How I love going to bed at 1:30 AM. How I hate getting up at 7:36 AM. It is the lifestyle equivalent of a mullet. Short in the front, long in the back. But how can I not stay up late? There’s so much to do. After I finish writing & spiffing this clusterfeed, there’s the siren song of cable TV, with its endless buffet of historical documentaries. Which monarch’s portrait will the camera pan across tonight? Tune in, and find out. I know these shows are nothing more than illustrated radio, but I can’t resist them. Especially if they’re about Egypt. I love the Egyptian documentaries. I keep waiting for some rotund bald fellow in a pith helmet to hunch down in a sandstone trench, face the camera, and cheerily say “essentially, when it comes down to it, we don’t know squat.”

Of course that wouldn’t be entirely correct, but sometimes I wonder. What do we have in abundance from that sand-smothered era? Tombs. Tombs with wall-paintings. Reconstructing a civilization from this is like imagining the 20th century from a comics page left in a funeral home. And here again we see the recurring figure of Dag-wood, the earth spirit, who resides with the life-giver Blun-dae, and who is constantly thwarted by the Confuser, Mizder Dither, and the archetypal trickster figure Urb Wod’lae. The fact that this page was left on the bench where the mourners sat indicates to us that this story was crucially important for the afterlife ritual.

If it’s not some late-night Egyptology, it’s some real-crime story told through photographs and interviews with retired cops who Had a Hunch and Never Let Go and finally saw the guilty husband sentenced to Chino 21 years later. I can’t get enough of these either. I can only hope my TiVo knows me well enough to record “City Confidential: Cairo” should such a program ever air.

Point is, it’s late and I’m tired and there will be no respiffing of this entry here; it’s presented as-is. Deal.

Well, we know Eric Robert Rudolph’s guilty, don’t we? He has THREE NAMES. He was Eric Rudolph for years, but now he’s Eric Robert Rudolph. Say no more. That’s why I never thought Richard Jewell did the Atlanta bombing; he would have been described as Richard Jay Jewell, or Richard Harvey Jewell. People don’t get a middle name unless they’re a famous criminal. That’s the law. Ricky Ray Rector. Lee Harvey Oswald. James Earl Ray. Sirhan Sirhan Sirhan.

The nation is run by people with four names (William Jefferson Blythe Clinton, George Herbert Walker Bush, Harry Herbert Heever Hoover,
* etc.) The nation is entertained by people with one name - Cher, Sting, Madonna, Eminem, Rush. The people with three names are found guilty by jury members who have two names. What of the five-namers, you ask? Those are the puppet masters, my friend. The Masonic Illuminati. Somewhere now in Bavaria, Rheingelt Quincy Etienne Xavier Chernobog is shaking hands with John Jacob Zhinkleheimer Kim Tanaka. And that handshake took six years to learn.

I finally have theme music again. On my first radio show, it was “Pump it Up” by Elvis Costello. On the Diner radio show, it was “Let’s Dance,” by Benny Goodman. Now on Hugh Hewitt’s show it’s . . .

Hey Hey We’re the Monkees.

Um . . . okay. I think I know what they mean - I am the human equivalent of the million monkeys typing at a million keyboards who produce gibberish for a million years but eventually compose a Shakespearian sonnet by pure chance. I’ll take that. But I never have understood the lyrics to that tune. Hey hey we’re the Monkeys. Noted. People say we Monkey around. Perhaps they wouldn’t if you hadn’t named yourself after common primates, but let it pass. But we’re too busy singing to put anybody down. Excuse me? The act of singing is hardly inconsistent with putting someone down. And why would you say such a thing, anyway? You make it sound as though there is an expectation to put someone down - an expectation you cannot meet because you are singing - and this seems to be a reply to those who say you Monkey Around. But that charge - more of an offhanded observation, really - is a direct result of the fact that you call yourselves the Monkees. Unless your adoption of that term is a response to those who accuse you of Monkeyism, and you are reclaiming the term just as the gay-rights lobby used “Queer” as a term of empowerment.

Anyway, expect me to do something wacky and Monkeesque on Hugh’s show every Monday at 5:20. Like, push a bed across a crosswalk of a busy street, or fall down in the sand with my bandmates. How madcap!

