Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Tale Of Two Christmases


A colon cancer patient goes to his oncologist, says: "Doctor, doctor, I think I'm getting Chemo Brain! I keep forgetting things. I go into a room, can't remember why I went there; I keep forgetting people's names, where I put things, hell, I even forget to zip up my pants after I pee!" Doctor says: "You're fine, that's not Chemo Brain, that's just aging. Chemo Brain is when you forget to UN-zip *before* you pee!" (lifted and adapted without apologies from my good friend Charlie Cockey)


Thursday, Dec. 11 – 4:20 p.m.

I’ve made a glorious mistake. Thanks to my diminished C-IQ (Chemo Intelligence Quotient) I miscounted the number of poisoning sessions I’ve undergone. At today’s visit with my doctor I realized that I’ve had eight treatment, not seven as I previously thought. Which means:


I’ve have only four more treatments to go, not five. Which further means:

Double Ta-Da!

In short timer’s calendar speak it’s not four and a wakeup as previously calculated, but THREE AND A WAKEUP.

And that further means:

Triple Tea-Da!

I’ll be done the first week of February.

Now, isn’t that a fantastic Christmas present?!?

Friday, Dec. 12 – 3:31 p.m.

I had a decent morning with pumpkin pie for breakfast, which sat marvelously well in my poor innards. As usual, the afternoon has brought a return of the old nasty symptoms, so I’m taking my paregoric and heading back to bed for a couple of hours.

Saturday, Dec. 13 – 1:15 p.m.

Same-o, same-o as Friday. Pumpkin pie for breakfast, followed by a pleasant morning. And now I’m starting to feel like… well, you know…

Damn it is taking a long time to recover from the last chemo session. The next one starts Wednesday, Dec. 17. Hopefully I’ll have a couple of days of normalcy (whatever that is) before then.

Sunday And Monday, Dec. 14 And 15

Feeling better, getting only a little sick in the afternoons. Had regular food for dinner instead of soup and open-faced grilled cheese squares. Slept well – and late.

Tuesday, Dec. 16 – 7:30 p.m.

Good day all around. Feeling strong and full of energy.

Wednesday, Dec. 17, 9:01 a.m.

Unaccountably Tuesday deteriorated from about 10:30 on. Spent a sleepless night listening to audiobooks. Didn’t actually doze off until almost 5 a.m. I leave for the IV clinic in a few minutes for blood tests and have my port set up for tomorrow’s first round of poisoning.

Oh, joy.

Wednesday, Dec. 18 4:43 p.m.
BULLETIN: Whoops. They just called me from the IV clinic. I'm down a couple of pints of blood. Have to go back in half an hour for transfusions. Plus, chemo will be put off until New Year's week. This means I'll hopefully have an easy Christmas. 

New Year's Day, however, I'll be sick. Kind of like old, old times, except I won't get any mimosas or tequila and OJ to ease my suffering. I guess a couple of special cookies will have to do. 

Meanwhile, this development makes the decision I made about this week's episode make even more sense. Here's the note I wrote earlier in the day. 

*** I’m going to do something different in this episode. What with the holiday season upon us, I’m going to skip past the next few days of reporting on the (voluntary) poisoning of one Allan Cole. Since I spent last Christmas in bed recovering from arterial surgery - unable to write -  I thought I'd like to do something a little more positive. So, I’m posting two very true tales of memorable Christmases in my life. ***

Got that bit of quick backtracking? Okay, here we go...

The second – which occurs over three decades later - is from my book “My HollywoodMisAdventures,” which is about my hilarious years working as a screen writer with my former partner, the late Chris Bunch, in the glittering jungles of Hollywood.

Nicosea, Cyprus - Christmas - 1954

NICOSEA,  CYPRUS - There were five of them: the British lad, Keith Digby whose father was likely MI6; the big Armenian boy, Boghos, son of an importer/exporter and probably part time spook; an upper classman British kid, Ron Cook; an Italian boy, Stephanos; and Lucky. That would be me, Gentle Reader: Allan “Lucky” Cole, the writer of this memoir. My father, of course, was a CIA operative.

