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Monday, Feb. 09 | The Bleat.

geminiSaturday night I was on Coast to Coast with Ian Punnit. At 12:30 AM. When I got back from afternoon errands my wife said, somewhat quizzically, “you got a call from . . . Coast to Coast, and they want to know if you want to be on with Ian Punnit? After midnight?”

“Sure,” I said.

I mean, what else can you say? I used to be on Ian’s show a few years ago; I always listened to Coast to Coast on the way home from the Diner. I had a thin, unsupportable, easily-explained UFO story. Why not pour a Balvenie, wander around the house in the witching hour and talk to the nation?

So I did. Nothing much to report, except that it was fun. You’re never short of callers when you bring up UFOs on any show – good Lord, Dr. Laura could do three hours on the subject and have full banks, even if she yelled at the callers for looking up at the sky instead of looking into themselves.  Afterwards I finished the rest of “Braveheart,” which I hadn’t seen in years. As history, it’s . . . fanciful, but it’s still a fine movie. You put that one together with “The Patriot” and “Apocalypto” and it’s the same story – the individual against distant centralized authority. Good thing that battle’s won; no worries now about someone telling you what to eat or say, or whether a mailed hand will treat your wallet and property as its own, and expect you to be content with what it permits you to keep. 

Yes, that’s a great relief. 

Sunday I did the errands I hadn’t finished on Saturday. Such are the thrills of my life. Got a haircut; the stylist, one of the endless parade of interchangeable young women who snip and clip and listen, was a bit smarter than the rest. When not cutting heads she helped her parents’ property management business. Unlike 50 percent of the stylists I’ve had in the last few years, she didn’t have the single-mom / tattoo combo that makes you suspect the person’s life is somehow fixed in place for a long while, like a butterfly held in a case by a long sharp pin.

After the cut I went to Southdale to look for a tie, since the Super Secret Strib Project involves new clothes. This is certainly the time to buy things. Ties had been reduced from the usual price no one ever pays anyway, but the discount was nice: from $47.99 to $27.99. Fifteen percent off if you used your Macy’s card. If you bought a charity pin for two dollars, you got an additional 20% off.  I selected some conservative ties, noting with horror a woman who was buying ties for her husband. He was walking along behind, unconcerned, tethered in ways he only dimly seemed to understand, watching her mate one horrid tie with an equally horrid shirt. She had a fistful. “The selection is so much better here than the Mall of America, she said.

Uh huh, he said.

“I mean that was just awful. They didn’t have anything.”

Uh huh, he said. 

I took my purchase to the counter, where a frowning Russian who looked like Harvey Keitel rang them up. Next: Eddie Bauer.  Again, sales. Everything that ended in “.99” was half off. HALF. This meant a leather briefcase that had gone for $200, and had been marked down to $99, was fifty bucks. Fifty! When I got to the register I apologized for not having my Eddie Bauer Friends card, and the clerk said she could find me – whereupon one of the clerks, to my amazement, said “Oh, Jim’s in the system.” Whereupon another clerk turned around and said “You’re James Lileks, the columnist! I love your columns!

Oh, that never gets old. I suppose when you reach a level of ubiquitous fame modern slang-enthusiasts would describe as sick you would tire of being praised by strangers in public, but for the majority of people in the typing game it’s like being hosed down with warm ambrosia. Why, yes, I am! Why yes. Thank you. You’re always a bit surprised to find that the things you type are actually disseminated beyond your own head.

Gap: got the annual Chuck Taylors. Did I want a Gap card? I did not.  Express Men: got three shirts. Because you saved a lot of you bought three! Did I want a credit card? I did not. Back to Macy’s for another tie to match one of the shirts I’d bought. Same clerk: the serious Russian.

“Is there a problem with the ties?” he asked. 

There was not, but for a moment I was glad he asked. I bought another tie – a purple number, although I’m sure it would rather be known as plum – and we had a conversation about iPhones, since I’d pulled mine out to check something. He loved his iPhone but was wanting the Flash, and could not to be understanding why the Flash was not a thing to be had. Then I walked outside to my car, and hello:

element1

 

It’s Castrol and Pollux! Another identical Element. It was slightly cleaner than mine. (I’m on the right.)  

