BEST BLEAT WEEK EVER challenge continues. You, of course, are the judge.
Cold? Why yes, thanks for asking. Dog this morning, upon the door opening: NO
But he had to go, so he had to go. I snapped a Milk-Bone in half and threw them out the door, which always gets him outside. Then he found a spot quite quickly and evaluated with alacrity, which puts all that rummaging around the yard for le spot juste to lie, if you ask me. He doesn’t want to go out at all, and is content to find a warm room and sleep. All day. Wise beast.
I’m at a deli in St. Paul, coat on, waiting on my pastrami. The phone just chimed to indicate incoming message from Daughter. I’m also texting with Astrid in Walberswick.
Near simultaneous telegram delivery, free. FREE. I mean, there’s the cost of the service, so no, it’s not, but the app charges nothing. Here you go! Talk to anyone around the world, let them send you video. It’s on us!
The pictures she sent were remarkable; when they say your kid comes back changed, they’re not kidding. I’ll post on Friday.
Anyway, Astrid had to deal with a broken water heater, so we couldn’t have a three-person video chat. Daughter was disappointed, and also disappointed the British didn’t have a quaint word for “hot water heater.” I recommended “Bath Kettle.” She suggested "Boiley."
I started watching Laurel and Hardy shorts, because there’s never any reason you shouldn’t watch some L&H. Who doesn’t love those guys? Whose heart is so dead you can’t be brought to smiles by their . . . I hate to say Antics, because that’s a lame term. For one thing, old comedy teams always have Antics. It’s a term often used to describe things that aren’t really funny now, but apparently were funny once, so what’s a word we can use instead of funny? Okay, antics.
A little etymology: the word, as you might suspect, descends from Antic, which comes from the Italian antico, which meant Antique. I’ve seen it used to indicate something ancient, but the dictionary meaning uses “grotesque or bizarre.” How they got that from antique, I don’t know - unless we look at grotesque. Online dictionary, link forgotten:
(English), from Italian grottesca, from opera or pittura grottesca ‘work or painting resembling that found in a grotto’; ‘grotto’ here probably denoted the rooms of ancient buildings in Rome which had been revealed by excavations, and which contained murals in the grotesque style.
Just because it was found in an excavated Roman room doesn’t mean it was strange or ugly. But words shift, so something that was old is now something that was wacky. Go figure.
There’s little you can screen-cap in an interior scene of an L & A; they’re studio pieces, two-reelers from the Roach factory. But I liked this:
In the third act the action moves outside, where we see a typical early 20th century structure:
That made me wonder . . . can I find the location? Google the Hal Roach studio, and you get a freeway ramp. Demolished. Didn’t feel like spending an hour going up and down Culver City streets, so never mind.
Then came the scene on the street, and there are clues:
So I started to google those names, and what should pop up but all sorts of site devoted entirely to the small street in Culver City where so many of the L&A exteriors were shot.
It's actually called Main Street.
And there’s this.
Okay, you think, it’s cool - but does it matter? Is it necessary?
That’s what I keep asking myself these days, as a general and specific existential matter, and since my ego is concerned with propping up its host body, the answer keeps coming back “sure, I guess.” But why? Because, perhaps, there will always be a few people In The Future! who are interested in something that happened before, it’s probably the responsibility of people in the past to provide them with clues. This goes for sports, architecture, candy bars, pipes, power tools, dishtowel napkin patterns, and so on and so for thousands and thousands of topics and categories.
Otherwise everything just fades away.
Spoiler: it will just fade away anyway, or more likely be incinerated by the sun when it goes supernova, but let’s factor that in and say it still matters. The banal details of the shared human experience matter, because it helps us put ourselves in the shoes of the people who lived then. I mean, the streets were full of people watching the filming:
Whatever gum they chose or cigarettes they smoked or soap they used, there was something about their lives we could inhabit if we gave it the slightest thought, because they lived as we do: the running interior narrative, the worries, the hopes, the daily rituals, the pleasure in spring sunlight and the grousing when the wind of fall came around the corner. All of these ghosts waving to us from the margins of old films and pictures - not asking to be remembered, just asking that we don’t think they’re animate mannikins.
If you start to think about the overwhelming quantity of individual consciousnesses that flowed around these stone structures and streets, you quickly get overwhelmed. Every one of them traces back to a place, a house or apartment, parents, siblings. Holidays, trips, school, all those memories locked in a noggin and lost upon the great see-ya-later.
So it's best to consider that infrequently, or the loss overwhelms. Better to consider something else you never wondered about when you were a kid:
Why were Laurel and Hardy always sleeping in the same bed?
This one, if you don't know Newark, has something incredible.
Okay, it’s not a small town. But this feature cannot spend all of its time lamenting the shuttered stores of indistinguishable Texas hamlets. It could, but variety, spice, etc.
This short stretch of Newark fascinates me. You can read the old boom, the sullen trough (when nothing new was built), the depressed years of the 60s when they barely had the resources to take down old stuff or ruin Jazz Age facades.
Look at this! That’s almost a 100-year-old view, right there behind the detritus.
It’s been closed since 1986, its 100th anniversary. Hold on, you say, that’s not an 1886 design. Correct! Thomas Lamb remodeled it in 1917. Well, he had help.
There are plans to bring it back. In the meantime, some great pics of the trashed interior here.
The building has been rescued, but there’s an old drunk on the roof still yelling at people:
It’s been a long time since anyone put up a permanent billboard for a tavern. And don’t you know that was a lively place.
Top to bottom, the story of Newark:
1871 - 1929. Not a propitious set of numbers. It’s like markings on a tombstone.
2012: Bernard’s Shoe Repair, a sign that must have been a half century old, was still there.
And now it’s not. The Buckaroo’d Chicken Shack survives, though.
2012 Mannings, whatever that was, had a vertical sign, one of the things that gives a street visual pique.
2012: The street has that Led Zep Physical Graffiti vibe.
On the way up, in other words.
No one will ever wonder about this building. What went on inside. Who designed it. Whose name might have been carved on the cornice. What stores and offices came and went.
We all know it’s either an office building for a big company or bank, or a government center. And there all the mystery ends.
I would've been content to leave the entry as it was, but I went back to check something and discovered a building that just . . . astonishes me. Hardly news to Newarkians, but for those of us soaring over the city on Google Earth like bored crows, it's a remarkable revelation.
IS THAT THING
Let's take a look at the tall tower faced with terra-cotta. I've photoshopped the street view to look straight on:
That's an impressive overhang, and you might think: theater?
Has to be. But look again at the complex:
It looks like the thin structure's top floor is just a lobby that leads to the main theater, which is up on the top floor. If not a theater, then an auditorium of some sort.
But there's more!
It goes all the way around the block. It all looks connected.
And it's crumbling.
No one at the time figured this was the future.
What was this extraordinary building? Who lofted the movie palace into the clouds?
Opened on Thanksgiving Day – November 25, 1915, Proctor’s Palace Theatre in downtown Newark was one of the rare “double decker” theatres. Designed by architect John W. Merrow, the eight-story complex had a large 2,800-seat theatre at ground level with seating on orchestra & 2 balcony levels and a smaller ‘roof garden’ theatre of about 1,400 seats occupying the top four floors beneath the roof. That gives a total of 4,200 seats in the two auditoriums. The 10-story high facade of the fairly narrow building contained only the 40-foot high lobby of the larger theatre, which had its auditorium behind it, and offices above. A series of murals in the lobbies were by painter William de Leftwich Dodge.