woof, etc

Friday I went to the doctor, and he said I had the rockin’ pneumonia, the boogie-woogie flu, the Charleston catarrh and the Lindy Grippe. Actually, no. I had a nice med tech who did not watch the Simpsons, and hence didn’t laugh when I complained of “skin failure” and asked for a “calmative.” Interesting: she didn’t watch the show on principle, because she’d bought the 1990 line that the show was nothing more than “Married with Children” in yellow drawings, full of vulgarity and bad lessons for children.

She had a good sense of humor, though. I’d explained up front I was a nervous fellow when it came to these places - i.e., hospitals - and that I would interpret every comment the wrong way. If she said “interesting,” I’d know something was wrong. If she said nothing, that would be bad. Later when she repeated a procedure, I asked if this was normal, and she said “Sure.”

“As far as you know,” she added.

Everything looked and sounded fine; the ticker ticked as it’s supposed to. Although from what I’m learning, abnormalities are so common as to be normal: the majority of the population seems to have a murmur or an irregular beat or both. If you have neither, well, call Dr. Nick, and you will.

I always figure that if I amuse the doctor, they won’t find anything wrong.

That was the start of Friday; then it was off to the office to write a column, teasing another batch of nonsense out of the air. Home. Pizza. TiVo. The machine had taped an episode: Ted’s Heart Attack. It was during this show that I realized something I’d never seen before: Lou Grant’s office defies conventional space. In the newsroom set, there’s a file cabinet flush against the outside wall of his office, perpendicular to the plane of the stage; the door is part of this outside wall. But when people enter his room, the door is perpendicular to a small wall - oh, here’s what I mean:

That's the outside arrangement. But once you go inside the office, it looks like this:

I know, I know; who cares? But it just hit me that I’d been watching this show for the majority of my life and never figured this out, and never heard anyone else comment on it, either.

Saturday - a blur. Packing. Packing. Making more messes, somehow. It was beautiful, so we took many family walks, making plans, enjoying the scenery. Taking the air, as they say. Sunday - Mother’s day, the first around here, and hence quite fun. Gnat is starting to put syllables together, so she speaks in fluent babble that’s quite a delight to decipher. Baby Scat: the Other Kind. And it’s delivered with such seriousness, too. Little nonsense orations, complete with gestures, concluding in a Bronx cheer. My little rabblerouser.

Around two I went off to see DB, and that was a hoot; we just sat on the porch for an hour and chatted & laughed. I overshot the house where he was staying, so he ran off the porch and ran down the middle of the street, arms waving; I did a U-turn and drove back at him, weaving all over the street. A big white Lexus behind me was not impressed.

As usual, he’s the world’s most normal famous guy. Barry Sonnenfeld is making a movie of his novel, and his description of a visit to the set made it sound as though he was the caterer’s brother peeking through the van window, not the Honored Author. His new daughter was gamboling on the lawn while we chatted; blue skies, green trees, warm day: about as good as it gets.

Drove home, changed, off to the Giant Swede’s for Mother’s Day supper. First cookout of the season. All the babies on the big rug, playing; Gnat was as merry and busy as ever; such a cheerful baby.

And now . . . I am going to go watch the Voyager season finale. I have an advance copy - mwah! - and I have to write about it, and I’m beat to hell, too. ZZZzz. Zz. Z.
.. ..
It’s very hot and it’s very late. I like that combination. It was supposed to tickle 80 today, but something happened; the weather just ran away with itself, got alll caught up in its work and the temps hit the upper . . . nineties. Nineties! In May! Couldn’t be happier. Jasper’s not too pleased; he spent a lot of time in the creek today. (We took three walks.) He gets in the water up to his eyes, points his snout up and lets the creek flow over him. Ahhhhh. Ahhhhh. And how he stinks. Oy, how he stinks. He smells like a dead dog stuffed with dead fish wrapped in dead grass and triple-dipped in dead sauce. He’s outside right now. He’s happy.

Mondays I work at home, so I spent the whole day with Gnat. It is, frankly, the perfect life. Write a little while she plays; play a little, eat lunch, walk around the block, put her down for a nap, work some more, etc., etc., go to the store, come back, nap, write, take another long walk. I wrote half of the Voyage piece. To my dismay, my copy of the series finale is devoid of music or sound effects, and it’s missing some key FX sequences. I stopped watching 2/3rds through when I saw the words GARGANTUAN STRUCTURE written on a blue screen. I want to see it, dammit! Without the tendentious music cues, though, it feels different; it’s almost a documentary. Much more dramatic and realistic without the music than with the music.

