi-decade hiatus. For many years Mary Moore taught literature classes (poetry, Renaissance literature, women’s literature, modernism), and expository writing at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. She has published three books of poetry. She’s a delightful person.

Opening for Mary Moore will be Susan Kelly-DeWitt. Kelly-DeWitt is the author of many books, most recently Spider Season from Cold River Press (2016).

Find details about this event at the Poetry in Davis website.

Pebble Beach Carmel

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

The Russian poet and novelist Vladimir Nabokov once said, “I think it is all a matter of love; the more you love a memory the stronger and stranger it becomes.” A complementary corollary might also be true: Our typical days of routine and repetition are destined to be forgotten.

This is why vacations are so important. They give us a chance to unwind, to detach, and to recharge. They also give us a chance to create new permanent memories. An image, an unexpected experience, a long look into someone’s eyes: each of these might create something permanent, something tucked away in the hippocampus for repeated and welcome retrieval.

We don’t always realize these opportunities when they are set before us, for we are often in a hurry. We rush through time without considering where we are, what we might see, or how we might express our adoration of the nearby people who love us. We spend our time distracted, or focused on incidental objectives, not realizing that the grains of sand are slipping from our fingers. As Wordsworth put it in one of my favorite sonnets, “Little we see in Nature that is ours; / We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”

Vacations can interrupt this cycle of rudimentary memory loss. This past Saturday, for instance, my wife Kate and I packed the minivan with our children and their amusements and drove off to Monterey. We parked the van at our hotel hours before check-in, and then strolled the mile down the hill past 100-year-old homes, parks filled with Monterey pines, and an increasing number of bed and breakfast inns before we arrived at Monterey’s thriving downtown. After lunch we walked towards the ocean and discovered that vendors had set up their wares in huge booths in the plaza between the history museum (which we toured) and the art museum (which we saved for our next visit). Our favorite vendor had created insects, aliens, and superheroes out of recycled scrap metal. Another, a gun dealer, insisted that my children needed rubber band revolvers in order to enjoy our trip. They declined.

That afternoon we watched sea lions from afar, laughed at the names of boats in the marina, and did backstrokes in out hotel’s heated pool. The next day we explored more of Monterey, walking for miles along the same seaside bike path that Kate and I once traversed via tandem bike when we rode the 17 Mile Drive as youthful honeymooners. Our waitress at the Carmel restaurant where we had a late lunch of Italian food remarked that she didn’t miss the wall of heat that awaited her when her shift at the Sacramento Whole Foods had concluded. My daughter Geneva, now a Wisconsin college student, later told me privately that she loves that wall of heat. We ended our Carmel adventure at the beach, whose fine-grain sand my son Truman much preferred to the climbing rocks of Monterey.

I hope Kate and the kids will long remember our weekend of adventure, and not the bouts of traffic that awaited us on the way home. Last night before falling asleep, we remarked that we couldn’t believe that we had left just the day before, and that we seemingly had fit a week’s worth of experiences into those 36 hours. California has so much to offer us, and we are lucky to call such a place home, if we take advantage of it. I hope all of you can similarly expand your understanding of a weekend or a week away, and thus create memories that will continue to become stronger and stranger because of the love you invest in them.


Today’s Pub Quiz was largely written in the car on the way back from the coast, but the answers have since been fact-checked. Expect questions on chain stores I would have seen from the highway, rascally children, notable multitasking inventors, the cover of The New York Times Book Review, Australians, fathers and sons who play baseball, books for children written in German, cows, tough guys, finding the doctor in the family, reddish foreheads, Paula Poundstone, southern countries, unusual protagonists, centuries for authors, Star Wars, prominent birthdays today, time travel, fennel in the kitchen, English football hooligan brothers, people named Kate, phenomenal women, geologic highlands, categories of chair, uptown and downtown, unusual splits, Academy Awards, law school, the state of the future internet, and Shakespeare.

I love how busy the summer has been in everyone’s favorite eatery. Come early to claim a table tonight!

Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Science.  The hyacinth macaw is native to which continent? 


  1. Books and Authors.   The sharpest wit of the Algonquin Round Table was nominated for an Academy Award for her work writing the screenplay of A Star is Born. Always a progressive, when she died she left her estate to Martin Luther King Jr. What was her name?  


