MAY Part 2
Rain. RAIN. Finally. I’m on the porch, listening to the rain hammer the roof. The storm came up so quickly I had no time to run outside and shut off the sprinkler, so I went in the basement and cut off the water from within. There’s nothing so pathetic as a sprinkler sprinkling in the rain. Or perhaps deluded. Fine; you do it your way, Mr. Overkill Clouds, and I’ll do it my way, which is much more artistic.

There’s a huge hole in the porch roof. Again. That’s why I had this thing replaced a few years ago. Well, at least the bastard who did such a miserable job ended up in stir for defrauding another customer. I’d say he belongs in hell, but you’re hesitant to send bad contractors to a place where they already have so many friends.

I was at Restoration Hardware this afternoon, waiting for the Giant Swede to pick up some fans. Amused myself by reading the placards. Every item in this store has a small placard that tells the tale of this particular object. It’s unbearably precious. “We all remember the thumbtacks of childhood, with their shiny heads and enticing, yet dangerous, pointed ends. Now these thumbtacks are back, from the same factory that produced the famed Thumbtack #41 design of the mid 1950s. $49.00 a hundred.” Makes me want to strangle someone with a rough hemp rope, triple-braided in the style of British soldiers in India, who adopted the strangulation techniques from the local thuggees. . . See? It’s contagious. Well, I was looking at a Zeppelin Cocktail Shaker - just the sort of kitsch that spells Sophistication to their boomer clientele - and I noticed the text: Is it any coincidence that this Cocktail Shaker was in the shape of a zeppelin? Introduced in 1928, the nadir of the Jazz Age . . .”

Nadir? Zenith, acme, but nadir?

I pointed this out to a clerk, and she was delighted. Hah! One of these annoying little tales was IN ERROR! Best of all, she said the chain’s founder was coming in on Monday. She would point it out to him. Apparently he writes them himself. He’s quite pleased of them.

Watch your stores. I want to see if that gets changed. I want to be the man who, if nothing else, is known for this.

Spent yesterday doing yard work - scratching up the blasted grass, reseeding, adding fertilizer, then covering it all with this gauzy ghost-hide that lets in the sun but keeps out . . . well, I don’t know what it keeps out. I only know that last year I covered a patch with this stuff, and the grass grew back with such density that the mower groans when the blade hits the stuff. Although the mower will grown no more; Murray the Mulcher is dead. Oh, the engine works just fine, and that’s remarkable since Murray’s had about three molecules of oil over the last few years. The blade still cuts, even though I’ve run over enough sticks to build a wicker man. (Not to mention the stones I’ve hit and expelled out the side; one of them, I think, attained escape velocity and pinged off the Mir.) No, this was something else. As I pushed Murray (that’s the brand name) towards the side of the house, I noticed that one side of the handle seemed to be drooping somehow, as if it had fallen out of alignment; pushing the mower suddenly felt weird, and I thought: either the mower’s having a stroke, or I am. I yanked the handle back in place - and the right side of the handle snapped clean off. Metal fatigue. Oh, I can understand why - it’s the side where the pull-cord’s tethered. I must have yanked it, what, twice a week for five years? Yes, with all that abuse, it’s a wonder it lasted as long as it did.

This left me with a half-finished lawn and a mower whose maneuverability had been reduced substantially. Using the part of the handle that still remained, I managed to finishthe job, but it was neither easy nor fun. I’m saddened by this. I expected Murray and I would have many summers together. Yes, I could repair it, but something’s changed. The bond of trust has been severed. This was the last thing that should have broken. I can only fear what comes next.

Well, I have to get to work now. Have to prepare for my “facilitator” job - 7 PM, Edina Barnes & Noble (Galleria store), if any locals care to drop by and say hello, or stick a shiv between my miserable ribs, or both.


Went to Barnes & Noble tonight to facilitate a book-club discussion of Clockwork Orange. Note to self: in future, choose book that the regular participants can actually enjoy. Small point, but an important one.

Went home. Cool evening. Last weekend’s summer has given way to this week’s spring, and the temps are back where they should be. It’s cool, in comparison; it’s mild, as it ought to be; it STINKS since I want it to be hot now and forever. The wet cool wind at sunset felt like the clammy feel of a burial shroud. Or so I presume. I don’t make a habit of trying on burial shrouds. Wouldn’t even know where to go if I wanted to.

