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Autumn Solitaire | The Bleat.

Twitter went down on Thursday night and my first instinct was to get on Twitter and ask people on Twitter what they were doing to do, now that Twitter was down. It’s become part of the atmosphere. It’s a utility, like electricity and water.

And so ends a very unusual week. By that I mean “bad,” but it could be worse; it can always be worse, until it can’t. Probably be feeling close to 90% by tomorrow; seem to have turned a corner. The saving grace, to continue the parade of cliches – yes, my grace was saved around the corner – was the weather, which was spectacular. To sit in the sun in shorts in October is as rare around here as flip-flops in March. I took some photos, of course, but photos never capture the entire experience of autumn. You can look at a picture of the house in summer and remember it well, but autumn has so many intangibles. Spring has its early heralds – the flowers that pop up when everything else is still dead – but it tends to rise in unison like a great C major chord that takes a month to complete. Autumn disintegrates on an individual basis. There’s a tree in the yard that’s almost completely bare. There’s another that’s almost completely green. The yard is lush. The sprinklers go. But they spatter golden leaves. The sun is hot and strong; the night breeze waves a knife around. In the spring every day leads to the next. In the autumn every day stands alone. It’s like a defeated army that drifts away one man at a time. But I do love it. There are crickets outside right now.

Yesterday? I heard a cicada. This may be the first year I hear the last one.

Something I noticed on my desk Wednesday morning:

I know, I know: THE ROUTER IS ARRANGED INCORRECTLY. I had concluded an hour-long podcast. Apparently I did this while talking. About the only place in my life this week I had some order and sense. It was just a week where random things shot in and made messes. Tonight, for example. I sit down at my computer just as a growl message appears – for those who don’t use it, Growl is a system-wide notification program that tells when things happen, or have happened. A download is completed. Tweets were added. New photos in Instagram, or files changed in your Dropbox. Well. I see it for just a second, and it says “user lock added to your dropbox folder” or something like that.

Eh? Who the hell is user LOCK? Or is this a function, a thing, some level of security protection? I’d just finished installing a security update on the laptop, which is connected to Dropbox, so that’s the most likely situation, but it’s hearing a voice on the radio say “Person Gurbletwix halfway up the stairs, James.” You can’t quite process it immediately. You check the stairs. Nothing there. Were you listening to what they were saying on the radio? Maybe it was a commercial.

When you’re not feeling 100%, life is full of those moments. The margins teem with them. You remember that human perception is a rather subjective state, not an objective reality: at any given moment there are things we cannot hear or see or smell, and we’re used to identifying “reality” based on the parameters of our senses and their conversations with the background scripts running in the big wet potato upstairs. The moment the sliders are moved a few degrees, it’s unnerving.

Aaaand of course feeling ill and waiting to feel worse – it’s going to turn into pneumonia, I’ll have to have an xray, they’ll find something, I’m gone, see ya and thanks for all the fiche – reminds you what Jobs did, him being not much older, and you wonder what the sum total of your own work is. Might that be why I’m writing these books as fast as I can? Time’s Winged Chariot, and all that? Nah. I’m doing them to do them. Besides, I’m a “humorist,” and we’re guaranteed to be run over by aforementioned conveyance; it’s the most perishable thing aside from political commentary . . . yeah. Tastes change, and what was risible in one generation induces mass poker-face two generations hence. I read stuff I thought was brilliant in the seventies, and it seems mannered and empty now. A few examples abide, but most humor loses its flavor. The stuff from magazines in the 50s and pre-counterculture 60s, for example: mild and satisfying at the time, like a good cigarette, but it’s mostly “wry,” and wry goes stale once the common cultural references are lost.

Sorry. Don’t worry. Not in the Slough of Despond, not keeping an eye on the eyes of the Black Dog glinting in the dark outside the door. Fine. Better than at any time this week, really. I just need to finish this damned book, and try to get around the fact that I used the same plot device twice explaining the story at the end. I might be able to get away with it, if I sell it for $3.99 as an ebook.

But I can’t sell it if I don’t finish it. Hope to do so this weekend: wish me luck! New title: Harlot Alley. Okay, I just made that up.

Or maybe Autumn Solitaire.

