On the sidewalk outside the doomed HQ I fell in with a fellow at work who shares my antiquarian interests, and he stopped by the big metal bin of refuse generated by the removal of the paper’s name from the stone wall above. The back of the bin was open. In violation of every safety protocol in the universe he just walked in and got a chunk and got one for me as well. I don’t know what I’ll do with it, but at the moment he picked it up it changed from rubble to relic.

Dropped daughter off at confirmation, and decided I couldn’t go home. Never again! My life is a lie! The open road waits! Well, no. I didn’t want to go home, because I was also picking her up, and there’s no point gong home, twiddling thumbs, then going back in an hour. My wife had said she’d go, because she needed to pick up some pastries for the meeting she’s having at work tomorrow. A plan had presented itself: I will get the pastries, accumulate husband points, and use the opportunity to buy some new jeans.

You hate to buy new jeans because you know what your size is, and it’s possible that’s not your size anymore.

I went to Old Navy (“Gap clothes without the status-identifying labels”) and considered whether I wanted Slim, Boot Cut, Fat as Bacchus, Straight, Classic, Straight but In an Experimenting Phase, Lard-Thigh, and so on. Chose “Slim” and “Straight,” and went back to the unattended dressing rooms, all of which had female clothes hanging on the door. Odd message. YE BE AN INTERLOPER. The “Straight” jeans in the size I had last year fit. The “Slim’ fit better.

I hadn’t gained. But i believe that “slim” is actually more capacious than “straight,” and this allows you to think you’re actually a tad more slender than last year, you devil you.

At the register the sign said I got five dollars off if the clerk didn’t ask me if I wanted an Old Navy credit card. Translation: there is no end to the rote humiliations this clerk endures; be nice.

Then to Traders Joe to get the pastries. Took pictures of the options and sent them to my wife, who selected the collection of variegated fruit cookies. The music, alas, was a Bubblegum playlist. “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies, some Partridge thing, and a song I mentally sang along with but cannot remember now. Then the music shifted to Chuck Berry, just to remind you how good that jangly stripped-down cock-of-the-walk stuff was. It’s the difference between a mouthful of Hostess Fruit Pie and a drag on a Kool.

I went to the bottled-intoxicant wing of Traders Joe to pick up the preferred Scotch Whiskey mixer, which is their house brand. It has the cardinal virtue of not making you blind, is remarkably cheap, and your guests who ask for a Manhattan will never know you’re not wasting quality hooch on a mixed drink. The label design is poor, but all the label design on their house liquors is substandard. They look like products in a Bioshock game. (They never quite get advertising right in Bioshock, which surprises me.)

Swiped my card; didn’t work; swiped again, hit the wrong button.

“I’ll master this consarned 20th century technology yet,” I said.

“Could be worse,” said the clerk at the next counter. “You could have a crazed Republican buy your workplace.” He smiled. Broadly.

“Been known to happen,” I said, and I could tell the clerk who was handling my transaction was flummoxed.

What followed was a conversation conducted entirely in code. I think. I mention this just so you can put yourself in my shoes: one moment you’re just buying cheap hooch, and the next a complete stranger says, obliquely, I know who you are and what you do and maybe, just maybe, what you think.

Any writer who tells you that would be annoying is a liar or a jerk.

I know, I know - by the iron laws of the Bleat, which has become rather strictly programmed these days - the construction updates should be on Tuesday. But they’re ripping the new building down this week, and it deserves attention. By which I mean “grave dancing.”

Imagine what that service core on the right was like before they added the sign.

Everything about this building shows why post-modern architecture made people look up again. This is the ultimate suburban office structure. Devoid of character, graceless, featureless, chunky, with bands of mirrored glass to keep out the world. Post-modern buildings broke up the ugly-box model, and while some haven’t aged particularly well, they made skylines interesting again.

Too bad I don't get to see the wrecking ball slam into its side and send the shards and chunks tinkling down.

About the site that took my stuff: I sent the editor a long letter about content providers and aggregators and scrapers, and he responded with an almost pained reply that apologized for letting some content hoovering escape his notice, and noting that his site:

1. Pays for content, and pays news agencies for the photos that appear on the site.

2. He offered to pay for the things that were taken, and asked me what I would expect in compensation. No one has ever done that. Not even Buzzfeed, now that I think of it, where that Copyranter guy helped himself to loads of Mr. Coffee Nerves. That would have been a nice thing to do. Whatever they paid him for that piece, pay me. Unreasonable? Apparently.

