Note to self, I thought this morning: buy syrup. And therein hangs the following tale:

I was getting some syrup down from the shelf this morning when I noted that A) it was almost empty, because someone had used all but a half-teaspoon and put it back in the cupboard, and B) the shelf was sticky. The shelf is usually sticky. It’s the one with cooking oils, corn syrup, maple syrup, and other assorted substances that somehow exude stickyoisity through the glass and plastic and corrupt the floor of the shelf. I got out a sponge.

You might know how this ends: everything on the shelf is on the counter, and I’m scrubbing the entire shelf. I decided to get some shelf paper, by which I mean “shelf plastic,” and left the items out for a while. Went on to the next household duty, which was putting away the suitcases. It took a while for my wife to empty hers, and since it’s the largest and least used, it goes in first. All the other bags were out, including the one I really shouldn’t keep but daughter uses, even though it’s bashed and sullied by years of manhandling.

Went into the closet under the stairs, the most ancient and unrefurbished part of the house. The old fellow who grew up here mentioned it in his memoirs; the door is original from 1915. It was his clubhouse. Now it holds all the printed versions of my works, family archives, old paint, and suitcases galore. I used to have a light fixture, but the batteries leaked, because they were cheap, and ruined the contacts. Now it’s too dark to see what’s where, and when you put a bag in the back it bumps up against a bag that, when opened, turns out to contain many smaller bags.

This is how you know you live with women. Bags within bags.

So I noted: get a light. Something I can tap and turn on. A light, shelf paper: we have ourselves an errand, boys; saddle up.

After dinner, anyway. Truth is, I was spoilin’ for an errand; I love driving home on a perfect summer night on the highway, listening to the Exact Right Song on the radio that somehow manages to appear on cue. Tuesday night was perfect for such an experience, and it would be High Summer in all its pleasures, not Late Summer with its bittersweet resolve to make the most of all this. So. After dinner I drove to Menards, the enorno-mart where they have the smallest screw ever made and ready-built four-story homes they can probably get out of the warehouse if you’ll just take this ticket to the register. I asked the clerk where I might find shelf paper.

He admitted that it was a puzzler, that one, and suggested I go to Shelving. This would not have occurred to me at all. Here I was prepared to go to Bulk Dirt back in Gardening. So I went up to Shelving, since he had pointed up to the scone floor. Once I got up there I had a nice view of shelving, down on the ground floor. I went back but found nothing, and gave up. But they had a great deal on peanuts, so I had to check out. Ah: lights! Found a light to replace the LED lantern that was ruined by leaking batteries, and bought some more cheap batteries to ensure I would repeat this errand in a few years and remind myself how I learn nothing when it comes to these things. Ever. I just hate buying batteries. It’s like buying a rocks. You take them home and put them somewhere and you never have enough, and they’re never the right kind.

But no shelf paper, so off to Target. Not a busy night. In one of the Liquids aisle, across from pop, down from juice, there’s a section devoted to concentrated flavors you can add to water, so as to flavor the water. There was a scrawny guy with long thinning hair, a battered baseball cap, scraggly facial hair, and sleeves rolled up and held in place by clothespins. He was staring at the selection of Crystal Light. Probably not their target market. I’m not sure he believed in Crystal Light, or believed in himself, those being the symbiotic assertions of the product’s old ad campaign.

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I found the shelf paper, or shelf plastic, and also bought some breakfast burritos in preposterous combinations, for my wife. Kale and goat cheese burritos. Yum. For me, SPICED BACON. But uncured. Went to the check out. Behind the scrawny guy with the clothespins holding up his rolled-up sleeves. He was buying 12 small vials of Crystal Light, and I’m wondering if he has some form of dyslexia that made him see Light as Meth, and just couldn’t believe his luck.

He took his bag and moved towards the door and out of earshot, and I said to the clerk “sometimes a man’s just got to buy a dozen bottles of water flavoring,” and he asked if I would like to save five percent by opening a charge card.

Why yes, my good man! Let me spend that once-in-a-lifetime chance on a purchase of nine dollars. No, thanks.

In the car I turned on the radio, and it was tuned to the BBC. They were reporting on the funeral of a popular Spanish politician who had been murdered by the Basque. It became obvious it was a historical story, but the interview subject was so compelling I forgot entirely about finding the perfect driving song, and listened to the story of Miquel Angel Blanco, and how it changed Spanish politics and rocked the Basque separatists back on their heels. Riveting stuff, and an example of what radio does so well. You might not sit down to watch it on TV, but a 12-minute story on the radio you find by accident, and you stop and listen and learn.

