Thursday, June 28, 2007

Almost July

Here's a puzzle for you. When I was a kid my dad would sneak my brothers across the border into South Dakota to buy fireworks. We lived in the country so it wasn't a big deal to blow them off because the local sheriff was in town. It still scared me witless; they were so careless with them. Now I think there are four big, white tents in town selling fireworks. Is it the same stuff they used to sell in South Dakota? Why aren't people worried about those tents exploding? I don't even like to drive by them.

Regis is watching Letters from Iwo Jima and I'm pretending to watch. It's way too sad for me and there is (obviously) too much shooting and blowing things up. That's typical in war movies, I know, and probably explains why I don't like them. The music and the focus on the faces of the young Japanese soldiers make for very poignant scenes. Parts of it are in black and white which also adds to the drama. I prefer to not know about things like this.

Well, there's two things I don't like and prefer to ignore. I know there are more and most of them occur on the news. I've probably mentioned before that I started boycotting the television news when OJ Simpson killed his wife. That was the most disgusting spectacle I had ever seen and I decided I could live a rich and happy life without knowing about heinous crime and insipid criminals. So far, it's worked out. When there is a huge catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina or 9-11, I watch the news and can feel myself entering a dark vortex. It can't be healthy.

I wish I could think of something funny but I can't. I've checked out the blogs I read regularly...no pictures of Callum with a bowl of noodles on his head, no baby goats escaping into the blackberry shrubs, no marathon runners with poop stained pants. It's a dismal scene today folks. Better luck tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The universe seeks balance

I went over to Mankato this afternoon to have lunch with my son, Peter, and to help him fill out his re-application for Minnesota Care insurance. Here are the things I am marveling at:
  • Peter calls me at 1:45, fifteen minutes before I am to pick him up at work. He and Jake were thinking that since Jake's mom is coming down to Subway, too, the four of us could have lunch together. Only if you have had a sullen teen-age son will you see the irony in this.
  • Jake's mom and I visit for a while at Subway. When the boys are done working and come over to visit with us, someone behind the counter says, "Wow, you guys look like your moms!" And they chuckle instead of pawing the ground, snorting and walking out the door.
  • Jake's mom says Peter is so polite and respectful and helpful when he's at their house. He says, "I think I learned that from you, Mom."
  • We have lunch and Peter talks about things from his adolescence that were difficult. He says he thinks he learned a lot from those things and they made him a different person. Ok, what have the aliens done with my son?
  • I open the envelope containing the insurance application. He takes it, asks for a pen, and fills it out himself. He's brought copies of his pay stubs for the last six weeks which we need to send along.
  • Peter says he called Minnesota Care on Tuesday and will call again on Thursday to make sure everything is ok with his application.
  • Peter agrees, happily, to come to a family wedding the end of August.
  • Peter asks about his sister, expresses some dismay about her behavior, then says, "Well, it's out of your hands." Peter being philosophical?
  • Peter worries aloud about the surgery on his wrist July 9th and wonders how he will manage to move to a different apartment the end of the month with his wrist in a splint. Planning ahead? Can it be true?
There's more but this is enough to give you the idea. It brought tears to my eyes, let me tell you. There's hope. Always hope. It perches in your soul and comes fluttering out just when you need it most.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Fun with Dick and Jane


A weekend of debauchery. At least as much debauchery as old people can muster. We went to the Brew Fest Friday night with Tom and Betty which was fun, but crowded, loud, and stimulating. We saw Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin' Altar Boys and we enjoyed them. We loved Lamont Cranston, a midwest blues band that's been around since we were all young. The big act, the Guess Who was marginal and we left after three songs. We went to McGuff's Irish Pub and had a pint of beer served in a plastic cup. Blasphemy.

Yesterday, the party bus (piloted by Bob with co-pilot Young Regis) picked us up at 3:30. We headed to the Brew Fest where the crowds were much lighter and we had a table in the shade. Let's just say we sampled many beers. In general we liked the old favorites, Finnegans and Schells' Dark and Boulevard Wheat. We also liked the classic Kato beer. We weren't fond of the sweet drinks, the hard cider and the flavored beer. We're purists when it comes to beer.

