The day was mostly spent checking in on the #mprraccoon, an undernourished raccoon who was up on the skyway level of a building in St. Paul and had two choices: go up, or go down.

He chose . . . poorly.

At this moment he is on a ledge on the 20th floor. He made it up that high because the USB building is clad with aggregate, which provides sufficient purchase. (The building is a twin of the equally ugly Multifoods tower in Minneapolis, except ours is taller.) There’s been no news for a while. If it falls, I said on Twitter, it will be the Kathy Ficus moment for local twitter - that’s when everyone in the nation sat by their radios and TVs, supposedly, to listen to a rescue of a little girl who fell down a well.

I’m watching the video feed, and saw a comment from TD Mischke, local radio genius; used to work with him at KSTP. Waved hello in chat.

  The world is small online, and nice things happen.

Around four I realized I'd spent way too much time looking at a live feed of a side of a building, and went on to more productive tasks. There's been no news for hours, and it's entirely possible there will be no closure. But if it makes it up and eats the food they left, and gets nursed back to health - it looks sick - then it will be released to the wild. It will have no idea what it did. It will have no idea that the world was watching it through magical devices the likes of which it could not possibly begin to imagine.

This is why I don't think the lack of evidence we're observed by aliens means it isn't happening.

UPDATE 1:15 AM I wrote a column about it, so I’m keeping my powder (you thought I’d say dry) in another container to be used over there. The local TV news is still livestreaming online, and it’s quite a test of the reporters to keep up a reasonable stream of commentary while nothing happens, lauding the spirit of the raccoon, talking about how everyone’s come together at least for this.

Well, not everyone. Of course. There are always those. There are also people who do not understand why modern buildings do not have windows that open, and think they’re the first to raise the question. The person for whom I feel bad is the one who runs USB’s social media account - that’s the name of the building, since the primary tenant is a Swiss money firm. Yesterday they were pleased that they tweeted out something that firmed up the brand’s relationship to renewable energy, and then they wake and the boss wants to know why they’re getting dragged and hammered on Twitter because they’re not rescuing a nocturnal scavenger in this city, what, St. Paul? Where is that? By Mindianapolis in Minnekota or some state?

THEN THE RACCOON MOVED and it went sideways, and there’s just general and specific despair among the reporting crew: no, no, down. Don’t go sideways. You’re confused. Don’t be. The exhausted reporter signed off at one with some uplifting words that also sounded like a eulogy.

Checking the feed . . . . no progress.

There’s so much in this little story. I mean, it’s just a raccoon up a very, very tall tree. But the reasons this went global are fascinating. For starters, there’s this:

Things are so bad we can all unite around wishing the best for a creature in peril.


Things are so good we have copious excess emotion to expend on a creature in peril, whose situation is known to us only because of the vast technological miracles we take for granted.

Take your pick. Or choose your percentage of each.

I mentioned last week that we had company. This meant the entire house had to be scoured clean to the point of sweeping out the area under the basement stairs where we keep luggage.

Why? I asked, which was stupid. Women get this way, and men get another way. Women want everything to be perfect and men say stupid things like “your sister isn’t going to push back a rack of winter coats to reveal a small hidden door behind which are the suitcases,” but that’s because men are STUPID. The only reason the crawlspace was an issue was because the toilet upstairs had broken. Remember that? I’d made a quick decision to cannibalize the downstairs toilet-tank valve to stop the hideous inexplicable water flow that could be stanched but not shut off, and I’d made a brief attempt to loosen a part before realizing it was unwise. Alas, I did not tighten everything sufficiently, because there were drops of water, and over five days these drops made their way into the crawl space. That’s on me.

This all snowballed into a clusterfarg - the repaired toilet was still leaking, and now the downstairs GUEST TOILET!!!! Was leaking, and there was water in the CRAWL SPACE where the guests might go at three AM if they woke up in an adventurous mood. Wife was no thappy, as the Aussie term has it, so I mopped and removed the ruined items.

The ruined items were a box of comic books from childhood. To tell you the truth, I felt nothing. I didn’t know they were there. I have them all in digital form, probably. They aren’t worth anything. (I hope.) Out they went. Also dampened, fatally: a box of early childhood books my mother had saved. I had dim memories of them, but they were so faint they were like a feather brushed against a callus.

