It's the interregnum week, the time betwixt the two holidays, so I'm running stuff I wrote last week, and didn't post because I decided to post something else. It's now last Saturday.
CAN WE GO TO JAMBA JUICE
A text while I was shopping. I sent back: sure. Picked Daughter up at work and drove back to the Southdale area where I’d been all day, shopping. The strip mall isn’t packed with holiday shoppers, since the anchor store is Office Max. We go into Jamba Juice; no customers. Cheerful clerk - short, head half-shaved, the rest purple - takes Daughter’s order, then proceeds to SING, LOUDLY along with the song on the store’s speakers, but it’s as if she’s singing along with a different song. She’s not in the same key and she’s not hitting the same notes and phrases, and she’s loud.
When she’s done with the smoothie she says “NATALIE?” as if there’s anyone else in the store, and we leave.
“It’s like she was auditioning,” Daughter said. “Like some producer would hear her and say I must sign this talent.” I agree; it was odd. We go to Office Max because I need to get printer paper. You buy three reams, you always assume you have paper - until one day you just don’t.
The store is deserted. I investigate the paper options and pick two slabs and head to the checkout, which is against the wall by the door. A lone old man slowly rises as I approach - I’m 30 yards away, but he starts to stand, like some Kafka character prepared to explain why I cannot see the judge today. There’s a problem with the order. His voice is unusually gargly and phlegmy. He cannot apply the discount. He speaks into his headset.
He is talking to a woman who’s about 15 feet away. She walks over, explains: I have chosen the 24-pound weight. The promotion is good for the 20 pound weight. Will that be okay? I say that I will be satisfied with 20 pound weight, and she says they don’t have it in the 20 pound weight.
But she can exchange another brand of paper. Will that be okay? Yes of course. The old man rings us up and we leave.
“That was odd,” I said. “The empty store. The way he started to get up when I was halfway across the room.”
“He sounded like he was underwater.”
We get to my car; the vehicle next to us is running. It is unoccupied. Daughter says that’s creepy. As we get into the car the vehicle on the other side of my car starts up. It is also unoccupied.
WHAT IS HAPPENING she says.
It’s the 21st century, I say.
We go to pick up some Chinese take-out, and pause in the parking lot. It’s a place rich with history; she used to take karate here. We used to go to the Subway afterwards (“and look at stock photos of vegetables on the wall,” she said.) We had previously discussed the difficulties of the Subway chain, which is retrenching; indeed, as we had walked up to Jamba Juice, we noted the Subway next door, which was empty.
Suddenly a small humanoid appears, a man bent over like an ambulatory comma. We are startled. But he’s not an imp, just old and hunched. Still, it’s like the entire evening has been populated by minor-league freaks of some sort.
“Gabba Gabba Hey,” I said.
“We accept you one of us”
What? How do you know that? It’s from Todd Browning’s “Freaks,” a movie so controversial - how do you know that?
She just does.
I go in to get the food. I pay and take a seat. After a few minutes one of the 46 people working the place leans over, looks at me, and says, “Is your order ready?”
Uh - that’s really not my call.
She repeats the question and I stand and say I really don’t know if it is, but here’s what we ordered. She says it is not ready. In the next second a young man appears and drops down a bag and says “This is it.” And so it is.
“Sauce?” she says. I say yes, sure, sauce.
We got home and eat and it’s delicious. Wife goes off on some evening shopping, and Daughter and I are talking about this and that - we’re looking at the Christmas cards we’ve gotten, and I have to admit I don’t know who most of these people are. One clever letter describes the joys of being a stay-at-home mom, and this leads to a chat about how much I enjoyed being a stay-at-home dad - I mean, my God, who would want to spend the day in the office when you can be at home with your child and dog and the radio and TV and books? It was marvelous.
Which lead to a conversation about the earliest games she remembered; there was a game related to Barbie: Princess and the Pauper, and to my amazement Daughter started singing a song from the VHS tape on which the game was based. I hadn’t thought it of it for years. It had been part of the daily soundtrack of the house. She found it on YouTube and we sang along and made up lyrics.
Let me jump ahead to the point where she was singing “Secret Agent Man” and I was telling her about my old TV-producer at the paper who colleagues at his previous job had called him Secret Asian Man. (He was Korean.) He gave us license to use the term; he liked it. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? I said. There’s an interesting story behind that song.
“And I’m sure you’re going to tell me something about a trivial thing that shows your deep knowledge and insights,” Daughter said in a sarcastic monotone.
Why yes. So: I showed her where the song came from. The Secret Agent TV show with Patrick McGoohan. And then I explained how he had an episode, shall we say, and came back with a vanity project that repudiated the whole spy thing - the same character, but not, but the same. Number Two, a man of unshakable principle. I played for her the opening sequence of “The Prisoner.”
I am not a number
I am a free man
And she got a jolt. She lit up. THAT’S WHERE THAT’S FROM! Here - she typed in the search bar and called up a video. “I’ve watched this for years.”
We accept you one of us / I am not a number. There it was.
Then I went upstairs and wrapped the last present: a guide to Brazil. Thinking: she’s wired right. She makes the connections.
There was a vogue for "funny" books that put captions on photos, and made people say things they didn't say. It was inevitable someone would do a parody of Helen Gurley Brown's book, and this was it.
Every page hurts.
One of the things that was supposed to be funny: using commercial tag lines or brand slogans in "amusing" situations, like a dog with balls and no breasts wanting some Playtex gear.
No serials until next week.
Gosh, yes, I know, it's a crushing blow. But we'll come back with something fun, and by "fun" I mean "cringingly humiliating to anyone who holds the character dear."
That'll do; see you around.
But hey! There's a slight addition to a site no one care about, below.