Saturday I was released from domestic bondage for the afternoon. My wife, who is no longer as sick with the cold as she was, took over care of Gnat, who is as sick with the cold as she will ever be. This free dme - who was not as sick with the cold as I would be in a day - to run around in the freezing rain and do necessary things. It was a mean rain, hard and needling, and you knew it would freeze soon and make the world a treacherous place; driving along in the Gallileo with a gigantic Navigator on my bumper, I felt like a tin fawn about to be mounted by a Zamboni.

Made it to Home Depot to get light bulbs. I pity the staff there - the moment one customer is finished with a question, another materializes as though conjured out of sawdust. The staff has to head off for the bathroom an hour in advance, because it’ll take them that long to fight through the queue of queries that stand between them and porcelain surcease. I detained two, myself, one for lights, and the other for the location of an exterior outlet cover. “GFI?” the clerk asked. “Yes,” I said, not knowing what he meant at all, but not wishing to look stupid in This, The Mostly Manly Of Places. (I got it later: Ground Fault Interruptor, aka the last gaddamn thing you think about when you’ve put up all the lights and they don’t work and you’ve already toggled every switch on the fuse box twice, requiring you to reset every clock in the house including the stove.) “Horizontal?” he asked. “Yes,” I said, even though the whole horizontal - vertical thing is something I can never intuitively grasp. I have to run the lyrics of “Let’s Get Physical” through my head to figure out which I mean. Then I got lots of light bulbs, a blister pack of batteries (couldn’t they find a better name? Duracell! Now available in the handy Chancre sack! Look for Everready in the convenient Pustule-Pak!) and was considering a fire extinguisher, when someone said:

Look! Look outside!

And in proof that life sometimes imitates Dan Fogelberg but is still worth living anyway, I saw that the rain had turned to snow. Big fat floating flakes, and they’d brought all their friends.

Wonderful. Just lovely.

The bad news was this: the next stop on my afternoon was Hopkins, a fifteen minute highway drive in the best of conditions. Ah, well. This trip took forever, but I didn’t care. It gave me the opportunity to buzz throught the new Garbage CD and decide that I didn’t really like any of the first half - it suffers from a curious deficiency of melody and hooks. Then I found a CD of Christmas music I’d burned, clicked ahead to the proper song, and turned on “White Christmas,” sung by Der Bingle, as his Nazi spymaster handlers called him. (I used that line in a recent newspaper column, and I expected a few people to be angry, but I think I lost those dolts a long time ago.) All our worries about a brown Christmas, gone in a trice. This was the snow we wanted, and it came down like manna. (I should say “manna from heaven,” but that’s a bit redundant, like saying “Slurpee from 7-11.” Where else would manna come from?)

Hopkins is the town that Time Forgot, then remembered again, and tracked it down and demanded money. It was a stand-alone urban module until the amoeba of growth stuck a loving psuedopod around it. But it still has an intact downtown, an actual gen-u-wine Main Street complete with three story Opera House and early 20th century commercial buildings. A few storefronts betray 50s modernization attempts; one of the antique stores was obviously the local department store. It feels like many other towns that dot Minnesota, towns I used to examine at my leisure when driving home to Fargo, but haven’t seen in years.

Now it’s mostly antique stores and bars - and for that, I say hooray. Incredible stuff I saw, buy it I did not; stuff leads to clutter, clutter leads to messes, messes lead to suffering. I contented myself with one ticket from a 1958 Minnesota Centennial Event, and - this was quite a find - a 1892 original city map for my neighborhood. These are not small and not common. There were only a few made, and these were the big linen-paper maps the city used for noting who lived where and who owned what. In 1892, much of this part of town was vacant; but there’s my street, and there’s the rustic little knot where I live, a half-untangled pretzel.

The owner of the antique shop was remarkably unimpressed with my enthusiasm. “Lots of people come in here and see a map and see where their house is, and I just don’t get it,” he said, taking my money. “I’m just not into maps.”

