Well, that was an odd weekend. Stayed up too late, woke too early, had every attempt at a nap punctured by a domestic fracas, ate leftovers for every meal, and finished nothing I began. No more of those, please.

Friday I went to Gnat’s school as a Parent Helper. There were two of us. We helped the kids finish their scarecrows. Previously the kids had assembled the bodies and cut out the facial features; our role was to add the fabric, the buttons, the straw, and a strip of fabric across the hat. We had five kids at a time; each kid who finished fetched another from the class. (We did the project in a second-floor bridge over the main atrium so the other kids could concentrate on reading.) They never stopped coming. Two hours. At least I got to meet all of Gnat’s classmates, and see the range of behaviors and personalities. Same old, same old, even though they’re six; there are only so many human traits, after all. The brash girl, the goofy boy, the happy bumbler, the hesitant shy one, the brilliant kid who can’t stay focused long enough to finish taking a pee, et cetera. When we took the first group out to the tables, the most rambunctionistic of the boys announced HE WAS GOING TO TAKE THE BLUE CHAIR, because it was the biggest. I noted, breezily, that he wasn’t, because that seat would go to the Grown-Up Lady, and he would take a small chair like everyone else, including me.

NO I’M NOT, he announced, dismissive.

Yes, you are, I said, with no particular force, and pointed to the smaller chair. Which he took.

Of course I had just announced myself as one those people who do not let the kids follow their bliss, but it didn’t seem to bother the other mom. (Later I asked which one was her boy, and she said “he was in the first group.” Gulp.)

Gnat came out and held up her scarecrow. “The face looks weird,” she said. I looked at it: the mouth was, well, weird.  “It does look weird,” I said. She gave me an astonished look: how could you?  I regretted what I’d said, but then again I’m one of those; I think praise should be frequent and genuine, not constant and insincere. I amended my remarks, and said that scarecrows were supposed to be weird, in order to scare off the crows. Hence the name.

“It’s all crooked.” I was reminded of something my wife said, which is perhaps one of the more astute pieces of personal criticism she ever levied: why do you have to have an opinion about everything? I said that the smile was fine, which of course it was. (Just weird.) She made the rest of the scarecrow, threw me a kiss from the hallway, and was replaced by another kid. And on it went.

At one point the Hispanic students came by. The Hispanic students are not mainstreamed, but held in special separate classes until third grade, at which point I gather they are magically integrated into all the social relationships that have built up over the three previous years. It really was quite remarkable. The teacher led a line of brown-skinned students through the atrium, and of course they all looked at what we were doing. (“We” at this point included two white kids, an Asian kid, and an African-American kid.) I noted to the other parent: I never thought I’d see the days when schools were racially segregated again.

But that’s progress.

The weekend, as noted, was a mess. I managed to fit in some TV, which piles up and demands release. .  I watched “The Wire” with my Friday night bag of greasy popcorn, then   I finished the second season of “Lost,” and noted with no small quantity of rue that I could have skipped everything but the last episode and gotten the general gist, but of course the pleasure is in the journey. In this case the journey included a two-hour season finale, which meant the remote slipped from my boneless hand at 3 AM. (I finished  the first season of “Deadwood,” which was pitch-perfect. I finished the second CD of the second season of “The Office,” which continues to impress. What sets it apart from the British version? The lack of suffocating dread. I downloaded the first episode of this year’s “Lost,” then went on the internet to see if I should hate it or not. Kidding. I enjoyed it entirely, griefers be damned.

Sunday afternoon I kicked around the southern burbs with the Giant Swede, having the usual conversation made up the usual amounts of ichor and choler; we ended up at Southdale at 4 PM just as shock-jock Spew Spewitt was concluding a book signing – my, what a coincidence, that. So we all went out for beers at Ruby Tuesdays and discussed politics for an hour. Always a grand time.

I dropped off the Giant Swede at his mother-in-law’s, then hit the highway. The radio served up my favorite lost early-80s non-hit, “All The People Tell Me So” by the Monroes. And I’ll be damned if it wasn’t warm enough today to roll down the windows and crank it up as loud as the Element could take it. Glorious autumn, ours again.


This was unknown to me: the new Denver Art Museum. It looks like a building devoted to the history of things your mother would not let you carry while running. It might come in handy if the earth is threatened by a giant balloon, but otherwise it is a perfect symbol of a culture that does not have the faintest clue what it stands for. I don’t mean our culture in general; I mean the culture of the curators of our artistic heritage. Really: this building is a warning. Within these walls you will find Lincoln Logs glued to a piece of plywood and titled “My Uncle, The Rapist.”  The closest you’ll get to representative art – will be screaming popes! And you’ll like it!  Of course, that’s not actually the case; the museum includes the old as well as the new. It even has a Bouguereau, although as usual they seem somewhat apologetic about it. For the record, I do think he’s sappy and sentimental, but at least he could paint. If I had to be in a cell with one painting for the rest of my life, I’d choose a Bouguereau over . . . well, this.

It has to be a masterpiece; it's ten feet wide.



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