In normal times -

Sorry, that’s the wrong formulation. These are now the normal times. For example: went to Target tonight to get a few things, and thought "should probably restock the pasta."

Hmm. Guess not everyone's doing keto.

Well, let's get some water.

Surely we can pick up some salad:

Possibly they got hit because some bad weather's coming, but the other stores managed to put some product out. Of course, no paper bags, so everything went into plastic bags, then into a larger plastic bag that makes you feel like Trash Santa.

In the times before the Resorting, we would have a holiday party in the holiday times. Everyone was in the office, so we’d set aside a day for people to bring in things for the feast, and everyone would convene in Chez Barbara.

The what? Chez Barbara. There is a sign that proclaims its name. Can you find it?

There it is!

In the old building it was in the back of the newsroom, a rather uninspired area where the microwave and coffee urns were located. Chez Barbara was named after Barbara Flanagan, the indefatigable booster of Minneapolis and sidewalk cafes. There was a picture of her raising a glass with an expression of broad brassy cheer. Everyone read her for decades, and even after she left the paper, she wrote about the local doings once a month, mostly phoned in from her Naples home. (Florida.) Our paths never intersected, until the day a landmark closed.

There was a restaurant downtown called Peter’s Grill. It was located in an old two-story commercial structure, run by a Greek. The interior was pure 40s. The counter was black with a nickel trim, the stools made of dull silver metal. The wooden booths were high and made of wood. If you had to hit the can you went through the kitchen, past the steaming pots and clanging dishes and shouting short-order jockeys, down the steps to an ancient bathroom that felt like a time tunnel to 1923 New York. In college I regarded it as a holy place, an embassy of the old world I’d never knew, and I stopped in for coffee on my weekly trips downtown. Struck up an acquaintance with a brassy waitress with blonde curly hair who could sling the lingo. She seemed to have stepped out of a pulp story, complete with a touch of unfeigned daffyness. Years later I dated her, which turned out to be mistake, but that’s another piece, which I’ll never write.

Peter’s Grill closed, but the interior was saved and reinstalled in another building, a 60s office structure.

It never felt right. It was like putting an old heart in an used robot. But it was better than nothing, better than losing all the old details. Alas, this new Peter’s would close eventually, and on the last day people lined up down the block to pay their respects and order their favorite for the last time.

The reinstallation included the plaques that identified certain booths as the official booth of local celebrities, and one of them, or course, belonged to Barbara Flanagan. When I went in to pay my respects - and shoot a video for the paper about the last day - I was not surprised to see Babs in her booth. I recognized her in a second. I walked up to introduce myself and she would have none of this introduction nonsense. Hello Jim, of course! Sit down!

There are only two or three people who could call me Jim, and she instantly became one of them. I think I’d been a columnist for the paper for 20 years, and a local media fixture for 30, and I was still humbled that she knew me on sight. Because this was Babs we’re talking about.

Well. We sat down and we talked as two columnists for our beloved paper. Well-wishers came by. Men of business who’d probably been college students living on Peter’s Grill coffee and toast in college. Old readers. She gave them all the smile and the patter and thanked them most sincerely.

Peter’s Grill closed the next day, and I never met her again, except in her obit. But she smiles from the plaque that hangs in the new building. They took the sign when we moved and reinstalled it in our new break area. It’s a much nicer place. Most of the newer employees don’t call it Chez Barbara, sunlit, with a commanding view. She’d be delighted to know her face was up here.

Anyway. The Holiday Party. I got an email about it, and realized I should bring something. Went to the store, bought some meats and cheeses, set out a platter to bring to work. The next morning I realized that the Tuesday mentioned was next Tuesday. My mind had somehow already started to live in January. There wasn’t any party today at all.

Went to the office, shuddering a bit against the wind, because it was three degrees. Up the escalator in the 333 Building, which had the lobby LED lights set to Purple and White to celebrate the Vikings win. Waved at Ishmael at the security desk. Passed through the skyways, and when I got to the main lobby I saw workers taking down all the pictures of Sid Hartman, the fabled sports columnist who’d been with the paper for decades. Old guard, of Babs' era. He retired in early 2020 and his goodbye party attendance was dinged by COVID.

He was replaced by photos of wolves.

Sic Transit Gloria Sid.

UPDATE: Holiday party cancelled because the weather might be bad. Sigh. Will I go in to tomorrow? Damned straight I will.







Just when you think -

Oh, never mind. I am in the middle of a Sopranos rewatch, with all the same emotions, except they’re colored by knowing how it ends. SPOILER HE DIES. We all knew that. Too bad for him. Wish he’d seen the light, but would we have believed him if he did? No. Selfish bastard, but he was lucky enough to be played by someone with a molten core of charisma.It’s one of the great confluences of character, actor, and writing.

