Creek, Friday Nov. 17
Turns out you can’t have cameras in Orchestra Hall, hence no pictures as promised. An usher sternly informed me that I was not to take pictures, “especially on stage,” as though I’d just wandered up there from the cheap seats. I was tempted to ask if the burst of photons somehow skewed the acoustics, but in these situations civility is required. He’s just doing his job, and he was of course correct.


But! It was fun, perhaps the most fun I’ve had doing these things. This begins my third year as the MC for the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, and it’s interesting to note the arc: back then I wrote long complex scripts, ripped them up seconds before I went out on stage, and generally dreaded the event until I was actually out there, speaking. Now it’s no big deal at all. Now I don’t write a script, just a few notes. Today, for example, I had to announce a guest conductor - the esteemed Henry Chas. Smith - was taking over for Manny, the beloved conductor of the top-rate Symphony Orchestra. (There are four ensembles, each quite big - the Symphony is the oldest and hence most accomplished, and they play the real thing.) I led the crowd in a groan of manufactured disappointment - whereupon Manny, far away up in one of the balconies, loudly protested that the groan wasn’t sad enough.

Basic schtick - but it’s the sort of thing that’s Rarely Done in the august red shed of Orchestra Hall. The audience loved it. I loved it. How can I not? Three times a year I get to walk out on the stage of this magnificent auditorium and be the MC. One of things that makes life . . . nifty.

Sunday night, busy - a million things to do this week. Probably won’t finish anything. Haven’t finished the mail - au contraire. Haven’t finished watching the “Chinatown” DVD - great movie, questionable transfer. Ostentasia, the new TV, is making me into something I never wanted to be: a video snob. One of those people who’s watching the picture but not the movie. The DVD is a little too hot, and blurry; Ostentasia picks up every defect in the transfer. There’s something to be said for basic TV, and for knowing nothing other than basic TV. But there’s a flip side to expecting too much quality, I suppose - a few weeks ago the Wall Street Journal had a story on DVD players, how this is the season they’ll really take off. It described one fellow - smart, professional, but perhaps a tad nekulturny - he popped in a DVD and couldn’t figure out why it had, like, BARS at the top and bottom. To him, the DVD meant “smaller picture.” He was, in other words, not exactly concerned with the finer points of the cinematic arts.


Sara’s sister came for a visit this weekend - as a nurse & mother of three, she had plenty of useful advice. Actually got Gnat to sleep in the crib - although of course we haven’t been able to duplicate that feat since she left. I think she must have swabbed a Q-Tip with bourbon and daubed the back of Gnat’s throat.

Mmm . . . bourbon.

Sorry; just slipped into a reverie. Haven’t had one yet this season.

Bourbon, I mean.

Anyway. Back to work. More & better Bleatage tomorrow, I promise. The photo above, incidentally, was taken Friday from the bridge over the creek. For those who don’t know Minneapolis, and are wondering what sort of a city it is, here you are.
We have a new nightly ritual for putting Gnat to sleep. First, a warm bath. Then a half-hour of rocking slowly to one of the nice powdery happy baby lullabies. A few minutes rocking in a dark room, followed by a slllllooooowwwww placement in the crib. Close the door; count to ten.


I’ve suggested that we just cut to the chase here - a little sprinkle of water on her forehead, a couple bars hummed, turn out the lights, put her down, then pick her up. Much easier. Less stress on everyone.

We’re going to Ferberize her next weekend. She’ll be old enough then. We’ll block out 72 hours, take shifts, and, using the Techniques of Herr Doktor Ferber, teach her that the crib is her friend. I understand that some people like the concept of the Family Bed, but if that was how I wanted to live my life, I’d move to Sweden, work for Saab, wear my hair long and parted in the middle with a mournful walrus moustache, wear turtlenecks and wirerims and vote Socialist. Okay? Children sleep in their beds.

