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Creek Running North

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February 11, 2006

News from the North Country


So as you know the wife called the guys from the heating company last week before she left for Cancun. Furnace Failures, Fargo and February have more in common than the letter F, my father used to say, and it's just as true of the Twin Cities. The company sent out a couple of technicians to I dunno, clean the filters or something.

I am no good with major appliance repair, which makes me a sorry specimen of a man compared to Dear Old Dad. I have some skills. Show me an infinitive, and I can split it. But modern society has divorced me from the tool belt that is my birthright.

Furnace works now, because the guys found and removed an old hunting jacket that for some reason had been wadded up in the cold air return since we bought the place. It looks to be about 60 years old, and so as soon as I get the scanning done you'll have the additions to the Gallery of Hilarious Vintage Clothing Care Instruction Tags you've been clamoring for.

One of the furnace technicians reads my column in the Strib, and recognized me, and shook my hand. "Furnace Technician is a silly title," I said. "We didn't use to need technicians to use fire." He laughed and gave me his card, and taught me how to pronounce his name, which is like "Ahmed" only with some throat clearing in the middle of it. He invited me and Gnat over for Turkish coffee sometime.

Seemed like a nice enough guy. I don't have anything against all Arabs. Of course, when the Homeland Security fellows came by an hour ago to ask me some questions about Ackkhmed, I wasn't particularly surprised. The Homeland Security fellows, one of which was actually a female, just wanted to know if he'd acted or said anything suspicious. And in retrospect, I thought of a lot of things to tell them. They slip my mind at the moment. I'm sure if he's innocent he's got nothing to worry about.

As the feds were leaving Gnat started crying. She was hugging "Prussia," which is what we call her blue My Pretty Pony doll, and her diaper was full. Which I don't understand. When I bought them, the sign said "good for 27 to 40 pounds." I kid. But I'd just given her a new diaper an hour before. "What do you mean I need to change your diaper?" I teased Gnat. "Haven't you heard 9/11 already changed everything?" And then she barfed, right on the Navajo rug Lorraine gave my wife.

Lorraine is my wife's trainer, and she's damn good. My wife's been glowing since she started working with Lorraine. Glowing, and usually tired. A little too tired for my liking, just between you and me and the wiretap, but that works out fine since Gnat's still small and a baby brother would be a lot to handle. Lorraine's a consummate athlete, and I bet her workouts are challenging. She can throw a fastball better than some men, present company included.

Unlike some feminists, Lorraine's pretty reasonable about certain things. A few weeks back she decided I needed a day off, and suggested to my wife that I play golf while the two of them clean house. My wife allowed as how that was a great idea, and when I came back the sheets were all laundered and you could bounce a quarter off the bedspread. My wife was in the shower when I got back, and Lorraine was leaving, but she stopped. "I forgot! I have a book for you!" and she handed me a copy of The Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt. I haven't cracked it yet, but the back cover copy looks interesting.

She's generous that way, so the last thing I wanted was for Gnat's breakfast to stain the rug. Gnat seems to throw up fairly often while I'm talking to her, so like many freelance writers I've had to learn how to clean puke off of everything. I am here to tell you, Mr. and Mrs. America, that the single best product for cleaning vomit from wool carpet is pHisoHex. You heard me right. pHisoHex. And not the new stuff, but realpHisoHex, with Hexachlorophene the way Jehovah intended, the kind the Naderites managed to ban back in the 1970s, a decade worth reviling on that basis alone. I've been using the stuff my whole life, and I've never had any birth defects. But the bottle under the kitchen sink was empty. And when I got down to the basement to get another bottle from my hoard, I found my wife had changed the combination on the safe again.

As I mentioned last week, Lorraine and my wife had been selected to represent Minneapolis at the 2006 Personal Trainer's convention in Cancun, Mexico, and Gnat and I were both really proud. My wife was so excited that she almost forgot to kiss me as she got into Lorraine's Subaru. "Mommy loves her girlfriend," said Gnat as the two of them pulled away, and all I could think was how sad it'll be when the public schools start punishing her for calling women "girls." Toddlers have a wonderful natural conservativism, and it's a shame the educational industry forces them to mature out of it.

