AUGUST 1999 Part 4
Detritus, junk, stuff, crap, bales and bales of THINGS. I’m cleaning the house, one of those stern grim everything-goes days where I have to shovel bushels of accumulated items out the door, if only to make room for the next batch ofTHINGS. Tonight I hooked up the new DVD player, which meant going behind the TV - and what a dusty-bunny kennel that was. A rat’s nest of wires, all of which had intertwined and bred since last I was back there (really - I found cords that had no use, were connected to nothing - offspring, fully grown, unused) and three dozen videotapes. I don’t know how so many videotapes gathered in such a small space, but they all went out. Gone to the landfill, entombed for all eternity. The labors of hundreds of actors, writers, directors, set dressers, advertisers, news readers, animators, costumers, make-up artists, lighting directors, focus pullers, grips, foley men, caterers, network and local board ops - it all gets sprayed onto magnetic tape, which is then buried for all time in a stinking heap of old socks and dead vegetables. It’s really remarkable: all this machinery to suck in the fruits of the media, preserve it on tape, but it’s all for naught. It’s like canning a year’s worth of fruit and then throwing it away when you’re done.

That was just one corner of the house. I’m working on the studio tonight. Also, I’m having a scan-a-thon. Tonight I completed scanning a massive undertaking: the use of Jell-O cookbooks to prove the decline of Western Civilization. I have books from 1930, 31, 33, 55, 69 and 73; when I bring them all together in the Gallery 3.0, it will make a compelling case.

I hope Gallery patrons know what a pain in the ass this thing is. Scanning is one part. Resizing is another. Rotating the scans and cleaning them up is another. Then there’s layout. Then there’s writing.

Hold on, let me check to see if there’s a gun to my head -

- Nope. Well, never mind.

Friday I was wifeless, as I am tonight; Sara’s in SF, visiting her sister. (Marital math: cost of plane ticket = right to buy DVD player.) Friday I wrote the column, then went to St. Paul to do TV - en route I stopped at a used book store for some old magazines, selections from which will appear on the index page for the next six weeks. (If you’re not hitting the index page - just plain www.lileks.com - you’re missing a rotating selection of odd advertising art.) Went to the studio, did the run-through. It did not go well. The monologue required an off-camera hand to thrust corn dogs towards me at selected intervals, and never you mind why. The arm missed the first cue, and the later cues were jumbled and confused, and he dropped one. So I was thinking: I’m screwed. This entire bit depends on crisp delivery of corn dogs. Well, maybe we got the fumbles out of the way. Actually, I wasn’t worried. That’s what technical rehearsals are for.

Come show time, I was flanked by a triumvirate of power: Mike Osterholm to my left; he’s a big infectious-disease expert. Behind me, the Governor’s press sec’y. To my right, figuratively speaking, Sen. Paul Wellstone, idling in a comfy chair, with his wife and some young children nearby. Now, I’ve met the Senator on a number of occasions, in Washington and here in MN, and although I do not share his politics, I’ve always found him a decent chap. But it is interesting that he did not have to sit in the cheap seats in the back, where upcoming guests usually sit. They brought down some comfy chairs from the NewsNight set (I remember those chairs; I sat there during my week as a TV anchorperson) and he sat down. I think this is what 8 years as a Senator does to the most egalitarian of men - 8 years ago he would have sat on the hard plastic seats near the door. It’s not that he demands the nice chair now - but he doesn’t demur when one is offered. If this is the extent of his corruption, then in that respect he’s better than most.

I did the monologue; corn dogs were thrust at the proper moments. Camera off. It went fine. Camera off; it immediately moved over to the next segment, leaving me standing in a fading pool of light. TV is a hungry shark: it must keep moving. I gathered up the corn dogs and put them on a plate, and moved to go; passed the Senator, who offered up a hand to shake. “It’s full of corn-dog juice,” I said.

“I’ve shaked worse,” he said, and he shook my hand.

