||Were I a good Soviet citizen, I would know the spelling of Stakhanovite. Or my spellchecker would. Neither of us being Soviet, youll have to take my word for it: however Stakhanovite is spelled, I was Stakhanovitious this Sunday, carting out an entire garages worth of detritus from the basement.
Stakhanov, however he spelled his name, was a fabled Red who exceeded his work quota by a margin so substantial that his name became an adjective. Thats really quite an honor, when you think of it; few people get it. Kafkaesque. Orwellian. Reaganesque. Clintonian. Hitlerian.
Yes, I should check the spelling . . . let's consult my Soviet history books away . . . hey! I spelled it correctly. Well, all those college classes werent for naught, then.
Anyway. The basement is now ready to show to other people when the house goes on the market. How nice. It was grim & thirsty business, but thats the way its going to be for the next few weeks: every spare second must be devoted to The Move. When I walked Jasper this morning I went to the new neighborhood, just to get familiar with it - I cant believe I never spent much time there before. Its as good as city living gets - the streets roll up and down and around the hills, the houses are old and baronial, and everythings in remarkably good shape. Everyone of these houses has a heft and presence you simply cant find in most new housing developments. You can go to the hoitiest burb in this town, pay a million and still put your fist through a wall if youre peeved. These houses can take a punch.
Not that I intend to go around punching walls, but its nice to know that if a chair tips over it wont go through the drywall.
TiVo has been recording Mary Tyler Moore shows, and Im grateful. I dont think Ive watched them since the mid 80s. When you watch the weekly episodes on a daily basis, you pick up the rhythm of a show and it almost feels like a soap opera - a remarkably action-packed soap opera, at that. I stopped watching sitcoms many years ago (except for the Simpsons, which doesnt really fit the genre) and while I know there have been many fine examples in the last decade or so, the genre just doesnt interest me. Whether there have been finer sitcoms in the years since MTM went off the air is a debate Im not qualified to join. But it had a few years in which they almost could do no wrong. To paraphrase Bill Murrays evaluation of the character of Bugs and Daffy: every guy wants to be Lou, is afraid hes really Ted, and has to settle for being Murray.
Im not here to do a thumbsucker on this show, because Im tired & its all been said before & I did a big TV show on the entire MTM & Mpls thing 14 years ago. What I note nowadays is the unrecognizable locations the opening & closing credits show. Theres one scene in which MTM hops across the Mall in a garish plaid jumpsuit, and Id be damned if 1 in a hundred Minneapolitans could name the corner. The zoom shots of the Midwest Federal Building show an empty skyline; today the vista is packed with structures. At the end shes walking down the Mall by the library - slated for demolition - and in the background you see the looming hulk of the old Nicollet Hotel, long since gone.
But to my surprise, one of the credit sequences showed something Id seen years ago, never forgotten, and never seen since: MTM & Rhoda walking past Grays Drugs in Dinkytown. I sat bolt upright, hit pause, rewound, and for a few frames I was able to peer into the drugstore I went every day for provisions. Television is a time machine, but rarely in the things it wants you to see: its the details it doesnt know about, or doesnt care, or didnt set out to capture that bear scrutiny. Ill watch a Dragnet just for the moment when theyre crusing a street in Los Angeles in 1967, just to look at the signs of the stores, the shape of the streetlights.
The best documentary would simply be someone driving around up and down the streets, shooting anything and everything. Put the tape aside for twenty years. History will provide your story; time will supply the plot.
it is a llittle after one pm and it is snowing outside. this isnt what we want to see inmid-april. No sir. why am I writing a bleat in the mioddled of the afternoon instead of at the end og te day/ Because the obnly way I can get gnat to stop crying is to type with her in my lsp. and i am typing w9th one finger, tap tap tap. she likes to watch me type. She is sicjk today, a cold whose symptoms are, in the drss words, profuse rhinitis. Profuse is one way of putting it. Onesie-soaking is another. sine shhe cant breathe well, she cant sleep. when she cant sleep, mommy & daddy cant sleep. Im worlking on three hours of sleep. cant put her down. Oh: and we have handimen over today, too, bbanging & sawing away.
im in hell, archie!
just csancelled my evening speaking engagement, b/c i wouldnt have bbeen able to do a damn thng but say: so, is this book a confirmation of faith, or a testament of agnosic doubt? discuss - ill be over hrer sledeping. zzzzzzzzzzz
i likle that word - sledeping. i meant sleeping, of course.
Listening to the radio - thers a lottery commercial (just put her down, lets see how long this lasts) that said defecate your way to riches. Stopped me dead, that did - then I realized that the lottery game is called Battleship, and its probably Detonate your way to riches. Not necessarily, but perhaps.
