Couldn't have said it better myself

the BLEAT: 09 .25. 00

I lost it the other day. What frightened me - actually, no, what interested me, in a detached, removed way - was this: I’d not only lost it, I had no interest in finding it. Ever. If you’d put it in front of me, I’d have kicked it away. Shown me a map and offered me a thousand dollars to drive to it: forget it. I had lost it, and it was going to stay lost. It was going to make Chet Baker look like Rand McNally.

Reason: cumulative krep, a morning of aggro coming after six thin hours on the f#@*in sofa again. I had been on the phone with tech support for an hour, shunted between techs, given all sorts of ridiculous information; I’d finally snapped that I had racked up five hours of time attempting to download this software: I could have driven to Fargo, bought it, boarded a plane, flown home and it would have taken less time. In the middle of this someone beeped in, and I was expecting a business call, so I took it. It was a well-meaning relative checking up on Things. How Things were, how Things were going. I was rather clipped, and described how Gnat had once again been difficult over night.

“Well, why don’t you just put her in the bassinet in the other room?”

Snap! A small, tiny sound; a caterpillar’s toe-bone. Snap!

You want to talk to Sara? I said. Hmm? You want to tell her this? I’m heading up now. Going upstairs with the phone. You tell her.

Ah - ah, I’ll call back.


I’d better hang up.

Fine. CLICK!

Grr! People! World’s full of ‘em! Nosy sacks of meat!

Jasper looked at me with curiosity.


Right: walk. Well. I went upstairs and changed into the day’s uniform. The pants were too tight. They’d probably been tight before. I haven’t tried on pants before I bought them for years. I just figure, same size. I’m sure I’m the same size I was in DC, when I still smoked eight packs a day, walked six miles a day and lived in a constant state of nervous dread. But I’m not that size anymore. These pants - felt - tight. I was fat. I’d become fat. I looked at myself in the mirror: fat! FAT! FAT as I was in junior high, when I was THE FAT KID! Now I was going to be THE FAT GUY for the rest of my life. I hooked my hands in the pants - yanked - ping! the button shot across the room. Ah! Felt good! Take that, pants! Hah! I took the pants off - grabbed fistfuls of fabric - yanked - RRrrrrrrip! Ah! Feels even BETTER! I shredded the pants - turned to the closet, looked at all the other pants.


Took out a pair of black pants. Too tight! Take ‘em off! Grab ahold! Yank! RRRrrrrrrip! AHAHAHAHAHA

Stopped. Put on the jeans that fit. Went downstairs with a large wad of ripped pants tucked under my arm.

“Oh, my,” said Sara.

“I’m FAT.”

“You’re not fat. Here. Take her. I have to have breakfast.”

I took darlin’ dotter in my arms; she looked up at me with a vague expression of discontent, then threw up about three cups of milk on my new, pressed, perfect shirt.

At that moment - at that exact moment - I found It again, and I started to laugh. The day was whistles and grins from then until slumber.

the BLEAT: 09 .26. 00

All available fingers crossed at Lileks Manor tonight: we may have discovered a way to keep Gnat quiescent during the night. At a garage sale today a neighbor gave Sara an old busted Sharper Image Soothing Sound machine - the adult version of the Soothing Sounds Bouncing Bassinet, except that the Bassinet is an infant’s version of Magic Fingers vibrating mattress. By “busted,” I mean it only has two sounds. Crashing Waves, and Periodically Intensifying Rain. They are virtually indistinguishable. But today Sara learned that the vacuum cleaner knocked Gnat out cold; when the neighbor offered this unit, she thought: perhaps. Maybe. If there is a God, and that God is not just SCREWING WITH US by giving us this lovely little pure perfect infant, and then making her, and us, stay up all night.

Last night Sara handed me Gnat and said “I need at least four hours of sleep.” I looked at the clock. It was one AM. Well, then. Let’s get cracking. Gnat was just starting a shriekfest, suffering as usual the Knives of Gas. Naught I can do about that. I can walk her around, change the position, turn on a light, but it all provides no more than a few seconds’ respite. Then she is once more convulsed with the hideous pain of digestion. It’s not colic, thank that not-screwing-with-us God. Colic is wall to wall, it’s Cinerama, it’s epic, it’s the bottom of the sea and the top-top-toppermost of the troposphere; this comes, and it goes. Waves. A nodule of digested milk makes a turn, and jabs an elbow in her innards: Wah. Wah! WAAAAAAH! Then there is a lull. Were this a war, we’d break out harmonicas and cigarettes, trade pictures of our Best Girl, listening for the distant WHUMP that prefaces the next assault. There wasn’t much I could do, entertainment-wise - so I watched a Fox News argument show. I hate these shows. Everyone yells. Might as well just listen to baby scream; at least she’s not lying about the impact of the estate tax.

She finally got peace at 2:00 AM. I couldn’t put her down, or she’d fuss and fret, so I watched a movie, periodically dropping back to cable to watch the ACME hour on Cartoon Network. Bless the modern world. Bless it. Tex Avery in the darkest hour.

