New York in the Forties


Okay Motels & Quirk are up sorry about the food thing have a nice day!

Not enough, eh. Well, there’s the obligatory recitation of How Much I Did, which is actually more than usual; for some stupid reason I wrote the wrong columns last night. That put me ahead of the game for the rest of the week, but it meant I had to write two more columns in the afternoon. But I keep a list of ideas that can be fed into the Hack-O-Matic – looks a lot like those computerized handwriting analysis machines at the State Fair – and hey presto, I had two more columns in an hour, counting pacing and a cigar break and gusty molto furiouso con brio conversation with my agent. (He was not the object of wrath; he’s on my side. I’ve known him for 20 years or so, and he’s a friend – granted, a friend who really has to listen to me because he charges 15 percent, but a friend nevertheless. Publishing is such a stupid, stupid business. Not the people in publishing; they’re smart and funny and a pleasure to be around. But the business itself – it’s like designing elephants that give birth to small cars. No one knows quite how to go about it, but when they go to the zoo and see elephants and walk down the street and see small cars, they figure they must be doing something right.) (I have no idea if that makes sense, but it’s entirely accurate.)

         Picked up Gnat from school and went to – hurrah – Target. We hadn’t been there together in a few weeks, and she needed a new backpack. The old Care Bears one had a busted zipper. Thirteen bucks – not the end of the world. En route to the backpack department she paused at some t-ball bats, fancied the pink one hanging on a rack, then said “The question is, how do I get it out?” Never heard that formulation before. But the best was yet to come: she pointed to the Bratz backpacks and grinned, knowing I’d cock a Spocker (bemused eyebrow lifting, I mean). She looked at the other backpacks, and mused: “I have three options here.”

Is this normal vocabulary for a five-year old? I have no idea; I’m just pleased to hear these things. We have such interesting conversations, and I’m still at the point that I can amaze her with my knowledge. Today I added one billion and three hundred in a second. Didn’t even stop to consult my fingers: Wow. She also told me that they were talking about men on the moon in school, and she raised her hand to tell the teacher that her dad had met one of the first men on the moon. (When you say “One of the first men” of course you mean the second.) She didn’t get called; I wonder if the teacher would have believed her. It’s true; I met Buzz Aldrin. Cool guy. Gnat also asked me today if I’d met Jack Black. I thought a moment, said I hadn’t. She seemed relieved. He’s on a Nickelodeon commercial in which he shouts JACK BLACK a lot. It’s catchy the first sixty-seven times.

Anyway. We bought massive quantities of dog food – got the 17 lb bag of Beneful or Puppylux or Boonmutt or whatever it’s called. You hoist it once into the cart, drag it into the house, then bend over 60 times in the coming two months to collect the processed version. They had a sale on Coke – imagine that! – and I bought 48 cans for eight dollars. The same cans at the office would cost 42 dollars. It’s a remarkable thing, capitalism. I picked up some Fusion razorblades, thinking again what a brilliant innovation they represent: of course, they’re five times more expensive than single blades, because they have five times more blades, but the blades go dull in five-blade increments. Still a convert, though. Stocked up on liniments and unguents, then hit the check-out counter. Gnat ran over to the purse department, put a big sequined number over her shoulder and spun around until she was dizzy and green. Happy, we left for home.

She worked on her book, a magnum opus entitled The Greatest Picnic Ever, and I took a 12 minute nap. Really: set the timer for 15 minutes, laid down on the sofa, gave myself a minute or two to fade off, and woke one minute before the timer beeped. Perfect!
While the fish cooked and we waited for Mommy to come home, I tried to get the laptop to recognize the phone. It did. Hoorah. I pulled off the photos and uploaded some ringtones; tonight I will assign them to different numbers. The CBS radio news sounder from the 60s will be the newspaper; the In Like Flint phone sound will be assigned to the Washington bureau.

As for the photos:


This is the Hello Kitty Pop Tart I bought for Gnat; I was so consumed with outrage this morning I fired up the RAZR and took a picture. It is pathetic. It's like a big cat tongue, and we I don’t expect the face of HK on the pastry – and I realize that pastries all over the world, from the finest French varieties to the lowliest stale congealed donut sitting unloved and shunned in a convenience store, are insulted by calling a Pop Tart a “pastry.” It’s like eating the cohered stratum of a compacted desert. With sugar on top. But I expect more than a smear of pink and a careless distribution of sprinkles; the thing just screams contempt for its target market. There was also an Ice Age 2 version on sale. I assume it was blue. And that the sprinkles were strewn with equivalent disregard.

Well, back to work; Newhouse to finish, three other columns to buff. Minor, and slightly unbelievable, Screedblog up. Motels are new – gaze upon the glories of Iowa hostelry, and tremble. Me, I’m shooting to be done by midnight, because the Firefly / Serenity DVDs arrived from Amazon. And since your purchases of “Mommy Knows Worst” made the store credit possible, I thank you.

She’s still selling well, my agent says. How about that. Many thanks and my deathless regard. See you tomorrow.

c. 2005 j. lileks. Email, if you wish, may be sent to "first name at last name dot com."