So they took the State Tree down from in front of the capitol yesterday. I mean the people who were supposed to take it down, and they were doing it as scheduled, so don’t go thinking this took anyone by surprise. Still, it’s a sad reminder that all the merriness and wishing-for-goodwill of the holiday season is passing. Plus, that tree’s going to end up sitting on the curb waiting for the city trash collectors to pick it up. The city trash collectors won’t pick up a tree unless you cut it into six-foot-long fragments. You’d think someone would tell the governor’s office about that. We go through this every year.
Today’s is a cartoon from 1960. I always lead with that, but I want that year particularly remembered. The story is by Ed Nofziger, and the animation direction by Eddie Rehberg. So you know the producer (and director) was Jack Kinney. So, again, from 1960, here’s Popeye in the Woods.
This is another cartoon that feels like two cartoon ideas pushed together. In particular, it feels like a regular cartoon onto which a public service announcement was grafted, like Gene Deitch’s Tooth Be Or Not Tooth Be. Here, it’s a camping cartoon plus a warning about not setting the forest on fire.
So it sends Popeye and Wimpy out to the woods, past a quick shot of commanding billboards, to sleep. They’re out in the open, without even sleeping bags. Popeye is kept awake by the quiet sounds of the woods. Apart from a squirrel dropping an acorn and a frog beating its chest, these are all insects. Or mushrooms popping up. I’m not sure why it’s almost all insect noises, except I guess for the comic exaggeration that a caterpillar is so very slight a sound.
There’s also the good comic instinct that Wimpy falls asleep and stays asleep. This after complaining he wanted hamburgers that Popeye said they couldn’t cook here. Wimpy snores, so we know he’s asleep. But he’s also interrupted by mutterings about hamburgers. And the most interesting one is a muttering, “hamburger with cheese and bacon”.
So, do you know the story of The Bacon Cheeseburger? Granting, yes, it’s always hard to track down where foods actually started. But the least-disputed claim is that bacon cheeseburgers first appeared at an A&W restaurant on then-US 16 in Lansing, Michigan. In 1963. (The road is now either Grand River Avenue or Cesar Chavez Avenue, depending on where the restaurant was.) Then-franchise-owner Dave Mulder thought the cheeseburger would be even better with bacon, and what do you know, was right. (Mulder would go on to be chairman of A&W, so, good instincts all around.) Granted, it’s absurd to suppose that no person ever had the thought of putting bacon on a cheeseburger before 1963. This still seems like an early publication of the idea.
And this is not Wimpy’s only act of food pioneering this cartoon. After Popeye finally silences the forest, the quiet wakes him up. Again, good story structure there. Wimpy sees the mushrooms that appeared and declares “mushroom-burgers are delicious”. He sets them grilling on what seems more like a mushroom kebab than anything else, but, still. Today, restaurants offer portobello mushrooms, for vegetarians who want something like a burger only disappointing. When did that start? When did that become widespread? People aren’t copying Wimpy’s inspiration here, right?
Wimpy’s campfire starts a forest fire, and Popeye eats his spinach so he can stomp it out. Wimpy has to jump into the water to put himself out, and ruins his mushroom-burger-kebab. And Popeye explains how bad forest fires are, starting from the killed trees to the displaced animals to the floods and human misery that result. And then cooks a chagrinned Wimpy some hamburgers, in a proper grill, because he’s Popeye the safety-in-the-woods man.
As with the tooth cartoon I’d like to know if this was meant to be a public service. I wouldn’t think it hard to fill a whole five minutes with camping jokes, especially since so much of the time was jokes about not being able to get to sleep. It makes more sense they couldn’t find five minutes of jokes about woodland fire safety, at least not before deadline. It would also make sense of Wimpy feeling regret about the innocents he might have harmed.
And I would so like to know whether Wimpy bestowed on us all the bacon cheeseburger and the portobello mushroom burger and didn’t even make a fuss of it.
I have to write this piece today. Tomorrow we in Lansing, Michigan are supposed to be getting some cold in. By ‘some cold’ I mean ‘all the cold’. The sort where the temperature (Fahrenheit) isn’t just dropping below zero but all the way into the imaginary numbers. It’s the kind of cold where they warn you it’s too cold to leave buildings outside. Where you don’t see sparrows coming to the bird feeder anymore because they get halfway to the freezer, ice up, and these feathery snowballs tumble into unsuspecting squirrels.
So I have to talk about all this before I call my parents. After lives spent happily in New Jersey, with roughly similar weather, they moved to South Carolina. “What the heck,” my mother said, “We don’t know anybody there and my whole experience there has been one weekend with my friends in Charleston. That’s where we’ll spend retirement,” and my father said “What?” because his hearing aid had iced over. It’s worked out really well for them, except that between September and April the first twenty minutes of our phone calls are about how much warmer it is down there.
And it’s not like we always have terrible and cold weather. This winter’s been warm enough we’re all a little bothered by that. I know this makes us just sound disagreeable. But we’ve had it warm enough that it was, like, in the 60s and sunny, with nice strong breezes and seagulls coming in from the Great Lakes. Let me remind you, this is Lansing, Michigan. We’ve been having the kind of weather that gets incompetent seagulls. But most of the time it’s been a more normal winter, just a little warmer than average.
And it’s not like South Carolina’s weather is always better. Between May and August the first twenty minutes of our phone calls are about how their evacuation for the hurricane has gone. It’s not always a hurricane, mind. Sometimes it’s a tropical storm. Sometimes it’s a very lost nor’easter. Part of what’s nice about South Carolina, as a retirement state, is the low cost of living, which is to say they don’t have taxes, because they don’t do things like build a second bridge off the island where my parents live. Or have roads that don’t flood when it rains, or it’s very muggy, or someone leaves the sink running while brushing their teeth.
But we’re not in hurricane season now. So I have to get this written before calling them and they talk about how frigid tomorrow should be. This won’t keep them from hearing about it. But if I can get to talking out the weather here, before I call them for the week, I … don’t actually know what I’ll accomplish. At least I’ll have done something.
And weather this cold you do have to do something for. It’s the kind of cold that even being warm doesn’t help with. We have a good-quality water heater, the kind that gets the water hot enough to melt the water heater, but that won’t make a shower hot enough to completely revive my toes. Dressing is also a problem. The only thing to do wear layers. This means whenever you encounter any piece of clothing, put it on. Since I work at home this is tricky. I’ll pop into the bedroom for something or other, and have to put on another shirt or pair of underwear. By about 5:30 I’m a rolling ball of fabric.
