MARCH Part 2
I’m not at my peak here. No sir, not at all. Asked my wife if my forehead felt hot. She said it felt cold. I’m not sure what that means, but it can’t be good. Headache, fatigue, ennui, angst, and a touch of the grippe. As with all other complaints, it will come to naught; I come down with things but I usually get off the elevator on the second floor. I let the cold go down by itself. I’ve had about five true colds in the 90s - wheezy sneezing snortle-hacking gluey-eyed colds - and one bout of flu that put me on the sofa for a day. Other than that, nothing. I fight it all off. Of course, that was before I stopped smoking. Maybe now I’ll really get sick.

Another thrilling night of rearranging web pages. Two per night. Listened to TD while I coded and tweaked, and he was apparently as miserable as I was - although there’s something to be said for a talk-show host whose boredom with the show is so evident he just plays music. He played the "Chicken Fat" song, for heaven's sake. Dragged my right back to second grade gym class.

Expressing boredom with one's own show is honest, and it keeps you listening. Better an honest host than one who keeps shaking the bottle of flat soda in the hopes of reincarnating the bubbles. Earlier in the evening I listened while I walked Jasper, and I imagine a lot of people were listening while they walked dogs. Talk radio hosts rarely think of this, but they should. While they talk, and spin a tale, attempting to engage the mind of the listener, a large portion of their audience is bending over to pick up steaming feces. At least when I write my column I know that the readers aren’t doing anything else.

I’m looking at an extraordinary building right now. My wife bought me a calendar of skyscrapers; March features the Lipstick building, which I’ve always liked. But that’s not what I’m looking at. It’s the building behind it. It’s 35 stories tall. Jaundiced. Late 60s, early seventies - every window rimmed with a heavy precast concrete square. Like a honeycomb for really stupid bees. It’s so amazingly dull, so graceless and banal, you just have to wonder what sort of culture would produce a monument of this dimension. This is my next New York project, should I go there anytime soon: The worstest biggest crap of Manhattan, the bad-building gallery. There are so many. And they all make money. It’s a wonder that any buildings look good, when you consider the imperatives at work here - but that’s the unheralded beauty of capitalism. As often as not, commerce yields art. It is not antithetical to art, and is frequently supportive . . .

Let’s play some music.

Go you chicken fat GO!


Lately I’ve had a powerful hankering to get on the radio again. Late at night. Let’s just leave it at that.

Went to Dayton’s today to buy shorts. It was seventy again, and it made me want to buy shorts. Of course they didn’t have my size.

“Can I help you?” said the clerk. He was forty-plus. I told him I was looking for my size. 29 waist. He said, with regret, that the pants started at 30.

“I forgot,” I said. “I forgot that Dayton’s doesn’t want my business.” I heard myself, and I sounded AMAZINGLY BITTER. I even stunned the clerk.

“Polo might have your size,” he said. I thanked him with a smile and eye contact - a brusque dismissive thanks would have compounded my jerkiness - and went to Polo. They did not have my size. I went back through the fellow’sdepartment, and he looked up with a hopeful expression. I shook my head. He deflated.

Scru’m! That’s the battle cry in the web-enabled world, where shopping options abound: SCRU’M! 

I am rapidly slipping into feverish delirium. I think I will stay home tomorrow and drink juice. Lots of juice. Regards to the outside world.

___

It’s a grim wind that whips around the house tonight, thin, angry, half crazy: after a week of spring temperatures winter is back, and it’s acting like some low-level authority figure that’s just had a trick played on it. Like a security guard in a high school who was called away on a false alarm, returned to his chair and sat in a mound of shaving cream. Now winter has us in its grasp, and it tells us we’ll be sorry we didn’t respect its authority, and as it raises a bony fist we realize it’s absolutely insane.

Snow tomorrow, they say; two inches. Damn.

