That’s me. The American monarch. Proudly, and sternly, protecting my trembling womenfolk from the clutches of Snidely Landlord. I found this ad while looking for some real estate ads for my neighborhood - didn’t find any, but found big bright happy ads for all the other neighborhoods in south Minneapolis. The city was booming; they were laying down streetcar lines as fast as they could - not to keep people in the inner city, but to get - them - the - hell - out. Flee the tenements! Flee the cramped & compacted lots of the blighted sinful city: use mass transit to escape to the land beyond 30th street!

And now we are building trains to get people to return to the city.

Rinse; repeat.

Anyway, here we are again, back for another batch of bleatage; hadn’t taken a week and a half off since Gnat was born. I liked it. I loved it. While I was away, the web seems to have collapsed - Automatic Media scru’d the pooch, taking Feed.com and Suck.com with it (the latter is supposed to return, and Plastic.com is supposed to be unscathed - hah! They’re all doomed.) But this site cheerfully returns its fifth year of free buy the book content, and to celebrate the fact the site is an utter, total shambles. The entire website has been moved, busted links and wretched HTML and all, to a brisk new server. I did this while we were packing and moving our lives & possessions from Lileks Manor to this new pile. I was literally moving both at the same time - I came back from closing, unplugged the computer in midupload and packed it away.

The site has been redone in a pre-50s style for reasons I’ll explain later. If you like it, thanks; if not, it’ll be gone in three months. No more monthly updates for a while. We’ve boxes to unpack and a new house to explore.

Still don’t hae a name. I had thought of naming it after one of the first residents, a fellow named Collins. Ah hah: Collinswood!

No, that’s the Dark Shadows mansion.

Mr. J. Ryder Collins was a young boy in the 20s, and he grew up in this house; he wrote a memoir for his family’s edification, and a copy of the years he spent here was forwarded by the previous owners. It’s a remarkable document. For example: his father, J. M. Collins, ran a candy company. He was a bonafide confectionary baron, a member of the Sugar Trust too, probably. Had a factory in Minneapolis and one in Philidelphia. They made - ready? - WALNETTOS. Yes, that famous-yet-elapsed candy, now available only through specialty stores, was made by the man who owned this house in the teens and twenties. Remarkable. I’ve ordered a few pounds of the candy, which I intend to have on hand at all times, just out of respect.

As I’ve said before, I don’t want to put up pictures, because it seems boastful and ostentatious. (As opposed to the modest, demure tone I’ve set so far by bragging about my large lot and windowed shower.) I’ll just use a few details in Bleat pictures. I still cannot believe we actually got this place; I feel completely outclassed, outgunned, out of my element, etc. But I felt that way when I moved into the last place, too. I stayed up nights worrying how I’d meet the crushing payments. And now I worry about how I’ll afford -

Well, the other morning I looked out the window, and there was a fellow mowing my lawn. Hmm. I feared he came with the property, and I’d have to put him up in the spare room off the furnace. But he was with The Service that the previous owners had used. I’ll keep using them, since I’ve no intention of mowing this lawn. If it was flat, I’d get a riding lawn mower and do it myself, but it’s a hill.

The entire neighborhood is a hill, as I’ll explain.
.. ..
Written last Sunday morning, sitting in the lobby of the Marquette hotel, waiting for James Ellroy. I was sure I had the time wrong, since he didn’t show - turns out he got sick and killed the entire trip at the last minute - but since I was moving I never got the message. The reason for THAT follows in this weary rant, which I did for my own, uh, historical reasons.

wondering how in God’s name I am still on my feet - no sleep, all work, running on the memory of the aroma of fumes, no more. Last night I was walking Jasper through the neighborhood, and I could barely bring one leg in front of the other. This entire damn neighborhood is uphill, I thought. Every street goes up and none come down. If I turned around I’d have to go uphill the street I just came up. It’s the Escherville. I’ll be damned if I know where everything is, yet; the streets fit together in peculiar combinations, befitting Cleveland’s vision of what suburbia should resemble. And yes, Escherville is suburbia - circa 1899, anyway. I was looking at a promotional map the other day, and it cited the area’s clear air, scenic views and large lots, unlike the cramped parcels of the city.

didn’t mention the fargin’ hills.

Okay. The move.

