Stopped in to the bottle shop. Was perusing some stagger sauces. Noted the the place smelled . . . piney.

“Can I help you?” said a fellow restocking the shelves. I thought of saying well, I’m looking at vodka, so obviously I’m susceptible to marketing and price point. Whatcha say? But I said it smelled . . . piney.

“We make a point,” he said, “of cleaning the floors, every . . . ten, fifteen years. More if someone drops something.”

“Ah. Of course! I remember. I was here when you cleaned the floors back in 07. Party atmosphere. Snacks and balloons.”

A youngish fellow appeared and seemed to need instruction.

“I’m looking for the cheapest biggest bottle of vodka you have,” he said. “It’s a a joke thing. Like when we were in college and someone brought the biggest cheapest bottle of vodka.”

Ah yes. Of course. I pointed him to UV.

“This,” I said, “is big, and cheap. But it will not make you wake the next morning blind and cursing life. That - “ I pointed to the row of vodkas for those who have frankly abandoned all hope - “that will bring grief.”

The shelf restocked agreed, but made a pitch for an intermediate substance that was Big, Cheap, and allowed the possibility of self-respect and willingness to carry on with your mettlesome existence. So what did the guy do? He got out his phone and googled reviews. Because two guys with obvious vodka experience and opinions were NOTHING compared to the wisdom of some dude giving something 2 stars.

He ended up getting the UV, which gave me a little twinge. I knew the guy who came up with brand, an advertising savant who died a few years back. Last fall I was on a ship with the guy who ran the company. It’s not that I run in rarified circles - this place is like Iceland, in a way. Small and compact and remote.

So I started talking vodka with the restocker, and we had a civilized conversation about the matter. The young customer returned and put back the UV and picked up the cheapest gut rot vodka they had, bottom shelf, plastic bottle, cheap label with a fake Russian name - and he got the 750 ml bottle, not the 1.5, which made you wonder about the whole “cheapest biggest” thing.

That said, who can’t tell what’s the cheapest and biggest and worstest? What was telling about the young man was his attempt at some manly swagger here in the Place of Spirits Which is Totally a Place for Adulting - oh, just looking for the cheap stuff, you know! Here in the aisle of things. It’s going to be on the bottom shelf, chap, in a plastic jug with lousy Russian graphics and two colors max on the label.

Continued talking with the clerk, who was pointing out some vodkas he liked. He indicated the Philips Prairie brand, and said they couldn’t keep it on the shelf.

“I had dinner with the president of the company that made that,” I said, because hell it was true. “We were on a ship,” I added, as if that explained it all. “He wanted me to try it but I can’t see how organic wheat makes a difference. It’s not as if I ever taste the chemical pesticides in other vodkas.”

“This sells well too,” he said, pointing to the UV.

“I know the guy who came up with that. Knew. He’s dead.”

There were literally 60 vodkas on the shelf, and he had pointed to the only two products about which I could say “I know the guy.” So I pointed to the Reyka and said “this one’s my favorite, though. It’s not expensive and it’s just satiny smooth.”

“From Iceland,” he said, looking at the label. “I hear it’s an interesting place.”

“It is. I was there last summer.”

Nothing makes me more fargin’ insufferable than a good mood.

You’re wondering how the weekend Pizza went. It was problematic. I placed an online order with a place I like, but haven’t gone too very often lately because they make the pizzas too early. You type in 6:15 for your time, and it says “the pizza may be up to 45 minutes later, depending on conditions,” and you get there at 6:10 and there’s the pizza in the box under the lamp. Once it’s out of the oven it starts to die. It solidifies; it congeals; it starts down the road that began in pizza perfection and ends as a melted Frisbee over a manhole cover made of ironed newspaper.

But I had a yen for their style, so I ordered it to be ready at 6:15 and got there at 6:07.

It was on the warming table.

“When was this made?” I asked. The clerk said she had no idea.

Brought it home. Nuked a few slices. Daughter came down and tucked in; I said “Do you need it warmed up?”

No why

“I am going to send them a letter.”

Oh God Dad No

This is a constant refrain, over the years; I express a desire to send a letter, and she is mortified as if it will go into her personal file and people will hoot at her on the streets of New York in 20 years - there goes the girl whose dad complained about the amount of sauce on the pizza! Because I did that, a lot, trying to drum into the heads of the staff that extra sauce means “more than one ladle poured on a surface the diameter of a kettle drum.” It got to the point where I would say “extra sauce” on the phone and the person would say “I know, I know, don’t worry.”

