Harrumph. I had expected to sign on to Amazon today and find that the Gallery was somewhere in the lower depths of the Movers & Shakers list, but no: it didn’t make the list. It’s behind The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook : Secrets from the East Hampton Specialty Food Store for Simple Food and Party Platters You Can Make at Home by Ina Garten, Martha Stewart. It’s probably behind "Management Techniques of Herman Goering." It’s probably behind a “Doom” novelization.

For the moment, anyway.

What I did find in my mailbox was a rather substantial bill for bandwidth. For some reason August was a heavy month. Nine gigs a day. So I either pay the bill and write it off, or I buy more bandwidth, which is not cheap. We’re at a bit of a crossroads here. I mean, I’ll gladly pay the hosting fees for this thing, but I’m not going to pay three grand a year in extra expenses.

Parasites! Leeches! I'm dyin' here! Buy my book!

I really have to work on refining my sales technique.

Just kidding about the harrumphing part. I appreciate everyone who's pre-ordered - more than you know. And I'll figure out the bandwidth problem; last time I mentioned this, I got a ton of good suggestions.

Hot day; not the last by any means, but you can sense fall coming. Tonight I was paused beneath a streetlight, waiting for Jasper to birth te evening’s cudgel, and I saw heaps of leaves in the gutters. Hadn’t noticed them before. But once the clock strikes September, these details start to add up. More leaves. Trees on fire; trees half-clothed; trees scratching the sky with empty arms. The grass stays green but it’s asleep now, dreaming of warm rains. Birds leave. Pumpkins appear. Last year fall and winter arrived perfectly - Gnat had given us both a sense of each day as a dense & concentrated object, and we paid attention like never before. I’m still doing that. In fact I welcome the fall; something new for Gnat to see. I look forward to Halloween - I’m going to set up operations in the garage. No more the genial oh well, what are you? Why, you’re Kid Rock, isn’t that adorable! fellow; I’m going to actually try to scare them. They’ll have to enter the garage and approach me, and of course I’ll be in the tunnel, backlit in red, with dry ice and the moans of the damned coming from behind. I won’t say a word.

This should cut down on the annoying little ungrateful princess types.

Anyway. I’m still beat on this whole web thing for the moment, and I just want to go relax outside while I can. The new Gallery is still open for your enjoyment, if you missed yesterday’s announcement.

Nine gigs a day! Criminey Joe.
. .
Gnat has made the leap to TV-addled youth. She’s in love with her Baby Doolittle and Baby Van Gogh tapes. When I put them in the machine and she sees the animated insect crawl across the street, she cackles and bounces, and watches with rapt glee. To my great relief, however, she is bored during the annoying musical number. The singer projects the kinderlieder version a lounge singer’s unctuous smarm - you can just imagine him shooting you two index fingers like that bartender on the Love Boat. Gnat gets restless. But she loves the classical music selections. I don’t believe this means that she is naturally attuned to the stuff, nor do I believe that classical music necessarily creates some sort of accelerated development. It’s not an ointment you can rub on their souls. Yes, complexity begats complexity - but Bolero? That’s the classical equivalent of a Led Zep drum solo. There’s nothing inherantly instructive about an except from Carmen if it’s scored for kazoo.

Thank you, thank you: if I never get higher than #4 (for at least one hour) on the Amazon Movers & Shakers list, I’ll always treasure that moment. Below Stephen King but above Ann Rice! Naturally, I called agent and editor; the latter passed it along to the publisher at Crown, who was pleased - and then asked a simple question: why today?

Because of all the people who clicked on the Bleat link and bought the book. This was more timely than you know. This morning I reached my Account Executive at Interland, where my site lives. It turns out that my 30GB ration is not only insufficient to this site’s needs, it’s about to shrink to 10GB the next time my plan comes up for renewal. Given that I’m running at 100GB per month (!) he said I have to get off the shared server, and get my own dedicated server. How much? Only $425. Ah, well, fine; that’s what I pay every two years now!

No, that’s $425 per month. And that doesn’t cover the bandwidth.

So it appeared, and still appears, that I have a rather simple choice: shut down huge swaths of the site, or pay six grand a year for a personal website.

Let’s flip a coin!

For a while I was just . . . sad. Not depressed, not angry, but resigned & forlorn. It’s as if I’d been handed a verdict: the Internet is Full. All the projects I’d hoped to add in the future were on hold, indefinately, and stuff that’s already up would have to go. You can imagine my dismay. No Mpls Modern, no U of M site (with the big spanking and utterly necessary Dinkytown 1978 site) no 1926 site (this was a stupidly ambitious thing I’ve been working on for half a year - an attempt to reconstruct daily life in Minneapolis in 1926, through ads, photos, newspapers, songs, etc.) No Nicollet Av. site. No more Comics additions. Surely no more Motel stuff, since one day of Motel Postcard traffic blew a month’s bandwidth back in August.

