All this and the motel update, too.

Then again, there are only three motels. Don’t blame me. Blame Indiana. Which, in a turn of events, does not want me, and I can go back there. (Oh how that song haunted me as a kid; it was right up there with “Patches” for its ability to fill you with Emotion. “Patches” was worse, which is to say better, because it repeated that chorus over and over again. Patches! I’m dependin’ on you, son. Made that Wayne Newton weeper “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” sound cheap and obvious. If that kid was coming after me, singing in that voice, I’d pick up the pace too.

Where have all the tear-jerking story songs gone? Unless “It’s hard out here for a pimp” qualifies, I think the genre’s mostly dead. Good riddance. I’m not sure where they began – you could trace them back to 50s tunes about drag races and dead girlfriends, or back to blues / jazz tunes with simple story lines like “Frankie and Johnny” [Cliff Notes versions: she shot him, inasmuch as he had done, and was doing, and presumably would continue to do, her wrong.] But the late 60s and early 70s had a spate of them, and for some reason “Indiana Wants Me” had a special place in our junior-high hearts – it ended with sirens and a policeman calling “This is the police. You are surrounded. Give yourself up. ” Poor guy! And what had he done wrong, really? Well, he killed a guy – but the lug had it coming, since “No one had the right to say the things he said.” What? That pi was actually a finite number? White shoes could be worn in March? “Catsup” was the preferred spelling, not “Ketchup”? Whatever it was, shooting seemed a rather drastic response. Then again, I never understood why Big Bad John got into a fight over a Caging Queen. Lyrics were a boundless source of mystery.

Come to think of it, “Indiana Wants Me” probably doesn’t take place in Indiana at all, since the singer is a fugitive. Wonder why he chose that state. “Minnesota Wants Me” sounds like a tourist promotion; “Iowa wants me” sounds like you’re being invited to an elderly aunt’s house for tea. “North Dakota wants me” is rather obvious, given the population decline. “Indiana” has that flat Charlie-Starkweather Midwestern vibe, I guess. [Yes, yes, I know, he was a Nebraskan. And if ever there is a word that describes the feeling of the wind in the Midwest in late December, it’s that: Nebraskan Starkweather. On the other hand, put a Roman numeral after it, and it sounds all WASPy and country-clubbed: Nebraskan Starkweather III]

The genre petered out with “Tie A Yellow Ribbon,” a cheerful song about getting out of prison and heading straight for your girlfriend’s house. It captures the bouncy feeling of rue and resolve I imagine most freshly-freed jailbirds have [“I’ll get on the bus! Forget about us! Put the blame on me!”] but its incessant airplay and overuse in the 1980 Hostage Crisis killed the genre dead as that guy holed up in a farmhouse writing a self-justifying ballad about his Indiana extradition problems. But I'm babbling. Note to self: do not edit. Just post and move on.)

Had lunch with Dennis Prager today, thanks to Jay Larson of AM 1280, who rolled him into the neighborhood. Since Jasperwood is en route to the airport, it’s a great place to kill time – but since Mr. P was hungry, we went to a burger joint. It’s a good thing we spent the time sitting down, because Prager is tall and I am not; side by side we look like the  Jolly Grey Giant and Sprout. We did not discuss the state of the world; for my part, since I listen to his show 10 hours a week, I have no questions for him. So we talked about cameras and camcorders and other random matters. If you listen to the show, well, what you hear is what he is; he’s a smart, genial, funny guy, albeit more playful in personal conversation. I hesitate to use the word, because it makes a nine-foot guy sound kittenish, but there it is. It was a great pleasure, and I think the chances of getting the fabled Hewitt-Prager-Medved axis to Jasperwood for a  State Fair party looks pretty good for 06.

Then I went to the adjacent gift store and bought a candle. A grass-scented candle. Because I want to smell grass. Yesterday I took a shovel to the ice on the steps and beat it to death. I want to smell grass.

Watched the Sopranos last night – it’s the one show I watch the day it comes on. Not at the same time, but the same day. This season is already better than the last one, and while I don’t think season 5 was the dull Sargasso Sea of murky, becalmed Mobdom some think it was, it wasn’t my favorite. The first two episodes have been perfect – and I hate dream sequences, too. The spasm of teary stupid fury from AJ was surprising. A little bit of angry Paulie Walnuts was welcome – he always looks about 30 IQ points less when he gets angry. It’s not a face you’d like to see looking down on you. Christopher is shaping up into the least interesting character in the bunch, perhaps. Without a habit or a girlfriend he’s just a venal thief. Had to love Carmella’s theological justifications for why Tony is not going to hell. In the end, it came down to “because you’re not going to die.” That’s her life; kicking the can down the road, with a nice Prado shoe she bought to make herself feel better about things. And if the money came from somewhere, well, you know, unorthadox? Everyone has their cross t’ beah.

My additional thoughts on the Sopranos can be found in the next issue of the American Enterprise Institute magazine. Set your calendars.

That’s it for now; two columns yet to write tonight. New Quirk and new Motels, such as they are. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow.



c. j lileks. email may be sent to first name at last name dot com.