FORGOT to post the Diner yesterday. Linked below.

I got nothing today, except for everything that follows, which is something, now that I think of it. But you know what I mean. “I got nothing” doesn’t mean you don’t have something, it means that what you have isn’t much, or is insufficient to meet the needs of the moment. In fact it’s often said apologetically after you just showed that you did, indeed, have something, but you were embarrassed by it.

Have I cleared my throat enough? Can I just cut to the pictures? No? Sigh.

I HAVE TO GET TO THE COLUMN. I had an idea, but it died. It was quite a thing to experience. There was a great howling vacancy in the part of my head where column ideas gather, and while that might seem worrisome if you’re not in the business, it’s part of the job. Now and then you send the bucket down the well and think you’ll bring up water, and you just just spiders and rat crap. I had the idea in my head when I took a nap, thinking “sure, that’ll do” and then I dreamed I told Daughter that Nietzsche was bourgeois, and she bit me in the ear. My wife was appalled and said Daughter was having some sort of fit and needed to be stretched on the rack, but I said “hear her out.”

That’s all I recall. I mentioned it at supper and Daughter laughed, saying “I would never say Nietzsche was bourgeois.

Okay great but interesting how you didn’t disavow the ear-biting.

Eventually I sat down to write the column, and it wasn’t there. Cobwebs. It’ll work here, as Bleat material, and you’ll see it next week, but it wasn’t worthy of print. That’s the standard: online, I can blather. Print? It has to be crisp. It has to pop and pop every third line.

I went outside to consult with a small cigar, and found in my pocket a packet of popcorn. It came into the office yesterday from the Popcorn Board. Unpopped. The raw material. It’s like the Hamburger Council sending you wheat and bull semen. (Hmm; might use that line) (NO I AM NOT DONE WITH THE FARGIN’ COLUMN CAN YOU TELL) I remember how we looked at the packages, and thought: gosh, this popcorn, what can it be? I am intrigued. And then I thought: there’s your column, because A) people have opinions about popcorn, and B) it is my place in the paper to give people a space where we can talk about Movie Theater Golden Topping and the audience will have a reasonable expectation I will not bring up Donald Trump.

In my newspaper column I want to create a room where no one is on alert. Where no one’s hackles are pre-deployed, waiting for the thing that makes them say AH HAH. Where no one gets the sinking feeling that I think they’re WRONG ABOUT THINGS and disdain them accordingly. If nothing else, everyone in the room can agree that I’m being ridiculous, but at least I seem to know it.

So I’m writing a damned popcorn column because they moved my deadline up a day, and I wrote a column yesterday, and the column about Jeffery the Clam Fish Trap Man evaporated on contact.

That’s my life. I’d be lying if I said it was hard.


Diner 2018 E03.




Remember this? Hard to think it's been almost a year since we were first introduced to this single-panel feature. The name says it all. Life is about to get incrementally worse!

He'll be humiliated when he goes back in his shorts! Because they're torn and stained. Horribly stained.

The cruelty of the bored, feral children was boundless. Neither went to school; a life of criminality and an early death came to both.

The strip depends on some old cliches no longer as familiar or popular. In this case: catching a boot.

Boots in the lake were the early 20th century equivalent of sneakers hanging on powerlines, I guess. But why? Did people often walk to the end of the dock and throw out old boots?

You know, some days I think Wellington was a bit strapped for scenarios.

This only works if the guy's going to shut the door. Otherwise it just dumps on the other side.

Why add an umbrella? Doesn't it work better if he doesn't have one?



The day of the speech I slept in, then went down for an excellent breakfast. I love this hotel. Everyone is just grand. Everyone’s cheerful. Everyone is awesome. From Ten to One I finalized my slides, then walked the powerpoint over to the museum. I walked around downtown again and went back to my room, where I ironed my clothes. Then I walked around downtown again, went back to my room, and ate some snacks to keep my energy up. At 3:40 I went to the museum, got miked up, took that last trip to the loo, ate a granola bar, got dry throat because I ate a granola bar, had a sip of urn coffee, then . . . showtime.

This sums up the state of downtowns everywhere:



On the left, a modernistic structure, restrained, deliberately ahistorical. On the right, across the alley, something from the 20s with loads of decoration, cut off by a post-war awning. The rehab uses the "eclectic" brick style.

In other words, the most recent addition to downtown is the worst. That's usually how it goes.

Question: why did grocery stores look like bowling alleys? And why did bowling alleys look like grocery stores?


You know what it is on sight. But you might wonder what the sign makers had in mind. "Let's put up a big mast and run the name down the sign off to the side."

Dead. It's possible it was a 30s five-and-dime chain, but it belonged to a universe where Woolworth's was green.

Red and Gold seemed to be the prefered hues for variety stores; I wonder if any chose green and silver.

You know, I really shouldn't research these on the fly; I should sit down and do some readin' and clickin' before I even start. It would keep me from saying things like "looks like Woolworth's."

Hurrah for my instincts.

1972, I'd say. The maximum amount of architectural insanity the post-war era had seen.

They kept designing these awnings that looked as if they'd slam down and turn pedestrians into jam.

Rent now, move in today! Note: bring umbrellas.

When they said "everything must go" they meant the roof, too.


"Guy lived up here, he was obsessed with bowling. We'd sit downstairs and here him roll balls across the floor and then he's make a crashing sound. I guess what he wanted the most was one of those overhead projectors that showed your scores for everyone."

I almost thought it was Ur-America, a travel agency that shows you the absolute most America ever.

There's the building we saw at the top - the ornate top, the dull remodeling. Now we see the Mystery of the Side.

Bollards keep people from running into the building if they've had a few.

The local department store? Maybe. The left entrance is grand, but the one on the right indicates a different store. TO SAY THE BLOODY OBVIOUS

I mean, I'm not pretending these are great insights gleaned from years of studying small-town buildings.

Here's a ghost sign from the side:

The name of the store? Lamoes! But no, that can't be it. Look at the left side of the image. Looks like . . . the "Famous." And that long strip below the word looks as if it's covering up some words.

Ah. Maybe this was the reason I did Porterville.

It's a movie theater. Or was.

Two screens: Onmill showing on one, and Moto M at the other.

"The building is currently undergoing renovations and is for lease," says a comment at Cinema Treasures.

In 2009.

So this, perhaps, is why I did this town. Take a look at this picture of the interior.

Here's something to consider. The same corner, a few years apart.

Which one's newer?

Obviously the bottom picture. They added a cornice, which is rare. The brickwork doesn't fit. Nothing really works. Whatever that building was, it was taken away long ago.

I thought the building below looked as if it had emptied out in preparation for a renovation.

Alas, no.


That will do. Like I said, I got nothing! Except the above, including a 30 minute podcast, and the Restaurant postcard additions below. See you hither; thither; yon.


blog comments powered by Disqus