They’re adding new gates and security checkpoints at the airport. For fun I went to the comments to see what people said. Because I was sure I would not see this:

Great! Of course there’s the jobs, which are always welcome - but reduced waiting times for the security line is a real plus. And more gates mean more flights, and more options. All in all, a nice piece of news!

One comment on a local TV news site, in its entirety:“Big Whoop.”

This is why I recommend that news sites require real names for comments, because it would be fascinating to interview Mr. Big Whoop.

Q. Excuse us for knocking at your door, and pardon us if we’re a bit winded - it’s quite the walk from the gate to your extraordinary house here on Lake Minnetonka! But we were wondering just what you meant by that comment on the internet.

A. Oh, that? (chuckle) I’m sorry. I was in a mood. See, it’s my job to build airports. I’ve personally supervised the construction of seven around the world in the last decade, including an innovative airport in China that’s under a lake between two mountains, and you can imagine the engineering quandary that presented. When it came to a story about opening two new gates, I guess I was still thinking about the new Amsterdam expansion, which will add 145 gates on an island connected by a bullet train, and I'd been working out a way to dampen the vibrations as it passes some rather fragile Roman ruins. I apologize. It’s a nice new gate, and you should be proud.”

Which would be the only reason to leave such a sour little pile on the end of a story. People. Honestly.

The phone rings at 3 AM, we all have the same thought: who died? If you have a relative who regards death as hot gossip, could be anyone in the family. Uncle Frank might make the cut. You were always his favorite. Third-cousin twice removed, now thrice removed, it can wait. But even if it’s top-five near-and-dear material, do you really have to know at 3 AM? What are you supposed to do with the information? Well, let me brew a pot of coffee and work up some grief. Frank you say? On Mom’s side, right?

I’m using that paragraph here because I took it out of the novel last night around 12:25, then watched some TV and went to bed.

At 1:45 the phone rang.

Checked caller ID: New York. Liberium Capital. So I called them back. Answered on the second ring, and the voice was slightly wary. I said I just got a call, and he said it was probably their London office; the number shows up as the 212 number.

Well, it’s two o’clock in the morning here, and if they’re making cold calls they should adjust their time zones accordingly.

He apologized and I hung up. Then wondered why someone was sitting in the office of Liberium Capital at 3 AM. Well, you have to work hard to make your millions, I suppose; that’s the only way you can afford an expensive apartment, which you will never see because you're in the office all the time, sleeping on a cot. Read a story today about the most expensive condo in NYC, a three-story $130 million unit atop another slender undistinguished tower. Every time I hit the real estate sites for New York, it’s another tall residential unit. Aside from the beast slated to go up next to Grand Central Station, and the WTC, it doesn’t seem as if they’re building office towers any more. Just pied-a-terres for the international set and homes for the newly minted Masters of the Universe.

And I don’t like them. No sir, I don’t like them. They have no style to build upon, nothing to offer the buildings that come after them; they’re just one-offs, tricks, empty flourishes. We’ll go straight up for forty stories, but there will be . . . a fin! Yes, a fin. Look, it’s not like Superman will snag his cape on it. Sure, it looks like something a giant would use to gut a fish, but it’s 83% leased. Next!

Said the sour guy complaining on the internet, I guess.

Not to say everything has to soar and taper with classic setbacks, or wear a sober stone skin. But from a distance it seems as people want to live in New York to have the urban experience provided by buildings that are torn down to house the people who want the New York urban experience. It’s not just a matter of scale; it’s a matter of style. Nothing seems solid and serious.

Like this hotel below, for example. I’ve been plowing through an interminable pdf of a 1921 Hotel industry magazine, and the ads, as usual, are the best part. This caught my eye: here’s some branding gone awry.

Sorry! Sorry! Tried to fold it into the McAlpin brand, didn't realize you people were so attached to the old name, and considered "Annex" somethig of a slight..

The Martinique’s history would be called “troubled,” perhaps. Hellish would be more apt. It was a welfare hotel for many years, and when I first went to New York and had my first pilgrimage at Chock Full O’Nuts nearby (the coffee was lukewarm and the waitress sloshed half of it into the saucer) the Martinque was a mean, sullen presence in Herald Square. Full of people, but dark and silent. A beautiful box for bad things.

It’s been saved. It’s a hotel again. There was still something left to restore. Any of those modern places have anything like this?

