Nap dream got worse and worse. I was in the radio studio back at the old station, yet it wasn't the old station at all. Outside the studio I could hear a baseball game being played on speakers, loud, and it made it hard to concentrate on what I was doing. During a commercial break I went outside and asked them to turn it down, which they did, although one said "IT'S A SPORT STATION." (It wasn't when I worked there, but it is now.) I went back to my subject, which was the perishability of comedy, and how Steve Martin's records didn't hold up. They relied on a recitation of catch phrases, the audience's glee at hearing THE GUY WHO SAYS THAT THING stand in front of them and SAY THAT THING.

Then I remembered that it was a call-in show, and said my years away from the mike had made me rusty. I gave the number: 651-646-8255, that's 646-TALK.

Which it was. I'll never forget.

Then the speakers in the booth started playing music - easy listening, jaunty, music for genantologist's waiting room in 1978 - and it became distracting. I apologized, stood up, climbed on a chair and disconnected a speaker - but my headphone cord snapped out, and when I put it back in I couldn't hear anything. I was off the air.

The producer came into the booth. It was Joe. (Joe died several years ago, but here he was, same moustache, same gruff barking voice.) He looked at the computer and said "You corrupted your profile on the hard drive."

Well, get me another profile! While I was worrying about the dead air the station manager entered with three old people who had dropped in for some Community Input, and I was introduce as on-air talent. The old people peered at me.

"I'm not on-air now," I snapped. "Have some sheet cake. It's on the floor."

There was a large - I mean, six feet by eight feet - sheet cake on the floor, half-eaten.

"I can't load someone else's profile," Joe said. "It has different music and sound effects." I couldn't believe that I just couldn't go on the air and talk without a profile. Then I noted two chocolate eclairs had appeared by the sheet cake. At that moment a dog wandered into the studio.

"THAT'S POISON FOR DOGS," I said and when the alarm went off I sat up, convinced I had been dreaming about Trump.

Now. What have I done wrong today? What did I just do wrong up there? This is the internet, after all, and for those people who come pre-outraged for your convenience, there's much that requires frant-O-type fulminations about other people's innumerable deficiencies. I'm sure I should GET A GRIP and I'm sure I need to be told that NO ONE CARES LOL and it's quite certain that a very, very motivated Steve Martin fan is angry that I criticized him in a dream, because his sense of self is bound up with a college identity that included enjoying "Let's Get Small," and attacking the work is an attack on him, and his critical faculties.

Someone is mad because their dog died after it ate chocolate, and THAT'S NOT FUNNY. I didn't say it was. I just said I was worried about the dog in my dream. I had a lady yell at me in the grocery store for writing "I almost had a heart attack" in a column" because her husband had just had a heart attack and THAT'S NOT FUNNY.

There might be elderphobia in my depiction of the three strange seniors who were walking through the studio - but now that I think of it, one of them was based on an old lady who walked past my car as I was waiting for Daughter to go to driver's ed. She had to run back into the house to get something, and left her backpack on the steps by the sidewalk. An old lady in big bug-eyed sunglasses, the kind favored by women of a certain age, looked at me in the car, and pointed down at the bag with an expression I can only describe as you should know better. It's the judgmental look of Scandinavian matrons.


I rolled down the window to tell her that my daughter left it and would be returning shortly, but she didn't care and had already moved on. You want to leave backpacks on the sidewalk, fine. You want to throw perfectly good hats in the air, fine. None of my business really.

That was the look I got from the old lady in the studio. That's the scrap my brain picked from the bin of cast-off moments. Sorry.

Of course, when people say they're Sorry on the internet, they're not; they're amused you think they should be. You don't matter; you're the blank wall in their own intellectual racquetball solo game.

Anyway. This post must be criticized in some way, because obviously I thought it was important enough to put it up on the internet, and there are a few observations that can be matched against things I said nine years ago in another context, proving a point I am too dimwitted to apprehend. Whether I contradict myself or prove a point made by critics, it doesn't matter; what counts is teasing a validation of your own worldview out of a throwaway line describing a dream sequence.

