Today: alone; arguing on the street again; camp; the Old Scout fails to enjoy a small-town baseball game because of the Current Occupant

Coffee shop, afternoon. Had to get out of the house, because hanging around the house blogging was getting boring. Need people. Alas:

It’s a fine day; no complaints. Glum skies that look to be in the mood for rain, but they’re sullen enough to withhold it. Oh you’d like some rain wouldn’t you. Just like you loved all the rain I gave you last month. And what did you do? Complain. Yes, because it was incessant and cold. If it rained every day around quitting time, as it did in DC, I wouldn’t complain; used to love the way the storms rolled in when you were finishing up your drone-time, and the rain made people stay inside and throng the bars and cafes. Well, the bars. It seems so far away now – a day job with real hours, followed by drinks at the local bar with the rest of the journalists. Sounds so grown up. I even wore a hat back then, but it felt like playacting. Possibly because it was.

Before I came here I ad another conversation with the clipboard people outside the grocery store. Honestly, I’m not being confrontational; I’m just curious about what they think. It’s instructive. The clipboard guy – twice my height, half my age – wanted me to sign a petition to ensure that 25% of the state’s power came from renewable sources by 2020.

“That’s the law,” I said. (I drew my finger in a lateral motion to indicate the link.)

He nodded.

“So . . . what’s the petition about?” He said that Congress had failed to renew the renewable energy tax credits, and they needed to be reinstated. I agreed that this was short-sighted, but decided not to get into all the usual hideous politics around that bill. I asked if his group was in favor of expanding all available energy sources, so we could be have baseload capacity to back up intermittent sources, like wind and solar.

“Baseload?” he said. He didn’t know the term.  I gave a rough definition; eyes glazed. Then I asked if his group was in favor of drilling in the Bakken oil fields.  He didn’t know about the Bakken oil fields.

“It’s in North Dakota,” I said.

“We’re opposed to drilling,” he said.

“In North Dakota?” I said.

“We’re opposed to drilling,” he repeated.

A few months ago I noted, in hardy-har jest, that people would oppose drilling in North Dakota because they feared its impact on the Bison, or the now-depopulated newly-pristine plains. Turns out they don’t need a reason. Nobody drill anywhere anyhow ever. I said what I’d said before, and will probably say the next time I engage in this act of total futility: if you guys were for everything, I’d be with you. We need to try everything. But he had turned cold by then.

The imperatives of the present are an inconvenient obstacle to heaven. The needs of the near future, even more so.

(G)Nat’s at camp again, so the house is extra empty and quiet, and explains the dial-tone mood today. She has a habit of bouncing a ball off the wall when she’s watching TV, which is good; we discourage sedentary video consumption. The sound of the ball drives me nuts, but of course I miss it today. Parents are discouraged from calling kids at camp, which is fine with me, but we can send email. Someone had a bright idea: a service that lets you email the camp for a buck a shot. I remember how much letters from home meant – more than I’d ever let on, of course – so I’ll send her another one today to reassure her that we’re only eating the food she doesn’t like, and we will return to the normal unspectacular, predictable culinary assemblages when she gets back. I’ll phrase it differently, of course.

Parenthood: driving by yourself, you see a VW, and you say “Slug bug.” Out loud.

Yes, we play Slug Bug, but obviously a modified form – I don’t reach over to the back seat and punch her when I see a VW. It’s five points for a standard VW, ten points for a classic, ten points for an Element (called “Toaster” in this game) and a competition-ending 40 points for an Element identical to mine. A rash of false sightings that confused Mini Coopers with a VW Bug led to a five-point penalty for misidentification. That really spices things up, let me tell you.

I haven’t copyrighted these rules, so feel free to adopt them. By accepting the rules to agree not to hold me responsible for any accidents that may occur because you’re looking down a side street for a fargin’ VW Bug to dig out of a 20-point deficit and you drive into a phone pole. Airbag! Fifty points!

Well, wireless doesn’t work here. I am being poked back into the house by the Blogging Gods of Yore, and just as well; I couldn’t be any less inspired if  . . . if I had just spent an hour under an inspiration-sucking device. You know, this one:

Also known as the mind-erasing taillight. Back in a bit.

Why would I write that? It’ll hardly matter when I finally post this. Back in six hours! Trust me, it’ll pass by just like that. (snaps fingers.)

Back home

See? And now it's raining, too. Or was - it seems to have stopped. Damn. one of those pathetic late-afternoon showers that comes up fast and leaves just as quickly, like we had in DC. How disappointing. Anyway: thinking about camp made me wonder if I had scanned the few photos I took. I had. Combat in the bunkhouse:

That's me in the blue shirt. I remember the shirt (from other photos) and the pinkish lanyard, which we spend half the week braiding. Note the outdoorsy garb of the chap on the upper left bunk - synthetic fabric shirt, brown tick-pruf socks, highwater pants, and perhaps Hush Puppies. Kids still dressed like adults, not vice versa.

Two other fellow campers. The one on the left was my friend Peter, resident Brainiac of McKinley Elementary school; that's my cousin Keith on the right. He runs a farm today, among other businesses. He lost his son in a car accident last Christmas. Peter is a minister and environmentalist.

