12.12.11: So whatttya do?


Holiday party up the block. Every year, same place, same neighborfolk plus a wide array of strangers; every year, the famous meatballs in homemade sauce, platters of confections on every table, great blocks of cheese with tiny quaint knives that look like the ceremonial scimitars of some warlike race of imps; every year, I’m standing in the kitchen, yammering away. This year’s revelation: neighbor was running the cranes on the movie version of “Life of Pi,” and it was six kinds of hell because they shot it in 3D, and the booms were rated for 80 pounds, and the 3D cameras and gizmos and splashbags - the scene was shot in the water - was 300 pounds total, which is a lot to manhandle. Art doesn’t usually require so much heavy lifting.

Also talked to a group of guys who worked in marketing for a large consumer products company - had a grand time dissecting the problems of the brand, which have too many variations that fail to distinguish themselves from each other. I’m sure I sound like an insufferable n00b, but at least I’m interested in the subject. I’ve noticed that many guys - nearly all, to be honest - state their trades with a certain amount of reserve, as if there’s some sort of shame involved in making products people buy, as opposed to being a guitar restorer or a playwright or something fascinating. Perhaps they assume that other people couldn’t possibly be interested in what they do. I don’t get this. What people do ought to be an instant conversational boon, unless of course people hate their work and hate themselves and their lives as a result. But people who sell, say, consumer paper products or candles or flatware just seem to assume that A) you couldn’t possibly care, and / or B) you wouldn’t be able to understand the details of what I do on a daily basis, which has remarkably little to do with candles or flatware. Perhaps, but we can talk about candles in general, right? Upscale versions, the fortunes of Yankee Candle Co., what sells and what doesn’t, technological advances, margins, scents they can’t get quite right, and so on. I mean, can’t we talk about that?

"Well sure, but actually, I’m in flatware."

Oh. Right. Well - so. Uh - knives? Any new developments there?

And he might think “we’ve been working on improving serration through lasers and computer-designed cutting programs, so I’ll say that, and hope that’s the end of it, because I can’t imagine this is interesting to anyone. God knows my wife doesn’t care. I spend an entire day dealing with a shipment issue on the lasers to the Shangdong facility, and when I get home and she asks how was my day, I just say it was the usual, because even though I know she wants to know what I’m doing, I get a minute into the problem with the factory - it’s the damn tolerance-variance glitch in the software again - and I can tell she’s thinking about something that needs to be done and it’s usually about the kids. And then I walk the dog. It’s a wheaten terrier. I think. They picked it out. They named it. Muffin. It’s our dog but it’s really their dog, you know? I mean to me a dog is a dog, a pal, you know, rough ‘n’ tumble, but Muffin is on their side somehow. So the dog is stopping and pissing and I’m just standing there in the cold, wishing I still smoked, it’s times like this I miss it - and I think, you know, it’s Tuesday. I don’t even know what’s on TV. There used to be a time when I knew what was on TV, because I had favorite shows, and that was part of the day. It was like . . . compensation. But I don’t know. Wife watches Modern Family, and I saw some of it and it’s okay I guess, I mean Al Bundy’s on it and his wife is hot, but it was like, it all belonged to someone else. Everything feels like that. The only things that belong to me are the songs on my iPod and I don’t listen to them much except at the gym and even then Steve Miller gets a little old. And then you think hey, I got it good, the company’s doing okay, I’m on top of the Shangdong situation, sure I got a 7 AM conference call tomorrow but there’s donuts at the Wednesday call, and once a week, hey, live a little. I don’t know. It’s okay. I suppose. Wife keeps bugging me about a colonoscopy.”


So sure. I can see why some guys are reticent when you ask about things. But the guys I talked to were hale-fellow-well-met, and I ran into the new kids on the block: young couple, two tots, bright smart folk. “Welcome to the best neighborhood in the city,” I said, and one of the Moms I used to talk to at the bus stop before I was banished by my daughter from accompanying her to the bus stop said “Just the city?” Agreed: the whole damn metro. She was right. Because:

Over by the meatballs were two guys with guitars banging out standards, and one of them was the music teacher at Natalie’s elementary school. He met the kids getting off the bus every day with an accordian or a guitar. And now he was over by the meatballs playing Kinks tunes. Okay! And when I turned around I saw the mailman - not A mailman, but The Mailman, the fellow who had the route for years until he retired prematurely due to a debilitating condition. He comes to the Christmas party every year because he was our mailman and everyone is thrilled to see him.

At one point in the evening I was introduced to a newcomer as The Writer. Not A; The. So there’s just one of everything, perhaps. Small towns are like that.

Something I watched this weekend:


Didn't generate enough interesting images to qualify as a Black and White World entry, but it's fine Bogart - he's a crook, but he's an engaging one, and he plays square. Except when his animal nature overwhelms him, and then it's barkin' roscoe time. I goggled at the opening scene,a shot of LA General Hospital:



Holy cow, what a beaut. Built in 1926. (Born in early summer the first year of its existence: Marilyn Monroe.) As I've said a hundred times: a building built of stone or brick looks ten times bigger than anything sheathed with glass. It's like a mountain range. It wasn't built, it rose up from the earth and was weathered over the centuries. I'm not saying it's a great design for a hospital; could also be a jai or city hall or any other manifestation of city power, but there's such impressive density to the buildings of the era, a quality modern structures try hard to avoid. I am but a will o' the wisp, balanced on one toe! Marvel at my oddity and ask yourself why I don't fall down.

Today's Kitschmas isn't too kitschy, but who cares. It's a remnant frrom 60s / 70s Woolworth's, no doubt sold in an estate sale for a quarter. Mom packed them away with care every year; no reason you should have to buy new ones if you just take care.



Woolworth could make a claim to being America's Christmas Store, since the other big five-and-dime competitors, Kresge and Kress, avoided opening stores in the same city.

Rather crude package, isn't it? Not the finest quality printing. The cellophane usually came off easily, or broke. This looks like someone's mom retrofitted the box to keep the bulbs safe during their long hibernation.


Today: Matchbooks, and Joe - coming close to the end. See you around.



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