I can understand if you don't like it, and I hope you do, but what really hams my bacon would be not knowing what I'm talking about.

Because I worked so hard! Don't you see? EVERYTHING is different. The typeface over there on the left. The Comments button. The dotted line! The art in the Google Ads box. The above-the-fold dividers, the below-the-fold feature banners, and most of all at the very bottom . . . a clickable calendar. Back by popular demand. And yes, Sans Serif type. It's larger, too. This all seems much cleaner, and certainly a bit more distinctive than the usual Wordpress blog.

Right? Unless no one cares much about these things. Perhaps I'm daft.


Even the little dividers are new!

Okay, I'll shut up. Anyway, the year begins with a return to normal; it's cold, and there's snow on the ground. January is wearing a gift intended for December. I'd regale you with tales of the early hours of 2016, except nothing compelling happened here. I'd rather tell you about something uncompelling that happened elsewhere.

Yes, it's the account of the previous week! Let us call it: "Where Your Narrator Reunites with A Place He Realizes He Loves Less than thought."


I am in Scottsdale. Or was, by the time you read this.

We left on Christmas Day, which made the whole Christmas somewhat . . . non. That was part of the reason this season just didn't catch fire; I knew we'd be leaving instead of spending the day at home. Got up and got out, and I remembered before I left to turn on the upload to Amazon, where I bought unlimited storage for $5, and intended to spend the week pushing bits up the stream one at a time. UBER arrived. Horrible driver. If there's one basic requirement I have while driving 60 MPH down the freeway, it's a minimum of one hand on the wheel. This guy has no hands on the wheel. He's putting the cab back on his water bottle and not even bothering to steer with his knees.

We had TSA precheck! For some reason! Reaffirming your faith in the screening process by arbitrarily bestowing a relaxation of rules, for some reason!

There wasn't a precheck line. For some reason. Get on the plane, buckle in, go: I listened to glorious music that had a soaring moment when the plane took off, and recapped it again at the precise moment the plane shot through the clouds to the blue world above. Absolutely thrilling. After all these years and all these flights, and all these Christmases: thrilling. I mean, my heart soared, literally and physically, given our altitude. What luck to be alive in a time when you can see the hem of heaven's skirt.

At present I'm on a Starbucks on Shea, which doesn't narrow it down - the map says there are three at this intersection. I walked here from brother-in-law's house, and let me tell you, friends, it was a lonely walk. Felt like a throwback from some ancient legend - the old ones say that once men stood and moved along the land by swinging their feet, and you could see them stride with the confidence of gods. Everyone else is zooming by in their cars, and as such doesn't see the details on the sidewalk - the occasional bottle or bag, the tired bush, the front lawn that consists entirely of groomed gravel. (I wonder if someone got up from his chair after wifely nagging, because it was time to rake the lawn.)

By the dry riverbed waiting for a flood, a message:

But that's not a fair representation. This, where I'm staying, is but blocks away.

Now I am at the Tatum & Shea Starbucks, if that narrows it down. Right by the Fry's Marketplace. Paradise Village Gateway or Gateway Paradise Village or the Village at Paragateway. The street is lined with endless permuations of the basic concept.

Speaking of Fry's: I had a Fry's card once, back when we were considering moving here. A Fry card is necessary, because everything costs more without one. Every item has a tag, hanging off the shelf like there's a special sale. $58.99 / $3.99 with card. So you must have a card. I told the clerk I thought I had one, let me see if I can remember which phone number I used to register . . .

"Would you just like to use the store card?" he said.

Because if you don't have a card they just beep a card over the scanner and you get the low price. So . . . why? Well, if you have The Card, you get Rewards. Fine. Whatever. But I asked for my own card, because I want to belong. Don't want to be some itinerant fellow who comes in from far away - I'm from the Valley, I've come for Festival - and relies on the store. A man needs his own card so he can stand tall.

The purchase was Coke and some beer and coffee, stocking the casita where we're staying. Brother-in-law rents it on AirBnB so it's set up for residents, but I didn't want to blow through a box of 54 K cups, and believe me, I could and I would. On this trip I was driving his car, which is a nitro-ride; he's a man who has to get to the hospital quickly, and has the conveyance the profession requires. Earlier that day he's said he would drive us to dinner, but he had to go deliver a baby; he'd be back in 30 minutes. And so he was. It's impressive, and puts your own accomplishments into perspective: set a timer for 30 minutes, and see if you bring new life into the world before it dings.

