“Only three hundred people read South 12th, but every one of them started their own blog.”
As a raving mad James Howard Kunstlerist, I firmly believe American society must be as ready to slip back into the 19th Century as surely as an old man eases himself into a warm bath. To this end, I believe a nationalized telegraph system could prepare us well for this inevitability, and also harness the raw power of the only product this country is capable of manufacturing anymore, which is bitchin’ knock-off Shepard Fairey posters. We put half the country on the government payroll building telegraph wires that will survive peak oil and the upcoming Cloud Disaster, and the other half designing and screenprinting posters about telegraphs. I made this one myself:
After people see how great the telegraph wires are, they’ll also demand other steampunkish 19th Century amenities, like high-speed rail, and some accompanying posters. Then, before you know it, Minneapolis will be a two-hour commute to Chicago, and America will be covered in sans-serify WPA-style posters. Yes we can!
Colin Kloecker provides some useful information.
Oh, but we’ll all look back on this post and have a great chuckle after I am named Google Buzz Top User Champion of 2015, and I am quoted as saying, “I really cannot imagine my life without Google Buzz. I can’t believe I’d ever want to hide such a useful and powerful tool. What was I thinking?” Then I would make that head-slap pantomime gesture, and everyone at the press conference would chuckle and think, What a charming guy! No wonder he’s the Google Buzz Top User of 2015.
“I love you, Google Buzz!” I will say.
But for now, it’s still 2010. And the Buzz is remaining hidden.
It’s bleak. The burn is very clean, but the lamps flicker in odd ways that catch the waves in the glass of the windows. It reminds you that the windows are very old and that the window installer responsible for their installation has almost certainly been dead for a very long time. I am not sure why I thought an all-oil lamp light diet would be an effective method for combating seasonal affective disorder.
I am using LAMPLIGHT FARMS™ brand lamp oil and cotton wicks. LAMPLIGHT FARMS sounds like the loneliest place in the world. What do you think life would be like if you worked on LAMPLIGHT FARMS? Very early bedtimes, I’d imagine.
And hard days in the field, harvesting wicks. Or whatever one does on a lamplight farm.
LAMPLIGHT FARMS is one of those brands named after a presumably fictitious location, like ORGANIC VALLEY or ICE MOUNTAIN, that doesn’t register as odd-sounding until you really stop to consider how absurdly made-up it sounds. Still, LAMPLIGHT FARMS sounds much more sinister than ICE MOUNTAIN. LAMPLIGHT FARMS sounds like slow descents into madness and jilted lovers and moonless nights. It sounds like dead Victorians to me.
A few years ago, I had a combination TV/VCR that the previous tenant of my apartment had left behind when she moved out. I already had an old TV, and didn’t need a second, so I decided to get rid of it. The TV part still picked up broadcast television just fine, and the VCR part still played VHS tapes with no trouble, so it seemed reasonable that I could get about fifteen bucks for it on Craigslist. I posted an ad, with a photo, and it sat there for a few days with no responses. I considered putting it in the free section.
But then I thought about VCRs a little more carefully. Why would someone want a VCR when they could have a DVD player? I wished I could repost the ad in 1993, when people still needed VCRs.
Then I realized that I could. I rewrote the ad, and instead of a photo of the TV, I used a photograph of the Cheers title screen.
Then, instead of text describing what the TV/VCR looked like and how it worked, I wrote a little essay about how you could always record Cheers on a VCR, and watch the tape later. And that was how you interacted with Sam and Rebecca and Woody and Frasier, because maybe in the late ’80s and early ’90s you had to work late on Thursdays. You could come home at night and the gang at Cheers would be waiting for you. I suggested you could relive these times with the TV/VCR I had.
Almost immediately after reposting it, I got an email from a guy in one of the far-flung western suburbs, probably almost an hour out, who said he’d loved Cheers and that I should call him in the next thirty minutes. I did, and he made an appointment to stop by that afternoon to take a look. He asked me if I’d seen the recent special that Ted Danson and Rhea Perlman hosted.
Two hours later, he dropped by, and we spent fifteen minutes talking about our favorite episodes of Cheers. He was a fan of the episode where Lillith made Fraiser move into a cabin in the woods. I didn’t remember that one, but we both remembered the episode where the gang went sky-diving. He bought the TV/VCR for fifteen dollars.
I felt a little guilty initially, like maybe I’d fleeced this person by making him drive an hour into the city and preyed upon some treasured memories of a television program he’d loved for my own profit. But I don’t think this was the case, because the thing was, I really enjoyed talking about Cheers with the guy.
