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Monday, February 5, 2018

The Tommyknockers

Late last night, and the night before...

That's sort of the only word I can think of to describe having read this sucker.

The Tommyknockers has a bit of a reputation. More than one CR has called it one of King's worst, and King himself has said it was "awful". 

A sprawling, nearly 800-page beast that ranks among the top ten longest books in the catalog of a man known for writing dictionary-sized monsters, The Tommyknockers is far from the worst King fiction I've ever read, but also far from King in top-form. This thing's nearly as long as It, but nearly devoid of that one's depth and applicability. Not a bad novel, really, but a weird one, and I do think that it wasn't supposed to come off as weirdly as it did.

Before I really get into talking about the novel itself, I want to talk a little bit about the man who wrote it. I can safely say it was not the man who wrote most of the books that came after it, and not really the guy who wrote the ones that came before it. It's no secret that King spent most of his adult life up to this point battling addictions of multiple kinds. He started drinking heavily at age 18 and by early in his marriage he started suspecting he was an alcoholic, though at the time he thought he had it under control because he would wait until evenings, after he'd finished writing for the day, to go on his benders.

In the late 70's, he began smoking marijuana and then graduated to cocaine. This is where he really, truly, lost any control he might have once had. I've already mentioned that he says he doesn't even recall writing Cujo, and it's also true that the 80's (which is when his problem got totally out of hand) is a period where he started really over-doing it with some of the more "Kingian" aspects of his prose, such as his repeated words, repeated, repeated words, because they're meaningful, don't you know it, friends and neighbors, so let's repeat dem words, and do it again and again throughout the novel, because it's
                      (King tripping)
Meaningful, and if he keeps it up he'll start writing a long run-on sentence that is supposed to communicate stream of consciousness thoughts from the character whose point of view we're reading this from but really goes on for far too long and gets a bit annoying with how it ambles n rambles and never really goes anywhere and it sometimes is overused because it doesn't really communicate anything except that King doesn't know what punctuation is but hey let's keep it going because isn't it charming and unique and it's how you know you're reading a King book ladies and germs and we're just gonna keep this whole thing going until it runs completely out of steam which it did about five lines ago but now I'm entirely unable to stop and dear god are you still reading this this is a casting blog and you could be doing something productive right now.

You know. The kind of prose only King can really get away with. My recollection is this kind of thing got less as we entered the 90's, but I suppose we'll see.

King knew he was an addict, but still thought of himself as a functioning addict for most of that time. By the late 80's, though, King knew he had a problem, even if he wasn't ready to do anything about it. Kinda like how I know I have a weight problem, but only recently changed my eating habits and started walking more. But for this book and the one immediately preceding it, his addiction worked its way into his writing. It did wonders for Misery, turning it into one of his undisputed classics, as he personified his addiction in the form of Annie Wilkes, the crazed, murderous "number one fan" that didn't want to let him go and loved his writing, but also wanted to hurt him, yet he depended on it. 

But by the time he got to The Tommyknockers, he was starting to unravel. He describes himself as up all night, his heart thudding in his chest, cotton balls and q-tips in his nose to stop it from bleeding, as he wrote like a madman.

It shows.

The Tommyknockers is all over the place, not sure what it really wants to be. Often it works very well. At other times it's bonkers. King says that part of its problem was that it was far longer than it needed to be; "There's a really good 350-page story in there." Yeah, I can't disagree, but it gets weirder still.

Imagine 'Salem's Lot, but instead of focusing on the lead, the love interest and the mentor, and having a clear villain with a clear agenda, imagine that it opens spending several chapters following Susan, making us certain that she's the protagonist, and then suddenly switching over to Ben, who has only been mentioned in passing up until now, and spending several chapters on him, and then--and THEN--imagine that a bulk of the rest of the book goes around town in little vignettes, focusing on one townsperson and then another, rinse and repeat, until maybe the final third begins and then finally we return to our ostensible protagonist.

Add to that that for the bulk of the story, Ben doesn't really do anything heroic. That's The Tommyknockers in a nutshell. The threat this time, instead of vampires, is what appears to be an alien spaceship emanating a field of some kind that starts affecting the town of Haven, Maine in odd ways. That's the main story, but the real feature of this is King writing his own addiction issues into the story in some pretty visceral ways.