  1. Current Events – Names in the News.     Film director George A. Romero died recently at the age of 77. For what horror film is he best known? 


Martin Landau

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

I only met Martin Landau once, but it was memorable. In 1984, the Paramount Theatre National Tour of Dracula, with the tall and seemingly-ghastly Martin Landau in the title role, had come to the Kennedy Center for the month of December, 1984. My father had already (favorably) reviewed the production on TV, lavishing praise on Landau himself as well as on the costumes and set designed by the author and illustrator Edward Gorey. As a result, I knew Landau was in town, even though I never got to see him on stage.

Like many great American cities, Washington DC was known for its repertory movie houses and second-run movie houses. Founded in 1967, The Biograph was a movie theatre that exclusively showed old second-run films, and thus offered a cinematic education to film lovers in the pre-VHS era. The Biograph was less than a mile walk to the Circle Theatre, which showed a different double feature every day ($1 matinees). The Circle was less than a mile from the White House, and both these theaters were less than a mile from the Columbia Hospital for Women, where I was born.

Soon after our 1984 holiday break began, I joined my high school friend Moose (now a senior environmental planner and member of the city council of Morristown, New Jersey) at a showing of the 1972 absurdist comedy titled Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask). The film was inspired by California psychiatrist David Reuben’s best-selling book of the same name. Moose and I had spotted Landau in the lobby before the film began – he was wearing a dark jacket, but not a cape – and had said hello to him. He greeted us kindly.

One vignette in the film is titled “Are the Findings of Doctors and Clinics Who Do Sexual Research and Experiments Accurate?” In it Woody Allen plays a researcher who visits mad scientist John Carradine’s sexual research lab, and barely escapes before he and the reporter with him become unwilling subjects of his insane experiments. This scene was in part a parody of Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster, which provided Bela Lugosi his final speaking role. Because of the gothic elements of this part of the film, Moose helpfully and loudly pointed out that the mad scientist’s castle seemed like a place one would find Dracula! Afterwards as we were filing out of The Biograph, Martin Landau pretended to be amused by us, commenting, “Very funny, fellows,” or something to that effect.

Five years later, Martin Landau would be nominated for his first Academy Award for acting in a Woody Allen film, Crimes and Misdemeanors. Ten years later, he would win an Oscar for playing Bela Lugosi in the film Ed Wood. I have often wondered if Martin Landau would have taken those projects had he not so enjoyed his December evening in The Biograph Theatre in Washington, D.C., with two obstreperous but well-meaning teenage film-lovers nearby.

Martin Landau died this past weekend at the age of 89. I wonder if, as was the case with Belosi, he will be buried wearing a cape. I’m grateful to him for the decades of entertainment he provided in film, on TV, and on stage, and for the momentary kindness he showed me in 1984.


In addition to topics raised above, tonight expect questions about relatively old men, monsters, Disney, Martin Luther King, people who are born stars, continental hyacinths, retirements, prominent islands, Zacharys, prominent theatres, franchises, the move away from cash and credit cards, science fiction possibilities, Delaware and New Jersey, matriarchs, prominent American poets of yesteryear, slavery in America, peninsulas, wrists and posteriors, rich doctors, sergeants missing their middles, camels, George Carlin, U.S. states, modern medicine, catch phrases, Katy Perry, mobsters, firearms, Costco and others, smartphones, current events, and Shakespeare.

Speaking of Shakespeare, have you yet checked out the offerings of the Davis Shakespeare Festival? Check out the calendar here:

Also, Sacramento Poet Laureate Indigo Moor is coming to town Thursday night at 8 to read at the John Natsoulas Gallery. Please join us for this fantastic opportunity to see one of California’s best poets perform.

Summers are busy at the Pub Quiz. Come early to claim a table! See you tonight.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Irish Culture. What Irishman is the reigning UFC Lightweight Champion?  


  1. Fresno. In what California county does one find the city of Fresno?      


  1. Books and Authors.  Whose book Treasure Island provides most of our misconceptions about pirates?  



P.S. I will be reading a poem about marijuana tomorrow night around 6:30 at the Davis City Council meeting. You are invited to join us.