As I often say: what a peculiar life.

Went home and ate pizza and walked Jasper. We had a long walk in the dark. Home; scanned; then watched “Apollo 13,” which I’d seen before - but not on DVD! As before, exceptionally good; when the rocket lifts off, I did what I could not do in the theater: I stood and yelled and damned near wept. I’d also rented “From the Earth to the Moon,” a ten-part documentary, but upon watching the first few minutes I realized it was not a documentary - it was a dramatization. And a very good one. Too good to watch myself; Sara would like to see this. And it’s available on DVD! So now I have to wait. It’ll be the first DVD I buy that contains Al Franken, though. And the last.

Tonight - after I finish cleaning and hauling, I will watch “Snake Eyes,” which will probably stink. But from what I understand, DePalma makes his bid for the longest opening-tracking sequence in this one, and since he’s up against real masters - Welles’ “Touch of Evil” and Marty’s “Goodfellas” (I can call him Marty, because an old friend of mine is a close friend of his daughter, which practically makes us Brothers!) But I expect I’ll hit eject after a while and put in tonight’s real treat. For a buck I rented an original Star Trek episode, the one I haven’t seen for years, and years, and years. My favorite of them all, the one I keep missing.

“It was there - but not any more!”

You know the one. Yes, that’s my favorite. Has it all - a busted up starship, all the good music, weapon fire, galactic peril, and a transporter cliffhanger. Can’t wait.

But first I must clean.

Awww, to hell with it. It’s Saturday night. I’m going to cut loose! No cleaning! No arranging! I’m going to scan until I can scan no more!

Yes, I know. It’s pathetic.

So I sat down, all ready to watch the Star Trek episode I hadn’t seen in ten years. Finally! (You know where this one is going.) I had rented “The Doomsday Machine,” and while I remembered most of the show, I was . . . well, I was almostcertain it didn’t begin with two drums of medicine on the transporter pad . . .

Then Kirk entered the room and told the transporter operators that the penal colony had a force field, and gave a long loud shout: it was “Dagger of the Mind,” the episode where people get their brains wiped by staring into a swirling flashlight bulb. The clerk at the video store had filed the wrong tape behind the box.

Grrr.

That was Saturday. Last night I walked to the video store to exchange the tape. At the corner of Lyndale and 53rd - a rather busy intersection - I noted a young couple walking across the street, pushing a baby carriage, carrying on an animated and cheerful conversation. Unfortunately, they were walking against the light - DON’T WALK flashed on the pole, and the green light above it seconded the message. A car came through the intersection; the couple walked right in front of the approaching vehicle. The car slowed, did not stop, and passed close to the dad as it turned the corner. Whereupon the carriage-pusher turned, hawked, and spat on the car.

What a pleasant moment for all concerned. Can’t wait to meet that kid in ten years.

People like these, unfortunately, are impervious to glares. A good stern glare bounces right off them and probably shames some innocent passerby.

I got the proper tape, walked Jasper home, went to the airport to pick up Sara. As I idled at the curb, a fellow pulled up and boxed me in - okay, it happens, traffic is fluid, this cannot last for long. Then he gets his luggage out of the back of the car and disappears into the terminal. The moron couldn’t lug his bags from the parking ramp to the terminal - no, he had to block traffic so he could hop inside and check in. It wasn’t because of any particular malady; he was quite agile, and hoisted the bags with ease. Unfortunately, he returned after 15 minutes, before Sara arrived; I say unfortunately, because I had a good strong glare stored up for him if I’d have had to wait. Not that the glare would have done any good. I should have just spit on him, I suppose.

