Did I hear the news correctly? Five Guys is the best fast-casual burger shop? googling . . .

Criminy. It's true. No one goes to Five Guys twice for hamburgers. You go the second time because you know you will get sixteen pounds of French Fries. They put the French Fries in a container and then they dump more into the bag and you can’t ever finish the Fries but yet somehow you do. The burgers are utterly substandard and the buns are nothing special and the ambience? Once I pulled a chair back and it made a sound that echoed off the tile and bare floor and everyone jumped as though I’d dragged the edge of a broken china plate across a chalkboard.

Is it better than Smashburger? Eh. Their fries are too thin. They gussy them up with rosemary, which is fine the first time, but the second time you think “you know, I can do without this quantity of rosemary.” No one knows what the name means, but it actually refers to a technique: they SMASH the patty, releasing special burger atoms, and it’s better. When I was in DC a few years ago talking to a guy who had invested in a fast-casual burger restaurant, I got an education on what’s involved in these operations. He seemed amused at my mild criticism about the label design of their condiments, which told me he had a blind spot about how these things flatter or reinforce class status. His biggest problem was staffing. You hire them, you train them, they work for a while then they never show up again. Rinse repeat. And I’m worried about fonts.

He said Smashburger doesn’t smash their burgers anymore. Open secret. No one cares.

I didn’t, because I didn’t know they ever had. Maybe I missed all the PR where they showed meat being struck, hard, like something on Jack Webb's Mark VII anvil.

We have a local chain of fast-casual burgers: My Burger. They’re fantastic. Quality is high and unvarying, buns are buttered and toasted, fries are perfect. The design and signage is a tad too hipster-cute, but I still like the place. It doesn’t annoy me.

And yet I can remember three Five Guys meals I’ve had, all disappointing except for the fries, because in each case I was in a strange city, alone, and the only adjacent food options were located in barren high-traffic retail corridors. One was in New Hampshire somewhere. One was Ft. Lauderdale. The other was . . . I can’t even remember. It was that or Italian. Oh! Now I know. San Jose. I was working on a speech I had to give, and walked two miles to find a place to eat, and nothing, I mean nothing connected. I saw Five Guys in some place that had been something else, and thought: potatoes.

My mind was thinking about the speech and only had room for processing starch options.

The next day I ate at a nearby Indian restaurant with Ed and Nina and had a good meal. Thing is: alone, Five Guys will do, because potatoes. Everyone there is alone and devoted to the private shame of tuber consumption.

Five Guys? More like one. You. Eating all the potatoes.


Came across this short last week, tweeted it out - but you know, I’ll bet you missed it. I’ll bet you’re not hanging on Twitter every minute, watching for my avatar to pop up and say something obliquely related to the events of the day.

It's a 90-second short. Its creator is in high school.

I'm paraphrasing what I wrote the artist:

Tthat’s some inspired work. I don’t know enough about Blender to know how much work it takes out of one's hands, but I was looking at the light source around :32, when the Dogbox goes into the shadow; that whole sequence is nicely done, with the play of the light on the glossy surface as Dogbox turns around, and then trots away. He could have gone with matte, but that little flash of glossy gives it more substance.

The whole thing is full of decisions that show how much he thought about it - the way the arms on Trashcan deploy before the face lights up, for example. He’s doing his job, and doesn’t mind it. If we saw the face light first before the arms came out, we might sense annoyance, or arrogance. Or the way the garbage truck’s movements are efficient and robotic, which set it apart from the sentient characters. I figured he only showed the humans from the waist up because faces are wicked hard, but it didn’t feel like an evasion; it kept the story on the plane he were telling it, while it made Dogbox an effortless inhabitant of both worlds. Which of course annoyed Trashcan.

Eighteen! And he did the music.


Someone kept the important reminders of a trip to New York.

In the middle of nowhere, a man with a sharp crease.


Astrojets! As for the Plymouth Theater:

Designed by architect Herbert J. Krapp to resemble the neighboring Shubert and Booth theatres designed by Henry B. Herts, the building was constructed by the Shubert brothers in 1917-18, christened the Plymouth Theatre, and leased to producer Arthur Hopkins.

It's named after Gerald Schoenfeld now. What else did they do? Radio City, as the ticket above notes, and of course . . . the top of the town.

Someone put aside and forgot about it. Then he or she died, and out it went.

I have about a dozen such envelopes waiting for someone in 2077.




More of Bay City, a Michigan town where styles of different eras collide like a knife meeting a wad of wet lettuce:

Here's what the town's website says: “Del Rio has been a proud Texas Main Street City since 2002, actively supporting expansion of the downtown economic base by assisting in recruiting more businesses to downtown, advertising available properties in the district, assisting with historic preservation efforts and streetscape improvements.”

Let’s see how that’s working out for them.

We begin with something that looks like an optical illusion: the awning is pierced by the pole, but the pole seems farther out than the pole.

What do you think this was, once? I checked CinemaTreasures.org, but it doesn’t list this as one of the closed theaters. It’s the two sets of doors and the windows that makes me think it was a movie house, but the back of the building doesn’t show anything that looks like a stage, or an auditorium. And so we begin with a mystery.

Well, this really isn’t a good sign.

Fifties stone facade, original windows - no sign it’s drawn a breath in the 21st century.

Another optical illusion: what’s going on with the sidewalk on the left?

Isn’t that a tumble-and-fall lawsuit waiting to happen?

Better than death but not too far from it:

Nice Spanish touches, and it’s interesting to see the grillwork on the top - ornamental echo of a security measure. I doubt it was there to keep the squirrels out.

“One day we woke and found the entire town had been transplanted to a strange, shadowy land where horrible creatures prowled at dusk”

Ah: signs of life.

It was the Rita when it was built in 1947, says one CinemaTreasures comment. Another says it was remodeled in 1943. Hmm.I wonder if they would let anyone have all that good war materiel in 43. Googling . . .

The original structure at this site was a theater called “The Strand,” which served Del Rio in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1941, the Strand was torn down, re-built, and renamed the “Rita Theatre.” The Rita opened on December 12, 1941.

On February 26, 1943, the Rita was destroyed by a mysterious fire that reportedly started in a storage room.

Now a city-owned performance venue. Here’s a link from someone who was unhappy with their inability to put you in the seat for which you paid.

A lovely gift to the People of Del Rio:


From a walking-tour page I'll link to next week:

This was built in 1929 by Max Stool for Montgomery Ward as that mail-order business expanded into storefront businesses. The icon near the roofline is a Ward’s symbol called the "Spirit of Progress." Ward’s moved out in the 1950s, and the building has been occupied by various department and clothing stores.

I'll bet there were others around the country.

The sign was put up for a more prosperous clientele.

A previous street view: Tiffany it ain’t.

“Del Rio has been a proud Texas Main Street City since 2002, actively supporting expansion of the downtown economic base by assisting in recruiting more businesses to downtown, advertising available properties in the district, assisting with historic preservation efforts and streetscape improvements.”


More next week. It gets better? We'll see.


That will do, I hope - see you tomorrow.


blog comments powered by Disqus