Uncle Myron on the bottom, and my Dad doing his best Cap'n Kirk
Went to the Mall with Gnat. Southdale. I’ve always liked the place, even though it’s been renovated beyond recognition; in its original incarnation, it was ultra-modern, 50s style, and while today we regard this style as the epitome of eternal cool, it was of course devalued in the 70s and 80s, and hence it had to go. Southdale got its big makeover at the end of the 90s, and ended up a bland white Lifestyle Assembly Building (ooh, I like that) with a few potted palms to add the requisite natural notes. Passing them today, looking up at the three-story trees, I thought: why palms? This is Minnesota. This is the North Country. Give us an Evergreen. Give us a towering pine. Something that belongs here, not a transplant from another culture.

But everyplace wants to be anyplace now, and vice versa. Southdale, once the first and only enclosed mall in the nation, is now just a mall. But that still means it’s rife with sociological intrigue. Some trips it seems as if I’m just measuring my distance from the popular culture, noting the rare and small intersections of my world and other people’s concerns. I lack the amount of conspicuous piety and self-love that requires I spend an hour at The Body Shop, for example. I hate J. Crew, deeply, based solely on their catalogs. They no longer send them. I guess sending them all back postage due, wrapped around bricks, with Hitler moustaches and horns drawn on all the models had the desired effect. I like Eddie Bauer, because their Classic American hokum appeals to my demographic slice, and while golf might be a part of their hokum, golf is never really mentioned. I appreciate that. I don’t golf. Nothing against those who like it; just not my idea of fun. I like Banana Republic, because the clothes have nice clean lines, and they’re sturdy. I outgrew the Gap six years ago, but Baby Gap is now lots of fun. And so forth.

I’ve never been to Southdale with baby Gnat; this was fun. Everyone always said that having a baby complicated matters, and of course it does; you have to get the stroller, put the car seat in the stroller, find a good hill, let her go, race the stroller to the bottom, etc. But I like it. Having a baby to push around is better than walking around by myself, because now I have complete license to talk out loud to myself, under the guise of keeping baby occupied.

I had no particular plan; just wanted to give Sara a few hours at home without having to worry about Gnat, and while we could have just gone in another room and shut the door, Mothers are unable to concentrate on anything if Baby is within their instinctive field. If Baby peeps, Mom is downstairs in a trice, and Mom wonders if Baby is hungry. Or wet. Or sleepy. Or tired. You have to remove baby entirely for Mom to get some peace. (Which, of course, she doesn’t get, because she’s worrying about what could be happening out there on those slippery slippery streets . . . why didn’t we get side airbags? WHY?)

So we went to Target first. Bought some rawhides for Jasper Dog (who, by the way, poses very nicely for his weekly picture; check the main menu for a link), a five-pound vat of Smarties for me, and some other items. The transaction concluded in the old-fashioned way: the clerk said hello, rang up the items, took my card, told me where to sign, and thanked me. Goodbye!

As I said: the old-fashioned way.

Because: at the mall, every single merchant asked for my zip code. The third time was at Baby Gap; I was leaning over to amuse Gnat, who was tending towards crankiness, and the clerk said “Zip Code?”

“Why?” I said.

She was flustered. “It’s for a survey,” she said.

“That’s the 17th time I’ve been asked for it today,” I said. “It’s annoying.”

I know it’s for a survey. It’s always for a survey. They want to know where their customers are coming from. Instead of putting someone at the door with a clipboard, handing out a free pair of socks for a detailed questionare, they’ve incorporated this zip-code stuff into every transaction. Well, sorry. I’m not going to let them upsell the information gathering procedure. They have the info on checks, and perhaps via the bankcard statements, and if they’re too lazy to extract it themselves I’m not going to help them. This annoys me, greatly. I know it’s a small thing.

"I know you didn't set the policy," I said. "It's not your fault." And I gave her the zip code. But I left feeling annoyed. I wouldn't do this again. That was the last time they'd get it out of me.
Off to another store, where I purchased a shirt. The clerk consisted of purple hair, a pout, and the posture of someone who’d just won the First Annual Paul Lynde Simp-Off. I really, really, really don’t care what anyone’s sexual preference is, but I can’t stand it the whole bitchier-than-thou routine; mincing gets on my nerves regardless of which gender is doing it.

"Can I have your zip code," he says, with that rote flat tone that says If the world had any justice, I wouldn't be a clerk at Southdale. I'd be a clerk in New York.

“No.” I said.

He looked at me with utter incomprehension. “No?”

