So I got to the house that is not home, the original home having been sold 17 years ago, and went to the place that is my father’s home, and hence has some happy home connotations. Many good things have happened here, and it doesn’t have any of the smothering accumulations of your ancestral home. Perhaps home is where they have to take you in but also where you know the code for the door.

We had a long dinner - sis, bro-in-law, niece, Patriarch - at an indistinguishable Fargo restaurant. It’s new! They’re always new. There’s a new place every time I go, and I will be damned if I can tell the difference; the menus are all the same. You get a thick book or a binder, and there’s the signature dishes, and perhaps a page of burgers, and another book of signature drinks. Everything is 9,000 calories. This was a Boston Pizza place, or something, trading on that long-standing relationship in the public mind between Boston and good food. Well, good beans? (No beans on the menu.) The beers came in glasses with the diameter of industrial drain pipes, and there were at least 20 TV sets lining the bar. But, who cares - family and laughter and stories and solid comfort food, and great fun.

Dad said we could come back to the house for Mogen David, and I was a bit surprised - all you have to offer is sweet Jewish sacramental wine? No, it was rum. Oh - Captain Mogen, that famed Jewish swashbuckler. So we all had a rum and coke and told stories and gave him a little needle about this and that. After they left we stayed up for another hour talking about things - frank talk about what you do to keep going when you get the idea, or the certainty, that your work is essentially done, and it’s repetition from here on. He finds it amusing that I hit that point 32 years before him, and of course I don’t quite mean it. But

(goes outside, finishes the cigar, thinks better of going down that route)

Before I went to bed I put my shaving and showering items in the downstairs bathroom, because although he said there was shampoo down there it was Grey-And-Lively or something left behind by his wife, who has passed, and thank you no. I opened a drawer to add some extra shampoo I’d brought, and found four other shampoo / soap hotel miniatures I’d left before, for just this situation.

The thing about life you can never anticipate: Over the last two years, you will move shampoos purloined from distant hotels to an unused bathroom in your father’s house, because you do not want to use the Grey-and-Lively shampoo that has been sitting unused for almost half a decade now, in a bathroom its original owner decorated in her sprightly, up-to-date style, at least for 2002.

The last soap I left was from the Venetian, where I stayed in 2007. A maid took them off the cart and put them in the bathroom, and had no idea they would make the journey here. I stared at them, thinking of that trip we took to Vegas, what we did. There was also a small wrapped soap I’d left there last year or before. It was from our hotel in actual Venice. No one looking at these random items in a drawer in the basement of a Fargo cul-de-sac would have any idea what memories they contained.

Best that they couldn’t; I suppose we’d go mad if we could. The worst thing about omniscience would be TMI.

Before we went to bed he pointed out that he had Eggos for breakfast, if I wanted them. They had been purchased specially for the occasion of my return. The other items on the kitchen counter told a similar story: a bag of Hostess donuts, a clamshell of blueberry mini-pastries, and the thing that killed me the most, Holday Cookies.

I saw those while we were mixing the Captain Mogen-David rum-and-cokes. It was a clamshell with ten sugar cookies in bunny shapes. He never has cookies around. He’d gotten these because it was Easter, but he forgot to set them out. I’d taken them to the table and everyone said oh, we had so much for supper, can’t have a whole one, but maybe a tail, maybe half. If you break one in half and eat it, and someone else has the other half, it doesn’t count. Repeat. Repeat. Darn fine cookies.

“You can take those with you,” he said.

The next morning I had the small blueberry pastries, and we read the paper. He had the coffee ready, since he’d been up since ohhhh, 5:30. He criticized the paper for its faults and bias and said again how much better the StarTribune was, and how he’d gotten all the folks in his mall-walking group to buy it, and they all agreed it was so much better.

"Yeah, but I got my start in newspapers with the Forum. Delivering it."

"And you hated to collect, and you didn’t like to get up in the morning for the Sunday delivery."

"That’s when I figured it would be easier to write for it than deliver it."

And then we returned to the subject about which we have been discussing for the last year: which car I should get.

