Friday I fought back against boredom. I struck out. I made changes. I took a sledgehammer to Dame Routine, and CAVED HER BRAINS IN. No, that’s not right. When some uses the “Dame” honorific before a concept, the tone should be genteel. Let’s say I quietly poisoned Dame Routine in the drawing room, then. With a cucumber sandwich! Ever so British.

What I mean, is that I went to Trader Joe’s on Friday. I made the decision I would not leave the house for Saturday errands at all. But I told you last week about the shrinking microwave popcorn situation, how I’d gone to the store last week, and they’d be out. So if I wanted to make sure local stocks were secure, I’d go on Friday, double up on everything I need, and get the week’s shopping down in a trice.

Possible downside: if this was successful, I might do it again, and that would mean it would become . . . routine.

Upside: it would be new routine, which is a merry, comforting thing for at least a year.

So I left work, checked the GPS, saw a throbbing red line on the highway I would have take to TJs. This meant I should swing around the lake. This meant a different route downtown. And hey, as long as we’re going up First Avenue, let’s take some pictures.

Always love this juxtaposition: the back of the gnarly warty old Masonic Building and the blocky beehive boredom of the Multifoods Tower. That was its name when it was built; don’t know it’s name now, and don’t care.




Past the church . . .


Past the Rock ‘em Sock ‘Em Robot head of the Walker Art Museum:



Past the old sign of the Lowry Hill likkastow . . .



. . . where once I walked in to get something and saw Mose behind the counter. Mose was a lanky fellow who had glasses you’d find in an earnest coffeehouse discussion about Hoover and Vietnam and Estes Kevauver in 1962 - the big thick black ones. He had a non-standard haircut that did not fit any era, but if you had to peg a time, it would be . . . a Greenwich Village coffeehouse, circa 1962. Not to short, not too long. Mose was in my dorm my first year in college, and always seemed ten years older than everyone else on the freshman level. Mose liked blues, but he was a fan of early Kinks, and managed to communicate to me one day exactly what why “You Really Got Me” deserved our continued attention. The progression. The modulation. This thing really kicked.

He was right. He was also tall and somewhat geeky and had a non-standard haircut, so one night everyone on the floor ganged up to pull him out of bed, dragging his mattress down the hall as he issued feeble, if amused, complaints. We put him in the elevator and sent it down to the Girl’s Floor below.

That was 1976. Now here was Mose in a liquor store in 1984, a few blocks from my destination at a friend’s house at an apartment on Douglas Circle, which was hideously IRONIC because her affair with a fellow with the last name of Douglas had just crashed to an end, and since both were Intellectuals and Writers and Editors it was one of those things that was part Doonesbury, part Woody Allen movie, these being the cultural parameters of the day.

Anyway, it had been great to see Mose, and he hadn’t aged a day.

I ran into him in Uptown again, sometime around 2003, when I went into Lund’s in Uptown, and he was a butcher. Hadn’t aged a day.

So I juked west on Franklin, went around the lake, took the parkway, connected with Excelsior, and figured I’d get a parking space at Trader Joe’s, since it was Friday, not Saturday. But everyone was shopping for the Super Bowl party, or perhaps beating the Saturday rush, or getting le beouf juste for the party. Parked a few blocks away. Got my cart and headed straight for the back corner where the Microwave Popcorn was stocked.

They were out.

I asked the clerk: when are you getting the microwave popcorn back in stock?

“I’ll see!” he said, and he went back to the stockroom. Came back a few minutes later.

“The truck will be here in two hours.”

“Two hours?”

He nodded. “Maybe three.”

So if I’d gone on Saturday, as the rituals had required, as the routine demanded, I would have gotten my microwave popcorn. Breaking the pattern not only didn’t get me what I wanted, it ensured I’d have to make another trip.

I have learned my lesson. Dame Habit, I am, as ever, obediently yours.

Saturday, however, I stayed at home. I woke late, had ebelskeever, went right up to the machinery and asked: what long-standing site have I ignored for two years, even though I’ve accumulated lots of material? Discovered that I had A) redesigned the front page of the site a few weeks ago and forgot to post it; B) ditto the Institute of Official Cheer, even though it was a cast-off idea from 2010; C) had scanned and resized a great quantity of cards for the Restaurant and Main Street sites. The fruits of the scanner will be yours on Friday, and believe me, it’s nifty: the things I found. Anyway, I was exulting in the Non-Standard No-Routine Saturday, when my daughter came into my study and asked me to read what she’s been writing.

And here I have a dilemma. Let me tell you about the fiction young girls are writing: it’s horrible. Not in the literary sense, necessarily, although that’s often the case. It’s the subject matter. Thanks to the influence of Harry Potter, stories usually begin with the death of the parents, the discovery of Powers, and so on. The darkness is a constant. She shows me the work of her peers, and it’s all horribly dark - and these are kids with happy merry easy lives. On one hand I get it: you write the opposite, summon the fears, confront them. But on the other hand: for heaven’s sake, what’s the matter here? You’re all eleven or twelve or 13 - that tremulous witching year - and you associate the Dark with the Profound. I get it. But as I told my daughter: Dark is easy. Bright is hard.

She told me how she wanted to end her story, and it had a flat rote nihilistic twist. Not because she’s dark or goth or anything, but because that’s the dominant literary model. So I kept posing questions: what if this happened? Or that? Or this? Trying to push her to see the twist at the end of the story as a release, a flock of aspirations taking flight, a break in the clouds. Oh my vs. uh huh. And she got it.

Dark is easy. Bright is hard.

We went out to supper at a local bar / cafe called Lowbrow, a comfort-food joint with a great sense of graphic design. Wall mural:

I had the FLAME-BREATHER, which was compounded of various incendiary toppings. The fries, alas, were not as hot as they could be, which suggested that they came up before the burger was done. Bad timing. It happens. I mentioned this when the waitress asked, because I don’t subscribe to the “lie about how it’s all good” school of customer behavior, and was presented with fresh hot fries in a matter of minutes. Later, we decided to split a piece of cake; they were out of it. The waitress said that because they were out of the cake and the fries were cold, dessert was on the house, if we had other choices. This is an example of giving the staff on-the-fly flexibility to make battlefield decisions, and the result was happy customers and a fat tip.

Home to work: spent some time crafting the new cover for a book. Daughter came in, gave a suggestion; I tried it.

It was a really good idea. It worked. I was impressed. She was pleased.

“Maybe if I take the image,” I said, “And put it behind the words with a 30 percent opacity.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” she said, and I know she was. Later that night when she was downstairs I took at peek at her screen in her room, to see what she was working on.

A story. And the cover for the story. It was a nice design. The font was perfect.

I don’t know what’s better: to have a child who gets what you do and does the same thing on her own, or to be a child whose father gets what you do and does the same thing on his own. I have the suspicion she’s going to eclipse me in every possible dimension, and I couldn’t be happier.

But I'm still low on popcorn.










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