Alas, I disappoint you now. But me? I’m fine, he said, selfishly; I’m outside at night, with the Water Feature splashing behind me, the crickets are in full voice, the iPod speakers I dragged out for the dinner party just kicked up “Begin the Beguine” (not the German version, if you heard that particular Diner) (Oh, right; have to upload that tonight. And do this. And write two columns. And it’s very late. Well, that’s the problem with Sundays; it’s my Monday.) A perfect summer night, in other words; another day in the Best Summer Ever. There’s always that delicious moment after a party’s done and the mess mostly cleaned, and the music’s still playing; you pour yourself a drink and recall what went before. It’s the basics, mostly. Kids running in the yard, grownups talking grownup things, the dog on the grass blank-eyed from an overdose of scraps. Tonight’s guests were old friends of my wife’s from out of town. I asked the husband what he did for a living, and he said “I work for a company called Netflix.”
Ahhhh. Well, then. We have much to discuss, you and I.
Any job is interesting, to me; I’d rather talk to someone for an hour about his profession than mine, since A) my job consists of typing and frowning, and B) other people's jobs usually reveal a corner of the economy you haven't previously considered at length. This gentleman, for example, was responsible for determining what Netflix orders. He has to Read the Future. It’s not just box office; given the rarified nature of the customers it’s often the off-beat movies that have the highest demand. (“Syriana” is one of the most popular items, for example. “Crash” was another.) I learned one of those details that makes me wish I had a job in some cool 21st century company: Netflix has conference rooms designed to look like movie sets. They have a “Dr. Strangelove” room.
What are the chances anyone looked at the orders vs. the supplies, and said “Gentlemen, we have a ‘Superman Returns’ gap?” Low, I fear. And not just because the line had been used before.
Anyway, it was a grand evening, and a fine end to another perfect weekend. Friday night I did little, but I made up for it Saturday with a Stunning Breakthrough in the new Fargo site interface. (Long loud sound of snores nationwide, I know. Well, it’s been something I’ve been meaning to upgrade for four years. The old site is an embarrassment, frankly; it was the height of my skillz then, and I’m sure the new version will look equally crude in a few years’ time. But I had to redo it. ) In the afternoons I ran errands. Saturday I picked up the Giant Swede in the Element, and we shot off to Roseville to my favorite Arts & Crafts store. I needed knick-knacks. The living room coffee table, for example, is shockingly naked; I needed an item to sit in the middle and say “I am the thing that sits on the coffee table.” And why do I need such items?
I will explain all in six weeks. Suffice to say that we’re in the midst of a blur of upgrades to Jasperwood. The front door, which had been blasted by decades of Minnesota weather, was refinished. I’m having a retaining wall replaced before it collapses and vomits dirt all over the driveway. The washer and drier, aka Stiller and Meara, have reached the end of their usefulness (Meara’s doing okay, but Stiller has continence problems) and since they’re going to be replaced this would be an excellent time to paint the laundry room floor to match the furnace room. Because God Forbid the furnace room and laundry room floors clash. If that’s not a place where you require a unified aesthetic, I don’t know what is. So I called my handyman contractor (Side note: he sponsored the Michael Medved show for a while, and as compensation got a lunch with MM when he came to town. That, my friends, is America: I can tell my handyman “I had lunch with Michael Medved,” and he can say “Hey, so did I!” It’s a tight little world in which I move. I’d say run, but I barely amble.) He'll be by on Thursday.
Anyway. The Arts and Crafts store had gone out of business. Dang. So. Well. We got back in the Element and had lunch at an entirely different Taco Bell than the one we were used to. It’s good to shake things up. Then we drove south, debating the merits of washers and driers; Giant Swede had recently purchased a set, and had Strong Opinions. (He has strong opinions on everything. Right v. left, Beatles v. Stones, paper v. plastic, kale v. okra) He pushed the Front Loaders. Everyone suggests the front loader. From what I gather, front loaders are the bee’s knees. The cat’s meow. The nit’s tits. Fine. As long as it’s not internet enabled.
After a stop at Home Depot for a quick dip in the manly world of manly things – he had to buy some plastic tubes to tape to the ears of his new Boxer puppy into a posture of perpetual erectitude – we went to a furniture store. My wife had requested I take a look at some dining room china-cabinet things. I forget the exact term. It’s part of the upgrade, the reasons of which I will reveal in six weeks. Trust me, men, you’ll understand. I had priced out the china-things before, and they were punishingly expensive, but lo: the store was undergoing a renovation, and everything had to go. The china-things were 40 percent off. And today only: an additional 20 percent off the 40 percent off price. Jaysus.
And now I will write the words that will make many a reader reel back in distaste:
I had the salesperson page my decorator.
Yes, I have a decorator. Sort of. Not really. I make most of the aesthetic decisions for Jasperwood, but they’re not hard; once you’re in the Arts & Crafts style, anything with woody slats fits. (Note to up-and-comers: name yourself “Woody Slats,” get a job as a Stickley rep, and you’re golden.) This store has a fellow who knows his slats, and I’ve bought all the pieces from him. He came to Jasperwood and took photos for a presentation a few years ago. AND he reads the column. I needed to know one thing, and one thing only: was there any chance, no matter how slight, that this china-thing would ever cost me less money?
He shook his head. Words were not necessary. He knew I knew. Today. Or never. Clock’s ticking. Store closes in an hour. Hell, we’re going to chop it up for firewood after six.
There were some people by the china-thing, oohing and ahhing, looking around for some help -
I bought it.
I read a piece in the paper today about men in their forties who never married and don’t intent to marry, because they like their lives and have all their action figures arranged just the way they like, etc. They’re happy and content. Fine for them. But they will never know what it’s like to go on an errand to see what’s available in the world of woody-slat china-things and come back with a bill of sale whose price represents a fifty percent savings and a delivery date of Thursday. I honestly expected flaming Roman-Candle balls off joy to shoot out of my wife’s ears.
Anyway. That was my weekend: bleeding money out of every possible pore, working on a website, and a fine dinner party that made me late for everything I have to do. So that’s it for today, I’m afraid. I will, however, link to the MP3 Diner, as promised. And there’s a Matchbook, this being Monday. Thanks for dropping by! See you tomorrow.
Buffets! That's it. The china-things are called Buffets.
It goes without saying that now our china will be on display, we have to get new china. Note for the curious: the buffet is front-loading.