And that’s staying inside. I don’t figure to go out. In this cold it’s a bad idea to let your tongue touch the air, as it’ll get stuck. Your tongue ices over. Then the ice that that’s caught on will get stuck on the air. That ices over, and again and again, and then you’re dangling a five-foot-long ice tongue out your mouth. And then you can’t go anywhere except on foot. Driving is out since you fit the encased tongue through the car door. You can’t lift your head enough to see when the bus is coming. All you can do is try to walk somewhere and find the doors there are frozen shut.
So that’s why it’s important I finish this, then call my parents, and then deal with tomorrow’s nonsense.
I don’t mean to alarm everyone. But there have been an alarming number of alarms here lately. In fact, as I write this, I hear one that’s completely new. It sounds — oh, there, it’s just stopped. Well, it sounded like someone was running a vacuum cleaner that has just inhaled a throw rug. Whatever that means can’t be good. My guess it is it means the dogs nearby aren’t nervous enough.
Anyway that’s just the latest strange and alarming-like noise here. Another one only stands out when I go outside. This is … well, it sounds like a smoke detector complaining about a low battery. This is a more successful alarm than that vacuum cleaner that’s swallowed the throw rug, which is back, by the way. It’s not just more unsettling because the smoke alarm’s been going on a week now. The smoke alarm is unsettling because it implies there’s some house on the block where it’s always 4:30 am. This seems improbable. If it’s always 4:30 am in there how do its residents know when to oversleep for work? But more, how am I hearing the smoke alarm from some other house? It can’t be the neighbors. I know them, kind of, and they’d absolutely have replaced the batteries or smashed the smoke alarm with a sledge hammer by now. But what other house could possibly be near enough to hear? Unless all their windows were open, and they had set up a megaphone right by the smoke alarm and aimed it right at our driveway?
But what other explanation makes sense? Could someone have set a smoke alarm in the park at the end of the block? This would be great, since the local squirrels and raccoons need some warning of brush fires. The skunks do too, but they need something less alarming, for the obvious reason. The local skunks have been very alarmed by many things all summer and fall, I infer. We don’t need to add to that.
Anyway — there’s that vacuum cleaner again — there’s a bunch of alarms in the area. Like, this past Saturday they did the usual monthly tornado siren test. My area of Michigan, despite being in the Midwest, doesn’t actually get that many tornadoes. It gets tornadoes about as often as my old area, New Jersey, does. And New Jersey doesn’t get tornadoes. When I grew up we only ever heard about tornadoes touching down in warehouse districts of Brooklyn. These days, tornadoes have been entirely priced out of Brooklyn. Where are they even going to go, Staten Island? So the point is we don’t really need a tornado siren in Lansing, Michigan. One Halloween they tried using the torando siren to announce the official start and end of trick-or-treating hours. The catch is that year it was so rainy, and windy, and turbulent that everyone figured we were getting a tornado, so everybody stayed home, confused. This foiled our plan to get a good reputation by giving out full-size peanut butter cups.
And then this Tuesday they tested a different alarm. This is one they’ve set up to warn people that the dam has broken. Also that there’s a dam which, if broken, could be a problem. We’re near a river, but not the one that’s got a dam so far as anyone has told us about. But we are near enough that other river that I could hear the siren. It was this kind of quick, rising tone, with silent intervals, sounding like someone was trying to hurry through the tornado siren and made a mistake and had to start over again.
After like thirty seconds of that, the siren gives way to a prerecorded announcement. Here, this booming voice gives people the useful emergency information: I don’t know. We’re far enough from the river that by the time the sound reaches us, it all sounds like Charlie Brown’s French teacher. So, if the dam does break, I’ll have to follow the instruction of “le hrronk, la bwooonk-wa-wa-honk et les nous hawrooronkarronk sur ta plume”.
I think that vacuum cleaner has digested the throw rug, so whatever problem that is has cleared up. I know I feel more secure now.
I was cleaning my car. It was at that point where it looked like there was more stuff in the back seat than could be justified. Like, why would I need jumper cables? Or a first-aid kit? Or the receipt for two sour-cream-and-chives baked potatoes plus a medium-size pop from Wendy’s from 2017? Or a bright reflective orange safety vest?
Along the way I dug out a summertime issue of the Lansing City Community News. This is a six-page ‘special edition’ of the Lansing State Journal that’s tossed for free once a week onto everyone’s driveways. It’s part of a service to the community, so we know which of our neighbors haven’t been home since Saturday. I must have picked up this one and forgot it existed until now. It usually features about two and a half of the human-interest stories from that week’s State Journal, plus a third of a page of classified ads to meet singles having yard sales to sell old beds and masonry repair. Sometimes they forget to include the ends of articles, the way the mothership State Journal does. But they included all of this one, and the headline should have caught my attention sooner:
Ax-Throwing Business Opens In Lansing
So it explains that this is the source of the dull thuds from behind the headquarters of Quality Dairy. That’s a local convenience store chain, the place where all metro Lansing comes together to obtain qualities. Some of their popular ones, year after year, include ‘peppermint’, ‘cream-filled’, ‘mooshy’, and ‘evocative of ducks’. I hadn’t heard a thing, but I don’t claim to be on top of all the mysterious dull thuds behind Quality Dairy headquarters and I would like people to stop pretending I do.
But the opening of this axe place has got me wondering where on the gentrification path “Axe-Throwing Businesses” are. It’s got to be somewhere after “person on recumbent bicycle pedals east every day at 2:35”. I’m pretty sure it’s before “can’t get across town through all the ukelele festivals”, but that might just be because we’re close enough to the Interstate I don’t have to deal with the street traffic. I think I have to place it between “coffee shop menus talk about geography”, but before “everything on the block is a restaurant or a knick-knackery”.
The people running this axe-throwing business got into it like you expect. They were having fun one day, throwing axes at things. Then someone piped up with “you know what would make this even better? If we had to satisfy building inspectors and file 1099 forms!” So they made it into a business and I guess that’s working out for everyone. They still get to throw axes, and now there’s safety regulations they have to follow, and they’re getting two-thirds of the front page of a summer issue of the Lansing City Community News. Really no downside.
Still, it’s not a fulltime job because, I mean, why would you expect running an axe-throwing center, or “axeterium” as they say in the trade, to be enough business to live on? No, this is just a side job. They really run a blacksmith supply shop, it says in the article. This makes me want to know more about the challenges of blacksmith supply operations, especially in an area like Lansing, where we just don’t have that many animated coyotes hoping to drop an anvil from a cliff face. Also not that many cliff faces. Cliffs can’t be counted as blacksmith supplies anyway.