He starts off with the idea that once Bobbi Anderson, essentially the female lead for this outing, has uncovered a buried flying saucer in the woods behind her farmhouse, she becomes obsessed with digging it out, even at one point not sleeping or eating for three days. But this isn't really the most harrowing depiction of what it is to be an addict.

No, he saves that for our protagonist Jim Gardener.

Holy hell. That's all I can say about how Gardener's alcoholism is portrayed. Jack Torrance was a sad story. Gardener is scary. I used the word visceral earlier; Gardener's addiction is deeply, horribly felt in this book. Reading the scenes where he goes on a tearing bender, which are written from his perspective, I went from wincing to cringing to feeling physically ill. No, not ill, hurt, like my head was going to explode and my nose was about to gush blood. Has anyone ever noticed that sometimes depictions of the horrors of alcoholism make it look like it's still a good time, and you don't really regret it until you sober up? Leaving Las Vegas is a great example; Nicolas Cage always felt totally awesome while drunk. It was only while sober that he started hurting.

This isn't the case with Gard. He hurts all the damn time, and it only gets worse the more drunk he gets, but he doesn't, in fact, can't, stop. At several points throughout the story, he realizes he's completely sober, and does his best to stay that way, and then he'll run into something he can't deal with, and his first thought is that he needs to be drunk.

Gard's past is similarly dark. A poet and former teacher, Gard is also a rabid anti-nuke activist who has taken part in many protests in the past, including being beaten and jailed by the Dallas Police (in his terminology, any evil government force is referred to as the Dallas Police) after they found a loaded gun in his backpack at one of his protests. Gard was so drunk he doesn't even remember how it got there. He also is prone to getting unreasonably angry and violent when he gets drunk and begins to rant about nuclear power, nuclear war, etc. At one point in the past, he ended up shooting his wife during one of this drunken furies. It wasn't fatal, and she agreed not to press charges if he would just disappear from her life, but still, he shot his wife. Our hero, friends and neighbors.

But then, he's not our hero. In fact, like I said, he spends the majority of the novel letting things happen to him and getting drunk when he needs some way to deal with it all. Gard is on a "poetry caravan" when he encounters a man at a party who works for a nuclear power company, and by this point, Gard has gotten lost in the "eye of the tornado" (in his drinking he sometimes remains functional, but he likens realizing a screaming drunk is coming on by saying he "sees the funnel cloud about to touch down" and once he's in that tornado, he's lost) and he makes a gigantic scene that ends with him beating the "power man" with an umbrella. Several days later, with no idea how he got there, he wakes up on Arcadia Beach by the Alhambra from The Talisman and has a sort talk with Jack Sawyer. Not kidding, and this isn't the only tie to another of King's novels. This is actually where the title first makes itself evident.

As a child, Gard had heard a little rhyme, one Jack apparently know as well, that goes:

Late last night
And the night before
Tommyknockers, Tommyknockers
Knockin' at the door

Want to go out
Don't know if can
Cause I'm so afraid
Of the Tommyknocker man

Admittedly, that's a pretty creepy poem, and one that unfortunately is more chilling than the actual book itself. For whatever reason, the name "Tommyknockers" is given to the aliens who made that ship in the earth, despite the fact that at no point do they come and knock on anyone's doors, and frankly, what this reminds me the most of is "The Gentlemen" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (who had their own rhyme too!), which might even have been a better story than this one. King apparently remembers this rhyme from his own childhood, though it's possible that he made it up himself.

Regardless, Gard becomes convinced that his longtime friend and former student, Bobbi Anderson, a writer of westerns, is in trouble, and hitchhikes to the little town of Haven to see her. And well, she's in trouble, alright, but not anything like what Gard fears.

Bobbi has, as I mentioned before, found an alien spaceship buried in the earth and has become obsessed with digging it up. As she does, she starts changing, first for the better and then...well, the first change is that she suddenly has several revolutionary ideas about how to modify and/or build several different gadgets, such as modifying her typewriter to read her mind and write her next novel as she sleeps, or fixing her water heater to have a small sun inside it, or even making her tractor hover. And it's not just Bobbi; all over town various townspeople are being struck with revolutionary ideas themselves, and they all become, as Bobbi says, idiot savants who can think of these incredible inventions but can't see beyond their own wants, so they do things with them like make a machine that sorts the mail, or shakes gophers out of their holes (and threatens to shake the very core of the earth apart) and they can read each others' minds so they end up sharing their ideas with each other. 

