It was Two when I woke, and had warmed to Five when I took Gnat down to the bus stop. With no wind, however, the difference between Five and Two is rather academic, and each can be easily borne. I went inside, cleaned up the lunch dishes – gave a few soup noodles to the dog, as usual, and let him lick the applesauce spoon – then wiped the tables, swept up, and sighed. The great empty part of the day. I imagine this is how my mom felt after lunch, when I’d gone back to school. (In my day, in faraway Rockwell Land, kids walked home for lunch then walked back.) The radio keeps you company, there are things to do, but you feel that sudden loss of purpose that comes with not being needed. Not being useful. You stare at the trees outside the window. You wipe down the sink faucet. Ah well.

Where do the days go? Are they broken down somewhere and examined for clues or defects?

My mother, however, did not have the option of getting dressed in the office costume and driving down to a newspaper to hang out. That’s where I am now, sitting by the window; the ledge is a long piece of perforated metal that curves over the radiators, so it’s very toasty. The view is the same, but someone has adjusted the lighting and contrast sliders on the world; it’s not so much the absence of color as the active denial of it. Something about the low gray light that filters through the cloud-cover. White cars are covered with dark dirt; black cars are covered with light grit. Everything is the color of putty. Someone could throw an old computer monitor at your head and you’d never see it coming.

Well, on to work, then unpacking my boxes at my new cubicle. Later.

Later. Had some time to myself tonight, so I did some suburban errands. I like doing those at night. It’s the second shift, and for some reason the level of cheer is higher. First, Storables, because my DVD cases came in. This was good, since I had arranged my entire storage paradigm around these cases, and they had promptly ceased to stock them. I cannot not think of the store as “Sto-rah-be-lays,” though; it’s just more fun to say. Even in your head. I picked up a deluxe supper – two tacos from a drive through. The last time I hit this drive-through the voice on the intercom was unusually cheerful – not ditsy, and not a managerial corporobot either. Just an ordinary person in a good mood. It was quite pleasant, and I steeled myself for the usual brusque wehc’mda tagobel howganeye hellpew.

“Good evening,” the voice said. “How are you?”

“I’m quite fine,” I said, somewhat stunned. Usually the formalities conclude with an invitation to place your order. But the night was young. We were in no hurry.

“What would you like tonight?” he said.

“Two tacos, hard shell, beef,” I said.

“Will that be all?”


“Not even sauce?”

“Oh, right. Sauce. Mild. Two. Thanks.”

“Please drive ahead.”

It may be uncivilized, driving around pushing tacos in your yap, but he gave it a measure of decency. Then, the Apple Store; I had to return an audio interface I bought the other day. It lacked a jack. (and there’s something that sounds like snappy 40s slang.) What’s more, it had no off switch. Drew the juice from the bus, Gus. This would be fine except that the manual, the installer, the website and the FAQ all cautioned against unplugging the device while the computer is turned on, lest it turn your firewire card into smoking hash. Right. I’m going to shut down and reboot every time I want to use it. Back it went. (M-Audio Firewire Solo, in case you’re curious.) They took it back without a complaint. Next stop, Target; Gnat wants an animatronic doll that reads your mind, or something. Amazing Amanda. I’d checked the web and no one has it: not a good sign. I crossed my fingers and drove to Target, steering with my thumbs. (Hah! God, I’m good.) They had two. Only two. They also had few copies of “Disney Rarities,” part of a series of DVDs aimed at people like myself who are impressed by things sold in nice sturdy tins. I’ve bought most of the old cartoons, and while I do not give myself an enema with Disney-brand Kool-Aid like some people do – so much of it leaves me cold – I find the stuff interesting as pop-culture history, so I picked up a copy. Also some coffee. And some Tide. And hey, as long as I’m here, why not get a needle stuck in my arm?

Target gives flu shots. I used to dread shots, but last summer’s trip to the emergency room acquainted me with Today’s Thinner Needles. I never get a flu shot, but now that needles no longer loom in the imagination like great rusty serrated drain pipes, why not. So I filled out a form, chatted with the nurse. Many people come in wondering if this will cure the Bird Flu? Mm-hmm. A few. But there didn’t seem to be any panic about it, or any general concern. I think most people have put the idea off as something to think about later, maybe. Certainly no reason to buy face masks and stockpile soup; it’s still remote. In the popular mind it hovers between Leno-punchline and casual slightly nervous conversation with other parents status.

Anyway, she gave me the poke, and it was painless. I somehow felt virtuous afterwards. Home to work on this and that until I decided that nothing needed doing; I started a long essay this afternoon I’ll probably post tomorrow. Mark your calendars! Alert the media! But I decided my time was better spent going downstairs to watch Olie with Gnat and file DVDs. We had a grand time. I asked her a question about school, and she said “I don’t remember. I’m losing my mind. I’m an olllllld lady. Just kidding! I’m a kid. But you’re close to being an old man. Right? Well, I’m still a kid. And that’s great!”

So it is.

I usually have an update to the site on Wednesdays, no? Dang. Well, all I have in the pipeline is this, one scary page in Patriotica. Behold the face of newspapers in wartime, old-school. And now to finish the next column while listening to the live Kraftwerk album; just arrived today. It’s hilarious; the very idea of a live Kraftwerk album is absurd, and the audience’s response when they hear a familiar rif from 1985 – whoooooooo! – is beyond parody.

Links for today:

It's official: the Gawker network has just launched the UGLIEST professional blog ever, "Capitalism is broken. We'll help you fix it." Uh huh. Oh, and click on our ads.

I may disagree with what he says, but I defend his right to say it with such confidence. The portraits do nothing for me, but I love the posters. At least their look. Jack Webb after he huffed a bag of animal tranquilizer.

But of course:
This fellow, however, is aces in my book. Wow. I can’t quite explain it, but I sense that he means it. These are not just things recycled for the sake of having Merry Modern Ironic Fun at the stooped old cheerful past; I think he means it. And I would rather live in his world than the world of the previous link. (Both links via Drawn!)

The illustrated world is so much more imaginative than the photographed world. I wonder what small subtle psychological difference existed in the time when mass culture was mostly drawn instead of photographed. You had the movies, of course, but they were a reality unto their own. Pictures in magazines were common, but the dominant mode in advertising was illustrative. If you looked at an issue of Fortune from the 1930s, you’d be convinced that the Depression was the most gorgeous decade in human history.

But that’s another website for 06. New Quirk, as ever; see you tomorrow.