I don't think they make kids like the one on the left anymore.

Accomodations weren't fancy.

But they smelled right - musty and woodsy. Of course they weren't air-conditioned; (G)Nat's camp isn't air-conditioned, either. If there's air conditioning, it's not camp.

Just looking at the picture I can remember the color of the door (green) and the lightness of the thin wood frame. It had one of those springs that groaned when you opened the door, a sound we've replaced with quiet sigh of pnuematic door-closers. It's a sound that says cabin and summer and other people's porches and similar notes from childhood you never think about until you're looking at an old photograph, and wondering why you didn't take more. I sent my daughter with a Flip camera, and told her to take a few movies. She agreed, although she balks a bit, and I know why: she doesn't want to put anything up on YouTube and only get a one-star rating. Well, you won't put anything up on YouTube, and even if you did, don't worry about your YouTube ratings, for heaven's sake. Just take pictures. For later. Much later.

I think she'll be different from me in many respects, and the most telling so far is her tendancy to enjoy life as it comes as opposed to packaging it after the fact, but I can learn the former from her, she can learn the latter from me.

Speaking of young daughters, it's time for What Makes Garrison Keillor Get Angry About George Bush: this week it's a little girl playing in a softball game in a small town. The piece begins:

A couple of hours to kill on a humid afternoon in a small town in Masachusetts and rather than sit looking at hotel wallpaper I took a little walk.

Here, free of charge: “I had.” Apply them to the beginning of the sentence. It’s a little trick we learned in writing class; helps folks out. They don’t have to read the sentence twice. The town reminds him of Norman Rockwell, and he likes Rockwell. So do I – good painted. But I never saw him this way:

I liked a lot of Rockwell’s tuff because he was a liberal and he painted faces with great devotion. The faces shine through, as they should in a liberal’s art.

Oh, agreed!

Heh. Sorry about that.  But I never quite realized the shiny-face aspect of liberal painting before; from now on, when I see a luminescent Caravaggio, I’ll assume he supported a single-payer health-care system. The amusing part of the assertion, of course, is that the liberal wing of painting, if you can call it that, has shied away from the difficult task of painting faces for almost a hundred years, preferring the progressive styles of abstraction. Representational art is regarded as conservative – not in the political sense, of course, but still. One also suspects that there might not be a straight unbroken line between Rockwell’s liberalism and the modern sort; he did a lot of stuff about Boy Scouts, and like many modern liberals might be dismayed by those in the vanguard who consider them political untouchables. But Keillor has a rather ossified notion of liberalism, untroubled by history or subtlety; he's almost a mirror-image of the paleoconservatives who believe to this day that True and Honest Conservatives dasn't listen to Elvis, lest their hips be corrupted.

Anyway. He found a baseball game and got chatting with a father of a girl on the team. “A ballgame is a great place to get to know somebody,” Keillor writes, and that’s so. Of course, when you make stuff up, it’s more difficult to “get to know” the guy who’s sitting next to you:

“ . . . we got to the grim business of What Do You Do For a Living. He said he was a cop. I said I was unemployed. (You tell people you’re a writer and they tend to clam up.)”

“’Tough times,’ he said. I nodded.”

Also, you tell people you’re a millionaire posing as an unemployed guy, they tend to clam up as well, but for different reasons. The piece goes on to note that Mr. Keillor feels he has done okay in the last eight years but has a hot collar and ground-up teeth thinking about what the Current Occupant has done to the country the little girl will inherit. He’s mad about spending – I’m with him there, although a bit perplexed to find Keillor coming down on the side of spending less – and he doesn’t approve of the war. It ruined his Rockwell moment.

Being unable to watch a kid play baseball because you are mad at George Bush does not necessarily mean you are a better person or a person more attuned to truth and the future.It might mean, at best, you are a person who writes run-on sentences stringing together predictable assertions; at worst, it might mean you’re anhedonic, and looking for scapegoats. I look at my daughter and consider her future, and I see possibility and peril as well. But that’s up to us, and while I’m sure Mr. Keillor anticipates the day where he is legally required to pay the taxes he heretofore feels he is morally required to pay, we can do fine without him. We’ve done fine without his money so far, and I think we can keep that up. Unless he’s been paying in at the pre-tax-cut level, of course. In which case: hats off! A principled man is rare in any era.

Final note: why is it "grim business" to talk about what you do for a living? Almost every interesting conversation I've had with strangers had to do with their jobs, because people in this country do all sorts of diverse and amazing things. It's "grim business" perhaps if you expect everyone else to be bent before a gritty grease-smeared gear a la Metropolis, but everyone you meet by happenstance usually does something for a living you don't do, and you can learn from it. I'd love to read a column about the life of a cop in a Norman Rockwell town, but that inessential pebble pinged off the author's glacial self-regard. Who cares what a little girl feels about having a dad for a cop? The real issue is how mad she makes the author feel about the President.

I mean, I have lots of problems with Bush as well - lots, and then lots again - but when I see my daughter on the soccer field, running for the ball, heading for the goal, I'm hoping she scores. Even if it ruins a potential metphor for projected increases in college tuition in 2019.

New Comic book cover; see you at buzz.mn, where we're already on record as favoring the rain, and discouraging bad comic strips.