I gave him a sharp rap on his fleshy lips with the gilded head of my cane, and told him to mind his manners; he nodded briskly, produced a handerchief to blot up the blood, and wrote up the order in silence.

Well, no. But dammit, if I’m going to be taxed like a fargin’ plutocrat, I’d like the opportunity to act like one occasionally.

After a few more shops all the geegaws bled together and I could take no more fabulous flotsam. Off to Southdale. Bought some stuff for kith and kin. At one counter a courtly old man tallied up the items I’d bought for my wife, and when it came time to put them in the bag he just wadded them up and stuck a handful of tissue paper in the bag. Sensible, really - no point in folding them when I’d just have to take them out and fold them again to put them in the box.

But he stopped midway through the task, looked at the clump of fabric in his hand, and said:

“You don’t mind, do you? I can fold them.”

“No,” I said, “given the jostling that bag will endure between here and home, folding them seems like a needless expenditure of enthusiasm.”

I actually said that. Blame the cold drugs and the snow. The old man looked at me, paused, and then - God bless him - said “Quite.”

Quite! I’ve never heard anyone say Quite outside of a Col. Bragg cartoon.

Christmas spirit restored and topped off, I sailed, wheezing, into the holiday.

Tomorrow: you’ll see.


The day after Christmas is the saddest of the year, sometimes. If you don’t work and you don’t shop it feels like a faded copy of Christmas, a holiday run off after the toner light came on. It’s just a day, and it doesn’t deserve to have all the emotions and hecticity (if that’s not a word, it should be: describing the condition of being hectic) crashing down on its shores. But there’s always that moment when you’re ankle-deep in its utter ordinariness and you realize: all done. The tree looks like a party guest who was just so terribly witty last night, but is still passed out in the corner at 1 PM the next day. The lights outside on the bushes still look pretty, but they point back, not forward. There’s another holiday en route, but maybe this year you feel like a veteran campaigner who’d be happy if they just nuked Dec. 30th and saved us the trouble.

On the other hand, who the hell cares? I have an X-box now. Not only did my wife remember this one request made weeks ago, but she remembered the name of the game I wanted (Halo.) So it’s down to the Battle Bridge tonight to enter the life-sucking world of console gaming.

On the other hand, maybe not. I have the thousand-yard-stare in both visage and spirit, and it for that I blame two days of back to back travel. Up to Fargo; down from Fargo. In the old stupid days of 55 MPH (Jimmy Carter owes me HOURS of my life gone, GONE on I-94 doing the pathetic double-nicks in my pumpkin-colored Pacer) the trip took 4.5 hours - more if I stopped at Perkins to sit at the counter, smoke Barclays and scribble sophomoric observations in my journals. But now at the new & improved speed of 75 MPH, it’s three hours from Fargo to the point where I-94 hits an invisible axe blade and curls away, like two sides of a single strand of hair, into 494 and 694. (A planaria analogy also works. Build your own if you like.) If we’d all been in high spirits, it would have been fun, but since we are all at different stages of the Grippe, the mood was equal to the mustard gas ward in WW1.

My primary objective is simply to Make Good Time. It may be a man thing, but whenever I meet a relative who’s come down from Fargo, that’s the first thing I ask: make good time? Woe the man who admits to making Bad Time. Great honors heaped at the feet of he who maketh Good Time.
Consequently, unnecessary things like pausing to eat or micturate are OUT. If they are done, they must be completed in such haste so that your Time remains in a state of grace. This is where Gnat totally screws things up, since any transfer of child to cafe or rest-stop takes huge juicy chunks out of the body of your Time, and there’s nothing you can do about it if your wife’s along. (If she isn’t, you don’t have to put the tot in her parka and gloves for a six-foot run to the rest area building, nor do you have to stuff those charcoal-activated heating pads down her pants. Just throw a newspaper over ‘em.) So I made a bargain: the Time spent tottering around a rest stop or the gift shop at a gas station did not count. It was Daughter Time - which after all is better than Good; it’s the best.

