It’s muggy, and thunder mutters on the margins. Thunder always mutters, unless it rumbles; these are the prescribed cliches all writers feel comfortable using, because of assonance and onomatopoeia. The former, if you’ve forgotten, is “the repetition of the sound of a vowel or diphthong in nonrhyming stressed syllables near enough to each other for the echo to be discernible,” although I use it regardless of diphthongery. In fact I haven’t work a diphthong since Mexico ’98. Oh: thunder also grumbles. Forgot that one. Nothing thunder does is happy, although people are often happy to hear it. In the summer, at the end of a hot day, with the promise of theatrical weather, thunder can be a comfort.

The wonder of thunder!

No one says that. Nor does thunder blunder, and it doesn’t bluster; that sounds too wet and gusty. Wind blusters. Thunder mutters, grumbles, rumbles, but then it BOOMS, right? Now, consider lightning: the thunder that immediately accompanies a nearby strike doesn’t seem like thunder, but the lightning itself. When thunder follows three seconds later, it’s thunder.

I can’t remember the last time we had a good fearsome noisy storm during the day. A few thrashings over night, when you wake and realize something big is going on, but go back to sleep. How long did it take for that evolutionary response to cement itself in our heads? It must have been terrifying to early hominids, this racket and violence, the world tearing itself apart - but eventually, well, eh, just a storm.

Hard to imagine something today that would be inexplicable to our perceptions in the same way, isn’t it? Something big that happened all around us for a brief period, repeated at irregular intervals with no seeming cause, and we can’t explain it. That’s the curse of modern life, in a way - we can explain just about everything, or at least understand it.

Did the Greeks really believe . . . this?

I never knew why Disney chose to show Vulcan as a hick doofus. I suppose because blacksmiths were rural, and they wanted some comic relief. Zeus is a jerk in Fantasia, too. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the Broadway Theater in Fargo was a XXX shop - yes, in Fargo. But every so often it played Disney movies, as if performing penance, and you’d get the raincoat crowd who thought surely there’s got to be some skin coming up, it’s the Broadway. No doubt they sighed with relief when the centaurettes showed up.

Okay. ‘Bout time.


AND NOW, from the Dept. of Misc., our Thursday feature:

A few more japes hanging around the Misc file. Some real gutbusters here. You may wish to bind your sides.

The sorce! As in, da noive.

Nothing sets up a joke better than a long parenthical set-up:

It's hard to consider that bothers and hangs were even close to swear words. "Bide Awee" - a phrase that spent its last few days in America as a name for small motels before it was rescued by a New York animal shelter.

Also a golf course.

When the course was being designed, Harper and Fred Findlay were thinking about names for the course. Findlay recalled "when I was a boy in Scotland, I started to run away from home. My mother advised 'you had better bide-a-wee'. To a Scot, that meant 'stay a little longer or linger awhile.'"

Obigatory innocent / stupid kid story:



The job of taking the elevator up and down was done by young operators. They stayed on the job, which is why the ones you see in movies in the 40s and 50s were all old men.

That's a complex set-up for a rather unfunny and glum joke. The grinding boredom of the lift-boy's life is on full naked display.

Wouldn't be the humor section vit-out zum ethnic humor from the Abrahamaic side:



Last week’s trip to Freeport showed old small buildings in various stages of renovation and abandonment - the usual. It seemed like small beer, without landmarks or signs of a prosperous past. That's because I saved all the big stuff for week 2, just to be contrary.


The local paper:

The structure — considered the largest and most modern — was built with steel, brick and concrete in 1916. The “fireproof” seven-story building became Pretzel City’s first skyscraper, at a cost of $250,000.

Mr. Smith was the bank pres from 1925 to 1935 - and that leads us to another downtown structure . . .



The Smith Building! Trust me, it's as exciting as the name suggests.


Around 1912 to 1913, the building was knocked down to its first floor and the structure was expanded to its current size of six stories, (local architect Christopher) Fye said. The building’s facade was redone in 1935, and since then there have only been some minor modifications completed, he said.

I would have guessed 1945.


Hi, folks! It's the future! Just passin' through!


Whatever that store was, I'll bet they could tell you.

“Can you line the vent up where the window is?”

(pause) “Don’t know why you’d want to go and do that now”

The bricked-up window and bricked-up door occupying the same space seems like the collision of parallel dimensions.

From the Sideburns-and-Acrylic-Plaid-Tie era of architectural design:

Everything in this picture is horrible, but it wouldn’t be a small town downtown without them.

The Obligatory 20s Hotel. Formerly the Stephenson:


The local paper said:

Owners are still researching the building’s history. However, the site is rumored to have had many famous visitors throughout its history. Rumors have it that notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone used to stay at the facility when he was in town, but this has not been confirmed, Misra said.

If it was confirmed, there'll probably a Capone suite with retro pictures, and it'll be "historical" and popular because guests check in with absolute certainty that no one will burst into their room and beat them to death.


If you had to guess, what would you say? Bank . . . government offices . . . newspaper?


I don’t know.


The abandoned factory:


It’s coming back!


This sad little structure probably had a rambunctious life; the train station is a block away, and the intersection once held a hotel. So the area was probably more lively, once.

Something it seems you can say about the place in general.

Oh Lord, the 60s slab bank with the acres of parking reaped by tearing down old structures. It’s impressive and makes a city feel as if it’s on the grow, but why not build it closer to downtown?


This glowering structure says PATROL over the door.


Fenced off pending rehab or demo? A story I read says the city was stepping up downtown demolition efforts, which seems a tragedy - there’s still a great little downtown there, waiting to come back.



Friday already tomorrow? Gah. Please Brazil. PLEASE APPROVE OUR INITIAL APPLICATION. If I don't get it in Friday we are hosed.

Stay tuned.


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