Sep 18

What’s the last (non-grocery) thing you bought in a store?

Sometimes I’m sure I do my best writing in email. I wrote this as a part of one email this evening.

I went to Macy’s yesterday, just to see if they are still open. It is tacked on to the back of the mall here and we drive around it some days in the pursuit of tiny little errands. Every time the Macy’s lot is just about deserted. Closed Kmart deserted.

Both Kmart stores and the Sears have disappeared since we got here. This is not the first town that’s happened in. We are like the Fifth Horseman of Sears closings. (This would be a great gag, not just Four Horsemen, but a lot of them, and each successive one is less fearsome.) I went in, and it feels like Blockbuster and Circuit City during their last painful retail heaves. Over the death rattle you could hear me think: Who is paying $80 for a shirt? People doing that surely aren’t doing that at Macy’s.

The mall is also physically lashed onto the Target, which is the appropriate amount of brick-and-mortar successful. I haven’t seen the data, but I bet that Target and the adjacent Chick-fil-A keep the whole mall afloat. Eat mor chikin. Buy mor stuf.

That all sounds desperately condescending in that way that feels most natural to my Mallrats generation. (An association I wish I could shake, while also keep most of my mall experiences intact.)

I spent 14 seconds peering into a few shelves and racks, though, listening to the few employees on the floor giggling about whatever, though, without feeling like doing a web 2.0 dance. There’s no happiness in retail going under, just a loss of more jobs and more empty real estate. One Kmart here is right now some sort of auto mechanic holding pattern, but will become that early 21st century commercial development “multiuse.” The city is trying to figure out what to do with the second one. They are soliciting ideas. The Sears became a grocery store, sort of.

I’m a culprit here. Most of my shopping is now online. I’m having a difficult time thinking up the last thing I bought that wasn’t a food or a drink in a store. Probably it was lumber.

I will go out and see those Going Out Of Business Sales. I hit both of the Kmart stores here. The nearest one stocked up the house once or twice. The other was just a way to avoid traffic for a while. The last time I did that at a Sears the prices were still ridiculous. We bought a dryer, but maybe only because it was easier to borrow a friend’s pickup than to get Amazon to ship that Prime.

At Macy’s though, I looked at the shirts and thought, even at the sale price, and after that promised 20 percent off when you sign up for The Credit Card of Poorly Informed Mistakes, that’s still more than I paid for the last shirt I got online. The economics are all screwy. And when I got home there were two new pieces of cycling kit in the mailbox, which I purchased at a fraction of the retail price.

I’m not saying anything new there, but just imagine what the subsequent Horsemen would be. Granted, the drop off from Death to Closer of Past Their Prime Retailers is a steep one. A few more down the line and you get Phantom Nose Itch or Disturber of Daydreams.

We had barbecue last night, and a homemade stir fry tonight. Ask me about those stories sometime. Both dishes were good, at least one of the stories is mildly entertaining. I also put together a bunch of slides on lead writing, and thought more about op-ed pieces than anyone ever should, really, and did that in two separate sittings. But that’s where we are in the world today. The op-ed-related horseman being 45th or so.

No, the last thing I bought in a store was buttons. I had to sew on a new cuff button for a Brooks Brothers shirt. I purchased that online sometime last year.

More on Instagram and please check me out on Twitter as well.

Dec 17

You can here reflect on substance

I’m the sort of guy that sees reflections and tries to figure them out. And that’s why I found myself standing in an alley across the street from the office today, waving my hand around like a big goof, trying to interrupt the light that was hitting this wall:

Sometimes you just have to know where the bounce is coming from. Only, this time, I could not find it. The neighboring building was too close to throw light from the roof, the angle was all wrong. There was nothing directly opposite on the wall, obviously, and no trash can lids or aquarium bowls or anything else in the alley that corresponded to this shape, either. This does nothing to dampen my curiosity.

Think on that: We aren’t always aware of the light being cast upon us, or on what we’re sharing with others.

More on Instagram and, of course, on Twitter.

Oct 17

The winter squash whodunit

One of our students was carrying around a pumpkin today. I think it was a home economics exercise. He’s toting around a child cucurbita, or a grandbaby gourd.

(I suppose it could be for Halloween.)

Anyway, he left the pumpkin at the television studio this morning. I could have offered to take good care of the squash plant, but it seemed more fun to hold it for ransom. Pay up, or get him back in (pumpkin pie) slices. Give me what I want or the jack-o-lantern-to-be doesn’t get an ear. Call the veggie cops, and he gets crooked eyes.

I couldn’t even work through all of these puns — and they get even worse pretty quickly — before the student swooped in and picked him up. The cultivar custody caper was resolved.

Some shows the students produced last night. A sports desk show:

And a talk show that they’ll put on the air on Sunday night:

But let’s not get that far ahead of ourselves. There’s still a whole weekend to enjoy.

Nov 15

That looks different, and it looks the same

Ya know, you can wake up in one place and then you set out for another place. And then it is time to go to sleep again so you wake up in the second place and you look outside and the sky is a different blue. Or that could be your imagination. The air feels different, and that’s probably not your imagination. And the earth beneath your feet feels different. You know that’s not your imagination.

And the sky, when it is blue, is always this shade of blue here. And the air always feels just like this, without fail, this time of year. And the soil that you played in here is darker than what you’ve ever worked in everywhere else, rich and thick and full of mole holes and the clover is thick and rich and cool to the touch.

That’s when you realize you’re not in the first place, but the second place, which might always feel like a second place, but is of course really the real first place. And it might be the holidays and just a short visit, but you know you’re home.

Sep 14

Just some pictures

I had these shots from my ride on Sunday and I’ve been staring at them. The colors are beautiful. The light is perfect. The road just sings to you. There’s a great whir, whir, whirring in my imagination from the rubber tire on the road. When you get close enough you can smell the clay:


On my bike I am always trying to ride hard and fast, because I am not fast. But in my daydreams I’m lazily drifting onto the center line, where the road noise is different, quieter. When I have the space to ride on a painted lane I always wonder if it moves faster. Maybe the paint makes less friction, somehow. It is quieter. There’s just your breathe there, just the whoosh of the wind in your ears. And then you can really see the things around you:


Not far from there at all, really, I looked up the road and saw the prettiest site I’ve seen on an otherwise normal, and freshly paved, ribbon of road:


And I started doing the only other kind of riding I know how to do, the slow back and forth tilts from the shoulder to centerline, making big swooping curves over the asphalt. Sine waves. Sign language.

In my mind I’m sitting on the saddle. In reality I’m sitting in my office chair, wondering why it is lately less comfortable.