Okay. Let’s stop pretending, shall we?

About what, I suppose that’s up to you - but it certainly is a provocative writing prompt, isn’t it? You suspect that the speaker is about to reveal something that is blazingly obvious to him, but probably not in the top three of your playlist. It works for any situation: it shakes up the conversation, it makes people clam up and wonder whether they will have to confess to something they’re pretending. Because everyone is pretending something.

But that’s okay. Civility requires pretense. Civilization requires self-repression. But when someone announces the time has come to drop the mask you chill the room. Try it some time.

“Okay, that’s going to be $23.92.”

“Let’s stop pretending, okay?”

And the clerk thinks:

what? Is it my smile? Is it the assumption that because I wear a shirt with the grocery store’s logo that I think this is somehow an integral part of my identity because it’s not, well, not for me, it’s different for Mike he’s been here forever. Is that who he means? Mike, who’s bagging his stuff? Mike lives and breathes this place which is cool for him I guess, this is what he does, but it’s kinda sad, because he’s like old, maybe 42, and he’s not a manager. He’s still carrying out bags to cars. He has to know that everyone wonders why he’s been here so long and he still carries out bags. How can he not? He stocks but he’s not in charge of an aisle, he just, like, gets assigned. He said once he was a floater. And he’s okay with that, I guess, but he works at that other grocery store. I saw him there once and he saw me and he didn’t even acknowledge me, super uncomfortable.

Okay he’s put the card in and it went through and I guess I’ll give him the receipt but what was that about?

To your boss: Let’s stop pretending, okay?

Boss thinks:

he knows everything I think about him. Or does he? It’s more likely this is some small slight that festered for weeks, something I forgot about five minutes after it happened because there’s always something else coming along and I don’t have time for this, but being a manager requires defusing these buried gripes or starting the process of easing someone out. Sounds like the latter. Proceed with caution.

To your spouse: either this makes no sense or it’s a horrible relief

To your young child: terrifying. They might have pretended about something; they might have thought they had it all figured out, but hearing that from a parent is like having someone put a rifle in their hands and push them to the trench. To your older child: fine, you first, then I’ll tell you what’s really really.

To your dog: nothing. Dogs don’t lie so they can’t imagine that you would.

To your readership: ah, we’re about to hear a truth that we suspected all along bound us together. We’re all about to stop pretending about something and agree about something.

To yourself: oh not again; do we have to? Can’t I have a few hours of happy delusions? Okay.

But let’s not pretend that’s real.

But it is. Every day requires pretending. And I mean that sincerely.

Assuming the same chap did all the illustrations, we may have a name.

Welcome home from war! Have a job so we can all do the normalcy ting ASAP. What's that? Why do I have a tag attached to my fly? I just like it, that's all.

Joseph Stern. Or Joe Stern, as he signed his work. This part describes the travails of the conventions and traveling-salesman duties:

From his Facebook site, run by his son:

Joe Stern was an artist, illustrator, and cartoonist who was well known for his editorial cartoons in the Boston Herald from 1923 to 1968. He was friends with politicians, educators, business leaders, and sports figures, many of whom had his original drawings hanging in their homes. Some of his cartoon originals are in the collections of at least four Presidential libraries. In 1949, he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Cartooning.

More life on the road:

Great style. Aren't you glad you're aware of his work now?






Why yes, it is in Filmore County. Why yes, it is named after Millard. Why yes, there is a spring - or least there was in 1855 when they laid out the town. Twenty-five hundred souls, down from 2600 in 1960. That's not a big drop.

This downtown was the product of a town that had fewer than 2000 people. So it ought to be bustling to this day, right?

We'll see.

The corner building is everything we've come to expect, right? The new, or at least recent brick on the ground floor, a shingled overhang in the style we call Buckaroo Revival (again, not my term) and angle parking for that true old Main Street feel.

But where is everyone? Perhaps it's Sunday.

After the war people seemed so impatient with the past. Get rid of it. Cover it up. No one look up! You'll just be disappointed!

I assume that metal facade had a name; otherwise, what's the point?

You know it's a civic building right away, don't you:

The Carnegie Library is now the City Hall. Previously you could go to this building and fight it, but not any more.

Not the standard Carnegie design. Usually there's a Roman-Temple vibe to let you know this is a sacred place of knowledge, but this 1904 version has a flat roof and Romanesque details over the windows above the portico.


Almost perfect.

The glass blocks are regrettable. If there are two styles that don't go together, it's "1880s" and "1930s." Oil and sherbet.

It's the Parsons Block.

It was two buildings side-by-side; now it's two buildings up and down.

One's chiseled off. This one isn't. Wonder what that was all about.

Did the other one say "1887" as well, and they figured "no need to repeat ourselves"? No.

I'm taller than you. HAH now I'm taller than YOU

That poor little building on the left. Completely obliterated. And the awning seems to freeze it out.

A timeless presence, a bit of Rome in a small town - once a bank and always a bank.

Until it's not, and even then it never wants to be anything else.


They know the virtues of a good old sign, restored.

Don't think the Moldstad store is a going concern.

I'd like to think this is a work in progress.


Thirties-or-so ground floor renovation, perhaps even from the 20s. Did they cover everything up, and half fell off? Or did they just put up one half and think "that looks just fine." Because it's an insult to the building.

Here's the town; have a stroll and see what you can find.

Give Spring Valley my regards.

That'll do; enjoy some restaurants before you leave.


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