Pretzel the Hamster is suffering from Sudden Onset Hamster Obesity Syndrome, or SOHOS. A fortnight ago he was a fairly sleek creature, and took to his wheel every night; now he prefers to do nothing but eat, and has grown large enough that he needs a Rascal Scooter to get around. Nothing has changed in his diet, or the feeding patterns; daughter has been trying to get him to exercise as much as possible, but he’s hit the point in his short life where the consolations of a tasty nodule are irresistible and the wheel has been revealed as a metaphor for existence itself.
Well, a hamster existence, anyway. If he should perish soon it will be sad, but it will be hamster-sad. We’ve been through that before. He’s had a fine life, and should he give up the ghost he’ll have company. Maybe.
“Dad this was really weird, but I had Pretzel’s door open, and I turned away, and heard a metal sound and when I turned around the door was closed.”
Well. Let’s investigate. This door, or this one? She didn’t remember if it was the one on the front or the top. If it was the top, then it fell down. Never ascribe to the supernatural what can be easily explained by gravity. That’s Occam’s Disposable Razor Cartridge. Not as famous but valid nonetheless. But then there was the computer that turned itself on. Well. Let’s investigate. It’s old. The battery is dead and it survives because it’s plugged in. Any interruption to the power might make it shut off and turn on. Did it make the reboot sound? No. Then it was just something that made the screen come on.
Then there’s the shuffling sound outside the door. Sure it isn’t squirrels? They get in the attic. I thought they were ghosts. No, it’s a shuffling sound.
Look, if any room’s haunted, it would be my studio; a guy died in there 40 years ago, I think. Who knows. It’s not the ghost of the previous hamster. The world would be an incredibly annoying place if rodents left active ghosts; no one would get a moment of sleep.
A fine weekend. Did some long deep site revisions on things that have been unchanged for half a decade. Drove and didn’t wreck the car. Oh: we got some snow on Friday.
The Winter Squirrel is completely buried. Wife took my car on Friday, so I had to use hers to get the pizza on Friday night. What fun. What grand fun. It weights eight ounces and it’s about six inches off the ground, so it performs poorly in advanced snow conditions, but it does have an optional stick so you can wind it up a bit more than an automatic. This is helpful for going around corners, ploughing through the drift, fishtailing, and snapping it back into a straight line. On the way back home I saw traffic backed up for three blocks for no discernible reason, and juked around a back road. When I got to the intersection where things had clotted, I saw a car that could not get up 3% grade, simply because the road was ice and the car had spun a rut.
Encountered the same situation Saturday at Target, but here things were different: a car could not get up the slight incline to enter the traffic circle. The people behind leaped out of the car and pushed it forward, because that is what they do. They proceeded. The next car could not get up the incline, and the driver put her hand out the window and waved, a generally understood gesture that meant I’m going to take a run at it. Meanwhile, a Mini Cooper driven by a twenty something female who could not BELIEVE that traffic wasn’t going smoothly went around the line of cars waiting to leave, which provoked a chorus of aggravated klaxons. Eventually the other car made it up, rear end waddling like a drunk burlesque queen, and the Mini Cooper shot ahead of everyone, earning the driver so much bad karma she will be reincarnated as a fat hamster.
Errands were easy. And fun. I was in a splendid mood. At Target I spotted a co-worker, and brought my cart alongside and tacked starboard until I drove her into an endcap, which as you can imagine produced a reaction. I think you can do whatever you like to people you know but meet in unexpected situations, because their outrage evaporates once they know it’s you, oh you kidder, hah! I thought it was some rude person.
I went to the bottle shop, but they didn’t have what I was looking for, so I left empty-handed. You feel odd, leaving a liquor store without making a purchase. Really? Nothing? No, you didn’t have what I came to get. And nothing else fit the bill. Well, no. Creature of habit and adherent to certain price-point parameters, so, no. There’s a guy at the front who offers samples of wine every Saturday, and I always wave him off or avert my eyes, First of all, it’s always about 3 PM and I’ve had, at most, a 60-calorie container of “Almost Eggs, Sort of” for breakfast (highly recommended, though - dump it in a pan, add some pepper cheese and salsa, half a bagel on the side: that’s my Saturday morning breakfast.) No lunch, so by 3 PM even a communion-sized ration of wine would make me reel a little. Second, once I tried to engage him on the merits of a particular sample, discuss the things that made it interesting, and he just nodded and looked bored, so now I’m all FINE THEN TO HELL WITH YOU. I think this was seven years ago.
