Here we are, together again. And isn't that a fine thing for a Monday in the merry month of April, eh? May we meet here for a long time to come. Note: if I do fall ill, I hope to change the banner art ot reflect it, so you'll know. Doubtful the Bleat would just - stop. I forgot to upload the index redirect on Friday, but I assume you found it; had nothing to do with sudden plague. (Friday is here, if you missed it.)

Afternoon naps are a restorative habit of mine - or at least they were. It’s a line drawn in the sand of the day, a way of saying that the daily concerns and bothers are done. When you wake it’s a fresh start on the rest of the interval, and there’s coffee, supper, conversation, a dog walk, and then the nightly concerns and bothers.

In the dream I was walking downtown with a mask on, and a shabby man leaning against a building said “Eff you” with contempt and anger. I jerked awake: what was his problem? Did he think I had it? Was I exhibiting Mask Privilege?

The half-life of dreams is brief, but the image was still in my head when I went to the grocery store six hours later. It was the first time going to the grocery store with a mask. Your whole life you learn to be suspicious of people who pull up face-concealing fabric the moment they enter a store, and now you’re calling the cops on those who don’t.

At the entrance, a table with all the requisite elements for shopping: gloves, paper towels, a container of disinfectant spray, wipes. I wiped down the handle of the container of disinfectant spray, being in that gild-the-lily mood, then I put on the gloves, realizing I had done this in the wrong order. Then I sprayed my cart handle, which i would be touching with gloved hands. Next time I'll have the protocol all worked out. Next time it would be more normal.

There was a large man leaning over his grocery cart, looking at his phone, right by the disinfectant station. No mask, no gloves, and to complete the horror, he was muttering and snickering and emitting the occasional cough. For Bog’s sake, dude.

The produce section was spectacular, as ever - the end of the night for the store, and everything was still in abundance, restocked before my very eyes. A young couple wearing matching patterned masks was examining the blueberries, and I thought: this is the new way to signify you’re taken. You both have the tiger-skin patterned mask. Awww. Relationship status: mask designs synced.

I thanked a guy stocking the frozen aisle, and he nodded, indicating that the whole “thank you for your service” bit might be wearing on them a little, especially coming from people who are masked. He wasn’t wearing one.

First objective: the sugar-free lemonade everyone in the house likes. Ah: one left. Last chicken in the shop, as the Nick Lowe pick-up band name had it. Sale on meat, BOGO on coffee - it’s still amazing that the store has its regularly scheduled discounts. Is this an attempt to make us feel as if some element of normal life still abides? Went to the store, may have gotten the plague, but dang ity was 2 for 1 on caprese sausage, so I got that going for me.

My financial calculus for grocery items has been flung out the window. I shop at the most expensive store in the area because I know their cleaning regimen is sharp, the stores are vast with broad aisles, and I can self-checkout. I do not balk at the prices. Tonight we pay four dollars for a bag of snap peas, for tomorrow we die.

Then again, probably not.

That was the thing that kept pestering me as I shopped: probably not.

Minnesota is not immune, but not in crisis. Was there someone in this store today with IT? Quite possibly so. Will I get IT on this trip? Probably not. After all, I have gloves. After all, I have a mask.

I realized that for the first time in a long, long time - I’m talking almost three weeks here - I felt calm in a grocery store. I had the magic mask. I had the magic gloves. I had hosed down everything with holy juice. Because these things now felt normal, the shopping experience felt normal.

I paused at my car to consider the order of things - open the door with the gloves, or remove the gloves, sanitize, and store the bags? Or assume contamination, stow the bags, disinfect afterwards? The gloves, which had been the protective shield in the store, were now recontextualized as contaminated outside of the store. What to do? Put them in the back pocket, hand-santize, then touch the steering wheel.

Empty street to the highway: normal. Empty highway to home: normal.

Put the groceries away, disinfected the handles and surfaces: normal. Showed the womenfolk what I’d got for special weekend breakfast. They were all doing a 2000 piece puzzle. Venice. I remember Venice.

“Look! Maple-flavored peanut butter for bagels!” And there was great rejoicing.

Later when I changed into evening clothes I found the store’s gloves in my pocket, and put them in the trash. Washed my hands afterwards: normal.

The old normal? It was nice. But, well, that was then. Back when we touched things, and thought nothing of it.



Our fourth installment, and this time . . .

Was? That does that mean she becomes a woman of loose morals?

No, it’s probably a reference to “Luck, by a Lady’ or something else we don’t get right away.

Remember, they always start with Maisie on the way to a job, and she gets sidetracked, and meets a he-man woman hater, and then there’s a triangle or an unhappy couple and it gets far more dark than you’d think a comedy would be, but then you realize it’s not entirely a comedy, it’s Maisie picture. And it’s only a hour.

It’s a TV show before there were TV shows. It’s a programmer.


What, back at a carnival? Here comes a typical sideshow act, sure:

Lew Ayres, who doesn’t seem happy to be in this picture. Something of a come-down from "All Quiet."He’s just a pixillated swell wandering around the carnival with a duck.

The headless woman in the sideshow:

Wonder who that could be. Well, Lew Ayers uses a telescoping device with a feather on the end - the sort of thing one regularly carrie around - and tickles the headless woman until her trick apparatus falls off, and of course:

She gets fired, of course. The drunk - whom she proclaims is “boiled as an owl” - gives her his car keys so she can go home to New York. She’s promptly arrested for stealing a car, of course.

The judge:

That guy! Well. it's time for that patented Maisie take-no-guff dressing down of the authority figures, because she's a square gal who's on the level:

The judge e makes Lew Ayres hire her to make up for all he’s done. And we’re off: Maisie’s going to go live with rich people!

The butler:

C. Aubrey Smith.

Movie roles are sometimes based upon what the audience expects to see. If the role called for the tall stereotypical Englishmen with the stiff upper lip and stern determination, that man would be C. Aubrey Smith, graduate of Cambridge University, a leading Freemason and a test cricketer for England. Smith was 30 by the time he embarked upon a career on the stage. It took another 20 plus years before he entered the flickering images of the movies. By 1915, Smith was over 50 in a medium that demanded young actors and starlets.

And now, my favorite line of trivia: “Was the inspiration for the character Commander McBragg on the animated series Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales (1963).”

Anyway, the house is full of dissolute young folk with 40s hairstyles:

They’re all shallow and useless, so it’s up to Maisie to straighten everything out, and it soon turns into a take of emotional abandonment and chronic alcoholism, combined with a suicide attempt. Out of four movies so far, there are two suicide attempts.

At the end Maisie unloads on the idle rich and emotionally reserved, and gives it straight from the shoulder to everyone who deserves it, and speaks for the audience. This reassures everyone that money does not equal happiness, and in fact the rich are more unhappy because they lack the emotional honesty of working class people.

Of course, it works; everyone is shamed into acting better. In these movies, rich people are okay, if a "social inferior" yelled at them and set them straight, and the swells realize her street smarts are actually better than book learnin'.

But she realizes that she will never fit in, and Lew Ayres won’t marry her, because she has no breeding. She runs off and joins the burlesque.

Lew finds her.

None of this will matter by the time the next movie starts. Everything resets. Like I said: it's a TV show.

That'll do. The second week of the fortnight shelter-in-place period, which we all know is the second week of the month-long shelter-in-place period, begins. Week four for me. On we go, with hopes and open eyes, and the occasional drumning of the fingers. Not out of boredom. Out of impatience.





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