not that there's anything wrong with that!

Unbelievable: it’s after dark, and I’m you-know-where, in shorts, listening to the Oak Island Water Feature, enjoying a see-through beverage. It hit 83 today, I believe, and we’re due for the same tomorrow. The trees have shed only a fraction of their leaves, but enough have turned to give the neighborhood that perfect fall appearance filmmakers love when they want to goose your nostalgia glands.

You may recall a brief defense I made a few weeks ago on behalf of serial TV, and how watching entire seasons on DVD is one of the fine boons of modern life? I thought I was arguing with Mark Steyn, but it turns out he was responding to something written by Terry Teachout, known to many of you as the WSJ critic and blogger at About Last Night. Well, I walked into a restaurant on Saturday night, and there he was. Hah! Here’s my chance! Man’s on my turf, now.

Really. Mr. Teachout was in town to review our local cultural offerings. He’d hinted about his visit on his blog, so I emailed to extend a dinner invitation. I suppose it’s odd – hi there Mr. Nationally Renowned Critic, you’ve quoted me on your blog – would you like to watch me eat? But that’s the peculiar world of the new media, I guess. Hell, Tim Blair hit me up for a room, and he was from another country. Another hemisphere.

When I walked in the hostess said “Mr. Lileks?” and for a moment I had a flash of what it might be like to be a marquee name, known on sight! But of course Terry had arrived a few minutes before, thereby alerting the hostess. Also, the place was dead, and I was the only 5:30. Still. For a moment, I felt like I could have caned a server for impertinence and had it hushed up. The dinner was delightful – the steak was so tender it actually wept when you cut it, and the service was brisk without so much as a jot of obsequiousness. Mr. T is a rare fellow, a true boulevardier, and one of those daunting intellects that more or less knows everything you might possibly bring up, but would be as interested in discussing it the tenth time as the first. Painting, architecture, music, politics – could have gone for hours. But he had a show to get to, so off through the IDS Center court. I pointed out where Mary Tyler Moore had her famous zoom shot in the opening credits (I’d call it a rack focus, but that would be crude), and as it turned out he watched the show as a younger fellow, too. Once people see the balcony they remember, right away. It’s like going to Chicago and having someone point out where Bob Newhart walked, I guess. We have a statue on the Nicollet Mall of Mar tossing her hat, but it’s not the same. That’s just commemorative metal. She actually sat up there, on that balcony.

This being a smallish town once, there’s a plaque.

Didn’t accomplish much this weekend, aside from cleaning out the shed. It’s full of potting products my wife has accumulated over the summer, things I put away without sorting – hello, a bag of fireworks! – and various implements whose usefulness has come to an end. I like the shed; it smells like a cabin at camp, and it functions as a time capsule of sorts. I usually go in to get what I need, and straight it up at the end or start of the season. So items I laid down four months ago are just where I left them. I don’t know when it was built – in the sixties, probably, judging from the hardware. It was one of those bonus items that came with the house. A man should have a shed. 

Sunday afternoon I went on a search for a mop holder. A what? A mop holder. You know.

No, you don’t. No one did, at first. When you say “mop holder” to the hardware store clerk, you can see him scan his memory banks, looking for that specific term, but nothing comes up. When you say “a bracket to hold the handle of a mop,” he gets it, but then there’s a small moment of second-guessing: any handle will do, no? Why’d you have to drag mops into this? Because “handle holder” doesn’t do it, any more than “handle bracket,” which sounds even worse. I have to describe what I want: there’s a plate that goes against the wall, and a ring that attaches to the plate? You put the handle of the mop – or broom – into the ring, and gravity holds it in place. Again, confusion: gravity? A gravity bracket? What are you building, a rocketship in a 1952 movie? "Peterson! Get on your magnetic boots and get out there and fix the grav-bracket!"

But I don’t want a bracket; the bracket is usually a clamp that holds the handle in place, and gravity is the enemy of the bracket. Gravity tugs the handle down. The mop holder, to use the phrase with which we began this colloquy, uses gravity to thwart gravity’s desires. The harder gravity pulls, the more secure the mop. Of course, eventually gravity wins; it pulls the mounting plate off the wall, because it’s glued on. But I’d rather reglue than screw, if you know what I mean. You don’t? Well, the brackets have to be screwed into the wall, and that involves drilling, and I hate drilling.

The clerk nodded, and took me to aisle 293, where they had . . . brackets. No grav-assisted mop holders.

I went to a competing store, Menard’s, a local chain whose corporate logo is a cartoon version of Ray Szmanda, the guy who did their ads for many years. (He also had a bit part in a movie.) Ray was beloved, perhaps, because of his grin. His jaw seemed to swing out in a peculiar but endearing way:

Unlike Home Depot, Menard’s is bursting with unrelated merchandise, so you always walk out with a movie, a jug of peanuts, a sixteen-tool pocket knife (with a cheap, easily-confused compass embedded in the handle)  and a set of Halloween coasters. Also batteries. Heavy slabs of batteries, including the useless "C" cell, which are good only for throwing hard at the head of people who design things that need "C" cells.   I did not find the holders I needed. I settled on a bracket that required screwing, but it did not clamp the handle with its cold metal hands. “Slide the handle up,” said the instructions,  “and let gravity do the rest.” Now you’re talking my language. Glad someone in the screw-mounted mop-securing industry understands. For heaven’s sake, gravity’s cheap. Use all you want, we’ll never run out.

I'd prefer magnetism, though. You can't trust gravity, in the end; magnetism, however, is conflicted, and you can use that to your advantage. Remember: the nation that controls magnetism controls the universe.

I also bought a power strip, because I am a sucker for power strips. I don't believe the claims - protects against surges! Filters electricity through ion-baffled osmosis! I just like having as many outlets as the UL boffins will permit. The strip that currently powers the TV / stereo in the family room is inadequate to the task - it's cheap, has only six outlets, and sometimes smells like hot hair or a civet in estrus, so I wanted something else. The new one has phone jacks. See, the TiVo wants to call home every so often, but like a cruel husband, I keep it isolated. Why do you need them? Are you saying I'm not enough? Once every 100 days or so I’ll tire of the daily nag and hook it up, but this means dragging a cord to a phone outlet in the next room. Phone cords are the most promiscuous of all cords; they do it with anything, and I have to untangle it from component cables, speaker wire, power cords, optical audio cords. It’s like the Laccoon Recreation Society back there.

As long as I was replacing the power strip, I could start fresh. Unplug everything. Cinch ‘em up with twisties, as they say at mouse bondage clubs. But hey: here’s some cord spools. Even better. I bought the whole magilla, brought them home, disconnected everything and wrapped up the ghastly mess into a few nice tidy arrangements, attached a retractable phone cord to the device, and voila: neatless. Order. Perfection. Then I pushed the TV stand back and covered it all up. No one will ever see it; no one will ever praise my work, unless of course I show them, but it’s remarkable how infrequently such an opportunity presents itself.

When I was cleaning up the parents of Gnat’s houseguest came by to collect their daughter, so we invited them in. I got to chatting with the other Dad, and the conversation naturally went around to weekend chores, so I pulled back the TV stand and showed him what I’d done.

So that all worked out nicely.

Hope you had a good weekend. New Match & Quirk, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

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c. 2006 j. lileks. Email, if you wish, may be sent to "first name at last name dot com."