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.