The entire house smells of ceremonial pig. It’s like someone set off a ham bomb downstairs. It was, as the moronic animated children’s shows put it, the BEST EASTER EVER! Really. My dad, my sister & brother-in-law came down with their two kids and new puppy - one of those light-as-balsa-wood balls of guts & fluff that you fall in love with right away. We had an egg hunt, ate much ham, watched Gnat nearly explode with joy - kids! Here! In my house! And there’s chocolate! She didn’t stop vibrating until 8:30 PM; could have used her to sand the floors.

Saturday was the postcard show, the biannual confrontation with my dorkiest of pastimes. The best find: some promotional cards for KSTP’s new studio, including some shots of the station’s talent. I didn’t recognize any of the names save one: John McDougal. He did the news for the AM station when I started working there. A big man, Foghorn Leghorn-shaped. A mild manner, a voice from that was mostly gut with a high note of nose to give it distinction. If something went wrong in a broadcast he had a way of looking over his glasses that loosened the bladders of novice board operators. Forty years of broadcast know-how came down on your sorry head.

He died nearly 10 years ago, but here he was in a suburban community center, filed away in an envelope of unopened promotional material. Caught me by surprise, it did.

Wonder if I’ll find a stack of my promotional postcards at a show some day. Fifty cents for the lot! Fine by me. That's what happened to John, and he was the best in the business. One approving nod from his gray head was like having the Museum of Broadcasting drape a medal around your neck. Posterity sometimes just seems like a drunk passing out cigars at random - when it passes over men like John you realize how arbitrary fortune can be, and how the Valhalla of the Briefly Reknowned But Mostly Obscure is probably the most interesting quarter of the afterlife. I'd post his picture here, but you'd forget it tomorrow. I'll post it some other day when I need to summon his shade. You'll know what I mean when it happens.

There were no OH MY GOD moments where I beheld a long-sought card with trembling hands. The long-lost 1912 foil-embossed Kewpie Doll Cremora Pickaninny card! At last! Some people bring lists to these shows, and scour the boxes looking for It, the Grail, the thing that lends Completeness to everything. I forget what I have and usually buy a dupe every show, and every show I start collecting something else for the hell of it. This time I picked up a stack of postcards of shopping centers from the 60s and 70s. Nearly every retail company in the pictures has gone under. Happy and banal as these big sheds may appear, they’re really slaughterhouses.

One dealer had a box of ephemera, which is what we call “Old Paper Crap.” Brochures, maps, 1955 airline promos. One item, selling for a wince-inducing $55, made you realize that this new era of terrorism is, in many ways, not as frightening as the Cold War. It was a Civil Defense brochure, all blue and pink. The title: how to deliver a baby after an attack.

Think about getting that day-brightener at the Post Office. Imagine being the guys who had to work on it.

Also picked up some cards for the forthcoming Main Street At Night site - got a card of Washington Street in Indianapolis, back before the downtown hit the skids. It’s quite impressive. A huge movie palace (the Indiana, of course) and two big old 20s hotels. Made me wonder whether I had a doppelganger who has spent the last few years doing for his -apolis what I’ve done for mine - I can imagine being an Indianapolitan, and collecting whatever flotsam remains from the wreck of the Hotel Claypool or the Hotel Washington. A matchbook; a coffee cup from the diner; a napkin, a receipt.

I was curious what happened to the Claypool, so I did some desultory googling. Found a site devoted to the collection of a pre-WW2 commercial photographer, one of those artless Knipls whose everyday labors capture and preserve their city, their time. The site had that spare-bones look common to the early days of the web. The photos were small - at least on my modern monitor. I’m sure they looked fine on a 640-480 monitor. The collection was huge. And scanned for 1997 resolutions. Makes you weep.

Makes me weep, when I realize how much rescanning I have to do here.

As is typical for the web, one thing leads to another; I was reading a Clueless log entry on Germany Perfidy, which lead to a Mean Mr. Mustard post on Russian Perfidy, which lead to a debate in the comments section that wound its way to French Perfidy. A fellow named Paul, obviously a Frenchman, wrote a series of typical replies to gros roastbifi Americans, stabbing us with the usual accusations: lack of socialized medicine, inordinate percentage of minorities in jail, etc. He bared his breast to the guns with this final sequence:

Why is the French national emblem the "coq" ?

Because it's the only bird that continues to sing when it covered with shit.

All you French haters should meditate this one sentence.

You know, it’s just not the sort of national symbol I can rally behind; it brings to mind Maurice Chevalier singing “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” from the depths of an outhouse pit. Perhaps if one refrained from singing because you loved the sound of your voice, people would be less likely to scoop up ordure and fling it at your head.

I am not a Francophobe. And I do not say “oh, the French, they have given us Monet and Ravel!” A culture that produces great art is not necessarily a great culture. No Frenchman would grip Bush by the shoulders and say thank you for Josephine Baker. Affinity for Berlioz does not necessarily reside in a Le Pen voter. Over time, over the years, we see the truth of a culture, which elements matter, which traits shape and direct the hearts and minds of its people. I don’t think the final verdict on Franco-American relations has been written. There will either be a shock that throws us into the same camp again, or - more likely - their reaction to domestic travails will lead to positions whose secondary impact is antagonistic to American interests. France is like someone who’s been given a glimpse of the future, sees himself committing suicide, and resolves to spend his remaining days making it look like murder.

You want to talk about health care, minorities? My brother-in-law is French. He’s a good man. He came here less than two years ago, got a good job in about three months - during a recession - and secured health coverage for his family. Then he bought a house. And a new car. Could I go to France and repeat his accomplishments?

(crickets chirping)

Better an eagle than a coq. Eagles get their prey; they fly high; they defend the nest. The Coq may sing pretty, yes. But they smell.

And they seem to be proud of it.
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