New Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis

Things I learned this weekend:

My air filter is fine
. I took the Galileo in for an overdue oil change – they’re always overdue, I’m one of those; bless me father it has been five thousand miles – and told the greaseprimate to check the air filter. I sat in the cold barren waiting room, happy I’d brought a book, since the only reading material was a Field and Stream so old it featured tips on bagging dodos. (I’m reading the Godfather prequel; I read an excerpt a few months ago, and it seemed to feature the requisite amounts of whacking and cannoli.) The mechanic came in, sat down, sprawled in the cheap plastic chair, and held up my filter. He fanned perforations, and said it looked okay; didn’t need a new one. Then he downsold me on the oil, since I’d chosen a blend for cars that had more miles than I have. That’s why I go back to that place: they know forty-six times more about this stuff than I do, and they’re honest. He did tell me I had a brake taillight out; I had to take his word for that. And I did. I might never see him again, since the staff changes every time I visit the place, but they’re on the up-and-up. The employees are always cheerful, too, which indicates some distant corporate office doesn’t put the thumbscrews to them in the name of some ridiculous program cooked up by a manager since moved on to another company. There are no motivational posters, which is a good sign. They have a ninety-four part checklist, it seems, and each item is shouted out and confirmed by an adjunct greasemonkey. They guide you out of the bays like you’re driving a 747 away from the jetway.

Incidentally, greasemonkey is not a term of approbation in my book; it’s high praise. I look down on those guys I look down on my dad, and there's not a ladder tall enough to make that happen.

Gnat does not have pink eye, again. I got called to the school Friday because her eye hurt, and the nurse suspected pink eye. The number of times I’ve taken her in for pink eye and the number of times she’s had it? Four to one ratio. I walked back to the nurse’s office and found her sitting on the bed looking small and alone, but brave. The principle came in to see if she was doing fine. We went back to the room so she could give her teacher a birthday card, then drove off to the clinic. She was nervous about getting eye drops. “Gulp,” she said. Really. “Gulp.” Where do they learn these things.

We sat in the examining room for 15 minutes. Counted frogs on the wallpaper. I wadded and wetted some paper towels and juggled them, then gave her a cup and used her a backboard for “Doctor Office Basketball.” Two points. Now you try. We looked at the paper towel that covered the examining table; it had a jagged edge, so I showed her how to cut paper by making a sharp crease with your fingernails. “Daddy! Don’t!” She was worried that I was somehow contruding with the World of Doctors, but I assured her that this was permissible. Then we practiced balacing a Kleenex box on our heads and counting to 30. Then I showed her how to simulate hoofbeats on your legs. Then we practiced Fancy Dancing, the term she used for moving with exaggerated balletic grace.

“How about modern dance?” I asked.

She shook her shoulders and threw her arms around and stuck out her butt. Thank you Disney channel.

“I’ll show you a Slav dance.” I got down on my haunches and attempted a Cossack dance, which was an ill-advised decision. Daddy’s not drunk enough, sweety, sorry.

“What is a Slav?”

A slav is a person who comes from . . . Slav country. I named the people we know who are Slavs, and she grew wide-eyed: they’re Slavs? Yes, and Uncle Steve and Auntie Jill and John and Maddy are Swedes. That’s another kind of person and place. What are we?

Mutts. We’re mongrels. But like all the Slavs you know and the Swedes you know we’re Americans, and that’s the best thing to be.

I know, I know. I should have told her we were citizens of the earth. So sue me in the ICC.

The doctor came, examined the eye. Nope.

We went to Target afterwards, something it seems we haven’t done in a while. Of course, she’s in school until five; this cuts down on our usual errands. So now the old ordinary is the new treat, the reminder, the Poignant Recapitulation of What Once Was A Given. God, it kills me sometimes. But on the other hand, all that togetherness wasn’t for naught; hanging out in the doctor’s office, making each other laugh – it’s all the result of everything that’s gone before. She’ll probably never know how much I feel like who I am when I’m with her. But that’s okay.

I love my shuffle. Oh, I love my Nano, but I love the shuffle. Just went outside on the porch to look down the great sloping lawn, watch the rain fall; “Uranus” from “The Planets” came on as the clouds lit up and the thunder cracked. Perfect. And then “Being Boring;” too bad so many Proper Thinking Rock Afficiandos dismiss the Pet Shop Boys, because they’re so much better than one or two famous techno-hits. “Being Boring” I will always associate with landing in DC alone, sitting up in my room on Summit Place on the humid nights. It was the start of the 90s, and they were already pre-positioned with supplies of rue and bemusement. The next shuffle tune was “The SN Song” by Tom Lehrer, one of two songs he wrote for “The Electric Company.” The “Silent E” song is better. It has that annoying flute-and-banjo orchestration that seemed to pop up in every Children’s Theater Company production; very early 70s. Anyway: to forestall the inevitable emails about how I can mimic the autofill feature on my Nano, I've already done it. So maybe I can give Gnat my Shuffle, and she can walk around the house with headphones listning to her favorite songs.

