Birch is enjoying His Spot. There’s something there. We’ll never know what it is. It’s where he goes to roll in something, or the memory of something.

I drove past the creek on the way back from Tuesday night errands. It’s a quick jaunt from the freeway to my house, and the mood changes the minute you nose off the interstate and ease down the dark road that runs alongside. The freeway sliced a big gash through this neighborhood, stranding houses on either side - once they faced neighbors, but now they look at a tall beige noise-suppression wall. They’re still nice houses and well-kept up, and I wouldn’t mind living there. Except for the noise of the hot-ridders doing 140 MPH.

The other day on the way to work an SUV came up behind me doing at least 100. I was about to move out of the way when it swerved and went to the middle lane, then cut in front of me, then accelerated to weave in and out until it took the offramp to 94. One false move away from taking me out. That’s why I took advantage of the AAA extra death-on-the-highway insurance for a nominal fee. It’s like three free years of salary after I’m suddenly converted to atomized jam! My little gift to the bereaved.

Anyway. Within a minute you’re on the dark parkway, over the bridge, over my neighborhood. I had the window down. The black mass of trees was a strange and mysterious place, ominous, and the din of the crickets was enormous. You imagine walking down there in the inky depths, the sibilant water of the creek occasionally capturing a glint of the moon, and imagining crickets absolutely everywhere, screeching out the temperature with strenuous effort.

It’s good to be close to a place like this. I still remember taking a long, long midnight walk in the woods with Jasper Dog, exploring, just the two of us.

I wonder if he remembered that. If it was added to the storehouse of things that flow through their heads when they sleep and make their legs twitch and their noses flare.

Evening errands were good. I didn’t need to do them for the house, but Wife is having the Gals over tomorrow for Bunco, or rather UnBunco. They’re not playing the game, just socializing, so that meant I had to get a variety of crackers, some additional wine, and so forth. The type of things a wife would trust the husband to fetch, albeit with a bit of trepidation. No, I said crackers!

These are crackers.

They’re Ritz!

Everyone loves Ritz. And I got some Triscuits. Did you know they’re named after electricity? And they come in many flavors. I got -

But they’re Triscuits!

I got rye, and olive oil, and -

I asked for crackers, not . . . crackers.

Oh, I got some Saltines, too!

Now, we would not have this conversation, because I know better. I had suggested a wide range of Triscuits, but she said no, the good crackers.

To which I said: “The dry, flavorless Water Biscuits with the English pedigree?”

“Just good crackers.”

Okay, well, that meant Lundsnbyerly’s, catering to the hoity and / or toity for 70 years, where - huzzah - they had a sale on Carr's Water Biscuits. I got four different types, since she wanted an assortment. Wine was easy; Traders Joe has an excellent selection of reasonably priced wine. I got out my Morrison’s reusable bag, which I brought from England. It’s an excellent bag and I think of England when I use it. I think of Walbers, and what it must be like in the waning summer - no, it's hell, probably, because all the city people come up and park everywhere and walk around like they own the place.

But ah, to be in England, at the table for breakfast, Mabel the dog in her chair, Dennis reading the Telegraph, me reading yesterday’s Telegraph, Astrid bustling around the kitchen, a day of work ahead a Peg Lynch project, then a walk among the gorse. Or perhaps to the seaside, taking care to avoid the WWII landing-craft impediments still embedded in the gravel. Past the black cottages. Back up the High Street, past the Anchor Pub -

"Sir? Wine in this bag?"

Yes, sorry, woolgathering. Sleeve them up if you would, so they don’t clank.

"Of course."

Then home past the aforementioned crickets, and here. With our local backyard choir. Birch on the sofa outside, sleeping. A reasonably good ration of rye, but not outstanding.

A simple ration of summer on the 15th. Middle of the month, yes, but the Fair starts next week. And so the slow closing begins.










I was outside consulting with a small cigar today, chatting with a guy who worked upstairs. Periodically one of the regular cigarette gleaners came over, took the butts out of the ashtray, and wandered away. They make their own from the cast-offs. This time it was Muttering Jeff, who talks about the government all the time. Anyway, the guy said their floors is a ghost town, except on Tuesdays. The boss wants everyone to come in twice a week, but most people are ignoring it while they can. He'd been working downtown for a while and remembered the Before Times. You heard Taco John pulled out? Yeah, that sucks. To be honest, so did the food. Yeah, but sometimes you just gotta have it, you know?

On a related note: Ladies and gents, a newspaper columnist:


You know me: I am a big downtown booster. I love my city. I am not afraid in my city, but that’s partly because I don’t go to the places where disorder and ruin and gunfire are more common. But it can happen anywhere! Yes, and it’s happened close to home. This doesn’t mean that the statistics are irrelevant. So my experience is, shall we say, curated, but nothing like coming into town for a big concert and proclaiming concerns about the empty downtown are just political nonsense.