3. He also noted that his site had its own scoop taken by a newspaper that just big-footed the story, so he knows how it feels.

In short, it was the most professional and conscientious reply to this sort of thing I’ve ever received, and now I heartily endorse visits and bookmarking to anorak.co.uk, whose “Flashback” section is an obvious across-the-pond kin to the Institute of Official Cheer and the rest of the labyrinthine agglomeration I run here.

All is well.


Tempting as it would be to stay in Texas, I was drawn back to North Dakota this week; I redid the North Dakota Main Streets site, and will roll it out next month along with Malls and Main Street Postcard updates.

And so we find ourselves in . . .

Hello, gorgeous:

I think by the time this marquee was added, the name ROXY was a generic term. Its very, very tiny website says:

The ROXY Theatre was built in 1936 as part of Welworth Enterprises of Minneapolis. The architect was John Marshall of Devils Lake, ND. It was built of concrete to be as fireproof as possible. The bold Streamlined Moderne Marquee was manufactured by Bartl Brothers of Minneapolis and is lit by 570 bulbs.

A NYT story with a shot of the interior is here.

Modernism had its baroque phase, and it wasn't pretty. Looks like a bunch of lips.

The stonework, based on the disease suffered by the Elephant Man, is also regrettable.

But then there are proud heavy Roman Embassies, like this:

You'll see the name W. J. Mooney, if you look close. He founded the town. He was a banker. A judge. The postmaster. Sold land. Made a pile, and by the time 1909 rolled around he'd already sailed aroud the world three times. The Fourth Time was not the charm:

At 5:30 the following morning, in dense fog off Nantucket, the "Republic" was struck by the Italian steamer "Florida." The Mooneys' stateroom was located precisely at the point of impact. W.J. Mooney was mortally wounded in the crash; Oakella Mooney survived. W.J.'s body was placed inside a lead casket on board the "Republic", but before the casket could be transferred to a rescue vessel, the "Republic" went down, carrying W.J's body with it.

Oakella, who never remarried, died from influenza twenty years later.

A bit more about that ship.

RMS Republic was a steam-powered ocean liner built in 1903 by Harland and Wolff in Belfast, and lost at sea in a collision six years later while sailing for the White Star Line. A CQD distress call was issued on the new Marconi radio device, the first recorded, resulting in the saving of around 1200 lives. Known as the "Millionaires' Ship" on account of the number of well-known and immensely rich Americans who traveled by her,[1] she was one of the largest and most luxurious liners afloat, though she was designed more for safety and sturdiness rather than beauty.

Sound a bit familiar? The ship has been found, and while it's too fragile to bring up, there's supposed to be a lot of gold in the hold. A lot. The salvage operation has a Facebook page.

Anyway: this is Mooney's cenotaph, if you will. He probably invested in this one as well:

Looks as if an enormous owl is stored inside.

Another metal screen, the favored means of opst-war renovation, shows the old windows, as if they're peeking out instead of being peeked out through. If you know what I mean.

All pictures from Google Street View, of course.

Finally: every small town bar in the country, but with a better sign. I doubt it still blinks. I doubt Dale had it first. But a round of applause for keeping the sign up.

All pictures from Google Street View, of course.

You can see the crust of a structure next door, which burned or fell or was just knocked down because oh, to hell with it. The facade was poorly renovated - stripped, of course, and covered with brick that looks like a strange photoshop clone-tool job, and then the lower floor was covered with ugly wood, of course. Diagonally, as was the style.

Cruise up and down the drag, if you wish.

Now we're off to . . .


Surely you can tell what this was. The corner location, the island, the sign base on the corner: a gas station. And I'll bet the tanks are still down there. The tanks were supposed to come up by law a long time ago, but it's possible someone produced documents that said no fuel had been put in the ground since the place went bust in '62, or whenever.

Entire generations grew up accustomed to this building never being anything, I'll bet.

Not much else. Sorry, Wyndmere, but we're skipping around to -

Oh, all right.


Okay, that's enough. Now, very little of . . .

An old name, almost lost:

His first name was Philip, and his grocery was inspected in 1913, according to Special Bulletin #3. I don't know what he would have thought of the renovation; it makes his building look as if it's peeking over a fence.

Finally, the PRIDE of the town:

Impressive little temple. Across the street stands another structure that looks like a bank, but the money has fled and the windows are shuttered.

Take a drive. See what you can see.



Since the restaurants are over for a while, it's a new feature: take a click on the Seventies pane to the right. Work Blog in small portion around noon-thirty or so; Tumblr, of course, every day. See you around!




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