All I wanted was a sponge caddy for the sink. The old one lost its ability to stick to the side of the sink, as happens after a while. So I went to Target. It seemed like the sort of thing Target would have. They didn’t have it.

Had an entire shelf of water bottles, though. People love their water bottles. Before those were invented we just staggered around as parched as mummies.

Went to Home Depot, and picked up some cleaning supplies as well. The seasonal aisle already had the summer stuff reduced to a small space and marked down 40%, because it’s time for Christmas merchandise, I guess. I bought another Philips Hue bulb, because I am gradually replacing them all in the living room, and will have better control over the automatic lights. The trick will be to get my wife to turn them off with her phone, which she will fight; she hates smart phones and resists all attempts to integrate them into her existence. When I get a text from her it’s like SETI picking up a repeating signal.

Checked out; tried to make small talk with the clerk, until I remembered there’s something about him that makes small talk impossible. Hard to describe. Whatever you say, he ignores. He just says thank you at the end. Then he stared at my purchases, sitting on the belt. I bagged them. Eventually he pitched in. I mean, I’m happy to bag my own, but that’s part of the self-service thing, and he’d waved me over from self-service with the promise of human interaction.

I was six blocks away when I realized I hadn’t gotten a sponge caddy. Damn. Well, Menards loomed, and I went in to the Enormo-Mart to get one. There were shower caddies in plumbing, but they were all too big. I asked some clerks and they were flummoxed. WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE DO WITH YOUR SPONGES? I wanted to ask.

One clerk sent me to Appliances, but said “He’ll probably send you back here.”

He did. But he came with, and went to the place where there should be sponge caddies. It’s an accessory, I said. Like a soap pump. It should be with soap pumps. But it wasn’t.

“But you have bargain DVDs and breakfast cereal,” I said. “No sponge caddies, but DVDs and Lucky Charms.”

“That’s true,” said one clerk. There were now three involved in this search.

“Maybe I should go to Best Buy and see if they don’t have DVDs anymore, and now they have sponge caddies.”
They said that might work out for me.

So I went back to Home Depot and asked a guy. He said it might be on the end cap by the kitchen drawers you pull out -

“That’s a project,” I said. “A sponge caddy is an accessory. Like a draining rack or a soap pump.”

Well, you might try Aisle 12 on the left side. That’s where we keep the soap pumps.

That was indeed where they kept the soap pumps but there weren’t any shower caddies. So I went to the front desk where a woman sits behind a computer monitor, and asked her if she could find one. She couldn’t.

“Sounds like the sort of thing Bed Bath and Beyond would have,” she said. She sighed. “I love that store.”

Of course, they would. Of course, because that’s where I’d bought it before. Stupid. So I went to BBB, and there were four different models.

KITCHEN isn’t in the store’s name, which is odd; a quarter of the store, if not more, is devoted to KITCHENS. I guess from now on I’ll say “welp, time to go to the Beyond and make supper.”



As you can tell from the previous Elvis disks, I was a New Wave guy, and they didn't get better than Squeeze. And Squeeze rarely got better than this:

The graphics were New and Modern! because they cut stuff up and had a DYI / Punk aesthetic. It was 1980, and we were certain that Orwell's future would be upon us soon - or war with the Rooskies, or both.

So let's dance.




It’s ra-TONE, thank you var much. This town presents an unusual mystery - and we won’t get to that for a week.

Let’s take a look at Main Street - or, rather, First. See anything out of the ordinary?

No? Well, there must be something, because I marked this entire folder MYSTERY, and I must have meant something. Perhaps it’s the lack of another side of the street. You find arrangements like this when the street faces train tracks, and that’s the case here.


The nerdy kid in the propellor beanie hanging around the cool triplets:


The Golden Pule!

I don’t think it was connected to the Golden Rule chain. I don’t know if there was a chain of Golden Rule stores, but it was a popular retail name in the early 20th century. Biographies of J. C. Penney indicate that he controlled 34 Golden Rule stores by 1913. There was one in St. Paul, but it wasn’t connected to the Wyoming stores.

Hiya, Scout




If you’re going to paint the bricks, make sure the trim sums up a particular era and will hence date the rehab between 1987 and 2003:



If you really want to get into the Weeds of Architectural Speculation, here’s a look at the tile in the entrance:



Doesn’t it suggest that there was one door, angled?


I think this is about as nice a sight as we’ve seen in a while. Simple and clean and useful. There may be no one home upstairs, but the buildings are well-groomed and nicely coiffed.

Not a trace of Buckaroo Revival anywhere. So far.



So what’s the mystery?


First Kafka National Bank: there’s a small door just for you.



Interesting exposure of the horizontal beam. Lousy job with the doors and windows. Note the faint differentiation in the hue of the stone; the polychromatic effects were often subtle and ingenious.


nother view. Believe it or not, this wasn’t a bank. It was a hotel. The Palace Hotel. If you think it says “Smith” way up top, well . . .



. . . well, yes.

The Palace, a Romanesque Revival-style, stone building, stands on a corner lot. The Smith brothers, immigrants to the U.S. from Scotland hoping to gain wealth in the region’s coal mines, built the building in 1896. At the time of construction, it was the first three-story building in the county.


Again: nice. Too nice. Is that the mystery? Old Google Street Views show nothing at all until 2015, when all of this appeared out of nowhere, and people emerged from the buildings coughing black smoke and weeping strange words before they fell down and died?



Remnants of a sign that hung perpendicular to the building’s facade; holes in the lions’ mouths indicate they held up an awning,



The “New” Hotel.




Are you starting to notice that everything seems freshly painted?



Is everyone a Scout?



Is that the mystery?

Tune in next week.

That'll do; see you around.


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