We had a great time watching the crowd. None of us are fashion mavens but I tell you what. The What Not to Wear folks would have a heyday at this event: old women in plunging necklines and short shorts, shirtless men who should not be shirtless in public, lumpy folks in tight clothes. John Gorka says what's pleasant in the darkness is plain scary in the light.

Our pilot and co-pilot provided an interesting ride. The van has almost two hundred thousand miles on it which makes for a few holes in the floor, not the best suspension, and a feeling like being propelled down the road in a tin can. It has no AC so the windows are open and your hair blows straight up. They played music of the day, lots of Guess Who and classic rock, and tried their best to rile up the old people. They looked like the Blues Brothers. Reg would jump out and open the door for us at all stops. It added to the adventure and the fun.

We ended the day at Betty and Tom's for dinner. Tom made rice pilaf and I made chicken wings and ribs. A fine ending to a great weekend.

Friday, June 22, 2007

This week had better be over

I finally made it out of work about 12:30, picked up the dog at the groomer and came home. I decided to go the liquor store before I changed my clothes. I met the nicest young man who knew a lot about beer and filled my cart. I am a salesman's dream. I told him we wanted to try interesting beers and the next thing I knew, I'd spent a lot of money on beer and given away our two excess tickets to Brew Fest. It reminded me of the Kirby Vacuum Cleaner caper.

When I got home, I was hot so I put on my pink pajamas with the yellow rubber ducks. Then I remembered that I wanted to cut some flowers for the spare bedroom but I thought I could sneak out to the garden fast and do it without putting clothes back on. So I'm out there in my pink pajamas and bare feet cutting sunflowers and the mailman comes up the sidewalk. I made a beeline for the house and didn't even make eye contact as I didn't think there was any reason to embarass him with an explanation. It was probably way more than the guy wanted to deal with at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Regis is horrified when I go outside in my nightgown or robe. I guess this is why.

We're going to the Brew Fest tonight, Jane and Dick are arriving about midnight, and we're going back to the Brew Fest tomorrow. I'll be back with the stories on Sunday.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I thought summer was for fun...

I got home from work (some fresh kind of hell today) about noon and went right out to work in the garden. I weeded the whole mess, watered a few things, and buried two dead birds. I found the dove that expired on the driveway a week ago, and the robin who kamikazied into the bushes was getting mummifed so he needed a burial, too. When I picked him up with the shovel, his leg fell off. I needed that today. When I got done with that, I went to the basement and started vacuuming cobwebs and spider stuff. At 7 o'clock I had a beer, took a bath, then burst into tears. Just too much I guess.

I know people who talk about drawing orioles to their yards with grape jelly. We're on our second feeder thing and so far, all we've managed to attract is moths and ants. Sunday I threw a feeder in the trash that must have drowned at least a dozen moths in grape jelly. It was disgusting. I also can't seem to attract hummingbirds. They come to the lilies right below the feeder but they turn up their pointy little noses at the red hummingbird food. Maybe they can just fend for themselves then.

We sat in the yard for a while tonight and watched our neighbor try to set up a timed sprinkler system. They're going to Alaska for 8 days and they think this will keep their lawn and shrubs fortified while they're gone. Funny thought. She and Regis had a good time talking about how Alaska might have changed in the last 30 years since he was there. I bet she went home with "old fart" in the thought bubble over her head. Don't tell him I said that.

