#Friends We Miss – Issue II: James Farris and Mondo Bizarro 2020

by Ernest Kearney — Everyone should read Montaigne;* though he wrote nearly 500 years ago, there is hardly a writer today who speaks with such relevance for the modern soul.
Here are a few nuggets from his inexhaustible mine:

  • “Marriage is like a cage; the birds outside desperately want to get in, and those inside are equally desperate to get out.”
  • “We need to interpret interpretations more than to interpret things.”
  • “Confidence in the goodness of another is good proof of one’s own goodness.”
  • “Stubborn clinging to one’s opinion is the best proof of stupidity.” **

But some of Montaigne’s most significant writing was on the nature of “friendship.”

  • “Other people do not see you at all, but guess at you by uncertain conjectures,” Montaigne wrote.
  • But a friend is the truest mirror you ever have. A friend, a true friend, sees you in your totality. Your foibles and fortes, your struggles and failures, your annoying limitations and your undreamt of potential.

The touchstone of any friendship is simple. Did knowing them make a better person of me; did knowing me make a better person of them? If the answer is a double affirmative then that assures the gold.


Jim Farris and I met when we were both maelstroms of possibilities. Our lives were a riotous potpourri of “maybes” and “could-bes” and the roads to our destinies were still under construction, their destinations a mystery.
Jim and I formed a unique compellation.

Friends having a party deciding who to invite would make a list —
“Gotta invite Donna…Little Eddie…. Redford, of course. Patty P., the “Divine Ms. Winley,” “Father Dillion,” Gene Earle…. Oh, and JimandErnie!”

“JimandErnie,” that was us.

And for the time we were “JimandErnie,” we had more adventures than anybody would believe, did more drugs than anybody could imagine, saw more movies than anybody could conceive and laughed harder than most anybody else could have survived.

Eventually our ways parted. Jim and I both made choices that seem to exclude the other. I moved to Ireland and returned, Jim moved to Portland and stayed. And separated by the years and the distances, the best of friends seemed to be strangers to one another.

But deep inside I knew the truth. That I would not be the person who I am had I not known James K. Farris. That some of my life’s greatest moments were spent in his company and that I would cherish our time together to my dying day.

Montaigne wrote, “I know that the arms of friendship are long enough to reach from the one end of the world to the other.”

I suspect that’s true. But I know for a fact ‘the arms of friendship” reach easily to Portland for “JimandErine.”

*Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533 – 1592)
One of history’s most significant philosophers

** “Trump?” … Who said “Trump?”

* * *



By Jim Farris — FEBRUARY started like so many other years: Guarded optimism cut with world weary pessimism. By February we were already looking ahead with hope.

Hope that a really good candidate would defeat the current regime and return the USA to something resembling the past or just A past. So many of us were tired of the current person living in the White House (forgive me for seeming cute but I truly do not like to invoke his name. I fear- like Krampus- he will appear.)

(But we had Hope.) We attended Church Crabfest Dinners in a large hall and movies WITH AUDIENCES (films played in large auditoriums with people sitting side by side… IT WAS A REAL THING LOOK IT UP)

. Tired, can you believe we felt tired in February of 2020? We did not know what tired was. A life of tired could not prepare us for what was coming.


MARCH started with what would turn out to be the last first run movie I would see in a theater: the 2019 remake of “Little Women”. It was a nice farewell to the movies for these 68 year old eyes that have watched thousands of films in theaters (with me most of the time, I did catch them sneaking out on occasion late at night) picking up the magical habit of theaters and cinemas and movies at 11 years old and going once a week or so ever since.

All seemed normal here.

I should take a moment to set the scene. I live in Portland, Oregon with my old friends the Lain family who took me in when the economy priced me out of my apartment I lived in since 1991. One of the two boys at home was, in March, an exchange student in South Korea where the Pandemic was going viral. We we’re seeing if we could move him back here to be safe, he was quarantined there and all trips and events had been cancelled. Little did we know that by the time we got him back Covid-19 was under control there and out of control here. He may be one of the only people to experience this pandemic from two of the hottest hot spots there were.

