Sunday afternoon, Daughter’s confirmation. I wander up to Pastor Kurt, who extends a pinky finger in the traditional greeting.
“Lutheran Hug,” he says. We touch pinky-finger tips.
“Well,” I say, “we put a crucifix on her forehead this morning, no smoking or screams, so I guess she’d good to do.”
He nods. “The stigmata?”
“Oh, all healed, just a little redness. She has a crick in her neck from turning it around 360 but that’s to be expected.”
He’s pleased: let the Confirmation begin!
It’s an easy-going church, I think you could say.
Other than that, an absolutely rote weekend. Everything proceeded as it always does, and I suppose that’s good. No: I know it’s good. Especially since there was an unexpected difference. Saturday night daughter was at friends, and I wanted some Vietnamese. We’ve sworn off the place where we usually get Vietnamese, because it’s glop. Just a mess of glop. You poke through the heap looking for chicken, wondering what you’re supposed to do with that tiny corn - take it home and feed it to the hamster, that would be so CUTE! But we don’t have a hamster. The phone suggested a few options, one of which I drive by weekly but never noticed. It’s on the end of a 1950s strip mall, a tired block the City Fathers would love to raze in favor of a proud block that marches right up to the sidewalk and has nice shops instead of this ragtag collection. It’s not pretty but I root for it. Rent’s cheap. Interesting things happen when rent’s cheap.
It used to be an ice cream parlor, I remember that much. Never went there. It’s about 10 feet wide. Two tables. Mostly take-out. Old man and his daughter. I placed my order and sat outside watching the sun set, reading the scrolling horrors of the world. The old man brought me a bag of food with a smiley face on the side, and I drove away. When I hit the highway it finally, finally happened: the late summer sunset confluence of highway + song, an event that always signals that there’s still some life in the season, at least in my heart. I hate to say what the song was, because the group is held in disfavor, and the song was popular, and the arrangement - the very instruments themselves, from the electric piano to the sax to the meticulous separation of instruments in the mix - is dated, I suppose, and we can’t have dated things unless we’re on the forefront of rediscovering them and remixing them, and for that you have to have a popular YouTube account and a certain amount of facial hair.
But not too much.
What I waited for, and got, just as I hit the curve of the highway and pulled some Gs, was the guitar solo. It begins with one note. It’s the absolutely perfect note. No other note is possible, and the guitarist hits it for a few bars before flying off on this mad exultant solo with the echo and wah-wah pedals doing furious work. It’s one of the best solos I’ve ever heard, and not for its virtuosity - 1/16th note shredders are a dime a dozen - but for the melody, the pacing, the bite, the wall-to-wall scope and confidence. And he’s a hippie.
Meaning, what? Well, just that; if you wanted to define a Hippie by looks or worldview or temperament you’d choose this guy - Eastern mysticism, tremulous voice, peace-brother lyrics, long hair, skinny, the full Haight-Ashbury. But criminey, could he bang the electric guitar.
So: name the song.
The Vietnamese food? I had the curry chicken. When I opened the container I was stunned to see . . . 95% Chicken. No glop. Chicken. No veggie mush: Chicken. And it was incredible.
There used to be a Vietnamese restaurant in town whose ads featured the founder, with the slogan “I didn’t come 6,000 miles to cook you bad food.” I always thought “no, you came 6,000 miles to escape murderous collectivism, but that’s okay.” Wonder what the old man’s story is.
Shopping find of the weekend.
Dog park, Friday night. Sunset comes quicker.
A fellow has three dogs romping around him because he is the Tosser of The Ball, one of those amaaaazing things humans can do but never do enough. Scout is not a ball-chaser. He’s more interested in the dogs themselves, depending on who they are. You don’t always sense the differences between dogs until you watch them relate to each other, and you have to avoid anthropomorphizing. When the fellow tosses the ball and the trio races after it, and Scout watches them go, you cannot think he feels as if they’ve ditched him for something fun. Guys? Where you going? Something I did?
The ball-thrower was from Chile, and as is the case when you meet someone from another country you command your brain to bring up everything you read in the Economist. He’d been in the Navy, and now was doing marketing for a Minnesota health-care company. Pleasant fellow, and I would have chatted longer except the dog had gone to the other end of the field, so off I went. He was having a vigorous play-fight with a little something-something mix, and I got to talking with the owner; she worked for an eyeglass company - the one from which I bought my last pair, as it happens.
