We’re having nocturnal micturition issues. I’d like to know if she has any dreams before the levee breaks. Hon, do you dream about surfing with the Care Bears? Crossing a stream on a My Little Pony? Drowning with Barbie? Opening a fire hydrant with Strawberry Shortcake?

Most of all I’d like to know what compelled her to turn on the boombox and play HERE COMES THE ICE CREAM MAN! In the middle of the night to alert the house to the dampness of the bed. I nearly had a stroke. Gah! Gah! No! And so the day began, hours ahead of schedule. Last day of pseudo-camp; today they made masks. Paper plates with eye, nose and mouth holes cut out, smeared with glue and crayons. They all looked like burn victims. Home for lunch. I tried to write a column and answer some email, which is a bit difficult when you’re asked to dress a Polly Bloody Pocket every three minutes, but you find a way. I also had to wash the sheets and the mattress pad. And between loads the glass globe over the ceiling’s light fixture decided this would be a good day to fall off and shatter, throwing shards of glass all over the floor and rug. It was one o’clock, and I felt as if I had been up since the parting of the heavens and the earth.

Off to Southdale. Couldn’t go to the beach or the park or the pool, since it was about 60 degrees. The two most precious months of the year are May and June, and both were total washouts; I have now staked everything on a good July. A good long hot dry July that makes you long for cooler weather, makes you plead for relief. In the meantime there’s always the mall for boundless entertainment.

Am I going to get a toy? She asked.

No, hon. Remember what we talked about yesterday? We don’t always get a toy every time. You have lots of toys.

But I want one.

Remember what we bought yesterday? We bought something for Jasper. This week we’re buying presents for other people. That makes us happy, because it makes them happy.

I’m serious here – this week is Altruism Week, wherein I teach her the joys of doing nice things for other people. She had toy overload last weekend, and I didn’t like what I saw. She was more interested in what might come next than what she had now. Yesterday we shopped for a treat for Jasper. Today we were going to get something for her best friend Livvy. I explained why it wasn’t good to be dissatisfied:

If you have five Hello Kittys, you’re sad because you don’t have six. And that’s not right.

I have nine Kittys.

Okay, you have nine Kittys, and you’re sad because you don’t have ten. But some kids don’t have any.

Can I have ten Kittys for my birthday?

And so it goes. It’s thorny, and it took some doing, but she got very excited about buying a present for her friend, and spent a lot of time choosing the right item. Later she wanted some gum from a kiosk. Usually I say no to rote candy, but she said “we can give some of it to Livvy.”

Oh, she’s good.

Went to the Apple store to play Reader Rabbit, a vastly annoying game. We had to arrange shirts by vowel sounds. Yes, that’s a useful skill. Gave it up after demonstrating that she’s already reading at a first-grade level; that’s my girl. We could have played the Dora the Explorer game, but Gnat is cool on Dora. Don’t blame her. Dora appears to have been brought up in an steel foundry, because she’s obviously half-deaf: she shouts everything at the top of her lungs.

On to the I Spy game, which manages to capture the ingenious detail of the books. Didn’t buy anything this time – I’m currently playing “Call of Duty,” so I don’t need a game. (CoD is perhaps the loudest game I’ve ever played. Deserves all the good reviews I read, too. It’s very realistic, as long as you get past the reincarnation, boundless ammo and the fact that the Germans have dropped 25-point health packs all over northern France. Thanks, Fritz!)

Then Crate and Barrel, the store all kids hate. Don’t. Touch. Anything. Then Bath and Body Works, which Gnat loves, since the clerks let her take stuff out of the drawers and pretend she’s stocking the shelves. This time the shelves actually needed stocking, too. She did it all, arranging the bottles by color while the clerks looked on with that awwwww! For cute! Expression. Grocery store for staples and flowers. Video store for weekend movies, and for “Barbie Swan Lake,” a disc whose surface looks as if it was used a skating rink for mice. It skips and stutters and goes blocky a lot, but Gnat loves it. “Bawbie is so beautiful,” she sighs. “Do you know – she – she runs away with the soldier and the man but the evil mouse goes after them and he lives in a castle and casts an evil spell.”

Then what? I take it you’ve seen this before.

Then everything is ugly. But not Bawbie.

Somehow that’s nice to know.

She loves her life; I know she wishes it had a little more Mommy, but it’s still pretty good. Warm and safe and full of pink ponies and fun things to watch and read. I know she won’t remember any of these details. But when you’ve finished listening to a symphony it’s not the notes you recall. He says, desperately trying to convince himself that his work is not in vain.

