At the grocery store the other day -

Oh COME ON, it's not like I do this every day. Once a week. It's important. It's a cross-section of America! It's where we come together to ply the turbulent streams of gendered marketing and classist assumptions about our bodies as they intersectionally relate to public spaces. I mean duh. So this is important. Like Buzzfeed important.

Actually, I just needed to get some Naan, because we were having the weekly culturally-appropriated meal that incorporates "Indian" food as an "ethnic" option, without realizing or paying respect to the role these spices and sauces played in the lives of Indian people who are totally awesome because they have this rich culture and AMAAAZING food, seriously, there was this takeaway place in London - I'm sorry? Oh! Hah. In England they call it takeaway, not takeout. It's one of those things I just picked up. Anyway real Indian food is AMAAAZING, not like the stuff you get here in bottles that says it's real.

What's that? You bought the sauce at an Indian grocery store? Run by Indians? For Indians? With an almost exclusive Indian clientele? Oh. I don't know how to disapprove of that. Give me a minute. Anyway, India is AMAAAZING from what I can tell, especially how they threw off colonialism, which was so typical, am I right? England comes in and says oh now you're our property and does nothing about the caste system, which persists to this day - THANK YOU RIDLEY KIPLING.

Don't you wish that conversation played in your head all day long? No? Okay.

Anyway, as I was headed towards Frozen Pizza, a huge man standing behind a table with containers of salsa asked me if I would like some salsa. Yes, of course, but I immediately regretted it: I could tell he was the guy who made the stuff. Often the store has vendors offering samples, and they're the people who run the business. Who quit their jobs and liquidated their savings to make SALSA the likes of which the world hadn't seen.

"Our motto is, flavor before heat," he said, spooning salsa on a chip. That is the motto of everyone making hot sauces these days. I almost wish someone would come out with something that says "We get out chilis from wherever the hell, and make a sauce that's like a donkey's rear hoof punching your face to make it hot, dead, and bloody." Now it's all about local chilis and flavor-first. The last time the store had one of these sample tables, I bought the stuff; it was really good, and different. It was also $6.49, which is much more than I want to pay for it, but it was different and they were nice and I wanted to help.

This fellow hands me the chip; it's good. Chunky. Fresh! But it's $8.99 per container. There's just no way I'm going to pay nine dollars for salsa. I would pay five. Granted, I don't understand the economics here, but when your primary ingredients are Water and Tomatoes I do not know how you can price it that high. If you priced it at four or five dollars I would buy it every week and put it on eggs and chips and gargle with it. This would be my go-to salsa. But nine dollars? That's not even party-condiment-to-impress-strangers worthy, because they wouldn't know what you paid. No one who has salsa at a party is disappointed with the salsa. You know you shouldn't stand here and dip corn chips in the salsa one after the other, but it's a party, and hey, live a little. And it's good! Because it's corn chips and salsa. It's like putting out silk towels in the bathroom. Overkill.

Will I sit at home and sample the stuff with the best stone-ground chips and savor the subtle flavor-first differences? I will not. Now, if money was no object and I had buckets of ducats, sure! But that seems a rarified market to pursue. Often I buy the stuff just to make the person who's selling it feel good, because I can imagine what it's like to stand there with your livelihood hanging out. But I will not buy nine dollar salsa and I'M SORRY.

I did buy a frozen pizza that was on sale; $2.50 off. So add that to the salsa I didn't buy, and I saved $11.50.

Money in the bank.

Watching the last season of "Wallender," the British production of the Swedish police show about Wallender. Kenneth Brannnnagggh is the titular hero, wearing a face of Nordic agony, or mild constipation, and he goes to South Africa in the firstepisode, because the author of the novels probably took a trip there. Not exactly Shaft in Africa, but I don't want out hero to leave Sweden, because the locale speaks to me in a way that South Africa does not. I am interested in South Africa, inasmuch as it's always seemed a dark mirror to the West: a civil society with skyscrapers and nice neighborhoods and beaches and law and magazines and flinty folk carving civilization out of the veldt - laudable, except for the unapologetic racism that forms the bedrock on which it was built. Different now; perhaps the series will address it. I just remember the 80s, when it was the glowing moral chancre of the world, and "engagement" and attempts to nudge it towards classical liberal ideals were regarded as insufficient half-measures, given the enormity of the sin on which the state was predicated.