I drove to the car wash. As I entered the wash, I turned off all the vents, recalling the conversation I’d had with the dealership’s manager. He had heard my complaint about the necessity to close the vents before running through a wash, and promised to get back to me. He had been so concerned. He was so grave when I told my tale. He never got back to me. Not even to offer an oil change. A while later the dealership announced they wouldn’t be doing any vehicle service on Saturdays. I understand; who has free time to run the car in on a Saturday? 

Drove to Target to get a few things. Returned to the car, and hello:

element2

I saw the couple get out of the car, and I stopped them in the parking lot. Asked them if they’d been at Southdale earlier. No, they hadn’t. But they liked to park their Element by identical ones when they saw them. 

Yours is so much cleaner, she said. 

I explained I had seen one cleaner than mine – I showed them the iPhone picture – and had been shamed into getting a wash. 

We parted as friends, the fraternity of the Green Element Owners. When I got to my car I noticed that they were from the District of Columbia. Wanted to run back to the store and ask them which neighborhood? How do you like it here? Because I know what it’s like. FREEDOM!

Without the whole pulling-out-your-guts-on-the-king’s-orders part. But Freedom nevertheless.

Later: Matchbook, and antique store finds. Stay tuned. 

 

48 Responses to Monday, Feb. 09

  1. Al Federber says:

    You have such tender sensibilites about so many subjects, but you can turn right around and say things that make me absolutely cringe.

    Why must you publicly slag on the “interchangeable young women” who cut your hair? Is it really necessary to announce that one of them is “a bit smarter than the rest”? Have a freakin’ heart, man.

    Re Mel Gibson movies: where was your love of the theme of “the individual against distant centralized authority” when you were giddily hosting Republican bigwigs at your home during the 2008 convention?

  2. carefulnow says:

    You must not ever listen to Dr. Laura. She does not exhort people to look into themselves. Dr. Phil maybe. Not Dr. Laura.

  3. Margaret says:

    Get a grip, Al. If you are over the age of 40 and get your hair cut by a tatooed 20 something at factory place, all the chicks are alike unless you happen to know one of them personally. And the conversation is generally painful unless you hit one who happens to be overeducated or on a second career. Hey 19.

    As for the big wigs–if you read the accounts you’d know that James’ party was for the bloggers and talk radio heads. I am sure that there was plenty of focus on the theme of individual vs. central authority.

  4. Pickypicky says:

    Too bad you didn’t give the Lileks fanbase a heads-up about your Coast to Coast gig. I’d have tuned in. I used to be a regular caller to Art Bell back in the late 80s, but drifted away from Coast as it drifted into the land of Weekly World News. Time-traveling space-alien ghosts with 100mpg carburators that cure AIDS with magnetized silver colloids can burn a guy out sooner than you’d think.

  5. mpbk says:

    I did not see the paragraph in totality as a slag on female hair stylists. There’s aching empathy in the metaphor “a butterfly held in a case by a long sharp pin”.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t recall James mentioning any DC politicians showing up at his house.

  6. Dave says:

    mpbk, you don’t recall JL writing about the night that Newt, Fred, Mitt and Rudy visited Jasperwood for an evening of Parcheesi and stogies?

  7. Steam McQueen says:

    OF COURSE the Russian at Macy’s was unfriendly. Customer service is not something that Russians come by naturally.

    Not surprised you had a conversation about the iphone. To a Russian, a phone is more than a tool, it is a status symbol, which is why in Russia they get new ones every six months.

  8. ScottG says:

    It would have been much more cool had you been on Space Ghost Coast to Coast….

  9. Todd says:

    James:

    I also drive a green Element (Metallic Kiwi, they call it). My kids call it the Green Toaster.

    This is:

    A) Proof I’ve been reading you too many years, and now am subconsciously emulating you. Soon I’ll be stalking you to find out what brand doggie treats you buy;

    B) An example of “Great minds think alike”; Or

    C) A complete coincidence.

    Of course the answer is … hold a sec. Gotta feed the dog.

    “Here Jasper! C’mon boy!”

    I kid. I kid. It’s C. But for the record, I’ve never had another green Element driver park next to me. Weird.

  10. James says:

    Maybe nowadays, in the era of total car alarm coverage, this can’t happen anymore: but when I bought my first car in the early 90′s (a black ford taurus) I was one of the few select 34,945,493 owners. At least 2-3 times a year I would jam my keys into the lock and curse at my inability to open the door. Of course, I was attemting to open another’s car, but it was amazing how many times it happened.