A recent piece in my paper highlighted the increase in people living downtown. It’s not as big as it could be, and it was hurt for a while by the riots and even the 2022 firework attacks - I know some people in the area who said oh screw it and moved, because they hadn’t felt safe in two years. Who needs this? Prior to 2020, the area was safe. Now it had a significant increase in petty crime, malingers, catcallers, bums. One of them told me about a huge second-phase apartment complex that got nixed because downtown had such a bad rep, almost overnight. No one wanted to live in a place where all the windows were boarded up to protect against riots. So it’s not without its challenges. And those weren’t there before.

The “Emptiness” people talk about refers to three things: office buildings, retail, and street traffic. The lockdowns emptied out downtown, and the proponents of the lockdowns did not, and still don’t, care about the effect this had on the city. Retail has always struggled since the Oughts, but the lockdowns killed the skyway ecosystem. It’s not entirely dead. But there’s a stretch in the Baker building that used to have six storefronts, all occupied; they are all empty now. Multiply that block after block.

Street traffic has never been a throng-type situation, let’s say. So that’s the least of it. But at the end of the Mall there’s lots of indolent yahoos just hanging out. You got your clouds o’weed, your bus-shelter altercations, your general move-along-briskly vibe some times. Part of living in the city! Yeah, but it wasn’t, before, at least not this much.

There should be cafes and stores in all these new retail complexes. There aren’t. There’s just a sense that there are people up there in their sky-boxes doing something, and it has nothing to do with the city or the streets. This, I hope, will change.

But downtown won’t be saved by more residents. It could be saved by more people in office towers - the day inhale-exhale life of an urban core. But really, the solution is to have a big concert every night so out-of-town newspaper columnists can draw the wrong conclusion for a fatuous tribal dunk.

That's the way back. Seems odd, but what do I know? I just go downtown every day, and haven't been to a concert in years.




It’s 1915.


I knew this story as soon as I saw the picture. Had to be.

Leo Frank:


Mary Phagan, his alleged victim.

For some reason whenever the Frank lynching comes up, I think “clerk at a pencil factory.” More than that, as we’ll see.

  Well, that can't possibly mean what you think it might.

The headline says “End of a Sensational Case.” Yes, it was that. Wikipedia:

On August 16, 1915, he was kidnapped from prison by a group of armed men, and lynched at Marietta, Mary Phagan's hometown, the next morning. The new governor vowed to punish the lynchers, who included prominent Marietta citizens, but nobody was charged.

If you don't know:

Leo Max Frank was born in Cuero, Texas on April 17, 1884 to Rudolph Frank and Rachel "Rae" Jacobs. The family moved to Brooklyn in 1884 when Leo was three months old. He attended New York City public schools and graduated from Pratt Institute in 1902. He then attended Cornell University, where he studied mechanical engineering. After graduating in 1906, he worked briefly as a draftsman and as a testing engineer.

At the invitation of his uncle Moses Frank, Leo traveled to Atlanta for two weeks in late October 1907 to meet a delegation of investors for a position with the National Pencil Company, a manufacturing plant in which Moses was a major shareholder. Frank accepted the position, and traveled to Germany to study pencil manufacturing at the Eberhard Faber pencil factory.

After a nine-month apprenticeship, Frank returned to the United States and began working at the National Pencil Company in August 1908. Frank became superintendent of the factory the following month, earning $180 per month plus a portion of the factory's profits.

Mary Phagan worked at the factory, across from Frank’s office. She operated the machine that put erasers in the metal ring atop the pencils. A few days after she was laid off, she went back to get her paycheck. She was found the next day in the basement by the incinerator, dead.

It’s quite the story. Movies and TV shows were made about the case. In one, Walter Matthau played the Governor; in another, the Governor was played by Jack Lemmon.



Nowadays we'd have it on video. Ten years ago the video would've had a LiveLeak watermark.


Art for a syndicated feature:

Who? Her:

Josephine Dodge Daskam, Mrs. Selden Bacon (February 17, 1876 – July 29, 1961) was an American writer of great versatility. She is chiefly known as a writer who made the point of having female protagonists.

Wrote the Girl Scout handbook, too. Completely forgotten.

From the days when people might have cared about newspaper wars:

Behold the vicious cheap mud-slinging vileness:

Even though it prostituted itself with brutal cartoons and labor vaporings, the Times-Picayune would be the only paper to survive.

Finally, some Nearby Happenings. I love the graphic.

There’s not much Bush today, and no Zona at all. Good to catch up, though; the absence of the Zona news in the previous edition may have earned some testy letters to the editor. We need our Zonon updates!


Now two ways to chip in!

That'll do. We finish up the Sheraton brochure today, and be assured that the level of swankness continues unabated.



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