But, on the downside, they also begin changing. It starts with their teeth falling out, and then their hair, and then...

Gard doesn't feel any of this, though, and Bobbi can only barely read his mind, thanks to Gard having a steel plate in his head from a skiing accident in his youth. Thus, Gard becomes the only sane man in a town becoming increasingly nuts. The job of being the hero falls to a decidedly unheroic man simply because he's the only one unchanged by the catalyst. Gard even goes along with the insanity for a while because he's fascinated by the idea that the revolutionary gadgets the town are inventing might very well be the key to finally having a clean and effective alternative to nuclear power. Even in the last fifth of the book, he's still not sure the negative consequences of the changes to the townsfolk outweigh the benefits of this potential clean energy source.

I should mention at this point that this book has been adapted before, as a 1993 ABC miniseries that ran just over two hours and suffers from the same kind of crap that other King miniseries of the time did: It was not given enough time, it was run on Broadcast TV (on a particularly family-friendly channel) and the screenplay chopped up the narrative to the point where it doesn't make any sense.

But unlike It and The Stand, which both have their fans, nobody liked this turd. I haven't seen the whole thing, but what I have seen makes it look like this nuts-oid but still fascinating novel is turned into a flailing mess that has the exact opposite problem that the It and The Stand mini-series had. Instead of being far too faithful to the source material to the point where they forgot they were making a movie instead of transcribing a novel (and thus kept in a bunch of stuff that didn't work in a visual medium), as far as I can tell the makers of this film didn't understand the novel at all. Jimmy Smits starred as Gard, and again, while I haven't seen it all, he starts off as the "funny, falling-down drunk" and then sorta stops being a drunk at all. My recollection is that they keep Gard's anti-nuke rant, but only part of it, and it seems to come out of nowhere and just be more drunk ranting.

The Tommyknockers themselves are changed, as well, in ways I won't describe, except to say that their entire point is lost, and the townsfolk go from normal salt-of-the-earth hillbillies into quirky weirdos even before the ship does anything to them. Ruth McCausland doesn't keep her doll collection in her home office, but at the sheriff's station. The pets in town aren't just dogs and cats but include a Komodo dragon, an owl and a freakin' cobra. It rushes the story, muddles the entire meaning of what's going on here, and changes the ending, despite the fact that almost unanimously, CR's have agreed that this novel has the opposite problem from most King novels; it's weird and unwieldy most of the way through, but actually has a satisfying ending. The mini-series ending made zero sense, and is all wrong.

The entire point of The Tommyknockers is that no matter how bad you think the current situation here on Earth is, reaching for the first solution that presents itself will only be worse. There are constant references to the line from Pink Floyd's "Won't Get Fooled Again", "meet the old boss, same as the new boss", and Gard is constantly thinking of the altered townspeople as "new and improved", but ironically, as they're changing into something alien and dangerous, and not at all an improvement over what they were before.

As I've said before, the book is weird and disjointed and all over the place, both in tone and in how it skips from character to character, letting several characters be the central protagonist for one or two chapters, ultimately all of them scuttled out of the way (and not always by their deaths) for the next set until we're back to Gard and Bobbi (who, in the early chapters is confusingly always referred to by her last name, and only consistently becomes "Bobbi" when we only see her from Gard's perspective; it's very weird for the narrator to constantly call her "Anderson" when nearly everyone else is referred to by their first names).

Also, it's very long, despite, as King himself admits, not needing to be, but I did like the quirky townsfolk and I think cutting it down to its bare bones to make a big-screen film would just make something odd that nobody likes, kinda like what the miniseries tried to do. But I do want to film this, because it's a real chapter in the SKCU. Not only is Haven and the events of this novel mentioned in other novels and affecting their plot, but quite a few other King stories are referenced here. David Bright, the reporter who interviewed Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone shows up, as does the Shop from Firestarter and even Pennywise gets a cameo. I've already mentioned Jack from The Talisman showing up as well. This novel may, in fact, be one of the most open and blatant attempts to tie King's fictional universe together (though The Shining is referred to as a movie, and apparently the real Stephen King also exists in this world). There would be far more to come.

