When I rolled up in the driveway Friday afternoon there was a lady standing by the garbage can. There was another fellow on the sidewalk talking pictures. Naturally, one is curious. Rolled down the window. Deploy basic Midwester cautious conversational salvo:

“Hi!” I said.

“Oh hi,” she said “We grew up here.”

That was all it took. Sister and brother plus the Mom, who I believe I’d met years ago when Jasperwood was on the neighborhood house tour. I parked the Element and asked if they’d like a tour. Least I could do. This was my house but it was theirs, too.

“Is the tunnel still there?” They wanted to come in via the tunnel. So in we went. “It’s so clean!” Just a lick of white paint, ma’am. In the furnace room. Daughter points to the far wall leading to the crawlspace under the stairs.

“A man came by when we were living here,” she said, “He grew up here too. He left a story about growing up here.”

“I gave that to the people who bought the house,” said the Mom. I said I had it. J. R. Ryder, son of the candy magnate, original tenant.

“He said the closet under there was his clubhouse, and he left a wire thing, something he got from the man who came by and lit the streetlights. We went in and looked and found it.” She grinned: childhood memory. I’m thinking: from J. R, to her, to the people who sold the house, to me. A spark arcing across 90 years without effort. He mentioned those wires in his memoir.

Up the stairs to the living room and kitchen - this is the same, this used to be there. Upstairs to the bedrooms. The daughter lived in my studio. She pointed to the windows and noted how she used to crawl out and sit on the roof over the entryway. I pointed out the date of the house carved in the wood frame; the brother corrected me: that’s a number that tells you which old storm window goes there. Ah! Ten years of error revealed and corrected.

One bedroom they knew is gone, converted into the master bedroom bath. Their bathroom is still there. My daughter’s room: built by their father. “This was a screen porch, and that -” the daughter points to the spare bedroom - “that was just roof.”

Brother interrupts: “When he was working on it there were holes in the floor by the door here, and I remember we would put pennies down them.”

The pennies are still there in the secret recesses of the house.

The mother tells me something I didn’t know: when the porch began to sag, her husband installed jacks, and I don’t doubt they’re still there. He did this; he did that. He died young. Forty. When we were downstairs she pointed to the marvelous wood radiator cover, and said he’d done that himself. He’d tried to match the wooden slats in the opening by the staircase. He thought it was the best thing he’d ever done.

“That was where we kept the games!” the daughter said, pointing to the hall cupboard. Games are downstairs in the family room closet now; we use this closet for overflow supplies and towels. (Bonus side note: this was a nice vindication for all the time I spend arranging and organizing; I try to keep this place squared away at all times, so when you apologize for disorder, and it turns out to be THE MORNING PAPER ON THE TABLE, people think . . . well, I suppose they think you’re daft.)

The daughter turned around at the end of the hall, looked back down towards her room, the open door.

“Oh, that view,” she said.

I knew what she meant. You know. Home. The way home looks. The way home is. Then it’s the way home was and the way it looked, and it’s nothing but memory. I have that view: it’s the hallway at 2405 in Fargo, and there’s a Honeywell muffin on the left, a toastmaster-grill doorbell enunciator on the right, Jesus with a lamp knocking on the door at the end, the shine from the bathroom with the grey tile, the faint smell of cedar from the closet (don’t open it; you’ll let the cedar essences out) and it was home. I wouldn’t want to see it now. I wouldn’t mind seeing it now. I don’t have to. I took pictures before Dad sold it. The last year he was there, we went up for Easter, and I hid eggs for toddler Natalie, and took pictures of her sitting in the hallway, toting up her haul. That’ll do.

Oh, that view.

They had cameras, as I said, so I offered to take some pictures. Family photo sitting on the radiator cover their dad made. One two three cheese. Then outside in front of the porch their father built. Cheese!


Handshakes and farewells and smiles all around. Now: think about it. I’d left the office after I did the Friday video interview, which itself was fun: I hadn’t been able to get into the system to read the story the reporter wrote, so I asked him a few questions during camera setup, then boom, did the piece, four minutes and out. One PM. Column due. No - fricking - idea. At all. Since the office is not conducive to inspiration, I decided to go home and write at the kitchen table, where I do all my favorite work, standing, typing, If I’d been five minutes early or five minutes late I’d have missed them.

But we connected. Kismet.

Then they left and I wrote, and I filed, and the weekend had begun. No, amend that; the weekend begins when I pick up the pizza after piano. I wandered over to the computer, set the alarm, laid down: Lethe. Woke: daughter at the back door: gather books, off to piano.

Checked my email at a stop sign, and burst out laughing.

“What?” Natalie said. I handed her the phone. “Oh my gosh,” she said.

Remember last week I talked about the Alphabet Al videos? Well. One of the fellows who did the animation, Bart Harlan, is a Bleatnik. He was on the team that did this - sorry, dead this, a local TV spot:



Bert did, among other things, the chandelier. I love the music.

Oh, Alphabet Al? In his other life.

When Natalie has her piano I sit on the floor in the old Back-to-the-Future era school, now decommissioned, and read. The phone gives me an alert when it’s time to order the pizza, because if I order it five minutes before the lesson is over it’ll be ready when we get there. The alarm goes off. I call the pizza place. It’s been weeks since I ordered from Davanni’s, for various reasons. I put in the order.

“Well, it’s been a while,” says the manager taking my order.

“I know!” I say. “Nothing personal.”

Habit can constrain, but familiarity breeds content. On a Friday, anyway.

After dinner I finished Bioshock 2. I thought I was at the point where it was 30 minutes, tops, but man: 2 hours of grueling strife to get to the ending. I’d been disappointed by the middle of the game, but the ending was a gut-punch. The endings vary depending on the ethical choices to take in the game. I play the high road, releasing all the little girls from their bondage, sparing the adversaries who had opposed me for reasons based on misapprehensions. Except the guy who sold my daughter into the Little Sister program. Him I put down like a sick dog. (He was a newspaper reporter.) The program did not withhold the Good Ending because of this, and the Good Ending -

Well, I’ll just say this. Games are an art form. In a movie, you watch. You may sympathize and relate, but you watch. In a game, you are.

As with life. Which is why it was such a pleasure to watch the family walk around their old home, see the rooms where they grew up. This was their home. I told them: bring the kids some day, and if we’re here, the door’s open. Any time. The Mother told me she bought the doorknocker on a trip to Spain in the seventies; it wasn’t original, as I’d thought. She brought it back with her husband.

I told them to come back if they wanted; Rap the knocker. I’ll hear it. Maybe he’ll hear it too. The door swings both ways, you know. Welcome.


By the way: the picture above is from this ad. I'll be they do indeed. More so when the Tomorrow they planned didn't happen.

And thank God for that, in this case. Cars aside, it's a nightmare.




















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