At the office. Noon. Bucket status: unknown. Feet up on the desk, typing on the laptop, looking around at my desk. It’s mostly empty; I’ve been moving things out the last few weeks. If I leave, then the last day will be easier; if I move to online, ditto. I did keep a few pictures on the grey fabric walls – there’s an old “Talk of the Town” fruit crate label I put up when I first arrived; seemed a nice way to start one’s life as a Big City Metro Columnist. (More of a nod to the genre than a reflection of any status I thought I’d get, of course; I’m not that deluded.) There’s a coffee mug and a bunch of pencils I bought my first week. They gave me a month to write my first column. Get my sea legs, learn the ropes. A month! Well, I wrote my first column my second day, then started early work on my Repetitive Strain Disorder by twiddling my thumbs for four weeks. I went to Crate and Barrel and bought some desk items. The pencils never got sharpened, since I edited the hard copy with a pen. The pencils are still in the mug. They’ve been there ten years, unused. I always thought I’d sharpen them on my last day and leave them around the office. Hide them, so they'd be found years later, then used. I don't know why that appealed to me. Sometimes you get these ideas that would make for banal short stories, so you just live them out in real time.
There’s a picture of Jasper. An American flag. An “I Like Ike” button. Some old Soviet pins. The most recent additions: a picture of Gnat, and a drawing she did of our family on a hill under a rainbow.
I like the spare look, frankly. I used to design my workplace with great care, but after a while you don’t see your pictures anymore. They start to look like the bars that keep you in rather the windows that let you look out.
12:47 PM Status unchanged. Hung around the editor’s office for a while, looking nonchalant, but nothing happened. Went outside for a small post-lunch cigar; watched the people heading to the Metrodome to see a Twins game. It would be a great day for outdoor baseball – hot, sunny, the occasional hand of the clouds passing over the sun like someone trying to wake a hypnotized man. But the Dome has a roof, and it’s like sitting in a clammy mushroom.
I am beginning to doubt I will hear anything today, which means 24 more hours twisting my guts into knots that would stump a sailor. But I'm not alone, of course. We're all doing the twist. Whole lotta shakin' going on here, to mix 50s proto-rocker archetypes.
1:15 PM Time is moving very slowly. Reading websites. Right now there’s a dispute at Romanesko over whether Google is to blame for newspapers’ problems – why, they link to things they don’t pay for. One writer confronted the future square on, and came up with two forward-thinking responses: a class-action suit, and union pressure.
That’ll do it. I can see the headline: Newspapers win $1.6 billion verdict against Google, use the money to start a youth-oriented tabloid giveaway paper that competes with YouTube. If you flip the corners of the pages really fast, the pictures appear to move!
4:31 PM Time is an ox in the mud. This has been the longest day since this entire thing broke three weeks ago. At least it hasn’t interfered with my sleep; this morning I dreamed I was entertaining kids at summer camp with the Japanese Grocery Bag dance, which required me to thrash the bags together with mock threatening motions. Highly Rhythmical. I got the feeling it was assumed that I was doing a parody of the dance, not the actual dance itself. My child was impressed, but got bored after a while. That’s when I woke up.
Gnat woke like a shot: today was Wacky Hat Day. This week every day is wacky something day – Wacky Hair, Wacky Hat, Wacky Clothes, Wacky Theoretical Cosmological Postulate, whatever. Yesterday I did her hair in a dozen bands, so she looked like the beard of that wrestler in the Cyndi Lauper video. (Captain Lou Diamond Phillips, or something,) Last night my wife made her hat, which was wacky enow: a felt magician’s topper with noisemakers and pipe cleaners. One of the kids at the bus stop had a remarkably ill-thought out hat: a lampshade. You might wonder whether the shade might obscure the child’s vision, no? Well, the parent included the metal apparatus that attaches to the lamp, which made it impossible for the kid to wear it if she moved or drew breath. But! There were strings attached to tie it under the neck. It also had streamers longer than the child was tall, guaranteeing it would be stepped on and dislodged throughout the day.
I saw her when she got off the bus: she was holding the hat in her hand.
Okay, that picture. I was wrong about who it was, and made a rare early-morning correction based on a flurry of emails. I thought it was Charles Nelson Reilly. Ten metric tonnes of email suggest that it’s Logan Ramsey, whom I now recognize from the Star Trek “Roman” episode. You're a clever, perceptive lot, you are - much more perspicacious than your host. Why did I think this was CNR?
