I’ve always liked rain in the Fall. It adds to the sense of new priorities. Fall rains seem like money in the bank; spring rains are spent today for tomorrow. Fall rains plaster dead leaves to the pavement. Spring rains pelt away dead ice. There’s something off about this year - yes, I know, there’s a novel insight. But it’s familiar in a bad way. It feels a bit like 2001. I don’t mean that something is going to happen. I mean something did, and it was big, and it isn’t done. I don’t know why I feel that way. It just hits me at unexpected times, while driving home, or looking out the window.

Over at the Comics Curmudgeon, a rather startling image:

First of all, it appears that Walt is dead. Since he’s 115, that’s not surprising. It’s the other guy. I’m not sure he should say Ooooh when Yeeeesssssss? when first addressed? Would be more telling.

As the author of the blog notes, only the Simpsons have made reference to this guy in recent times. The character goes back to the Jack Benny show, for heaven’s sake. Gasoline Alley itself goes back fo 1918. These are stone-dead, six-feet-under culture references.

With some hope and trepidation - oh, no, I’ll be at this for weeks - I saw this link at the site that hosts the strip.

From the beginning?

Whew: only goes back to 2001, when a new artist took over. Pity. The original had its charms. I read the strip in the Fargo Forum out of a sense of duty, since it was in the paper, and wasn’t Mary Worth or Rex Parker, and was purportedly funny. Oh, that mean old miser guy! Ha ha. Oh, that lovable trash collector! Why, you never did see his eyes, had his cap pulled down over his face. Ha ha! I never knew the strip was a half-century old, but like Jack Benny stuff, it belonged somehow to my grandfather, not my dad. I wonder why. Perhaps because I viewed my dad as being current, and didn’t ascribe to him anything from the impossibly distant past.

On the way to work the other day Daughter was discussing a class assignment. (She’s taking two online classes to get some credits during this half-year break.) It’s a film class, introduction to cinema history, and she rolled her eyes way back when I predicted the syllabus: Birth of a Nation, Lumiere Brothers, Potemkin, Stagecoach, Kane, something French

OKAY WELL I GUESS YOU KNOW YOUR MOVIES said with exasperation; stupid know-it-all Dad

Yes, well, I could teach that class.

“But I wouldn’t get any credit.” True.

The next day, laughing, she reads the syllabus. Literally what I said. Not because I am Super Smart but because these are all obvious, I guess. Anyway. She had an assignment: the first movie that made an impression on them as a child. Some of the students decided this was a chance to impress the teacher, and listed Important Films; others missed the point entirely and mentioned films children should not see. Daughter asked what the answer would be for me, and five minutes later we’re driving along listening to the Haunted Organ from “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.” After which we had to find the main title music, and I was appalled I didn’t have it on my phone. I have everything on my phone.

But why, when it was out there, on YouTube? Because it could vanish at any minute. YouTube is the Gaslight Library - you go to check out a book, they say they don’t have it, it doesn’t exist, they never had it. But I saw it here last week. No, you couldn’t have. Perhaps it was filed on the shelf by a librarian who has been suspended.

For what?

For filing books he should not have filed.

My point? Oh, I suppose I don’t have on, except that there are cultural works which stand up like tentpoles, and together they contain eras under a common theme. The common theme in the movies would be the 20th century’s invention of a new artistic form. The important comics of the 20th century - a far less important art form, but also more important in its range and breadth, I suppose - cover so many works and so many artists, and it’s strange to think that there is but one man who walked through it all for 102 years.

Who’s in second place? Perhaps the Captain, from the Katzenjammer kids, which ended in 2006. (!) Wikipedia said the kids were probably based on some German pranksters, Max und Moritz, who performed seven pranks. This line raised my eyebrows:

Whereas Max & Moritz were grotesquely but comically put to death after seven destructive pranks, the Katzenjammer Kids and the other characters still thrive.

How were they put to death, comically and grotesquely? Well, I found a version at Gutenberg. The seventh prank was played on a farmer, who discovered them in his corn, and put them in a bag.


He takes the bag to the miller.


Their ground-up remains are eaten by ducks.

And that’s what happens in German comics to naughty little boys.








I’ve no idea why I went here, but I suspect I was looking for some locations favored by Al Capone.

This is Cermak Avenue. There had to be a reason I snipped these.

Was it the fact that the building’s lopsided design was not immediately obvious?

Was it the mismatched brick and off-the-shelf decorations?

Was it the little vestiges of Capone era grace, the terra-cotta classical ornaments that graced countless buildings, and are mostly gone?

Was it the OUMB that nevertheless has a certain mid-century dignity and appeal?

Could’ve been this typical 20s project: the movie-theater / office complex, an expression of civic pride and prosperity:


Czech all the way:

The 1920s was a boom period for the Chicago area, as well as the rest of the United States, and the Cicero-Berwyn area was the destination of scores of Czechs that were moving there from the crowded Chicago neighborhoods of Pilsen and Lawndale. Due to that westward migration, the Sokol Slavsky Gymnastic Association would choose Cicero as the home for what would be the largest building project ever undertaken by a Sokol organization in the United States.

The Czech community had experienced exponential growth in the decades leading up to the 1920s, and in that time, this thrifty ethnic group had amassed a great deal of wealth. Sokol Slavsky invested $105,000 of their holdings to purchase one block of lots fronting on 22nd Street (Cermak Rd.). They then hired the services of noted Czech architects Joseph J. Novy and Joseph Bednarik to draw up plans for their new building.

They lost it in the crash, but a Czech organization bought it back a few years later.

Cinema Treasures notes that it closed for years, and had a run for a few years as a theater serving the Latin Community. The usual churn of a city.

Yes, it is.

They didn’t have to spend that much money on the windows, but it made a difference.

The low-slung annex. All spec, I’m sure.

I love the 20s.

"We can attach it to the wall.”

“We can do that.”

“You know, I’m still worried. Build something on the roof to hold it as well.”

Sad bit of Buckaroo Revival there. But it’s always sad.

“Manuel Solas” looks like a misspelled promise of a massage parlor.

Obviously a bank, once.


And no I don’t know why there’s a giant corn dog on the corner.

Tidy little mid-century citizen, and that sign? It has to be original.

You can, with a fair degree of certainty, predict the exact width of the architect’s lapels at the time of construction.

That’s it. Why did I start snipping? Because those big ones deserved a moment of adulation. Nothing out of the ordinary, but a reminder of how prosperity leaves a lasting mark.


What's left? Why, Motels, of course.





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