Finished the third in my new podcast series tonight. It's "The Ramble." Link on Friday. The Diner isn't closed - it's never closed - but this new format lets me have guests from time to time, and I don't feel weighted down by the Diner's backstory and history. There's no plot in the Ramble. Not that the Diner ever had much of a plot, but there was usually some little story I had to launch and then figure out how to wrap. "The Ramble" is just that - I start at one point, wander as far as I can, then see if I can bring it back to a point.


There's a lot here, so let's just get to it.

Seriously, there's a lot.



Every day needs a plan; every day needs a project. An activity. Unfortunately, making plans with a group larger than three people is impossible without a dictator who has full imperium, and is also immune from prosecution once is reig is over. The plan: go to Mesa to see the lights around the Mormon Temple. Fine. We needed a car, though; brother-in-law was stuck at the hospital waiting for a baby, and couldn't let us use his. We rented a little buggy from Enterprise. I thought the town would be oh, an hour out, but I get out the map: head south on 101 and 20 minutes later, bob's your uncle. Of course, Bob has always been your uncle, but let's leave that alone for a while. I'd looked at the Phoenix area lifestyle mag the day before, and it said there was a big antique mall on the charming old main street, which also had coffee shops and a small-town atmosphere. Sounded fine. Something else stuck in my head, though, and I couldn't figure out what.

So we drive to Mesa and find Main, which now has an enormous light rail system going down the middle. It is a charmless place. Whoa - two old motels, three, with some old signs. They do not look like happy places today.


I'll bet that sums it up well: itchenettes.



I'd been meaning to go downtown to see the remains of the old motel row so amply delineated in the Motel section, but it sounds as if there's nothing left, and besides, I do not have imperium.

We find a parking space and walk to the antique mall. Downtown is bereft of people. You can't tell if the stores are open. Or if they're a store at all. Lots of coffee shops. The entire downtown economy seems to be coffee shops. It has the tell-tale signs of a big Let's Save Downtown project: statuary! Yes, people will come for miles for statuary. New brick sidewalks. Curb cuts. Light posts with banners. Everything except life.

The antique mall is proof of the adage about one person's junk being another person's treasure, although the person who thinks this is treasure is some theoretical construct intent on reconstructing the basement of someone who reached their apex of tasteless n 1982 at the age of 59. There's very little here of interest. Nothing seems to predate the Carter era. Why? Because everyone who moved here to retire had a big sale before they left their cold dark state, that's why.

Then I came to the end of the room, and saw something that piqued my attention.

Of course. This had been something, but what? I'd thought "Woolworths" or "Penneys," and this pushed me in the latter direction. There's pride and money in that staircase. In the basement I found something else I'd missed upstairs:

And here the sadness slops over the gunwales, for a moment; this was the big store, the place where you went for Christmas gifts and an Easter Hat, new school clothes. Now a junkyard. But what was it called?

I saw a sign above the door that said NEWBERRY'S. Ah: local department store chain, not a national. Googling . . . pinterest pages . . . wha? Ah! That's what had nagged me. I had a postcard of this street, from a long long time ago.


I could reshoot it now. I was here!

Found it; ran across the street - jaywalked, but I didn't see any crossing for blocks. Was promptly stopped by two cops on bikes who showed me where they crosswalk was. I apologized and showed them the postcard on my phone, and what the street looked like. The very definition of indifference.


In the corner you can see some signage, and pretend that it's for Parson Brown:



Not to say it's all gone: this sign not only remains, the music store is still there.

Once everyone was assembled - mother-in-law, sis / bro-in law, their daughter, my wife and child - we went to a coffee shop that had high quality espresso and dreadful art on the walls. One of the owners came by to check the till, and I asked what the store used to be. "Stamps," he said, which was odd. "Office supplies." Oh. He said they occupied the place for 30 years. The outside was classic 50s rehab, with the angled storefront and recessed door, the cone lighting, the thin stone. There are many of those and the effect is ruined by a walkway that covers the sidewalk. I suppose it provides shade, but it makes everything look dark and undistinguishable.