I’m about 1/10th of the way through the new James Ellroy super-hardcore-ultra-noir crime thriller. Longtime Ellroy fan; read them all; couldn’t absorb the last one. There were some fine scenes - the Haitian interlude is a horrifying and surreal masterpiece - but overall it was the same parade of characters I didn’t like and couldn’t keep straight. It seemed a do-over from the previous book. All that would be fine if the book hadn’t been unreadable. It was like trying to eat leather dipped in glue. When he went for the staccato be-bop style I was fine with the shift, and liked it, but at some point it almost became word salad, with the same words and stylistic tics popping up again and again and again, which not only suggested the author’s limitations, but made the characters indistinguishable. If they’re all thinking in the same patterns and slang, who can tell them apart?

Perfida is much, much, much better. It’s almost pre-“White Jazz,” inasmuch as it’s clear and clean and still has the nervy jangle you expect. The characters are familiar, in a good way - they’re many of the same bad cops who populated the earlier LA novels, and it’s always grand me boyo to see Dudley Smith stroll in. Except.

Except for one line, dropped casually early on, when describing Dudley’s personal life. Married with four daughters, one illegitimate daughter on the East Coast. Her name is Beth Short.

Hey now.

I don’t remember that at all. Short was, of course, the Black Dahlia, and if Ellroy retconned his fictional universe so she was Dudley Smith’s daughter, it makes your head spin. It’s also a bad move. It’s not a Luke-I-Am-Your-Father move, it’s a No-Leia-is-your-Sister move.



Another week in another month; another town in another state. Someone's hometown, someone's childhood memories of movies and the Woolworth's. Today it's . . .

A larger town than I expected, although I'm not sure what I expected. Aside from a smaller town of course; just said that.

Here's something that lasted for decades, without looking as if it's aged a day:

A fine old Bakery sign and a spiffy facade screen, obviously masking an old building. They did that well back then. You never looked at a facade like that and thought the original had to be better. The original was probably like a thousand other blocks.

The obligatory small-town bank in Roman livery:

Farmers Trust: such an Iowa name.

But it looks like George Bailey's bank compared to this one, a Modern structure that looks like it sports some Kasota limestone:

Clay County National Bank? With offices in San Francisco and New York? No. Wikipedia:

In the modern U.S. the term "national bank" has a precise meaning: a banking institution chartered and supervised by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ("OCC"), an agency in the U.S. Treasury Department, pursuant to the National Bank Act. . . .

Many "state banks", by contrast, are chartered by the applicable state government (usually the state's department of banking). The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures deposits at both national and state banks.

The advantage of a National Bank Act charter is that a national bank is not subject to state usury laws intended to prevent predatory lending.

Ah. That's more Potter's style.

What, was this town settled by Romans?

The old Post Office. Severe but handsome. On the other hand, here's a real late 60s/ early 70s piece of work:

That's really an audacious thing, and as much as I'm not crazy about the style, I like it a lot. It looks like a Yamasaki building, but lots of architects were doing the groovy columns like that - and they seemed to be used mostly for banks, Chambers of Commerce, and other institutions with civil functions. You didn't use this style for a clothing store.

It was a bank; the sign down the street says the branch is closed.

As is:

The modest dimensions don't give you a sense of the size, I believe; here's the Cinema Treasures site, with more pictures.

Another well-preserved facade - well, the top part. The lower part looks as if an itinerant store-modifier salesman blew into town with a fast line of patter and sold the rube the latest thing.

The town has 11K people; I suspect it had more, once. It had this. You know it's a hotel. Wht else could it be?

They didn't seem to bother with the cornice, though. An odd decision. Why, all those farmers coming to town would walk to look up and gawk at the tall tower; give 'em something to look at. (Kidding.) What happened?

Well, the Tangney - that was its name - was built in 1920 as a four-story hotel, with the fifth story added in 1924. You can see the old roofline. Possibly they didn't decorate the top because hell, who knew if they'd need another floor in '28? It was named afer E. C. Tangney; he had one in Ft. Des Moines as well, although that one was the Tangney-McGill, which suggests his partner was going to make damn sure people knew he had a hand in this business, no matter how unwieldy the name was.

The old pictures don't show this sign. Wonder where it came from.

Here you go: have a stroll, if you'd like.

View Larger Map



blog comments powered by Disqus