And so the summer ends. With a bang, as it happens. Big thunder rolled in this afternoon, and it was that ripe wet window-knocking variety I love so much. Sunday was the penultimate day of the season, and I would have felt a frantic need to cram in SUMMER THINGS had I not had, as I’ve often noted, the perfect season. The only thing left to do is take Gnat to the Rose Garden for the annual visit. Why? Because I’ve done in for three years, and filmed it for the monthly family movie. We end with a shot of her standing in front of a sundial that says “Count only the sunny hours” – a nifty bit of self-justification, coming from a sundial, and one that attempts to drape a philosophical mantle over the inherent deficiencies of the thing itself, but never mind. We also go into the Enchanted Forest – big bushes, actually, but you can walk around beneath the branches, and there aren’t too many bottles or condom wrappers.

But that’s tomorrow. If the weather turns. The last weekend was spent in fine style. Saturday I went to the Fair for my annual Strib appearance, and it was a pleasure meeting fans and old friends. The woman who typed my columns in college (I didn’t know how to type until I started working at a newspaper) showed up to say hello, which was a joy. Met some people who really, really, really liked the column, and had no idea this site also provided the occasional mild grin. I passed out free water, since that was this year’s promotion. My own brand of water. It had a Strib label with my picture, and three quotes. Promotions department had asked for any catch phrases I used in my column, and I had replied with frosty hauteur that only a hack has a catch phrase, and that’s the end of that chapter. Actually, I said I didn’t have any, but would come up with something. So here’s my private label water:

Note: I don’t look like that. Not anymore, anyway. That was taken during my doughy phase, before Atkins. (I’m off Atkins, incidentally. I still limit the carbs and nix refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, but I will be damned if I will turn down bread for the rest of my life. We ate at an Indian restaurant last night, and I had a bowl of vindaloo; if I had not mopped up the delicious sauce with a scrap of garlic naan bread, the shade of Gandhi himself would have appeared to slap me silly.)

Anyway. Wife and Gnat showed up halfway through, and Gnat sat on the counter and helped me pass out water and Star-Tribune branded Moist Towelettes. Frequent readers will recall how much I enjoy a good moist towelette, and value them as one of the most useful items modern civilization has produced. They’re the hygienic versions of an MRE. “Moist Towelette!” I cried. “Get your Moist Towelette! Everyone loves a moist towelette!”  Gnat was mortified at first, but then realized that this was what people behind counters did at the Fair, and her dad was a guy behind the counter at a Fair, at which point it became cool. A few people asked for her autograph, which delighted her to no end.

Then we left the Fair, and I got back to my car, and plucked a ticket off the windshield. My personal appearance had cost me $34. On the other hand, I had my own water. Even if it was just a label they stuck over some stuff they bought at Target.

Weekend movie: “Joe Gould’s Secret,” which turned up on the Sundance channel. It was a delight to find, since I am a great admirer of Joe Mitchell, and the movie isn’t out on DVD. It’s one of those Stanley Tucci labors-of-love, like “The Big Night,” and it’s absolutely saturated with nostalgic love of old New York. And the old New Yorker, for that matter; I wonder how many people who saw it in the theater knew that the jut-jawed guy with the owlish glasses and hank-o-hair was supposed to be Harold Ross, Famous Editor.) The movie sags and wanders, but I still enjoyed it. When I was done I flicked around the TiVo list and found Revenge of the Sith, and watched the first 20 minutes out of curiosity. I’ve seen it before, many times, but the buzz has worn off, and the dazzle no longer razzles, if you will. It’s visually stunning. It’s written like a fifth-grade play.

Oh, I forgot these pictures from last week’s expedition.

No? Don’t see it? How about now?

I knew who he was from blocks away. You must know the signs. One hand up, the other hand down. It’s a Muffler Man. Specifically, this one.

Well, that’s it. Except for the Matchbook, and a baker’s dozen of State Fair photos.

Before you go, you might want to hit this page: it's a QT panorama of the Fair. Nicely done. (Warning: browser resize. Dial-up? Hit this link, scroll down to the State Fair link.)

This year's State Fair folio isn't one of those Flickr sets, but a full blown sub-site with commentary. Whoo-hoo. It’s here; enjoy, and thanks for the patronage. See you tomorrow.