Thursday, the day before moving. I realized I hadn’t gotten a call from the Hook Up people, telling me when the satellite dish would be removed. For that matter, I hadn’t heard anything from them. This was the service of Edina Realty - don’t worry, pal, we’ll take care of all of your stuff. Gas, electricity, papers, mail - let us handle it! Great, I thought; I’d signed up right away. One interview, then weeks of silence. Hmm. I called up just to reconfirm . . . and discovered that they had no record of my file whatsoever. A few calls later, and I learned that they hadn’t done anything. One day to moving, and they hadn’t switched on the power, utilities, phone, TV. You can imagine my dismay. And fury: bile was geysering out of my head by the third phone call. Meanwhile, I’m settling the details of the move, running to the Salvation Army, packing and cleaning and packing and cleaning. Not fun. Not fun at all. Stress level: off the charts. Through the roof. Pinging off the belly of the Alpha Space Station.

The rest of the day I got phone calls from the company behind the hookup - a firm called Vital Home Services, conveniently based in Delaware. Got a junior exec who seemed quite apologetic, and offered to fix things right away. He calls back, says “I’ll be able to get phone service to your house Monday - but because you’re moving more than five miles away, I’m afraid you’ll have a different number.”

“I’m moving ten blocks,” I said.

Despair on the other end. Silent despair. Because every time they thought they’d fixed something, they were wrong. Example: in the end
I got a veep who offered to throw in a gift certificate for a meal.

“I don’t have an appetite anymore,” I said. “Just get my satellite dish off the house before it’s not my house anymore.”

He calls back a few hours later, almost smug with delight: DirecTV has agreed that I’ll leave the dish and receiver at the house, and they’ll mail me a new one!

And here’s where I’d finally had enough. Previously I had been stern - no swearing, no shouting, no namecalling - just that deadly dead-calm calmness that speaks of The Implacable Consumer, He Who Cannot be Mollified. But this was too much.

“I have a dual-line parabolic dish and a 30-gig TiVo - DirecTV combo unit,” I said. “I’m pretty sure that’s not what they’re going to send me, because they don’t know I have it, because NO ONE’S ASKED.”

Silence. “I’ll call them back,” he said.

(End of the story: eventually a guy came Friday night and took the dish. He returned Monday to install it, and while he was installing it, FedEx shows up with - another dish! Three days later DirecTV shows up to install it! Four days later I get a gift certificate from the company, apologizing for the screwup, and apologizing on behalf of my realtor. Who is my wife’s uncle.)

Friday: sell the house, buy a house, move. In one day. No problem. The first closing - painless and merry; lots of signing. The room stinks of nervous sweat, a pungent burned-in aroma. Back to the house; the movers aren’t there yet. I pack up the computer, which had been uploading this site all night long, right up until we leave the house. (In addition to everything else going on moving week, I had to reupload the entire site to the host.) Back in the car, off to the closing for the next house. En route I get a call from the movers, wanting to know if I want to buy insurance. I have no idea what he’s talking about, or why he’s asking me this now, and I’m also lost: can’t find the closer’s office.

And then it starts to rain. I’m careening around this suburban cul-de-sac, yelling into a cellphone about insurance, late for my closing, tired and hungry: a tiny new hell, freshly defined. But I find the place, park, sprint in. And this time the room smells nice.

The sellers aren’t there, of course, because we are Mr. and Mrs. Satan, I guess. Meet the Molochs! It’s Belial and his charming wife. This is the other part of the story, which Now Can Be Told: the wife-half of the sellers started out as charming folk, very nice, eager to share the history of the house - why, we were supposed to come over for dinner and meet the neighbors, etc. Then . . .

(now, keep in mind that the following is my side of the story. I don't know the other side of the story. I don't even know if that matters.)

Then She Who Apparently Must Be Obeyed decided she wanted to change the closing date. Which was a date she’d originally set. She wanted it to be ten days later, halfway into the first week of June. I asked my realtor what he thought; he advised that we hold off until we sold our house. We had the Crushing Balloon Payment due on the June 1, after all. So, he said no. I said fine, let’s sell the house and see what we can do after that. We knew the house would sell on day one - and besides, at the time, my wife and I were getting the house ready to show, AND preparing to sprint off to Phoenix and New York, respectively.