(3hrs 07 min up: Fabulous time.)

Christmas Day n Fargo was good. Entered as I always do - a slow troll through the city to see What’s New and What’s Burned to the Ground. T . Drove down Broadway, looking at the decorations; don’t actually remember if I saw any. Downtown Fargo feels like it is inhabited by photosenstive plague victims, or vampires; it’s not deserted - no, you can feel the people inside the buildings, huddled in the dark. The City Fathers have ripped out the plastic awnings put up in the mid 70s, and removed the huge dense trees - it now looks more like a real town instead of some collegial little city that went feral.

Went to my sister’s for ham and joy, and found both in abundance. Gnat played with her 6 year old cousin, who was adorably solicitous; my wife, with her head cocked to the side in the eternal posture of produ motherhood, said that my sister’s daughter would be the cool older niece Gnat would always look up to. I agreed, and said “She’ll be the one Natalie bums cigarettes from at family gatherings,” which earned a chastening look from my wife and a blurt of laughter from my sister. Well? Sorry, it’s true; no matter how wonderful we ARE, they’ll rebel a bit, and find some sort of small solidarity in a naughty symbol like a smoke.

I apologize for the accidental alliteration.

Saltus Rex, I did it AGAIN.

Continuing on:

After my sister’s
we put Gnat to bed in a travel crib and went downstairs to teach my dad how to use the internet. This was his first time on a computer. He has a particular sort of old-style technological savvy; he knows engines, and he can use the stick-shift of his 18-wheelers to find gears that don’t exist. He can parallel-park a double-trailer semi, which defies my comprehension. After he got the mousing and the clicking down pat, I showed him how to search for things. I googled the name of his ship in WW2, the Block Island.

Within three minutes of being on the internet, we’d found a picture of my dad at age 18 standing on the deck with his shipmates, c. 1945

“Well, that’s it, then,” I said. “The internet is all downhill for you from here.”

This led to war stories. He never tells war stories, except when my wife is around. This is common to men of his era, I think; they didn’t want to tell the children what they’d seen, what they’d done, and so they keep it all in a small box buried deep in their hearts. But my wife doesn’t count as one of the kids, so out it all comes, one amazing tale after the other. I didn’t know that the Block Island was the second ship to bear that name; the first had been sunk in the Atlantic by a sub. Most of the crew got off, and most of them were on the second, and they told my dad what they saw: when the torpedo hit the deck split apart for a second, and men fell into the crevasse, and then the deck snapped shut again and cut them in half.

Wartime tends to redefine your notion of occupational safety.

I knew my uncle Vernon was a flier in the war, but I didn’t know he was on the same ship as my father - or that he’d been shot down a few times, once while bombing Tokyo. The plane took a few rounds and he limped it out to sea and ditched it; he was picked up by a sub, which transferred him back to the Block Island. “And the subs always liked returning a pilot, see, because they’d get ice cream - we could make ice cream on the ship, and we’d always swap a hundred gallons for whoever they brought back.”

No two war stories ever ends the same. One’s death and the other is dessert and that’s just the way it was.

My wife went up to bed, and I stayed up with my dad shooting the breeze over cocktails and agreeing about things. Couldn’t ask for more.

Wife and Gnat were sleeping in my old room; I was sleeping in the room in which my furniture has been stored since I went to college. Every remainder of me on the shelves and drawers stops at ‘76, and hence I always spend a half hour paging through scrapbooks and paperbacks with a sense of bemusement and sadness. It has been a quarter of a century, and I’m relieved to say I can account for all of it. But times like these make me wish I had my wife’s practical attitude towards the distant past. I will weep over a theater ticket from 1974 if you pour enough bourbon down my throat. I get this useless sense of sadness for these paper fossils, these scraps, these stupid symbols of an ordinary moment on an unremarkable day. So I kept a TV Guide with a listing for the premier of “Emergency!” So what? It was a bad show and all the paramedics looked like stoners, and do I really want to be 17 again? God no. It’s just this: the ordinary present moment of any given day has no idea what it’s up against. Everything gets swallowed; you know that. You know that you’ll get swallowed too, and that’s just the way it works - but it’s such a pity that when you go down the whale’s maw, everything you know goes with you, and whatever stories you can attach to these scraps and items go right down the Jonah hole.