Sunday breakfast is different: one of the local dairies came up with ready-made French Toast batter, and let me tell you, friends, it’s remade our weekend. It’s spectacular. I live in fear that it will be discontinued. You can’t stock up, because it’s perishable. You can only hope it’s there when you go to the store. It’s like Trader Joe’s microwave popcorn: it was there, and yea, it was good, and then it wasn’t. They said they had problems with the supplier of Organic Popcorn, and okay fine whatever figure it out, but months have passed and omerta has descended; it’s just gone. There’s no empty space on the shelf with a sign, no cries of despair on the internet, nothing. It’s like it never existed, and this isn’t one of those niche products.
I would have asked, but they can’t help. The computer just says it’s on hold. I felt bad enough getting the yogurt from the cooler while the help restocked the yogurt. “Don’t worry,” said one stocker. “A lady just came by and took 20.”
“All the shelves are bare today. Locusts?”
“We haven’t had a truck in three days.”
I asked the check-out clerk why the truck was delayed: snow?
“It froze to the ground,” she said. “Literally.”
Anyway, I got the French Toast Batter at Cub, and wandered the aisles wondering what I was forgetting. (Answer: microwave popcorn, as I discovered when I got home.) I keep a full record of the home supplies in my head, and have the week’s meals planned before I shop. I know what I have in excess. I know what breakfast innovation daughter burned through fast last week. I know how we’re in a strange place when it comes to milk, where replenishment is now a mid-week thing. This will rebalance eventually.
Oh: daughter and breakfast. There was no school last Friday, because of the snow. This I learned from a phone call at 5:41 AM. Sweet. Jeebus. Daughter got up early, made herself an egg, brewed a cup of coffee and added a jot of the Samosas-flavored Coffee Adulterator (35 calories) and said she took it on the marble slab in the living room, overlooking the Great Hill, beholding the peace and beauty of the world with a sense of great contentment. It made me happy to hear that, because I know just what she felt. Don’t you? A civilized breakfast, a cup of coffee, the cold white world on the other side of the glass, a moment to yourself in a place that you love. It’s a feeling that floods into every crevice and fissure; it’s a thing you don’t forget.
This place, this view, this heart, this hearth. Home. There will be others. This will always be the first.
You can tell the era right away by the typeface and the design and the fact that it’s just words on a flat surface: the Forties. It would be a while before credits were anything else. We’re used to kinetic credit sequences now, but for years they didn’t do much except spell it out.
The audience might have known right away where this is:
. . . because the word ASTOR meant one place only. In any case, it’s the Big City, and if it’s the Big City, it’s New York. Next shot proves it:
Rear projection. Obviously Times Square; the International Casino on the right nails the location, and I’m sure that any diligent consumer of lileks.com knows exactly what I’m talking about, right? The place that would host the Incredibly Mixed-Up Nude Statues That Stopped Living and Became Pepsi Bottles? Right. Even without the history-making headlines, you could date teh show from the neon - in particlar the Wrigleys Fish, barely visible in the upper right hand corner.
We go to the news bureau.
Shadowy hats! Man, this is going to be noir all over the place. Right?
Nope. Or rather, Bob. There’s a lot about Hope I find interesting - the arc of his career, his tirelessness, the way his comic persona of the charming weasel with the ready quip and smooth exterior that could crumple in a second and reassert itself just as quickly, the campy arch moments where he walked right up to the lavender line then sidestepped it, the way he projected an amusing American breeziness through the wartime years. It’s quite a story. I find he wears out his welcome quickly. As did the film. But you can see why audiences of 1943 might have guffawed. Here's a shot from the plane that takes hope from Moscow to New York, and happens to have te same newspaper they were passing out in Times Squre.
About the only thing I found interesting in the last half was a matchbook . .
. . . and this. It ends with a big comic fight between Hope and some Marines with a nest of Axis spies. I wouldn't have noticed it if someone hadn't mentioend it in an imdb comment. As the Japanese spy is led away, Hope kicks him in the rear and says "that's to save your face."