Here's how I see the internet: a public square in Venice, with people milling about taking pictures, enjoying a coffee (I'd say "enjoying coffee" but if it's Europe you are enjoying a coffee, partly because good luck getting a refill), shopping, laughing. It is a product of the accumulation of Western history and traditions. In the middle of the square, as with all Venetian islands, there is a cistern. Push back the lid - i.e., read the comments - and you see a thousand slimy creatures scrabbling over each other to reach the sun. You push the lid back.

Our little square here at the Bleat is different, I hope. There are civil places. But the miserable bitchery of the comments in sites that have no particular reason to exist other than barfing out clickbait chum into the canals - it's just extraordinary, and Facebook is the tool that lets people wander in to any site and pop off. I was around for the early days of the internet, before Usenet culture migrated. I remember the contention of AOL message boards, but they seemed contained, somehow.

The Internet didn't change people. People changed the internet. We always thought it would empower everyone to have a voice, but those were the early heady days. As it turned out, we underestimated the extent to which self-righteousness, ignorance, historical illiteracy, and the utter confidence of perpetually adolescent brains would form a free-floating thundercloud of perpetual contempt. We all know this. In some way I think we all hate the internet.



The Hollow Tree says what many customers might have suspected.


It's possible she was just a drip.

The windows out of which she looked, and dreamed:






A middling-sized city in the great state of Nebraska. About 25,000 souls- as we said last week. Yes, it's another two-parter: there's just so much to see.

Like this, for example. Silent and brooding.

At its height, the town had four brickyards. So they had enough sitting around to match the original when the time came to blind it.

Unless that's the way it was when it was built in the first place.

No, probably not. You can see some windows were closed with glass blocks. It must have been magnificent when the walls had glass.


As far as I can tell, it's not yet slated for the inevitable "rehabbed into apartments."

The pride of Main Street: Sullivanesque carvings and a fine clock.

The door merits a closer look.

No matter what the future may bring, chances are they won't take your initial off the building.

It's the rare man who's remembered with as much as a letter.

More on this building next week.


Really. This is the Birthplace of Kool-Aid. This very spot.

Edwin Perkins was the genius.

As a young man he worked with products like Jell-O, which was sold in his father's general store in Hendley. When Perkins came to Hastings at age thirty-one in 1920, his principal interests were patent medicines and household products. With that background, he began producing a line of over 125 "Onor-Maid" items which were sold door-to-door and by mail. One of the most popular was "Fruit-Smack," a fruit-flavored liquid concentrate. By 1927 he had developed a powdered soft drink mix called Kool-Ade.

The town benefits to this day:

Kool-Aid went on to become a household name and made Edwin Perkins a wealthy man. But the Perkins family remembered its Nebraska roots, donating generously to philanthropies in Adams County and elsewhere in the state. Among local gifts were Perkins Recital Hall and Perkins Library at Hastings College and Perkins Pavilion at Good Samaritan Village.

More here, if you wish.


Ray's is out of business.

More brick-inflicted cruelty; the concrete horizontal with the rebars is a mystery, but doesn't bode well.

Note the tiny vent below the chipped area. Nice of them to make sure some air got in!

Two modern styles collide - and neither really suffers all that much.

Cut-rate modern design - or, if you like, frugal minimalism - gets some 60s panels, and somehow it works. But the rest of the building is a bit tattered. The windows in the middle. The angular number are never a good touch.

Glorious! Sad, but glorious.

If the panels fall off and there's nothing but glue dots, well, just wait, and the trees will cover it up.

A rather harrowed structure. Buckaroo Revival awning, bricked-up lower floor, upper floors covered in grey paint for decades.

Wikipedia has a picture of the street from the other direction:



The man's name - a gravestone marker raised above the pedestrian's gaze.

Sometimes you just have to sigh and hope it all works out for the best down the road.


That's every bad idea, ever, all at once. I like the late 50s / early 60s brick, but they don't belong here.

One last look:

As they take off the old cover, something older emerges:

I'm refreshed already. More on this town next week.

Oh, er, ahem:

So, tomorrow: a mysterious picture. I know everyone in it - and nothing about it.

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