So, that message from the car care place that was definitely no kind of quiet despair? An ‘E’ either fell off or it got stolen. And now instead of promising that a smile makes the world a little brighter, it’s now promising to make the world a little bright R. I’m sure this does not mean we’re about to see the planet shattered to a non-spherical shape and irradiated to the point that it glows even at night. But maybe let’s be careful just in case?
I know, I know, I’m the Internet’s leading resource on recapping the plots of story strips like Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth. Believe me, I’m doing my best to keep my modesty at an appropriate level. My professionalism compels me to warn you: this is a recap written at the end of November 2017. Stories move on, though, and if it’s much past November 2017 these stories won’t be more than deep background for you. If it’s sometime after March 2018 when you read this, then (all going well) I’ll have another, more-recent-to-you story summary available. You should be able to get it here. Thanks for looking to me for help with exactly what my subject line says.
We had a real, proper, soap-operatic situation going on last time I checked in on Mary Worth. Dawn Weston, working for the Local Medical Group, is outright smitten with Dr Ned Fletcher. Medical assistant Jared, himself a-smitten with Dawn, discovers that Dr Ned is still married. He reports this to Dawn, who doesn’t want to believe it. Also I’m not sure whether Dr Ned is open with his wife about his side thing, or whether he’s lying to her about what he’s doing those late nights at the office. I suppose he’s lying to her. The Mary Worth universe can support adultery. No way can it support poly relationships. (Plus, even if it did, Dr Ned’s a serious heel for lying to Dawn about his status.)
At a L’escargot Mensonger dinner, Dawn asks and Dr Ned fesses up: he is married. He doesn’t think that has to change things, because it’s never the guy who lied about his relationship status who does. Dawn runs out on dinner and into the gardening-tool-handling hands of Mary Worth. Mary advises sticking to principles like “not dating married men”, even if it costs the job, and that a man who’s “available and doesn’t trouble her conscience” will be along. Since Dawn was only working for the summer and it’s already a September strip this is a financially viable decision to make, at least. Dawn quits, and tells Jared that he was right all along, and maybe they’ll talk or something later. Mary shows up with muffins and hugs and the confidence that comes from knowing yeah, she’s still the center of the strip.
But there’s other people in the comic. Wilbur Weston left Charterstone and threatened to leave the strip altogether some time ago. He’s got a new gig, interviewing survivors of disasters around the world about their experiences and about the sandwiches they eat now that they’re not dead. And his story returns the 2nd of October. He FaceTimes Iris, his girlfriend back home, with the news he’s staying out a while longer. He’s met someone in Bogota he’s got feelings for, and you know, it was her idea they put their relationship on pause while he globetrotted some more.
Iris is devastated and falls into a long self-inquisitive spiral about whether she could have saved their relationship. Mary Worth, writing Wilbur’s “Ask Wendy” advice column, pontificates on the idea that love is all around, no need to waste it, you might just make it after all, thank you for being a friend, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and brother Dick was lost at sea without his water wings; now he is an angel, and he tries to do amazing things. But that’s all just for the audience; there’s no hint Iris reads the column or knows this advice is out there ready to be heard.
Anyway, while walking around in a good healing mope, she runs across Zak. You maybe remember Zak. We last saw him early in 2017, taking some classes with Iris at Local Community College. Iris liked him, what with his being attractive and having a pleasant, natural dopiness, but she decided she was waiting for Wilbur. And hey! What do you know? Zak is doing well, having made a game that got popular and buying a briefcase and a car and everything. And he’s up for coffee and dating, so, lucky them.
Meanwhile in Bogota, Wilbur’s been busy having a life, and who saw that coming? His relationship with Fabiana has gotten quite serious. Wilbur’s taking dance lessons and buying her Green Lantern rings. He’s embracing his new life, and her, with an enthusiasm previously reserved for pork roll. She’s consistently looking not quite at him. But he doesn’t notice this until one day when he arrives for salsa lessons early and finds Fabiana deep in the arms of her cousin Pedro. Wilbur begins to suspect that they aren’t even cousins, and that he’s been a fool. There’s no salsa here. There’s not even any chips. Poor guy.
