I had expected to win the competition easily, but the questions were much more difficult than we’d expected. It was a word association game of some kind, held in a large dark auditorium, semi-circular, the seats steeply raked. When everyone took a break I left with my competition partner - she had assumed different personas throughout the dream, but mostly felt like a high-school debate partner - and explored the area around the hall.

It was in a residential district. After a few blocks we came across a remarkable intersection: four square blocks of 50s-style buildings with large neon signs, all in the Google style. I recognized them all, and pronounced that of course, of course, we were in Los Angeles. I began to explain the history of the signs I knew, but was dismayed to see that they were all in terrible condition. Rusted. Peeling paint. No one cared about them. The buildings - shops, restaurants - seemed to be out of business.

The place was the same but its time had passed. The sight was disheartening, and I wanted to leave. We’d best get back to the competition, anyway.

On the way back we passed an exhibition of the Constitution, and my companion smirked and took it out of the case and spent the next few blocks ripping into thin strips. I woke, and for a moment remembered that story about how naps after a certain age make you more likely to get dementia. Perhaps I am already there.

Don’t know where that came from. I had been looking at travel sites for a possible trip to New York, though. Maybe that was the spur. The hotel pages were all depressing. 1,034 results! Great. I called up my old familiar hotel, and read a few pages of sad laments about its current state. Peeling wallpaper seemed a constant. I was stunned to see one property I knew described as tired and worn and dated - when I’d stayed there it was the top of the toppermost, and it was 50 stories tall. How can anything that tall fall into disrepair?

Ah, but that was a long time ago. I can easily imagine what they meant. Scuffed wood, loose fixtures, bygone hues. Well, let’s look at this one, it’s recommended . . .

The room, of course, was the size of - well, a New York hotel room. Spare and “modern” in that new cacophonous style - here’s the lobby, with silver foil on the walls and mismatched vintage sofas and a 70s round lamp and a dreadful painting! And so on and so on, all of them ridiculously expensive. Even the most basic joint charged a “resort fee,” which in one case meant “coffee in the lobby in the morning.”

The more I thought about it, the more I didn’t want to go to New York at all. Part of the problem was getting from the airport to the city; my head just hurts thinking of the traffic. And then the noise. Oh, it’s exhilarating; I enjoyed my last stay, but I don’t think it could get any better.

Maybe just leave it at that.

Maybe I’m done with New York.

And that would be fine. I’d rather go to Chicago. I’d rather get to know Boston more. I’d rather go to Washington DC and visit all my ghosts.

A man who is tired of London is tired of life, but a man who is tired of New York is tired of paying $372 for a room with no water pressure and an indifferent desk clerk who will certainly leave a note for housekeeping about the broken iron.

I know, I know. Not the standards by which one should base a great city, but I have the usual Midwesterner’s conceit: I want the old New York, not the actual one the inhabitants made. I want the old stone buildings, not the Billionaire’s Row supertalls. The Fuller Building, not the Conde Nast.

What, the Fuller Building? You say. Which one? Ah, I see you are a person of discernment and knowledge. Well. The Fuller company built two buildings. They put their name on the first, but a nickname stuck, and no one called it the Fuller Building.
It’s the Flatiron.

They weren’t going to have that happen with the 1929 HQ.


The company built many landmarks, including Penn Station, and the Lincoln Memorial. And Macy’s. All endure.

They also built the Plaza. I stayed at the Plaza once, when I did the Joan Rivers show. It was nice. What I remember where the extraordinary wide hallways, which seemed to be designed so two porters pushing carts of steamer trunks could meet in opposite directions without anyone having to move over. It felt like a remarkable dense building, its classical decorations too profuse, too gilded. But it did capture a time and a place.

The place is the same but its time has passed.


Hey, I came across one more! YOU CAN WIN 100K in 1936 dollars if you come up with something obvious and Old-Gold-specific:

"Nobody will burn your tablcloth!" If there's one thing we don't talk about much anymore, it's how a cigarette holds its ash.

If there's one thing no one ever does anymore, it's serve cigarettes. Did people show up expecting the hostess to supply them?




It's a birthday party for the Wizard of Oz! The old fellow is . . . Sixty! Practically dead.


It's a birthday party for the Wizard of Oz! The old fellow is . . . Sixty! Practically dead.

He’s a beloved teacher. Hard to tell if this is intended to take place now, in the 40s, or forty years before. There's a timelessness to these old academic settings.

Is this some sort of Mr. Chips pix? Oh, look, here are two of his college students:

When the class concludes everyone sings a song . . . in LATIN. Goddee-amous ligater, you know.

At the family dinner, good news! What a bright modern headstrong woman. And then what we would call the record-scratch moment:


Oh okay so that’s where this is set. You can tell right away where the characters line up:

No ambiguities. 

In the other room, the menfolk thinks this is just grand:

It’s an odd movie: Good German Jimmy Stewart against Bad German  Robert Young, in FATHERLAND KNOWS BEST

The Wizard of Oz goes to the camp.

Straight away. In 1933. Hmm. I recall from my reading of the Klemperer Diaries that the corruption of society was a gradual thing. But in this movie it's the instant Nazification of everything, right down to the small-town level. The entire civil service was now full of true-believer Nazis who believed in racial purity.

They even had lighting fixtures ready to send to small Bavarian towns, it seems:

If nothing else, they had punchable mugs:

It does a good job of capturing the enthusiastic menace of the newly emboldened, and you can't help but think it was one of the movies that was getting us ready, and everyone knew it.



That'll do! Se you around.



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