My new shave cream, should you possibly have the space in your life to care aobut such things, is the Bath & body Works “C. F. Bigelow” Italian Eucalyptus cream in a tube. I am advised to apply it with a brush. I’m sure that’s the best way, and I know I’ll get letters about it, but it’s one manly affectation for which I do not have time. I should also get out the straight edge and the strop, but given the amount of nicking I would open an artery. The clerk asked if I had found everything I wanted, and I said yes. The answer was no, but I didn’t want to get into it.

As usual, the clerk asked for my phone number, and I said no. She asked for my email, and I said “oh my, no,” with a smile. She was a bit put off. As usual. This time the clerk said “whatever.” Perhaps I had given the impression that I thought this was her idea, and she had rewritten the POS software to accept email addresses all on her own, so I said I knew she had to ask, but I thought it was a bit much to ask when I just wanted shaving cream. Again, the huff. I left, feeling like I had just become The Difficult Customer.

Off to Target. Got everything I needed – I have the new grocery store layout stamped on my neural pathways now, and can collect the necessary objects without thought; given the unvarying requests (G)Nat places on my culinary skills, this isn’t hard. Lunch now swings wildly and unpredictably between a Grape Uncrustable and Bologna, so I bought both. SunChips for the snack, a big bag of prunes (her gym teacher somehow got all the second graders to eat prunes; he has incredible powers of persuasion, and all the kids idolize him) and some Roaring Water beverages, which are pouches of fruit-flavored water. Just like juice boxes without the sugar and calories. Got my ice cream – Blue Bunny “Bunny Tracks” low-fat no sugar added – and headed to the checkout. Nice pretty cheerful clerk. While I unloaded everything by the usual formats – frozen, then cold, then dry, then non-food – one small men came up to the checkout stand with a receipt in his hand. He waited while the customer before me finished her transaction. Another man came up – tall, scraggly, twitchy, irritated. Looked like Lincoln coming down with heroin withdrawal. When the customer was done he held up a receipt and said he didn’t get his ice cream.

The clerk looked at the receipt. “I charged you for it,” she said.

“I know, but I DIDN’T GET IT.”

She looked around her station for a tub of decaying ice cream; finding none, she bade him to get more. He loped off trailing spiky waves of disapproval; then the small man spoke up. He had been denied the coupon discount on his orange juice. She asked how much it was, and he admitted that he did not know. She took off $1.50 and gave him the cash. He walked away slowly; his life held myriad sadnesses, you suspected. The small ones just reminded him of the greater ones. No discount on the orange juice, toothache in the bomb shelter, it was always something. A minute later Lincoln McGrouchy strode past, a scround of strawberry ice cream held high. He didn’t make eye contact, but wagged it in that unmistakable internationally recognized gesture for I have the ice cream, and we are done here now.

“Cheerful fellow,” I said to the clerk. She smiled and nodded, then said:


“Oh, the ice cream fellow. Cheerful.”

She nodded again, unsure, because he wasn’t cheerful and it wasn’t clear at all why I said that he was.

She asked if I wanted paper or plastic, and I said paper. She started to bag the items according to size, not genre. Razor blades in the frozen bag, Uncrustables in the bag that held the Glad sandwich bags. Sigh.

See, I had a reason for this. It was 4 below outside. After Target I would head over to Byerly’s to get Big Bowl take-out. Given the ambient temp I could head right inside the house and serve dinner, and leave the frozen items in the car. I could save time by taking the one bag that held non-frozen items, and leave the rest for after dinner.

I had everything planned.

She put the eggs in a plastic bag, and I asked if she wouldn’t mind putting all the non-chiiled items that had yet been unbagged in a bag of their own. For some reason this hit the reset button, and after she’d reloaded the software and the drivers and preferences she went to her defaults, which were plastic. Everything else was put in a plastic bag. Which would be fine, I suppose; I’m flexible. I can mix genres. Paper, plastic – why, it’s a mash-up, as the kids say. But I needed that third paper bag. Recycling always takes eight bags, and since I’d done the week’s shopping, that meant I would have to get five next week. It’s possible; it’s even likely. But it would be one more thing to think about, wouldn’t it? So I asked for a paper bag.

