Well, here’s a fun week: Thanksgiving deadlines. This week’s work consisted of two Minnesota Moment features, one Pets column, one obituary, one quick Stan Lee recollection, then one big online pieces dumped in my lap that required cleaning up someone’s photos, finding the original piece and cleaning up the screen grabs of the copy, tracking down the 12-year-old subject of the piece and interviewing him, interviewing the person who sent the original photos to the paper, AND THREE COLUMNS.

And you know what?

It’s no big deal. Standin’ on my head.

Had a melancholy thought the other day in the car. I mention the location because I usually use the radio to drown out the interior monologues entertain me and keep me informed on the issues of the day, but the talkshow host going into the soprano range via his nose again, and the Gunsmoke episode was already half over, and the comic on the Comedy channel was dead - I mean literally so, which made me sad, and then classical station was sawing away at something I wasn’t interested in hearing.

So I was thinking. The snow was falling. At the store I’d seen a few Signs of the Season.


Nothing gets me up for Christmas like Shapes.

It made me think about the month to come, and something struck me - or rather some loose strands floating around my head for 10 years coiled and tightened into something I could grasp. There are Four Christmases.

There’s the one you have as a child.

There’s the memory of your childhood Christmas.

There’s the one you have with your children.

There’s the memory of the ones you had with your children.

You’ll say - no, there’s a fifth! Grandkids, family gatherings, all that. I suppose. I don’t expect to experience any of those; fine if I do, but I’m not banking on it, and I certainly don’t entertain thoughts of being the wizened paterfamilias carted around on Christmas to this house or that. I’m sixty and my daughter isn’t going to be having kids any time soon, and I’m fine with that. Really, I am. I have no regrets about the timing; I have no regrets, period, and for that I’m glad.

The end result, alas, is a strange, slightly weary, slightly sad, alienation from Christmas this year. . For eighteen years my objective was to give her the best thing so she would be happy and carry through life the best memories, even though she probably felt a lot of pressure as the Only Child to Enjoy Christmas (TM) with all the ritual observations. There’s a Mickey ornament I always loved, because it’s retro and happy and we got it in Disneyworld at a time when there was the expectation that we’d be back next year.

It’s probably the picture I’ll text her on Christmas.

This is less depressing than it sounds! It's okay! It goes back to what I felt when she got on the plane and went away: well, I’m done. Nothing’s going to fill that absence, that role. Consequently everything has disengated a bit, slipping away from my grasp without complaint, and that’s okay. I’ve nothing to prove. Nothing big is going to happen. I can concentrate on the small good things, which are numerous, and make each day a joy. I'm actually more productive than ever, so it's not like I'm sitting around staring at the shadows run their course across the wall.

She’s going to have a Brazilian Christmas she’ll never forget, and if she’s happy out there in the big wide world, we did our job. I've no idea what she'll remember from her Christmases at home.I remember a lot of things about my Grandfather, but the one that sticks in my mind?

When we pulled away in the car after the Sunday trip to the Farm, and he stood in the window, waving goodbye.

Never saw him turn and crack another Grain Belt and fire up an Old Gold. Never, until this moment, imagined that he did.


Now, the Dept. of Miscellany presents . . .

No one wants to read a bunch of old tiny type, I know. But maybe . . . maybe you do. This is a business advice column from over a hundred years ago - the Yelp of the day, perhaps.

It was just pining for the fjords:

That's a rather unsatisfying response, but it certainly put paid to the Willuam Bartels Company. Here's one on the company that controlled about 97% of the cigar trade in Gotham, or so it seems from the old pictures.

You may detect a running theme, which is that the New York Tribune has decided to screw the William Bartels Company, hard.

You almost expect the last graf to add "Which is quite different than the team work at the William Bartels Company, including his wife, Lillian, who hung up on us."





Part two of Richmond IN.

JOHN’S TEAL & GOLD STORE. Come in and talk about 80s interior design.

Oh, look: now we know what it was.

A small one, too. And to think little places like this spawned the sprawl of K-Mart.

I’d love to know the history of this one.


You know the building had another wing. It was symmetrical, and something caused the loss of the left side. But when? It happened long ago, because there’s no scar on the side. Just a mural. (The 2009 view doesn’t show a mural.)

Bethard auto:

He got a full page in the paper when he opened up shop.

The local business put this together without knowing what a historical resource it would be some day.


From Australia to Gotham:

The cenotaph of Mr. John J. Steel, who had a banner year in 1915. We presume. Why the deep entrance? Why is there a driveway?


The only thing that comes up in 1915 for John J. Steel: admitted to the Spanish-American War Veterans association. In 1906 he’s listed as the recipient of a liquor license. A 1919 piece describes the sale of Steel’s building, noting that it’s an auto dealership.

Oh, but in 1944: a newspaper columnist tells the story about the mayor getting a letter from a local kid in Italy, complaining that the soldiers don’t have any good sheepheading going on. It’s a card game, we gather, and the writer recommends some local men who were known to play the game in their day. The columnist rounded them up for a photo to show the soldier who he’d be playing when he gets back, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s John J. Steel.


This is why I do this feature. It's not a big thing, but it brought him back to life for a while, and let us doff our hats.

You shameless hussy! If I build the windows the way you want, men on stilts could see your ankles?

All right, we’ll compromise. I get the ones you want and you get the ones you want.

Stripped cornice, swoopy awnings - it has its dignity neverthelesss.


OUMB, but I like it:

There’s a real mid-60s feel to this thing, and while the building looks like it could draw blood if someone was rubbed up against it, it’s unique - and no doubt made the townsfolk feel as if Richmond still had it. Skin job, I think.

As was this:


It’s like a slice of the Seagram Building. But what a wretched first-floor renovation. No no no.

Finally, something of a mystery - at least at first. This looked like an old institutional building - something civic from the 50s. It has a flagpole.

Next door:


Another abandoned building.

Google time machine shows the old facade and purpose:

It was turned into . . . yes, altogether now. SENIOR HOUSING.

I didn’t find the usual 1920s hotel; I wonder if they got one at all.

Fascinating place. Much more than I would have thought. Good luck, Richmond; you’ve got a nice little town to revive.




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