The movie, in retrospect, might not have been the best father-daughter movie. I’d rented “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” last week during 49 cent movie day. Hadn’t seen it since it first came out. Remembered only that I was tremendously disappointed. I thought it was a stupid movie to make in the first place - a prequel? For heaven’s sake, why? We know what happened. I remember feeling all my hopes and good will slipping away with astonishing speed as I watched the movie. But that was a while ago. Maybe I was wrong.

Nope. But - but yes, I was wrong. Maybe. A bit. The first part of the movie tries SO hard to recapture that calm chilly TP flavor, with its humor and woody bizarrities. It blows it, big time, right off the bat, with the casting - Chris Isaak looks the part, but can’t act his way out of a cardboard guitar case - and the excessive Lynch Strangeness. The woman who shows up and does an interpretive dance about the nature of the case - oh, please. Please. Then all that nonsense is over, and it’s a Twin Peaks episode, and not a very good one, either. Bad writing, flat blocking and direction . . . every character’s reappearance reminded me of the moment in the first Star Trek movie when Spock walked on the bridge. It had been so many years. We had waited so long for this moment. And it was fatally inert.

But somewhere past the first dream sequence with the creamed corn, it gets good. And it gets much better than I thought. There’s a scene where we see Bob behind a dresser in Laura’s room, and damned if I didn’t jump. (Mrghm, Gnat said, then went back to sleep on my chest.) If I can still jump at the sight of Bob after 10 years, well, good for it and good for me.

The movie ended after four. I gave Sara another hour of sleep, put Gnat in the bassinet at 5:20, then slept on . . . the SOFA.

Which is to say I didn’t sleep at all.

the BLEAT: 09 .27. 00

Another night, another progression through the rote assemblage of duty and creation: Home. Cook dinner. In this case, nuke an icy brick of prefab food - Sara had leftovers from last night, and I microwaved an Indian entree. It was not all that Indian, but it did a nice impersonation. Cleaned up, fed dog, looked dog square in the eye: shall we walk? And so we did. Out into the twilight. Jasper went left, thinking: creek. I went right, thinking: video store. He paused, noted the change in direction, and then instinctively licked his chops. He gets treats when we go right. That much he knows.

En route he stopped to irrigate a hosta, and while he bestowed his golden commentary the owners of the house came out. They had dogs of their own - a mastiff the size of a humvee, and a tiny comma of a toy poodle.

“Your dogs average out to one ordinary-sized dog,” I said. We had a conversation while the dogs shoved snouts to butts, then we all strolled alone down the street, discussing the evening, the neighborhood, housing prices. Their neighbor had been trying to sell his house for months. No go. Too high. (We’d checked it out: too much knotty pine, even for a Twin Peaks Ironist, and a basement that looked as if it had been upholstered with a fabric derived from the fever dreams of drunken clowns.) They went down to the creek; we continued on. I saw another neighbor coming up the street with his two kids; he was pushing the stroller to the library. He’s a fine fellow, just the sort of father I hope to be; in one of those peculiar turns that characterizes my life, he listened to my old radio show before he moved into the neighborhood, so he knew practically everything there was to know before we met. We chatted; he went left to the library, and I went right to the video store.

Jasper knows what to do: around the corner to the counter, sit, look cute, wait: the clerk reaches into the box of Milk-Bones, tosses him a big one. It’s not enough. It’s never enough. Dogs only eat to get it out of the way so they can be ready to eat some more. I gathered up a week’s worth of videos - it was 50 cent night - and we left. Went to the liquor store for a bottle of British Pale Ale and a cigar, because a man ought to have such things on hand. They had a treat for Jasper, too. He puts his paws up on the counter and peers and pants: please! Everyone likes Jasper.

Or at least tolerates him.

Back home through the creek. Down the stairs, down forty steps to the dark gash that runs through the heart of the neighborhood. A month ago, it would have been light enough to see; now it’s scary and foreboding, if you don’t know the terrain. I do, and I have a dog, and a nice sharp pigsticker just in case I come across someone with the case of the stupids. But I never feel ill at ease down there. Eight o’clock, dark, but it’s still populated - panting runners, chatting couples, people with dogs. Dogs with people.

We get home. Rawhide chew for Jasper. Kiss wife, kiss goggle-eyed Gnat. Upstairs for a nap. Can’t: too many things to think about. But eventually I fall asleep . . . up 20 minutes later. To work. Designed four chapter templates for the Gallery book. On schedule for the deadline. Took time out to write a Lance Lawson story. Finished. Now: this. Later: mail.

Lance Lawson?

I’ve been writing a lot of fiction lately. For the last year I’ve been doing something I intended to call Matchbook Theater - I pick out an old matchbook from the collection (most of which was supplied by my friend & estate-sale expert Mr. George) and I write a story. The challenge: 30 minutes writing time, tops, no editing afterwards. That’s it. I’ve always planned to put these up on the web, with the understanding that we all know these are improvisations. Not polished fiction. This insulates me from criticism, and makes the actual achievements more impressive than they actually are.