But now I’m in a position of complaining because I arrived early and the pizza was ready. Shouldn’t this be a cause for celebration? HELL NO because if I’d arrived at 6:15 it would have been on the warming table for eight minutes more. Don't you GET IT?

This is pizza we are talking about here

I should just make a wood-fired stove in the backyard and spare everyone my problems.



More of the work of C. H. Wellington, cartoonist mislaid by history.

This just doesn't hang together.


Comprehension requires looking down in the lower right corner for the item taht set it all in motion - and by then you already got the joke, which is the imminent dousing of the irritated fellow. That will anger him more than being touched by the Colored Help, drawn with the usual sensibilities of the age.




This week it's 1897, when there were approximately 42 consumer goods, total. The few things they had looked damned odd:

The Densmore was famous:

James Densmore (1820 - 1889) was quite instrumental in the development, and eventual production, of the first commercially successful typewriter, the Sholes & Glidden. If it wasn't for his initial investment and subsequent financial backing during the machine's developmental years, one can only speculate if the Samuel Sholes and Carlos Glidden crafted typewriter would have actually been mass produced.

He didn’t invent it, but he put up the money, and that counts for a lot. The machine popularized the typewriter - an invention for which the world was quite ready - but the company was overtaken, and closed by 1910. Densmore was dead by then, nineteen years in the earth.

Cripples! What an interesting trade name.

No, it was the Fay company. Not just for men, ladies, an children, but people who can levitate!

It was called a Fairy, and while it was popular for a while, the pedal model overtook it. See also, electric cars, overtaken by internal combustion cars

Steam! The power of the future, for ever and ever! Steam never goes out of style!

The history of small magazine ads is the history of people offering to teach you everything about something big for under twenty five cents. If it’s not steam, it’s electricity. If it’s not electricity, it’s detective work.

A case of an acquisition determining the future of a company:

Manufacturer of Fine Parquet Floors, it says. Wikipedia:

The company began when Samuel Curtis Johnson, Sr. purchased the parquet flooring business of Racine Hardware Company in 1886 and renamed it Johnson's Prepared Paste Wax Company.

The money wasn’t in the floors. You could only sell people one or two floors. Bottles of wax you could sell them forever.

Note: Mr. Johnson started out as a salesman for the flooring company. Wonder if everyone in the office knew who they'd brought on. Wonder if he ever said "you know, some day I'm going to run this place!" and everyone rolled their eyes and said "Yes, Sam. Of course you are."

This ad has been magnified. Apparently people put ads under a jeweler’s loupe to while away the hours.

“Watch speculators can make money by buying the dozen to sale.” You do can be a speculator! Wheel, deal! Become a Watch Baron!

Before the iPod, there was . . .

“For hotels, summer cottages, drug stores, and holders of summer resort privileges.” You may have imagined such places, but have you ever wondered what sounds drifted out of the window on a summer breeze?


The Regina Company was a manufacturer of mechanical musical instruments before it became a major vacuum maker.


The movements were imported and assembled into American-made boxes. After a year of immediate success, Brachhausen purchased a 25,000-square foot building at 54 Cherry Street in Rahway. In a few years, Regina was manufacturing their products entirely in America, as Brachhausen accumulated patents.[1] Regina established a nationwide distribution network by offering a 50% wholesale price to department stores and other retailers. He also lured one of Symphonion's arrangers, Octave Felicien Chaillet, to America, where he composed and arranged thousands of discs for Regina. In 1897, Brachhausen patented an automatic disc changer, and Regina established a service for installing and maintaining their coin-operated music boxes.

Octave. The arranger was named Octave.

In another genre: Norris & Hyde pianos.


They made player pianos as well, and were well-regarded. The Depression killed them.

The Depression, in many ways, was like a meteor: it wasn't the initial impact, it was the aftermath blotted out the sun.


Finally: yes, but what can you do about it?

“Walking is made a pleasure.”

Was walking unpleasant if you were short?

That'll do for today! Don't miss my MONDAY newspaper column! Just click on the Star. You know: The big green Startribune Star.


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