Which is why I took my early 70s paperbacks back to Mpls, and will scan them for Flotsam Cove. I’ll die someday, but I want the glorious triumphal photo of Hugh O’Brian in a crucifixion posture from the cover of a “Search” novelization to float on the winds of the web forever!

But I can’t keep the house itself. I don’t know how rare this is nowadays - less so in Fargo than elsewhere, I imagine - but I still get to go home to the place where I grew up. We moved into the house in 62, when I was four. Dad paid cash. It has a nifty fifties’ faux-stone front, blond wood, a knotty-pine basement, and push-button kitchen appliances. Used to have turquoise boomerang-patterned formica counters, which explains more about my interest in retro culture than anything else, probably. The house used to be turquoise; my dad drove a turquoise Merc with tail fins. (That’s the picture on the About page.) Since my Mom died the house has been gradually emptied of stuff, so it doesn’t feel overwhelmed by its past. But of course it is. I remember entering the front door for the first time. That’s one memory. I remember being under the kitchen table playing with a car when my mother shushed me and became very quiet and very afraid - a day in late November, 1963. I thought of that today when Gnat crawled under the very same table looking for a Lucky Charm marshmallow. I remember sitting in the sewing room and watching an old 40s noir cop show with my Mom, and later calling her A Broad; she explained, bemused, I should not do that. Another memory. I never think about the little plastic dinguses at the bottom of the drape-cords in my room, until I pull them and remember that they’re original. I never remember that I put a decal of Captain America’s head on a closet door until I see it again. (I got that for joining FOOM, the Fraternal Order of Ol’ Marvel.)

Of course I never remember what I’ve long forgotten, and I know the house is thick with history it can never tell. But when I wake in the middle of the night, I feel the cold square of the window to my left and the window above my head, and the hot block of the radiator below, and I know exactly where I am. It almost feels like a jail cell; it certainly has those dimensions. And I guess that’s why I always pee in the closet.

Just kidding.

Up this morning earlier than expected, and out the door at nine. Made GREAT time. Wife and child fell asleep after ten miles, leaving me to captain the vessel alone. No radio. No CD. Just the mute tick of the white lines below and the bleak dead scenery all around. I couldn’t live without seeing this landscape once a year. White snow on black furrows; empty trees, drifts piled against the bones of summer fences. I was born to this, and I have to see it every year or something feels wrong. And when I get home to Minneapolis, nothing feels right. It takes a day and a night for Fargo to ebb out of my heart again.

Gnat used my old highchair for breakfast this morning.

When I asked her “where’s Grandpa?” she pointed right at him. No, I wanted to say, that’s Dad. That’s the trim strong man with the Texaco star. That’s the man who slapped the world and started it turning.

My Fargo will never be her Fargo, but she’ll know it just the same. It’s where she came from - long before she ever arrived.


This is the first year I’ve ever paid for snow removal, so the sight of a few swirling flakes does not produce the enthusiasm it did last week. Okay, we got our white Christmas. That’s enough. Thanks. Whoa, mule. Whoa.

