(This I wrote on Wednesday, and usually I wouldn't point that out, since the days of the Duration are days of little distinction. But this was before we were all shooed inside for good.)
The rumbles from my sources said the lockdown was coming at the end of the day. It would have the usual exemptions: you can go to the grocery store, get take-out. You are free to walk the dog and jog. Liquor stores would remain open, because depressing the central nervous system is an essential activity, I guess. This is war, and if you’ve studied war, you know that the home front has to live with blackouts.
It was almost two. I put on a bright face and said to the girls: how about a drive?
They were up for it. Birch the dog read the signals - coat, keys, moving to the door - and he was ecstatic. The world of smells, pouring in the crack of the window with a counterpoint that makes Bach look like John Cage, oh yes. (That’s a direct quote.) And so we headed downtown.
I wanted to show Rotaria, our exchange student, the parts of town she hadn’t seen, explain the history, show her where the town started, how it grew. Downtown, the warehouse district, the island in the Mississippi where I got married, the U of M, then into St. Paul, down Summit Avenue with its parade of mansions, the pride of bygone plutocrats, and eventually at a vast empty plain.
That, I said, was a huge automobile manufacturing factory, once. It closed a few years ago.
“And maybe that wasn’t such a good idea,” I found myself saying.
Back in the 20s the papers announced the gigantic project with pride and faith in St. Paul’s future: Henry Ford would be bringing jobs, good jobs, to town. It could never be built today - well, no, of course it could, but it wouldn’t. We don’t build heavy industry along side a river anymore, but even if they’d wanted to build it elsewhere, regulatory hoop-jumping would have held it up for two years, and people would oppose it simply because the cars were powered by fossil fuels.
On the other side of the river I paused at a light and told Rotaria why that Dentist’s Office looked so distinctive.
It was an old gas station, a Phillips 66, and they all looked the same - that sharp pointy prow rising up in the air, a futuristic idea, a place where you’d gas up your flying car.
Before the renovation, during its life as a coffee shop:
I tried to explain how gas stations used to be beautiful. They were better now, with so many things to get, so very convenient, but there was something so American about making a simple gas station look special.
Trying to explain post-war American car culture to a Barcelona teen-aged girl is not as easy as you might expect.
When we got home I went to the storage room and counted out the supplies, estimated the rate of depletion, and put Post-It notes on the various boxes indicating the date we would open them up for consumption. We’re well beyond the 2-week date, but still I had a pang: go to the store.
No. Go take a nap.
I did. I dreamed my dog sprouted wings and was trying to fly, and wasn’t very good at it. He kept trying to leap over me, and crashing into my back. When I woke I thought dogasus, and then wondered if I wasn’t thinking of the Mobil trademark from the old days, the fiery red pegasus - and whether I’d thought of that because I’d watched the Beethoven “Pastoral” segment from Fantasia the previous night.
Always loved that movie. They re-released the soundtrack coincident with its reappearance, and I remember reading the liner notes about how it was doomed by the evaporation of European markets. It came out in 1939. That year had a great fascination - the World’s Fair, Fantasia, everything seemingly modern and striving, recognizable but back in the Hat and Skirts era, everyone going about their business unaware of the edge of the abyss.
I don’t think this is the same, but there are years in which bright lines are drawn, and the lines flame and burn in a way that makes people want to avert their eyes from what came before. The events that concerned people in 2019 will be of little consequence going forward, and while this is all an expected development in the spasmodic, reactive way cultures adapt and then form a narrative later that attempts to make a continuous story, I have the feeling that much of what made up the landscape of the past will be forgotten with impatience amid stern new modes of thought.
That was a gas station, and there’s a reason it looked like that.
Uh huh. Who cares?
Well, it’s important.
I suppose it isn’t. But it was.
Just to keep you up to date: the Shadow, who cannot cloud men’s minds and become invisible, has the Frankenstein theme motif and is fighting the Black Tiger who can make himself invisible.
To bring you up to speed: Frankenstein vs. The Shadow!
I say that because the five-note theme is the same.
Well, the Shadow, who’s really bad at this clouding-men’s-minds stuff and gets not only seen but knocked out every episode so far, is trapped in a burning house full of flames and bad Beethoven:
So . . . he just walked out. Next we go to the extremely nifty STAR DRUG CO street corner, somewhere on the backlot:
The shadow, using his confederate taxi driver, shanghais one of the Tiger’s men, and learns he’s going to meet the other Tiger men at Chapman Park. Once there, the Shadow makes the Tiger guy wear his costume, and all the mugs swarm him and beat him up, and the Shadow leaves.
WHAT SENSE DOES THAT MAKE
Oh, they follow him. Again: so?
“Hey, what’s this switch do?”
He doesn’t know because he stole a car belonging to the Black Tiger gang. What a break! It has a radio through which the Black Tiger speaks! Lamont builds a duplicate that is capable of picking up the Tiger’s mysterious frequency, then puts on his Oriental disguise to return the radio, since “Lee Ling” is trusted by the underworld.
He tells the crooks to retrieve their car, and they do, so the Shadow can find out their hiding place. Why, it’s an ordinary parking garage.
We cut back to the League of Plutocrats, who’ve been targeted by Black Tiger.
There was a tiny gun in the lighter!
Quick cut to the Black Tiger’s HQ . . .
Remember, he can be invisible. The Shadow cannot. The Black Tiger thinks the Shadow is too clever not to look at the radio and figure out the hidden frequency, so he’ll trap him with a decoy message.
This happens in every sequel.
The Shadow goes, of course, and . . .
There’s a motheaten Black Tiger head on the wall to issue taunts, and then the room starts to vibrate.
Much easier to rig up the basement of a house to shake around than send someone down to plug him, I guess.
That'll do - lots of big updates this week, as I overhaul vast swaths of the site behind the scenes. I keep discovering huge sites I forgot to post. I mean, 40, 50 pages - just forgot about them!