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March 25th, 2006  |  Published in old and busted  |  1 Comment

Elmer's OuthouseFor some reason, the house furnace died last night. We think it’s an issue with the blower. Going into the basement and standing next to it will net you the usual “thermostat says I need to be on” ticks and groans, but there’s none of the big, huffy blowing noises you get that force the hot air up into the rest of the house. That sort of sucks, but the proper authorities have been notified and Ben had a play date with Amelie this morning anyhow, so it’s just me and Tetris DS and some World of Warcraft and thee.

We did decide to let the cold drive us out for breakfast at the Mall 205 Elmer’s, though. The place has its faults, but it hasn’t succumbed, like a lot of “family dining” places, to the shrinking table and booth phenomenon.

Eating at an IHOP with a two-year-old, for instance, is a special tribulation. There is no part of the two-person booth, which is where they inevitably stick a family of three with a toddler, that’s not in Ben’s reach. And a painful lesson we continue to get taught to us is that if you deny Ben the thing that’s 14 inches away, everything within the 14 inch radius is going to get picked up, assessed for its emotional impact on you when it gets thrown, and thrown.

Not Elmer’s, though. Deep booths. Control.

Also, from my vantage point in this morning’s booth, tasteful and arty pictures of outhouses.

It wasn’t an appetizing thing to stare at, but it did provoke some thought.

Taken on its own, in isolation from the rest of the “art” hanging on the walls at Elmer’s … the moody, starving artist’s sale oil paintings with their fixation on windmills, river mills, dilapidated barns and nondescript beaches … it’s a picture of a place that anyone who’s been around one will know smells like shit and piss, is probably crawling with beetles, and that has a wad of toilet paper that’s soaked up enough of the humidity to swell unappealingly and perhaps cling to the ass a bit.

Taken as part of the gestalt, though, along with the shelves of quaint “Pennsylvania Dutch” birdhouses, tin signs from another era, vintage flatirons, silk flowers, faux moonshine jugs and washboards, it doesn’t have any more evocative power. It’s just part of a collective mooning over some bygone past. Mentioning that it smells like shit and crawls with bugs and makes your ass itch after sitting on its splintery throne would be taken as well by the clientele divorced from its concrete meaning as pointing out that John Wayne, Ozzie Nelson, Ward Cleaver and assorted other Greatest Generation worthies raised a generation of hippies, drug addicts, narcissists and Weathermen.

Somehow ancestral infallibility withstands that sort of scrutiny. So do tasteful paintings of splintery shitters.

Update: It pains me to mar a post that ended so well, but — the heater’s fixed. It was a bad igniter. So the house is slowly creeping back up above the nose-chilling 60 it was at this morning. Huzzah!

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