Upon waking Friday morning we were treated to HOT ROCKIN’ music from down the street. Workmen were apparently doing lawn work, and had cranked up the stereo to lighten their load. Around two in the afternoon I sat outside to read, and was disturbed by two things: one, the music was still going, and two, “Sister Golden Hair” was now considered HOT ROCKIN’. How loud was the music? I could hear the musician say “one two three four” at the end of the aforementioned “America” song. From a block away.

The music was not helpful. The music kept me from getting into the book. Granted, I was having trouble with the book in the first place – it’s “A Crack in the World,” an account of the 1906 SF earthquake by the fellow who wrote “Krakatoa.” I enjoyed the latter immensely; it was the most brilliant example of sustained poetic writing about geology I’ve ever read. This one, however, failed to grab. More talk about plate techtonics. Schist, alas, and schist again. When I finally got to the earthquake, I was tired, and it was over too quickly. With regret I put the book aside. Nice jacket art, though. It folds out into a poster. Cost an enormous amount of money, I’ll bet.

I don’t think they’ll do that for his next book.

So I picked up Mao, the Untold Story. I had read a review that stressed the importance of learning what a shiteheel Mao was, and since I don’t know much about the personal side of the Great Helmsman, I ordered it from Amazon. Well. It took about 60 pages to remind me of something I learned for myself long ago: biographies of tyrants are always less interesting than histories of their time, or the accounts left behind by their victims. Would you rather read Stalin’s autobiography, or a book written by his personal chef? I’ve read a few memoirs about the Cultural Revolution; I have a collection of photos from a Red Army photographer. Fascinating stuff. But Mao the man was an empty narcissist, dead-hearted, lazy, cruel. I had the same reaction to the recent Hitler biography. They’re not interesting people, tyrants. If they had the potential to be worthy of a biography, they would have done something else. They would have –


Honest to God, that’s what I shouted. The music had been playing all day, and I’d had enough. Did I hope the workmen wondered “hey, is that Monty Python Cheese Shop Skit reference aimed at us?”  I did. But the music persisted. I went inside. Ordered a pizza. Ate a pizza. Took a ten minute nap; walked Jasper. As I passed the house from which the ROCKIN’ came oh-so HOTLY I noticed that there weren’t any workmen at all. The music came from an outdoor speaker on the upper balcony of the fellow’s house. Hmm. And it had been going on all day. Wha?

Around eight I’d had enough, and walked over to the house. Both cars were in the driveway. A neighbor across the street was working in his garden.

“Are they dead?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I called, but just got the machine. I hope they’re okay.”

We looked up at the speaker on the house across the street.

“I could get my rifle,” he said.

“What do you have?”

“Just a .22,” he said. “But I hit what I aim at.”

“That’s a Bose,” I said. “You’ll need something bigger.”

“Well,” he said, “it’s column fodder.”

I get that a lot.

I went over to the house and rang the bell. The dog went nuts. Well, that was a good sign; if they’d left, perhaps someone would come to take care of the dog. Unless they were dead.
Back home. A few minutes later I saw a car pull up the HOUSE OF HOT ROCKIN’. (Jasperwood is on a hill, and from my back door I can see way up the street, over the fence and far away.) Someone got out of the car and went inside; a minute later, the dog was let outside. A minute later, the ROCKIN’ ceased.

HALLLUJAH, I shouted.

HURRAH, shouted my neighbor up the street.

Saturday afternoon I asked Jasper if he would like to walk around the lake. He stood up and put up his ears and panted and whined and headed down the tunnel to the car. I took that as a yes.

We used to do this every day, even in the winter. It’s an hour around if you walk fast. And I walk fast. The cast of characters never changes. Grim thin sunblock-slathered moms pushing up-armored strollers, lightly oiled beach bunnies, nerds in dark socks and short sleeves, bony panting runners fleeing from the Reaper, the perfect ponytailed Amazon joggerwomen from Venus. Plump pale women who travel in threes; silver-haired couples on the daily constitutional (they’ve lived in this neighborhood since ‘74, voted Hubert whenever possible, miss Guindon, raised two kids, both in college, thanks for asking) and my personal favorite: the scrawny old guy with flame-red saggy skin sitting in a lawn chair, smoking a cigarette. Screw cancer!

Jasper loved it. He was hot, of course, and hit the lake whenever I’d let him. Consequently the entire house now smells of Lake Dog. That’s fine. The lake smell is the most holy perfume of Minnesota, and wet dog, well, it is what it is. He was happy to return to the lake, as was I. Eleven summers around this lake, I thought. Eleven. And what have I accomplished between today and then?

Does it matter?

Yes. But on the other hand, maybe. Probably. But yet.

I was wearing the tank top I wore our first summer around. Really. But it’s the last summer for this garment, I fear; it has holes, and it seems to want to go. I may have to fold it up at summer’s end and put it next to the Minnesota Daily T-shirt in my drawer – the one that’s tissue-thin, and cannot be handled without dissolving. If I knew I’d get a Viking funeral, complete with immolation, it would be a toss-up which one I’d wear.

When we got home I had leftover pizza, and napped. So did Jasper. I woke, drank coffee, and sat outside reading “Guests of the Ayatollah,” by Mark Bowden. Ah. Finally. This one connected. When the sun set and the automatic lights clicked on I just sat alone in the gazebo, listening to swank chilled-out music, enjoying a Reyka, the plosh of the Oak Island Water Feature behind me.

Two days since G. Burly fixed the final leak, and it hasn’t drained. 

Could it be? Could this be it?

Tomorrow: thrill-packed bachelor weekend recap continues! Also, I was a guest on Instapundit's podcast., along with Cathy Seipp: it's here. And Beer Season continues in the Matchbook section. See you Tuesday. 



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