The boys were all gathered at a café that overlooked Metaxa Square, which was draped in a blanket of fresh snow glittering under the bright sun. The café was about five feet above the street so they had a great view. Large glass windows set into frames on wheels had been placed around the patio to shield the patrons from a chill wind. Colorful lights and Greek-style Christmas decorations were strung around the café and with the kerosene heaters blazing a cherry red it was quite warm and cheerful and gay.

It was the last day of school before Christmas vacation and the boys had slipped away for lunch at their favorite café. They joked around for a bit, teasing each other about this and that. But it wasn’t long before the conversation turned to the topic that had been on everyone’s mind of late – the spate of terrorist incidents – mostly minor – that had suddenly popped up around the island. There was talk that this was only the beginning of the Cypriot rebels rebelling against the British – their colonial masters.

Keith said, “My grandmother said prices are up in the market. To her that means there’s going to be trouble because people start hoarding their food in bad times.”

Boghos frowned, his faces darkening. “It’s the Turks, I’m sure of it,” the Armenian said. “They’re planning something.”

Cook laughed. “You see Turks behind everything, Boghos,” he said. “If a flying saucer landed in Metaxa Square right now, you’d say it was a Turkish plot.”

Boghos snorted. “I wouldn’t be surprised.” (Considering that the Turks had murdered nearly two million Armenians earlier in the century, he had good reason to be suspicious.)

Even so, everyone laughed, except Stephanos. He said, in Italian-accented English, “My poppa thinks the Reds, they are plotting something.”

Lucky and the other boys stopped laughing. Stephanos’ father was a foreign correspondent for a conservative Italian newspaper – and also did some work for a few radio and TV stations. Lucky figured he was probably a spy as well, since most journalists in the Middle East picked up extra money that way.

“They’re always plotting something,” Digby said, a little scornfully. But he looked worried just the same.

“My father said the rebels have a new general,” Stephanos said. “Grivas. General George Grivas. He was a big hero against the Nazis so everybody listens to him.”

Lucky’s eyebrows rose at the name. He’d overheard his father and his CIA colleagues talking about Grivas a few nights before during their weekly chess session. Apparently he’d slipped ashore with a cargo of guns and bombs. They said his mission was to train a new, more violent movement to defy the British.

Boghos grunted, “So much talk of fighting makes me hungry,” he said and lifted a  hand to call for a waiter. As the man moved their way they were startled by the loud blast of a laboring car engine. They all looked down through the glass partition to see a very old, very large black Plymouth coming up the road. Thick clouds of smoke were spewing from the tailpipe and as they watched the driver turned the wheel and bumped up on the curb, riding half on and half off the sidewalk.

“What in blazes?” Keith said.

The car pulled up directly in front of them. Lucky and the other boys stared down at it. A sense of foreboding ran icy fingers along Lucky’s spine. Then the windows came down and Lucky saw two men lean out and raise ugly snub-nosed things that he recognized as submachine guns. But he was so numbed by what was happening that his brain failed to truly register the threat.

The men opened fire. Glass erupted in Lucky’s face, shards of it flying past him, gleaming like comets in the winter light. He sat there, frozen in shock, his ears ringing with the sound of the exploding bullets.

All around him, people were screaming and falling, tables and chairs going over, and splinters of wood, bits of metal and glass were flying everywhere as the men kept on firing.

Lucky and his friends sat at their table unable to move while bloody chaos reigned – the café a welter of horror.

To Lucky it seemed as if time had come to a near stop and everything was in slow motion.

He could see the two men in the car slowly moving their weapons from side-to-side as if they were hosing down the café. Then the man in the back seat looked directly at Lucky. His teeth were bared like a dog’s and his face was gunsmoke black.

The man lifted his weapon so that it seemed to be coming to bear directly on Lucky. Perhaps it was imagined. Perhaps not. There was a frozen moment and Lucky thought the man was about to fire - then the car gave a lurch and it sputtered forward.

Someone in the car shouted and the gunfire stopped. There was another loud report as the car backfired, then lumbered away, dropping heavily back on the street, its undercarriage scraping against the pavement and sending out a shower of sparks.

Then Ron Cook shouted, “Down!”

Lucky and his friends fell to the floor, putting their hands over their heads, protecting themselves from a threat that no longer existed.

After what seemed like an eternity, Lucky heard the wail of sirens and he slowly got up. His ears were becoming unblocked, although there was still a persistent ringing in them and all sound seemed far away.

