Took the iPod-enabled clock radio back to Target, because it didn’t work any more. It reset to 1:00 AM and refused to accept any contrary ideas. I didn’t have the receipt, but they can swipe your card and call up the purchase. It’s one of the nice things about the Mark O’ The Beast era. When the nice matrony lady at the counter opened the box to ensure I wasn’t returning a brick, I realized with horror that I’d forgotten to include some plastic widgets that fit over the connector. You know, the connector widgets. It didn’t matter. If I’d said “I included the nano adaptor but left the 4G one at home!” I would have earned a shrug, I think.  When I’d set it down I’d said “it’s broken. Would you like to know how it’s broken?”

“Nope,” she said. “It doesn’t matter.”

So I guess you have a ninety-day window in which you can pour battery acid into the vents, then. Fine. She took the amount off my card, and I headed into the store to put it right back on. This was a different Target, of course, and I felt like a stranger. I took comfort in the fact that half the shoppers were probably citizens of the old Target as well, and were equally confounded by the layout. You expected to find old men in galoshes wandering through women’s foundation garments, weeping. Looking for the Ensure, sir? No, I’m looking for Jane Russell. 'Course I’m looking for the gad-durned Ensure. I managed to fill my cart with a variety of pulverized tree products (facial tissue, bathroom tissue, paper towels and napkins, each with its own inscrutably different price) and found a replacement for the radio. Left the store and pushed the cart through the slosh and slurt, slogging to my car at the end of the lot. The sun was out, and bounced hard off the cars and smashed into your eyes; the slush made the cart wheels turn in different direction, including the ever-popular sideways direction carts love so much. I had parked on the other side of a low snow drift, which meant I had to portage the cart over a small knoll. Momentary pang of conscience: the nearest cart corral was quite a distance away. If I left my cart here, some one would have to come and get it. Would he be grateful, since minutes spent rounding up stray carts were minutes spent avoiding other jobs? Did he curse the people who couldn’t be bothered to store the carts with the rest, and gave them the fleeting sense of freedom? Nothing makes a cart go rogue like an hour spent facing the interstate, after all. Oh, the ideas that must give them.

Then I spied a cart at the absolute end of the lot. Whoever went to get it might as well get mine. I left it there, wondering if that made the person who abandoned the cart in the boondocks lazy for not walking it back, or wonderfully foresighted: by placing a cart at the far perimeter, he gave tacit permission for everyone else to leave their cart in the hinterlands. This meant we could get back in the car and turn on the fargin’ heat. Did I mention it was 11 degrees? Did I mention that I walked through the drifts carrying forty pounds of Pepsi and reconstituted tree and didn’t once curse the state, the month, the day, the climate, the season, or the ties that bind me here? Because I didn’t. That’s next month.

En route home I was stopped next to a rolling billboard truck; it had an ad for Orville Redenbacher popcorn, and ol’ Orville himself was on the side. I thought: isn’t he dead? The answer, is yes. And no. (Warning: high octane nightmare fuel. It’s a desiccated undead zombie-mummy in a bowtie, and it will steal your soul.

Gnat wasn’t with me for the inaugural push into the foreign Target; playing with a friend. No school on Monday, so we had a brief welcome return to the at-home days, complete with mac-and-cheese lunch. Somehow I wrote two columns as she played; I doubt they make any sense at all. 

Came back from errands to an empty house. Jasper was sitting on the sofa, as usual for the afternoon. In the mornings he’s all over the house, but often hides downstairs between the sofa and the wall; it’s his den. At noon he comes up and looks at us with bright expectant eyes, then follows me outside for my post-lunch nip on a small cigarillo. When he’s decided there’s nothing more in the way of food to be had, he retreats to the sofa. When I came home he didn’t come to greet me; he usually doesn’t. I come, I go; he’s used to it. He was sitting on the sofa with his head between his legs, staring straight ahead as if lost in thought or bottomless existential despair. Of course, that’s projection; he was in idle. Threat assessment and food-probability both came up as null, so why stir.

“Hey,” I said. “How’s it going.”

He turned and looked at me, then turned away and stared straight ahead again. It meant nothing, but it just seemed sad. The worst thing we could learn about dogs would be to know they suffered regret. Or understood the idea of “tomorrow.”

Wrote most of another column in the evening, which I must now finish. I’ll pad this out with the patented slab o’ ephemera. A Boingboing entry noted how Woodsy Owl has been changed – no longer a round happy little forest-defender but an earnest nerdy dork-bird.

Next month I’ll be starting a site on curious & regrettable comic books, and Exhibit A was Woodsy: Eco-Nark. A sample:

Golly-ecology! Apparently banana peels were made out of non-degrading plastic in 1975.

New Quirk, of course. Now I’m off to finish the column and the second half of “24.” See you tomorrow.

24 2nd hour UPDATE: so it's Dr. Bashir and Tom Paris? It's become the defunct Star-Trek spinoff full-employment show. Jean-Luc Picard for president in season seven!