I’m so vain, I probably think he’s blogging about me. (Update: guess not. Proves my point.) Well, it’s nicer today. Still cool, but as I write this in the Strib cafeteria, it’s partly cloudy. The rain isn’t expected until later today. Yes, that’s right: rain! The jet stream, it seems, is like a big dog that circles our block in an endless loop, with Minneapolis as its favorite fire hydrant.

This isn’t all about rain, of course. There was something else that happened a few weeks ago. Every so often the Strib office is ripped up and reassembled; people are moved around, teams sundered and cleaved, etc. I belong to no team, so I just had nice little niche near the copy desk. I liked it there. My friends were there. I was many miles from the window, but that’s fine. As nice as it would be to have a window on downtown, I’d rather sit with people I like, and get along with. Well, my new locale was in another part of the newsroom, part of a long long row of beige desks, the sort of sight that makes you imagine a fat man walking up and down banging on a drum to set your rowing rhythm. And the rest of my professional life telescoped, right there: I could imagine myself sitting in this little spot for the next two decades, day after day, head down, typing away, dum de dum, waiting for the moment when I’d shuffle off down to the meeting hall at the end of the room and get cake and soda and a big funny newspaper made especially for my retirement. It was the most horrifying thing I had considered in a long, long time. Of course, there are worse fates than steady employment. There’s death. But this was just . . . erosion. This was sitting there like a rock in a stream feeling the water wear you away. It felt passive and pointless. Utterly and completely pointless.

Was it? What do I want to do, after all? Make things people like to read, see, or hear. You have to do it somewhere. You have to do it indoors. What’s so bad about this desk, then? It still provides far more creative possibilities than sitting high in a skyscraper drafting real estate contracts, I suppose. Then again, that sort of work gives you the money to have a nice lake cottage, where you can go on weekends and fish. But I don’t fish, I thought. (Hope I didn’t say it out loud.) But I could write up there, no? Well, I’d have to bring a laptop, because you wouldn’t want to leave a good computer at the cabin. Someone might steal it. Would I have broadband at the cabin? If you get a satellite provider, sure, but it’s hard to get a good lock up there, what with all the trees.

So screw that! I'm going to Arizona. And on that note: Thanks for all the letters about alternative destinations. But we have family in Arizona, and it would be nice for Gnat, the Only Child, to be around cousins on a regular basis. We would be able to plug into a social and professional network. Mind you, this is all speculation based on constant rain. The chances I'll go soon are small, but may well grow. The chances we would uproot from the joys of our current life and head somewhere where we didn't have family are utterly nil. You're talking to the guy who has nightmares that he sold Jasperwood, after all. Recurrent nightmares. Sheet-soaking ones.

On the other hand: I don't mind heat. Hot weather is a fatal excess of love. Cold weather is a fatal excess of indifference. Take your pick.

Last night, prior to my sodden cri de Coeur, I spent the evening scanning stuff for v. 10 of this site, listening to old Fred Allen radio shows. (Not to be confused with those new Fred Allen radio shows, I suppose. Geez.) It’s really a form of sedation; you have to take yourself out of your usual expectations of humor and entertainment and accept the vocabulary and assumptions of another era’s definitions of humor. Sometimes it’s actually funny. Sometimes it’s not, but it’s technically funny, inasmuch as it has a pun. And sometimes the audience just doesn’t get it; sometimes a joke just goes right over their heads. This one could be a Stephen Wright line: “I’m reading a book called ‘Where Is Everyone?’ It was written by a cannibal with amnesia.” Nothing. Not a titter. So they had to explain the joke. He ate everyone, and then forget about. So that’s why the book is called ‘Where is Everyone?’” Minor laughs.

Scan, scan. Clip-art, big ads. Here’s something I won't use - an ad for a tobacco company, touting a starlet named Elyse Knox. She didn’t come to much, but I can only assume it was a lack of acting talent. Whew.

I’d show more, but I want every piece of art in the new site to be something I’ve found. Not created – oh heavens no. But I did create this, in a sense: the Gnat picture of the week.

Finished the Times Square book. It got grim towards the end, grim and dank. The 60s and 70s era was particularly ghastly, as Times Square entered its Trannies and Travis phase. Of course, it wasn’t a pure place even when it was the great white way; one of the burlesque shows, advertised with airplane banners, was PANTIES INFERNO, which makes me laugh every time I think of it. But there’s a great difference between a strip show done with a certain amount of art and enthusiasm, and having two stick-thin heroin addicts have sex on a mattress before a bunch of panting wankers on folding chairs. The
book ends with a sigh, and one of the most perfect descriptions of the conflicting emotions modern 42nd street brings I’ve ever read. All in all, a fine book, although those disinterested in civic wrangling and redevelopment stories will probably be satisfied with the first half. I started “The Devil’s Playground,” which seems much more impressionistic. We'll see. Bianco's book set a high standard for civic history.

Sample excerpt:

Ziegfeld sought revenge by assigning Harry Kelly, a famous Follies scene stealer, or “flycatcher,” to fill the role of Field’s caddy for the gold scene. Fields tolerated Kelly’s flycatching only briefly, literally punching him off the stage after one performance. “Give me anybody, anybody by Kelly,” Fiends roared, and then pointed at a stagehand named William Blanche, a dwarf with a huge head. “Shorty” Blanche named the caddy part and became Fields’ onstage “stooge” and offstage assistant until the end of his Broadway days. It is unlikely that the comic selected Blanche knowing that Ziegfeld had a pathological fear of dwarves.”

I didn’t know Zeigfeld was married to Billie Burk, incidentally. I keep forgetting things like this – many of the people in the Wizard of Oz were very well known the audiences of the day, so they couldn’t possibly have seen the movie the way most of us did. Most of us saw it first as a kid, with no idea who the actors really were. It helped that few Oz actors ever figured large in something a kid might have come across – and thank the stars Buddy Ebsen didn’t do the Tin Man character as planned, or having Uncle Jed show up in Oz would have proably ruined it in ways we wouldn’t have understood.


Gnat in the sun.

And the end of the most recent storm. There are compensations.

Perm link: here.

Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More