It’s peculiar: you must give up your hobbies now. It’s like learning that basement is being filled with concrete, so you’d better dissemble the train set.

To be honest, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m a bit stunned by this. Probably should have seen it coming. But still.

Then I had that odd clammy sensation many of you might recognize: what if this has all been a colossal waste of time? What if this Internet thing was just a ridiculous detour, a prodigal expenditure of time and money? Why not just shut it off and go play outside? I wouldn’t be the first. Good websites die daily; people get tired, quit, move along. And to be frank I’ve been toying with that idea myself for a few months now. Move the Bleat to a weekly feature. I even had the logos all designed, the page laid out: The Monday Post, it was called. But that would just be a short stop to eventual death. Either the site is a going concern, an ongoing thing, or it’s going to be gone.

So here’s how it’s going to work.

1. The Interior Desecrators site is gone. That was one of the biggest consumers of bandwidth. A much, much smaller version will be up in a few days, and it will hype:

2. The book version of Interior Desecrators, which I’m working on now. It’ll include the Gobbler, of course.

3. I’m going to find a new host, and soon. This will be a temporary fix, since:

4. I’m going to investigate setting up my own server and hosting the thing from home. If that’s possible. If it is, then all the additions will be added, as well as all the things I’ve wanted to do, including a little weekly radio show.

Leave the web? We’re all just getting started, for heaven’s sake.

I know this week’s Bleats have all been rather insular, more about the contrusions suffered in the course of working on this fargin’ site; apologies. Better Bleats en route. Now buy the book! That bastiche King can’t lord it over me forever!

Not often you can use two Johnny Dangerously curses in one graf; couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
.. ..
My antipathy for the seventies has been laboriously & tendentiously documented; what I’ve concealed is my almost painful love for some of its unloved remnants. I can, for example, hum the entire theme of “Search,” a one-season private-eye show that featured a rotating cast of Tony Franciosa, Doug McClure, and - hoby hugs, everyone! - Hugh O’Brien. (HOBY is, or was, one of his youth charities; I stumbled on a webpage for the organization years ago, and it proclaimed HOBY HUGS! with a breathless glee that gives me the cheevers to this date.) Comics from the early seventies have a nostalgic appeal that you can’t understand unless you were 12 and deeply steeped in the glories of Kirby and Ditko. I could go on. But there’s something I’ve been watching this week that may be the sole unsullied 70s memory I own:

Let’s Make a Deal.

It was my favorite game show, I realize now. And for good reason - unlike the four-proles-a-leaping panel of Price is Right, it had this bizarre audience of people who were distinguished by two facts: none of them could make a good costume, and ALL of them were in costumes. Horrible homemade stuff based on groaning puns, hand-lettered signs, bad moustaches, random teeth, poxy skin and bright eyes. The host - Monty Hall - keeps up a level of patter that never varied in tone, timber, pace or dynamics - you could just gulp that voice like warm fizzy soda. He had his sidekick Jay, tricked out in garish plaids, schlepping boxes up and down the stairs. Beneath a box today - or rather, 26 years ago - was a bottle of Wella Balsam shampoo, and I not only recognized it as a faithful inhabitant of the family shower, I could remember the scent and feel of that silky beige liquid. Gesturing placidly at the curtains, of course, was Thelovely Carrolmerril, her long graceful fingertips stopping a sliding TV set in its tracks. It’s all coming back to me now: these furs are from Dicker and Dicker of Beverly Hills; these appliances are from the White Consolidated Industries; this lovely silver is from the Michael J. Fina company of New York.

And it’s all scored by a strange faceless combo - bass, drums, keyboard, guitar, and harp. It never occured to me then, but it’s obvious now - they had a live band on the set. And what a set! All bleachers. The elect sat in the front; the hoi polloi in the back, in seats that stretched up to heaven; there was always a double door exit visible in the background, a detail too prosaic to include today. Every so often you’d see someone in the back dressed in costume, forlorn, looking like a Calvinist who wound up in hell.

What makes the show work is the brutal inability of anyone to correctly predict the outcome of their decision. If two boxes have held good prizes, the third might hold a bad one. (Or, as it’s known in LMAD parlance, a zonk.) Or, it might not. No logic. I watched a woman lose two cars: she held on to her box, and watched with dismay as the prize she scorned turned out to be a car. There was no greater moment in the show than the daily Dispensation of the Automobile - in those days, this was a tremendous prize, and nothing made the audience roar as when Jay exulted A NEW CAR! Having seen that she’d lost A NEW CAR! the woman stuck to her box, and when they revealed what she’d turned down, it was A NEW CAR! O cruel fate - having plucked out mine eyes, must thou steal my tongue as well?

