Pulled up to the drive-in shoutbox, and waited for the voice to welcome me and inquire what fine comestible they might prepare for my delectation. I noticed a sign: EXTRA CONDIMENTS MUST BE REQUESTED AT TIME OF ORDER. Because if you asked for extra packets of ketchup when you got up to the window it would throw everything off, right? Or if you asked for nine tiny buckets of dipping sauce, for dipping, they’d have to tell you no: those cost cash money now, and you already paid at the previous window. There would be hard feelings.

So I asked for two packets of ketchup, two of mustard, two of salt, and two of pepper. I was bade to drive forward to the first window, where I paid, then encourage to move along to the next interpersonal-interaction opportunity.

A bored young lady opened the window, looked at me, then closed the window; a cheerful young lady came over, opened the window, and handed me my bag. I thanked her and examined the contents: no ketchup, mustard, salt, or pepper.

I honked the horn.

The bored young lady opened the window, looked at me; I said I’d asked for two packets of ketchup, two of mustard, two of salt, and two of pepper. She said, and I quote: “What?”

“I’d asked for two packets of ketchup, two of mustard, two of salt, and two of pepper.”

She closed the window and gestured for the other cheerful young lady who’d handed me my bag; she opened the window and asked what I wanted.

“Two packets of ketchup, two of mustard, two of salt, and two of pepper.”

She said – and I may not have the exact words here, because you know how memory fails and the imagination fills in the gaps, which is why those memoirs with perfectly repeated dialogue always seem so suspect. But I’m pretty sure she said “huh?”

At which point I said “Two packets of ketchup, two of mustard, two of salt, and two of pepper.”

She nodded, closed the window, dug in a box, opened the window, handed me four packets of ketchup, and said “what else?”

“Two packets of mustard, two of salt, and two of pepper.”

“Mustard,” she said.

“Mustard,” I affirmed.

The transaction successfully completed, I sat in the parking lot and listened to the radio and ate my rude, meager meal. It was the sort of day in which sitting in a first-ring suburban parking lot eating hamburgers from a bag at twilight on a cold Sunday seems a perfectly reasonable option. I’d just come from Home Depot, and was heading to Menards – you save big money there – to see if I could get a replacement for the garage door opener. I’d bought one the previous day at Home Depot, and they hadn’t had a SERIES II opener, as the inside of the opener mechanism insisted was required. All they had was some generic Genie that looked exactly like the one that broke, and something else for “Intellecode.” I did not think that Intellecode models were Series II. Otherwise it would have said Intellecode. Whatever: it didn’t work, so I went back to see if they had a Series II model. They did not. So I bought the Universal Remote, which beams Open Sesame rays to every make and model, and that was that. Except that I had to go to Menards to see if they had a Series II. They did not. They did have peanuts. Half price. Last day of the sale. Better stock up.

“Just the peanuts?” the clerk said at the checkout counter. An entire store full of tools and light bulbs and Christmas lights and doors and toilet sets, and I bought peanuts.

“Last day of the sale,” I said.

“Stock up,” she said.

“My thoughts exactly,” I said. I walked back to the car.

After supper I went to the grocery store to find the ice cream that had eluded me the day before. I’d had a bad shopping day. Couldn’t quite combine everything I needed at one store, ended up going to two, and still came up short. So today I went to Cub for the ice cream I sought, and they didn’t have it. Went to Rainbow, and they did – but they were out the pizza I wanted. So I set the place on fire – in the back, where it would burn for a while – and left. Drove home, got out the ladder, and climbed up to the Genie controller.

INTELLECODE, it said on the side. Huh. Hadn’t seen that before. Must be one of those Series II models with MIND-CONFUSING POWER.

Changed one light bulb – installed a CFL whose light seemed to be piped directly from Franz Kafka’s soul – then tried to change the other one. It was hot. I have no fingerprint on my middle finger now; it’s as smooth as glass. I call it my Life of Crime finger.

Was that all to the weekend? Heavens, no. Earlier in the day I’d learned exactly how much I walk around the house in an hour. You can try the same experiment: be outside, draining your water feature – this is not a metaphor – when the phone rings. Run inside, answer the phone, talk a bit. Do some other stuff after you hang up. You’ll know just how much you walk around the house!

Oh: forgot a step. Have a dog.

Washed the floors, then headed out on errands. As I said, I’d done errands on Saturday, a jaunt with the Giant Swede. We discussed what he would do now that his employer, Northwest Airlines, is sorta going away for ever and ever, and we went to the Bottle Shop and looked at all the fine, temptalizing scotches and whiskys, then bought what we always get. That was the afternoon. The evening: watched “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which I’d been led to believe was disappointing. It wasn’t. I liked it just fine, even though the long chase sequence through the jungle was a bit ridiculous; the old straddling-two-fast-moving-vehicles-while-underbrush-strikes-you-in-the-goolies is a bit old, and the bit with the waterfalls patently unbelievable. They might as well have sprouted wings and flown down to the next scene. But I liked it all well enough. The Soviets seemed rather generic, though – Commie-Nazis, to use the old Simpsons term – and the McCarthyism angle, while brief, was silly – and self-refuting; the Authorities are regarded as paranoid sorts who see Commies under every bed, when in fact the Commies had just invaded US soil, shot a bunch of soldiers, occupied a base and stolen classified material. But let’s not throw out the Constitution and conduct a search of the office of the only American guy who survived the incident.

That was the weekend. Except for playing “Call of Duty 4,” which hurts, but in a good way, and doing much scanning and interface tweaking. The entire Minneapolis Hotel site had to be redone. I’m sure you’ll agree. And there’s the new other rumored site I hope to bring out on Friday – more of the same, in a way, but it brings together some stuff under a new banner. So this week will have a Matchbook, a comic cover, a grand Hotel site, 11 restaurant pages, and the Friday thing. Also a Diner, and buzz, and the screedblog, and two newspaper columns. Note: new video up at Startribune.com at noon.


Pastor Bud Lindberg died Saturday night, and it was a shock; he’d had a spell a while ago, but he was always the picture of ruddy happy health. A grand fellow. He’d clap you on the back and draw you close and ask after relatives he hadn’t seen in thirty years, but never forgot.

He baptized my daughter:

 . . . just as he had baptized me as a baby in Fargo, so many years before. He showed me his ledgers, once.  I was one of his first, and Natalie was the last.

There's nothing I can say about the man that the picture doesn't say itself, with far more eloquence than the hand can conjur.