COLUMNS: Tue / Thu / Sun
the "fun" begins here
Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More


Afternoon. Coffee shop. Raining. “Room for cream?” “No, fill it to the rim.” One of these days the clerk will respond the proper way: “With Brim!” But alas, instanteous deployment of bygone decaf ads seems too much to expect of today’s bean monkeys.

Gnat is at class. I took her from one to the other, and since there was no time for a proper lunch we had to eat like savages, scouring the gas station shelves for food. Of course, modern gas stations have more food options than the supermarkets of yore, so you can get almost anything you want, as long as it’s not fresh, and as long as you’re willing to live with sodium and nitrites in quantities usually found in FDA testing labs. I bought her some milk and “turkey” – actually, Buddig. It’s a brand name for mechanically separated, chopped, pressed, formed and smoked meats. I ate tons of it as a child, and whatever the variety – chicken, ham, turkey, bologna – it was just known as Buddig. Also got some peanuts. Off to school.

Gnat met her new teacher, and said – with a complete lack of guile or understanding of what she was about to say – “We didn’t have time for lunch, so I’m having some peanuts now.” And then the words flashed in my brain in Artkraft-styled neon letters:


The teacher merrily explained that we couldn’t have peanuts in the school, and I did the only thing I could do: I grabbed the sack, hurled them to the floor and covered them with my body.

Yes, I know, there are serious peanut allergies; I know it’s not a made-up thing. I just wonder how I managed to get through thirteen years of peanut-saturated public education without seeing any kid have an allergic reaction.

Then it was back to the glasses store. To update: the first prescription was wrong. And the glasses were made incorrectly, which might explain why I McGoo’d my way around for a day before ripping the things off my head. I’d stick with my old glasses, but the plastic wore off the bows, and the resultant effect of metal on lobes was a form of dermatitus best described as “Cardassian Neck.” (Sorry.) It’s all better now, but here’s the deal: my ears itch. I cannot tell you how much they itch. I spend all day not scratching my ears, which is the best way for nature’s healing mechanisms to solve the problem. Unfortunately, I wake around 3 AM every night and scratch the hell out of them, which sets me back another day. I’m going to have to go bed wearing handcuffs and those dog-head megaphones. Miserable. Anyway: they remade the glasses, and these were bad too. Middle distance was set too high, so the world was permanently set on Guccione Lens. Enough. I asked for my money back and went down the mall to the next shop.

This one had no sales. Maybe that was the problem. The other place had sales, by gum. They always had sales. They had a 50% off sale, for example – the sort of gimmick that lets you know you’re really taking it up the gaspipe no matter what they do. I was lucky enough to get in on the LAST DAY of the 50% off sale, but when I came back for my exam I noted it had been extended for three days. And lookee here, the signs extending the sale are professionally made. Almost as if they’d planned this. Well, that sale came and went, but today when I returned I noted that they were having a two-for-one sale. AKA, 50 percent off. Grr. So I was almost relieved when the lens boutique down the hall had no sales. Seemed opposed to them, actually. On Tuesdays we mark everything up, as a matter of fact.

I asked if they could get the prescription from my glasses – they’ve done it before, after all. The charming young lady who ran the shop said she could, but she preferred to get the original prescription. And where was that? Back at the store where I’d just asked for my money back. She called them up, and I suppose I should have felt like the Vindicator – take that, shoddy glasses store. I’ve found somebody new. Someone who understands. But I just felt sorry for everyone.

More so for myself when the final bill was toted up. Since this place does not believe in sales, I am paying the actual price. But. The glasses are far cooler than anything at the old store, and they don’t send the lens out to a giant factory. They have an old man in the basement chained to a grinder, I guess. It goes without saying he has that old-world accent that guarantees craftsmanship.

Later. When I picked her up she showed me a piece of art: smell it, daddy! So I took a good whiff of the painting – only to discover, immediately, that it was not a painting at all but a cutout picture of a bear over which a great quantity of cinnamon sugar had been dumped on a thin glaze of paste. I inhaled a great deal. Nine hours later I can still taste it.

We went home; I made dinner, and set about to do some rote chores. Got a call from my publisher about some art questions; we hadn’t spoken in person since I submitted the book, and I had to ask: so, do you, uh, like it?

“We love it. We think it’s the best of the series so far.”

Woah. That, as you might expect, gladdened my heart. Of course, I thought “Interiors” was horrible. I think they’re all horrible, which really isn’t any help, since one of these days I’m going to roll out something that really does bring shame to my name. But so far so good. To have three books in a row that actually sell – well, it makes the rainy days seem bright, to quote some bathetic 20s song with ukelele and a warbly tenor singer. Now to get to other projects – it’s been a productive day, what with two columns finished this morning, the Bleat banged out in the afternoon, and a Screedblog entry done in the hall while waiting for Gnat. After I’ve finished the evening’s book work I’ll watch another “What’s My Line,” which always rewards. A few nights ago the mystery guest was Salvador Dali. He infuriated the panel, as he answered every question yes. Are you a public figure? Are you a writer? Are you a performer? Are you on the stage? Since Dali regarded himself as the consummate and universal artist, of course he said yes to everything.

They ran three episodes featuring Ann Bancroft – 62, 63, 64. I never really had much appreciation for her, and the whole Mrs. Robinson thing reminded me in high school of the mother of a guy in our social circle, the sort of mom who acted ten years younger than the other moms and didn’t mark the liquor bottles when the parents went away for the weekend. I last saw her in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” where she was august and commanding, the consummate New York Theatah person; what I never knew, it seems, was how beguiling she was when she was young.

The panel also included Groucho Marx, who was effortlessly rude and hilarious; you realized why Groucho on TV was funnier than Groucho in the movies: you could hear the laughter of others. In the movies the echoes of the stage-play pacing rules the scenes, and they seem to pause for the reaction to a joke. It’s like he’s acting in a strange vacuum. Live, he could be mercilessly good.

Off to work; see you tomorrow. Perhaps at the beach.

perm link, if you want to.