I am trying to get away from Saturday errands, because that’s the way I’ve always done things, and I don’t want to do things the way I always did them. Whatever comfort the rituals gave has been replaced by the sense of rote sleepwalking through the weekend, so why not run out and do them Friday between 5 and 6:30? Problem: daughter was at a friend’s house, and needed to be picked up at 8 PM sharp. (Friend was leaving.) I had a radio interview at 8 PM. I could get her at 7:50, if I made it home quickly, made the pizzas, ate and ran. Doable, if the oven heats up quickly.
So it came to pass that I got the pizza on the plate at the proper time for sumptuous enjoyment without rush or clockwatching. The perfect moment of Friday: about to eat the pizza, with a series of pleasures to unfold afterwards. Uninterrupted website work; no Bleat obligations; nothing due tomorrow; a movie; ice cream.
A piece of sausage fell off and landed on my freshly laundered pants. Augh. Then two drops of pizza sauce fell on my sweater. The odd thing was, I could swear the sauce came out of my nose.
No, I’m bleeding. I have a nosebleed. Because I’d been out in 20 below wind and the house is so dry you pet the dog and it sounds like a Tesla coil firing up. So now I’m trying to enjoy pizza while holding a napkin to my nose, and let me tell you this: such a thing is not possible. “Bleeding from an orifice” and “enjoying food” are mutually exclusive activities.
On the other hand, my shopping was done. Except later that night I went to get the first ration of Friday Bourbon, and discovered I had exhausted the Maker’s Mark. This isn’t a problem; I have - and this will surprise no one who has read this site for a while - a backup of everything I like to consume, but it is better to replenish your main stocks than dip into the archived supplies. Well, add it to the list for next week.
Believe me: I mention this for a reason.
Saturday dawns; I have a fine breakfast and sit down to fix an embarrassment. The Downtown East site was begun a few months ago to catalogue the construction around my office, and as far as I know there’s no other site detailing the rise of these towers. Not that there has to be a site that does this, but A) I’m always fascinated by in-progress construction pron, and B) I hate the use of the term “porn” to describe enthusiastic visual appreciation of something, and C) don’t I really mean “dislike,” since I said last week how I hate the use of the word “hate” when I really mean “dislike”? YES YES WHATEVER, point is, the site was a miserable thing that reeked of abandonment, and now it’s all better.
Here, if you wish. Link opens in a new tab. I'm sure it's full of sundered links; haven't proofed it.
Yes, I just gave you a 45-page site to waste time on; ta-da. I am a generous fool. Anyway, I listened to the last two hours of a BBC audiobook version of “The Once and Future King,” which was one of my favorite books as a young fellow, and ought to be read by everyone in their 20s. Merlin was played by David Warner, cranky as hell, a wonderful performance. Finished the site and drove daughter to the Walker museum, where she was meeting friends for an afternoon of looking at things.
What to do with my time now, eh? Well, I had podcasts enow on hand, in particular a series about the History of Byzantium and the seemingly interminable and pointless jousting for power between this fellow and that. About the culture, I hope to learn more; it’s a fascinating tale, how the Eastern portion of the Roman empire survived for another thousand years until it was long in the tooth and spent.
Might as well do some grocery shopping, then, and listen to history.
Or get my oil changed? The maintenance light is on, a nagging reminder. No, they’ll be swamped on Saturday. I noted the light because another one popped on: SIDE AIRBAG OFF. Peculiar. The light flashed for a few seconds then went dark. Fine then. Steady lights you heed; intermittent lights less so.
Drove south to the place where they sell Maker’s Mark at $19.95, intending afterwards to go to the grocery store that has certain items I need to procure on a fortnightly basis. Moved through the store with brisk certainty, past all the guys standing and scowling at the single malts and the bros joking over which cheap flavored whiskey to buy and the put-together ladies of a certain age wearing large sunglasses indoors and the guys in knit caps holding cases of cheap beer and the guys in knit caps and carefully tended beers buying six-packs of expensive craft beer from Washington, where honest hand-made beer has pictures of an axe and a pine tree on the label to indicate True Beer Virtue. The person in front me took a long time producing his ID; I had mine in hand. Back in the car, join the queue trundling along to exit the lot. I paused to let someone go ahead, even though I had the right-of-way, because I am often in that situation myself. I do not believe in Karma but when my greater sins are toted up against my lesser virtues, I hope the number of the latter says something on my behalf.
The usual left turn, looking for traffic swooping around the corner. When the road was laid out traffic was scant, and it was no more than a frontage road for the interstate. Now with Traders Joe and Infinite Intoxicants (okay, Total Wine and Spirits) and other stores of note, traffic is ceaseless. Turned and made my way to an interesting hydra-headed street that empties into France, the big broad street that lances through the Southdale shopping area. The right lane goes south to the freeway. The left two lanes turn left to go north. You cannot go straight. I did not make the light and waited for it to change.