If we can believe the article — well, a lot of things follow. Among them, that “[Baker] spends his weekdays making Lord of the Rings-inspired metal helmets and custom cornhole sets”, at least until his boss finds out. But also that axe-throwing is a competitive sport. Apparently there are “more than 4,000 leagues in 50 cities across five contries, according to the Toronto-based National Axe Throwing Federation”. You could go to some axe-throwing event, and take home a trophy. You don’t even need to be big or muscular. You just need to have good form. Or to refuse to put your axe down until someone gives you a trophy.
Yes, I am bothered beyond all reason that the newspaper spells it “ax” in the headline and body of the article, but “axe” in the photo captions. And that the place and the National Axe Throwing Federation spell it “axe”. Sheesh.
You know that time the Silver Bells In The City parade got destroyed by a monsoon? This year’s parade is tonight. I’ll send word if the weather decides to give us all the weather we can take. Send umbrellas.
No, more umbrellas than that.
Also maybe something to warm our hands up since it’s going to be a bit chilly this time around.
But mostly umbrellas.
So Saturday some people whom I just assumed worked for the city came over and fixed the fallen streetlamp that’s been so interesting around here. Or anyway they took the old one away and put up a new one of the same style except all rusty and old-looking.
So yeah, we’re all heartbroken to lose that great roadside attraction. They tried to hold a candlelight vigil for the lost lamp on Saturday night, but, you know. The new streetlamp is pretty bright and I don’t think anyone could see.
I am not perfectly sure whether I’ve read The Bicentennial History of Ingham County, Michigan, a local history published in 1975 and written by Ford Stevens Ceasar, before. I recently got it from a used book store, yes. And it seems like the sort of thing I might have borrowed from the library, since I have tried to learn some of the local history of my new home. I can’t go trading forever on stuff like how much of New Jersey’s 19th-century state government was funded by the Joint Companies, who monopolized railroad and canal travel across the Garden State. I couldn’t even do that when I lived in New Jersey. Still, I’m stuck on a couple of points:
- Wait, his last name was “Ceasar”? Not “Caesar”? Are you sure, book? I mean, really, really positive? Because you put that on the cover and on the author bio on the jacket’s back flap and I mean … oh, it looks like he signed the front page and he spells it “Ceasar” there and … I mean, he can’t be spelling his own name wrong? Right?
- Ingham County, which contains most of Lansing, was named for Samuel Ingham, Andrew Jackson’s Treasury Secretary. Lansing also extends into Eaton County, named for John Eaton, Jackson’s Secretary of War. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re correct. That is the John Eaton of the Petticoat Affair. I know, isn’t that great? Anyway Ingham and Eaton hated each other, Ingham even claiming that Easton tried to have him murdered, a charge which Ingham substantiated by fleeing to Baltimore. Kind of an ambiguous argument, I think, but you know what it was like in 1831. Anyway, wow, I’m living in a place connected very loosely to Peggy Eaton. This excitement. This. This is why I’m not a popular humor blogger.
- Number of words used to explain how Malcolm X was a drug-dealer and numbers-runner and burglar and totally lied when he said his family home in Lansing was burned down by white men and that a white guy shoved his father into a trolley car’s path, and the official records don’t say white guys did anything particular to his father or his home: 162.
- The first (Western) doctor known to live in the county was named Valorous Meeker. The town he lived in was called Meekersville, until at the prompting of a Doctor A J Cornell it was renamed for a family named Leslie that lived in eastern New York State. I think there’s a story not covered here.
- Number of words used to explain the Lansing General Strike of 1937: 146, of which 32 were giving the names and credentials of some academics who wrote about it for the journal Michigan History 28 years later.
- Oh wait, OK, I guess the township was called Leslie to start with and the village Meekersville until they stopped calling it that and … look, just, what did Cornell have to do with this? Why did he go messing up a decent enough name? And how did they not start out by calling the town Valorous, anyway?
- Number of words used to explain the fallen streetlamp next door, which isn’t attracting so many sightseers as it used to, but which they have got the traffic cones both set level on the ground again for: none, which is fair enough since the lamppost fell over 43 years after the book was published. Really it’s unfair to expect them to have any words about it at all.
- So the chapter about the city airport starts with a page about this announcement made the 10th of June, 1921, about how the Michigan Aero service of Lansing would start running sightseeing tours on the 25th, and even have a parachute drop above the Pine Lake amusement park and everything, and then it says “Monday’s paper indicated the airplane failed to show up, and the Michigan Catering Company was embarrassed”. Which is the first that anyone mentioned the Michigan Catering Company in this anecdote at all. It’s not even clear we should have expected them to have anything to do with it. It sounds like the Michigan Catering Company was just standing nearby when they noticed there wasn’t an airplane and started to blush. I understand, I’m a little like that myself. I just wouldn’t expect a county historian to be writing about that embarrassment 55 years later, which just makes it all the worse somehow. You know?
Anyway, sorry, I’m still hung up on Ceasar with an a-e. And yes, I have about a 45% chance of someone hearing my name going on to spell it correctly. And somehow that percentage is declining as fast food workers want a name for my order and they don’t know what to do with “Joseph”. And it’s crazy for me, a person who lives with recognizing my name being called out more for the weird little awkward pause people make before attempting it, than actually hearing it, to think someone else hasn’t got their name right. Still.
Note about methodology: in counting the number of words used to explain stuff I have counted repeated uses of a word, such as “the”, separately, since there are only a certain number of ways to say whatever it is exactly the word “the” means and that’s, like, one, maybe two if you’re doing eye-dialect and can write th’ instead.
One of the traffic hazard cones is trying very hard to fall over but can’t quite make it.
It’s been nominated for a Top of the Town Eastside tourist attraction.
I mean, if anyone still wants to at this point. I understand if you’ve just decided to write off the whole project. I’m not convinced that starting from scratch wouldn’t be less work myself. But then there’s this letter just run in the local alt-weekly:
Your August 22 issue highlighted an amusing dichotomy in Lansing City finances: on page 6 you report that residents of various neighborhoods are upset with the City’s continuing failure to enforce its overnight parking ban, and that the Mayor says, “We don’t have the resources to have a police officer dedicated specifically for overnight parking.”
Yet on page 5 you note that the City budget this year is giving the money-sucking black hole that is Common Ground Music Festival $140,000 — easily enough to fund TWO parking enforcement positions.
We recall that in the heyday of the Roman Empire, there was a reliance on bread and circuses to keep the rabble pacified. It’s heartwarming to see that over the millennia, a few things have not changed.
