Lake Harriet 10.15.00

10. 23. 00

Didn’t do much this weekend.

Didn’t finish raking the lawn. Did the back on Saturday under a sweet blue sky; it was 70, at least, and it didn’t feel like a chore at all. Jasper watched, and when I was done with the backlawn we played ball. Haven’t done that in months, but he can still fly up and catch it in midair. I tried to bang one off the fence, and it flew over the fence into the alley: dog’s expression is just priceless. Deadpan. Looks at the fence. At me. At the fence. At me. Short bark: FIX IT.

So I did. So we kept playing and I didn’t do the front lawn. Grilled a marinated pork dingus for supper - it’s this boneless flaccid tube of pork in a plastic sleeve, soaked in brine and pepper and various other powders. Put it on the grill, turn it a few times: delicious. But I encountered a cooking dilemma I still can’t get my mind around. The package said: grill 20 minutes per pound. The wad of pork weighed two pounds. So, grill forty minutes. Right? But upon opening the package, I discovered that it was actually two porkwads of equal size. Meaning, each was one pound. Meaning, grill for 20 minutes.

But if it had been one piece I’d have grilled it for 40.

I still can’t figure this one out.

But I’m tired. I had a nap today and I’m still beat. It’s this sofa sleep; I’ve been on the sofa for eight nights straight now, and it’s lousy sleep, full of interruptions and disappointment. At 4 AM I woke with the certain conviction I had misplaced the twins, and after searching the immediate area I went upstairs. Sara woke to find me standing there. “I’m looking for the twins,” I started to say, but thought better of it.

Didn’t sleep much, then.

Didn’t read the books I have stacked and waiting: the new Caleb Carr novella, an old Durenmatt novel that’s been made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson, a piece of sociology called “Losing the Race,” and a book about NASA’s Mars program that apparently includes a chapter about sending human brains to Mars. Just - brains. No bodies. Just Triskelion lobes on stems, I guess.

Didn’t read any of those.

Did not watch the movies I’ve purchased, because I am waiting for the new TV. I have decided on the 16:9. My wife has laid down the law: no big TV for the basement until I finish the basement. And that of course it the eternal, unending job. Stuff breeds down there. Tonight I went downstairs to rearrange a few boxes - two hours later I had nine boxes stacked at the foot of the stairs, waiting for the trashman. It’s just incredible. But the end is in sight - in a mere month the TV will be installed, in its place of SHAME.

Can’t have a big TV upstairs, of course. Why, people might think you watched television.

Didn’t finish the basement. Didn’t finish editing the last batch of video. Didn’t make any headway at all on the design of the 6.0 version. Didn’t finish scanning all the money. Didn’t finish “Elite Force.” Didn’t prepare for the rain on Sunday night that came when I was grilling supper - should have brought an umbrella. But the raindrops were warm, and it had been so long since we’ve had rain.

Didn’t mind it at all.

10. 24. 00

Got a game to review today: a Pluskat Sim. It’s called Beachhead 2000. You’re defending a beach. Troop ships land, disgorge troops. You mow ‘em down. They scream and crumple. Feeling frisky? Launch a heat-seeking missile at that schoolteacher-in-uniform down there. He blows up real good!

It’s not a bad game, but it makes me feel uncomfortable; I feel as though I’m the buzzcut old Nazi in “The Longest Day” who fought off the Normandy invasion from his pillbox. (Pluskat as the character's name; the actor's real name was - poor fellow - Blech.) While I played the first few levels I had a startling thought:

Where’s the first-person WWII game? Where’s the Saving Private Ryan of the computer game genre? (WARNING: There is already a Private Ryan Saved. Do you want to overwrite this Saved Private Ryan? YES / NO)

Sorry. Mere geek game humor there. Worst kind.

But really, where’s the game? Dammit, I’ll write it; someone hook me up with the developers. It starts in a small town when you get your induction notice; you get drafted, go to basic training, get shipped overseas, and your adventure begins with Normandy. First person. The computer is the first tool that can tell the story this way; why is everyone wasting their time on these silly overhead-perspective strategy games?

Another day of feeling as though I’m just a 2-D envelope of bones and gristle. Woke up on the sofa, again; getting up felt like I was unfolding an old brittle map. Sofa sleep is bad sleep. It’s as if the sofa was coated with REMGard, a special chemical that prevents deep slumber and happy dreams. Went to work to do this and that; did this, and that. Went home, fixed dinner, tried to nap: nix. Klaxons in my head went off after seven minutes, warning me of all the things I had to do, so: Up. Coffee. Work. And so it’s been all night, alternating levels of this game (I have to review it) (Really) with columnizing and baby-placation.