From there we walked to the Mesa Mormon Temple. Objective: lights. But it wasn't dark. Not even close. Okay, well, we'd see the Christmas displays, then go back to Main to eat, then come back when it was lit up. (You may detect the nature of our plans here. Not the most rigorously thought-out schemes.) En route a few members of our company wondered if we were going the right way; I held up my phone, and said "YES." Because I had the place on the map and we were heading to it.

"What did you search for?"

"Temple, Mesa."

"It's the MORMON temple."

"That's what I searched for. This is what came up. See? Website for the Mormon Temple."

Mother-in-law said this was wrong, wrong, wrong. The temple was huge. We should be able to see it from here.

"You're not thinking of Notre Dame."

No she wasn't. We kept walking. Two blocks away she stopped and said Oh. It's in Chandler. The temple is in Chandler.

"You'll have something to write about!" Mother-in-law said. "But not about how your mother-in-law is senile."

Erhm. Well! So, let's go there, then. Back to the cars. Get the location on the map. Off we go. Takes a while because I bypass the freeway, which looked crowded - it was rush hour - and we finally see the Temple lit up in the distance. Text from brother-in-law; we're here, where are you.

Five minutes away.

He texts back: girl at the temple says the lights are in Mesa

Wife texts back: ha ha where should we meet

Front of temple

So we park, and it's quite obvious there are no lights here. The lights are at the Mesa temple. After touring the grounds and freezing, we go for Mexican food - but unlike the totally authentic stuff we were supposed to get downtown Mesa, we end up at a chain that sells hot glop at excruciatingly slow speed. It's nine before we get out. Half the party elects to return home; my half, of course, is bent on going back to Mesa to see the lights. And so we did.

Ta da:


I don't know why someone is doing an Edward G. Robinson impression at :19.

All in all, an adventure. But the endless expanses of roads and new things are wearing me down. There are no anchors. As we passed through downtown Chandler I saw a faded sign for something on a building, and it couldn't have been older than 1965. Looked like a relic from Pompeii.



We resume the pulse=pounding serial, Flying Mars Man's Disk from Mars, which Flies.

Let's reacquaint ourselves with our featureless, interchangeable heroes:


Last we saw, Kent was dumped out of the bomb bay to certain death. From the disk plane. The SEMI-disc plane.


Having seen him fall, they're pretty busted up about it all. Gosh, guess we'll have to start acting now.

What's the secret of all good drama? Timing:

Once they're reunited and Steve assures them he's none the worse for wear, having fallen five thousand feet into straw, they go back to the cave to see what the Man from Mars and his Earth Flunkies had left. They discover the equipment from Bryant Laboratories, which of course is run by the ex-Nazi scientist in league with the Mars dictatorship. Steve knows him, but doesn't know he's an ex-Nazi scientist in league et cetera. As he's asking him why his gear ended up in a cave, the writers send in the goons. nice move here:

I think I could sum up all serial fistfights with this simple gif.

Steve is knocked out, but they don't kill him. Why would they? Steve leaves, and then Dr. Quisling Bryant calls the Mars Dude and says . . . .



. . . Doesn't occur to Mars Dude that he could have done it already; he's just happy that their five-man operation to subdue the world is doing what needs to be done, namely, eliminating the guy who runs a small aviation company. Steve's plan? Drive around the plant at night in a car, pretending to be security. But - but doesn't he run a security company? Yeah, I know.

Wild minions appear and Steve uses gunfire. It's not very effective. Day-for-night car chase follows. That usually means someone's going over a cliff or a bridge, but this damned thing can't be that formuliac. Really, I'm writing this as the chase goes on, and they don't seem to be in cliff terrain -


Oh. And so:


I really miss the other serial that was better. But we're locked into this one until the end.



New for today: meet The Little Delineator. See you around!



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