The strangest clerk experience at Target tonight. You know those Vines where people try to high five and miss? Like that, over and over. Young fellow, late teens or very early 20s. Lack of affect, as they say.

I put everything on the belt. As I am unloading the clerk says:

“Do you really think everything will fit in these two bags?”

Huh? There are five. I had brought five and put five on the belt. I walked around to the other side of the check-writing counter; there were three bags. I pointed to those.


“But if we run out,” i said, “I’ll take paper.”

I put down a divider between food and non-food items, and said “the stuff on the other side of the stick, different bag, but same ticket.”

He said:

“So you want everything in its own bag?”

Huh? No. “Just . . . this stuff in one bag, that’s fine.”

I hold up two 12 packs of soda, one Diet Pibb (daughter likes it) and one Tab, because “Mad Men” is coming back. “Two of the Pibb,” i say. He beeps the Pibb once. “Actually, two of the Pibb,” i say.

“Oh.” He beeps it again.

Now it gets odd.

“Don’t you trust my bagging skills?” he says, sort-of smiling.

I said I had complete confidence in his skills, and was glad he realized it was an art.

“I thought the aluminum foil was a divider,” he said. Explaining the “everything in its own bag” comment, I presumed. “But then I saw the bar code.”

I wanted to say the aluminum box is blue, as opposed to white, and four times the width, but sure, I can see that, if you just blew a joint during your break an hour ago. But no.

“Have you heard of the Tetris effect,” he said. “That’s where you play a game so long you can do it with your eyes closed.”

“I played Tetris all the time,” i said “My first color Mac, back in ’88 . I would close my eyes and see the pieces coming down.”

“Bagging is like the Tetris effect,” he said.

Now the fun part. I picked out the aluminum foil box, which he had placed in the bag on end. I held it up and slowly dropped it down into the bag. “That should be good for four levels,” I said.

He stared at me with complete and utter incomprehension.

“Like Tetris,” I said. “The four-square long piece everyone waits for.”

I had blown his mind by turning the aluminum foil box that had not been a divider into a Tetris piece. He turned back to the register and looked at the screen that asked for my last four numbers on the card. I said the numbers without prompting, which occasioned another moment of confusion.

Did you - did you read my mind? Did I ask? Did I ask and forgot I asked?

How long has this been going on?

Not sure I’ll see him there the next time.

At work today:

A reward for cleaning out our desks. The amount of swag, expired office supplies, review copies, old books - it's staggering. Here's something I decided not to take:

That's a Robert Osbourne bobblehead.





We begin with the usual application of filters to suggest a faded past whose virtues seem lost today:

I love this style, but if some people want to say it’s the dullest thing they’ve ever seen, I understand. It’s all about the materials. Cover this thing in glass and it’s dull. Sheath it in stone, and it has gravitas.

Hurrah for pointless modern masts:

And hurrah for civic clocks, which no one seems to add anymore. The relationship between time and money was once indissoluble. Banks had clocks. Banks kept time. These modern clocks built right into the building were as up to date as possible; used to be one in my neighborhood, but they took it apart.

It broke. Nothing says "Yank your money" like a clock that tells the wrong time.


Time is not a kind steward.

Look at what this thing has been through. Bottom facade hacked off. Upper floor painted. Tiny window blinded. God knows what that other meandering brickwork was for; tornado damage from the twister of ’56, perhaps.

But it's OPEN.



Come on in!

Obviously it got a post-war overhaul, with the angled store windows, and obviously someone thought it was a grand idea to board it all up and make the building look like a Murder Place. You can tell the boards match the angle of the old windows by the border in the stone. And you can tell it’s been painted, and some sign was bolted to the facade. The tiny white object is perhaps a temple to very small Greek Gods.

A full accounting of the site: we see it was an IOOF, or International Order of Odd Fellows.

Aww: it had a sidekick.


Mr. F. P. Smith, who might be dismayed at how it all turned out.

That stone again! Those tan bricks, the irregular-shaped faux-stone. You can always count on the town bank to serve up the most modern style.


Something burned, or just fell down.

From the looks of things, the building that isn’t there anymore was preceded by its neighbor, which had to brick up its windows when someone built next door.

Just add glass and you might have a thriving downtown again, or at least a place people want to go to. For heaven’s sake. For heaven’s. Sake.

I know it’s probably for safety or liability or burglary reasons, but it just deadens the street.

Finally: one that’s escaped total window-boarding.

Mormons built it. Either someone is still interested in keeping that pronouncement alive, or it’s survived on its own for reasons you are free to imagine.

Here's the town: have a stroll.


That's it; see you here and there. Thither; yon.


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