Oh, I could have written something yesterday, but it was half past one when the last guest left. I’m not sure what immortal essay I might have written – we had a great Fourth! Ate meat, shot of fireworks, skinned possums, had a square dance under the moon wearing goat’s skulls, all the usual stuff complete with pictures of people holding up beers and smiling, beerily. As Fourths go, it wasn’t as pyrotechnical as previous versions; the Crazy Uke forgot his bag of explodables, so I had to do with expired munitions from last year. They still worked. Lame, but the kids liked them just fine. Years from now when everyone stays up past dusk we’ll have a true Fourth; for now it’s day for night.

Earlier in the afternoon we went to the park for a parade. All the kids go around the block driving patriotically festooned bikes and trikes. Exactly two American flags present in the entire parade: Gnat had one, and a little tiny Hmong kid had one taped to his baby carriage.

We were led by a fellow banging on an Indian drum. At least one onlooker got into the spirit, and held up a boombox that played Sousa marches. (But not too loudly.) There was one flag hanging off a tree, which was nice, but somehow I expected more. Was there ever more? Probably not. It just seems like there should be, but as I’ve noted before you don’t see a lot of flags in this neighborhood. You might wonder why. The answer is because most people don’t have one.

My powers of deduction are quite extraordinary, no?

The worst part of the day, as always, was Jasper’s reaction to fireworks. He hyperventilates. This year the trouble started around two; he hid in the garage. When I opened my car to get something out he hopped in the front set, crawled down by the pedals and gave a look that said PLEASE SHUT THE DOOR. So I did. I’d check on him every so often, and let him out – but he’d head right back into the car, which by nightfall was saturated with funky scared-dog aroma. Eventually he came out to eat, but whenever someone let off a string he just about dissolved on the spot. So I fed him a Dramamine. Used to give him half a tablet to help him with motion sickness and general fear when we took car rides. This time he ate the entire tablet. That got him through the night. But today was more of the same. One bottle rocket goes off ten blocks away, and it means four hours of whining. I don’t blame him, but I wish I could perform a mind-meld to assure him that there is no threat, everything is fine, and he should SHUT THE *#$%# UP. Four hours of whiny dog truly degrades your sense of empathy. At one point today I gave him an entire bratwurst, just to take his mind off the HORRORS of POSSIBLE BOTTLE ROCKETS, and he dropped it, looked at me, and whined. That was it. I'd had it. "You have chosen fear over meat? Knock it off! Suck it up! Be a dog! Scarf that tube of indistinct minced & seasoned flesh down without mastication now, or you might as well start meowing and hiding under sofas and batting at loose string as though it was prey! Do! You! Understand!" He ate the meat. Then he whined. We went back to the garage. Back to the car. He spent five hours there. My dog hates July.

Saturday I started putting things back into the storage room. The entire project has taken on nightmarish proportions. Everything I took out will not to back in. Half of the stuff has to go, or get compacted down to small objects by reducing the empty space between the molecules in the atoms. I saw this on Star Trek once. The entire crew was converted into polyhedrons made out of laundry detergent. The bad guy pushed a button on his belt, and people were compressed. Very impressive.

But not a technology I can summon at the moment. So out some stuff goes - including boxes and boxes of books. It feels wrong to get rid of books. It feels as though I’m shaving points off my IQ, such as it is. You’re supposed to keep books. You’re supposed to end your days surrounded with stacks and stacks of books, your rich old friends with whom you have spent so many golden hours. Well, most of the books hail from college era, and I really don’t need to keep my German post-war lit paperbacks, especially since most are from leftist authors with a grudging sympathy for the heaven on the other side of the wall. (The wall’s worst sin, if I remember, was aesthetic; its second fault, metaphysical.) Out. Ah: a collection of Tom Sharpe novels. He was a brilliant nasty British comic author who got a big push in the States in the early 80s. It didn’t work. Horrible cartoony covers. They stay. Someday I’ll read them again. The Hite Report: the world’s only Tolstoi-length Penthouse Forum letter. Out. Ah: all my Flashman novels, with the pages coming out. These I keep until they’re reissued. They were un-PC before there was such a thing as PC. I can quote from few novels, really, but I can always remember that line from the first book, in which Flashy recounts his cumulative sexual exploits: I have laid enough cane to build a banister around Hyde Park. Ah: here’s a box of books whose pages have all fused together. Whew. Out.

And so on. Another box contained old toys – model trains, which will go, and Major Matt Mason action figures and moon walkers, which must be held tight to my bosom until I breathe my last. Old college clips, old Pioneer Press clips, a rich stratum of detritus from the DC years (party invites, magazine mentions, hotel stationery from road trips, Jeopardy! Tryout instructions, and so forth.) Sort, order, arrange, place in a bin, relabel, continue. Comics: what to do with these? Hundreds of early 70s Marvel comics. Hundreds. Save, hide from wife.

And so on. My wife has one box. She traveled lightly. I’m Jacob Marley, hauling along 17 plastic tubs from Target. I envy her. She looks at her stuff, and it’s just stuff. I look at 623 Marvel comics, and think: sooner or later, I’m going to have to scan it all.

You’ll thank me for it. Won’t you? Please tell me you will.

Okay, back to work – Monday was a holiday, but it had two column deadlines nevertheless, and right now they both suck like a shop-vac. Tomorrow: highlights of the grim joyless LAFF magazine in Stagworld. See you then.


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