Day 948 of the heatwave; fine by me. Right now it’s pitch black at 93. We topped 100 around town today, and that always seems like a mark of accomplishment. The summer has nothing to be ashamed of. Well struck!

Of course, it left me dead by five PM; just walking outside to water the flowers (petals – limp – must – assist – vascular– turgidity – prevent – cell - plasmolysation) felt like wandering into a kiln wearing a parka. A parka on fire. The heat erased a large portion of my brain, and made it difficult to finish a column this morning, partly because the thing was so misbegotten at the start I had to rewrite it from the bottom up without knowing quite what point I was trying to make. (It hit me, as usual, in the shower, and then everything was clear.) Then I wrote another one, just because I could. (And because I had to.) In between I chatted with Gnat, who had no classes or clubs or camps or anything today. Just the two of us at home. Sweating.

She amused herself with the toys from her birthday haul. The worst is the Fargin’ Tamagotchi, about which Friday Quirk will have much to say. The best is her Barbie “12 Dancing Princesses” doll, which is the subject of Saturday’s Quirk. (I see things entirely in terms of the section themes these days, and file them away accordingly). She got a Furby, which refuses to respond to her commands. It’ll listen to me one-eighth of the time, but only if I stand an inch from its face and R. Lee Ermey the thing until my neck veins pop. Hateful little smug abomination.

Her party was held at Pump It Up – that’s a chain of tot-fete locales with giant inflatable play areas. Around here they’re located in suburban office parks, which gives you a peek at the world of low-slung economic incubators.  (I passed one storefront with the FunkyChunky logo, and recalled tasting the stuff at the local grocery store: delish. Someone saw a niche for hugely expensive pretzel-based popcorn slathered in quality chocolate, and filled it.) Ten kids, a big room, screeches and white noise from the fans that kept the bouncies inflated. It struck me that those things must leak from every seam, since they collapse in seconds if the fans stop running. (Indeed, every night they turn off the fans and the giant structures wilt into heaps of colored rubber.)

Last year we had the party here, with games and a magician and piles of rubbish at the end of the day; at Pump It Up they endure the racket and wear & tear, provide the party room, and clean up afterwards. It lacks the personal touch, but it’s easier on everyone. After two hours of bouncing and sliding and running the kids head into a spare room with an inflated throne at one end; the lights go down, the cake is borne towards the guest of honor, and Happy Birthday is sung. And another year begins.

“I don’t feel older, but I am,” Gnat said. “I’m almost a teenager.”

Later that day we told her tales of the day she was born, which delighted her; she especially enjoyed hearing my description of how she appeared to be hyperventilating, and I had to ask the nurses if that was normal. (“Do again the part where I was breathing like this huh-huh-huh-huh! That’s funny.”) That brought back a slew of memories we’d repressed, about the grim persnickety nurses at the hospital who took care of her in the premature baby ward. We remembered the locus of modern evil, Moustachia Cowbitch, the hairy-lipped cud chewer who snapped at every request and made the most famously ill-advised remark I can imagine: “if her temperature doesn’t get up, she’s not going to make it.”

She meant that Infant Gnat would not be moving out of the incubator soon, but that’s not what a parent hears, is it?

Odd to think of how fragile she was at first, how much of the first 48 hours seemed touch-and-go, how she had that little tube down her mouth and the wires attached to her tiny body. Heartbreaking, it was; if a man had showed up with a rusty saw and offered to hack off your arm in exchange for her survival gar-an-teed, you’d roll up your sleeve and borrow a Sharpie to draw the dotted line. Now she’s the picture of rude ruddy health, cheerful and bright, brimming with the heedless glee that comes from knowing she is loved and the world is kind. She’ll be okay, this one.

As I have noted before: she has my father’s spirit. It’s odd how these thing recombine and resurface; I have my the inward self-gnawing twitchy nature of my mother’s side; physically, I am growing slowly into Grandpa’s face, with my dad’s shoulders grafted onto the slender build of my mom’s side. Would that I had his equilibrium, but some things you must learn by example, I guess. I have the feeling that my wife’s side will assert itself later through brilliance and beauty; for now she’s a happy little barrel rolling up and down the placid dells, and I can easily imagine her growing up as my dad did, penniless and without a home to really call her own, running barefoot through fields they neither own nor plow, laughing in the hot eternal sun of July in the plains.

Of course, that’s just projection. The memory I took away from today was her first defeat of a Cog Building in Toontown. “It was a level 5 Cog and I did it without sossing,” she said, exultant.


"Oh. When you call for help to defeat a cog it’s called an SOS, but I call it sossing."

My dad didn’t gather around the telegraph machine and beat distant imaginary plutocrats with CQDing, I guarantee you that.

Dad called her today from somewhere on the road; he was off to look at a truck. And by “truck” I mean something as long as a city block with 48 positions on the gearshift. Good sign; more business means he has to expand capacity, and I guess he needs another transport to feed the trains. (In addition to the gas station and convenience store, they supply fuel to the trains that pause in Fargo in the dark of the night before heading east.) He wanted to wish Gnat a happy birthday. They talked for a while on the phone, and then the signal broke up.

“Hello? Hello?” she said. She handed the phone to me. “Grandpa’s gone.”

“He’ll be back,” I said.

He will. God willing, the creek don’t rise and the hidden Imam doesn’t come back on the 22nd off this month,  he’ll dance at her wedding.

Back to work; the weekly musical thing is here. (2.2 MB)  It’s uptempo techno hoo-hah, for lack of a better description; aside from one drum track, I am to be blamed for everything. The bass line comes across more clearly on headphones, for whatever reason. New Quirk as well. Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you tomorrow.


c. j lileks. email may be sent to first name at last name dot com.