Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Americana (page 1 of 25)

Roadside Table — One Mile Ahead

Today I was thinking about roadside tables. Remember them? This was not a rest area with all the amenities (grills, restrooms, running water, and a possibly a playground for the kids).

A roadside table was that. Just a picnic table or two and a trashcan. Usually at some junction/intersection where a family could enjoy a picnic lunch before continuing their journey.

Once all the interstates and expressways came in, and folks started whizzing across the United States, there was no need to pack a picnic basket. That’s when the Golden Arches and all the other fast food drive-ins dotted the landscape.

But if you ever took the backroads, you could still find these roadsign tables. This was not life in the fast lane. This was all about taking your time to get somewhere.

My grandparents, if they went anywhere over fifty miles, packed a picnic basket. I suppose, on one hand, it saved money and time looking for someplace to eat.

What I’ve Learned from “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte”


Art speaks to us in many ways. Sometimes it makes us feel an emotion; other times it inspires us.

That’s how I have always felt about Georges Seurat’s, “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.”

The first time I viewed this painting at the Art Institute in Chicago, was in the summer of 1983. It was the first time for me to visit any kind of art museum or gallery and it changed my life. It just happened that summer there was an French Impressionism exhibition at the Institute and it was the talk of town.

What I liked most about this painting was Seurat’s use of pointillism. When you get really close to the painting, all you see are these dots of paint with spaces between them; as you move back and begin to look at the painting as  a whole, those spaces between the dots connect it all together.

In my latest novel, I have one of the characters describing this technique and how it affects our perception of reality.

The Flim Flam Man (1967) — A Classic Gem

Flim Flam Image

The Flim Flam Man (1967)
Starring George C. Scott, Sue Lyon, and Harry Morgan
Written by William Rose
Directed by Irvin Kershner

It’s hard to believe that a film of this pedigree has yet to receive a proper DVD (let alone Blu-Ray) remastering and re-release. Written by William Rose (It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), directed by Irvin Kershner (Never Say Never Again, The Empire Strikes Back) and featuring a tour de force performance from George C. Scott, this film is on its way to being a great lost classic. I first saw it when it was broadcast on television in the early seventies;  This film never gets old, no matter how times I have seen it.

Mordecai Jones (George C. Scott) is a rural con artist who takes on young army deserter Curley (Michael Sarrazin) as his protégé and teaches him the tricks of the trade. Sheriff Slade (Harry Morgan, of M*A*S*H fame) is in hot pursuit of the pair, and rich girl Bonnie Lee Packard (the stunning Sue Lyon) becomes romantically involved with Curley and helps the fleeing duo stay one step ahead of the sheriff. Playing a con artist allows Scott the opportunity to trot out just about every accent under the sun, and he does so with zest. People primarily familiar with Scott as General George S. Patton, or perhaps Ebeneezer Scrooge, will be amazed at his gift for comedy.

“Sunday, Monday, Happy Days…”


Forty years ago this week, January 15, 1974, the soon-to-be hit sitcom Happy Days premiered.

Soon, the Fonz and “sit on it” would become part of American pop culture.

Although the show’s initial appeal might have ridden the success of the hit movie American Graffiti, (that’s probably why the producers used Bill Haley and the Comets “Rock Around the Clock” for the theme music) the show itself was based on a segment of Love, American Style. It would turn out to be a fun show at a time when there was a sitcom renaissance which included other shows like M*A*S*H, Barney Miller, Laverne and Shirley, Welcome Back Kotter, as well as All in the Family and Sanford and Son.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas — Cover Art


My thanks again to Anna Takahashi for her awesome cover design for I’ll Be Home For Christmas. Her creative vision adds another dimension to my books. I think you’ll agree that this cover rocks!

When A Hard Rain Falls — Published!

JM_WAHRF_eBook_finalTake a deep breath. I’ve just published another book.

When A Hard Rain Falls is now available as an eBook from Amazon and Smashwords (it will soon be available as a paperback from Createspace).

This has become a fall ritual for me. Four of my six books have been published between September and December. It’s only fitting: this is my favorite time of the year and this time of the year always reminds me of growing up in Illinois.

Six books in four years. That’s not too shabby (though one of them, Damaged Goods, was a collection of short fiction which had been published in online literary magazines).

Take a deep breath and then get back to work.

Goodbye Ice Cream Headache

iceCreamHeadache Smash 5

Well, not exactly good-bye, but now it’s time to get ready for another journey back to the 1960s and 1970s with When A Hard Rain Falls.