In ten years, maybe.

Lost is as good as you can expect TV to get. Finished the series on DVD. <darth voice> Impressive. </darth voice> Also finished an early HBO movie, “Conspiracy,” concerning the Wannsee conference. Jesus. Absolutely mesmerizing, and it’s just a bunch of Krauts sitting around a table talking. Kenneth Branagh is chilling, Ian McNeice sports a goiter the size of a tractor tire, Stanley Tucci essays a credible Eichmann, and the secondary characters serve to remind the depth and breadth of the Reich’s careful and punctilious organization and bureaucracy. There’s a character who’s infuriated about the illegality of the extermination of the Jews. Not the morality of it – he’s all for it, of course, but it has to be legal. I reminds me of the little tic I get in my eye when someone goes on about an “illegal war,” as though – the accuracy of the charge notwithstanding – legality has some inherent link with morality or justice or truth.

One of the juries I auditioned for turned in a verdict last Thursday: guilty. It was a case concerning a murder committed in the course of a sexual assault. According to the paper, the accused – who was already serving a long sentence for other crimes – had been convicted of the crime already, but had the sentence overturned because of doubts about whether he’d been properly Mirandized. As if a guy who’d been bumping up against cops and cop-car hoods all his life had never heard of his rights. The jury knew none of this, of course. I remember the defiant little thrust of his chin and his brisk nod when the judge reminded us that a defendant was considered innocent until proven guilty.


It is a small world. Saturday night I met wife & child & child’s friend at a small boutique mall for Thai food. Since I got there early I headed into an upscale fill-your-home-with-self-flattering-items to see what was for sale. (Answer: a small slate chalkboard and easel, half off, now just $15. I bought it, and now it sits on the counter, where I can write daily messages for the family.) I ran into a clerk I see once a month; guy about my age, highly educated, polymath, has kids, was into computers in the Osbourne era, et cetera. We always have the finest conversations. We were joking around about the music the store was playing – Louis Armstrong doing “Mac the Knife,” and doing a Weinmar-cabaret song a la New Orleans jazz, how we were both sick of the song, how kids today would mouth “Miss Lotte Lenya” without having any idea who she was – why, she’s the wife of the bloody composer! Which lead to a genial argument about Kurt Weill, which was dropped in favor of decrying the arrival of holiday decorations; I noted how Target put up Christmas stuff on Friday, and how the executives who approved such decisions should be met in the parking lot by citizens swinging cans of corn wrapped in athletic socks, no jury would convict us, not that I could get on a jury – I had duty last week, almost got on a case of a murder committed during a sexual assault –

He had been at a party the previous night, talking to a member of the jury. He described her; she’d been two seats down from me.

Small world.

I love the Apple Store. After dinner at the Thai place I headed over to hook up my camera to their computers and see if I could get it to work in Final Cut Express, because iMovie HD ain’t working. The place was hopping – crammed – thronged with people playing with computers, trying on iPods, buying accessories. On a Saturday night. It was homecoming night for some local high school, and a fourth of the customers wore lurid girlie gowns and ill-fitting suits bought for Grandpa’s funeral. One of the techs helped me out, and suggested it was a software problem. “Well, yeah – from what I’ve read, it’s a hellish conflict between 10.4 and 5.0.2 and 7.0.2.” And he knew just what I meant, which is why I love the Apple Store. Say that stuff on the bus and people move away; say it at the Apple Store and they relax.

And also because of this: I saw another tech I’ve befriended over the months, one of those flat-affect Gen Z types who’s into everything and has a brilliant sense of humor deployed when required; he was talking to a customer who had a box in his hand, and he saw me and said “well, ask him,” because he remembered I’d bought that drive a year ago and returned it. So I gave the customer a detailed account of why the Promise of the One-Touch Backup was misleading. His wife wandered over, holding a much more elegant La Cie drive; she was short and put-together and as stylish as the drive itself. “That’s what you should get,” I said. The wife smiled. I would not have blamed the husband if he had produced a walking stick and thrashed me on the spot.

I miss Joe. This afternoon I finished the last batch of the Joe Ohio chapters for the book proposal; now I have to rewrite chapters 2 – 12, after which I’ll post them up for all to see. I’ve done lots of reworking, but I’m still proud how well those one-draft knockoffs hold up. If I can pat myself on the back. Can’t wait to get back to the story – like you, I have no idea what happens next.

Except that it’s called Monday. New Sunday column up if you missed it; new Matchbook, of course, and the Screedblog has last week's porkbuster column from Newhouse. Have a fine day.

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