I am in Fargo for a brief trip up, staying at a hotel so new the conference center isn’t finished yet.
There’s not a mar on the wall, a ding on the furniture. Never thought I’d know this scent, but I do know: that new hotel smell. It may be the newest hotel in town, but there’s another one going up a few blocks away, and I’m sure the foundation is being poured for a larger one ten blocks south, while architects draw up plans for a new one downtown. My dad says they have trouble filling all the positions. In hotels? Everywhere. He says the want-ads pages for jobs is the thickest part of the Sunday paper sometimes.
There was a Sunday Forum and a Sunday StarTribune at the checkout counter, and I gave them the heft test, holding in each in a hand, doing that scale-balancing thing you do. Hard to tell which was heavier - the journal for the metropolis down the road, or the Sunday Fargo Forum.
Which is making money from ads placed by businesses desperate for employees.
it’s like living in another world.
Anyway: if there are young people in Minneapolis who are sitting around wishing they had a job, there’s Fargo. You don’t have to give up coffee shops and movie theaters (“Grand Budapest Hotel” was playing at the Fargo) or Qurky Neighborhoods or interesting bars. You will probably work in Sprawlville, because it all grew south and west and there are miles and miles of commercial strips that didn’t exist when I was living there, that we could have never imagined existing, simply because it was absurd to think Fargo would ever get big. But if you say you really, really want to work, and you can’t find anything in Minneapolis, and you don’t want to move 3.5 hours up the road to a place where they are begging for people to fill their jobs, perhaps you don’t want to work as much as you think.
I know, easy for me to say. One more thing: you had best be friendly. All the people who helped out at the hotel where very young - the place was run b 24-year-olds, it seemed - and as happy and cheerful as you can get, which is something that happens when a place is filled mostly with people who like being there and like what they’re doing. The psychic benefit of being around a contented and generally cheerful population cannot be understated. If you grow up in a safe and friendly place the places full of angry sullen people seem brackish and low, no matter how high the buildings or grand the culture.
You say, yeah, but, c’mon, Fargo. Right? Like the movie. Right? Uh huh. No.
After dinner last night we drove around downtown, best as we could - the streets were blocked off for a big party to celebrate the end of the annual Marathon. Shivery people in the drizzle listening to the “Final Countdown,” but a good time had by all as far as it seemed. I got this shot:
Fargo isn’t “Fargo.”
By the way, here's the interior wall of our hotel room:
THE NEXT DAY
To my surprise, my daughter loved Fargo. She’d been here before, but it had been a while, and she was older now with more sophisticated interests, and loves Vintage things. Downtown, to her, was cozy and unique and totally vintage. We drove down the next day after breakfast and walked the length of Broadway, stopping in a coffee shop (exposed brick, old light fixtures, huge modern sofas, big neon on the wall; she was in heaven) and an antique store, which I'll leave for tomorrow's tale. Spent most of the afternoon playing tour guide of my home town for a rapt audience, which was new - the first time I've walked the streets in 30 years talking about it, instead of thinking about it and feeling my old self trailing alongside, indistinct and conflicted.
At point I realized you, know, there might actually be a repository of old Fargo photos somewhere on the web, so I called up my site on my phone as we stood in the spot where some shots were taken , 60, 70 years ago. All because she'd asked about what it was like when I was a kid:
"Were there more neon signs?"
"Ten times more."
She thought that was cool. She loves neon signs.
I haven't pushed any of this on her, mind you. Somehow it just happened.
On the way out of town, something I've never seen before me in all the years I've left Fargo, heading for Minneapolis. Left home, heading for home. Daughter spotted it first on a ramp over the highway, turning left to join us on 94.
Whoever the driver was, he probably wondered why the kid was taking so many pictures.
Not a review, but a look at the faces and styles of the era. So:
Hey, Mort. We got a programmer here about a mystery in Mexico. Distributors want a name. What should we call it?
Last week we had a reasonably good B movie set in the tropics, with a Guy sent to investigate a situation involving a Dame, and it provided some lovely shots. This week - well, it’s a Guy sent to investigate a situation that involves a Dame, but unlike the grown-up smolder between Taylor and Turner, this one starts with meet-cute dialogue that makes one’s teeth hurt; the detective introduces himself to the lady he’s shadowing down to Mexico, and does so in the airport waiting area. The audience, listening to the pained banter, can only hope this doesn’t continue on the plane. It does. And in the airport. And in the taxicab stand. He’s just a fella who won’t take no for an answer! It’s supposed to be charming, and we’re supposed to know he’s on a job, but you can imagine the home office’s reaction:
“Let me get this straight. You were supposed to follow her around Mexico City to see if she hooks up with her brother, who used to work for our bureau. But you introduce yourself at the first possible opportunity under false pretenses, pester her, and burn yourself indelibly into her memory so any subterfuge will be impossible.”
“Sorry, boss. She was cute.”
Well, I don’t know what you expect from a movie that starts with the title card MEXICO CITY and cuts to the neon sign of a club called “Versailles.”
Noir? In the sense of mystery and the shadow of venetian blinds? I suppose:
But literally noir; too damned dark to see anything.
Why not open the window blinds? It’s obviously BLAZING DAYLIGHT outside.
Our hero: Herp McDyurp: Sort of Robert Young without the stern moral gravity.
The Mysterious Love Object:
Of course she’s a singer.
One of those American women who goes down to Mexico to sing in clubs and has a brother in Mexico City who has disappeared, not that it keeps her from falling in love with this madcap stalker.
So never mind. There’s only one reason I bring it up: the director. Thirty years after he did this little thing, they handed him something else.
"Mystery in Mexico," from the director of "Star Trek: the Motion Picture."
Among other things, of course.
Work blog around 12:30, Tumblr around noonish or so - see you then!