Having spent the morning opening every window in the house, I spent the evening closing them all again. Turned on the heat. Put on a long-sleeved shirt. Fifty degrees now feels like twenty. I tell you, adjusting to the climate here is like living during a power struggle - you never know which faction will triumph, so you keep your head low and go about your business.

Had an exceptional series of dreams this morning, although only one really remains. I was walking from Mexico to Minnesota. Along the journey I was joined by a wolf. In retrospect, I am saddened to be a rational, empirical Lutheran sort of fellow; were I a member of a different ethnic troupe, this dream would have far more importance. Was the wolf my brother? Was he the Trickster? Was he the spirit of James Carville or Lee Atwater? If so, how is that different from the Trickster? In any case, he was hungry, and I wanted to give him something to eat, but I was wary of him as well. We entered a town, and I searched for a supermarket that sold dog food. I explored two small stores, each of which was cramped, narrow, and unchanged since their construction in the 50s. I found some food and fed the wolf, whereupon he vanished into the shadows.

The town was reminiscent of the late-night landscapes you see in Cops - old, deserted, lit by pools of reddish light, exhausted and peaceful, too tired or drunk to make trouble. I kept walking. I found the highway and walked some more, until I caught a ride with a trucker. I learned I’d walked all of three miles for the entire dream, and I burst out laughing: BANG, awake.

I looked at the clock; I’d overslept.

Jasper was awake as well. He looked at me with those patient eyes, and I thought: that’s what the entire dream was about. I need to get up and give the dog some kibble. No more profound than that.

On the other hand, “Life is a long journey and our progress is t shorter than we think; what matters is that one feeds the wolf that walks beside you” could be a best-selling inspirational poster. If it was illustrated appropriately. Plus, it's true.

Over the weekend I watched some movies. Watched “Batman” for the third time - once in the theater (Grandview in St. Paul), once on video when it came out, and now on a crappy, muddy DVD. Several thoughts:

1. It could have been so much better, and given all that’s wrong with it, why isn’t it a bad movie? In the end, it works; in the end, it overcomes what drags it down . You don’t know if it’s Burton fighting against what the studio wants, or whether it’s Burton succeeding against what the studio wants.

2. Kim Basinger: as an actress, her performance was mostly hair, but oy, stop the press.

3. Keaton: appeared to be acting in a much more serious movie, and consequently gave the film an anchor. I remember when the casting was announced; everyone thought - aww, no, this is gonna SUCK, but then we saw Keaton; he not only owned the role from the first few scenes, he was perfect in every scene thereafter. The role required someone who could express bottomless disdain and derision entirely through his upper lip, and Keaton obliged. Even the scenes that were played for laughs in the trailer (“Alfred, let’s go shopping.” - I remember seeing that, and thinking, no, no, don’t play for this camp value, please) were sober in context. Batman needs a certain intense contempt, and Keaton pulled it off.

5. Robert Wuhl seemed too happy to be in the movie. I didn’t mind him then but he annoys me now.

6. The first 30 minutes of the movie are quite flat - bad, bad dialogue looping, bad dialogue as well, plus the expectation-leaching presence of Lando Dee Williams. Nicholson’s first scene with Ms. Jagger is flat and slack, and we’re not reacting to a character; we’re reacting to Nicholson. (Doesn’t help that his character is named Jack.) You don’t entirely give up on the movie, and you’re rewarded for that. But it still feels flat until the battle at Axis chemicals. This would seem to indicate large script problems, fixed in post production.

7. Manliest by-god manly scene in the whole manly movie: Bruce Wayne telling Vicki Vale he’ll get to her later. “I’d love to. But he’s out there. And I’ve got to go to work.” Great, great scene. Very little there, and every syllable and every frame does the job.

8. Final verdict: for all its flaws, and they are legion, it has some moments of great power, and you forget you’re watching a movie about a man in a rubber suit. I wonder if Burton was ambivalent about the project - n the second movie, he sucked all the mythic heroism from the story, andmade it loud, vulgar and tiresome . . .but I haven’t seen that one since I first saw it in DC.