I feel a little sad to be moving onto the next book after having spent nearly two years writing it and promoting it. You put so much into it and bare your soul with every word that you write.

Although I wrote When A Hard Rain Falls before I wrote Ice Cream Headache, it was one of those stories that needed a little time to ferment before it was ready to see the light of day. And for the next year, I devoted all my time to Ice Cream Headache.

It’s hard to move on to a new book when you spent so much time devoted to it.  I love Ice Cream Headache. I am glad that I wrote this story. Writing it was a chance for me to go back home; back to 1968 when I was a ten-year-old living in Oglesby. We all need to go back home at one time or another.

If you haven’t journeyed back in time with Ice Cream Headache, you really should.

Soda Fountain Drinks

iceCreamHeadache Smash 5

In Ice Cream Headache, Billy stops in at the Supreme Dairy Bar for a milkshake. While the owner of the dairy bar, Ray, is making the milkshake, Ray thinks back to when he was a child and went to the soda fountain at Adkins’ Drug Store with his father and sister for malts and ice cream sodas.

How many of these fountain drinks have you tried? Are there any I might have left off?

10 items   2 followers   1 votes   196 views

Soda Fountain Favorites

What are your "ice cream headache" favorites?


Cherry Coke

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Cherry Coke

Vanilla Malt

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Vanilla Malt

Green River

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Green River

Black Cow

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Black Cow

Root Beer Float

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Root Beer Float

New York Egg Cream

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New York Egg Cream

Ice Cream Soda

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Ice Cream Soda

Chocolate Milkshake

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Chocolate Milkshake

Strawberry Milkshake

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Strawberry Milkshake

Vanilla Milkshake

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Vanilla Milkshake

Fifty “must see” summer movies

White-Line-Fever-movieSummer is just around the corner and Hollywood over over the years has released some memorable movies.

Perhaps you have seen some of these films before; perhaps you haven’t. Many there are some on this list that you don’t agree with you; others that you think should be on this list. (Although Star Wars opened on Memorial Day Weekend in 1977, it is still technically a “summer movie”). There are some classics here and there are some that might you have scratching your head wondering why I would include them on this list. Regardless of whether they are classic or not, there are a lot of cinematic gems here.

I started going to a lot of movies in 1975, probably because I had a car and a job at the time. Living in the Illinois Valley, we had a lot of movie theaters to choose from: in LaSalle there were the Majestic, the LaSalle, the Illinois Valley Twin Cinema (originally the Jerry Lewis Cinema) which showed adult films on one of its screens, and the Drive-in east of town. Peru, Mendota, Princeton, and Ottawa had movie theaters as well as the drive-in theatre in Earlville (which is still open today).

I went to a lot of movies in the summer of ’75. Jaws was the big movie of the summer, but other movies like Aloha Bobby and Rose and White Line Fever (both of which I saw at the LaSalle Drive-in) were summer favorites.

It was also the summer I started making plans to go into the Air Force after I graduated.

I have seen most of the movies on the list; many I have seen several times. How about you? How many of these films have you seen?

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Fifty "Must See" Classic Summer Movies

Here are some "must see" classic summer movies of the 1970s. Some where blockbusters; some were not. How many of these have you seen?

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Jaws (1975)

Directed by Steven Spielberg. With Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary. When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Directed by Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones. With Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam. King Arthur and his knights embark on a low-budget search for the Grail, encountering many very silly obstacles.

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American Graffiti (1973)

Directed by George Lucas. With Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith. A couple of high school grads spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college.

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Star Wars (1977)

Directed by George Lucas. With Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness. Luke Skywalker, a spirited farm boy, joins rebel forces to save Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader, and the galaxy from the Empire's planet-destroying Death Star.

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A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Directed by Richard Attenborough. With Sean Connery, Ryan O'Neal, Michael Caine, Laurence Olivier. A historic telling of the failed attempt to capture several bridges to Germany in World War II in a campaign called Operation Market-Garden.

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Animal House (1978)

Directed by John Landis. With Tom Hulce, Stephen Furst, John Belushi, Karen Allen. At a 1962 College, Dean Vernon Wormer is determined to expel the entire Delta Tau Chi Fraternity, but those troublemakers have other plans for him.

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Chinatown (1974)

Directed by Roman Polanski. With Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Perry Lopez. A private detective investigating an adultery case stumbles on to a scheme of murder that has something to do with water.