I’d do it myself, but I have a corner lot - and while I’ll probably pay the cost of a snowblower, I will not have to snowblow. Yes, I know, it’s a fine manly art - especially if you have one of those big rigs with a headlight, a little cabin with a heater and a radio, and perhaps a GPS unit so you don’t get lost at the end of the drive - but it takes time to bundle up, prod the machinery into life and shove that slakeless maw up and down the block. Between making supper, attending to Gnat & walking the dog the evening is a third gone before it even begins. Snowblowing would not only eat into my diversions, but probably my arm as well: I’ve no doubt I’d maim myself eventually. How I managed to mow the lawn all those years without seeing a toe fly out the side discharge is a miracle to me; I regularly did stupid things like pull the mower backwards on a hill and other things that make the Lawn-Boy people draft new warning stickers. If I got a self-propelled snowblower, I’d have the same relationship to it that Elmer Fudd had to his gun. At some point I’d get the discharge spout twisted around completely backwards, and then run over some soda cans. Maw! Git the styptic pole! Paw done got his face all shreddied up agin! No thanks.

Ordinary day - and by that I mean the hills were alive with the sound of mucus; Gnat’s almost completely shot of the Grippe, wife called in sick, and I went to the office with an crimson schnozz. Wrote a column, stewed briefly over some mail. A rather inoffensive Backfence column - if I’m not repeating myself - drew two nasty comments, and they will be the subject of Monday’s rant. Suffice to say I stand accused of being intolerant of intolerance.

(grinding teeth down to nubs)

Let’s! Think! of! Happy! Things!

Well, all I have tonight is some follow-up info on previous deathless Bleats. Retreads and rebleats for a year’s end Friday.

The Disgrace of Zowie.

I had wild success of 2/3rds of Gnat’s Christmas - sorry, end-year transitional calendrical commemoration - presents. I got her a Rollie Pollie Ollie doll, a Spot the Robot Dog doll from the same show, and Zowie Ollie. I ordered them from different sources. The Zowie doll was for 18+ months - it’s a foot and a half tall. I gave this no thought until the Spot and Rollie dolls showed up - intended for the 3 yrs + market, they were half the size - and Spot was bigger than Ollie. This bothered me. The scale was all wrong. Ollie is the biggest, followed by Zowie, and then Spot. I gave Gnat a big Zowie, a medium Spot, and a small Ollie. Ahhhh, what does a baby know about these things?

She has completely rejected the Zowie. I can’t tell you how proud this makes me. She’s right: this uberZowie, this Attack of the 50-foot Amazing Colossal Zowie, does not belong. She loves the other two. Tonight while having her evening ration of fortified Gerbergruel, she watched the show while clutching Ollie. Earlier, when spouse and dog were out for a walk, I turned on the techno-electronica satellite music channel up to TEN and made Ollie and Spot dance in rave-like abandon, and this provided endless delight for us both.

The books I chose are also a hit. The family room is awash in books; every day it looks as if a FedEx plane loaded with books crashed in the ocean a mile off shore, and the entire cargo washed up in our house. No complaints here. We have only two talking electronic toys - one is an Elmo phone she uses for imaginary conversations with Elmo, or Mommy, or malevolent poltergeists for all I know; the other is a device that simulates the sound of common barnyard animals, from the cow to the duck to a goat that sounds like someone disembowelling Sam Kinnison. Whenever I hear the voice say “The Cow says moo!” I wonder who that guy was, and whether he gets residuals. I mean, you’ve no idea. Could be someone who was the star of high school theater in Buford, Indiana, and made his way to New York to be a star on Broadway, and one day did this toy-voiceover to pay the rent, and is now an embittered skinhead in an Idaho compound oiling his gun and waiting for the day he can show ZOG what a true patriot thinks. Whoever he is, his obit won’t give a clue. You never see this in the paper: “Steve Parsons supplied the voice for Fisher Price’s Barnyard Fun Speak ‘n’ Squawk, SKU #329-392A, assembled in Indonesia.”


Finally got the Xbox plugged in. Am in heaven. I showed it to my wife tonight, expecting rote bemused indulgent yes-dear interest, but she found it compelling - when an enemy ship appeared overhead and landed, and I started sneaking up on the bad guys, I thought she was going to grab my arm and tell me to hang back. It's Half-Life meets Half-Life meets Doom in a Quake 2 version of Half-Life!