T E Klunzinger, Haslett
I had not seen the spotty enforcement of the municipal ban on overnight parking as a serious issue. I’m a little excited to hear that we do have law again. I’d like people not to be parked on the street if they’re going to be plowing the snow. But I live on a tertiary street. This means can only expect the snow to be plowed on the third day after the third storm of the third year after the last time our street got plowed. So it doesn’t matter whether there’s any cars in the street, not before February 2020 anyway. And I’m not complaining about this. I understand there’s higher-priority roads. I only need my street to get down to the corner anyway. (That line sounds like it should be a joke, but I can’t defend it. I think if you read it exactly the way I imagine delivering that line in my head it has enough of a joke shape to pass. I apologize if it’s not passing you.)
I also haven’t been to the Common Ground Music Festival in a couple years, but that’s just because they seem to schedule it when we’ve already got a week out of town planned. Maybe they’re avoiding us. I enjoyed it last time I was there. We watched the Violent Femmes performing their renowned album “Why Didn’t I Get To Have Sex”. We also heard, wafting in from over the gentle hill that divided us off from another pavilion, MGMT playing their instant classic “That MGMT Song That’s Always Playing”. Also a Michigan-area band named Flint Eastwood because that’s just the way we make band names anymore. Anyway if it’s not snowing, I don’t much care if people are parked on the street overnight, since I’m not on the street overnight either.
Still, if all it takes to avert the imminent collapse of civilization is cutting the city’s underwriting of the music festival and hiring two parking-rule-enforcement-cops? That seems like a small enough effort to make. Heck, I could even be coaxed into hiring a third parking-rule-enforcement-cop, as long as they understand they’re expected to issue, like, eight-dollar citations for parking, and are not to issue reasons they had to gun down that black person.
Except. This week one of the lights on our street fell down. It looks to me like it was knocked down. I would assume by a careless driver, but it’s just one house away from ours and I didn’t hear anything. This signifies nothing. Back in college I slept through when they set off fireworks in the dorm hallway, I am told. Anyway Tuesday I looked out the window and there was the lamppost, fallen over, with the glass dome rolled over on the sidewalk, and some guy at the next house over re-blacktopping the driveway. I don’t think he had anything to do with the lamp.
And here’s the thing. People keep going out and taking pictures of the lamp. I did. My love did, too, which is how we learned the glass dome covering it was actually plastic. This discovery left us feeling like we had been ripped off somehow. People walking up the street have been taking pictures. People have stopped their cars, parking on the wrong side of the street — of course, the No-Parking-This-Side sign was on the lamppost, so people can fairly claim there’s no way to know they were on the wrong side — to photograph this fallen lamppost.
So getting back to that bread-and-circuses thing. Our neighborhood must have a major circus deficit if a fallen streetlamp is this interesting. I’m not saying that we need to have MGMT coming around every few weeks. But it does look like we need some entertainments.
Anyway they’ve rolled the lamppost off the sidewalk, and put orange traffic cones on either side of it. And I’m figuring to set up a souvenir shop and go into business as my own little roadside attraction. I don’t figure the boom time for my street’s tourist trade will last, but there could be something good while it does.
So it turns out there’s an 8th Avenue here in Lansing. Also an 8th Street. They don’t connect. They’re not near one another. They’re both north-south streets. And if you extended either, they’d pass less than one city block away from one another, but they wouldn’t touch. 8th Avenue is a tiny street, maybe two blocks long. 8th Street used to be named Kerr Street until, legend goes, its residents got fed up with how trolley passengers would laugh at being told they’d reached the “Cur Street” stop, and wanted to live somewhere that didn’t suggest they were mongrel dogs. So, in short: the heck?
So I called the City Clerk back, and told him I thought I had an answer. We just got a new microwave oven and there’s this great timer feature for it. Turns out to go up pretty high, and I set it for 305,056,800 seconds, which is about nine years and eight months and should give plenty of warning for checking that Lansing doesn’t accidentally let all its laws expire again. So I was feeling really good about that. But then last night we were making Morningstar-brand spicy red-bean vegetarian-hamburger patties and White Castle French Fries in the oven, and I needed to set the timer for ten minutes to turn them over, and re-set the microwave timer without even thinking. Woke up at like 4:30 am realizing what I had done. And I realized, like, we have power failures a couple times a year too. So I’m going to have to either check that we can get a really big egg timer at the store or maybe just call the Clerk back and say I was just wrong and can’t help.
Well, that’s embarrassing. The City Clerk came over and asked if I would come over sometime around October or November 2027 and remind him to check whether the city was about to lose all its laws again. Or any important subset of them. And, like, I want to help. I want to be a good member of the community. But I’m really most apt at doing stuff like mowing the lawn right before I’m out of town for a week, or telling the new neighbors what the recycling schedule is. Reminders to take care of a thing?
Well, all I could do is show him the side door, where we’ve had this bag of wrong-colored-markers we’ve been meaning to return to Michael’s since February of 2013. (Don’t worry about them accepting them. We kept the receipt and it’s somewhere near the dishwasher most likely. Yes, I don’t know why we bought the wrong-color markers. I think we misunderstood, and thought the Right-Color Marker sign was in the middle of the section rather than at the start as you walked down the aisle.) We figure a bag of something on the door we use to leave the house all the time will surely leave the house with us, and it doesn’t. He agreed, yeah, we’re probably not the best family to send a reminder. But he’s all embarrassed after last year’s incident and is just hoping if he asks, like, fifty people to remind him then someone will definitely make it.
Maybe I can set an automatic post to come up here in like October 2027 so I have that taking care of things.
PS: there were more plumbing problems and they have festered.
Imagine my surprise when I learned I had spent all winter living in a lawless wilderness. If it helps paint the picture, understand that I was reading the newspaper when I learned. I guess it’s a newspaper. It’s something called the Lansing City Community News, “an edition of the Lansing State Journal”. It’s tossed onto our lawn once a week no matter what. It’s great, since the four or sometimes six pages serve as protective wrapper of forty or more pages of advertisements for stuff we have never wanted or ever known anyone who wants. And they’re full of articles ripped from the Journal‘s web site, sometimes without cutting out text like “Story continues below video”. They take donations to cover printing costs.
So imagine me looking at that newspaper-themed product. Also imagine me smiling and laughing in that special way I have when I see something’s gone all higgledy-piggledy for some crazypants reason. Got it? So here’s the thing. According to the article, Lansing’s charter specifies that every ten years the City Council has to vote on whether to re-codify city ordinances, or to confirm that it means to let them lapse. And they confirmed the city ordinances in 2007. But 2017 rolled on through and nobody did anything about them, possibly because everyone was distracted by how the world was on fire and we were all thinking, for solace, of that time the whole Internet was mad because Apple bought everyone a U2 album. I mean, there were people raging about that for months. I swear that actually happened.
