Cooler today. No one minds a break from the heat, but few like the abrupt departure of summer in August. It will come back again, won’t it? Won’t it? Say it will. You have visions of attending the State Fair in long pants and a jacket, huddling under a plastic poncho in the miserable needling rain. Which happens, some times. But not to worry; the Fair will be as it always is: almost unendurably warm, humid, aromatic and thick with airborne grease. The Romans used to scrape themselves in lieu of a bath, and after a day at the Fair you understand why.

But that’s to come; now it’s cool and wet. Another day running around driving Gnat hither / yon – this morning was another dance recital, the culmination of four days of intensive prance-lessons. All these skinny pink sticks running around; very cute. Gnat is stockier than the little twigs, but – ahem – if I may be predictably proud, has more theatrical skills. She has all the glamorous & dramatic poses down pat, including the deep bow to all corners of the house. After that we ran home, tossed down a lunch, then hit the road again for the last day of another program. They have different names but they’re all essentially the same – read a book, do some art stuff, run around, make instant life-long friends. It’s that last one that fascinates; you can see the allure of new acquaintances, the desire to share and impress, the pleasure of finding someone simpatico and kind, the grave disappointment of learning that this new cool kid is a bit of a pill, as my mother once said. (“Bossy” is the worst thing. Can’t argue.)

While she was in class I ran to Target to get a replacement for my wireless weather station. I demand accuracy in my weather reports; peering at the thermometer outside the window provides a maddeningly indistinct result. I want a DIGITAL READOUT. And I want it with a memory function, so I can scroll around the highs and lows: why lookee, it was once 87 degrees inside. I’ll be switched. The transmitter outside stopped transmitting, so I replaced it. Fourteen dollars; nothing fancy. Upon getting it home I realized that the batteries had gone dead in the wall unit: d’oh. Well, now I had two base stations, and you can certainly predict what that meant: an auxillary base station for upstairs! I no longer need run all the way downstairs to check the temp! Except of course the computer tells me the temp just by hitting F12 . . . ah. Put it in the closet, so I can tell the temperature when getting dressed, and layer accordingly. Because God forbid I should wear shorts and a tanktop in February.

Also bought coffee. I buy three bags a week. At some point, however, I made an extra trip to Target, and took advantage of a sale. So now I have one more bag in the queue than I need. This bag has to be placed with the emergency coffee on the third shelf, which exists in case someone nukes Brazil, or there is a worldwide economic crash that makes it impossible to get proper coffee and forces us to drink water strained through chicory and mashed chestnuts. (This shelf also has the really good coffee, reserved for all the dinner parties we never have. And when we do, few people want coffee. Except when my dad shows up. He’ll never turn down a cup, and like me he can drink a gallon and go right to bed. See also, Churchill, Liquor, perverse effect upon.) There’s also some shameful phials of decaf crystals up there. Taster’s Choice or some other such horrid slumber-water. And a plastic bag of Folger’s coffee bags, which are like tea except they’re filled with fast-acting coffee granules. I bring these on trips when I don’t want to pay room service price for a two-cup pot of tepid instititutional roast. I used to bring an immerser – you know, those utterly counterintuitive devices that consist of a metal coil and an electric cord. Plug it in! Put it in water! You almost want to do it in the hotel bathroom so you can see your skeleton blink on and off. But once I brought a bottle of just-add-water espresso, and it broke en route. Coffee everywhere. No harder substance to remove; coffee grounds are like Christmas tree needles. You find them in July. The discovery of the broken bottle was as catastrophic as the time when our speech / debate team suffered a total loss of smuggled hooch; Gary S. had a bottle in his jacket bag, and it broke. He reeked of gin the entire tournament. Make way! The Ghost of Hogarth’s Whitechapel approaches! I didn’t drink on trips anyway, so it was no big deal. (Drank once. Sloe Gin Fizz. Or, as it later manifested itself, Fast Red Barf. To this day I remember being slumped in the elevator of the Bismarck North Dakota Holiday Inn. (Now a Radisson.) The next day I had to return to Student Congress; I believe the bills we were debating was Aid to Israel and the lowering of the drinking age. Spent the morning holding down French Toast with both hands.

And won, too. I think. I also remember one of the anti-Israel-aid speakers making a pointed remark about a Jewish student Congressperson from South High in Fargo. I had a vast crush on her. She got up and ripped him a new one and used the skin to plug the old one. I rose to speak, and I remember it as one of the great moments of spontaneous oratory in my career. I won best speaker, if memory serves – but it rarely does. I remember well the setting for the Student Congress: we had, believe it or not, the fargin’ SENATE CHAMBERS of the State of North Dakota. The building is a Moderne gem, with huge Buck-Rogers light-fixtures meant to be stylized, streamlined wheat. But I do not remember much else aside from the frail and the hooch.

Good thing I kept all the notes. As I was writing above I remembered a battered green metal box in which I kept high school notes and photos; surely it would be in the closet, where the “archives” and all my useless collectibles are kept. It was. There was a thick sheaf of notes from the ’76 event. In Student Congress you conferred with other congresspersons by writing notes and having the clerks deliver them to your confreres. I saved them all. Half of which were from Tom Shreve, a brilliant kid with preternaturally good handwriting, and Chuck, a gangly guy who now pulls down grand coin as a lawyer in a tall tower six blocks from my office. But nothing from the girl on whom I had the crush. Not a single word.

Then I found this, which explained it all:

Of course – you don’t need notes when you’re sitting next to each other.

In case you’re curious: one date that summer. The movies. I did the yawn-stretch-arm thing. She shrunk into herself so far I think she failed to exert the pressure necessary to keep the seat down; it flipped up, she fell between the crack and rolled down the floor. I drove home alone. If memory serves.

After I got the coffee I went to the coffee shop to buy liquid, premade coffee; filed my piece for the American Enterprise Institute mag, where I do TV-related essays. Killed ten minutes at Pier One, which was having a back to school sale that inexplicably included occasional tables. Picked Gnat up; grocery shopping for supper (tilapia, Nature’s do-anything fish!) and home. Did the Hewitt show – link to the transcript at the Screedblog, just to continue my ruthless segregation of Happy Sappy Me and Bilious Nutjob Me. If anything it proves I can be spontaneously wrong, as opposed to the written essays where I appear to labor at it. Now to write the Tuesday Strib column, and then: brother, I’m done.

Except I’m not – tomorrow is Piano lessons, and shopping for stuff for Gnat’s birthday party, then someone’s coming by to bid on some landscaping, then pizza, then off to buy Gnat’s big birthday present, THEN: At nine o’clock, I sit right down here in this very chair, put in a Noir DVD, and write with the happy contented knowledge that nothing is due for the next 48 hours.


Have a fine weekend; see you Monday. Oh: the picture above is a dealership on University Avenue in St. Paul. Perhaps the only 50s / 60s sign of its type that remains. There’s something to be said for letting a neighborhood slide gently out of favor; when it comes back up, it brings along lost treasures. Like that.

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