Lately I’ve been working on a similar idea, writing stories to accompany Lance Lawson cartoons. These are little brain-teaser comics from the late 40s. I’ve written ten so far - same rules; 30 minutes, no editing - and I’ve had more fun with this project than anything in years. In fact, I think that’s the next direction for the site: fiction. Cheap free fiction, and lots of it.

And what of Curious Lucre, Audio Lint, the Permanent Collection of Impermanent Art, the Gateway Reconstruction Project, the U of M, and all the other promised additions?

I’ll say just this. Version 5.0 of this site has failed! Miserably! There’s only one way to fix the innumerable flaws and mistakes of, and that’s to start allll over again. From scratch. Plan it, build up back up and design it all over again. No more weekly updates: in v. 6.0, there will be Monthly Editions, with additions to all the various areas. No more hodgepodge accretions. There will still be the Daily Bleat; there will still be all the Institute, the Mpls site, the Jasper pages, and everything else. But only by starting all over again can I combat style drift, link rot and misspellelled horrors.

Why? WHY am I doing this? Because in the summer of 2001, the URL for this site is going on the back of the Gallery of Regrettable Food book, and I want this site to work in every single detail. So. That’s my fall and winter project. And if I keep turning out Lance Lawsons at the rate I’ve been doing lately, and I finish scanning & laying out all the other projects en route, 6.0 will be the version of the site I’ve always wanted it to be!

Just checked my e-mail - Amazon has shipped the new Star Trek first-person shooter.

Well, to hell with v. 6.0, then. I’m going to play.

Couldn't have said it better myself

the BLEAT: 09 .28. 00

Walking in the woods this morning with Jasp. Brilliant day, clear and sharp and warm, but warm in the fall sense - we recalculate the terms from now on. What was cool two months ago is a heat wave now. What’s cool tonight will be warm two months hence. The trees are still green, but it’s the wan green of early fall. It’s the equivalent of a portable radio left on in an empty house. Stick around. The batteries will run down soon enough.

Jasper was about to perform the morning deposit; he headed into the tall grass and sniffed for a spot to squirt the scat, then stopped:

A man came out of the creek. A man came through the tall grass. He had a cigar in one hand. Jasper, who normally barks hello, didn’t say anything.

“Amazing,” the man said, gesturing to the dry creek bed. “Never seen it like this.” He was right - the creek’s been dry for a week now, and I realized that habit had compelled me to make the same walk as usual, alongside the creek on one side, over the creek on the bridge, along the other side, over the bridge. Habit and exhaustion will do that to you.

The fellow was amiable; looked like a big burly academic type. (In retrospect, I realize that he reminded me of the actor who played the billionaire developer of Jurassic Park.) Turned out he was indeed an academic. We got to talking about a few issues; I learned he lived in a city out east that occasionally ran my national column. What the hell: let’s give it a try.

“These are some of the issues I talk about in my newspaper column, which I think runs in your town now and then.”

He asked my name; I gave it. He paused.

“I have your column on the Symbionese Liberation Army taped to my wall.”

Who-hoo! Score! Bingo! Bullseye! There’s nothing more pathetic than saying “perhaps you’ve read my work,” only to find of course that they haven’t. Which is why I rarely, ever, ever do it, because it’s usually a reminder that newspapers are not exactly the mass mass-medium we like to think they are. But this time: success!

I know, I know. Pathetic.

It was immunization day at the clinic. A nice tanned blonde nurse came into the room, smiled, and drove FOUR RAILROAD SPIKES into my little baby’s body. We’ve been watching all night for signs of adverse reactions to the shots.

“Do you think she’s lethargic?” Sara asked.

“It’s not as though she’s usually riding the dog around the house,” I replied. The standard mode for babies, after all, is lethargy, alternating with extremity-waving. And that’ll tire you out, waving your fists in the air for half an hour. Ask Hitler. “She’s not lethargic.” I took her, peered into those big eyes, felt her forehead.

“I think she’s warm, though.”

“She’s always warm. She’s a little furnace.”

Meanwhile, Gnat is staring at the wall with great concern. Contrast Rules! in her world; those lines of line and dark are still fascinating. But I get the sense that some of the juxtapositions are worrisome. Or just plain wrong. Sometimes she’ll look at a picture - dark frame, white wall - and look bothered. Something’s too thick. Something’s too white. Something’s not right. Nightmare fuel, it is; the source of some inconsolable dream six months from now. She’ll dream she was chased by fifty-foot Mondrian paintings. Herded into a corner by some Motherwells.

Sara went to a meeting of Women Lawyers tonight, leaving me to tend Gnat. She was quiet until the car was down the alley; then it was full-blown howling for about an hour and a half. Gas; angst; both. I watched TV, and was glad to see that I’d seen these episodes before. Well, then, great! Listening to the dialogue isn’t important at all!

Back to work now - three more book layouts, a small amount of mail, one Lance Lawson story, then either another night of Gas Issues, or a lonely night on the sofa waiting to be useful.

All clear now?