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Not much time for this today, or tomorrow, alas; it’s a Chuck E. Skeeball night tomorrow, and most of today has been spent wrangling art for the next book. It’s been a clusterfarg of unusual proportions. First they said that the second shipment of artwork had not arrived, which gave me angina for three days – I had to spend some time in the Strib mailroom tracking the packages, which of course arrived as planned. But apparently they took their time getting up from the mailroom. Now I’m sending off the third batch, but there are two items missing. I know they have them. I surely don’t. In any case, it’s been a boring day of sifting through magazines and attaching annotated Post-It notes. Fiction is so much easier.

But the Mac OS makes this process much nicer. I used a code for all the illustrations to refer the page in the manuscript to the particular magazine from which I took the art. Thanks to Spotlight, the super-meta-subatomic search engine embedded in the OS, I could find the relevant page by typing in a few words from the copy my publisher sent; it would pop up the page in Spotlight, with the code displayed in the file name. So much easier than plowing through 16 nested folders, let me tell you.

Weather: damp, then not damp. Cloudy, then bright. Ears: slightly itchy, less so. Day: delightful, really. Nothing special about it, but Gnat made me a pencil holder at summer school, and that was sweet. We went to the office today so I could get my mail, deposit some checks, assure the overlords I still exist in a physical form; afterwards we had popcorn upstairs in the cafeteria, then explored the basement. She loves to go in the basement. Why not? I do. It’s filled with mysteries – piles of old computers, a satellite dish, train tracks in the floor (for the carts that once carried the great rolls of newsprint around the building), banks of fluorescent light bulbs, skeletons of columnists who fell out of favor (well, they’re bricked up behind the walls, but sometimes there’s a loose block and you can see inside) and giant industrial scales. Also custodians, moving in the shadows, humming. And cast-off Peanuts statuary. Also garbage carts stained with indelible filth. It has that oily lubricant smell I associate with my dad, which is apt since he dealt in oil, and lubricants. It would be amusing if she had a deep ancestral memory of the same that connected the odor to her father, even though I had nothing to do with the business.

And why? Because it smelled, and it was oily. I was the sort of kid who didn’t like to get his hands dirty. Literally. I felt the same way about grease and oil the way Jasper Dog feels about water on his paws. I don’t suppose it bothered my father, much – I never looked down on what he did, but admired his amazing ability to work 19 hours a day around that onerous aroma. But I suppose if Gnat rejects newspapers, I’ll feel somewhat slighted. Providing they’re still around in 15 years.

Last night on “What’s My Line,” the guest was a young man who signed in as “Tom Eagleton.” Could it be? It was. His line was “District Attorney for St. Louis,” and he was 27. (The episode aired in 1957, I think.) Right from the Jack Webb line of lawmen, too – square head, flat hair, G-man stare, thin tie, a smile that was rare but genuine. He was followed by Mamie Van Doren, a breathy va-va-va-voomer who performed the odd facial alphabet of the 50s sex siren – the moue, the wink, the coquettish smile, the wide eyes, the teasing glance. And she ran through the sequence again and again, a performance completely disconnected from the questions. It was like watching a prototype Sexbot stuck in an programming loop. She really was from another era - a time when the sex stars had hips like oven doors, hair the color of astronaut suits, brains the size of ant thoraxes, and a life of giddy leisure that revolved around small, portable dogs, beefy Pepsodent morons, pink convertibles, and the purchase of ceramic cat statuary with long necks. A bratwurst to Paris Hilton’s Slim Jim.

Back to work. Tomorrow will be action-packed, as I continue to chauffeur Gnat around the city to her summertime fun. It’s also supposed to be hot, which I welcome. Friday will be a blessing this time around, but it always should be. Every day upright is a blessing. Which reminds me – haven’t checked the ant farm in a few days. Be right back.

The colony continues its descent. The population was ten a week ago; now it’s eight. When I checked they were all clumped together in a town meeting, batting antennae. STATUS: NO THREAT STATUS: NO THREAT STATUS: NO THREAT I gave them some water and sugar, which caused great rejoicing. Gives them something to do. It’s rather creepy how the dead ant-parts are filed off in the spiral staircases and heaped in piles behind the painted barn. It’s a Junior Graveyard Kit, really. No one cares about it anymore; Gnat’s more interested in exterior ants, the Death Farm gives my wife the willies, but I feed them and give them water. I’m waiting for the day when there’s one ant left. I’m going to give him a tablespoon of sugar and put it out in the far reaches of the backyard. Other ants will be drawn to the scent, and batter the walls to no effect. All the other ants will want to enter his prison. He will believe he is the most fortunate ant on the planet, and he will die happy. Lucky me. Lucky, lucky me.

Ahem. Googling around for a picture of Mamie, I discovered something that really should not surprise me.

Mamie has a blog.

She’s against the war in Iraq, in case you’re curious. (Lots of pro-troops stuff, though; bless her heart.) Her website is possibly not safe for work. When you look at the fabulous glamour shots of modern-day Mamie, keep in mind that she’s

You know what? Sometimes dignity is overrated. Good for her. May she live to be a hundred.

perm link, if you want to.