What I saw was very good. Hard to put this into context; if I say it’s not as good as the other Trek finales, it makes it sound like a lesser creation, but Voyager IS a lesser creation, I regret to say. It had many, many wonderful moments, but it lacked the great dramatic arc of DS9, and the characters never moved one inch from where they were on day one. Which is why the finale is so satisfying, and aggravating: if they’d done more of what gave the finale its heft, the show would have been much better than it was.

but now I’m writing the piece, and this is a Bleat . . . as if there’s any difference, I suppose. It’s all bleeding together, column / bleat / TV / books, and that’s the way I like it.

Uh huh uh huh.

There’s a new 70s radio station in town; I hate it. Mostly. It’s interesting to hear some childhood favorites, most of which sound amazingly cheerful - what was it about the energy crisis, international humiliation, bad fashion and military detumescence that led to such upbeat sparkly music? Had to grin when I heard some Ohio Players - why, that’s Sugarfoot shouting his trademark yeowwww! Say what? I had a friend in high school who was deeply, deeply steeped in black funk - he was a musician of diverse & astonishing chops - and I rolled my eyes at the stuff then, being a good prog-rock dork. But. One can make the contention that the mid -late 70s were a time of great musical integration - instead of kids wanting to be all hard & stone-cold icy playaz (please don’t send me that fargin’ icy hot shorties URL, please) they wanted to be cool, loose, and groovy as the buttah-smoov funkmeisters in their favorite bands.

Plus, these guys could actually play instruments and sing.

Then again, “Hollywood Swinging” is not exactly the apex of human accomplishment. But it’s got a good beat, and you can watch people dance to it.

(Shows you how I spent my high school parties. I was always in the kitchen at parties.

There’s also a new 80s station, which I like. The playlist still has some surprises left, but not too many; I’ve heard that damn Cars song (she-like-the-night-life-bay-be) one too many times. Much Huey Lewis, no Jonah Lewie. Again, the music sounds much more cheerful and tuneful than songs today, but as I’ve noted elsewhere I’m a withered old crank on the subject of modern pop. I hate bands like Destiny’s Child; I can’t stand the style - the monotonal bitchy complaints over a stutter-stop beat with faux-soulful moans spread like gov. surplus margarine - no. No sir, I don’t like it. Don’t like it at all. But it’s always fun to revisit the crap of your 20s, and enjoy it for its crappiness. The big-hair bombast bands are now just silly, especially when they aimed for tortured melodrama. “Turn Me Loose” made me laugh out loud - here’s a singer who proclaims that it’s his way or no way at all! and then he spends every chorus begging to be turned loose.

So go already! Eventually you hit that point in your life where there’s no problem in pop music that sounds like a problem at all. So leave! Dump the bitch! Kick the jackass out, already! Stop your complaining! You want problems? Look at this bill for repairing the gutters! I’ll show you problems!

Okay, I’ve been ranting for exactly 20 minutes, and now I’m done. Tomorrow: heat. More work. More baby. Can’t wait.
.. ..
It’s hot. It’s sticky hot. It’s slow-moving surly steamy hot. Add screeeeaming baby. Subtract airconditioning. Now you’re channeling your inner LaMotta. Weather like this makes me want to throw plates of spaghetti against the wall. Usually, I like weather like this. Usually, I love the heat. But I’m tired and annoyed and

Ahhhh. A breeze. Ahhhh.

That’s better.

Gnat still has a cold, which makes for some amusing nostril bubbles; I swear sometimes I expect to look over and see her bobbing against the ceiling, brought aloft by another mucoid dirigible. But she’s in a good mood nonetheless - world’s most agreeable infant. That is, I think, the state of most infants, if raised properly. It’s natural to be happy. You’re taught otherwise by circumstances.

Doing some online shopping now, looking for fixtures for Clairemont (that’s the new name of the new house; this week, anyway). Every lamp seems to be based on a design by Dirk Van Erp - a great designer, but the name just sounds so amusing. “Dirk” in my mind will forever be the name of the character from that highly annoying & preposterously expensive video game “Dragon’s Lair.” I used to see grafitti that insisted DIRK MUST DIE and I thought: having played the game, that’s actually much easier than you think . . .