See you Monday. (new column, scroll down until you see my face or name in COLUMNISTS, here.)


45 Responses to Autumn Solitaire

  1. GardenStater says:

    Jeezum crow–clean up that desk, pal! What a mess.

  2. Pops53 says:

    Gee …. when I have wry, I find it almost always goes moldy before it ever gets stale. But I love a good Reuben.

    OGH wisely addresses a major intellectual pet peeve of mine: people who say things such as “it couldn’t get any worse,” or “no one’s ever had such an awful day.” Google Ethiopia or Great Depression (images), juvenile cancer, or Pol Pot, or Schindler’s List. Then kindly STFU.

    The older I get, the more grateful I become for what life offers. Like hpoulter’s comment yesterday about the ricness of Pixar. Ot hpoulter’s comments most days, and the rest of the comments here.

    Thanks, everybody. In the rich smorgasbord that is life, this is probably my most consistently pleasing morning stop,

  3. wiredog says:

    most humor loses its flavor
    Mark Twain is still pretty funny. I like George Burns, and the Road movies, but maybe I’m just old enough to still have the cultural references.

    Here in NoVa we’re finally getting Proper Fall Weather. September was damp and dreary with a low stalled overhead dumping clouds and rain all month. Through Tuesday it’s going to be upper 70′s, clear, low humidity.

  4. Pencilpal says:

    I should think such lyrical thoughts when I’m only operating on 90%!
    The weather does help enormously. It’s beautiful in PA now after a sodden September, with only a trace of Eau de Basement left.

  5. Patrick McClure says:

    I don’t Tweet. I don’t follow Twitter feeds at all. I don’t Facebook, no account/profile/whatever. So thinking of Twitter as a utility is just foreign to me. Both of these sites could disappear, or as is more likely, be replaced by the next new thing, and it would have no more effect on me than a drop of water falling to the ground in China. No, I don’t believe in the butterfly effect.
    To Wiredog’s list of still funny Jurassic humor, I would add the Marx Brothers. But maybe I am like him, Old enough to recognize the cultural touchstones therein.

  6. kc says:

    Ditto what Pops53 said. Coming here in the morning starts my day off just right…with the newly added stair-stepper and light weights taking some getting used to.

    Have a wonderful weekend, y’all, and thanks again!

  7. “…thanks for all the fiche…” gnahh. Who else could get away with that? Another OGH gem.

  8. GardenStater says:

    @Pops53: I don’t know where I saw it, but remember an exchange between two characters:

    1. “This is the worst day of my life!”

    2. “The worst day of your life…so far!

  9. Bill McNutt says:

    I got to spend some time dead about six weeks ago. It was an eye-opening experience. Changed priorities and everything. Now if I could just recover enough energy to live the life I’ve chosen.

  10. Bob W. says:

    Speaking of OGH gems…
    “it can always be worse, until it can’t.”

    Is someone collecting these in a list somewhere?


    “Autumn disintegrates on an individual basis. There’s a tree in the yard that’s almost completely bare. There’s another that’s almost completely green.”

    And this may be why fall is my favorite season, it’s a gradual transition. Pleasant temperatures (though unseasonably warm in the mid 80s here in the KC area now), some yellow and orange in the trees but still plenty of green and not that much bare yet. A few leaves on the lawn but most of the green grass still showing.

    Spring can sometimes transition in a weekend from bare branches you can see through to new green everywhere. In the fall if all the leaves fell in a weekend, the season would lose it’s appeal.

  11. GardenStater says:

    It’s supposed to get up to the high 70s, maybe even 80, in the Garden State this weekend. Looking forward to a lovely time (even though I don’t get Columbus Day off)!

    As to autumn: While I can appreciate its beauty, it only reminds me that the dreaded winter is soon approaching. Ugh.

  12. Rob says:

    “thanks for all the fiche” – what a card! what a card!

    I agree with other commenters, the really good humorist writing does indeed last. Mark Twain is still hilarious, Burns and Allen still crack me up on the iPod, Pogo still amuses. Calvin and Hobbes, sadly nearly 20 years old, is almost exactly as great as it always was.

    The good stuff lasts, always has, always will.

  13. Jeff says:

    Bill McNutt – best to you. Glad you’re still observing the uppermost portions of lawn growth.