So how do we film this? Easy. We Lynch this bitch. Make it an eight-ten episode season in the vein of David Lynch's Twin Peaks. We need to, absolutely need to, start off showing the townsfolk going about their normal lives. In the book we're just told about them. Here we need to see them. We need to meet Ruth McCausland, the Browns, Ev Hillman, the Paulsons, Nancy Voss, et al, before anything weird begins to happen. The miniseries tried to do this as well, but you can only to so much with only three hours to tell this story. This is why they had to do stupid things like have Ruth McCausland keep her doll collection at the station house instead of her home, which makes more sense (not to mention that they totally screw up the reasons the dolls are there, and what they do later).

Lynch himself probably wouldn't do this as it's not his original creation, but Chad Hodge of Wayward Pines could probably do this justice.

Now to casting. Jim Gardener is described as a big man, and I wanted someone who looks haunted and angry. Almost immediately the face of David Harbour of Stranger Things came to my mind and wouldn't go away. At 42, he's not too old but is just old enough (and he looks his age) to have conceivably taught the actress I have for Bobbi.

Kirsten Dunst is my Bobbi Anderson, despite her hair color being wrong, and being a bigger name than Harbour. I don't know why, but the longer I read this, the easier it was to imagine her in this part. She's done TV at this point, and she looks her age (how many grown-up child actors can say that?). Plus she'd probably like the way Bobbi is written, which is all I'll say).

Ev Hillman is a cuddly old grandpa who becomes one of the more noble, heroic characters in the story. I had a hard time with him as many of the actors I was picturing at first are either too old now (or dead) or I'd already used them (Dan Aykroyd was my initial thought), or don't really look like cuddly old Grandpas. Michael Douglas, for example, might be the right age but he's about as cuddly as a boa constrictor. In the end I picked Scott Wilson, who I'm sure everyone misses as Herschel Greene, and here he has a chance to do that kind of character again.

Ruth McCausland is a cool character, a widow who, at 50, looks 30 and is the love of the town. Seriously, she's the phrase-catcher for the words "We all love you, Ruth". She's the town constable, and a notary public, and a number of other things. She'll be a meaty role as well because she's one of the only townsfolk who rejects "the Becoming" even as it happens to her because she holds on to just enough humanity to know that what's happening isn't normal or right. I picked Nia Long, who's 46 but looks 30.

The Brown family doesn't actually get a lot of real face time in the novel beyond their initial introduction. The family kicks off a major plot point when their oldest son, Hilly (named Hillman, after his mother's family, as his mother is Ev Hillman's daughter) makes their younger son David disappear in a magic show that works too well thanks to the Tommyknockers' influence on Hilly's mind. Obviously I'm not casting Hilly or David due to my own rules, but I will cast their parents, who in the series are definitely going to need more screentime. Jenna Fischer will play Marie Hillman Brown, an actress who I like because she has never looked like an actress to me, but someone who could be your neighbor.

That's also true of Tyler Labine, who I have cast as Bryant Brown, Marie's husband and the father of Hilly and David.

Very late in the story, Bobbi's sister Anne shows up, and holy tits-on-beans, this woman is a peace of work. I almost don't want to describe her, I'd rather you just experience it. Royal bitch from the Ninth Circle of Hell is an apt descriptor. Bridget Regan's face is all hard lines, and she can do the whole "speak like the Olive Garden customer who sends back all her meals" voice very well.

Nancy Voss, who works in the local post office, is described as 50 and vampish, like in an old film noir. She's the woman with whom mailman Joe Paulson is having an affair, and while she's kinda minor, the miniseries made her a more major (and changed, for the worse) character. She was played by former porn star Traci Lords, who for a while in the early 90's tried to have a legit film career. Nancy needs to be cold and threatening as well as hot and seductive, and I can't think of a better actress for that kind of part than Jeri Ryan.

Joe Paulson, on the other hand is a paunchy, middle-aged schlub who bring Homer Simpson to mind. Now, this is where I need to mention that Joe and his wife 'Becka first appeared in a short story written several years before this book, and published in Rolling Stone and an anthology of sexual horror called I Shudder at Your Touch. I haven't read the original story, mainly because it was never collected in one of King's collections and I'm not paying the exhorbitant prices that Amazon wants for I Shudder at Your Touch, but it's worth talking about here because the short story The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson is a legitimate separate short story in its own right, and even got adapted separately as an episode of The Outer Limits, and I understand it's been changed somewhat for this book.

