What day is it? Who knows? Who can tell? Tuesday night we went to a family party, a regular event between Christmas and New Year's, part of the Festive Festiveness. Here are some infants you are tangentially related to, but there is no name for your status. I mean: daughter of wife's uncle's daughter. Grand-niece in law? No one really would think you were related, unless everyone else was dead except for one other person and there was an estate at stake. Then by God you're kin.

I have a piece due on some buildings in St. Paul, and in a rare act of reporting thought it might be helpful to visit them. It’s that kind of attention to detail, I think, that makes for a better piece. Also keeps you from mentioning buildings that were torn down six years ago. Daughter came along, and we made our way through St. Paul’s strange skyway system. Years ago I worked in downtown St. Paul, back when the two main malls had stores other than sandwich shops. Big stores with proper signs. Now the stores have paper signs taped on the windows. It’s all hanging in there. It’s all getting by. I never, ever shook the feeling while working in St. Paul that the action was to the west, in the big twin. Because of course it was.

Downtown was blighted by the removal of, well, “blight” - the old human-scaled buildings that didn’t fit in the new order, and had to be razed for big bunkers and glass towers, each of which in its own time was heralded as a sign of renewal. Yeah. The big Macy’s, once a Dayton’s, is closed, and so the skyways dead-end with locked doors. Other skyways twist through buildings and end in an elevator bank with no way forward. Others thread through old hotels or office structures with no stores or cafes, barren corridors that would confuse the newcomer - particularly since maps are scarce, and you get the feeling that if you don’t know where you’re going perhaps you shouldn’t be here. Not from these parts, are you, stranger.

On the hills over the city, two domes: one for Church and one for State. Steam gusting from a huge stack. Every time I come to St. Paul it seems like it’s cold.

Anyway: some extraordinary details from the late 20s and 30s; I present just two.

Over at City Hall - a square, uncompromising structure with a dark memorial lobby that might be the blackest, deepest, most somber space in the Twin Cities - I snapped some shots of the upper floors and applied some tools to pull out the details. It's not fascist, because . . . well, it's just not, that's all. Okay maybe a little. But the intention is different.

DECAF, Madame Allegorical Popular Justice.

As much as I love the severity of this style, and how it speaks to the future with the language of the classical styles, I also love the more romantic version:

It was a power company building. This has been out of fashion for 70 years, of course. Better an abstract assemblage that means nothing to anyone, tells no stories, stirs no wonder.

Tear this down and sheath the street with glass.



As promised: an old KTCA show from 1989. It was a New Year's Eve show called "Technical Difficulties." We were live. The concept: boring New Year's Eve Public Radio had been hijacked by madcap hipster-types intent on blowing up the airwaves. I did the open. It was a madhouse, as you can see.

Note: yes, that's Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam.

No script, no Teleprompter - just a finger that points to you and says GO.

We had fun, we did.

This sequence was shot earlier to drop in at midnight. I took perverse pleasure in rewriting the Minnesota Public Radio news crawl, as you'll see; I wanted to put in a long fake Welsh name longer than the crawl could handle, and then make it comment on the action. I'm wearing my dad's 70s vintage Texaco cap for some reason.

We had fun, we did.

I'm still doing videos, writing columns, walking around the streets and taking pictures. Overacting and under-delivering, sure, but if you didn't like that last one here's another. Now and then it'll do, no?

2014 was good. If I'd seen 2014 in 1989 I would have fainted to think things would be so sweet.

Hope it was the same for you - and thank you for showing up to share this peculiar perambuation. More to come!


I present for your enjoyment the Mayflower Collection of antique liquor bottles. By "Mayflower Collection" I mean the stuff on the shelves of the Edgar Bar. When I was there last November I was delighted by the examples, as well as the certain knowledge that most of this stuff came from the same spout and could dissolve linoleum.

That venerable brand, MAYWOOD - with the word that guarantees fine rye, Pennsylvania.

Rather generic company name. American Liquor, I mean. Kinsey? It's complicated.

Well, let's pour the stuff in another bottle and slap on a different label:


If you've seen enough old whiskey labels, this looks familiar: they had a template, and they used it for various brands. For whatever reason the Mad Men producers used this one in the third ep, according to this site. And they're correct, based on my own copy:

The Colonel is enjoying his nectar:

Smellwood? No, it's Mellwood. Undistinguished industrial area today, but I'll bet if you dug down a few feet the dirt would smell like booze.

Let's pretend we're Gordon's Gin:

Yes, fine Kentucky Gin.



Lick Run is a stream in . . . Pennsylvania, so there's more of that fine Quaker State intoxicant.

Wait, there's one more! Another Maywood. This was popular among rummies who thought that the fusion of golf and polo would be extra upper-class somehow. Maywood Club! The rye the swells drink.


Glimpses of the bottles in context can be seen in this completely unrelated video.

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