Fresh snow, grey skies, mean wind: thus the Bleak Midwinter begins. But I like it. Still happy with 2014. Dog’s birthday was a low-key affair, as befits the fact that he is a dog and has no idea what any sort of celebration would mean. I went to the store for the most pretentious and ridiculous dog food I could find, and selected a can of Bison and Yukon Gold Potatoes, like he’d care about the latter. Big chunks of sundered ruminant. He was pleased and wandered back to the bowl several times in case more had appeared. Sorry, Buffalo breath.

I should buy more tomorrow. There’s a can that contains venison and Idaho Russet Potatoes; I’m sure he’d be pleased to know there’s more to the potato experience than he had previously surmised.

Stopped off at Trader Joe’s. Pillaged! Stripped! Looted!

My question is whether they train all the employees to write in that style. When I used to go to the other Trader Joe's in town they had the same lettering.

They're having trouble with corn. Popcorn, to be specific. For a while I believed that the "shortage of organic corn" crimped their supply of microwavable joy, but I don't think the drought has lasted half a year. The stuff just vanished. The next time I ask the clerk will tell me they never had it, and when I produce an old box I have left over he will frantically stab the button under the counter, and in the parking lot two men with sunglasses will say Sir If I Can Speak With You For A Moment, and I'll never be heard from again.

They were also out of hamburger buns. Because of a Kinked Chain. When the clerk asked if I found everything I wanted, I was tempted to say "no, but I'm ascribing that to the chain, which was kinked." I hate to tell them I didn't find everything because then they feel obligated to address the situation. I don't know who would say "no, the experience was marred with sporadic lacunae," unless you're one of those people who needs to let the underlings know these things. In which case, alas for you, eh? Alas.

This store used to be a Circuit City, by the way. Back when such a thing existed. See the empty end-cap? That’s where I bought my first cell phone. Top of the line. Had a camera and everything! Well, it had a color screen. Okay, black and white. Okay, you called someone and described what you were seeing and they sketched it and sent you the drawing later for a dollar. It was still amazing.

I sent my first text in 2007. Up until that day I had never needed to send one. I never occurred to me before, but I was on the brink of being canned and the person who sent me a text was waving money around. JUMP ON THAT. Every adult has the first-text moment, I think - unlike kids who grow up with the concept and take to it like fish birthed in the water, adults have to decide, at some point, that now I must text. But how? The phone lacked a keyboard, so you had to press numbers several times to get the right letter. It was like operating a telegraph key with a wet sponge stuck up on nosril.

This may have been why I didn’t text, now that I think of it. Anyway, the Trader Joe’s only took half the store. The rest is supposed to be a package store, as we euphemistically called liquor stores in North Dakota, out of shame. Total Wine & More. The licenses are being held up by the city. StarTribune:

The vote was delayed after Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson received from the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association a stack of Total Wine-related court cases in other states. “It’s a massive amount of data,” she said, “but we have to review it before we can grant a license.”

Total Wine sees the delay as an attempt by competitors to slow it down, said Ed Cooper, vice president of public affairs and community relations for Maryland-based Total Wine. “They hate our low prices and fanatic adherence to providing incredible service to our customers,” he said.

I like the “low prices” idea but I’m a bit trepidatious about “fanatic adherence” to anything in the retail world. “Enthusiastic” is sufficient. “Committed” is a bit much. Frequently on the web I come across bios that insist the author is passionate about something - web design, fonts, graphics, cupcakes, 19th century nail clippers, whatever. The word has been inflated. No one becomes enflamed with desire and loses their judgment over vector graphics.

Well, they’ll open soon enough; the store is all ready to go. I expect their chief weapons are fear (of lower prices), surprise (that their prices are so low!) ruthless efficiency in bringing down the margins, and an almost fanatical adherence to Service. Perhaps they will decline to stock Spanish liquors out of some inner doubts, but no one expects the Spanish inhibitions.

Sorry; watching Python on YouTube. What were we talking about?



Today: My uncle-in-law, a realtor, got these from someone who was selling the house and didn't know what to do with this JUNK. Really, who needs this stuff?

Well, we know the answer to that.

Once upon a time cities had these made as a matter of civic pride: behold the bustle of Northwood, North Dakota.

This helps us fix the location:

The elevator on teh left, and the building in the middle-right with the curved facade. So:

View Larger Map

The empty sign looks so forlorn. But the curved facade is interesting:

View Larger Map

Glass blocks, moderne curves: the style of the future makes it all the way out to the prairie.

The town was founded in 1884, and a few of these buildings look like they came from the tail-end of the 19th century:

A fine old Standard:

The competition across the street sold White Gas:

Sad old buildings from the hardscrabble days. A tornado hit the town hard in 2007, but it's still around; population is over 900 souls, and the 2000 census had 243 families in town.

Most of whom know someone who knows all the rest.

Updates on the right - restaurant interiors! Oh boy. See you around.



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