Granted, I dont have a great of experience with Australians, but if my houseguest was any example, I now know this: theyre not entirely opposed to staying up and having a drink. I had the honor of hosting Tim Blair on his merry anabasis through America Saturday night. He called at 11, said he was leaving Chicago, and appeared at my front door eight and a half hours later. I expected him to be limping slightly from the strain of holding the accelerator pedal to the floor the entire time, but he was in fine spirits. All you really need to know: broadcaster voice, talks like he writes. Brilliantly clever and cleverly brilliant. I gave him the tour of the house, and we were off to Nyes. Swung through downtown for a brief Glory of My Town tour, parked the car, and got to the bar just as a laughing young woman emerged from the bar, laughing, and, laughing, threw up on the sidewalk. Omigod! Whatever.
Nyes is an old Kennedy-era Polish bar with a polka band in the corner. Loud polka. After one at the bar we were met by two of the Frats, and adjourned to the dining room, where the Giant Swede and the Crazy Uke had a table. I love Nyes even the hipsters who come to appreciate its kitsch on an ironic level give in to its charms. Irony falls flat here. Polka and vodka will do that to you. (Not that Id know; I was driving, so I behaved.) The issues of the day were brought up and batted around the table; uniformity of opinion was enforced, dissent crushed, votive offerings made to Murdock figurine, etc. The waitress brought dishes of steak tips so tender they made you think of small cows in heaven, with wings and halos, gently saying mooo with every bite. The onion rings were not exactly the size of hula hoops, but if Calista Flockhart had been standing nearby you could easily have thrown one at her horseshoe-style, and it would have slid over her shoulders. Cigars the size of Munchkin ICBMs. Great fun.
Left at midnight; sped home with Captain Clanton on the car stereo. There was perhaps a brief moment of tension when he may have thought my host, being a family man, will now yawn and retire, but no. Round two. I brought out an Australian Womens Weekly datebook from 1999 Id gotten somewhere; it was full of ads from the 40s, 50s, and 60s; and we had great sport with it. The conversation took on an unstoppable momentum, and the only reason we knocked off at 4:30 AM was because it would soon be 5:30 AM.
It never struck me that I had as a houseguest a fellow Id never met. He was an Australian journalist; he had a web page and everything! And we all know thats the legit imprimatur, eh? Oh, well, he's on the Internet; must be above board. What's that you say? Nigerian oil riches await, if I only pay a small fee? Happy to ollige! He mentioned the names of bloggers hed met as he traveled across the country should I not call up those pages before I go to bed? Check the newspapers, perhaps? MYSTERIOUS TRAIL OF DEATH; INTERNET ONLY LINK BETWEEN VICTIMS. But no. Hed brought lovely gifts. For me, a dish towel with the interminably tendentious Australian constitution written in long-hand, intended as an Art Work that would open a Dialogue between the notions of government and domestic rituals. Im not kidding. For my wife, slippers made of genuine Roo fur. Hand-shot by real Strine marksmen!
Lucky him; he slept in the basement. All you have to do is position yourself at the top of the stairs and artfully tumble. I had two flights ahead of me before I found the bed.
Woke, barely, later; coffee, eggs, vampiric reaction to sun, read paper. Blair arose later, assisted by Gnats happy squeal and Jaspers piercing bark. Spent the afternoon dissecting the paper. Wife & Gnat went out for a walk; Tim assembled his gear and prepared to light out for the territories. He had no jacket. It had been stolen in one of those oddly-shaped states hed passed through. But he was headed for warm climes, and the car a broad long 91 Caddy favored by old men who drive into street markets had an adequate heater. We were saying our goodbyes when a van pulled up, and slowed . . .
Door opens. Its my wife. She has a big smile, so I know Gnats okay. Next to her in the back is Jasper, who is wearing an indescribable woe-is-me expression. Hed gotten his clock cleaned a few blocks away by a dog he plays with some issues of territory and dominance had suddenly flared, and the dog jumped him, bit his scruff, forced him down. He yiped, he wept, he limped. The vans driver was the owner of the dog, making amends. But wheres my daughter? Shes coming with the owners wife. I gathered up Jasper in my arms, shook hands with Tim with my non-dog-supporing hand, and bade him farewell.
Odd goodbye, but it fit.
Jasper has spent the entire day in a state of bummed-outedness. He limps less, which is good. I felt around to find out what hurt nothing broken, no blood, just a pulled muscle or tendon. He can make it up stairs, walk around. Hell pull through. But he is sad. Earlier tonight I came downstairs and found him in the dining room, on the floor, on his side, staring at the wall, which was about 2 inches from his snout. Hes not dealing with this very well.
And me? Last night just caught up with me. Or rather this morning. And now Im done. November looms, and this is going to be quite the month. Ill need my strength. See you tomorrow.