The office is being reconfigured. What once was here is now over there, and what used to be the place where you’d find these guys is now empty, awaiting a new purpose. There’s a new array of veal pens in the old copy desk area, and I cut through it today on my way to the other side of the office. I was opening a package of peanuts as I strolled – dry-roasted, low-salt, flavorless, sealed in a package that cannot be opened by human hands. The top is crimped by industrial machinery, and while it has a slight notch to enable your efforts, you can’t tear off more than an eighth of an inch. I usually end up getting out my keys, which has a small Swiss Army Knife attached, and using the blessedly ever-handy scissors to cut off the top. But today I just yanked –

- and 30 peanuts leaped out and pattered on the carpet. That’s bad. On the other hand, the area was unoccupied; whatever purpose it will serve, it hasn’t been populated yet. On the other hand, there was a vacuum cleaner standing a few feet away in mute rebuke. I froze: either someone finished vacuuming, in which case I ruined EVERYTHING, or someone will be vacuuming, in which case I can proceed on my way and forget this ever happened. I am ashamed to say that I went with the latter option, mostly because the area was close to the main news huddle, and it was about to let out. All the key editors and section heads were sitting a few yards away, assembling the next day’s paper, and I can only imagine what they’d think if they’d heard the sound of a small electrical motor, looked through the doorway, and saw me working a vacuum cleaner. The question “does he have enough to do?” might be asked, and if you say “I spilled peanuts” – well, you’re in Sling Blade territory.

I took the Continents Project to (G)Nat’s school today. The word went out a month ago: students were required to do something on the continents, in any medium they chose. I had a brilliant idea – use the blue kickball as the globe. It already had a white swirly pattern that suggested the presence of cirrus clouds. She said no. So we went to Target for foam slabs and poster board and Play-Doh and other materials. She could not resist the lure of fresh Play-Doh, though, and while I was napping she convinced my wife to open the canisters and make fake food. My displeasure at having my orders contravened – no Play-Doh sniffing until we have delineated the shapes of the land masses! – was softened by the sight of an entire breakfast buffet in Play-Doh form. My wife had a backup plan, of course. Use a pumpkin.

So the pumpkin was painted blue. Turned out green. It was painted again. Continents were printed out, painted, applied; flags stuck in the skin of the gourd. It was done a few days ahead of schedule, which meant two things: 1) we would beat the deadline, and 2) the project had already begun to rot. So let’s get that thing to school and get it graded before it slumps into a dispirited fly-blown heap even the squirrels refuse.

I stayed for her presentation, during which I heard her say “I found the continents on google.” Oh, the pride. Oh, the clammy hand of time on my neck: she will never not know Google. For her the world has always had an invisible component, chattering with information. I mean, I had TV and radio, but they were one-way orations, and they had their own schedules. You wanted information on a larger scale, you cracked the World Book, drank in that World Book smell (probably carcinogenic; who knows how they gilded the edge of the pages) and looked up your request. You wanted serious information, something drawn from the deep well of Western Civilization, you went down to the library and thumbed through the card catalog. The keys to the kingdom. I’d like to give you some long beloved Nicholson-Baker account of my long-standing love of the card catalogue, but I have no such emotions. I always found them tedious and slightly cryptic, and the Dewey Decimal system – an anachronistic taxonomy, if you ask me, although it is fun to say  “anachronistic taxonomy” – was like a code they used to keep you from finding what you wanted as quickly as possible, thanks to the last few numbers and letters. You suspected that its purpose was to get books back to their rightful place on the shelf, not to help you find them. Yes, yes, I know, you couldn’t find them if they weren’t in the right place – but most people looked at the first few numbers, headed to the relevant aisle, found the area in which the book should reside, then scanned the titles with their heads tilted at a 45 degree angle. No one ever quit the aisle if the book wasn’t exactly where it should be. You interrogated its neighbors left and right. Damn. Checked out. And that was that.

And that was that. Someone else had the info-slab.

I loved the Fargo library, but not for the things I was looking for. I loved it for the things I found when I was looking for something else. So much of what you see on this site is owed to the day I found the bound editions of Life magazine, and opened up to Issue One.

Anyway. Her presentation was fine, and she got a Four. I’m supposed to pick up the pumpkin before it rots. I think I’ll put it outside and take a time-lapse movie of squirrels eating the Earth. It would be very true and relevant and prescient, especially if giant space-squirrels appeared and started chewing off major sections of the continents.  But I’ve just given away the plot of the third Fantastic Four movie, haven’t I. 

I promised one more Jetsons pic: Dick and Jane-speak in the glamorous future:

As someone who had to troubleshoot the home wireless network tonight, I can sympathize.       

Big new Stagland update. And of course, all day. See you there!