He looked at his friends. Everyone was pale and wide-eyed with fright, but no one seemed to be hurt.

Lucky heard people wailing and he turned to see that the café was a welter of blood and destruction. Some people were sprawled on the ground, arms and legs splayed, fingers digging into concrete as if they were trying to defy gravity gone mad. Others crouched behind shot up tables and chairs. Some were weeping. Some were groaning. Some made no sound or motion at all. Besides the blood, Lucky could smell urine and feces – it was like the earthquake all over again, with the dead and the dying.

But the most powerful smell was that of kerosene from knocked over heaters and Lucky saw first one, then another catch fire. Men and women started getting to their knees and crawling over to tend to their loved ones – keeping their heads down in case the shooting started again.

Lucky saw one of the managers slip out from behind the outside bar, which was filled with gaping holes. He organized a few waiters to help him put out the fires and see what they could do about the injured customers.

Then the sirens were shrilling just outside the café and booted feet came bounding up the stairs and Lucky turned to see British soldiers – looking like gods of mercy - and several local policemen enter. They were followed by uniformed rescue people carrying stretchers and satchels full of medical gear.

Still dazed, the boys righted their chairs and sank into them. Miraculously, there was one full bottle of cola on the table. Lucky took a drink. His mouth was paper dry. He passed the bottle to Keith, who drank and gave some to Stephanos, who passed it on to Boghos. The normally greedy boy took only a small sip and gave it to Cook.

“Finish,” he said.

Cook nodded and gratefully swallowed the rest.

Keith was the first to speak. “My father’s going to kill me,” he said.

“What?” Stephanos asked, sounding dazed.

“I’m not supposed to leave the school for lunch,” Keith said.

“You are crazy man, Digs,” Boghos said. “Why he kill you for not being killed?”

“Technically, it’s not a violation,” Cook said. They looked at him, wondering what the hell he was talking about. “It’s the first afternoon of the school holiday, remember?”

A long silence, then Keith said, “Right!” He sounded enormously relieved.

It was all a very bizarre conversation in the middle of all that tragic chaos. And as if he suddenly realized what had happened, Keith started to tremble. Also, with the glass partitions blown to bits it was cold as the devil.

“Are you boys alright?” came a voice with a clipped British accent.

Lucky looked up and saw a tall, sandy-haired officer standing over them. He looked worried as hell.

“Ye-ye-yes, sir,” Lucky said, teeth chattering as shock started setting in on him as well. “None of us are hurt.”

The officer nodded. “You lads are from Terra Santa, right?” They said they were. “I’ll get a driver to take you back to the school and let the fathers look after you.” He lifted a long, walkie-talkie and issued orders. Lowered it. “Give the driver your names, addresses and telephone numbers and we’ll get a statement from you later, okay, mates?” The boys nodded agreement. “That’s the spirit,” he said with forced joviality. And he clapped Lucky on the back as a soldier came to take them away.

Except for the priests and a few boarding school boys who hadn’t gone home for the holidays, the school was nearly empty. But the café was close enough so that everyone had heard the shooting and when Lucky and his friends were led into the administration building, priests and students alike crowded in with them, firing excited questions. But the headmaster broke it up and got them into the infirmary where the school nurse checked them over, wrapped them in blankets and got them hot broth to drink. Meanwhile, their families were called and cars were dispatched to carry them home.

The maid answered the phone at Lucky’s house to report that both his parents were absent. Then he remembered that it was his mother’s turn to help at the CIA base cafeteria, where his father was on 24-hour duty until after Christmas. Lucky told the headmaster not to worry and they called a taxi for him.

The cabbie evidently wanted to rubber neck the scene at the café, because he tried to take the street that led past the chaos, but was suddenly blocked by stalled traffic. Lucky saw the British army trucks and ambulances still outside. Several big Turkish cops were trying to re-direct the traffic, arguing with a particularly stubborn ox-cart driver whose wagon was sitting askew on the roadway.

The cabbie started to get out to see what was happening, but Lucky spoke sharply to him. He was tired and wanted to go home.

They took an around-about-way, circling Metaxa Square and Lucky looked down at the snow-draped park and guttering cooking fires where the carolers and vendors had been only hours before.

Lucky settled back in the seat. His body felt bruised and aching. He caught the driver looking at him through the rear view mirror. The man had figured out that Lucky knew about the café.

