Hmm Weekly for May 19, 2020
Our parallel universe is called "Tuesday."
Dear The Sophist,
I stole a beer sign.
There’s a corner convenience store in my neighborhood that changed hands about a year ago and the new ownership never quite got it together. I was invested in the success of the business because it’s a block away from my house and they had a liquor license.
It was a family operation, which made me think it would succeed, because the one thing you don’t want to worry about with a small business is a payroll, and seeing the same woman on duty at the register for 12 hours a day made me feel good about the shop’s chances.
They never got a lottery machine, though, and I think that might have been the thing that broke them, never getting that extra bump of customers coming in to buy a scratch-off or play Powerball and then also grab some beer or a bag of chips. That would have been me. I was a customer, stopping in for the occasional bottle of Coke or six-pack, but I would have been a steady customer if they had a lotto terminal.
The store limped along for months. It was depressing to be in there and look around to see bare racks for bread (the one time I went in looking for it) and snack food, along with sparsely populated soda-pop coolers, unreplenished on account of zero cash-flow. I didn’t notice exactly when they closed, but it was several months before the current business-crippling unpleasantness began.
All of a sudden the storefront was empty, with some plastic sheet signage for local breweries still tacked up on the exterior. One of the signs was a large triptych, totaling about 12 feet wide by four feet high, the sections crudely tacked onto the lower part of the storefront. I coveted that sign because it was festooned with a legendary regional beer brand icon, art for a brand that only survives because of an illogical loyalty of local beer drinkers who buy cheaply in 30-packs.
There was a never a question that I would attempt to swipe at least the center part of the sign, the part featuring the icon, but the other day after some destructive winds came through town, I saw a vinyl banner hanging off the store’s front awning, flapping in the breeze, announcing the property as FOR SALE, and I noticed the beer sign was unattached at a few spots, and now tilting in disrepair. Not a good look for my neighborhood. I pulled down all three sections of the sign and took them home, where they will become a festive addition to my basement rumpus room decor. I figure the store’s been out of business for a few months, and who knows what’s going to happen to the property, so why not liberate some signage? Did I do the right thing?
The word "liberate" here is not a euphemism, but the truth. It is not possible for anyone to steal Mr. Boh, because it is not possible to own Mr. Boh. He is a folk hero, the cultural commons, who belongs to everyone who believes in him. He survived the end of his own brewery plant and of the entire National Brewing Company, living on in the hearts of the people of his city, even when it seemed there might be no more beer for him to adorn the cans of. The narrow and backwards logic of intellectual property would tell you that another brewing concern acquired him, but in fact, as everyone knows, what happened was that Mr. Boh acquired another beer for himself.
Your sign is another, more personal chapter of that same story. Mr. Boh would not permit himself to be abandoned by mere commercial failure, neither in the cold and calculating empires of international brewing conglomerates nor in the cozy but mismanaged little realm of your derelict corner store. His one jolly eye was fixed on his purpose, as surely Odin's eye was fixed on wisdom. The wind came along and delivered him to you—that is, it delivered you to him. Bring him into your home? He was there all along.
Ain't the beer cold,
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Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly
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Public Sax Is Rude and Indecent
WE WERE ABOUT to cross the Bow Bridge on the way to the Ramble when we saw the Sax Guy: longish hair slicked back, blazer with jeans. And saxophone, naturally. He started playing "Moon River" and it drowned out the splashing of a cormorant taking off from the water. It would be deranged and antisocial behavior if anyone were to tell the Sax Guy to cut it out, and on that fact the Sax Guy stakes his smug and loathsome reign, honking his soundtrack into the ears of unconsenting strangers, establishing his atmosphere. There are multiple Sax Guys lurking around the Park; how many, I can't say; I can't stand to look directly at them. Bad enough to hear them.
This is not a matter of hostility toward music, nor general misanthropy. My life is filled with music and musicians. I like and support many kinds of buskers. I am mostly kindly and respectfully disposed toward humanity, or at least toward people—which is why the Sax Guys are so infuriating. The Park is full of individual people, carrying around their whole variety of feelings and thoughts, through different scenes and vistas. The Sax Guy is there to blare the same mood at all of them.
The Sax Guy likes to set up by the water's edge—to make sure his instrument's sound, already penetrating, carries and carries to where he can't possibly even see all the people who have to hear it. There is a guy who, at least back in the old days, sometimes showed up in the neighborhood busking with bagpipes. But he would be out on Broadway, by the doors of the 72nd Street subway station, giving traffic and crowd noise a fair fight against his instrument. The Sax Guy has no such scruples. He is an aural bulldozer tearing through the fields and groves.
This one was bad even by Sax Guy standards. We crossed the bridge, entered the Ramble, and found a calm shoreline clearing. Light rippling off the water made bright upward-moving bands on the branches of a thicket. A warbler was moving around inside. "My Favorite Things" crowded in on the scene—but not all of the favorite things, because it was time to switch back to "Moon River." Then came a bit of "Over the Rainbow," competing with the chatter of the blue jays if not the bluebirds. It wasn't music but gestures in the direction of music, fragments on shuffle, played to pander to some imaginary passing audience. Everyone had to hear the Sax Guy, and not even he was listening.
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VISUAL CONSCIOUSNESS DEP’T.
Spring, Part 11
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BRAIN ITCH DEP’T.
WE KEEP TELLING you we will soon exhaust our selection of recipes for ancient but reproducible sandwiches, taken from The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways to Make a Sandwich, by Eva Greene Fuller; 1909; McClurg and Co., Chicago, found in the public domain for the delectation of all. What will we do for provocative Public Domain Content when we have exhausted our supply of sandwich recipes?
PINEAPPLE SALAD SANDWICH
Shred one medium sized pineapple, add one cupful of skinned and seeded white grapes, one-half cup of finely chopped English walnuts; moisten with cream mayonnaise. Place between thin slices of lightly buttered white bread with a crisp lettuce leaf between. Garnish with a red cherry.
CHINESE NUT SANDWICH
Stone two cups of Chinese nuts, moisten with three tablespoonfuls of thick cream, sweetened with a little honey; spread on slices of lightly buttered white bread. Cover with another slice and cut in squares..
Cream four ounces of butter, add gradually four ounces of brown sugar, four ounces of fine flour, four eggs one by one, a squeeze of lemon juice or a tablespoonful of rose water, and lastly a teaspoonful of baking powder. When thoroughly mixed, bake in shallow tins. Whip up till perfectly thick a quarter of a pint of cream, spread this on half the strips and cover with the other sandwich-fashion. Ice these sandwiches over with chocolate icing.
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