I set my iPhone to play the sound of the “Lost in Space” robot – the only actor to survive that show with dignity intact, incidentally – shouting DANGER DANGER when my parking meter is ten minutes from expiring. It went off today as I was leaving the building, so I took my time on the stairs. When I was heading out the back hallway to the revolving door, one of those security devices that always makes you suspect gas will come from hidden vents some day, I noted a gentleman had stopped by my car. Now, it’s a handsome vehicle, if I say so, not entirely crusted with the detritus of winter, but why stop? As I left the building I saw that he was digging in his pocket for a coin.

I don’t remember precisely how the conversation began, or who spoke first, but he said he was going to plug my meter, and I noted that I’d been warned in time, and gosh: that’s nice of you. I mean, when I saw someone about to feed my meter, the brain balked at processing the data and the conclusion, because such random acts of generosity seem absurd to expect, let alone witness. As it turned out: he was a reader of the sites, and recognized the vehicle from the Bleat. Seeing it outside StarTribune HQ, he figured it was mine, saw that I was down to 9 minutes, and wanted to chip in.

Wow. So, Kevin: I meant it when I said that was the nicest thing anyone had offered to do all day. Because it was, and I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be equaled. It wasn’t.  It’s not the cost, but the thought, and the idea that someone would fill my meter because he recognized my car and liked the work – well, as the old Ren and Stimpy cartoon said, it filled my heart with blood.

I took (G)Nat to the Convention Grill tonight, something we’d been putting off for a long time. I begged the waitress for some coffee, and she said it might be a while; they had to make some. I wanted to bring out my copy of the National American Restaurant Charter, an important document written in 1912, which states, without preamble, codicils, amendments or secret protocols that there shall always be coffee available to succor the needy and enbrisken the spirits. One could say that the assertion of immediate coffee as a right, not a boon to be granted at the owner’s whims, was one of the founding concepts of American restaurants, and one of the things that made this country great. If a bit jittery. We’ve gotten away from the idea, what with the Starbucks paradigm and the general acceptance of standing and waiting for your coffee drink to be aassembled from raw materials. It’s a bad sign. A nation that always has a hot pot on the Bunn-o-Matic burner is a nation that can deal with Hitler.

“You don’t have any coffee?” I asked, weakly.

“We don’t have any made right now,” she said.

That’s the same thing, I wanted to say. To quote Felix Unger, you have to make coffee. It doesn’t just come. Words to live by. Infinitely applicable.

Eventually the coffee was brought, and my sense of weariness and desperation was so apparent she left the pot.

While we waited for our hamburgers we played restaurant soccer: a napkin is wadded up, condiments are used to mark the goals, and you try to score. Then we colored. The restaurant provides pages torn from coloring books with plastic tubs of crayons; you never have all the colors you need. You end up with pink and purple Poohs. If you have a My Little Pony page, your tub is full of blacks and dark greens. (G)Nat did an excellent Pooh, though.

I asked what color she would use for his shirt.

“Red, of course,” she said, with a note of amusement. What other color would I use? I was just happy she still knew such things. At some point the child’s mind actively erases such knowledge, I think. You’d hate to let your cool friends realize you know what color Pooh’s shirt is. It’s that damned second act, isn’t it? Even though you’re kinda glad you know, and sorta wish it wasn’t uncool.

The other night I was watching “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” and thought: there are three stages to a man’s life. 1. He laughs at Clark Griswold. 2. He sympathizes deeply with Clark Griswold. 3. He laughs at Clark Griswold.

Note: Mrs. Griswold, Beverly D’Angelo is slated to appear as the “Brothel Mistress” in “Harold & Kumer Escape from Guantanomo Bay,” due next year. Mark your calendars!

The hamburgers came - sorry, they were made, and then brought - and Pooh was put aside. After the meal we went to the Mall, where I had to return some iPhone earbuds that fell apart. You can’t just swap them out; anything defective requires processing through the Genius Bar, and you have to make an appointment in advance. Grr. So I signed up for a meeting 45 minutes hence, and we wandered around. A brass band was blurting out Christmas carols to an audience of nine; a few kids were queued up to sit on a Santa of indeterminate gender who looked so frail and small you expected to hear the rifle report of snapped thigh bones bounce around the courtyard when the kids plopped down. First we went to the candle store, where I showed my true mastery of Mall Culture by sniffing the lid of the candle jars, not the wax. (G)Nat wanted to get some Christmas scented candles, so we did. They have one that actually smells like a wreath on fire; I liked it. Then to Bath and Body Works, where I noted that my second- and third-favorite shave creams are being discontinued. Dang. I sniffed some alternatives, if I may state things with utter frankness, and went with an inoffensively scented cream packed with early 20th century Italian emollients, if you beileved the label. And I do believe the label. I have to. What else do we have in this ever-changing world in which we live in? They wanted a phone number at the register; I declined, with a smile. Then the clerk wanted an email address. I don’t know anyone I dislike enough to curse with such email. I declined, with a smile. Back to the Apple Store, then home whistling Christmas carols. (G)Nat wanted to talk about astronauts and the moon, so we discussed the pros and cons of space travel.

Home for an hour of homework and such, then various things, then this.

Today’s Christmas music: a Japanese version of “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” It includes all the traditional trappings of Christmas, such as firecrackers. This is from Yuki Uchida.


Stagland and Bleat Radio Theater tomorrow. See you at buzz.mn. And if you don't mind: buy the book. A wonderful holiday gift for young and old.