Big Xmas site update today! Details at the bottom. It's the 1961 New Yorker Christmas.

So I had some time out-and-about before I circled back to church to pick up daughter from choir. Wanted to get some ice-melt for the back steps, because cruel nature has made the footing treacherous, and I do not want my obit to list the cause of death as the demolition of my occipital lobe, incurred while going outside to keep the dog from chewing the Christmas lights extension cord. Went to Home Depot; they had endless bags of rock salt, but those are bad for dog paws. Did they have pet-safe stuff? The helpful lady said no, buuuuuut

<go to the pet store> I thought. She said that she’d been tellllling people that they miiiight try someplace that selllllls stuff for pets, annnnd

Petco, I said. Right! Thanks.

Or Petsmart, she said. This would have been the point at which the conversation ended, but she said “I was thiinnnking that because people are commmmming here for it, they donnnn’t think that the pet stores will have it, sooooo -

So it’s a good idea! Thanks.

soooo they would have lots of it, because no one knew they had it.

RIGHT! I GOT IT! I felt bad for wanting to bolt, but in my world the question is answered with “Nope, don’t have it. Petco’s a good bet.” It was the waaaaay she dreeewww out every word, like someone who’s at the head of eight cars in a lane that can only turn on a green arrow, and the person seems to proceed through the intersection as though they fear their face will ripple with G-forces if they apply anything more than faint incremental pressure on the gas, and you’re the eighth car back.

So I went to Petsmart. Walked in. Asked if they had pet-safe ice melt. The clerk pointed to a display by the door, where it had been set up to catch the eye of people who walked in looking for pet-safe ice melt. I could tell by his expression that he got this a lot and wouldn’t be opposed to building a wall around the entrance consisting entirely of pet-safe ice-milk containers.

Everyone’s annoying to someone every day.

Went to Southdale to do some Christmas shopping. Just a bit. The Gap had 40% off everything, and that included a marked-down scarf I liked. I don’t think I’ve worn a scarf since college, and I associate it with a frozen crust in the part around your mouth, and also pretentious tossing. I was an English major who smoked a pipe and tossed his scarf theatrically. God forgive me. What’s worse is knowing I traded that affectation for something else equally ridiculous. I think I’ve winnowed them all down to verbal affectations now.

Example: at Traders Joe tonight I was paused between two aisles, considering my next course of action, and I was approached by an employee - a tall, thin fellow with close-cropped grey hair and wire-rimmed spectacles. A very bookish manner. He said “You seem as if you require assistance.”

I actually said: “I am ascertaining the most judicious route to assemble what I know I want.”

He seemed pleased by our exchange. Then I had to say “actually, I was just sniffing the meatballs,” which was also true. I think I can get away with saying these things because I am short and people assume I’m just overcompensating.

Anyway, I bought the scarf, and went outside into the cold, cold world. Threw it over my shoulder. So I’m a scarf man now again. Wonder what happened to all the scarves I owned. Wonder what happened to that pipe.

Behold the power of a brand, even a long-gone one: King Leo’s Hamburgers are returning. (h/t Davey.) Same logo, more or less; here’s the original.

It started in 1960, and was one of Fargo’s pre-McDonald burger joints. I remember them all: King Leo’s, Henry’s, and the Crown. Time no doubt has sprinkled MSG over my memories, but I remember they were all delicious - warm, slightly peppery, always fresh. When McDonald’s finally came to town I wonder if we pretended that we thought it was amazing, because it was McDonald’s, after all. The place we’d seen on ads for years, and always wondered about. All I know is that my experience with McDonald’s is always tinged with disappointment. (Except for the ones in Europe where you can get a decent espresso quickly for a small price and no pretense or rigamarole.) The food is lukewarm or elderly, in burger terms; the service rude, the frantic labors of the underpaid manager depressing, the patrons glum and resigned. No wonder the chain is having difficulties. It’s as if millions of people every day look down at their tray and think “technically, this is food, but I am starting to entertain doubts.”

And then they go back again because the fries were good, and when they consider the fries at other places, well, it's just not worth the risk.



The weekly survey of downtowns across the fruited plain, as captured by the roving eye of Google. Today it's . . .


Population 115K souls.

The staple of every city of a certain size: the mid-sized hotel / apartment with two wings, five stories, pre-Deco / post-Victorian design. In this case it's the Daniel Boone:


The stone over the door says "Daniel Boone Tavern," which appears to be the name of the entire structure. It opened in 1917 with many speeches, one of which predicted the "end of Kaiserism" in the coming year. I believe the building serves a muncipal role today, not housing; the banks of florescent lights on the third floor would seem to bear that out.

Obligatory classical bank, this one being Greek and Doric and restrained:

But hold on: Tiger? It was, and is, a hotel. For a while it was an old folk's home, but it was returned to its roots a fwe years ago. Damned odd room photos in the carousel on their website.

I had a problem finding this town, because I'd forgotten which Columbia it was. Searched for Hall Theater and Panera, and got the right Columbia - but alas, the search result was for a newspaper story about the Panera leaving downtown.

An imposing facade, even though it seems to be all shoulders and forearms. Opened in 1916, had the usual rise and fall. Cinematreasures:

"There are no signs today that this building ever was a theatre except the name ‘Hall’ carved in the stone of the exterior of the building."

Sigh. I can see retrofitting it for modern uses, but gutting theaters completely always seems to be an act of a Philistine.

Let's hope this one is left exactly as it is for all time . . .

. . . just as a warning. Late 70s / Early 80s conceits all over the place here - the dark stone, smoked glass, and the overhanging effect of floors that get larger as the building goes up. Because people like to have buildings that loom over them and press down on the street like a glowering brow.

From the nearer-my-God-to-Mies school, with some stonework that made the pure modernists wince:


I love these post-war suburban-era churches, but I'd bet that much of the modern interior has been "humanized" with banners and posters and things to soften the space. Churches of this era had a remote, restrained gravity. Not so much the House of God as a waiting room at God's office building.

From the worst of the Seventies:

Those arches done in brick: no, that never looked cheap. Not at all not anywhere ever.

Surely there's a story behind this name:

It was built by J.H. and E.H. Guitar.

And that appears to be the extend of the story. Except that they had to go to Philly for the steel.

I'm sparing you the building on the left . . .

. . . because it too overhangs the street as it rises. The Hetzler, says this piece, used to be the Penneys store. Seems a bit small.

I will wager five dollars that it was, for a while, an Italian or Mexican restaurant.


Finally: when you can't build to the scale of the street, you can pretend you're respecting the old buildings by using different tints in the parking lot facade. Number of people fooled: 0.

Have a look. Nice enough little town but just about every block left me feeling nothing.


As noted, a substantial update over in Miscellany / Xmas Magazines.



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