A mixed bag, this day. On one hand, we sealed the deal on the next book. Not “Joe Ohio.” Just as well; that would have been a bupkis advance and piddling sales. Later, perhaps. I’ll finish it in one venue or the other, but I have other books to write. On the other hand –

Sweet Jeebus, what’s the other hand? There is no other hand. I sold another book. That will be #8. That’s good. And the proposal for #9 goes out this week, and I’ll know about its fate in, oh, nineteen weeks. Number Nine is my bold bid to alter the pictures : words ratio. Brave, I know.

It’s five-piece Monday, so I’ll be brief. Naught to note anyway. The Oak Island Water Feature has been running all day, and has not gurgled dry. That’s good. On the other hand (hah! I found another hand!) the final reassembly of the stones was shoddy, and the placement of several stones can be explained only by sudden unexpected seismic activity that made the craftsmens’ hands jerk violently about. I could complain, I suppose. But I think this will be a minor thing. I expect the OIWF will gurgle out tonight or tomorrow. It’s just the way things are. Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, and I’m going to have to fill that G*Dmn;’d thing up every other day.

The highlight of the day, I suppose, was grocery shopping. I’ve altered my shopping patterns. There’s something wrong about the layout of modern grocery stores: frozen foods on one end, more frozen foods on the other. Surely I am not the only person who worries that the fish purchased in lane 1 will be mushy by the time I hit lane 8, especially since I took five minutes in lane 5 trying to get a good cellphone camera photo of Lucky Charms new Berry flavor, complete with magic Mirror marshmallows. Why would you need your morning meal to be purposefully reflective? Nagging doubts about chronic vampirism? Ah, I see myself, I’m not undead. So I got that going for me at least. As it stands you have a limited window of opportunity to get the ice cream home before the scround can be palpated (Note to young men: palpate your scround monthly. Do it when the phone bill comes, for example) – but if your ice cream is trending towards mush status, your box of minced fish is probably en route to breading-flecked slurry status.

Everything cold should be at the end of the store. Fruits and vegetables are different; they’re merely cool. Anything cool can stand to be room-temp for a while. No apple ever turned to the dark side because you were stuck in traffic for ten minutes on the way home, but a box of popsicles undergoes a change that cannot be undone. If the wrapper comes off like a bandage on a fresh wound, you know the popsicle has turned. They’re never the same afterwards.

Keep in mind the preceding two paragraphs were offered under the rubric of “Highlight of my day.”

Well, Gnat was with me, and that counts. She was in a grousy tired mood after school – the penultimate day; they’d gone to the beach. One of the high virtues of life in these parts: the beach is six blocks from the school. She cheered up at the store, though: free cheese! The store has display cases that look like the Jetsons’ apartment building – domes on stilts, covering heaps of cubed expensive exotic cheeses. Sometimes it’s a bland rote cheddar; sometimes a sharp hard cheese strong enough to knock a goat over. Today, nothing. But she found My Little Pony fruit snacks – New! – and this was cause for great rejoicing. She wanted to sit in the cart’s seat and examine the box, even though she’s almost too big for that. Almost. It took a little work to get her into the seat – just the other day, I swear, she slid right in; now I’m pulling a can of Pam off the shelf and greasing the legholes.

She couldn’t believe there had never been My Little Pony fruit snacks before. Neither could I, frankly. “Probably a hang-up in licensing and residuals,” I said. She gave me that look, that uh-huh, right, look, and went back to studying the box with undivided attention.

When they’re six sometimes you see flashes of four or even three. It pierces you, it does, but the spear’s tip is dipped in honey.

Home. Grilled steaks. Finished Quake 4, which will be the subject of an upcoming Strib column. (I love my job.) Wrote the Newhouse column – a letter from Zarkawi’s replacement. (“Making a whistling sound with a descending pitch in my presence was funny the first time. We all had a good laugh. It is hereby forbidden.”) Uploaded the fargin’ motels. I should finish in two weeks; then it’s a segment of motel ephemera, and I’m done. I took a lot of stuff from Holiday Inns when I was a kid – menus, stationery, the cards that gave the number of the local padre in case you needed some quick knee-time. It’s an old habit, and I gave in last weekend: I took a plastic-wrapped plastic cup. No soap; it didn’t have the high holy Holiday Inn logo. No towels, of course; that’s wrong. But I did take a cup. I don’t know why. It sits on my desk, a reminder that I went somewhere and slept on harshly bleached streets and woke up in a town where nearly all the details were different. The voices on the radio and the look of the paper and the name of the street everyone avoids because it’s clogged at five.

When I was in Fargo driving around by myself I tuned the XFM to the 70s channel. Seemed apt. More amusing than nostalgic, though. Dad’s remarriage and relocation, and our decision to stay at the Holiday Inn when we visit, took a bolt cutter to the cord that’s been wrapped around my neck for decades. Going to see Dad means going to a neighborhood that was a bean field until the early 90s. History’s over, as much as it ever can be.

I’m going back this summer for a high school reunion. It’s at the same Holiday Inn. I’ll be taking the same route back, but this time on my own time; I can stop in the small towns en route, take pictures, document things I just drive past.  I can do something I haven’t done in more than a decade: drive home in the summer with the windows down, blasting Dave Edmunds, hand out the window surfing the wind.

Did I ever  mention that I gave the class graduation speech? And castigated My Generation for its shallow cultural values? And got a few hard looks hither and yon for my stern opinions on disco Beethoven? Well, I don’t think anyone will bring it up at the reunion.

Who am I kidding? They’re going to throw me in the pool.

But I sold my eighth book! I’ll shout. I’m a professional cultural critic! Criticize this, Poindexter.


New motels - three states! And new Quirk, of course. See you tomorrow.