I walked around downtown today sans coat, blinking in the bright sun. Lovely. But. Not right, not yet. If there’s snow on the car tomorrow I won’t be surprised; I hadn’t expected this spring was for real. Not right, not yet.

Another night of whee-ha webwork, punctuated by a visit from a Professional Closet Installer. They make custom closets to our exacting standards to fit our busy lifestyle! Everything is made to our order in their factory! Yeah, right, fine, measure and build. It’s just melamine over woodchips soaked in glue and formaldehyde, and don’t convince me otherwise. While they measured and theorized I redid two more Mpls sites, dullifying one and expanding another. No, dullify isn’t a work. It should be. I heard another spontaneous neologism this evening: Disordinary. Add that to Insuperior and Contrude, and my favorite new word: it’s for a female agricultural worker:

Farmerine.

The word was actually in use in the 19th century. I found it in a book of American neologisms today. Another fine word, from the South, used for people prone to the occasional Mal both Grand and Petite:
Fitified. You can imagine Scarlet O’Hara sticking up her pert pretty nose and declaring that hired hand is a fitified fellow, and she wants him gone.

Elsewhere: on my web wanderings this week I found a site a woman has put up to find the man who killed her dog. She’d been driving her car, and a man had cut in front of her, then stopped - she slammed on the brakes but hit him from behind. In a fit of rage he stalked back to her car, reached in through the window, grabbed her little dog and flung it into traffic, where it was killed. The link suggested that the reader should find the site amusing. I did not. And not just because I love dogs. (The dog in question was a fluffy little button-eyed Ewoky dog, and while I will never argue with other people’s tastes in canines, I am not personally drawn to these animate beanie babies.) We had a case here in the Twin Cities of a couple who lost their cat at the airport, and while I felt bad for them, their inability to find their cat highlighted the differences between feline and canine pets. Lost cats evaporate. Lost dogs turn up more often than not if they’re alive, because dogs want to be with people. (Jasper, as if on cue, just came into my room - nosed open the door and trotted on it. Now he’s on his back. I must scratch him - ) But even so, I could understand why the cat-owners were so bereft, although their descriptions of themselves as “parents” made me grit my teeth. I don’t know why people can’t use the word “friend” in a pet context. I don’t know what better model of friendship one can find.

Anyway. This story is a useful means of determining people’s character. Simply put: some people find it funny. Some people find it amusing. I heard a radio personality - someone I run into from time to time - respond to the story with outright hilarity. Thought it was just the funniest damn thing. He visualized a small white dog flying into traffic, and it was a gut-buster.

Oh, I know, it’s not akin to the suffering of people, and no, we shouldn’t mourn a dog more than the Balkan masses, etc. etc. That’s not the issue here. No one who laughs at this story is performing a nuanced ethical calculation; they’re just reacting honestly. There’s a word for people who find amusement in the suffering of animals: contemptible.

The wind just came up again. Back to work - mail to answer, sites to unhose. March: the month of thankless webwork.

___

Met with our Financial Planner this evening. He suggested we take all of our money out of the bank and give it to him. So we did. That was easy! He was a nice fellow. I hope we see him again. I do wish he’d left his card.

Actually, it’s a little more complex than that. I enjoy these planning sessions, although I have to keep overcoming my natural tendencies to bury gold in the backyard and stuff the mattress with money. It’s just . . . . different from my parents’ model of financial probity, which consisted of putting the money away in a passbook account and leaving it there. At least that’s what I was taught to do. The stock market was for rich people. East Coast people who worked in tall buildings. Sensible people just saved money and let it collect dust.

This model has completely flipped around; now you’re an idiot if you have more than ten dollars in savings.

It has been a long, long day. Not a hard one; not a bad one; just uniquely lacking in joy, enthusiasm or hi-ho confidence. One of those days where I just feel like a small, irrelevant hack with no wind in my back save the small breeze that guides me into a little backwater eddy, where I will paddle in circles for the rest of my days, quacking. Other than that, I felt like a world-beater today. Yes sir. It snowed last night, and snowed a lot - but when I went to work the streets were clear. The pavement had kept the warmth of the previous days, saved it for an emergency. So while my car was piled beneath a carapace of snow, the streets were clean from gutter to gutter. Odd. Not that odd, of course, but in a neighborhood where nothing is odd, it was odd.

