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Lileks @ Lunch

James Lileks writes about everything - except sports and gardening

The lost White Castle

This picture has always intrigued me. Raw, old, gone.

What we have now is better:

But it's less interesting. A block that's built all at once is a big blanket cut from the same bolt; a block that arises and falls and rises again is a quilt that tatters and unravels. One picture on one day captures a few details that bear interrogation:

The Bijou Opera House. 

As many times as I looked at this picture,  I never looked at the white building in the shadows.

While researching (i.e., googling) the history of Minneapolis White Castle #7, I went to the White Castle archives at the Ohio History Project. And lo, behold.

White Castle left when the rent went up. But it soldiered on a a lunchroom. On any day there was the cook, the waitress, the lunchtime customers, each with a story that stretched back and ahead in directions we'll never know. What they read in the paper; what rolled pulp mag they pulled out of their pocket; what tune played on the radio; which streetcar they took home, and what the ads on the side of the car told people to try - the number of stories is unknowable. You're one of those stories today, some place.

Unless you work at home, I suppose.

Pee-Wee's Big Walgreens

The rediscovery of someone is usually accompanied by the over-estimation, especially if you're a Big Important Publication. If you're doing a story about Person X's brave comeback or difficult journey, you can't go the People route and dwell on the dirt. Elevate your subject! Winch high the reputation! NYT:

Reubens’s smash children’s show, which ran on Saturday mornings for five seasons in the ’80s and ranks as a work of auteurist genius to rival ‘‘The Sopranos’’ and ‘‘Mad Men’’ and other commonly feted — not to mention more dour — landmarks of scripted television.

I've never heard anyone mention "Pee Wee's Playhouse" in the same breath as "The Sopranos."

(W)e entered a section marked Wound Care. ‘‘Where is it, where is it?’’ Reubens asked, growing suddenly agitated as he scanned the shelves. ‘‘Where’s, um, like, stop-bleeding stuff?’’ he asked a clerk, who led him to the right place. He snatched up a product called WoundSeal. ‘‘This is stuff that my mom showed me, and as soon as she did, she cut herself, and I got to use it: You tear open this little packet, pour it on the cut and it stops immediately. So instead of going to the emergency room, or dying, you put this on.’’ He flipped the box over to show me that, like Reubens himself, WoundSeal came from Sarasota.

Coincidences like that just don't happen, pal.

If you like Pee-Wee, it's a good read. Towards the end, a revelation: turns out you can't look like the same character from the 80s when you're now past 63.

In the end, software intervened. Reubens called digital retouching ‘‘a huge secret in Hollywood. People aren’t really aware that stars have secret riders in their contracts’’ stipulating that money will be devoted to preserving their youthful appearances with computers. ‘‘I’m going to be forced to talk about it’’ in television appearances promoting the film, Reubens said, because ‘‘Pee-wee’s not older in the movie, but I am.’’ Lee agreed: ‘‘I think it would be weird to ignore it. It’s the elephant in the room.’’

But a very young-looking elephant. None of that baggy skin you associate with pachyderms. Anyway: if you're wondering why Pee-Wee and the interviewer were looking at Wound Care, it's because they were at Walgreens. Pee-Wee wanted to go to the Walgreen's on Sunset and Vine, which the author tried hard to make sound like some sort of kitsch palace. The World HQ of Walgreens. The Google Street View makes it look like any other recent development, and the past views show it was a Borders; doesn't seem to be remarkable in any way.  But there had to be something there before, a piece of old LA that was razed for an interchangeable California project. This was it.

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Because the web is the greatest library ever devised by humankind, here's a late-60s radio commercial for the store.

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