Back home; we caught up on the weekend, then she headed for sleep. I wrote, answered a few letters, tweaked some Gallery scans, fixed most of the problems in the new Fargo site addition, then sat down to watch “The Doomsday Machine.” And I did just that. I was gratified to learn I still liked it as much as before - even though it’s a bubble episode (i.e., filmed entirely on existing sets) it doesn’t seem like it; every location appeared new and different, even though they were the same old sets in the same old rooms. It has all the good music cues - the tense martial uh-oh someone’s going to get his can handed to him music always used when two Starfleet officers start a pissing match, the throbbing countdown-to-disaster music, and the mournful dead-starship music with that wild piano glissando that always gave me chills. It has many camera angles never used before or since, or at least rarely (not one, but two walking-in-front-of-the-viewscreen scenes) (man, is this geeky) and the all-time scene-chomping performance of William Windom, who makes Kirk appear tense, coiled and completely in control. Spock is perfectly Spockish; Bones says he is a doctor, not an other thing; Scotty fixes things in the requisite time AND goes the extra mile AND spends time in a Jeffries tube AND swears Scottishly; the deaths of billions are implied, and to top it off the other starship is a model of the Enterprise they bought at the Ben Franklin, right down to the decals: since they only had the 1701 numbers, they had to call the Constellation the 1071.

The best episode? No. But of all the original shows, it’s my favorite.

Today: went to the office, tried to write a column; nothing worked. Gave up. Went home. Tried to write a column: it worked. Sort of. Cooked supper, then got a brain-bolt idea for the index page of the Gallery 3.0. Whipped it up in 90 minutes. I have vowed not to agonize over this version the way I did with the last one - there’ll be a redesign of the introductory pages, but everything else stays the same. (Except for color-coding of all sites to distinguish version 2 from 3.) The design borrows, or rather, steals, that nice oval theme I saw at wolvesburrow.com; that wasn’t my intention, but I might as well admit that’s where the inspiration came from. I also stole the throbbing gelmold idea from an animation sent to me by a Gallery visitor; his was much better than mine, but I have to generate the material, or I feel unclean getting kudos for it. Everything else is mine, though. You’re welcome to suffer through a sneak look by going HERE.

Note to web experts: the graphics display differently in IE. It works in Netscape 4, but has problems in IE4. I have no idea why. I’ll have to fix it, I suppose. Sigh.

Now to write something else, and then something else. Eight-thirty PM, and the sun is almost completely down, the trees just a ragged black line against the dusky blue. But the crickets are out, and it’s a fine song. As ever.

Dad just called; I told him his life is on the web. He said he’d heard rumors about that from his sister-in-law, but hadn’t really thought to check it out. A true generational division. If, in 30 years, an offspringwere to tell me they’d converted my life to holographic interactive sensorama walkthroughs, I’d be interested. But for my dad, cable TV still stands as the latest technological advancement worth investigating. The internet is just a strange cloud of gas in the sky.

This is not limited to his generation; I know a guy who has 11 years on me and regards the net with theatrical horror. I just don’t understand that. It’s like turning down 33 1/3 albums because you’re used to the hiss of your heavy 78s. Adopt, adapt, improve, said the Musketeers. Words by which to live.

Lousy day. Little to recommend it, mostly due to a brief spasm of emotional contrusion that had no basis in reality or rationality, but nevertheless smothered the hours with a thick flesh caul. I wrote a column, switching to Emergency Backup Inspiration Banks, then went home and made a meal of gluey white pasta with pasty white pasta sauce. Napped for exactly 11 minutes, during which I dreamed many things; it was one of those half-sleep dreams where I’m aware that I’m sleeping, because these dreams are patent nonsense. Woke, hit the ON button on the coffee pot and decided on SimCity therapy. I needed an hour of city planning to up-end the mental Etch-A-Sketch. I made many fine improvements to my city, all enabled by a free and heedless use of cheat codes, then went outside to pick at the J. P. Morgan biography. The sun set; the world went dark. The same old dependable diurnal reset mechanism.