The third one bored me. I will not watch the fourth one.

Then watched “Galaxy Quest,” about which you can’t say much; a big happy idiot grin suffices. Movies rarely make me laugh out loud; this one did. Generous, warm-hearted, smart where it should be smart and silly when required. Followed it with a documentary on Coney Island . . .but that’s another Bleat. It’s Monday, a column night.

And I have to go to work.


I have a meeting Wednesday @ noon, and I’ll be damned if I know where it’s supposed to be. I have an idea. But I’m not sure. I wrote down the name, address, phone number, contact, and directions. But that piece of paper has vanished. Just - vanished. So what do I do? I had a vague recollection of the company’s name. It had Minnesota in the title. Or Midwestern. Narrows it down, eh? But I remembered that they were the only company in town that distributed a certain product . . .which was, what, again? THINK. Then it came to me: Muzak! No. Mujik? Muslix? Mucilage? I kept plugging in variants into various search engines (+ minnesota) until I got a bingo on a certain company. The address looks right. So tomorrow I’ll show up and say Hi, I’m me; does this mean anything to you?

On the off chance this company reads today’s Bleat: please, send e-mail your address again. Thanks.

Impostors will be cruelly disciplined.

This morning the solution to the main index page problem came to me in a dream. It was perfect. Perfect! This was it! I woke with a start - sat up in bed, Eureka! Jasper, at the foot of the bed, looked up in alarm. I\ tried to fix the idea in my brain. Some times you wish you could just print out thoughts - use the physical equivalent of a key combination (press fingers simultaneously over left eye, right ear and chin) and get some hard copy you could use the next day.

I was now awake. Fully. Utterly. Why? Birds. Ah, right, spring. G’d’m fargin’ boids, screeching at the dawn. This bird had the annoying tone and tempo of someone who regularly writes letters to the editorial page:



Scrye! I had that awful fear that I would never get back to sleep, and the rest of the day was doomed. I got up, turned on the humidifier - it’s been bone dry for weeks, but the sound is soothing - and sure enough I fell asleep. My last thoughts were: what was that index page solution again?

But I remembered it when I woke. Laid it out, looked it over.
It stinks.

SCRYE! Fargin’ birds.

A cool night; Benny Goodman on the headphones now. The upstairs smells like wet dog. Jasper came bounding home tonight from his walk; as is his custom he came up the stairs barking, looking for me, ready to play. That is the Order of Things. Sara comes home; he gets scraps; there is the Inexplicable Interregnum during which Nothing Happens, then he gets the walk, the great glorious Opportunity when he can find things in the woods, splash in the creek, sniff other dogs, etc. Then, when he gets home, it’s combat with Mr. Alpha, followed by a Frosty Paws, and that’s IT for the day. So he comes up the stairs tonight, rope in maw, and he has that ripe dog smell that usually indicates he’s been slobbered over by a dozen other mutts. We play for a while, and end up outside, where Sara is snipping lilacs from the bushes. “Did he get to play with other dogs?” I ask. “He smells like it.”

“That’s not other dogs,” she said. “He found a dead bird.”

I look back at Jasper, who’s grinning that happy bright-eyed LET’S GO! look. Life’s GOOD! I stink like DEAD BIRD! Later I’ll EAT POOP!

So I run up inside, up the stairs, and naturally he follows. Into the bathroom. Close the door. He knows exactly what this means. Ears flat, tail down: search for the bolthole. He goes into the closet and hides. No good. Into the tub. Bath.

He’s sitting a few feet away now. I think I’m forgiven. The day begins and ends the same way: birds and dogs. There are worse formulas.


Where in this great wide globe is Mr. John Solowinski, son of Ray and Bryn? He’d be 48 this year.

Perhaps he’s reading these very words. Stranger things have happened. . . Well, no, they haven’t, to be honest, but it’s possible. Someone might know John Solowinski, son of Ray and Bryn, and tell him that a web page in Minnesota blurted out his name for no particular reason. And why am I bringing this up? It keeps me from thinking about The Kittens. I have before me an issue of “American Home,” July 1957. It’s a fascinating document all around, as these old magazines are; it has a long article on the Kitchen Computer of the Future, the XPC-1. It’s a GE product. The prototype looks to be the size of a boxcar; inside, frozen slabs of food plod through a warren of tubes and tunnels, blasted by microwaves until they are extruded from the other side, hot hard and irradiated. Cook an entire meal - in 35 minutes! the story says. It even has a picture of the Harried Housewife (who, in The Future, will work in an office as well as maintain a home) sitting down to savor an unfiltered cigarette with her chinless eunuch hubby while they wait for the Asparagus of Tomorrow to be delivered.

