“THE WHITE EARPIECES!” said the man, crossing the street with a computer monitor under his arm. I was, at the time, wearing exactly that. I almost said “what?” but thought better of it, because anyone who seems bothered by earbuds has issues with things.

It was an underpopulated area of downtown - I realize now that doesn’t really narrow it down - but not in the jangly-danger sense. It was a part of town that used to be bustling, but took it hard in the 70s. Old stuff fell down or burned or was razed before it did either. The auto lots closed. Now there are high-rise apartments, and a large college campus with lovely buildings built in the old style. But not much street life. One lady having a heater outside the apartment; one large fellow who preceded me into the grocery store and held the door open.

Puts the lie to the assertion that the street would flourish if there weren’t skyways; there aren’t any skyways here at all.

Anyway, who gets annoyed by earbuds? Is it the anti-social statement? I remember people complaining about that when the Walkman was released. Everyone in their own private world, with their own soundtrack, sundering our sense of community. Eh. I like city noises, but I’m not missing anything if I’m walking around in New York and I am less aware of the constant klaxoning. Oh, sure, I’m missing the sound of Italian accordion music from the cafes, the banter of the babushkas on the stoop, the merry cries of the kids playing stickball, the hoots of the horn in the harbor, right?

No, I don’t think so. Headache bass from a car, sirens, honking taxis. It’s actually better if you provide your own soundtrack.

Perhaps it was a shout of scorn against a MINDLESS CONSUMER, someone who had to conform and broadcast status with the color of his earbuds, although many varieties are white. You’re all a buncha sheep! Gotta show off! As opposed to large over-the-ear expensive headphones, an anachronism which seems the equivalent of carrying around a Technics turntable.

Maybe he just had some condition that made him call out things he saw. But I didn’t hear him say TRAFFIC LIGHT or RED HYDRANT.

Anyway. A moment without meaning, just a strange thing. I’ll take that happening every day over sitting at home forever, waiting for a Zoom call, where everyone's nestled in their cell. There's no chance for random peculiarities in that world.

The Mall is the great classical expanse that drew me to the U in the first place: this was a campus, this was a college. I proposed to my wife under the great portico of Northrup. I remember the days when it was blinding with snow, warm with new spring.

I walked to the old Daily building, taking a video to capture the walk I made every day, right up to the door in the basement. I still have a key to the door. It probably doesn’t work anymore. I’d like to think it does.

Walked back, passing my Mr. Rothstein point. It was . . . 1983, November, and a new hire at the Daily had buzzed me on her bike and looked back with a taunting smile. That was where I decided I should probably ask her out. (I did. Tsuris eventually followed, but that’s youth.)

It all felt remote and distant, and I appreciated that. The U was my world for seven years. Perhaps I don’t have that tug because I tired of it. Grew away while I was still there. It didn't belong to me when I arrived and it doesn't now.

Wandered over to the Architecture building, which was, and is, a relic of its time.

 

Okay, well, if it rains during a fire drill, I guess you're set.

Compare to its neighbor, a gorgeous polychrome Richardsonian Romanesque building.

 

 

Monks should move through this space, with candles, chanting softly:

 

 

We'll never know who took off thier noses.

 

This is . . . hallucinogenic.

 

The entrance is not exactly inviting.

 

 

It's almost alive. You can imagine it pulse, and pucker.

 

 

 

 

It’s 1918. The culture’s quite different than it was four years ago, for some strange reason I can’t quite put my finger on . . . oh! Right! War and the total mobilization of the culture at the behest of the central government. It changed them more than the flu would.

What’s the big thing in the middle of the page? Let's look.

Let’s bring the boys chocolate and cigarettes.

 

     
 

The Talk of the Town! The graphics seem a bit off. Maybe ten years out of style.

When the schools shall reopen? Meaning? Flu.

Good for good ol’ Bert Clow. Sam’s out with the grippe, probably. Mrs. Wood, same.

   
 

If you went back in time and said to the RAF lads “This will be excellent practice for the next time Jerry really gets you on the back foot.”

Ha ha yes indeed, and - hold on, what? Next time?

It’s total, I tell you. HOUSEWIVES CAN WIN THE WAR.

Fruit stones. They were fighting poison gas with fruit stones.

   
  Of interest to the housewife, but maybe not the husband. What, cauliflower stalks and boiled rice dessert again?
   

Uncle Sam, going over the top for the YMCA and other morale-making orgs.

It's almost Bolshie in tone - or rather, it has the language collectivism always assumes, eventually.

Finally: you, Mr. Patriotic American. Ever thought of leaving the country for good?

The amount of work required . . . was remarkable. But of course, they did it. One had to work, and one had to eat. Canada it is, then!

 

 

   
  That will have to do. Now head back to the Fifties!
   

 

 

 

 
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