I was standing in line at the bank -

Wait a minute, you go to the bank? Don’t you know you can take a picture of the check with your cellphone and it’s deposited, provided it’s not intercepted by some security flaw and all your logon information is transmitted to a Bulgarian hacker who drains your account?

I had to deposit money in my daughter’s bank account. The one for “college.” We put in five dollars now and then. When she goes to college and discovers that it’s almost empty she will have to take out loans, and will chose a career path wisely, in case I am not around to offer guidance. It’s the “boy named Sue” approach to financial planning.

Really? That’s your plan?

No. Not really. But I was in line at the bank. The suburban one I like because the friendly atmosphere, the easy parking, the sense of adventure, the buffet, the floor show, etc. Then I was not in line, because I was at the teller, doing banking things. I turned around and saw someone standing in line with an enormous wad of cash in his hand. Young fellow, business attire, three thick stacks of greenbacks. And I thought: green fronts as well, right? Why green backs? Because, as wikipedia would later tell me, Civil War-era money was printed green on one side. Don’t know why they chose the back. In any case, it was an odd sight, that much money, out in the open.

Like most fellows with an imagination, I calculated the odds, just for sport. Assuming I could surprise him, assuming I could get the money, assuming I could make it through the rope maze, assuming I could cross the lobby and make for the door at full sprint with shouts of STOP HIM already filling the banking hall, and assuming I could make it outside without slipping on the ice AND get my keys out - what if I had them in the right pocket and I had the money in my right hand? Maybe run around the side of the building, but that would be smack into traffic, and then you’d have to stop someone and commandeer the car, and now you’ve just made it work.

“Swipe your card,” said the clerk. I swope, and numbers went from one side of an invisible ledger to another. The fellow was called to another window, and I thought “this time, pal. This time you win.”

Well, no, but the thought does occur to you: how you would act if you were criminally inclined?

Life would be full of such calculations, and nothing would really work, and you’d blame bad luck.

The clerk made a mistake, and I stared at the cash on the counter. I was looking at four thousand dollars she has pushed across the counter. Three thousand eight hundred dollars of it wasn’t mine. (I will explain how this is possible on Friday.) (Has to do with the Bleat Ban.) (No, it’s not what you think.) I pointed out that something was amiss here, and she paused, confused; a manager, hovering, darted into the situation, sized it up, ran some numbers in her head - and sure enough.

“It’s a good thing you said something or that would have come out of her drawer at the end of the day,” the manager said, and while I didn’t exactly her putting the knife in the teller’s back, you could detect a wince on the teller’s face.

It’s odd that this happened today. Last night before drifting off to sleep I recalled something unethical I did when I was 21, at work. I took advantage of a situation. The memory pops up unbidden once a year at the strangest times - usually when everything else has been pared away and the mind rummages through old boxes in storage. Oh, look at this. Remember?

Yes. Yes of course.

It’s easy to forgive yourself. It s just easy not to. You don't get credit in heaven either way.

I said it would be a scant fortnight, and I mean it, but I’ve decided to no particular reason to compensate with late-night tweeting of the most eye-rolling sort: hashtag ipodshuffle. While I work on the novel I am letting the Classic iPod, the big one that has everything, play what it wants, and I am informing a hungry world what I think about it. It’s probably a bad idea; the mood does not always coincide with the novel portions I’m revising, but at this point there’s a certain amount of autopilot on the revision, and it has the salutary effect of reconnecting me with so much music I’ve ignored.

Which is inevitable, right? Don’t you look at your collection sometimes, and despair? All those songs welded to times and emotions and moments and people, and it’s an event to reanimate them all. Right now I’m listening to “Heavenly Homes” by Be-Bop Deluxe, a song I got to know in 1978 after they’d released a “new-wave” influenced album that made me go back and revisit the catalog. So it’s the spring, and I started working at the Valli, bunking in the dorm with two other guys, one of whom liked to get stoned and shoot his rifle at the wastebasket. Hey, it was a long room. He put phone books in the basket and taped a target on the side. Last I heard he was a lawyer.

It was a good spring; it was a marvelous year. Costello, Eno, Genesis, that sax solo on “Year of the Cat” as I hit the highway to go meet the new girlfriend’s parents for the first time. You have those years. I think there was a half-decade trough after that, and just about everything I do now was put together in those brackish years. I know the exact date it got better; isn’t that odd? The date and time and place, and the song.

