I was tempted to park my small blue convertible in the lot, but the restaurant was across the street, and I figured this wasn’t the right spot. I’d get towed. I got out to see if there was any other place to park, but since I stood up too fast I got dizzy, and had to sit down. While I collected myself, six young women got in the car and started driving it around in circles. Luckily for me it was a small car, and I could stop it by grabbing the steering wheel, after while I physically removed them one by one, like picking cheeping chicks out of a box. Got back in and backed up, and hit a guy who was bending over his car replacing a license plate. He bumped his head on the trunk. I apologized, got out of the car to see if he was okay, and was suddenly aware of a very, very large bear about three feet away, roaring fiercely. Tried to remember what you’re supposed to do: run? Curl up? I avoided eye contact, sidled away, made a semi-circle around the bear, reached the front of the restaurant and ran inside.
Found the table of my friends. “You won’t believe what just happened,” I said. “I escaped from a bear.”
“Oh sure,” said one, who was Michael Medved. “Happened to me. That was the title of my last book.”
I mention this to show you the sort of dreams writers have. It’s not bad enough that someone else had a similar experience - he’d already written and published a book about it.
Went downstairs and opened a new box of Raisin Bran Now With Cranberries For Some Reason. It is smaller than the regular box. I had finished a box the previous morning, and as is the case with Raisin Bran, the last bowl was about 47% Raisins. Remembering that this was a new box, I considered turning it upside down to bring about a more equitable distribution of the fruit nodules, but then stopped: A) surely they have a process that ensures there are some raisins on top, and B) did I not enjoy the plethora of raisins the previous morn? Is it better to begin the box with a surfeit and end with an embarrassment of raisins, or have the same ratio every day?
Don’t have an answer for that, but I lean towards being rewarded as the box concludes.
The rest of the family varies their breakfast. I never do. Same thing every morning: a bowl of raisin bran and a small sausage bedecked with sriracha. The last few days I’ve tried other hot sauces, because it’s possible there’s something better than Rooster Sauce. The first was Archer Farms Jalapeno and Tomato, and it had an undernote of vinegar, complimenting the top note of vinegar. A tomato tang, and I don’t say that with approval. It was $1.99. I threw it away. I will not be a slave to insufficient hot sauce; I will not put it back thinking “maybe it will be good on eggs. Yesterday I tried the other Archer Farms brand, Habanero and Mango. The first for cruelty’s sake, the second to sooth your injuries, I guess. It was slightly hotter and had the same vinegar aspect. Looked at the ingredients; the second was, indeed, vinegar. I know that’s the base for many of these sauces, if not all, and I wouldn’t care if the base was turpentine as long as I didn’t check the label because man, I could really taste the turpentine.
My disapproval of the Archer Farms products seems to coincide with the redesign of the label. I don’t like it. It had great fonts once (specifically Coquette, by local fontographer Mark Simonson) and a dark green palette with a faint background pattern. Now it’s just the green, with the “Archer Farms” name in a round, boring font. It’s dull. And this is the upscale brand, the Banana Republic to Market Pantry’s Gap. I don’t like it, and it’s emblematic of Target’s decline. No surprises anymore. It lost its cool and its confidence and everyone knows it, and no one expects those things anymore.
I tell you, if someone in the grocery business is reading this, send me an email. I will design you the most amazing grocery store in the world. And damn right it would have Muzak. You know what I don’t want to hear when I’m shopping? The Clash.
I’m enjoying writing the new novel, which takes place in a very small grocery store. We played music, but it was the radio, so you could ring things up while bopping to “The Heat Is On.” (Spoiler: it’s on the street.) These were the days when the clerk was a grad student smoking a cigarette as he packed your goods.
Speaking of the 80s: for the last few nights I’ve been sampling “Miami Vice,” looking back at the episodes I remembered for some reason. “Bushido.” “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run.” “Little Miss Dangerous.” The middle example might have been the first major TV program that referenced media outside the show; the crrrrraazy ex-cop who was always doing schtick referenced Star Trek, the Marx Brothers, old 60s TV shows. “Miss Dangerous” - which encapsulates everything that was great and bad about the series - contains, I am convinced, the first example of a TV soundtrack synchronized to the specific actions of the character. Struck me so at the time; I remember watching the episode again with friends, and everyone noticed it.
From the distance of three decades, all the holes and seams show. But I’ve been trying to watch it as I saw it then, because there had never been any show that had that sense of style, or was comfortable ending with pain and failure as a yellow-toothed English punk chanted this is what you want, this is what you get.
Don’t know the title of the next one I’ll watch, but it has . . . Danielle Bombaisse? Help me IMDB, you’re my only hope . . . Arielle Dombasle. She dunked her T-shirt in a bowl filled with Perrier to cool off.
The height of decadence.
Email subject line of the day:
Lileks this singingbird hath gone with him
Text of the message:
What power hath even his wildest scream highlands of scotland
It’s from this poem. The subject line is from another poem by Wordsworth. Makes me recall with nostalgia the golden age of word-salad spam, when robots cobbled together all sorts of peculiar phrases gleaned from text tiles, and created works of almost desperate sincerity and mad raving surrealism. I wonder if anyone ever kept any copies of those, or whether there are still a few that echo around the globe, an unloved crumb of Spam handed off from computer to computer.
Pupdate: okay, dog. That looks comfy.
The stadium continues to be the most remarkable, and incomprehensible, project downtown.
To be honest, I prefer watching the office towers go up. Floor by floor is more satisfying than this bizarre Tinkertoy exercise.
As usual for Friday, the Music Cues. This year we'll be showcasing more peculiarities from old-time radio - dialogue, themes, and so on. But of course we begin with the Couple Next Door.
CND Cue #516 Heard this one before; the first part is the ringtone I use for my daughter. Then it goes into alarm mode, which I've never heard.
CND Cue #517 Another stalwart, but this is more than we ever heard. The length of the cue used was determined, of course, by the length of the scene - one line read a little bit faster than intended, and we got four more seconds of cue.
The more you listen to William Conrad - and he was, for a while, on every single radio show aired, it seems; I wouldn't be surprised to hear a news report that featured William Conrad as Konrad Adenauer, or something - the more you hear his various tricks, the way he said certain things. In each episode, he has a conversation with Kitty. He is always a bit abashed and shy and happy.
Gunsmoke HK 1 The default "Hello, Kitty."
Gunsmoke HK 2 The default again.
Gunsmoke HK 3 A bit more tired. Makes you wonder if she charged him last night.
Gunsmoke HK 4 Oh, she certainly charged him last night.
Gunsmoke HK 5 Ah, things are better again.
And to round out the radio offerings, here's 1960 CBS ad for . . . oh, just pity Stuart Metz, having to read this copy with a straight face.
I don't know what she's doing - holding some Druidic charm over a picture she cut out of the newspaper? Also, I don't care what she's doing; that's some nice Grace-Kelly impersonation there.
The title track. Do-doop do-doop do-doop do-doop / Do-doop do-doop do-doop do-doop /Do dooo-doo dooo-doo, dooo-doo dooo-doo do-doooo.
(Lyrics reprinted by permission)
As the years go on the spot I have for this music gets softer and softer. It's still MOR early Mad-Men kitsch, but it has its own charms.
And, speaking of which: The Sixties update awaits. Have a grand weekend! See you on the other side of the break.