The tree branches were still encased in sleeves of ice; my lawn was strewn with evergreen boughs, blown from the planters on the front steps. I picked up one of the planters - realized it was plastic, and that it was SHARP, and that it had just sliced open my finger. Instinct: quick: suck the wound, spit. Fresh bright red on the fresh clean white. It’s one of those moments where you know you’re not living in a horror movie. (In case there was any doubt.) In a horror movie, if you bleed on the ground, it seeps in and activates the zombies. (There are always zombies down there, for a variety of reasons.) They will claw their way to the surface and eat your brains. Well, this didn’t happen. Maybe because it was the morning; zombies don’t do mornings, I gather.

As far as I know, this isn’t an ancient Indian burial ground, but the lake was an Indian encampment for many years. There could be zombies down there. I should be more careful.

Well, I apologize for a desultory Bleat, but such is the nature of the day. After work and after the financial planning session, I did the BBC - I’d forgotten all about it, and had to improvise the whole thing, which wasn’t fun. Then I spent an immensely unsatisfying hour on the Mpls website -
two more sites down, 37 to go. I am really questioning the wisdom of this. I’m spending the free nights of an entiremonth just to ensure everything sits in frames and aligns to the middle. But I have to. I want to get the entire site to the point where I don’t feel compelled to redo it ever again, and where what I’d done is not completely embarrassing. Like the Fargo site.

I need: a break. A vacation. A haircut. A tan. New shoes. More shelves, more patience, more courage, 27 % more perspective, 17% less maudlin nostalgic reveries, 89% fewer stabbing reminders of mortality, and a pizza with extra sauce. Tomorrow: I get the pizza.

__

It was late Friday night - technically Saturday, I suppose, but it’s never a new day unless you dig a moat between the days and fill it with slumber. Two AM Saturday is really 14 o’clock, Friday night.

So it was a quarter to 14 o’clock. I was watching the second of the evening’s movies - Mystery Men, about which I’ll say more later. If I must. I had poured myself a nice refill of the evening’s libation. I had just watched, stone-facedly, the opening section of this noisy and conflicted movie. I decided: popcorn. I removed the small nodule of nicotine gum, put it on a coaster, and went to the kitchen.

And I thought: you know, the dog’s going to eat that gum.

I went back to the living room.

The dog had eaten the gum.

I pried open his jaws - dogs love that! - but it was already down the chute. I phoned the Golden Valley vet hospital, the only 24-hr place I know. They said I should make him throw up by feeding him two shot-glasses full of salt water, and if that didn’t work, bring him in, because that gum was POISONOUS.

Well. It had been a nice quiet night at the house, and now it’s the opening scenes of “DOA,” with Jasper as Edmund O’Brien. I quickly made the salt-water solution, a murky evil mixture, and forced it down his throat. Dogs love that too! He spat and coughed and gave me a what-the-F**K look, but did not throw up. So it was off to the vet we went. Overreaction? Perhaps - but I didn’t want to see him go into convulsions a half an hour later because I took a chance. On with the leash, out the door, into the car; Jasper dug in his paws, because he hates car trips. Very little good has ever come from a car trip. I had to shove him in. The windows were frosted over, so I had to scrape and scrape, all the while thinking the clock’s ticking, the poison is seeping into his system! Off we went - speeding down to highway 62. Jasper was sitting in the back, groaning in unhappiness.

We got right in at the vet’s - not surprising, since it was 2:24 AM. Sat on the floor in an examining room with the dog’s head on my lap, cursing myself for carelessness. The vet came in, took the vitals - no racing pulse from the gum - then took him to the next room to induce heavage. This took ten minutes, but I heard it through the thick door:

gaak
gaaaaak
gak

Out came the gum. Out came my wallet. Out flowed $114.63.