She looked down at the plastic bag she had just filled, and said “you want this in a paper bag?” and she started to remove the items.

Oh God. Why must everything be so difficult. “No, I’ll just take a paper bag.”

She handed me a paper bag, and her expression said I have no idea what is happening here. Because it would look strange just to take a paper bag to which I was not exactly entitled, I opened it up and put the plastic bag inside.

I had become the Weird Customer. And given the recent competition, this was no small feat.

Forgot I had one more stop: the bottle shop, for libations. I bought some fine Australian wine and was on the way out when I caught sight of a testing stand. They usually have wine tastings at this store every weekend; there’s either a store employee who responds to your evaluations with glacial indifference – don’t try any of your jammy finishes / tannic top-note on him, because he couldn’t care less whether you took Wine 101 at the adult education center – or there’s a distributor’s rep, who will talk all day about the stuff. But this was not a wine testing; it was a whiskey testing.

The week before at the same store I’d been shopping with the Giant Swede, and we’d had the usual argument in the whiskey / whisky / bourbon aisle. He’s partial to the peatier Scotches; I like the Balvenie, a Dalwhinnie for a light touch, the Macallan 12 when I want to feel regal and rich, the Bulleit for a mild ration, and of course Maker’s Mark, which is for some bourbon enthusiasts the epitome of the craft. We usually find a new brand to make fun of; there’s always one or two. You feel bad for some of the newcomers, because they’ve been sitting on their investment for 12 years, and now here it is, and it’s rejected by Mutt and Jeff in Edina Minnesota because the graphics on the label are underwhelming and the name a bit silly. The Tortmonger. The Dugwumple. Then there’s The Famous Grouse, which seemed an odd name for a whiskey, since it presumed one was not only aware of grouse in general but the famous one in specific. We noted with nostalgia the sturdy hooch of our single years – the Hudson’s Bay, aged several hours, and Clan MacGregor, which we used to call “Clan Anderson” since it seemed to have very little authentic Scots character to it.

Anyway. This week the store had a distributor’s rep offering samples of “The Famous Grouse.” I took a sip, not knowing what to expect, and was quite surprised. It was good. It was far better than I’d thought – not just another rote yeah-whatever whisky, but rich and a bit sweet. She gave me the spiel; it’s the most popular blended whisky in Scotland, which ought to tell you something (provided that my old outdated “Local Hero” preconceptions are true, and the nation doesn’t consist of scabby addicts from “Trainspotting” and old bitter men on the dole sucking down lager), and it has actual Macallan inside. We had a little discussion about the spirit and its kin, I bought a bottle on the spot.

I had become the Savvy, Urbane, Makes-the-Job-a-Pleasure customer.

Last chance to even the score: Byerly’s take-out. It went well; if nothing else, I failed to make a negative impression, which surely counts in the positive category.

So it all worked out in the end.


Sunday I joined a short-lived rock band composed of parents. We’re playing two songs for the school’s read-a-thon kickoff: “Get This Party Started” by Hannah Montana, and “Kids of the Future,” by the Jonas Brothers. (A Kim Wylde song, for you purists.) The first one is so ridiculously over-produced it’s difficult to reproduce, but the second one is just a joy to play. Our host has a great garage permanent set up for band practice, and had some beautiful old Fender amps into which I plugged with a trembling, grateful hand. It’s been a while, but all my limited abilities came back, and I even snapped a string, which = passion, which certainly = authenticity, right?

We have a crackerjack drummer and bassist, so everything should be all right.


You’ll note that this week looks a lot like the last, only less so. The links bar was a pain to update, for irritating reasons that had nothing to do with content, and it also meant I couldn’t put the books links up. The custom headlines are gone, because I discovered that I would forget to write them, and end up doing them at 1 AM when I was heading to bed and uploading the page. But I like that banner enough to keep it around a second week.    

New matchbook, and of course Where, incidentally, I mentioned Tippi Hendren on Saturday; it was her birthday. The post also involved birds. A day later, Susanne Pleshette dies.

The Bob Newhart show was a great Seventies sitcom – that was one thing the decade did well, I’ll give it that – and I don’t remember much discussion of an aspect that set it apart from the rest of the new breed. They were childless. They were perhaps the most contentedly childless couple on TV.