In Bleats of yore I’ve mentioned my hatred for telephone solicitors, and occasionally qualified it with a note of sympathy. I did it myself for two days, and could not return. Two different attempts. One with Time-Life; never went back. One evening with a survey company - wasn’t selling anything, which helps. A lot. The people who set up the automated systems are slime congealed in human form. The people who do the actual calling have a crappy job, and there’s no reason to bark at them; just decline, say you’re on the no-call list, and hang up.

If there’s a pause after I answer, and there’s a half-second where you can hear the ambient sound of a call center, click.

If caller ID says it’s the school, though, I pick up and say “hello,” knowing that a voice response triggers the recording about something or other. Conferences, tests, one of those meetings where you share your concern with an administrator from the home office and she nods and understands and takes them back to the office where the comments are printed on supple, two-ply paper and wound into small bales for use in the restroom. Today the phone rang after dinner; I saw it was the school, and since we were all in a merry mood, I picked it up and said:


Or phonemes to that effect.

Without missing a beat, the very real person on the other end asked for my wife.

I apologized for making a peculiar sound, and explained that I was just having fun triggering the automatic response, and wouldn’t you know the first time I do it I get a real person! Ha ha. She had no idea what I was talking about.

Because you can answer the phone by saying “Flarmaborgut,” and people who are paid to call you will just launch right in. From now on I will answer anything that looks like a sales call with “Lickspit McWrench, may I floogle you?” and I’ll bet the response will be the same as if I’d said my name. Which, legally, is Lickspit McWrench, so that’s probably what shows up on their lists; probably should choose something else.

Cooler day, with clouds moving in. The plaster guy came in the morning to replaster. Set up fans to cure the goop. All day it sounded like I was living in a B-2. Came at suppertime to check, and said they needed another .05 millimeter of plaster. He’ll sand tomorrow. Poor fellow. Running around town slapping up goop, stuck in traffic, wondering if yesterday’s goop has achieved the proper state. Me, I did a video about mosquitos, and was really excited because I bought a new tie that matched the walls of my set.

It’s the little things like that. You feel like a pro. I also bought a tie that matches the sofa.

Neither are colors I particularly like as room decor. As ceramic ashtrays from 1956, yes.

Column night and novel night, so let’s get to the long, long list of Odds and Ends.










In the folder of things scanned three years ago, two additions to my Grandma's Camera site. (Not yet added.) This one has the notation "Auntie and her dog."



Or Mrs. Slenderman, as she may have been known. Time erased her face. The farmhouse looks ramshackle, but it was no doubt old; the picture hails from the 'teens.



It looks ramshackled, but the shot of the exterior says "Uncle Alex's cabin." Perhaps this was a place they had at the lake.



That's actual size, more or less. But enough photos from the distant star bounced off an object on the porch, went through the glass and fell upon the film of transmogrifying chemicals, revealing . . .



Uncle Alex, and his dog.


Now, something completely different. From the time when Trains were the only practical means of getting across states with reasonable speed, a 1948 ad detailing the interiors and features of the Pennsylvania Railroad.



I've traveled in rooms like this. They're quite cozy.



Note the straps: that's so you don't roll out and fall on your head when she takes a curve, or you're sleepwalking.

I love the lounges on the old trains; they look so civilized. The reality, as I recall from my own days of taking the trains, was: bad food, thick smoke, and loud drunks.

And no one wore suits.



Another sleeping roon: your own toilet! Thrill to the roar of the tracks when you fiush, and the sudden rush of cold wind up your backside. Because it's just a straight pipe to the underside of the car.



"You know, dear, that barn has been there for an hour. Either we're not moving or that's a painting."



The rooms keep getting bigger and BIGGER, and better. With shower. Ever tried to shower on a train when they're really pouring on the coal? It's an experience. You had to brace yourself. You felt cold and eventually very silly. But cleaner.



And now, the pleasures of train travel, right here.





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