Yeah, that kid's really happy to be here, isn't he? Another night of gluing crap on some crap for some reason. Daughter, I think, is dead, and stuffed, which may explain the son's reaction.

Let us consider the pillows. There is no point to the pillows. The pillows are there because otherwise the sofa would look as if it didn't have any pillows.

Are we supposed to notice how the end table is crammed between the brick planter and the sofa, or was that ordinary home design?

Nothing here can be explained to anyone's satisfaction, except for one thing. One detail is indepedently verifiable. You can verify it, if you've the time. It won't be quick, but it's not that hard.

Good luck.


I'd mentioned that the boiler in the furnace room, or the furnace in the boiler room or the boiler in the boiler room or - you get the idea, sorry. Start again.

I'd mentioned that the rumbling heat-box in the basement seemed to be distributing the warmy waves in a manner inconsistent with the past. Where once my studio got sauna-hot, now it's cold. The spare bedroom and Daughter's bedroom are likewise cool.

"Could be you're low on water pressure," said my handyman. I was stunned. Not because that was possible, because as you might remember I had that outflow of water the other day. I was stunned because the handyman had called. It had been a month and a half since I called, sent e-amils, launched flares, put out an APB, flew a plane over his store trailing a banner saying CALL ME SO I CAN GIVE YOU MONEY, and I figured he was dead. Turns out he was just busy.

The boiler-repair person came by later, and said my water pressure was spectacular - the water had gushed out of the pipe because I'd filled the boiler and there was no more room for any more. She readjusted the balancing valve, and that seemed to make the cold rooms warm up. (My studio is now very warm, and I like the toastyness.) She tested the big thermostat on the wall in the hallway and said it didn't do anything aside from operate the air conditioner. Huh. 15 years. The things you learn. All these years I've been - oh, never mind, I don't want to think about it.

She tested the Carbon Monoxide levels. They were low. One more thing: had to scrape the gas pipe; where is it? Right back there, scrape away.

SIR? She called up a few minutes later. I NEED TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT YOUR PIPE.

Turns out it had flaked.


She was now obligated to wait until a repair crew came. "Interesting," I said, lighting a cigar. And that's why I'm writing this from Starbucks -

No, of course not; don't have cigars in the house. She said the pipe was intact, and there wasn't any danger, but whenever there was flakage a crew had to be called, and she had to wait. When would the crew come?

She had no idea. But she'd be out in her truck.

Not twenty minutes later a truck arrived with a backhoe in the flatbed trailer, and I thought: I just wanted a little more heat in the Daughter's room, and now we're bringing up the street? A cheerful crew of three workmen, their leader being six feet tall and grey-bearded like a Norse legend - the fearsomeness of which was undercut by a tattoo of a round Christmas ornament on the side of his neck - explained what they'd been looking for, and went about their work.

Sure enough, the pipe would have to be replaced, but that was going to happen anyway. Because the works of man are doomed to rot and ruin? Well that, yes, but also because the company was moving all the meters out to the side of the house, so they could get at the shut-off valve quickly if need be. I'd suspect that the flaked pipe maaaaay have been a pretext, but it doesn't matter. So how were they going to do it? Run a line from the street, of course, into the wall . . . here.

Hmm. That meant going through two retaining walls, and the last time I had utility work done there it had messed up the stone and created a sunken area that looks like a lousy grave. He assured me that this would not happen. They had a thing that just went right through the ground and came up where they wanted it. But where's your line, now . . .

And here I got to use JARGON! "Gopher was out a few years ago and marked the utilities," I said. "Gopher" is the company that spray-paints lines on curbs whenever someone has to dig. One of the guys kicked away the leaves in the gutter and said "Here it is."

