Last Monday was the first in 17 years I haven’t had to do a column. Felt odd. Tuesday morning was the first in 17 years I haven’t had to worry about the column – its shape, merits, length, worth, potential, failures. Felt better.

I went to Gnat’s school this morning for a music  concert. The kids sang their entire repetoire: 12 songs. Charming. One of them, unfortunately, was a cumulative song  - every new verse adds new details to the story, and also contains the previous verse. They do go on. You suspect it might go on forever, or at least down to the quantum level. Once upon a time there was a muon, the prettiest muon you ever did see! And the muon shot through an atom, and the atom was part of a larger collection of atoms, and the larger collection interacted with others to form a mote, and the mote was in an insect’s eye, and the eye was part of a compound optical structure, and the compound optical structure was on the face of an insect, and the insect was in the belly of a larger insect, and the larger insect was perched on a leaf -  and since the first verse dealt with the roots of a large tree, you know you have a ways to go. The kids finish the verse, exhausted, and there’s much laughter. And there’s one more! Once pout time a there was a quark! The prettiest quark you ever did observe by indirect means! And the quark was next to a muon, and -


Well, I hadn’t had enough coffee.

The rest of it was delightful, and the teacher’s enthusiasm was clearly shared by all, to sound like a 1947 school yearbook entry. And for those who fear that the public schools are a grim den of arid atheism, he began the event with an religious message, calling music a gift from God, and how this idea informed his entire life and approach. No one stood and threw a metal travel mug at his head.

Afterwards I washed the car, or rather drove it to a place where it was washed by others. Got in some of that mid-morning highway driving I like so much. Highway driving at 4 PM wears on you, even if you’ve just begun; speeding along at 9:47 cheers the soul. I stopped at the grocery store to pick up ice cream, the aforementioned Carb Promise. They didn’t have any.

I asked a stockperson if they had any, pointing to the spot where it should be. He fetched an assistant manager. I said I feared it had been discontinued, but since I didn’t see the dreaded DISC on the shelf label, I had hope The assistant manager said he’d go check. (Life in the big city: I see this assistant manager in the church basement on Choir Tuesdays; the main manager listens to my appearances on the Hugh Hewitt show; one of the check-out clerks is the mom of a kid Gnat plays with. Community! The joint’s lousy with it.)  

He returned, shaking his head. “It’s been discontinued.” He shook his head in commiseration. “Good call,” he said.

The frozen-dairy stockperson heard our conversation, and noted that a woman had been by earlier with the same question, and was livid when she discovered it had been axed. “She always bought three at a time,” he said.

“So did I,” I said. “But I lost them in a freezer accident.”

Sympathetic nods all around.

Went home, sad. Perked up. Filed one column; wrote another. Did the Diner, so Veoh would have sufficient time to crunch it down. Picked up Gnat at the bus station in the car.

“Where are we going?”

“The grocery store. The big one.”

“Oh, no,” she wailed. She used to like to go to the grocery store with me. But she was four, then. Now she’s six and three-quarters. “Hey,” she said. “Where’s Pikachu?”

Damn. She had requested that I bring Pikachu to the morning concert, which I did. I even held it up so she could see that he was in attendance, which made her beam. I thought I’d put him in the Element, so I didn’t lose him. But he wasn’t in the Element. So we drove back to the house – a distance of half a block, which must have made us look like the Laziest Americans Ever. I ran into the house, worried that I’d lost him, but there he was, sitting on the sofa. I had no recollection of putting him there. Well, he’s become self-aware and animate, then. Worse things can happen. Off to the big grocery store, the one where you have to pack your own bags. I don’t mind; since I have bagboy experience, I enjoy the chance to show my mad skillz at framing a good bag. I also wanted the chance to show Gnat that the grocery store could be fun again. Oh, she knows it’s fun with Mommy, because she usually wheedles some forbidden item out of Mommy. Well, two can play at the buying-the-child’s-affections game.

As it happens, we were low on nearly everything she wanted, so I looked like Hero VonSpendthrift from the Sugar Army. But it was more than that; she’s just forgotten how much fun we have at the grocery store. I hadn’t, which made it doubly fine. Later, at supper, I asked her about her favorite part of the day so far.

“Well, you won’t believe it,” she said, “but it was the grocery store.”

I said I believed it.


And the evening? Well, my wife was late at work, so I didn’t get to the machinery until 7 PM. Finished the Diner, which took a peculiar turn at the end. Big surprise. If you’re keeping track, or just curious what the hell I’m doing, trust me: I know where this is going, and while I can’t wait to get back to regular-sounding Diners, I’m looking forward to the conclusion, and an audio punchline eight episodes in the making. I added art and fed it to Veoh, hoping against hope that they’d finished crunching the file for this week’s Bleat Radio Theater. I have to use Veoh for files over 10MB – which leads to an interesting peculiarity I cannot explain. Originally I’d intended to  run a different program, a remarkable 54-year old show that was the “Deadwood” of its  era. The file was 13.7 MB in length, which was too big for the Box account. So I edited it into two versions. Each was 13.7 MB. Hmm. Odd. I used an audio capture program to record the show as it played in another program; saved it as an AIFF file – 156 MB – then imported to iTunes and converted the half-show to MP3.

13.7 MB. Per half. I have no explanation.

Since the Bob and Ray shows are 14 MB each, I decided to go the Veoh route and give you three. I didn’t want to pull out individual skits, because it makes them sound like sketch comedians, which they most certainly were not. This segment contains the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday shows from a week in August of 1952, and listening to the shows intact, in sequence, gives you a better picture of the show and its charms. They had about three different voices between the two of them, which was part of the joke. Ray had one standard female voice, middle-aged and slightly addled, which he used for Mary McGoon, the show’s domestic advisor; Bob used his adenoids for his characters, including Tex, a non-Texas sounding fellow who was most notable for his unattractive aroma. Which may have been due to the raccoon coat. I think there’s an appearance by sportscaster Steve Bosco in this selection – his repeated interjections of his own name, and eternal conviction that he had been cut off, is just one of the funniest things I’ve heard. Not because it’s necessarily the funniest thing in the world, I guess, but it’s just damned funny, and so offhandedly bizarre. Some background on the fellows here. Enjoy a piece of 1952.



Enjoy! I had some other things to note today, but they can wait. New Quirk, a small update to the Money. See you tomorrow.