I have an actual assignment tonight from another newspaper, so that’s what I’ve been working on. A roundup of our governor’s latest antics. My piece mostly concerns the ways in which Gov. Ventura sticks a big thick thumb in the eyes of the chattering classes, the elites, the opinion shapers, and how all the tremulous worries of the educated classes matter not a whit when it comes to his popularity. It really is the damnedest thing. The weekend wrestling gig bothered me, not because he was trading on his restored celebrityhood, or because he should have been doing gubernatorial duties (on Sunday night? Nothing happens on Sunday night in Minnesota) - it’s the fact that WWF wrestling is just brash crude crap, and it is unseemly for a man in his position to be sharing the stage with Mr. Ass.

Anyway, this is a short Bleat - I have to get back to writing the piece. It’s a paying job, and this isn’t.

Note: in a recent Bleat I described how Sen. Wellstone took the comfy chair in the TV studio instead of sitting in the row of hard prole chairs. I have been informed that the Senator has a bad, bad back, perhaps from his grappling days, Makes sense to me; inference withdrawn. As I said, I don’t agree with the fellow’s politics, but he is a decent fellow. You always measure a bigwig by how he treats the small people, and he’s always been gracious to me, and not in that fake blustery what-ho-fine-fellow sense.

Were I to list the local pols who’d given me that BS routine, this page would scroll down to the sub-basement.

There were three trees on the corner by the creek yesterday; today there are two. The middle one was chopped down this morning, its stump cauterized with a ring of fluorescent paint and the number 43. I have no idea what that meant - perhaps the handle for the chopping crew. Yourpants are inspected by #12; your trees cut down by #43. I stopped to count the rings, thinking this was a fairly young tree; it was not much taller than the woody weed in my backyard, the one that’s shot up twenty feet in four years. In a way I hoped the rings numbered 43; then the number would make sense. It would be also like a eulogy, a sign to all passersby to pause and consider.

I counted 112 years.

You could see the patterns of drought and plenty, lean times and fat,. It was like a record album - your finger was the needle, running along the grooves, imagining the birdsong, the thunderclaps, the dead dry droning afternoons with a few starved cicadas boring holes through the humid air. The tree had been here before the creek was bordered with streets, before they laid out the neighborhood 97 years ago, before any houses were built, before the streetlights, powerlines, sewers, cables, phone lines.

Always an interesting thought - wow! it’s old! - but also a meaningless one. Trees come and go. Already the grass and the grubs have eaten the crown of last year’s stumps, and unless you have pictures, you’ve probably forgotten what was where. (Unless it was your tree; we all have our own tree in the creek. Mine is a strange twisted trunk that leans out at 45 degree angle, arching over the footpath.) Already the trees planted last year are thick as a strong man’s wrist, and the forest is full of thousands of shoots, all fighting for liebensraum. Today I probably stepped on a tree shoot that’ll be chopped down and lamented in 2099. So? So, nothing.

End lesson, I suppose, is that brainless immovable objects tend to survive longer than us prancing sacks of smart bologna. True. But they can’t appreciate us, and we can admire them, invest them with qualities and stories they don’t have.

Stupid trees.

Hmm. That didn’t go where I thought it was going.

Oh, well. Good day, nice night; humid now, with thick August air that insists it’s still summer. The Fair starts tomorrow; I’ll not be doing any fair radio - hoorah. But the start of the fair is the start of the end of summer, so I’d better get acclimated to the inevitable. Still, the fair always includes a few interlude of hideous sticky days; toss in the stench of the barns, the swarming wasps, the funk of butt-sweat from the lumbering masses, and the fair is a fine argument for the end of summer. But there’s always that hot night at the fair when summer seems as though it just might stick around forever this year. And there’s always that cold afternoon when it seems as though summer died two weeks before, and no one told you. I’ll go. Probably twice. It’s a duty.

Went to work, wrote tomorrow’s column today - which means I’ll just rip it up and bump the material into another column. If a car hit me tomorrow, they could run my column for two weeks based on the slop I have in the system. But I have some other work to do now, so it’s back to it.
So to sum up: a tree was chopped down; it’s warm today, but it’ll get colder, eventually. Aren’t you glad you read the Bleat?

