|DECEMBER 1999 Part 4|
|Monday night: one column down, two to go, one LARGE IMPORTANT essay on the Millllennnium yet to write; this is a desperate week. Its another egg-timer Bleat, with 12 minutes to write: go:
Went to the mall tonight to do some clean-up shopping. Went to Southdale, which is my Preferred Mall; everyone has a mall to which they pledge some sort of loose fealty, and this one is mine. In my student days it was Roseville, but that place was renovated out of recognition years ago, and I have no loyalty to it now. Southdale is actually the nations first mall, the first enclosed shopping complex, and on a day like today one easily realizes why Minnesotans pioneered the idea. It was just furiously, hideously cold. I parked my car at the edge of the lot (two years into ownership of the Defiant, and I still have new-car instincts) and I left my gloves in the car, figuring Id lose them in the mall. Well. My hands were dead chunks of ham by the time I got halfway to the mall, and the cords of my headphones froze. Ive never seen this before - the cords froze, solid, like cooked spaghetti strands left in the colander. Stiff, rigid, easy to snap. This morning when I took Jasper for a walk, I thought: my, its nippy. Very nippy. Uber-nippy. I was worried that the spell of warm weather had weakened me somehow, made me think that a 15-degree morning was cold. When I got back home the radio said the temp, with wind-chill, was forty below. I was relieved. So it really was cold. I wasnt just imagining it.
Its always heartening to see Minnesotans pour out of the mall, heading for their cars, devoid of hats and gloves. Good for them. Good for us.
Shopped, bought, trudged with heavy step. Made the mistake of wandering into Spencer Gifts. Every time I go to Spencer Gifts - which isnt often; theyre like Archie McFee without the irony or humor - I am reminded that more than likely THIS is America, not me. I stood agog before a display of KISS merchandise - statues, posters, mugs, wine glasses with KISS members curled around the stem. If all these items were tracking devices for the truly stupid, and at some point a series of space-based lasers would vaporize the people who bought things at Spencer Gifts without an ironic subtext, Id be happy. But what can you say about people who purchase remote-controlled fart-emitters and believe this is clever? Whyfore the wall of black-light art, the Bud Frog phones, the pornographic gummi-wangs? (Really: naughty candy. Gummi in the shapes of procreative organs. Guaranteed to break the ice at parties.) Near the door was a selection, and I use the word broadly, of Millennium merchandise, including a Millennium Lollipop. God help the Humbert (squared) of our age, as they watch some pert Lolita work her way through a Millennium sucker on which is emblazed the motto THE MILLENNIUM SUCKS. My God, we havent even gotten there yet, and a slab of swirled sucrose is proclaiming that the entire 1000-year interval ahead SUCKS. I took one to the counter, and when the clerk did not give me a look of naked contempt for purchasing such an item, I beat her deaf with it.
Well, no. I do wonder what sort of parent lets their kid work at that place, given the smarmy cheap nature of the goods.
Anyway. Bought what I needed to buy, walked back tothe car - headphone cord froze after 20 seconds. The car was completely frosted up; it was like driving inside an ice cube, but I made it home without mishap. Now Im warm and merry and ready for tomorrow, which just might be the most writinest scribblinest day of this year. I toted up the number of pieces Ive written in 1999, incidentally: 150 Backfences, 50 Newhouses, 50 misc. pieces (Computer reviews, book reviews, Science page pieces, etc) 200 Bleats, not that those count, 189 pages of fiction, and over 150 separate web pages.
And Ill tell you this right now: none of it feels like Ive done a damn thing.
En route to cruising altitude right now, hurtling hard over Arizona, back to the cold deep north. It was a good vacation, a good Christmas. To be more succinct: it was 72 the other day.
Ah, good: a loud restless drunk with a head cold in the row ahead. He has laid down, sprawled his heavy head against the forgiving bosom of his travel partner, put his unshod feet into the aisle, and slams his leg into the seat every time he says something - whoa, now hes done a 180 for no particular reason, and put his greasy head in the aisle . . . no, that didnt work, were back to the original position.