“Were you there when it happened?” the man asked in Greek. Lucky said he was. “Was it bad?” Lucky said, yes, it had been terrible. “Was anyone killed?” Lucky said he didn’t know.

Suddenly the whole terrible scene came back to him. First the chatter of the machineguns, the shattered glass and ripped up wood. The screams of frightened and injured people. The grimacing gunman seeming to look Lucky in the eyes as he raised his weapon to fire. Then the awful aftermath – weeping bloody people crawling across the floor. The smell of spilled kerosene, the sharp odor of gunsmoke. Lucky’s hands shook. Tears welled up, which was stupid, because nothing had happened to him. He took deep breaths, getting himself under control.

The cabbie asked another question that Lucky didn’t quite hear. Before he could repeat it, Lucky handed him a fistful of Camel cigarettes.

“I’d like to rest,” he said. “Could you play some music? An English station, please?”

The driver nodded thanks, lit up his Camel with the extreme pleasure of a man who enjoys life and switched on the radio. He found the BBC station. Christmas music was playing. A song ended, and “The Little Drummer Boy” was announced. Lucky leaned back and tried hard to listen. To concentrate. To wipe out the memory of the café.

There was a musical introduction and then the song began, the voices swelling and filling the taxi.

“…Come, they told me, parum pum pum pum,
Our new born King to see, parum pum pum pum,
Our finest gifts we bring, parum pum pum pum,
To lay before the King, parum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum...”
So to honor Him, parum pum pum pum,
When we come…”

He tried to hum along but it was difficult to focus on the voices, the lovely voices. He kept thinking of the big black car and the gunfire and the screams. Stop it, he ordered himself. Just stop! Listen to the song…

“…Baby Jesus, parum pum pum pum,
I am a poor boy too, parum pum pum pum,
I have no gift to bring, parum pum pum pum,
That's fit to give our King, parum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum.
Shall I play for you, parum pum pum pum
On my drum?…
Mary nodded, parum pum pum pum…

Slowly, so slowly, the incident faded away to be replaced in his mind’s eye by the winter wonderland of Metaxa Square, where he and Donna and strolled past the carolers only a few hours before, arm in arm, with hot roasted unshelled eggs in their pockets to keep their hands warm. He smiled at the memory, and finally he fell asleep as the choir voices on the radio softly sang:

“…I played my drum for Him, parum pum pum pum,
I played my best for Him, parum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum.
Then He smiled at me, parum pum pum pum,
Me and my drum…
Me and my drum…”


Christmas In Hollywood - 1987

VENICE, CALIFORNIA – It was Thursday, the day before Christmas. Kathryn and I slept in, recovering from the party at Fox Studios the night before and a hard (albeit) short work week. The doorbell bing-bonged and I grumbled and got up. It was chilly for California and the polished wooden floors weren't so charming in bare feet.

We were in our new house on Amoroso Place, in Venice. It was a two-story 1918 Arts & Crafts home, with leaded glass windows looking out on a wide front porch. I could see a young man in a suit and tie waiting there, with a big box beside him.

Even though there are few things in Venice Beach more worrisome than a short-haired guy in a suit and tie, I answered the door. He was too young and the suit was too nice for him to be some breed of cop. Also, even though I was a Venice denizen, I didn't have any current reason to feel guilty. That I knew of, anyway.

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Cole," the kid said, beaming like one of Santa's elves. He told me his name, then added, "I'm from 20th Century Fox, Mr. Cole. The studio sent this little gift to thank you for the fabulous job you're doing on the show." (The Werewolf TV series, helmed by Frank Lupo)

He lugged the huge box into my house, shook my hand, refused coffee, and rushed out into the chill beach air, probably on his way to Chris' place in Manhattan Beach.

My sleepy-eyed wife wandered into the living room, tying her robe about her. "Who was that?" she asked.

I indicated the big box. "It's from the studio," I said.

Sleepiness was replaced by bright interest. "Ooh, let's open it," she said.

And so we did. The first thing we found was a large, wooly lap rug. It was red and black and white, and in the center was a big 20th Century Fox logo - like you've seen at the beginning of every Fox movie since 1935 when the legendary Mr. William Fox merged his company with the equally legendary Mr. Darryl F. Zanuck.

