It’s warm in the office at the moment. Someone made coffee but I don’t know who because I haven’t seen anyone. Even the boss’ office light is dim. The lights are off in my area, so it has that cozy-cave feel of the pandemic-reaction days.

It is, as I write, the first hour of the first day of the workweek. At least by the old nine-to-five paradigm, which of course doesn’t exist anymore. It’s all a smear of work and non-work. There’s no whistle at five, no sliding down the Dino tail, no elbow-raising at the local afterwards. When I think of the days when I used to go down to Smith & Wollensky's after work, it's like memories of another country.

Well, if I continue in this vein I'm going to be boring and peevish, so into the gob goes the sound-stifling sock. Back later to see if everything's better.

LATER Well nothing's better, but nothing's bad; it's just a state of high irritation, for some reason. For example.

Target has noted that their grocery sales are down, if I remember the story correctly. When sales were down last summer, CBS news said:

On a conference call to discuss the results, executives, including CEO Brian Cornell, primarily blamed wider economic issues for the drop, such as pinched consumers who are cutting back on spending amid higher inflation and the resumption of student loan payments this fall

Sure, that’s it. But Mr. C, let me suggest something else. I went to Target at 6:45 PM to get some bleach, as my wife had requested. Here’s the Bleach Department:

Guess you got hit by the Bleach Locusts again. Later I passed by the egg department, and I don’t buy eggs from you guys because I’m used to this:

And it goes without saying that I never even think about you guys for seafood, because here’s your seafood department:

The other day I drove to Hy-Vee, just to see if I’d like to switch up my grocery shopping. When I got there I scanned a QR code to enroll in their points program, because you can’t just waltz into a store and get a good price; you have to give them something. Besides money. Took a while to activate the account, because it wouldn’t let me submit any information because it didn’t like my address.


I had even agreed to the terms and conditions. When I dumped the entire address, including the city state and zip into the address field, it accepted it. Okay. Fine.

Inside I had the usual new-store confusion: where is everything? Okay, produce on the left instead of the right; I can deal. I began to roam around looking for interesting things, different products, or old favorites. I noticed two things right away:

1. The store branding is awful. It’s boring.

2. Everything was ridiculously expensive. I had three items in my cart. I put them back and left.

And went to Cub, thinking: well-off suburb Cub should be better, right? They have competition out here, they’ll have to step up.

NNNnnnnnope. Same careworn store, with acres of unused space. The meat department had the worst displays I’ve ever seen. Can you tell what’s sold here?

You have to go over and look down into the bin. No signage. To the right . . .

Oh, the FEATURED ITEM? I’ll be right over!












I watched “Blood Simple” the other night, one of the greatest directorial / writing debuts you will ever see. Budget’s about $1.97. I was amazed when I saw it - marvelous performances, good direction, a few stand-out camera tricks, the excruciating but horribly comic fate of Marty, the glowering bad guy.

This strange bathroom, waaaay too big, is familiar to anyone my age who lived in carved-up poorly rehabbed houses in college:

Pure noir transplanted to Texas. But where in Texas? It just seems to take place in . . . Texas. It's onne of the things that makes it work, and betrays perhaps the Minnesota origins of its creators. Down there, it’s just, you know, Texas.

Alas, it was the director’s cut, which removes one of the stand-out shots I loved in the original: a newspaper, delivered by a carrier boy, rocketing across the lawn to hit the door. POV, the newspaper. I think they thought it was too showy. I just thought it was cool.

The other movie I have to see every few years is “After Hours,” which I still adore. If you were in your 20s, this was the New York you wanted. Not the midtown office district or Times Square, but this place of dark buildings that nevertheless had all sorts of life and curious nooks. Lofts with artists, deserted bars that never closed, clubs throbbing until 4 AM. Basements filed with art, 2 AM diners. It was also a nightmare, but not intentionally so; things just conspired against the hero in unfortunate ways.

