Wednesday, December 31, 2008

'98/'99, '08/'09

At one time, Jerry and I had considered having a party tonight... Not a New Year's Eve party. A 10-year anniversary party.

After all, neither one of us has ever liked New Year's Eve (The end of a year to me always seems sad). That's why each of us was sitting at home in front of our respective computers ten years ago tonight instead of at a party or a bar. And that's where we met. In an AOL chat room.

We didn't stay at our computers that night, though. He drove over to downtown St. Paul, where I was living, and we went to Over the Rainbow, a bar now long defunct, and joined the New Year's Eve party there.

And the rest is history. We are one of the internet success stories.

As it turns out, it's a good thing we didn't plan that anniversary party. For one thing, we're both too worn out. And tonight we'll help care for Joan, who is having her ankle surgery today. And no New Year's Eve party either. We still don't like them.. well, except for maybe that one.


Monday, December 29, 2008

crisis on ice

Picture it: late afternoon last Friday, the day after Christmas, St. Paul, Minnesota:

My sister Joan, an all-around cool person with just the right touch of eccentricity, was leaving work to catch the bus home.. The streets and sidewalks were wet, deceptively so. You wouldn't have realized there was ice. It just looked wet.

I was just leaving the gym, and Jerry came rushing in to find me. He had just gotten the call. Joan had just fallen and broken her ankle. An ambulance had taken her to the hospital.

So we rushed to the Emergency Room and sat with Joan while she endured xrays and doctors and nurses and being (almost) knocked out while they reset her ankle. She was in remarkably good spirits, which apparently says something good about the drugs they had her on.

Now she is confined to her apartment for a while, surgery lined up for Wednesday (New Year's Eve day -- good riddance, 2008!).... We bring her Big Macs or whatever else she requests. Our sister Mary arrives tomorrow from New Jersey for a few days to help out. And Joan's cat Alex is also looking after her (Cats sometimes when sense something is wrong?).

The doctors say she may be out of work for as long as two months. Life changes in a split second. Hang in there, Joan!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

a brown christmas wouldn't be so bad...

Ouch, tomorrow is Christmas Eve already....

I'm so bad at this... December is too busy, work-wise and social-calendar-wise, and suddenly it's here.

The next days for us: tonight I need to wrap presents. Tomorrow a.m., work. Then, our next-door neighbor Dee wants us to stop over in the afternoon for a glass of wine. We will then spend the evening, Christmas Eve, with our friends Diane and Tony at their house, eating and drinking and playing games. Christmas Day, my sons Jon and Tom and my sister Joan will be coming over for the day, and we will open presents while Phil Spector's Christmas Album is on the stereo. Hey, you have your traditions, we have ours.. :-)

And I'm happy we're not traveling this Christmas... It's been snowing every other day for the past week or more, with dangerous windchills on most of the in-between days. There have been hundreds of weather-related delays at the Minneapolis airport all week, and the roads are treacherous. We'll enjoy the long weekend cozy at home and will occasionally be looking out our windows at lots of white. Friday through Sunday -- maybe sleep late?


Sunday, December 14, 2008

down on main street

Spent a long weekend in my hometown, Millville, NJ, heading back to zero degree temps in Minnesota tomorrow.
Ate breakfast three of my four days here at Jim's Lunch, a great greasy spoon cafe in downtown Millville, at High and Main. It's very Millville. Funny thing, though: it's always very busy when it's open but is closed during the months June through October, the months when I'm most likely to visit home. So this time, during a rare December visit, I'm getting a Jim's Lunch overdose.
Visited siblings, cousins, the Jersey sights and foods while here... I need this now and then.... Gotta remember who I am sometimes. Work has been hard lately. Easy to lose perspective.
Reading a good book, which my brother Davy and my sister Joan both recommended to me because they knew I'd like it: Main Street by Sinclair Lewis. Originally published in 1920, it's amazing how current it feels.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

uglyfying your head

A cold snowy Sunday today. After bumming around one of the used-book stores, late morning/early afternoon, I ducked into the Espresso Royale coffeeshop for some hot coffee and cozy reading time. This coffeeshop is in the funky Dinkytown neighborhood of Minneapolis, adjoining the University of Minnesota, a few blocks from our house. Lots of people are there, probably all U of M students and nobody over the age of 25 except for this old guy in the corner reading his book (that's me). Elvis music is playing the whole time I am there (and I am probably the only person there who knows the songs).

Most of the guys, drinking their coffee and thumbing through textbooks or working their laptops, are still wearing their stocking caps, pulled down over their ears, each cap without exception ugly shades of gray and brown. For me (the old guy), one of the mysteries of current twenty-something guys is why the fascination with really ugly stocking caps? I mean, we were indoors, and these guys wear them all summer too, not just on cold snowy days, so it's not about practicality. It's meant to be a fashion statement, or an anti-fashion statement, isn't it?

... and, if you're gonna wear them, why not at least have some interesting colors to offset the drab winter landscape?...

"Back in my day", the anti-fashion statement was hair down to our butts. Now the hair gets covered up. Or, I don't know, maybe it's just a Minnesota thing.

The coffee was good.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

a late-autumn sports update

A few days ago, Jerry's business partner Clark said he'd like to play some racquetball with him... Now Jerry has never played racquetball in his life, and with his back and neck problems, a game of racquetball would put him in traction for a week at least... So I said, tell Clark I'll play some racquetball with him... That offer threw my sister Joan into a tailspin... "You're not going to play racquetball!", meaning, I guess, that she thinks some intense exercise would give me a coronary. Hey, I used to play tons of racquetball, who cares if it was 20-some years ago?!.. I still have my racquetball trophies, who cares that they're dusty and falling apart?! so we'll see if Clark, 20+ years younger than myself, gets desperate for a game and if I survive it.

So to my sister, I guess my involvement in sports can only be as a spectator. I was thinking about that night before last at the Vikings-Bears game. There was actually a lot of exercise involved, lots of jumping up and down and high-fiving people around us... What a great game... Vikings 31, Bears 14. What made it even sweeter was that we had a lot of glum Bears fans sitting not far away (Have you ever noticed how Chicago Bears fans never have necks?). Plus there was a dopey looking guy sitting behind us wearing a "Palin 2012" shirt. It doesn't take a lot of brainpower to be a spectator, obviously.

Anyway, I had to hurry and blog something about the Vikings because at least briefly they are in first place in their division (even though they are only 7-5). A typical Vikings reaction to winning a big game like the Chicago game would be for them to lose next week to the lowly Detroit Lions (The Lions are 0-12).

Other local sports teams at the moment: NHL Hockey: the Wild are 14-8-1. Typical Wild season. NBA Basketball: the Timberwolves are 4-12. Not unusual for the Wolves. Guess we're going to go for the draft pick again.

That's it for sports talk, fans.
A later note, 12.7.08. Fortunately, I was wrong, and the Vikings managed to beat Detroit (just barely). So, for the moment, they are still in first place, and the Lions are 0-13.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

turkey and lamb

I'm not much of a cook, but somehow I do manage to do well at roasting a turkey. So that will be my job tomorrow, the turkey and the stuffing. Jerry will be doing everything else. I think. Cooking, eating, maybe watching a little football on TV: that's Thanksgiving, I guess. When I was still living back in my hometown, Thanksgiving always also meant going to the Millville/Vineland high-school football game, a major South Jersey tradition. If I were there, I'd go again. Oh well. Hope you all have a nice Thanksgiving... and go, Millville!

I'm still on a kick reading Wally Lamb novels, currently his new one, The Hour I First Believed. It's an accomplishment getting through these long books, but at least I also get some good weight-lifting carrying these things around. Joan and I enjoyed seeing and meeting Wally Lamb last week as part of the "Talking Volumes" series sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio. This was held at the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul, a sell-out crowd of about 800-people, 90% of them women (Remember -- Wally Lamb is sort of an Oprah discovery). He turned out to be fun to listen to, a crowd-pleaser, has a great personality (With novelists, you never know what to expect, personality-wise). His novels take place in New England, mostly Connecticut, generally flashing back to multiple generations of dysfunction. If you have a lot of time on your hands or are a fast reader, I recommend them very much.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

the 23rd bond

Sitting here with my laptop, watching the Vikings game with Tom...

Last night we went to see the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. You know I'm a Bond fan, and, yes, I realize that the Bond movies aren't as much fun as they used to be -- too dark and brutal! --, but I love our tradition of going to the new ones when they come out, which is always somewhere around my birthday. Jon and Tom and Joan and Jerry go with me, maybe partly just to humor me, and the best part of going is watching with them... I do think Daniel Craig is a good Bond. I just wish they weren't doing away with the Bond traditions, like Moneypenny, the gadgets, the awful puns, etc...

You know I like traditions, things that don't change too much. Those are the things that will go through my mind as I'm lying on my deathbed!

My all-time favorite James Bond movie: You Only Live Twice. 2nd favorite: Goldfinger. Least favorite: Moonraker. Best Bond: Connery (of course). Best of the Roger Moore films: The Spy Who Loved Me. Best Bond song: "Nobody Does It Better" (Carly Simon), from The Spy Who Loved Me. Worst Bond song: whatever that song was in Quantum of Solace. Worst gadget: the invisible car in Die Another Day.
Our 28-day "cleanse" ended yesterday. So Jerry and Tom and I re-started a Sunday morning tradition: bacon and eggs (and coffee!!) at the Dinkytown Cafe... Ah, the sweet pleasures of life... :-)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

danger: heartbreak dead ahead

victims of the real estate market...