No, I don't play a lot of games; why do you ask?

Twin Peaks.

Mentioned this a week or so ago; got the DVDs, and expected to get around to them some day. I’ve watched them every night. Most of it holds up.

What doesn’t work:

1. Ben Horne’s brother, Jerry. A character caught between the 80s and 90s who sums up the most annoying aspects of both.
2. The boistrous Scandahoovian investors associated with 1.
3. James Hurley’s guitar song. No, it’s not on the first season set, but I know it’s coming, and I’m girding myself for it.
4. Um . . .that's about it. What works:

Where to start. Well . . . as a red-blooded American male, it - no, that’s heterocentrist and exclusionary to those who don’t share my aesthetic parameters; let me just say that Agent Cooper’s reaction to finding Audrey Horne in his hotel room ranks as perhaps the greatest act of self-denial in TV history since Rob Petrie said “sure, honey, two beds are a great idea,” and that the additional presence of Joan Chen in this show makes it a fine reference piece for my notions of pulchritude.

(wiping brow)

2. The music. The few spare music cues (by Lynch’s muse, Angelo Badalamenti) set the mood more than any other aspect of the show. The simple two-note motif of the Ominous Theme of Forboding Ominousness (used later to fabulous effect by Moby in “Go”) still stops me in my tracks ten years later; the main theme has a simple sadness lesser composers would attempt to achieve by overscoring. I recommend all the soundtracks, including the first Julie Cruise album. Lots more of the same.

3. The tertiary characters. The otiose rectitude of Bobby Brigg’s father (who later turned up, in one of those nudge-nudge castings, as Dana Sculley’s father) (don’t get me started on the Great Missed Opportunity of an X-files / TP crossover) or the hoarse furtive protests of the one-armed shoe salesman - the second tier of secondary characters were often just placeholders for the subplots, but the marginal characters were truly brilliant.

4. Agent Cooper. The tentpole for the entire show. In an alternate universe, Shatner never turned into T. J. Hooker; Kyle never did “Showgirls.” A haunted past, a crack shot, a practical mystic, a man who understood the boon of good pie and the power of black coffee - well, I’m just sorry he ended up in Hell, and I do hope he got out.

I feel cursed to live in a culture that will supply three sequels to “Gilligan’s Island” yet leave Twin Peaks unfinished.

On the other hand, “The Harlem Globetrotters Visit Twin Peaks” would probably leave me more depressed than I was before.

That’s it; this bleat week limps to an end; time for Halo, time for the last episode on the TP DVD, time for pie - damn good pie, thank you - and time for bed.

It stopped snowing! And it’s less than the amount of snow that brings the shovel brigade! Hurrah! That’s the spirit, Winter - 3/8 of an inch, and not a fargin’ flake more.


Apologies for last week’s odd truncated pages; once again I found my backside hard up against the bandsaw of my own ignorance, and neglected to adjust a key variable in the page’s width attribute. Internet Explorer could handle it, but Netscape choked.

I don’t like Netscape.

Me vs. the Retail Economy, con’t

Went shopping with Gnat on Saturday, giving my wife a chance to sleep off the Grippe. First stop: the Galleria, a hoity-toity mallette in Edina, across the street from Southdale (the world’s first modern enclosed mall, thank you very much.) Recession be damned: there wasn’t a parking spot anywhere, and this place had lots the size of St. Peter’s Square. I finally stalked a couple leaving the place, and waited while they got in their car, warmed it up, read a few volumes of Proust, completed a game of Monopoly, and finally decided to leave. If we all carried Phasers with the Destruct-O setting, people like this would be vaporized fifty times a day.

