I should read more Dockens. He's one of those authors who was forgotten because of the similarity between his name and another popular author. Didn't help that he put out a book called "All Over Twist," I suppose.

Column night. They’ve all been column nights this week. Writers complain about such things until there isn’t anything due because no one wants you, and then writers complain about that, although the difference is a certain alcoholic slur in their words. The weekend looms full of duty, which is also good; since I shattered the shackles of Saturday chores I am free to do other things, and Sunday I will be back at Orchestra Hall for the first time in two years for the Minnesota Youth Symphonies. I just want to take the stage and spread my arms and shout WE’RE HOME! and make everyone applaud. Maybe I will. I’ll let you know.

But: routine asserts itself in curious ways; one habit is broken, another is forged. Now that I no longer shop on Saturdays but do the foraging and resupplying while daughter is at church choir, this means that Wednesday night is the new Saturday Afternoon, with the clock ticking. Four stores, 90 minutes. The first, as usual, was Total Wine and Spirits, or All-Encompassing Intoxicants. Strolled in at 7:07 (made good time) and as I sailed down the whisky aisle the manager-type person asked if he could help. I noted that they were still out of the Classic Auchtentoshin, which I pronounced as though I was gargling pebbles given to me by Ian McShane; he said “It’s not come in.” He offered to check the computer, but I said it would arrive when it arrived.

Four minutes later I was checking out, and the same man as at the register, and he said: “Did you find everything you were looking for?”

I smiled and said “no.”

He looked at me, and then click click click. Because this is what retail does to people: at the conclusion of every interpersonal transaction, the flash-memory card gets wiped. The only way you can stay sane.

Anyway. Routine is the Bleat, no? For me and for you. I can’t imagine not doing this, and I hope you can’t imagine not expecting something. I mention this because Andrew Sullivan announced he was retiring from blogging today, and given his longevity this was seen by some as one of the great tent poles of the Golden Age of Blogging toppling over. Perhaps. The notion of individual sites with individual voices has been replaced by aggregators and listicles and Gawker subsites with their stables of edgy youth things, and public squares like Medium where dross and gold abound. But there will always be a place on the internet for individual sites like this one, because there is nothing from stopping all the rampant egotists from braying bytes over this matter or that. I’ve always been a diarist, and this iteration happens to be public.

It was a home page, and then personal website, and then a blog, depending on the terminology of the era, but it really hasn’t changed at all. Next month, I think, is the 18th anniversary of the Bleat.

Not going away. Why would I? This is fun.

The perils of cultural references: one of my co-workers was surrounded by people who were obviously in well-wisher mode, and there was talk of him buying drinks. When they had moved on and I walked past his office I asked if he’d gotten some fancy-pants BS title now, and as it turns out he had - and it was at a Foundation.

“No more buttered scones for me, Mater, I’m off to play the grand piano,” I said, because I couldn’t help it; whenever the idea of ribbing someone for achieving something quite rarified comes up, that’s the quote my brain goes for. Every time.

Should probably stop doing that.

Brought home another box from the desk under the office. I contains:

1 Healthy Choice Fresh Mixers Ziti & Meat Sauce microwavable meal. Expiration date: half a decade ago.

A series of notes, which read as following

Filled oval, with an X, then circled


the ruler line through the ovals was creepy - burned 5 minutes

“God help us”

inbetween vote - synthesis of the two

Took me a few minutes, but now I know. Notes from the live TV coverage we did of the Senate recount hearings.

A photograph that probably needs to go back in the archives:

He was, too. From the 1964 Committee on Un-American Activities hearings on Communist actions in Minneapolis:

Regarding another organization, the local Parent Teachers Associa-
tion, which was also a target of infiltration by the party, Miss Withrow
testified that —

one party member, a woman, who was a member of a local
PTA, reported at this club meeting * * * that she had been
asked to run for an office in the PTA * * *. She was given
defuiite orders at that time that she was not to nui for an
office herself. She was in some quarters known as being a
member of the Communist Party and they did not want that
much known of the leadership. ^Vllat she was told to do was
to pick out some other woman in the PTA that she felt that
she could most easily influence * * * get this woman elected,
and then * * * support, certain issues without it ever being
known that the Communist Party was behind them.

These instructions were given to a Mrs. Betty Smith, a member of
Miss Withrow's club, by Samuel K. Davis, State secretary of the
Communist Party.

That was Sam's house. Believe me, they did more than try to influence the PTA. But even that's telling. The PTA. Betty is still a Communist, at least as of 2010.

Old fan mail, a lamp, and a model of the Jetson family in their flying car. Which I had on my desk for some reason. Hey look at me, I’m a retro pop-culture enthusiast!

I'd hoped for more ancient pieces, but it all feels somewhat recent. Except for some pictures taken of your host for a story on me before I joined the paper, where I'm sitting at my desk by my computer. Because it was a story about a writer, and there's not much you can do with that except show the guy pretending to write. Oh, hello, Mr. Photographer! Didn't hear you come in, or the sound of your shutter snapping away every 1.5 seconds, because I was busy Creating. I am smiling and looking content and utterly punchable.

Well, at least I wasn't a Communist.



Today: upper reaches of 8th Avenue. We're always told that the dense, lower-slung buildings of the great cities are a model for humane, urban living. Or Urbane, human living. Whichever.

But the old blocks could be as oppressive in their own way as modern projects.


A small tidy structure that demonstrates the neighborhood's decay and eventual demise! Or, a Starbucks by now.


These old grand buildings are all over Manhattan, and each, you know, had its own trajectory.

Looks like money, and plenty of it. All that stone, the French style, the corner units. But it's way up in the upper realm of Gotham; was it fashionable once?

Everything was fashionable once, I suppose.


It makes for an attractive composition when viewed like this, but as a series of contributions to the street, it's an enormous mausoleum.

And by contrast: sometimes a building reminds you of a frightened, shivering dog.

Another huge block that doesn't seem to have crawled up completely from its nadir. Note the small windows: bathrooms. Pantries? Bathrooms.

Not much in the way of ornamentation - some rote stone around the entrance, but it looks like a side door into a place that consumes souls.


But it's Versailles compared to the work of the Housing Authority. Large Poor-Person Storage Facility:

Into the upper floors were put the people who used to lean out the window to chase someone off the stoop or yell hallo to a neighbor or watch for the kids to come back from school. It was probably a step up in terms of living conditions, but it still must have felt for some as if they'd been sentenced to solitary confinement for an indetermined period.


What's notable about this, you ask?

It's where Eighth avenue . . . ends.


Since you asked, or even if you didn't.

That's it for today - almost Friday! Hurrah. See you around.



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