This graphic
was used in the July 1997 Bleat, and has been dragged out every year since. Holds up well. It was done without any filters - why, in those days, sonny, didn’t have none a’ yer fancy Extensis plug-ins! You had to clone and object and give it a 20 pixel-radius Gaussian blur. Didn’t have none a’ yer fancy Extensis plug-ins! And we liked it!

I still have the Black Cats, too. The labels, I mean. The fireworks, being illegal, were disposed of properly a long time ago. One at a time.

Although when fireworks are outlawed
, only every other person on the block will have fireworks. It’s Monday night, and from down the block I hear a few Black Cats. The occasional rocket. Hence the dog at my feet under my desk. When he heard the first BANG he came upstairs, ears flat, and sat about an inch from me. It’s like this every year. Tomorrow is Dog Hell.

And Human Heaven. Tomorrow: the cookout. Went to K-Mart for sausages. Kram-Am’s. Kramarchuk, a Northeast Mpls Eastern European Deli. Best sausage in the world, made on the premises. They should have a sign: Over 100,000 Miles of Filled Intestines Sold. Well, maybe not. But it’s a fixture in North Minneapolis, an institution, one of those places that was born in the post-war immigrant boom, hung on when the neighborhood hit the skids, and now provides Local Color for the hipsters rediscovering the neighborhood.

I hadn’t stopped in this part of town in a while. I used to live up there. From 1976 to 1985, the University area was my home base in Minneapolis - I moved around, but always came back to the East Bank. Never wanted to be more than a short walk from the gates of the campus, the great grand Mall, the river. I never really thought I’d live elsewhere. On lonely single Saturdays I used to drive elsewhere in town, and look at other neighborhoods, and wonder how the hell I’d ever manage to live among the lakes. I remember sitting at an intersection in the deepest burbs - 70th street and Penn - and thinking, this is just another world entirely. Now it’s just down the street. Now I’m here, and it’s the best place in the world -

But standing in a parking lot today I suddenly felt home, and everything I’d experienced since I left the U felt like a big game of let’s pretend. It was the strangest feeling, and not unwelcome. It was as if my entire life since I left the neighborhood was one long sprint, and now here I was again in the starter’s blocks. It felt good to know that I’d accomplished pretty much everything I wanted to do since I bolted from this place, and it was amusing to learn that it didn’t all matter half as much as I thought it would.

My neighbor across the street sells cigars; that’s one of his enterprises. He’s done all right in his career, and he’s sort of semi-demi-retired from law. He has a shop and an online business selling expensive cigars - a good niche, and a venture unlike to end up as just another crash-and-burn-rate story. I’d order from his site, but, well, he lives across the street. I wanted a good ceegar for the Fourth, so I went over after supper. He opened up his humidor and displayed his wares, and all of a sudden it all seemed like a dope deal. Hey, man, que pasa. Hey man, whatchoo want? I got thai stick, I got hash, I got this primo Columbian. I bought a lovely torpedo, chewed the fat about neighborhood matters, and was heading out when he showed me a matching lighter for that particular brand of cigar. Nice, nice lighter. But it’s still what we used to call “paraphernalia.”

I dreamed I smoked a cigarette last night. I was in an office park, and there was a fellow in a good suit sprawled on the ground, surrounded by a white chalk outline. Not a good augur, I suppose. I went through his pockets, and found a cigarette. For some reason I decided that it was custom-made, and not for me, but I could get one inside the office building. So I went in. The door was answered by my cousin Keith, who was the size of Andre the Giant. (He smoked; his brother smoked; their father, my uncle, smoked, and his father smoked. A trip to the farm was a trip to the land of Old Golds and Winstons.) He saw me and laughed, because he was so big, and I was so small. I asked for a cigarette, and he gave me one - it was big, sloppily made, and already lit. I didn’t want it. I declined, and left.

It’s nice to be virtuous in your dreams.

< yesterday .