Jerry and I own two townhouses, the one where we live and the one where we used to live, which is about five blocks away. The latter property we were renting, until our tenant moved to Atlanta a few months ago. We decided to not rent it again, to sell it instead. It's still on the market. Nobody is buying.

Which means we have been paying double mortgage payments with no rental income, this at a time when Jerry's income is down dramatically (he's a real estate agent -- a double whammy!) and mine is not up.

So we have made a drastic decision. We have put the house where are living on the market also and will live in the one that isn't the first to sell.

The problem is that we fear we will sell where we are living first -- it is the more desirable of the two properties -- and we love this house.

I realize that, in these days of foreclosures and job losses, people are going through much more traumatic things than this, but that won't stop me from shedding tears if we have to leave this, the best house I've ever lived in or will ever live in.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

'wicked' thoughts

I was walking through downtown yesterday afternoon on my way to the gym and realized I was surrounded by people scurrying to the Saturday afternoon matinee of Wicked, currently here on tour. Then I realized that it was cold and windy, temps in the low 20s -- it's winter again. Indoor activities will be providing most of our entertainment between now and April.
And we are falling right into indoor scheduling.. This week, for instance: Joan is treating us to Wicked tickets this Wednesday, then Thursday we're going to see Joan Baez.
Then next weekend, something I always look forward to: the new James Bond movie comes out... and then....
All kinds of good stuff to fill up the winter months... But, wow. It's such a long time til April. It sure was hard to put on a winter jacket again.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

the survivor

One of the best things about yesterday was that there was no more political advertising: No piles of junk political mail, no political phone calls, no political TV advertising. Suddenly, overnight, the country changes back to Dr. Jeykll from Mr. Hyde, and the desperate viciousness goes at least into hibernation.

I mean, when you think about it, isn't our political system a total embarrassment? After the past year of so-called debates, isn't it amazing that there still has been so little in-depth discussion of real issues? And who would put themselves and their family through the degradation that it takes to run for President these days?

The election, despite it all, ended somewhat happily from my perspective. At least something will change. When I saw Barack Obama and took this picture at a rally a couple years ago, I was concerned that his handshake wasn't firm enough, it was limp. After seeing the excellent campaign that he has run since his nomination in August, I'm thinking that maybe his handshake has gotten stronger by now. Or maybe he is saving his hands for more important things. I think he'll make a pretty good President -- and an inspiritional one for many. He might not be a JFK, but, let's face it, neither was JFK.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

the Phillies do it!

The Phillies have won the 2008 World Series.
When you're a fan of the Philadelphia professional sports teams, you wait a long time between chances to win the Big One. I think of my nephew Michael. He is an absolutely devoted Philadelphia sports fan, and, since he has been old enough to follow the teams, there has been a total drought of championships. He has had his heart broken many times during those years...
So, I say to Michael, enjoy it!!! The Phillies did it!

crossing paths with oprah

Ever since May, at my first appointment, my naturopath has wanted me to do a 28-day detoxification/cleanse to get all the "toxins" out of my body. He has been good so far, has kept me away from surgery or medication, so I trust him, but the program he recommends is pretty harsh -- no gluten, no dairy, no beef or pork, no eggs, no sugar, no preservatives -- (you get the idea) -- plus taking some powder stuff and capsules every day. So, being the Master Procrastinator that I am, I put it off. I mean, this has to be done during a 28-day period when you're able to have minimal social life. Certainly not during the summer.

Then sometime a couple months ago Oprah Winfrey announced that her newest "diet" was going to be a 21-day detoxification (Why only 21 days, I wonder?). Oprah has her followers, but I tend to be a little leary of the latest Oprah fads. After all, this is the woman who discovered "Dr. Phil". So I wasn't about to start a detox program while she was doing it.

But then Jerry made an appointment with my naturopath, who recommended the detox program for him too. Jerry is not the procrastinator that I am (unfortunately), so we decided to time the 28 days between our birthdays and before Thanksgiving and just do it. We are on Day Four, and all is well. I even set up a new blog covering the pain and cravings of the 28 days -- Check it out.

By the way, I'm not sure if this diet is supposed to cause weight loss, but, judging by the picture of Oprah Winfrey in the latest National Enquirer, that didn't happen for her.

(Your next question is, what was a copy of the National Enquirer doing in my house?)

And, reflecting back to my posting on October 8th, I did decide to read a Wally Lamb book, I Know This Much is True, and am enjoying it, 110 pages into it out of 897. 897 pages! A good book to read during 28 days of no social life, even if it is a former selection of the Oprah Book Club!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

conversations at the urinal

Usually guys just look straight ahead in silence while they are standing at the urinal (too often these days at advertising on the wall), but conversation happens once in a while.

There was the time in the late 90s when I was at the urinal in the men's room at Dixie's Restaurant in St. Paul, and standing at the urinal next time to me was Norm Coleman, who was then the mayor of St. Paul. I was no fan of Mayor Coleman (except I appreciated him helping to bring the Minnesota Wild to St. Paul), and I didn't expect him to remember me even though we had had breakfast together once (with 3 or 4 other people), so I said nothing. Eyes straight ahead. The guy on the other side of him had no hesitation to speak, though: "Mister Mayor, I am really concerned about all this additional debt the city has taken on," and he went on a spiel about his taxes. To me, this was hilarious: Norm Coleman, helpless in mid-stream, a captive audience. The price of elected office.

Within the next couple years, he went on to change parties, become a Republican even though he had been elected as a Democrat, all to be annointed by bush & cheney as the 2002 Republican Senate nominee to run against Paul Wellstone. He would have lost that race, but Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash several days before that election -- six years ago today, a day that I'll never forget. We have had Norm Coleman these last six years, sitting in that precious Senate seat.

Fast-forward to Election Night 2006, mid-term elections. We were at a Victory Party, held at the Minnesota Club in downtown St. Paul, for Amy Klobuchar, who had just won the other Senate seat from Minnesota. We had worked hard for Amy's election. At some point in the evening, taking a break from the national good news of the evening, there I was at the urinal in the men's room, and who should walk up to the urinal next to me but Al Franken. We at this point knew Al Franken a little, had been to various fundraisers with him including one dinner party at his home. So I spoke, overcoming urinal etiquette. "Al, maybe in two years it will be your turn to celebrate." He grinned. At that point, he was still officially unannounced as a candidate for Coleman's seat.

So, I may hold the dubious distinction of being the only guy who has peed with both our two major-party Senate candidates. It will be hard for Al Franken to beat this incumbent, but, if we have to watch Norm Coleman sitting in Paul Wellstone's Senate seat for another six years, boy, will I be pissed!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

like no other store in the world

I know better than to go to the Mall of America on a Saturday afternoon, but Jerry had me on a mission to find a shower-curtain rod a lot better than the cheapo one that we got at Target that keeps falling down and just broke a tile. I figured that Bloomingdale's must have some cool shower-curtain rods, so off I went to the MOA this afternoon.

As I was walking into Bloomingdale's from the parking ramp, I noticed their classy-looking sign that said "BLOOMINGDALE'S: Like No Other Store in the World"..... Hmmm, I thought. I wonder how much money somebody got for coming up with that slogan. I mean, isn't it totally meaningless? Isn't every store like no other store? Isn't even every Bloomingdale's like no other Bloomingdale's? That's what I should have been -- a slogan inventor, making big bucks for saying nothing. When you think about it, how many slogans mean anything at all? Consider this slogan, which might be the worst: "UPS: See What Brown Can Do For You"! I mean, really, does seeing what brown can do for you make you want to use UPS? Brown might easily be the least-inspiring color!

Anyway, I got to the bed-and-bath department in Bloomingdale's, and guess what. They have plenty of shower curtains but zero shower-curtain rods. I asked the saleslady what store might carry them, and she answered, "Well, certainly not Macy's. You might have to go to Bed Bath & Beyond."

Of course there is no Bed Bath & Beyond at MOA. The nearest one is several miles away down the interstate, and here I was already at the mall. So I wandered aimlessly and almost hopelessly through the MOA, through the mobs of people that all seem to be from out of town (A local would know to stay away on a Saturday). The highlight of my wandering was when I was walking past the Build-A-Bear store where my niece Ruthie used to work: I was wearing my Phillies cap, and another guy in a Phillies cap high-fived me!

Then, as luck would have it, I found a quality shower-curtain rod at one of the other anchor stores, Sears. Sears might not be like no other store in the world, but at least it was like no other store at the mall!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

a home run

A reason to flip the channel from last night's final (thank God!) presidential debate: The Phillies were beating the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the National League pennant and head to the World Series. Let's go, Phils.... Philadelphia hasn't had championship team in so many years...

(wow, it's October 16th already and the World Series doesn't start til next week -- Was the Series always this late? Might be chilly baseball weather -- unless they end up playing in Tampa, that is.)

No TV tonight... I hate TV most of the time. And the work week was too busy.... So it's mellowing-out night tonight... Listening to Rachmaninoff, 2nd Piano Concerto. From there, maybe I'll get really wild and move on to the 3rd.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

the 9th of October, many years later

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my son, Tom..... 27 years old today. wow!


