I was sitting outside in the damp gazebo, pounding away on the Lunchtime column - a diverse assemblage, if I say so myself, preeningly - when I heard someone come up the walk. I heard something go THUMP on the doorstep. Went out to see what it was:

Phone books.

But the guy was still at the bottom of the steps. I called him: Hey! Thanks, but you can have them back.

And he came up the stairs and took them back! Even better: he ripped off a corner of the book to give me a web address where I could opt out of the books. Huzzah and thanks, brother. I wrote a column a few months ago (soon to appear in a Kindle-friendly compilation) in which I described the general uselessness of phone books; they might as well send out a solid object the size of a phone book with the airport taxi number printed on the side, since that’s all I ever use it for. Got an angry letter from someone who, coincidentally, was in the phone book business, and described how they were useful for small businesses who wanted to reach out to new customers, etc etc.

If that’s their strategy, then they will remain small.

Some of you are thinking: why not order taxis online? There’s probably an app. Don’t trust it. When it comes to a cab, I want to talk to a dispatcher. There’s something about cabs that’s wild and wooly - between you and the drivers, there has to be a human being. I know that’s irrational, but everything about cabs seems hectic and half-busted and ad hoc and undependable. If it’s not the drivers, who seem to lack a knowledge of the city matched only by their insistence on flooding the car with the scent of vanilla, it’s the companies, which have several names (Airport Cab will take you to the airport, and also to the city from the airport; City Cab will take you to the airport, from the City, and so on) and a strange, Soviet flavor I can’t quite put my finger on.

I want this.

I want the driver to be cynical and laconic, but I want him to step on it if I wave a ten spot, and I want him to have a cap. I want him to know ten ways to go around the block.

When I lived in DC the rates were set by zone, which meant that the drivers drove like maniacs so they could dump you off and troll for another fare. I’ve had Tilt-A-Whirl rides that pulled fewer Gs.

As for the phone books, well, I’ve opted out before. I think “opting out” actually means “confirmation of address and your existence.” Every day I opt out of email that clogs my boxes, and still it comes, a ceaseless gush of froth and drivel.

Went to the Mall tonight - not to see Batman; I will, but for God’s sake it’s 2 hours and 45 minutes. That’s a large quantity of Batman. That’s like duty. A job. There were great sales on clothes, because July is when everyone starts thinking about wearing heavy brown stuff, right? Aren’t we all just itching to get into fall clothes? TO HELL WITH THAT. Target has school stuff up: TO HELL WITH THAT. There will come a day when something in the air, something in the angle of the sun, something in the quality of light through the leaves, makes me think: Oatmeal. Leaves. Nip in the air. Woodsmoke. Halloween delights. But on behalf of July, still standing, hand on the doorknob of the exit, TO HELL WITH THAT.

Recall a Bleat a while back about Corporate Pizza? The local brands bought up by a big company, or the make-believe brands that make you think it’s a local fave? Saw this at the grocery store:



It’s from Appleton, Wisconsin. They’re proud of their tradition! It all goes back to Orv, one of those guys who got into pizza in the 50s. As this page demonstrates, they’ll put your name on it, too. You could sell Vro’s Pizza, if you like. I wonder if you could manufacture a backstory:

“It all started in 2011, when a Minneapolis pizza-lover named James read a webpage about Orv’s pizza. He bought one at the grocery store, and introduced his family to the special blend of herbs and fresh, Wisconsin cheese. Soon friends were asking about that pizza he said he’d tried, and James became famous for the frozen pizzas he served, hot from the oven.

“In 2012 James decided to share his find with the rest of the upper northern Midwest, and bring his discovery to pizza-lovers who were tired of other indistinguishable one-name pizza brands. Now you can find Vro’s in your favorite grocery store, with the same great taste of Vro’s, and the same stock art of sausage nodules on the lower third.”

It’s a thought.

One more random picture: took this outside the restaurant where we had dinner Saturday night.


Isn’t that nice? The lost art of the formal bow. When I was pulling away, I saw another couple come along, stop, point, laugh, and take a picture with the cellphone. Don’t try to get away with a misspelling in these erudite districts, pal.

Hey, what’s the Wednesday update? THIS. See you around.







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