Which reminds me: an ancient tag has reappeared in my neighborhood: F*ckDCN. (Actual spelling changed for the tender-orbed, but you can guess.) I don’t know what it means. It was once ubiquitous. Now it’s back. Which reminds me: in DC, there used to be a fellow who called himself Cool “Disco” Dan, and wrote that everywhere in a highly recognizable script. It was such an uncool name that it made you smile when you saw it; in fact, it was the only piece of tagging I ever enjoyed seeing, since there was something Kilroyesque about it. Apparently some people copied the style and sprayed it after CDD had stopped - which prompted him to come out of retirement. There was much debate over whether a tagging was an original or a copy, much like curators debate whether a painting came from Rembrandt or someone in his studio.

Okay, just so you don’t, I will . . . googling now . . .wowo.

Okay, he’s famous, it seems. All you homeboys down in SE, this one’s for you:

Whoa: according to google, there’s a guy who posts on music boards named F*ckDCN.

Man! What doesn’t google know? Okay, let’s input “Lileks shoplifts candy . . .”


Of course, once I commit this to the web, it’ll come up. Damn. I’m telling you, this Google is incredible; the web is incredible. You’re incredible! We’re all incredible! I love you guys! You’re the greatest an we’re never gonna lose touch we’re gonna be frens ferrever . . . (throws up into sink)

Let’s start again. Google’s pretty good. I was reading a book on Arts & Crafts designs tonight, and it mentioned a studio in Wisconsin that sold stencils for your walls. I enter “arts crafts stencils” and that very studio was the FIRST one to come up. (http://www.trimbelleriver.com) I’ll be using a few of these, I think.

Man, this house is going to be something else, daddy-o. And it has central air.

Which is good.

Because the breeze died. And I’m starting to feel all . . . Jakey. Again.

.. ..
Another moment of domestic bliss: dog barkbarkbarking, door buzzing, baby SCREAMING upstairs in her crib because she - DOES - NOT want to nap now. Behind the door: the electrician, come to fix the piddly little things the inspector tut-tutted about. They must be fixed before closing. And now (dog barkbarkbarking, door buzzing, baby SCREAMING) I can’t find the work order. I’m trying to think (dog barkbarkbarking, door buzzing, baby SCREAMING) where I might have put them. Ah well. Open door. The repairman has an absolutely granite-faced expression, as though he’s thinking: I hate calling on a nuthouse.

But everything calmed down. He did the work in a trice. The largest expense - quel surprise! - was the cost of the permit, since the fargin’ bastiches who run this city view property owners as kulaks who must be penalized at every possible turn for the sin of - well, of owning property. I asked the guy what the cost of permits was like in the far-flung burbs, and he just laughed.

And our leaders wonder, aloud, frequently, often in front of TV cameras, why there’s so little new housing built in the city, and why so little of it is “affordable.” I love this city, but not for its preposterous government - we have a city council that wastes time debating whether or not the city will trade with BURMA, for God’s sake, and they don’t pick up the trash from trashbins anymore. I’m not kidding. The city removed the trashbins from the street unless the nearest business owner was willing to go half on the cost of collection. Most of the businesses, laboring under the misconception that trash removal was a basic responsibility of the government, declined. I won’t even get into the park board, which has been pushing this “natural grass” movement that means one thing: they don’t cut the grass by the creek. Hence, you can’t see the frickin’ creek. A batch of Panglossian collectivists, the lot of them, and it just amazes me that people vote them in over and over and over again.

So why don’t I run, eh? I did. I ran for, and was elected to, a neighborhood group in charge of dispersing Neighborhood Revitalization Program money. We had $1.5 million to spend. It didn’t matter whether we needed to spend it; that wasn’t the job. The job was to spend it. I wanted to put all of it aside to help the elderly pay their property taxes - nothing makes me see red more than the idea of old folks getting squeezed because their taxes rise waaaay high - a house they bought 40 years ago gets bumped up in value when Yups and Dinks move in & beef up the property values in the neighborhood. But, we couldn’t do that - certain percentages had to be spent on this, on that, on the other thing. I stayed for phase one, which framed the general direction of the final expenditures. Endless mailings. Endless meetings. Endless surveys. I cannot describe the despair that you feel when you get involved in one small tiny corner of The Buck-Sucking Hutt of Government, and you realize how much money is simply incinerated so that people can have jobs procuring and distributing the matches.

Well, I didn’t mean to go off on that rant, but I mean it. The city hits you with permit fees - okay, fine. The city requires reinspection of the work. Okay, fine. I need a certificate of reinspection for closing. Okay, fine. Well: the reinspection is ONLY done on Wednesday and Friday between 10 and 12, and 1 and 3, or something like that, and it takes two weeks to schedule, and a week to get your certificate. So because the big wobbly lard-ass of government cannot be bothered to respond with the alacrity that these house-selling situations usually require, I have to beg everyone to sign a piece of paper agreeing to a conditional acceptance of this or that, pending the appearance of the Inspector General. Sometimes I wish we were simply corrupt, so I could pay someone off and get it done NOW.