My sister, the autograph hound: Joan called me last night from New York, where she is enjoying her semi-annual Broadway trip. She was standing outside the stage door at the theater where she had just seen (all of) Daniel Radcliffe (from the Harry Potter movies) in Equus, waiting for him to come out and sign her program. Earlier she had seen the new production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons and had gotten autographs from cast members including Patrick Wilson, John Lithgow, Katie Holmes, and Dianne Wiest. Tonight she goes to see Patti LuPone in Gypsy, which she first saw last spring and which she loved so much she just had to see again.

She raved about All My Sons, and I was a bit envious after having just seen last week a great production of another of Arthur Miller's plays (this one from 1955), A View From the Bridge, at the Guthrie Theater here in Minneapolis.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

richard russo

I can't handle watching any more of these so-called debates, "my friends", so I skipped the one last night and went over to the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul to see and hear the novelist Richard Russo. As it happens, I have read four of his books this year, and here he was making an interview appearance at the Talking Volumes series sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio. His novels generally take place in small-town upstate New York, with quirky small-town characters and meandering, detailed plots. His best-known book is Empire Falls, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2001. The interview last night was interesting: he has a great personality, is very articulate and funny, gave good insights on how his books came to be.

But what was best was being an audience of several hundred people where most of them had read some Russo and were generally well-read. Reading a book is mostly sort of a solitary, intimate experience between reader and writer, and it was fun talking "book chat" to people sitting near me in the audience or standing in the line to get our books signed. Other authors that I've seen and met as part of this series have included Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood. Next month, Wally Lamb, author of She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, will be there, so I need to decide whether to try to read one of those books before then (The latter has 928 pages -- ouch!)... Have any of you "friends" read either of these?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

go, phillies!

It's a rainy day here. Not a great morning for the Twin Cities Marathon, but a good morning to write a blog entry. The problem is coming up with blog thoughts that aren't a further rant against Sarah Palin and her daddy, John McCain. Or there is the Wall Street bailout, which none of us begin to understand enough to even intelligently discuss. To try to escape from our dismal realities, I even rented four movies this week that I hadn't seen, and it's rare for us to ever rent a movie. How desperate must I have been to rent Napoleon Dynamite (which I liked, as it turned out... well, sort of)?

And how rare is it for me to feel sorry for average Republicans?.. I mean, let's face it, they aren't that crazy about John McCain anyway, and they are stuck with him as their candidate... He certainly isn't a good poster-boy for their pseudo- "family values"... Then he picks Sarah Palin as his ticket-mate, and even Republicans can see what a disastrous pick she is. They were scared to death of what she might say in her debate this past week with Joe Biden. She was awful, of course, but at least she didn't pass out or vomit, so they had to pretend that she won the debate! I mean, really! It was like these pretenders were having a fake orgasm!

One of the only good things about the Sarah Palin fiasco is watching the clips from her interview with Katie Couric. I kinda like Katie Couric, even though she is always last in the news ratings and her interviews are a bit "soft", and when was the last time she got all this attention? Then of course there is Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live doing her amazing, hilarious impersonations of Sarah. Oh, maybe this candidacy isn't so bad after all -- IF we can be absolutely sure that she won't win and that it's all just for laughs!


The best part of the week: the Phillies beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round of the baseball playoffs.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

the ghost

No, this isn't about John McCain....
We live in a townhouse, our next door neighbor is an older lady named Dee (She used to hate us, now we're her best friends, but that's a whole different story)...

Two weeks ago, we had a day where something weird was happening... My garage-door opener stopped working... I figured it must need a new battery, but a new battery didn't help. Later that same day Jerry's garage-door opener stopped working, and his opener is part of his car, so there is no battery to run down. Then we realized, amazed, that when we pushed the button to open our garage, our neighbor Dee's garage door was going up and down instead of ours. How could this be? These things are programmed! And then the next day, everything was back to normal and our openers were working again, even though we hadn't done anything to fix the situation (Whatever the fix is!).

Jerry and Dee put their heads together on this and came up with the conclusion: we have a ghost. Jerry had already been convinced that in July he brought a ghost home from Denver with him, which has been giving him backaches during the night (Jerry's friend Sarah in Denver theoretically had a ghost in her house and night-time backaches, so it maybe got on the plane to Minneapolis with Jerry[??]). Dee, on the other hand, has been certain that she's been haunted by her late husband (Who was also good at tormenting her while he was alive). Plus, they've decided that there is a third possible ghost -- the guy who used to live where we live and apparently died in our house and who once had fixed Dee's garage-door opener.

Meanwhile, I, being the rational one, just sit there and listen as they talk, while I sip my drink.

But then it happened again three days ago. A whole day of our garage-door openers opening her garage but not ours. Then back to normal the next day!


Sunday, September 21, 2008


No, we're not in Boston, we're back home in Minneapolis... But we were in Boston yesterday, after having spent a couple of nights on the coast of Maine, with some time to kill before our flight at 6 P.M...

I hadn't ever been to Boston, so it was interesting to drive around and sort of get the feel of the city while trying at the same time to avoid traffic congestion. We only got out of the car once, in Cambridge, and strolled around Harvard University and Harvard Square a little. This would be a fun, but very expensive, area to live... I would think, though, that living among these fast-moving college students, you would always feel under-educated (Sarah Palin, stay away!)...

We are done traveling for a while, we need to make some money now instead of just spending it.

What a financial week it's been for the world, though! I'm shocked -- shocked! -- to find out that we're a Socialist country after all -- a $700 billion dollar (at least) bailout for the financial industry! Funny how there is always borrowable money for endless wars and aid to corporate America... Now can we please get some national health insurance?? Comparatively, it's just a drop in the bucket!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


a few of my favorite things....

The past two days, we've been staying at the Trapp Family Lodge, located on a mountaintop overlooking spectacular views in Stowe, Vermont... I could stay here for a long time, but Jerry could only get us great rates for two nights, so today we leave for Maine.

This lodge was founded by the VonTrapp family, which was, as you probably know, the family that The Sound of Music is based on, so there is Sound of Music and Trapp Family and Austrian decor and memorabilia throughout the lodge. Maria VonTrapp, along with her husband Georg and various family members, are buried just to the left of the lodge.

It's early morning, and I'm sitting in the lounge having coffee and listening to a group of senior-citizen bus-tour people getting their instructions for the day.... I should go back to the room and get the maps out...

It's always sad leaving Vermont, perhaps the most charming of the states (and you know I'm a sucker for charm). Would love to come here sometime during ski season. Not to ski, of course. Just to hang out in the lodge by the fireplace.

Monday, September 15, 2008

rhode island

Does size matter?

Three weeks ago, we were in Alaska, the largest of the 50 states. Now we are in Rhode Island, the smallest.

Trivia question for you: How many Rhode Islands would fit in an area the size of Alaska? The answer is at the bottom of this blog post.

To be specific, we've been in Newport, Rhode Island since yesterday, staying at an old mansion bed-and-breakfast, which is very nice except that we are way up in the attic -- the old servants' quarters, I believe -- very appropriate for us except that our knees are not as strong as they once were. We're on our six-day road trip through New England, following a couple days in New Jersey for my cousin Darlene's wedding. Newport is great. Seaside town, lots of enormous late 19th-century mansions to tour. Today we also drove into Massachusetts and along part of Cape Cod. Tomorrow we head north for Vermont, definitely one of my favorite states.

And how about that Darlene?! Married for the first time at age 62! Cheers!

Here's some news for you: Jerry was quoted in the Wall Street Journal today in an article about the new interstate bridge in Minneapolis, the bridge that replaces the one that collapsed last year. Today's edition, page 2A.


Answer to the trivia question: 423 Rhode Islands would fit into Alaska. Which state would I rather re-visit?.. Well, the scenery in Alaska is beautiful, but once is enough. Rhode Island for sure.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

football fantasy

Now that the tear gas and the other nasty smells of having the Republican Convention in our Cities have mostly blown away and the SWAT storm-troopers have moved on to wherever it is they normally hang out, it's time to change the subject... Besides, if i think about Sarah Palin for even one more minute, I might barf.
My brother Ronnie, who lives in South Jersey, called me a couple weeks ago to tell me something funny. He had just read the Sports Illustrated picks for the top NFL football teams this year, and they were picking our team, the Philadelphia Eagles, to meet my adopted team, the Minnesota Vikings, in the NFC Championship Game, which the Eagles would win, but then the Eagles would lose to New England in the Super Bowl.

We laughed for several minutes. I don't think it occurred to many people in either the Philly area or in Minnesota that these teams have anything special this year. Besides that, everyone knows that both of teams do better when nobody is predicting that they could win. It's a jinx! Having Sports Illustrated pick them probably means that neither team will even make the playoffs!

Week One: The Eagles are off to a good start, beating St. Louis 38-3. The Vikings are off to a typical start, losing to Favre-less Green Bay. And the Patriots are now Brady-less for the season, which probably blows Sports Illustrated's AFC pick too.
Speaking of New England, Jerry and I leave later this week for a few days in New England, after a brief stop in New Jersey for my cousin Darlene's wedding.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

organized anarchy

The Republican Convention is, predictably, dull as dirt, but some of the side shows are kind of fun.

The show that the cops are putting on in downtown St. Paul, for instance. It is like an armed fortress down there -- hundreds of them in full riot gear. They have come in from all over the state and outside the state. Last evening, we tried to pick up Joan (who lives in downtown St. Paul, a few blocks from the Xcel Center) for dinner, and it's not easy with all the detours and barricades and fences and cops itching to use their tear gas. Luckily, we were driving Jerry's BMW, and what cop in his right mind would attack a BMW??