My wife pointed out that she and Lorraine were going to be very busy the whole time, what with workouts and conferences and exhibitions, and that I should only call her in emergencies. I figured the pHisoHex thing qualified. I caught her in the middle of a workout, though. "James," she said, "this really isn't a good time for me to talk." She was panting. It must have been a hard workout. I heard Lorraine's voice in the background. "Tell Lileks what you're doing!" she said. "I- I want to," said my wife, between breaths. "Lorraine, I don't think I can take any more!"

"Put your back into it, honey!" I said. Sometimes she needs a little encouragement. "I'm sure you'll get there!" But then Gnat threw up again, and I had to hang up. It turned out club soda worked just fine on the rug.

Which was good, because once I got the rug cleaned and Gnat propped up in front of Hannity I was able to finish the most recent entry in the Gallery of Ads that Died for Freedom: An Array of American Comfort Flackery. Here ya go:


Aww, cute little towheaded guy. But he looks upset, doesn’t he? Who peed in your Corn Flakes, li'l fella? Was it Bin Laden? Zarqawi? Oops, you live in the mid-60s and they haven't been invented yet. It must have been Jane Fonda that peed in your Corn Flakes. Don't worry, she'll settle down and marry a billionaire and get into the workout video business. That's a better use of her talents. Working out gives women that nice Midwestern, corn-fed rosy glow. It's worked for the wife, anyway.

Posted by Chris Clarke at February 11, 2006 10:34 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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Chris Clarke in the Twin Cities???
Excerpt: That was my first thought when I read this entry, but then I noticed that the clotted, precious style didn't quite fit. My next though was a horrific one: Lileks is guest posting on Creek Running North? Say it isn't...
Weblog: Pharyngula
Tracked: February 13, 2006 07:50 AM
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Heh. Indeed.

Posted by: Glenn Reynolds at February 11, 2006 11:28 PM
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When I was a child, milk was still delivered by a man in a truck each morning (but Sunday), came in thick glass bottles like the one pictured in your post, and the cream would rise to the top. The lid was a thin film of aluminium foil that was stretched tight over the top and down around the thick lip of the bottle. If you left the bottles outside on the porch in the little metal rack that kept them organized, birds would quickly find them and peck through the foil and appropriate what they could reach, down into the necks of the bottles.

My brother and I used to frustrate our mom by failing to stir the milk before we poured it on our cereals in the morning, prefering instead to selectively scoop the rich cream off the top for our morning repasts.

Cream, of course, came in separate bottles, stouter and smaller, and was as rich as the thickest ice cream today. It was far too thick to pour, and I remember watching my father sitting at our tiny breakfast table, spooning the thick magical substance onto his coffee.


Posted by: ehj2 at February 12, 2006 06:38 AM
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Posted by: Kat at February 12, 2006 07:57 AM
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I'll be laughing all day. Good Darwin's Birthday post too, lots of tansitional species in the story. It was K, E, double L, O, double good good!

Posted by: OGeorge at February 12, 2006 09:18 AM
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Giggling as i am now, i must say that i look forward to the day when i read a story of yours in Harper's, knowing you have successfully made the transition (or is that evolution) step towards fulltime writer. I have written to Lapham to encourage him to read and publish your work. This piece is so good.

Posted by: spyder at February 12, 2006 11:39 AM
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ehj2, there's a dairy in my area that's taken to selling unhomogenized milk in glass bottles. Plastic lids rather than foil, but the cream still rises to the top. It tastes better, too.

Posted by: nolo at February 12, 2006 05:36 PM
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"THE wife"?!?!

Ugh. Words fail me -- "fuckhead knuckle-dragging sexist asshole" just barely comes close.

I hope poor little "Gnat" (lovely thing to call one's child) barfs in his very best shoes -- or better yet, all over the keyboard on which he types such disgusting dreck.

Posted by: scarletwoman at February 12, 2006 07:08 PM
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Scarletwoman, I have nothing to add to that.

If Lileks refers to his spouse by name anywhere on his blog - which is entirely possible - I have failed to find it.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 12, 2006 07:21 PM
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Actually that bit makes sense; it maintains a bit of their privacy. Last woman I dated request I do the same sort of thing on my blog...

Posted by: Andrew Cory at February 12, 2006 08:02 PM
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Off topic, but since I'm finally de-lurking after many months of reading here -- and there's no way to email you (which I totally understand) -- I'd like to make a couple other comments.