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Rollerball (1975)

Directed by Norman Jewison. With James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck. In a corporate-controlled future, an ultra-violent sport known as Rollerball represents the world, and one of its powerful athletes is out to defy those who want him out of the game.

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The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Directed by Clint Eastwood. With Clint Eastwood, Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke, Bill McKinney. A Missouri farmer joins a Confederate guerrilla unit and winds up on the run from the Union soldiers who murdered his family.

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Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Directed by Hal Needham. With Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed, Mike Henry. The Bandit is hired on to run a tractor trailer full of beer over county lines in hot pursuit by a pesky sheriff.

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The Godfather (1972)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. With Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Diane Keaton. The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.

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White Line Fever (1975)

Directed by Jonathan Kaplan. With Jan-Michael Vincent, Kay Lenz, Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones.

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Murder by Death (1976)

Directed by Robert Moore. With Eileen Brennan, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers. Five famous literary detective characters and their sidekicks are invited to a bizarre mansion to solve an even stranger mystery.

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The Omen (1976)

Directed by Richard Donner. With Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Stephens. An American ambassador learns to his horror that his son is actually the literal Antichrist.

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Sorcerer (1977)

Directed by William Friedkin. With Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, Amidou. A group of outcasts from different backgrounds/nationalities are forced by misfortune to work in a remote oil drilling operation in South America.

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Hooper (1978)

Directed by Hal Needham. With Burt Reynolds, Jan-Michael Vincent, Sally Field, Brian Keith. Aging stuntman Sonney Hooper is still on top as one of the best stuntmen in the business. But up and coming Ski is starting to do bigger and better stunts.

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Enter the Dragon (1973)

Directed by Robert Clouse. With Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Ahna Capri. A martial artist agrees to spy on a reclusive crime lord using his invitation to a tournament there as cover.

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Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Directed by Ted Post. With James Franciscus, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison. The sole survivor of an interplanetary rescue mission searches for the only survivor of the previous expedition. He discovers a planet ruled by apes and an underground city run by telekinetic humans.

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Love and Death (1975)

Directed by Woody Allen. With Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Georges Adet, Frank Adu. In czarist Russia, a neurotic soldier and his distant cousin formulate a plot to assassinate Napoleon.

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The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976)

Directed by John Badham. With Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones, Richard Pryor, Rico Dawson. Tired of the slave-like treatment of his team's owner, charismatic star Negro League pitcher Bingo Long takes to the road with his band of barnstormers through the small towns of the Midwest in the 1930's.

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St. Ives (1976)

Abner Procane, top L.A. burglar, finds that somebody stole his plans for next ambitious heist. He hires Raymond St. Ives, crime books writer, to negotiate the return of those documents. Written by Dragan Antulov Taglines: He's clean. He's mean. He's the go-between. Release Date: 31 July 1976 (Japan) Also Known As: St.

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The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Directed by Lewis Gilbert. With Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens, Richard Kiel. James Bond investigates the hijacking of British and Russian submarines carrying nuclear warheads with the help of a KGB agent whose lover he killed.

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The Buddy Holly Story (1978)

Directed by Steve Rash. With Gary Busey, Don Stroud, Charles Martin Smith, Conrad Janis. A film about the life and career of the early rock and roll star.

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Heaven Can Wait (1978)

Directed by Warren Beatty, Buck Henry. With Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, James Mason, Jack Warden. A Los Angeles Rams quarterback, accidentally taken away from his body by an over-anxious angel before he was supposed to die, comes back to life in the body of a recently-murdered millionaire.

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Foul Play (1978)

Directed by Colin Higgins. With Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase, Burgess Meredith, Rachel Roberts. A shy San Francisco librarian and a bumbling cop fall in love as they solve a crime involving albinos, dwarves, and the Catholic Church.

Jay Cutler’s Going to have a Stellar Year

jay-cutlerI am going to go out on a limb here and make my first Bears’ prediction for 2013:

Jay Cutler’s going to have a stellar year.

With a new head coach, drafting Kyle Long and other plays to shore up their offensive line, this could very well be the year that the Bears make it to the Super Bowl.

Here’s what some analysts have to say about this at the Bears’ official website.

If the offensive line can give Cutler more protection and Bears’ coach Marc Trestman opens up the passing game, Cutler could have an explosive passing game. Of course, the big question mark that remains will be the defense with the departure of Brian Urlacher.

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