Oh, the picture above? His brother's graduating class picture. I found it under a placemat, where he'd put it to even out the curls. Great Lakes Training Academy.

Class of '39.

Up the next morning to church. Amusing in a way - after decades in a traditional Lutheran church with the unvarying liturgy and format as tight as a game show, Dad has ended up at a bigger church that’s not quite mega, but has the same characteristics. The band, the big TV, the nice graphics, the absence of back-and-forth with the congregation. we were two of perhaps fifteen men who wore suits. The old Easter-Finery idea is over, it seems. Certainly in the hat department.

Back on the road. It started bright and got cloudy around DL, and rain followed me all the way to the Cities. Hard to describe, but the drive back on Ten is completely different. It’s not the same ride reversed. It’s like a parallel dimension, and it feels less friendly. Of course this is entirely my imagination. But sometimes it’s like the last half of the last episode of Twin Peaks returns.

Whether or not the experience is reversed for people whose usual trips are reversed I’d love to know.




It’s 1971.

Let’s co-opt a movement to sell pens!

A REVOLUTIONARY instrument. “These new freedoms have been declared for you by the Liquid Paper Corporation” might be the most tone-deaf piece of copy from the entire year.

Love the Rhoda Morgenstern headgear. Somewhere today, still alive, there’s the last woman who ever wore one.


This guy again:

Don’t know the name of the artist, but that guy - or gal - was everywhere. Lightweight Peter Max.

Sigh, the sensuousness of aluminum lawn furniture.

It’s not like you weren’t smoking all through the party

L&M, of course, was the name of the company - Liggett & Myers.


In the 1950s, L&M introduced an ad campaign called "Just What The Doctor Ordered!". This campaign came at the time L&M introduced the first filtered cigarette that became popular. In these L&M advertisements from the early 1950s, "just what the doctor ordered" had a double-meaning. Not only did it imply that L&M cigarettes were satisfying in that they offered both flavour and protection, but it also implied that doctors approved of the brand, a testament to the brand's healthfulness.

I’ll give them this: they experimented with bold new typefaces, that’s for sure.

Warning: "full vinyl upholstery may not be included."

They say that like it's a bad thing.

I honestly wonder if these were always regarded as the cheaper ones that died faster.

I don’t think so. AFAIK, the only other major competitor was Eveready - but then Duracell and Energizer changed the whole game. Somehow. We didn’t quite know what was going on, only that there were new brands, more expensive, but somehow more powerful. And they didn’t leak as much.

It’s new! No, it’s not.


The Serrallés family migrated from Catalonia to Puerto Rico in the mid-1830s, and established a sugar cane plantation in the outskirts of Ponce. They were successful in harvesting and refining cane sugar and exporting it to the United States, the United Kingdom and France. The plantation became very prosperous, and virtually became a company town, with its own rail line, workers' housing, transportation fleet, commissary, and private—later public—airport (Ponce's Mercedita Airport). Most of these operations were eventually annexed to the municipality of Ponce, in whose lands the plantation is based.

In 1865, the family opened a rum manufacturer at the plantation, "Hacienda Mercedita". On that year, Juan Serrallés, who would go down as one of the most successful liquor salesmen in Puerto Rican history, imported a still from France, which enabled him to produce his first casks of rum

The Serrallés operation produced various local rum brands, most of which were short-lived. Inspired by the success of other rum producers in the island, the family decided to launch a refined brand with the intention of exporting it elsewhere. The Don Q brand was launched in 1932, and became popular with locals who considered rival Bacardi either harsher in taste or a foreign brand.

The old HQ has an abandoned building that makes me nostalgic all over again for the Islands and / or Mexico.

It’s the mattress that’s good for squares . . .


or With-It Now People.

It’s hard to put this into words, but both of these pictures - the height of the culture in 1971, when I was 12 - depress the hell out of me.


It’s hard to put this into words, but both of these pictures - the height of the culture in 1971, when I was 12 - depress the hell out of me.

Let's drop in on the far-away yet oh-so-relatable world of 1916, as seen through the work of Clare Briggs. See you around.



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