I took off my glasses. “I’ve had some pitting on these,” I said. “It’s like they’re completely delaminating.”
You have to front-load the conversation with all the jargon you know.
I know some people think that asking people what they do for a living is boring, and reduces them down to a JOB God forbid, but I love the topic. You learn things. In the middle of talking about the high price of frames she said “Oh, that’s Scout, your wife was here the other night?” And it turns out that Scout and the dog with whom he was having tremendous combat not only came from the same shelter, they came from the same shelter in Mississippi and came up in the same shipment.
Do they know? Do they remember?
We got to talking about the Mean Dog, the one who’s generally okay but sometimes snaps and goes after other dogs for no reason. Some people say he’s nice, except for that part. I say to hell with him. He’s the one who piled on Scout a few weeks ago and made him run in terror. He did it again earlier this week. “Yeah, Nico went after him, and Scout just - phew! Made a beeline for the gate.” That’s what my wife said. He ran away so fast she thought he had been taken by a transporter beam.
We met some German Shepherds; Scout was curious and submissive but not overly so. The Shepherd emanated a strong BOW DOWN TO ME vibe, and Scout showed his belly. Which the Shepherd decided was proof this weak little runt should be culled, and he grabbed a mouthful of fur and bit. YIPE YIPE YIPE and Scout got up and ran as fast as he could for the gate.
You feel so bad for the little guy. He’s a sweet dog who wants to be friends, and the gott-damned Nazi-hunds keep trying to eat him. I swear when we showed up he saw pointy ears silhouetted in the gloaming and drew back, but he probably smelled Bully.
From 1936, years before its 1939 debut at the World’s Fair.
No one was trapped by television. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could be, but perhaps the popular imagination viewed TV rays as something that could scoop you up and stick you in a box. We get an idea about the movie’s tone right away:
It’s going to be light. One of our heroes is a bill-collector who fancies himself somethin’ of a scientifical dreamer:
That’s an August 1934 issue. Well, the bill-collector goes to put the bite on a guy who’s behind on everything, and discovers he’s made a genuine TV camera in his boarding house. And it’s a beaut.
Into the story comes an unusual character: a female con-artist with a heart of gold, part of a duo of distaff grifters who are always trying to get money for a new invention - which is kinda sorta legit, so we like them. And even if they’re on the hustle, hey, it’s the 30s. Here’s the brains of the outfit, talking to the TV inventor:
Recognize her? That picture gives me an idea why she was considered a great beauty, because frankly, in her other roles, I never got it. Another look:
Mary Astor. So there’s a little star power in this trifle. She tries to get the invention sold to the Paragon Broadcasting Company, which is facing a grave situation: their TV engineer vanished, and if they don’t come up with TV soon, they’ll be ruined. Uh huh. He was kidnapped by some guys (and killed, which is very 30s for a light number) so they could rig the bid for a TV process. Really. But here comes the new guy with his invention, with a dame to boot, and that throws everything into a cocked hat.
What the boardroom of a 1936 broadcasting company was supposed to look like:
What TV looked like on the inside; they do say it’s a “cathode ray tube,” so it’s not all made up techno-mumbo-jumbo.
The device in the back of the truck as they run to a test. Really well-secured there, fellas. Good thing it’s not full of fragile tubes.
It’s an hour long and bright and amusing, and must have whetted people’s appetite for TV. If they ever thought such a thing would happen. Really, pictures over the air. Pictures? That move? How? The film ends with a chase and a fight, and that’s where your host’s tiresome insistence on stopping the movie and going frame-by-frame comes into play. The POV from the car, racing down the street:
Can we tell where this is? Sure. Go on, figure it out. I’ll wait.
Need another clue? Sigh. FINE. Here:
Okay, sign on the top right. You can make out an O. At the bottom you can make out a T. If you imagine the rest of the letters you have MOUNT, because you’re already thinking PARAMOUNT. And that’s the key.That’s Broadway in Los Angeles. The shots show a streetcar going down the middle. Let’s go to the Street View:
The paved over tracks. What a sign! Damn you, Roger Rabbit plot! Note: On the left is the Cameo theater.
If you look up on the right in another frame . . .
There’s the old Cameo marquee.