Better safe, and poorer, than sorry.

Back in the car. On the way home, relieved, I turned on the radio, and the only agreeable song I could find was “Living Thing,” by Electric Light Orchestra. But it seemed apt. Iturned it all the way up and sang along, as best as I could. Jasper did not join in.

Got home at 3:15 AM. I was absolutely wide staring awake, still jangly with adrenalin. Well, then: back to the movie! Poured myself a drink and sat down for act two.

Jasper went to his chair, put his muzzle between his paws and closed his eyes. It had been an awful, awful night: force-fed saltwater, a car ride, barfing, and another car ride. Couldn’t get worse.

He had no idea that he would be getting a bath in a mere 7 hours.

__

Monday night, much work, little time; not much to report but weekend movie reviews:

Mystery Men - it was sad, really; here’s a movie I would have loved to have loved, but it just missed the mark too often. For a movie like this to connect, they should have played it absolutely straight. I mean, deadpan and dead serious. But when they treated slightly off-kilter material with a slightly off-kilter approach, the result was . . . slight. Weightless.
It contained large amounts of Ben Stiller and Janeanane Garafarawhateverolo, the Toxic Twins whose talents consists of small tart peas buried under a heap of hype. I don’t like either of them, and while each has made me laugh now and again, they irritate me. The DVD extras on the movie included a description of the movie’s history, how Stiller himself was slated to direct it, and how he originally wanted the movie to be much more “darker and satirical.” Oh, yes, Ben, you go right ahead, and rip the lid off the entire superhero mystique. Please.

Sometimes “dark” is just a way of saying you’ve nothing to add, only a new way to subtract.

Without William Macy, it wouldn’t have been any fun at all - his dead-serious, earnest performance seemed to belong to a different movie. The one they should have made. Now, compare that with the other movie I saw Friday night: The Mummy. I’d seen it before, but nowadays theater screenings aren’t enough - that’s just the first draft. I remembered that I liked the film, although it seemed a bit too weightless & silly in spots. Well, on second viewing, I liked it, although it seems a bit too weightless and silly in spots, but who cares? It’s fun. All the villains are villainous, the damsels worthy of long low wolfy whistles, the heroes swashbuckling. Having seen it twice, I decided to buy the DVD: that’s high praise.

Movie #3: The Big Lebowski. Saw this one Saturday night. I have no idea why the Coen brothers decided to make this movie, especially after “Fargo.” I haven’t liked a Coen bros. movie since “Miller’s Crossing.” I’ll watch everything they do, because I think they’re interesting filmmakers, but their movies feel cold and solipsistic and smugly contemptuous. “Barton Fink” had its moments, thanks to John Goodman. “Hudsucker Proxy” gives me hives on several levels, mostly because of the acting. Great set design, though. “Fargo” - well, I’ve spoken my piece on that in the writing archive, and will say no more. So I had low hopes for this one.

And I loved it. A little too long, a little too lazy, and a little too much in love with its dream sequences, but it had a low-key stupefied charm that struck me just right. I think I’ll see it a few more times so I can make the argument that it’s better than “Fargo,” just to irritate people. It had a few shots that reminded me why I liked the Coen Bros - in particular, the shot take from the vantage of a bowling ball thumb-hole. Whew.

But . . .what was the point of John Turanwhatevero’s Jesus The Molesting Bowler character? Or, for that matter, SamElliot’s cowboy narrator? Don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. After the success of “Fargo,” they aimed low and lazy. And I applaud that. I like them a little more now. I’m sure this makes their day.

Also saw “Forbidden Planet,” in widescreen DVD WashedOutORama color. Please, someone restore that print.

Now, someone please finish the column I have to write tonight. . . but no, that’s my job. Of all the things that need doing in the world, I’m reasonably sure that’s my job.

.