How I wish shed sledep. how I wish Id sledep. I could sledep on slab of mortan lova. make that molton lava.
mortan lova is a czech tennis palyer, i think.
shes back in my lap, can you tell? gnat, not mortan.
so thers nothing to do this afternoon but placate gnat and wait for wife to come home so i can catch a few winks before writing the column tonight.
oh, wait, i have to file my tgaxes.
now that word works - tgaxes. has the proper sound of indignation, as though youre bolting up a ball of bile.
the post office does not accept bile, if youre curious.
finsihed digitizing the classical collection last noght. seven gigs o brilliance, now being transferred to to cds, so . . . so what? so i can complete the offsite-backup, thats why. part of the ongoing stuff reduction program. ideally, if the house burns down - which, admittedly, is the definition of hte opposite of ideal - i will have a backup of everything ive ever done or listened to or scanned or created on computer.
you know, babies do not like having thier noses wiped.
I feel worse. Much worse. She didnt sledep until I put her in the car seat and drove around for an hour, looking like the Flying Dutchman - a haggard soul lashed to the wheel. My stomachs killing me, and my brain is not firing at all - think of a slab of Spam with a dead AA cell battery embedded in it like Excalibur, and thats my brain. Domani.
A transcript of my latest round with MSN. (Our slogan: four hundred bucks off your camcorder, and three years off your life) I began the process by filling out a form with my MSN email address, my OS, my email program, my browser, my connection speed, my shoe size, and my problem:
Cannot send mail. OE 5.2 returns an error message 5.7.3 client was not authenticated. Error 5505. I can, however, get mail.
Does that sound like the cry of a dolt? Herewith the chat transcript:
An MSN Technical Support Engineer will be with you in a moment.
Austin: James, thank you for using MSN Interactive Online Support. My name is Austin, I will be your Online Technical Support Engineer. In order to assist you more efficiently, can you please provide me with your MSN e-mail address?
James Lileks: Sure - it's (MSN address). Don't send anything there, though - use email@example.com
Austin: Could you please let me know the exact error message?
James Lileks: "5.7.3 client was not authenticated. Error 5505." That's what the Error Description box says.
Austin: James, do you get any error number?
James Lileks: Yes. 5505.
Austin: James, are you using Outlook Express?
At this point I wonder what the POINT of filling out that form was.
James Lileks: Yes. Note - my mail is handled by another company, that hosts my website. But Ive already made the changes MSN requested - specifically, my SMTP setting is (settings)
Austin: James, for your issue to get resolved you will have to re-configure your Outlook Express. Would you like me to provide you the information on that?
James Lileks: Yes, but let's do this 1 on 1 - last time I did this in this setting, I got a list of Windows instructions that didn't address my problem. What do you think I need to do?
Austin: James, I would request you to re-configure your Outlook Express. it will help you to resolve your issue.
James Lileks: Describe what you mean, please - and keep in mind I'm using the Mac version of OE.
Austin: Would you like me to provide you the information on that?
At this point Im pretty sure that Austin is Eliza, and will soon ask how do you feel about the Mac version of OE?"
After a few minutes, I get this:
Austin: Please go through the page I have sent and re-configure Outlook Express. If the issue still persists please feel free to contact us again.
Austin: [Item sent - Q173952 - How to Configure Outlook Express for The Microsoft Network]
Austin: Here is the page that will help you out. it is the same for MAC. Please go through the page I have sent and re-configure Outlook Express. If the issue still persists please feel free to contact us again.
I look through the stuff. It has no bearing on my situation. And its all for Windows, and has nothing to do with what I see in the Mac dialog boxes.
Austin: James, are you still there with me?
James Lileks: Yes.I'm reading. I'm not sure this applies. Mail has been working fine, both sending and getting. Yesterday it stopped sending. I've made no changes on this end. Is there a proble on your end?
Austin: James, in that case I would suggest you to please wait for a while. Even after that it does not work you will have to re-configure it.
James Lileks: This has been a problem for at least 24 hrs. I can't wait much longer. And I don't mean to be dense, but why should I have to reconfigure? Have you changed anything in the last 36 hours?
Austin: James, there has been no change from our side.
James Lileks: So . . why, and what, do I need to reconfigure?
Austin: Please delete your account in Outlook Express and then re-configure it.
James Lileks: So I should delete the account and reenter *the exact same settings.*
James Lileks: Well, let me tell you what this means. I have 67 letters in my box, ready to mail. If I archive the letters and delete the account, I wont be able to send the letters. The program will say the account that created these letters cannot be found. Even if I give it the same name.
Austin: I believe that you may benefit from speaking to a technical support representative over the phone.
James Lileks: Yes.
Im on hold now. The first thing they told me, of course, is that I can get most questions answered at their website.
Then the automated voice asks for my ticket number. I enter my ticket number.