Well. SWAMBO decides to demand an answer from my realtor, NOW. NOW. NOW. And he says, well, no, we can’t say yes now - and thus we became the enemy. Beneath contempt. When I got back from New York I called Swambo to apologize for any inconvenience, and assure her that we could work with the date, do a rent-back, whatever: let’s figure something out. I got a reception that was glacial. Pluto-glacial. Pluto when it’s farthest away from the sun. Which has gone dead. She said I had no idea what I had put her family through. To this day I have no idea what caused this need for a new moving date, or what “sacrifices” Swambo said she had to make - sell a child? A kidney? What? The only evidence of the extraordinary strain I’d put on their family (by agreeing to their initial closing date, mind you) was something about having to give a day-care provider a different cell number. Or something like that. It was just jaw-dropping. “We’ve decided not to be at the closing,” she said towards the end of the conversation - as if being in the same room with such bilious shiteheels as ourselves was too much to bear.

And do you know what I did after that? Besides vent? A lot? To everyone? Whenever possible? I called the realtor and reset the closing date for the First, right in the middle of what everyone wanted.

Stupid. Just stupid. You spend all this time making a house into the best expression of your tastes and ideals, and then you act in a way that guarantees you’ll never be invited inside again.

People are odd.

So. Closing went fine, because Swambo and husband weren’t there. Sign sign sign sign sign. Large figures, frightening figures, alarming horrifying figures. But it’s only money. All of my money. Unto death. Back outside - it’s pouring. Sheets and sheets of driving rain - which, naturally, the movers are dragging my possessions through. I run over to the new place to drop off a few things. I take Jasper with me. We step inside for the first time since that one peek I got when Swambo was still talking to me.

It’s empty. Quiet. Clean. It’s waiting. This is what it’s all about, then - and by “it” I mean 24 years of work. I walked through making hopeful notes: Christmas tree, there; many family thanksgiving dinners, here; daughter sneaking cigarette through basement vent, here; next novel written, here; lazy afternoon spent reading a book on the upper porch 20 years from now, here.

Here. No more moves. It’s all been leading here. Jasper clicks along beside me, down the stairs, pausing to mark a daffodil. We drive back to the house we used to live in. I get my family and we all go . . . home.
.. ..
Since the house is spare and uncarpeted, every sound ricochets around until it dies of exhaustion. Every keystroke in this unadorned room sounds like someone popping open a beer can. When Gnat wakes and wails in the night - as is her wont - the sound not only travels, but it’s amplified. The accoustics here are amazing - you can hear everything, everywhere. The house needs a muffler. It needs pictures and rugs to soak up the sounds. Of course, then you have to take the rugs outside and beat them to get the sounds out, and the racket can wake the dead - baby wails, curses, laughter, radio jingles, Judge Judy shouting SHH, etc.

Speaking of radio: a few weeks ago I was in the used record store, and bought “Cruisin’ 57,” an ancient compilation of radio hits interspersed with actual airchecks from a period DJ. There are many others in the Cruisin’ series - I remember them from the post American-Graffiti era. Cartoon covers, obvious songs. I needed one of the songs on the 57 disc for a movie I’m making - but I spent a few days driving around in total awe of the DJ: Joe Niagara, the Rockin’ Bird. This guy had the patter down pat, but you could never tell where! he would. Pause. Like! a hipster Shatner without the self-conscious winky-kitsch. He was on WIBG in Philly (Whibbage, as the ads called it) and had a career that spanned decades, influencing hundreds of jocks. He had this wide-awake hipster patter with a cadence and sense of pacing that was damn near impossible to predict, and as I said: I’m in awe. The songs on the CD I can do without; it’s the station IDs, the ads, the intros and outros that almost make me wish I could cobble together a wayback machine of my own and go live there, just for a summer, just once.

Every city had a Wolfman Jack, and quite a few of them were better than old Wolfie.

But not all. I also got the 55 disc, just to hear what that DJ was like: Jumpin’ George Osborne, KSAN from San Francisco. Utterly different style. For starters, Jumpin’ was reverbed every second of every show - and he did a whopping 40 hours a week, too. He had pipes and patter but it’s all inauthentic and a bit contrived, too studied, too smooth, not - quite - right. Jumpin’ was a middle-aged white man jocking for a black station, playing “race” records. I’ve no idea if the audience was supposed to think he was black; he referenced a few live appearances, so maybe not. But he sounds like Dad. He sounds middle-aged. Niagra was obviously late 20s, and connected on an elemental level to the songs he played. Ladies and gentlemen I told you last time this one would go coast to coast BORDER! to border, and here it is. We start ‘em, the others chart ‘em IT’S - the Moonglows.

