Did I mention that the office coffee machines stopped working? Not the big urns, but the small localized Keurigs. One day I went to make a cup with my trusty Southwald enameled mug, right from the brewery, with a Cameron’s Eco-Pod or whatever they call it. Has a mesh bottom, no plastic. Tastes fine.
The machine responded to input, said it was brewing. But it never did. The screen said I should check the water reservoir. It’s attached to a water line. Was it closed? I found the valve, and opened it up. Nothing. Hmm.
Went upstairs to the Auxiliary Keurig. Same thing. BREWING! But it brewed not.
The next day the machine did not respond to input at all. It’s plugged in. It won’t light up. Same upstairs. It felt like a message. Or like the moment in a post-apocalyptic movie when the lights go out, or something they’d taken for granted, some old remnant of the bygone days, stops working. No one knows how to fix it, so they soldier on, and eventually forget it ever worked.
I cleaned out my desk the other day. Nothing in the office is special or precious. We just accumulate stuff. In my case, it’s quarters for the vending machine, a lot of cords to accommodate various USB interfaces, stamps, and the annoying profusion of non-standardized hand-sanitizer containers. They represent the history of the last year: two small containers that were very expensive, then a large tube from Suave, of all people, that was $1.99, then a big bladder of the stuff I picked up for a dollar. (Checked it against the database; it is not poison.) There was a fake Christmas tree with small lights, USB powered. Several plastic bags of condiments, arranged by genre. The mayo might be nothing but botulism by now. The hot sauce is presumed to be eternal.
Then there are books. Sigh. What to do. In the old days, unwanted books sent by hopeful authors were deposited in the FREE area, where it joined swag a journalist could not accept, lest our deep convictions be swayed by a mug or day-planner. For a while the unofficial FREE area in the new building was over in layout and editing, atop a file cabinet, but there is no one there anymore. I don’t even know what’s in the file cabinets. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter.
I can still see everyone meeting in the Hub, as we called the old Shoe, gathering for the quarterly Editor Awards. The memory feels fresh and pertinent, but it was over a year ago. Tuesday as I entered the elevator, and the doors closed, I saw the paper’s top guy get out of another elevator, and he waved and said a cheery hello. If we’d had a chance to talk I would’ve asked how often he came down to the Office, and if he’d asked me the same, I think he’d have been surprised. Oh, every day.
Why? Why do I go to an empty office every day and sit and write? Perhaps I want to be remembered as the Anti-Joseph Mitchell. (He went to the office for thirty years and wrote nothing,.) But a lot of it has to do with belonging - not just to ritual and routine, but belonging to downtown and an institution. It was a proud day when I joined the Strib. That was my objective and I had attained it.
Something else was added when we moved into the new place. It was closer to the core, and that mattered - the old Strib building, as much as I loved it, was like a geological formation left stark and exposed after millennia of rushing waters dried up. To have a place in this building was le ne plus ultra. Perhaps it was a nod to my college self, wandering the skyways in college, wanting to be part of this world but not entirely sure how to arrange that. Now I belonged. I had the card. Beep. I belonged.
Now and then I think about not having the card. About exile.
I don’t worry much about it. Forced exile? Well, the lobby still has all the pictures from an exhibition that went up before the lockdown; it celebrates the career of a writer who was still working at the age of 100. I have no intention of retiring. The idea is absurd. I live, I write - that’s my deal. Something might happen that took away the card, silenced the Beep! But I push that away. I don’t like to think of myself back where I was in my 20s, wandering the skyways, no harbor, no home - except now I’m old and invisible, full of stories - that used to be this, this matters because it changed in 1987.
But, you know, one could . . . expire, ahead of the vague schedule one presumes overlays your weeks and years. You imagine your survivors realizing, wearily, that there’s still the office stuff to clear out. The Swedish Death Clean instinct is always warring with my curator’s instincts. So I cleaned out my desk. The only personal things that remain, aside from the reference books and the electric shaver and clean white shirt I keep in my small closet in case I have to be on TV, is a small Mondrian daughter made of plastic beads, a tin with the emergency cigar (with a matchbook from a defunct steakhouse), a small Funco statue of Agent Cooper, Space Ghost at his desk, and one of my favorite pictures of Daughter: she was in Brazil, looking at a map of America, pointing with a bright and beautiful smile to Minnesota. To Minneapolis.
Oh, and this.
It’s a piece of the black marble that framed the doorway of the old building. What will become of it? I should put it in a plastic bag with a note that explains why it matters. This was the marble that surrounded the door of the place where I always wanted to belong. I outlived the door. The stone outlived me, as stone usually does. Hold this in your hand, and you hold history.
If ever they let me go I think I will walk to the Stone Arch Bridge and chuck it in the Mississippi River.
"Move the last word over a bit so its more obvious."
Who's this cartoonist? We'll get to that eventually. (Meaning, I don't know right now)
This one is pretty good, and I’ll let you see it and judge for yourself.
But first, a word from the moral folk who run the carpet mills!
It’s a contest of wills between two men at an Amazon research station, cut off from civilization.
One is a Scientist and the other is Nuts. Looking over it all is a carnivorous plant. The guy who goes bats is so lonely he buys some of the Scientist’s mail so he could pretend its his, then refuses to let him know the contents of a letter from his wife.
Here’s what interested me. The Scientist.
Do you recognize him? We spent a lot of time with him last year.
De Felitta's first novel, Oktoberfest (1973), a thriller, though not a bestseller nonetheless earned him enough to finance the year and a half he devoted to his next novel, Audrey Rose (1975). This novel, a horror story involving reincarnation, was a smash bestseller, selling more than 2.5 million copies and spawning a successful 1977 film adaptation (scripted by De Felitta) and a sequel, For Love of Audrey Rose (1982). His novel The Entity (1978), based on the real-life case of a woman named Doris Bither who claimed to have been haunted by a spectral rapist, was also a bestseller and was adapted by De Felitta for a 1982 film starring Barbara Hershey. Other successes include Golgotha Falls (1984) and the horror film Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981), directed by De Felitta.
He also directed the 1991 film Scissors, starring Sharon Stone and distributed by Paramount Pictures.
Didn't see that coming, as they said in Basic Instinct.