Okay, here’s the deal. I wrote a long big whomping Bleat that manages to laud two banal piano players and argue against the lyrics of a fairly good one, but it’ll have to wait. My father is coming into town on Thursday, so that means I’ll have no time to write for Friday. Either this Bleat suffers or Friday’s Bleat suffers. I want to take another run at the screedy drivel before I post it – and wouldn’t that be a switch – so I’ll hold off on nipping at the ankles of another Generally Accepted American Treasure. Also, I had to write a column tonight, and there is NOTHING going on that’s fodder for a risible local column. The news dearth is almost total & complete, so I had to write one of those dreaded “out my window” columns. That’s what my old editor & friend Rich Leiby called them. The columnist, lacking anything to attack or laud or wax indignant upon, belches forth banal generalities to fill the space. I had six ideas, but not one of them was sufficient to support an entire column. So: the semi-annual Seasonal Retrospective column. May the Column Gods forgive me.

Who am I kidding? Of course they’ll forgive me, if they’re Column Gods. It’s like having a deity who forgives you for lying and cheating, because brother, He’s been there and He knows what it’s like.

Anyway. See you tomorrow, with lots. Including the motels. In the meantime, it’s Lance Lawson Thursday over at, as well as the return of the enigmatic countdown. Eight days to the new . . . something.

Oh: I meant to include this last week. It’s a detail from a picture used in the Club Row site. I love everything about it – partly because I don’t have to live there, of course;  when it comes to the past, I’m strictly a tourist. Give me the world of the internet and big supermarkets and iPhones and satellite radio and Batman movies. But I would like to spend some time at Lee’s café, just to see for myself.

What’s the handbill on the boxes say? I’ve blown it up as far as I can.


I’m pretty sure it says Harold Lloyd, which helps to narrow it down. If you accept that it’s this movie, Professor Beware – which seems to fit – then you’ll accept that the other words are the co-stars, Phyllis Welch and Raymond Walburn and Lionel Stander.

You can see that now too, can’t you?  Like all these old photos: it's amazing what you can see what you want to see it.

As I said, Dad’s coming in tomorrow. This is great – haven’t seen him in a bit, and this is the time when I make him tell his WW2 stories. He told them before, finally, but only because my wife was asking; he’d never told the kids, for reasons known plain well to anyone who had or has a father who served. In a sense, they all went from Dick Whitman to Don Draper; they had to. Made it easier to get on with the next job.

My dad was 12 when the picture above was taken. When I was 12 I spent my summer biking around and reading comics and watching Let’s Make a Deal before lunch with my Mom, who probably had a big sneaker crush on Monty Hall. He seems like he’d be fun at parties, she said. I never forgot that. Of all the things my mother said to me, it may be the one line that stands out, if only because it suggested something outside the lines kids draw around their parents. We never had parties with Monty Hall people. Oh, the aunts and uncles came over all the time; every few weeks my mom would clean and set out ashtrays and TV dinner trays and go in the bathroom and empty a can of Aqua Net, because company was coming over. Company. That meant the uncles, all genial and relaxed and distracted and content to head downstairs for Hamms and laughter; that meant the aunts, who were always sweet and solicitous and complimentary and so very interested in what you were up to, and haven’t you grown? Larks an Salems and high heels and throaty laughs and crinkly smiles. Company meant the cousins, all of whom were older than me, and could impart the mysteries of pop culture I had yet to experience.

It ended well enough for everyone, really; nearly all the families stayed together, the kids did well. One uncle put a bullet in his brain, the great catastrophe, the great mystery. Last time I saw his daughter she was laughing, and so were her children. His wife had remarried and even though I’ve known him longer than the Uncle, he stands in the corner of the room every time, this small nervous man with a smile who reminds me now of Oswald and Maxwell Smart. He had a button company. He made buttons and ribbons and banners.  As a kid this seemed impossibly cool. Buttons! He could come up with any phrase he wanted and make a button. Make a hundred!

In Monty Hall’s world, that never happened, of course; in Monty Hall’s world smart people sat around the living room while Monty stood in the center of the room and reeled off stories, and everyone laughed because they were funny and he told them so well, and you know for all his talent he doesn’t seem conceited at all. It was always a good party when Monty Hall showed up, because he was good at parties.

My mom was shy. Not cripplingly so, but my dad’s family was big – 13 kids when fully deployed, although there were casualties and defections – and they had grown up in a crowd, and pitched their voices accordingly. My mom had a brother and they lived on a farm, the successful farm, the nice place with the rich black earth. My dad’s family went from here to there and worked for the people who owed the rich black earth. No one on my Dad’s side held this against her – it was their bond that she couldn’t figure out a way through. So I wonder if she imagined parties where all the old college chums got together, and Monty dropped by, and everyone shared the same start-from-zero moment she’d experienced when she moved to town for a year and set up her own life, waiting for Ralph to come home from the ocean.

Barring that, there was always the kitchen table, the summer morning, sandwiches, her son, and Monty Hall offering a deal that might be better than the one you already had. He never told the truth; he never said what he knew. But no one ever held that against him.

Okay, well, I wrote a Bleat. Damn. Sorry. See you at