From Shorpy



I was writing thank-yous to the Tiny Lies buyers when click! Darkness. After hours of snow, the power went off. Daughter came downstairs, saying she heard a bang and saw a flash, and was going on?

Are we under attack?

No. I got out the super-immense flashlight I bought for just these moments, and inspected the outside; wires intact, no sparky snakes writhing in the snow. Across the street the lights burned merrily, but on our block, nothing. Deciding that it would be unwise to go outside and see if a line was down, I put on my shoes and coat and went outside to be unwise. Curiosity and all that cat-eliminating stuff. The snow was so heavy it bent the boughs over the walkway to the back gate, and I had to hunch down and find the latch by holding up my hand and feeling along the top of the fence; then down through another tunnel. In April. Madness.

Outside I saw a police car driving by; I waved the flashlight. They stopped and we had a chat about the power being out; it was, they said, out. Out over there and out way over there too. Within a minute another police car came over, and now there are five of us standing outside in the snow with flashlights talking about the power being out. A neighbor came over and said she’d called the power company; they said it would be back at 1:50.

I assumed that was a reasonable estimate, and not the bedbug letter.

I lit up a transformer box on the end of the street, and noted that it had a red light. One of the policemen used his flashlight as well. It was smaller than mine and almost as powerful. I said my flashlight was better than his, holding it up and indicating what a great club it would be. Probably not wise, in retrospect, but the mood was festive.

Went back inside. Daughter couldn’t get to sleep because the police were standing out on the street talking, and swearing. Eventually they left.

So. Sleep? Hardly; it was early. No TV, of course. No movies. But I had sufficient battery packs to power a few devices, so I “surfed” the “information superhighway” on my iPhone, then watched “Pirates! Band of Misfits” on my iPad. It was delightful, and you have to love a movie that makes Queen Victoria a crazy ninja in a steam-powered corset.

Around 12:30 the repair trucks came by.



It was pretty, I'll give it that. But considering how much this winter has taken away, I'm not in a giving mood.

Dreamed a friend brought an enormous Slug-Bear to our house. Seemed unwise, given all the kids around, but as long as you didn’t bother the Slug-Bear - which was about 15 feet tall at one end, then tapered off - you were probably safe. Somehow I annoyed the Slug-Bear, and he wrapped two enormous paws around me, the long claws digging into the grass. “Don’t move,” I was told, “or he’ll stab you.” This complicated the party more than I had ever wanted, and I realized it was only a matter of time before I moved, because the comics section to the paper was just out of my reach and I really wanted to read it.

I mention this only because the moment I decided to move, knowing it would result in horrible perforation, I willed myself to wake, and it felt like I’d been glued to the ground and was now standing up. A remarkable sensation - the trading of one form of consciousness for another, with the briefest of moments in between where both states existed simultaneously.

Got up and checked all the clocks. Counted backwards.

The power had come back on at 1:50.

Then the sun came out and paid everyone. Not in full, but we are promised seventies on the weekend.

Check's in the mail. Swear.

SPEAKING of money: you know, there's this. Click on the cover. Cheap!




It's midnight. I wrote 3,674 words and I do not want to regret any of them. So: tomorrow. I have to hone the mess. This is something I took out:

Dennis Prager was in town for an event, and did his show from the local affiliate. So I went to the liquor store and bought a cigar - the strongest I could find, even though I knew he’d find a way to criticize it. A spectacular ingrate, that man.

Drove to the studio. Before he went on break I tweeted that I was about to present a cigar to a talk show host, and he would demean the offering. As he did.

“Well, I would begin by noting it’s not thick enough,” Dennis said.

This is a bit. Schtick. I give him a cigar and he complains about it. Now, I have to repeat what I’ve said before: mine is a surreal and peculiar life where I listen to a talk show host like millions of others, and regard him as an imaginary friend whose colloquies are the background to the midday routine, and then I get to walk into the studio and get greeted with a big grin and a handshake and joke about tweeting how he will demean my cigar. How did this all happen, exactly?

Anyway. One of the gongs Dennis strikes on a regular basis is the importance of a civic identity that transcends the particulars of racial identity, and I was reminded of that by something my daughter said tonight. But first:

Michael Moore merrily tweeted that the bombers were AMERICANS, and he was correct. But shouldn’t we call them Chechen-Americans from now on? Ethnic identity is the prime determinant for evaluating someone, no? If one chooses to append one’s nationality with a tenuous thread of hyphenated connective tissue to AMERICAN, thereby elevating one’s self while setting one’s self apart from the banalities and sins of AMERICAN, then the identification is crucial to understanding someone’s character, just as skin color and eye shape are a useful guide to understanding someone’s character.

I don’t believe that, of course; it seems absurd. I mean, a few years ago I had a new co-worker who was Korean-American, inasmuch as Mom and Dad were both Korean, and he looked Korean, but his dad was a farmer in Iowa. I’m thinking that if his dad sat down with my uncle Myron, he wouldn’t have said “I cannot possibly imagine what we can talk about, given that your DNA originates on an Asian peninsula.” John Deere vs. Case, probably. Those DeKalb seed agents, the way they undercut the Northrup-King guys. The weather, that capricious bitch goddess! And so on.

But tonight at dinner: “Who are we?”my daughter said.

The teacher had asked the students to come up with a holiday that’s specific to their family’s national origin, and write about it. I said she was Czech, Italian, Swedish, and some other things we didn’t know, and it didn’t really matter, because none of that said much about her. The Italian part still echoed down through the decades, since her grandfather served her recipes he surely learned from his mother. Likewise the lefse and Swedish meatballs from grandmother and mother. Food is culture, but every culture lends it out to anyone who asks.

As for our family holidays, I gave her two: V-J day, when my father was pretty sure he wouldn’t die in the war, and Gettysburg, when her great-great-and-so-on-grandfather was wounded in defense of the Union. Also the Fourth. And Christmas.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating national holidays of your forebearers; there’s nothing wrong with being proud of your origins, tracing a connection back to other places. But you’re not missing something if you don’t. Civic over ethnic. Public creed over tribe.

Sometimes this makes me feel like I’m a reactionary.



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