It would be impossible to make today, because the premise - our hero cannot get home because he lost his $20 bill - would be absurd, unless he was robbed of his cards and his Apple-Pay watch. Could happen, I suppose. Okay, so it’ll be impossible when everyone pays with retinal scans or handprints or embedded chips.

More to the point, though, is that I remember finding myself in places like the hero found himself, in my carefree single 20s. And I felt just as much out of joint. There’s something about the scenes between Griffin Dunne (who really should’ve played my hero in the adaptation of my first novel, which was optioned but never made) and Rosanne Arquette that sums up the strange and awkward period when you think you have something, when you think there’s a click, and there’s a big red flag the size of something waved in Moscow on May First, but you ignore it, because heck she gave you that smile and that wink and was reading a Deep Book, and all that.

Working for a successful free weekly, I hit a lot of Artsy Parties with the creative demimonde. I ended up, in ’87, with a model with literary ambitions, and she had a wreck of an apartment in a falling-down old building (now expensive lofts, of course.) That was a summer. Ended poorly. Ran into her years later when she came to a book signing, and she was married to a dairy farmer.

That same summer I was at a party with the friend I mentioned last week, the one I hadn’t talked to in years. Notable because I later got a call from a “journalist” from Scientology who was looking for dirt on him, because my friend had been investigating Hubbard’s lads and got on the wrong side. Also present was a friend who was married to a French actor, part of a local troupe of French actors, and just the other day my wife said his name out of nowhere because she got an email that he was directing an adaptation of Moliere.

Thirty-five years on, and all the cast of characters seem to be reassembling. One by one.






It’s 1934. We have a spate of newspaper ads.


I wish it was still there, but you know there’s not a chance it still stands.

Sigh, OKAY, I’ll check.

(Five minutes later after plodding down the Google Streets of Bakersfield: Nope)

Wonder how long it took them to come up with this name:

For one thing, the modernity of the train and the ad stand in contrast to the old garage you see abobve. For another thing, well:

The Southern Pacific legacy founded hospitals in San Francisco, Tucson, and Houston. In the 1970s, it also founded a telecommunications network with a state-of-the-art microwave and fiber optic backbone. This telecommunications network became part of Sprint, a company whose name came from the acronym for Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Networking Telephony.

I had no idea.


Safeway had a lot of ads like this: the chain supplied the topper, and the store filled in what they had on sale.

Oh great, canned goods! Now we’re really eatin’

Holdover 20s letters, methinks.

If you’re considering vegetarianism, well, some useful information on how your greens are fertilized:

Man. Ewwww. Abattoir juice.

“Energy and strength usually return.”

Made by a little company called McKesson. To say “they’re still around” would be an understatement.

McKesson is based in Irving, Texas, and distributes health care systems, medical supplies and pharmaceutical products. Additionally, McKesson provides extensive network infrastructure for the health care industry; also, it was an early adopter of technologies like bar-code scanning for distribution, pharmacy robotics, and RFID tags.[4] The company has been named in a federal lawsuit of profiting from the opioid epidemic in the United States.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, McKesson has expanded on its well-established credentials as key vaccine distributor, serving as the U.S. government's centralized distributor for hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses and ancillary supply kits for over 1 billion doses across the United States.

If Pursang isn’t your preferred tonic, try a bromide so you don’t snap at your kids, you awful, awful mother.

We've talked about Nervine here again and again, so I think you know the drill by now.


Not to be outdone by Safeway, Alpha Beta brings you the anthropomorphic cans, happy to have sharp metal blades inserted in the tops of their bodies, and turned until their rich liquid innards pour out, ready to be devoured with sharp teeth and dumped into a vat of all-consuming acids

"Dinner Date Asparagus or Fair Play Asparagus, dear?"


Now two ways to chip in!


That'll do. Except for this: Comics Obscura moves to the 50s now.



blog comments powered by Disqus