Anyway. Five chapters solid, 12,500 words. I don’t want to oversold it, but hot damn, this book cooks.



The weekly Borden: He's finally starting to snap. It's one thing to have this discussion behind closed doors, but to broadcast it to the public?




And it's you! And I lead you around by it! Everyone knows!

Man, this really bothered him. I still say that's why she set him up in the glue trade, so he could feel useful.



What can we learn from a single picture of a box? Lots.

To my surprised, there's a commercial. Man, that's still a lot of work for starch.


The ad says it's from the Hubinger company in Keokuk. Says a town history:

J.C. Hubinger opened his starch factory to Keokuk in 1887, producing Elastic Starch. He was also an important figure in The Electric Light and Power Company, Mississippi Valley Telephone Company, Keokuk Brick Company, and the YMCA. He also played a big role in bringing electricity town. In the late 1880’s Hubinger built a mansion in the area of what is now 1229 Grand Avenue.

I'll say he did. Starch did him well, although the town site above says he died in a boarding house. Before he passed, though, he got a biography in 1899 in a book of Iowa notables. They really could lay it on for the paying customers:

HUBINGER, JOHN C., manufacturer, millionaire and public benefactor, is one of the most remarkable men of this country; a Napoleon in business affairs, a man of destiny, through his own indomitable will, tireless energy and brilliant genius he has built up a magnificent structure on a financial foundation as solid as the rock of Gibraltar.

A man of rare executive ability, he finds time to personally direct the policy of all the enterprises in which he is interested, and at the same time to evolve many more brilliant schemes of a local nature, all of which are put through in a practical and successful way.

His liberality is the marvel of the country in which he is known, and at his palatial home, overlooking the historic Mississippi river, he and his charming wife dispense a boundless hospitality to those fortunate enough to be their guests. All the luxuries and benefits that wealth can procure are there supplied, and an atmosphere of culture and refinement pervade the entire establishment.

Good Lord. Well, his amusement park never broken even, and one of his plants burned down in 1903. This account of a hstorical meeting says:

Among Hubinger's other setbacks was legal trouble with the Bell System over his Keokuk Phone Company. He lost a great deal of money in these lawsuits and eventually sold his shares in Hubinger Brothers Company to his brothers. He also sold his mansion and moved into a boarding house.

. . . contrary to local myth, Hubinger was still a fairly wealthy man when he died, but poor in comparison to the riches he once had.

Wonder if he ever cursed to himself slightly when the phone rang down the hall. He was 57 when he succumbed to pneumonia.



The longer you look, the more unsettling it becomes.

Lawrence Wilbur - seen here looking rather old and tired - had a long career as an illustrator, and I dare say you know a few of his pieces.

The boxes looked like this. Only 20!


I know I discussed Hydroxes elsewhere in Products, so I'll leave the subject alone for a year.



Swish your dainty things. You know. UNDES.

Stanhome, as noted a few weeks back, sold directly to the consumer at home parties. It would be embarassing to ask a male store clerk for something to clean your unmentionables.



I love licorice and I always loved Switzers. Turns out . . .

. . . there's a story. Frederick Switzer sold candy on the streets of St. Louis as a young boy, and started a candy compan in his 20s.

We remember him not as a successful man who walked among the business elite, but as a humble, honest man who knew all the childrens’ names of the man who swept the factory floor, or who could pick up one piece of candy in any given manufacturing line and declare that it was not right – and that the whole bake would have to be redone.

Grandpa Switzer was not focused on large company profits, nor on his next promotion. He just wanted to make the best candy, and answered only to himself.

Grandpa? Anews story in 2005:

Switzer's Licorice is back on store shelves, thanks to the founder's grandsons. Michael Switzer, 49, and his identical twin, Joseph, have spent $700,000 to revive the candy brand, which disappeared almost a decade ago after its then-parent company, Hershey's, dropped it in favor of Twizzlers.

That was wrong of them to do. The article says the stuff was made in Perham MN in 2005; I've been there, and never knew. Now I want some. Lots.





Does anyone do home permanents any more? I remember my mother doing that, and the chemical reek that acconpanied it.

Why they used a flapper to sell the stuff I've no idea.


Usual usual here and there; see you around.



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