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My impression is there's a significant increase in the quantity of personnel using the military gym on-base. Usually weekends it's fairly deserted; not so recently - perhaps this is due to reservists being called up for Yugoslavia? I wouldn't know, I don't talk to them - the less contact I have with the military, the better. But this morning, after my treadmill running I walked across the large basketball court to the water fountains and had to enter a large group of them congregating at that corner. As I drank their leader gave a signal and when I straightened up and came about I found myself trapped in the center of about thirty guys doing push-ups, with no attempt at precision - no synchronization, and (except for a few) no proper form, either - postures were both convex and concave, and one dude in particular (who received the glare of my silent scorn) hardly moved his arms at all, while the rest of his body was humping the floorboards. (Obviously they didn't have Mr. Quinn for gym.) After a bit some of them stopped and stood up creating some space I was able to pick my way through, to return to the locker room and the toasty warm refuge of the sauna.

The apartment search is not going well - I've inspected a few units much smaller and more expensive than my own, in the desirable downtown Palo Alto area, and looked at the outsides of others I reject due to their close proximity to the CalTrain tracks. I'm about a mile from those now, and I hear the trains - lots of apartment buildings line the tracks - the result of zoning laws passed by property owners. I have no intention of living across the street from a rail right-of-way, no matter what assurance those buildings' landlords give that one can't hear the trains inside. Yeah, right - they don't, perhaps - and it's true, I lived two blocks from the railroad for a year and you do get used to it, but it's a matter of everything being put on hold for the minute or so it takes for the train to come and go. No thanks - I may end up staying put. Besides, all the songbirds sound so pleasant when I wake up these mornings.

Had a late lunch of a great hot turkey sandwich dinner (gravy on the mash) at Jim's Coffee Shop, an old-fashioned restaurant that serves real food along the main drag of University Avenue in central Palo Alto. An hour later I was at the Stanford cinema; the plan was to see a lesser-known Marilyn Monroe film ("Let's Make Love") but the matinee was only tomorrow, not today; so instead I repaired to the Borders up the street, and read an entire book which was published last year.

This was All Gone ("Things That Aren't There Anymore") by David Seidman. It could've be shelved in the "Trivia" section, if there was one (a stack of 'em was out on a display table). I'm reminded of the cover of issue #8 of Harvey Pekar's American Splendor comic book,1 which shows him in the cafeteria talking to another guy, who says

"Are ya into trivia, Harv?"

"I'm talkin' ta you, ain't I?"

The book describes all sorts of things that are either very rare now or no more, in a mildly ironic tone: slide rules, Philco radios, Rambler automobiles, the Soviet Union, bonnets and coon-skin caps, Mr. Zip, spats, Gimbel's, rumble seats and running boards, wringer washers,2 "Queen for a Day" and Arsinio Hall, carbon paper, Luna Park and Glen Echo, etc, etc. Fascinating stuff. Along this same theme I read a gloomy list this morning from an anti-tobacco organization of famous dead personalities whose deaths could all be attributed to smoking. Hard to believe Nat King Cole only lived to 45 - that's my age.

Later I stopped in briefly at the Tower Books next to the record store and browsed some of the many "zines" they carry. One of especial interest was called "Infiltration" ("the zine about going places you're not supposed to go") - mainly expeditions into recent ruins. This issue had big articles about the shut down Buffalo and Toronto train stations, and disused freight train tunnels under Chicago. Recommended - I may send them my check. When I got home I found the new issue (#11) of one of the few I subscribe to in my mailbox: "The White Dot" ("The Survival Guide for the TV-Free"). Since it's the organization's newsletter I guess it's not really a zine, despite the subversive message and amateurish photocopied appearance. A timely arrival, in the midst of TV-Turn Off Week (April 22-28) - are you resisting the big eye?


pic du jour

Harvey tells it like it is
(drawn by Joe Zabel and Gary Dumm)

Apr 24
© 1999
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1 This was the first issue I ever bought; now I have a complete set in my archives.

2 My mother still has (and uses) one of these