Wife and Child returned Saturday afternoon after eight days away. Oh, how I had plans for that week. And I accomplished nothing. Well, little. Not as much as I intended. After a day or two a peculiar inertia set in, and I couldn’t bring myself to do much of anything; I just plinked and fiddled at the website, convinced I would never finish anything to my satisfaction. I threw out one big main page redesign, finished another, and threw it out as well. (It became this page, which will be the template until I get bored. Last night I nearly went mad trying to do all that stuff at the bottom of the page – it’s essential, it’s good advertising, but for GOD’S SAKE just try to tell me that Adobe GoLive is WYSIWYG. What You Desire but Are Cruelly Denied For No Good Reason is more like it. But more about that later.) (Yeah, I know, can’t wait.) I had a meeting at work. I ordered the pizza my wife doesn’t like, but I love. I stayed up until my chin hit my sternum and I woke when the dog wanted breakfast. I watched movies without wearing big sweaty headphones. I sat outside in the dark alone when we had a power outage and tried to replay Mortality Night, which hit me last Thursday.

After I went into the emergency room I’d been given a standard sheet of warnings: if I had flu-like symptoms, I should call them back. Later that night I had flu-like symptoms. Muscle aches, chills, and that swimming-brain sensation where everything thought seems lurid and ripe and wrong. I went to bed, not tired, and shivered; I woke with a start, and could not sleep. I laid in bed quietly, recalling all the stories I’d heard about people who go into the emergency room for something minor, get some hideous infection, and expire. This was my fate. Time to take stock.

Probably not the best time to do so, given the state of my brain, but it was a welcome exercise. It’s remarkable what doesn’t matter when you get down to it. But you can’t spend all your time on the true core boons; there’s supper to make, shelves to dust, a living to be made. O the irony of that word: a living, the pursuit of which keeps you from doing exactly that. Deep, man! Pass the bong. Then I tried to calm my swooping mind by retracing my steps from my old place in Washington DC to my old office at 2000 Penn. I was surprised by what I recalled, by the level of detail that came back unbidden – memories that had been sitting in a cell somewhere waiting for the right sequence of electricity to light them up again. The old Riggs bank. That place on the corner that used to be an Arthur Treacher’s. That horrible drug store – I know, doesn’t narrow it down in DC. The horrible grocery store in the building with the Cuban restaurant and the rug store; the walk down Connecticut past that big broad building by the Hilton, what was it, the Globe building? Had a Roy Rogers on the ground floor. And so forth. I fell asleep before I got to the office, and when I woke, I was fine.

That morning I dropped off Wife and Gnat at the airport. I waited until they had ascended the escalator out of view, then I walked back to the car, squared my shoulders, and thought: eight days. Let’s get on with it, then.

The mall. I got my haircut, bought a Wall Street Journal, and went to the movie theater. Read the paper in the thin dim light. It was four o’clock, and I shared the theater with six other people. The room is steep, the seats plush, and an aisle cuts in the middle – if you sit in the dead center, as I did, it was like having the sort of personal home theater the likes of which only Sultans can enjoy. I endured the ads and trailers, felt a twinge of sympathetic embarrassment for the lady a few rows back who brought her young teen boys to the theater only to see an ad for an EXTREME MOTOCROSS RACING MOVIE that featured the usual humid doxies yanking off garments for underdogs with unsuccessful facial hair. Then the movie began. Without credits. This either means it’s going to be nine hours long, or it’s so bad they don’t want to lose you off the bat.

Hah! I said bat. For that’s what it was, Batman Begins. I loved the first Batman, the one directed by Tim Burton; it was something quite different, and while not exactly the big dark grim epic one might want, it was close. The second one was a mess, dank and nasty. The rest were stupid. Trailers had raised my hopes, which is of course their job. But the movie hooked me from the start, thanks to the music. Here we had the two most oft-employed composers of the lower A list – higher now that Jerry Goldsmith perished – and they were together at last, giving us a theme that consisted of two notes. One per composer, perhaps. Didn’t matter; hell of a motif, and when it’s played through a decent sound system it makes the diaphragm flutter.

This is the sort of superhero movie tailor-made for anal retentives like me; I always wanted to know how the guy got the damn suit, the tools and toys, built the lair, customized the hot car. Well. Here it is. I love the Spiderman movies – which seem so very colorful compared to Batman – but this one had absolutely everything I wanted, at least when it came to bombastic head-pounding cinema on a lonely Friday at 4 PM when you want to forget about the previous night and the fact that your loved ones are up in the air, far away.

I went right home and bought the soundtrack. (Interesting – ten years ago, one would have said “I bought the soundtrack and went right home.”) It’s full of Pounding Fury and Furious Pounding and Poundacious Furiousity, and wears thin after 19 listenings. But it worked for Friday night. That, and a martini. I fed Gnat’s fish and went to bed; slept untroubled, the previous terrors forgotten.

