A glass doorknob fell off, bounced off the concrete floor of the furnace room, and chipped. This was information I did not have when I saw the doorknob on a shelf by the back door, where my wife had put it. Because I did not know it had bounced and chipped, I reattached it and gave it a good twist to make sure it was on tight. Hence, blood. Blood and lots of it.

Once I had stanched the flow, and considered again how “stanch” only seems to be used when blood is involved (No one in told someone to turn off a faucet by saying “Stanch that, will you?”), I noted that my finger lit up a little every time it moved. On the same finger there is a wound on the knuckle that cannot heal because it’s right on the knuckle. This happened because it has been so cold your skin literally cracks. I have two knuckles thus afflicted.

“Do we have any crack cream?” I asked my wife. She said we did not. I mention this only to show that in this part of the world people know what you mean when you say “crack cream.”

So typing all this hurts. Just a little.

Went to work; needed gas, so I stopped at the PUMP 'N' MUNCH or QUIK 'N' SAV or GULP 'N' GO or FUEL 'N' FLEE or STOP 'N' SKEEDADLE whatever it is. I pass it daily and the name never takes. Put in the nozzle, started the gas. Tied my shoe. When I stood up I noted that the amount of gas sold so far was one cent. No - two. I waited. Three cents. At this rate it would take several hours to fill up the tank.

You pumping slow? said the man at the next island. I said that was, and would go speak to the proprietor. Went inside the store, which I've never done in all the years I've lived around here. There was a line of young men, four all together, and they all bought a cigar with a plastic tip from a big jar of cigars with plastic tips. There was also a display of DVDs; if you wanted you could buy the second season of LOST along with your cigar. I told the fellow behind the counter that the pumps were low, and he responded in a way that instantly told me he owned the store, and he is there when it opens and there when it closes, and he's probably carrying about 40 - 50K of inventory that moves at different speeds, and probably regrets buying those old DVDs, and makes his money off cigarettes and milk. He has a world of worries and a balky pump is a nightmare, because not only does it make people stop pumping and drive off, they don't come back again. And if he has to replace the pumps it'll wipe out the year's take.

I don't know why but this keeps happening, he said. He grabbed the hose and shook it a few times, and then it flowed normally. Big, big grin. I thanked him and said maybe it was just the cold. He waved and ran back inside.

When I grabbed the nozzle to take it out of the spout I felt the wound on both knuckles open again. I think I'll go back tomorrow and see if he has any crack cream. Bet he does.


Something across the street is making my chair vibrate. Something drops and my chair jumps. It’s the Downtown East construction project, which as usual has about four guys working on it today. It’s as if everyone knocks off at noon. Yet the thing goes up by a floor every six days or so.

The bumping was getting on my nerves, so I went to the pathetic vending machine for a pathetic sack of peanuts, thinking how nice it will be in the new building, because I understand there are pneumatic chutes everywhere that shoot peanuts into your legumehole if you lean close and trigger the proximity sensor. Or so the mockups suggest.

Put in a dollar for peanuts, contemplating as usual the economics: $2.88 for a 14 oz jar at the grocery store, one dollar for two ounces in the Fun Size. Why? Because you didn’t bring a 14 oz jar to work, and are willing to pay more for immediate gratification.

The machine beeped, and I looked at LED alert: peanuts were now $1.10. I never have change. Hence I will never buy peanuts here in the future. It’s a rare day I have a dollar bill in my wallet, for that matter. So I pushed the button to get my money back, and a single coin clattered into the bin.


I have never seen this before. It was like getting a Chuck E. Cheese token. It’s a Polk Dollar, and it is the first coin I’ve ever received in the United States that I did not recognize. Odd feeling. What the hell is this money? When did they start with that? Seriously, Polk? Turns out it was released five years ago as part of the Presidential Dollar Club Sale or something like that. Wikipedia:

The act had been introduced because of the failure of the Sacagawea $1 coin to gain widespread circulation in the United States. The act sympathized with the need of the nation's private sector for a $1 coin, and expected that the appeal of changing the design would increase the public demand for new coins (as the public generally responded well to the State Quarter program).

That’s because people like quarters. They’re useful, or at least they used to be; in college a pocketful of quarters was a comfort. Pinball and laundry. Three of them got you smokes. Continuing:

The act directed the Mint to continue to issue Sacagawea dollar coins during the presidential series. The law states that at least one in three issued dollars must be a Sacagawea dollar. Furthermore, the Sacagawea design is required to continue after the Presidential Coin program ends. These requirements were added at the behest of the North Dakota congressional delegation to ensure that Sacagawea, whom North Dakotans consider to be one of their own, ultimately remains on the dollar coin.

News to me, that.

Anyway. Got back to my desk and remembered: I did bring a 14 ounce jar of peanuts to the office. There was just a few left, and lots of dust, which is technically peanuts but not at all satisfying. But these were Honey-Roasted Peanuts, which made the dust like that Pixie candy that came in straws. Also, I realized that the reason I had the peanuts in the office drawer was because I’d mistakenly bought Honey-Roasted, which I don’t like. The Kettle Corn of peanuts, it is.

So I have a strange dollar and I'm out of peanuts. This concludes the news of an ordinary afternoon in a very cold city in the year of our Lor 2014. Thank you for caring.





Sometimes the Google car captures scenes that just need a little tweaking to be a scene of serendipitous composition.


This town was a bonanza of signage. One of the more interesting stops on our nationwide tour, I think. Take a look at this corner:


The Murray Cafe sign would be enough to give any small town enough swank to last a generation or two. But what's the bunker across the street?

It's a forbidding Masonic Temple - with a pictographic history of the order.

If ancient masonry isn't your thing, there's always THE BAR. Even if ancient masonry is your thing. Hell, especially if it is. Whatever: the hallowed Neon Martini.

Lest you think only cafes and lounges had signs, Gil's Goods has a piece of neon with two, count 'em two arrows to direct you. Bonus: Ghost Sign.


So you can see why I was impressed. Because it just didn't stop:


I suspect "Cocktail Lounge" was recent, but the sign goes back a while. It can never be anything else but the Owl, can it?

Holy Smoking Crow:

A bit much, but no question what that building's used for.

Some bricking closed up the walls for some reason, making it look a bit like a dark dive bar, but the sign has some old pride:

Not all is well: Elephant Man Disease struck one of the buildings in the late 60s. Of course, it' a bank.

But enough saving money! Let's drink:


Then there's this. It gets even better. Three old citizens with Ghost Signs:

Palimpsest, with an ad for the Park Theater. Wonder if they repainted it every week.

Two! Two! Two ads in one:

Henry Frank's name atop, a big sign, a ghost ad:

. . . and when you turn around there's more.

The old pointing hand, which I always found creepy, directs newcomers to the proper hotel. Wonder if Mr. Park owned the theater, too:

Miles Department store is long gone, but I think we have a clue that Mr. Miles was a mover and shaker of some influence:

The Garner-Miles building. Wonder if they were rivals of Mr. Park, or everyone got along. They were probably all Masons. Finally:

More Ghosts. Really, it's quite the downtown - and it doesn't seem to be touting its "historical district." It just is what it is - and a good portion of that consists of what it was as well. Bravo, Livingston.

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