I put up more lights. Did you think I forgot to upload a new entry? No, look over to the left. Tuesday. Did you think I copy-and-pasted a previous entry and didn’t notice? I would never do that. Did you think I probably put up more lights? You’ve been around here a while, then. Congrats! I wonder who’s the longest-lasting Bleatnik. We’re coming up to the 20th anniversary of the Bleat, after all. There are still a few left over from 1997 but I don’t think many have evolved into something as . . . generous as this one.

Anyway. We went to get a new Christmas tree, for reasons described in my column. Went to Bachman’s, where all the plants are just a bit nicer and you can take them back if they die, and the prices of everything make you wince. But you’re a Bachman’s kind of person, aren’t you? Just like you’re a Lunds & Byerly’s kind of person when it comes to groceries? So you like paying more. It means you’ve made it.

We had a gift card, which made me wince a little less. Except when it came to the lights. I told my wife these were ridiculous prices - 50 bulbs for $10?

“They’re commercial grade,” the salesman said, but he had a smile that said yeah, I know.

“They’re red,” my wife said. These being the most elusive color. So we bought some, and a tree, and a small fir to replace a dead plant in the sun porch. Loaded it in the car; she went to the mall, and I went to Home Depot to buy . . . some lights.

Not Christmas lights. No, I needed under-the-cabinet lights, because four had burned out. Also a bulb for a small light at the bottom of the steps. It’s been out for a while. A year, I think, possibly two. In the summer of 2015 I trenched a lane from the bottom of the steps to the top, and ran a low-voltage line to replace the buried line left by the previous owners. It had gone dark for unknown reasons. The light had burned for a while, then stopped; I could barely get my hand in the thing to change the bulb, so it remained dark. This bothered my wife.

“I need your small hand to change the bulb,” I said. But the moment never arose when she wanted to change the bulb, and I was there to help turn on the juice. This day, however, she was motivated.

“It might not be the bulb,” I said. “It could be the light.”

“And you’ve known this for how long, and just kicked the can down the road?”

I had to laugh, because - well, like I said, I wrote a column about that.

Turns out the bulb was broken, so I had to get a new one. Did so. Went home. Opened up the red bulbs to string them on the bushes, the last piece of the grand design.

They were multi-colored.

This would not do.

I would have to go to Menard’s to buy more green bulbs. So I got back in the car, and en route started bleeding from my philtrum again. I had sliced it while shaving the previous day - absolutely my fault, user error, stupid move - and the damned thing was unstaunchable. I wore a Band-Aid under my nose for a day and everyone around the house said it looked ridiculous. I didn’t care. Now I wasn’t wearing a Band-Aid and it was bleeding again. To be honest, I still didn’t care. I walked around Menard’s with a tissue held up to my face like an 18th century French nobleman inhaling from a nosegay to mask the stench of the streets; bought the bulbs, and went home. While arranging them I noticed that one of the strands on the big tree was out. Jiggled it. Nope. Twisted the bulbs to reseat them, and found the bad bulb when I grabbed a broken one and made direct contact with electrical current, while standing on wet dirt HELLO Criminey Joseph, shake it off.

Strung the green. Looked good.

Picked up Daughter from work and went to MyBurger to get OurBurgers. The counter guy was inordinately happy. I mean, beaming, joyful. Daughter made her order. I ordered for Wife. Looked up at the sign; it said CALIFORNIA BURGER. LETTUCE, TOMATO, MAYO.

“I’ll have the California Burger.”

“Lettuce, tomato, mayo?”

Pause. Yes. Hence the request for the California Burger, I thought. It was like Taco Bell on Saturday with the Giant Swede: I told the clerk Soft Taco, Chicken, and she said Soft Taco, and I said yes, and she rang it up and repeated the order back to me as “Soft Taco, Beef.”

No. No! Remember when I expelled air and shaped it with my tongue and mouth and the sound CHICKEN came out? Remember that? It wasn’t that long ago. I’m trying to be on your side here. I don’t say uh give me a taco and you say hard shell or soft and I say soft and you say beef or chicken. Start with the concept, then move to the attributes.

Next to the CALIFORNIA BURGER menu sign is a list of upgrades that cost ,50, and below that a list of gratis embellishments. I am about to say “Pepperjack Cheese” when he says “Cheese?” and I bristle a little, because I’m not the sort to be led by the nose here, pal. I will be listing the specifics. Note how I am looking up at the menu, then down at you, then back up at the menu.

“Pepperjack cheese. That’s all.”

“Okay, that’s -“

“There’s one more.” He looked at us - two of you, but three burgers? “The California was for my wife. I will have the Basic -“

Jeezum CROW I was going to GET TO THAT. I listed off exactly what I wanted, and at the end of the exchange his happy mood was gone. I mean, it was just dead. We got a number and sat at a table to wait for our order.

“I think I spoiled that for him,” I said to Daughter.