So the big effect of this whoopsie-doozie nonexistence of law between the 24th of November and either the 15th of February or the 26th of March is like 50 otherwise-criminal cases being dropped because it’s not sporting to charge someone with breaking a law that isn’t there. Community News listed among them:
- 2 cases of carrying a knife with a blade longer than three inches
- 2 cases of being loud or boisterous
- 1 case of disturbing the peace
- 1 littering case
That seems like a low number of littering cases. But it was winter so maybe a lot of the evidence was lost under snow. It also seems like a low number of disturbing-the-peace problems, but remember it was 2017. There was like fourteen minutes of peace the whole year. Good luck getting your disturbance in fast enough to notice. Hey, remember when the Internet was all cranky about this kiddie show starring a big huggy purple dinosaur who liked people? And stayed that way for years?
Also I had no idea that, apart from a maybe five-month window this past winter, they could write you up on a charge of boisterousity. What a thing to get on your rap sheet. “What did they get you on?” “Had a three-and-a-quarter-inch knife. You?” “Being boisterous. Yeah, but it’s fair enough. I was outside Fish Fry and Grill, dancing like nobody was watching. But they were watching. They’re always watching. Oh also I was waving people over to come hug me.” Discovering this makes me glad I can only with concentration and for brief seconds make myself look like I have any emotion other than “growing concern that the lower-than-expected cost for having the bathtub pipe drained means more significant plumbing problems are festering and this will cause me grief”. And yet apparently I could have gotten away with being merry all winter, had I but known.
If you weren’t already giggling over the city temporarily going all lawless, here’s some more fun. First, there’s not complete agreement about which laws exactly it was didn’t exist from November through a while. The city attorney says it’s just “regulatory” ordinances. A defense attorney who’s not explicitly credited with being the person who noticed this says it’s “all” ordinances. (“I think I can get you off this charge of three-and-a-quarter-inch-knife-having, but I gotta warn you, it’s going to sound like three-and-a-half-inches of crazy.”) Also the defense attorney argues that the lapsing of all law doesn’t count as a “true emergency” allowing the hasty reintroduction of law to the city in February, so that only the March reinstatement counts. Easy for him to say, and maybe necessary if he wants to give the fullest possible defense for his clients. But would he agree it wasn’t an emergency if there were four littering cases being thrown out? Hm?
The article says that it’s the job of the City Clerk to remind the City Council when it’s time to renew the existence of law in the city. When asked what happened, the Clerk took a deep breath, nodded sadly, and then ran down the corridor of City Hall to where that dragon is. He’s been there since, crying and occasionally sending out for Kewpie Burgers. I mean, you always hate to make a mistake at work that gets you embarrassed. The City Council’s thinking of ways to help prevent this happening again. One great idea is to have someone whose job it is to check every four years and see if the City Clerk’s remembered to check whether law’s about to expire. Sounds sensible to me, except then you’re going to need someone coming around every two years to check on the four-year checker, and you’re going to need someone whose job is to poke in once a year and as if the two-year checker-checker is all right or needs anything. Well, I’m sure they can work out something before they reach the point of having an infinite series of people who are just nagging each other to check on other people until tempers flare and we get that whole disturbed-peace thing again.
Also in the news: a downtown bike shop’s losing its parking lot, the side effect of (allegedly) an improperly recorded easement years ago. Oh, I bet the bike shop owner feels awful now he didn’t know he could have just poked into the deeds office anytime in December or January and written one in himself. Well. I’m thinking of all sorts of boisterous or littering things I mean to do in March of 2028, if I remember. See you then!
We regret the need to clarify things again. But we have to discontinue one of the rewards for long-time subscribers. Effective the 15th of June, more or less, patrons won’t be able to “spend a luxury weekend as a supply closet in City Hall”. The offer appears to have been a typo. No, we can’t figure out what we were trying to type in the first place either. It’s all a mystery and given all the other problems we have, what with the world and everything, it’s better to just drop the subject. People who’ve already got reservations for their weekends will be offered the option of converting to spending a luxury Thursday as a letter bin in the state capitol, explaining to the rest of the country what an “olive burger” is, or getting this hand-written coupon for 238 tickets good at some redemption counter, somewhere, that didn’t write out where it was exactly. We’ve got it narrowed down to amusement places in one of four states and can even tell you which states, if that would help. We apologize for any convenience.
I don’t even know if I believe the local alt-weekly’s latest report about how bad things have got with City Hall. But, if we take their “highly placed but unnamed source” — that’s got to be whoever it was was mayor of Lansing after David M C Hollister — at its word, then it turns out City Hall is not even any such thing. It’s actually three Town Halls standing on top of each other and wearing a construction tarp. I can hardly believe it either. You never think of stuff like that happening these days. Although if it did happen, it happened in the late 50s, when I’m not sure we had rules about building stuff to any particular code or guidelines or anything. Well, we’ll just see what appears in the corrections column. It will be an apology for the incorrect use of “it’s/its” in the official notices.
So it transpires that sometime last year the whole eastern wing of the sixth floor transcended ordinary existence and turned into beings of pure energy. Which sounds cool, sure. But then you try bringing any springs in and they suddenly compress as far as possible, soaking up all that potential energy? Hardly convenient. Or if you bring in that steel-balls-on-pendulums things that they put on the boss’s table in 1980s sitcoms, and the balls all fly up to the top of pendulum and wait? Yeah, that’s just inconvenient. And that’s before you even consider what happens when you take a mechanical watch in and let that soak up the potential energy that used to be the Office of Rental Inspections. I really hate to give up on a handsome enough building but I have to admit it’s sounding like City Hall just needs more work than we can expect to get out of it, at least not without a major source of energy and I just don’t see where … saaaaaaay! I have to go make some calls.
OK, I tried making calls. But you know that long spiral-cut rubber wire that connects the part of the phone you use to the part of the phone that falls off the table when you pick up the part of the phone you use? Yeah, that one. Well, it turned into this impossibly tight, energy-laden supercoil and that’s too hard for me to deal with. I’ll write them a letter, maybe. Meanwhile please everyone admire the correctness of my use of the word “transpire” to start this article. I’ll wait.
OK, so the news clarified matters some. It’s not technically a dragon that’s caught in that fifth-floor corridor. It’s instead some cuddly, well-meaning dragon-like creature who embodies the spirit of civic-mindedness or something like that. I’m having trouble following it exactly. Apparently it comes from this obscure series of children’s books from the early 60s that are all about kids who accidentally make things worse but then find out how they can make things better. It sounds a little twee, honestly, but I can’t argue with the sentiments and apparently its nose is this little valentine-heart shape, and I’m a sucker for cute soft 60s characters with that feature. Still looks like some kind of dragon is all.