Waiting . . . waiting . . .
Hello this is Shawn, can I get your ticket number.
Sigh. I give him my ticket number. I explain the problem.
Youre in . . . Alabama?
"Okay . . . Im going to have you delete your account and create a new one."
I explain why this isnt a good idea. He describes the procedure for cutting and pasting the mail from the old account to the new account. I tell him I know how to do that, because this happened last month, and it was their networks fault then, and could someone - just to humor li'l ol' me - check to see if perhaps it's their fault now? Please? PLEASE?
Ill check the network. What state are you in?
Clench. Repress. Minnesota.
Minnesota. . . .okay, and what state?
Im sorry, what city.
Indianapolis . . .
Pause. Okay, I am showing that it says unable to send mail in your area."
You don't say.
You don't say.
"It says it should be fixed in 12 to 24 hours."
You don't say.
"I apologize, and thank you for calling MSN Technical Support. Here's your ticket number. . . .
He reads back the number I gave him at the start of the conversation. I thank him. Hang up. Total wasted time: however long it would have done to write an interesting Bleat.
Still no mail. I can get but not give.
Went to a completely different grocery store today. I used to go there when I moved back from DC, when I was determined that every aspect of my new, sane life would be the antithesis of congested inner-city Bosnywash life. In DC the local supermarket was a wretched Safeway that stank of spoiled milk and weary meat, and a good many of the patrons had proud, persistant body odor you could scoop from the air and mold into shapes. The mothers all looked weary and pissed, and could only rouse themselves to slap a child or pull his arm out of his socket for misbehavior. The clerks hated everyone, one at a time; step right up and get the Glare of Rote Loathing. After buying my goods, Id schlep them home - there was no place to park, so getting more than one days worth of groceries was out of the question. If you wanted to buy in bulk, you drove to the suburbs. Correction: you went to the garage up the block where you parked your car, drove to the suburbs, and shopped in a fargin Giant in A BASEMENT of an office building, then you drove home, parked in the back (illegally) and got the groceries upstairs, then made a command decision to put away the ice cream now and risk towing, or bring the car back to the garage and run home before everything thawed.
Add 300 + murders a year, and you can see why I was not cut out for living in Washington. Simple everyday chores were a pain in the ass, or depressing, or both.
The early springs were nice, of course.
Anyway. I used to go to Byerlys when I got home. It was one of the things I dreamed about. There are three chandeliers over the frozen food coolers. The wheels on the carts all point in the same direction all the time. When youve made your purchases, they put the bags on a conveyor, and you drive around to the side, where a reasonable young person stows them in your car and thanks you. Eventually I started shopping closer to home at a smaller store - somewhat dilapidated but handy. Then I decided on the Lunds by the freeway, and I left the Byerlys behind for good. I had, in my head, two Grocery Store Templates; entering either store, I knew where everything was without thinking.
Today Gnat and I were dispossessed - the house was being shown, so we left. I drove to Retrospect to look at furniture, then decided that since I was near Byerlys, wed stop in for provisions. I learned three things:
1. Grocery Store Templates, once learned, cannot be unlearned. I hadnt been in the store for a year, maybe two, but I knew where everything was. Except spices. I needed some spices, and couldnt figure out where they were - why? Of course: because I didnt cook in those days. I just made stuff from boxes. So the Template is only as complete as your cooking skills, really. A vegetarian could go to a store every day for ten years but never know where they kept the Adolfs.
Come to think of it, do they still make Adolfs Meat Tenderizer, and if so, isnt that a peculiar name for a product? Adolfs? Sure - aisle three, next to the Judas Marinades.
2. Tempo. Most people shop at the same pace. Theres something about a grocery store that imposes the same tempo on everyone. No ones running around throwing stuff in carts, passing on the right, huffing with effort. Everyone moves at a uniform pace - except for the person whos in line, and realizes shes forgotten something. Then she runs. And everyone looks. And everyone knows why. She evokes a mixture of pity, understanding and unease. Ive been that person. You feel as if youre holding up the assembly line, as if lives are at stake. Run! Rather, Walk briskly!
3. Most magazines are aimed at people I dont know. For what seems like months, Vogue has featured Renee Zeliwiliterwilliger or whatever her name is; RENEE TAKES PARIS, one headline says; the other says she STORMS COUTURE. I am reasonably sure that most Parisians are unaware that all their base now belong to Renee, and I cannot think of a less significant accomplishment than Storming Couture. Then theres People, which is aimed at the millions of people who wonder what Demi Moores up to. Theres Rosie magazine, which of course Ill buy under a certain set of circumstances: the magazine is nailed to one hand, coins are welded to the palm of my other hand, and I am shot in the head in such a way that involuntary muscular death-spasms make it look as though I am offering money for the magazine to a clerk. But even then the clerk would be screaming, probably.