    I wonder if cowboys in the old days ever experienced the problem of mounting “their” trusted steed, only to be confused by the horse’s refusal to obey the “giddyup” command. “what’s wrong with this infernal nag!…oh wait…”

  11. James says:

    …re: haircuts. As a 30-something, I appreciate any 20-year old talking to me, touching my head…anything, tatooed or not.

    As I read in a classic National Lampoon years ago regarding the signs of male aging:

    Age 30 – Become officially invisible to 18-year old girls.

  12. GardenStater says:

    Well, maybe a 30-year-old is invisible to 18-year-old girls, it’s true.

    But a 48-year-old is repulsive to them.

    Unless he’s got lots of money….

  13. DrBear says:

    There’s only one thing better than being recognized…and that’s to have somebody tell you they heard good things about you, especially if that somebody is your wife of less than a year. True story; she was working the overnight shift at Kinko’s when the local cop came in to check on her as he did occasionally (good police work there). She had her full name on the name tag, just her first, and he noticed…
    “Do you know a (me)?”
    “Yes, he’s my husband.”
    “Wow! I’ll have to tell everybody I met a celebrity’s wife!”
    (And THAT was when I was doing a weekly column on the distant No. 2 paper in town. Now both the paper and Kinko’s have been swallowed up and gone.)

  14. Patrick says:

    I get that funny feeling whenever I drive down the road and see another car exactly like mine, a silver 2005 Ford Focus ZX4 4-door sedan. I try to look in the car to see who’s driving. If it’s a driver of the female species, I try to see how attractive she looks. If it’s a male, I try to sum him up to see if we would make great buddies.

    A couple of times I’d accidentally gotten into the wrong car. It was mainly because the color and the shape was the same. Half the time it would be the wrong brand.

  15. Bob says:

    “It’s like being hosed down with warm ambrosia.”
    Good thing I was in between sips of coffee, I would have a big mess on my computer screen right now.

  16. Bob says:

    Incidentally, isn’t it “Castor” , not “Castrol”?
    Unless of course, that’s the triplet brother who’s kind of greasy and no one talks about.

  17. Static says:

    Element – any color – ICK

  18. wiredog says:

    I bought my Element (“Sunset Orange”) back in ’05 when the lower half was still all plastic. Never had problems with the vents freezing, but here in NoVa (McLean) it’s a bit warmer then Minnesota is. Hardly saw any Elements on the road until I bought it, then I saw them everywhere.

    Got the roof rack so I’d have a place to strap surfboards.

  19. Ken says:

    I knew right away that your car was the one on the right. How? The other one is not between the lines and I just couldn’t see you doing that ;)

  20. Gibbering Madness says:

    Incidentally, isn’t it “Castor” , not “Castrol”?

    A joke on the color of the vehicle. Castrol’s trade dress is green.

  21. stacylane says:

    In the first Double Element picture, of course the Lileks Mobile is the one on the right. The one on the left appears to be illegally parked. You would never, and if you unintentionally did, you’d save it for a column.

  22. swschrad says:

    errands could be fun. mine were multiple trips to Menards, we’re gutting and redoing the bathroom. field-dressing it. I need a nice, long, soothing soak in the whirlpool. except that’s why we’re gutting the can, to build one in.

  23. James February 9th, 2009 | 4:26 am

    Maybe nowadays, in the era of total car alarm coverage, this can’t happen anymore: but when I bought my first car in the early 90’s (a black ford taurus) I was one of the few select 34,945,493 owners. At least 2-3 times a year I would jam my keys into the lock and curse at my inability to open the door. Of course, I was attemting to open another’s car, but it was amazing how many times it happened.

    My Dad got in and started another 66 Impala SS after a brew at his old watering hole (The Hilltop!). Wasn’t so much that he was in the glow of the beer, but more to the point that other Impala (a clone!) was parked in his usual parking spot. At least he didn’t bring it home.

    Discovered in 91 that the key to my Mustang would unlock and start my buddy’s Bronco. Of course I would swing by his office every few weeks to start it up and move it to the other side of the parking lot…

  24. Al Federber says:

    @Margaret – “…all the chicks [who cut hair in malls] are alike unless you happen to know one of them personally.” Sorry, but people aren’t all alike, even if you and Mr. Lileks choose to superficially think otherwise. Even if one thinks such things, to yap about it in mixed company is pretty callous.

