By lunchtime the temperature had risen eight degrees from the time I awoke, which took it to Zero. No degrees. None to be had.

This not as cold as it sounds. “One” or “two” looks colder than Zero, because Zero is empty, without substance, a vacancy. But “one,” well, you can imagine one single degree, and you put it in the context of summer, where there can be 98 other degrees heaped around it. Walking to work from the car was an interval of pain. At first, not so bad! I can bear this! Oh, I can bear it!

Then you turn a corner and the slightest breeze mortifies the forehead, and you can feel your brain start to shut down. All the people in your memories put on heavy coats and gloves. The pictures of tropical vacations on your phone are suddenly filled with snow and penguins.

I was outside for a while talking to Colt Lugar, the guy who’s part of the building maintenance, and as usual asked him “so what broke today,” and he said nothing, it was a good day. I noted that the big ashtrays had vanished on Friday, and now they’re back.

“There was a shooting in Atlanta,” he said.

And that made perfect sense. If there was disorder, the ashtrays would’ve gone through the windows. Reminded me that the entire building was boarded up in the spring of 2021. For the trial.

Colt was in full parka, so cold he didn’t even hold his cigarette, but just let it dangle while his hands were safe in his pocket. Another guy comes out to vape vanilla and he can’t even be arsed to put on a jacket. Minnesota in the waning days of bleak Midwinter.

When I got home I called the utility company that installed the gas insert, asking about some unusual black build-up on the glass. The guy who answered the call ran down the list of reasons, and guess what popped up? Carbon Monoxide leak. They had a tech there in half an hour. There was no carbon monoxide leak. The flame was set too high for the size of the insert, though. That shouldn't be allowed.

But yet it was, I noted. The remote has five settings, and three of the five have the flame touching the top of the insert.

Well, that shouldn't be allowed.

So someone is going to come out and fix that, some day. Might be a while. Seen at CUfB the other day:

The 2020s thus far, neatly summarized.











I am not here to review Columbo. Not the point! It's the odd details, the little glimpses into the past. And by "past," we mean "half a century ago." Which makes you gulp a little. In 1973, the date of these images, 1923 was so very very far away. But there were dads in La-Z-Boys watching the ep when it first ran who remembered when they were kids in 1923.

Did the dads look at this and think "what a modern world we have today!" or think nothing of it all, really, because this was just an ordinary building.

This looked familiar to me. It should. It should be familiar to all of us, because it’s every damned building designed in that period. Devoid of style or grace. I was curious if it still existed - no doubt it did, but had keener minds attempted to mitigate its banality? How would such a thing be possible? You can’t do anything with this. You can stick wings on it, a pediment, a geegaw here or there, but the essential monotony will always shine through.

It’s called the Valley Plaza in the ep, but when I looked up the shooting locations on imdb, I thought: why yes. Of course. It’s the Universal City hotel.

I went there in the early 90s to do a story on Universal City’s amusement-park pseudo-city. How I wish I had photos and video of the trip, because there was something wild and bright and ridiculously 90s about it, a playfulness that was lost in the Oughts. I remember that I met my old friend Jack from the Valli for coffee - he’d moved back to California years before, and gone to work for the state. He had a wife and two dogs and was still a two-pack-a-day man, Marlboro reds. Far as I know, he still is; we spoke a while ago, but the subject didn’t come up. Jack was just one of those guys you cannot imagine quitting smoking.

At one point in the trip I was sitting out by the pool.

I had my grey MacBook, and I couldn’t have been doing any work in the bright sun, what with those screens. Maybe I just read something and made conspicuous typing sounds to seem special. It worked: a large man in a white robe a few tables over, bald, California tanned, waved at me and asked if I minded bringing over my computer? He wanted to take a look. He was thinking of getting one of those.

Of course I said yes because I realized it was Telly Savalas.

So I went over and opened it up. I had a background - or a start-up screen - of a Haddon Sundblom Coke ad:

He asked if I worked for Coke, and I said no, I’m a writer. I showed off what the machine could do, how easy it was, how the trackball worked, and he was very interested. It was very pleasant and he was the nicest possible person, and then I went back to my chair. What I liked about it was that he knew, of course, that I knew, of course, that he was Kojak, but it didn’t have to come up, did it? It went without saying.

I shouldn’t have been surprised: the bar in the hotel was named “Telly’s” because he was there so often, and had a suite.

No one watching this Columbo ep would have known that the star of Kojak, which was on the air in the same era, would die in that hotel in the far-off 90s. That the interior shots of the hotel would be the last place Kojak ever walked. That this was his place, in many ways. I wonder if there’s a plaque. At the very least, there ought to be a plaque.

Oh, I'm sorry, one more thing. A scene in the "Port in a Storm" ep.

Last week I didn't know where that was. What that is. And now I do. And so do you!






It’s 1947.

Drink a Whiskey Sour every day! It’s February. A miserable time. Get yourself in a better mood.

Kinsey’s gone, but the name was revived by another distillery, and they say they’ve done their best to replicate the flavor of the 1940s/50s. The ratings seem to suggest it’s absolutely fine and more or less unremarkable.

This makes a lot of sense.

The Life Savers ads of the era were all like this. An idea, simple and not quite connected to Life Savers at all, depicted in a spare style. What mattered were the colors, which were supposed to make you want a Life Saver.

It makes me want something bright with flavor and juicy, but that’s not a Life Saver. Thing is, with a Life Saver, you have to provide the juice.

Left-side half of the ad, telling you the most important thing that’s been on your mind lately: how do they stamp the brand in the meat?

“Like a hallmark on fine silver,” except it rots horribly when left in the sun.

Food as fine as man and science can make it.

Articulate ankles . . . nifty knees . . . terrific torso!

Yet Ellie still hated herself, and the moon wept with her. Her hands were literally scratchy. They drew blood. Men reeled back in horror, cursing themselves for having been taken in by articulate ankles.

Dammit, said the Life Savers people, this will make them want to drink something instead of suck on a ring of hard sugar:

It does make you want to drink some, now. Sweetness and tartness together - it has to work.

So why don’t you see this in the stores anymore? Why isn't this common, but we have 95 variations on cranberries?

“Heel to toe comfort, built in from the walking ‘GO.’” What does that mean, precisely? The Walking GO?

Men’s shoes ads are always boring, if you ask me.

His Little Black Book has come to life and is crowding around his front window. The strange thing is that they all seem glad to see him. You’d think they’d be mad, but they’re not. It’s like they’re all happy to realize what a two-timer he was, and look forward to their imminent revenge. Sisters doin’ it for themselves! But first, a little chocolate for energy.

A woman never forgets the man who remembers.

Now two ways to chip in!


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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