Her eventual prize: a clutch of Chuckles, the box bearing the endorsement of Evel Knievel.

Everything else on the Game Show Network - well, everything from the 70s - is smarm and schlock, dripping with the thin ichor of rancid celebrities. Not Let’s Make a Deal. This is America in the later 60s, right here. Most people think the late 60s was Woodstock - nah. That’s the revisionist history. Most people rolled thier eyes at the counterculture stuff; they either ignored it or hated it. That’s why it’s called the counterculture. Average people were not interested in Cream or who was playing at the Fillmore. They were interested in whether that can of Turtle Wax was, after all, the cheapest item on Jay’s shelf.

My Mom liked Monty Hall. “He seems like someone who’d be fun at parties,” she said once, and that always stuck with me - I imagined Mom at the party in which she imagined herself, everyone dressed up, relaxed, and laughing at the clever remarks and bright crinkly smile of Monty Hall.
I’m sure the program came on at 11:30, right before Noonday (with Ken Kennedy.) During the school year I got to see the Big Deal of the Day if I made it home for lunch. In summer I probably watched it with Mom while we waited for Dad to come home for lunch. Outside the window: bright sun, the tall poplars of the backyard, the jungle gym waiting; green grass and birdsong and an entire summer ahead. When the theme music came on the first time I watched the show this week, I hummed it all, and didn’t miss a note. It’s silly, noisy nonsense, but it’s absolutely glued to a happy time in my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Except A NEW CAR!
.. ..
A statement that does not impress one’s wife: hey, look! I just realized that from the basement bathroom, you can see the TV!

How you know you’ve really been a dorkwad of a customer: when you apologize to your stereo salesman for having been a dorkwad, she responds “that’s all right.”

Number of times I cursed the previous owneress of this house today for being just downright petty in her petty meanness, because she left me with 10 white Monster Cables spilling out of the wall, three of which have labels - I mean, did it occur to her that this would be a nightmare for someone trying to figure out how to hook things up? Probably - but, well, I was the SPAWN OF BEEZEBUB because I didn’t roll over and tuck tail when she wanted to change RIGHT NOW the closing date SHE originally proposed. Did she think “they can just figure it out for themselves” as she packed up and moved? Probably. Nasty and petty: a winning combination.

Oh, yes - number of curses: innumerable.

Note something different about the site? Such as, it’s GONE? Well, it it is. And that requires a little backstory.

It’s bad enough to have 168 unread letters, but it’s even worse to have 216 you have read but haven’t answered. Since most of them concerned this site, the Bleat and the sucking chest wound sustained last week when I got my first bandwidth bill, I’m afraid I’m going to have to answer everyone here. Relax! This should be fun.

1. Yes, the entire site is gone. Well, most of it. The Institute’s up, minus Interior Desecrators, I’m afraid.

2. The full extent of the devastation can be seen by checking the main index page, but don’t - not yet.

3. It’s all coming back, eventually. Worst case: Jan 02. Best case: October. This will be accomplished by a variety of means:

A) moving a large chunk, if not all, of the site to my newspaper’s webservers. No, I haven’t talked to them about this yet. Yes, it will take some pleading, but this ties into something else I really can’t talk about at the moment.

B) Breaking into the server farm that currently holds the site, and, suspended by wires from the ceiling, hacking into the mainframe, granting myself root privs, and installing a program that makes it look as if I only transfer 3k per day

C) Reducing the chunky images on this site. I’ve been chided, gently & otherwise, by many for the heft of some of these pictures. There’s a reason: the old program I was using had crappy JPEG compression. (we interrupt this general-knowledge paragraph for some real hardline nerdery. Six correspondants used the phrase “compression, compression, compression, compression.” Three included a link to explain the reference. Three didn’t, which pleased me; I liked the assumption. Unfortunately, it’s one syllable off, and I never sweat that much. We now return you to stuff that makes sense to everyone.) I’m now using a program that allows much more precise compression, and hence I’m running every single fargin’ picture through the thing. There’s a certain level of blockiness I just won’t accept, but additional graininess? I can live with it. I did the entire motel site this afternoon, and it went from 8.1 MB to 6.9. Every bit counts.

