TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but high above the empty streets, on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions Guy Noir, Private Eye


GK: It was a beautiful September day in St. Paul, so beautiful I figured I was somewhere else, Rome maybe, and I began the day at Mom's Cafe with a magnificent glazed doughnut, soon followed by another of the same.


SS (DEEP, OFF): Two sunny side up!!! Hash browns! Stack of buckwheat!!!

GK: Hey Myrtle-- how about some more coffee?

SS (DEEP): Yeah, yeah, yeah. (CLEARING DISHES) You heading south for the winter, Guy?

GK: Me? Naw. Why would I do that?

SS (DEEP): I don't know. Pleasure. Happiness.

GK: I like it here in the winter. It's beautiful.

SS (DEEP): Yeah? Well, take a picture of it and send it to me in Florida.

GK: You're going to Florida?

SS (DEEP): Next week. (POURING COFFEE) Cream?

GK: No, thanks.
SS (DEEP): Bought me a house in Naples.

GK: How'd you swing that?

SS (DEEP): You really want to know?

GK: Sure, why not?

SS (DEEP): I bought me 10,000 aspirin tablets and put a little blue food coloring on them and I sold em online as Viagra.

GK: Is that right?

SS (DEEP): I don't know if it's right but that's what I did.

GK: Aspirin instead of Viagra. So now men won't be able to use a headache as an excuse.

SS (DEEP): What you reading, Guy?

GK: Book of short stories. F. Scott Fitzgerald. It's his birthday this week.

SS (DEEP): Where was he born?

GK: Right here in St. Paul.

SS (DEEP): Poor guy.

GK: That's what he thought too. He couldn't wait to get out.

SS (DEEP): Well, a person's gotta look out for Number One. Especially as you get older. I used to be a dancer, you know.

GK: Oh?

SS (DEEP): An exotic dancer. I came onstage wearing only some large mushrooms and a few onions and two eggs and as I danced I removed parts of my costume and I made an omelet onstage and gradually over the years my audience became more and more interested in the omelet. If you know what I mean.

GK: I guess I do.

SS (DEEP): Speaking of omelets, you could stand to get more exercise, Guy--do you know the caloric content of those glazed doughnuts you just ate?

GK: What is this? A weight clinic?

SS (DEEP): You're getting older, Guy, and gravity isn't doing you any favors. You oughta start exercising.

GK: I hate exercising. It's boring and it's depressing and it makes me feel old. It's like Fitzgerald said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."

SS (DEEP): What's that supposed to mean?

GK: I have no idea. (CELLPHONE PLAYS COUNT BASIE MOTIF) Excuse me. My cellphone. Yeah. Noir here.

TR (ON PHONE): Listen. Mr. Noir, it's Kevin. Jimmy's nephew.

GK: Jimmy at the Five Spot?

TR (ON PHONE): Right. Listen. I've got a problem. Could I meet you someplace?

GK: Sure. What can I do for you?

TR (ON PHONE): I got a job at Wal-Mart... as a dog trainer.

GK: Uh huh.

TR (ON PHONE): They've found a way to combine the DNA strands of old computer programmers with a canine embryo and they came up with dogs who are good at Excel and Powerpoint, and work 100 hours a week in exchange for an old couch and some kibble.

GK: Trying to cut labor costs again, huh?

TR (ON PHONE): Anyway, I need an alibi to take next week off. I want to go up north and go camping in the woods. Get away.

GK: Tell em it's your grandmother's funeral.

TR (ON PHONE): I've used that already. Twice.

GK: Tell em it's a religious holiday.

TR (ON PHONE): I'm Unitarian.

GK: Listen. I'll think of something. Meet me down by the river. (BRIDGE) I headed out down the street. There was a panhandler on the corner, a lady. (JIGGLING STYROFOAM CUP WITH COINS)

SS: Can you spare some change for an old librarian, mister? I'm willing to file books in exchange for food.

GK: How do I know you won't just go and spend it on mucilage?

SS: Shhhhhhhhh.

GK: Here you go, sister. (COINS, FOOTSTEPS) I walked downtown where a bunch of people were celebrating F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthday, trying to chase the pigeons off his statue in Rice Park (SS SHOUTS, CLAPS HAND, PIGEON FLURRY) I headed down through the Farmer's Market. (SOME HUBBUB) All the vegetable sellers were out.

