woof, etc

Went to an estate sale around the corner. The house was thick with the professional peering class, the sort of folks who squint and make a moue of slight disdain, then move along, fingering the spoils of another stranger’s life. It’s creepy, really. What makes it worse is that I’d met this person, several times, at neighborhood block parties; she was a sweet & smart old lady. The only reason I went, really, was to see what the house looked like, since we’d considered making an offer when it went on the neighborhood.

Ghouls! We’re all just ghouls.

It was a nice house, but smothered in old-lady style. Carpet over crunchy floorboards. How Now, Brown Kitchen. Upstairs, the usual: a huge landing, and small rooms. Lots of books, and good ones, too - I recognized a few mysteries I’d read, including a Dutch series from the late 70s I’d really enjoyed, even if the authors were flaming Marxists. The wallpaper was not my style (from Oscar Wilde on down, it always wins the contest of wills) and the carpet would have to be brought up - actually, brought up like a bad sandwich and put down like a sick dog. The house will fetch a nice price, but it’ll have to be gutted. Someone’s going to spend 400K, at least - and that’ll be the start.

There was a room of manly items, which surprised me - I didn’t know she’d been married. It looks as if the husband departed a long time ago, since there was nothing from the 70s in his belongings. Old wallets. Erasers. Belts. Junk. What ho - a bag of old pens. Well, let’s see . . . I found a Weatherball pen in bad condition, but it’ll go with my Weatherball bank and matchbook. Meaning, it’ll go in a box to be put in storage until our estate sale. But at least it’ll have company from own species. There was also an unopened package of pens from the late 60s, from the period of Mandatory Grooviness - a picture of some swingin’ Swedish high-on-life blonde with her mouth open in pen-provoked glee. Two button action! Turn it on, turn it off. That’s how deep the counterculture got its roots in the overculture: pen companies were alluding to Leary mottos.

Which reminded me of the movie I’d seen the previous night: “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas.” I had avoided seeing it all my life, since it smacked of those dreadful 60s with-it romps that make no sense and believe that all hippies listened to sitars or Herb Alpert. But this had Peter Sellers, who
is amazing even when he’s in a dull movie. In this film he’s a 35 year old uptight secular Jew who abandons his fiancee for a willowy hash-brownie-baking love child. It - is - excruciating, really, but fascinating in the same way Dragnet episodes are fascinating. In the end he pulls a Graduate, and ruins a wedding - his own - and skips down the street, a free man! Free! Free to do . . . what, exactly? We don’t know. I can just imagine the houselights going up, and the middle-class audience coughing politely and talking about where they were going to go for pie, and no one ever gave the movie any more thought after that.

So I bought the pens.

Only a dollar. The bag also contained a Dictagraph marker, a pen for making notations on a dictagraph tape: cool. Useless, but cool.

I met half my neighbors in the house - everyone had been unable to resist the temptation to take a look.

That was Saturday morning. In the afternoon I took Gnat to the grocery store for provisioning; she had fun, and laughed and waved at everyone. Produce seems to make her the happiest. Perhaps it’s all those great big blocks of color. Home - nap for all - off to the furniture store. We’re going to be furnishing the new place sloooowly, because the good stuff costs a great deal of money. (The new bed I bought today will keep me from sleeping in the old one, as I wonder how to pay for it.) Then we stopped at Room & Board to investigate a few more items - feh! Pah! Cheap krep with preposterous prices. The clerk showed me an armoire for the TV - the wood was loose on the door panels. Twenty-seven hundred dollars, and the glue’s come undone.

The bed’s gorgeous. King sized. Made me remember the beds in the estate sale house: tiny single-serving slabs, a widow’s portion.

