The bin of dog food is in the boiler room. This wasn’t a problem before, since Jasper hadn’t gone downstairs since the early years of the Obama administration. Scout realizes that there is an astonishing resource to be pillaged at will, and hence his daily objective, if not the raison d’être for his entire existence, is to get down there and get the food. He’s well-fed, of course, but that doesn’t matter to a dog. You see it, you eat it, because there might not be any food anywhere ever again forever.

So we put a box of dog diapers on the box - the pads you put in their crate when you’re training them. They turn pee into gel. Not up there with water-into-wine, but handy. When he was a puppy the box was enough, but it took a week before he realized that he could knock it over and get to the food. Mind you, the basement door is always closed now, because he liked to go down there and pee on the rug when he was a pup, It wasn’t the Den. It was the strange and wondrous land down below, and now he picks up scents we cannot detect and the brain says "Oh. Here. Old time's sake." Sssssss.

So we put a 12-pack of soda on the box and duct-taped the lid shut. Well, today he got downstairs, and used his teeth to pull the 12-pack off the lid, then used his teeth to undo the duct tape, which he correctly surmised was standing between him and a bellyful of crunchy kibble.

Wife comes home, asks if the dog has been fed.

“Yep!” I say. Daughter and I exchange a look.

I told wife later about the dog’s ingenuity. Of course Scout had no guilt, no shame; I don’t ascribe that emotion to dogs unless you catch them in the act, and then it’s mostly oh-crap-alpha’s-mad.

Now he is running around the backyard snapping at moths. This follows ten minutes of concerned growling over the shape of a cat on the ledge on the south side of the house.

It’s a wonderful life.

Warmer today; less fall; nothing but writing and meetings, so ta-da for Wednesday’s great accomplishments. Daughter is having a hellish week with soccer conditioning - they have to run laps in the morning, many laps, and I remember my own hatred of that particular activity in school. I know some people love it. Runner’s High, and all that. I could never see the point. Five laps around the track means you just end up where you were and feel worse. I’m a fast walker, though; not an ambler. No one minds a fast walker, but runners always make you feel as you should be running, even though you’re perfectly content with the fact that you don’t.

Tonight I conclude one of the most masochistic TV-watching experiences ever, “The Killing.” Started on AMC, highly praised because it had a pathologically glum female detective, and it was set in Seattle during an apparent six-month monsoon. Bleak! Gritty! It failed to conclude its mystery the first season, a la Twin Peaks; fury amongst the fans. The second season answered all your questions, including the one “Do I care?” And that answer was No. It was picked up for a third season, and that one was different, inasmuch as it was rather good. I even came to like the sneezy detective who’s the partner of the Grim & Troubled star detective. As I tweeted out a few nights ago, in another dimension they’re starring in a really good X-Files reboot.

Netflix, looking for content, picked up a six-season series finale, and like the rest of the series it’s a bizarre disconnected experience: good characters, great actors, exquisite cinematography, and a stupid story. It’s set in a military academy, and you know what that means: STRAIGHT-UP FASCIST INCUBATOR, with the three requisite types: the sociopathic bro-fiend, the kid who finds order in the rules and discipline, and the sensitive outsider for whom this is hell, if hell required you to get up at 3 AM and haze someone by slapping him in the face while you recite nursery rhymes.

I may have mentioned this before, but in college I had a roommate fresh out of military school. I gather he was sent there to Straighten Up and Fly Right. Enthusiastic weed consumer. Very smart fellow. One night in the dorm he decided his shooting skills may have atrophied, and the best way to find out was to get his gun out of the closet -

Yes; yes. I know. Again, I grew up with guns around the house, so it wasn’t a big deal to have an unloaded gun in a roommate’s closet, any more than it was a big deal to have an electric blender. Because we weren’t going to shoot anyone and we weren’t going to make pancake batter, either.

The dorm room was a triple, so it was longer than the usual cell. The room next door was a double, with one studious occupant and one Golem-sized dude who did a lot of acid, and played Earth Wind and Fire records over and over again when he was off on a journey. One night he came in to our room wide-eyed and sweating, and needed to be talked down; it was like tethering the Hindenburg with dental floss in a hurricane. One night when he was merely stoned out of his mind my roommate put one of those immersing units in a cup of water to heat it up, blew the fuses on the entire floor, and freaked out the neighbor in the midst of hearing “Shining Star” for the ninetieth time. Anyway, it was a triple. If you stood in the closet and aimed your rifle at the target you’d drawn on a piece of paper and attached to the wastebasket, and if you’d filled the wastebasket with phone books, well, you could get a rough idea how good your aim was.

Every parent’s nightmare.