I finished Straight Man and started one of David Sedaris' books. He's funny but not as funny as Bill Bryson or Garrison Keillor. Maybe I have a stunted sense of humor. I don't laugh out loud at things that are funny, or at least that claim to be funny on the book jacket. I've laughed so hard at Bill Bryson that I have to get up off the couch so I don't choke. Now that's funny. I don't usually think movies are funny either come to think of it. I laughed at All of Me with Steve Martin and at one part in Meet the Fokkers. And I'm not fond of jokes. I have a couple favorites (the dyslexic agnostic insomniac, for one) but most don't make me laugh. I guess it's true...stunted sense of humor.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Book reviews

A couple things I've discovered about book reviews. Where to find them that is:
  • Put a book title in google. Hit the search button. When the results come up, go to the more menu at the top of the page and go down to books. A whole page of reviews and information about the book will pop up.
  • Ready, Steady, Book is an independent book review website, working in association with The Book Depository which is devoted to reviewing the very best books in literary fiction, poetry, history and philosophy.
  • Reading Matters
  • Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs

Books

I've been thinking about this since I read one of Charlie's latest blog posts about the books he's reading and the books he's read. He reviewed five books, and I had not a clue about any of them. Do we shop at different bookstores? Look at different websites? What makes something catch one person's eye and not another? What makes one person love a book and another loathe it?

A couple years ago, Regis and I saw a review for a new Larry McMurtry book called Sin Killer. We are both big fans of Lonesome Dove so we ordered Sin Killer and waited anxiously for it to arrive. I started it first and never finished it. The only thing that book was good for was laughs. I would read some of the outrageous dialogue aloud at the lunch table at work. People would guffaw. It was ridiculous. Here's one review from Amazon that sums it up:

This silly book could not possibly have been written by the genius of Lonesome Dove, so Larry McMurtry must be dead or missing in the wilderness, perhaps stuffed inside some frozen dead buffalo on the prairie in a blizzard , trapped by the frozen hide. Or hiding, maybe. I read the first book, hoping it would Start at some point and Go somewhere, but it never did. This is the silliest, dumbest, most surreal book purporting to be about something actual, that I've ever read and contains some of the most annoying, egregious, and insulting characters ever created. This book must be a spoof on spoofs of the J. F. Cooper genre, is all I can conclude. I will not bother reading the rest of this "series," it is irredeemable! Mr. Larry McMurtry must be found---No Author Left Behind!

I like that reference to NCLB, too! So, thinking this has to be the dumbest book ever written and Larry McMurtry must be hanging his head (all the way to the bank) for publishing it, I checked out other reviews. There were people who loved this book, people who thought it was the best book he's ever written, people who had already pre-ordered the next four books in the saga. Gads. Check it out at the library (Just read a few pages...don't actually check it out and take it home because this is a book, like Monica Lewinsky's autobiography, that you don't want to have in the car with you if you should have a heart attack and have to go the hospital. The EMTs would see it on the seat of the car and would tell rude stories about you later at the bar.) and see if I'm not right. Ridiculous characters, ludicrous dialogue, stupid plot line. It has everything.

I'm not inclined to pick up science fiction, crime, or fantasy. Regis likes to read about natural disasters (and the more disastrous, the better...earthquakes, volcanoes, leprosy, floods) but I like books about personal disasters...death, divorce, addiction, and all other modes of individual dysfunction. I can deal with it on a smaller scale but I don't like to know about the large-scale catastrophe lurking in the future.

There you go. There's something for everybody. I trust Charlie's taste, though. I think we've both read the story of ferret legging.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day

Regis and his boys. We had a nice dinner...hot ham sandwiches, potato salad, beans, and Buster Bar dessert. We walked around the garden for a while after dinner but it was pretty steamy and the rain was starting so we went back into the AC. Ella was entertaining. She ran back and forth from living room to kitchen, carrying purses, much of the evening. We sang The Wheels on the Bus before she went home. It's her favorite song.

Since we celebrated Father's Day last night, today we are going to the most manly place in the world: Menards. We need a couple pieces of hardware: something for the toilet, a switch for my bedside lamp, and probably some kind of spray foam. Some fun.

Addendum

We went to Home Depot where they apparently do not believe in air conditioning. I thought I was going to have a heat stroke back in the lighting section. We couldn't settle on a ceiling fan and couldn't find a shower curtain so we went to the other man store, Menards. They had everthing we needed, then some.

