This is a peculiar week, odd from the start, born in discombobulation. Indulgence desired. If I am light a few days, don't stomp off fuming; as any long-time patron knows, twaddle in the accustomed quantity always returns.
We have a venerable icon in our Sports team at the paper. Sid Hartman. He's in his 90s. The last time I saw him in the office was when we left our old building, and he made a speech about his time in these old walls. He also repeated an encomium he'd made about the wise men who used to own the paper, and how they'd spearheaded urban renewal. He mentioned the Washington Avenue viaduct, something that was probably lost on a lot of the people in attendance; who cared? But it was a cause celebre for some. Washington Avenue was six lanes, and it narrowed to two to fit under a railroad bridge. Washington Avenue was also home to a couple dozen cheap bars. The crack-ups were regular and deadly, because people got hammered, drove down Washington, hit a pillar, and ended up pickle-speared by the steering column. I have a dim memory of the viaduct, dark and oily. It's been gone for decades, the bridge removed and the road raised. There's no sign it was ever there, no marker or plaque for all the dead. Thousands of new housing units on the street now. The loss of the Gateway was horrible, but the area's better than it's been in 70 years.
I don't see Sid around the office much; we may keep different hours. If we passed on the street I don't think he'd know who I was - I expect after you hit your mid-70s you stop paying much attention to the paper's new hires. The only reason I bring this up: next Monday's newspaper column employed a little trick I use sparingly: the obscure, confusing spelling of something commonly known in order to set up a punchline at the end of the piece. When I finished the piece and looked at the word count - hey presto, she's a-done, Pasquale - one word popped into my head.
Back in college I wrote weekly humor pieces for the Minnesota Daily. Now and then someone would write a nice letter and it would be printed in the Letters section. One of them said "waddlewedoo when Lileks graduates and leaves the Daily," or something like that. I know what that was about. Off the top of my head, without digging out the old Dailys, I think it was about a cookie named the Waddlewedoo, and this was playing off something in the news. For some reason monks were involved in the piece, which makes me think I was doing some "Name of the Rose" riff. Anyway: that was a long time ago.
I am still doing what I did then. There have been gaps, but I've been writing a column, in various forms, in this market since 1980.
Or earlier! The first piece was in 1978. Aside from Sid, I don't know if there's anyone else who can say that. If you look at the local publications from the 70s,80s, 90s, 00s, Teens, I'm always there. That's one hell of a run, and to make the story even sweeter, it's better now than it's ever been. My Sunday column anchors the new Minnesota section in Variety; my Monday column is a complete weapons-free situation as far as subject matter; I have a weekly neologism column; I am the go-to guy for the Saturday architecture columns; I get to write features and travel pieces; I have a series of weekly videos coming up; I'll be switching from the blog to a twice-weekly online column. I mean, I feel like a fargin' firehose, and I am happy and I am grateful. This is what I always wanted to do.
Grateful. Print-wise, aside from Sid, I think I have the longest streak as a columnist in this town. Ever?
That's the next milestone.
And now, Odds and Ends, the strange, amorphous above-the-fold feature, presents . . .
I bought these in a flea market in a New York parking garage. I've no idea what their purpose was intented to be. Information and education, I guess. They had no value and couldn't be used for postage.
In the coming days you'll get to choose the CD job you'd like. There will be eight.
Join the corps and resuscitate unconscious apostrophes:
Gas and fire bombs: what a wonderful world. What a great way to follow ten years of Depression.
It's still 1930s ads month. Hold on, no - it's the 2nd 1930s Ads Month ,3rd week! Because I just can't do the 50s and 60s every week, and because the updates in the first part of the year are all in the 30s. See? There's a grand plan to all this.
Everyone thinks the big World's Fairs were '33 and '39. That was only part of it. Never mind Pan-American Expo; there was also . . .
The idea for an exposition came from Frank Drugan, a newcomer to San Diego who arrived in 1933. He recognized the potential of the buildings in Balboa Park left over from the 1915–16 exposition; the buildings had been designed to be temporary, but had been refurbished and upgraded several times and were available for use. In addition, Chicago's "Century of Progress" fair was just ending, and many of its exhibits could be transported for use in another fair. That exposition had paid for itself, and he was sure a San Diego exposition could do so as well. He promoted the idea of a new exposition, using the existing buildings and adding new ones, as a way of boosting San Diego's economy. He convinced local business people to support the idea.
It made money, so there's that. So did the Texas one. No one expects these things to make money anymore. Why?
She's easily cheered:
But it wasn't gum that did it. It was a trip to the Beauty Shop. Go there! And chew gum! Every day! Starting now!
This week's elegantly rendered tale of personal stinking:
Jack, Tom, and Frank - they're all unable to get past the miasma of legacy aroma she carries around. The artist is familiar; I see his work everywhere in 30s mags. Starts with "T." You'd think I would remember these things. I want to say "Timmons." I'll have to say it because I can't find the ad that has his rare signature.
We continue: looks like Frank got there before Jack and Tom.
What? Body Odor - in Spring? What sort of counterintuitive nonsense is this?
Here's one of my favorite artists of the period, doomed to fall out of favor. G. W. French.
His motto: "I want my drawings to radiate happiness and to belittle distress. I want people to feel better just by reading them and looking at them…"
More of these to come; I find the style just delightful.
How smooth can you be?
Gull-swoop smooth. Here's the packaging for the soap - or is for laundering? Both? Whatever: dantiness will be maintained.
If you're more concerned about time than gull-smoothness:
As you might have guessed, they had a series of these, each promising something wonderful that was like something wonderful.
In 20 years, the brand would find itself doing much more pedestrian duty:
We end as we began, with color. I guarantee this was still in someone's bathroom in the 60s. Women got this stuff and stored it away. My mom did. You never knew. And it was a nice container.
You just don't want to find yourself without the good talc.