I just showed the article to Sara, and she howled. It makes you wonder which items in today’s magazines will seem preposterous in 40 years. Palms, phones, stereos, separate PCs - stuff like that, I think. When you think about it, having a discrete PC on my desk is like having a power generator in the corner, providing juice for this room.

Anyway. On the back of the magazine there’s an ad for Big Top peanut butter - the name, of course, makes the natural connection between creamed legumes and itinerant entertainment troupes. (Maybe it’s the elephant connection, but there are no elephants on the label. Just a scary clown.) The ad is a reassurance to mothers that they’re not short-shrifting the household tykes when they hand them peanut-butter sandwiches. Oh, no: 9 out of 10 clip-art nutritionists (there’s a small illustration of a man in a medical smock) support Big Top. Why, it’s equal to THIS MEAL - and here the ad shows a hot dog wrapped in bacon.

I could weep, really; oh, for the days when they reassured us in this fashion. Don’t worry - peanut butter sandwiches (with butter, on white) are just as good as bacon-wrapped minced sphincter-meat spiced and stuffed in an intestinal casing!

But it’s the kittens that worry me. At the bottom of the ad, there’s a woman serving peanut-butter sandwiches to kittens. I wouldn’t mind so much except that she’s drawn in a different style than the kittens, which makes it all the more alarming. When I blew the illustration up, I noticed that she’s staring straight ahead, as though the horror of the moment is too overwhelming.

Which brings us to John.
The magazine contains, for no apparent reason, a story about a commuting couple in New York. She’s a model, he’s a photographer - they work in Manhattan, but go home to a wonderful renovated farmhouse in the countryside. Ten minute cab ride to Penn station, 35 minute train ride home, ten minute car ride to their farmhouse. It was a wreck when they bought it, but now - after a whopping two grand - it has a new exterior, a two-car garage and a darkroom. Pink shutters! Good for them, don’t you wish you were them, next page, keep reading, Mrs. America; keep reading and dreaming.

What became of this couple? Ray, the magazine photographer. (“Thirty covers to his credit.”) Byrn, the Lovely Wife who’d be scraping up against seventy now or in thenext few years. (Ray looks as if he had ten years on his wife.) They both fit that WASPy Cheeveresque cliche that took so much grief - the people who flee the city for a joyless life of cocktails, Pall Malls and infidelity - but it all looks mighty fine from here. The couple is shown standing at the gate in Penn Station. Which is gone. Maybe they’re gone, too. The magazine is falling apart.

It would be nice to know if John’s still around. Bonus points if he’s working for the circus, or selling peanut butter.


Words do not describe, but will be used nevertheless for that very purpose to detail, my hatred of the new Gap ads. They use music I like, which is the first sin; for years I had to turn off the United Airlines commercials because they used the climax of “Rhapsody in Blue.” There was a brokerage house that used Beethoven’s Chorale, which is a rough draft of the 4th movement of the 9th; had to turn the TV off. There are some pieces of music that must be parceled out over a lifetime, and you don’t want to spend their impact willy-nilly. Or, worse yet, have someone else spend it for you.

The Gap ads use West Side Story music. They set up two opposing camps: khakis and jeans. Are you a khaki? Are you a jean? the ads ask. Right there, my teeth grind. Right there, I become the sartorial equivalent of a lefty gender-studies prof: why, pants are a social construct, and my identity is a fluid concept. I may be khakis in one situation, jeans with another. The first ad I saw used the music from the gym dance, where the Sharks and Jets declared an entente cordial prior to perforating one another with various knives. The ad irritated me from the start - just a batch of silly white people leaping around wearing dramatic scowls. It stank of high-school theatrics - and it made West Side Story look like a documentary, which takes some doing.

Tonight I saw another spot; it used the song “Cool.” Tag line: Are you a khaki?