Not in DC; they see that stuff ALL the time.
You know, they looted the supermarket when I was living in that neighborhood; there was a riot, and people looted the salad bar. TV footage showed the looters stepping out the busted window holding styro containers of food.
No Justice, No Chick Peas!
So. That was 45 minutes of today. Also wrote a column. And now: an hour of movie editing before bed. I hardly have any footage for this months home movie, because so much has been happening. Its odd how that happens; the busier you are, the less likely you are to pick up a camera and capture it. I fear the entire move will be lost. . . nah. The opportunity to edit it and set it all to music is too tempting. Im assembling footage shot here over the last few years for a little tribute to Lileks Manor, one of those tear-jerkers I do so well. My secret: bittersweet music and a little slo-mo. Works every time. Its the Adolfs of home movies.
Add my special Judas Cross Dissolve, and you have some mighty fine work.
Got the mortgage. Whew. I always get the cold clammy sweats in these situations; I always expect someone to brandish a late payment from 1977. But my mortgage man came through. I had one of those who-the-hell-AM-I moments today, as I was crawling down the highway in the Shuttlecraft, cellphone headset plugged into my ear, barking out commands - lock it in! Screw the ARM! What, theres a CBP? Take the points! Dive! Dive! Dive! I hung up, and thought: where did this baby come from? Since when did I start driving a blue CRV? Why am I buying a house? What the hell is going ON here, anyway? Its amusing how life assumes its own momentum sometimes, and all you can do is strap yourself in and enjoy Troys Wild Ride.
But do I even want this house? Its Mission style. Im sick of Mission! I want clean hip mid-century furniture, where the sofas are all slabs on little pointy legs and the chairs have no arms and the lights are all cones on poles! Save me from the dense stifling woody oppressive Mission style!
Just kidding, of course. I do love the mid-century style, and Id love to decorate a house entirely in Rob & Laura Petrie-chic, but it doesnt really go well with a house built in 1915. If you want to live in the city, youre going to get an old house, and youd best decorate accordingly. Besides, if I did decorate in 50s style, then Id regret the missed opportunity to decorate in streamlined 30s style. And if I went full 30s, there would be a Minnesota autumn afternoon where the gleaming chrome and stylized posters of French trains would look cold and out of place.
Each of these styles has something in common, though: theyre all successful examples of ahistoricism. Each of my favorite styles says au revoir to the dead hand of the past, and forges a new look for a new! brave! sensible! future. Its the sort of sentiment I abhor in politics, but I like it in my sofas.
The sirens went off tonight. I love that sound. Its chilling and scary, but it clarifies everything. I was near the lake with Jasper when they went off in all directions; Jasper stopped and looked around with alarm, wondering where this great god-dog was, and what could possibly be the matter. I howled a little, just to get him going - he whimpered, then broke into a full howl himself. Its a troubled howl. Hed rather not have to do it, but it must be done. All around, a nice quiet evening in the modern world - cars on the parkway, solid houses, the skyscrapers of downtown visible over the treeline, a lumbering 747 plowing the clouds overhead, and for a moment were back 10,000 years, howling a wary message of assent.
Now, a little web experiment. A friend gave me this card - a little joke postcard from a 100 years ago. The message on the back is curt and hurt:
Have you anything to say concerning the sentiment expressed upon this card? I don't believe you'd care to tell about it. Ruth.
Its addressed to Thomas Bordwell, Penn Yan, New York. Will that info, entered into Google, pull the man out of the tarpits of history?
My God. It did:
Yates County 1917 Militia Enrollment records. There he is. Middle name James. Okay, refine search . . . hes listed in an estate record, along with siblings Mary, William, Andrew . . .cross-referencing with the immigration pages, it would seem that the father was named Adam. . . checking the marriage license page . . . okay, Thomas got a marriage license between 1908-1914.
The angry card was sent on Aug 24, 1914.
Its the card from the jilted woman.
Or his wife.
No, a girlfriend. Another record of marriages that spans 1914 - 1921 includes our boy Tom, so he must have gotten hitched in 14. (According to the record of county WWI enrollment, he didnt serve.)
Okay: the card was sent by Ruth in Towanda, PA. The card was part of a set of two, the other also being addressed to Tom. They were sold on eBay by someone in PA - Bensalem, to be exact.
Searching obits on Google . . .
Wow. 2/27/01: Ruth Neiley of Towanda.
This would make her 16 when she sent the card, if its her.
Of course its her.
Think of all the emails youve written, the phone calls youve made, all the words youve sent out; imagine a lovelorn note not only surviving until 2086, but being reassembled by someone at a computer with half an hour to spare.
Godspeed to Tommy and Ruth and all that came after them; Godspeed to them all.