Bought my wife some perfume for her birthday. Always a challenge. Her tastes are not exactly my own, but the middle ground is vast, and I can always find something that has the floral note I like and the spicy note she likes. It’s practically a metaphor for marriage, now that I think of it. I don’t go to the department store, because that stuff usually has a heavy Powder factor, which has Grandma connotations, and you end up buying a box that also has lotion and oh de toilet and a puff-thing with powder, which is great when it’s A) Christmas Eve, and B) you haven’t bought anything, and C) you honestly believe this won’t look like a last-minute Hail Mary gift.

As it happened, her birthday coincided with the emptying of a perfume I got her two Christmases ago, a L’Occitane substance that had a hint of pine and orange and yak spittle and civet musk and leather, with a top note of Edith Piaf’s Tears, and so on. When we were in Majorca she became entranced with a local scent, and brought home a bottle - only to lose interest and hand it off to me. It swung both ways, but I bought three bottles of this on sale, and it’s my favorite. Which means it will be discontinued soon.

Anyway: when you watch your spouse discard a perfume that was, just a few weeks ago, the Next Thing - and when nothing else in her life approaches that level of capriciousness - you realize that it’s a delicate matter. It’s like shoes. Freud’s question is easily answered. They want shoes, on sale. Other important things, yes, yes, of course. But shoes, that’s the mystery. The why, and the infinitesimal psychological considerations of the subject, will always be a puzzler for men. The closest I get to this? I have four pairs of Chuck Taylors in different colors - black, blue, tan, grey - just like I have four pairs of jeans in black, blue, and grey. The tan Chucks go with khakis. Done and done. I’ve winnowed my closet down to 15 shirts and 8 pairs of pants. I purged my T-shirts, got them down to 20. I have 14 pairs of socks. My version of her shoe-shelf is a box in the closet with ten numbered internal hard-drives braided together in an ongoing rolling backup regime, and if she ever asked why I needed ten, I’d say the real question is why I don’t have 20.

If she doesn’t like the perfume, you may never know. Your marriage may be so strong and important that she will lie, utterly and without reserve, because it was sweet that you tried, and generally your track record’s pretty good, and it’s not bad. This is why you buy it from a place she goes to regularly, and the next day, tape the gift receipt to the bottle. If it’s never seen again - or smelled again - you won’t notice.

She loved it. I’m 97% sure of that. If she turns on it in a month? That’s how it goes.

(It was Tokyo Milk #10.)


Casting about for topics for the national mag column; always a challenge, given the long lead time, and the knowledge that everyone else is scavenging the news for something that summarizes the current crisis. Something pertinent, vague, timeless, up-to-the-minute, and not so gawdawful it can’t be a subject for mild japery. I considered a story about a high school muralist who’d been asked to revise her work: she had shown the various ages of a male, starting with childhood. The teen had a guitar. The Yout with his backward cap, the college man in a cap and gown. At the end, a guy with a woman and a child, with wedding rings.

This . . . this may have made some people feel excluded and uncomfortable, as the suggestion of any sort of norm or standard or ideal usually does. What's tthe edited alternative? A fellow standing alone, perhaps. Maybe he has a cellphone in his hand, and the screen shows the number of the place where his progeny is living now, to indicate he's an involved dad because he has them on his favorites. In the mural the married dad is dressed casually, but if he stood alone in the mural, wouldn’t that suggest he had failed to advance beyond the hey-dude-sup conventions of the post-education unattached male? A soldier’s uniform would be wrong, since it suggests that manhood culminates in violence. Any sort of religious garb would exclude and discomfit, of course.

The only acceptible depiction: a guy in jeans with an Xbox controller in one hand and a bag of Pampers in the other - the former symbolizing the marvels of unattached and eternal adolescence, the other connoting connection and responsibility.

I suspect that kids who grew up without an intact family harbor no animus for the concept. The particulars as they experienced them, maybe. But the idea? They’re going to scowl at the idea? Then be that way. Just try to limit the damage you do to others. If that’s not too much to ask. But I don’t think any kids objected. The professionals, keen to shield anyone from the bruising effects of a contrary example, stepped in on their behalf.

