You sweat, you slave, you tweak, you stand back and say "perfect." Four days later you can't stand it. I'm sorry if you liked the sans serif; I certain understand, because obviously I did. But it sacrificed design for readability. The eye needs something to hang on to, and too much sans serif is a sheet of ice. Back to serif typeface.

     Also, paragraphs now indent.

      It snowed today, and we liked it. A nice fresh coat of white. Drove Daughter home from choir, looking at the Christmas lights, admiring the designs or questioning why someone thought that was attractive, and where they could possibly store the large plastic Holy Family the rest of the year. A bit creepy to think of the whole crew up in the attic somewhere, eyes open all year long. They were lit from within, and surely that can't last forever. One year you set them up and say "ah, crap, Joseph's out."

      Odd to talk about these things in January, but we were robbed of the Christmas trappings in December. It's the first year I can remember when I'm happy to see boughs and lights still up. There's not much cheer about otherwise - in the greater world beyond, that is. At home all is well. At work all is merry. The days are good. It's elsewhere, out there, that things loom and gather and mutter. I had a recurring feeling in the grocery store again tonight: surrounded by the joyous trivalities of commercial culture, and feeling as though it's a thin, brittle layer of laquer that will crack with dismaying speed when something goes horribly wrong. We're just so damned used to everything being like this. Used to full shelves and short lines.

      Then I remember that it's always felt that way, at least in the back-and-forth up-and-down conversation in my own head. There was always something looming. Always an existential threat. The ice age will come back. Nuclear war. Overpopulation. Famine. Nuclear winter. And then you cheer up and brush it off. Because it's rarely one big thing that changes all you know. It's a hundred little things that don't seem to change much at all - until half of what you knew is different. p>

      It's not the evolution of the West that bothers me, it's the suspicion that it decided to self-administer some anesthesia and let its foes rejigger its DNA.


One more installment. This would be last Thursday.

      It is noon or so and I am at the same Starbucks. Have walked the long dry path to Shea and Tatum every day now, to give me something to do. Now that I am here I will do something until I walk back. Later today we are going to do something, and then we will come back and probably sleep after a beer. I have been going to bed at ridiculously early hours; it feels like Lights Out has been shouted by some burly cellblock manager, followed by a clanging sound. There's always a sound that has both the "clang" and "thud" aspect in a prison movie, because the switch that turns off all the lights is very large and old and important. Nowadays it's probably a timer run by a computer, but they would play CLANGTHUD through the speaker system, just as the light rail in Minneapolis plays the sound of a prerecorded trolley bell.

     Last night we went to dinner after everyone else saw the movie (which no one liked, as I had forseen) - the first place we went to had a half-hour wait, because it was Monday. Outside was a lady of a certain age sitting on the curb with a towel pressed to her face, and I presume she had misjudged the curb. Or failed to incorporate its existence into her gait. When we learned the wait was long the group went to another restaurant in the strip mall, and I waited for the last member of our group to arrive. At one point a waiter came out with a bucket, and I looked down to where I was standing: right by a substantial pool of blood. Ouch. I still remember walking into a metal pole at high speed at the Mall of America; there's something about unexpected blows to the head that really scramble your senses. They seem profound in a way that other blows aren't.

     The restaurant was Veneta Trattoria. Cozy, which is to say cramped; old-world, which is to say the decor has not been updated in a while but you don't care, because it had a certain authentic charm. Tiny little bar to guarantee at least two people laughing loudly; menu not geared to placate anyone who wantsa spaghet anda meataballs. Ordinary bread, because Italians sometimes just don't care about bread. The person of authority who seated us and gave us menus seemed resigned to our presence, to the presence of all customers as a necessary evil whose inability to appreciate what would be put before them was his cross to bear. I ordered oricchette, or Ears, with sausage and rapini, and it was superb. Everyone else loved what they had. Conversation had to be shouted, but that's part of the charm, I guess. They shouted a lot in the Old World.

     No, that's not true, but what if it was? What if people in certain cultures and certain times just yelled everything?

     Anyway, the Yelp reviews are overwhelmingly positive, except for the people who got yelled at by the owner.

     There was this line:

I'm shamefully guilty of not yelping Veneto sooner

     I don't think St. Peter will bring that one up. It's interesting that some people think they are under an obligation not just to Yelp, but to Yelp in a timely fashion. Here's another:

Is it because I have been to Venice, that I had to rate this place a 3? Since I have particularly good taste, and know how to cook, I tend to be very critical of meals that I can reproduce myself, thusly leading to a more acute assessment of taste and experience. With all that being said (pats self on back) I just can't recommend Veneto Trattoria for those with discerning taste.

     Is it because I have been to Venice that I have to say I don't care if you've been to Venice? Because I had a few meals there that weren't anything special. Anyway. My coffee is done and I should relinquish my spot. I should get something to eat and walk back to the house now.

     The whole week has been like floating in zero G, waiting for the tug of the floor.

     The last family gathering was at Mother-in-law's house, a beautiful home with a spectacular view of the mountains. She's going to put it on the market and move to a nice assisted-living community, even though she's as lively as a cricket, as Peg Lynch used to say in her scripts. So this might be the last. Brother-in-law is also going to put his house on the market, so this might be the last time in the casita. EVERYONE STOP ENDING THINGS PLEASE. I'd hate to think that was the last time everyone gathered in that house, that kitchen; hate to think it was the last time the men would watch football and stir from their post-meal slouch to cheer a play; hate to think that the grandkids would have this one constant erased, but what can you do? Life goes on; life goes elsewhere; you've no right to shout HALT because you want things to be the same the next time you drop into town. I didn't even think of it as being THE LAST because no one behaved as if it was so. Possibly because no one believed it was.