“No,” I smiled. I held out the money.

And he was pissed.

“It’s for a survey,” he said.

“I know.”

When I left the store I could feel all the eyes of the clerks boring into my skull: what a weirdo. And he’s bred, too!

Finally, the Gap. I bought a jacket. A thin spring jacket. I steeled myself for the inevitable. Sure enough:

“Can I have your zip code,” the clerk said. Blonde, late teens, so suburban that all of her blood cells are white ones.

“No,” I said. And I gave her my bank card.

“No?” she said, in something close to astonishment.

“That’s right,” I said. “I’ve been asked this question all day, and I’m tired of it.”

“It’s for a survey,” she said.

“I know. It’s to find out where your customers live and whether they should build another Gap between my house and this store. Do I have to tell you to make the purchase?”

“FINE,” she said, and she PUNCHED - FIVE - NUMBERS - INTO - THE - REGISTER.

“Don’t you have the option of noting ‘question refused,’ or something like that?” I asked.

No,” she said. As if.

And once again I left the store as the Dangerous Rebel, the Troublemaker, Mr. Weirdo. No doubt on their breaks these weightless little people will get together in the backroom, and they’ll talk about the bizarro customers who refuse to give their zip codes. People refusing to give information to the Gap on request! Imagine!

Little Nazis. I highly recommend that everyone just respond NO when asked this question. Calmly, with a Bing-Crosby sense of style and ease. Just say no. Because your phone number is next.

Gnat smiled up at me alll the way out of the store.

“Just wait 12 years,” I said. “If I pull the same trick then you’ll dissolve in embarassment.” Probably that’s what will happen: dad, just give them the blood sample and let’s GO!

Nonsense! I’ll shout. Why, I’ve been coming here for 30 years! My parents came here before me! None of this mark-of-the-beast stuff for me!

Marco Thubeest? they’ll say. Oh, so you know the manager. Why didn’t you say so?


This morning I was slapping together the video from a few weeks ago: a gripping scene wherein I slapped together the Gnat’s bouncy saucer. I’d shot the entire event start to finish with the idea of speeding it up, since it’s always funny when you speed things up. Ha ha. That’s why meth users are such jolly people.

Anyway, it was lame; the only good thing was the soundtrack, since I had the radio tuned to one of the classical stations. Bruch’s violin concerto was on, and it took me the entire first movement to assemble the thing. Sped up, it’s amusing, since I apparently took breaks to conduct the piece; in fast fast motion I look as though my hands have turned into terrified birds. But then there’s a series shots that I was delighted to find: some slow fly-bys of the bouncy saucer that are about as reverential as the interminable flybys of the Enterprise in the first Trek movie one overhead descent into the seat, which turns to black; then a long reverse version of the shot with Gnat in the seat, and a corkscrewing descent that ends fastened right on her industrious little mug. I was clearly thinking ahead.

Now: what should I set this to? Well, the Bruch, of course. To my surprise I didn’t have a CD of it - had a tape, back when it was the music I used to calm my nerves during take-off. When I was terrified of flying, the Bruch helped. That, and a fist of bourbon. So this afternoon I took the walk downtown to find the Bruch. . There are three record stores downtown - Sam Goody, which I usually don’t patronize, because I don’t want to encourage slogans with bad grammar, and the signage & displays are always pushing the vulgar blurts of the the pimp du jour; no thanks. There’s the Barnes & Noble store, which never has any customers, but has a much better jazz selection, and very little of the bitches & ho genre; and there’s Let It Be down the street, the epitome of an independent record store - usually some furious tattooed kill-the-WTO thrashrock blasting, or chugging techno. I like it there, but I feel old, and it smells.

I stopped at Sam Goody. The classical section was empty, except for one goateed clerk. The music was some plinky electric stuff which I realized, to my horror, was ragtime music played on a Casio. I’m not a big ragtime fan - don’t mind it, but a little goes a long way. Found the Bruch; went to the cash register. Looked at the CD:

Joplin Rags, played on the pedal harpsichord by E. Power Biggs

And I just cracked up. Joplin on the harpsichord is silly enough, but E. Power Biggs? Mr. Huge Organ, playing this tinkly toy?

“Did you choose this?” I asked the clerk. He said no. “Did they send you here because you were bad?” I asked.

He laughed a rueful laugh. “I really can’t take much more,” he said.

That’s life in the service economy: You! You there! Go in the classical room and listen to Chopin on a ukelele for an hour!

Poor man.