4. It pained me to erase the site. Stupid as this sounds, if I hadn’t known it was all coming back it would have been a horribly depressing event - it’s like tracking down all copies of your books and burning them. The Mpls site, for example, isn’t the most popular by any means, but for those who want it, there’s nothing else like it. Nothing else on the web has that much stuff about downtown. The comics section also hurt - it’s one of my favorites, an odd little corner of forgotten art. (Shaved 1.8 MB off that one.) Does the site need it? No. But it’s the sort of thing I’d like to stumble across. It will return.

5. By way of thanks for everyone who continues to patronize the site, there will be a Picture of the Week for the duration. Odd postcards, ads that were slated for the Permanent Collection of Impermanent Art, other such peculiarities.

6. Some have suggested that I add ads. Correction: no one has suggested I add ads. I take this as a sign. But some have suggested that I put out the tin cup for donations - Paypal or Amazon. I can’t. I don’t think it would cover the charges I might have faced - and while it would be nice to have the charges defrayed, I don’t want to nickel & dime people or guilt ‘em into helping out. Thanks for all the offers of financial support, but I decided to do this thing for free, and that’s still the idea. If you like it, buy the book.

7. This is the end of the handwringing over the site’s future. When things are better, the index page will be back to normal. I wish I could thank everyone individually, but life’s extreeeemely busy right now, and it’s all I can do to keep up the bleat. It’s going to take at least ten hours to compress everything, and that’s the hour a day I used to spend on mail.

8. New bed, which means a deliveryman story. New speakers, which means an electronics store rant. New Royle Family, which means more erroneous presumptions about British life. But that's another Bleat. See you tomorrow. And the days thereafter, big blobby site or not.
.. ..
(written Monday evening)

It’s cold. It was cold this morning. It was warm this afternoon - sweet summer warmth, assured and unstinting . . . then the breeze would come around the corner, a loitering & insolent spirit, and you’d shiver. The tree at the end of the block has the touch of October to its uppermost leaves. Fall: soon. I realized walking around the neighborhood this morning that I don’t know the vocabulary here, the order of things - on the old street, there was always one tree that jumped the gun, the arboreal equivalent of wearing white before it was socially proper; it always stood out and looked self-conscious. The tree at the end of the block made a spectacular transition; last to go was the maple on the neighbor’s boulevard. I saw that show seven times; glad I won’t have to miss it this year, either.

After all, we’re just a few blocks away. It does seem like we live on the other side of the river, and I say that because A) we’re on the other side of Lyndale Avenue, and B) we’re actually on the other side of the river. So you can see why I’d feel that way. But. The old block, or the Nabe as I’d never in a million years call it, is still one of my favorite spots in the city. Saturday was the Block Party. And of course I went back.

Last year Gnat was a small red comma curled in our arms, passed around from neighbor to neighbor as we sat around the bonfire. Jasper roamed the periphery, gorging on dropped cake and random hamburger. Last year I just walked out of the front door to the party, and walked up the steps when it was done.

This year I drove. Parked, opened the stroller, inserted baby and went around the corner - a big sad stone sat on my heart when I saw the street. The lights. The barricades. The neighbors. It wasn’t like going home; it was going home, and sometimes the saddest visits home are the ones in which you know home isn’t the home it was when home was home.

Still with me?

I had my official party shirt - a Lileks Oil bowling shirt I’ve worn to every party, and which now only gets used for the holiest of occasions. We sailed into the crowd, and I have to say the reaction was perfect: the fact that we’d come back wasn’t a big surprise. Of course we’d come back! Why not? Who wouldn’t? (There are other former Girardians who come back as well.) I explained that my wife would be along in a while, but in the meantime: here’s Gnat! Much cooing and oohing, recollections of her wee ruddy squalling state last year. Caught up with folks I haven’t seen in a month, or a week, or a year; had a cigar with the menfolk, talked child care with the womenfolk. Sara arrived when the guys brought out the brazier - I lit the bonfire with the ceremonial Zippo, and showed Gnat the Miracle of Fire.

Nothing’s more boring that hearing about parties you’ve not been to, so I’ll leave it at that. Except to say: You can go home again, if you don’t stay too long. God forbid I should ever leave this city - on the weekend after Labor Day, I’ll always think of the street, the raggedly string of lights, the bonfire, the neighbors either huddled against the cold or relaxed in the balm of a late-summer heatwave, the happy stumble-tongued conversations with the menfolk around the keg, and the strange ache you feel the next morning when you look out the window and see the remains of the party scattered on the boulevard - streamers in the gutter, a bottle of ketchup sitting neatly on a curb, an unclaimed pan, a chair passed out on someone’s lawn. That sight said Summer’s Done.

And that was fine with us.