And there we are. It’s easy to suppose the situation is exactly what it looks like. Fabiana hasn’t been showing having a conversation with Wilbur that wasn’t about how he could buy her things, for example. But it also seems early in Wilbur’s little story segment here. After breaking up with Iris on the second of October his story went on the backburner. The Wilbur-Fabiana thing has only had primary focus since the 13th of November. It seems like there should be time for some twists and turns yet. On the 26th as Wilbur storms out Fabiana does chase after, swearing it isn’t what it looks like and begging her love not to go; so, what the heck. I’m willing to see. Plus, you know, after the last bit of Wilber-Iris-and-Zak storytelling we got CRUISE SHIPS. I don’t know what can match them, if anything, but it’s a good omen going forward.
Dubiously Sourced Quotes of Mary Worth Sunday Panels.
“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t going away.” — Elvis Presley. 3 September 2017.
“And if that isn’t the truth, it would be a lie.” — Colin Mochrie, 10 September 2017.
“Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” — Victor Hugo, 17 September 2017.
“The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.” — Hubert H Humphrey, 24 September 2017.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” — Albert Einstein, 1 October 2017.
“Let go. Why do you cling to pain?” — Leo Buscaglia, 8 October 2017.
“Love can sometimes be magic. But magic can sometimes … just be an illusion.” — Javan, 15 October 2017.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” — 1 Corinthians 13:13, 22 October 2017. OK, I’m like 60 percent confident this one is legit.
“Love is like the wind. You can’t see it, but you can feel it.” — Nicholas Sparks, 29 October 2017.
“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.” — George Sand, 5 November 2017.
“Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.” — Satchel Paige, 12 November 2017.
“Money can’t buy love, but it improves your bargaining position.” — Unknown, 19 November 2017.
“Life is full of surprises.” — John Major, 26 November 2017.
I return to the challenge of doing these recaps without fear or favor, despite knowing that Tony DePaul reads them, as I get to his and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity. A new storyline had started shortly after my last update, so this is a much-needed refresher.
I’m sorry. I saw the lawyer for the Insane Clown Posse, or the “Juggalawyer” as apparently they call him, while watching Samantha Bee’s show last night and I don’t really know what things are anymore.
So uh, here. Something from a park we visited last weekend. The question: Was the sign placed there fortuitously … or did they wait until a tree collapsed and figured that’s where to put the sign … or did someone fell a tree as a warning to the others? And if a warning, has this driven the other trees to greater productivity? Or has it driven the ice to try for more?
So apparently Guy Fieri dropped in at the Eastside Fish Fry a couple blocks from us. We didn’t encounter him. I’m really not perfectly sure Guy Fieri really exists, since I haven’t understood anything that’s been added to the pop culture since that day in 2000 I realized I had seen enough Scooby-Doo for my life and chose to not participate in any more, ever. I see him made fun of on Conan O’Brien’s show and that sort of thing, yes. But we need higher standards for reality than “is a reliable punch line for late-night talk shows”.
Anyway, the message board outside the Fish Fry now proclaims, “Guy Fieri Ate Here”. I trust they’re bragging. Other interpretations seem gloomy and we’ve got enough of that these days, especially considering the auto care place still has that blank-besides-an-apostrophe sign. On the other side of the sign, I guess they’ve misplaced a few letters, because it announces, “WATCH FOR US ON OOO”. Maybe one of those last letters is supposed to be ‘D’. I hope it’s the middle ‘O’. But I’m the one being childish about this.
So the Auto Care place down the street took its last emotionally-charged sign message off its board. It spent a couple weeks congratulating some athlete or other for an accomplishment in the field of sports athleticism and that’s fine enough. But since this weekend the board has been this:
Is this how the world ends? Not with a bang, not with a whimper, but just a single, forgotten apostrophe left in the void?