Monday, we marched with the anti-war protestors in St. Paul, and it was great of course (They say 10,000 people marched, I say it was more than that). There were a few anarchists also, mingling through the crowds, obvious in their masks and black clothes, ready to make trouble and ready to get arrested, which they did. I went to their website before the march to see what their plan was and was amazed at how well-organized these anarchists are, which to me seems to be the opposite of anarchy, but oh well... There were numerous and diverse groups that were part of that march. We walked with the Veterans for Peace, which included the Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Joan calls me now and then to update me on the happenings on the streets. Convention ends tomorrow, and downtown St. Paul will be a ghost town once again.
My thoughts on Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter and the upcoming shotgun wedding: Whatever happened to "abstinence only", right-wingers?.. Maybe these kids needed some sex-education classes or condoms??... :-)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

dangerous winds approaching

meanwhile, reporting from the Twin Cities.....! ---
We're being invaded by men in Oliver North haircuts and women who think Rush Limbaugh has sex appeal! The Republican National Convention starts tomorrow in St. Paul, the delegates and the media and the SWAT teams are mostly in place, and today convention plans are being altered as the politicans fall all over themselves trying to be concerned about Hurricane Gustav, just about to hit the Gulf Coast. bush and cheney have already cancelled appearances at the convention to "monitor the storm"("awwwwww, you won't get to see our protest signs!")...
What a shame for the victims of Hurricane Katrina that 2005 wasn't an election year!

Friday, August 29, 2008

conventional wisdom, or lack thereof

(Jerry in Anchorage, 4 days ago, with a look on his face that seems to say, "I wonder if this state has a governor??") -------------------->
My brother Davy, now safely back in Shanghai, emailed me today to congratulate me on bringing the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, back to the "lower 48" with us... Well, luckily, we got back a couple days before she made the trip, and we admit that, even after four days in Alaska this week, we were part of the 99% of Americans who had never heard of her so wouldn't have known her if she had sat between us on the plane.
We watched parts of the Democratic National Convention while we were in Alaska and here after we got home and were relieved that, even though it was a typically dull TV event, at least the Democrats made no major blunders. It comes as comic relief that McCain announced Gov. Palin today as his running mate. The Governor of Alaska?? Alaska? Alaska bears no resemblance to the rest of the country, and, besides that, she has been governor for less than two years. Before that, she was mayor of a small town that Jerry and I went through on the train (and the train doesn't even stop there!). And before that, she was runner-up in the Miss Alaska Pageant. Help! She is capable of being president? Or did McCain just think the race is lost anyway, so what the heck, Sarah is just more huggable than Mitt Romney?
Alaska?? There are more people living in the county where I live than in the whole enormous state of Alaska! Think she'll understand the national economy? In Alaska, the term "bear market" has a whole different meaning!
This weekend, the Republicans start invading us here in the Twin Cities for their national convention. Think I'll have more to say about that??? :-)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

boring you with vacation pictures

My son Jon generally has two big complaints about me. First, that I like everybody, which to him proves that my standards are too low. The other is that I don't take enough vacation pictures.

Well, here in Alaska, we are taking lots of pictures, but now that I look at them I realize how the scenery in Alaska is impossible to capture on film. It's just all too big. Ya gotta see it for yourself.

So, pathetically enough, here is a picture of me, to show you that I was really here. And two of the better photos of Alaska that I've taken so far, one south of Anchorage and one taken on our 12-hour train trip north to Fairbanks....

Friday, August 22, 2008

north to alaska

My friend in Germany, Elke, when she heard that we were going to Alaska for a few days, said, "You can visit our friend Basti the musher!..." ("Basti the musher" -- doesn't that sound like a name right out of a Kurt Vonnegut novel?). Basti the musher is a guy from their home town in northern Germany who moved to Alaska to breed and race sled dogs -- and mostly, apparently, to get far away from his father, Friedhelm.

Nothing quite that romantic is taking Jerry and me to Alaska (-- although I did own a Siberian husky for a brief time once, but that isn't a story worth telling! --). We just happened to have cheap airline tickets. We leave tomorrow for four days.

My impression is that there isn't a whole lot to do in Alaska except ooh and ahh at the scenery, unless you happen to be a sled-dog racer or an alcoholic, neither of which we are -- yet. The itinerary: We fly from MSP to Anchorage, where we will stay for a couple nights. Then we are taking the train (12 hours!) to Fairbanks, past breath-taking scenery (Mt. McKinley and glaciers and all that), then a day or so in Fairbanks, flying home from there.

I'm taking my laptop, so I'll keep you posted, if I can find an igloo with wireless internet!

no, not Kurt Vonnegut.. it's somebody else.....

Friday, August 15, 2008

hanging out with mud hens

Most of the world is in China now for the Olympics, but my brother Davy, who lives in China, is currently here in the States. He teaches English in Shanghai, is on semester break.. . He's been in Toledo, Ohio part of this week visiting his daughter (my niece) Ling, so I made a sort of spur-of-the-moment decision to drive to Ohio from Minnesota (about 650 miles) to spend a couple days with him and with Ling. So here I am. Greetings from Toledo.

Have gotten to know the city a bit the past couple days. Last night, we went to a Toledo Mud Hens minor-league baseball game ("Klinger" on M*A*S*H's team). Nice stadium, fun game, dinner afterwards at Tony Packo's (another "Klinger" reference).

A couple things happened that I've never seen before at a baseball game. First, one of the Mud Hens swung at a pitch, and his whole bat flew out of his hands way up into the third-base stands (a guy caught it). Then, in the same at-bat, his bat flew out of his hands again, this time landing in the Mud Hens dugout. Wow, a dangerous place to be! Soon after that, a batter hit a foul ball that went over the net in front of us (we were in the 2nd level behind home plate), bounced off the luxury boxes above us, and hit Davy in the knee, then bounced down to the first level.

So Davy had a sore knee today. He says what hurt most, though, was everybody booing him for not catching the ball. I say to him, the heck with all of them, and, by the way, if you have a bad knee the rest of your life, just tell everybody it's from an old baseball injury.

Leaving town tomorrow, heading in the general direction of home. I think.

Friday, August 8, 2008

08.08.08 @ 8

I was at the coffeeshop at 8 this morning to see Jack. It's his last day on the job. He's been the manager of the shop for the last several years, and we can always depend on him for a smile and some friendly chat. He's a young, vibrant guy, obviously too talented to be a coffeeshop manager the rest of his life, is going back to school -- to the University of Minnesota (just down the street) to study theater. Another starving actor, or maybe not? Still, it's sad to lose one of my coffeeshop friends.

As I write this, I'm sitting at the Volkswagen dealership, waiting while my GTI has its 20,000 mile checkup. Across the lobby, the TV is on. In a far-away time zone, the Olympics opening ceremony is happening right now to be followed, of course, by two weeks of Summer Olympics. I'm a casual Olympics observer, will watch some gymnastics, maybe some diving.

The opening ceremonies, which I find mostly annoying anyway, will be re-broadcast tonight on American TV. We'll miss it. We have tickets for the Jungle Theater, at 8 o'clock -- Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Maybe one of these years, we'll see Jack up on stage.


Brett Favre ended up with the New York Jets?? Jerry, an avid Jets fan (sporadically), doesn't know what to think.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

see the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet

I'm just kidding about the Chevrolet, of course (Been there, done that!)... I'm a Volkswagen man through and through. And gas is too expensive for people to be taking the long road trips those old Chevy commercials used to glamorize, although I admit I like road trips (If I'm the one doing the driving). I also admit I'd rather take a trip to Europe right now, like we used to, but -- hey! -- the dollar is worth practically nothing against the Euro these days, which makes everything over there super-expensive. So it seems like a good time to "see the USA"!

Plus, at some point recently I decided I should see all 50 states sometime before I'm dead, and I still have these ones to visit --

--- Northeast: Maine and Rhode Island.
--- South & Southwest: Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma (I should add Tennessee to that list, since technically I've only been to the Memphis airport).
--- West & Northwest: Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Alaska.

So that's 14 states left to experience.

Jerry somehow has a couple of vouchers from Northwest Airlines -- anywhere in North America, $99 round-trip for each of us, must be used by the end of this month. So over this past weekend we put together a four-day trip to Alaska later this month.

And I've been itching to get back to New England for some time now, so we are starting to plan a trip up there for the middle of September. I'll make sure we swing through Maine and Rhode Island.

... and what will be the 50th state, if I make it that far?... Might that feel weird to be done with them? :-(


Just saw the new Batman movie.... Not bad!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

oh, the stigma!

Me to Eric (my co-worker): "Hey, I'll be back soon, I need to run out to Woodbury [an outer-ring suburb] -- otherwise known as the Mini-van Capital of the World..."

Eric (putting his head down on his desk): "Argghhh! Don't mention that word. [His otherwise wonderful wife] Mary wants us to get a mini-van!"

Me: "Eric! No!! Resist! Be strong!"

But she's wearing the poor guy down! Their daughter Elsie just turned a year old, and now there's another kid on the way. So how does he fight this? How does he go from being a cool dude to being a mini-van owner?

Plus, have you ever seen worse drivers than mini-van drivers? I once had a bumper sticker that said "Mini-vans Are Tangible Evidence of Evil." It's not easy to go from people to go from driving a Toyota Corolla to one of these monstrosities. How can you even see out the back window? And how many parking spaces do they have to take up? Oh, don't get me started on that.