Ah, but we must be grateful for the egalitarian application of The Law; imagine if we were thrown to the whims & vagaries of the Private Sector. Fine! Bring it on! My realtor is handling the connection of all my utilities, newspapers, mail redirection, TV hookups - at no additional cost. Yes, there’s a cost, and it’s built into the whole mysterious transaction. But they’ll do it. And they answer the phone. I called the Inspector’s office today to set up that reinspection . . . and I got an answering machine.


Disclaimer: I am not here to suggest that all government employees are lazy, or do not care about the needs of the citizens. I’m married to a government employee. And while I suspect she is one of the more consciencious examples of the species, I believe she is representative of people who go into public service to serve the public. Hats off to them.

Just stop already with the resolutions to tax hat-raising, and the resolutions to condemn SLORC for using prison labor to make hat brims. Fill the fargin’ potholes and pick up the trash! If there’s time left over after that, THEN you can worry about ($#(4in’ Burma.

There. I’m calm.
.. ..
Lovely day. Worked at home, wrote while Gnat played. She took a good long nap eventually, and I typed merrily away. Then we went to an upholstery shop to see about getting the sofa recovered. It was located in an old streetcar-oriented commercial node - a corner with two-story brick buildings, one gas station, one old gas station now doing duty as an Oriental Rug store, of all things. (You can always tell an old gas station - the way the building sits on the property, the dimensions of the structure, the balance between the little office and the service bays.) I asked the owner of the store about his place - did this used to be a drug store? I asked. He said it was. In fact, the store across the street (Patina) used to be a drug store, too. (I knew this - on the octagonal tiles you can still see the circles from the stools at the soda fountains.) He sketched out where the fountain counter was in this store; he pointed down the street to a building next to the old gas station, and said “that was a butcher shop.”

A butcher shop! Now, part of me knows better. Part of me knows that it’s mightily convenient to get my fresh meat at Lund’s, along with milk and bread and other goods . . . but . . . there’s just something about a free-standing butcher shop that suggests a era I’d have liked to experienced first-hand. Today the intersection is quite lively - Patina is the ultimate yuppie-clutter store, crammed with soaps & picture frames & soaps & small clever books & cards, cards, cards, and soaps. The Saturday traffic on the street is damn near impassable. There’s a fine little sliver of a coffee shop, an unheralded Italian restaurant that’s supposedly quite good, a malt shop that hails from the late 70s, a florist, a bird-cage store. It’s all a testament to the spendy tastes and fiercely pro-urban character of the people who live in this part of Mpls.

There’s also a shabby little barber shop left over from the butcher-drug store days. He’ll go eventually, and that’ll be the end of that. For all its vitality, all its usefulness, all its quaintness and substantial soap inventory, I’d give anything just to walk into that store and find it was a Rexall. And it was July. 1958. A fan, up on shelf by the ceiling, was moving back and forth and back and forth like an old man trying to follow a tennis game. A radio was playing a ball game, or the news. There was an open seat at the counter, and the clerk would make you a cherry phosphate; you could read one of the four local papers (four!) or thumb through a Signet from the rack by the door. You want soap? You buy some Ivory or Palmolive. Maybe you sat watching the window because there was a pretty girl who always got off the streetcar when it stopped there after four.

Not necessarily better; not necessarily worse; just someone I would have loved to have experienced, if only for the sheer ordinariness of it all. Having a soda at the corner drugstore. Hearing the chi-ching of the cash register. No jet noise above. Tinny tunes from tailfinned cars as they passed outside. I’ll take what I have, and I’m glad for it - I like the modern era. I like my times. But -

I was driving around later that afternoon, playing a disc I’d bought at the used CD store. Great movie music of the 50s from the Turner library. Louis Armstrong, “Give Me a Kiss to Build a Dream On.” One should never mistake the sophistication of a fragment of pop culture for the nature of the culture at large. But -

Such a lovely, wise, grown-up song.

No regrets! I’m lucky. I know enough about the details, the look, the everyday detritus, that I can reconstruct the era long enough to let me pretend for the length of a song. That’s why I love living here, and learning about what was here before this was here. As Buckaroo Banzai didn’t put it: wherever I go . . . there I was.