You can have the music; anyone can collect the music. These air checks are priceless. That’s the history that’s under our nose every day and gets lost in the ether, spent like a handful of pennies.

Nowadays, who cares? Nowadays most jocks are interchangeable duuuudes ready to rack out with a dubbleshodda Zep.

One of Jumpin’s live ads was for a Dodge dealership, and he described his new car: a three-toned beaut done in black, cream, and salmon.

I nearly wept when I heard that. I want to go there.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love my Arts and Crafts house so much. All my favorite futures are yet to happen here. When Ryder C. (the man who wrote that childhood account of living here in the 20s) was a little older than I am now, he’d have heard the Rockin’ Bird. From my window I see 1922, nothing later. The 20th century is yet to come.
.. ..
Rain. From midnight to ten AM, rain. It woke me this morning with big bass-drum thumps of thunder, searing foil-on-fillings flashes of light and long phlegmy mutterings. Sometimes nature is awe-inspiring, and lovely in its fury; sometimes it’s just a a fat bore in the next seat on a bad flight who can’t stop talking and farts every other minute. Ten hours of this crap! I was feeding Gnat, wondering when we’d all get our morning walk - Jasper was whining, giving me that woebegone look of a dog with a full tank and a well-packed boxcar, and I said: sorry. It’s raining. It’s pouring -

and then it stopped. Ah. Well, let’s go, then: slap the Gnat into the seat, leash the beast, and out we go. I’ve discovered a route that is not downhill, which means the last leg does not require a big uphill push. We make it two blocks - and the rain starts to patter down again. I pick up the pace, throw the plastic sheet over baby. The rain starts to thicken. Jasper picks up the pace. I follow. Then the cataracts burst and it’s a downpour again. Two blocks from home. When I get back home, I discover I’ve forgotten my garage key, which means I have to go up the stairs - all twenty-five rotten, cracked, unsightly stairs. Up we go - I’m dragging the carriage with a strap lashed around my hand so it doesn’t go potemkining down, and I’m holding on to the leash with the left hand, the end of which is being tugged by a wet and impatient dog. I pick up Gnat under the porch - she’s all dry, and smiling, and she grinnnnns and lets loose a load in her Muppet-patterned Pampers.

You just have to laugh, because the day can only get better from there. Even if it doesn’t, there’s that moment where you think: it has to get better!

It - has to!

But I’m not complaining, really - better a gripe-filled morning with baby & dog than sitting snug in a dry room with neither.

He says, unconvincingly.

Tried to find some speaker brackets today. The Swambos wired the house for sound, and left with the speakers and brackets. Can’t blame them, really, but they left three rooms with wires hanging out of the wall. Unlabelled wires. Had they been nice people the wires would have been labelled. But they were not nice people. So I’ve been doing this trial-and-error experiment to find out what’s what. There are ten thick Monster cables spilling out of a socket in the kitchen / family room, white tubes that remind me of the guts of the robot in the first Alien movie. The receiver I use in that room is a stupid fargin’ Sony that has its own special brand of speaker connectors, so I have to strip the wires, twist, test, move along, all the while trying to keep Gnat from A) pulling out straw from a plant pot and feeding it to Jasper, or B) putting her hands into the VCR. What IS it about babies and stereo equipment? It’s just amazing - she’ll pull herself across the floor, which is akin to an adult dragging themselves the length of a basketball court, just to push the buttons on the receiver.

Anyway. I’ve isolated the right cords. I have no idea what the other eight are four. There are two sets of dead wires in the living room - but there’s also a wall plate with EIGHT INPUTS, so Bog knows what that’s for. I have some speaker brackets left over from Lileks Manor - yes, I took the ones in the basement, but I didn’t leave wires in the walls and I spackled over the holes. My brackets are standard sized. The Swambos’ brackets were not. Circuit City didn’t have them. Audio King didn’t have them. They sent me to - shudder - Radio Shack, which didn’t have them. So now I have to spackle & paint & redrill & remount, and of course I have SO - MUCH - TIME these days . . . sigh. A small thing to complain about, I know. Starving kids in India, etc. The only reason it peeves me is because it’s just one more small indication of how the Swambos just stuck a thumb in our eyes. Of course they were entitled to take the speakers and the brackets - but Judas Hester! Leave me a clue!
.. ..
Years ago when I was rooming with the famous Armenian philosopher Jet Vahrhar - that was his nickname, of course; all Armenian names end in ian - Varjabedian, Ghermezian, Janisian (famous Brillo-headed moper who wrote “At Seventeen.”) Anyway. We would watch the late night movie, and came to call it “Jingo Theater,” since every show was some bit of happy gung-ho simplistic wartime American drama, or a western. I thought of Jet this week, when I was prowling around the dial and found perhaps the finest Jingo Theater movie of them all: “Dive Bomber,” starring Errol Flynn (a rakish pilot-doctor) Edmond O’Brien (a dour pilot-doctor) and Fred MacMurray, still in his glum bitter jerk period.