  14. rbj says:

    APatrick, I’m with you — no twitter, no facebook. I have friends who want me to join their “social networks” and even tried, IIRC, Windows Live which lasted about one day. Just cannot be bothered by it. I don’t need to hear what you had for lunch and can’t imagine you’d be interested in what I had for lunch.

  15. wiredog says:

    Star Trek Link

  16. John says:

    It can hardly be recommended, let alone arranged, but illness-time is straight and smooth when it is overseas. Sore knees in Slovenia, food poisoning in Ecuador, food poisoning in the Sudan (praise Allah I had a window seat on that train!) – all impose the best kind of patience. True, that patience may be tested by Bolivian toilet paper; but the near-helplessness plus the certainty of reward keep time’s flow perfectly uniform.

    And not just in retrospect, although for me, that is the only place it ever was. For those who delight in the miniaturized connectivity championed by Steve Jobs and enforced by Twitter, I wonder if any of this is true or even imaginable. Patience requires silence not from others but from oneself, but to judge from online postings from travelers, nobody knows how anymore. Lately I’ve been trying to figure out how to get from Salta to Antofagasta, and while it is rather pleasing to realize I’ll just have to go and see for myself, it is grim to survey all those hurried empty dispatches. Maybe this is how you sound when you’ve got a backpack and a girlfriend. But even minus those millstones, handheld computerization, in sickness or in health, cannot conduce to serenity.

  17. Order, and things in their proper places…


    This is moving week(end) for my office. And while I’ve only been in this building for 5 years (we purchased this agency and folded it into our existing operations, then moved in – more space) the building has been occupied since 1998. Just too much junk to save or move, and the stuff that does stay needs to find it’s proper place. Plus I move the data center this weekend and hope, hope that AT&T can port our IP Flex circuits Monday morning at 5:00AM as they have promised (and have already missed FOUR TIMES in the past six weeks)…

    I’ll be a basketcase for about another week…

  18. Chas C-Q says:

    @John: “Lately I’ve been trying to figure out how to get from Salta to Antofagasta, …”

    By 4WD or bus via San Pedro de Atacama, or by “Tren a las Nubes” with a stop in San Antonio de los Cobres, if Wikipedia is to be believed.

    Or are you planning an overland hike?

  19. John probably wrote that Wikipedia entry…

  20. Ben says:

    Enjoy the weather while it lasts… Here in Colorado, summer just ended. Pretty sure I heard the door slam last night, as summer grabbed its last bags and started its annual trip south, apparently with a detour through the midwest along the way. Today will be my first day wearing pants this fall, not including my September trip to North Dakota a few weeks ago. I wore shorts yesterday, but that might’ve been stubbornness refusing to admit that it’s not shorts weather anymore. Winter storm warning for the foothills tonight. I might find myself driving home through a blizzard after my gig in Cheyenne. RIP summer… We’ll miss you.

    Ok, I’m probably being overly dramatic, it’ll be back up to 80 again next week, with any luck…

  21. Gumpy Gus says:

    My last recollection of a train trip from Salta was that the toilet overflowed sometime before leaving the station, making the trip rather odiferous. We walked off the train with that pale-green face that you usually only get after a 5-day binge.

  22. Wramblin' Wreck says:

    James, a good column. Especially good knowing you were under the weather when it was written. The brain seems to slow way down when filled the the fug of a cold and it takes a real expert to work through it a produce a column of such quality. Thanks!

    I have hit a deer. We live in an area where deer are populous. One evening while driving home a herd of deere crossed the road in front of me. No problem. But just as I was about to pass one of the deer thought, “On no! I left the iron on! I must go back to turn it off!” Whack! The iron remained plugged in and we were towed to the body shop. A sad night for all.

  23. hpoulter says:

    True – topical humor doesn’t last. Nobody will care about your printer troubles in twenty years, but writing about the family, the dog and Life Itself is evergreen.

    I enjoy old humor the best. Benchley and Thurber, Bob and Ray, Jack Benny, abnd certainly P.G. Wodehouse. This site is full of examples of the longevity of worthy things.

