A Craig Walker Story, or Two

My friend, Caroline, noticed her young son fidgeting around in that nervous leaky way all parents recognize.

“Elliott, do you need to use the bathroom?”

“Yes, Mom, I do,” Elliott chirped. “And it’s your lucky day — because I have to poop!”

Which reminded me of a story my pal, Craig Walker, used to tell.

He was at Hallmark at the time. This is the early 80’s. After a lengthy effort, Craig’s major project for a new line of greeting cards got shot down. Something he had worked on for weeks and possibly months. An abject failure. So Craig and his friend, Steve, decided to drown their troubles in a sleazy bar. (Craig loved dive bars almost as much as he distrusted fern bars; when given a choice, he always went down-market. One clue to Craig is knowing that one of his all-time favorite movies was “Five Easy Pieces.”)

This place was a dark damp dump. A few grizzled denizens slumped on stools, an old jukebox with blown speakers, peanut shells on the floor, the smell of stale beer. A bar perfectly suited to their sour moods. The waitress/bartender was one of those old battle axes, gimp-legged, wearing too much makeup and yet somehow not nearly enough, missing some teeth, arthritic hands like claws. Craig and Steve ordered a few rounds, Bud in longneck bottles, defeated and miserable.

After a while, the waitress shuffled over. “Any more, boys? Happy Hour is almost over.”

I can hear Craig telling that story. Like all the stories that Craig loved, he told it many, many times. He did the same with favorite jokes; he repeated them endlessly, and laughed merrily after each telling. Somehow the repetition and accumulation made them funnier.

“Happy hour?” they repeated. There was a dumbstruck silence, and the slow dawning of recognition. They looked around. “This . . . this . . . is happy hour?!”

Craig and Steve broke into laughter.

And ordered another round.

Yep, that’s an old copy of the in-house newsletter for Scholastic, where I worked for five years. At the time, 1986, a small number of us had just launched the Firefly Preschool Book Club, which still thrives today. Craig picked the books, I wrote about them, and Barbara Marcus cracked the whip. Good times. Looking back, a significant part of my job was to sit in Craig Walker’s office for hours to discuss all the books that were offered on SeeSaw Book Club and Firefly. What an education. What a privilege. My thanks to Cynthia Maloney for hording that newsletter and passing on a jpg to me.

One more quick Craig story. After my divorce, I married Lisa in 1998. At the wedding, my mother saw Craig and exclaimed, “Craig, I’m so happy to see you again. I didn’t know you were coming.”

Craig replied, “Oh yes, I come to all of Jimmy’s weddings.”

2 comments

  1. Caroline Barrett says:

    Hey Jimmy, I love the stories about Craig.
    And Elliot is very proud that you are writing about his poop story on your blog.

  2. jimmy says:

    Thanks, Caroline. We’re all about bodily functions here at jamespreller.com!

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