Have to say, I don’t see how to read this except as a quiet announcement that there’s been some breakthrough in the cold-war-style relationship they’ve been working out. I’m glad. It’s been an awful year, compounding an absolutely brutal year. That an auto care place can have some chance at happiness can maybe be that first little flower proving that life will come again.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index rose a point after traders finally got around to listening to the Flophouse Podcast Movie Minute thing where Elliott pitches his Ziggy movie and they’re not sure if they’re more entertained or just awestruck by how he went on for seven and a half minutes possibly without taking a breath.
Is the auto care place trying to send word to its ex-friend that, angry as they both are after the breakup, it is open and amenable to reconciliation and that any gesture of good will would be met kindly and without bitter, blame-casting comments? I don’t know, so here’s the rabbit statue in our garden getting ready to punch a tulip.
Thank you for reading.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index rose four points today just to show that it could and then went right back to where it had started from. Friends are growing concerned that it might be losing the ability to effortlessly socialize.
It would be a hopeful message of tranquility and future promise, yes, if it weren’t coming after the slow-bitter breakup message. And if it weren’t coming off a year that ranks favorably compared to 1945, when atomic bombs were used as weapons of war, or the peak years of the Taiping Rebellion or the Black Death, but not much else. I’m going in tomorrow and offer everyone there a hug.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose four points after traders stopped in the pet shop and saw a baby guinea pig yawning. I’m surprised the index only went up four points after that. Have you even seen a baby Texel? And add to that one that’s yawning?
The Another Blog, Meanwhile index drifted down this afternoon following a heated discussion about what to have for lunch and whether to go to another medium-price fast-dining option or to just accept that what everyone really wants is to go to McDonald’s and eat their weight in fries with ranch sauce and they know a place that’ll give you any of the dipping sauces just for asking. But there’s always the one person who thinks asking for dipping sauces when you aren’t getting Chicken McNuggets is imposing too much on the customer-cashier relationship, based on one time in 1996 for crying out loud that the cashier was all snotty and called them names for trying.
Pumpkin Is Back. Unexplained sign in the midst of a patch of those trees they have lining every Interstate-grade highway. It’s an invitation to wonder: pumpkin was away? I suppose technically. We worry a lot about pumpkin-spice things in fall and I guess it’s fall enough for most practical purposes around here. But pumpkin isn’t pumpkin-spice, as your pedantic friend on Facebook is already trying to contact me to complain about. I’m not on Facebook, but if you like I’ll give you some inaccurate names that might well be people your friend could complain to instead. Still, pumpkin what? Pie? Bread? Spice? Some other pumpkin product, such as pumpkin-inspired gatherings of squirrels? All great thoughts before you smash into the back of the Two Guys And A Pumpkin moving van that stopped short.
An Unspeakably Great Mass Of Foam On The Median. This overstates things. It’s more of a speakable mass of foam, but that’s because there isn’t a whole lot to foam. Most of it is air and the parts that aren’t air are … water? Soap? Something, anyway. What makes it so speakable is that it seems to be going on for quite a way. A quarter-mile or more of dribbles of foam resting in the grass, almost all the way to the Pumpkin sign. Why foam? Is someone trying to scrub the highway? Sure it needs it, but why the median? Or is this what’s left over after an inadequate rinse job? If they’re rinsing, is it just washing the road or are they trying to dye the highway so it looks younger? But why would a highway want to look younger? Is it trying to attract a new partner after Old Business 17 got re-routed five years back? Ends at Thump Road, gateway to the industrial bubble district.
Lego Buck Rogers. Another inexplicable sign. Is this a movie? A toy line? One social commentator’s cryptic message about the recycling and mashing-up of ideas to produce a franchise that feels worn out at its newest? Is Buck Rogers different from Flash Gordon in any way we have to have an opinion about? Is it about leaving the spaceships all over the rumble strips on the edges of the road? Did they dispense foam on the median in the attempt to escape killer trucks? If so, why is it not Lego Foam?