I'm not complaining. For heaven's sake, I have theme music on a nationally-syndicated radio show, and that's cause enough for a round of huzzahs. As for the bit itself, well, I had fun; I had no idea what he was going to ask, and I hope I rose to the moment. It still amazes me - a year ago I was a listener, and now I'm a guest. This is like going from newspaper reader to editorial columnist in 12 months. Doesn't happen in the old media; happens all the time in the new. And that's good for everyone. In the old media world, once you're in, you're in. The editorialists always hang on 10 years past their expiration date. In radio you're here today and quite likely gone tomorrow.

Watching the Simpsons “Tomacco” episode tonight, I was struck again by the brief appearance of the filthiest joke ever broadcast on network TV. I’m serious. I think it’s still there because the censors didn’t get it. If you don’t get it, you don’t see anything untoward; it doesn’t have the appearance of naughtiness. But there it is, every other month when the episode’s rerun: a sign on a rural store.

(Formerly Chuck’s)

I’ve described the line to smart people, clever people, Men of the World, and they don’t get it, which is probably why it’s still there.

And no, I’m not going to tell you if you don’t get it.

Okay, three words: search and replace.

Sunday I went to a Garden Store. We have our choice around here. In Richfield there’s Lyndale Garden, a large middle-class garden superstore. Ten blocks to the north is Bachman’s, a large upper-class garden superstore. What’s the difference? Garden gnomes. The middle-class place has garden gnomes. The upper-class place has customers who look like garden gnomes.

Five blocks north of Bachman’s is a small niche garden store called “Uncommon Grounds,” housed in a former gas station. They’re still around after a few years, so I guess they’re doing something right, but who’d open a tiny garden store with a small parking lot within a two-minute drive of two giant competitors? And it gets better: two minutes to the north is another niche garden store, also housed in a former gas station. This station hails from the 30s or 40s; I think it was a PURE station. It was driven out of business by the Texaco station across the street, which was driven out of business by the Holiday station a block south. It’s dog eat dog, I tell you. And in each instance the vanquished left behind a building that will forever scream REFURBISHED GAS STATION. Doesn’t matter how you trick it up; the way it sits on the lot, the generous driveways, the way the front door is placed just so tells you this was originally a service station from the era of attentive, uniformed employees.

Ding ding!

If you don’t know what that means, you’re probably in your twenties.

(Sudden realization that my 20something readership is probably rather small)

In the olden days of Full Service, you’d signal your arrival by driving over a long black snake. The pressure on the hose caused a bell to ring in the station. Two sets of wheels, two rings. Dingding. It meant customer.

Don’t hear that any more. I’ve no idea when I heard it last. I thought nothing of it at the time, but I was already used to not hearing it.

Industrial birdsong.

Anyway. I took the car seat out of the Gallileo and drove to a garden center for some cedar chips. All the old chips in the backyard had been ground down or carried away, and the weeds have been growing like - well, like weeds. “Weeds” really is the gold standard for wild, unwanted growth analogies. I got ten bags of chips, drove home, drug the sacks up the stairs, got back in the car, drove to get my oil changed. The “Maintenance Required” light has been on for a while, and while I wasn’t overdue on the oil I knew that my air filter looked like Fran Lebowitz’s lungs. I pulled up to the bay; no one around. I nosed the car into the bay, which prompted the appearance of an employee - a Jiffy Luber? No - a Valvolinist. The Valvolinist was not happy that I’d started driving in of my own accord, and to demonstrate her displeasure she motioned me forward with one hand while shaking her head. I took a chance on the hand and moved over the changing trench.

Once I got out she told me not to do that again, or I could fall into the trench. Chastened, I retreated to the waiting room, where there was one copy of Car and Driver. This month: We drive yellow cars that cost a quarter million dollars, and you do not. I read with interest the disappointing performance the new Lambo exhibits when maneuvering at slower speeds. Plus, the gearshift is flimsy. That settles it; no Lambo for me this year.

Anyway. I put down the cedar chips this afternoon. Opened the bags, dumped them on the ground, spread them out. Ten bags. Ten big bags. After the second bag I realized something that everyone who’s ever dumped out a bag of mulch realizes:

I am short a few bags.

To be specific, I am short forty bags.

I’m not kidding. So it’s back to the lot for more. And now it’s back to work; column night. More tomorrow.


* “And a special thanks to Mr. 4-H himself, Harry Herbert Heever Hoover.” Peter Schiekele, “PDQ Bach on the Air.” )