Scissor lady is fitting for this week. No cord too stout to be cut. For good or for ill.

I remember sitting at the Giant Swede’s apartment back in the late 80s, watching a fight on TV. His dad was there, which really made it a Manly Event: old Bill had done some boxing in his time, and knew a few things. I wasn’t surprised to learn he’d laced on the gloves – it went with the rest of the man’s story, from growing up in poor flat Texas to WW2 to a job with the railroads. A 20th century story – poverty, fists, war, steel, and the reward of a comfy bungalow on the North Side of Minneapolis. Tuesday afternoon he went downtown with his wife to attend a city government hearing, say a few words. They took the bus home. Bill sat down in his chair while his wife made supper, and he passed on right there. 

God speed.


I heard the news as I was getting my daughter’s birthday dinner ready. (Tacos. Her choice.) She had a great day, from the birthday pancakes with a candle to the night at the movies with a friend, and there’s the promise of the weekend party to come. Eight years! As the saying goes, the days are long but the years are fleet; I prefer to see it the other way around. No one lives life in year-long chunks anyway, anymore than we experience decades as a discrete chunk of culture – a shoebox in which we put things, to use the only figure of speech I recall from Ellen Goodman. I had to find some photos for a piano-class retrospective, and since I hardly took any pictures at the recitals, this meant poking through the home movies. (Lucky for me, they’re all arranged by month from then to now, sitting on a hard drive [and 14 other backup locations.]) I got to see the Then and compare it with the Now, and note the changes. Hairstyle and height, of course; background elements change. The TV changed. The plant in the family room was the same height in every shot, which is a bit unnerving. The things strewn on the floor went from pre-school concerns to mid-kid pastimes; the pictures on her computer screen went from color-the-Barbie CD games to endlessly detailed Pokemon statistics. In most shots, the dog on the floor. It’s been a long time, a good time, and not a bad day in the whole time. A lousy hour here and there, but a bad day? Everyone ended with a smile and a kiss. I have a happy kid. You cannot ask for more.

So. I have something to give her now, and it’s time. If you’ve been with this site forever, you may recall why she was called Gnat: no good reason, except that in 2000 there were a few computer programs that had a silent G – Gnutella, Gnu, and probably others. I appended the G out of some strange late-night exhaustion. She had an alternate identity in the newspaper column, which was even odder – from Baby™ to Toddler™ to Child™, the trademarks used to express my ownership of all her words and Cute Deeds for column purposes. Sort of a jab at the whole idea of turning your fathering experience into a commercial commodity. The ™ was mostly abandoned when the second column, the short-but-daily Quirk, was killed in the great purge of 07. She remained Gnat here, but you ay have noticed I’ve spelled it (G)Nat for a while – it was a transitional element between then and now, because I knew I’d drop it when she turned eight. She deserves her own name, no?

Natalie from here on.

Actually,  Natalie from the start, despite what nonsense her Dad came up with:

She looks different now, but the cheer and smile are the same. I remember when I first held her after they cut that cord and placed her in our arms. How I worried I’d drop her, and then I did, and it wasn’t so bad because I guess there’s a five-second rule; if you can pick them up quickly enough they don’t take them away. It’s a bad way to start, though. (Kidding.) I will not forget the nervous first few days when she was in the incubator, and that infamous nurse, Moustachia Cowbitch, told me she’d have to get her temperature up “or she’s not going to make it.” She meant “she won’t be out of the incubator soon,” but parents tend to hear those words differently; isn’t that odd? So sensitive. I remember Jasper absolutely crying when she came home, distraught that he’d been demoted in the pack; never heard him make that sound before or since. I remember sitting up at night until 3, 4 AM with her squalling or sleeping on my chest while I sat in front of the TV and watched movies and cartoons – I recall thinking someday you will like the Powerpuff girls, and you’ll think it’s cool dad liked them too, and lo & behold, such a day came. I remember the first day home together after Mom went back to work. Finding untouched corn in diapers. Naps. The Barbie soundtracks, the herd of My Little Ponys, the army of Hello Kittys, the Care Bears lined up around a little Christmas tree, all the private moments you glimpse from around the frame of the door as you peer into your child’s life. You move a little farther down the hall every year, alas, and it gets harder to rubberneck. You tell them they can always tell you anything, but you know. You know.

I can only hope we’ll always be this close.  Amend that: I can only try as hard as I can to deserve it.

Happy birthday, Natalie. Some day you’ll find the hard drive with all the movies, long forgotten, but transferred to the medium of the day – or, if I’m hit by a meteor or a bus, you’ll find the pickled laptop in the box with all the plugs and software and cords required to work in the future; the hard drive has all the movies,  and inside you’ll find all our yesterdays.  If you grow up to be a moviemaker, and think: Dad should have invested in a tripod, and November 02 really needed a master shot, and he never kept room tone in mind when shooting OR editing – I couldn’t be prouder.



New Motels, starting here – keep clicking until the interface changes, as they say. I’m still working through the site; hell of a task. Added a few google streetview, er, street views for nifty then-and-now comparison. Also, I did post the Mpls addition yestermorn; it’s here. Diner looks doubtful; the amount of work due in the next two days is staggering, what with columns and the video shoot tomorrow and other tasks. Believe me, I miss it too.

Lance Lawson Thursday at! See you there.

Twittering here and there, as usual. Thanks for coming, and have a grand day.