Inexplicable speedup. The less-appreciated counterpart to those weird little vortices of tardiness that roll around highways. Those spots where everybody suddenly drops to like twenty miles per hour. Here for no especial reason all the traffic gets going twenty or even thirty miles per hour faster. This lasts until the spot is passed, which takes only a couple seconds. Many people don’t even know they were in it unless somebody remarks how they arrived as much as five seconds ahead of expectations. This happens maybe four percent more often than you would expect.
Highway Sign Displaying The Message “September 5”. This one seems straightforward enough, what with there being a September and it having a “5” in it. No warning about anything starting then, or ending then, or continuing then, or even not being done at all then. And it isn’t the 5th of September or any date particularly near it either, except on a cosmic or historical scale. Possibly someone hopes to raise the brand awareness of September. Or “5”. If it’s an attempt to raise awareness of 5 that might explain why it didn’t say “September 15”. That would bring “1” even more attention than it already gets.
Customers Welcome. Sign painted to the wall of the … cement shop? Had they not been taking customers before? Were they just sitting behind cement desks thinking how nice and peaceful everything was and then they got worried about meeting payroll? Or is the cement industry only now getting tired of old-fashioned ways? They’re now looking to sell cement to people who need cement for whatever it is they do? Maybe something like creating tiny Brutalist public libraries for their backyard patio? Easily the strangest customer appeal since the shop with the sign Nominated One Of Three Places To Buy Paint that was off the foamy exit like six months ago. Maybe they were celebrating the return of someone nicknamed Pumpkin up there? That kind of makes sense.
I have to go back to my hypothesis that the message board is having a very slow, very bitter breakup with someone and is now trying to explain how it’s basically got its stuff together even if it’s screwing up on the little things. I worry that it isn’t going well. While it’s ordinarily admirable to admit when you made a mistake, especially one that set off a terrible fight, admitting it comes across rhetorically as the first step to declaring the mistakes don’t matter. It’s hard to own up to fumbling once the emotional shooting has got really going.
I’ll start this roster from close to home and work my way out. First is that the goldfish we finally moved back into the pond outside just aren’t eating algae. They look like they are, what with their being goldfish and the algae being algae. I would have imagined that an arrangement they could keep up with. But they’re not eating it, not nearly so fast as the algae’s growing. Some of the goldfish are going so far as to swim into the middle and hover worryingly still. I guess they’re doing what I would do if I walked into a room and was covered in a pile of powdered doughnuts. I mean, I wouldn’t leave either, and I guess I’d be annoyed if someone reached in with the pool grabber and poked me. So maybe that’s not mysterious on the part of those goldfish. But I’d be making clear progress in doughnut-eating in that case. I may not always know what to do, but I’m almost mastered doughnut-eating. Happy as the fish may be, they’re dragging down the house’s efficiency ratings and I’m considering calling in an expert. If you know of one please write in care of your television market’s local news-weather-and-traffic leader. I bet they’d like to know.
Down the block. That auto care shop that was having the weird passive-aggressive fight by way of its message sign? It finally put up a message to replace “The Cost Is Zero To Be A Decent Human Being” and it went over to “We Can’t Save Everyone But Everyone Can Save Someone”. So they were apparently getting back to their groove of messages that unintentionally inspire dread at the futility of existence. And then that message about saving someone lasted maybe a week and a half. Now it’s “Whether You Think You Can Or You Can’t You’re Right”. This inspirational messages has limitations. They’re not referring to your ability to just charm your way past a defensive perimeter and through the security cordon. They’re thinking more about whether you could get that Associate’s Degree in actuarial mathematics with night, weekend, and online classes. And even with small-scale things there’s limits. No matter how confident I am in how I spell “accommodation” today I can’t get the spell checker to agree I’ve managed to hit any word. I have to put it in quotes to fool it into not putting this ugly underline squiggle there.
