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So I’m standing outside of the Phillip Johnson house in Orono. Famous building, if you’re interested in his domestic architecture – spare, lean, open, with unbelievable panoramic views of the pitch black night outside. (There’s a lake across the road, so I imagine the day views are better.) A few yards away stands the famous Gehry carriage house (scroll to the bottom), an early work that strikes me as interesting and ridiculous as the rest of his stuff, but what do I know. I’m waiting for the valet to bring the car. Another valet delivers a snazzy ride, and I note the video screen in the dashboard: it shows the rear view, so you can always check your six when you back up.

“I could have used one of those the other day,” I said to the valet, thinking of course of the collision I wrote about a few days ago. The repairman came this morning, incidentally. Get this: forty bucks. That’s their service call charge, extra for materials. He just bent everything back. Forty bucks! And I’d braced for much worse.

“I smacked into my own garage door,” I explained.

“My girlfriend’s mom ran right through hers,” said another valet. “Just ran right through it. Boom.”

“They were offering a prize on the radio to anyone who admitted to running through the door,” said the main valet.

Wha? “What station?”

“KFAN,” he said.

“You sure?” By now my car had arrived.

“No, it was the Patriot. Hugh Hewitt.”

I’m the guy he was talking about,” I said. “This is the car.”


“See? This is where I hit it. I’m the guy he was ragging on! I called him up to explain what really happened.”

“Yeah, I heard that part,” he said, already completely bored with the whole running-into-garage-door thing, because, you know: morons.

Well, it made my night. Quite the day. Had the book signing downtown today. Thanks to those who came by; it was wonderful to meet everyone. And I’ll never get tired of seeing things like this:

My own poster! Even the subsequent discovery that my fly had been open half the time didn’t detract from the sublimity of the event. (Unlike being on a parade float, you can check your fly at a book signing, which is why you don't think about it. Buy my shoes were shiny.) It was fun. Home. Gnat was dropped off from her playdate; back in the car, off to the last day of school for Holiday Sundaes. (Red and green decorations.) There was a presentation of the things the children had done in their small groups; Gnat sat in my lap and held my hand, one of those moments you have to fix in amber while it’s fresh and pliable. Then the video store, where she convinced me to buy some Disney Princess Gummy Bracelets. Every time I think they’ve reached the end of Princess marketing ideas, I come up against something like edible bracelets studded with shapeless emblems of feudal rule. I bow to their genius.

Dinner: Meatloaf, which I made still wearing my shirt-and-tie gear from the signing. Had an Event that evening, so I just decided to live the day in the monkey suit. The meatloaf went over like lead meatloaf; she refused to eat it. Wife came home; she’d had appetizers at a reception. Why do I bother? Why? You all can graze like beasts! Beasts! Got in the car and shot out for Lake Minnetonka to attend the fundraiser. En route traffic came to a dead stop as the ghostly hand of pre-war freeway designers swam into our cars and stole a few more minutes from our Wallet of Life, and yes, I am writing as badly as I can tonight. But really. Four lanes down to two, under a narrow crumbly train bridge – why? Because they realized the impracticality of stationing public employees on the spot to pull people out of their cars and kick them in the nuts? I know you hate us; be honest. I jumped off, consulted a map, plotted an alternative course through byways and headed off. Twenty minutes later I was jouncing through old goatpaths laid down a hundred years ago when this was the playground of the barons and plutocrats of Minneapolis – it’s now an exurb dripping with gelt, and hence you have to know where you’re going to have a reason to be there. Or vice versa. I ended up on an unlit road with hairpin curves, hugging the dark void of Lake Minnetonka, looking for the signs to the party. No signs. I’d missed them. Turn around, check map, despair; return to road, drive another mile beyond the point where I turned around: ah. There it is. I drank water all night. If I’d had one beer I would have ended up in the lake, I was certain.

I took the highway home in high spirits. I love driving at night on the freeways; you can go very very fast. Took 50 minutes to get out there. Took 19 to get home. Spent an hour with the family, saw them off to bed, and now this. And then a column.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had little of note or consequence to say lately – I’m just busy. On the other hand, asking a question about (*$@%(#$ noises in Word did get me a bazillion helpful letters, half of which displayed a weary tolerance of Windows that reminded me of someone explaining the advantages of not having a left leg. “You save on shoelaces, for example. It’s not a major savings, given that you do have to buy them at some point – unless they come with the shoe, which is likely – but since you’re not putting them on every day, but merely detaching the leg to which they are affixed, you’re less likely to snap them as often. Less strain. Or rather the same amount, stretched over a longer period. Unless of course you put a different shoe on your prosthetic leg every day, in which case the shoelace advantage is lost entirely. So there’s that, for starters.”

Alas, the suggested fixes didn’t fix the problem. But I have yet to read every letter. There’s hope.

Anyway. I’m just busy, that’s all. Not overworked or overwhelmed or, heaven help us, Stressed By the Holiday Season. Just busy. More of a different sort on Monday; have a great weekend, and I’ll see you then. Anything else I could add?

Right! Dog picture!

(Perm link - here.)