The Peaceable Planet Burbling Aquarium with LSD-Simulating Lite-Show doesn’t seem to be doing the job, but why I am surprised? Nothing does the job. Gnat’s too smart to be fooled by any of this stuff. We’re trying to acclimate her to the crib; right now she regards it as the Pen, the Big House. It’s a trick. Oh, she’ll enjoy it for a while, as you stand there and smile and tickle and talk, but then she gets this look: wait a minute. I’m in the fargin’ crib. Ohhhh no. Oh no you don’t.

That’s the . . . trying portion of the daily parenting routine. The rewarding portion comes in smaller doses, but the pleasure & pride & joy is much more potent than the annoyances and aggravations. Tonight, during our evening Tummy Time (the quantity of saccharine utterances I now make without my inflection even hinting at a slight small jot of airquoting irony is just . . . “amazing”) she brought her head all the way up. Sorry, rephwase: Awwwwww the way up! And it was just delightful - strong neck, big head, big eyes, big smile. I enjoyed the moment then ran for the camcorder in case she replayed it; of cours she did not, but she did bang her head on the changing-table mattress in a fair approximation of the incarcerated Quake 2 Marines.

Sorry. Game geek humor. Worst kind.

Walked the dog in the dark warm autumn mist. Highlight of the day, that; standing at the top of the stairs, looking down into the gorge at the light by the footbridge - just a simple moment of ordinary beauty, unique to this day, this place, this combination of time and dog and temperature.

Now, back to work. But first, this message: I’ve gotten a lot of mail about the cessation of weekly updates, wondering if it was permanent, or baby-related. It’s neither. I’m just not going to add new stuff until I’ve rebuilt the site to my satisfaction. They’ll be back in January. Lots and lots of stuff. Thanks for asking.

10. 25. 00

Took the video camera back to the store. When I put in a tape, it tried to find the last spot onto which it had spat ones and ohs, and more often then not it couldn’t - whereupon it would beep frantically and flash EJECT TAPE EJECT TAPE. I’d have to reseat the tape. Half the time this worked, like giving a pacifier to a startled baby - but more and more it was acting up. Perhaps it’s just the tapes, I thought, so I gave it a new one. Beep! Beep! Eject! Eject! Stall! Pull up! I opened the tape slot, and found a slew of brown linguine. It had yanked the tape out of the transport path.

I no longer trusted the camera. Truth be told, it had done this from day one, and I’d chalked it up to bad tapes. No more. Back to BesBi, the monstro-mart where I bought it. I had my receipt and my 4-year service contract.

The clerk looked at the receipt, the contract, the camcorder. He typed a few things into the computer.

“I don’t know if I can Deev this,” he said. “I’ll have to ask Chris.”


“I said,” and he repeated the same meaningless statement. Then he added: “Chris is the manager.”

“What’s a Deev?”

“I don’t know if I can do the Deev. That’s why I have to ask Chris,” he said, adding, “I’m new here.”

One more time. “And a Deev is . . .?”

“That’s what it’s called when you can trade it right away for a new one.”


“Is this a word I’m supposed to know?” I said, with a cunning blend of herbs, spices, smiles and flaming irritation.

Never, ever ask a BezBi clerk a rhetorical question. They either go Nomad on you, and you have to beam them into deep space where they can explode safely, or they just - plain - hate - you. This fellow took the second path. I said, with a big grin:

“Well, whatever Chris says, I’m leaving here with a new camera. I’m going to go over to cameras and get a replacement while you talk with Chris.”

In cameras stood one employee, talking to Gramps.

Gramps had come to buy a digital camera.

Actually, he’d just come to look at them.

Actually, he’d just heard about these newfangled things.

Gramps was killing time.

Gramps had all day.

Gramps had questions. Where do the pitchers go, then, if there’s no film?

Well, they can be stored on a floppy, a microdrive, a smartcard, a memory stick. Or some units have an onboard CD burner.

I see, said Gramps. And what do all those mean, exactly?

Sigh. The clerk gave me a sign to tell me he’d be there in a moment. I was, after all the epitome of the Customer Who Knows What He Wants - I wasn’t looking at anything, I wasn’t moving, I was just standing off to the side like a big throbbing red dwarf with spiky lines coming out of his head. I considered going full Gore on Gramps - sighing, stalking, rolling my eyes.