What are we doing? What, and why? Do we KNOW what we’re getting into? My wife and I sat down tonight and started sketching out the wish list forthe upcoming remodeling job, and I can tell right now this is going to bust the budget if I don’t keep a firm, dry, parsimonious hand on the enterprise. Her face fell when I announced there would be NO Corian counters. And no custom moldings, either. For that matter, all interior designers will be barred from the premises; I’ll not have some Martha Stewart-type flouncing around the house with swatches declaiming the need for flax-colored sponge-painted baseboards. I can figure that stuff out myself. We will get our cabinets from Home Depot, thank you. I don’t need solid mahogany shelves when they're just going to hold plastic cups from Target.

What are we doing? Well, it’s simple. Having seen a batch of houses that are twice the price of ours, with half the charm, we realized that the likelihood of finding a better, bigger house around here are small. Most people in this neighborhood have occupied their home for a quarter century, and thus the design decisions have their origins in previous, unenlightened eras. We could pay an extra 100K for a house that needed another 50K work - or we could upgrade Lileks Manor. It will make it more attractive to sell some day, but I don’t care about that; I don’t want to sell. Ever. I don’t want to move.

The amusing irony - and I’m trying to laugh - is that the job will require the demolition of the porch I spent so much $ and aggravation fixing last year. And it was the porch that really sold us on this place in the beginning. What am I doing?

I’m going deeply into debt, is what I’m doing. Well. Better to pay the mortgage company and have the amount shaved off my quarterly tax gouge. I know this may strike some as irredeemably selfish, a repudiation of my civic duty to pay my Fair Share, and to those people I say: (expletives deleted)

Today: not much of note, and that’s just fine. You need an ordinary day to make the extraordinary days remarkable. Walked the dog, went to work, and did not rip up the column - just spent a lazy afternoon turning it on the lathe, shaving off the needless curlicues. A Vikings exhibition game was setting up a block away at the Metrodome, that gigantic marshmallowy carbuncle on the ass end of downtown; I watched the crowds stream in, all dressed in purple shirts, all willing to spend the precious rare coin of a summer evening in the operating-theater environment of the dome. No thanks.

Drove home, listening to a debate on the radio that made my brain squirt out my ears - practically shouted myself hoarse yelling at the radio - then made a nice hot supper of chicken tacos while editing my WashPost piece over the phone with the editor. She was finished just as the taco meat was read: perfect. I prepared a plat, read the evening papers. (I reserve the Wall Street Journal for supper, thus making it my evening paper; we have to preserve the rudiments of Ward Cleaverism some how. A man ought to be able to come home after work and read a paper unmolested, and that’s what I do.) Sara came home to the usual happy barking and smooches - Jasper handles one end of the greeting, and I manage the other. Although there’s always an element of jealousy when I give the evening smooches - it’s a moment among the giants that clearly excludes the poor dog, and he doesn’t like it. Tough.

Later he trotted up with his frisbee and wanted to play; I was busy, and said no. He sat down, whined once, put his nose on the frisbee and sighed, heavily. AND THE CAT’S IN THE CRADLE AND THE SILVER MOON / LITTLE BOY BLUE AND THE MAN IN THE MOON ahhh, criminey. So we played frisbee for half an hour. He was 20 throws for 20 catches. Good dog.

The BBC called; banged out ten minutes of palaver. Now it’s back to work - revisions on the WashPost piece - and Jeopardy! It’s the college finals this week. Last night the contestants consisted of a big blocky BMOC with the requisite crewcut, a slinky blonde with overwrought hair and a black dress so tight to expected her fingers and toes to wither and fall off from lack of blood, and a stolid bulky brainiac with bangs, no fashion sense, and a mean buzzer thumb. She won, handily. But the viewer knew that the big guy and the slinky blonde would probably console each other at the hotel bar, and probably end up stirring the sheets while the winner sat up reading Jane Austin and sipping room service tea, and trying not to hear the THONK of the headboard on the wall of the adjoining room. Life is cruel. But it abounds with compensations. The facts: Around 12:30, I took the dog for a long walk and listened to the radio. Nothing happened.