We stopped at B&N where we each found a few books, of course. I had ordered Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. The webpage says:
An early morning adventure out stealing horses leads to the tragic death of one boy and a resulting lifetime of guilt and isolation for his friend, in this moving tale about the painful loss of innocence and of traditional ways of life gone forever. It's translated from Norwegian. We found a few books on the "buy two get one free table" and Regis found a couple of remaindered books. We're set.

We went to Mazatlan for lunch. It advertises as authentic Mexican food and there are lots of ethnic folks who eat there, unlike the other Mexican places so that says something. We asked about the cheese which was delicious and the waitress said it's like mozzarella, but Regis googled it and found this:
Queso oaxaca:
Also known as quesillo, this is by far the most popular cheese for making quesadillas. It is a stretched curd cheese, kneaded and wound into balls. It should be pulled apart into thin strings before using to fill tortillas or melted on cooked food.
I had two margaritas with my lunch and had to take a nap when I got home. What a surprise. Regis has been buzzing around fixing the toilet, hanging the shower curtain, putting the new switch in the lamp...and I am lying on the couch reading a book. We also bought Kramer a few new toys at Pet Expo. He couldn't have toys when Bert was alive because Bert hogged them and they would fight. Now he has a football, a stuff squeaky bone, an orange dumb bell, and a big stuffed ball.

Back to the salt mines tomorrow. Damn lottery tickets.



Saturday, June 16, 2007

So long, Bertrand Russell!

For Bert: A Poem

Here’s to Bert
Ye little shit
We’ve gathered round
The folks ye’ve bit.

Twenty pounds
Of blood and bones
Now ye’re in
These paw-shaped stones.

Ye won’t be bitin’ us
no more
So, journey on
To heaven’s shore.

And when ye reach the pearly gate
Don’t tell em how
ye used to growl and bait
and bare yer snaggly taith
And bite whoever dared come near
Ye snarly, cranky, foul-tempered wraith.

We’ll miss ye though
Ye ornery cur
Ye little sack
Of bitey fur.

We had a little memorial service for Bert last night. As planned, Regis tossed his ashes to the wind in the garden, we put the stepping stones by the path, and I read the poem. So, Bert's officially moved on to greener pastures.

It's raining here this morning and it would have been nice to sleep in. Rolling thunder, gentle rain...what a lullabye. Unfortunately, sleeping in for us is about 5 o'clock. We decided to get up and read the papers, then go to Hermie's for breakfast. We're having company again tonight for Father's Day but the house is clean and there isn't much cooking to do so I can take it easy today.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dead animal conundrum


There is a small dove that appears to be dying in my driveway. It hasn't moved since 11 o'clock except to inch over into the shade. I'm glad it can move that much because I was trying to think of something I could take out to shield it from the sun. As I was going onto the house, I saw a dead robin that had apparently done a kamikaze flight into the picture window and crash landed in the shrubbery. It's like a scene from The Birds around here. Regis has a mole trap set up in the front yard and I'm avoiding that, too. It's creepy.

One day a couple summers ago, I was going to take a shower. I was bare naked leaning over the tub when I spotted what appeared to be a small plastic frog on the tub ledge. I peered at it, thinking that it was funny LuAnn, the cleaning lady, had left a toy there. As I was staring at this small toy frog, IT BLINKED IT'S BLOODY EYES. I backed up, got dressed, and went to find a neighbor to remove the frog from my bathroom. It looked like one of those poisonous Amazonian tree frogs and I wasn't going to take any chances. I didn't mind however, asking a neighbor to take a chance. Jan from next door came in and captured the frog in a Rubbermaid container and liberated it in the backyard. I learned later that this (non-poisonous) tree frog is very common in Minnesota and can often be found clinging to windows on humid summer nights. How could I have lived here for fifty years and never seen one? And how did it get in my bathroom?