His aim was still good, though. Nice grouping. Can’t remember what we put on the stereo to muffle the shots, and that’s a sentence you won’t hear me say often.

Anyway: “The Killing” has served to indicate that the writers decided that six episodes was license to compress and simplify, so it’s all cliche - but for some reason the show is intent on proving that Grim & Brooding Detective Linden is the worst, most unprofessional, slap-dash police person ever, and a wreck in her personal life as well. Not in the fascinating sense of someone who careens through life with brio and gusto and damn the consequences, but a bad mom who can’t remember to take her kid to the airport, or, for that matter, remember that she has a kid at all. Her partner, your basic drug-addict street-smart smoove-talkin’ detective, isn’t much better. But I have no doubt that they will wrap up the case tonight with brilliant insight, because the script periodically steps away from their miseries to have them swap theories and possibilities and remind us they are Brilliant Detectives, Really.

I waited and waited for one of them to say “hold on. This looks promising, but remember the first season, when we suspected six different people with equal conviction, just because the episode was coming to an end and the ominous music started up?” But no.

The only reason the show ever got traction, or good reviews, or had a fan base behind it, was because the heroine, Mirieille Enos, is A) a good actress, and B) started out as an all-business single mom who didn’t wear makeup and did her job with dogged perseverance, not caring a whit for what men thought about her, and suspecting - usually correctly - what they did think, and holding them in contempt for it. The show’s creator was a woman, and made the show different. In the end they made her a trembling wreck, and then asked you to sympathize with her failings out of some sort of solidarity with the promise of the premise, and an expectation that we should all be supportive. A Mary Sue for losers.

So now I’m going to finish the column and watch the last episode.

I don’t know why I watched it this long. I do know that I’ll miss it.

You can forgive TV friends almost anything, can’t you.

Yesterday I asked you to identify an actress; if you're just tuning in, you can have another crack at it.

Of course, it's her. Or him. Or it.



The very name of the place seems to say “keep movin’, stranger.”

You know you’re in the Midwest when . . .

And if there was any doubt you were in the Midwest . . .

Several things about the one below. First off, it’s nice that the second floor isn’t boarded up, but the Mandatory Building-Blinding Act of 1984 still applies to the third floor.

Second, Goodfellas is a popular bar name, I’m sure, but the Goodfellas weren’t derby-hat guys; that was the previous generation. Third, the Elliot Jewelers building is a perfect example of post-war modernization - the multicolored stone around the entrance, the metal screen over the old facade (always a favorite in this feature), and something I haven’t seen in a long time: the perpendicular sign over the sidewalk. Much more prominent downtown, once upon a time, and I’d forgotten it completely.

A building built on an incline has problems deciding where it wants to put things. I’m guessing the left-hand corner was not the most desirable retail space in the building.

Why no second-floor windows? That’s actually the first floor.

Below: Another peg-leg Pete, and I hope that pole isn’t holding up the building. Retrofitted? Designed that way? Inscrutable.

Our basics are always the Bank, the Ghost Sign, the Boarded-up Second Floor, and the movie theater. Well:

The Town. Not the finest marquee in the genre, but who cares? It not only shows movies, it serves pizza. Brilliant!

More Motie-work below, busily redoing the facade to no good end. Fill it in, slap up the siding, and for God’s sake BRICK THOSE WINDOWS. I’ve no idea what the one on the right looked like - two identical doors, side by side? Two partners in a store who fell out, divided the store down the middle and put in a separate entrance? Probably not. But that little narrow window had to go, I guess.

Look closely:

The town would appear to have its own logo. It’s the only saving grace in a senseless renovation that chopped off the roof and added blank brick - which, of course, had no match whatsoever to the original hue. If reddish brick arrived on site the foreman would have a fit. This is new! It has to look new! Beigey browny, that’s the hue of the institutional future.

Someone on the internet called it “Art Deco,” but no. NO. First of all, it was a 50s renovation, and it was more or less late-period Streamline Moderne. Very late period.

The bank, trying to seem inconspicuous. Thin? It’s not monumental, but it’s still a bank, and it has a nice Federal Classical gravity. I suppose that’s inevitable when you have columns. Anything looks more serious with columns.

The windows seem to suggest a tall banking hall on the left, with normal-sized spaces to the right. Even here in a small town, in a small bank, the interior was intended to inspire, reassure, impress, and make you feel a bit small, all the same time.

Perhaps not the best public face the town could put out:


And the Ghost Ad.

Impossible to tell what it is - but there's someone in Waukon who remembers what it was.

Hope someone asks them and writes it down.

Here: take a tour!


Work blog around 12:30, Tumblr around noonish or so - see you then!


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