Its taken me twice as long to write this as I might have back at the usual café, where todays Public Annoyance is a young fellow with a raspy voice WHO HAS BEEN SHOUTING EVERY FARGIN WORD SINCE HE CAME IN. Everyone in the café has that drawn, resigned look. No one can concentrate. Im wearing headphones, listening to Shostafrickinkovitch slav away at maximum volume, and I can still hear him. One of those voices that can cut through anything. He could talk a brick into pebbles.
My wife, child and mother-in-law left Friday for the outlands of the state, leaving me and the dog to amuse ourselves in the time-honored method: staying up until 3 AM watching Star Wars with the stereo pumped up to 11. A bacchanalia unmatched, I think. But thats what time to myself means in these situations: watching a movie without headphones. By midnight Im usually relaxed enough to enjoy it; before, however, I am generally glum and indifferent to anything. I am such a creature of habit and routine that the absence of the family for a few days knocks all the pins out, turns me into this lump, idling in neutral, waiting for life to return. I dont say anything, except to Jasper when I pass him on the stairs - he, too, goes into standby mode. I dont think about much. I work on the website. I eat dinner checking the web with the laptop, which is just pathetic. I have just set a world record for a paragraph that uses the word "I," which is equally pathetic. But that's all I'm left with: me myself and rye.
What I really want to do is sit in a vacant bar listening to the jukebox, scraping the labels off the Shiners, smoking Winstons, staring at the bottles. Somewhere in the bottom of every mans heart is just such a place, waiting. The bar is long and dark and full of scratches; the bathroom stinks, and theres a rotary-dial pay phone in the back. No one uses it much because no one has anyone to call. The bartender doesnt like you but thats just fine, because you dont like him either. Its night; its summer; when the jukebox stops you can hear the traffic on the highway outside. Or you could, if there was any.
So what do you do to keep from reverting to the Silent Loner Archetype, lighting matches and putting them out in the beer-bottle water rings? There's TV. There's the Electric Guitar, which I've taken up again; spent part of last night recording surf music into Garageband. There's photography. Saturday afternoon I drove downtown to take some pictures in the Warehouse district; there are some old fading painted signs I wanted to get before they were gone forever. So I just drove around, stopped, shot, moved on - and ended up where I always end up on these lonely weekends: in the back of a neighborhood antique store, paging through old recipe books and pamphlets, wondering whether this 1944 tool catalog is worth $8. (No.) I should not go to antique stores on such a weekend as this; I need to go in a bright devil-may-care mood, looking for mockables. Otherwise everything looks sad and depressing: everything comes to naught, doesnt it. The county fair ribbon won with pride, the big sign hung in the store to brighten the wall and hide the plastic crack, the childrens book oh, the childrens books! How it must have pained Mom to find them when she went through Susies things after she went off to college. The Little Golden Books she had loved so much. Bears. Kittens. The usual cast of characters in the childs perfect peaceable world, innocence so willingly forsaken. Eagerly, even. If only they knew how fast it ended.
JESUS, BUDDY, CAN YOU STOP SOBBING IN THERE? ITS AN ANTIQUE STORE, NOT A FUNERAL PARLOR.
Oh but it is, it is. Anyway, I got some good stuff. Every time Im there I note the Whitman books for kids it was a line put out in the 60s and 70s, and the covers were notable their cheapness. Every kid of my generation knows the sound of a Whitman spine cracking as you opened the book. You ended up peeling off the plastic like sunburned skin. Cheap paper, too. Bad art. Probably turned millions off to reading.
Drove off to get dinner, listening to the radio. The other radio, the stuff that was caught before it fled and copied for posterity. Sam Spade is my new favorite. After youve heard a few youll forget Bogart ever played the role. (He didnt really play Spade anyway, and he didnt play Marlowe. He played Bogart.) This page has some episodes in streaming format; I recommend The Missing Newshawk Caper" from 1948 the ending sequence between Sam and his secretary is interminable but priceless, and a tidy little satire on the whole whodunit genre. (There are a few winks elsewhere - listen carefully for Spade's reply after he's asked if he wants a drink.)
The shows had the same format Sam would ring up his secretary Effie and announce he was heading in to the office dictate his notes on The [Something] Caper. (They were all capers.) After Sam was done telling the story, which usually resulted in a concussion and no money, he would banter with his secretary, ending with an amused and tender-if-hard-boiled good night, schweethot. The chemistry between Sam and Effie (Lureen Tuttle) is just charming, if you ask me. You didn't. Judge for yourself.
Wait for the final commercial: Dick Joy brings you Wildroot!
Now to finish a little Screedblog item on Woody Allen, and head off for supper. Everyone should be home around nine. Which means ten thirty. Which means I wont relax until theyre back, imagining all sorts of traffic accidents, meteor impacts, packs of Cujos knocking the car into the ditch, that sort of thing. Wish me luck.
Update: they're stuck in a tunnel by the Guthrie. I'm trying to call up a highway webcam to see if I can spot them as they pass. It's a wonderful time to be a worrywort.
Perm link: here.