And so it begins:

“Daddy, I’m a little nervous about having a baby in my tummy.”

Well, good. Hold that emotion for about 25 years.

“Why? You don’t have to have a baby for a long long long time.”

“I want to be thin.” Oh. My. “I don’t want to have a fat tummy.”

“But your tummy goes down after the baby.”

“I’m still a little nervous.”

So I explained that she had to go to kindergarten first, then school, then junior high, then high school, then college, then a job, then meet her Prince and get married, and then travel around the world and / or go to the moon as she chose, and THEN she could have a baby. By which time I’ll be about ninety, but I didn’t get into that.

Later, after school, we went to McDonald’s for supper. This is a rare treat, and was occasioned by her desire to get the My Little Pony Happy Meal. (A few weeks ago she saw a McD bag in a garbage with Ponys on it, and correctly deduced that there was a promotion in progress.) En route I asked her what she thought the McDonalds My Little Pony would look like.

“It might have red hair and a yellow body. And a hamburger on its bum.”

Four and a half, and she’s got the branding down pat. And where does she get it? PBS. They run a little spot before one of her favorite shows. Upon further inquiry she thought that Ronald McDonald owned all the restaurants. Interesting: she did not think he was a clown, just a man who dressed oddly.

About “The Towering Inferno.” Michele took me to task for speaking poorly of the movie, and while I admit it’s the best of the disaster movies, that’s not exactly a field crowded with overachievers. It has its pleasures; William Holden spends the entire movie in a crimson smoking jacket, which has to count for something. (He has his big thick black-rimmed glasses blown off at the end when the water bursts through the ceiling, but manages to have them on his face again at the end, 137 floors below.) Richard Chamberlain has a satisfyingly weasely death, although his character is such an ur-70s male – wafer-thin, ferret-chested, bird-boned – he could have probably opened up his tux and sailed down to earth. It was a pleasure to watch it wide-screen in HD – made it more enjoyable than a crimped & cut-up pan-and-scan that shows up on late-night TV. But it still ends with two segments of typical stupidity. Newman, the architect, is sitting at the foot of the ruined structure with Faye Dunaway. “Maybe they should just leave it as it, as a monument to all the bullshit in the world.” That, friends, was the 70s. One bad guy cuts corners on construction and orders substandard electrical work, a building catches on fire, and somehow this is not only an apt symbol of “all the bullshit” that stalks the globe, but the building should be left as a 137-story indictment whose empty, charred hulk dominates the San Francisco skyline. Have a nice day!

The second moment comes immediately afterwards, when Steve McQueen upbraids Newman for building something too tall. “And until you ask us how to build ‘em, we’ll keep eatin’ smoke and pulling the bodies out”, or words to that effect. Whereupon Newman promises to consult with the firemen on his next project. Which presumably will be three stories tall with a hook-and-ladder crew in the basement. And a catapult on the roof to throw people off should the need arise. I think the main problem with the buiding in the Towering Inferno was not the towering part but the inferno segment, which was assisted by a malfunctioning sprinkler system. Just a guess. But it was typical of the era: You and your hoobris, man! You’re bringin’ us all down! If this attitude had been common in 1929, the headlines would have read “Empire State Building announced; 128 expected to die in construction.”

Well, Friday morn I have playroom duty again, which means I have to finish the Tuesday column RIGHT NOW. Short Joe, I expect. It’s interesting how these things work; if you’re really bored, you can figure out where I came up with the point of entry for the stories. The Cardinal matchbook was a stumper, frankly. Where’d he get it? Grocery store. Okay, but how many grocery store episodes are we going to do; how thrilling is that? Make it a small-town grocery store on the way back from the movie theater, then. But that’s hardly different. Why would he buy crackers? Well, he doesn’t have to; he can just get the matches. But say he did want crackers: why? Stomach hurts. Ah – so maybe he stops for the night. Bingo. And we’re off. It’s not always that convoluted – the presence of the stopwatch means I don’t have time to overthink these things.

Ahh, Friday. Have a fine weekend, and we’ll see you Monday. Or Sunday if you read the column.
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