Rare as hen’s incisors is the night where I go out among my fellow man; usually I’m home doing the usual. But tonight the People of the Triangle assembled to plan the Halloween party. This year we’re throwing a shindig, a hullabaloo, a do, a fete, in the nexus of colliding streets at the bottom of the hill. The intersections carve out a triangle, and it’s technically city property – but I’ll get to that. We have been granted permission to block off a portion of the street for a Halloween party, thereby relieving ourselves of the obligation to answer the door every 97 seconds and drop candy into the bags of kids who couldn’t say “thank you” if you spotted them the Ank and the Ou. We’ll have bonfires, a smoke machine, scary music, chili, and probably nine feet of snow, the way the season’s going. But we gathered tonight to hammer out who brings what.

It wasn’t necessary; one email or phone call could have set it up, but this was the birth of a tradition. Or so we hoped. Everyone has kids, so this is something we can keep going until they’re all off to college and we’re thin old birds tottering around the garden worrying about our hips. The gathering was held at the house of Tom the Burninator, who is known in these parts for his love of conspicuous immolation – when I first moved here and noted how he always had a firepit going in the back, I figured he was burning incriminating data. Then it became apparent that no one could have that much incriminating data, so perhaps he was taking in other people’s paperwork. Turns out he just has a healthy attitude towards the pleasures of fire. When we showed up tonight he was apologizing for the fireplace – it had lost its will, and was nothing more than sullen embers. But through the night he fed it big planks of cardboard, and it roared to life with agreeable gusto. We discussed Who Should Bring What while the kids banged around the house; as expected, they formed the usual stratified band of savages. As long as they were neither completely silent nor completely screaming, the parents tuned them out.

At one point we were discussing who belonged to which block club. The city determines your membership, but given the unusual topography of the area we all feel more kinship with the Triangle. I said we were officially grouped with the folks up the hill, but never considered ourselves Hill People. “Always thought we were more Holler people,” I said.

“We always thought you were Hill people,” said one of the parents.

“Proud to be holler,”  I said. “Y’all my kin.”

It’s amusing if you imagine everyone is blonde and speaking in “Fargo” accents.

But then I got to thinking: where did the Triangle come from? The Triangle was created by the city; they drove a street through the edge of a parcel of land and severed it from the residential plot to which it had belonged. In short: that’s my land. Now, it would be durn churlish to claim it, since Jasperwood’s lot is inordinately, ridiculously big. (I say this not because I am some sultan who presides over a vast estate – it’s due to  two things: the original owner bought the smallish lot next door, and the original lot is a long sloping hill on which no structure could be built. The combination produced the longest lot I’ve seen in this city. Not the largest: the longest. It’s very cool.) But if the gummint hadn’t Kelo’d my land back in the 20s that would have been part of Jasperwood, and I could plant on it, landscape it, add some flowers. Someone did plant flowers years ago; added a bench, other improvements. A bitter pissy bitchybody complained, and the city ripped it up. 

Well, I can’t get it back, but I can claim it. I will bury my dog there some day, and it will be Jasper Park. A small triangle of land you can see in Google Earth. I might even set up a webcam.

In my parents’ days half the guests, if not more, would have been smoking. Neither of my parents smoked, but all the aunts and uncles did – Larks and Newports and Winstons, the blue-air brigade. The aunts wore dresses and nylons and heels – I still remember the welter of circles left in the kitchen linoleum by the heels of the aunts. The men wore two-toned shirts and sat around the living room, inert as lions after the kill,  drinking beer and laughing expansively while the women cleaned in the kitchen and chattered like happy tropical birds. The kids ran up and down and back and around and out and in. We never watched TV, because there was no TV for us to watch – the idea that there would be kids’ shows at 8 PM was ridiculous. We got four shows a year: Oz, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown Tree, and Rudolph. It was the same tonight, without the smokes and the spike heels – the kids ran through the party like a bead of mercury sluicing among the rocks, the parents laughed and bantered and talked about the things we had in common. (The kids.) When it was done I felt good. Holler people are the finest people you’ll ever meet.

If this had been a Peter DeVries novel or Cheever story, someone – usually a failed but charming intellectual becalmed in the suburbs – would be canoodling with someone else’s wife in the kitchen, who responded to the classical allusions floating on the seducers winey breath with a sharp mocking retort that would end in a brisk cynical coupling seventy pages later. Sitting around the living room tonight I realized that the middle-aged overeducated vaguely alcoholic East-coast suburban adulterer is no longer the cultural archetype he used to be. Pour some Cutty on the curb for the dead homey. Or the dead homey-wrecker.

Back home; uploaded the Fargo stuff, proofread it, futzed it, then banged out this. So: new Fargo update. More hotels. Again, I note that this is not intended specifically for people dying to marinate in the rich architectural history of Fargo; it’s a tale of a small city in the middle of the continent. You can’t understand America without understanding New York or Los Angeles, but you can’t understand the country without studying the innumerable communities that arose from the rich vacant earth in between the Metropolises east and west. In a way I’m more impressed by a 20 story building in the middle of nowhere than a 50 story building in the middle of Manhattan.

Two hotels, 15 pages. Starts here. Plus the Quirk. Thanks for the visit, 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."