Well. Since “Cool” was sung by the Jets, I guess that means that khakis are for whites, and jeans are for Puerta Rickins. Right? RIGHT? Cue the band! Assemble the ethnic types on the roof for a rousing paean to Gap, sung to the tune of “America” :

(WOMEN:) I like to be in a Mall Gap Store
Everything bright in Mall Gap Store
I feel all right in Mall Gap Store
(MEN:) Those jeans look too tight in the Mall Gap Store!

(WOMEN:)I love the socks and the cute shoes
(MEN:)Same boring crap’s at the J. Crew’s
(WOMEN:)I don’t want lycra or spandex
(MEN:)Dress like the ads and we’ll have sex!

(WOMEN:)Here is the rack of what’s hot now.
(MEN:) Just ‘cause it’s hot I should kow tow?
(WOMEN:) This pastel ensemble is SO nice -
(MEN:) Next week it’ll be here for half price . . .

(WOMEN:) I like to be in a Mall Gap Store
Gamins and dinks in a Mall Gap Store
No need to rob Brinks at the Mall Gap Store
(MEN:) The detailing STINKS at the Mall Gap Store!

And so forth.

Elsewhere today: Rain. Drizzle. Dankosity, dim skies, clamminess. Miserable. Back to May as we’ve known it for the last four years. I had a John -Henry headache for most of the day, which made writing no fun at all. Took a walk to clear my head. Went to the magazine store for computer magazines, went to Barnes & Noble to spend the store credit I got for Monday’s appearance. Bought the hardcover of “New York 1880,” which completes my collection. I hadn’t intended to buy it - just wanted to see what was new in the architecture section. As I picked it up, I heard a voice: “Excuse me.” I looked up - a gorgeous black woman in a thick jacket that said SECURITY was staring at me. I thought: there are USENET groups devoted entirely to this moment, right here. Dear, I couldn’t believe my luck when -

“Yes?” I said.

“How would I go about getting a career in interior design?” she said.

Think carefully. This might be a trick question. But before I could answer, she said:

“I’ve been doing this for five years, okay, and I don’t want to do it forever.” She pointed to the SECURITY patch on her jacket. “But I don’t know how to like, get anyone to get me to do their, okay, like interior design.”

Why on earth was she asking me? I was standing there with a book called "New York 1880" in my hands; was I somehow sending off Interior Design Vibes? Ahhh!!! Gay panic! Quick: deepen voice! Stare at her breasts! Dive! Dive!
I suggested she get some schooling - some technical training that would give her a piece of paper to wave in the face of prospective clients.

“You think so? Maybe. I just know I don’t want to do this forever. I’m 25.” She held up the book she’d been reading. “These guys make a lot of money. But how do you get to do this?” I looked at the cover: Movie Palaces of the 20s. I realized that she was, in her own special way, completely insane. You could just see it in the eyes. Scary-bright. Bezoomy. Nuts. Bonkorama. I was suddenly reminded of those horrible moments in single life, when you realize your date has just revealed some belief or characteristic that not only makes her completely unsuitable as a Partner for Life, but makes you want to suddenly juke left and run away. One of those moments where your date, who’s previously admitted that she loves classical music AND new wave, AND she smokes, AND she adores Star Trek, AND believes the nation should turn its financial resources towards space exploration, and do you want another drink? Why not? She leans back and grins and rubs a foot up your leg, then leans forward and whispers: has anyone ever told you about Scientology?

In retrospect, moments like this make me ever so happy & glad I am married to La Sarita Perfecta. Thank God. And L. Ron Hubbard!

Just kidding about the LRH part.

What a weekend en route. Friday night, I see - I hope - an old friend from the Daily days at the 100thanniversary of the Daily. She’s back from Georgia. As in Tiblisi. Saturday will be a Galaxy Quest moment non pariel. I did an “acting” job in a local Klingon-centric TV show, and it premieres Saturday at a sci-fi convention. I can’t wait to see it. I only hope my performance was as preposterously Shatnerian as I recall.

Makeup by Bill Hendricks, in case you’re curious.

And I thought she was crazy?

Yeah. Right. When you’re a geek . . . .you’re a geek all the way, from your first sci-fi con to your last dying day.