One note of a sax can take you back a quarter of a century. I was standing in the supermarket aisle today, and as usual I became aware of the muzak: it wasn’t muzak. The store plays a peculiar blend of 70s and 80s rock, massaging the memories of the latter-era boomers who populate my neighborhood. No one ever seems to be aware of the tunes, or react to them; I whistle the guitar parts. That’s not good. I’m a good whistler, but still: no one wants to hear anyone else whistle. It’s auditory onanism. And you really can’t whistle the guitar solo from “Games People Play” by the Alan Parsons Project. You really shouldn’t even try. Not even at home alone in the bathroom. The other day the speakers coughed up “Ride, Captain Ride” from the dim recesses of my childhood, and yea, I grooved. It’s a stupid song; it’s one of those deep 70s shag-rock numbers that made junior high school students feel as deep as senior high school students.

Ride! Captain Ride! Upon your mystery ship!
Be amazed at the friends you have here on this trip!

Why? Didn’t you check the passenger manifest? But that wasn’t today’s song. Today’s fishhook in the cheek was “Year of the Cat,” by Al Stewart. I loved that song; the album cover had the Hipgnosis studio imprimatur, which was enough to declaim its coolness, but I never bought any of his stuff. Something said: ‘tis twee, my boy. Beware.

And so I contented myself with appreciating two songs - the aforementioned tune, and “Time Passages,” a lesser effort. The instrumental middle of “Cat” has strings, then guitar, then a big yearning sax (1978 was the Year of the Sax, in pop music; there was Stewart’s piece, then Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street,” with that great chest-swelling Raf Ravenscroft riff ). The moment I heard the sax, right there in the dairy aisle, it was late August 1978; I was in my Pacer turning off University onto 35W to go to St. Louis Park to meet my new girlfriend’s parents. It was one of those perfect & glorious fusions of youth, girl, car, music, road, sax, cigarettes, sunset and summer.

So when I walked up to the checkout counter with my basket, I was whistling the sax theme without stifling myself. Hey: they started it. They dropped the needle on my youth; this is what they get.

Four column Tuesday draws to a close, and column number four - this one - is going to take it in the shorts, because I’d like to watch a little TV before I bellyflop into Lethe. A few notes:

Doubtless took slight umbrage at my comments about chain restaurants.Oh, I don’t think the chains suck. There’s a garlic / olive oil / fresh diced tomatoes / angel hair pasta dish at Olive Garden I like; between that and the salads, I know that if I ever end up there, I’ll have something good to eat. Nearly everything on Perkin’s menu is a little drier and saltier than I’d like, but their breakfasts are American classics. TGIF has really thick napkins. Pizza Hut is deplorable on so many levels it hurts my pizza bone, hurts it to the marrow. But Applebee’s food was lousy. The bun was dry. The fries were damp and limp. The brisket was old and the BBQ sauce was mostly sugar with sugared hickory sugar added. Gnat’s hamburger looked like a steamroller had backed over it six times. The coffee was tepid. If this place can’t get burgers, fries and coffee right, I’ve no hope for anything else on the menu.

I’ll give them high marks for the decor, though. It was the standard explosion-in-an-antiques-store design, with old enameled signs galore covering the rough woodwork. I love that stuff. The overall effect is disjointed and annoying, but the individual items are often quite fascinating. The Block E Applebee’s had a large amount of Hubert Humphrey memorabilia - the Happy Warrior squinting alongside the jugeared mug of LBJ on a crude red-white-and-blue poster dominated the back wall. You won’t get that at a hoity and/or toity cafe, and if they did have such a display, it would be intended ironically.

Big problem with the column tonight: non starter. Had an idea, but two paragraphs in I realized that the idea couldn’t sustain two sentences, let alone 30 inches in the Sunday paper. So. I called up the Soundtrack program, thinking I’d clear my mind by working on the Spock MP3 before the crappy shareware sound-edit program I’m using times out. I realized that this would be a tough project, as most of Spock’s lines are pretty dull. Everything he says is, well, logical. Flat. Declamatory. Once you get past the pon-farr lines and his classic quip about Tholian punctuality, it’s grim. So . . . we’ll see.

That didn’t give me any ideas. To the internet! Most of the sites I frequent were back up. As you may have read - not in newspapers, heaven forfend - a large portion of the blogworld has been crippled by attacks on the company that hosted a pro-Israel website, and the attacks are coming from servers that host Al Qaeda groups. This makes me uneasy; there’s something else going on here, I think. It’s like hearing reports from Alaska radar stations of peculiar blips on the screen. Someone’s testing something.

What do we call these guys? Script Qiddies? Haqers? How about: Jew-Hating Gynophobic Devil Pawns, or JHGDPs for short? (Pronounced: Je-hig-dip.)

I’ve no reason to say this, but: my antennae are twitching. I have this feeling that 2004 is going to feel a lot like 1968. But it’s just a feeling.

Anyway. I got an idea - something I was saving for a Bleat, until I realized: duh. I banged out the column on the Mac, saved to Word, transferred to laptop, edited, saved to flash memory card, and now I’ll transfer it to the PC laptop, open in PC Word, convert to the ancient ATEX program, and send it to the office, where they’ll edit it in ATEX, convert to PC, send to the design people, and lay it out on a Mac.

How many of those steps could we eliminate? Why, NONE, of course.

(Note: spellcheck wanted to replace “Tholian” with “Taliban.” I hit the LEARN button for Tholian, which means that some day I will spellcheck a column while tired and submit an essay that castigates the Kabul bombing and the Tholian remnants who claimed responsibility.)

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