And so it came to pass that I found myself at Home Depot on a Saturday afternoon with the Giant Swede - which is probably the subject of one of the first Bleats, 19 years ago - and I'm thinking, well, it's unlikely there will be Amish Oven Cleaner. Where did you hear about it?

It was on TV. I may have to go to the As Seen on TV store.

That's always a strange thing to assert. I know what they mean - this is the item in that commercial you saw, accept no substitutes - but it has a residual air of the days when TV was special, like TV Dinners. Yes, I know, they were meant to be consumed while basking in cathode ray tube glow, but they were still high-tech and modern like TV itself. "Radio" was attached to things that had no business being radio-related; Radio Flyer wagons, Radio Laundry. TV, less so. You'll still see "As Seen on TV," though. So what? Let me Godwinize that for you, no charge.

All of these oven cleaners have chemicals. Why don't you want chemicals?

He said he didn't want to use the self-cleaning function on his new stove, because it was hard on the electronics. The Amish stuff was supposedly special and effective. Because, you know, Amish. The old ways, the wisdom of the simple past. We'll not use that English foaming cleanser, Isaac. Fetch the pail of cow drool and open the crops of the chickens for the grit therein.

A clerk came by and asked if we were finding everything. I said no. This one's looking for Amish oven cleaner.

Are you kidding me? she said, looking at the two of us like some kind of comedy act. You're kidding me.

No, he's serious.

Well I don't think we have it but if we did it would be here, and she walks to where we'd been standing: the row of Horrid Chemicals.

This is just the stuff that works, I said. He wants the Amish type.

"As seen on TV," he said.

No go. I'll keep you posted.

Home to meet with the Contractor. You'll be hearing more about this. Jeff, the Painstaking Master of House Things. I hired him to put a rubber roof on the garage (don't ask) and rebuild the brick that had cracked and come off the sun porch. A fair price and amazingly meticulous work: for the big stuff, he's the guy. You may remember how I saw that big water stain on the stucco by the shower, and figured that ruinous expense was en route? Well, it was; he bid the job, and was slated to rip up the walls and fix the situation. It's a big shower - actually, a big tub with jacuzzi jets. Nice. But we don't use it. Well, a few weeks ago my wife said:

"About the shower? I was thinking."

And I saw a stack of money sprout white wings and fly away, and I knew that the only response required in the next few minutes was a series of affirmations, because I have been married for 25 years. This is different from saying we have been married for 25 years - we have, but to say I have been married for 25 years means I have learned a few things. Chief among them: the phrase "I was thinking" indicates some house project, a redesign, a new piece, something. It could be minor. Could be big. Rare are the cases when my wife's idea is wrong, but it could happen. I have good design sense, I think; I tend towards the minimal and timeless. Everyone thinks they have good design sense, I suppose, but I've been putting my work out for twenty years in the form of this website, and for a writer I don't think it's half-bad.

Anyway, she said: a walk-in shower. No door.

Whirrrrrr calculate anticipate sublimate now SPEAK and now APPROBATE

"I love it! I'll call Jeff and we'll set something up."

Later I sat down with a pen and paper and tried to figure out the problem I saw: water everywhere. As much as I liked the idea of strolling into the shower without the pain and effort of opening a door - which, to be fair, would have to be cleaned and squeegeed - the blast of water meant there would be water out the door, because that's just what's going to happen with a space of that dimension. But we can figure this out.

So today Jeff comes by to take a look, and it's doable; we stand in the bathroom for half an hour, Scout on the floor right by this new big guy, just in case. One problem: a shower that isn't a tub requires a 2" drain. We probably have a 1 1/2" drain.

Wife: why?

Jeff: detailed explanation of the ordinances and codes and their expectations based on worse-case scenarios that require a bigger diameter in the pipes

Wife: why? It's a shower now.

Jeff and me: it doesn't matter. If you have a tub the water can build up. If you have a shower it will overflow faster if the drain is plugged because you dropped a wet cloth on it.

Wife: but we're not going to drop a wet cloth on it.

And so on. I mean, she got it, but it's odd for a lawyer not to understand BS like this. Well, Jeff traced the pipes, and figured that the stack went under the floor to the toilet in the closet and then down, and, well, er, uh, that probably means we'll have to take up the tile and install 2" pipe. But hey, it's possible they put in 2" pipe, in which case, Merry Christmas.

I laughed: find me a contractor who thought "some day they might want to refigure this. I'll anticipate that and build in extra capacity." No. They did what the code required for that job. Right? Right.

So he goes off to make the estimate, and my wife is looking contemplative. Wow. They'll have to rip up the tile.

"Let's have him take out all the tile and replace it with the small classic octagon tile like the other bathroom."


"That's exactly what I thought but I didn't want to say it."

Because I would balk? I don't like the tile we have. Truth be told I've never liked the tile. It's the one bad design decision they made. It's not bad, but it's not great."