You’d think that would be enough water-related troubles, but no. Noooo. The day before everyone was supposed to arrive, the sink in daughter’s bathroom backed up. Hideously. I tried the snake, I tried Liquid Plumbr, which was GUARANTEED to remove the clog. It did not. So I made an appointment online with John Adams, the Punctual Plumber, a franchise, and thought I had it covered

<Pinettevoice> Nay nay. </Pinettevoice> Upon checking my email in the morning, I saw a note from John Adams the Punctual Plumber telling me that they preferred to talk in person, so could I give them a call?

Uh - what the hell was the point of the online appointment thing? So I called, and was put on Standby.

“You don’t understand,” I wanted to say. “My wife’s sister is coming.” Since I wanted to say it, I said it. But I was still on standby.

Huzzah, huzzah - at 11 AM a plumber showed up. A decidedly phlegmatic fellow. I showed him the problem and he groaned: a pedestal sink. Those were the worst. Then he chided me for using a snake. He said he might have to take the pedestal off the wall, and it was caulked and screwed, so, I gathered, I was caulked and screwed. He drew up an estimate. The line to approve the estimate might as well have said “if you could do this I wouldn’t be here.”

He was the Disapproving, Unhappy Plumber, and for the next hour I heard him trudge up and down the steps. There was clanking. There was sighing.

But in the end he did not need to take the pedestal sink off the wall, and I found a 22% off coupon, and there was general and specific rejoicing.

Then came the interesting part. He gave me his card, told me not to try to pronounce his name. It was Hmong. For some reason he told me about an upcoming Fourth of July fishing contest on the St. Croix, a hundred boats, people coming from all over. He had relatives coming from distant places, and said you could hardly feed them with one pig. He said this as if I, too, was used to seeing One Pig as a unit for a feast.

“Where do you get your pigs?” I said, because I would have no idea how to go about getting a pig to feed all the incoming relatives. He said you just go to the slaughterhouse and pick one out.

I did not ask where the slaughterhouse was, because my culture does not roast big pigs for all the relatives.

But if you do, you know where the slaughterhouse is.




We're currently enjoying . . .

Let’s bring you up to speed on the nefarious workings of the man they call . . . Brenda.


When last we saw X-9, he’d been skewered by a harpoon, as happens to one on occasion.

He seems rather stunned by the implausibility of it all, but never mind: we’ve jewels to save. Or protect: since Brenda’s still impersonating the Baron, and has the Baron in his clutches, he can get the jewels from the embassy.

Well, the owner of the Harpoon Store comes in, and he’s innocent. Just a colorful old salt! He identifies the needle Brenda used to assasinate someone at FBI HQ - remember? - then says “sure, I remember who I sold that to, because he bought a lot of canvas I had to deliver. Here’s his address!” Very helpful.

Except he’s part of the gang, and alerts the guy at the address where X-9 and Pidge are headed. X-9 calls D-5, who’s in a boat watching the Secret Pirate Ship HQ, and you have to remember that it was high-tech to call from a car to a boat. Because the G-Men are gadget whizzes! Gosh, they’re swell.

There’s no one at the store where the canvas was delivered, so X-9 leaves Hapless Pidge to watch for someone to show up.

Pidge passes the time by pressing his pants.

But a lady shows up! And he ain’t got no pants on!

THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN A SCANDAL! She leaves, and he discovers that the iron burned through his pants. You wonder if entire weeks of X-9 comic strips were devoted to Pidge screwing things up, because that’s how much time this serial seems to lavish on his screw-ups.

The owner comes back, and he’s-a an Italian-a tailor. and he-a doesn’t know any-ting about-a no needle.


But his boss might-a know! Here’s his address! So Pidge goes to an apartment building where actual Brenda henchmen are staying, and suh-prise, suh-prise, suh-prise: the Baron, held captive!

But . . . is it the Baron?

Oh great the art shop again fantastic

You know, the Waterfront Art Shop in the Typical American Town:

A member of Brenda’s gang shows up in advance (they watched Baron-Brenda get taken away by Pidge; it was all an elaborate set-up!) and tells Shara, the Blonde, that she’d better identify Brenda as the Baron if she knows what’s good for her. She does.

Meanwhile, X-9 is hanging around the Pirate Ship Secret Lair, and the henchmen take note. Fisticuffs proceed. Everyone in the boats for the least impressive cliff-hanger in the entire serial so far. This will show you the whole thing:

We didn’t even see the boat blow up!

Maybe because it didn’t?



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