Well, that’s it. Summer’s over.

So I always think, because that’s what my mother said - seems like the summer just races away after Independence Day. But I think it settles in with a certain comfortable relief, the days long hot drone, the evenings no longer pushing against the dark but making an easy peace with it. To me, it seems remote, this green familiar time I've loved so much that now belongs to others. I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that Daughter leaves in a month. Exactly. One month.

Birch the Dog ate an entire rabbit. It was small, and you sag a little: oh a bunny. On the other hand, they are innumerable around here, darkening the lawns at dusk like tiny herds of bison, and perhaps it was not well. Still, a bunny wabbit. I’ve said it before - we give them squeak toys and think it’s so cute when they shake them and bite them, and then when they do the actual thing they are hardwired to do, we’re appalled. At this point I was surprised he actually got one. He stalks, he waits, he runs after them to the fence line, and long experience with dogs leads you to believe it’s a game that never ends with victory.

Not this time. I saw he had it in his mouth, and I ran inside to get a small fragrant tin of wet food, perhaps to distract him - look, the good stuff, no bones - but when I got back outside there was naught left. And now he expected the wet stuff, too.

What a supper. Like a steak wrapped in a scarf, I suppose. It all came up six hours later, and because he was raised in an orphanage where they had to guard their food and shiv anyone who got near, he would not allow us close while he reconsumed this High Value Meal. I expect it’ll be back up around 2 AM for everyone’s enjoyment.

The Fourth was fine. Whizz, hiss, bang, boom, crackle. For years I was the guy who had the fireworks; this responsibility was gratefully assumed, as I loved to orchestrate the build-up. The cardboard chickens that butt-spat flaming eggs, the whizbang throatslitters rising on a pillar of sparks, all the crescendos with the surprising reveal: here’s a really cool one that will drape the neighborhood in haze for hours! Then guests would leave and I’d blow off the noisy loud bright fountains for wife and child, or at least child, who at least feigned interest. I shot video and edited it and set it to music and put it away, the monthly family movie, the great perfect summer day. It’s never rained, at least not enough to ruin anything. It’s always been hot.

Those days have passed. (All of these days feel like a favorite song heard through an open window from a radio in someone else’s home). But: because these days feel so strange and different and yet familiar, it turned out quite nice.

For one thing, it rained, a lot, and it was enough to ruin everything.

The neighborhood parade, where the tots bedeck their trikes with flags, was cancelled. The neighborhood party got a late start, and I was appalled to hear that they'd eliminated the dollar hot dogs for a food truck that sold $14 burritos. Hot dogs are too . . . well, let's turn to the New Republic, explaining why the Washington Post's article on carrot replacements drew such ire.

. . . liking the taste of processed meat doesn’t explain why people get so mad at suggested alternatives. That may have more to do with the hot dog’s longstanding place in American culture. “This is a food specifically geared to American patriotism,” says culinary historian Bruce Kraig, who has written two books about hot dog culture around the world.

America’s hot dog patriotism did not occur by accident, he says, but by design: starting with an early national desire to distinguish America as a meat-eating (and therefore prosperous) country. It then spread like wildfire due to savvy advertisers who sought to capitalize on that desire.

“Underlying the defense of hot dogs is the idea of American values,” Kraig said. “In this case, those values are xenophobia and American exceptionalism.” If those values were powerful enough to help secure the presidency for Donald Trump, it’s no wonder they helped secure the hot dog’s place in Americans’ hearts.

Or, they are cheap and tasty? No. It's much, much darker than that.

In the middle of the century, patriotism, nationalism, xenophobia, and an emphasis on traditional family structures proliferated regardless of party identity. The values that fueled hot dog patriotism, however, are held most strongly today within the Republican Party, which perhaps explains the political leanings of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

The group—which promotes July as National Hot Dog Month, July 18 as National Hot Dog Day, and holds an annual hot dog lunch for Congress—was founded by the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), which sends 81 percent of its political donations to Republicans. For years, groups like NAMI have lobbied against federal nutritional guidelines recommending eating less meat. Once, NAMI called a criticism of the meat industry an attack on the “American way of life.”

I've been to one of those National Hot Dog Day lunches. It was fantastic. The best were Hebrew National, which of course ties directly into evangelical support for Israel based on the belief that Jesus is coming back and will convert the Jews, right?

But meat-eating is becoming less of a way of life for many Americans, which is exactly why Yonan wrote his carrot dog recipe in the first place. “It was merely an option for vegetarians who don’t want to eat a hot dog,” he said. “No one’s trying to take your hot dog out of your hands at your cookout.”

No, of course not. You're just associating it with "patriotism, nationalism, xenophobia, and an emphasis on traditional family structure," so the proper people know what to think when someone offers a hot dog with an apolgetic preamble for its implications.

Anyway, the rain stopped. We had one (1) friend over and her daughter, a friend of Natalie. This meant it was a complete hen party, but since Barb is quite cool and plays in several bands, conversation was bright and fun. At one point I put on some Brian Setzer, and Barb noted that the drummer for one of her bands plays with Setzer. We cranked up the rockabilly and drank hard cider. Then I blew up some stuff.

Not the last Fourth. That, I think, was last year, when my old Valli friends and their kids came over for one final Fourth at Jasperwood. This, perhaps, was the first of the way it'll be from now on.

Daughter will be back for next year's Fourth, after all. Unless she's kidnapped.

Speaking of which, it's the last installment for the year of this olc comic:


The worst in this case is an infection of the brain, which kills him faster than tetanus.

"Dammit woman, this bill is ridiculous - and on top of the cartoonisly large and needless bottle of ink, we're in the red this month!

The dry-cleaning sign suggests that most folk didn't have a shelf for water and gasoline. in 1916, it was


That said, you'd think someone who tosses a lit cigar butt would do so in a room that didn't have an open bucket of gas nearby.



Ha ha! The hobo will soon forget his hunger pains because he is bleeding profusely from deep wounds in his buttocks.



Freeport: it’s Pretzel City! All 26K residents are famous for making and consuming pretzels.

No; it’s just a nod to its German history, I gather. Let’s see how German - or twisty - it is.

Ah, small-town America. Could be 1955! Except for the 70s touches and the curb cuts.

Like so many of these Google Street View pictures, it has a certain "Omega Man" quality to it. Where is everyone?

A delightful building, complete with a third-floor apartment for the German equivalent of the Little People. But . . .


. . . that hard octopus tentacle is a bit unnerving. Or it’s a light mast infested by barnacles.


That’s unchanged from its teens / 20s incarnation, right down to the stones.


The mast has a plaque? It’s historic?

“He did five windows in one day, ran out of paint, said he’d be back the next morning. That was 22 years ago.”


You wonder if everyone who sits on the bench doesn’t dematerialize into vapor that's sucked up by the pipes, or something.


What the hell did they do to that building? Did they paint it white to make the disparate parts mesh? If so, it works.

Full-on Buckaroo Revival, complete with a 70s fave: angled wood.


It would be nice if someone would sandblast the bricks.


Geologists, by reading the sedimentary layers, can determine the age of a formation.


It collides with this structure, another beneficiary of 1950s storefront renovation:


There’s a ghost.


Hmm. Shelkin? Sheklin Opiates?

I’ve looked through old papers from the 30s, 40s, 50s - can’t find an ad. No idea.

So “Your First Choice in Freeport” probably wasn’t the slogan:


Finally: The State, looking like a robot baring its teeth.

That’s just the start. Next week: everything that changes any impression you got today.


That'll do, I hope. Motels await - see you tomorrow.


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