As I went up the escalator I saw a man with a palette and brush, daubing the walls. When I went back later he was still there. The walls of the building have a distinctly late 80s cast, but the color scheme doesn't look dated. Even though there's a touch of teal to the faux marbling. I asked the fellow whether the building maintenance guys ever wished they'd painted it a solid color, but hey, job security. He said the main color was baked into the plaster, and it was his job just to brush on a little paint if there was a crack.

And there was a crack.

Really? Never noticed it. But that's not my job. Anyway, thanks for the touch up! We appreciate it.

I'm serious. There's not a hint of decline or corner-cutting or defered maintenance. Everything is clean and everything works. You take it all for granted. You shouldn't.

Coming back from the gym I saw two front-desk people - the dark-blue suits - walking towards the Great Globe, the rescued artifact of our old building. They looked concerned. I followed.

Anyone hurt my baby? I blurted, which probably sounded odd.

"Suspicious material," one said. They looked at some stuff dumped on the mirrored base.

"It's probably food," said the other. He cracked his walkie-talkie and called for maintenance.

Glad it was just that. Someone vandalized it many months ago. Wrote on the globe with a Sharpie. The restorers had to touch it up. You can't tell anything ever happened.

I wish they'd turn the motor back on, though. The Great Globe hasn't moved in a while. I don't know who's supposed to flick the switch.

Obviously something they can't do from home. Someone has to show up and make the world turn.


Time to unplug the office Christmas tree.

The home tree is still up, but it’ll be disassembled after Natalie leaves for England. We still keep it lit in the evening, with the idea that it’s still “the Holidays” as long as she’s here, and since there was a “holiday” at the start of the week, the tree can stay up and drag good tidings into the bleak midwinter.

Except it’s not even the bleak midwinter yet! That’s a month away, right? Then again, February is when you start to think about the end of winter, because March is coming up, and for some reason you think that March is a raw and rainy month with hints of green. Of course that’s just a Styrofoam shamrock stuck in the snirtbank.

It’s hard not to feel the enthusiasms of the last month and a half leak out this week. Heading into the holidays, knowing everyone’s back together, followed by the last Christmas break. You could always count on that break to get the kid home again and do the long pretend, where they’re back in their old room and down for dinner and it feels familiar, but that’s gone now, as well. Hah! Maybe she’ll fail to get a job and have to move home! No, don’t want that. So what do I want?

One thing you never anticipate when you're starting out in parenthood: just how many times you have to say goodbye.

Anyway. I made coffee as soon as I got to the office, as is my wont. Drain the dregs from the previous day, grind the beans, start the Bunn, take a seat while the machine makes its tortured sounds. When enough time had passed I returned to the urn, and found a co-worker removing my cup from below the spout. I coughed theatrically. He apologized, put my cup back, and I made some half-hearted sounds as if I forgave him.

I don't see him in the office much. He was here to interview a new candidate. Odd, when you think about it: let's meet in the place where we won't work much. Here's the office you won't use.

My co-worker thanked me for making the coffee, and for keeping up the Office Culture.

Hah! I spread my arms to the empty room and said there is no office culture any more. There's nothing to preserve. I said it with a laugh, because I don't get angry about it any more. I just can't. It's all gone and it's not coming back. Had to make my peace with that or my trips downtown would just be depressing, day in and day out. It's not bad. I generally have the place to myself. I can sing or whistle. I can play my music. There's no competition for the microwave in Chez Barbara. The gym is practically my private club. I'll tend the old ways until my badge doesn't open doors anymore.

When the office interval was done, I went back to my car, hoping it was still there. Snow emergency rules are in effect, and you never know. Even though I checked the rules before I parked, you never know. Even though I checked the city map that said the street was green, you never know. I took a screenshot of the map just in case.

The car was there and the highway was dry and the dog was happy to see me. We had Indian food delivered, and it was incredible. Why can't they bottle these sauces and sell them at the store? None of the commercial preparations have the same character. It's as if there's a secret spice they hold back for the restaurants. A massive collusion. Those who are suspected of selling a commercial sauce that has the secret spice is quietly "taken care of." Message sent.


And now, our new Friday feature. Extracts from the Dream Diary . . . illustrated by Artificial Intelligence.

My wife and I were deported on a decommissioned freeway by an aerial car.

The only way to get down was to cross an area of construction, and that meant - of course! Of course, dammit - slithering through a tunnel that got progressively narrower. The only other option was to cling to the side of the structure and advancing by climbing along a series of temporary wooden pylons. There was a 250-foot drop awaiting if you fell.

Claustrophobia will always beat acrophobia in my dreams, so I made it across, and my wife followed. Then she asked if I’d gotten the pies. You know, the pies for Church.

The Church pies? Oh right, the Church pies. Yes, buttercream and honeydew, got ‘em. Ordered them from the bakery. In fact I had not. But I made a note to do so.

Then - evening. It was the Halloween season, I was driving through an intersection as it was being set up for a party; they were stringing orange banners across the street and had blocked the intersection with a huge generator. They were playing Aaron Copland, as if this was some sort of Fourth of July thing, and I thought that Copland certainly captured an American essence in that rodeo tune, you can’t imagine him in the stands whoopin’ and hollerin’. More like the shy academic who describes something perfectly but is incapable of experiencing it.

But by now the music had changed to Kiosmos. I avoided hitting a fellow who had run in front of my vehicle so he could head to the bushes to urinate; he gave me a furtive look. I drove to the strip mall, which was arranged much like Northport in Fargo, and realized we had no Halloween candy. At all. Nothing. And the kids were no doubt arriving at this very minute. But first things first: Church pies. I got to the bakery by 9:59, but the owner was closing. I begged him for buttercream and a honeydew pie; he said to come back tomorrow.

“Will you have them?”

He said he would. And then the alarm woke me up.

AI Prompt: Church Pie in the style of Norman Rockwell.

It's like Hitler talking to a demented Eva Braun.


And the last in the Church Pie series:

This is only going to get worse.





We'll go back to downtown projects next week. For now, let us consider this artifact of ancient times:

One of the more famous McDonald's in town, and surely the ugliest. That squashed-Mansard style: urg. The ads that touted its grand opening had a different style.

It sat on a plot that was below grade. The main restaurant was downstairs, and there was seating upstairs.  It lasted almost 60 years.


It was demolished for student housing, and the leviathan is now fully formed.

Believe it or not, you're only seeing half.

And it was supposed to be taller.

Wouldn't be Friday without him, would it?

"I'm talking about the footprints! The artist didn't draw them just to make you think you'd get away with it!"

Solution is here.

Bonus fun! This year's old newspaper feature: a social no-no single-panel illustration. Can you figure out what's wrong?

Here's the thing: I'm not giving the answer today. If link to it, speculation will dry up. The answer will be yours on Monday, by which time I expect you'll have fogotten all about it.

Now two ways to chip in!

There: one week of 2023 in the bank! See you on Monday when we start it up again.




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