Earlier that night we'd had dinner at a tapas place off the canal, the river, the rivulet, whatever they call it. Downtown Old Scottsdale, scenic new-Urbanism, chilly. The restaurant was marvelous and had a flamenco dancer. Two white-haired Anglos on guitar, a Hispanic singer with that trademark voice you only find in certain genres of music - husky, ruined, blown-out voice with a nasal overtone, singing from the top of the throat. The dancer was, I learned, half-Japanese. No one complained about cultural appropriation, because no one at the table was a sullen little college brat with its antennae perpetually attuned to detect problematic injustice. To me, it's America, and I say hurrah. She was incredible, but after 20 minutes of heel-banging I wondered if there was a limit to the amount of Flamenco dancing you could enjoy, just like there's a limit to fireworks.

Anyway. Headed home from Fry's with my application for The Card, stowed all the groceries, and reminded myself to leave the keys in the kitchen lest bro-in-law have to get up and deliver a baby at 2 AM. Of course I forgot to put the keys back and of course he had to get up and deliver a baby at 2 AM. But he had spares.

It's not warm, but it's not cold. Everyone has something to do - wife is playing tennis, brothers-in-law playing golf; Daughter has plugged into her cousin's social circles and they're off at night bowling or doing something Fun and Innocent, I'm sure. I have six days that's more or less like living in a cruise ship cabin on a vessel that never leaves the dock, and I can't wait to go home. But that's days away. So I read. And write. And wait.

And walk.





Shall we do all of these?

We shall. I've never seen them. I know, I know, but like so many things I put them off because they were classics, and thus required sitting down and paying attention. Besides, people had parties based around them, and that always puts me off. Cult things. I never wanted to watch Twin Peaks in a room full of people who were waiting for the next catch phrase.

My objective here is not to review the movies; that's not what this feature is about. I'm going to see how they slid downhill in the course of five movies. They had to. They couldn't be as good as the first. Or as good as everyone thought it was.

Note: I can't think of another movie that had its opening credits showing a picture of the author. That's Hammett up there on the shelf. He really is The Thin Man for branding and franchise purposes. Obviously the "Thin Man" does not run through five movies. Obviously it's not - well, our hero.

The screen's most urbane alcoholic. When we meet him he's giving lessons on cocktail shaking. When his wife shows up and asks how many martinis he's had, he says six; her response is to ask the waiter to deliver an equal number for her. It's "Days of Wine and Roses," fun-style! Because no one's really sloshed. No one's really put on the floor, or slurry bleary dopey drunk. At the most they are charmingly tipsy, a point that makes their inner charms emerge with a fresh dash of lemony zest. Other people who are drinking just as much are shown as slobs and out-and-out drunks; not our heroes, who slam it away all day because they are fully-functioning alcoholics who require a hell of a lot of booze to get hammered.

I guess. Or not. They're Movie Drinkers, who are always delightful. Here's the briefest of moments that summed up their relationship for me: Nora has caught Nick consoling a young woman.

She's just adorable, she is. Also sensible and level-headed but with a taste for danger. She wrapped a lot of 30s archtypes into the performance, and created a delightful character.

The movie has mugs . . . .

Dowagers in 30s apartments, which were always monochrome places full of white furniture and accessories. This was always a clue that these people were decadent, and not to be trusted.

Her hair matched the drapes, in the literal sense.

So there's a murder, and Nick has to solve it, with the help of his wife, liquor-fueled inspiration, natural wit, and the first of many Asta dogs. Not a lot of inadvertent documentary, but you know how I love dummy papers:

Look at that layout style: four stories nestled under the big wood. Ten students leap to safety as fire sweeps frat house! Wonder if that happened. Careless smoking, no dout.

Bigger wood, with a curious spelling:

"Clews" is an English variant. But the root is the same: a ball of thread. The mythological orgin: the ball of thread used by theseus to find his way out of the labyrinth.

Ah hah: makes sense, doesn't it? Never thought of the word's origin until now.

In related news: Arabic Talker in Dialog in Arabic. No kidding.

Typical of the movie: this. It's full of amusing bits throughout.


It's an ordinary mystery with charming, highly-functioning alcoholics. How will it play out over 12 years? We'll find out in the next few weeks.

That'll do! We're back to the usual schedule today - Tumblr at Noon and the Workblog around the same time. See you around.


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