When we last met, I was driving home, and was intent on revisiting Island Park.
It's not an Island. But it was, once. Hence its name for all eternity.
There's an old WPA ice rink:
The Bringers of Moderne Cool to every part of the land.
Into the park to visit the old statues.
If you turn around, you see Fargo's newest office building rising:
I spent the night on this and that. Childhood Fargo is quickly giving way to something else: the Long Goodbye. The bones of the Fargo I know will always be here; there are things I remember from childhood that are still around. The sign for my uncle’s store. The sign in the shape of a boot on Main. I drove past my old house; the lights were on, and for a moment, through the window, I glimpsed something ordinary - a wall. A corner. The demarcation between the hallway and the kitchen. The people who live there have no idea how much life flowed through the house in the years before, but none of us do. They are wiped slates when we move in.
I still think about the boy who left a memoir about growing up at Jasperwood, and think of him sometimes when I go down the stairs and remember what he said about sitting on the steps and snooping on his sister with a swain.
Drove downtown at night. Needs to be said: isn’t this the sort of place we need to know still exists?
Where there's old neon . . .
Woke in the middle of the night, the dream still shouting in my head - it was the War of the Worlds, and I’d seen the facade of an office building ripped away, people spilling out and screaming. I saw a leg of a tripod descend and thought “well, it’s never good when a tripod leg appears again,” and I ran. I ran a long time, and ended up at a resort hotel that was in slight disarray on account of the War of the Worlds. An airline pilot at the bar was discussing how business was bad; people were just afraid to fly now, he shrugged. Because of the tripods.
There was a stewardess nearby arranging a promotional display, and she had this sad expression as she tidied up a pyramid of long boxes, each of which had a complimentary assortment of potato chips packaged in various colors pertaining to the airline’s livery. She was miserable. The boxes had been her job, and it was all for naught now. Because of the Tripods.
I woke, unhappy, and tried to make my way to the bathroom, since that’s why I was up. But I didn’t know where I was. I walked into a closet. I stumbled down the hall. I made it to the bathroom without knowing quite where I was. I kept seeing the screaming faces from the office building and the descending leg of the tripod.
What really stuck with me was the disappointed stewardess with the special-event potato chips. On some level she knew that life was over, but she wasn't going to admit it yet.
The next day was back-to-back and wall-to-wall. Lawyer’s meetings, DMV, safe-deposit box contents. We had done that before, but we were looking for a particular document. It’s odd, how you find yourself acting, because we are operating in complete trust here, with good reason; there are no issues of contention, and there are bright lines between what me and my sister got in the will. But I wanted to have the coins in the safe deposit box evaluated, even though I was pretty sure what they were worth. (Why? Because I have a friend in the business who is always dealing with people who inherited a roll of Morgan silver dollars from 1883 and are convinced they are millionaires.) I got out my phone and videoed the removal and the assent, feeling a bit foolish, but one never knows.
The evaluation was just what I suspected: melt value plus four, five bucks a coin. Nothing special. But I stopped the guy halfway through when he didn’t pause on a 78 with seven feathers under eight.
Or maybe I didn’t. Let’s just say I didn’t want to take the first offer. Let’s just say I didn’t want to sell. There’s a reason I have these, and I don’t know why. I don’t know where my dad got them. They weren’t in circulation in his day, and it’s damned unlikely he got them from his Mom. More likely these came from my Mom, and that might mean she got them from her grandfather. When I hold these in my hand, it’s a direct connection to the forebears.
Maybe I want to carry one around every day now.
After I got the title situation figured out I went to the dealership to see if I could find the fellow who sold my dad the car. What follows, I swear, is a verbatim account of the event:
Me: walks into immense showroom of the dealership, looking for a certain guy who had sold my dad cars for years, initials JJ
Tall guy a few yards away: “James Lileks.”
Me: Uh - yes!
Tall guy: Introduces himself as Initials JJ
He knew me because he’d seen me at the funeral.
So, this is Fargo: a car salesman goes to a man’s funeral because he was a good customer.
In the evening I went to eat at Denny’s, because they have a damned fine hamburger and wifi. Fargo is full of good restaurants and trendy places, but they’re focused on turnover and a one-top feels conspicuous. My Fargo heart still beats for the Perkins and places with a booth and a pot of coffee placed on the table without having to request it. They put me in the same booth I had the last time. I set to work with the wifi, wrote some of the column, then relaxed over supper. Dark outside, rain on the window. Work to do.
“Our forefathers decreed that beans should be baked.” It’s right there in the Declaration of Independence.
I've not much to say about these this week, except to note that they're all well-composed and text-dense, and a perfect illustration of late 30s advertisements.
Of all the odd things to use to tout your pens:
He signs 800 letters an hour? In signatures other than his own?
I don’t believe it.
Looks dreadfully civilized, but then you realize that one of them isn’t playing cards. She doesn’t like to? No one invited her?
Oh yay a Whitman chocolate as a prize for playing bridge.
None of these qualify as summer delights
To sum up the great big ad campaigns of the summer of 1937 so far: Beans and Tomato Soup. Also a chocolate.
They sold twice as many as the year before - almost a dozen!
Just kidding. They made a lot of cars in 37.
How many they sold, I don’t know.
The aroma that gets you sex time:
There’s a very 30s cast to that photograph, and I wish I could explain exactly why. The flatness, the angle, the way it’s almost an abstraction.
Bang, one less Deb:
Who was she?
Katharine Brush (August 15, 1902 – June 10, 1952) was an American newspaper columnist, short-story writer, and novelist. In the era of the 1920s-1930s, she was considered one of the country's most widely-read fiction writers,  as well as one of the highest paid women writers of her time ; several of her books were best-sellers, and several others were made into movies.
Brush (whose nickname was "Kay") frequently told friends that despite being popular and critically acclaimed, she worried that after she died, she would probably be forgotten. In 1967, only 15 years after her death, a critic who had known her noted that in fact, fewer and fewer people remembered who she was.
A lesson there for every writer. Alas.
"Mildness" is a relative term when you're talking about these nails:
This would be as good a time as any to remind you of the existence of the large 1930s cigarette advertising archive in the Decades Project, right? Right.
Two years ahead of the Futurama exhibit at the World’s Fair? What?
Wikipedia helps us out:
Geddes had built a model city for a Shell Oil advertising campaign in 1937 that was described as the Shell Oil City of Tomorrow and was effectively a prototype for the much larger and more ambitious Futurama.
Okay, class, here’s a question: did you notice anything about these ads today?
All the brands are still around.