Warm on Saturday morning - 30 plus, snow melting, icicles dripping. And then the wind came. Gusts kicked the temps off the cliff. Walking across the parking lot of Target was like negotiating the deck of a ship in the teeth of a gale. I liked it. Winter, hard and cruel. The standard against which you measure the peace and balm of May.
What a difference a week makes: drove back to the tooth shop on Sunday for a check-up. So I betook myself back to Eagan, back to the dentist’s office that’s open seven days a week, and presented my mug for inspection. It is healing well. Having a few hours to kill and many commercial opportunities between Pilot Knob Road - really - and home, I stopped first at Best Buy.
My wife said she needed a laptop so she could work at home in the evening without bringing the office laptop The clerk asked if he could help, and I said I was looking for a cheap virus-magnet laptop loaded with crapware. He asked me to repeat myself. He said the offerings on the showroom floor were scant, but I might try the website. He also said something interesting:
I don’t use a computer myself.
And this from a young fellow. Why so? Because he used his phone for everything except games, and for that he had an Xbox. The idea of a computer was . . . (shrug) whatever. I wandered around the store, looking at things I neither wanted or needed. This was the Best Buy flagship, the best store in the chain: it’s close to the corporate mothership, and they experiment here, put on their best face. I walked out thinking:
They really are doomed.
I don’t know why I thought that; I’ve always enjoyed the store. It always felt like a going concern. But they sell cameras. Laptops. Where once they had rows of media, now there’s little, because physical media is going away. Where once they had games they don’t have games, because - well, see above.
I’m going to miss shopping and looking and touching, I really am. I hope my daughter remembers running up and down the aisles, looking at movies and Nintendo games and marveling at the volume of things to see and hear and play. You never get that sense from internet shopping. On the internet everything is presented individually, a page at a time, like a clerk is bringing out a shoe for Madame to consider.
Then to Target - again - to see if I could find that Jimmy Dean French Toast-sausage breakfast sandwich (240 calories!) that’s taken the family by storm. Two boxes left. Bought them both. Take that, internet. Drove on to MicroCenter, or whatever it’s called - a junky computer store in an old grocery-store building, aisles of geek detritus. Always packed. Good prices. A hard drive or a legacy cable. The internet won’t kill it because there are many of us who need these things now and like to go to a place where these things are.
Back home in the miserable cold. So cold. Numb feet. It hit seven above on Sunday. I probably should have worn gloves.
Watched a delightful documentary: My Father the Genius. Architect-savant who made waves in the 60s and 70s with useless reimaginings of city life - the sort of thing that showed up in four-color magazines with perfect binding and thick covers and MOD graphics, laying out Logan’s-Run visions of cities that bore no relation to anything human beings had created out of their own free will, but had that Arcosanti pizazz, spiny and ahistotorical, rambling spiky spiny things where people wore jumpsuits and cultivated crops indoors and rewrote the tired old rules of the social compact. He was, no surprisingly, a failure, although he did a few houses. He wanted his middle daughter to do a biographical film on him. All three daughters were a bit cool on old Pop, since he left Mom (interviewed in the film, looking like a young Barbara Bush, traditional and grimly amused he was still plugging away at his follies) and took up with another woman, had two kids by her, dumped her for a younger model, all the while tending the flame of his GENIUS.
He had invented the BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE.
He made MODELS OF IT.
He was ABSOLUTELY CLUELESS about what he did to his daughters, chalking it up to the wake a great ship leaves as it steams to new horizons. Frank Lloyd Wright wasn’t troubled by such things; why should he? Cue the interviews with acolytes who assured the daughter that he was, in fact, a GENIUS. Cue the shots of the buildings he managed to finish, underwhelming things that they were. What’s astonishing about the movie is that no one unloads on him, at all, ever. No one ever excoriates him for abandoning his children, or flays him red for the preposterous notion that in order to create visionary architecture that will make us rethink they way we live, you have to shake off bourgeoise conventions like “coming home to have dinner with the family.”
Because he has such extraordinary self-regard, even in his diminished economic state, he doesn’t see the brief his daughter is assembling simply by letting the camera roll. It’s a nice piece of work, and will provide a twinge of musty nostalgia for anyone who remembers those visionary conceptions of how we’d live some day when we decided that cities were simply unsustainable. Yes, we’d all shuck the vibrant, messy, endlessly diverse constructs of steel and stone for a spindly monstrosity dropped in a field, powered by the sun, where people would wear clothing made of kelp and develop an economy based on Thinking Challenging Things.
The reason all these models looked the same? Toothpicks were cheap.
When it was done I went upstairs to see what my daughter was doing.
She was typing at her novel and watching TV on her iPod. She has Two-Screen Skills, as do I. On Saturday night I watched “Stolen,” a crappy noisy Nic Cage movie that exists, I suspect, because Cage saw “Taken,” called his agent, and said “get me one of those with more driving.” I had it playing on one screen while I did work on the other. It’s a fine skill, watching crappy entertainment on the periphery of one’s vision.
I sat on the bed and asked:
So are the boys still quizzing you on comics in Art class?
OMG yes one of them had this big book of Marvel, okay, and it had all these superheroes I’d never heard about like . . . Spider-Man Girl, and a Hulk Girl -
Ignore them. They don’t matter.
Right okay and Silver Surfer
Ah, now he was tragic. The advance man for Galactus, who ate planets. He agonized over his job; a conflicted character.
And they asked us questions and I got some right, like, what’s the name of Thor’s hammer -
Right right I knew it was M something but no one else did. And Captain America’s sidekick, I didn’t know that -
But I did know his enemy, but I said “Red Skin” at first. And then there was (rolls eyes) Doctor Doom
Oh, Victor Von Doom, leader of Latveria. Fearsome and brilliant. Don’t roll your eyes at him.
I know but Doctor Doom, okay whatever - I told them about Will Eiser? And they didn’t know. I said, hello the Eisner Award, and they had never heard of it.
Did you tell them you’d seen the books he sent to me?
Well no because they didn’t know who he was - she got that smile. Tell me more about Marvel.
Well, that’s different than Marvel. Why him?
One of the guys mentioned him.
Well, Captain Marvel was really Billy Batson, who said SHAZAM, and was turned into Captain Marvel. Here’s the deal: the publisher of the comics lived in Minneapolis.
And he lived on Lyndale Avenue. (This is a few blocks from our house.)
(pause for effect) Your friend Maddie used to live in his house.
Way. I remember talking with her mom one day about the house, how all these houses in the neighborhood had history, and she said that a magazine publisher named Fawcett lived in this house in the 20s. It floored me, because that meant this unchanged breakfast nook in the kitchen was the spot where the man behind Captain Billy’s Whiz-Bang and other spicy journals took his eggs and toast.
So that’s something for her to use if the subject comes up again. Wonder what the reaction will be. Or if this is all just an opportunity for the boys to show they know more about something than the girls, who really don’t care anyway, but are pretending to.