Sure, I could send an email to the Prof, thanking him for sending people here to help us out in our Time of Need, but it would lost in a seething sea of email. Best to do it here: thanks! You’re a prince. He’s due back today, and none too soon. Without Prof. Reynolds, the blogosphere would fracture and devolve; he’s the hinge, the glue, the triage nurse, the AM radio traffic reporter, the hotel concierge, the guy who knows this guy who knows a guy. No news organization could reproduce the Instapundit. No major media conglomerate will ever have the same flavor of one guy who’s doing it for kicks. I won’t say he’s the internet equivalent of the station you turn to when the tornado sirens hit. But when you want to read what people are saying about the storm, he’ll find the ones you need to read first. Welcome back.

Warning! It’s 12:30 AM and I am too tired to reread & edit the following material. It’s just what it is. Apologies.

‘Ot enough to boil a mankey’s bam, bruce. Man. Ninety-five today and humid. This is why we have the State Fair at the end of the summer: when it’s 95 and torpid, and the air is full of grease and horse manure, and everyone around you is throwing off sweat-waves that could moisturize a First Dynasty mummy, you pray for cooler weather. You sing hosannahs when the sun sets sooner. Die, flowers! Swoon, O leaves! Bring on the bracing slap of winter! I’m dyin’ here!

But that’s months away. Right now we’re approaching the second tent pole of summer, the Fourth; it’s the time of the year when the night is punctuated by tentative fireworks. One firecracker. Just one. One long screech of a bottle rocket. Just one. People are testing them out, unable to wait for the real thing, but unable to spoil it as well. Somewhere ten blocks away a guy thinks “well, just one to get me in the mood.” He carefully unwinds the fuse from the braid, takes it outside, lights it with his Winston and tosses it in the gutter. Bang. Dogs for a mile sit up and feel their sphincters loosen.

I love the Fourth. Meat and flags and gunpowder and a late night with friends. The apogee of summertime contentment. If you get the Fourth right, nothing that came before matters and everything that comes afterwards will do just fine. And if it rains? You’ve two months of summer to spend.

It’s also Powerball time. The jackpot is up to 165 million, which means it’s time for me to succumb to my biannual bout of greed and statistical stupidity, and buy a ticket or two. We could use the money. I’d pay off the debts for the family business back home, set up a foundation of some sort - I don’t know, the National Magazine Archive. Devoted to accumulating every copy of every magazine extant, and preserving them for all time, as well as making every page available on line. Then I would build the honkingest mofo house on the shores of one of the local lakes, some Frank Lloyd Wright / Louis Sullivan / Arts and Crafts masterpiece complete with a private monorail down to the boathouse.

Also an apartment in New York. I think I’d spend a lot more time in New York if I had a ten-room apartment there. Something in the Majestic or Century buildings, thank you. This would be my 30s-themed bolthole, a place decorated entirely in post-Deco black-and-white sleekness. It would be fun. Hey, family, who wants to take the Clipper to Gotham and be a champagne-addled overclass scion untouched by wrenching economic dislocations? I thought so! Gnat, get your Shirley Temple wig; wife, get your slinky white satin gown. I’ll get my tails and diamond-studded stick and have the service get the cream-colored Bentley gassed up.

I’d like my own movie theater, too. One of those scaled-down Moderne screening rooms. The Trans-LiLux. With a remote control, and genuine palm oil in the popcorn machine in the lobby, the kind of popcorn that kills you faster than regular microwave popcorn. Indoor pool? Outdoor? Why not both? Think rich. Think big.

But thanks to the indispensable Gawker, I know what “rich” really is. It’s Stephen King standing in line to see “28 Days Later,” and buying all the tickets and giving them to everyone standing behind him in line. I love that story. He surfaces in public rarely, but whenever he does you think: what a guy. Dave Barry’s the same way, incidentally. If Dave Barry woke up and found seventy billion dollars in his back yard, he would buy an Oscar Meyer Weinermobile and spend the rest of his life driving state highways and handing out hundred dollar bills in small-town restaurants.

Did I say I’d pay off the family debts? I’d do more than that. I’d built twin truck stops in North Dakota and Minnesota, the first thing you’d see entering the Fargo-Moorhead area no matter which direction you were headed. Each would be a palace for the semi driver, the family man, the lone wolf passing through in a clanking Datsun. The billboards would make it clear that this was as good a truckstop as you’d ever find. Highspeed internet in every booth, at every stool on the counter; cinnamon rolls the size of Buddy Hackett’s head, and one kid of coffee: good coffee. Not Starbucks, or Peet’s, or Seattle’s Best, or anything with a mystique attached to it. Just good fresh by-god coffee that made you glad you still smoked cigarettes or made you wish you’d never quit.

Magazines and books, souvenirs, clean showers, a fireplace for wintertime. A bar that looked like a 60s boozenook from the Sunset Strip. A motel in the shape of a boomerang. Big hot neon blaring east and west over the prairie: RALPH’S. A photo of my dad on the deck of his ship in WW2 over the cash register. Our founder. Touch the bill of your cap as you pay your bill; that’s all we ask. Drive safe.

By the door, a big basket of free pens - they’d be flat, and have that Post-It adhesive on one side; you could stick them in your log book and know you always had a backup tool for writing. The Ford-branded Chiclet dispensers? Nothin’ but bennies.

I’m quite serious. What better way to share the wealth than build a roadside oasis that doesn’t try to recoup its construction cost by adding a buck to every short stack? A palace for the traveler, reasonable eats, and the assurance you won’t be jumped in the parking lot.

As for my daughter, well, I’d put money in bank accounts around the world, with the stipulation that she show up in person to get the money, and she’d have to be of a certain age. This way I could make sure she spent her 20s acting responsibly, and her 30s traveling the world when she's old enough to appreciate it. Unlike her bassackward dad.

As for you? I consult my Amazon contribution records, and everyone gets their money back. Doubled.

The next book will still cost you, though.

(Visualize Hans Grubman in “Die Hard” falling through the window, plummeting to his death on the inarguable pavement)

(Back to reality)

Fundraising update: before we entered the Current Difficulties, I’d noted that all moneys raised in excess of the bandwidth cost would be sent to the Heifer project to buy oxen for a family in SE Asia. I noted that last year we - meaning you, the Bleat contributors - bought one, and I hoped for two this year. Then the blade fell on my wife’s Audrey-Hepburnesque neck, and you kicked in eleventy hundred quatloos to tide us over. Problem: how to separate out the bandwidth / oxen money from the help-us-out money? Can’t be done - so, I’m just going to put in an order for two oxen at year’s end. We’ll be on our feet by then. And no, I don’t take a tax deduction for the contribution. That would be wrong.

But. If ever this page just up & disappears, and the years pass, and you find yourself pulling into the best roadside oasis you ever saw, check the name in neon above. Look for RALPH'S. Park at the end of the lot. There’s something about crossing an ocean of blacktop at 11 PM on a humid night, buzzing sign above, cheeping crickets beyond, that defines the American summer.

So go have one.

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