Fargo, pt. 2
I went up for Dad's 90th birthday. Sis was throwing a small cake-and-ice cream on Sunday night, so I drove up, because of course that's what you do. It was more of a gathering than I expected - the sad fact is that all of dad's friends are gone. He has sisters and surviving widows, and grand-nieces and nephews and grandkids, though, and my brother-in-law's three-bay garage was rocking when I pulled up. Caught up with people I haven't seen in years, and hoover up some family lore.
I tell you, there's just something about being in Fargo and everyone sounds like they're from "Fargo."
Well, not everyone, but a few really have the accent and cadence, and God love 'em.
I was talking to one of my cousins about photographs - who has all the stuff. She has her uncle's slides. Uncle Myron was the shutterbug in the group; always had a camera, always taking pictures. Pounds and pounds of slides. I told her she had to digitize them - we have to get one big collection, annotated, and hand it off to the kids so they know where they came from.
She mentioned that she had the box of Civil War stuff. I held my breath: there's Civil War stuff? Oh yes. Letters and ribbons from Grandpa Newton, as he was called in my early years. It brought me up short: I'm old enough so I remember references to a Civil War veteran they called Grandpa. My cousin said:
"One of these days I'd love to take it all back to Vermont, because there has to be a museum devoted to the Green Mountain Boys."
Gulp. Grandpa Newton . . . was a Green Mountain Boy?
Anyway, yes, I have to see this stuff. Aunt Joyce was listening, and I told her we were talking about scanning all the old photos, and putting names to the faces. I remembered I had a site of my mother's youthful photos, and called it up on my phone and passed it around. Now the old-timers were curious, and they passed it around naming people and places. Found one of my dad on leave, flashing a V for Victory like a gang sign.
So I got a good sense of where the stuff is, and what it'll take to get it scanned. It has to be done. It's important. Otherwise it ends up passed along to the nth generation that doesn't care and doesn't know, and it all gets dumped in an antique store and the great braid is sundered.
Told my cousin I'd done a podcast about the strange room off the hall at the old farmhouse.
"Two steps down," she said. "Then there was a closet on the left. You went straight down and there was all these drawers with hundreds of doilies."
I didn't remember that. I mentioned the room -
" - that was Grandma Turnbull's room," my aunt said. Of course. Of course.
"There was a Victrola by the window," I said.
Jan nodded. "I have it," she said.
Gah. Wha. It exists? I just did a podcast about it, stumbled into talking about it, and it exists? She said she took it from the farmhouse before it was burned and knocked down. Did she have any records?
She shook her head. "They were all broken. I have one."
Now. Did you listen to the podcast? Okay.
"It's some guy laughing."
Everyone peeled off and left by ten; we sat around in the garage and talked over beers for another hour. Around eleven dad went home, and even though the video's dark, I think you will get the point.
That's brother-in-law Dave at the end, and truer words were never uttered.
I went back to the house a while later, and had a drink. The tonic was in the garage fridge, and - holy crow
There was a bag of something in the fridge, and for some reason I knew it was pheasant. I mentioned that there was something disturbing in the garage fridge, and he remembered he'd put some pheasant in there last fall. LAST FALL. Well, there's something to be said for not having a sense of smell. Yes, he's nose-deaf. That'll happen when you breathe gas for 65 years, but he's also a walking, talking testimonial to handling refined petroleum products for half a century plus three-fourths of a score. I should note that the house of this esteemed citizen is neat as can be, clean and bright, bills neatly stacked, no sticky surfaces, no mouldering surprises, no tottering piles of things he was going to get to. He has planted fresh flowers outside in pots because it looks nice, and you want to keep up your reputation in the cul-de-sac.
"Say I don't have any coffee," he said.
I looked at him with astonishment: you are not my father. Who are you, that has taken his form?
"Well I don't make it in the morning anymore because I go to the Mall and have it there after I walk." I know this story - they used to get their coffee at one place but it closed, and Taco John's stepped up and sells coffee to the early-morning senior walkers. "Let me show you the cake I got for tomorrow."
It's a tradition among the senior morning walkers at West Acres Mall: if you have a birthday, you bring cake, and you buy everyone coffee. My dad decided to bring small cupcakes, so he went to the grocery store and bought several pre-packaged batches of cupcakes. Twelve to a batch. There were six in the fridge.
"That's seventy-two cupcakes," I said.
"Well, everyone can have two. And here, I got some peanuts." He showed me how he'd bought some small cups. "I got the dry-roast, because the old folks, they don't want the oily ones, and I'll put a marshmallow on top of it."
