No bleat or lame bleat? Show of hands.

So you’re all a bunch of masochists, then. Sorry it’s been one of those days in which the COMPUTER, as an overall concept and specific manifestation, has decided to stand between my wife and a job. This online application idea is wretched in conception and execution; make one mistake in an interminable form, and you have to go back and find that everything you wrote is gone. Word files somehow don’t end up as Word files on the other end. State agencies only accept online applications during working hours. (I’m serious.) Companies ask you to input your carefully formatted resume into a text field, guaranteeing that it looks like scattered hash. And it’s all so unsatisfying - drop a letter in the mailbox, hear the clunk of the door, and you have faith & confidence. Apply online and it’s like whispering in a dark barn. Who knows if anyone reads what you sent? Who knows if it won’t be dumped in some bit-bucket emptied twice a month?

It’s twenty to one in the AM, and I’m beat, and that’s just from a day of domestic tech support. But! Onward.



Hew Hughitt wrote a column for Newsmax about various virii one can contract, and among their number he included this:

The Lileks Virus: Best viewed at a distance at www.lileks.com, the infected collect garage-fulls of memorabilia from the '30s and '40s. Second stage is marked by the collection of cats

Grateful as I am for the mention, I have to say something about that parting shot. Oh, I deserved it; I gave him a little weight-related elbow in our last merry phoner, and payment in kind is expected. But the plethora-of-mewing-cats image seems to fit with many people’s expectations of Jasperwood, and why some visitors are disappointed when they see where I work. I think people expect tottering stacks of old mags, galvanized troughs brimming with matchbooks, piles of books, a crow sitting on a bust of Homer, sixteen cats with names taken from Livy’s histories, and all the other detritus you associate with obsessive, distracted collectors who’ve long since ceased to notice the disarray of their dwellings, and are content to putter around the manse in a ratty bathrobe with a ferret in one pocket and a spatula in the other. Hello, there’s that spatula; I wondered where you’d gone off to, you naughty antique prewar kitchen implement.

I used to live like that, long ago, but not any more. Now I am a clean-desk man. Order is the rule; chaos my foe. I haven’t succumbed to the sickness that grips the compulsive arranger - the books are grouped by topic, not by height, thickness, date of publication, ISBN number, marital status of author, etc. When a new CD from MacAddict arrives I don’t extract it from its perishable cardboard sleeve and place it in a prenumbered color-coded plastic sleeve. Okay, I do that twice a year, but they’re not numbered. So? SO? It’s easier to find the MacAddict discs if the green plastic sleeves = MacAddict discs, and the blue ones are system-critical discs, and the pink ones are for Gnat photos. It’s a trick I learned a while ago: simple systems make large tasks easy. Or: Life is too short to waste it looking for crap. Of course, you could say that the time you spend filing and sorting is equal to the time you’d spend rooting around for things, but the former is calming, pleasing, satisfying, and the former usually involves swearing and throwing things over your shoulder while you tell the guy from the IRS it’s back here SOMEWHERE, DAMMIT.

The system has one flaw, of course; me. And so today I had to go to the Hennepin County Municipal Panopticon to renew my wife’s plates, because I’d forgotten to do so online, and they’d expired. Let me tell you, friends: at four o’clock in the afternoon, the city’s most public building has a funky aroma that would make a mule drop to his knees; the combination of BO (both ancient and fresh) and regrettable cologne selections makes for an atmosphere you can almost roll between your fingers. On the other hand, I was in and out in five minutes. Someone figured out that large percentage of their traffic consisted of lazy dolts like me who realized their tabs were due, so they set up a line just for tabs. It moved at the rate of one customer every three minutes. Here’s the interesting thing: as the size of the line increased, the guy at the window appeared to be moving faster.

That’s one of the reasons I like living here. When you confront the government, you’re not always met with a glacial wall of indifference. Maybe I’m just on a lucky streak - the last several times I’ve had to deal with anyone behind a desk, be it the rental car agency, the car-repair garage, the mortgage closer, various receptionists and clerks, I’ve been treated with brisk friendly efficiency. Even the gas station clerk who gave me the Powerball ticket said “good luck!” Yes, yes, it’s all a mask, a facade, a way of hiding the deep & malignant parochialism and passive-aggressiveness that lurks at the heart of the Minnesota soul, but I’ll take a cheerful civic lie over bald flat prominent disinterest any time. They’re necessary falsehoods, and civilization depends on them. Who believes that hypocrisy is somehow the greatest sin of all? Adolescents. Which ought to tell you something.

Speaking of which - today on the way back from my wife’s farewell party (I’d describe it, but any details might get people fired for expressing sympathetic emotions. Disloyal! Disloyal! Put the traitors in the airlock!) I got stuck behind one of those white squat sensible cars whose owner believes that A) it is necessary to paper the hindquarters of her automobile with political messages so we all know where she stands on the importance of adding wind power to the mix of energy sources, and B) she should drive 7 MPH below the speed limit so we all have time to read and absorb the wisdom glued to her bumper. This was near the University. When I finally passed the car, I glanced over to see who was driving . A 50ish Mom type, oblivious, scowling, gripping the wheel as if it was the rail on the Titanic as it slid down to the Stygian depths, and a 20ish daughter, no doubt a student at the U, her hand shielding her face in case anyone saw her driving with slow, slow, uncool mom. I remember what that was like. It was as if some cosmic tally was taken every minute of every day, and one interlude of gruesome uncoolness would lop points off your total. Somehow this mortifying moment meant you would not get a hot date six months from now. Or ever. Just being in the car with your slow mom, peering over the steering wheel and yammering about vitamin supplements (“you just end up peeing them out. It’s a racket. Do I turn here? No? Well where then? We’re coming to a highway! I’m not getting on the highway!”) would somehow ruin things in the future.

If only I could flash text messages on the side of my vehicle: fear not. Don't worry about being seen with uncool mom. At the next stop sign, give her a kiss. If you don't, no harm; this day goes unnoticed. But if you do, she'll remember this day until the day she dies. And she will die, you know. Then the remembering is all up to you.

Sorry this is small and lame and utterly unedited - long day, Gnat night, and I really, really want to watch 15 minutes of "The Blob" before I sleep. Have a fine summer day, and thanks for the patronage. I’ll make it up on Friday.

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