Instead of being mentally whipped, as was the case yesterday, I am now physically exhausted. Variety! The spice of life.

We’ll see how long this lasts. If there’s one thing I don’t do, it’s go to bed when I’m tired. That’s been an alien notion for as long as I can remember. I go to bed when I’ve finished my work and had a ration of TV. It’s the only time I feel relaxed, to be honest; everything else has Duty hanging over it. A place to be or a thing to write. That’s how it goes all day. I’m not complaining – it allows me plenty of freedom and lets me live the non-office life, which is a great boost to my well-being. I can take about three hours of being in an office before I feel as though people should leave flowers in a vase outside my cubicle. In fact if I’m ever cremated I should request that my ashes be stored in a cubicle at the Star Tribune. I wonder how they’d take that: last wishes, and all . . . but wouldn’t it be creepy? On the other hand, it would be better than sitting next to someone who hummed.

A test: here are three screen shots of the Busby Berkely musical I watched last weekend.

Ring any bells? Answer at the end of the Bleat.

Last night Gnat came into my study in her nightgown to tell me something. “I just thought of some things,” she said.

What’s that?

“I hope that the world is always happy, and if you have something inside of you it comes out, and if you’re sick you get better, and if you die you have a great time in heaven.”

That’s a nice wish, hon.

“I said it in the dark,” she whispered, and smiled. As if the dark had some special quality that demanded hearts be true. She has no idea of the things people say in the dark,  the lies we often tell ourselves or others. But she got the main thing right; you usually tell the truth when unburdening yourself to The Great Beyond, and its Current Resident. (However you may define.) Often because you’re asking for something. The heart in the dark never lies to God; doesn’t even try. Couldn’t if it wanted to.

She asks for little. Just world peace and health and pony parties in Vahalla.

Every time you think you’re raising a level-headed child you get a bit of TV culture seeping into their play. She wanted me to play Polly Pockets after summer school; it was a simple routine. They were going to Hollywood. In a helicopter car. In their underwear. (Aspiring starlets take note: with the right advance PR, that could work.) My Polly Pocket, however, got a serious case of the Lisa Simpsons, and announced she was going to Harvard.

“What’s Harvard?”

“Only the best college ever in the world. You girls go have silly parties; I’m going to learn stuff.”

“We’re going to make movies. It’s fun.”

“No,” said my Polly, in my voice, “movies are fun to watch but they’re boring to make. You stand around and wait and you have to do things over and over and over again. It’s like gym class with a catering truck.”

“What’s a catering truck?”

“It’s a truck that brings food. Salmon and carrots,” I added quickly. “Carrot smoothies. Anyway, I’ve made movies and they’re okay but not as much fun as college. I’m going to be a pet doctor.”

“And then you can be a pet doctor in Hollywood!”

She had me there. Polly Pocket, Hollywood Vet! So. I went to Harvard for my Pet Doctor degree, which took 2.5 seconds, then joined the other Pollys in Hollywood. Gnat laid out all the Pollys and gave them each a small animal, gathered from other playsets. A bobble-headed cat (broken tail) a bat (deaf) a snake with the flu. I fixed them all and charged the Hollywood Pollys lots of money. Lessons learned: vets make lots of money trading on the anxieties of young childless starlets.

At least she can see though the absurdities of commercial culture. At the grocery store in the check-out line she held up a bag of “crunchy Gummis” with a quizzical expression.

Crunchy Gummis?” she said. “Crunchy Gummis?”I was tempted to say it was an offshoot of conservativism – pro-organic food and communtarian ideals, soft on defense – but settled for saying “That’s a contradiction.”  Because, you know, that makes sense to a six-year old.

“What’s a contradiction?”

“Two things that argue with each other.” And I have the sort of marriage where I don’t fear she’d say “like you and Mommy?”

The clerk – a new one, I noticed - gave me a look, perhaps because she couldn’t see Gnat and wondered who the hell I was talking to. Then she brightened and said “do you write that column in the newspaper?”

I brightened as well and said that I did. In the parking lot Gnat asked if the lady read me in the newspaper, and I said that I did.

“But you’re not the boss of her,” she said, giggling. What?

“Remember what Noah said?” A friend of hers had come over a few weeks ago, and gave me a small ration of sass, to which I responded in mock kingly style that was the boss of the roost, pal, so straighten up and nix the lip.

“You’re not the boss of the world because you’re in the newspaper,” he said.

It was like Obi-Wan discovering the level of mitichloridians in young Luke Skywalker’s blood: the blog force is strong in this one.

Now I’m wide awake & full of vim, which is good; I have a column to finish. And another and another and another – at the office today I dropped into a huddle to see if there was anything else I could do above and beyond. (Never hurts. And I can always do more. The way I figure it, they pay me money and give me benefits, so I should, like, write as much as humanly possible.) Got an additional assignment for a Sunday, which means the much-coveted seven-out-of-seven run. Who-hoo! Also got a letter from the boss that clarified what I alluded to yesterday; the remarks about the columnist being the first Strib writer to have a blog was intended to refer to the Strib’s blog site. Thanks to all who wrote and passed along the response – the upshot will be a link on the Strib blog page to this here Bleat; if it hasn’t happened before, it’s simply because people are busy and have other things to do, and this site doesn’t fit the internal template. It existed before I joined the paper, and has maintained – to its benefit, I think – an unofficial separate identity.

Speaking of which: she was a glamour girl when she appeared in “Golddiggers of 1935,” but didn’t have much of a career after the Thirties. No Bergman, no Ginger – but in the end her face was seen by millions of people in a hugely successful movie made 60 years after “Golddiggers.” She was old then, and she’s still alive. She turns 96 on the Fourth of July.

She’s the old Rose from “Titanic.”

Going Hollywood works sometime, if you have the patience.


New Quirk, of course. Oh, and TWENTY FARGIN' TEXAS MOTELS. See you tomorrow.