I’ve figured out how this Amazon Super Shipper thing works. You get free shipping on any order over $25. In turn, they promise to deliver the package within 9 to 268 business days. But the clock doesn’t start ticking on the “delivery” portion of your order until it is “processed” - and that means the order doesn’t go to the spiffy speedy mainframes that run the Amazon empire. No, the order is printed out in a numerical code expressed by pictographs of abacuses, and these numbers are fed to a wheezy Univac in the basement whose tubes have been replaced by refrigerator light bulbs with filaments made of pipe-stem cleaners. When the order is finally processed it’s handed to a man in a full-body cast who has to pass through an obstacle course designed to help our soldiers train for urban combat. So when you get an email that says “the item is delayed” it means “he fell into the trench of burning oil.”

Yes, I just did check the status of orders I made three weeks ago. Hope it doesn't show.

Part of the problem was one book that went AWOL on me - it promised to ship within 24 hours when I bought it, but as soon as its number was called it sprouted legs, hopped off the shelf and clambered over for the barbed-wire fence that surrounds Compound Amazon. Now it’s due to ship within 1 - 3 weeks, which in Amazon-speak is “never.” Young men of America, take heed: if you propose to a woman and she promises a reply in 1 - 3 weeks, get the deposit back on the ring. I’m not saying Amazon lies - no. But they’re trying to let you down easy. If something doesn’t exist anymore, they’ll tell you. Some items, however, come from distributors whose idea of “inventory control” is rather shaky, and relies on the memory of Old Frank, who knows this warehouse like the Back of His Hand, and is quite certain that they have six copies of “Betty Blooper: Naughty Outtakes from America’s 2-D Flapper Sweetheart” when in fact they never had the DVD, never even had the VHS tape, but had one laserdisc in 1987 which was sold to a collector the day it arrived. Bring that to Ol’ Frank’s attention, and he’ll recall that yessss, that was the case, now that I think upon the matter. If you like he can show you the exact shelf where the disk sat for an entire afternoon. Near as he can recall, it had a black cover.

So we’re driving back from Nana’s house; Gnat is looking out the window.

"N -O," she says. Pause. "N - O. No!"

I look in the rear view mirror: she’s reading the NO WAR AGAINST IRAQ lawn signs.

"N - O. No." Pause. "Actually, Daddee, N - O is ON."

This is the first time I’ve heard her use the word “actually.” She’s two and a half.

“Actually,” I say, “N - O is NO. O - N is ON.” And I thought, well, if one had dyslexia, these signs would be quite bellicose: ON WAR NO IRAQ.

When I picked her up she was busy playing with her plastic kitchen: I’m busy, Daddee. So I talked to Nana, who related one of those small-world anecdotes that stunned me so hard I didn’t really react and show my astonishment. She’s been reading the blog of a fellow in Iraq; she struck up an email conversation with someone who posted in the comments section, an Aussie. As happens, they swapped professions, location, hobbies, etc., and Nana said she babysat for the child of a writer in Minneapolis. Somehow (Insert missing frames here) two and two and two were added, and it came out that the fellow had been reading the Bleat since 1997.

To summarize: through the comments section of a blog written by a man in Baghdad, an Australian who has been reading about my daughter met the Minnesotan who takes care of her twice a week.

My wife saw the play “Six Degrees of Separation” this weekend, and the very title of the play tells you it predates the Internet era. Six? That’s twice as many as you need.

And yet there are old friends who have fallen, like Rocky and Bullwinkle, into the yawning ground that opened beneath their feet, and if they sprouted in a sunflower field somewhere else I’ve no idea where it is. (Gaah. That was unforgiveable. Time for bed.) There are so many old friends from the 70s who aren’t on the grid, whose names pop up only in bulky ugly 16-pt genealogy pages, or whose googleable identities got the guillotine chop when marriage cleaved their last name from their first.

Is it war yet? God, I’m tired of waiting. And I know these days will soon seem like the Golden Era of Inbetweenedness. So let’s amuse ourselves in this last week before IT begins with a jot of Institute goodness. I give you: 1970s Children’s Storybook Art. Enjoy!
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