The movie is awful; it’s tripe from start to finish, but every cliche is done so well: the doctors who knock heads at first, but come to respect each other’s ability when they’re side by side peering at beakers; the two all-America fellas who meet by having a fistfight over a misunderstanding, then discover - who’d have seen this one coming? - that they’re squadron mates, whereupon they come to respect each other’s abilities. The romantic rivals who knock heads for the entire film until one of them dies - and does so in a way that respects his rival’s abilities. There’s the guy who has TRAGIC DEATH practically stamped on his forehead; there’s the guy who suffers from that most comic of B-movie ailments, Brooklynesia. There are wise dames with shoulders that look like they’re smuggling propellors. Best of all: smoking doctors! Ed O’B in particular lights up a Chesterfield in every scene.

Standard stuff, but it was elevated above the usual pile for a few reasons. One: Technicolor. Incredible color - super-saturated exterior scenes. All the planes were yellow, which made the Navy air force look like a bunch of taxis. (It’s always startling to see WW2 in color.) Two: aerial choreography. Every time someone walked outside, three or five planes would be flying overhead in formation. Every time. One could conclude that the entire purpose of the Navy’s air force was to fly V formations low, 24-7. Three: the strange plot. The movie was about the work of two doctors to develop a flight suit that kept me from blacking out during dive bombing runs. The suit they finally developed - a pressurized canvas bag with arms and legs - looked hideously uncomfortable, but it had a special pocket for your cigarettes, so it had that going for it.

The comic relief was, as usual, little of either, but one bit caught my attention. A sailor was hiding from his wife, who was a thin brittle nag-hag intent on getting money. He would flee to the infirmary, where a corpsman would divert her by spewing out nonsense talk until she was utterly baffled. The scenes stuck out, as did the nonsense-talking corpsman - his act was too well-practiced, and his nonsense-talk was issued without preamble or explanation. I thought: this guy was famous for this schtick. People knew what they were getting when they saw him. They’d think: oh, it’s that guy. That guy who does that thing.

Went to the imdb the next day, called up the movie, got the list of credits and clicked on “corps man,” which sounded right. Ah: Cliff Nazarro. Sure enough, he was known for his double-talk. Vaudevillian guy with one tune, and he warbled it through 30 movies.

I’m trying to think of modern versions - that guy who talked really fast for the FedEx spots, maybe. Perhaps that dreadful “you can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay” guy, who for some reason I always think of as the Leon Redbone of comedy.

Anyway, that was the one movie I saw this week, and I cannot possibly recommend it to anyone.

A friend at work gave me two yearbooks from Central High - 1924 and 1926. Interesting stuff, and yes, they’ll be a webpage here eventually. Most of the men look like full-blown adults; the women look equally composed and mature. The fellow who had the ‘26 edition drew a big red circle around one girl, who apparantly made his heart texavery out five feet whenever she passed; he drew arrows around the name, and glued a red piece of paper under her name. Harriette Lake. Wow: to grow up in Southwest Minneapolis, by Lake Harriet, and be named Harriette Lake, AND be popular, must have been a good thing to be.

Here's the kicker: she moved to Hollywood, changed her name, and became Ann Sothern.

I just got the bright idea to see if she ever did a movie with Cliff Nazarro. . . . well, she did a radio drama with Fred MacMurray.

Anyway. I was flipping through the pages today, and saw a name: Virginia Collins. That was the last name of the family, the Walnetto-making family, that lived here in the 20s. As I mentioned before, the previous owners left behind an autobiography of Ryder Collins, who lived here in the 20s as a small boy. Sure enough, Virginia was his sister’s name, and she went to Central in ‘24. I was dumbfounded. A friend just up and gives me these books one day out of the blue, and they have a picture of the young woman who lived in the very room I’m typing in now.

Small world. Virginia, incidentally, wanted to be an actress.

No entries in the imdb.

Well, for the ages, then: here she is.