Beneath that were all kinds of goodies. Bottles of champagne and cider with two glass flutes. Cakes and cookies. Fine cheeses and sausages and crackers. Two 20th Century Fox mugs with packets of gourmet hot chocolate. And lots, and lots of other things, too many to remember.

While Kathryn made some hot chocolate and unpacked the cake and cookies, I finished setting up the new stereo Frank had given us. Then I spread out blankets and pillows before the fire crackling in the hearth.

Kathryn put on a record, then curled up with me under the 20th Century Fox lap rug, sipping at the mugs of chocolate. Kathryn clicked the remote, a record fell into place, there was the hiss of a needle in the grooves and the music purred out of the speakers.

And the very first Christmas song she played was Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby."

“…Santa baby, just slip a Sable under the tree for me;
Been an awful good girl, Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa baby, a '54 convertible too, light blue;
I'll wait up for you, dear; Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight…”

We cuddled under the lap rug, drifted along to the music. The pillows were soft and there was the sweet scent of pine smoke in air from cracking fire. Hot chocolate and dreamy thoughts warmed us from the inside, while Eartha’s sultry voice warmed us from without…

“…Think of all the fun I've missed;
Think of all the fellas that I haven't kissed;
Next year I could be just as good... if you check off my Christmas list…”

As Eartha sang on, Kathryn cuddled closer. I kissed her – it seemed like the thing to do. And she leaned in closer still and softly whisper sang into my ear: “Santa Baby… hurry down the chimney to me.”



Here's where to get the paperback & Kindle editions worldwide: 

Here's what readers say about Lucky In Cyprus:
  • "Bravo, Allan! When I finished Lucky In Cyprus I wept." - Julie Mitchell, Hot Springs, Texas
  • "Lucky In Cyprus brought back many memories... A wonderful book. So many shadows blown away!" - Freddy & Maureen Smart, Episkopi,Cyprus. 
  • "... (Reading) Lucky In Cyprus has been a humbling, haunting, sobering and enlightening experience..." - J.A. Locke,


THE HATE PARALLAX: What if the Cold War never ended -- but continued for a thousand years? Best-selling authors Allan Cole (an American) and Nick Perumov (a Russian) spin a mesmerizing "what if?" tale set a thousand years in the future, as an American and a Russian super-soldier -- together with a beautiful American detective working for the United Worlds Police -- must combine forces to defeat a secret cabal ... and prevent a galactic disaster! This is the first - and only - collaboration between American and Russian novelists. Narrated by John Hough. Click the title links below for the trade paperback and kindle editions. (Also available at iTunes.)


A new novel by Allan and his daughter, Susan

After laboring as a Doctors Without Borders physician in the teaming refugee camps and minefields of South Asia, Dr. Ann Donovan thought she'd seen Hell as close up as you can get. And as a fifth generation CIA brat, she thought she knew all there was to know about corruption and betrayal. But then her father - a legendary spymaster - shows up, with a ten-year-old boy in tow. A brother she never knew existed. Then in a few violent hours, her whole world is shattered, her father killed and she and her kid brother are one the run with hell hounds on their heels. They finally corner her in a clinic in Hawaii and then all the lies and treachery are revealed on one terrible, bloody storm ravaged night.

BASED ON THE CLASSIC STEN SERIES by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch: Fresh from their mission to pacify the Wolf Worlds, Sten and his Mantis Team encounter a mysterious ship that has been lost among the stars for thousands of years. At first, everyone aboard appears to be long dead. Then a strange Being beckons, pleading for help. More disturbing: the presence of AM2, a strategically vital fuel tightly controlled by their boss - The Eternal Emperor. They are ordered to retrieve the remaining AM2 "at all costs." But once Sten and his heavy worlder sidekick, Alex Kilgour, board the ship they must dare an out of control defense system that attacks without warning as they move through dark warrens filled with unimaginable horrors. When they reach their goal they find that in the midst of all that death are the "seeds" of a lost civilization. 

Here's where you can buy it worldwide in both paperback and Kindle editions:

U.S. .............................................France
United Kingdom ...........................Spain
Canada ........................................ Italy
Germany ..................................... Japan
Brazil .......................................... India


Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969
In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with  a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is  "The Blue Meanie,"  a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself. 

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