Buildings should be blown up when they’ve come to the end of their use. I know it’s not always practical. But better for them to vanish all at once than suffer the miserable indignity of being picked apart, chunk by chunk. It’s not just the conceptual opposite of construction, it’s the aesthetic opposite - when the building was assembled you could see the form take shape, the walls rise, the details applied; demolition looks random and brutal. It looks indifferent. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that all this stuff is in the way.
The Dome is going down, and I’m not sad. It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s not that I hate it. I have a few good memories of the place - watching North Dakota State University beat the Gophers with my Dad, a Twins game that didn’t last seven hours, a Vikings game that was so obviously lopsided we could leave at half time and beat the rush. But it’s such a nullity. A rote example of at the obligatory municipal sports facility. There was nothing that distinguished it whatsoever, except the roof, which was inflated! Gosh almighty that’s keen. It was supposed to revitalize the area around it, turn it into an entertainment nexus. One bar opened up. One.
When the Twins left it was silent and unused most of the year. A big squat bulk on the edge of downtown, asleep, inert. Now the demolition is underway, and I walked past today to see what it looks like. About what you’d expect.
A piece that was not supposed to fall off fell off, halting demolition.
You might think “ah, what does it matter? It’s all coming down” but I suspect they want these things to happen in a precise sequence, so you don’t have the problem of someone being under the part that wasn’t supposed to fall off.
All I know is that it feels indecent to see, somehow. It’s like watching an unpopular town citizen get mauled by bears. Not much you can do and it’s not right to watch.
When I got home the handy persons were concluding the latest improvements to Jasperwood. Minor stuff. Mostly the back door. The door-closer-thing came off.
You ask: what sort of useless man hires someone to repair a back-door pneumatic closer? Well, I had repaired it. Probably four times. Originally there were two. One on the top and one on the bottom. The one on the top was ripped off in a storm, shearing off four screws and leaving them deep in the wood. I thought I’d get by with the bottom one, but the wind would take the door and whip it open and bend the closing rod and pull out half the screws, so I’d get another, get longer screws, and repair it. After four times I had sunk screws about two feet long into the frame, it seemed, and still they came out when the wind took the door - because the latch wouldn't latch. Oh how I tinkered.
Well, the last time Chris the Disarmingly Gruff Handyman came by to fix the fireplace, he noted the condition of the door, and said he could fix that for good. How? He said he would put STEEL PLATES along the frame, much preferable to replacing the frame. Today he appeared with the plates and put in two closers and man, opening the door is like trying to get out of a submarine hatch when you’re 10,000 feet submerged. It’s great. That door will never blow open again.
Anyway, he was making up the bill when I got home, and he chuckled:
“I love you, man, but you should never be let anywhere near a screwdriver again for the rest of your life.”
“You sit here at my table writing up a bill to take my money and you tell that to me?”
He looked a bit confused I’d have to ask. “Of course,” he said.
He also did some work on the bathrooms, and noted that he tightened the handles as well.
“Just the sort of thing I’d do without asking if I was on the clock,” I said.
He also fixed some drawers. You’re asking: what sort of man can’t fix a drawer? I have been fixing these drawers for years. The closet set is made of particle board, with a laminate finish. The runners are held in place by screws the size of a gnat’s weenus. When the weight of the drawers gets too much, they loosen. If you have the gall to use the drawers several times a day, the entire assembly loosens so the drawers don’t fit the track even if the screws are tight. So for years I have been sinking longer screws into the wood, and putting shims between the rails on the side and the rails on the drawers.
“Which just made it worse, I know,” I said.
“Of course. It’s cardboard, really. But you had those big screws -“ he starts to chuckle.
“Oh, don’t start. My wife wanted me to fix the drawers. I fixed them. Can kicked. Okay?”
He’s got my number, all right, but I don’t care. His partner came along to help, and said, quite gently, “you know, I still went to give the dog a pat.”
They read the column, so they knew.
He misses his dog too. Eight years now.
Of course it’s not the last I’ll see of them; come the spring, we’re redoing the Oak Island Water Feature, and this time it’s going to work FOREVER. You blanch: do you really want to test the mettle of these fine men by making them work on the OIWF? Might this not sour them on their work, their abilities, make them doubt their skill?
No. I have faith. It will finally work as I intended. The water will flow all day and all night and the lights will glow in the tank and the hose won’t come off and the tank won’t go dry and make the horrible wharglegarglewharglegargle sound. Add to that my belief that the grass planted last summer and fall will come up anew in the spring, and we’re looking at Jasperwood’s Best Year Ever. Never more beautiful, never more functional, never more ready. My lighting will be perfect. The lawn will be green and even. Everything will work.
Well. A man can dream.
UPDATE on the specialist authors.com website that sends me offers to write for lileks.com: I received a reply today.
Another request to write for the site. This time from “Luke.”
We return to the thrilling days of yore when FX were cheap and budgets ranged all the way up to $7.98 per episode. King! King of the Rocketmen!
Handy recap, with - hey it's neither Jeff King nor Jeff in Rocketman garb! It's Professor Millard's time to shine:
When we last left our hero, he had been shot in the head and was dead in a truck that went through a back wall and fell a million feet to the ocean. One can reasonably assume he leaped out before this happened. And indeed (no sound)
HEY WAIT A MINUTE. Last week: same crates.
That’s just not fair.
To lure Dr. Vulcan into the open they decide to announce to the world that the Decimator has been completed. (It uses “high-frequency chromium rays” to dissolve things.) So far we’re six and a half minutes into the episode, and while we’ve had some science mumbo-jumbo, no fistfights or rocketry.
Well, Vulcan overhears a radio conversation, thanks to his Amplifier Relay, or something, and figures out where the Professor and the Decmimator are located. He sends henchmen; Jthere’s a FISTFIGHT YAY except it’s hard to punch a guy wearing a metal helmet. In the struggle the Decimator is turned on when a rock hits it - really complex, delicate machinery here - and the inside of the cave melts in an impressive optical effect. Rocketman goes to save the useless journalist and her useless cohort, leading to some dialogue that captures quite effectively the gravity of the situation:
No, I’ll just take my time, if it’s okay with you. Dork.
They run from the lava - but then they’re trapped!
This - this looks like the end, Mr. Rocketman.
Pretty good stuff for a serial. Can't wait to see how they get out of this one.
Really! I can't.
More horrible French food, - the end of the series. You know what this means, don't you? Something else will take its place next week, a new ongoing feature. I know what it won't be: Minneapolis updates. Last year I remade that huge site, hated the new design halfway through, stopped in shame and walked away. Well, the last month I've been overhauling the overhauled overhaul, but I'm not going to pretend it's new. Better, yes. But not new.
Work Blog between noon and one, but it'll be a short one. Tumblr as usual. See you around!