And then there is my poor distraught sister Joan!

She lives in downtown St. Paul, just a few blocks from the site of the Republican National Convention, due to open in about a month.

They were asking for 10,000 local volunteers to meet and greet and otherwise assist the Republican delegates. At one point, they were even begging for volunteers because hardly anybody had signed up. So Joan volunteered. Very nice of her, right?...

But she hadn't heard anything from these dweebs, so she called today and was told that her application was not accepted! She had flunked the security clearance!? The poor thing is absolutely crushed. I mean, it's one thing to bear the social stigma of assisting the Republicans. It's a whole different matter to be a volunteer reject!

Did her donations to Hillary Clinton doom her??

And will she join me in the protest groups instead??

Will Eric become a Stepford Husband??

stay tuned for the answers! !


P.S. My second-favorite bumper sticker: "What would Scooby Doo?"...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

inside the mind of Brett Favre

I haven't mentioned football since the 4th of February, but -- hey! -- training camp has opened, as depressing a thought as that might be....

Two seasons ago, I was at the Vikings-Packers game at the Metrodome, where I had overdone it on the mustard. When I took that first bite of the hot dog, the mustard went squirting out the other end of the hot dog and landed on the back of the woman sitting in front of me... She and her daughter were Packer fans (there are always thousands of Packer fans at the Vikings-Packers game, since Wisconsin is only a half-hour away), and the mustard just hung there right smack in the middle of her #4 Brett Favre jersey. When I pointed this out to her, she, not appreciating the asthetics of how perfectly the yellow of the mustard matched the green-and-yellow Packer jersey, seemed to think this was the intentional work of an overzealous Packer-hater. And Vikings fans are usually so civilized (not like, for instance, Eagles fans!).

I'm, of course, not a Packer-hater. Nor, for that matter, particularly antagonistic to Brett Favre. The Green Bay Packers are an amusing little team. And one thing I've always admired about Brett Favre, besides the fact that he is a highly adequate quarterback, is that he always stuck with the same team, even though Green Bay is the least glamorous of all National Football League cities.

So, back in February, Favre, after umpteen years as a top quarterback, retires. It was a good time to retire. He had just had a good season, except for that last playoff game at Green Bay, where he was obviously freezing to death while Eli Manning was cool as a cucumber.

Then, after four or five months of retirement, he decides to un-retire. The Packers, meanwhile, have moved on and groomed another starting quarterback. They don't want him. So he thinks, Hey, maybe I could play for the Vikings (who desperately need a quarterback) in that nice warm Metrodome (where he has always been booed, but never mind that). Or how about Tampa Bay? Heck no, the Packers say, you miserable ingrate.

This is a guy who grew up in Kiln, Mississippi, a hot muggy place. And Favre is getting old (almost 40!), and you know how old people can't take the cold anymore. The blood doesn't circulate like it used to. Who can blame the man for wanting to be out of Green Bay December/January wind chills?

I do wonder, though, why he wouldn't rather quit while his body is still working reasonably well, before his throwing arm turns to Cool-Whip and before he gets the mind-altering concussion from being thrown down on his head one too many times? Or is it the quarterback mentality, the need to stay in the center of the picture?

And I do feel a little sad for all those people with the #4 Brett Favre jerseys. They're feeling a little betrayed by their hero. He apparently doesn't bleed green and yellow after all.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

another jelly doughnut

I haven't mentioned politics in a long time, Nancy....

In 1963, President Kennedy delivered a speech in Berlin, Germany that included one of the most famous sentences of his Presidency: "Ich bin ein Berliner" -- meant to mean, "I am a Berliner" -- a citizen of Berlin. The Berlin Wall had just gone up, the city was glaringly divided. So he was saying, We are with you, citizens of Berlin, ready to stand against the division, the Communists, whatever...

But to many Germans, at least supposedly, the word "Berliner" is better known as the popular name of a certain jelly-filled pastry. The legend goes that JFK was inadvertedly saying to the Germans, when translated, "I am a jelly doughnut" (I've wondered what he would have said if Hamburg had been the divided city instead -- "I am a Hamburger"?)..

This week, Barack Obama, candidate for president, is on a tour of various countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq (and some photo ops with the troops), and then on to a couple of countries in Europe, including Germany... I'm not sure what he'll be doing in Germany, but at one point there was discussion of having a rally at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, where he would make a speech in front of tens of thousands of cheering Germans... Now, make no mistake, I'll vote for the dude, and I understand that he is quite popular in Europe (the rock-star thing again), but isn't this a little weird -- and maybe a bit arrogant -- for a U.S. presidential candidate to be making what are essentially campaign speeches in other countries?.. We'll see how this all goes this week.


We said Auf Wiedersehn to our German girls, Jana and Saskia, this past Wednesday and were surprised how much we missed them after they were gone!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

the eagle has landed

I was chewing on my Juicy Nookie Burger when I asked Tom and Joan, "What is the name of this place?.. The Shamrock what?"... "It's just the Shamrock," Tom said. "Why?" they both asked, rolling their eyes. "You're going to put this on your blog?"

"Not unless something blog-worthy happens", I answered, adding, "On the other hand, when has that ever stopped me?"

The Shamrock Grill & Pub it is, the "shamrock" apparently being some part of a former incarnation because there is nothing Irish about the place now. It's a sports bar with good burgers and fries, on West 7th Street in St. Paul. We've tried to come here before, but other times there was always a wait for a table, and we didn't. Wait, that is.

I don't do lines, you know.

At about this time, my cell phone rang. It was Jerry. Their plane had just touched down at MSP from Denver. It was Day Twelve of the twelve-day adventure for Jerry and the German girls. They had a great time, I've been looking at hundreds of digital photos. For any of you considering a vacation to the American Southwest, they all enthusiastically recommend it with the following proviso: Don't do it in July. It's way too stinkin' hot.
The photo above: Jerry at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. (By the way, do you know that if you click on these blog photos, you'll get a full-screen version?).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

you lose some and you Wynn some

Day Nine. It was 108 degrees in Las Vegas this afternoon when Jerry called me. He and Jana and Saskia had just checked into the Wynn Hotel, one of the newest and most extravagant of the newer casino hotels in Vegas. They loved the hotel and were heading for the pool, which they definitely deserved after these past few days in the July heat of Arizona and New Mexico and changing tires on gravel roads and a couple of bad hotels along the way. Tonight they are going to a Cirque du Soleil show, O, at the Belaggio.

They're supposed to check out tomorrow, and I tell Jerry they should stay at the Wynn one more night. Jana and Saskia, who must be worn out by now from all these miles they've covered, are looking out of their 21st-floor hotel room at miles of neon and glitz and are surrounded by air conditioning and room service. Skip Utah, I say. Pamper yourselves.

(Can you understand why I didn't go on this trip?)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

war stories

It was 40 years ago this week, it has occurred to me, that I was transferred from basic training in Fort Bragg, North Carolina to advanced infantry training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, which was known at that time as "Little Vietnam" because of its jungle-warfare training. I was a two-year Army draftee, it was 1968, the height of the Vietnam War, and, when you received orders for Fort Polk, you might as well start taking your malaria pills because it meant that at the end of eight weeks of learning how to kill, you'd be on your way to Vietnam.

I didn't go to Vietnam, as it turned out. At the end of the eight weeks, our graduating week was sent to Germany instead (unheard of for Folk Polk grads), thanks to the August 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Russians (What a party we had when we got those orders -- the heck with the poor Czechs!). So we headed to West Germany with our jungle training. We had spent a miserably hot summer surrounded by swamps and bugs and armadillos in backwoods Louisiana, a state that I'll never go back to, but oh who cares. We had been spared.

Vietnam was, of course, a war where we, the U.S., didn't belong, and now we are stuck in a war in Iraq that never should have been. Vietnam was miserable duty for those who served there, and Iraq is awful duty for those who are there. The best thing we could do to support those troops is to bring them home from where they shouldn't be (Take note, Senator Obama -- stop changing your position on ending the war). The second best thing would be to treat them right(which isn't being done): Give them great benefits, give them the best medical care, give them the best educational opportunities, honor commitments to end tours of duty.

Whoops. I almost let myself get preachy. There are enough preachy blogsites.

Day Eight of Jerry's trip with the German girls. Today they are in Arizona. When I talked to Jerry on the phone today, they were heading to Flagstaff, on their way to the Grand Canyon, had just changed a tire of their bus-size rental SUV in 106-degree desert heat. Talk about miserable duty!

Friday, July 4, 2008

meanwhile, back at the coffeeshop

Happy 4th of July, he says to me, and of course I say, Same to you, man, but now I'm thinking, Hey, were the Brits really all that bad? Could they have been any worse to us than we've been to ourselves?

When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, 4th of July was one of my favorite holidays, not because it was Independence Day (whatever that means) but because it was the one day all year when all the relatives on my mom's side came over for a cook-out -- our grandparents and all the aunts and uncles and cousins -- lots of food and laughs and baseball out there in our own field of dreams. Those of us who are left will never have a 4th of July without remembering those times and feeling a little sad.

Oh yeah. 2008. I see that the coffeeshop will be open late tonight because of the crowds coming to the neighborhood later for the fireworks over the river (the Mississippi, a block from here).

