Snow. And more snow. Cold. And more cold.

Funeral on Saturday morning. It had snowed over night, light powder, soft drifts on the streets. Hard bright sun, but too remote. A drive to St. Paul up old roads I used to take all the time, familiar roads I took in other lives for other purposes. Live long enough anywhere, and every funeral happens at the end of a road you know.

This was a somewhat non-denom event where the padre said the good words without waving the book, and the usual liturgical parade was replaced with recollections. Much more personal. A large picture of the honored fellow was on the altar, if you can call it that, and it was startlingly vivid and bright. I mean, it was hard to look at. There were a few objects that indicated his passions and hobbies - a model of the car he’d restored, baseball totems. Hard to sum up a life in film without adding a Panoflex camera or a Klieg light. I met a few people he’d known all his life, people I never knew. It’s like that. Circles orbit but never touch until the star collapses and pulls everything inward with sudden gravity.

I don’t know when the trend of playing pop music in funerals began. I think - and I am waaaay in the minority here - that it might best be questioned unless there are specific instructions. People are in a moment of shock and grief, reach for something that seems apt; who knows if they get it right?. I went through this with Father-in-Law’s video. Less so my dad’s, since I knew for certain what songs he liked, but even so, they were favorites from so very long ago. If someone remembered me tell a story about hearing “Smoke from a Distant Fire” while I worked at the Pizza Hut in Fargo, they might think “oh he liked that, use that, it has a message, too, since memories are, like, smoke from a distant fire?” Then everyone would have to sit in silence in the pews listening to that upbeat MOR crap-ration, and parse the lyrics for something meaningful, or at least just think “well, we’ve shared something today.”

I hated that song. It came out in the summer of exile from Minneapolis, back in Fargo, working the Hut. It was on the jukebox, and played all the time. One of the cooks loved it, because he was one of those guys who was really into the way something was mixed, and admired the way the song had great separation and other production values. Me, the English major, was annoted by the line “Your eyes have a MIST from the smoke of a DIST and fire.” Clumsy. My brain just got PIST when the line seemed to FIST that syllllllllable. And then the obligatory saxes. Some hyphenated band name, right? Harper-Collins Band or something, I don’t know. No, that was the musical publishing house, Hawkes & Boozey-Collins. POINT IS it was insincere yacht-rock radio product, and the real action was with punk and New Wave. And here I was in FARGO, GAH, having to put up with it.

Take me out with “Jupiter” from Holst, use “Neptune” as the recessional.

Anyway. I was reminded, in one of the recollections given, that he was a bank teller when he was in New York for the first stint. I’d forgotten about that. Teller by day, novelist by night. All of a sudden your mind takes your image of the fellow in his 1981-era hairline and horn rims and drops him smiling behind a teller’s cage in a big cold room with columns and marble walls. Everyone smokes and Billy Joel’s always on the radio.

You end up back and home, checking your pockets to take stuff out of your good long coat, and there’s the program.

What do you do with it?

Well, you set it aside. No one comes back from a funeral and puts the program in the trash. You set it aside, and perhaps it joins the sheaf of things you set aside for later. I have an envelope for every year - cards, motel keys, tickets, odd bits of detritus. Things like funeral programs go there, even though I know they’ll end up tossed eventually, by someone else. That’s okay.

Someone else will look at it, see the face, read the name, and for another second, consider, and note. The last pluck of a thin string.

They used the same artists, but didn't credit them.

Remember, this is an Old Gold competition, so it's going to lean on the tobaccy aspects of life from time to time.

As I said last week: It's much more clever than the previous puzzles.




Ah, your guarantee of quality:

The sub-pulp illustration, obscure names blared out like you should know them - it has the smell of something bought from another country and dubbed to fob off on the rubes.

Let’s tell the story the most fascinating way possible: newspaper headlines.

IETS? They sent up the Iets? Ha ha I slay myself. No, that's just the condition of the print. Also, PROBERS ARE SIFTING.

Sky Ghosts or Sky Saucers? Make up your mind.

Who's Reynolds? I wonder if this could be a real paper. (I did a Daily News search; doesn't appear to be.)

Now we go to a studio, where an eminent scientist is addressing the problem on the radio.


Suddenly we get action: a dirigible crashes in an arctic region, and is discovered by some guys in Future Clothing, and . . . let’s just say we seem to be compressing things:

We haven’t been introduced to these guys. We don’t have an explanation for who got them. It’s almost as if . . .


It’s almost as if they’re editing down 15 15-minute episodes into an hour and five minutes.

Which is exactly what they’re doing.

So this is our Buck.

Sigh. Now I have to go back and see if I can find all the episodes online and watch them all, don’t I? The things I do for you people

Yes, this is our serial for the year. And it is a corker.




That'll do! See you around.




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