Perhaps in the end you want the smaller bed. You don’t your loss defined by how much more you now have.
.. ..
Watched the season finale - show finale, really - of the XFiles last night. I’m just glad it’s over, for everyone’s sake. It made no sense, of course, and all the preposterous religious imagery couldn’t masquerade Chris Carter’s imaginative bankruptcy. It just - makes - no - sense. The aliens want to invade? So invade already! What’s stopping you? Hose everyone down with the stuff that makes a slimy alien gestate in you,r duodenum, or just drive the big ships over cities and levitate everyone into the troposphere. Whatever. Surely Mulder’s not stopping you. In fact, in retrospect the entire show is ridiculous; Mulder should have been capped in season one. But no! He knows too much, he suspects too much, and he is intimately connected to the organizations that are involved - we dare not kill him. If the Mob behaved on these lines, no one would ever get whacked. What, kill Jimmy Provalone? He knows the names of all the made guys in town, and he suspects that Domenic “Two-Pipes” is gonna move on the garbage hauling contract. We can’t kill him!

To end the evening with actual entertainment, I watched half of “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” on DVD. Great print, widescreen edition, so the scene in which 47 percent of the panavision frame is filled with Barbara Eden’s gyrating tush is reproduced in all its original glory. Silly movie, but fun. I loved the SeaView as a kid - a sub with tailfins! Wow! Walter Pidgeon, building on his triumph in “Forbidden Planet,” cements his status as the Genial Old Man Who Walks Around And Explain What These These Buttons Do. Great cameo by Floyd the Barber as a parsimonious Proxmire type. Nice scene in the UN, where Walter essentially tells the world community to shove it: we have a technological solution, I answer to the President, and if you’ll excuse me I have some UN troops to drown.

It’s full of faces you’ve seen elsewhere, but don’t know quite where. The bearded loner they find on a floe nagged at me until I placed him as a Klingon in “Day of the Dove.” The radio operator was strangely familiar, but from where? I consulted the imdb today, and discovered he was a Wisconsin redneck in “Giant Spider Invasion,” which was on MST3K the other day - an episode, incidentally, in which Tom Servo mentions the Gobbler.

Speaking of which. I got some mail insisting that I update that site; it had an irritable tone that may not have been intended. I probably will fix it soon. Everything’s being changed one page at a time. Tonight I discovered a site that contains 40 + pages of 1960s jet-age Minneapolis architecture - a hotel, a great bowling alley, signs, gas stations. I discovered it on my very own hard drive, in a folder called “Sites to Come.” It was a project I had intended to finish last August, but Gnat came along a month early, and that was the end of that. There are a few other sites in the Sites to Come folder, too, and sometimes I despair of ever getting around to doing them. And sometimes, of course, I snarl and say: let ‘em die! I’m busy!

Yeah, right. Great websites are crashing all around me, as their authors decide to spend more time doing other things - but I am grimly determined to ride this thing to the finish, whenever that should be. Since I have to upload my entire site to the host again in June - don’t ask; long story - I’ve decided to take this opportunity to examine every page before it goes up. This means checking for busted links, imposing a uniform font on the pages (everything will now be Times New Roman; it’s just easier to read than a mile of sans-serif type) and developing some sort of clean, spare, uniform style whenever possible. So June will not exactly be Bleatiful. No more monthly updates for a while. It’ll be worth it - trust me. So far I’m very happy with everything. Very happy.

Back to work - more tomorrow.
.. ..
The high temp today was in the mid 40s. Usually, this would send me into garment-rending fits of despair, but I’m too busy to notice. If a tornado took off the roof, I’d just look up and think: damn. I’m going to have to get that fixed before closing. Today I discovered a new series of things I have to fix, one of which was some chimney items. Opened the Yellow Pages. There were several chimney ads. All featured guys in stove-pipe hats. I stared at it for a second, wondering why they all looked like albino versions of the Cat in the Hat, until it kicked in: of course, of course, Mary Poppins. The movie that forever stamped in the minds of Americans the notion of the chimney sweep with the utterly impractical hat. Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cherree, a sweep’s lungs is as black as the bottom of the sea, etc.

The guy I called didn’t answer the phone by saying “‘Allo, guv’nor!” So I hired him.

