Last day in the burbs; Thursday I’m at the Fair – 1 PM at the Strib booth - and I will stay long to shoot many pictures and miles of tape with the new camcorder. Last day sitting here by the window, watching the variegated examples of humanity (today is obesity day; everyone here is quite fat. For God’s sake I could not only climb in the pant leg of a guy at the next table, but I could swing a hula hoop) and watching the weather. It’s blueish grey out there today, light rain. I’m trying to imagine it underwater. All of it. I can’t.

FEMA’s list of charities is here. Note anything about what sort of organizations are doing the hard work? I keep looking for the Objectivist Mutual Aid Society, but it never pops up. Last time I checked the French weren’t helping much, either – odd. The one place in the country where their guys could read the signs, and they don’t bother to pitch in.

Sorry. Rather sour mood, for no reason. No good reason. I’ve been in a sort of professional limbo for nearly three months and it’s starting to grate, but it’s hill-o-beans stuff, I know. Doesn’t keep you from feeling it. Doesn’t keep you from feeling like a heel, either, but I’m not going to waste emotions feeling Bad for New Orleans 24/7, as if checking websites and staring at the photos is enough, as if this is like the death of Princess Di, a Shared Moment we can later relieve with special edition DVDs. Emotions are not enough. There’s nothing like empathy to keep you from doing anything.

So if I don’t put up a big long list of charities, it’s because I figure you can find them yourself – the Red Cross isn’t exactly hiding in a shack in Utah waving a shotgun at anyone who comes up the road, and the Salvation Army can probably be summoned if you stand on a street corner with a Bible and a tuba and start belting out “Bringing in the Sheaves.” I have nothing to recommend, but I donated here, because if it’s good enough for Hugh Hewitt, then it works for me. As a brain-dead Rovebot automaton, that is.

If anything put me off reading the internets today, it was the two themes of perfidy and nuance. The former being the Bush-is-evil sites that can’t wait for the President to show up at a tent city to do a photo-op in the breadline so they can drag out plastic turkey jokes, and the latter being sites that obsessed over the President’s remarks today. I heard them. I was very underwhelmed. I suppose a bitten lip or a moist eye would have helped to part the waters of Canal St. like the Red Sea, but I don’t expect moving rhetoric from him anymore. I think the White House has a tin ear these days – I heard another speech the other day about how They Hate Our Freedoms, and true though it may be it’s as fresh as a Pink Floyd tune on a classic FM station. I know; impressions are everything, appearances count. But as I get older I care less about the political value of a particular address and more about what actually happens, and I would prefer the 1950s sci-fi movie Authority Figure as the societal default, i.e., someone who bluntly states the facts and says “that’s all, boys” before leaving through a pebbled-glass door to do something, leaving the reporters shouting questions. Sometimes you just tire of spin, the endless carping, the incessant pissy miserabilism, to quote the Pet Shop Boys. It’s as if there’s a superior breed of humanity, uncorrupt and all-knowing, waiting in the wings to solve all our problems if only we’d let them have the reins of power and speak the honeyed words. Listen to them and human failings will be erased, nature turned aside like a man who enters a French restaurant in tennis shoes.

Wait a week, and let’s see what's accomplished by the humans we have, and then we can start throwing javelins.

But I’m being grouchy. Again: They send food to kids.

Packed up my desk at the office today; moving again, this time from the nice snug pocket where I’ve been since 98. New digs are less cozy, but that’s fine; I never write there anyway. I used to write at the office, long ago. Got out of the habit. There’s something about offices that generate a smothering grey haze of hopelessness and inertia – the long slog to five, the slump-shouldered lifers, the stain on the carpet from 1994, the 2 PM sigh as you rise to go for the 2 PM walk down to the snack machine for the 2 PM sack of peanuts. I’ve done a lot of work at the paper, but it’s on a laptop in the cafeteria or the coffee shop. The idea of coming up with actual ideas staring at a Windows 95 interface makes me feel like I’m gargling a cod smoothie. It was better when we were still using the 1970s computer program, and everything was green letters on a black screen. Really. Hit a button, and you saw how the column would appear in the paper. Now we write in one of those applications invariably described as “powerful” and “robust” – eh. I don’t use any of it. I write in word and dump it in.

Off to get Gnat. I thought I would miss this, but after three weeks it has exhausted its novelty and turned right into routine. I have the ability to do that, you know; grind the joy
out of everything with the imposition of grim habit. If I enjoyed this coffee shop, I will enjoy it for the next nine days! Well, no. The only variety has been the radio shows – Philip Marlowe this week, better than I thought. Still not Marlowesque, but better. I mean, this is not Marlowe. But why carp? Why bitch? I like it and enjoyed it. Jeez: I'm everything I can't stand. Which is probably why I know it well, and why it annoys me so.

Later: this sounds much more morose than I feel - chalk it up to late-afternoon pique. Spent the night working on the next book, which was alternately depressing and elating. See you at the Fair, if you're in the neighborhood. I'll be the short balding guy taking pictures for Friday's Bleat. See you then. (Oh: new Fair-related Backfence up, too.)

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