I’ve been in Fargo. Actually, I’m in Fargo right now, as I type in a Caribou coffee shop in a part of town that did not exist when I grew up here. One of the odd things about feeling alienated from your home town is realizing how much of your home town wasn’t around, and thus cannot be held responsible for your alienation. In fact no one’s responsible but yourself.

Yes. But. If I was in Arizona right now, tapping in a coffee shop on another suburban car-oriented strip, I expect I would be at peace, because I was in some place warm and different. Here’s it’s different because:

1. I am horribly bored. There is nothing to do, because I don’t work here, and the mall - well, it’s bit and nice, but when I went there this morning it was nothing old people walking around in circles. The stores were having sales but I didn’t really feel like going in and looking at shirts. Had just come from meeting Dad’s morning coffee group, and that was nice, but then it as 9:30 and the entirety of the day yawned in front of me. Well, let’s drive around and take pictures.

This is exactly what I have done every single time I have come home by myself for four decades and change. So you can see how it starts to wear.

I go back to the house; nothing going on. I leave, I drive, I find a spot to write. I had to finish a column, so I went to a place where I could get wifi (dad has no internet) and that was the mall atrium. One of three. The third is a bit underpopulated because Sears gave up the ghost - good riddance; the store was a messy, junky mess of crap - and the main atrium no longer has the big fountain.

It’s been moved:

It used to be the centerpiece. You entered in the big doors, walked on the white terrazzo floor, saw the strange aggregate cement walls around the verdigris fountain, and then apparently you were so transfixed you didn’t notice there were stairs leading down to a sunken pit around the fountain, and fell down and hit your head.

I don’t think this ever happened. But eventually they put up barriers by the stairs leading down, and then someone decided to bring in Killjoy McCool to decided the pit should be filled in completely. Then they moved the fountain and surrounded it with balloon clouds and umbrellas.

This is interesting:

All the tables are empty, but each has a chair with a coat. Those are walkers saving their tables for later. Or there was a rapture.

Well, I’ll have the good stuff on Monday - the old signs and remnants of bygone America. Right now I just wanted to issue a polite scream, because it’s freezing cold out, and the weight of the years is like a battleship anchor and it’s hard to move around

UPDATE: turns out I was driving with my parking brake on; it’s all good now.

Also, I discovered that the King Leo’s closed. It didn’t have to be this way. It was a perfect recreation of to old local chain:

I took that shot after it opened. I was so happy. The fabled fast-food local place of childhood - back! With all the old style and signage and iconography.

But the hamburgers were blah. Worse: they were wrong. King Leo’s sold the little hamburgers you bought by the sack. McDonald’s style. A pickle, ketchup, a dab of mustard, salt and pepper. You ordered three and maybe ate 2 and a half. The fries were fresh and thin, and came in a paper envelope. The new King Leo’s sold thick hamburgers. The people who dimly remembered the old style were disappointed, and the new people who had no idea what this place was supposed to be were underwhelmed. I’m sorry they spent so much money on it, but I went there once, and I left mad, because I knew I wouldn't go back.

Now it's a pizza joint. I mentioned this to my dad, and he said "The guy said he lost a million dollars on it."

A million dollars for love of a sign.

Anyway, more details and stories on Monday. Despite the acid-reflux of adolescent reactions it was a great little trip.


From the 1947 Mumps Lawson series:

Meaning, I'll beat you with rubber hoses and phone books! Solution here, but puzzle it out in the comments first.




Another installment of America's purveyor of imaginative history.

Which is one way to put it.





Instead of the swank old sounds of Goodwill albums, this year we're going to share bad 1960s pop music. The second- and third-tier tunes.

Hey, let's get the kids together and make a hit! Can they sing? Ahh, doesn't matter. The rest of the kids will dig it.


It's from a musical touted as "an extension, an amplification and a continuation of Hair."

Maybe the flip side's about conditioner.




1939 gas: SKY CHIEF.





And now, the rest of the story.

We know a lot about this Zamperini fellow.

The flag anecdote? True. But Bill omits the liquidy inspiration:

Zamperini almost lost his life again, executing a harebrained prank: trying to snatch a Third Reich souvenir.

“They don’t have small-sized beers in Germany,” Zamperini says, by way of excuse for his lunatic caper. “I was drinking in a pub across from the Reichstag where some Nazi flags were flying, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to have that flag for a souvenir.’”

The inebriated American had already clambered up the flagpole when he heard the guards shouting and firing in the air. Zamperini’s German consisted of a single word: bier. All the same he got the point; meekly climbing down, he offered flattery: “I wanted to take it home to remember my wonderful time here,” he told the guards in English. After conferring with their colonel, the soldiers decided to let the crazy athlete have his souvenir. (That flag, along with the ring from Adolphe Menjou and many other souvenirs, are now part of the Zamperini Museum, kept in the attic of his Hollywood home.)

About the crash, and the ring given to him by

In May 1943, during a search-and-rescue mission 800 miles south of Hawaii, his B-24 went down over the Pacific. (Remarkably, Zamperini’s Trojan ring hooked onto the plane’s shattered window frame, enabling him to hoist himself free of the sinking craft.)

The story about the ring, I assume, is BS BS. Zamperini's plane went down on May 27, 1943; Charley Paddock crashed on July 21.

Bill made that up. Because the story of Zamperini wasn't exciting enough.


Sorry about the scant week, but come Monday it'll be Bleat-o-rama-a-go-go, believe me. See you then - and Happy Easter!


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