On New Year’s Eve I was sitting at my desk, pecking away at the usual work, happy to be home on a cold day, happy the family was together, happy that this meaningless holiday was here, and we had a thick three-day weekend in which to luxuriate and lollygag. Ding: email from the work account.

I looked at my phone: it just displayed the message header. Name of one of my oldest friends. Sender was from someone else. Brief confusion. Instant understanding. The words: PASSED AWAY

Sorrow and regret in a boil. Hadn't seen him in years, despite trying. Don’t want to get into particulars, but my friend had excised all of us from the old days a few years ago over what seemed, to us, the most meaningless of reasons. Obviously not meaningless to him. Yes, we had arguments when we got together for the three events of summer, Memorial Day, The Fourth, Labor. So? We all traced our friendships back to the bar-rush at the Valli, when we would sit in a booth at 1 AM and have breakfast and go at it, do the dozens, break balls, relish the disputes. And at the end of it, no harm no foul, it’s what we do, it’s why we’re here, it’s why we love each other, it’s what makes this fun. The fight about ideas. But that’s just that. When it’s 2 AM and we’re stubbing out cigarettes in the uneaten hash-browns, selling up with crumpled bills, heading outside to split up for hither / thither, some of us walking to the same ramshackle houses, some piling into the Buick to go north - it’s us, here, in the streetlight, tired, laughing, saying all right, good night, see you tomorrow. That’s what it’s all about? Right?

I called up a group message with the Giant Swede and the Crazy Uke, and dumped the news. The Swede relayed it to Jet Vahrhar, captain in the Armenian Liberation Army, out in LA.

The questions tumble around: What happened? An hour later I connected with a relative, got the details. He’d gone as we all might wish: in his sleep. But dammit, we’re not old enough to go in our sleep.

Except we are. Well, I was younger than him. Well, for the moment. Until I’m not.

And then, hours later, you settle into recollections, and all the latter strife boils away. The memories now more vivid, somehow. Before you'd just FFd through them;  now you hit pause, let the places return, the colors seep back in. You hear what was on the radio and you smell what was coming from the kitchen. You remember the scratchy polyester of the uniform you both wore. The pinball games, the drinking bouts, the endless cups of coffee. These things characterized a few other folk, but you don't remember them with any particular detail. These you remember, because he was your friend. You're surprised at how much you remember. The best part? All the trivial things. What he thought of the third album of a group you both liked. His vintage illuminated Coke sign in his room. The bottle of Crown Royal in the purple bag, very swank for college. The note left in the sink when I'd avoided my dishes duty. And so on.

Lisa was the first to go. Too soon, not right. Beautiful Lisa, whom everyone loved. I remember holding her first-born. Somehow he grew up and one day the Giant Swede looked out the window and Lisa’s son was the mailman, putting the daily allotment in the metal box. He'd serviced the house for months without knowing that the fellow inside knew his mother. 

At some point in your life you shrug on your good suit, and the chance there's a funeral program in your inside pocket is about 80%.


Period, new page, new chapter.

Now, this year's Above-the Fold Kul-chah Feature, or ATFKF.

Another European museum has put its collection online. I've been there, and I liked it, a lot. The online experience is absolutely insufficient. You have to be in the same place as the art. You ahve to be in a room with many other pieces, and feel giddy and overwhelmed before you setlte down and find your pace.

That said, the Rijks has done a nice job. This will be an interesting contrast to last year's Franco-fest.

Hey, Jake:

Says the museum:

Portrait of Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen (c. 1472/77-1528/33), Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen (workshop of), c. 1533

Self portraits signal a growing awareness among artists of their own role. This work was long thought to be the earliest self portrait of an artist in the Northern Netherlands. Jacob Cornelisz is looking directly at the viewer; behind him on a piece of paper is the date, 1533, and the artist’s monogram I (Iacob), A (Amsterdam) around an inverted W: for Warre, his surname.

We don't know much about him, aside from the fact that he did not spare himself an honest depiction.

Unless his nose was even bigger.








Here we begin our year’s account of the small towns and main streets of America. Lest we not start on such a high note that the rest of the year is a disappointment. Alliance looks like a fine little town. Eighty-five hundred souls. Home to Carhenge.. Let's see what we can see.

I’d cover up the old sign entirely. It just makes people think you’re a Johnny-come-lately.


Furniture and carpets, says the old faded sign.

Obviously an addition, and I usually suspect the four-window one is the most recent. Times are good, you expand, you go big.

Two buildings - you can see the seam. But not identical.

United by the inevitable Buckaroo Revival overhang.

Does anyone ever care how lousy this looks, after all these years?


Modernization-wise, it’s not bad. Really: it’s not as bad as it could be. The awning makes it work.

But the awning came later. The light stone, the blinding up above, the coat of stucco preceded it, I think. Odd sill on the windows; you usually don’t see that. Makes me think that touch must be almost recent. Like, only 20 years ago.

Ah, the past, intact.

Complete with psuedo-Nagel, for all those 80s gals.

OUMB, fever-dream division:

Again, they had to hint at columns, because real banks used to have columns.

Fine old sign:

This is actually quite remarkable. To have survived for this long!

What happened after 1909?


Proud, beautiful, empty.


As we like to say: Whoa.

The marquee, as you might have guessed, came later. It contains portions of the original.

The Ben-Grimm style stone is never a friendly addition, but when used like this, you think the owner was expecting the Allies to appear on the horizon and invade.


An attractive - sort of - modern bank. Fifties minimalism always has class, if they spent a buck or two.

I am pro-metal facades, because they remind you that people in the past wanted a new look, and chose something completely modern that literally obscured the past.

A few of these are necessary for understanding any old Main Street.


“Make the new one juuuust a little bit bigger. Just a bit. Not so much that people would know right away.”

FRANKLE had a sense of restraint:

I’d say 30s, if I had to. Because it blends in so nicely with . . .



Which came first, the Frankle or the Bauman?

The entire block is a collection of local names. This one's interesting:

  “The problems of a businessman? I could write a book. Well, maybe not a whole book.”

He was a beverage bottler,. When he died the business passed to his son and wife. It ended up in a lawsuit, which is a sad read.

“Heritages 1 through 5 may have failed, but I’ll be switched if this isn’t the one that makes me my pile.”



The Eagles building attests to the prosperity of Alliance - the fastest growing town in the state, for a while.



We end our visit here:

  Mr Reddish was a “bonded abstractor,” which sounds both official and surreal.
  Of the Wilson Brothers, we can only guess.



That'll do. Thanks for the alerts on the busted Dun Button; I am looking into it. Didn't change anything, but now it's broken, for Computer Reasons.




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