We all looked: a yellow line, laid down in 2011, I believe. Yes, that was it, because it was hideously expensive and I had to transfer money while on a ship in the Panama Canal over byte-by-byte internet. I hadn't looked at that spot with any concentration for years, but the sprayed squiggle was still there. I wonder who did that. These guys work all over town and leave their marks; in a way, they are the Anonymous Kilroys, and they can probably tell if a mark is theirs or something done by a buddy. Or perhaps there's just one, zorroing his way around town, and in the summer he drives around and nods at each and wonders how many people ever see his work, and know what it is. when the snow comes and smothers them all, it's like someone walked into an artist's studio and covered all the canvases with white paint.

They're going to do it next week. The gas will be off for a few hours in the morning, will that be a problem? YES SIR IT WILL, I WAS GOING TO TOAST MARSHMALLOWS DOWN IN THE BOILER ROOM. FURNACE ROOM. THE HOT PLACE, WHATEVER IT'S CALLED. No, of course not.

I offered them all Cokes or coffee but they declined and went on their way. Except there wasn't any urgent business, I gathered: the truck was outside my house for an hour. And then it was gone. They'll be back. Should probably get some donut holes or something.

It's the neighborly thing to do.

PS DANG it's hot in my studio. Wonder if something's broken.


On the same shelf as yesterday's Doughboy . . .


I showed it to daughter and asked what she thought it was. Some old medicine container? No, record . . . what?

It's an MP3, I said.

You're looking at an enhanced technology. Introduced in 1909, the Amberol line had twice the number of grooves of previous cylinders, and four minutes became the standard. Most machines were not compatible with the new format - sound familiar? - but Edison developed a machine that would play both. In 1912 the Edison Company came up with Blue Amberol, which was more durable. This was important, because no one liked to buy a song, take it home, enjoy it, drop it, and see it shatter.

By 1912 cylinders already had competition from disks. (See also, cassettes vs CD.) They kept making them until the end of the 20s. All of this information is from the UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive project, which is digitizing every possible recording they can find. It's an incredible project, and I wished I liked the music more. I don't.




Our big color ad answers the question about whether the world needs a new taste in spaghetti. Or whether we just wanted a new taste in Heinz spaghetti.

Pray do.

That's something of a roll call of doomed stores. Garfinckel's was a Washington DC store; went bankrupt just as I got to town. Never knew it. Wikipedia:

Garfinckel's flagship store reputation was not without controversy. It was both widely known and acknowledged that blacks were not welcome at the flagship store and in fact, were not permitted to try on clothing. This may in fact have hurt the store during the latter part of the 20th century; newly-prosperous blacks may have been inclined to ignore the store.[citation needed]

Somehow I'll believe that without the citation.

From the 40s, when national shirt brands advertised in popular magazines, and emphasized durability over style:

Sanforized in advance? That's handy. Well, let's see them in action. Here the man of 1940 charms the ladies around the office, even though sales have been crashing for weeks:

Then it's wartime, and he's working down at the Red Cross; all the girls like him well enough, but can't figure why he's not fighting.

Then the war is over and he's married and living in the suburbs, and life's turned out pretty good.


Let's put them all together.


They can't really be serious about the "oven" part if they put it in quotes. I mean, you've been warned.


This was the start of the Toaster Oven Revolution. GE called it the Toast-R-Oven, because the times demanded up-to-date product names like that.

It had a dashboard.

I'm trying to think if I had a theme in mind when I put this batch together, and I'm starting to think I didn't.


Why would I chose this? Simple: the original mandate of the Products page, still emblazoned on the banner heading, is "bygone packages and logos." Any example of old containers goes right into the queue, because no one kept these things, and any record exists only in ads and company archives.

It's not important to know every detail about what the everyday world used to look like, but it's better than ignorance. Right?


Sixties typography was so inventive! Also, half the time it sucked. Most of the time.


I wonder if someone had to fight to get the company to make these. We're a communications company, Johnson, not a damned confectioner! You want we should send out a box of chocolates when we send someone a telegram informing them their son died at Iwo?



There. Are we good? We're good. Enjoy some Frank, and I'll see you around.



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