All of that's forgotten, because that's now the preferred method for dealing with a state that hangs gay people and wants to wipe out the Jews. Ohhhkay.

I started reading the Wallender books. Meh. Lost in translation the pith and gist must be. I've read a lot of Scandahoovian crime fiction, and it's all mildly satisfying, middle-aged, barren, and bone-weary in a way that classic American crime fiction isn't. (I do not include the ridiculous "Dragon Tattoo" books in this evaluation; they are preposterous misandrist constructions, and the first book aside, dull and contrived.) Everyone is gray because life is gray and has been gray for so many centuries that grayness has occupied the psychic marrow of an intelligent, dignified people. They are resolutely modern in their tech and cars and official buildings, but their cities are old - pristine and well-maintained, they embody the silent weight of history in a way those of us living in new American cities don't understand. There's a respect for the ways of the countryside, and a suspicion as well. There's an unspoken ache about the loss of national character, how the good citizen must understand that the immigrant is just as Swedish as their parents, even though it is manifestly false - but how that sentiment leads in a trice to South Africa, no? Sweden must be Europe and Europe must be open and the Open World will be a peaceable place when all commingle in the Farmer's Market on Saturday looking for carrots.

Organic carrots; that's important.

I am an American, and believe in a civic identity that transcends ethnicity. But I have sympathy for monocultures in small places. To say that Sweden is Sweden whether its culture is Christian or Islamic is idiocy, and to say there is some essential Swedishness that would survive the transition from one to the other is to disrespect the meaning of all the relevant ideals. But if you hold all forms of cultural theism in silent contempt, wanting a technocratic administrative state devoted to happy proles and wise elites doling out credits for participation in the solar energy rollout, the actual facts of the people's cultures doesn't matter. Give them their rituals and silly old beliefs. They'll lose them eventually. And if they don't? They'll find themselves in a world in which they matter very little, and they'll adapt.

A reasonable assumption for the tired; not so much for the energetic.


Click was a tabloid picture mag - brash and snappy. They ran a feature detailing everything women shouldn't do on a date. We continue:


After that, more of the same, which was pretty good, and government work and philanthropy - fading away from the public eye until people said "who?" when he died in 1994.

That's it for Look magazine's applauded people - a warm-hearted cop, an opera singer, a public servant and a captain of industry.

Who would they choose these days?






This is an exercise in selective editing. We're going to take one look at Ft. Dodge this week, and another look later.

Someone lost his hat:

The Garmoe Building, constructed by a "pioneer resident" in 1896. (Source next week, for reasons I'll explain. It looks raw and abandoned. Across the street, a sign for appliances with the old Frigidaire logo - an F with a crown.

I spent the first ten years of my life not knowning that Frigidaire was supposed to mean something very fridge-specific.

Another view, with the ghost.


This is one of the biggest Carnegie libraries I've ever seen:



2008 news story: "The old Fort Dodge library that was a magnet for generations of readers is about to become a place where people will eat, sleep, and, yes, curl up with a good book.

"Mike Doyle, of Fort Dodge, just bought the landmark at 605 First Ave. N. and revealed plans to turn it into a nine-unit apartment building."

Of course. It was built in 1903, but the second story was added 26 years later.

All I know about this: made in 1908. Also, painted. Also, the second floor was for people who'd spent a long time in jail and had become used to small window.s



The lower floor got a post-war makeover, complete with fake brick and big windows. The upstairs just had to grin and bear it.

This one looks like it was in a hailstorm. For ten straight years.



A lesson in the ways of old architecture: polychromatic stone gave life ot the street. The green paint on top suggests it spent a few decades in verdant hues, and was liberated by a good sandblasting.

Ground floor mysteries: two indented areas that looked like doors or windows, and then got downsized and turned into smaller windows, which got bricked up. In the case of the one on the left, it was cut in half and bricked up.

There had to be reasons.


The 30s wasn't the first time minimalism was equated with modernism, you know.



Board up all the windows save one, lads - we might need some air later.

Here's a surprise.



Taller than you might expect, eh? I think the top floor was added later, because they really needed another floor.

The tenant may have changed, but it'll always be the rear entrance.



It's from this.



Do you feel as if you got a good take on Ft. Dodge? No peeking on Google, now. Next week we'll look at it again.

Oh, er, ahem:



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