So some more of the problems with Lansing City Hall have come to light. Apparently there’s a fairly important service hallway on the fifth floor that’s blocked by a dragon. Not a mean dragon, mind you. It’s actually pretty soft and cuddly by all descriptions. It’s just that since he settled in, he grew too large and now he can’t quite fit through the hallways and has been stuck in place a while. Says the last thing he remembers before getting stuck was reading the newspapers about the Penn Central bankruptcy. So it sounds like he’s a railroad fanatic or one of those people who would read even the boring articles in the newspaper. Fine enough. But he is blocking access to one of the larger supply closets as it is. I can’t imagine everyone else is waiting for those supplies since they’ve been blocked off like that since 1970. Still, think of the proceeds that could be raised from auctioning off genuine 1970-era NOS typewriter ribbons and manilla envelopes and stuff. I have to admit this whole replacing-City-Hall project is sounding more sensible.
So if I’m reading the weather map right they’re expecting rain all over the lower peninsula today. I mean of Michigan. I can’t account for all the lower peninsulas out there.
But it’s going to be heaviest in the southern half of the state, where the rainfall totals should be at least a half-inch. Although if you get into the area called mid-Michigan, roughly the forty miles north and south of Lansing, it’s higher than that. Like maybe an inch or so. If you get even more mid-Michigan they’re projecting higher rain, like maybe two inches. And in this even narrower ribbon they’re warning it might be three inches and from where that is …
Well, if I’m reading this right my block is projected to get about 22 inches of rain over the next day and a half. But I’m lucky not to be on the south half of the block, since they’re going to be really hit, getting somewhere around 21,230 inches of rain. Not sure which house is the center of that. I bet it’s the one that’s got the roof torn off so they could replace the shingles; isn’t that always the way? Ask me about the great Apartment Building Roof-replacement Of ’99 sometime. I should warn you, like most of my stories, it’s a bit weird and vaguely boring although it’s hard to pin down what the boring part actually is.
And in case I’m completely washed off to sea I just rediscovered this old bit where I read Wikipedia’s article about the Detroit Zoo and somehow ended up worse-informed about the Detroit Zoo than I was before. I liked it; you might, too. I was genuinely surprised by the bit I wrote about Luther Beecher and that’s a great feeling.
Some more reports of problems at City Hall. So according to the local news today they’ve found a storage closet on the fourth floor that’s just chock full of German-speaking academic types saying “peculiar”. Nobody knows why there’s this collection. For my tastes, just the great way they pronounce that central syllable is justification enough. But I don’t see why the city needs so many of them. Or really any of them at all. You’d think it was something for the community college.
Also in a waiting room on the sixth floor the audio system is always playing Kid Creole and the Coconuts’s 1985 hit “Endicott”. Like, the song finishes and then it starts right back up. It’s a fun enough song, but this is a bit much, considering the room doesn’t have an audio system. The leading hypothesis is the room is haunted by a fan of New Wave/Disco music but who just isn’t that adventurous, or has maybe been locked out of their iTunes account. Part of renovations would include just signing the ghost up for a new account already, one they have a password manager for.
I don’t know how closely you’re following the public debate about Lansing’s municipal infrastructure. I admit having suspicions. Anyway the biggest debate, as measured by height above street level, is about the David M Hollister City Hall. They named City Hall for Mayor Hollister last year. Mayor Hollister was mayor back a couple decades so he’s in the sweet spot right now. Nobody remembers what the heck his big scandal was, but they do remember he’s alive. That latter one puts him up over the guy who succeeded Hollister, whom Wikipedia tells me was Mayor … Mayor M Lansingmayor…son?.
They’re talking about moving to a new City Hall. This seems like a dis on Hollister, but nah, he’s fine with it. He never liked the building to start with, which makes naming the place after him seem like an even bigger dis. I’m starting to wonder if somebody does remember whatever the heck his scandal was and is playing headgames. But the major talk about moving is that the current City Hall was last maintained in any form in 1973. This was when they painted over the sign reading “Court of Oyer and Teminer” after learning Michigan has never had one of those.
The alt-weekly had a piece last week about how bad the building is. The building’s from 1958, so it’s got that swinging mid-century modernist style like a setting for one of those Chuck Jones Tom and Jerry cartoons. And it’s great for regrouping after heavy rains destroy a parade. But I have to admit some of these problems seem dire. For example:
Stalagmites. There’s those steady water leaks through the cement causing trouble all over. Last month somebody voting in an absentee ballot came back to the basement garage and found a limestone iceberg had completely enveloped his 2017 Buick Verano and also a wooly mammoth. And the vote was on whether to extend participation in the regional 9-1-1 service agreement. The vote passed but was it really worth the loss of his car and mammoth? Oh, probably. Regionalization is good for this kind of thing.
The Eighth-Floor Bathroom. It’s got faded orange walls. It’s also got that thing with a cloth towel looped into some kind of metal dispenser that’s been rusted in place since 1959. It’s like, it’s supposed to turn so you aren’t wiping your hands on the filthiest piece of fabric known to humanity, but it doesn’t? Also there’s a four-by-five-foot hole in the floor that looks over a hole in the floor below that’s the same size. Also the floor below that, and so on, down to the second storey. Yes, yes, on that second storey there is a trampoline. The city isn’t reckless. Oh, but also when you enter, some phone navigator voice calls out, “Please continue on the current route”. No one has any explanation for this phenomenon.
David Hollister’s Middle Initial Is ‘C’. I know, that hardly seems to make sense, does it? It would flow so poetically if his middle name started ‘M’. But he insists on ‘C’ and there’s no arguing him out of this. They are saying if they move to a new city hall it’ll be the David C Hollister City Hall and I guess we’ll swallow our tears over the ‘M’.
Climate Control. The building’s original, dials-and-levers, steam-based control system hasn’t worked in decades. Instead management has to use a set of signal flags, based on a code book used by the Royal Navy at the Battle of Ushant 1778. I know, you’re giggling thinking about how well that worked out for the British, right? It causes so much confusion. People on the maintenance floors have to keep stepping away from their big, rusty blocks of metal that makes alarming banging noises to clarify things. “Do you really want us to send the sixth-rate frigates to lee?” “No, no, we just need the property tax appeals to be about three degrees cooler.” It’s a lot of trouble.