We can’t show a nuclear family because not everyone has one, even though the desire to bond is hard-wired and the act of family formation and fidelity is an act of will and maturity, honed daily, often by seemingly meaningless acts of perfume selection and one's reaction to the bestowal of some horrid fluid that smells like the underside of a saddle, really, what was he thinking. Can’t suggest that's where you might want to head. Now run along to the game and cheer for the ten fellows who have exceptional athletic ability conferred by good genes, and sharpened by dedicated practice.

(BTW: There would be an outcry if the mural showed a woman’s growth ending with a husband and a family, suggesting she was defined as a wife and a mother. But if the school took a stance that procreation and motherhood was an impediment to personal development, and hence would not only decline to accommodate students who got pregnant, but expel them in the hopes it would serve as a powerful disincentive, there would howls of protest.)


You probably haven’t been following our Stadium Debate. It’s a tiresome process by which some members of the Legislature, media, and the Sports-Entertainment Complex (I called it that because it makes it sound extra ominous and evil, right? Clever! No. Tired. But if I was a developer with a lot of money, and wanted to build an office park devoted to munitions and manufacturing, I would call it The Military-Industrial Complex, if only to watch the blood drain from the marketing team) are grinding down the citizens until we say Fine. Build the got-damned thing. I don’t care anymore. Build it and shut up.

It will mean less money for everyone, in the end; as I noted in a recent newspaper column, when I asked for a bid on tree trimming it came with the Twins Tax noted in the breakdown. Everyone loves the Twins Stadium, which just seemed to magically appear without citizenry effort, but there’s a tax on everything just for it. I expect the same will happen somehow for the Vikings Stadium.

Here’s the recent proposal:


What’s missing? This:



The newspaper building. My office. There’s not a lot of talk about the building somehow disappearing; no one’s talking about it. I would miss it. Correction: I would miss the exterior. The soul of the old building are mostly gone, with the exception of some lobby details, the occasional green wall tile glimpsed when they open up the drywall to fix something behind. The building was constructed in pieces, which is hard to see today; people think it was designed this way, but it’s been shifting and morphing for a century. Started out as the Star on the corner:



Got a makeover, merged:



And then:



The exterior was overhauled, I believe, prior to the 1947 design. That’s when we got the big Fascist front - okay, okay, Federal Moderne, if you want. But it has the monumental underdetailed style preferred by the You Know Whos. Our building is particularly unusual - most locals see whole thing, where the wings to the side and behind balance the big movie-screen / proscenium facade. But when they finished it, that’s all there was. For a while. Then they added the long wing on the left side, but only two floors:

Finally, the two top floors. If you look for it, you can see minute variances in the brick. . Otherwise it’s barely detectible.



Our building is particularly unusual - most locals see whole thing, where the wings to the side and behind balance the big movie-screen / proscenium facade. But when they finished it, that’s all there was. For a while. Then they added the long wing on the left side, two floors. Finally, the two top floors. If you look for it, you can see minute variances in the brick.



Otherwise it’s barely detectible.

Should we care if it goes down, in the name of progress and revitalization? It’s a remnant, after all. It’s like a boulder pushed by glaciers to the far end of the field. The city retreated; the warehouses and bars were knocked down for parking lots, the hospital across the street was knocked down and replaced with a forbidding Juvie Justice system. There’s a building across the street -


but it’s empty.

Many old newspapers are in the same spot. They built an HQ and watched the city pull away. On my recent trip to LA I was struck by the Times building:


When I got home and started researching the building, I saw it from the angle above, and realized: It’s a cathedral. Complete with buttresses. You don’t see that from the street. Looks like a fascist cash register.

Although If you’re in a boardroom with the owners looking down at a model, it makes perfect sense. Even the matchbooks emphasized the side:

I love this picture, on the Times site: So urban, so 30s, so American.

Anyway, the LA Times building seems alone these days, even though it’s by City Hall. All the action went elsewhere. Same with this one . . .


(wikipedia: Joe Mabel)

Same flat style. When I walked past the Seattle Times a few years ago, I wondered what it was doing there. A similar style, but much more exuberant:

Same flat style. When I walked past the Seattle Times a few years ago, I wondered what it was doing there. Same town, but much more exuberant:



These buildings are landmarks, because they were built by their owners for a specific purpose; those usually more memorable than speculative structures. They also have the added value of Civic Pretentiousness. They were built to Serve. To Enlighten. To Be a Shining Beacon.

And if in the process a few dollars were made, why all the better.















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