I took a short vacation last month to Portland, Ore., which is the subject of Friday’s column. If you’ve been there, your reactions will be especially appreciated.
Fun fact: I left for Portland one month ago today, wrote the column a week or so after my return, and it’s languished ever since, as pressing business kept intruding.
I keep a relatively neat car, I like to think, but you can’t have a car for 12 years without a few unnecessary items accumulating. I cleaned out my car recently, prior to selling it, and was surprised by some of what I found. This photograph presents a carefully curated selection.
Clockwise from lower left: a handwritten list of Chinese restaurants on a desk calendar page from 2007; a “gold card” of unclear benefit from the Grove when I bought a computer circa 2005; one of perhaps a dozen Wet-Naps, saved but never used; a 1994-copyright Auto Club guide to emergency services; a punch card for Burger Bar in Claremont, marked once only (I didn’t really care for the meal) and now even more useless because the restaurant closed probably three years ago; an ArcLight theater card a friend pressured me to sign up for and which I never remembered to carry; a Virgin Megastore “Virgin Important Person” card for a chain that closed in 2009; a Ben and Jerry’s “Mood Magic Card,” date and purpose unknown and never used; and a keychain that came with an “Office” DVD, a miniature stapler in a miniature Jell-O mold.
What’s in your glove compartment, or what have you found in the past with embarrassment?
I have a habit: I always pick up spare change, from sidewalks, parking lots and floors. Even in a recent case, where I encountered a pile of 57 pennies. I write about that in Sunday’s column.
At Fairplex last Thursday for a Cub Scout tour of the RailGiants Train Museum, I tried interviewing Gerhard Kramer’s 7-year-old son, Elijah, with spotty results, even with dad’s help. “I liked it” was Elijah’s most pithy remark, but my attempts to get him to elaborate failed, hilariously.
Trying to keep a child’s attention and elicit a comment is among journalists’ most difficult tasks. Someone captured the moment and Kramer forwarded the photo. He commiserated: “Eventually you’ll get the hang of interviewing!” Yes, eventually.
A column on the exhibit is forthcoming next month.
Our newspaper chain’s “content management system” was offline Thursday, and virtually offline Wednesday, which made producing the last two issues a challenge. It doesn’t seem to be back up today.
I had an items column more than half-written prior to all that, but I couldn’t access it, nor did I think I could recreate it from memory and scattered notes. Thus, no column today. It was all the editors could do to get a newspaper out, so my column’s absence wasn’t an issue. An editor managed to infiltrate the system and retrieve that column yesterday afternoon, after my deadline, as well as my draft of Sunday’s column, and emailed them to me.
It’s enough to make you wonder if we wouldn’t be better off returning to the typewriter era, when all reporters had to worry about was typewriter ribbons and correction fluid. (And their livers and lungs.)
I busied myself Wednesday writing blog posts ahead, and on Thursday by writing items on my desktop and replying to emails. In a way, I’m now a little ahead for a change, even though in another way I feel behind.
So, sorry for missing a day, and cross your fingers for Sunday’s column.
View at a Cardinals game, May 14.
A mere three readers said they wanted to hear more about my vacation, and I can’t blame the rest of you, so I’ll limit this to my blog. St. Louis, the nearest big city when I was growing up, has a certain mystique for me, but it’s not a city too many Californians would choose as a vacation destination.
As with any big city, there are interesting things to see and do, and St. Louis is old enough (founded 1764) that some of them are quite old. This visit, in fact, I visited Cahokia Mounds, an Indian site that is thousands of years old. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a village that at its heyday, around 1250 AD, had a population of roughly 20,000, comparable in size to London or Paris of that era. (The traffic must have been terrible.) It’s also got the largest manmade earthen mound north of Mexico.
Other activities this time were more modern, at least relatively. Ted Drewes frozen custard (since 1930) and Carl’s Drive-In (since 1959) are reliably great. The Delmar Loop has been named one of America’s 10 Great Streets. And the Public Library, after a recent $70 million renovation, has been restored to its 1912 Beaux Arts glory while updated where appropriate. It may be more impressive than L.A.’s Central Library.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg that is St. Louis. Every visit I do a few new things and a few old favorites. Sometimes the new things become old favorites. There are plenty of intriguing-sounding places I still haven’t been despite numerous visits. For one, U.S. Grant’s home. Or places I want to return to, like Crown Candy Kitchen, where the 14-slice BLT has become nationally famous since my last visit; I go for the ice cream.
The moral is that you can go to almost any city of size, not just the obvious ones, and find beautiful, inspiring, tasty, fun things to do.
While in St. Louis, I saw Chuck Berry in one of his monthly gigs in the basement club known as the Duck Room. Friday’s column tells all. Above, the statue of Chuck on Delmar Boulevard across from the club.
A call came in to my desk Tuesday afternoon. The caller identified himself and said he’d recently stumbled across an old blog post of mine about “how to know you’ve lived here a long time.” I allowed as how I vaguely remembered it.
“Here is my question: Are you a person who is SERIOUSLY interested in local history?” the man said.
Something about his intensity put me off, I guess. We had a halting back-and-forth about whether he’s ever read my work (he repeated that he had merely stumbled across my blog post and immediately picked up the phone to call), how he had once set linotype for the Progress Bulletin, how he didn’t like to waste his time.
“Are you a person who is SERIOUSLY interested in local history?” he repeated briskly. “It’s a yes or no question.”
Oh brother. He had a self-serious “do I have an age-old conspiracy for you!” air about him, perhaps a complaint worrying him for decades like a pebble in his shoe, and the odds that whatever he was selling I would buy were growing poorer by the second.
I told him I do from time to time write about local history, and to my mind, yes, I’m serious. Evidently this answer wasn’t sufficiently enthusiastic.
“You just missed out on a great story,” the man informed me with a mixture of pity, disappointment and triumph.
I sighed and said, “Whatever, man,” then hung up on him before he could hang up on me.
If it turns out he knew where all the bodies are buried, and it’s not Bellevue Cemetery, I guess I blew it.
What, you didn’t know I was gone? That was the point. I wrote three columns ahead and produced a few blog posts while away to fill the gap. Spent last week in ol’ St. Lou visiting the folks. Today I’ll be back at my desk in Ontario. What did I miss?
In Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” which is a journalistic exploration of where our food comes from, he mentions being an accident-prone individual. He says, parenthetically, that “childhood mishaps included getting bitten in the cheek by a seagull and breaking my nose falling out of bed.”
Ha ha! But we can all sympathize, right? I never had either of those things happen, and in fact made it through childhood without breaking any bones, but three accidents quickly came to mind.
I once poked my head between two bars in a wrought iron stair railing and couldn’t dislodge myself for a few scary minutes.
Attempting to carve a soapbox derby car from a block of wood with a pocketknife, I cut my hand because I was carving toward myself, not away. (The project, only a few shavings in, was abandoned.)
And when a moving van was in our driveway, I walked into the edge of the loading platform while bouncing a basketball and cut my face about an inch above my eye. I still have a scar, but it could’ve been a lot worse. Yikes!
Your turn. What physical mishaps, the more absurd the better, occurred to you in childhood?