This is the first time I've brought my laptop over to the coffeeshop, and I feel a little weird about it. I'm still not very good with a laptop, I do much better with my iTune-blasting PC at home. And I'm a little nervous that the people who usually come over to my table to see what book I'm reading will come over now to ask, "Hey, what are you writing today?" So, just in case I have people looking over my shoulder, I'll avoid using swear words or saying anything controversial (Hmmm -- maybe I should re-think that comment about the British!). :-)

Day Four of the trek through the Southwest for Jerry and the German girls. Today they leave the dude ranch and drive to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where tonight they are going to see and hear The Marriage of Figaro at the Santa Fe Opera. From cowboys to world-class opera -- think we're giving these girls enough variety, a good taste of the USA? Tomorrow, they move on to Roswell, NM, to attend a UFO convention (seriously!).

But it's a beautiful, one might even say perfect, morning here in Minneapolis, the kind of day meant to be a holiday. I'm going to finish my skim latte and go for a bike ride. Cheers, fellow Americans!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

shuffling through the quietude

Last week, I had to sit through a two-day conference to get continuing education credits before the June 30 deadline, and the only thing I got out of the conference was a prize I won by throwing my business card into a booth vendor's drawing. What I won was a speaker system for an iPod. Pretty cool, right?.. Except that I didn't own an iPod.

Well, I couldn't just sit there looking at that unopened speaker box, and I do have my consumerist tendencies at times, so I headed to Best Buy to buy an iPod.... and, of course, I couldn't get the cheapest iPod, I let myself be talked into a cool one, capable of holding 1800 songs. So far, four days later, I've put 180 songs on it from my CD collection, and I'm thinking, how am I going to come up with another 1620 songs that I want to listen to repeatedly? I'm anguishing about what to load and what to not load.

The good news is that I've only had the iPod in my ears once so far, but I must say I do love having the songs loaded onto my computer (on iTunes). This computer has great sound, and I have it blaring, sub-woofers and all, while I write to you good folks. I'm a "shuffle" addict, so it's shuffling through my crazy assortment of 180 (so far) songs. Right now, a Leon Russell song is playing -- Chopin might be next!

(So far, I haven't used the speakers that I won!).


Jerry and the note-in-the-bottle girls are on Day Two of their trip through the Southwest. For three days, they are on a "working dude ranch" 9000 feet above sea level somewhere in a remote part of Colorado (The nearest town is 26 miles away -- by gravel road!). They spent much of the day today riding horses. Jana and Saskia own a horse, so they are used to such things. Jerry has a sore butt tonight.

It's quiet here without him and our visitors.... well, except for the tunes blasting.

Monday, June 30, 2008

what happens when Jana and Saskia visit

Jana and Saskia, the note-in-the bottle girls from Germany, arrived last Thursday, several hours after John and Mary left (In between the two drives to the airport and carrying a big price tag, a replacement for our blown-up air-conditioning unit was installed. It was a busy day!). Jana and Saskia are 18 and 19 years old, respectively, and we were a little nervous that we wouldn't know how to entertain them, since, truth be told, we hardly knew them (see my 6.17.08 post). We needn't have worried. They are fun to be around and are excellent house guests.

Their first impression of this country, on this their first trip to the United States, is that everything is so BIG, compared to Europe: big buildings, big stores, big houses, big cars, etc. Right now, as I write this, they are at the Mall of America, the BIGGEST shopping-&-entertainment center in the country. Tomorrow they fly with Jerry to Denver, where the three of them will start a 12-day road trip adventure in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and then back to Colorado to fly back to Minnesota. There's plenty of big stuff out in those states too, though at least most of it isn't man-made.

Yesterday afternoon I took them over to a German restaurant in St. Paul, the Glockenspiel, to watch the Euro2008 soccer final match between Germany and Spain, which would have been more fun if Germany had won, but it was a packed-house full of enthusiastic, German-speaking fans. Jana, smiling, said to me at one point during the game, "Right now, this does not feel like America!"

Monday, June 23, 2008

what happens when Mary and John visit

Picture it: Our house, yesterday afternoon.

My sister Mary and brother-in-law John have been visiting from New Jersey, their first time in Minnesota in many years. Mary and John and Jerry and Tom were upstairs in the dining room playing Mexican Train Game. John won the game (big surprise), then Mary came downstairs to the family room where my sister Joan and I were, for some unknown reason, watching on various and sundry versions of the song "Don't Leave Me This Way", my favorite 70s song (Which is the better version -- Thelma Houston or Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes?). We were watching a Julie Andrews version of it (seriously!) when Jerry came downstairs to go to the garage to get his briefcase out of his car.

Suddenly we heard Jerry calling from the garage, "Somebody come help me!" My sisters and I ran to the garage to find out what was wrong. There was a strange woman in Jerry's car! She was going through his briefcase, stealing checkbooks and who knows what else. John and Tom came running from upstairs. Jerry was screaming at this chick and making sure she didn't get away, then yelling at us to call 9-1-1. Joan got the new experience of calling 9-1-1 and being the one to say, "Get the cops over here right now! We have a burglar!"

The squad car was there in about 3 minutes and arrested her (the burglar, not Joan).

So what was this woman thinking, robbing a house that obviously had a lot of people in it, the game upstairs and the YouTube thing downstairs? Well, for one thing, both the front door and the back door were open to keep air flowing through the house and might have been the only open doors in the neighborhood. You see, soon after John and Mary arrived, the air-conditioning unit blew up, and it was getting kinda warm. So this wacko woman snuck (sneaked?) into the noisy house and slipped into the garage. After her ordeal of having Jerry screaming at her like a madman and my family members giving her looks that could kill, let's hope she has been scared straight and deterred from a life of crime.

Meanwhile, we are telling Mary and John this kind of stuff ordinarily never happens to us. We never guarantee live entertainment to our guests.


"Don't Leave Me This Way" -- Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (lead singer, Teddy Pendergrass) --

"Don't Leave Me This Way" -- Thelma Houston --

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

the note-in-the-bottle story

in case you haven't heard this story...

It was December 31, 1999, Y2K Eve (and, co-incidentally, a year to the day from when Jerry and I had met, but that's another story)...

Jerry and I were on the beach in Anguilla, an island in the Caribbean near St. Martin... We were staying in a house on the water where we had a beach all to ourselves... Jerry, being Jerry, had brought along a box of large trash bags, and he has an unusual habit, as part of his vacation de-stressing routine, of walking along and picking up trash, cleaning up the beach. There was plenty of trash on the beach that day because there had just been a hurricane hitting the island a month before.

I was sitting in a beach chair nearby, reading a book (of course), when he came running over to me, all excited. He had found an old bottle containing what appeared to be a note inside. He broke open the bottle, and we tried to read the writing on the brittle old piece of paper. It was in German. Being Americans, we of course are not bi-lingual, so we brought the old note back home with us to find somebody to interpret.

The note, as it turned out, had been written in 1995 and signed by a five-year-old girl named Jana, put in the bottle and tossed in the ocean in the Canary Islands. The bottle had somehow made it all the way across the Atlantic Ocean and ended up on that beach in Anguilla.

The note contained Jana's address in Germany, so of course Jerry wrote to her. Soon he got an email back from Jana and her parents. Later that year, June of 2000, we were going to be in Germany along with Jon and Tom (we were celebrating Tom's graduation from high school), so we arranged to meet Jana and her family in Cologne. Jana by then was ten years old.

We hit it off with the parents and became friends. We visited them two other times when we were in Europe and stayed at their house one of those times.

Anyway, where I'm heading with this is that Jana, now 18 years old, and her older sister Saskia are visiting us here in Minneapolis for three weeks, arriving a week from Friday. Part of that time, about ten days, they and Jerry are traveling to the American southwest, and I'll tell you more about that later. This will be their first time in the U.S.

By the way, the note from the bottle is now framed and hanging in our living room.

And arriving this Friday are my sister Mary and brother-in-law John from New Jersey. They'll be here for a week, and we are very much looking forward to their visit. I'd tell you more now, but this post is already too long, and, besides, they deserve an entry all their own. :-)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lupie's and special effects

I've been hanging out with my sister Nancy at her home in North Carolina the past several days, the trip delayed from last month. We've sorted through piles of paperwork and financial details and accomplished quite a lot in a short time. Last night, we were mostly finished with all that and drove up to Charlotte, about a half-hour north of here, a city I've flown into several times but have never really seen, and we drove around the inner core, the downtown, got a flavor of it (It felt a lot like Indianapolis to me). Saw where the Panthers and the Bobcats play. Ate at a fun hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Lupie's.

This morning, our brother Davy, the brother that lives in Shanghai, called and gave me a few laughs, and after that Nancy and I went to a movie. She wanted to see the new Indiana Jones movie, and, since I tend to avoid special-effects movies these days, I had very low expectations, but I ended up liking it more than I thought I would and maybe more than Nancy, who had high expectations, did. Don't go out of your way to see it, though.

Flying home tomorrow morning. Getting together with Jon and Tom in the afternoon for Father's Day. Watching the Tony Awards tomorrow evening with Joan, who has seen several of the nominated plays, and Jerry, of course.

Maybe back to North Carolina in a couple months.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


No, not gin, the liquid kind. Gin: the card game.