Into the stroller went a pliant Gnat. We went to a furniture store that sells the Stickley line, which is the original Arts & Crafts stuff; it’s all hand-made by grey ancient gnomes, all of whom are named Gustav or Elbert, and all of whom impart the Very Essence of the Arts & Crafts Movement into the wood itself, probably by spitting. At least that’s the sense you get from reading the literature, which takes great pains to draw a Straight Unbroken line from your ottoman to the men who conceived this style 100 years ago. The store sent us a flier alerting us to a new piece, a sideboard which would only be made for a limited time - say, between 9 AM Tueday to closing time Thursday - and I had one day left to order it; after that, they would just laugh in a gently mocking fashion and show me pictures of the better clever people who had ordered it on time So like a good graduate of Pavlov's kennel, I went to see it. It was lovely - inlaid wood in a design that nodded genially to the Arts & Crafts’ hussy sister, Art Nouveau. I bought it. This is one of the rewards of adulthood: not all your furniture consists of laminate-clad formaldehyde-soaked wood chips that have been pressure-formed, treble-glued and held together with pegs and godless European screws.

O, such a shine this put on the day, a shine so soon to be sullied. Went to the grocery store, and I had one of those expansive what-the-hell moods where everything looks good and most of it ends up in the cart. For some reason Gnat was in super-adorable mode, because SIX women came up and commented on her dewy pink-cheeked beauty. I always expect them to ask how such a perfect creature came from such a shabby careworn sod as myself, but apparently today my hair was not flying all over, and I hadn’t blindly chosen the sweater on which Gnat had spat Cheerios and Gerber’s Pulverized Rice Mush the previous night.

I was low on coffee - meaning, I knew my current supply would run out in four days. I have a reserve freeze-dried brick of Folgers, which can get me thought emergencies, but the point of having emergency reserves is not to use them. So I got more. This store has at least four dozen square plastic udders filled with beans, a third of which are roasted by McGarvey. I have a sentimental attachment to McGarvey - it’s a local company, it’s what we served at the Valli and hence it’s what I drank by the hogshead at the Valli every night, and they still have the Flame Room blend from the old days of the venerable Radisson hotel. I got half a pound, and poured it into the UNFLAVORED  COFFEE  ONLY  PLEASE grinder. As usual, there were three bags of unground coffee on the shelf. There are always three bags of unground coffee. People get some beans, then think better of it. Grinder’s Remorse.

Don’t worry, this is going somewhere.

I got all the parts from which I will conjure this week’s meals (Red Curry Thai Chicken with Jasmine Rice, Anaheim Chili-rubbed grilled Pork slabs with horseradish-infused mashed potatoes, Meatloaf with cracked-pepper tomato sauce, crab-stuffed cod, and, the most caniballistically themed meal I can imagine, Manwiches on a bun with skin-on fries) and went to the frozen food aisle. “Boppy,” Gnat said, because for a few weeks in a row two months ago we got Jasper’s frozen dog treats here, and she still equates the aisle with boppy num. Off to the checkout. Out to the car. Back home; put everything away, and brew up a fresh pot of joe to celebrate the day. I put the new coffee with the bag with the old stuff and scooped it into the Melitta. It brewed quick, and I poured a big cup -

It - was - flavored.

Someone had put flavored coffee in the unflavored grinder. This coffee tasted like hazelnut. And I’d contamined my entire supply. I had nothing but hazelfargin-nut flavored coffee. Why? What was it about the big sign UNFLAVORED COFFEE ONLY that didn’t connect with whatever dullard did this? Why, for that matter, is there flavored coffee? COFFEE IS FLAVOR. No one expects to see coffee-flavored hazelnut, after all. You want flavored coffee, go get your General Mills International Blend powder and sit on the sofa with your girlfriend and giggle over Jean Luc, the Parisian waiter like the bloody commercials.


I broke out the Folgers. That’s what it’s come to as the year concludes: reduced to Folgers.

And since that is, at the moment, my greatest complaint, I should probably realize that I am perhaps the luckiest man on the planet, blessed more than I have the sense to see, and deeply, deeply grateful..

Happy New Year.

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