  24. swschrad says:

    @Bill McNutt: congrats on not being dumped on the cart. have shot dice with The Reaper several times and won. eventually you don’t. It sure refocussed my priorities.

    @juanito: they MUST. you need to remind them of that fact. or I can arrange for you to get a free slinky… .

  25. Beautiful fall weather here in Cincinnasty, but yesterday I saw a wooly worm making its way across the sidewalk, and noted in horror the thing was completely black.Now those of you who grew up in a Southern rural area (as did I), and you hung around with farm folk (ditto), you know about country weather prediction, and the accuracy of same.

    To wit: the normal coloration for said worm is a cinnamon brown, with a black stripe crossing its middle; the wider the stripe, the worse the coming winter. So an all-black one? We’re talking a dark, grim, Bret Harte, stranded-in-the-cabin-and-now-we’re-eating-Grandma frozen apocalypse.

    Is it too late to book a trip to Peru?

  26. HelloBall says:

    I would have thought the bright yellow stripes would make a “herd of deere” easier to avoid.

    Thank you thank you, please try the veal and remember to tip your waiter.

  27. Spud says:

    @Bill: “Now if I could just recover enough energy to live the life I’ve chosen.” That’s the problem – by the time you’re old enough to figure out the ‘best’ life, you’re too old to enjoy (do?) it, Baaah, youth is wasted on the young.

    @juanito: When AT&T (Always Tardy and Truculent) holds your professional life betwixt thumb and finger, otherwise known as pinchpoint, tis a crappy place to be. There’s New York time, Texas time and telecommunication time. Your problem ticket is getting the highest priority … uh hunh.

  28. writeaway says:

    Having read how brilliant a humorist S.J. Pereleman was, I was profoundly disappointed in reading his writing. In sharp contrast, Wodehouse holds up brilliantly.

  29. swschrad says:

    @Spud @juanito: I have found as a customer that if you need test services to pinpoint a fault, ATT has been tick-tick-tick-anything else?

    perhaps you should call your account person now, this afternoon, to look over your order and make sure there are no “jeopardies” while there is still time to roust somebody to the other side of a CO someplace and, say, run the last jumper or enable the mux port. stress this is life or death for your company.. and their business… that the cut goes.

  30. GardenStater says:

    @John Robinson: You’re getting me scared. Last winter was bad enough; I’d rather not have a worse one this time (not that I have any say in the matter).

    Fortunately, not only do I live in the suburbs, with easy access to stores and gas stations, but I have several cords of firewood, and I took a home canning course this summer, and have been stocking up on all sorts of goodies in jars. Ah, fresh tomatoes in the middle of winter, eaten in front of a cozy fire–I’m rich!

  31. MDW says:

    Loved your comment about ready things from the 1970′s that seemed profound at the time….I recently listened to CD’s I have of my favorite Yes albums from the 1970′s. They are full of lyrics that when heard by the mind of a 14 year old (in the 1970′s) seemed sooo profound and now are simply pleasant sounding nonsense. Like the music still, I just don’t pay attention to the lyrics.

  32. swschrad says:

    @John Robinson: eek! time to start fattening up the cat.

    the good news is I have a kerosene heater and a Coleman gas stove. actually two, there is the single-burner job.

    the bad news is I haven’t called up for my oil fill yet.

    the Office of Wild-Ass Guesses at NOAA has said Minnesota will be snowier and colder than usual… it is believed this will come in more frequent smaller snow storms than last year, when we didn’t get a flake without getting 10 inches. but the colder part… good thing we have replaced or upgraded all the windows, have the basement now correctly insulated and sealed against wind, etc.

    assuming we ever finish the remodel so we can move down there and camp inside while the apocolypse rages overhead, huddled around the kerosene heater while the CO monitor beeps.

    better check the plug and paddles on the snow blower next week, too. I have spares.

  33. John says:

    @Chas C-Q, Gumpy Gus: thanks for th’ tips! No, Wagner, I did not write that Wikipedia entry, or any Wikipedia entry, though I have considered pitching in for “Thiaminase,” which looks lonesome but probably deserves to be. A train between Salta and Antofagasta is mentioned in Paul Theroux’s “Old Patagonian Express,” but he didn’t take it. He did pass through Tucumán, though, where I myself once idled a day in a pretty park, after a rough night with aforementioned Bolivian bog-roll. Then I bought a train ticket to Buenos Aires, my last chance to get rid of the local scrip which certain Argentine states issued and other Argentine states wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot palo. But I digress! The Bleat is a good place for it, ya gotta admit.

