woof, etc

Chaos swirls and builds, and isn’t it just fun? Eh? The room is now empty of books and personal items, all packed in boxes. The personal items are swaddled in paper and stuffed in the dark, and if they had any sense they’d be worried. You never evaluate an item’s new role when you pack it away. But you take it out, look at it anew, make a face, squint, and say: no. Not in this room. Back in the box. And then it’s the crypt for another ten years. I have one item I always want handy: a spy pen from 1965. It fit in your shirt pocket! It was a telescope AND a microscope! You could magnify things 3X! I want to be able to take it out in 40 years, peer out the window, look through the leaves on a spring evening, if only to see the Reaper coming up the walk. Aw, crap. Well. Glad I saw him coming, anyway.

Out the window! Run!

Damn. Where did I pack that pen? WHERE?

Filled out the Hook Up sheet, a service kindly provided by the realtor. They’ll arrange everything - mail, gas, power, water, newspaper, TV. Everything. Very nice. With some amusement I was reading the fine print, as is not my wont, and I discovered that signing this document gave them power of attorney. Well, isn’t that a nice racket? That’s how realtors make their money, then. Small transfers of money from your bank account that coincide with closing. You never notice.

Got up this morning, took frere-in-lyeh (that’s brother-in-law in a Clouseau accent; he’s from Frahnce) to a jyeb ahntervieux. The company was located in a farflung northern burb I rarely visited, and to my horror I got turned around - my usually impeccable sense of direction was completely twisted, and I swore we’d driven on a Mobius strip. Ended up driving on a peculiar highway that had no opposite lane - it was just two lanes westbound, and no lanes eastbound. Hmm. Took a U turn, which lead to a ramp which lead us north to go east, all because of Yahoo’s mindlessly literal Mapquest directions (see? can’t be MY fault)

Found it eventually. Dropped him off, and wandered slowly around the neighborhood to kill time and make Gnat sleepy. (I wonder how many calls to the police about suspicious drivers are actually fathers trolling the streets to put baby to sleep.) Noted the gimcracky nature of the old houses in the burb, and the gimcracky nature of the new ones as well. The entire suburb is one F5 away from returning to pasture status. Makes you sad, in a way - the old houses all ape that Brady California style, but they’re smaller; the new houses have baronial pretensions, but each turns out to house four different units in a cartoony effusion of gables. There was a classic late-60s early 70s apartment complex slumping under a heavy mansard roof; it was called “Pleasant View,” and it overlooked a heap of dirt. Just a vacant lot heaped with dirt.

I used to live in apartments like that too - but at least they were in the city, close to other things like . . . .well, friends in equally crummy apartments. And you could walk to other crummy apartments. And crummy laudromats and crummy drug stores. The idea of living someplace crummy and having to DRIVE to crummy places is just too depressing to contemplate.

“New Gibraltar” has been vetoed as the name for the new place, and I think my wife’s right. It needs a name like Heathmoor or Moorclyff or something. Well. We’ll have time to figure that out.

First, we pack. Well, first we unpack and find the pocket telescope. Then we unpack again.
.. ..
Had a message today: call Interland. That’s the company that hosts the site. I dialed the number, and was informed that I’d reached Billing.


I’ve been worried about this for a few days, actually - I didn’t know what my bandwidth allotment was. Two gig, something like that. It seemed ridiculously generous when I registered the site in 98.

I got a very nice woman who’d been monitoring my traffic, and wanted me to know I was a bit over my 10GB limit.

Specifically, 128 gigs over.

Two months running.

Well. I have to make some decisions here. She’s going to work some magic on her end to see if this is a fair accounting of my traffic. If it is, well, some parts of this site are going to have to come down, I’m afraid. I’ve already decided that I won’t be doing anymore 70s stuff - sorry, folks, but you’ll have to wait for the book. And I’ll be taking down the Gallery to prepare for this summer’s publication. After that, I don’t know; I’m just astonished at how this site caught fire this year.

And now, more pathetic self-adulatory musings: got a copy of the new issue of Atomic today, a very nifty magazine devoted to retro culture. You must buy it, because it deserves to live. You might also enjoy a HUGE story on this site, complete with a full-fargin’ page illustration of your humble narrator. My jaw hit the floor when I saw the spread

End of the self-adulatory musings.