This means they'll have to take out the register. By the time all this is done I expect the entire house will have to be jacked up and rotated 2 degrees to the right.

Then I napped. Then I picked up Daughter from Model UN, which is another story. Got supper. Did evening work. Wrote a piece for the paper on a Saturday night, which is fine by me; that's why they don't care if I work at home on Friday. Monday morn, piece is done, Bob's your Uncle. Went downstairs to have the weekend treat of a nice big bowl of ice cream, and twitched my nostrils:

Wife turned on the self-cleaning oven. It's like a robot's hair caught fire down here.


Oh, I'm not stopping. I've two more weeks of these. Hey, it's art! And fun. And most important a game of skill, so don't go banning them as gambling devices. They tried that. Didn't go so well.

It's basically "Lawman," which we saw a few weeks ago, but no free ball gate, bonus ladder, and some other things.

Many more pictures here. It was a 1975 machine that did not capitalize on any mer-person craze, as far as I know. I love the bubble-vomiting fish above, but this guy here -

Never skip leg day.



Let's try this again.

Show's still going strong; you could make the case that it was at its creative height. It starts out with the old fellows walking down the street to the store; the dialogue, for the first time, has the same pace and style of the show. It only took five movies, but they seem to have realized what made the show work. Grandpappy Spears shows up, and he's as consarned ornery as he should be. Cedric is amusingly dim. The camera actually moves now and then. We meet Jim, who's just come back from shooting Japs, and his fiancee.

Oh she's completely thrilled he's back.


That's Teala Loring. Had a short run - eight years - but she made 32 movies. Quit in 1950, and died in a car wreck fifty-seven years later.

Anyway: someone comes by with Squire Skimp, the town's scheming lawyer, and says he has a claim to the store. L & A said they bought it from Jeff Parker, years ago. So that's going to be our plot? And they have to go to New York to contest it? Or Mexico? Or some other big city where they'll be amusing rustic yokels in a big town?

No: it takes place entirely in Pine Ridge. With exteriors.


Anyway. Janice, the fiancee, isn't; she wants out of this one-horse burg. The old fellas do their best to get the kids to stay together by . . . telling tales about Pine Ridge in the old days. We go back 40 years, and see some fella in a fast car on his way to California. He gets pulled over by the Constable and taken to the Justice of the Peace:



The fellow on the left's voice might have been familiar to radio fans as "Dick Huddleston," a fellow who owned the town's other grocery store. Fun fact: there was a Dick Huddleston. There was a Pine Ridge. It started out with another name, but the locals - including grocery-store owner Dick Huddleston - petitioned to get the town's name changed.

Anyway, the automobiler takes off his goggles, and what do you know:



That's more backstory than the show ever gave in 20 years. And now you realize that someone had a brilliant and obvious idea: since the actors playing these old guys aren't old, they can play themselves as young men and it will be uncanny.

Also depressing, in a way: Abner is a quick, brash, confident young man who'd just as soon shove Skimp in the sternum than shake his hand. He's the guy from the big town who had the high-tech gadget of the day - the car - and within a day he'd charmed the town's eligible gal, Elizabeth. We never heard from her in the show, and we'd never seen her in the movies.


So: what the hell happened to him?

And what happened to Elizabeth? Here she's cultured and lovely, but we know from the radio show she ended up doing all the manual labor on the farm, including the plowing.

Also, Lum's a real lawyer. We learn how close he was to getting hitched to a young lady he'd had his eye on for years. He has a conversation with an old woman who advises him to act fast, lest he spend her life alone like she has. So he buys a ring and builds up his courage to ask . . . Elizabeth. But Abner gets there first.

This means his old friend came to town and wooed his intended in less than a week, but agreed to partner up with the store. When the wedding day comes, the preacher can't make it. So Lum has to marry them. Which has to just kill him.



As we all know, Lum is an eternal bachelor. He never got over losing Elizabeth to his friend. But this sad tale somehow convinces the young girl to stay in town and marry her fiancee, and we get this: (it's choppy, but you'll get the point)



So . . . was he laying it on thick for purposes of telling the story? Is this meant to take the sting away for the viewers? Because we're ready to believe right away that it was spread on a bit thick, and we don't have to worry, it's not that sad. Why it's not sad at all. The store is saved and the younguns are going to get hitched and all's well that ends well - except the young lady has a moment alone with Lum, and the movie decides to twist the blade again.




The show never had any backstory, so finding out that this was central to the founding of the store and the partnership is immensely sad. But the movies made up stuff about the characters all the time; the movies never bothered to keep anything straight.

It's the best of the lot. I'm going to pretend it didn't happen.


That'll do - I've no idea if there will be a work blog or Tumblr entry, but it's entirely possible that there will be. You'll have to wait for noon to find out.

But there are matches. There are always matches.


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