Which it did, while the voice on the speakers talked of Xeno the Emperor. The car in the lane on my left advanced through the intersection, turning left, which was north. I was slightly behind it. The car on the left suddenly accelerated. A blur - something white hurling south, which made no sense -
- and I am here to write this because instinct prevailed and I stood on the brakes. Skid - collision - white plastic flying in the air, twisting - dead stop.
Carpenter, sound the boat. My head hadn’t hit anything. I was sure I’d lost some front bumper. Slow circle into the intersection, pull up behind the white vehicle.
Now it hits me: She hit me.
Driver gets out. Sub-20 young woman. Phone in hand, already. Imagine that. I roll down the window and she is so sorry and was totally to blame and admits it was her fault. She’s okay, I’m okay. I get out to look at my front: sigh.
There are two people standing on the sidewalk with pieces of paper with their phone numbers, just in case I need a witness. They just . . . materialized somehow.
I call 911; a trooper is dispatched. By now traffic has backed up and people are honking with anger, and I can’t blame them; here we just decided for fun to complicate our immediate futures with a traffic accident and now we’ve parked our cars inconveniently, ha ha! Sucks to be you guys! I manage to back up my car against the flow of traffic into the driveway of the gas station, and wait.
I listen to the history of Byzantium as I wait for the police.
The driver’s dad shows up first. We shake hands and he apologizes and I say “unless you were operating the car by remote control, it’s not on you.” I do note that there miiiiiiight have been texting involved here. He had talked with his daughter and she said she was unsure where to turn and had totally missed the fact that she was barreling through a controlled intersection.
I remember that I have an emergency small cigar in my glove compartment. Stand outside and think about the circumstances that led up to this moment, how I’d been slow here and fast there, how none of this would happened if I hadn’t taken out my ID at Infinite Intoxicants before I checked out, how one or two red lights en route to taking daughter to the Walker would have added a minute, how not driving around Loring Park to look at a new skyscraper would have subtracted a minute - and most of all how one second, perhaps one and a half, would have put me so squarely in the path of the car I would be dead at most and severely injured at the least.
SIDE AIRBAG OFF
She was doing 40, at least. I would have been jam.
So what do you take away from this? Life has random perils and you’d best be ready to be outfitted for wings and handed a harp on any given moment, but I knew that, which is perhaps why the whole experience left me with a big shrug.
Cop comes. Rote interrogation. Paperwork. When he’s done I go back to the car with the girl and her dad, and the sniffles and tears are plentiful. I say that my people will call your people and I’m glad everyone’s okay, but you know, one second different and this would have been the worst day of our lives, and I know I’m going to drive more carefully, so, well, everyone learned something here. Have a better weekend.
Back in the car. Sit there arranging paperwork. Phone rings. Daughter needs a pick-up at the Walker, so I drive waaaay back to there. Listening to the history of Byzantium. Wishing I hadn’t revoked my resolve to avoid Saturday errands. Wishing I hadn’t thought to re-up the Maker’s Mark and had just gone for the basement stash.
Took her friends home, joking and laughing all the way. Got a big hug from daughter once she heard how close the shave had been. I’m glad you’re not dead. Thanks, hon.
Took a nap. Since I hadn’t gotten burgers to cook as planned, everyone was fine with pizza. It wasn’t the best, but I didn’t bleed while I ate it, and that made it the best pizza of the weekend.
Now it's time for our weekly excursion into non-colored entertainment. Not a review. Not high-falutin' cineast critiques. Rather, a look into the familiar tropes and forgotten faces of a bygone time in a bygone medium, with the occasional review. And often a cineaste critique. Okay, usually.
Nothing was as fascinating to Middle America, it seems, as the goings-on at hotels they could not afford to stay at. I won't be discussing the plot because it was dull.
The name said it all: the epitome of luxury, the top of the world in gay Manhattan. In case anyone thought this might be the Waldorf in Peoria:
The original W=A, of course, was downtown on the site now occupied by the Empire State Building. It originally consisted of two hotels built by relatives who didn't get along. The papers to build the new one were signed, I believe, on the day the stock market crashed. But heck, that was just a temporary downturn. And beside, the monied rich would always need a place. Opened in 1931, the largest hotel in the world.
Feast your eyes, average citizens, on the playground of the rich!
It really is that restrained. Nice views:
Manhattan view. Can you name the buildings?
Chrysler, Chanin, Lincoln, New York Central.
This bar brings together Black & White and Product in a most surprising way.
It's Tony Sarg's Oasis. Remember Tony? He was in an ad a few weeks back for Pullman cars.
Anyway. He'd been dead for three years by the time this movie came out.
The exterior shots are obviously the real thing . . .
But as for the rest of it . . .
That's the Colgate-Palmolive building, which went up ten years after the movie was made. Possibly the rear-projection view is accurate. Alas: Google Street View doesn't let you zoom in to see previous decades. Yet.
At the end Ginger Rogers waves goodbye to Walter Pidgeon, who is in the plane trying to light a cigarette.
And that's it. No reason to see it, really.
Hold on, there's one more detail . . .
Lana Turner's in it. So I take it all back.
Strib blog around noonish; Tumblr, of course. Matchbooks below. See you around!