My son Tom and I last Saturday night were listening to the new Madonna CD, Hard Candy. I'm a little too old for Madonna, Tom maybe a little young for Madonna (he's 26), so she's a good place for us to meet in the middle (This is an OK CD, not as good as her last one [Confessions on a Dance Floor]). Tom comes over most Saturday nights and we play games with Jerry and listen to music, and Tom stays over. He is a card-playing fanatic. We usually play Hand & Foot or Golf, unless we play dominoes instead (Mexican Train Game), and he and Jerry almost always beat me. Last week, though, we were playing Gin, which Jerry and I were in the mood for since we had just seen the play The Gin Game the night before at our favorite local theater, the Jungle. Our enthusiasm for this production must have carried over or maybe Madonna put him into an agreeable frame of mind, because somehow we talked Tom into going with us to see it if we would go for a second time. No, I think it's the Gin.

I called Jon, my other son (mid-thirties, somehow!), and asked if he would go with us too. Jon is very into arboretums (arboreta?), zoos, art museums, architecture, and music, and I would love to be able to pass on to him (and Tom) an appreciation for live theater too. I know -- Papa, don't preach, but I'm happy to say that tonight we are heading back to the Jungle with the boys and my sister Joan (already a theater enthusiast) for more Gin Game, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with them.

And somehow I won the game, too. First time I've won a game since October.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

busting out all over

June 2008, and it finally feels like spring, almost summer, in Minnesota. Wow, what a wait we had this year. I hope summer lasts til December. Ha!

Family news. Two times in the past four days, I became a great uncle again, and, let's face it, how could any kid have a greater great uncle? I love babies, as you well know (Up until they hit the 7th grade, at least!). On Thursday, my niece Michelle had a baby girl, named Heron, born into a segment of the family that is currently and inexplicably naming babies after birds. Saw a photo of her this morning, and she's beautiful, of course... Then this afternoon my niece Ruthie had her baby, a boy named Corey. No photos yet, but you can be sure they're coming. Mothers and babies (and fathers) are doing fine. Welcome to the family, kids... hang on for a wild ride (and a few cheesesteaks!).

Happy Birthday, Corey.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

a late-spring sports update

Two or three years ago, as I was walking into the locker room at the gym, innocently wearing my Philadelphia Flyers t-shirt (because it happened to be clean, probably!), a guy walked up to me, got in my face, and said, "The Penguins are going to kill the Flyers this year!" Who was I to argue? This guy was rabid, and it's rare to run into a rabid Pittsburgh Penguins fan in downtown Minneapolis. I thought of him this morning when I opened the sports page, something I apparently hadn't done recently, and noticed that somewhere in the world (specifically Pittsburgh and Detroit) people are still playing that icy sport of hockey -- the Stanley Cup finals. That Penguins fan must be having a meltdown by now. Wow!, what a long season. Seems like the Wild -- and, later on, the Flyers -- were eliminated ages ago.

And there across the page I saw that there are four teams still playing basketball. Hey, go Celtics! Kevin Garnett deserves a ring after all those frustrating years with the Timberwolves.

The gym where I work out is at Target Center, home of the Timberwolves. One cool thing about working out there right now is that the new Twins baseball stadium, set to open in 2010, is being built next door. Three or four times a week (or however many times I can drag my unmotivated butt to the gym), I get to check out the progress. It's fun watching a stadium being built. A slow process, almost as slow as baseball itself.

Baseball?.. a true spring sport? The Twins, I see, (still playing in their domed stadium) are two games behind Chicago in their division. Ah, better news: The Phillies are only a half game out of first place in their division. Go, Phils. Philly needs a championship of some kind.

What else matters?

P.S. Happy Birthday, Heron... :-)

Monday, May 26, 2008

the last of the Kennedy boys

I met Ted Kennedy once.

It was October 25, 2002, the day that Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash.

Jerry and I had rushed over to Wellstone re-election headquarters immediately after hearing on the radio about the crash. We were in a panic of grief and alarm, not knowing yet who else of the Wellstone family and staff, people that we knew, might have been on that plane. The scene at campaign headquarters was surreal -- tears and confusion and TV people parking vans and setting up satellite dishes out in front of the building.

Sometime during that awful afternoon at headquarters, Senator Kennedy appeared -- who knows what he was doing in Minnesota that day? -- along with Walter Mondale and various other political figures, I now forget who. They were there, I guess, to comfort the staff and volunteers, as well to focus their own grieving for a fallen beloved Senator.

Ted Kennedy came over to me and shook my hand, and all I could think of to say was thank you being here. What I remember most from that meeting, though, was the emotion in his eyes -- the sadness, maybe some amount of fear, the connection with the overwhelming loss I was feeling. How I would have loved meeting him under different circumstances, to have a chance to chat with him. There are so many things a political guy of my generation could talk about with him -- his family, his history, our history, his 45 years (so far) in the Senate...

People this week are reflecting on Ted Kennedy after the grim announcement this week of his brain tumor: the last of Joseph Kennedy's sons, the only one to live to have gray hair, the one who became the patriach of the family (and maybe of U.S. politics) as he stood strong while his three older brothers all died violent, untimely deaths. It's hard to think of the difficult future of treatment and uncertainty that he faces. He deserves better than this.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

it all ended much too soon

A less hazy weekend, as I try to wean myself off medication and avoid the knife by trying massive doses of herbs and vitamins and eye of newt and other voodoo. Tomorrow I start back working out at the gym. Optimism!

And a relatively active weekend compared to vegetating on the sofa. Went with Jerry and Joan last night to see Frankie Valli (and the would-be Four Seasons) at Mystic Lake Casino. Hey, Frankie at 74 still puts on one heck of a show. So his voice isn't quite what it used to be, so what? You try singing falsetto for 50 years and see how your voice holds up! And so what if these newest Four Seasons are young enough to be his grandsons and none are from New Jersey? We had a tremendous evening being entertained by this Jersey boy, a month after seeing the current Broadway version of his story that took place some 45 years ago (See my April 13 entry).

Then we wandered into the casino, where Joan won nine hundred bucks on the slots!

This afternoon, thinking we were doing something quieter, we went to see the Theatre in the Round's excellent new production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. Quieter, ha! Three and a half hours of dysfunctional-family arguments (condensed, thank goodness, from the usual four and a half hour version)!

and now, with music playing on the stereo, a beautiful Sunday evening...

ah, weekends....

Monday, May 12, 2008

alternatives to Orff

It was a space-cadet weekend for me. I think I was a bit over-medicated.

I had planned on being at Nancy's in North Carolina over the weekend to help her out with some stuff and have some good quality brother-sister time. For some normality, we even had tickets Saturday night to attend a concert by the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, which was doing a violin concerto by Mendelssohn and Carmina Burana by Karl Orff.

None of that worked out, though. Instead, I spent Saturday night at home in Minneapolis drifting off on the sofa while watching a couple of early-40s films on Turner Classic Movies -- Now, Voyageur (Bette Davis) and Since You Went Away (Claudette Colbert). There's nothing like a couple of extreme melodramas to complement some nice hallucinations.

Feeling more normal today. We'll see what happens next.

Friday, May 9, 2008

something's gotta give

I thought I handled my busy season so well this year, but the stress must have been silently building in me. That suppressed stress was followed by a death in the family and trips across the continent. It all caught up with me, and my body has started acting its age. I've seen more doctors in the last week and a half, both in Hawaii and back here in Minnesota, than I generally would see in a year and a half. There is nothing I hate more than seeing doctors and taking medication and being reminded of mortality.

Oh well, I'll be fine, one way or the other, although my flesh, after all these years, might be meeting a scapel. I was planning on flying down to North Carolina to spend a long weekend with my sister, but that had to be postponed. I guess I need to slow down a little. Jerry is taking good care of me, as always.

Change of subject. I've hardly watched any television since February, and I turn on the news now and they are still over-reporting this silly Presidential election! It looks like I somehow have to get excited about Barack Obama, if I can, because, after all, have you ever seen a more lame candidate than John McCain? I do think Obama should offer the VP slot to Hillary, but I bet he won't. Somehow he needs to figure out how to win the big states. In the primaries, he has done great in states that he has no chance of winning in November. Plus, he needs somebody to show him how to be President, if he somehow wins!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

the waves

I've been back in Honolulu for several days, heading home to the reluctant Minnesota spring in two days. The condo unit where we are staying here is 14 stories up, right on the ocean. To my right as I sit on our balcony is Waikiki, to my left is Diamond Head, straight ahead are the surfers riding their boards. Quite lovely.

The trip back to North Carolina was hard, ten hours each way of flying time and dealing with the difficulty of the situation. My sister Nancy, who in some ways seems so fragile to me, is showing amazing strength, dealing with the waves of sadness as they come, sometimes sparked by the slightest memory trigger. If you've been through this, you know what those waves feel like and how it feels to ride them out.

These tend to be the worst of times, but also the best of times for a family. I feel sorry for families that are estranged from each other when they need each other most.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Not sure how to write today. We arrived in Hawaii three nights ago for a two-week post-busy season vacation. Early the next morning, I received the horrible news that my brother-in-law Dave (see my post of March 17th) had died. He had been sick and in the hospital for a couple weeks, but his death was unexpected.

We are a very close family, my five siblings and myself, even though we are spread all over the place, so we are a family stunned and sad. Without question, this is a time to be together, so this afternoon I am leaving Hawaii for a few days, flying to North Carolina to be with my sister and the rest of the family.

As I write this, I'm overlooking the Pacific Ocean on a perfect early morning in Honolulu, but my thoughts are elsewhere. There are times when it is hard to reconcile the beauty and the harshness of life.

