I was making dinner when my daughter said the pizza place was on fire. She learned about it from a friend’s Instagram account. And I call myself a journalist.

Actually, I don’t, but since the store was close by, I figured I should do some journalism. Pitch in. Besides, I needed milk at the grocery store across the street. Drove over, got close, jogged over, shivering - the fire did nothing to take away the sting of the cold, and I pitied anyone whose job consisted of spraying water on something right now. I shot some video, interviewed a guy who saw the fire, ran home, edited it, and got it to the paper.

It’s an old, old shabby building. The rest of the street is spiffing up nicely - the old movie theater is still in use, albeit not for movies; the grocery store is a model of Harmonious Urban Design, an ugly free-standing bank was replaced by an urbane three-story apartment building. You can’t do anything about the corner of 54th and Lyndale, though -

What a boring intersection. The gas station, the Walgreens parking lot, the medical building that no one seems to use or know what it does - they all keep the intersection from having any presence.

The building that burned had a rental store and a pizza joint: Beeks, King of Pizza. The store dates from 1963; the original location opened up 10 years before. It’s the original American post-war pizza, unchanged - which means cracker crust, if you know what I mean. It would come up against the first wave of chains, the Pizza Huts and Little Caesars, then the doughy horror of Dominos, and then the rise of really, really good pizza that made the original style look pallid and unimaginative. But that’s what pizza was, at first, and my first pizza in Fargo was just like that. Pinky’s Pizza, in fact. Broadway Pizza. I don’t think I had good pizza until I went to Chicago in 1975, and a friend took me to Geno’s, where I experienced a religious conversion.

We didn’t order from Beeks. Tried it once, and expected more out of the cracker-crust experience. Not enough sauce, which is always the failing of a timid rote pie. (As I’ve said before: cheese is easy. Sauce is art.) Never went inside in all the years we lived here - it was always deserted, and you knew the tables would wobble and there’d be a candle with plastic webbing around the glass. (According to the website, I see they only have take-out and delivery; the dining room was closed years back, I guess.) They made money off the fans, the stalwarts, the people who got locked into calling Beeks because they always called Beeks.

I hope the owners rebuild, and rethink the recipe a bit. “The tradition continues today. We still put it all together according to Beekman’s original recipes.” Sometimes that’s the problem.

But: that’s taste, a matter of. Here’s the damndest thing: I have the strongest hankering right now for a cracker-crust pizza. With those little pepperoni cups singed on the end, each a bowl of grease you blot with a napkin. Friday’s pizza will seem a disappointment.

It’ll pass.

The fire:




Those are iPhone photos. I shot the video with the phone as well; you can see it here.











Lots more? Did I say I’d have lots more today? HAHAHAHAHA! Never trust me. Look, I had this video thing drop in my lap, which was fun and exciting. And then I had to polish up the update for today, which concerns . . .


(faces of bored, disappointed people)

1940 Wallpaper!

(Scattered perkiness)

Yes, it’s part of the 2011 Scanning Project. I have folders and folders of things I’ve scanned, and I haven’t even touched 2012. This is a moldy stained book of 1940 Wallpaper patterns, restored and color-corrected, and the main reason it’s interesting, at least to me, is that it help puts to rest the idea we have inherited from movies about the way things looked. The first show I ever saw that seemed to get things right was Mad Men - it had the Alexander Woollcott aesthetic, overstuffed and fussy. I grew up in a 1962 house with some nightmarish wallpaper, particularly in my parents’ bedroom. It was grey and puce and had flowers, and given the mind’s facility to finding human faces in indistinct shapes, I found a strange, sad, contemplative God-Face in one of those flowers, repeated over and over again. Couldn’t draw it; haven’t seen it in decades; would recognize it in a second.

When I lived on Girard in the house that was my Reward for living in the cramped constraints of Washington DC (that’s not entirely fair; our apartment, an unsold condo hit by the crash, was a palace compared to most DC units, but I pined for things like a lawn fore and aft, trees of my own, a stucco wall bedecked with ivy, and by God that’s what I sought and got) I spent a day removing the wallpaper from a bedroom closet. Beneath the paint the previous owners had left was a sheet of Seafoam Green, which an owner in the 70s had apparently pumped down the chimney, the better to cover every surface. But under the paint were layers of wallpaper, going back forty years. At least three levels. In the closet! Was it an owner who kept redoing her bedroom, or a series of owners who wanted to make their mark?

I remember I was listening to the radio - it was Christmastime, and the talk-radio guy played those tiresome Mannheim Steamroller bumpers, all rote festive surging synths, and I wondered what was playing on the radio when this stuff went up. Something was. No one did a wallpaper job without a radio playing in the room. You could imagine that each layer was a decade - peeling off Kennedy, Red Scare, Hitler, Fear Itself. Except the people who did it would have different standards. Toothache, Kid’s trouble at School, That Girl Last Night, Beer Coming Back. Sometimes they might think in headlines, but that’s a once-or-twice a year event. The radio tells you the news, and you note it and move on. It’s bad or it’s okay. And then it’s quitting time and life is a chair and a beer and the necessary comforts of diversion. So peeling off the paper wasn’t peeling off history. It was just peeling off paper.

Didn’t save any; wish I had, although that would have earned a wifely glance: really? Really, yes! For Posterity! I did save a scrap of the wallpaper we took off the dining room in Jasperwood. It was dark and thick and complex and completely historical, accurate down to the date the design was invented. The previous owner found some place that turned out Accurate Wallpaper for renovations, and so the dining room was slathered with the work of William Morris imitators, because A) that’s what the smart set was doing in 1915, and B) nevermind that the house didn’t have that originally, NEVERMIND NEVERMIND shut up I want it.

The previous owner’s renovation was brilliant, but the wallpaper was oppressive, and what’s more, it was her. During the last days of the closing she decided she wanted to change the closing date, and while we agreed to that we asked for a rent-back, since we’d sold the house and had to move out and go somewhere. I AM NOT GOING TO PAY RENT ON MY HOUSE was the response. After that we were evil and she went her People to the closing to sign the documents.

Eventually had the wallpaper removed, but I saved a scrap. I have pictures of the room before it was gone, with infant daughter smiling in a high chair at some holiday event. Some day when she goes through the archived plastic folders that hold the year-to-year inconsequentials, she’ll find the scrap, with the picture. She can hold it and touch it and connect.

And then, if she’s wise, she’ll toss it. Really, it doesn’t matter.

And besides, there’s a scanned copy in the folder. I’ve prepared for everything.

That’s it. That’s the week. Now to watch some TV - I’ve been chewing through the flat, unhappy Adam-12 show, which is “Dragnet” for people who thought Sgt. Friday was too touchy-feeling. The basic premise of the first season seems to be the masterful way Martin Milner’s character restrains from punching his idiot rookie partner in the face six times per shift.

Good week on the Bleat? It was okay. I thank you for stopping by, and appreciate the patronage and support. Strib Blog and Tumblr up after noon or so. Next week I think I’ll start rolling out the Minneapolis updates in big batches. If only the pages could be like wallpaper: you could steam them off and see the previous versions, see how they’d evolved. But life is not a wall. Not until you hit it.

BTW: you may notice, at the conclusion of the 20+ page Wallpaper site, that the "Miscellaneous" site has been reworded as the Ephmeratorium. This is new project, sort of. It's already huge. It'll get bigger. Wait until I start adding from the 2012 Scanning Project folder.










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