First of all, I'm here by way of the Great and Powerful Bérubé, where I've enjoyed your comments immensely, lo these many moons. (I first found Bérubé through Atrios way back in the 2004 Republican Convention days when Monsieur le Professeur was blogging from the Dark Side.)

Over all this time, you've become one my heroes of the Bérubé commentariatti (is that a word?). In due course, I also started making visits here to your own site here, where your exquisite writing has often left me nigh breathless (and speechless until now) with the sublime beauty of your wordcraft.

Not to mention, that I am also someone who is "so far to the left libertarian corner that from his viewpoint, Gandhi was a faint, distant blur just in front of Hitler" (from you FAQ page) -- so it's very comforting to hang out with a kindred spirit.

Anyway, what actually brought me here this evening in particular was your comment (#137) on M.B.'s "It's a gas gas gas" thread: "I was wondering how soon I'd be able to disprove the recent allegation that we're all Bérubé sycophants around here. Thanks, Michael!"

I clicked on the link in your comment and was absolutely thrilled to find your post about Ward Churchill from October 2005. I greatly regret having missed that particular entry at the time, because I was desperately trying to make the same arguments in other fora -- as one of the apparently few "leftists/progressives" who was already familiar with Churchill from many years prior to the "little Eichmanns" brouhaha.

I just want to thank you for speaking up so eloquently and taking a stand against the ignorant knee-jerk reactionism of the "liberal" herd who have no fucking clue what the struggles in Indian Country have been and continue to be about.

Many thanks for your precious voice.

Posted by: scarletwoman at February 12, 2006 08:19 PM
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That had occurred to me, Andrew, and then I saw this post of his. It pretty clearly deprives her of any privacy her anonymity on the blog might have granted.

I don't know what's going on, to be sure. Maybe it is due to her direct request, and there's nothing wrong with that. I'm not one to judge.

OK, that's a lie. I am one to judge. But I try to be fair before I render a verdict.

Anyway, it is behavior consistent with certain old-school patriarchal behavior, still followed to this day by assorted nimrods both male and female, in which the notion that a female spouse possesses an individual personality is considered a quirky one. Becky occasionally receives mail addressed to Mrs. Chris Clarke from who know her name. At least we think it's for Becky. No way to be sure.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 12, 2006 08:21 PM
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And scarletwoman, thank you. You're very generous.

Incidentally, my work email address is not particularly well guarded, and that's Send me a note there if you like and I'll let you know the address I prefer for the email I actually enjoy reading.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 12, 2006 08:28 PM
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Ohhh, I get it , the comments are part of the joke.

Posted by: Paco at February 13, 2006 12:30 AM
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"Personal trainers' convention". I think I'm going to have need for that cryptophemism.

Posted by: Mister Nice Guy at February 13, 2006 02:55 AM
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That. was. so. good.

To give credit where due, I have seen his wife's name somewhere on "the Bleat" --Paula. She has probably explicitly told him she doesn't want to be featured as blog fodder. That's just a guess.

Posted by: Helen at February 13, 2006 03:15 AM
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Ah! Good to know, Helen. Thanks.

Thanks for stopping by, Paco.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 13, 2006 07:13 AM
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Thank you, thank you, thank you for sending me the link! This is the finest piece of satire I have read in ages. You have his tone down so, so, so perfectly. And "An Array of Comfort Flackery" - that could be its own book!

A quick admission - I own the Gallery of Regrettable Food, and could you imagine writing alternative captions for the whole book?

Sample one:
This is what Gnat did on the rug today.

Sample two:
This is what Gnat did on the rug plus pHisoHex.

Sample three:
This is what Gnat did on the rug plus pHisoHex plus baking soda.

Applause! Bravo!

Posted by: Pepper at February 13, 2006 08:28 AM
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Scarily spot-on. I might offer one small quibble: Not quite whiney enough.

Posted by: Charles at February 13, 2006 11:11 AM
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Posted by: Pete K at February 14, 2006 04:06 PM
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Ham-fisted, but the line about 9/11 elicited a chuckle.

Posted by: Candidus at February 16, 2006 02:17 PM
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Mmmmm ham.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 16, 2006 07:47 PM
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Posted by: fasteddie at February 17, 2006 08:53 AM
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