The picture, once again:


It’s me, hanging out a window, shot by a friend who surfaced in email a day ago. It’s remarkable for a few reasons: I don’t have any pictures of the dump, and it’s a location in two of the recent novels. In one it’s the PrezRez, named after its original purpose: the residence of the president of the University of Minnesota. For a few years, anyway. Before there was an official lodging, they lived where they wished, perhaps. I always wondered what it looked like in its heyday; when I lived there it was a chopped-up mess reconfigured for cheap student housing, like much of Dinkytown. The floors were gutted; small rooms were carved out with sheetrock, and few architectural features left. When I lived there the top floor was occupied by “artists,” and the ground floor by members of the University of Minnesota Hockey team, who specialized in noise, fisticuffs, vomit, and Molly Hatchett. They hated us, because . . .

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One night they provoked a fight by coming home late and drunk while we were having a good game of Risk up in the kitchen. Myself, Rick the cook, the Giant Swede, Mike the Intellectual Poolshark Janitor, Wes the Filmmaker. They threw rocks at the window. A few went through the open window. Wes, incensed, grabbed his tennis racket and went down to do battle. I followed, unwisely; Rick was game, because like a lot of wiry stoner guys who saw Bruce Lee movies, he knew Moves. Mike, who could probably kill a man if he had to, but what a hassle, followed reluctantly, and the Giant Swede went along to make sure none of us were beaten too severely. As we poured out of the house we walked into a scene from a gladiator movie - they were all shirtless and pumped and full of animal spirits. The first one grabbed me and ripped off my glasses and threw them in the street, the classic emasculating act of the bully; I said something to the effect “I’m not going to fight you,” which appealed to whatever Code was in effect during these manly outbursts. He let me go; I found my glasses, and saw Rick making kung-fu movements to no effect. Mike probably brought down three by windmilling his wallet, attached to a chain on his belt, and whapping them in the goolies. I don’t know. It ended without blood, and we went back to the game.

When they played their music late at night, loud, we responded by jumping up and down on the floor, hoping it loosened plaster and sent a light fixture crashing down. Oh, there was a causus belli; the winter before, some of the people on my floor had taken all the furniture they stored in the common entryway and arranged it on the front lawn in the snow, complete with electrical cords to illuminate the lamps. Then there was the time they built a snowman and gave it a carrot penis. In a surprising outburst, one of the guys on our floor drove his car up on the lawn and flattened it.

Yes, it was a merry place. It’s gone now. The ramshackle dumps of Dinkytown are still there, but they’re side-by-side with enormous new apartments that have amenities I didn’t dream of when I was 30 and living in a grown-up flat in Washington. Anyone who goes into debt to live in those places while going to school is insane.

This is almost frightening. Realized tonight that:

At my current schedule, I’m two weeks away from finishing the digitization of every single tape I shot since Gnat’s birth. (I’m doing five a day now.) Three weeks away from completing the conversion of pre-Wordpress Bleats to pdfs. (One week per day, something I do in the morning while waking up over coffee.) A month away from finishing Phase One of the real nightmare project, which is removing all photos 2000-2005 from iPhoto and renaming them.

Why? you ask. Because I’m tired of opening up a photo album and having 14,000 pictures that go back ten years. Because search results turn up 3295834 items that begin with IMG. Because I want all the raw stuff archived and off-loaded and all the family history edited to the best and laid out and printed.

In other words: by the end of the year it will be done. More or less. I’ve conquered the basement archives of unscanned material. I’m on top of the flow of Stuff coming in. I will winnow everything down to one hard drive, cloned for off-site, backed up in the cloud.


But I should heed other examples in life. The dog presents a challenge. Since he is old, he stays close to home - on walks he wants to go forever, even in the dark, even though he’s led only by his nose, but during the day if the gate’s open he wanders outside, stands at the top of the hill and looks down like an aged monarch surveying the land that rolls into the distance. This morning I let him out, got a cup of coffee, got to work - ten minutes later, a knock on the door. Neighbor lady.

“This is your dog, right?”

That was my dog. Wet from the rain and looking a little peeved.

“He was over there - “ she pointed across the street, where her own dog was tied to a tree, barking furiously. “I figured he’d gotten out.”

That he did. Inside, you rogue. He’d walked out the back gate, trotted down the back steps, made a long pass around the hill, and was headed up to the water tower when she found him. He likes to go up there because it’s the direction that leads to the park, which has scraps in the summer. When your dog is gone you worry what he’s up to. When he returns you’re happy he had an adventure. Just him and the world and the rain and the smell on the breeze. The night before he had his yarbles snipped, he got out of the house - clawed through a screen in the bathroom where he slept. Stayed out all night. Got a call from someone blocks away; he was in their backyard. Jasper came home and threw up mushrooms. Last night on the town. It’s incorrect to say so, given the problem of Unwanted Puppies, but I always hoped he got lucky that night.

UPDATES: many. Disney Shorts, here, and three entries in the Permanent Collection, here. Enjoy! Have a grand weekend - back on Monday with a Bleat format tailored to some of your suggestions. As ever: thanks for the patronage.

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