Tell me if I’m making too much of this, okay? My daughter just came back from a soccer “camp” - three mornings at a college field, kicking the ball around. They gave the kids a T-shirt on the last day: “I (heart) Men’s Soccer.”

I should note that the ratio of girls to boys was about 3:1.

I’m not saying she was crestfallen - the girls had fun, but I’m sure she’ll never wear the shirt again.

Oh, of course I’m kidding! It was the other way around.

Everything! Is just madly askew. I tell you, it’s chaos around here: Pizza Night on Thursday, social events on Friday, the non-standard work-patterns of Monday and Tuesday to come . . . a man reaches for a railing to keep his balance. I did what I could on Saturday, doing the Errands. It’s a four-stop process - hooch-shop for libations, Traders Joe (so named for an offhand remark by my French brother-in-law - who, incidentally, rocked the Friday night familial social event by unrolling a variety of wines everyone fawned over, only to learn they were from TJ. I can’t blame him for the trick: the man has an epic cellar, but after Thanksgiving and Christmas, where he is expected to bring astonishing wines from the four corners of the civilized world [meaning, France] I can’t blame him for bringing out the budget bottles. It must pain him that his mother prefers Belgian beer, which is something I realize once a year then forget until I see her again at Christmas. He brings his mother over. She speaks about two words of English, which is more than my father speaks of French; can’t fault her for anything. She is old-style: you get a kiss on both sides of the cheek. She is otherwise undemonstrative. I speak as much French as I can: ici Madame c’est votre bierre! when I give her a refill. When I was doing dishes at the end of the Family Event she came over and said, in French, Mister James, they are putting you to work. Mais j’aime le travail!

It was good to see everyone - the occasion was my niece’s birthday. Swore it was a few months ago. Was reminded that I had some worries in the back of my head, which had supplanted the worries I had last year at this event, which I have either forgotten or conquered. In any case, another year: something the adults mutter about and fold up and put in their pockets, something the young girls hold up like sparklers. Older! Yay! I lost the thread of the evening about two hours in, since we got there at 6:30 and dinner was served, Euro-style, after nine. It was good to see everyone, and good to have the chance to upbraid my French brother-in-law, or FBIL, for his insufficient backup regime.The guy’s in IT. He has one copy of his photos. I don’t know to say.)

and after Traders Joe, Target and Cub. At Traders Joe I got what I needed and checked out and the clerk said “how are you going?”

“Rocking,” I said. I was not actually rocking and had felt less than “Rocking” for most of the day, but Dennis Prager reminds us that it is important to model positive behavior even if we don’t belly-feel it at the moment.

“Rocking!” he said. “Rock on.” He swiped and bagged. “What do think about modern music?”

Swear to God; that’s what he said. That’s why I love Traders Joe. You get people who ask those things. We had a fairly intense conversation about pop music vs. all the subgenres, and I went to my car and tweeted that I’d just argued with a clerk about Eno and remix culture. Most Pretentious Tweet of the Year. Backed up, checked the rear-view mirror:


Oh ho. So I carefully nudged the Element back to block his path, attempting to imitate someone who was backing up without realizing someone was behind him. Jerked the brakes. Check the mirror again: I see him go from irritation to recognition. Grins. He motions to roll down the window.

“What is the name of the Network Attached Storage device you have?” he says. I tell him. “And you are satisfied with it.” I say that I am. Call me, we’ll talk. He nods and goes off to get good wine we will probably drink in a year; if anyone can find the bottle that needs to rest for a while, it’s him.




Target: brutally efficient trip, marred only by five minutes of agony in the Disposable Storage area. Once a year I think I should sweep clean the disposable container paradigm, because it suffers paradigm-creep. You get locked into the Glad world, and everything has a blue lid, and you add some non-standard plastic containers, and someone gives you back the Tupperware container with a red lid, and you just want to clear the decks and start anew. So I loaded up the cart with Tupperware, drove around the store for a while, thought better, went back, and replaced everything.

There was a guy stocking the shelves who watched me, either because he couldn’t believe A) I was putting things back in the right aisle, B) couldn’t believe I was putting things back exactly where they should be, or C) couldn’t believe I cared, when hey, that’s what they did, put things back. Loser. You think you get credit in heaven for this?

Then Cub, because: if you spend X amount at Cub you get X cents off your gas purchases. I always get Jasper’s Frosty Paws at Cub because they’re cheaper. The first thing I do is check the Frosty Paws, because if they’re out, man, there’s hell to pay. No: the cooler had both flavors, Original and Peanut Butter.

Back of the store for peanuts: Cub deeply discounted Planter’s Honey Roasted. Interrogation of the price label said it had been discontinued. Don’t know if that’s nationwide, but act accordingly. Scooped up the discounted items, went back to the Frosty Paws - hello, there were only two. Last chicken in the shop. Hit the self-checkout.

“I only run into you at the store. Why is that?”

I turn and to my absolute delight: the Dark Chef. My old radio producer. The invaluable other-half of the KSTP AM 1500 Diner. The guy who went into a coma and has no memory of us sitting around his hospital bed holding his hand. Who woke up and showed up at our July party at Jasperwood tottering on a cane and shouting PUTTIN ON THE RITZ when he lumbered through the gate. The uber-nerd who got a Klingon symbol tattooed on his arm. Who got fired from the radio station in a purge, got married, went back to school, got his teaching degree, and is now standing here before me as I swipe my stuff over the barcode reader -

“I did a Diner for Christmas,” I said. “The Diner was in peril.”

“Of course,” he said. “Of course it was.”

I described the plot and he described his: teaching next semester, sub work, but the real deal was yet to come: wife heavy with twins.

“I’m efficient,” he said.

There are times you just sag with happiness for someone. It was like that then.

Well, here we are: year’s end. This means a flurry of really pointless stuff that makes me feel as if I’ve accomplished something - namely, assembling all the year’s work, ordering photo books that boil down events to hard-copy volumes, printing off everything I did, finishing up the family videos. Put it all in a box and put the box on the shelf.

A grand weekend, with behind-the-scenes work galore. I found the original photos for a site I did twelve years ago, and redid it; since the page is cited in a wikipedia entry, I felt obliged. Tweaked some massive overhauls for sites no one gives two kreps about, but will stand as nice little treats for people who come across start moving across the vast expanse, and think “hey, what’s this little link go to? HOLY WHOA.”

You’ll note that the Bleat Ban is unchanged.

This is not the usual order of Mondays, is it? Well, just wait. General redesigns and updates and things start anew next week. Tomorrow: a big Happy New Year graphic. The rest of the week: Bleatage as usual, with the Strib Blog and Tumblr. See you around - and HAPPY NEW YEAR!



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