“Well yeah you’re so authoritative when you order. I will have this! And This! And you hold up fingers!”

“I’m just trying to be clear. It’s like a series of arguments. With bullet-points.”

“It’s a hamburger Dad”

“You’re right. I should apologize.”

So I did. I went back to the counter and apologized to the clerk if I seemed a bit abrupt. He was happy and said no problem everything was fine, hadn’t noticed, but I got the impression that maaaaybe he knew what I was talking about.

Daughter was slightly agog, but not mortified with embarrassment, and that’s a win.

Back home. Eat. Clean. Replaced the under-the-counter bulbs with fresh ones from Home Depot. All the light fixtures are new, except for one above the stove. I always hated to replace bulbs in this one, because there’s wires hanging out. They’re capped and coiled, but just the sight of wires makes me uncomfortable, and I always think I’m going to make contact with the wires when I replace the metal cover. Well.

I did. BANG. Lights out. Smoke. Well that’s just fantastic. After a few minutes I removed a bulb to see if I could use it in another fixture, and of course it was still 900 degrees F, so I burned my finger. One burn, one electrocution, one slice from a metal blade: weekends are hazardous.
Around 8:24 I went to get Daughter from Hi-League at church, and as I left I patted my pockets and realized I didn’t have my phone. I could go upstairs and get it, but Wife had just cleaned the floors, and I could really do without it this once. Made me think how much time I spend scrolling through Twitter in idle moments. Appalling, really. I envisioned myself sitting in the car listening to the classical station, waiting, content, the way we used to be.

Drove to the church. Kids came out. Cars left. No Daughter.


At 8:40 I went into the church; a few of the Hi-League counselors were packing up. Had they seen my daughter? I forgot my phone. One of them had her in his contacts, and dialed her up.

“She probably got a ride,” I said. “This never happens. I always have my phone.”

I could tell from his chat that she had answered his call. He nodded: she got a ride home.

“I always have my phone,” I said. “The one time I don’t. I feel like such an idiot.”

“Love your writing,” said another counselor.

“Well, I’ll get a column out of this, and you - were - there.”

I didn’t get a column out of it. But I got this.

Something different now: the aft gangway, dedicated to modern art. I made a stirring defense of this guy's work up in a Crow's Nest late-night argument.

That's what I love about the cruises: arguing about Richard Estes. If you're going to reproduce a photo, why not jsut display the photo? Understood, but it's about selection, ad one medium commenting on another. But also the abstractions created by the unnatural world, as you see above.

Of course, I would love anything that does early shopping malls with post-war signage:


Compare this to a detail we saw a few days ago, and you see how the world got much cleaner, uncluttered. I prefer . . . both.






Christmas ads this month, of course. Let's narow it down: hard-liquor ads from 1970.

Oh and isn't he the luckiest fella.

The world has to do a lot of heavy lifting for her on a daily basis, and if it doesn't, it's just typical. Everyone disappoints her. Daddy always said they would.

You're looking at the non-iconic bottle.


The iconic Vat 69 bottle with its bulbous neck was introduced to the market and was not changed for the next hundred years. In 1882, William Sanderson prepared one hundred casks of blended whisky and hired a panel of experts to taste them. The batch from the cask (or “vat”) with number 69 was judged to be the best, and this provided the whisky's brand name.

You can pick up a 1.75 ml for $25 in some places, so it's not exactly the rarest of spirits.


Seventies interpretations of Victoriana were never pretty, and occasionally nightmarish:

Stop consuming gin in substantial quantites? Especialy during Christmas? NEVER! It mentions the original 1769 formula:

Gordon's London Dry Gin was developed by Alexander Gordon, a Londoner of Scots descent. He opened a distillery in the Southwark area in 1769, later moving in 1786 to Clerkenwell. The Special London Dry Gin he developed proved successful, and its recipe remains unchanged to this day. Its popularity with the Royal Navy saw bottles of the product distributed all over the world.

Still the #1 gin.

It's a liquor. It's a dessert. It's a dessert liquor!

It's wine that's been goosed with grape alcohol to increase the kick, and since the original wine comes from sweet grapes, it's a dessert. In the 70s we were told that women loved this stuff, and it was a sign of distinction to own a bottle, but I never got past the "Harvey" part.

Harvey was my dad's bookkeeper out at the gas station.

For the man who has the woman in the first ad, and is just damned sick of her - her family, her expectations, her coldness, her constant silent rebukes. You understand me, Belle. You see the real me.

The illustration on the box looks horrible, but it's the 9th thing you notice in the ad.

One more from the same year. It shot Super 8.

If you think that every medium is equally perishable, consider this: the people who still think they can run Super 8 through the old projector will some day find the projector's bulb has burned out, and they don't make replacements anymore.

As for the movie's ability to shoot in low lights:

Jacksonville FL in 1979, if you skipped ahead.

That'll do - see you around.


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