In a sense funerals = weddings, inasmuch as most guys don't regard the news of either with any joy. Weddings are expensive - at the very least you have to pop for a china plate or a pickle fork, and you might have to travel somewhere and hole up in a Holiday Inn for a night. You endure the ceremony, which is like church except it's expected that at least two of the participants will have sex later, and then you're paid off with dinner, alcohol, and sugar. 

The last wedding I attended was fantastic. The ceremony was your basic pledging-eternal-troth stuff,  good luck and God Bless, but the weekend in another city with family was wonderful. We took a boat ride up the river in Chicago, took an architecture tour, ate well; I had wonderful conversations with all the people on my wife's side, met new folk, and stood alongside the river at midnight smoking a cigar, watching rowers knife through the dark water. But that's rare. For the most part: surf & turf, pained smiles, checking your watch, watching the Young Kids dance, dreading the moment when the DJ puts on YMCA.

Thursday I went to a funeral for an old friend's mother. She was someone Barbara Bush would have got right away - same era, same smile, same bearing. She was a gadfly at City Hall, buttonholing officials to get this or that done; she had no awe for office, but great respect for public servants who behaved, believed, and delivered. Many years ago I ran into her at City Hall, and she recognized me as the friend of her son who was a Writer in the college paper, and decided I should talk to the Chief of Police. She barged into his office. The Chief - a big, fascinating man named Tony Bouza - bade us to sit. She harangued him with cheer about something, and they bantered like old friends. I was mute, but I learned something from her right then: they're not gods. They're people.

In the bio in the program it said that Jeanette always wanted to be a journalist, which I didn’t know. She did write for the opinion page of the Star, though - the paper where I’d end up. I don’t know how anyone so opinionated could have confined herself to the narrow lane of just-the-facts journalism. In the anteroom of the Funeral Home - a strange euphemism, like everything else in the business - there was a scrapbook of her clips, and one of them about the city’s consideration of cable TV franchises began with the statement that she “didn’t know the first thing about cable TV,” then went on for 700 words. You had to read them after that opening line, because that was just her: I may not know anything about this, but I have an opinion.” And it was usually funny and sharp.

In a way I suppose I was representing the paper at the funeral. I know she was proud to appear in these pages. As am I.

When we were filing out I noticed that the Giant Swede was wearing a purple tie. I was wearing a purple tie as well, and a purple shirt and sweater in various shades. Not something I do often, but it’s what I’d decided on in the morning for some reason. I saw the Crazy Uke, the Giant Swede’s childhood friend - we’d all known each other for what, 30 years now? - and he was wearing a purple tie, shirt, and sweater. Which I’d never seen on him before.

All three of us had chosen the same color for the same event. Something tells me it wasn’t an accident. No idea why. Great and small, a funeral, in the end, is about the mysteries.

PS A few years later I interviewed Tony Bouza after he had read from his novel for 12 hours straight on a public TV Read-a-thon event I MC'd. It's a small town.

AND NOW, from the Dept. of Misc., our Thursday feature:

This month we'll be looking at old pictures from the antique store. Images left without meaning after everyone who'd had a connection had passed from the earth, leaving only expressions, hairstyles, and the occasional peculiar tableau.

A prosperous family had a motor car. A family with the proper aspirations posed in one.

I can't quite figure out who's who to who, if you know what I mean. In the back seat, two more examples of Mandatory Solemnitude:

Why didn't they smile? It wasn't because they were unhappy. it was a cultural tradition going back centuries. More on the matter here, if you wish.

Who are these in relation to the ladies above?

The determination on the youngest's face is something. You wonder what became of her, and whether she ever berated her brother for being so soft and weak.





IMonroe City: named thus because it’s in Monroe County. The population peaked ni 1990 with one 2700 souls. Famous people born in Monroe City include “Claude Smith, instrumental music composer and educator. Created the official march of the National Air & Space Museum among other notable works.” I had no idea there was an official mark.

Sometimes the Google Street View serves up perfect little compositions:


Perhaps it’s a movable grave marker, placed to commemorate recent business failures.

I think someone’s working on this, and it’s taking a long time. One of those DYI projects. Got the windows all done; that’ll do for a few months.

Facade pried off; new door; empty sign; inexplicable upper floor; fresh grave outside on the sidewalk.

So, a work in progress.

Go! Fight! Win! I think it’s football season.

I can’t find much to say about the Opera House, only that I doubt much opera was ever performed there.

“Okay, I definitely want a staircase outside to the second floor, but not all the way.”

“Really? I can make it work.”

“No, I’m not paying for that may steps. They can hop up.”


Charming tableau, though - unchanged for over 100 years. Well, I’m sure some things have changed; light bulbs, toilet seats. You know what I mean

f you have one of the buildings on the right, you need the one on the left.


And vice versa.

There’s a cleanliness and vacancy to these pictures, and that usually suggests there’s not a lot going on.

That's the back of the bank, and the upper floor suggests it's either being renovated for a bright new future, or the future was lost in shipping.

The birds can get in, but it’s hard to get out.

The remainders of a bygone neighbor, and some mystery: the sidewalk, for example. Was it raised, or was the rest of it lowered? There had to be a reason.

Quite a surprise:


They had 2500 stores nationwide at their peak, and I remember the local BF with great fondness. Probably a bit junkier than I recall, but it had tons of stuff - records! Turtles! School supplies! They went the K-Mart route, and failed: “In the 1970s, Ben Franklin operated some Ben Franklin Family Center locations, which were larger discount store variations offering merchandise not found at regular Ben Franklin stores, such as clothing.”

Thrift store; another sign of business health.


One building? No; looks like two with one smaller addition on the left. Unless the one on the left was the first one, and the builder took a chance when the corner lot became open

WHOA: a double-stacker Buckaroo Revival.


That Buckaroo bustle on the corner building really doesn't help.


OMB, or Obligatory Modern Bank. It’s starting to show the effects of time.


When these facades fail, they instantly cheapen the building to which they’re attached.

In the game The Sims, you can put your Sim out on a balcony and then remove the door, and they’re trapped forever.


Two different types of post-war thin brick; the one on the right has the corporate flavor, more apt for a bank or insurance office. The facade with its immense exhaust grill makes it seem even more up to date.

On the left, something homier and classier.

Signer of the Designer? Web search says “Painting / Artwork / Signage”


The bright sun, dry streets, and Christmas decorations make it look like a post-apocalyptic scene. The buildings stare with blind eyes at the setting sun.


Where were the movie theaters? you ask. They had two, but they closed in the 50s.

Where are the people now? you ask. I don’t know. In Main Street after Main Street, we see empty streets.

Perhaps the cars speed through town fast at noon, when everyone’s having lunch.

Well, there you have it, once again. Thanks for dropping by; see you tomorrow.



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