That's a heater.

We could use one of those in every room. It's been cold, below zero for a week or so, with wind chills at 20 below, or so. Eh. It happens; it happens every year. It'll pass.

I'll still go to the office. Around one I'll make coffee! There used to be coffee at work. It was assumed there would be coffee. It was a newsroom; coffee was a given. In the old building it came out of a spigot in the wall. Oh, we thought were special when they put in some urns (PROUDLY SERVING STARBUCKS, they said, and no one thought any pride was involved in the event, at all) but there was something about Wall Coffee that tied us back to our forebears. The cafeteria was a holdover from the glory days of the building, when pressmen and classified gals and reporters and management alike slammed a tray on the rails and went through the line.

A tired sense of decline hung over the whole place. A bygone thing, pushed forward by habit and necessity. We weren’t connected to the skyways, you know. It was a four-block hike to get to the skyway system, and in the winter, that could sting. Best to stay here. Have the soup. Crackers are free.

In the new building there were two coffee shops!

Both have closed.

There was, and is, a kitchen on the 13th floor, with two urns: Cafe Java and Northwoods blends. Which to choose? You knew Java would be strong, but ah, the local nativist sentiment made you want some of that Northwoods blend, just to connect you to the world beyond. Strong silent bearded men in plaid, big mugs of Northwoods blend in their calloused hands. The 13th floor urns are dry now; there aren’t any beans in the grinder.

I forgot to mention Cafe Barbara. At the old building, there was Cafe Barbara at the back. Tables for lunch. A microwave. Two urns PROUDLY SERVING Starbucks. The urns were for paying customers who’d contributed to the Coffee Fund. There was the Flagg picture of Uncle Sam: It’s Your Turn to Make Coffee.

They moved the Cafe Barbara sign to the break room by my desk in the new building. It’s a reference to Barbara Flanagan, the endlessly cheerful columnist of the Star, champion of sidewalk cafes, tireless booster of Minneapolis, a relic of what we might call the Dave Moore / MTM era of the city. They were the late-stage grownups when I came to town, the personalities that helped to define the place. Dave was the newscaster with the great sense of humor and wry sense of theatrics; Babs was, well, Babs - a classic three-dotter columnist, tireless booster of her beloved Minneapolis.

A few months ago I mentioned finding Pandemic Coffee downtown at a place that used to be Peter’s Grill - or rather, a shell into which the rescued counters and booths and chairs of Peter’s Grill and been installed. The old Peter’s had a booth with a plaque that declared it Barbara’s booth. They’d moved the plaque to the new location. Wasn’t the same, of course, but when the new Peter’s location closed, I went to do a story, and found Barbara in her booth.

We had never met. I introduced myself and she called me Jim and said of course and she loved my stuff and right then, right there, I felt part of the continuum. It was safe to say I had earned my place in the roll call. Cedric, George, Barbara, Robert, Jim, Patrick, Me. (And some guy named Sid.)

Anyway. Once or twice a week at work I want a cup of coffee. I brought some K-cups for the machine in the 12th floor breakroom by my desk. I have an enameled cup from Southwald, the British sea-side town next to Walbers. I always smile when I open the Keurig: why, there’s the last K-cup I put in, last week. I toss it in the trash, which is empty because there is no one here, except that once a week someone comes by and empties the garbage which consists entirely and only of my K-cup. Then I might look out the window while the coffee brews, or the news ticker on the TV that tells the tales to an empty room.

The sign.

It's not big, but it's important that it's there.

She would have been delighted to think that someone in the impossible year of 2021 would see that, and think of her. But I do, every time I make coffee.


Something new for Mondays: a never-ending contest with no prizes! Not for you, anyway. I have to preface this feature with a warning: I don't know the answers. I mean, I don't have the official answers. I can guess. It can't be that hard.

I hope they paid Arno a lot.



Not that one, the other one:

Foggy black-and-white Victorian era English murder mysteries never lose their appeal for some, and it’s not just the escapism. It’s the comforting sense of social stability and cohesion. Hence the appeal in the 40s, perhaps. The Sherlock Movies, The Piano Concerto on Madness Street (Sorry, Hangover Square) and so on.

I won’t say much, because it’s good and I wouldn’t want to spoil a thing. Perhaps this is all you need to know.

Even in the setting of Merrie Olde, previous century, it’s still 40s in Hollywood. So, crank up the great B&W lighting:

These images could be taken from any Ripper or Lodger movie, no?

The movie’s direction is swift and sturdy, and since it’s a Murrrrder Mystery, there are grotesques galore:

There’s shapely ladies in period garb - or is it an anachronistic reimagining of the era to tickle modern eyes?

Now: how accurate is this?

Not bad. The illustration is correct. The typeface is . . . not miles away from accurate, but too clean, and the masthead is too vacant. But it’s what the 40s thought the 1890s looked like, or what the designers thought people of the 40s thought the 90s looked like.

Noir angles! Shadows on the wall!

It's short and crisp and worth a look if you see it on TCN. I just wanted to you look at those images, so perfectly 40s.


Yes. Same guy.



That will suffice! Now, as ever, the Matchbooks.





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