I know this may not mean much to you, but I got the Diner done this afternoon, and I don’t have a column due tomorrow morning. I feel like I’m sitting on the beach. Absent the beach.

Well, no, not entirely true. Today after I dropped Gnat off at a friend’s house – bye Dad see you later – I drove the Element around the lakes. At first I relied on satellite radio for my soundtrack – literally; I had the Soundtrack channel on – but it got all Lord of the Ringsey on me, and dark ominous Celtic yearning did not exactly fit the mood of the day. So I called up the Gleason playlist on the iPod. You have to be over 40 to get that stuff, I now believe. Prior to your 40s, you regard it as sappy schmaltzy drivel, which I’m sure it is, but while you can apprehend the truth of classical music from an early age, it takes a while before you can appreciate the misty-eyed bonded-bottle contentment that pours out of those musicians. It’s music that looks backward without sounding like the time you’re remembering. For that matter, I don’t remember the times it suggests, because in order to have a True Gleason Orchestra Moment, you have to have six Manhattans under your belt and a flame-haired dame in a green dress in your arms, and you’re slow dancing on the penthouse balcony, and she’s long gone now. Maybe she fell off the balcony. Shouldn’t have poured that last one so stiff. Ah well. Live and learn.

The day was lush; lush sounds were required. I paused at a stop light by some old codgers at a park bench – three old stringy fellows in old-man hats, and thought: hey, here’s some music pouring from a passing car they won’t automatically hate! Maybe it’s even something they listened to, long ago. No reaction, of course – but I expect that should I be an ancient clam on a bench four decades hence, and some whippersnapper drives his hoverjaunt past playing the Stranglers, I’ll turn around. Unless I’m deaf. Sad to think that in a few years, the music of the old guys will be boomer hits. Sad? Terrifying. The time will come when you pass some liver-spotted men grinning and bobbing their heads and shouting Da Da DADA Da da DA DA DA as they recall that primo Iron Butterfly concert.  Remember how they saved “Inna Gadda Da Vida” until the end? Blew everyone’s mind! We didn’t think they’d play it!”

Saw this in the liquor store today. It gets the rare trifecta: brand name, slogan, and website name. Perfect.


I spent a week as a TV newscaster, believe it or not. And as anyone who’s ever faced the red light and the great blank glass eye can tell you, sometimes your mind is elsewhere – and, to your horror, appears to be doing perfectly fine on its own, right up until the moment it does this


Some notes from the local news. My paper had a story about a school that cut out fatty foods in the cafeteria (or priced them high to discourage consumption) and eliminated soft drinks from the vending machines. I approve of the latter, since incessant consumption of high-fructose corn syrup is not a necessary component of the educational experience. The article ended with a lament by a student, who pointed out that the teachers’ lounge has a soda machine, and the teachers are generally larger than the kids. <krabapple> Ha! </krabapple> In my day the teachers smoked in the lounge, too; the place was blue with combusted Trues and Merits. All my favorite teachers reeked of cigarettes, except for the one who quit, and chewed on pens. (Constantly.) What the article did not mention was whether the students had actually lost any weight, which would seem germaine. But it began with something that made me sigh: (can’t find the story on our website, so no link; not surprising – the “Blogs” page doesn’t even link to me. I’ve given up on that. I’ve absolutely given up. Fine. Separate beds. Worked for Rob and Laura. Anyway:)

“The numbers were what freaked him out. Bryan Bass, an assistant principal at North Community High School in Minneapolis, was assigned to figure out what to put in the school vending machines. An epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota showed him the data on obesity rates nationwide. <obligatory stats about lard-o Americans snipped.> “

“’It was alarming,’ he said. ‘Then you look at how much money fast food makes off poor people, African-American people in particular,’ Bass said.”

How much?

Really, I’m curious. Anyone know? But that’s not the point. Here’s the assistant principal’s final remark:

“I compare it to drug dealing.”

Do you. Well. This does not have the effect of elevating soft drinks to the level of drugs; it has the effect of lowering drugs to the level of soft drinks. Nice work. It’s a good lesson to teach your charges: the man who opens up a restaurant in your neighborhood, hires locals and sells burger and salads is the moral equivalent of the guy who stands on the corner and deals crack.

The article’s accompanying photo shows what the school has now: a big Minute Maid dispensing machine. And who owns Minute Maid? Coca-cola, of course. How many calories in an 8-oz serving? 110, with 27 grams of carbs. Eight ounces of Coke has about the same.

Ergo, heroin is like a hamburger soaked in Coke with a side of crispy cigarettes, or something like that.

Well, I’m done. That’s it. The only thing I did today – aside from bang out two columns – two! Two! Columns in a day, each with a drop of Retsyn – was drive around the lake and feel serene. And the Diner and 10 minutes of Quake and sitting outside in the sunset reading in the gazebo, for once. Waiting. Waiting for tomorrow.

Because, you see, they’ve laid down a new liner in the upper pond. They’ve cut the stone to cover it up. The cutting isn’t exactly precise; several small stones are used as shims, presently. But it’s a start. Tomorrow they fill the pond to see if it leaks, and after that, we run the waterfall to see if it will go for 30 minutes without dying.

The end of the Oak Island Water Feature story may be nigh. Thanks for stopping by, and by all means: Tune in tomorrow.


  c. j. lileks 2006. Email may be sent to first name at last name dot com, frantic one!