O curse this week and its unending strangeness. Now feeling about 89.8% normal, but it’s not enough. The world is akilter and askew. The truth of the day feels like a door ajar, seen out of the corner of the eye.

You’ll notice there are buttons at the bottom of the page that let you tell the world whether you like something or not. I understand the ambivalence. On Stumbleupon today I had one of those modern preference-anxiety moments: I like this, sure. I mean, it’s okay. But if I tell the site I like it, I’ll see more like it. I don’t know if I really want to see more exquisite miniature art made out of dried leaves. What would be similar, anyway? Art from gourds, from banana peels? Leaves cleverly made to be non-leaf things? There’s no downside to not liking it, but on the other hand, you’ve no idea how many cumulative non-liking moments combined to take away something odd you might really like.

It’s an interesting way to help people parse the immense amount of content that gets piled higher and higher every day. The ability to amplify some things and mute others makes it more useful, but also more homogeneous. The alternative is something that reflects your interests like a cloudy mirror set at an angle. In-between in the grail. Don’t know if anyone’s figured out in-between yet, or “like” and “dislike” would be replaced by a sliding scale. Which, I suppose, will come.

Cold today. Damned cold. Forty-two, the thermometer says, but the wind scoffs at that and takes it down ten pegs. Walked over to the Occupy Minnesota plaza to apologize for the unpleasantness with the frying pan in my fever dream the other day. (Last night’s dream - which was accompanied by the same damned soakedness; this makes NO SENSE. But I knew it was going to happen, since I had the same drained feeling at the end of the day as I’ve had for three or four. All day long, plenty of energy, then at the end of the night, kapow, and off to feverworld for a few hours, although even when I wake I’m not feverish. Maybe the room’s too hot. But I dreamed that cartoonist Henry Payne left a comment on the page, and was trying to find a good phrase to describe his work. I laid there in the room staring at the ceiling and said, aloud, “ineffably spontaneous.” Then I went back to sleep.) There were new signs, and perhaps some new people, but there can’t be more than 20 camped out. Less if this keeps up.

Hah! October, unravelling into November, and I wonder if this will keep up. Well, we’ve had warm Halloweens. I hope this one’s warm as well; the neighborhood party is always outside. There’s a fire, but when it’s cold, sitting around a fire is a fix, not a solution.

Daughter was going to go as a hobo. A friend said that was insensitive to homeless people. Augh. I explained that hobos are not the same as The Homeless, who are undomiciled for reasons of economic difficulty. The family kicked out of apartment because they can’t pay the rent, the fellow who lands in town without enough money for a flop - if they still exist anymore, that is; we’ve been bulldozing flops around here for decades, because they had the unfortunate effect of attracting people who needed them. The Gateway district was all-flop. A TB-incubator nonpareil, a lice-ridden hellhole that stank of piss and vomit, with each building a warren of cubicles set apart with chicken-wire and plywood. The bums spent the day in the park drinking, then went to the bars after panhandling, then slept it off upstairs. Everything was duly demolished and that seemed to settle the problem of alcoholism once and for all. The last flop-block was probably Block E, razed for a now-empty shopping mall and a high-rise luxury hotel. Anyway, I said that the classic Halloween Hobo was a merry character who had voluntarily detached himself from society, and travelled around on trains, doing what he could. He’d work for that piece of pie, if ma’am had any wood to chop. As Mencken wrote:

Tramps and hobos are commonly lumped together, but in their own sight they are sharply differentiated. A hobo or bo is simply a migratory laborer; he may take some longish holidays, but soon or late he returns to work. A tramp never works if it can be avoided; he simply travels. Lower than either is the bum, who neither works nor travels, save when impelled to motion by the police.

A free spirit, but not one the rest of us should emulate, since it’s a lonely life, and hard. Then again: this.

But if it’s called insensitive, then it is, regardless of the facts. The costume? An old coat, a greasepaint beard, the classic bindle.

She’s also in debate after school now, and yesterday’s topic was “Should everything be free?” She argued Heck No, because no one would work. The affirmative side responded that only people who worked would be allowed to get stuff, which she correctly identified as the flaw in their argument that free-everything would reduce poverty, homelessness, crime, and all the other bad stuff. Besides, how much work do you have to do? If you work for an hour on a painting do you get a free house?

“You’d have to come up with a way,” I said, “of deciding how much of one kind of work equalled an amount of another kind of work. And so you end up inventing money again.”

She said she WISHED she had thought of that.

This morning was the second morning in a row the dog did not come down for breakfast.

He sleeps on the bed, usually wakes when we do, and gets carried downstairs. He can walk, but it’s hard. If we leave him there and go down he Barks! and Barks! and does so until tended to; he woke everyone up on Sunday with his insistence that it was time to eat. But Monday he just stayed in bed. I finally took him down around 10, whereupon he polished off his food. And of course he was the usual loud yelping demander of scraps last night after supper; no diminution in appetite there. But this morning, again: slumbering until 10. When I brought him down he sat on the carpet and snoozed again; when I came down the food bowl was still untouched. I banged on the side with a coffee cup, the metal CLANG being familiar, and he came around the corner and ate it all.


Just . . . that. Sigh.


Huzzah, and all that: just came back from parent-teacher conference. Unlike the previous school, where you got a 20-minute one-on-one with the home room teacher, here you talk to them all individually for a brief period, then stand in a long line for 10 minutes, then talk to another. It’s nice to see the teacher respond to the child’s name with a smile and the ahhh yes! roll of the head, and while you might think they give that to all the parents - and perhaps some do - her grades are really very good. Better than ever, especially in math, which was the source of Great Shame and Strife last year. She’s all happy about it too.

“Do I get anything for getting 100s?”

“Virtue is its own reward,” I say.


Put a few bucks in her iTunes account when she wasn’t looking.

So up and out to the walk-in clinic tomorrow, because I can’t shake this fever. It would be odd if it wasn’t pneumonia. Of course, I’ll have a chest X-ray, and they’ll find something fatal, and then it’s over.

Or, it’s not! On a day like today, howling and raw and full of portents real and imagined and peripheral and specific, there’s this. An email about yesterday’s Comic Sins.

Hello, James. It's Joe Simon's daughter here. I laughed when I saw your copy of Captain A in Gulliver-Land! I remember watching my father creating that picture and absolutely loved it, fascinated as I was with the Gulliver story! I have no idea where that hand came from or what it was about to do, but I am sure that Dad knows. I'll have to ask him today!

   Dad just celebrated his 98th birthday and is still doing well, living on his own in NYC, still making trouble and creating.

That would make any day. And it did.

Today: the start of the overhaul of Urban Studies; the only thing up is Ghost Signs and this revised site, Main Streets at Night. See you around.


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