We're having a small memorial ceremony for Bert tomorrow night. We've invited anyone Bert has ever bitten, which would make quite a crowd now that I think of it. I guess he didn't bite that many people, just the same people multiple times. Regis made some stepping stones for the garden out of paw print molds, mortar mix, and some of Bert's ashes. Betty said she would prepare the eulogy. We'll have a cold beer under the apple tree, plant the rest of the ashes and then retire to the house for hot beef sandwiches and cole slaw. We'll probably do the same when Regis or I kick the bucket.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chicken wings and high ropes


Here's our current favorite recipe for chicken wings on the grill:

Spicy Cayenne Chicken Wings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Marinating time: 2-3 hours
Grilling time: 16-18 minutes

Marinade
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

16 chickn wings

In a small bowl, whisk the marinade ingredients. Put wings in a bag and pour the marinade over them. Make sure they're all covered. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
Grill over direct medium heat for 16-18 minutes, turning occasionally.

We've learned: You can leave out the paprika. It doesn't seem to really matter. Don't leave out anything else. They are delicious.


On a more humorous note, I got this email today:

Just a reminder about the team building activity on Thursday:
Meet by the garage at 8:30 A.M.
Team Building Activity 9-11 A.M. low ropes, team building, communication, trust. 11-12 P.M. high ropes options.
Wear comfortable clothes
Wear closed toe shoes-no sandals
Bring sunscreen, hats, sunglasses
I will have the release forms to be signed on Thursday.

My editorial comments: You may have seen this on the Discover Channel. They put a helmet on your head, strap you into a device, and dangle your ass from ropes 40 feet in the air. First of all, I would never sign a waiver. When they drop me to the forest floor, I want to be able to sue for every penny they have. Second of all, I don't remember hearing about this ever before. I would have accused these people who planned this little event of hitting the crack pipe. There is no way I would even consider this. I am: Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off.

My friend Joanne says this could work out just fine... I have a better chance of breaking my neck than picking the right lottery numbers. What a cynic.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Technology rocks!

Saturday with Ella

Ella came to spend part of Saturday afternoon with her Nana and Bopop. She loves the swing so we pull lawn chairs up and have a fine time. She does all her tricks, points at things, says the name, makes us laugh. She was delightful.
We made many trips up and down the steps and around the garden. She loves the steps most of all but still has to take a hand to go up and down.
There's a lot of daisies so we let her pick as many as she liked.
She loves the garden art, especially the frogs and turtles that are hiding in the plants. Kramer is always at the window watching us. She said he was playing peek-a-boo. Regis tried bringing him out but he gets too wild and he scares her.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The reason we live here


Today is the reason we live in Minnesota. The temperature is about 70 with a nice cool breeze and there are minimal bug problems. Regis and I have been enjoying the porch since he got home from work and except for the yipping dog next door, it's perfect. That dog's bark could shatter glass. I wish he'd go back to Dubai and get swallowed by a python.

We have a leisurely weekend planned. We have a few chores to do tomorrow, then we'll pick Ella up for the afternoon. We might go to Nicollet to Schmidt's Meat Market. Once you eat their bacon, you never go back to grocery store bacon. They make wonderful summer sausage and brats, too. Sunday we're going to Rockin' in the Quarry. My favorite band City Mouse, is playing first, then the Symphony will play the 1812 Overture, complete with cannons. What could be better?

Trip to Minneapolis


My trip to Minneapolis was as bad as I anticipated. The traffic, to start with, was horrendous. I saw people engage in incredible acts of tom-foolery: dodging cones to get in lanes that were closed, driving on the shoulder to butt in line, giving the finger as they passed me at speeds faster than sound. I was chased into town by ominous looking cumulonimbus mammatus clouds, swirling winds, and big fat raindrops. Just a little foreshadowing. The ramp that I always take into downtown was closed so I had to get over into that rushing traffic again. I got lost. The hotel didn't have valet parking and I burst into tears at the thought of getting back into the car and trying to find a ramp. (They offered me the handicapped stall which I accepted with chagrin.) I took a ride in a dirty old cab with a very sleezy driver who wouldn't visit with me. It went downhill from there. I'm very glad to be home.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Thought

I could use a little light and love in the next few days.