How many’em pitchers they take, anyhow?

The phone rang. “Scuse me,” said the clerk, and he answered the phone. Answered a few questions. Seemed to take his time. I kicked myself for not having my cell phone. I’d have called him right there and asked him to come over and help me since phone calls obviously take priority.

But I waited, and when my turn came I was quick: “ZR-10. Exchange.” I held up the 4-year Service Contract, making sure to smile. He nodded and sped off to get one. I watched Gramps - he festused his way to a woman sitting in a chair, waiting for him. Her expression said she’d been waiting for him while he jawboned clerks since 1957.

The clerk brought back a camera. I took it back to the Deev window to see if we’d be Deeving anytime soon. The Deeving clerk said, with no small amount of triumph, that they’d used the camcorder and it worked just fine, hence no Deev.

“You didn’t even ask me what was wrong with it,” I said.

He gave me a look of pure hatred. I had him there. He knew it.

“What’s wrong with it,” he said.

“Are you going to make the decision, or Chris?”

“Chris,” he said.

I smiled! Broadly! “Then I’ll talk to Chris.”

Chris came out from behind the Deev Room door. He’d read the memo: hate this customer. He asked what was wrong with the camera; I told him. Halfway through my explanation he nodded and swapped out the cameras.

“Normally I wouldn’t do this,” he said, “because it’s more than 90 days.”

“But you’re doing it,” I smiled, “and I thank you.”

He handed me off to a clerk who did the paperwork. “Fill in this and sign here,” she said. I did so. She ran the ticket through a printer, and to my astonishment I saw that it printed several paragraphs above my signature. I saw the words “I have read and agreed to all the return and refund policies printed on the back of this receipt.”

“That’s a nifty trick,” I said. “Asking me to sign a blank sheet, then printing testimony over my signature.”

She had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. None.

And that’s why I am buying my new big TV from Audio King. Not BezBi. Deev this, you sullen jackals.

10. 26. 00

This new website just writes itself. I haven’t had this much fun since the Gallery 2.0, and I have the feeling that this one is not only destined to be a book some day, but it’s going to rival the Gallery in size, if not popularity. It’s the first area of the site devoted to the 70s, and as such contains more stomach-riling crap than the meatiest recesses of the Gallery of Regrettable Food.

Bought the new TV today. This is the third TV I’ve purchased. The first was a 18, 20” inch color set - don’t remember exactly. It had a knob you turned to change the channels. This was before cable - or rather, before I got cable. I bought the TV when I got my job at TV Guide; it seems apt. I felt like I was coming up in the world. Later I bought a VCR, and invited friends over to watch - a movie! At home! We controlled the start times - and you could pause it whenever you wanted!

As entertaining and novel as these concepts were, they didn’t come as a surprise to me or my peers, since we had grown up expecting these things to come our way eventually. Gnat will grow up expecting holodecks, I’m sure, and she’ll probably get one. We grew up in a world where TV was always showing a level of technology slightly ahead of what we had at the moment. There was, in 1972, a show called “Search.” I loved this show. I can still hum the themesong, for example, and the show’s been off the air for a quarter century. It concerned three secret agents who worked for a super-secret security company. You lost stuff, they found it. The agents wore tiny cameras (in the 70s, men wore necklaces, so you could just hook the camera to your swingin’ gold chain) and had 2-way communication devices embedded in their skulls. They talked to a room set up just like the bridge of the Enterprise; it was full of techs presided over by, of all people, Burgess Meredith, who sat in his captain’s chair like a gnomish Kirk. It was a great show for a lad of 13. I bought the novelization, of course; it’s still on the shelf in my room back home in Fargo. I reread it one night, and was surprised to find that Burgess’ character was named:

Victor Charles Richard Cameron.

V.C.R. Camera-on.

They used the term VCR in 1972? Sure. Why not? Things are never as new as they seem. My gee-whiz tiny tiny DV camcorder uses the same tape-over-heads concept as the big clunky decks of a quarter century ago. This computer is a refinement, not a breakthrough. The game I’ll play later tonight owes its parentage to a program written in 1958. The TV I bought to celebrate my TV Guide job was a refinement of the device they showed at the World’s Fair.