Saturday I went downtown to shoot pictures, because that’s my default mode. Unplug everything and I rise like a zombie and go down and shoot pictures. I had the iPod, and listened to – well, you can guess. But I also listened to a few “Suspense” radio shows, one of which starred Agnes Moorehead. She was in many “Suspense” shows, including the most famous, “Sorry Wrong Number.” She played a sullen nutcase prone to hysterics and evil giggles. You may remember her as Endora, the mother on Bewitched. (No doubt some Madison Avenue types swore when they saw the show; “Endora” was not only an unclaimed product name, it was new and vague in a style not heretofore explored. If you look at the old tradenames of the 50s and 60s, they’re trying to slip the surly bonds of meaning, but they can’t quite muster the nerve. They still sound like something familiar. “Endora,” though – that’s genius. It’s a car. Or a room freshener.) Having seen her on TV and movies, and heard her on the radio, I wonder: did anyone like her? Every character she played was so unlikable; you couldn’t wait to be clear of her, whether she was a meddling mother-in-law, a neurotic wife, a hysterical invalid, a spurned lover. She was just a pill, as my mother would say. Not that she probably cared; work was work. In the end she was probably an old lady playing solitaire and doing the crosswords and petting her cats and having lovely lunches with friends, shopping afterwards for this or that, noting the slant of the late summer sun and thinking how soon it’s done, this summer, oh well. I don’t think she’d mind being remembered for unpleasant roles; I think she would have been pleased to be remembered.

At the grocery store I bought a book, something to keep me busy – it was “Demons and Angels” by that DaVinci Code guy. (It’s a prequel.) A pulse-pounding page-turner, as they say, with sixteen climaxes that kept topping the previous one. Ridiculous stuff, given the timeframe; it all happens in six hours or so, and no one eats, sleeps, or takes a leak. But it had a flattering veneer of erudition, and having been to many of the Roman locales, I enjoyed it. (At Target today I saw there’s an “Illustrated” edition on thick creamy stock, complete with photos of all the sites and locations; it actually made the story shrink a little, since it reduced the fancy down to the level of the Art History textbooks I have in such abundance.) It’ll make a great movie, I’m sure – although I cannot see Tom Hanks as this character at all. When I wasn’t reading that I chewed through a few other volumes sitting around – the early collection of “Gasoline Alley,” given the reverential treatment they gave to the early “Peanuts” years. It’s quite a sweet strip, and in a way the cyber-techno strip of its time; cars in the 20s were like computers in the nineties.

Tuesday I had a guy come by to talk about painting the garage floor in a faux terrazzo finish; he was concerned about seepage, because if it’s damp you’re just wasting your money. I was pleased that he wanted to do a poly test, since it meant he was willing to lose the job if they couldn’t do it right.

“Rustoleum is the most ethical company I’ve ever worked for,” he said. He loved working for Rustoleum. He’ll probably be a division manager in a few years; he had that go-getter company-man look. Some guys wear the shirt with the company logo, and they act as if you have to know that it’s just a shirt, man. Really I’m a bass player. This guy, I’m sure, had five such shirts on hangars at home, and he ironed them all Sunday night to get ready for the week to come. I don’t say this to belittle him; on the contrary. Someone has to sell garage-floor upgrades and industrial surfaces, and if that fellow likes his work, all the better. It makes him a pleasure to work with and it makes him happy. The economy runs on guys who drive around all day and make estimates, and have a spring in their step at 4:42 PM. Anyway, he did the poly test. It sounded rather technical, but it consisted of cutting sheets off a garbage bag and leaving them in strategic places. He came back Friday, checked for moisture, found it under one sheet (out of four) and said it would be a waste of money to buy his services.

On the way out he noted the flowers on the steps of Jasperwood – he’d noted their aroma when he came up the stairs. What were they? Danged if I know. They reminded him of flowers his grandma had. I told him to snip off a bloom and take it to the garden store; he leaned over, chose one you couldn’t see from the steps or the street, and drank in the aroma: six again, and grandma’s alive. Then he waved goodbye and got in his big broad car and drove off to the next appointment. Another garage on the other side of town, but in his business they were all on the other side of town.

You can learn a lot from nearly everyone who comes to your house you’ve never met before, but that’s tomorrow’s episode. Back to work.

Oh – the front page isn’t all that’s new, obviously. I’ve redesigned the heck out of large portions of the site, with lots of updates. People who enjoy New York might enjoy the new site, which has a greatly updated & revised Times Square site (the typeface irritates me, slightly, but it’s close to a 20s-style marquee; what else could I do.) (God, how twee is that? “Slightly irritated by a typeface.” Put that on my tombstone.

Should I get flu-like symptoms again, that is.

screedblog up. you've been warned

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