Just so we're clear, this is how he was going to treat everyone else because it was his birthday.
At midnight we hit the hay. At 7:30 my alarm goes off, and I know he's already gone. Shower and out and off to the Mall; there's four tables of oldsters in the food court. Enjoying their cupcakes and peanut cups. I get a cup of coffee from Lighthouse Coffee, because they have a good enough Americano, and also because I forgot that Taco John's has a pot going. Over to the table with my dad, his brother, his sister, the younger couple (they're in their late 70s, I think - I only know them from these food court meetings; they're friendly and delightful) and my sister and brother-in-law. I sit down.
"Why did you get that coffee?" Dad says. "Isn't this coffee good enough?"
This, right here, is the entirety of my teen experience. The overlarge pointless criticism. Because teens don't volunteer anything, you have to ask questions. Because there's not a lot to ask questions about, you zero in on trivial matters. Because it's trivial, the teen interprets it as stupid and invasive and needlessly critical.
"No," I said. "Your coffee isn't good enough. I hate your coffee and everything it stands for."
And he laughs, because it's a bit. It's a routine. It's always been a routine. He did it with Warren, the great comic genius of his social circle; he did it with Myron, his brother-in-law, less skilled in repartee but someone who was in on the gag. They're gone; they're dead. He's Abbott throwing lines at Costello's tombstone all day. It's different when I play the game, because I'm the son, but it'l do. Brother-in-law will throw a few Jarts when the occasion strikes. The rest of the table will needle him too, but only because he takes it well and at the end he'll come up with some preposterous boast or response that wins the exchange.
It's the middle of June in 2016 in a mall in West Fargo. The stores aren't open yet. Four tables of oldsters in the Food Court. Loud laughter.
After a while the walkers drift off to go home; they stop at our table and pay their respects, thank him for the cupcakes.
Dad explains that he tried to get them out of the plastic sleeve, but he kept mushing the frosting, so he used a tweezers to grab on to the paper cup and get them on the plate -
and here my sister and I exchange a fast look. Oh god dad's tweezers who knows where they had been
At 9:30 the Mall is coming to life, and the party's over. Dad takes the tray of remaining cupcakes back to the car. I have to get back to pick up Daughter from driver's ed. We joke: look at the state of America's seniors, force to wander the mall offering bakery samples!
Of course, that's what he was doing, but as usual, he volunteered.
Before the name got risable, smutty, lounge-lizard connotations, it was something a man would want to be. And hence, would want to have.
Here are the awards bestowed for Fatherhood, from Swank's tireless cufflink / tiebar division.
#1 I CAN FIGURE THIS OUT FOR MYSELF OKAY HOW WILL I LEARN IF YOU DON'T STOP FIXING EVERYTHING
Of course, knowing when to step away is part of helping, too
#2 I guess a "regular" guy was also known by the colloquial slang, "Ol' Doorknocker."
#3 Not sure why a chariot symbolizes the moment when you slip the kid an extra fiver, but possibly it indicates how fast they get away after saying gee thanks dad
#4 S symbolizes what? If your name didn't have an S, did you wear the Surrey just to confuse people?
We're zipping through "The Ghost of Zorro," aka Grandpa was Zorro Even Though I'm Not Remotely Spanish.
Remember that? It was in all the papers. I presumed he would have woken up - people shake off a concussion and return instantly to health in about 7 seconds in a serial - and untied Spunky Cowgirl Rita and run out of the building. Imagine my surprise:
Okay. Well, that's new. As for the rest of the ep, Zorro #3 goes after Kilgore, the designated bad guy, and he knows he's the bad guy, but because this is The West and Fair Play and Justice are important, he doesn't just find him in a bar and shoot him in the head. That violate the code of the masked vigilante.
Let's check the recap for the next ep to see what the last one was about:
That dastard! That bastardly dastard. Death's guaranteed for all the major players in Indigineous Lacuna:
Quick! What'll we do? RUN TO ANOTHER LOCATION THAT ISN'T IN THE SAME SHOT
But isn't it a minature? We don't have to run, we can just walk over -
RUN TO ANOTHER LOCATION
Of course that helped.
Hey - it's time for the mine scene; always has to be a mine scene. At the end of the next episode they're waiting for Zorro in the dark, aided by the fact that it's a bad print and you can hardly see anything, and we are expected to believe . . . this.
Oh I'm sure he just ducked.
Oh, er, ahem:
The 40s update is an overhauled version with nine pages more content - Billboard magazine ads from the start of the war. Your dimes will beat the Axis!
Your nickels will only drive Hitler back to the pre-war borders