In the story, a neglected housewife named 'Becka Paulson accidentally shoots herself in the head with a pistol she didn't realize was in the top of her closet. Miraculously, the bullet lodges itself in place and she doesn't die, but her painting of Jesus above her TV does start talking to her, telling her all kinds of nasty secrets about her neighbors, and telling her that her husband is having an affair.

In The Tommyknockers, most of that is kept, but instead of it being a bullet that lodges in her brain, it's the influence of the Tommyknockers that cause 'Becka to see the picture of Jesus come to life and begin to speak to her. It's at this point that I should mention that both adaptations of this material change who begins to speak to 'Becka. In the miniseries, it's a local talk show host on her TV that suddenly can speak directly to her, and in The Outer Limits it's a photo model that came with a frame (he's referred to only as "the 8x10 man") whom 'Becka keeps in the frame apparently because she finds him handsome. I don't know why both versions changed it away from being a picture of Jesus, but it was likely to avoid protests from religious groups.

Since Joe will probably have more actual screen time, I'll cast him first. I wanted him to be believable as a schlub whose idea of Heaven is a porn mag and a six-pack, but still handsome enough to attract a cougar like Nancy. I picked Stephen Rannazzisi.

Now, for 'Becka, I admit this was a hard one. I cycled through a great number of actresses that were all just not right for various reasons. Allyce Beasley plays her appropriately needy and pitiful in the miniseries, while Catherine O'Hara plays her as neurotic in The Outer Limits, but she needs to be pathetic. And Stefanie Drummond, the actress known best for her "too-much-information" confession in the movie Mean Girls just has a pathetic face.

Then there's Christ himself. Now, of course, this isn't Jesus, and because 'Becka has never met the real Jesus he ends up talking more like her dad, a stereotypical redneck. I could even see him puffing on a smoke and giving a thumbs-up, etc. I think it would be a nice in-joke to have Dave Grohl, who looks like the western idea of Jesus, show up to play him and maybe have 'Becka be an aging Nirvana or Foo Fighters fan, whose image of Jesus really is just Dave Grohl.
Hang on a sec, the Lord's gotta check his text messages...
State Police Captain Butch "Monster" Dugan is a cop whom Ev convinces to come with him back to Haven. He's described as being 6'7", and Winston James Francis is 6'9", and not a bad actor at all. The book at one point describes a minor character as the only black state cop, but I don't care. Francis is perfect for the part.

Francis is the one in the black shirt.

The remaining characters, mostly, are the townsfolk who comprise the "inner circle" of those being changed by the Tommyknockers, and are the ones making all the big decisions. I won't bother mentioning why I picked each actor, as the characters aren't really described, they're just always there in a big group. Instead I will just show you who I pictured while reading:

Lew Temple as diner owner Beach Jernigan

Dennis Cockrum as fire chief Dick Allison

Karen Konoval as Hazel McCready

Richard Marquand as realtor Kyle Archinbourg

Fredrick Strother as trucker Freeman Moss

Patrick St. Esprit as selectman Newt Berringer

Brian Reddy as Adley McKeen

Finally, Benton "Bent" Rhodes and Peter "Jingles" Gabbons, two state troopers who investigate a local death have a memorable chapter of their own, and I think they bear expanding in this series.

S. Robert Morgan as Bent

Troy Evans as Jingles
So that was The Tommyknockers and while I'm glad I read it, I'm also glad to be past it. King himself describes it as the "last thing I wrote before I got my act together", but apparently Needful Things was the first book he wrote after going stone cold sober, so I don't know what to expect in the next while here. There are a lot of short stories to read (I'm wondering if he mostly wrote shorter stuff due to going through rehab?) and I'm not sure which, if any, will be getting their own adaptation. I was certain that I would be adapting The Night Flier, but having read it the other day, I think I'll probably let the original adaptation stand. It's a neat concept, but not really one that needs a second adaptation. Coming up on my reading list are Dedication, The Reploids, Sneakers, Rainy Season, Home Delivery and My Pretty Pony, before I get to my next full novel. I have this feeling I'm about to do a "skipped stories" post.