The story: it’s now 1:17 AM of the morning following Saturday night. My wife and mother-in-law had been at a play; they returned, we chatted, thehour wore on - all the while the dog laid on his back, paws up, requesting relief. He’d made a tactical error early in the evening when I walked him; he figuring he would withhold his unseemly dog-products for the big long walk that would surely follow. No such walk was scheduled. He worried, whined, rolled over again. Oh, alright. At 12:30 I said I’d take him down to the creek.

“So late?” the womenfolk asked. Creek = woods = dark = marauders. If I was female, I’d think the same, but I’m not; the night does not have that specific threat for me. I said we’d be right back.

Off the parkway the woods turn deep and dark in five footsteps. The streetlights are hidden behind a hundred years of branches and a hundred days of leaves; in the clearing the sky looks inky and immense. There were clouds, but they were just extras: the evening’s oratorio was delivered by the moon, round high and bright. To my left, the water rushing over the stones beneath the bridge. I found the classical station and listened to someone in a distant New York studio plink out Schubert, thinking: on the other side of the wall where this was recorded, a whole different world. Cabs honking, wind shrieking around gargoyles, gutters, parapets and fire escapes; perhaps a long long sigh from a tugboat on the Hudson. A whole world present at the moment this piano piece was played, but you can only imagine. I didn’t hear a note of the piece.

We crossed the bridge, paused; Jasper likes to watch the water below, and I like to listen to it. A neat reversal of our usual roles. Then we turned into the darkest part of the woods - no path, no lights, just a dirt path shining white in the gloom. The piano piece ended, and the announcer said they would now play the concerto for left hand, by Ravel. What were the odds? I’d listened to that not two hours before. I changed the dial . . .

Hey now. You’re a rock star. Smashmouth. Good. Then I thought: I’m walking slow, enjoying the night at a stately pace.

Why?

It’s just me and the dog in the black familiar forest.

So, jump.

So, flail. Play air guitar.

Dance, mister.

There are times when the radio can do no wrong - the air is a big buzzing swarm of stupid joy and your radio’s a fine-mesh net. Everytime I thumbed the wheel of the dial a centimeter down or up, my next favorite song appeared, drawn from twenty years of R& R radio. Blondie. New Order. Clash. Some custom techno mix. Bobby Fuller. Got down on my hands and knees in the clearing and wrestled with the dog, watching the shadows move as the clouds fled past the moon. Got up - ran - over the bridge, heading for home; the dog found a branch and ran away; we fought over the branch to the beat of a Louis Prima tune. Back towards the house. Home?
No. This was too fine. It was warm, with a breeze that wouldn’t stir a blade of grass but still felt good and cool. It was late. It was summer, and it would not be summer for long. Surely not like this. Late night walks are usually slow contemplative journeys, but this was crazy stupid fun - silence on the outside, music in my ears at deafening levels, both of us ready to run. We headed through the alley and headed for Dog Heaven (where if nothing else Jasper can be counted on to lay a log) and when we saw a rabbit both of us bolted - sprint, pant pant pant - no luck, of course, but I found myself on hands and knees again, peering through a hedge, furry muzzle against my cheek. Jasper looked at me: break off the chase? Affirmative. Down to Dog Heaven. Down to the banks of the creek, the same creek that winds past our house.

“What I Like About You,” by the Romantics. This was not music to wait for your dog to poop by. We ran, and ran, and as luck would have it we hit an intersection just as that fabulous harmonica break comes in - I leaped as high as I could in the middle of the street, and so did my dog, both of us frozen in the streetlight for one perfect summer second: HEY!

If I had a picture of that, I’d want it chiseled in my tombstone.

Then he pooped during Mark Knopfler’s solo in “Sultans of Swing.”

