Aw. The co-inventor of the Mr. Coffee machine died, within a day of the man who helped popularize the bagel. Fitting. Like an old married couple. Sam Glazer was one of the Misters behind Mr. Coffee, which was an instant success. Credit Joe DiMaggio, who did some commercials for the product. I remember those, and remember thinking that Joe was probably someone my parents knew, just like Jane Russell. When they said their names it was supposed to mean something, even if it didn’t. Joe was a name in that Simon and Garfunkel la-la-la song.

I’ll say this for the tune: it has the most effectively emphatic harmonica moment ever. I think it’s when the player manages to make the instrument grunt, twice, on the words “cut him.” If you made the entire nation listen to the song at the same time, about 60 million people would nod emphatically at that moment. It’s a nice song, but I never bought it. Sentiments such as it expressed seemed at odds with the voices that sang them. Oh, yeah, they got boxing.

Anyway. We had one, of course. It had cheap wood-grained plastic on the front. But it made coffee faster and easier than the old percolator. We had a plastic percolator that got ruined when my grandfather, who loved his coffee yes sir, put it on the burner and walked away. It melted. Horrible stinky mess. After that it was nothing but Mr. Coffees in our house for decades - the same unit, I recall, had a long productive life. When my dad set up house for himself in a new place after my mom died, he bought a Mr. Coffee.

You just couldn’t go wrong, and there was no chance it would go and make espresso or something.

I’m trying to think of other mystery celebrities in the Joe / Jane vein. Lowell Thomas. John Cameron Swayze, who told us that Timex watches took a licking, but continued to tick. Little did I know he was Patrick Swayze’s 6th cousin 48 times removed or something, but little did I know Patrick Swayze existed.

Lowell Thomas was a broadcasted and writer. You know, I wouldn’t mind being This Guy



By which I mean the fellow in the suit with the mike and the pipes. That would have been okay. NBC would have been my network of choice, too - and that’s based entirely on childhood impressions. ABC was the cheap network. CBS was somewhat remote. NBC had the peacock, whose colorful unfurling on Sunday night was a thing of wonder, and it had the three-tone gong. (Enjoy some idents, here.)

At least I had a stint as the guy who talks before the network guy begins. The trick is to talk right up to the top of the hour but leave room for the legal, i.e., the station ID. When you do it right and tight, it’s craft, it’s skill. It is not an art. But it is a craft. You don’t want to say the last call letter, and have the news theme crash right in. Half a beat. That’s enough. If your network feed announced the top of the hour with a chirp - something I never hear anymore - you wanted to leave an entire beat so that chirp could just. . . exist in space, tolling the hour.

I listen to a good deal of BBC world service, and they have an nice top-of-the-hour lead-in: chords that say “BBC”, then five beeps, with a slightly longer beep at the top of the hour. It sounds like Telstar talk.

Nineteen seconds:



Oh, what the hell. Here’s the whole batch.



When you hear these you realize that radio introduced electronic music to the general population before anyone else. The one at 1:20 I remember from listening to my transistor radio as I delivered papers on my route. Man, that’s the sound of news.

Novel ranting follows below; just had to get it out. Might be of interest if you’re curious what’s en route. If not, hit the link above for four pages of new Main Streets, including a surprising then-and-now trip to beautiful downtown Burbank.



It’s done! It’s finished! The novel is complete! Yes, that’s what I’d be saying I hadn’t stared at the page for half an hour last night trying to write the last damned paragraph. It’s one thing to have the scene in your head, but another entirely to find the perfect way to end it all. And I mean, it all: five books and a fifty-year arc. Should I bother? I’ll only change it when I revise, I’m sure - but even so, books don’t really need to end with finality and satisfaction. Life isn’t like that. Why, life just goes on and on until it doesn’t, and if a novel is truly meant to mirror the world, it’s okay if everyone just shakes hands and goes back to their cars and drives away. Right?

Of course not. We look to art for endings, proper endings. Even if they’re depressing, they’re endings, and they’re bearable because they happen to imaginary friends. They tell us that things do end, stories do conclude - we just don’t recognize them. In the ending of “Morocco Alley” there’s a nice little moment that speaks to the future - the following Tuesday, to be exact - and it tells you that the characters will have a life after the books are over. People like to know that. People like to think they’ll do well and be happy. But the scene ends the story of the bar, which is really a story of Minneapolis.

The bar has several incarnations:

1920 - 1940: The Valencia

1940 - 1950: The Casablanca. The scene of the city’s worst slaying in 1947, when a union boss, his lawyer, his bodyguard and girlfriend were all gunned down in the middle of the day. Harry Holand, a reporter, and Benjamin Crosley, a photographer, attempt to figure out what happened that day, all the while butting up against Ole Olsen, the paper’s most popular columnist. Does the key to the murder rest in the recollections of a traveling salesman who’s returned to . . . Ohio? (Yes. Joe Ohio’s father.)

1950 - 1962: Tiki Town. Makes an appearance in “Band Box.”

1962 - 1977: Red’s Heaven. (a piano lounge)

1977 - 1981: the Buckle (C&W bar)

1981 - 1985: Raygun (punk / rock) Makes an appearance in “Too Much English.”

1985 - 1999: The Casablanca (signage removed, revealing the old name.) Makes an appearance in yet-untitled 1985 nove,

1999: closed (short story)

2009: well, that’s the plot of the last book. For ten years the bar sat empty on a parking lot across from the Citizen-Herald newspaper, waiting the wrecking ball. When a reporter is murdered outside the bar one night, the paper uses the event to make one last pitch for solvency, led by a new editor brought in by the chain to make it work or shut it down. No one’s quite sure which, but they’re sure he’s a nightmare: everything he requires of the new paper, from Page Three cheesecake to tabloid-style headlines, grates against the nerves of the depressed and gloomy newsroom. When a second employee is killed in the same spot weeks later . . . well, that’s when Ole Olsen Jr., the paper’s managing editor, attempt to find the link, and what it has to do with the newspaper’s power going out every night at 1:17 AM.

That’s the general outline. There are two Extraordinary Coincidences that bother me somewhat, and I may lop off one, but the set-up between the end of “Autumn Solitaire” and the end of “Morocco Alley” fifty years later is too sweet to lose, especially since of the epic misdirection that fell into my lap while I was writing it. One of those 1:00 AM ah-ha moments that made me realize the scope of the story. (Ole Olsen Jr. appears in a significant role in the 1980 college novel, but he’s never named.)

Why am I talking about this when I could be writing the last paragraph? Oy. Okay. Here I go. Wish me luck. I do know this: it's done, more or less. One year and three months, three novels, 240,000 words. Some fast revision is needed.

Because #4 had better be done by Thanksgiving, or I'm going to be very disappointed in myself. Have a grand weekend! See you around.















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