I stand at the kitchen island at night and write. Some of the work goes here. Some of it lands in the paper. Some of it goes in a magazine. These are secondary considerations, really; what counts is the writing, and then it's gone, out there, forgotten. On to the next thing. Imagine yourself just sitting in the kitchen, writing on a legal pad, then putting the paper away at the end of the night and thinking no more about it. That's the mindset, really; when I open the paper and see my face and words it's always something of a shock. Oh right. I did that.

For the last column I wrote about pointless Best Of! lists of cities; Minneapolis had come in as #1, and since this was a list based on lists of lists I figured enough was enough, and we should just announce we no longer wished to be considered. At the end of the piece, wrapping up, I said that all things considered, this was a fine place to live, and let us leave it at that and speak no more about it. Then I typed something about how if "All Things Considered" wanted me to speak about it some more, hey, name the time! It was a way of getting out of the column, tying everything together, and that was that.

Driving to work the next day. Phone rings; hit the speaker button. It was Minnesota Public Radio.

ding! I remembered what I wrote.

"You want me to be on All Things Considered," I said. She said she did. I shouted YES! CHUM THE WATER AND WATCH THE SHARKS THRASH! I said I would be happy to come on, and she gave me a time to appear. Two PM at the St. Paul studio. It's like the books of Myst: you bring a world into being by writing about it. Or, in my case, you end a world by writing about the book you're writing. I still regret that interview I gave that ended my involvement in the Myst books; I spoke out of turn and was cast out. Or the remarks I made were a pretext for severing the contract. Or my agent went behind my back and got someone else. I'll never know. The Miller brothers, so friendly in the initial stages of the project when I tried to get a good yard out of the execrable manuscript, had me dismissed by underlings, which is always telling.

There is one copy of the Myst book I wrote, and it's on a dead laptop that will not power up, let alone boot. The ones and zeroes are still there. The story is still there, literally a ghost in a machine.

Eh. Long gone and I don't care. I remember waiting and waiting for the Myst sequel, even though I had been thrown out of heaven (Really, when I went to Washington to discuss the book, and met the Myst creators and saw all the designs and prototype for the sequel, it was like being a Star Wars geek in 1979 and going to Lucas' studio to see what was planned for "Empire.") The very first thing that seemed wrong was the art, which was a familiar style I'd seen elsewhere, and now pops up in my feed as the logo for the Macalope. This fellow had his day, just as the guy who drew for Suck.com had his day. It was odd to see a recognizable style from outside the Mystiverse incorporated into the game.

Wouldn't have been a big deal except I got stuck right away on a puzzle. I think I had to swap out CDs after a long Quicktime trip through some sort of subway tunnel. And then I'm in this gorge, manipulating marbles.

Eh. Kweepa point. Point is, I wrote something and it happened.

So I left an office meeting halfway through and walked to the car and drove down University to St. Paul. The freeway would have been fine but I had time, and I like city streets. I could have taken the light rail; isn't that what it's for? It goes right past the Public Radio studio, after all. Here's the thing: I beat the light rail. University was clotted and sluggish, with lights designed to impede, but I never saw a train. When I got to the station and parked and walked up the stairs to the street a light-rail train came by, as if to say SEE? YOU COULD HAVE TAKEN ME, but there are many things you can't do on a light rail, and one of them is getting back in your car after a radio appearance and blasting the music and hitting the freeway because it's Friday and you are feeling faaaaantastic.

Speaking of light rail: here's what the streets of St. Paul look like now.

Not all of them, of course. Yes, we have changes in elevation in the plains. Really. Practically San Francisco, that.

One block away:

As parking ramps go, that's a nice one. It's playful. Well, it's colorful. The tall building, one of the few unfortunate towers of St. Paul, was built as the World Trade Center. I was working downtown when it opened. Full of upscale shops and places to eat for lunch; a great fountain in the atrium. You could browse at the department store, wander over for a book or a bagel, go next door to the other mall to pick up some things, and feel as if you were in a smaller version of Minneapolis, a more compact and homey version. With its own skyscraper!

All that's closed and gone.

Here is an MP3 of the interview, if you're curious.

As I said last Monday: Let's pad out two weeks of entries with some pictures from my favorite antique store / museum. Everything changes all the time, but that's the same for life outside the store.

This would be the second week. So:

If goats, cows, elk and the like had evolved into the dominent species, would the devils be shown as creatures who lacked horns?

You may wonder if the company's still around. Yes. History:

In 1937, a Seattle company operating as Marine Electrolysis Eliminator Company (MEECO), under a contract from the United States Department of Natural Resources developed a product for the removal of soot from wood-burning stand-by generators and power plants. The company trademarked the name “MEECO'S RED DEVIL” and introduced this product to the general public the same year. From this beginning, MEECO has built its reputation of quality and service.

But why would the devil want to remove soot? Wouldn't the devil want as much soot about as possible? Or is the idea to use someone who knows his way around soot, and hence would be an expert at getting rid of it?



Columbia presents: Dick Dix!

It’s a Whistler movie. This would mean something to people at the time.

A popular radio show, the Whistler was an anthology of mystery tales. They had a unique approach: you followed the path of the guilty person, watching the crime unfold, waiting for the twist at the end that redressed the scales. The Whistler himself offered sardonic commentary on the events, mocking the main character, channeling his thoughts. It was a well-written, effective, consistently entertaining shows.

The movies were nothing like it. Oh, a shadowy figure introduced the story and the theme was the same. Or was it?

The Radio show theme.

The "13th Hour" version.

Interesting way of making it new.

Richard Dix s a morose, old guy; when he’s in trucker garb, you can see why Eileen, the beaten-down single mother who runs the diner, finds him solid and comforting. Out of his work clothes, he seems like a senior citizen who just retired from an accounting firm.

The plot - oh, it doesn’t matter; you don’t care. As I said, it doesn’t follow the mood or the style of the source material. It’s just a little mystery, with no actual mystery. I’m here for the nicely framed shots that tell their own story. You can read in what you want.

We all know this is a Court, right? There are no obvious signs that this is a place where laws are enforced and judgments passed, but all we have to see is one guy elevated thus, and we know what it is:

I always freeze the newspapers to see what's going on. Government Cost Cuts to be Urged!

Go on, Urge them! But the attempt to cut tax FAILS. They had a three million dollar shortfall. They'd have to make it up somehow; not as if you could just borrow the money.

Every movie needs a brassy dame what has some moxie:

People must have dressed like that, or the movie would have seemed ridiculous to the viewers. That was a waitress uniform, by the way. Doubt it was standard in out-of-the-way highway hash houses.

And every movie needs a few heavies. Does this guy look familiar?

Why, it’s our heavy from the Black Widow! Anthony Warde. Fun fact: “After retiring from acting in 1964, after 27 years in the motion picture industry, he owned a men's clothing store.”

As I said, the plot doesn't matter for our purposes here. What matters is that you can freeze the movie any time it's not doing a close-up or two shot, and voila: instant Hopper.

That's it for today! See you tomorrow.



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