Home. I got out the coffee pot, held it under the water. After a minute I realized that it wasn’t filling up. Looked at the bottom: big chunk missing. My reaction was like a stoner who drops his last pack of ZigZags in the toilet. NO COFFEE? WHAT WAS I GOING TO DO? Well, I have some instant set aside for just these moments. And here’s modern life for you: I popped a mug of water in the microwave, set it for two minutes, then opened a browser in the kitchen laptop, called up amazon, did a search for a replacement carafe, and finished the order before the microwave timer dinged.

That is the Jetson world, right there. Well, close.

The instant was undrinkable, of course. There’s nothing worse. It’s not even coffee. It’s loose stool from a meerkat. As soon as my wife came home I went to the drug store for a cheap replacement. Decisions, decisions. This being America, the drug store had five different varieties. The cheapest was $10.00, and it made “five cups,” which usually translates to one good drinkable mug and a splash of boiled burnt swill. For $20.00 I could get the Black and Decker SmartBrew with PerfectPour carafe, in E-Z Stain White, and that’s the one I got. The box describes its attributes in three tongues, and you have to like this:

Sneak-A-Cup Interrupt Feature
Dispositivo de interrupcion de colado Sneak-A-Cup
Dispositif de pause pendant I’infusion Sneak-A-Cup

The idiom is apparently untranslatable, or – more likely – they didn’t bother to trademark it in France and Mexico. Why bother. But it shows you how the language changes; aside from the American idiom, I’d guess that the French and Spanish phrases would make rough sense to someone in 1904, whereas “Sneak-A-Cup Interrupt Feature” would sound utterly baffling to a native speaker of English.

Home. Made coffee. Not bad, but the first few pots are always the best.

Then I realized I had no idea where the chipped shard from the carafe had gone. I felt around the kitchen, swept the floor: nothing. Well, life is full of these mysteries. Which are often solved a while later when you turn on the garbage disposal, and it makes a sound of high-speed metal blades eating glass. Oy. Shut it off, and considered my options: I could either turn it on again and run the water, or do something that would seem to sum up this long chore-stuffed day: put my hand into a garbage disposal and feel around for broken glass.

Raise your hand – your unbloodied, unpunctured hand – if you just want to turn on the disposal. So I did. With a wet rag over the drain in case it sent out a cloud of fine glass fragments that would give everyone lung hemmorages.

Ding! That was the drier, telling me that the sheets and pad were done, and I would now have the privilege of putting the bed together.

My wife said she’d do it. Bless her. I went upstairs and shot Nazis.

I hate those guys.

Storage room: yesterday.

Coming along.

Finally: yesterday we had fun with Rex Reed, who’s a gassy dolt. Glib Nazi comparisons. Ooh! Naughty. But today we had something different; today Al Gore upped the ante. He coined a new term for the Internet critics of his positions: digital brownshirts. Yes, yes, it’s over the top. But it’s not the sentiment that raises eyebrows, it’s the position of the person who’s saying it. We don’t expect presidential candidates past or present to indulge in Usenet flame-war lingo. We don’t expect serious party elders to call the other side Nazis, and for good reason: it’s obscene. The brownshirts were evil. The brownshirts kicked the Jews in the streets and made the little kids put their hands on their heads as they stumbled off to the trains. The brownshirts were not interested in refuting arguments. They were interested in killing the people who dared argue at all.

At some point, I fear, the political discourse of 2004 is going to seem horribly irrelevant and misplaced in the face of some loud new wretched horror; it will seem as oddly disconnected from reality as the Condit / Killer-Shark news reports of August 2001. An indolent luxury.

Digital stormtroopers. Tell me again who’s stifling debate? Remind me again who’s questioning people’s patriotism?

Find me again the story where Bob Dole called the Dixie Chicks “musical Mukhabarats”? Look. We don't have to agree on the big hard issues, but we can certainly agree that we share common values that set us apart, and that it profits no one to identify the opposition as something outside the American experience. Liberals are not Communists. Republicans are not fascists. We have a nice window of opportunity here where we can come together by choice, instead of being thrown together by events. I say we get a head start on national unity, and turn on anyone who floats the Nazi analogy. Shun 'em. No links, no reviews, no radio interviews, no newspaper pieces, nothing. From now on, the Nazi parallel buys you bupkis. This means that the right doesn't get to parade around the mutterings of high-profile wackjobs as illustrative of the heart of everyone who votes D, and the left doesn't get to do the whole "he's wrong in his overheated critique, BUT" dodge. Enough. ENOUGH! For Christ's sake, enough!

If you don't agree, fine, but spare me the emails. Write me when Al Gore gives a big long angry speech about the consequence of Iran having nuclear weapons. Write me when this Al Gore returns. Back then the man knew a brownshirt when he saw one. No more, alas.

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c. 1995-2004 j. lileks