Remember that cheese wrapper wax castle I was building a couple months ago?
BOOYA. Soon I will build a moat and hire some archers. Best ye have an invitation when you gallop into mine courtyard, Chuck! Forsooth! I say.
And no, this isn’t one of those “Man, he hasn’t posted in a long time, he probably just doesn’t want to leave an open gap in the monthly post calendar for reasons having nothing to do with blogging and mostly everything to do with the appearance of consistency,” no, why would you think that?
I used to collect antique postcards when I was in college, or “vintage” for you excessively modernist cats. Racist postcards were especially treasured finds. I guess I thought I was being post-ironic and hip or something, because I was a man of the learned present, not some regressive ape from the 40s, or 20s, or whenever it was this buried loot came up from whence.
Funny how things come back to you. I was going through the pictures I’ve been scanning for my mom, and these postcards turn up. I’d really forgotten completely about them, until my mom reminded me that I used to be very excited about this hobby.
Giggling-at-bigots yucks aside, the thing I never did when I first found these, apparently, was stop and read the back sides of them. Because they are full of messages from the Facebook that your grandpa knew about. Telling you who is bored and who had the gout and who had duck and green beans for supper. Also there is a check for $2.50 in the mail from your Uncle Grover and it is intended for you to buy some Xmas presents for your cousins. Always Xmas because space on postcards is small and writing is large.
The stories they tell are shrunken monologues, one-act plays divorced from context without any apparent resolution. You are dropped like a heavy sack into the middle of a room full of people you have never met.
So we obtained a cat last week. We went to the animal shelter and we were all like “Cat: give us one,” and they made us walk through about a thousand kittens, and the volunteers they would pick up these tiny mewling balls of fluff and hurl them at us and sometimes they would stick and sometimes not and then there were all these kittens at our feet, shrieking and furious, or unconscious, and we fought our way through and demanded to see an older cat, something that wasn’t stupid.
So you go around and here are all the cats, and they all live in three-foot-wide jail cells. Two-story jail cells, but still, prison. And they’re nice cats. Some are fat. Some are sleeping. You wave at them: wake up! You’re missing your chance here, pal! They’re not moved one way or the other. And in one of the little cubicles here is this one cat, and she is pretty, a tortoiseshell, and mouthy, and pacing back and forth like a tiger and screaming at us, which we would later understand to mean I AM IN NEED OF AN ACTION! PLEASE PERFORM IT NOW! NOW! Scritched her on the head and played with her nextdoor neighbor, an acrobatic daredevil who did a nosedive into her cage while jumping for my finger. Then I met a kitten that turned out to be named Spock, and I thought, I don’t really want a kitten, but it is called Spock; its ears are extra large and they named it Spock. I think I was meant to have this cat. We waited until the next day and came back, certain we would get this Spock kitty and bring him home.
He had already been adopted. Which was good, because now I didn’t have to worry about a homeless kitty named Spock. But, still. We are down one cat. Back to the cubicles we go. How about this big fat guy called Mr. Big? He’s old and cranky, so of course you want him. They put us in a room and bring him in, and he plops down and doesn’t move. Pet him and he snarls. Only moves his front paws. Not happy. “He’s got pretty bad arthritis,” says the volunteer. We all make sad faces at each other, and decide an angry cat with arthritis is probably more than we can take on right now. “How about that tortie you call Mia?” I ask. The volunteer says go in the other room; I will bring her to you.
I am collecting the wax outer layers of Babybel cheeses, the red wax that you have to peel off to get to the cheesy goodness underneath. I am turning the wax into blocks. I have a whole Costco bag of these cheeses; there is a lot of wax in this bag!
With these blocks I am building a castle.
Someone should know about this. I’ll let you know when it’s done, don’t you worry.
When we went down to LA to visit my mom before Christmas last month, she had this big box of photos sitting there. Detritus. Family detritus. Weird photos! I knew it before I even asked.
Every family has a big box of confusing photos. Random snapshots of people, a lot of them dead, some more of them alive. Many of them are black and white and printed on paper with strangely corrugated edges. Using developing techniques which are unfamiliar to you. The images will be largely unrelated to each other thematically; you only have them because someone once put one away in a box, and then added to that box every time someone else sent them a picture. That box was passed down to someone else in your family, and then again, and now you own it: a box full of somebody else’s memories.
So I knew that. But I kind of wanted that. “Your uncle paid some guy at Ritz Camera to scan them in and he wasn’t happy with the job they did; he said the CD they gave him was missing lots of photos he knew were in the box. So I’m going through them to see if I can find things I want and then I’ll have somebody scan them.”
“Done,” I said. I have an all-in-one printer, I explained. It does three things kind of badly all at once!
“But, there are a lot of these things,” she started to say, but I was having none of it. “Doesn’t matter,” I said, snatching up the box with both hands. “I’ve got both time and the wherewithal.”
And then I disappeared in a puff of logic, reappearing instantaneously approximately 400 miles north, with toner-stained fingers.
And the first thing I’m noticing here, after getting through the first big batch of modern, color snapshots, is that there are a ton of people in my family whom I have no idea who. I mean, no clue. If they were ghosts and haunted me, I would be all like “Somebody else’s ghost! Oh noes…”
And the second thing that I had no idea about is that apparently my family could star in a book called Wisconsin Death Trip Part II:
I’m sure everybody’s ancestors look weird, bathed in stark contrast and low resolution, their faces hidden by 100-year-old shadows and framed by long-dead trees and swing sets long since reduced to splinters, but jesus christ! Is that baby wearing a stocking cap? AM I AMISH?
My grandfather, who was actually a very nice midwestern security guard and veteran of two world wars. Meet Al Capone’s brother. They called him Ripped Up Face.
“Sorry Ma, I didn’t mean to do it! Please don’t send me to the Scarin’ Tree again! I’ll be good!”
I think this is an arm holding some kind of fish. Everybody died of botulism.
I did find one very pleasant image, and it’s a little girl and a puppy in a wagon and there’s nothing scary about that at all and everybody loves kids and puppies and wagons. But there will be more Death Trip to come, because did I mention there are hundreds and maybe thousands of these things? Because there are.
For the first edition of Frankenstein Jones Presents at Fiasco Towers, we kick it back to the early ’70s, an era when road movies had evolved from Buz-n-Tod innocence and wonder tied inextricably to America’s newfound love of the automobile (“What’s out there? Let’s find out!”) to a wary, existential horror at the prospect of The Road actually answering that very question; posed (Vietnam flagrante, post-JFK, -RFK, -MLK and -Manson) with only a slight tweak in verbal emphasis, the Emptiness of the American Canvas becomes a nagging worry (“What’s out there?”) instead of a carefree lark, a symbol of the profound pessimism that weighed down the post-Hippy hangover.
You never know what’s around the next bend in the road, these two films seem to be saying. But you probably won’t be happy about it.
First up, Steven Spielburg’s made-for-TV classic, Duel. “A business commuter is pursued and terrorized by a malevolent driver of a massive tractor-trailer.”
Yes, thank you RottenTomatoes.com, but Duel (1971) is so much more than that, and probably less, too. See Dennis Wagner battle impotence via metallic proxy! See one man wage helpless war against an implacable foe! See “man vs. machine” metaphors fly like cat fur! See Dennis Weaver cry! See Dennis Weaver scream at his car! See Dennis Weaver hoot like a baboon! See gorgeous vistas of the sun-baked high desert immediately north of Los Angeles! See red cars from the 1970s!