     Anyway, everyone's finally assembled; last sibling has arrived, and we're going to have breakfast together. There are 15 in our party. We choose Butterfield's. Immensely popular. Nine-year wait. Well, an hour wait. Let's walk around and see what's in the strip mall. . . Whoa, here come the girls, and Daughter says breathlessly that it's the restaurant where Gordon Ramsey yelled at that horrible lady and her horrible husband and the internet hated them, and for once the internet had a point. Amy's Baking Company! First video sums it up.

NEW OWNERS, the signs are keen to say.

     Breakfast was not as good as the place we had breakfast last March, and I'll tell you why: 27% of the male patrons were wearing baseball caps. Almost no one wore baseball caps at Eggstacy, because it had a Hip, Edgy Modern Vibe, and Butterfields - as you might expect from the comforting name - is concerned with delivering the basics, which would be Butter. I don't mean to be critical. Really, I don't. It was fine. But if we had gone to Butterfield's last March, and chosen Eggstacy this time, I would have a happy tale. It doesn't matter. Everyone was fed and everyone was happy. FIVE STARS and whatever; we were together.

     Off to tour the expansion of brother-in-law's practice. Everyone trouped through the hallways and looked at the machines that went Ping. Among our number was, of course, the Patriarch, the fellow who had risen from the rude streets of a cold town, got a scholarship intended to elevate people on the wrong side of the tracks, went into the military to ply the doctoring trade, flew planes, got shot down in Yemen, was rescued, came back to the West, found himself in Afghanistan when the Soviets invaded, was spirited out, moved to Arizona to continue his medical practice, ended up working on the relative of the fellow who'd gotten him out of Kabul, retired, golfed, ended up meeting on the golf course a Yemini who had picked him up and taken him to jail when his plane had crashed, and years later - last year - had the double knuckle-punch of a heart attack and a stroke, and now is reduced in speech and gait but still the same ace fly jockey doc, trailing at the end of a dozen-plus people who are here because of him. And among their number: kids and grandkids in the medical profession, from the hands in the operating theater to lawyers to administrators, and every damned one of them worked hard to get where they were and works hard to stay where they are.

     It's a remarkable family, and I'm happy to be part of it. Now it's time to go home. OH THANK GOD




A humble start to this year's entry. Population: 3,460, give or take a few wouls. It has ambition, though: the hotel no doubt made everyone think of the bustling train depot in old Gotham, with its brisk, sophisticated cosmopolitan scene.

It has a Facebook page. One comment: "The rooms are clean upon arrival but not much by way of getting towels and tp on a regular basis if your stay is extended. We ended up having to buy our own. Owners are really friendly though." That counts for more than you might think,

Unhappy brickwork on that green building. But a ghost sign redeems the view:

Owl Cigars. But was it a White Owl? That's what I don't know. Some signs for the White Owl brand said just Owl. If they'd have had modern marketing sensibiilties, they would have had White Owl, Black Owl, and so on, differentiating the flavors.

Barn Owl for the really nasty cheroots.

And what, pray tell, do they sell here?

I have no idea what they're talking about. One guy sitting at a card table with a stack of daily periodicals, waiting for someone to walk by and think "by cracky, I wonder how many they have. I'd like to read a journal from a different city entirely, just to see how many funerals there are for old ladies this week."

That's a lot of turret, Mr. Hetzel.

A Nebraska historical journal says "A majority of the structures are best classified as commercial vernacular. The most prominent, Queen Anne-style building is the Hetzel Block (NH01-044), located on the southeast corner of J Street and Central Avenue. It features an imposing corner tower, carved stonework and an ornate cornice."

And that's a big fat lot of help. Who was Hetzel?

Four buildings? Or one?

The answer can be found in the number of windows.

After all these towns we've explored, you have to admit: this is all too typical. From the rehab to the awning to the paint to the refitted window.


As if a curse had stricken the land.

I have to think there was more to this one, but what remains is spectacular:


The reason for those windows? If you guessed "hall for secret Masonic rites," you're wrong. It was the New Opera House. Again, scant historical information; Auburn seems underwhelmed by its past, or disinclined to share what it knows.

Can't have the Main Streets feature without the OSA, or Obligatory Shingled Awning:

The first-floor windows above the main windows are probably bricked up for good, but the building looks like it could be restored with minimal work.

Providing there was a market for office / residential at the price it would take to fix it up, and I'm guessing there isn't. But that's what they said about Fargo before its renaissance.

The last building in the world you'd expect to house a theater:

It's still in business! The site has a "Save the State" page, though. Uh oh. Turns out it's for a renovation drive. There are no historical photos of the place. There's no history of the place.

I suppose if you needed to know, you'd know, because you lived there. It was originally the Booth - great name for a theater in a state whose capital is named Lincoln - and was renamed the state in 1941, eleven years after it opened.

Finally: The sign version of screen burn-in.

  Love that 9, although I'm sure everyone wondered why they did it backwards.


I believe this old book of biographies has our man:

Previous to his coming to Nebraska Mr. Keedy was for several years engaged in the manufacture of lime at Keedysville. He came west in 1881, locating near what was then called Sheridan, now Auburn, and here he bought one hundred and sixty acres of improved land, upon which he carried on farming until the fall of 1893, when he sold to his sons, and bought two lots in Auburn. Here he built his present residence.

When a young man in Maryland, Mr. Keedy was intiated into the mysteries of Oddfellowship. Politically, he is what is termed an independent, and in religion he also holds independent views, and has never identified himself with any creed.

There has to be a fascinating story about the reason a man named Keedy would leave Keedysville.



There you be; see you around.


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