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.