Although all men share a common destiny, each individual also has to work out his personal salvation for himself. We can help each other find the meaning of life, but in the last analysis, each is responsible for finding himself.
Thomas Merton

One of the great spiritual truths is that each person must work out his or her own personal salvation. When a person you care about is in trouble, you can reach out to support his or her healing but past a certain point, you can do no more. No matter how much you love, you cannot carry another person’s burden.

What can you do when someone you love is in pain? First, affirm that there is a purpose behind the experience. Know that the soul has some important lesson to learn that will be of great value to him or her.

Second, although you cannot directly intervene, your positive thoughts and prayers do make a difference. Visualize your friend surrounded by light and love. This type of healing acts directly on the soul level and does not encounter resistance from the conscious mind.

Finally, know that divine protection is present. The forces of light are always available to the person who requests help. Ultimately, no soul can be lost; as all who ask will be guided to the safety of their spiritual home.

From the book Listening to Your Inner Voice by Douglas Bloch

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

New goat

Regis rolled his eyes when I showed him this picture. (He thinks my fascination is odd and I'm not saying it isn't.) It's two new baby goats from my favorite website and goat farm in Washington. The tiny one is Peanut and the monster one is Goatzilla. They were born from the same mother, minutes apart. There's a middle-sized one, too, called Boxcar Betty. These are relatives of Xanthoria, my god goat child. Read about Peanut here.

That's all I have to report today.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Picture of the Day


Regis thinks this is the picture of the weekend. He says Evynne is very photogenic...those of you in the background can be offended, I guess, that you are not the object of his photographic admiration. It is a pretty picture. She should be on a billboard advertising sunscreen or something.

I made some horrendous Chinese concoction for dinner tonight. It was called tofu lo mein. It started with tofu and went downhill from there. Regis liked it and thought it was funny that one of my complaints was that it was too white. This from a Norwegian, he said. I wouldn't have eaten it all except that I made it. I don't think I'll bother to eat it again. Ick.

Our neighbor who has been in Dubai for the past year came home with a damn yipping dog. They have a pet door so the dog can come and go and distub the neighborhood all day to its heart's content. Little monster. She barks and Kramer goes crazy, pacing around the house from window to window. We got Burt's ashes back, by the way. In a tiny box about the size of a baseball. Reggie opened it, took a look, and said, "Smells like piss." We all laughed. Burt will go into the garden for his final rest.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


My family gathered at Lake Reno near Glenwood this weekend. Mom hosted the event, we filled four large cabins, and people came from as far away as Ohio. This is most, but not nearly all of us. The newest member of the family is Ezra, 4-months old. His mama, Michelle, is right next to him.

We always loved having a fire on the beach when Mom and Dad had their cabin. Even though the weather this weekend was unpredicatable and there were a few heavy rain showers, the evening was gorgeous and we got to have a fire and roast marshmallows. In this picture: Tiernen, Jason (Nicole's boyfriend), Nicole, Jody, and Rachel on Helen's lap.
This is Dave's family: David and Joan, Tiernen and Jeremy. The photogenic dog is Champ. Doesn't she look happy to have her picture taken?
This is Bruce and Jody's family. Cybil and Shawn (not pictured) came from Ohio. The little girls are Evynne and Darby.
These are old friends, the Anderts. They were neighbors of ours in Canby when we first moved there when I was in second grade. They're like family and can tell as many stories about us as we can. They drove over from Villard for the afternoon.
This is Pat and his daughter Rachel. Where's Helen? We missed amanda, too, who is in Chile studying (could be she's studying wine, we're not completely sure).
Regis always brings cigars for the men. He's also the reunion archivist so he takes hundreds of pictures of the event...some planned and some candid.
This game which goes by Goofy Golf, Polish Golf, Norwegian Golf and probably a few others, was popular with everyone. It looks a lot easier than it is. You can buy it at Target...this was home-made with PVC pipe and golf balls.
Steve and his boys: Duncan, Ian, and Caleb. Ezra and Michelle are in the picture at the top. Nicole is holding Ezra.