I have been gone. I am gone no longer, in the sense that I am here, but I am gone to the place where I was. You're always gone from somewhere.

Went up to Fargo for Easter Worshipping, as the new parlance has it. In the morning I went to the postcard show, because it comes but twice a year and I have to get pictures of ugly restaurants long gone to fill the nation’s yawning need for such things, I guess. It was not a productive show. I only got 10 weeks worth of motels and four weeks worth of restaurants - a sentence which probably makes sense only to Bleatniks. Did get some pointless ephemera I will share with you later. Feeling as if I should get on the road in order to make good time, the desired achievement of all road-faring men, I left early and wound my way up highway 10.

I could already hear my dad: which highway did you take?


You took Ten? Why?

Me, for the thousandth time, feeling 17 and owly: because it’s interesting.

And it is. Oh, it’s slower. But it’s town after town, and I know them. The interstate you are alone in a crowd, and on a holiday weekend it’s the worst kind: people who are driving the same long distance as you, and you spend an hour dealing with the same truck and semi and SUV in various combinations, behind / ahead / alongside. It’s much more fluid on the small highways.

There’s more food - bad, but more of it - and gas is plentiful. The interstate exits promising both often take you a few miles away, and you growl because you are not making good time.

I stopped, as usual, at Verndale. It’s my spot to stretch my legs, have a small cigar, perhaps watch a train come through. (Economy note: there were, in my five hours on the road, six trains of incalculable length headed east; four were carrying crude in new black tankers unmarked by graffiti, and two were coal trains, I think. Not containers.)

At the WW1 Vet’s memorial in the small park by the train tracks, dismay:

There have been two globes since forever.

I don't know if they were original; I suspect so. Don't know what happened to the one on the right. If it was vandalism, I feel sick. If it was nature, I feel a bit better. It certainly wasn't the Amish.

Unless it was some sanctioned wild-oats-sowing night out in Verndale before they had to assume the duties of Men.

Yes, the Amish:

The horse was tied to a streetlight, which technically is using technology, but who'd carp.

After Verndale, the procession of larger towns spaced at intervals that made them accessible on Saturday for the farmers, and then the more-closely spaced towns near the border. Hit Fargo around 4:45, and took a swing around downtown to see if all is as it was.

It was.

That pointy sign has been up all my life.

Across the street was a vacant lot since the 70s - the old home of the Five-Spot, and then Cripple Creek, a bar. It burned. My dad, of course, was there when it went up; he supplied the fuel for the fire trucks. Nothing was built there because it seemed for a very long time that the fate of Fargo’s downtown was a slow fade, punctuated by inferno.



A skyscraper of sorts, at least by local standards, is rising on the block. Took a while. Glad it’s happening.

Back up a bit.

On the drive up I thought of the last time - the trip before Daughter went away, the great journey we had up 10, stopping to experience roadside attractions, or look at a small town; I hope someday she remembers that she was wandering around a prosperous little downtown overshadowed by an immense dog-food factory while dad was doing a sponsor-onboard conference call with an artisanal perfume company. We had cranked up the 70s and 80s music loud on the last leg, stayed up late listening to dad tell stories, and it was the best road trip ever. I took 94 home and she slept most of the way and I felt as if I was ferrying her to the great shore of a land where she would spend the rest of her life.

Ten up, 94 back.

If I have time I stop at the Detroit Lakes antique mall, but I didn’t. Nodded in respect to the place where I thought the Hi-10 cafe was, once upon a time. I’ve mentioned this before - there was a chrome-and-glass apparition on the shores of DL, a restaurant whose name was embedded in the sidewalk in shiny glass marbles. Counters, padded stools, booths, Kel-Bol-Pac display, fountain drinks, everything modern. The world to come. No one seems to remember it as keenly as I do, and as the years pass I know there will be a day when no one who takes 10 will give a memorial nod. There’s an intersection downtown with a war memorial, and I remember there used to be a building there. I can’t tell you when it went down. But it was there -

- and no doubt it was occupied back in the days when we spent summer weekends at Detroit Lakes, with the boat. Its gold-flaked plastic seats. The old pavilion with its damp concrete smell. The big high slide in the water, kids shrieking as they slid down the hot metal. Whatever place it was where we had hamburgers and root beer carhopped to the Impala. I’m paused at the light, shoot a look down the street, don’t see the lake, but I know it’s there, and I remember. Not enough, but enough.

It accelerates, the closer I get, until it’s Moorhead and Fargo and almost everything I see means something.

When I was very young we made the first trip to the Cities Pre-interstate. Mom, Dad, me, Uncle Myron, Auntie Joyce, cousins Keith and Bruce. We stopped at some cafe and played “Henry the 8th” on the jukebox. It was a great adventure and I had no idea what laid at the end of the road.

You took Ten? Why?

Because the interstate is just the route that connects two places. Ten, in either direction, is the road home.




Our year-long examination of the classics continues:

Just to remind everyone we’ve reset the universe:

We hear the Voice of Terror, sneering with a Churman accent.

Different from Haw-Haw, who used an English tone to persuade. The Voice of Terror has a different objective.

To make everyone frightfully concerned.

The Inner Council of the intelligence service, which apparently is staffed by tiny men who meet behind ship’s riggings:

Holmes suspects a more diabolical plan is afoot. The oil refinery explosions, the plane factories bombed, the trains hurled off bridges - it’s a diversion.

Back at 221b, Watson is cleaning his gun. Good. He might get to be useful and serious and grown-up in this one.

Well, there’s stabbings and skullduggery, and they have to go to a Dive Bar. Again, it’s a Universal staple:

Bars are dark in wartime.

Hey, look who:

The woman who would be considerd a "waxwork," playing cards in "Sunset Boulevard" in just a few years. She’s the bird what’s a friend of Gavin who got ‘imself stabbed like, an’ now this Sherlock cove wants her to find out what Gavin’s dyin’ word meant. He said “Christopher.”

She might be a moll, but she’s still an Englishwoman! And so:

The odd thing is that no one has mentioned Moriarty yet. Anyway, it gets good ’n’ shadowy:

It's as if they shot the movie during the blackouts. It's the better for it, too.

Eventually we get what we were waiting for: NAZIS

Hiding in the ruins of an English castle.

This isn't exactly a buck-'em-up picture. But at the end, bucking-up is attempted.


That’s actually rather depressing. What’s the east wind? Germany is to the east. Wouldn’t he be talking about a West Wind behind our backs?

Well, minor quibbles.

Thank you for your visit; more on these matters tomorrow.




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