I went to Cub grocery store for the first time in weeks. It’s the closest grocery store, and the renovation has made it more pleasant, but they don’t have paper bags. Just plastic. I hate plastic. I also had a bad bad memory from my last trip at the start of the total lockdown, when the mood of the place was just brutal. You could feel everyone’s brains acting like an Alka-Seltzer tablet dropped into carbonated water.

Or one of those flat powdery poker-chips that made magic soda! Remember those? Fizzies. We loved the idea. They came in aluminum strips. Tasted horrible. No one preferred them over actual pop, at least in my circles; this article says “Fizzies candy was so popular as a kids' drink that it surpassed even Kool-Aid,” but I doubt the hot hell out of that.

Anyway. I went to Cub because it’s the one place where I can get a particular kind of breakfast sausage, and it’s made by Smithfield. Long ago and far away I wouldn’t have cared to know much about the brand; figured it was just one of the many brands, along with Jimmy Dean or Banquet. But then the name was in the news when the plants started shutting down because the workers got the Wuhan Virus, and there were stories about the meat-supply chain fracturing.

Perhaps the plants were visited by someone from the home office? After all, Smithfield is owned entirely by a Chinese company. Nah, probably not, but if anyone has any problems with how the workers are treated, take it up with the owners in Hong Kong.

On September 6, 2013, the US government approved Shuanghui International Holding's purchase of Smithfield Food, Inc. The deal was valued at approximately $7.1 billion, which included debt. It was the largest stock acquisition by a Chinese company of an American company. The deal included Smithfield's 146,000 acres of land, which made WH Group one of the largest overseas owners of American farmland.

Well, as they say, come and take it. I’d be amused to hear the defenders of Chavez and Castro and other enthusiastic nationalists complain if the US Government kicked the WH Group to the curb, said “sorry, you can’t exploit our resources for profit anymore,” and handed the entire operation over to the US Department of Agriculture. And I’d be amuse to hear the critics of Federal overreach - of which I am one - soften their objections because repatriation of the ownership was, in the end, a good thing.

Untangling is going to be tricky. It’s like taking a colander of cold spaghetti and separating every strand intact and then laying them out to dry, then putting them in a box that doesn’t have the right shape.

Optimist that I am, I must note that the example above is not impossible.

So how was Cub this time? It was 8 PM, and seemed low-key. About 70% masked. Mostly bounteous except for shortfalls in the usual places: paper goods, because no one’s ever going to forget the great toilet-paper panic. Dishwashing soap, for some reason - perhaps people are cooking at home more and this means they have to wash dishes, but it’s low on my list of hoardables. Candy and cookies are plentiful; few beans. The Bean Panic is still a mystery.

Fish out the wazoo, to coin a phrase.

Chicken: no breasts. Huh. Lots of beef, but no chicken breasts. This is what I absolutely hate about The Duration: you observe, calculate, compare the shelves to memories of news stories, wonder if it’s just the end-of-the-day situation or whether there was grapevine chatter about chicken. Or maybe there was just a really good sale.

I went through the self-checkout, as I had on my last visit - there’s a new setup with more registers, and it starts with an aisle loaded with impulse purchases. Back then during the first tense time it felt like a cattle chute leading to the abattoir, lined with shiny items to distract me.

Went to an open terminal which had been wiped in a desultory fashion by the attendant, because everything everywhere is poison and fallout coats the land. Beeped and bagged and left, pausing at the Redbox; do I want to get a movie? No. The red machine seemed like a Fantasy Promulgation Station, pumping out diversion and meaningless stories about a world that would have seemed faintly ridiculous before, but now make Grimm’s Fairy Tales look like unedited Studs Terkel interviews.

As a child I loved Dr. Doolittle. Here is Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. Doolittle. How about no. I’ll bet he’s quick and quirky. I’ll bet there’s a chimp with sick burns. I’ll bet it’s amazingly realistic and completely unconvincing. I’ll bet it’s two hours of frantic crap that never once captures the simple patience of the book’s illustrations. Puddleby on the Marsh - the words swim up from somewhere, that’s where he lived, right? What a perfect English name. A raw March day, grey sky, but kettle on the boil, biscuits at the ready, decent enough in its own modest way, what? Ah, the bell of the bicycle, postman’s here.

