The Target is closing. FOREVER? Gnat asked, and I said yes. We would have to go to a new Target. "I hate the new Target." Only because it’s different, hon. You’ll come to love it. "I miss the old Target." It’s still there. "Can we go see it?" Sure. One last visit.

It closes on the 6th, after which it will be clawed into a heap of chickenwire, plaster and metal beams; on the site will arise, phoenix-like, a brave new Target that looks absolutely smashing, to judge from the renderings. It will have a grocery store, which will make my life much easier, but won’t change my main shopping habits. It’s all about the ice cream. The local grocery store is close enough so I can get home without the ice-cream slumping into an indistinct slurry. Actually, I’m not even sure it’s ice cream. It’s some sort of Splenda-saturated frozen dessert brick. I left some in the sink one evening and it was still there the next day. It made a half-hearted attempt to pretend to melt, then it just sat there, all pretenses dropped. But it has peanut-butter ridges, so I like it, and it contains no sugar. By now my palate is as discriminating as an oven mitt, so I suppose it doesn’t matter.

Anyway. We drove to the store for one last look. Keep in mind we’ve been going here all her life; I still remember buying her a Hello Kitty umbrella years ago when she was still sitting in the cart’s child seat. At some point she got out for good; not sure when that happened, but such landmarks in life are rarely noted.  When she was in the seat she’d request that I sidle up to the device that played selections from the CD compilations, and she’d push every button. When she was in the seat she’d demand to put the credit card into the slot and tap OK on the screen after I’d signed. When she was in the seat we were always facing each other; I’d lift her out at the end of the trip, trying not to knock off a shoe as her legs threaded out of the cart. Six years, every week.

We walked hand in hand across the lot and entered by the usual door. (We’ve always been North Entrance people.)

"Oh my Gosh," she said. "I don’t believe it."

The store looked stripped. The store looked like something from a 1970s dystopian sci-fi movie with Charlton Heston. She made tracks for the toy department, since she had ten Christmas dollars to spend. We passed the Seasonal aisle, where we’d gotten the gazebo, the Halloween decorations, the Christmas stuff, the summertime toys – empty.

“I don’t believe it,” she said again.  We got to the toy aisle.

Empty. The enormity of the loss hit her square in the heart.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” she said.

Believe it, kid.


All I managed to buy were some garbage bags, two around-the-house sweaters, a tiny stuffed Hello Kitty (fifty cents, what the heck) and a My Little Pony toothbrush. (I cannot refuse such items, because as long as she’s interested in MLPs and Hello Kitty she’s still my little girl; she still fits in the cart seat, somehow.) We paid up and said goodbye. On the way out I saw the drawings of the new store. Looks incredible. Up by October. And I thought: I’ll be buying the cheap freeze-dried coffee then, because I won’t have a job. No you can’t have a new toothbrush! We’re poor! Use your sleeve!

Then I shook it off and gave myself the usual lecture / delusional reassurance, and we went home.

We did some piano practice, but between the holidays and the vacation we’re way, way behind. Tomorrow’s lesson will be a trial, I fear. Ah well. It’ll be Friday, and Fridays are always good. But I have to say that the idea of spending the usual hours working on the website gives me pause. On one hand, I should be doing something that will make me lots of money. On the other hand, it’s relaxing; laying out sites and resizing and scanning is like watching TV for me. On the gripping hand, I have a book due in three months, so maybe I should throttle back on the big-ticket updates for a while? Leave the completion of the Fargo project for the summer, stall Money until the book’s done. I’ll still do the matchbooks, and the other weekly feature I’ve planned won’t take much time or effort. Better to finish the book and keep writing the novel.

Did I know this was coming? Something made me sum up everything I’d done, print it off and create that big neat archive of my life’s work.

I will say this: as lucky as I’ve been, I’ve labored under some bizarre strictures at the paper since I started. In the beginning they didn’t trust me to write the entire column myself; I had to include letters from readers. Like fargin’ training wheels. I actually felt nervous when I wrote the whole thing myself: Gosh, hope they don’t mind.

Then the new features editor didn’t know what to do with me. I don’t know how much I mentioned about this at the time, but I think I was an inch away from losing the column entirely. I ran Tuesdays, Thursday, and Sundays. In the redesign, Thursday would be “Style” day, and as she put it “you’re not very stylish.”  The Sunday section was going to be devoted to big long thoughtful pieces and high-end Spending & Wearing stories, aimed mostly at women – and God knows, as a male, I had no shot at connecting with a female audience, right? And apparently they didn't think I could write long and thoughtful. I left the first meeting, thinking: I’m dead. My proposal to save myself was a half-page feature running every day on page two - a dead-tree blog with tidbits and quotes, This Day in History stuff, odd wire-service photos, anchored by a daily 500-word column. It would have a web compliment, with links and additional material galore.

They couldn’t quite see it. I mocked it up; they couldn’t quite get it.

In the end I got a 200 word daily column, for which I was grateful, and I managed to eke another 100 words out of the budget. They liked the result – I detected some surprise there, frankly – and they liked the fact that I was writing to the themes of the new section. So it’s been going well, and I'm delighted to be one of the few people in the business who write a daily column. I’d still like to do that Page 2 idea; if the new editor is simpatico and I’m not stabbed gut-wise during the first or second waves of decimation, and the new editor doesn't think I'd turn Page 2 into a Freeper thread - because I see everything through the narrow cloudy prism of partisan politics, you know - maybe it’ll happen. I do know that I’ve spent ten years at the paper trying to do what I do best, and while it’s been occasionally frustrating – as all jobs are now and then – I’d like another ten. If not?

Then it’s Taster’s Choice for me!

(Oh, one more thing: a video from the Arizona trip. It's Gnat on a go-kart track. About a minute in she pulls a rather nifty maneuver. The flagman had signalled the last lap; everyone stopped, but she wanted one more lap, and threaded the traffic quite nicely. [It's repeated in slo-mo, in case you miss it.] If you squint you can see her put her hand in her face in the traditional "cripes, I can't believe I did that" gesture. The music is "The Race" by Yello. Most recent version of Quick Time required, alas; exports to Windows Media have unaccountably failed since I upgraded something or other. Exports into avi format come out ridiculously large. Apologies.)

Big new site-wide / Bleat redesign on Monday! See you then, and thanks for all the support. Really: I'm a lucky, lucky man.