This morning some repairmen came by to fix the treadmill. It stopped working a month ago. Of course I tried to trouble-shoot it myself; made sure the outlets worked, of course. Pushed the button next to the power switch, the one that looked like a reset. Didn’t click, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything. Toggled the power button. Zip, zilch, nada, niente. So I called the company that sold it to my wife, and they said that’s too bad, but the good news is that we were bought by Johnson, and they now have hundreds of stores around the country!

I said that was good news indeed for them, but I wasn’t sure how that affected my own particular situation. The fellow admitted that it didn’t, but it was just exciting to be working for such a big company now.

“Well, Dick’s happy,” I said. This was a reference to the founder of the company, who used to appear in the ads: “Why buy new when slightly used will do?” At one point they shifted to selling new stuff as well as used, at which point he changed his tagline: “Why buy new, when slightly used will do? Except! when the deals are this good.”

The man made a fortune, I understand. He stopped appearing in the ads, but you’d see his familiar face on ads in the bathrooms at the State Fair, where he appeared to be rendered in bobble-head form. That was his final transformation, and final fate: a bunch of guys who’ d been at the beer garden, now standing in front of the trough, looking up at this simulacrum of the fellow who used to show up on late-night ads selling treadmills.

So the repairmen show up; we shake hands, they say nice things to Birch, take off their shoes, and head downstairs with an enormous tool case and a box containing what I presume to be the circuit board, since that’s what usually goes out. The lead repairman bends down, flicks the switch.

It flickers.

He turns it off and on again. It flickers, flickers, then goes steady. The control panels beeps and goes bright; the motor hums.

"Oh, COME ON," I say.

The repairmen grin; this has happened before.

"rust me, guys, I say. I tested everything I could. The outlets were live - here, I’ll show you. I turn off the room lights and the LED lights in the top socket glow. I wouldn’t call you if I hadn’t made certain it wasn’t working.


Hey, well, what about that flicker? It never did that. It shouldn’t do that. It’s either on, or it’s not."

They agreed: could be the switch! Since they were billing in quarter-hour increments, they said they’d take a look.

“Since you’re billing in quarter-hour increments,” I said, “how long would that take?”

The lead repairman waved it off - just a basic charge today, since it doesn’t look like we’ll have to do anything.

When they were done I let them out and said “have fun laughing about that guy who swore he did everything.”

“We will,” they said, grinning.

I’m sure they didn’t. I'm sure they believed me.


See? I'm not kidding. It's back, and weekly.

Diner 2018 E04.




Big money waits anyone who can come up with these needed inventions! Wouldn't you like to be an invetor?

It's been a long time since I used a compass. I'm sure this problem was solved. I'm not sure what was stopping anyone from inventing it.

A reminder: cars used to rust out until you could almost Flintstone your way home.

Stop this, win fortune.

Ladies! Tired of trying to please someome who is finicky about eggs?

It seems so obvious. I wonder how many incompetents electrocuted themselves trying to make one. Of course they exist today - you can get one for $14 on Amazon.

Whether fortunes were made, I can't say.



I was looking for a factory on an old matchbook, and came across a neighborhood in Milwaukeee - the street now named MLK. Previously 3rd street, mostly German in the early years - which may explain some of the architecture.

Behold, the generic design going up in every city across the land. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.



Plays nicely with its neighbors, and some day it will lose the ridiculous awnings - they look cool, but serve no purpose.

That’s usually a sign a street is on the way up. Let’s go up and down the block and see what’s left.


Revived, restored, repainted: good.



And that's a good sign.

Speaking of generic: it’s every small bank in America - except here it’s a branch of LIBERTY, which is still around.



A bit sad and forlorn, like money isn’t something people use anymore.

Uh oh. This needs some love. It looks like a Jenga tower, in a way:


Around the corner: lots of bricked up mysteries, and a red onion dome sitting on its own little shelf.


And then this. Explain the sequence of events that led to that back end.


Go on, try. Make it something plausible. I can’t. Perhaps the windows and door faced an alley that no longer exists - but it’s obvious something else was built and then destroyed. Fire? Gravity?

A story-book roofline above; blind-pig window / door combo below.


The greatest stock of early 20th century commercial architecture can be found in "challenged" neighborhoods - but there are some who think that the worst thing that could happen to those storefronts would be Starbucks and Pret a Manger.


Oh dear.


That’s some first-class Earnest Rehabbing there, but it never works if you leave the second-story bay windows hanging out like butt cheeks.


Care and consideration went into this one, but it’s like doing a meticulous make-up job on a corpse.


It would be amusing if the door was just painted, an optical illusion intended to trick Road Runners.


Now that’s more like it.



Empty, but obviously rehabbed. It’s a W. T. Grant store, right? Unless someone else said “that’s my name too, so screw you big chain store.” I didn’t know they made Moderne stores like this; must have had Kress envy.




A four-story structure built in 1923. Classic commercial structure of the era; white terra-cotta applied liberally. The sign of prosperous confidence. If it had been 1929 they would have made it four times bigger - because things would always be rolling right along.

Hairy dude and his weird, uptight old aunt:


I wonder what flags hung on those poles - unless they're antennae for communicating with the mothership.

Another good sign:


Old warehouse / factory buildings make for great modern office spaces - big open floors, so the millennials can play bowling or zip around in electric cars before flopping down in a ball pit for a meeting about the new app.





Beautiful structure, with that California-theatrical addition of the pointless vases. no, it wasn't a mobie theater: it's been the Fein Bros restaurant supply company forever.


That, plus the Restaurant addition, will have to do for today and I feel no shame in saying it had better. See you around.


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