Tuesday my wife & child get on a plane to go elsewhere for a week, and of course I’m nervous about it. Not for reasons regarding the war; I’m just opposed to leaving the house in general. Things happen out there. Cars run red lights; meteors fall; sinkholes swallow cities whole.

I’m sure they’ll be fine, and in a way this solitude will be fun. Tomorrow night I will be having one of those rare, precious moments of liberty: I can listen to the TV after ten without headphones! I don’t have to avoid the creaky step on the way the stairs when I come to bed late! I can cook up the heroin in the kitchen and not care if I set off the smoke alarm! No more skinnin’ possums in the garage - hell, put down some papers and do it sittin’ in front of Brit Hume’s show the way it’s meant to be done!

Expect a small entry tomorrow, because I will be busy opening Amazon boxes. I blew my entire Amazon 4Q 02 and 1Q 03 Associates gift certificates in one huge order, and I set all the boxes aside for the night when the family had left. I’ve no idea what’s in the boxes, really. I recall ordering a book of classic Mexican cinema posters, but beyond that I’ve no idea. Previous late-night spendthrift binges have resulted in things like the Tron Anniversary Edition, so I’m not entirely hopeful. Odds that one of the boxes will contain the “Logan’s Run” DVD are pretty much even.

As much as I welcome the chance to drink up and shout out and get down and sleep in, it will curdle quickly. Misery is en route; lonely empty misery. I could do things with “other people” as I understand they’re called, but I have a million projects to do this week. House stuff, computer stuff. There’s a basement storage room that needs to be ruthlessly purged and rearranged, and I’m just the man to do it. I plan to take one day to wander around antique stores and buy some more dusty useless crap - which will be stored in the newly reordered basement storage area - but that’s it. And so, like every other time I’m left alone, I will slowly turn into Crispen Glover, hunched and wary, speaking sweet soft words to vermin, springing back to normal personality only after everyone’s safe at home again. (The mood in the car back from the airport is always odd, since I’m still in my feral shifty-eyed Unabomber mode, trying to make polite conversation after seven years in the shack.)

Today Gnat and I went to Target to buy a Hello Kitty suitcase. It’s really made her day. Like everything else in the Hello Kitty world, it has that garish aesthetic that appeals to a Toddler’s eye. We also got a HK hat, which made her life complete. I put the baseball cap on her head, brim forward. “No, no,” she said. She turned it backwards.

Argh. And where does she get these ideas? Older kids, of course. Last night we had dinner at a neighbor’s house; everyone had kids, but the other kids were all boys in the preteen bracket, maybe seven to ten. They had their own pack hierarchy, and you’d think they would have shunned a two 1/2 year old GIRL as pure party poison, but they were very kind and tolerated her. Thus she believed she was not only part of their gang, but occupied a leadership position. At one point they all ran upstairs, and we heard the usual calamity - screams, mad laughter, cinder blocks being dropped, etc. Then they all ran down the stairs with Nerf guns. Count to ten; here comes Gnat, now wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap, backwards, with some chintzy plastic bling around her next, a Nerf gun in her hand.

“Boys!” she said. “Boys, come here. I need you.”

Fearless little girl; I love it. Later the boys went out to jump their bikes over a small ramp. A small chair was thoughtfully provided for Gnat, so she could observe the competition. But she did not want to observe. She wanted to jump. She found a small scooter, requested my assistance, and I sped her up and down the ramp. She was so thrilled to be part of this party, playing with other kids, doing what they did. Happiness tuckers them out. She conked at ten and slept ‘til eight.

After I posted that interminable Bleat last night I finished watching “Auto Focus” - the Bob Crane biopic. I’ve always found the Bob Crane story fascinating in a creepy, dank way - from clean-cut TV hero to voyeuristic auto-auteur porn freak killed with a camera tripod. When I was growing up, everyone said my dad looked like Bob Crane, which adds to the interest, of course; the guy on TV was like a smoother, hipper version of my father. And this meant my dad was a real version of Bob Crane, who just existed as a flickering smirk on the TV tube once a week. When first I heard there was a Bob Crane biopic in the works, I wasn’t enthused, but then I learned it would be directed Paul Schrader, bard of the dank sticky-floor plywood-paneled demimonde of shameful sex. And not surprisingly, I still wasn’t enthused. Then they got Greg Kinnear to play Crane: Now it’s a movie I want to see.

I can recommend it for several reasons - not least of which is the opening title sequence, a masterpiece of 60s jet-age / Googie iconography set to a song written by Angelo Badalamenti and sung by Buster Poindexter. Triple play. It sets the stage perfectly. The first half of the film is set in the sunny 1960s, a place without hippies or war - just Fortrel and Nylon and Formica, shiny suits, blue fridges, agents with thick black glasses, coffee shops, women in lime-green dresses with big orange globes for earrings. And then it all tumbles into the hell of the seventies, where everything is brown and crusty and the shag carpet smells like beer and bong water. It makes you wish you’d seen the real Bob Crane at the end, with his smoked aviator glasses, sideburns, stratofortress shirt collar and belted leisure suits. The horror; the horror.

A few observations.

#1. When your TV show has been canceled, you’re doing dinner theater, your wife is about to leave you and you find yourself in the basement watching grainy B&W pornos while wanking with your best friend, and he looks just like Willem Dafoe, something’s not right in your life. Check the map. You may have taken a wrong turn back at the intersection of Groin and Life.

#2: Schrader, in the commentary tracks, admits he had no interest in the Hogan’s Heroes show. Too bad; obviously the actors did, because they did a nice job of bringing the show back to life. (Except for the guy who plays Richard Dawson - terribly miscast.) The fellow who plays Klink is particularly good, and Schrader describes how the actor described Werner Klemperer: “he said 'he sang all his lines.'” And you think back, and you realize yes, he did. (The astonishing musical history of the Klemperer clan, and how WK's "Klink" was payback for what his father experienced, is a subject for another Bleat.)

#3. Richard Dawson, the movie implies, is far creepier than you ever, ever thought. Never mind the smarm he applied with a trowel in his “Family Feud” days - that was the tip of the iceberg. I imagine there were some women who’d appeared on “Feud” in 1983, saw “Auto Focus” in 2003, recalled how that man had given them a wet slobbery kiss, and they ran to the bathroom to scrub their lips with a loofah until they bled.

Dawson’s son is featured in the DVD’s documentary on Crane’s death; he looks nothing like Richard Dawson, and would actually be my choice to play Comic Book Guy in a live-action Simpsons movie.

#4: The movie and the documentary are full of perfect details. There’s the home decor of John Carpenter, the fellow who introduces Crane to the world of swinging - red crushed-velvet decor, a small statue of a knight in armor, kitchen wallpaper made up of 19th century newspaper ads. That last one is a detail I had repressed for 14 years.

That’s all; column night. Back to work. Much less tomorrow! My promise to you.
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