My mistake, and I apologize; we’ll all get through this together, somehow. IMDB triva contribution:
Ramsey is the son of (then) Lt. Cmdr. Logan Ramsey Sr., who sounded the alarm at the start of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Ramsey Sr. was stationed on Ford Island in the middle of the harbor when the Japanese attacked at 7:55 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. Ramsey's father was also responsible for sending one of the most famous messages in the history of radio when he sent: AIR RAID PEARL HARBOR, THIS IS NO DRILL immediately after sounding the alarm
UPDATE: Now let’s take our minds off everything with a giant, lovely, hand-drawn ad for artist’s pens, from this week's Salute to 1933 Art Instruction Advertisements:
C. Howard Hunt! Didn't he corner the silver market? No - wasn't he a Watergate burglar? It's a delightfully instructive series of names at the bottom: C. Howard Hunt and Henry C. Butler. Go Dick Go! Run Spot Run! C Howard Hunt! No doubt Henry C. Butler polish silver with sleeve and tell Mater.
I was watching a Twilight Zone last night, and noticing one of the peculiar aspects of that show I’ve never had explained to my satisfaction: the pre-echo. I’ve noticed it on other shows, but never so much as the Twilight Zone – perhaps because 37% of the shows concern a fellow in a Mysteriously Deserted Place, and hence feature lots of silence punctuated with shouting. You hear the shout before the shout. It’s that way with ordinary dialogue, too. You hear them talk before they talk, and it’s a ghostly, next-room sort of voice. I doubt I’m the only one who notices it, and I think I’ve brought it up here before. If I recall, someone blamed it on the tape; the soundtrack somehow got imprinted from one point on the reel to the point below it. But the pre-echo distance is consistent, and each layer of tape on a reel is a different length. So that doesn’t make sense.
Well, then there’s this explanation. Apparently it’s backward-smearing time domain transients. Isn’t that always the case. I think that was the plot of the Twilight Zone, too. I watched the episode because I had tired of the movie I’m trying to finish, "While the Audience Sleeps." I watch a little each evening, and inevitably take the St. Augustine approach: Lord, grant me the strength to finish this movie, but not tonight. It should be good. It should be great. Fritz Lang directed; the cast includes George Sanders – has any actor ever combined self-knowledge and self-loathing with such malevolent charm? – and Dana Andrews, who appears to be playing his drunk scenes in a state of genuine picklehood. He really seems sloshed. And it’s a newspaper movie, too, set in a media conglomerate called the “Kyne Group.” Citizen Kyne, if you wish, is the Old Man who ran the empire in the old style, barking at his reporters, telling them to go out and solve crimes. Not just report of them: solve them. He dies early on, and leaves the business to his dissolute son, played by Vincent Price. Oh, and there’s a serial killer loose in the streets, a psycho kid in a leather jacket and a motorcycle cap like Brando wore. He reads comic books and kills women. John Barrymore Jr. played the part. An actual Barrymore, and the father of Drew.It’s so soaked with noir you expect the phone booths to have venetian blinds. But it’s long. It drags. It makes “The Sorrow and the Pity” feel like a Tex Avery short.
UPDATE: The announcement, it turns out, will occur Friday.
My response was cathartic: I went home and did a Diner. Hoarse and twitchy. One of the best, if I can say that.
It’s a peculiar life: the Diner was always a parallel place, but it’s become this large, elaborate metaphor into which I can slip without a second thought.
While I barked into a microphone, Gnat was cooking. She decided to make cookies and popsicles. The popsicles were made of Coke and Gatorade, and there’s something floating in the mix that looks like the skin of a fish that evolved to metabolize mercury. I have no idea what it is. The cookies, however, were delicious: She made them from marshmallows, hand-softened Hershey’s kisses, peanut butter and graham crackers. For once I didn’t have to fake enthusiasm: they were dang fine goo. Most Charming Moment of the day: I discovered that she’d scissored out a FIRST PLACE ribbon and taped it to the plate.
I’m going to do something crass here. I’m going to rattle the cup, and not for anything I plan to do in the future. Rather, for the site so far. I’ve always dreaded the day I’ve had to say “hey, I lost everything in the Panic of ’09, and all my paper assets are Iraqi Dinars! Howzabout you pay my mortgage now?” I think it’s best not to go that route; it changes things. In one way, it would change things for the better, since I’m sure I’d produce a cubic helluva if this was my sole gig. On the other hand, I wonder whether I’d ever write the Big Thing if I decided that the Bleat would be the sum total of my work. I think I’m happiest, and write with greater pleasure, when it’s the remunerative side job.
What a tortured explanation for putting the tipjar back up. Jeez.
Please: don’t feel the slightest obligation. (Paypal button will be up tomorrow, after I figure out some details.) The song on the left says it better than anyone else ever did, in case you feel guilty. Note to the Whippersnapper demographic: that’s Les Paul. He was a guitarist before he was a guitar.
See you tomorrow, and thanks for the patronage.