It’s a column night. You may ask: why not a column day, like a normal person who works regular hours? Because I am not that guy and have fared poorly attempting to be that guy. I do spend the day cogitating, though. It’s a matter of thinking and looking around and figuring out what no one else will do, then letting it percolate and settle so when I sit down, shazaam.

Some days, like today, there’s nothing. Not a thing. There was a fellow kicked off a Southwest flight in Minneapolis for tweeting a complaint about the boarding agent, if that’s the term, and I considered doing that. Wrote:

On a recent family plane trip back to the Twin Cities, we boarded, buckled, bade goodbye to a great vacation - and baked for an hour in a plane that had suddenly developed mechanical problems. The air conditioning was off. There was no air to condition. The only time in your life when you wish the masks would fall from the ceiling.

The flight crew made periodic announcements, but never said what was wrong. You’d like to know whether it’s “the captain has repeatedly rapped the ENGINE FAILURE IMMINENT warning light with his knuckles, but it doesn’t seem to go off, and he has requested some duct tape to put over it, because it’s quite distracting.”

You know it’s not malice. You know safety comes first. You know flight crews deal with humanity at its most entitled and short-sighted. But you’re still peeved. So when the beleaguered, sweating, flight attendant came around with some water to make your situation incrementally less miserable, of course you take the water, and say to your daughter in the snippiest tone you can muster.

“Here. One last drink before we all die of heat stroke.”

Annnd that someone was me. I did not get kicked off the plane. If I’d tweeted the remark, who knows.

Annnd I looked at that and said “nope.”

I’d intended on expanding the idea to address the new TSA fees for layovers longer than four hours, which is one of those cases where they take your money and you’ve no say in the matter. It’s not as if there’s any additional strain on the TSA if you have to sit in an airport for four hours and five minutes, as opposed to three hours and 47 minutes. I mean, there’s no one with a stopwatch observing the security cameras of the bars and waiting areas, waiting for it to tick over to four hours, at which point FRISK HIM DAN-O. But that’s really all there is to say about it, and I had that horrible sensation that there was a neon sign flashing SO WHAT PEOPLE STOPPED READING flashing over my head where I couldn’t see it.

Besides, I would have to explain Dan-O. Or, given the demographics of newspapers, would I? Or, given the millennial generation’s aptitude for consuming and recycling old pop-culture cliches, is Dan-O a thing, as they might say? I don’t think so. Their pop-culture references seen to peter out in the Urkel era, or at least they did a few years ago. The latest generation of Internet Thought Leaders probably regards Urkel-related references as totally L-7, or Herbert. I kid; they wouldn’t know those references. (L-7: some movie I can’t recall. Make an L and a 7 with your fingers: a SQUARE. Herbert is Star-Trek space-hippie slang,) For that matter, “Old and busted / new hotness” is made nowadays only to refer to memes that used the phrase in bygone days, not the actual currency of the phrase. The only abiding references are Star Wars references.

So what to write about? Around four I got a recorded call from the school system, and it made me smile. Sometimes you get the head of communications, who doesn’t seem all that good at reading scripts; sometimes you get the head of the schools, inviting you to something-or-other in a less than friendly tone. This time it was Tom, who runs the Southwest Summer Program at a high school. A kid had pertussis last month.

This did not make me smile. No, it was Tom who made me smile. This guy was standing in the school an umpty-million years ago when I took Gnat to her first summer camp program; he wore a straw boater and intoned instructions over the microphone, a calm voice amidst utter pandemonium. The years past; summer rolled around again; took Daughter to the classes, and Tom was there. Straw boater. Calm words. Leading everyone in the song for Ice Cream Day on Thursday. The early years of post-class panic (WHERE IS MY CHILD WHERE WHERE?) gave way to shrugs: eh, around here somewhere.

