I made the worst supper tonight I’ve ever made. Thursday is fish night, and my choices are simple: either the frozen bricks of cod stuffed with minced crab – delicious but tiny; pro football players would eat six as appetizers – or the marinated salmon slabs, which come with idiot-proof Butterball-style pop-up timers. I don’t know what they’re marinated in, exactly, except that it does not come off the baking tray with anything less than a sandblaster and a chisel and a few drops of caustic lye. Sometimes I get the fish-food pre-encrusted by my local supermarket, and they rarely get it wrong. Tortilla-jalapeno coating for some indistinct flavorless aquaticus genericus, or Dijon breading for catfish. Tonight I put the place down and my wife did not know what it was. Meat? Fish? Some cruel synthesis of the two? She took a bite, and made a face: all tastebuds reporting, but intel is murky.

“What is this?" she asked. "It would help if I knew what I was supposed to taste."

"It’s a pecan crust," I explained.

“Oh.” She took another bite. “Usually I like pecans.” She chewed, confused. “What’s the fish?”

“It should be salmon.”

She looked alarmed: there was nothing salmony whatsoever about the thing in her mouth. I agreed: it tasted like some fishy clod rolled in chunky dirt.

“The fries are good,” I lied. They were underdone, actually. I buy these fancy fries sprinkled with various spices, and they have two settings: mealy, and incinerated. I can pop in some Ore-Ida generics and have perfect fries in 22 minutes @ 420 degrees, but these fries either end up like warm worms or carbonized fossils.

The salad was okay, but I didn’t make that. I poured it out of a bag. Spinach is safe again; the shuddering haunch-squat squitter-greens have worked their way through the supply chain.

Jasper got the fish. Jasper liked the fish. Jasper looked up at us with an expression that said “that was better than my own offal – got any more?” No. I did not have any more. I took him on a walk, feeling my own belly roil and surge with irritation and alarm. When I got back it was time to do the radio show, but they didn’t call exactly when I thought they would; I figured I’d gotten lost in the hustle & scrum of talk radio scheduling, so when my wife told me someone was coming over soon to pick up the air mattress, I said Yes Dear and headed to the basement to get it off the shelf. I had the phone in my pocket, just in case.

And of course it rang. I don’t know what you think of when you consider the people who appear as guests on radio; you might see them sitting in a book-lined study, tapping their pipe, waving a finger in the air to the Mozart on the stereo. Me, I was in sweatpants in the garage, pulling a plastic bin off the shelves. And now we address the nation!

I said my piece about the election (short version, the GOP blew it; long version, squandered mandate and momentum) and had a few words about whether the play-nice approach from the White House is the ol’ Rope-a-dope; don’t think so. The number of times in which the rope-a-dope strategy has been advanced versus the number of times in which dopes have been roped is about 85 to 1. Afterwards I finished the Diner – well, did it all, really. Took 90 minutes, and I had no time to futz with the levels or add fancy artwork; sorry. But it was fun.

Fun is good.

Yesterday’s warmth gave way to medium temps, which are now dropping to normal ranges; snow is predicted for tomorrow. I can accept that. The cold snap prepared us; the warm snap – is there such a thing? I’d say the warm caress – was the last reminder of things gone and things to come. The festoonery is up here and there, the jingly music has begun, and Gnat, for no reason, drew a turkey on the kitchen chalkboard today. I can bear it.

And that was today. No, there was more: I went to the office to return some stuff for a photo shoot, and in accordance with My Way, I put on good slacks and a tie and shiny shoes. Also a shirt; that really completes the effect. I ran into the boss, which was good, and he quoted a line from a recent column he liked, which was also good. Then I headed back home to write my column. As I drove up the street to Jasperwood I got behind a rambling mob of Youths from the nearby high school; they were walking in the street, fifty strong. I slowed, not wanting to kill anyone; they got of the way. Except for one. She trudged on, Youth Who Must Be Served. I wove around, and checked my rear view mirror: she raised her hands and shouted something.

So, of course, I stopped. Opened the door, leaned out, and said “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that?”

“Uh – Fall Rules!” she said. Quick thinking; if I saw but didn’t hear, I would have seen her mouth form  the Eff and the Ooo.

“It does!” I said.

“I love your car,” said a young lady on the sidewalk.

“Thanks!” I said. “Have a great day.”

I drove up half a block, hit the garage door opener; another knot of kids were paused, waiting for the stragglers. One lanky lass with long hair looked at me with an expression of utmost gravity, and said:

“I love your car. Seriously.”

I smiled and said I loved it too.

Today’s youth! So wise, so considerate. I went inside to write the column. Yes, I left the office to write a column.  Peculiar life. But if I sat at my desk and looked like I was trying to pass a clove-studded orange  through my urethra with the effort of writing, no one would notice or care; at home I can stand as I write, talk out loud, listen to music, and Create. But I took off the tie.

Nothing much else to report; took a phone survey about my XM radio from a poor fellow so exhausted he audibly yawned three times in the course of the interview. The highlight came when he asked if my new awareness of the 24-hour Oprah channel would influence my decision to subscribe to XM once my free trial period was over.

“I’ve already subscribed,” I said. “We covered that. I said I signed up with the first 30 days.”

“Oh – uh . . . “

“If you missed that, we’d better change it, because if you have a whole series of questions predicated on whether or not I might sign up in the future, it’s not going to work.

“Uh – right.” I heard frant-o-type in the background, as he attempted to work back to the pivotal question, but I gathered he had never gotten this far in an interview before, and was locked into a system that did not allow him to go back.

“Well – if you, uh, could it be that if you didn’t subscribe, would you be more likely, somewhat likely, less likely, or definitely not likely to subscribe based on your awareness of Oprah 24-7?”

“Definitely not likely.”

He sighed with relief. Or maybe it was a yawn.

Come the weekend, the two are easily confused. Have a fine day; see you Monday!

Note: as of noon today I could access my Diner page, which meant I had bandwidth to spare. As of 11 PM tonight, it’s gone. Ha ha! All that work for nothing, it seems – well, next week’s Diner is in the can, then. Timely as an old open tin of tuna, but at least it’s done.



    << >>


c. j lileks. email may be sent to first name at last name dot com.