I was walking Birch the other morning - a fast, no-nonsense trip, because I had things to do that were more important than the things he had to smell. In retrospect this seems unkind. I’m sure he’s more than familiar with the smells of the backyard. Who knows what wafts his way on the breeze, whether the hiccup of a rabbit a block away hits his nose a minute later, but there’s certainly nothing to compare with the Smells of the World. There’s one spot where someone dumped French fries a few weeks ago, and while its importance in the scheme of life is waning, it still merits a trip to ensure no molecules of starch have been ignored.

Two people were approaching on the sidewalk. A year ago they would have moved to the street, or I would have. A sudden, certain new instinct had taken hold, and shared air seemed fraught. When you left the house to walk the dog and saw no one else, it was a relief: we needn’t do the danger dance. But when you saw other people you both calculated the distance out of concern, and told yourself it was a philanthropic gesture to make the other person feel more at ease.

We became accustomed to this quite quickly. It was a small thing, a minor calculation, but its presumption was poisonous. Everyone was suspicious. But in a sensible, neighborly way, don’t you know.

I swear I’m the only person downtown and in the Target / Traders Joe parking lot who doesn’t wear a mask. When I go inside, of course, up it comes. It’s been so long since I even noticed it. But in the parking lot? In the parking lot? I pull it down the second I’m outside, because it still feels like a muzzle. When I see people walking alone on a deserted sidewalk downtown, masked, I wonder what they’re thinking.

I wonder if they have come to regard the mask as an essential component of freedom. Yea though I walk through the completely unpopulated and inert valley of 3rd avenue, I shall fear no virus, for my mask comforts me, and brings me peace.

Anyway, point being, I saw the people coming, and no one moved to avoid anyone else. In fact the man said, and I quote:

“I have to say hello to Birch.”

Ah! Neighbor! My wife runs in to him in the evening, walking Birch, and I gather that Birch knows him, because he was happy to see them and receive skritches and pats. I soon realized this was the Bus Man, and we started talking about whether the Bus would be making an appearance on the street this year. Looked good; entirely possible. He’d done some more work on it, and discovered it was one of the few that had built-in individual radios.

I’m sorry, I’m leaving out crucial information. By bus I mean, BUS.

He has a SceniCruiser.


There are only about 200 left. His works. It moves.

We talked about the bus and old ads and bus stations; his daughter chimed in with her goth-period excursions to take coffee at the bus station, observe the parade, talk to travelers. A fine chat. I think the guy’s got five, six years on me. Neither of us were masked and we were about three feet apart as we talked. Because it’s spring 2021. Frankly, to hell with it.


I really wonder whether 100% of the contest entries were correct.

How could you pick a wrong answer?



Not that one, the other one:

This could be set anywhere, says the needless narrator. Could be Bethlehem, could be Pittsburg, could be this place . . .

Or it could be here:

If you’re curious where the shot was taken from, the cameraman was in this building . . .

In the city of Easton, PA.

So this . . .

Is a set, not a town. That’s fine. Looks fine:

How about this place?

The Traveler’s Hotel would later appear in an episode of Star Trek. Yes, really. It’s all backlot, and the sets that eventually ended up as Mayberry were dressed and reused for the episode where Kirk lets Joan Collins get smacked in traffic.

So this . . .

Is this.

The town doesn't seem big enough for Noir. Is it Noir?

That’s a good sign; a gunshot man in a boarding house in black and white. But is it enough? Might there be something else to give it the Seal of Noir Approval?

Elisha Cook! Now it’s Noir.

Our hero:

I always found him a bit underwhelming. But decent! Liked his later movies more. Then it’s flashback time. See, he might have killed someone, and shoots at the cops from his boarding house room, and spends the night inside smoking and reminiscing how he came to this point while the second movement of Beethoven’s 7th plays over and over on the soundtrack.

It started when he fell in love with . . .

Barbara Bel Geddes, who was apparently so impressive she got a big contract out of this.

There’s also a bad girl, and Hey, look who:

It’s the Mirror Universe Della Street.

Our main villain:

And there I have to stop or it’s recaps and spoilers and the rest of it, and I can’t quite say it matters. It cost a million to make. It lost a million. There’s a reason.

But it’s SERIOUS.



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





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