So one week into March the entire country shut down and sheltered in place. Simple tasks became torturous and all our energy suddenly became getting the family back intact and making sure everyone was safe. I was to have knee and leg surgery that week, as my surgeon closed his doors the day of my evaluation

The world changed in noticeable little ways, no ambient sound in the afternoon for example drive time traffic ceased, neighbors began looking suspiciously around to see If masks were in place. To add to the Bizarro backdrop of our lives, the weekend after daylight savings time switched we had a snowstorm. Watching the big fluffy flakes fall and seeing porches full of scared people watching in numb silence, it occurred to me that “normal” was not living in the past any more, there would be no normal to return to. In 2020 normal was gone forever. A new normal still lies ahead of us.

(From my Journal Mid-April)

Now this idiotic president is about to let everything slide and open up the country again. Southern states have already decided to let it go and open everything up even though the death rate in 36 states hit record highs. But, you know, “BUSINESS”. Everything back to normal, you know, like it was. You know NORMAL. BUSINESS. NORMAL.

* * *

Sunday, MAY 3rd

From the I Never Thought I’d See the Day File. CBS is out of first run series due to the Covid 19 virus. All shows were halted and remain shut down, so they brought back “an iconic Sunday Night program” from the past: THE CBS SUNDAY NIGHT MOVIE with 5 old films from the Paramount library of hits: Raiders of the Lost Ark, tonight. Forrest Gump, Mission Impossible, Titanic, and another Indiana Jones hit round out the “season” They are on against American Idol on ABC, all from home, and a few scripted shows left on NBC. CBS promoted it with an “IT’S BACK!” Campaign. Wow!

There has been so little of anything I would call normal lately, personally or nationally or internationally. I don’t think this is anywhere near over and the only difference there will be in the rest of this year and maybe beyond is a lot more people will die suddenly and infection rates will, at best, increase and, at worse, sky rocket. More death and suffering just in time for record high heat. But you know: BUSINESS.

Monday, MAY 4th

The CBS Sunday Movie performed less than a point behind the regular shows CBS ran before they ran out of content for Sunday Night. CBS was second in the ratings behind ABC with Idol. CBS beat NBC with new scripted content, and FOX with cartoons or whatever the hell they show and other networks and platforms. The movie was 33-years-old. CBS guesses people just like to get together with old friends.


Spring was challenging but people and some businesses began to philosophize about where we were and where we were going. In my part of the world closed restaurants placed inspiring statements on their doors and homes became beacons of hope, some people painted rocks with inspiring little ideas and left them here and there.

It is inspiring to see people raised in this American culture not arming themselves and hiding or hating. We are at a crossing in our lives. Politics and insanity in some places have merged into a scary monster. People who aren’t organized and/or hateful are producing love and smiles and care. I vote for love every time.

(There is more down here somewhere)



Well Hallelujah! July brought back the sole drive in in the area it’s the 99-W-DRIVE-IN in Newberg, Oregon. It’s the real deal not a facsimile it IS RETRO. I LOVE THE 99-W-DRIVE-IN so much I can’t stand it.so much.

They are running old movies so it was off to see Star Trek II the Wrath of Kahn and Raiders of the Lost Ark (TV or a movie screen everyone loves Harrison Ford. I guess… you know… I could tell the story of how my Guinea Pig ended up living with Harrison Ford when I left Hollywood but… look at the time!) The two teenagers. here in the house, did not know what a drive-in is. They love it so much we are going back on Sunday for a birthday celebration.

It is something that was ripped from my life in 1988 and I never thought I would sit in the front seat and snack till I was sick laughing and having a ball ever again. I never thought I could open up some kid’s lives to movie-going in a car, but we get to leave the house and go to the movies. I will never take that for granted. Ever. Again.


So it’s almost fall and the Republicans are trying to tell us that Covid is gone and fear and Loathing are the new in things. We don’t have a normal yet, something tells me it won’t be darkness and fear this time. Mining fear of people of color may be a dry well when grandma and grandpa might die if Covid hangs around. And you can never under estimate the American people, hopefully the only people on earth who will say “YOU CAN”T MAKE ME WEAR A MASK I CAN GET SICK AND DIE IF I CHOOSE! THIS IS AMERICA!”

I’ll take love everytime.

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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