Daughter was going to do a class this year, but one of her friends dropped out, so she cancelled. I went back to the school to get the check a few weeks ago. Same chaos. Remember everything as it had been, from the parking to the walk up the slight hill to the shirt logos to the coolers for lunch boxes, laid out in rows, pictures of animals taped to their top so the kids could remember where they put the bologna. All as it always was, except this time no kid. I got the check from the office and on the way out, stopped at the desk where Tom, in his straw boater, was talking on the PA system. I’d interviewed him for the paper last year, gave him his due.

I got his attention and said “Here you are, all’s right with the world,” and he clasped my hand, and on the way out of the place I was welling up.

So that turned into a column, and it’s about none of that, except it is.

The column mentions the lake. Harriet. Looks like this around now.

Took Scout for a walk the other day, and there was the beauty of the lake as ever. I would have enjoyed it more if the dog had been interested in a walk. The dog needs to be trained better, and I shouldn’t let wife and child walk him so much. We need treat training to heel. It’s not that he lunches or goes ahead; he’s just so fascinated by every scent that he stops every four inches and PLANTS his legs and will be dragged like a table with four stout limbs over a dirt surface.

It’s been a while since there’s been some Scout. Here’s some Scout.

Hard dog to photograph; those eyes just don’t pop out, and when the light is strong on his face he photographs Blue, for some reason.




A cloudy day in an ordinary Midwestern town.

It’s interesting to see what Edith’s did there - one broad swath of signage tied together three buildings . . ,


. . . except that they seem to be one building already, if you look at the cornices. It’s one of those time-capsule structures that looks exactly as it did a half-century ago.

What are those? Stone shutters?

Ghastly building; belongs in a small-town college. As for the "Fusion" - no, it’s not a narrow theater with six seats per row; in the theaters of the era, the elaborate entry opened into a lobby that led to a theater shed that might be 90 degrees to the side. Let's look at the top:

Sheet metal instead of colored glass: always an improvement, eh?

I Ruep, he Rueps, we are Rueping:



Owner: We’re going to remake the Rueping Block. No shingles, boys. I’m serious.

Architects: Aw, can’t we have a few shingles? Just between the first and second floor?

Owner: NO SHINGLES. (door slams.)

Architects: Ah, what does he know. Add a few shingles. He’ll like them when he sees them.

The bottom floor satisfies no one; it’s not modern, it’s not historic, it’s not related to the top, it’s not related to anything. It’s just rote.

Fred Rueping ran a leather company; this building was originally used as a brewery, but it was also a “saloon, grocery store, oil company, clothing store, and an undertaker.” You could get drunk there, buy lunch, get fitted for a suit, and wear it when they put you in the box. One-stop shopping!

From this angle: I'll get you, and your litlte dog, too!

This is just daaaamn cool. Late-Forties swank. This is the kind of architecture that's almost future-proof, because the era it thinks it's in never really existed.

Every town has one, or should: the Severe Federal Structure that provides a civic presence without making you grouse over the cost. Not a palace.


Fall. Wan light and a view that could be 1954 or 1973. Well, probably not the latter; they would have painted the building orange and put a brown mansard roof on top.

A bank that catered exclusively to the town's thin citizens:

Oh my. Well.

The building appears to have an undeveloped twin hanging on one side; perhaps they intended to build out the other way eventually. I'd bet that the white remodeling was a 1960s "fine dining" restaurant - it surely didn't start out as a dance studio, and I doubt the arches were ever open. That sort of "classy" facade was used for supper clubs that had dim interiors, lots of steak, and a blue pall of cigarette smoke.

Another fine Italianate building; I really, really hope this one was an Accordian Store.


Let us not leave without noting that Fond du Lac has fine examples of the sort of architecture that ruined college campuses and suburbs all across the country from 1975 to 1984:

Not to say that previous eras didn't put up blank expanses. Indeed. But even though they were oddly scaled and suffered indiginites like "turn that door into a window, if you don't mind", they still had details, and details matter.

Modern architecture hates details. Perhaps they think the devil lives there. If so, then modern architects are the only people who still believe in the devil.

Makes sense.


Work blog around 12:30, Tumblr around noonish or so - see you then! And of course, the Fargo site continues.


blog comments powered by Disqus