We'll miss you, David. You were an irreplacable part of the family.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

tax tips from a pro

April 15th, tax deadline, a date which for 30 years has found me exhausted -- not from writing those checks to the IRS, which is tiring enough, but by working my butt off so that everyone else can write those checks to the IRS. So tonight, for me personally, is a night to celebrate getting a life back that approximates normality.

I of course have my opinions about the IRS and know U.S. tax laws better than the average taxpayer does. It's a highly messy cesspool of regulations and rules, but it's something, and I get a kick out of the occasional politician who tries to score points by wanting to "abolish the IRS". It sounds so nice in the abstract, but replace it with what? -- Something that no doubt will benefit his or her major contributors.

The people that really annoy me are the "anti-tax" people: the ones who don't want any of their tax dollars going to something they don't use -- mass transit, maybe, or parks or libraries or poor people. My answer to those loudmouths is that none of their tax dollars do go to those things -- Let's say that my tax dollars are spent on those things. And let's say that none of my tax dollars go for military spending. The anti-tax people never complain about the $700-billion military budget, which is almost more than all the other countries' in the world military budgets combined. Literal overkill. So their taxes can go for war. My taxes can go to feeding starving children and none toward bombing them. Let's all pick and choose. We can all find something in government spending that we like.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

you can take the boy out of Jersey, but ....

oh, what a night...

There is some sort of weird Jersey pride when you grow up in New Jersey. Maybe it's a defense mechanism for dealing with all the jokes, the put-downs. I don't think that's it, though. I think, and I know I'm speaking only in generalities, that there is some sort of innate loyalty that Jerseyites develop that is not common to people from other places. I haven't lived in NJ for 32 years, yet I still think of myself as a Jersey guy, and when I go back, it's still home. Transplants from other places don't seem to feel quite the same about where they are from or how they deal with relationships, with family, with friends...

So, naturally, as a Jersey boy, I was looking forward to seeing the Broadway musical, Jersey Boys, which is the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (and, of course, I've always liked Frankie Valli) and what it means to be a Jersey Boy. A touring production is here in Minneapolis now, and we went to see it last night. It's a great show, way better than those other "jukebox musicals". Afterward we went to a benefit reception that included the chance to hang out with members of the cast of this production. I've worked this week what seems to be a hundred hours, so I've been hovering somewhere in between exhaustion and hyperactivity. This was a chance to party into the night with pretend Four Seasons after seeing such a fun show.

It was all just too good to be true. We all need our rewards.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

the office

Joan knew it must have been a busy week for me because I didn't blog all week. True, it was nuts but manageably so, and the next two and a half weeks will be wild. Not to worry, I can handle it.

(Right now, as I write this, it's Sunday night. I walked over to the office and am doing a few things to make Monday morning easier, and it's nice and quiet now, no phones ringing, no interruptions.)

Here's a peek into my office ------>

I just today finished reading a book about contemporary office life, a first novel by Joshua Ferris titled Then We Came to the End. The New York Times named it one of the ten best books of 2007 (whatever that means), and I also recommend it highly. We, those of us with jobs that is, spend so much of our lives with co-workers, how can they not have an effect on us? And then corporate America, with its economic downturns and heartless layoffs and all that.... well, just give the book a try.

And, as for being too busy to blog, I think maybe I blog more when I'm busy. Gives my mind a ten-minute escape. Some people take a smoke break, I take a blog break.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

overheard at the coffeeshop

I peer over my glasses to see who is here at the neighborhood coffeeshop this morning... There is the black man who looks like he might be a professor, always here on the weekends with his teenage daughter. He usually is reading a book, while the daughter looks bored to tears, and they don't talk. She keeps looking around, and every few minutes she picks up her cell phone, either desperately hoping for a text message or maybe playing Tetris on the phone. This morning, though, there is that guy sitting with them -- the older white guy with the white beard and wearing a cap that makes him look like a 1917 Bolshevik -- and when he sits with them, the two men never stop talking. I can never hear what they are saying, so I imagine they are discussing the book the Bolshevik might be writing, or maybe they are plotting the Revolution.. No, I don't think that's it -- If it were something that interesting, the daughter wouldn't look like she's ready to blow her brains out.

Then Jim and Ruth, retired friends of ours, stop over at my table, as they always do, to see what book I'm reading. What's refreshing about them is that they have usually at least heard of whatever it is. A couple tables away are the two slightly overweight cops eating their muffins and hoping that people don't stop at their table to tell them about the new graffiti on the building next door, graffiti reports being something they say isn't their job any more. Then next to them is the guy who seems nice but talks to himself. I get the impression he might have fried his mind on something, and he always has the look that he just got out of re-hab.

Students from the U start to drift in with their laptops. I finish my latte and trudge through the snow, Doctor Zhivago-like, down the street to my 9 a.m. haircut appointment and from there to the office. A lovely Saturday morning.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


The first day of Spring, the 20th of March, is just a date on the calendar in Minnesota, where snow is predicted for tonight (Whoops -- more weather talk, the curse of living here). Another matter, though: 34 years ago today, my first-born son, Jon, came into the world and into my life. He would roll his eyes and groan if I said anything about how proud I am of the man he has become, so I won't. :-)

Monday, March 17, 2008

she was almost named Patty

I have a bunch of Irish blood in me, but when I wake up on the 17th of March, why should I think of St. Patrick's Day? It's my sister Nancy's birthday! Being the excellent brother, I gave her a call this morning before work, realizing that this is one of Nancy's "landmark" birthdays (meaning one of those ending in a zero), calling her cell phone instead of the land line, luckily, because it turned out that she wasn't at home in North Carolina. Her husband Dave had surprised her yesterday, driven them a few miles into South Carolina, and they spent the night at a quiet Bed and Breakfast. My brother-in-law the romantic! Who'd a-thunk it?

(...and, by the way, I wasn't dreaming of a white St. Patrick's Day, but we got one anyway. Some green would look so good right about now!) :-(

Saturday, March 15, 2008

i wonder what a depression feels like

They're finally starting to say that our economy is in a "recession". I've been dealing with business clients for 30 years, and I can honestly say that I've never seen businesses struggling like they are now. Meanwhile, individuals are dealing with foreclosures, work layoffs, massive debt, and financial fear. None of our leaders or would-be leaders are inspiring confidence. I think it's going to take a lot more than a feel-good tax rebate.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

another acid flashback

Yeah, I'm kidding, I never dropped acid. But I do find it easy to time-warp back to 1968 as if there'd been no in-between times. The past week, I was reading Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris, a new book about the dramatic changes in American filmmaking in the 1960s. It makes its points by focusing on the five 1967 Best Picture Oscar nominees from each of their conceptions several years earlier to Oscar night in April 1968. Two of the nominees, Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate, were cutting-edge masterpieces, nothing like Hollywood had seen before. Two, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Doctor Dolittle, were more standard, old-Hollywood stuff. One, the eventual winner In the Heat of the Night, was somewhere in the middle. This book, Pictures at a Revolution, was great, one of those books that I honestly didn't want to see end, a book made only for time-warp freaks and history-of-film buffs. Because it pitted old-Hollywood against new-Hollywood, it was one of the most interesting Oscar races ever, certainly the one that I've ever had the most interest in, and I remember it well -- being so disappointed, in my case, when The Graduate didn't win. Looking back, ah - April 1968 - it seems like a fine time, a "more innocent" time, as they say - hence my time-warp tendencies. Then I realize that the Oscar ceremony that year was just a day after Martin Luther King's funeral and only a couple weeks before I was drafted into the Army for two years, facing an immediate four months of intense jungle training and Vietnam potentially looming over me. Maybe not such an innocent at all. Maybe there are no innocent times.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

the governor of new york

I know I'm in the minority on this, but I think prostitution should be legal (I also have the radical opinion that most "street drugs" should be legalized, but that's a topic for another day). It isn't. I realize that Elliot Spitzer broke the law by hiring prostitutes and that he knew that he was breaking the law, but what I hate is how in America the inclination is to jump on somebody when they're down, to humiliate and degrade a whole family, especially when it's just for one of these "victim-less crimes". This should be an issue only between the accused and his wife, it's a personal matter. I admire her for sticking by him, even encouraging him to stay in office, and I think it's too bad he resigned as governor today, under incredible pressure even from the hypocrites in his own party. Meanwhile, we have elected officials that are war criminals, responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, and they still hold their positions.

Friday, March 7, 2008

working my way back to you

When you're working all the time, sometimes you need a few moments away from the work, even if it's just to a different kind of insanity in the outer suburbs. We had a coupon for a free night at Mystic Lake Casino hotel, made the reservation for last night, had a surprisingly beautiful room, gambled a little, ate some good food, slept in a different bed. Woke up, had some breakfast, gambled a tiny bit more, bought some tickets to see Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons (May 17), then left that soft, cozy world to face reality again. It was -5 degrees outside (in March!!). The half-hour drive back into the city, not as nice as the drive out. Back to the office, where the work was impatiently waiting and multiplying. oh well.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

grisham, again

Finished reading the latest John Grisham book, The Appeal, a couple days ago. He hadn't written a legal novel in several years, so I was kind of excited to get back to one, sort of a 90s nostalgia thing. I was really disappointed. It has a good subject -- how big business is buying the U.S. judicial system -- which I totally agree with him on, but the story is so contrived, so lazy, so lacking in any subtlety, that the message is lost. It should have been a non-fiction book about the real problem.