When we got home I discovered we’d been gone 45 minutes. We were both panting.

“I was starting to worry,” my wife said.

I’ll start to worry when nights like tonight seem like strange, unusual and far-distant desires.

To repeat today’s news: around 12:30, I took the dog for a long walk and listened to the radio. Nothing happened, and everything mattered.

A wedding on the lawn of a Summit Avenue mansion. Late-summer Sunday sunshine. A light breeze caught the bride’s long veil, playing invisible notes on the staves of lace. One crow overhead, cawingdown empty derision; a former Supreme Court justice marrying two lawyers; a hundred and fifty grinning guests applauding the newly-minted pair. I always hate going to weddings, but I always enjoy them once I get there.

It’s fun to mess with the groom, because he’s never going to remember anything. You can walk up to any groom fifteen minutes before the wedding and say anything. Anything. Borrow money, tell him UFOs have landed, ICBMs are flying, the dead have risen and are gnawing the bones of the just and pure; doesn’t matter. He won’t remember any of it. (So borrow money.) This wedding was short and fine, and the setting superb: a house built by a long-gone founder of a long-gone department store in St. Paul. Exquisite woodwork, creaky floors that sounded like a language spoken by people with cork tongues, a fine view of the James J. Hill house up the street. (Living within eyesight of the great man’s house must have been a sign of one’s stature; as you go down the street, away from the Hill mansion, the houses get larger and more ostentatious, as if to compensate.)

Wonderful food, but I had one small cavil: the default coffee was decaf. No real coffee. Just decaf. This moment in American civilization appears to have gone unnoticed - the point at which decaf was offered without alternative.

Å worrisome sign.


Monday: cloudy, cold, as if summer was over a week ago and the weather was sick of pretending. Something raw and harsh in the air. But every fair has a day like today, and it’s always followed by an interlude of steam and sun. I happened to hit the fair on a cool afternoon, and that was fine. Every year I go to the fair to work - last year it was KSTP, twice, and the Strib, twice. This year there’s no KSTP, and for that I am temporarily grateful. I hate doing talk radio at the fair. Too much going on. It’s like trying to knit during a hurricane. I did not go for the Strib. Ohhhh, no.
The people who run promotions didn’t ask any columnists to show up at the fair this year - only the Taste section people. Their stated reasons were A) logistical difficulties in setting up for columnist appearances (???? Last year I got a canvas stool and a bottle of water. And I brought the water) and B) concentration on this year’s “map on a stick” giveaway.

Map on a stick: however did they come up with that one.

Well. I suppose I should be happy, since Fair duty is always regarded by everyone in the media as the Bataan Death March with forced smiles, but I like the Fair. And since my column requires, and indeed is predicated upon reader interaction, you’d think an appearance would be a natural fit. So either they are not telling the whole truth about why columnists aren’t invited, or they don’t read the paper they’re promoting. Neither is heartening.

Anyway, I did MPR’s classical drive-time show with John Berge, whose show always accompanies my dinnertimes. I was a guest DJ, meaning I got to pick the tunes and make some rudimentary introductions. I went with an excerpt from West Side Story, the 3rd movement of Gershwin’s Concerto in F, and two movements from Respighi’s Roman Festivals. There was a stock-car race going on across the street, TV dolls signing autographs next door, and the usual Felliniesque parade of Minnesotans flowing down the street like a flood of clotted curds: an unusual venue for classical music. But it was great fun, and now whenever I listen to the show on the air I’ll imagine it taking place on that stage, with the aroma of sugar and grease swirling around the notes.

It’s odd - 12 years ago I did KSTP at the fair; ten years ago, the Pioneer Press booth; then the Strib, then KSTP, now MPR. A time lapse aerial shot of the fair would show the progress of my career, pinballing off one media outlet to the other, each job neatly contained within the borders of this greasy Brigadoon.

Anyway. Off to write a column. Domani.

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