So: who's this?

Bernie. God love you, but we can tell when you're phoning it in.

Explanation at the bottom.

Got home: beep beep beep.

This was unusual. Things beep in the house, but not continuously. There’s the triple beep that announces the end to the drier cycle. There’s the melodic beeps that say the dishwasher has completed its labors. There’s the icepick-in-the-ear beeps of the smoke alarms, the four beeps the coffee maker when it warns me it’s turning off. Everything beeps. But a continuous beep: hmm.

It was the stove.

The stove doesn’t beep much. It’s a grumpy thing, like most stoves; they all seem to channel the soul of a toad. The other day it went on a beep rampage, displaying F1 in the information panel. Helpful! The manual’s in the basement somewhere in a box, and I’m sure that F1 would mean “error.” I solved it by pressing “cancel” and the stove seemed satisfied with that, but today no buttons salved its anxiety. It beeped because the power went out for a second or two today, and that unnerved it more than usual. We’ve had countless power glitches; never made it beep over and over upon reboot.

So I took it apart. I figured the battery on the motherboard might be dead - the light has been dim for a year or so, and the stove is entering its second decade. My half-arsed handymanism was thwarted by one stupid screw that wouldn’t turn. A crescent-head screw made of that fine imported malleable metal that dissolves upon contact. The sort of stuff usually reserved for Soviet medals.

Gave up. Called the utility company, which has a sideline in charging you money every month in case something breaks. Someone’s coming by tomorrow. I’m covered, should there by a $2367 charge for an old stove motherboard.

I hate this stove. It’s never as hot as it says. The “X-Lo” heat setting is useless.

I hate the countertops.

I hate the kitchen. It’s too dark. The undercounter lights use halogen bulbs that have a life of 37 days if you touch them when you put them in. It is impossible to put them in without touching them. The hinges - fine expensive German products - have a little plastic hinge that snaps off and destroys the tensile power of the hinge, so the doors flap open until you replace them. Years ago I bought a box of 30. I’m down to two.

Hate it hate it hate it

Hold on. Wasn’t this the dream kitchen when we moved here?

Wasn’t this everything we wanted? Undercounter lights! A top-shelf stove with a vent that raised at the touch of a button? Marble counters?

Wasn’t this heaven?

This is why I was unnerved by the idea of Eternity as a kid. You go to the Hereafter, you’re on your cloud with a harp, and after 90 million years you have to be thinking “I hate this scrollwork on the harp. And these sandals. Seriously? A waffle tread?” It is the curse of the human heart to tire of everything, but it’s the blessing as well: renew, refresh, revitalize. Huzzah! I am not the man I was ten years ago, when the hue of these countertops connoted an earthy vibe that echoed the solidity of the new home. I am someone else. I am a man who thinks: maybe a mossy green.

Three years later, someone in Italy get an order to hack out some stone to be sent to America, because a two-second power outage in Minnesota blanked the circuits on a stove and reminded someone that he had issues with his kitchen.

How do I know it was two seconds? Hit my daughter’s school as well. In orchestra. What did you do?

She shrugged. “We just went back to doing what we were doing.”

Because nothing beeped, that’s why.

Imagine a world in which nothing beeps.

Almost impossible, isn’t it. Almost like heaven.

Drizzly day, the cold starting to sink in to the bricks and the earth. Fine with me; as much as I love the sun-splashed morn and the warm breeze that greets you when you pick up the paper from the stoop, I also like being in my studio with the lights off on a cloudy day. It’s like a cave.

Yesterday I mentioned I was paring down my bloated collection of music, most of which I never listen to, but seem compelled to keep. There’s a chance I might want to listen to some 70s crap RIGHT NOW, and there are times when it’s amusing to hit shuffle and find some obscure tune I’d forgotten about, but really: the only possible reason I’d want to listen to the Eagle’s “Flight of the Sorcerer” is to revisit the mood and emotions of being in a dorm room at the U of Iowa in the summer of 1975. And that desire strikes less often than you’d think. Same with “One of These Nights.” Many years ago, lying awake with insomina in college, listening to the radio, I realized there was a three-note glissando on the lower E-string in every single measure, and I’ve never been able to unhear it. It’s all I hear.

Don’t know why I had insomnia then, but I did. I would stay up listening to the end of Larry King’s talk show, when he describe Duke Zeibert coming in with a sandwich. It seemed to sum up all the sophisticated culture of the nation’s capital - Influential People sitting around in Elegant Restaurants, media stars shown to their table by Duke himself. He’d snap a finger and the table would just appear, even though the restaurant was crowded. Sparkling conversation! Bon mots scattered like diamonds on the tablecloth. When I got to DC I saw the place, and thought: meh. But that was DC for me. Never felt more inconsequential in my life. Somehow having a sliver of access to this or that just revealed the enormity of the things to which access would never be granted. Although I think I did get to imitate William Hurt clutching his breast in faux-but-sincere romantic bliss as he saw Holly Hunter on the balcony at the J.W. Marriott. Did that for my wife.

You say: wasn’t Hurt the jerk in “Broadcast News”? He was. Wasn’t Albert Brooks the guy we were supposed to root for, because he was nebbishy and smart? He was. Shouldn’t Holly Hunter have gone off with him? Because whiny insecurity is so attractive, especially when paired with relentless self-critical wit! No.

Anyway. Too much music. You have to ask yourself what you’d do if it all went away, and you had to rebuild from scratch, and then you have to ask yourself why it’s imperative to divest - really, storage is cheap; what’s the problem? Because the new shiny toy only has 16GB? Yes. And because it’s tiresome to pretend you need to keep songs you’ve tired of hearing. These enormous collections are all predicated on the assumption that you’ll want to listen to something at some point, and the inability to do so immediately will be crushing.

It’s perfectly fine not to like something anymore and get rid of it. So I’ve decided: I will empty out my entire music library and only put back the things I really want.

After backing everything up three times and having an off-location copy, of course.




I mentioned Perry Mason music yesterday.



Well, get a load of this. Here's the music cue that accompanies this scene.


If that sounds familiar, it should; he'd use the same damned thing for "Twilight Zone." If you head up to the top to replay the piece, you'll hear the trademark galloping horns that summon up the image of Cary Grant in the process of being unjustly accused. Yes: Bernard Herrmann wrote music for Perry Mason.

Yeah, I know. Desultory Bleat. I feel like I have a head full of fossilized shredded wheat today. But! See you around in the usual places. Have a grand day. (Updates return next week.)










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