I pulled a muscle moving some stuff on Saturday, and it remains pulled. It’s just sore, and my sleeping position seems to exacerbate the ache. It’s one of those muscle groups I forgot about. When I used to lift weights, I was accustomed to these pointless aches, these aggregates of spasms and pinpricky pains. You were always discovering new ways to make yourself feel lousy. I’m glad I don’t do that anymore. An hour in the gym, six times a week - feh. The irony, of course, is that if you have the time to do that, you really should be working on the things that will ensure you don’t have the time to do that. Between the driving and showering and driving back, you’d spend eight hours - a workday - grunting over iron lozenges, and for what?

I know, I know, there were many compensations; I’m just not in a mood to look at the sunny side of anything today. It’s been raining for a week, it’s cold, and Gnat has somehow in the commotion developed bad sleeping habits. Won’t sleep in the crib, which now exudes painful wavy anti-sleep rays, I guess. This means much unhappiness for all concerned. Not that we’re naturally disposed to cheer these days - my wife has a huge brief due the day we close, the house is a wreck, boxes are piled everywhere, and we’re just walked around with glazed dazed looks -

And dammit, I just caught Mahler ripping himself off - there’s a trumpet lick in the first movement of the fourth that he uses as the start of the first movement of the fifth.

In New York I spent a while in the Union Square Barnes & Noble (I think it was Union Sq) and found the second volume of the needlessly gigantic biography of Mahler. I read volume one in 1977, and it was a chore; it’s painfully complete. The scope of the task and the level of detail guarantees that the author will be dead before he finishes it, which is a pity; I’d like to read of Mahler’s last ten years. But the photos were interesting. When you’re young, the photos of people who lived a hundred years ago look like they’re from a place far away, but when you hit your middles the past gets much closer. Clairemont was built three years after Mahler died; the men who put it together had probably never heard of him.

The more I listen to Mahler, the more I think I overrated him in my youth. I still love it - but he needs an editor. And he wasn’t Beethoven. Ludwig von would have found it interesting, but I think he would have been tapping his toe - yes, yes, yes, fine, another funeral march, fine, very tragic, yes, lovely, but will we transcend ourselves and march into the Olympian firmament before the century ends, eh?

Of course, I’m complaining about rain and moving; I’m a fine one to talk. I’d disappoint Beethoven today too.

Most days, come to think of it. But could he use a manual transmission? Microwave eggs for baby? Upload a Bleat?

Alright, then. We’re even.
.. ..

Just spent 45 minutes answering mail, and I still have 327 letters in my box. So now I must take a time out from responding to responses to the Bleat, and write a Bleat. Thus the delicate cycle of nature continues, as old letters are compacted into rock, their vowels harvested by tiny organisms.

Cold. Again. Cold, rainy, dark, and very trying. Gnat will not sleep in her crib anymore. She gets so exhausted that life is really no fun for anyone, then cries in her crib, which is really no fun for anyone. Naturally, I worry. Naturally, my wife worries. Today after two attempts to get her to sleep, I put her in the carseat to go run an errand: bang. Out. Cold.

We went to the International Market Square, a trade-only repository of interesting things for your house. Mere mortals cannot go here unless a Decorator has set up an appointment. I was looking for some fabric for the sofa, something that’s right for the new house. That’s right, ladies: my wife sends me to pick out the patterns. Hah! The first place was devoted mostly to fussy old-biddy patterns of unimaginable dreadfulness - yellow plaids with pictures of dogs, ornate horrors that looked like a rash on the backside of a 19th century French aristocrat.

“I’ve learned,” said the clerk, “that there’s a place for all these patterns.”

“In HELL!” I said. I explained what I wanted: Arts and Crafts patterns. Not compatible with, or inspired by, or a second-cousin on the mother’s side of, but ARTS AND CRAFTS. This is actually a rather elastic description; the A & C lads were inspired by Gothic craftsman, so stylized organic-based patterns can fit, as well as Prairie School patterns. Hell, Frank Lloyd Wright fits, too, if you want. They had none of this. So. Off to the second place, which had only FLW tapestries. Interesting, but the only ones I really liked didn’t look anything like FLW; the leaves looked more like they’d been swiped from a background of a 1950s cartoon. Which would be a good thing, but not in this house. In the third showroom: Bingo. Actual Morris designs. I sat on the floor, copying the sample numbers while Gnat crawled and made baby sounds.

