“You know what I love? The pistachio muffins at Kowalski’s. They are soooo good.”

It being the end of the week with all obligations met, and nothing to do but drive to get the pizza, I said: “then let’s go get one.”


Really. This act of parental benevolence was grounded in my own miserly nature, I suppose. Usually on Fridays I pick up the pizza on the way back from piano, but logistics cancelled the lesson. Could have had it delivered. The place where I get the pizza recently incorporated Jasperwood into its delivery area, peeling us off from another branch in the chain whose distance assured lost drivers and cold product. But there’s a $2.50 delivery charge, and you have to tip the driver a five spot, so it’s easier to drive to the place and get it. You also have a sense of accomplishment, i.e., you left the house.

Which I hadn’t done. Too busy with work to go to the office. Morning interview, blog, column, write up the interview, and so on. But at the end of it all she wanted that muffin and I was in a grand, expansive mood because the sun had come out and we’d changed to short-sleeved shirts. In June! Imagine that!

Also, I had to return a movie to the grocery store, one of those phrases that would have been confusing 30 years ago. There’s a red box in the foyer. It’s not a Redbox. There is a sign warning you that this is not a Redbox. It’s a box that gives movies. It is red. But it is not a Redbox.

There was a father and young daughter selecting a movie, a process that usually lasts an hour or so. There was another woman in line, hanging way back. I told Gnat to get the pistachio muffins while I waited. She put her hands palms-up in that “huh? Hello, Adult, what?” gesture, and said she didn’t have any money. I said I’d meet her in the line; this wouldn’t take long, because <slight increase in vocal volume> I’m just returning a movie.

I said this in case the woman in line before me would be renting, and would take pity on us, and let us go first.

The father-daughter combo finished, and the woman waved us on. “I’m still deciding what to get,” she said. I thanked her profusely and started tapping the screen to return the movie, then turned to Gnat and said with that exaggerated tone of modern parental encouragement:

“Do you want a movie, honey? We can look through the previews to see if there’s a movie you want to see.” I turned to the woman behind us in line, and said “Do you mind? We’d like to look at every entry in the children’s movie section and look at the previews and argue about whether we saw this one or not.”

She laughed and said “Oh please, go ahead.”

I returned the movie as quickly as possible and waved the woman to the redbox that is not a Redbox with a chivalrous bow. We sought out the pistachio muffins, secured one for the morning breakfast, paid, and left. The woman was still at the redbox. I walked up behind and coughed loudly and said with exaggerated exasperation “are you going to make a decision anytime soon?” She laughed and said “I’m getting close!”

I mention this for a few reasons:

If you sense that the stranger gets it, it’s fun to have public exchanges that consist entirely of what people are thinking but never say.

Daughter was not embarrassed. She saw that the other participant in this little playlet was on the same wavelength, and was briefly aware of the possibilities of spontaneous playful adult interaction with strangers. This is my modus vivendi, and while it often goes astray, it provides many rewards. The other day I had password problems at work, and the help desk said someone would call me back. When I got the call I answered it “Hello, James Lileks, idiot,” and there was a pause - and then a deep throaty smoker’s chuckle of satisfaction.

It’s my conviction that half the people you encounter in your daily life are ready to play, if you’d just give ‘em the wink. I may be wrong; it might be my unusual position in life. At the grocery store I start chatting with a new clerk at the register and someone else calls out “Don’t talk to him, he’ll put you in the paper,” and that’s meant with a wink as well. But it’s my experience that if you respond to the clerk’s rote query - how are you - with something pertinent, like hungry, damp, bleary, grand, keen, delighted - half the time tumblers click and the vault door swings open. The other half it doesn’t. So?

On the way to the car from the grocery store daughter was checking the Vine she made of the pastries. The sun was still out; pizza was ahead; Friday was here and work was done, and I jumped up on one of the ornamental rocks carefully placed between the sidewalk and the parking lot, and back to earth. Old goats can still be nimble.

“Dad,” I heard. As in: “don’t please.” So I did it again. I could tell by her voice that her heart wasn’t really in it. I had to leap and she had to be embarrassed, but she really wasn’t. If there’d been a streetlight pole I would have shouted COME ON WITH THE RAIN THERE’S A SMILE ON MY FACE and really made her turn red.

So? Who cares. You find yourself with a 12-year-old who has the attitude of the cop who gives Gene Kelly the hairy eyeball, and you shrug: I’m dancin’. And singin’. In the sun.

Years ago in an Iowa Holiday Inn my dad made a scene. We’d driven down to drop me off at the University of Iowa Speech & Debate camp. Dinner at the HI restaurant. The hostess mistakenly selected a party that had come in after us; my dad said “Excuse me, we were here first.”

TOTAL MORTIFICATION arced between me, my sister, my mother - but he was right; we were. The hostess took us took our seats, and my dad noticed that his chair was full of crumbs and other food-related detritus, and he picked it up and shook it. TOTAL MORTIFICATION but also amusement. To this day my sister and I remember this. In retrospect I wonder how lousy a day, or week, or month my dad had, how many small-businessman-irritations were expressed in that quick brisk act of chair-bouncing.

He has no recollection of that. I write about this day in case it ever comes up some how in her memory. It won’t be about the muffin. It might be about the lady in line at the red box.

It’ll probably be about jumping on the rock. Sorry, kid. It was just what it was, for no big reason. The sun was out and it was Friday and you got that big smile on your beautiful mug when I said let’s get a muffin. A glorious feeling: happy again.



Not a review. Not a recap. Who cares about a movie I watched? It’s a look at the details, the things you’re not supposed to think about., the way they shot the films when color wasn’t an option, the tropes and cliches of the day, the things that stood out in a way we don’t quite see today. So:


They’re not scare quotes.

As for the director, rejoice! It’s this guy!



Perhaps that looked sophisticated once; now, less so. You think of a French cyborg. Anyway, it’s a bad movie about a guy who goes to a wild party and wakes up thinking he killed someone. All the acting is bad and the sets are cheap - Monogram Pictures all the way, brother. But it has one tantalizing piece of inadvertent archeology:



That’s a lightened version of the image. For 1947, the cars certainly look like they’re from an era. I can’t tell what the movies are. Zukor’s was a chain of dress shops. The ESS ought to nail down the location, wouldn’t you think? But it doesn’t.

I’m not kidding. ESS with an R in a later frame spells K-R-E-S-S, yes it does, and there’s a KRESS store on Hollywood Boulevard. Nothing else looks right. Not quite certain it matters.

Here are the movies, if you want to give it a shot.



The Fullerton Broadcast? A Something in the Heart? There was a movie called “The Phantom Broadcast” in 1933. If that’s so, then Monogram was so cheap they were recycling stock footage from a decade and a half ago.

Our hero goes to a party, and here’s his first problem:



Yeah. Eliza Cooke is nothing but trouble when he’s clean-cut. At least the party has a shot of 1947 glassware. Things looked like this:



So never mind that. I do have something else, though - but instead of running it today, it’ll play tomorrow. It's big an it’s quite cool.




Matchbook update! And the usual usual here and there. See you around.



blog comments powered by Disqus