I’m not asserting that the office-supply store down the street, the one with the showroom floor that seems to be nothing but task chairs pressed up against each other, is necessarily the front for some secret society maintaining a portal to a magical alternate dimension where possibly everybody is robot dinosaurs. But I did stop in recently because I needed some manilla envelopes. I figured, why not support a neighborhood business that’s got an extremely faded poster in the window for Space Pens? OK, because I terrify the woman working the showroom what with not making enough noise going in and her coming out of the back room not expecting a tall, beareded man seeking manilla envelopes there. I’m sorry.
Thing is, they didn’t have manilla envelopes. At least she couldn’t find any. They had a small stock of actual office supplies, with most o the showroom being dust-covered task chairs. She was able to find a couple envelopes, but they were kind of peach or maybe salmon-colored. I was looking for manilla envelopes because I needed some paper folded up and glued together so that other paper could be put inside it, to then put the envelope inside a filing cabinet, there to be lost. The color didn’t matter. I had to promise that it was all right they had peach envelopes. I trust they got them from their warehouse supplier in that alternate timeline where history has proceeded just like it has here, only envelopes are colored weird.
So there’s this bowling alley not too far off. Rumor is it used to be a city park, for some reason, and I don’t know anyone who understands why or whether it is anymore. I’d go and ask them but I’m worried they would try explaining bowling to me. “You know how it’s fun to knock stuff over? What if you could knock stuff over in a manner tolerated by society? And have a machine pick things up to be knocked over again? And, from 10 pm, with a blacklight and a diffracted laser turned on?” The proposition sells itself. I don’t need to have that explained to me.
What I do need to be sold on, if I read their sign right the other day, was traffic hazard cones. It was in traffic and I was driving so I didn’t want to pay too much attention to it but they were going to have a sale on traffic hazard cones? Which is somehow something you can just do at bowling alleys? I mean, I understand needing traffic hazard cones. And you have to get them from somewhere. I just wouldn’t have thought the bowling alley.
You might remember there’s an auto repair place down the street. I mean my street. I don’t know what’s down yours, and before you get all smug about that when’s the last time you checked yourself, mmm?
Last winter the auto repair place used its sign board to deliver a message of despairing optimism, that “Everything Is Going To Be Alright”. I think the tone came out wrong, but maybe I’m just seeing ambiguity where they didn’t intend it. They change it every couple months. Right after that was congratulations to somebody graduating and there’s no snarking on that. I forget what they went to after that one.
This winter they had “The Cost Is Zero To Be A Decent Human Being”. And this is a beautifully balanced message. It’s a reminder that the kind, gracious society, the one in which all people receive the dignity and decency that they need to thrive, is always at hand. It requires only that we each take a moment to remember the basic humanity of those around us, and that the cost of respecting that humanity is smaller than we fear. And on the other hand, it’s the perfect thing to yell in the quarrel that finally incinerates the corpse of a deceased friendship. “The cost is zero to be a decent human being, Lisa, and somehow that’s too much for you!”
Yesterday I noticed they had the ladder out, and they took down the reminder about the cost to be a decent human being. They haven’t put a new message up yet. But I’m eager to see what there is.
There’s this billboard showing the current Mega Millions and the Powerball lottery jackpots. It’s gotten a little crazy the past week since, well, you know. Last Saturday we were driving past it and there was the powerball sitting at 800 Million. And next to it, poor little Mega Millions trying to drum up interest in a mere 15 million dollar payout. I can’t help thinking that Mega Millions has been spending the last several weeks crying out, “Ma! He’s doing it again!” And Powerball yells back, “What? What? I’m not even touching you! I’m not touching you!” There’s surely a lot of slapping involved.
Anyway, this week, the Powerball sign moved over from saying ‘Millions’ to ‘Billions’ and the numbers don’t look so enormously different. Still, Mega Millions is sitting there at 15, resolutely not moving. It’s got me wanting to go over and buy a Mega Millions ticket just so it doesn’t feel completely unloved anymore. Maybe I’ll also pat it on the back and give it a jelly roll or something. Its time will come. We all have to get lucky eventually.