The Upper Floors. Between the strong, hypnotic horizontal rows of alternating blue and black windows, and the regular vertical aluminum linings, there’s definitely a Saul Bass credit sequence forming. This isn’t by itself a problem. But it does need someone to extract the credits. Zoo officials recommend placing it at the start of a tight 95-minute thriller about a man who saw a book about the Byzantine Empire in the wrong section of the library, checked it out on a whim, and found himself on a wild transcontinental race for the secrets of an atomic supermarket that were hidden on a folded sheet of paper on between pages 383 and 384. Movie goof: you can’t fit a sheet between pages 383 and 384! The book is only 352 pages long.
The Lobby Escalator. When the state put up a spite office building right infront of City Hall the town had to wall off the escalator. The partitions are still there. Two years ago the courts ruled that the city had to open enough of a hole in the drywall to let the people trapped on the escalator free. “We don’t know how this happened,” said the assistant city manager. “We would have sworn the escalator was too far from the courtroom for any judge to hear them.”
There’s more, but it gets into some weird territory. But now I understand more why they figure they need a new building. They’re not figuring to demolish the current City Hall, though. They figure they can turn it into a hotel. That sounds like it’ll be a much more interesting place than the last Red Roof Inn I stayed in. They barely even had any weird candy in the vending machine.
Because after all the storm news lately I figured people would like some hard data. Or, hard water data, since again, we drink from the aquifer and so our water is up to 14% Petoskey stones.
|February 2018 Day||Rain Distribution|
Source: Explorations in Mathematical Physics: The Concepts Behind an Elegant Language, Don Koks.
I’m soggy about all this. No, I’m not being apologetic while spelling poorly. I’m surrounded by even more water than usual. You maybe heard about Michigan getting an unusually large shipment of rain in. If you didn’t that’s because you couldn’t hear it over the rain hitting the roof. But from about Monday evening through Wednesday morning we had a lot of rain. And then another lot of rain on top of that. I’m not sure the precise mechanism of this, but as I understand it we had twenty different rainstorms all one on top of the other. The bottommost twelve layers of rainclouds couldn’t add any of their own water. They were busy passing on the rain that was falling on top of them. The storm at the bottom felt bullied, smothered underneath its uncaring but higher-up rainclouds. It started crying and nobody could even tell.
The rainfall gauge at the Capital Region International Airport washed downriver to Grand Ledge. The guy they sent out to replace it forgot he left a sponge in his pocket that morning and it bloated up to the size of a minivan, throwing him completely off his game. I know, some of you are thinking I’m making this up: why would a trained airport person have a sponge in his pocket? Joke’s on you. This is a lifehack for people with posture problems caused by sitting on overstuffed wallets in their back pockets. The sponge balances you out, see? But only if you put it in the other back pocket from your wallet. Still think I’m making this up? Call up and ask the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics about this. Don’t mention my name.
So this was a lot of rain. And it was a lot of rain while it was warm. It was in the 60s (Fahrenheit) before the water washed away the thermometer’s numbers and the concept of temperature. And this was a lot of rain and a lot of water after we’d got in several good-sized snowstorms the previous couple weeks. I mean, most of them were your simple three- and four-inch things, with an eight-inch storm tossed in. It let me shovel and feel all smug about how much better I shovel our sidewalk than certain other people on the block do. I’d stop every night, before going to bed, and admire how our sidewalk was clear and bone dry. So nice to go to bed feeling smug. I’m not joking about this.
Point is between the rain, the snow, and the warmth, they’ve issued a flood watch. Or a flood warning. Whatever it is they issue when they’re putting places under Voluntary Evacuation Orders and publish maps of the city covered in blue. This area of mid-Michigan is, geologically speaking, a marsh with too little self-esteem to get swampy. But drop enough water on top of it and the area will feel more embarrassed by not going along with the flooding. So that’s when you get pictures of people paddling a canoe to the bar off 127.
We’re nowhere near an evacuation zone, if by “nowhere near” you mean “it’s like two blocks to the east, and goes from there to the bar off 127”. I’m hunkering down waiting for them to squeegee our street. We’re on a minor street so I figure it’s going to be a couple days. The sump pump’s been running, not just filling up all normal time with its sump work but reaching out into new avenues of complex- and quaternion-valued time to shove water from the basement out to … the … yard, I guess? Somewhere.
Still, I’m doing my part. Like the Mayor asked, I’m helping out by drinking as much water as possible so the river levels go down. Lansing gets its water from an aquifer. There are three major rivers that converge in the Lansing area — the Red Cedar River, the Other One, and the Grand River — and we drink the water we have to mine. We got a new mayor in last month and it’s hard to catch up on everything you should know in any new job. I didn’t know about the aquifer thing until I was here like four years. So drinking as much as we can is pointless. But the important thing is being part of the process.
So now the mystery. We had 36 hours straight of it being in the 50s and 60s while all the rain in the world fell on us. It’s been above freezing all during the day and most of the night since then. Why does the house across the street still have heaps of snow in the yard?
After getting some stuff for the fish in the really cool pet store with the artificial river and koi the size of Buicks, I walked a block east toward where there might or might not be a large lump of abandoned coal. There’s a new store there, one of those places that sells used shiny discs that hold on them movies or TV shows you don’t have time to watch or PlayStation games you don’t get around to playing, that sort of thing. Also prints local artists made of, like, Freddy Kreuger hanging around the Peanuts gang so you know what it’s like now.
And while I kneeled down to look at something on the bottom shelf, a cat trotted up to me, looked me in the knee, and hissed. Then the cat hissed again. And then the cat trotted off towards CDs of music you don’t have anything to listen to with. I can’t disagree with the cat’s assessment of me. I like to think I have a lot of nice sides, but I also know, I’m kind of tiring to keep dealing with. Making your life interactions with me a matter of two quick hisses directed at me knee? I can’t fault that. Well, maybe the second. The first hiss, yes, absolutely. But what was communicated in the second hiss that wasn’t in the first? Now that I write it out I maybe need to go back and have words with the cat.
So, the Silver Bells parade was not destroyed by heavy rains, or even inconvenienced by severe cold, this time around. There was a little drizzling midway through but they were able to get through all ten or maybe eleven high school marching bands festooned in lights and playing “Jingle Bells” or “Angels We Have Heard On High”. Only two played “Jingle Bell Rock”.
We are now on what I believe is our fourth HD DVR since we had to switch to the modern era after our old TV exploded. I’m not sure about them all but I think the first one we sent back by mistake because apparently the company just assumed we had a HD satellite receiver what with it being 2017 and all. The second had this thing where the hard drive made a sound at about the same level as a jet engine taking off, all the time. The third was fine from April to about three weeks ago when it decided to put a spot in every program where it’d freeze up and crash. Tech support delighted me by suggesting that the problem might be how the DVR was plugged into a surge protector rather than the bare well. I’m still, a week later, occasionally thinking of that and grinning. I like bunkum when it’s imaginative and fresh and admire whoever had this preposterous idea all ready to deploy. It makes the hassle of trying to think of all the shows we set to record, and losing out on the season of Doctor Who we recorded and never got around to watching, kind of worth it? I guess?