    As for Mr. Lileks’ 2008 Republican bash, I recall him gleefully bleating that Dick Armey was in his back yard! I’d turn on the sprinklers and call the dogcatcher if Armey appeared on my lawn, and I’m not even a Democrat.

    Mr. Lileks has been an apologist for centralized authority and the expansion of empire at least since 9/11. To hear him now tout individual rights in opposition to such authority rings a bit hollow.

  25. roger h (bgbear) says:

    Al Federber, oh so grumpy, keep sticking it to the man, man, the darn hypocrites.

    Time for Monty Python reference:

    Brian: You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves. You’re all individuals!
    FOLLOWERS:
    Yes, we’re all individuals!
    BRIAN:
    You’re all different!
    FOLLOWERS:
    Yes, we are all different!
    DENNIS:
    I’m not.
    ARTHUR:
    Shhhh.
    FOLLOWERS:
    Shh. Shhhh. Shhh.
    BRIAN:
    You’ve all got to work it out for yourselves!
    FOLLOWERS:
    Yes! We’ve got to work it out for ourselves!
    BRIAN:
    Exactly!
    FOLLOWERS:
    Tell us more!
    BRIAN:
    No! That’s the point! Don’t let anyone tell you what to do!

  26. roger h (bgbear) says:

    On cars. December 2007 we bought a new/used 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid, gray metallic for my wife. It is the first real “belly button” (everyone has one) car we have owned. I see a near identical one about once a week.

    This past December I got a new/used 2007 Mercury Milan for my commute. I assumed as my first American car, it would be fairly common. I have yet to see another of any color. Closest is a Ford Fusion about once a week.

    Outside of truck, minivans, and SUVs, US cars are not very common here on the left coast.

    I feel like an individual ;)

  27. Gibbering Madness says:

    Sorry, but people aren’t all alike, even if you and Mr. Lileks choose to superficially think otherwise. Even if one thinks such things, to yap about it in mixed company is pretty callous.

    Have you ever had your hair cut at a mall chain? Employee turnover is so great that you’re not particularly likely to ever get the same person twice. Cosmetologists often come from a similar background, and those will tend to look alike, act alike, and be of the same age.

    But then, you’re not really interested in reality, are you? If you can identify Offense, then you can identify Victims! And if you can identify Victims, then you are the Right Sort of Person!

    I’d turn on the sprinklers and call the dogcatcher if Armey appeared on my lawn, and I’m not even a Democrat.

    I’d extend a cold courtesy to anyone from Barack Obama to Kim Il Jong who appeared on my lawn, rather than “turn on the sprinklers”, but I guess that’s the difference between being a grownup and a politicizing hipster.

  28. Carolyn says:

    Re: getting recognized. For a long time I wrote a column for our local weekly paper. I would get feedback sometimes when out and about and also sort of felt surprised that anyone was reading.

    My elderly dad lived with us in those days and once had a major health crisis in the middle of the night. We called 911. After the medics stabilized him and loaded him onto a stretcher, one of them turned to me and said, quite cheerfully: “I love your column.”

    I basked in the ambrosia glow of fame while cleaning the blood from the bathroom floor.

  29. If you are ever in Cincinnati and park your Green Element by mine, wait for me and I’ll buy you a bottle of Balvenie if you’ll autograph your books for us.
    Bon Lundi!
    Mary

  30. Al Federber says:

    @Gibbering – But I AM “interested in reality”. It’s just that I try not to let my reality be determined by making assumptions based on superficialities.

    Also, I’m not into the whole PC victimhood culture, so there’s another one of your assumptions gone wrong.

  31. roger h (bgbear) says:

    I am om Al’s side. It is annoying when some people lump other people into like thinking groups:

    “And it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,”

  32. Ben-David says:

    My dad had a sky-blue AMC Pacer for a time. Other Pacer owners would toot their horns as they passed.

  33. definitemaybe says:

    I would definitely turn the sprinklers on Kim Jong Il . . . Obama and tattooed hair stylists get hosed down with warm ambrosia!

  34. roger h (bgbear) says:

    “I would definitely turn the sprinklers on Kim Jong Il”

    I might to but, not out of hostility, I just want to see if his pompadour stays up.

  35. Bob Dole's Communist Doppelganger says:

    If I see Kim Jong Il on my lawn, I think I’d rub my eyes, blink a couple of times, and theatrically toss away a jug marked “xxx”.

    Though somebody keeps getting into my trash, and I’m pretty sure it’s Mugabe. Or raccoons.