One of my favorite types of social interactions — and perhaps one of the trickiest to navigate — is when you meet someone for the first time, discover that you have a mutual acquaintance whom you personally dislike very much, and then try to figure out, without tipping your hand, if the person you’ve just met also dislikes this mutual acquaintance as much as you do. It’s a difficult little dance. I am sure the Germans have a word for it. We don’t in English, unfortunately.
Recently I was introduced to a pleasant, hippie-ish guy at a party, and it turned out he’d played in a band with a certain unsmiling jerk I’d once known. The jerk in question would very easily make my all-time top 5 list of most unpleasant people I’ve ever known. I hadn’t heard anything about him in a few years, so I was eager to find out if his general unpleasantness had finally caught up with him.
“Oh, yes, [name redacted],” I said, smiling a little too broadly. “He’s, uh, quite a character, huh?” The guy I’d just met looked at me. “Yes, he is,” he said. Very neutral tone of voice; he wasn’t taking the bait.
I frowned for a moment, then offered this mysterious, open-ended statement: ”I, uh, always wondered how that particular story ended.”
“Well,” said the guy, “he’s out in Portland now, playin’ music. I have to say, I’ve never met a more talented guy. He’s just incredible. He can just…I mean, he’s top 5, for sure.”
No, no! Wrong top 5! Geez, band guys! They’re all the same!
I smiled politely. “Yep, he’s definitely a great guitar player,” I said. (This is true.) “Glad he’s doing well.” (This was maybe less true.)
He nodded. I smiled again, and then I dropped the subject.
I was a little disappointed. I was looking forward to recounting tales of [name redacted]’s various unsmiling crimes against humanity with a former bandmate. Instead, I heard a more familiar story about a jerk that moved to Portland and played guitar well. I felt like a creep, so I went and ate a bunch of feelings, in the form of hors d’oeuvres. There’s no English word for that, either.
Thank you for the kind compliment, Mr. Lindsay, but my reputation for being well-dressed is a little overblown, I think. As I’ve noted here before, my regular tailor is a 17th Century French priest named St. Vincent de Paul. Almost all of my clothes are basically junk, and I’m kind of a cheapskate anyway. There are small holes in almost every article of clothing I am wearing today, in fact:
- my Johnny Carson-brand jacket has one in the elbow.
- the Sears-brand shirt I am wearing has a tear on the bottom, where it tucks into the pants.
- my 1991-ish camel fur cardigan (a birthday gift from a long-ago girlfriend — “Lord Jeff” brand) is pretty patchy in places.
- my LL Bean long underwear, so essential to thriving in the northern climate, is a little beat-up in certain regions.
I don’t mind, particularly, and I’m sure you don’t, either. But this sort of slovenly disregard for sartorial integrity wouldn’t fly in many circles.
But that stuff doesn’t matter, really. The trick is not where you buy your clothes, or what they are, but putting it all together so that it works for you. I like pants with straight legs and no pleats, and two-button blazers, and V-neck sweaters, and scarves, and dress shirts with large-ish starched collars. Those are all easy enough to find if you look hard enough. I always have great luck at the Lake Street Savers. The Unique in Northeast is beyond reproach, as well. When in need of more speciality items, I have made very worthwhile purchases at Lost and Found and Blacklist Vintage on Nicollet Avenue.
(Paranthetically: are you as obsessed with vintage store clerks as I am, reader? I don’t mean to sound like a creep here, but I love them. I adore them. I get tongue-tied and clammy-handed every time. The way they stand behind the counter, all aloof, in beautiful vintage dresses, playing vaguely hip records over the store’s loudspeakers and pricing out men’s ties on handmade labels. They seem like holdovers from a happier, more authentic era. Baristas, record store clerks and librarians once held the same sway, but the coffee shop, record store [what very few there are left] and library have evolved in a way that the vintage store has not. Every time I walk into a vintage store, I feel like buying zines and voting for Ralph Nader. They seem fundamentally unchanged from the last major cultural era. God, am I getting old. What was I even talking about? Decrepitude is coming fast. Oh, right — tailors.)
That said, as far as tailors and clothiers are concerned in Minneapolis-St. Paul, you can’t go wrong with Hemies. Remember when Colin had that Prussian cycle champion mustache? That was Hemies. They have beautiful suits and they treat you like a duke. They’re really the best of the best.