TR (OFF, SWEDISH): Rutabagas! Rutabagas! Turnips too.

SS (OFF, FLAT SOUR VOICE): Onions. Onions. Onions.
TK (OFF): Hey! We got your pumpkins here! Look at these babies, huh? (FADING) Pumpkins!

TR (SMALL VOICE): Parsnips! Parsnips! Parsley! Persimmons!

SS (BREATHY): Hey sailor. How about some strawberries? Huh? You like strawberries, big boy? I'll bet you do. I'll bet you'd love some of my strawberries. Come here.

GK: I don't think I'm old enough.

SS (BREATHY): Come on. Try some. You'll like it.

GK: I promised my mother I'd never touch the stuff.

SS (BREATHY): She'll never know.
GK: I don't think it'd be right.

SS (BREATHY): Here. Let me peel you a strawberry-- You ever read F. Scott Fitzgerald?

GK: I have, yes.

SS (BREATHY): Remember where he wrote about America being "a willingness of the heart"? What do you say? You look like you could hold two opposing ideas in your mind at the same time, huh?

GK: Sorry. I gotta go. (FOOTSTEPS) I headed for the river past Cossetta's, (TR ITALIAN TENOR ON RECORD) went in and got a meatball sandwich to go, (TR ITALIAN, FAST WRAPPING) and walked past the newsstand.

TR: Hey! Get your newspaper here!! Get your paper!!! Read all about it!!! Whatcha say? How about a newspaper, mister?

GK: I'm trying to stay uninformed these days. It's just easier on the system. When the country goes over the cliff, I want to be sound asleep, not screaming and grabbing for the steering wheel.

TR: Yeah, yeah, but you could use it to swat flies. Or maybe you take a snooze on a park bench and you need something to shade your face from the bright sun. And then maybe you'd wake up and not notice where you were putting your foot and you'd step in something and have to clean off your shoes. A newspaper has a lot of uses.

GK: Well, all right. You got yourself a sale, sir. Here's a quarter.

TR: It's just fifteen cents. These are dayold papers.

GK: Day old?

TR: Well, it's St. Paul. Not that much happens here.

GK: Well, okay. Here you go. (FOOTSTEPS RESUME)


GK: I headed for the Mississippi river and a little park that overlooks the big bend. (BOAT HORN IN DISTANCE) Some of the big luxury cruisers were leaving for the winter, heading downstream for the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Big two hundred-foot boats with jacuzzis on deck and tennis courts (TENNIS) and Irish wolfhounds (WOOFS) and waiters serving cherries jubilee (POOF OF FLAME). It reminded me of The Great Gatsby.

TR: Mr. Noir?

GK: Yeah?

TR: It's me. Kevin. I talked to you earlier.

GK: Right. You're trying to think of an alibi so you can go up north and camp for a week, huh?

TR: I was thinking I'd tell them I'm organizing a telethon. For some disease or something. Maybe an Attention Deficit Disorder Telethon.

GK: I got a better idea.

TR: What's that?

GK: Quit your job and go north and go camping.

TR: How can I do that?

GK: Out of principle, that's how. You don't need reasons to do the right thing. Listen, kid. Don't start out your life making compromises. Don't stay in jobs you hate, don't hang around people you don't like, don't say what you don't mean. Personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures. Fitzgerald said that.

TR: But I've got loans to pay off--

GK: So does everybody. And you will pay them. But next week you ought to go camping. Be good to yourself. Have a good life and start having it now. It's like Fitzgerald said: "At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at fortyfive they are caves in which we hide." Stay up on the hill, kid. Keep out of the caves.

TR: You mean that?

GK: I do. And if you want to have a good life, kid, you picked the right place to have it in. St. Paul, Minnesota. Right here on the big river. Lots of good places in the world, kid, and this is one of them. Took me until now to realize it, so I'm passing it on to you to save you some time. (BRIDGE) We headed back downtown and in Rice Park there was a crowd around Fitzgerald's statue and we got there just in time for the singing.

Pack up all my cares and woe,
Here I go,
Singing low, bye bye blackbird,
Where somebody waits for me,
Sugar's sweet, so is she,
Bye bye blackbird.

No one here can love or understand me,
Oh, what hard luck stories they all hand me,
Make my bed, light that light,
I'll arrive late tonight,
Blackbird bye bye.

TR: A dark night in a city that keeps its secrets, but one guy is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions, Guy Noir, Private Eye.