Warm day, good day. The creek is still running fast and thick and high; big branches are floating along like croc snouts. Went to work; did work; got Gnat from her Nana’s, went to the far-flung burbs to get some packing material for the move. I was at Organized Living, which I always expect to be full of anal-retentive people straightening items that aren’t PERFECTLY STRAIGHT (honestly, they call themselves organized, but look at this shelf! It’s not arranged by height or color!) - and bought a bag of corn-starch packing peanuts. I steeled myself for the Zip Code question, which they usually asked. They did not. Apparently, the great marketing survey is over, and they know the zip code of every visitor. Then I overheard a clerk ask another where the closest Organized Living store was located.

“Kansas City,” the clerk replied.

Okay. So the chain has ONE store in the entire metro area, and has to survey every customer to find out where to put the next store? How about on the other side of town? You have one in the middle of suburban Hennepin County - how about another in the middle of suburban Anoka?

Then we went home. I heard a hissing sound in the basement; either we had that tiresome viper infestation again or something was amiss in the utility room. I checked - the hot water heater was hissing like crazy. And the floor was wet.

Three weeks left, and the hotwater heater goes.

I called Minnesgasco, which no longer exists - they’re UniXcelNrg or something, but the old conjoined name of Minneapolis Gas Company exists as their home-appliance repair arm. I said I smelled gas, which always makes their dowser quiver. (And I did, to be honest.) A nice fellow named Arlen showed up, examined the hot water heater and pronounced it dead. Rusted out. This happened when we bought our first house. Happens a lot. You’d think they’d have that rust-problem fixed, eh? You’d think that would be Priority One when it came to improving the venerable water heater? No. So I’m buying the new owner a new one, but - grit teeth - that’s okay. I remember how I felt when the heater crapped out after a month in the new place; I wondered what else would go wrong. I got seven good years out of it. She’ll get seven too. It all works out. Everyone, eventually, buys two water heaters in their lifetime.

So now we’re living like people in the 1900 House PBS show - pots of water on the stove, no flushing toilets. (Arlen shut off all the water, because he couldn’t turn off the valve in the heater.) Tomorrow I’ll drench my fetid self in cologne, and pretend I’m an artistocrat. Perhaps a lice-infested wig to complete the outfit?

Mais oui!
.. ..
Well. This will be brief, I’m afraid, since I have to write a column from home tonight. And come to think of it, I have to write another column tomorrow, too. And I have a radio interview with some Phoenix station in the morning, just about the time Gnat is either sleeping or wailing her waking-up aria. Great. The station called me the other day, said they’d like to talk to me about my article, and I had to laugh: WHICH article? I have no idea what I write beyond what I’m writing. Refresh my memory.

Also firmed up the Ellroy interview when he comes to town. Should be fun. Although what we’ll talk about, I don’t know; I think I’ll just ask him about Minneapolis and stick it in my column, give him some ink. Or maybe make him interview me. Dog, we’ve had many interviews over the years. Tell me how I’m doing. Good? Bad? Slavish? Too nice? A rollover, or just a pushover?


Interviewed Robert Picardo the other day - he’s the doctor on Star Trek Voyager. Won’t give any of it away here, since it’s for the paper. But: what a nice fellow. Cheerful. Every time I’ve interviewed anyone connected with Trek, it always threatens to turn into one of those interviews in the Comic Book Guy’s shop, and I’m the kid in the Dr. Who t-shirt asking the actor why he was able to materialize in the caves of Detritus Prime when the presence of gammino rays should have prevented the cohesion of holomatter. I mean, come on! I always know more than they do, because few of the actors - with the exception, I believe, of Tim Rusk - were fans before they got the gig. But Picardo was surprised to be interviewed by someone who actually knew his character’s story arc, and said so at the end of the chat.

Of course, nothing will ever, ever compare to the day when they let the press into the Smithsonian’s Trek exhibit, and the entire original crew was there, and I got to stand beneath the model of the Enterprise with Doohan, looking up and expressing our aesthetic approval.


Rain tonight; one of those curious thunderstorms that seems to be happening ten blocks away. Noise, wind, a few drops, bright flash, wind, rain, all conducted on a mostly sunny sky. Family was asleep while the storm crashed and banged - Gnat decided she wouldn’t sleep today. At all. Oh, 20 minutes here and there, but nothing big. Damn. I hate to let her cry; I hate to pick her up and see those big wet tears and those big wet eyes, her lip trembling in indignation. But she has to sleep, so I have to try. I even put her in the seat and drove to the bakery, hoping the ride would knock her out. It did not. She was wide awake for this conversation:

“Petite baguette, please.”