  36. John says:

    We were visiting my grandparents once in the late 80′s when my mom, sister and grandmother took the old Lincoln out for a quick shopping trip. We got a call to come rescue them from a parking lot down the street because the car was acting possessed.

    The car was running, but half of the electrical systems weren’t working. The electric windows and radio wouldn’t work and the windshield wipers would randomly turn on for a few minutes and then go off.

    Turns out they were using the key to a Winnebago. It actually unlocked the door and started the engine. Crazy!

  37. grs says:

    A friend of my mother’s, staying with us for a few weeks long, long ago, borrowed our car, a big Olds convertible, to register her kids in school. She drove back with somebody else’s similar-looking big Olds convertible. I asked whose car that was in our driveway. My mom’s friend thought I was teasing her. Things may have changed in recent times, but historically there haven’t been very many key combinations for car ignitions.

  38. roger h (bgbear) says:

    Lack of key combinations was true of old Volkwagen beetles as well and compounded as the pins in the locks wore down.

    I had a friend get locked out of his beetle once and was quite upset. I comely walked over, asked the guy with the coat hanger to step aside and opened the door with my mom’s VW key.

  39. Alec says:

    I suppose it comes off a bit condescending, but I don’t think James meant any disrespect about hairstylists. He captured a real sentiment about their position in society that I think many share. It’s more like pity, which I guess can be construed as condescending.

  40. roger h (bgbear) says:

    Good point Alec and I like to add that the “parade” of young people flowing through the hair cafeterias can actually mean a few things.

    Other than just giving up on the hair biz, they could be moving on to more independent shops where they will have a chance to be more of an individual and have real relationships with their customers.

    No pity needed, no condescending attitude required.

    :)

  41. RLR says:

    Last “hair cafeteria” ‘do I received put my spouse in stitches for 15 minutes. (She called me Mullet Boy for a month afterwards.)

    I got a set of clippers, a couple of mirrors, and learned to DIY. Things got even easier after I got hold of a Flowbee.

    I’m one of those guys James makes fun of in his 70s books. You should see my bottlecap collection, nailed to the wall.

  42. Is there any way of getting a listen to that Coast to Coast interview without signing up? I mean, it’d be highly entertaining, but I can’t fathom shelling out precious cash when I could have recorded it for free had I been paying attention. I guess it could be considered “ignorance tax”

  43. GardenStater says:

    I stopped going to “salons” years ago. Now I go to Bob’s Barbershop, where Bob and his son Mike open the doors at 6AM every Saturday, and serve coffee and doughnuts to the crowd of regulars (which includes me and my 12-year-old son, who likes how Mike does a Marine fade). It’s an old-fashioned place, with lots of good-natured bantering, and piles of car magazines and Playboys. Twelve bucks for a cut, and all the coffee you can drink. Try getting that at a mall salon!

  44. Ben-David
    February 9th, 2009 | 11:26 am

    My dad had a sky-blue AMC Pacer for a time. Other Pacer owners would toot their horns as they passed.

    I know James may think otherwise, but, because misery loves company?

  45. Lily says:

    Todd the answer to A. is Frosty Paws.

    I do not drive an Element. I have a plum colored Scion which people often confuse with Elements, but Scions are smaller and cuter and even more toaster-like. Every time my husband gets out of the car he feels compelled to to announce to anyone in the vicinity, “It’s my wife’s car.” There are very few Scions in my area, when I see one I always wave no matter what the color.

  46. Stephen B says:

    I want to Balvenie.

  47. Stacy says:

    Always late to the party, I am.

    Only Scions are “toasters,” to be referred to in the most derogatory tone of voice available. Elements are cool, hip, boxy (but good). I have a silver one (my orange one having been turned upside down by a rude minivan), husband drives an orange one with dark panels.

    We’ve driven them since they came off the line in 2003, and still fondly recall when Element owners would gleefully wave at each other in passing, as if to say, “Hey, you were cool and hip enough to buy a car shaped like a box, too!”

    It was with great joy I noticed yesterday a new couple moving into the neighborhood…parked in the driveway an apple green Element and a burgundy SC Element (*sniff*). I suppose we shall have to be Best Friends.

  48. [...] When I got to the register I apologized for not having my Eddie Bauer Friends card, and the clerk said she could find me – whereupon one of the clerks, to my amazement, said “Oh, Jim’s in the system. …Page 2 [...]

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