The secondary characters are great, but they’re “colorful and lovable” except for the times when they have to kill someone, but we shrug at that because colorful and lovable. Christopher’s “artist” arc makes for some of the cringiest eps. Artie Bucco is a walking wince. Meadow is interesting but never engaging; the son is a boat anchor for six seasons. Uncle June is prickly but sad and banal - one of the most interesting characters, but only for his bitchy decline.

What’s great about season 3 ep 01 is the famous mashup of “Every Breath” and “Peter Gunn,” which built on something that was flowing through remix culture at the time.

This was as zeitgeist as it got, and it was awesome. Hard to explain.

Anyway, that’s not why we’re here. It’s one of the episodes in which Tony visits someone who’s reading a newspaper. The grabs are grainy, but I think you can get it.

The first thing we note: they removed the names. And misspelled a profession.

  This one looks legit.

But this one is not, and was no doubt intended to slip in unnoticed. First of all, "Chase Township." David Chase was the show's creator. As for the rest - well.

That would be full-on complete cancelable today. Probably was then, as well.






It’s 1898, actually.

We always start the year at the end of the 19th century, just to establish a baseline.


Ohhhkay then

PIG-FAT CHILDREN was a good thing; provided a bulwark against crop failures. You’d get pork-stout tots if you fed them Tasteless Chill Tonic from the Groves labs.


What’s in it? Who knows?

Kidding! Of course we know.

Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic, which was first sold in 1885, was a fever-remedy made from quinine suspended in a flavored syrup to eliminate the bitter taste. The tasteless chill tonic, which some claimed was not all that tasteless, was an improvement over taking straight quinine for fevers and chills caused by malaria. It contained cinchonine, cinchonidine, reduced iron, with sweet syrup and lemon flavor in a suspension that required shaking before use.

Some sources claim that by 1890 more bottles of Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic were sold than bottles of Coca-Cola.

He did okay, in other words. He used some of the proceeds to build the Battery Park Hotel:

And the Grove Arcade, an enclosed shopping center, right around the corner.

Everyone surrenders to Battle Axe.


Captain General Ramón Blanco y Erenas had served the Spanish government in the wars against the Carlist pretender and in the Philippines before he was selected to replace Valeriano Weyler as Captain General of Cuba. Blanco faced a difficult task since he was expected to reverse the harsh treatment Cubans had received at the hands of his predecessor and yet defend the colony from a probable attack from the United States.

Shafter should’ve taken the Battle Axe surrender offer:

On May 9, Shafter was ordered to prepare for an attack on Mariel as a preliminary step to an attack on Havana. By the time the 25,000 troops could actually set sail, there were only vessels to hold 17,000, the regular soldiers, the Rough Riders, and two other regiments of volunteers. When the men arrived at Daiquirí and later Siboney, their disembarkation was similarly disorganized. Under orders to capture Santiago, Shafter's men marched relentlessly ahead on the narrow road in the tropical heat without enough medical supplies or food.

On July 1, Shafter's troops went up against the Spanish at El Caney and San Juan. Unexpectedly, the Spaniards put up a formidible resistance in a bloody and lengthy encounter. Had Shafter attacked again the following day, he would have taken the city; instead, sick with gout and unable to command, he waited until Santiago surrendered. His next task was to evacuate sick troops from Cuba to Camp Wikoff in Long Island. By the end of August, the entire Fifth Corps had left Cuba. Shafter proclaimed its disbanding on October 3. Some of his underlings vented their grievances against their leader in the press when they revealed that he had been unable to lead the troops at the battle at Santiago.

We're really learning a lot today, aren't we.

Entirely new from cover to cover! Not a single recognizable word in it!

Testaments from former skeletons:

Famous elixir. What was in it? Roots and booze.

Hubinger’s Elastic Starch:

J. C. Hubinger turned his profits into other enterprises, including a public transport system and an amusement park. But troubles would come.

Among Hubinger's other setbacks was legal trouble with the Bell System over his Keokuk Phone Company. He lost a great deal of money in these lawsuits and eventually sold his shares in Hubinger Brothers Company to his brothers. He also sold his mansion and moved into a boarding house.

Wustrow said that, contrary to local myth, Hubinger was still a fairly wealthy man when he died, but poor in comparison to the riches he once had. His mansion stood vacant for many years and was eventually torn down by its new owner.

More here, in a hagiographic bio.

  North! To Alaska! Take the Ony Steamer:
Nothing on the Gronne on the web.


Isaac Lightle? Google searches come back with scant records, although one photo may one buried in a long, long page of ancestry records that comes up in a search but does not display. One page said he had a daughter named Ollie. Appears to have been a prosperous sort of fellow.

Jobtype and jobwork:

The last line is written in sarcastic SpongeBob style.




That'll do for this, but now we return to our survey of forgotten newspapers comics. Back to the 20s. This won't take up the entire year, although it could.



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