Then again, it reminded me of a Beeb piece I heard earlier today while driving to the lake to give the dog a walk. A British reporter, whose beat is apparently America, was wondering why there weren’t any anti-war movement in America like there was during the Vietnam era, and I said “there’s no draft,” but he didn’t take note. He was interested in finding out where the protest music was. He interviewed a street musician in Nashville. Then he went to Tupelo, the birthday of Elvis, to talk to . . . the mayor about how Elvis represented an intersection of race and class. The mayor put him in touch with a protest singer by using Facebook.

Not really the work of someone who has a firm grasp of America outside of some broad cliches, and it made me laugh. Later, I thought so what made me think the piece on the Spanish guy was any different?

The piece ended as I drove into the garage. Got out the stuff and transfer it to the kitchen and cut up the shelf paper, or shelf plastic, and put it down. No need to secure it; the tacky sticky surface will hold it down, and also provide a nice place to check should I want to recall what an ant looks like. In the back of the cupboard I found a rock-hard packet of frosting from some baking exercise conducted during the Bush administration. This I showed to my wife, noting that I always find these things when I am cleaning the back of the cupboard, and she should keep this in mind the next time I do forget to do something, because neither of us is perfect. And we had a laugh. Possibly for different reasons, but we had a laugh.

I put everything back on the shelf and admired my work, and then noted the one thing I hadn’t put back, because it was almost empty and virtually useless.

And that would be the syrup.

But I have batteries.



I apologize for keeping you in a state of suspense for the last few weeks. We now resume "Captain America." A note about the art that accompanied the disk:

That's some quality work there. Now:

Recap: finally, he gets a card.

How did Cap escape? He ran out before the last bomb hit, saved as usual by a scene previously edited out of the movie.

Captain District takes Hillman with him, and you might wonder “who the hell was Hillman, again?” He was the guy who had that thing that the Scarab wanted for something or other. It doesn’t matter. Hillman, like 3,476 characters before him in the serial, knows the identity of the Scarab, and if he wakes from a plot-induced coma, he’ll finger Malodor as the Scarab.

Mind you, Maldor is actually surprised at this point that he failed to kill Captain America, having failed 15 times before. More or less.

Anyway: just in time for the last episode, Maldor tumbles to something this criminal mastermind might just have figured out oh, seven foiled crimes back:

Cap sends his gal Friday Gale to get a statement from Hillman, but she’s waylaid by the henchman who was dead a few episodes back and resurrected, making him the Lazarus of Crime. She’s taken to Maldor’s lair, where he’s obviously realized this is the last episode, and things need to get moving pretty quickly:

He says he’s going to give her a truth serum derived “from a jungle flower,” that inexhaustible source of incredible potions. It will leave her insane, alas. So she cracks and gives the Scarab instructions on how to advance the plot a few yards. Looks like everyone’s going to meet up at the hospital where Hillman is slumbering, and then the Scarab will release his choking chemical (derived from a jungle flower) that will enslave the world! Er - no. Then the Scarab will use the Vibrating Machine he stole in the first episode to shake apart Fort Knox and take the gold! No. There’s no big earth-shattering plot in the works.

The DA finds out where the previously-dead thug is staying, and it’s another classic fist-fight, complete with stapled-on hats:

By the way, Gale alerted the DA with a secret message when she learned Maldor was the Scarab. She spelled out the name of the doctor who was supposed to treat Hillman:

Secret code! Looks like the point in "Flowers for Algernon" when the protagonist realizes he can no longer spell the name of the Sec'y of State and the President.

Well, Maldor - or Rodlam, as I now like to think of him - realizes that the jig, she is up, and it’s time to shut down the operation. But what about the girl? She has to be disposed of, obviously. Shoot her? Nah. Put her in a glass case and expose her to a potent mummification gas? YES. Just the thing you’d think of when the law was coming down hard and fast on your criminal schemes.

Cap shows up, and the long-awaited fist-fight with Maldor is on - but from high angles, so you can’t see that it’s not Lionel Atwill. Meanwhile, a flunky has turned on the mummy gas while the fight goes on, and the number of angles they used to hide the fact that it’s not Lionel is quite varied.

A chair! We’ll distract them with a chair!

Cap rescues Gale, of course, and it’s fast-forward to the end of the trial, which probably took three days, tops:

And as long as we’re revealing everything to the WHOLE FREAKING WORLD, the newspaper says that the District Attorney is Captain America, hoorah. There’s no mention of the 20-odd guys he shot or threw out a window or electrocuted or otherwise dispatched with. Those were the days. Anyway, everyone is sitting around the office at midnight, by the way, because they hear the bells toll twelve, when the Scarab’s going to ride old Sparky.


A limp end to a reasonably good outing, if only for Atwill. NEXT: you’ll have to wait and see.

Why, that’s almost . . . a cliffhanger.

Work blog around 12:30, Tumblr around noonish or so - see you then! And of course, this week's Motels.


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