  1. (1) The paperback editions of "The Tommyknockers" are close to 800 pages, but the original hardback is only about 550. I always forget how much longer paperbacks can be, in terms of page count.

    (2) The run-on sentence you give as an example is a pretty damn good King pastiche!

    (3) Peter Straub has denied that the kid -- never actually named in "The Tommyknockers" -- at Arcadia Beach is Jack Sawyer. But, like, of course he is. And what's amazing to me about that is that King utterly subverts "The Talisman" in this scene by revealing that Jack's mother ends up dying anyways, despite the entire quest of that novel! Big pair o' balls on King, there.

    (4) "CR's have agreed that this novel has the opposite problem from most King novels; it's weird and unwieldy most of the way through, but actually has a satisfying ending." -- I'm fascinated by this novel for this very reason. Among others. Such a weird piece of work; I kind of love it.

    (5) David Harbour would crush it as Gard.

    (6) Kirsten Dunst! That's a great call. I love her. Possibly literally.

    (7) I don't know about Scott Wilson. He's okay, but he always seems kind of distant to me.

    (8) Nia Long is another excellent choice. Jesus, is she really that old?!?

    (9) Jenna Fischer would probably do well as Bobbi, too, wouldn't she?

    (10) Jeri Ryan would be a great Nancy Voss.

    (11) I dig the original version of "The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson."

    (12) Dave Grohl as Jesus is genius.

    (13) In my view, "Needful Things" is actually a fairly similar novel to "The Tommyknockers." It's just as rambling in many respects, although it's a more focused rambling (if that makes any sense). If I may resort to a baseball metaphor, I'd say that while he has a better batting average in "Needful Things," he hits more home runs in "The Tommyknockers."

  2. (1) It's crazy how much that's reduced. However, it might explain why I've seen so many books I think of as short (I prefer mass market paperback) described as "huge" by others. Like Firestarter; one review I read kept talking about how gigantic it was. It's one of his shortest!

    (2) My favorite part of that was the "friends and neighbors" bit. King can be charming when he does that sometimes, but not in this book.

    (3) Actually, Gard asks for his name, and he replies "Jack". So, Straub can say what he wants. King was in a bad place when he wrote this, so he might have literally believed he was being realistic by denying the Sawyers a happy ending. I can't recall how this plays in Black House. I haven't read that one since it was released.

    (4) I'm probably not going to read this one again, but I doubt I'll ever forget it.

    (5) I almost changed this pick to Josh Hartnett, but it got so easy to see Harbour. Jimmy Smits wasn't bad from what I recall, but he wasn't given much to work with.

    (6) I had a major crush on her for a while.

    (7) Not sure what you mean by that. He was a bit cold and withdrawn in certain scenes of The Walking Dead, but in others he was kind and sweet.

    (8) She is. Will Smith is even older (I still think of her as Will's gf from Fresh Prince).

    (10) Cold, yet seductive, and the right age. She'd kill it.

    (11) And once I read it, I'll probably agree.

    (12) I can't take credit for that one. There are umpteen "Dave Grohl as Jesus" memes. If I were going for accuracy, I'd probably pick Naveen Andrews.

    (13) Interesting take. I tried reading NF several years ago and got bored. But the same is also true of this book. I've read it now.

  3. (3) Does he give it as Jack?!? Damn, I'd forgotten that. Yeah, that certainly doesn't lessen it, does it? I skimmed "Black House" looking for anything that clarified it one way or the other, but I couldn't find anything. Doesn't mean it's not there; I didn't dig THAT deep.

    (5) Smits is fine, but I agree, the material isn't really there.

    (7) I don't know how to describe it. He just doesn't work for me personally, not just in this role, but in any role. He's not a bad actor, I just don't like him all that much.

    1. He does indeed. It's incredibly clear. The names "Arcadia Beach", "Alhambra" and "Jack" are right there in black and white.

    2. Well done. Sounds like something I'd watched. Because I've never read the book, I have very little to contribute, other than 1) As a lover of classic rock and both bands you mentioned, Won't Get Fooled Again is not Pink Floyd, but The Who, and 2) if Dave Grohl doesn't play Jesus in this, he needs to play Jesus in something, preferably a major release, and before he gets too old to do it.

    3. Did I attribute the song to Pink Floyd? Must have been a point where I wasn't paying attention.