Gnat has built a fort in front of the TV. Two high chairs from the kitchen table, several pillows, a blanket for shelter, and a herd of My Little Ponys and pens and books to while away the time. It blocks the TV for the rest of us. She begged me not to take it down last night. Please, daddy. Please! This grates against my desire to reset the house to all the defaults at day’s end, but what was I to do, especially when she got down on one knee and held out her interlaced hands like a serf begging the lord for a slightly less enthusiastic whipping? Fine, honey. I’ll leave it up.

She went to bed, and I took it down. But I put it up before I went to bed. This morning she was happy to see it, and marched off to school, after which I took it down. I put it back up before she returned home; when I finish this it will go down again. Because I don’t just want to watch TV; I want to watch new TV. The plasma arrived yesterday. It replaced a boxy tube TV that weighed ten tons -  when the deliverymen moved it they had the expression of Sam Kinison’s pallbearers, respectful but pained – and had that unavoidable booty you get with the tube models; it was two feet thick, for heaven’s sake, heavy as a Bruckner finale, and I was certain it would one day collapse the TV stand. The new unit is thin as celery with a picture as crisp as cold lettuce. I’m happy. I watched an episode of Deadwood last night, and had to laugh: all this big bright technology so I can see Al Swearengen pass a kidney stone. 

Resetting the house to defaults is impossible anyway, since the big storage / digitization / archiving project continues to occupy the entire basement and my office. Each box brings a new task. I decided to sort all my clips, for example. Well. I’ve been in the business since 1978, so there are a few newspapers to sort. I threw out duplicates, winnowed down the papers to the front page plus my column, and bagged everything with dates. I made the decision to throw away a series of journals from 1976 and 1977, because they’re useless and embarrassing and contain absolutely nothing of interest; a record of attenuated adolescent despair and maladjustment, expressed in the gawps of a stripling who thinks that a Led Zep lyric reference somehow says it all. I know, I know: Lord Byron burned his diaries, and History Wept, but I am not Byron and these books tell me nothing I don’t already remember. The same might go for the juvenilia – reams of poetry and meretricious fiction written in fountain pen on onion-skin paper – but I can’t quite throw that crap away. At least I was trying. I was filtering raw youth through artifice and schemes borrowed from my betters, and the result is less horrifying than the cri de coeurs of the journals.

And they’re not even the real journals. Those began in earnest in 1978 and continued for nine years in identical books. A stupendous quantity of drivel. The plotline was unvarying:

* I need a girlfriend! I am but miserable and worthless protozoa clinging to the gum stuck on a bum’s wretched shoe!

* I have a girlfriend! No one has known love like this before, except for selected poets and musicians whose works speak directly to me with unencumbered connections!

* She has dumped me! Gouge my heart with a spork, I shall never love again!

* She called! She said she wanted her stuff back, but I detected a note of ambivilance, and soon she will realize her mistake and rush back to my arms, unless she doesn’t, like in “Annie Hall,” but if that’s the case I’ll make Art out of it

Occasionally I would mix it up with the Romantic Mistake, which would require me to do the dumping – thereby realizing what a relief it is, an insight that didn’t help at all when contemplating She Who Did You Wrong. There was an interminably attenuated Romantic Mistake that spanned a year or so, and just peeking at those diaries makes me feel heavy and ill and tired. It was also a period of Great Creativity, partly because there was nothing in my inner life I could put into my columns. Then came a smattering of dalliances, post-college life, the move to Uptown into a building of singles (and there’s a tale: the mean-faced scrawny beer-hound homunculus across the hall, the brittle chipper Professional Gal down the hall, the nubile tease whose unit abutted mine, and who used to come over after sunbathing outside and sprawl on the sofa in a bikini and talk about her lousy boyfriend [who later proved her right when she broke up with him, and he embarked on one of those crockery-destruction episodes that brought the cops], the strange secretive fellow in the basement who told Ms. Nubile he was Sean Connery’s bastard son [we all laughed at that one – sure, he was handsome, and you could see the resemblance, but please. Then one day a limo pulled up outside the building and he got inside] ) and the life of a Writer, tapping out my novel on the Leading Edge computer in the summer with the windows open, smoking cigarettes, waiting for the 11 PM train to thunder by and part the night.

Then I met my wife, and the journals stopped. I had better things to do now.

I won’t throw them all away.

Oh, the things you find. A box of family photos was a treat, but I realized instantly I’d have to scan them and make an iPhoto book out of them. I’d already reduced my comics by 2/3rds; it was clear that most of the remainders would have go on eBay as well. Reduce, reduce. Shovel ye now lest your heirs curse you later.

I’m finding boxes I never sorted the last time I put stuff up. One box could be easily dated by the thing on the front: a stand-alone CD burner tricked out in iMac blue plastic. As it turns out, it held items that predated that particular stylistic meme. I found legal pads. Six legal pads with notations I instantly recognized. No – no. Could it be? I’d been through every box in the storage room, and thought I’d lost them . . . Shazam & hallelujah. The Diner tapes.

A few weeks ago I opened the box I thought contained the Diner tapes, and there was only six – and those were post-nighttime shows, not the original run. Damn. Gone forever, then. But no: here were some old, “Classic” Diners from 1997. Well, let’s get to work, then, eh? I plugged in the relevant machinery, set the levels, and started to digitize the tape. I’ve finished one. I’ve a few more to go.

In short: I have forty hours of the old Diner, and they’ll be posted to the site throughout 07.

What else for today? Well, I found some ancient investment documents I no longer need, but I don’t feel comfy commending them to the trash. The shredder takes too long. So let’s burn them, laddy! Burn them all! I put logs in the firepit and dumped them docs on the pyre, and they smelled horrible – glassine windows, old ink, internet boom stocks. I had to poke the thing for an hour, and ended up reeking of  smoke. They didn’t burn as well as I thought, and I’ve no doubt some errant scrap with my social security number floated out and headed into the jetstream, bound for Nigeria. I wrote a column; we practiced piano and did homework and went to pizza night at the church before choir – Gnat played with friends while I read my book, content. I like Tuesdays.      

Now I wave goodbye - off to finish “Gladiator” in wide bright glory; new Quirk, and a small Fargo addition with a link to something you may not have read. Enjoy, and thanks – I’ll see you tomorrow.






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