Last Friday I showed you a sign of hope: the coffee shop as open! Normalcy, or least the promise of its eventual return!

  Took one week.

It was a nice place with a good view. Daughter liked to write there.

I took a walk downtown to get some sunglasses at the Walgreens. The first door to the Gavidaae Commons was locked, because of course the Covidian Miasma. The second door down the street was open, but the inside entrance was locked, because. On the way around I noticed three more storefronts that had emptied out.

Here’s the beautiful shopping gallery - which was never successful as a retail destination, and evolved into services - at the height of a Monday business day.

On the way back through the skyways I noted one more restaurant that had closed for good, all the chairs and tables gone. Next building, an office converted into a hotel - just in time! - the Caribou coffee and the sandwich shop had disappeared. In the next building, the florist’s.

I keep telling myself I have to stop going to the office, it makes me furious and it makes me depressed. But that’s giving up. That’s retreating. I dreamed of coming to this place, I was proud of it, I roamed the skyways, I cheered every new building, knew their names by heart, knew what was there before it was there, regarded this as the shining center of my home, and now I’m watching it die in the course of a year.

It’s hard to write a humor column for the paper when you’re angry.



The other day I was looking at letters Astrid had sent for a project we’re doing. Three typewritten missives from Peg Lynch to the folks back home. It’s the little details that I loved: she was describing how Noel Coward was in town, and she hoped to run into him somehow, and he’d been so broke the last time he was in NYC he stayed at the Breevort instead of the Algonquin. That fixes the letters in a particular time, and it’s instructive: once upon a time you would have said “he had so much money he stayed at the Breevort.” But hotels rise and fall.

She also sent some clippings about that terrible accident at the Empire State Building, and I thought: ah ha, that would be the plane that smacked into the top in the fog. What confusion that must have been - you look out the window, the Empire State Building is afire, and you think was this Jerry’s last stab?

Alas, most of the other details are lost. The names, the people at NBC where she worked. It sounded terribly exciting and important, and it must have felt like it - working at NBC radio during the war, watching the news director try to get their Berlin correspondent on the line, wondering if he’d forgotten that he was supposed to be on the air, or was dead, or what.

We’ve lost 95% of the details, I’d guess. But sometimes you hear something and think “I wonder. I . . . wonder.”

And so:

Asian flu joke. That nails down the date, but then there was something else: Lum Fong.


This would’ve been where Cerf walked in . . .

This would’ve been where Cerf had lunch or dinner.

I'm always glad to live in the present, with all the cool modern things, but the vision today . . .

. . . seems less interesting, on a human and urban level.

One bad joke made in the course of opening chit-chat, and 60 years later I’m looking for remnants of their city. And finding it! Makes you wonder if an offhand remark on a podcast today will drive someone in 2080 to search for something similar.

There are more pictures taken of EVERYTHING now than ever before. But they’re not collated, combined, cross-indexed, put into a database, unless someone gives them to Google.

We know more and can prove less.




It's 1953.

Nuclear testing has produced a new species of children with terrible powers, yet no more emotionally mature than other children of their age.

The wrongness just radiates from every single Stokely kid. And there were many.

He’s one of the less unnerving examples.


  Well, she did, once. Then he insisted she did again. She goes along with it, and sometimes wishes this phase would be over, but then she admonishes herself for begrudging his small pleasures. He’s an only child. The other children in the neighborhood don’t come over much.

  We’re not going to tell you the grade or do anything to dispel your suspicion that there’s a couple of old nags in there and maybe it’s not ground sirloin, but that’s okay, because we know that “beef” in canned sauce isn’t going to be anything other than a vehicle for salt and maybe a pinch of sugar and pepper.



Early, rejected idea for Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End”

Pity the people who thought they'd be happy with Calrod heat. Little did they know what improvements were over the horizon.




Everything here looks more 40s than 50s, right? That’s because it’s still the 40s, culturally. It’s not as everyone sold their furniture, clothes, records, and cookbooks because it was a new decade.


Pants will be heading down in a few years. I think they’d been an inch higher the year before.

Mother is grateful it all worked out well. She’s what, 55? 57? Instant matronhood struck when you turned 50, and you had to put your grey hair up in a bun and grow stout.

You’re busy, because “everything from PTA to world affairs is asking more of you.”

What, she was a UN translator?

A new, modern school, built along the latest ideas. Recessed lighting, blue hues - the post-war surbanan life was sharp.



“Toilet-tissue firm” hints at a mishap all are eager to avoid, and the best way to distract from the actual use of this stuff is to have a beautiful woman rub it on her face.

That'll do; some Websters from the 30s await. See you around.




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