    I’m figuring on buses. I want to cross South America from ocean to ocean, which is hard to arrange. Start in Santos. Follow the Tropic of Capricorn. Resist any urge to try Dial-A-Joke in Brazil again. Talk about your perishable humor…

  34. eek! time to start fattening up the cat

    To help him get thru the winter or as an emergency food supply?

  35. swschrad says:

    @bgbear: love him dearly, but if I have to love him with a little Hollandaise on the side, so be it. wife won’t fit in the oven

  36. @swschrad @spud

    It isn’t a matter of contacting our AT&T Select Accounts Rep – HE IS USELESS. He sells the product we use, but he can only place the order if a Sales Engineer assists him. We’re moving a paired T1 circuit that has VOIP as well as data on it. Requires a special BVoip Router. But they shipped a standard MIS router after the new circuits were installed at the new building. They insisted that I just throw it in anyway and they would test and turn up with the wrong router. As soon as they added the voip ports to the circuit it killed the (very nice $3000) MIS router. No problem, by then the correct BVoip router was delivered. It plugged in and tested correctly, no alarm indicators, all looked good…. except that AT&T *had* to clear the MIS router because the order was placed incorrectly. But the MIS Router was dead… Had to wait for another MIS router, so that AT&T could clear the VOIP port they configured on the circuits, so they could test, then close the original WRONG order, so we could get a pretest scheduled for the correct BVoip router that was already installed and had tested correctly. Every three days the port date gets changed for another week later. After two weeks, we’re now looking at the port date scheduled for one month past our scheduled move date.

    It all started back here.

    I’ve inquired to see if AT&T will be paying our $12K lease payment on the building we were supposed to be out of last month (that they assured us would be no problem meeting that move date when we advised them IN MAY). To date, I haven’t had any response.

  37. Maharincess of Franistan says:

    @hpoulter: Your faves are my faves. I only wish I knew some people nearby with whom I could revel in these treasure over a glass of wine.

  38. swschrad says:

    @juanito: provisioning hell. escalate until you get something done, there are ways around the blocks if it isn’t a “no facilities” jeopardy.

    might be nickels to a large telco, but it ain’t nickels to the customer with two T1s. where I sit, nickels beats nothing, also.

  39. Rebel66 says:

    @hpoulter – The Topaz Cufflinks Mystery – frankly, I think that the reader has to be married to understand that column. But Snapshot Of A Dog and The Greatest Man In The World – well, I think that anyone will get it.

  40. GardenStater says:

    @swschrad: “wife won’t fit in the oven”

    You mean you’ve actually measured???

  41. Terry says:

    Jeepers! I guess I am the only Bleat aficionado who got the Norman Mailer reference in this post! You are a sly one, Mr. Lileks. A fuggin sly one.

  42. Chas C-Q says:

    @juanito – John Davey: So, when does your attorney send AT&T an inquiry? I’d say they already owe you money, it’s just a question of how much.

  43. MJBirch says:

    “most humor loses its flavor.”

    Yeah, but some of it holds up, admirably and ominously.

    I’ve been trying to trim my book collection. (derisive howls of laughter, Bruce!) This inevitably morphs into an orgy of re-reading. Last week, I went through various comic collections — Doonesbury, Calvin & Hobbes, Bloom County, Sylvia — and I thought “not only is this still madly funny, but only the names of the guilty have changed — the cultural and political situation is still much the same. Which is almost too true to be funny at all…

    As for the “it can’t get worse” line… I hear it a lot. It’s why I love the Weather Channel. If you watch it long enough, you can almost always find a place on the planet where the weather is much MUCH worse than where you live.

  44. hpoulter says:

    @Writeaway – if you are willing to give SJP another chance, try “Acres and Pains”. I just picked up a copy in a thrift store, and it was very funny.

  45. swschrad says:

    @GardenStater: uhh, that sounds like another way to ask, “does this roaster pan make me look fat?”




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