At least when Im three sheets to the wind on a plane, I keep still, and remind myself: I am three sheets to the wind. But those were the bad old white-knuckled days when I had to consume half of the output of Scottish distilleries to buy the ticket, let alone use it.
A good Christmas, then, and if the house is unmolested, not a pile of sad cold cinders when we return, itll be even better.
Oh, now his companion is getting up to use the can; this is going to require all sorts of turbulence. Remember the days when people regarded air travel as something special? I still wear a tie and good slacks on nearly every flight. Always remember the Guggenheim Creed, spoken on the deck of the Titanic: we have dressed in our evening clothes and are prepared to behave like gentlemen. A good rule, Even in the morning.
Now the girlfriend is sitting in front of me, and she is twitching around like a greased weasel with restless leg syndrome, Four restless legs. If I had a small grenade that could take both of them out but leave the windows and upholstery intact, Id use it.
Anyway. A good vacation, as I was saying. Wrote this last night:
She turned to the rest of the staff and said: Why are serving cold coffee?
Of course, no one could come up with an answer for that one.
Wheels up at 11 PM, arrival in Zona at 1:15, blurrily off to the house and to bed. After that, Ive nothing of interest to report - it was all much fun, with many meals and fine conversation, but there is nothing so boring as other peoples holiday stories. Unless something blows up or dishes get thrown, that is.
Now he got up to use the can. It appears he has some large metal insect attached to his leg. Some sort of brace. Great: Cyberdrunk. The Six Million Milliliter Man, People with debilitating medical devices ought not to appear hammered in public, because people tend to assume they got in that fix via a previous instance of drunkenness.
Now hes gobbling some sort of pills - a little Percodan, perhaps, to go with the vodka.
Where was I? Right, Other peoples holiday stories arent interesting, and I bought an iBook. Right. The intention was to answer all my mail, and Im happy to report I failed. I had 200 letters to answer, and Ive 39 left, and that means I did not spend every free moment
HIS FARGIN HAND IS IN FRONT OF THE FARGIN SCREEN
I had to pick up the iBook and run the edge along his wrist, hoping there was some serrated part. Therewasnt, but it got his attention.
Anyway, I did not spend every free moment writing letters. There were times I just went outside and stood by the water and stared at the mountains, and I will number those among the finest moments of 1999. But only because family and friends awaited the moment I turned around and headed indoors. And that includes all the names on the laptop mail program, as well.
Monday night, as I always say at the start of Tuesdays Bleat; but unlike most Mondays, tomorrow carries a treble whammy - I have to edit the millennium piece, finish the Newhouse piece and write a column. On the plus side of the ledger: the Newhouse piece is almost done. In fact its overdone - 825 words were I need but 750, and I still have stuff to add. And Ive laid out the Tuesday Strib column. And the Millennium piece is mostly finished. But having them all orbiting my head in a state of uncompletedness, like bits of rock that havent quite accreted into moons, is worse than having nothing done at all.
I dont care what misery the Columbine shooters endured. Its not as if they were taken daily to a concrete cell and had jumper cables attached to their testicles. Hardship? These kids had no idea. No idea. They were self-dramatizing sociopathic cowards who willfully emptied themselves until there was nothing left but ego and evil. You get that sort of person from time to time. What alarms me are the moral idiots who celebrate them - or worse, recoil at judgment. Harris and Kleibold didnt make any sort of statement for anyone. They did what they did because there wasnt a Khmer Rouge they could join. In the right situation, they would have been marching little girls to the pit and shooting them in the head for sport.
A heat wave has gripped the city; the snow runs into the gutters and the sidewalks are clear. Even now at eleven PM the weather is clement. A good way to end the year - although I was hoping for freezing weather, so I could store all the frozen food outside when the power went out on New Years Eve.
The last time I felt this way, I had the stomach flu. That was two months ago. There should be a law that forbids the stomach flu if youve had it within the last six months. Of course, such a law would be difficult to enforce; who would you charge? The flu itself? One can easily imagine the flu virus standing defiant: no jail will hold me, copper! And hed be right.