Gnat’s presence earned us got an interesting series of reactions. The women over 40 were all charmed to see a baby. The women under 40 almost reeled back in horror, as though I’d walked in barechested with two bats hanging from brass nipple rings. A baby! Eeek! One of those - womb-spawny things! I’m not the sort of person who expects anyone to goo and ahh over my baby; I don’t even expect the world to hold the door open for us when we’re passing through. Getting through the door, gooing and ahhing - that’s my job. But it’s fascinating when people - women, especially - react with faint horror to something as ordinary as a baby. I could understand if she was screaming, or frothing, or flinging handfuls of feces around. But she was just sitting there holding her duck.

The lads - well, there was one fellow whose motto seemed to be “I’m mincing as fast as I can,” and he gave me nothing but snooty disdain. I was obviously a customer, not a designer, and what did I know? Cattle, I tell you; they’re all just cattle. Lowing beasts of the field.

I wanted to say “congrats - nice job.”

To which he would have said - “uh, thanks - but for what, exactly?”

“For all these magnificent patterns. Lovely work. Brilliant.”

“Uh, thanks.”

“You did create, design, and sew all these patterns yourself, didn’t you?”

“Well, no -”

“Oh! I infered from your attitude that these were your creations. Sorry! Didn’t realize you were the stockboy. Now run along and give me these samples.”


Ah - she’s finally gone down. No more wails from the nursery. I tell you, this is killing me. It’s not about using a trick to get her to sleep (driving around, or car-seat on the vibrating drier, or the chloroform-infused teddy bear) - it’s about getting her to sleep in her crib, hewing to a regular nap schedule. We had it down, and we lost it.

Well. Back to work. Back to the mail. The good news: we’re emptying the fridge this week, in preparation for the Move. And what did I find in the back?

Four cans of Guinness. Life is full of surprises.
. ..
One of my favorite sites, Metafilter, has been down for a couple days. At first I thought: too much traffic. Then I thought: no, it’s hosed, for reasons unknown to mortals. It’ll probably be up tomorrow or Monday. No large deal. No substantial whoop. No big department.

(That last one came out of dim memory - a friend had recalled how an immigrant friend had heard “I beg your pardon” as “a big department.” My friend used the phrase sarcastically, and eventually we all did. It helps if you give it a Yiddish inflection.)

But behind the scenes, I know, there’s panic! as the webmaster frets over what this means to the audience. Maybe not; maybe he knows people will come back. I know that when this site has been hosed, I get all twitchy and figured people will flee and never come back. I don’t know why I think this. Every week I check sites that haven’t been updated in this century, on the off chance that they might be new. If you’re fairly regular, people will trust that something’s coming along. When you start to fail to meet, say, monthly deadlines, people drift away. (I just realized I hadn’t visited Ghost Sites in a few months, and that’s why: sloppy updating.)

And I bring this up . . . because? Because I’ve spent the entire night working on the MPLS section, burnishing every page for the jump to the new IP address, resizing graphics, adding new stuff, and I’ve reached the point where I’ve had enough of this whole computer thing. It’s been a rainy day, an exhausting day, another day at the baby doc’s - everything’s fine, fine - and I just want to sign off and relax.

So this is all an elaborate way of apologizing: fresh content explaining why there’s no fresh content. I just know that slight feeling of disappointment, or annoyance, or indifference, when you visit a site expecting newness and you get what you got yesterday.

I’d never do that!

Without lots of warning. Anyway, there’s a newspaper column over at the startribune.com - go find it, if you’d like. I’m too beat to even link.
Apologies; have a dry warm weekend.