I am still not reading about the history of socks.
I don’t like to make promises of things I’m not sure can happen. I mean, I do it anyway, because work will send me tasks and if I started admitting how little I’m sure that I can accomplish anything this might encourage everyone to admit we’ve been bluffing our way through the world since fifth grade at the latest, and then where would we be? Sixth grade?
But. Here’s the important thing. Friday is supposed to be the next time the Silver Bells In The City parade marches through downtown Lansing. And the forecast has rain as a real, serious possibility. I can’t promise that the results will be as spectacular as last year, when a major storm rolled through and blew away dozens of marching bands and created a TV show experience I still want to give each and every one of you. I still haven’t seen if they have DVDs of last year’s parade. But yes, I’m hopeful, going in to this year’s spectacle. I mean, it’s already raining and so dark that a raccoon knocked on the side door and asked if we could turn on a light so she could see. So maybe we’ll get a fun dose of chaos, maybe.
Also I’m thinking of ways to weatherproof myself better, perhaps by wearing eight layers of raincoats, or perhaps getting a giant vinyl ball to move in. No, that’s probably a good way to end up washed down the street and into the Grand River. Must think seriously about this. You first.
Also, hey, I looked over some more mathematically-themed comic strips today so you can think about those instead.
Headlines from the Towne Courier, an advertisement-bearing special edition of the Lansing State Journal for the 5th of November, 2017, with “for some reason” suffixed.
Center City Project May Be Back On For Some Reason
Officials Put Cash For and Against East Lansing Tax Proposal For Some Reason
Throngs Flock To New Costco in East Lansing For Some Reason
Haslett-Okemos Rotary Announces Students of the Month For Some Reason
Okemos High School To Present ‘An Ideal Husband’ For Some Reason
Tri-County Office on Aging Dinner and Auction set for November 9 For Some Reason
Michigan State Unveils Tom Izzo Hall of History For Some Reason
(This one probably makes more sense if you can be interested in college football, which I can’t, because I went to Rutgers.)
East Lansing Kiwanis Welcomes Sparty to Meeting For Some Reason
Youth One [ Library ] Card Gives Access to a Multitude For Some Reason
Barnyard Mystery has Bit of Romance, Dark Humor For Some Reason
Plan to Eat 100 McChickens in a Day is a Failure For Some Reason
Proposed 10-Story Building Draws Parking Concerns For Some Reason
So I was in Meijer’s, remembering to buy sandwich bags and forgetting to buy trash bags, because we’re in one of those occasional phases of life where we don’t have the right number of bags. I came upon a big pile of boxed consumer goods: a Michigan State University Spartans Crock-Pot.
I’m aware, Crock-Pot is an official licensed kitchen-appliance-themed product. We pretend that the non-trademarked name for them is “slow cookers”. And I’m aware that the Spartans are an official licensed university-themed product.
So there I stood, in front of a pile of Spartan Crock-Pots, pondering the box’s promise that this is “Officially Licensed”. Licensed by who? To who? Did someone at Spartan Master Command want the real Crock-Pot, trusting that nobody would buy a Spartan Slow Cooker? Did someone at Crock-Pot Master Command insist that, hey, this is the Lansing/East Lansing Market. We can’t make do with a University of Michigan/Flint Lansing Campus Crock-Pot?
Did they license to each other? Is this the future of capitalism, companies just looking for other companies they can swap licenses with, all in the cause of creating piles of small yet durable consumer goods between the aisles of discount department stores? I could use some help having a reaction to all this. Please come over. I’m by the Surprisingly Many Women’s Soaps aisle, curled up and weeping.
I know I’ll feel like a fool if we get to Friday and the world as we know it hasn’t ended, but I’ll deal with that if it comes. You know how your neighborhood has that vaguely creepy, inexplicable shop? Ours is this office supply shop. It’s got a faded poster for Fischer Space Pens on it, and a sign advertising their typewriter repair, and about four billion office chairs forming a sea of chair-space in the front half of the shop, and you never see anyone going into or out of it. Been there forever.
I have gone into it. We needed some manilla envelopes and I figured, hey, if I don’t patronize the weird local shops they might go under and we’ll have to rely on multinational-corporate creepy stores. Those are nowhere near as interesting, although they do have better bathrooms you can use. But it still seemed like a good idea so I went in, bumped my shin into fourteen different kinds of office chair, and eventually got to the cashier’s desk, in the middle of the shop, where nobody was.
And I stood, faintly anxious, and realizing that the store seemed to have a lot of desks and office chairs and typewriter supplies, but manilla envelopes? Not so clearly there. In back someone was talking on the phone, but I couldn’t make any sense of the conversation. Well, also I didn’t want to eavesdrop, since I was concluding the shop was a front maintained by aliens, possibly robot dinosaurs from another dimension, who were examining mid-Michigan most likely in advance of an invasion. Eventually someone wearing her finest human guise did come out, and was startled by me. I admitted my manilla-envelope needs and she went into the back room for what seems like too long, unless the room is much vaster inside than the laws of ordinary geometry would allow to fit in the building. She came back with four, not all the same color, and apologized that they were not properly manilla envelopes. She wrote out a receipt on one of those pads the waitstaff at a diner uses to scribble down nothing that looks like anything you ordered and a price that isn’t what the register actually rings up.
So yeah, secret portal back there where the alien robot dinosaurs keep enough office supplies to answer the curious venturer. Bear in mind, I didn’t let the manilla envelope thing stop me from ever stepping inside again. I went back a couple months later when we needed some security envelopes. Also this makes me realize our household envelope need is bigger and more diverse than I thought. But once again it was a good five awkward minutes before a “clerk” came out of the “back room” to see how to get me out of the base with as few suspicions raised as possible. And he had to go in back again for a dusty box of security envelopes and wrote out a receipt by hand for it all.
Wednesday, the local alt-weekly says, they’re going to be closing up their office-supply-store cover operation. The paper was vague about why they’re closing up just now, but my love reports that their Facebook page says … in July … some grumbling things about the landlord selling the building. Ah, but, before that: the news that their typewriter repair guy is back. And before that? That their typewriter repair guy is going to be out for “surgery” a while. That takes them to the start of the year.
So, I have to figure, the cover story of being an office furniture and typewriter repair shop has outlived its utility, and they’re going on to the next phase of their operation, and we’re going to have to live with the consequences. I’m figuring to spend the day no closer than Grand Rapids.