The Cruel Fall took mercy on us Sunday, and stayed his hand. The sun came out, if only to show us what he’d done with the leaves.  You like? I know some say it’s been done before, but I prefer the classic approach. After Saturday the change was a blessing, since Saturday felt was dim and morose; it was the sort of day that makes you give up on fall altogether. If this what it’s like, to hell with it. Dump the leaves, go directly to Emptyland. I was almost surprised to see how many trees had turned already – oh right, fall. The gorgeous season. That’s the thing about constant rain: you stop looking up. I wonder how long it would take people in Washington to notice that the mountains were gone. I did errands, but with no great enthusiasm. One of those days where you come home with socks, a bottle of wine, and a box of Skyflakes. (They had returned to World Market. Love the box.)

I went to the annual Arts and Crafts Home Expo to see if I could get something for the house. We went once before – got a doormat. This time I was looking for something more substantial, like pottery. You know, le vase juste. The thing that goes somewhere. When your wife says “we need something there,” that’s what she’s talking about. Pottery. I like pottery just fine; pottery and me have always gotten along. No complaints. But I’ll be damned if I’ll pay several hundred dollars for some clay just because it’s based on a pot Elbert Hubbard once spat into. 

There were other curios for sale – I saw an old wallet for $45, complete with original cellophane card holders. I remembered those – my very first kiddie wallet had cellophane holders, and they cracked and splintered after little use. They were replaced by thick plastic inserts that added an inch to the wallet’s thickness – and now that I think of it, that wallet had a thick scuffed friction-generating finish that supposedly made it pick-pocket proof. Dippers couldn’t filch your roll; the sides of the wallet put up a fight on your behalf. Of course, that meant you couldn’t get it out unless you dug your entire hand into your back pocket and hauled it out, which made you look as if you had a full-cheek butt-itch. All that and crepe-soled platform shoes and rayon bellbottoms in a brown-and-white houndstooth pattern. It’s a miracle anyone had sex in the 70s.

Anyway. I ended up at the table of an ephemera dealer I hadn’t seen in a few years. She has excellent stock – mostly from magazines, always in perfect condition. I bought a few things that’ll show up in the revised Minneapolis site, someday, then strolled outside. Not a day to sit inside and look at pots.

Here’s why I really went: it was at the State Fairgrounds. I love the Fair, but sometimes I think I love the Fairgrounds more than the thing it hosts. Which is like loving someone for their bones, not their personality, I know. But I spent half an hour driving around the empty grounds shooting pictures. It wasn’t entirely deserted – there was some horse-related exposition near the barns, a  4-H event, a picnic. Outside the Arts & Crafts expo was a mobile food truck, and it released a potent aroma of brine and beef; given the number of people in that small corner of the fairgrounds, it felt as if the Fair had come to life again. Or rather we brave survivors had organized enough materiel to put on our own Fair to remind us of the good times, the old days before the Zombies came.

These two words had an almost hypnotic appeal:

I couldn’t stop saying them. If ever I write a sci-fi novel, I will have an alien named Qiwanus Multz.

The 4-H building: Concrete Moderne at its finest.

Dedicated by Mr. 4-H himself, Henry Herbert Hoober Heever. (Just doing my best to mess with Google’s mind.) There’s a plaque bolted to the wall:

It says much about the era – men back then were actually named Linus C. Glotzbach. He was the WPA administrator for Minnesota, a local attorney; later went to work for Northwest Orient (gonggggg) Airlines. According to a 1963 interview with Florence Kerr, a national-level WPA administrator:

“I ever saw oppression in action, that was Linus. He was a little martinet and he had one of the ugliest sit-down strikes that happened anywhere in the program. In some ways he was a little like senator Roper, but much more appreciation of the program. One thing about Linus that I always liked was that he thought the way to be a part of the WPA was to be proud of being WPA, and so he insisted that every work project all over the State of Minnesota carry WPA signs.

That, perhaps, would explain this, stamped in the concrete a few blocks away.

It survives because it only suffers the boots of the herd two weeks a year.

Incidentally, Mrs. Kerr and Mr. Linus obviously got on fine; she had nice things to say about him in the interview . . . and somehow, she ended up working for Northwest after she left gummint work.

As I said, I drove around the Fair listening to the classical “pops” channel – music you recognize, in other words, as opposed to obscure sackbut concertos – and found the offerings apt. First was Ravel’s Pavanne for a defunct infant; then Rachmaninov’s second symphony. The latter is particularly suited for a bright mild fall afternoon – and if you’re not familiar with it, good. There’s a big demographic python-pig for whom this symphony was forever ruined by Eric Carmen, who lifted the melody for a big mopey ballad called “Never Gonna Fall In Love Again.” Fine, Eric. Go right ahead and not do that.

There’s a lot of people who are going to get a one-day pass to hell, and that includes people who ruin classical music for cheap commercial purposes. Like the clever dick at an ad agency who thought it would be jolly to use the end of Rhapsody in Blue for an airline commercial without using the 15 minutes that preceded it. Skin-poppers.

(I just called up Rhapsody in Blue to listen to it; been a while. One of those pieces you never think you have to listen to, since it usually comes around eventually. I have many versions, including what I think is a hybrid Whiteman / Grofe orchestration, with Michael Tilson Thomas on the keyboards, and an Oscar Levant version. Ah,  Oscar: he owned that cynical-wisecracking-hungover-pianist-as-iconoclast archetype. Imagine how he felt when Jerry Lee Lewis came along and put his shoes on the keys.)

Anyway. The Fair, deserted:

They take the stoolheads off the spines for the season:

Note: I just made up that lingo; I have no idea what they're called. "Seats," probably. But "stoolhead" sounds more authentic, no? That white pylon in the background, incidentally, is a wind-turbine blade; it's enormous. You have no idea what it is as you approach - it's this gigantic abstract fang. Is it art? you think, and conclude that it must be, because you can't tell what else it's supposed to be.

Sadness. Now:


And again, some day. But not for now.


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c. 2005 j. lileks. Email, if you wish, may be sent to "first name at last name dot com."