|I wasnt even going to do this at all; I have decided to lay low this week. No columns due, so maybe I should take the vacation I promised myself and just relax. I have a new book Devil in the White City, a true story (not a fictional account) of a serial killer at the Columbian Exposition. I read just a few pages at the bookstore, and got hooked: the protagonists in the opening chapter are architects, and not just any architects: Burnham and Root. The Columbian exposition is also the setting for Chris Wares matchless Jimmy Corrigan graphic novel. I think my Great-grandfather attended my grandma had a small oval container from the 1893 fair. When I come across ephemera from the event, I snap it up:
(Id say click for larger sizes, but one of the reasons Im taking some time off is to let my bandwidth cool down. Ive had overage charges for three straight months.)
This was the event that introduced an entirely new way of understanding urban environments, and its impact was enormous - 27 million people attended, out of a national population of 65 million, and they all took home a vision of a gleaming neoclassical city laid out with grace and majesty. The City Beautiful movement didnt transform the nation, but it had its impact at least on the career of Edward Bennett. I didnt know anything about him ten minutes ago. I thought Burnham did the Minneapolis Plan, an excerpt of which you see to the left. (Never built.) Turns out it was Edward Bennett, who did plans for every city that had more than 100 residents and a stop light. He was a design associate with Burnham, and I wonder if hell enter this book Im about to read. But I wont know unless I read it.
Also, its my birthday Monday. Thank you! Thank you very much; I will be celebrating, yes. But mostly I just want to turn everything off for a week. I have come down with a profound case of SBHFS, and the only way I can recuperate is to ignore everything but home, hearth, child, wife, books, and DVDs. Ill give you an example. Sunday I had some rare time to strangulate as slowly as I pleased, so I went to the office to cart home all the packages that have been piling up. (Cant do that with a kid in tow, and thats the only way I make it to the office this summer: with Gnat.) I did some microfiche research on various projects, including the amount of political news on the front page of the Tribune on Aug. 9, 1944. Answer: Zero. Not a word. The first mention of politics in the paper was a Gallup poll printed on the editorial page; it showed FDR behind in Minnesota and Wisconsin. (He won the state handily the first time, but his winning margins had decreased in the 36 and 40 elections.) The story made no grand predictions about what this might mean.
On the way out I checked the periodicals rack. Esquire. Hadnt read that in a while. Flip through it; hmm, an article on Stem Cell research. Title: Please stand by while the age of miracles is briefly suspended: How the president is trying to kill my daughter.
And I put it back. Yes, of course thats what he is trying to do. There cannot be any possible other way to put it. Fine. Loaded everything in the car, drove to the mall to meet the family for supper. Then I went to Barnes and Nobel.
I do my bookshopping on line; I often find the long wandering chains of Amazon links more fruitful than bookshelf browsing, but I go to bookstore as often as I can just to see things ordered differently. The store had many tables of Current Events and Politics, and if I can sum them all up: Bush Needs to Be Dismembered and Fed to Jackals Who Will Barf Up The Chunks For the Maggots To Consume, by Garrison Franken. Ive never seen anything like it.
SBHFS. Sudden Bush Hatred Fatigue Syndrome.
If the clerk had said did you find everything you were looking for? I would have answered inasmuch as I was seeking a corner of the store uncontaminated by politics, no. But she didnt ask. Off to Starbucks to read the book. I was behind a fellow who had ten years on me; he was schooled in the old ways of joe. He placed his order thus:
A cup of coffee, black.
Room for cream?
I was next. What would I like?
Id like a medium coffee, I said, since Ill be gol-durned if I ever say venti to these people. Ill give them Beijing for Peking, Hindu for Hindoo, but medium will be Medium until the day I die. Black.
Room for cream?
Kids today. They dont know. Theyve lost the lingo. When youve established that the nature of your coffee is BLACK, cream no longer enters into the picture. Ever. But you could walk up and say Blorg chulavista spaz mocha and shed ask Room for cream? Its the script. Hidden cameras record her every word. They beat her with burlap sacks stuffed with beans if she doesnt say the words.
Well. Hmm. My wife is watching the end of her movie, and Ive already moved down to the kitchen island. Once Ive done that, theres no going back. The upstairs machine is busy burning DVDs I spent some time this weekend digitizing old VHS tapes. Commercials from the 80s, outtakes from my own projects. Itll all be up on the site in 05. I found one tape that had footage from my apartment in 1986 718 4th street, catty-corner from Ralph and Jerrys. I have no idea why I had a videocamera. Its a mystery. The camera makes a drunken pan around the apartment, and I was amazed both by what I forgot, which was everything, and what I remembered, which was the same. The pictures on the wall I had handled just last week while filing and sorting all the crap from the basement storage bins. That lamp warehouse sale, Daytons, 1983. A passing detail: the slumping piles of newspapers against the fridge. Never would have remembered that, but it was key detail of the apartment. It was a rare and fleeting glance at a place I lived for several years. The Giant Swede, with whom I spent Saturday afternoon at the computer store playing Doom 3 <homerdrool> lived on the other side of the wall; the apartment had been previously occupied by the girlfriend of the Crazy Uke, who was over at my house last week at Gnats birthday; Wes the Filmmaker lived downstairs, and he was over to the house last Fourth. That was almost 20 years ago. Then the video goes to fuzz and comes back with a Miami Vice episode.
I opened another box: whoa. My auditions for a local anchorman position on a news show. The live shows at KTCA. All the raw footage for the Mary Tyler Moore mockumentary. The PBS pilot show, Bad Trips. All the raw footage for Trips. My entire aborted late-80s video career, right here. Ignore / Retry / Abort? What to do? Well, transfer it all to DVD, of course. For Gnat. So someday she can say wow, Dad looks young. I was never happy with my TV work. I had a model: Michael Palin. But he connected naturally with the camera; I was always trying to convince the camera, and thats a fatal difference.
The evidence will be posted next year.
I have about 922,348 additional words about an AP article I read tonight, but I think I will present it without comment, and let you chew it over. Is the author missing something? Does the headline reflect the story? Do you detect a bias? Does it give you SBHFS? What the hey might as well carve off the slab Ive written about this story, and save it for tomorrow. See you then unless youre disinclined to endure my blather on these matters, in which case youre invited to show up Wednesday for one of the more peculiar graphics this site has ever produced. Really! See you then.
Oh: 46, if youre curious. My dad called tonight to wish me a happy birthday. My child is just a-twitch about tomorrow: a card she made! A present, she found! Cake! Do I have any advice? No. Other than this: its tempting to give up on the world, because its not like the world will notice. But youre really giving up on yourself. And that you will notice, sooner or later.