What else is in the box of loud anesthetizing diversions? Fast and Furious Fourteen, perhaps. Never mind.

When I got home I was in a peeved mood but I had been peeved all day. Daughter asked how the outing was. She’s the first to ask, because she lives in the basement now. She has a desk and a lamp and a fold-out bed and there are spiders, but it’s all good except for the spiders.

I said I was angry at everything but it would pass, and how as studying going?

She has a test the next day. Online. At this expensive school. Cosmology. Study of the heavens. I expect it’s a welcome diversion.

I put the stuff in the freezer, regretting that I hadn’t secured replacement chicken breasts. We’d had “fried chicken” for dinner that day - not really fried, but shake-and-bake type. You coat the chicken breasts with the mixture. We had biscuits and Cole slaw as well. Rotaria had picked up the box and pointed to the description with amusement: it said “Extra crispy.”

“Because in America everything has to be extra,” she said.

“Or big,” Daughter said.

“Or extra big crispy,” I said. “That’s how we do it.”

Thinking: that’s how we did it. Because we assumed we would always be the land of extra big crispy.

Make America Extra Big Crispy Again, I say. MAEBCA. Put it on a hat. Not because it’s necessary, because it’s the baseline. This isn’t a culture content to be crispy. This isn’t a culture content to be Big Crispy. This is a culture that assumes Extra Big Crispy, and then asks: what else do you have?








Not a lot of history on its Wikipedia page: "A post office called Burley has been in operation since 1905. The community was named after David Ellsworth Burley, a railroad official." They always wqwent for the railroad guys if no one could agree on anything else. I wonder if there are any descendents who have no idea there's a town named after great-great-second-cousin David.

I’ll tell you this about Burley: it had some damned clever bricklayers.

Oh, you just hate to see all those wonderful windows bricked up!

Kidding. And you knew that! We’ve all learned a lot over the years. Cinema Treasures:

Amazingly, it has survived quite well. The original stage is completely intact, including barely used scenery flats that are still hanging from the rafters. The theater’s original lighting dimmer panel is also still intact and functioning. The theater’s facade, which was restored in 1991, is mostly original as well.

Thar be ghosts:



That’s fantastic, and everyone loves it, and there would be sadness if it was removed. So why don’t we do that today? Why?


So . . . they were guaranteed no one would build anything next to it? Okay, assume it’s an alley, and maybe the building on the other side burned.

Beautiful, once.

Given the different storefronts, the purpose of the single overhang seems unclear. Perhaps we can look a head in the google year slider to see if it was due for renovation, or -

Perhaps we can look a head in the google year slider to see if it was due for renovation, or -




The dreaded 60s Slope. The stones on the entrance are cool. The smaller stones are a bit too much.

Another 60s screen. Much preferable to the Slope, just because it looks like it could cover a computer, or be a grille on a spaceship, or could be shrunk to use as the foil for an electric razor.


Another post-war rehab, of course.


Later? Earlier?

What do you think? (I ask the question because I trashed the original with the dates.)

It’s like the 60s building we saw earlier snuck around the back and took over a building on the other side of the block.


I guarantee everyone thought this was an improvement.

Okay, maybe not a big improvement, but it was new, and new was a sign of hope for downtown, wasn’t it?

OUMB, late 60s early 70s

OUMB early 70s

OUMB late 70s, early 80s


I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time

No, actually, I’m not.

Welp, as they say

The A frame - chalet look combined with Buckaroo Revival awning and a slanted window and those bricks makes for something we will charitably call “memorable.”

Ending on a humble note, with a palimpest, a tidy little building with modest decoration, another ghost sign . .

. . . and a tree that looks like it would really like to leave the scene.

That'll do; a cool new Portfolio series awaits.





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