Overcast and nippy. Woke early when Jasper started howling downstairs – the mournful wail dogs make to sing along with air-raid sirens. I had no idea what he was talking about, and tried to get back to sleep. Planes woke me; Gnat woke me; yet still I found my way back to slumber. When I woke it was much later than I had expected, and everything’s been double-time and hurry-up since then. Right now I’m at the office – filed the Sunday column, and I have two more to do tonight, so I’d better get the Bleat and the Joe out of the way in the next 65 minutes.

What’s Joe been up to? I was surprised, but not entirely so, to suspect that he’s been drinking.

The Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library – a group presumably formed to combat the work of their tireless foes, the Enemies of the Minneapolis Public Library – has a new ad campaign out to hype next year’s opening of the new downtown library. One side of the poster has a big picture of Mao; beneath him, it says, well, MAO. On the other side, a picture of the new library, with the letters MPL, for Minneapolis Public Library. From the Skyway News article on the campaign:

“What’s the connection? China sports the world’s third largest economy, while the library claims the nation’s third largest collection of books (per capita.)

“It’s a stretch, and a little weird, but it made us look, and that’s the point.”

Hmm. I’m curious: how many people do you have to kill, and how many books do you have to destroy, before you’re no longer a benign historical image to be used in a “clever” ad campaign? The campaign also features J. Edgar Hoover and Batgirl, because they, like Mao, were librarians at some point in their lives. “Mao Tse-Tung became a convert to Marxism while working as a librarian at Beijing University prior to launching a communist revolution in China,” the article explains.

Next up: Stalin shills for the church! Hey, he was a seminarian, once. See, it’s funny and clever when they didn’t kill anyone you know. Criminey.

Later: it’s 11:15 PM, and I am in limbo heck here. It’s a testament to . . . something or other. I have on deck five pieces. Four: one Newhouse column, mostly done; one Backfence, half done; one Bleat, currently being written, obviously, and two Joe Ohio episodes, neither of which satisfy me.

All of these things have to be done in the next 45 minutes. What to do? Well: I have a big chunk o’ chunder I wrote this afternoon about an article in Entertainment Weekly, but I think I’ll let that cook. The Newhouse will be polished tomorrow morning. The Backfence I can sketch out tonight and tweak between 11 and noon. The Joe episodes I’ll just have to post, and ask your forgiveness. The only reason I want to do two on one day is to maintain the illusion that the story is evolving in some sort of real time. It’s set in 1955, a year whose calendar matches 2005. Our Monday is his Monday, in other words; our April is his as well. But there wasn’t an entry on Monday, was there? No. But I wrote one. I just didn’t put it up. then I called up the next matchbook in the alphabetical sequence, and it was the cafeteria in the Terminal Tower, part of the Fred Harvey chain. I realized that both entries were about the same day, so I’d better post them on Tuesday.

Even if they suq? Even if they suq.

So if I start posting everything now, at 11:19, I will have the website solid by 11:45, and then I can listen to some TV while I write the Backfence, do pushups at 12:15, have ice cream at 12:30, more pushups at 12:45, and bed by one, confident I can awake without messy columns that require fixing.

This concludes this brief but fascinating look into the mechanics of my evenings. Mondays are like this.

Oh: I filled up at a service station en route to get Gnat from school. The guy behind the counter had black-and-red hair and random piercings and a six o’clock shadow at three PM; the station itself was messy and grim. It had that downer urban vibe you get sometimes.

“How’s your day going?” he asked.

I gave him the thumbs up. “Monday’s the worst,” I said, “but I’m halfway through and it’s looking good.”

“That’s great,” he beamed, swiping my card. “Halfway through the toughest day is good.” The guy radiated cheer and good will. I mean, it rolled off him in big bright waves.

“It’ll feel great when I’m done,” I said, caught up in the moment.

“You’ll have the hardest day behind you.”

“You,” I said, “have the best attitude in the entire world.”

He bobbed his head and shrugged and grinned. He wasn’t a stoner, if that’s what you’re thinking; he was clear and sharp and centered, and made me feel abashed for having any irritation with the demands of my pampered little life. Was I that cheery when I was in my 20s toiling in the customer service mines? Yes. And no. It depended. Maybe his best girl had paid him a visit a few minutes before. Maybe if you got down to it he’d tell you about Jesus. Maybe he was just wired that way, and his default position was happiness. But he made my day. A reminder: it’s not that I can’t complain. It’s just unseemly sometimes when I do. All things considered, and all that.

More tomorrow. New Fence! See you later.

New Joe here. Click the Next button; there are two episodes.

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