Clerk wraps up pb, chirps “Two seventy-nine.”

I look at the price list: it’s $1.95. “Two seventy-nine?” I say.

“Oh, that’s wrong. Sorry. Two fifty.”

“Two fifty? For a petite baguette?”

“Oh, petite. One ninety-five!”

How does anything get done anywhere? This is a simple transaction between two people who speak the same language, fer crimeny’s sake.

Back to work. Ah - flash; thunder. Good. I like drama while I work.
.. ..
Gnat is crawling. Also standing. And talking. I heard her conjugate the verb “bah” today, in all its many forms. This has happened all at once; this week she’s been perfecting the legless flop, whereby you throw your torso in one direction, push yourself up, then repeat until you’re where you want to be. Big deal! I told her. Any circus freak can do that. So she gave it the extra push and figured out crawling today. My free time just shrunk another 45 percent.

Or not. The new house has a big play area in the basement, child-proofed, with a fireplace and a spot for a reasonably sized TV, so I can just store the extra iMac down there and work while she crawls around to her heart’s content. I’m glad I took everything off the shelves in this studio; otherwise it would have taken half an hour to write this paragraph - I’d be up every seventeen seconds to take something out of her hands. A book. A spare hard drive. A rifle bullet. That kilo of enriched heroin (builds strong habits 12 ways!) Etc.

Crummy day; lovely night. Rain and general dankness, but it all cleared away in time for the evening walk. The paths were thick with peds tonight, broods and couples and singles mit mutt; grim joggers huffing towards the grave at the same speed as everyone else, xTREME bikers making life miserable for everyone else else. Froufrou dogs wearing bibs, fer criminey’s sake, and big bounding beasts diving into the water for a stick and sinking beneath the roiling water, only to show up a yard downstream with the stick in their big happy mouths. The creek is completely green, overwhelmingly green, riotously & luxuriantly green; all this rain has one salutary benefit. The tulips - apple blossoms - lilacs - all up & out & open. The creek is high. No better month than May, if it’s done right.

Went home - wife & Gnat had gone down the street on an errand - turned on the MP3 player and called up - don’t laugh - the title theme to “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” orchestral interlude a legato version; it’s one of Barry’s best melodies. Also known as “We Have All the Time in the World.” Also has a Louis Armstrong version, of all things. It’s a bittersweet song, especially given the context of the movie, where they certainly did not have all the time in the world. As I was blasting it out, the teens across the street loped out of the house and jumped in a jalopy, out to prowl for the night. They think they have all the time in the world. Good for them, I suppose. I never thought that. I’ve been hearing time’s winged chariot clattering behind me all my life -

Which flashes me back to English Lit in college; had a wonderful old man, Roy McClure, as my prof for early Brit lit. Old man with big pendulous ears, a rutabaga nose, bad eyes and a hump. Wore old jackets with leather patches on the elbows. Where else could such a man go, but the English department of a Midwestern University? He was teaching Marvell, explaining the puns in “To a Coy Mistress,” Marvell’s attempt to get his doxy in the sack by saying, in essence, we’ll be dead eventually. It’s the whole carpe-diem thing. More like carpe-bosom, really. Anyway: he brought up the line “and the worms shall test your quaint virtue,” explaining that “quaint” was a soundalike for “coynte,” which was the progenitor of the modern vulgarism for the female apparatus, and, stammering, blushing, but needing to make the point for the thick ones among us, he said that word. At which point we all got it.

He’d be brought up on charges today. "Hi, I'm Roy McClure. You may remember me from such specious sexual harassment suits as 'Falstaff's Staff Fall: Brewer's Droop in Shakespearean Imagery' and 'The Snoozening: Reevaluating Kate Chopin.'"

A weekend of packing packing packing ahead, but it’s Mother’s Day, and we’ll find some time to celebrate. I’m supposed to get together with Dave Barry on Sunday, if everything works out. Yes, I know the fellow, and no, you don’t have to believe me, and yes, he is the absolute nicest fellow in the world. End of story. Every celebrity in the world could take a lesson from DB; I swear I’ve seen a hundred people come up to him and ask for an autograph, or just say hi, and every one of them was treated with respect & good cheer. He’s got it figured out: it’s not hard to be nice. In fact it’s quite easy. Somewhere on this site used to be an account of the 1992 convention where we crashed a Dem fundraiser on the USS Intrepid, an evening that still makes my liver twinge when I think about it.
This time we’ll just have coffee.