After supper I finished the video; it’s wonderful, but I can’t lose; baby + Bruch is an easy recipe for perfection.

The Bleats, you might have noticed, are being posted earlier in the evening. This is because I’m signing off the machinery earlier and earlier each night. No more working until 12, then yawning my way down to the Lair to watch TV for a while. Everything REALLY changes Wednesday, when Sara goes back to work, and I take over the day care. It’s just me and the Gnat tomorrow, and while I have zero trepidations about that, it does mean I have to get up early. I hate to get up early. I’m a night man. “Late” to me is 3:30 AM. No more. No more! Well, except on Thursday, since Sara is staying home that day. And the weekends, of course.

But four nights a week, everything changes!

Which means I’ll either add Bleats at ten, or at 7:30 AM in the morning. Depends. I do know what I’m going to do tomorrow with Gnat:

Make movies. Allll day long.


Day One as a Stay-At-Home Dad. Main accomplishment today: pouring about a gallon of milk down Gnat’s little gullet. Took some time. No small task, especially when she’d decided she’d had enough of the stuff. That’s when you switch to Mush. I whip up a mean dish of Mush, if I say so myself. The secret is blending the varieties - a little Rice, some Oatmeal, and some of that strange mysterious flavor called “Mixed.” I’m sure it’s all the same stuff. It all looks like shaved communion wafers, and I’ve no desire to try it. She likes it, but she also enjoys getting a good mouthful and then sneezing a mushwad into my face.

Boring? Hardly. Fun? Absolutely. I like being home. That’s why I live here. I listened to the radio all day, played with baby, set up her high chair, and did some work while she occupied herself. She’s sitting up unassisted now, but she’ll still topple over if - and only if - you place her seven inches from the edge of the quilt, and turn away. Then she goes right over and thunks her noggin on the rug, which isn’t as soft as it might be. Tears. Big hot tears and a few sobs, which were easily chased away by flying her off to the sofa for a game of funny sounds and feet-chewing. I’m damn glad the adult world doesn’t operate this way. Someone gets hurt by something you said at the office, and you have to make lip-farts, pull Kabuki expressions and chomp on their toes.

With babies, though, you think nothing of it.

Just to complete my Super Husband status, I whipped up a marinade from the recipe on the back of the swordfish fillet bag; actual cooking, or close to it. Did a little house cleaning, answered my mail, did some more work, nap, feed, radio, play, work, nap (took 15 minutes myself) then cooked a magnificent supper of swordfish, cajun rice with sauteed onions. Got the entire kitchen clean by the time Sara came home from her first day back at work. I presented her with supper, then I walked the dog and dusted the snow off her car so she won’t have to do it tomorrow morning.

In short, I am golden. I am Apollo. I got more husband points today than I’ve accumulated in the last year.

Did I mention I bleached all the soiled garments, made the bed and put her high chair together, filming the last one for the family video?

Worship me!

Watched “What Lies Beneath” the other night - it’s the
Harry Ford / Shelly Pfeipfer movie, the quasi-pseudo Hitchcock film that made a good chunk of money and got some nice reviews. My review: eh. No, I won’t give away a jot of the plot here; the movie does that nicely enough. There are two shameless plot-point moments, where an IMPORTANT DETAIL is trotted out with such obviousness you expect them to stop to the film, bring the houselights up and send out an usher to shout “EVERYBODY GET THAT?”

I’ve seen enough of these films that I even know what sort of sound cue they’ll use for a Shocking Moment - you know, the tense moment where a cat jumps through a window, simultaneously refusing and intensifying the suspense. They use this sound that everyone recognizes - it’s a major chord, very short, with a metallic CLANK at its heart. At one point the movie was getting verrrrry, verrry suspenseful, and I thought: I’m going to hear that big loud clank-chord in a second, and damned if I didn’t.

That’s all I’ll say. Okay, this: there’s a character who’s supposed to be comic relief in the movie; you’re wondering if you’re supposed to like her (what a free spirit!) or be annoyed with her. Regrettably, it’s the former, and that speaks volumes about the film.

Back to work now - I finished one chapter of the 70s site (which isn’t the 70s site anymore; it’s spread out and narrowed to cover 60s & 70s interior design) and scanned another, and captioning awaits. Followed by 30 minutes of shoot ‘em up gaming, and then a nice relaxing hour in front of the big wide TV, showing me the DVD of my choice. Have I “earned it?” Not at all. Just did what I ought to do. I’m a Dad, it seems. To do anything less than I did today would have been dereliction of duty.