Grumpy? YES I’M GRUMPY. I slept in the FARGIN’ BASEMENT again last night, although I don’t mind it as much as the sofa in the living room. Not as cold. Last night I finished watching “Chinatown,” and thought - once again - that the last line is A) one of the great last lines of any movie, and B) is uniquely inappropriate to the scene, since nothing that had just transpired had anything to do with Chinatown. But no matter. Followed the movie immediately with “The Two Jakes,” which is a remarkably underwhelming movie. So far, anyway. I remember seeing it in the theaters, and feeling bored and annoyed. The difference between the two, I think, is that “Chinatown” is a movie with Jack Nicholson, and “The Two Jakes” is a Jack Nicholson Movie. But I’ll still finish it.

Movie juxtaposition of the week: Amazon informed me that it has shipped my copies of “Gladiator” and “Chicken Run.”

I had promised a better Bleat today, and I don’t know what I was thinking. Mondays are always bad. I barely had time to make supper tonight - and that ended up as a grim disaster. I’d bought these frozen turkey pucks - Turkey Mignon with Roasted Garlic said the package. I didn’t see the word “packet” after garlic. Small type. Turns out the flavor came from a packet of garlic-influenced dust, which I poured on the Mignons prior to heating. I grilled them - it seems wrong, somehow, to continue to use the Weber gas grill outside; it was 14 degrees above zero when I fired up the grill, and I still believe grilling is a summer pursuit best left for happy sunny days. They were thick, but they had no character, no flavor; even with bacon and cheese and onions, they tasted like dense compressed feathers. I should have known I was in trouble when the package said that the Mignons were sealed in “E-Z-Open packets” - it took a knife, a scissors, and 17 seconds of stern cursing to open the fargin’ things.

The French Fries were good, though. Golden Crinkles. I wonder if anyone will know what that means in 200 years: “We had Golden Crinkles as a side dish.” Sort of like saying “we had Amber Corrugations.”

Back to work. No mail. No nothing. I finish column, I go in basement, I turn on Ostentasia the Giant TV and I watch movie, dammit.

This is what I get for watching Chinatown and “The Two Jakes” in the same night: I dream of a moody, atmospheric cover for the Lance Lawson book. Of course, there is no Lance Lawson book, biut such is the nature of dreams. I saw a newspaper, an ashtray, a pistol, Venetian blinds, all the noir cliches. I even heard a saxophone theme. When I got up this morning I had a few minutes to kill, so I ran off a test of the newspaper:

I printed it in two sheets, placed it over the front of the Star Trib, thought: well, if I shoot it right, it’ll look vaguely real. And if I blur it up a lot it’ll look specifically fictional. Let’s do it.

Now all I need are cigarettes and a pistol, but I’m sure I’m not the first person to realize that.

Thanksgiving soon. Hmm. Where were we last year? Right: here. I’m trying to remember memorable Thanksgivings, and only a few come to mind, which is good: you want an uneventful Thanksgiving. You want your starch and bird and sauce and pie and sleep, and no surprises. But I remember 98, when the family’s new convenience store opened in West Fargo; my sister brought turkey and mashed potatoes to her husband, who was running the place all by himself. I remember 83, when I took the train back to Fargo after a huge snowstorm - it pulled out slow, moving over the tracks like a big drunken robot walking down an icy flight of stairs - it left at night, and I listened to Eno’s music for a documentary on the Apollo flights. (Guitar by Daniel Lanois.) Perfection. I recall the first Thanksgiving in DC - probably 65 degrees, humid. We were living in the upstairs basement then. Really: Fortress Lileks was built into a steep steep hill. You climbed up a flight of stairs to the main courtyard, entered on the main level and found yourself in the basement.

I remember that first Thanksgiving, because I was so desperately trying to staunch the panic: I just hated it. Hated it. What had I done? I was living in an apartment where the backyard consisted of a small flight of stairs leading up to this:

And this was one of the more spacious apartments in town. Note the walls on either side. Gives a prairie lad a certain amount of claustrophobia, it does.

Things are different now - we have the Gnat, so holidays are memorable again. Everything’s a first again. Even the second time is the first time something has happened again.

Ah - I have been called to parental duty. Off I go.