It’s depressing sometimes to realize how little has been invented. I want more Future Shock! More dislocating technology! So far, I’ve gotten exactly what I expected: the tiny cameras from “Search,” the communicators from Star Trek (when will one of these cell phone companies realize how many people will pay $$ to have their phones make the chirp of a 23rd century Federation communicator?) and so forth. Okay, we have MP3s. Whoop. Big fat whoop.

This world isn’t annoyingly modern enough for my tastes, sometimes.

But then there are the days when you get that New TV, and you can’t wait to experience TV in a whole new way: Bigger! The 18” TV stayed with me until 1993. In 1990 I spraypainted it with faux-stone paint, and it looked damn cool; people always paused, ran their hands over its rough surfaces, oohed. But it was small. When we were evicted from Fortress Lileks (the building went condo) and moved to the stinky flat by the National Zoo, where you had to run the air conditioning blower full blast to drown out the sound of the loud copulating birds, I bought a 27” TV. It was - huge! Immense! None bigger! Now Star Trek looked -

Well, cheap. But Peter Jennings was fargin’ HUGE!

This TV has served us well. And it will continue to do so as our upstairs TV. But now comes the new new TV. It’s big and it’s broad and it will show movies the way they’re meant to be seen. And as I sat there in the store, waiting for the paperwork, I looked at it, and I thought : now, finally, something new. A new way of watching movies. A new direction in home entertainment. And I thought of the last time I had this feeling, the certain knowledge that I stood on the brink of a bright new technological future.

We called it “Quadrophonic Sound.”

10. 31. 00

There’s no time lately to do anything, because we’re always busy.

Doing what, exactly, well, that depends. Saturday we packed up the Gnat in the old car seat and drove in search of a sofa bed. It’s for the occasional guest, and for me. For me? Yes, for me. Lately I’ve been drinking so much I can’t get up the stairs. And if I go get halfway up, well, I fall back down. Horrible noise. Wakes the baby. Do I want her first memory of Dad to consist of a sodden heap at the bottom of the stairs? No.

That’s a lie, of course, but I do need a downstairs bed. Until we get Gnat to inhabit her crib for more than 17 minutes at a stretch, I’m on the sofa at night. Haven’t spent a night in the bed in a fortnight, and even that long-gone date was just one night after ten on the sofa. So a sofa bed would be nice. But you just can’t go GET a sofa bed. They must be ordered, and as usual it takes a dozen months of Sundays for the factories, every one of which is located in South Carolina, to produce the items. If a foreign power really wanted to cripple America, they’d nuke South Carolina. Wipe out our furniture industry. We’d be dependent entirely on Swedish particle-board crap. Or Mexican resin chairs.

There’s your band name for the week: the Mexican Resin Chairs.

First we went to Elements, a store that sells to the Hip Young Urbanite market for whom style is more important than quality. You buy the furniture to impress someone so you can get laid - all well and good as long as you break up before the furniture falls apart. We bought a sofa there once, and I swear there wasn’t a nail in the entire thing - it was held together by glue and staples. This time we got a clerk who seemed to recoil at the sight of our baby: oooh, yuck, you’re going to ruin the demographic profile. He seemed utterly ready to announce they didn’t have children’s room furniture, and was disappointed when we asked for a sofa bed. Well, some of the sofas came in sofa bed styles, but they were all special orders. And he made absolutely no move to show us anything. We took the hint and left.

Next, Room and Board / Retrospect. It’s one big store, divided into two concepts, neither of which seems different from the other. It’s full of nice stuff, reasonably priced, and overloaded with pretension. It’s the sort of place where a sofa style is called “The Truman” and you don’t know if that’s the president or the designer’s childhood pooch. Not that it matters. It’s just a great name! So - American!

Sigh. Grrr.

They had a sofa bed, but it looked as if they’d skinned the dog from Blues’ Clues to make it. Thank you for your time, goodbye.

Dayton’s Home Store: bingo. A nice tidy sofa bed that fits the space just fine. (It’s a spot in the sunporch where Jasper sleeps - in fact, he’ll be the one sleeping in the bed most of the time. I realized we should have brought him along.) Did they have one in stock? They did - but the warehouse couldn’t get it to us for three weeks.

Why? Have they soldered the doors shut? Shot the drivers and buried them out back? Put sugar in the gastanks of the trucks?

No - they were just three weeks out on delivery.

Ours is not to wonder why; ours is but to buy, now, and let the company chew on the money for three weeks without giving us anything.