Sunday, October 31, 2010

packing for a month away in a distant time zone

Hawaii is five time zones away from Minnesota. It's an eight-hour plane ride from here IF you get a non-stop flight.

... and it's Jerry's favorite place in the world.

He leaves Tuesday for a month of R & R there. I follow in a couple weeks to spend the last two weeks with him.

But planning and packing for a month away is no easy chore. Meanwhile, he's cooking an elaborate dinner for our friends Diane and Tony, who are coming over to watch the Vikings-Patriots game that starts in a few minutes, and dealing with work stuff that keeps his phone ringing even on a Sunday afternoon.

"I'm overwhelmed!" he just said.

He needs to be on that plane waiting for take-off.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

pitfalls of democracy, part three

I was just reading that the Tea Party woman who is running against Harry Reid for his Nevada U.S. Senate seat is predicting a major Republican victory on Tuesday, that they will re-take the House of Representatives and maybe the Senate, all of which will lead to the repeal of the Obama health care law, she says. I recognize that this might happen.

The health care law is of course mostly hated by the insurance and pharmaceutical corporations, who have the power and the resources to sponsor these office-holders and candidates and television ads, and, by repeating supposedly vicious buzz words like "socialistic" over and over until they become distorted truths, they know how to fool the under-educated American public into voting against their own best interests.

We hear that tens of millions of Americans have had no health insurance, but the plain fact is that most Americans do have health insurance in percentages that probably lead to the large percentages (in polls, at least) that are against "Obamacare". To repeal this law is to go back to the disgraceful health insurance policies that denied coverage to the people that really need it but are a definite voting minority. The Obama law is flawed and needs to be improved, but it is a major step in the right direction.

Friday, October 29, 2010

clearing a path

This morning I drove into the office parking ramp, and there was a guy at the gate with a box of candy and a big smile, saying "Happy Halloween!" That and the little bag of Peanut M & Ms made me smile too and shook me back into a reality of time and place. It set the tone for a good day at work catching up on the stuff that had piled up while I was gone -- unexpectedly -- for most of the week. Normalcy returns, but I think I have a renewed appreciation for extended family. We in our family are lucky to have each other.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Back home to much chillier temps than when we left...

We generally fly non-stop, Philly to Minneapolis, but this time we were using frequent-flyer last-minute tickets and beggars can't be choosers, so these tickets had us changing planes at JFK Airport in New York. It's kind of a weird, non-user friendly airport to make a connection but it all worked out well. Made us want to stay in New York for a few days.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


My brother Davy arrived from Texas yesterday and my brother Ronnie lives here in South Jersey, so all six of us siblings were together last night for the viewing/visitation (In NJ, it seems to be a "viewing"; in Minnesota, it tends to be a "visitation"). It's not very often that we're all in the same place at the same time, and we enjoy it when it happens. We just wish it wasn't a funeral bringing us together.

There were probably 400 people at the viewing, long lines out the door of the funeral home. Today is the funeral and the burial. It is a gloomy rainy day, which seems appropriate as we say goodbye to our beloved brother-in-law John.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


My brother-in-law John was always kidding around, was a tease, loved making people laugh, so it's fitting that as we mourn his death, we also are doing a lot of laughing and enjoying each other as we remember "John stories". These days that we're spending with my sister Mary and with my other sisters, Joan and Nancy, and with Mary's daughter, son, and daughter-in-law will be days that we will always remember as precious. This is what family is for.

For my sister Mary, who is remarkably brave and strong, this is a surreal time, this time between his death Friday morning and the services that are to come. The viewing is tonight and the funeral is tomorrow, and many people are expected from all aspects of John's whole life. It's not easy for her to face all that, I'm sure, while she is still in shock from the loss of her mate.

Rather than just sitting around waiting for the viewing tonight, Mary asked if we could go to the shore today, so we drove down to the boardwalk in Ocean City, where it was gray and breezy and beautiful. And familiar. It was exactly the right thing to do.

Monday, October 25, 2010

video monday again

click on the "x" to get rid of the ad at the bottom of the video...

Sunday, October 24, 2010


First of all -- Happy Birthday, Jerry! and that's all I'll say on that matter since he very rarely looks at my blog anyway.. :-) Sorry to miss his birthday, but I'm here in New Jersey and he's still in Minnesota and will arrive here tomorrow to join the rest of the family for John's funeral on Wednesday.

For me, it's one of those "worst of times, best of times". The family is so far-flung geographically that it's a happy occasion to see everybody coming together, since it doesn't happen often, yet the mourning takes over our emotions now and then, sometimes unexpectedly and out of the blue.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010


My brother-in-law John, after putting up an amazing fight against cancer, passed away this morning.
He came into our family in the early '70s, and he and my sister Mary were married in December 1973. This photo was taken somewhere around that time, and they stayed as happy during all those years as they look in this picture. It's hard to think of him being gone. I'll miss him a lot. He became a brother.
The family will gather in New Jersey within the next several days. I'll be leaving tomorrow for this sad trip.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

racquetball flashbacks

The U.S. Open Racquetball Championships are being held this week at my gym at Target Center. There are people and booths and bleachers everywhere, and all of the racquetball courts are being used (which never happens on a normal day). They even turned the basketball court into a racquetball court. So after my workout I watched some championship-level racquetball.

Racquetball was a passion of mine back in the first half of the '80s, and even though I could never get above a B level of play, I had matches or leagues three or four times a week. I loved the game, and during that time I was definitely in the best shape I've ever been in in my life. That was also, I think, the heyday of racquetball nationwide. It doesn't seem nearly as popular these days, and the people who were playing back then had their knees give out eventually. I still get into a court and hit the ball around a little now and then, but the days of hard-core playing are well over. Watching is still fun, though.

So if you're thinking of trying racquetball sometime, I say Go Ahead. Your knees one day will give out from something else anyway, probably something a lot less fun.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

pitfalls of democracy, part two

Yesterday, I ranted a little about the Obama Administration's apparent decision to appeal 'don't ask, don't tell' being recently overturned by a federal judge.

If the government's logic is that 'the people' should be making decisions, then here is an example of inconsistency: California has a referendum on the November ballot to legalize marijuana in that state. The U.S. Attorney General has already announced that, if the referendum passes, the federal government will fight it.

First of all, marijuana is almost legal in California anyway. Second, legalizing pot would not infringe on people's rights like 'don't ask, don't tell' does; in fact, it would make a lot more people 'non-criminals' while at the same time raising tax revenues.

So 'the people' have to approve a minority's rights but can't vote to undo illogical laws?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

pitfalls of democracy, part one

A federal judge has struck down the stupid "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military, so for a potentially brief moment gays can serve openly in the Armed Forces. Unfortunately, though, the Obama Administration will probably appeal the ruling, the reason being that they would rather that "don't ask, don't tell" be eliminated by Congress and not by a judge: in other words, that the "people" (theoretically represented by Congress) make the decision and not the judicial system. And any gays that "came out" in the interim will be discharged.

There are several problems with the Administration's thinking. First, the "people" have not voted up to now to overturn the policy, and it's been in place for 17 years. Second, whether a group of people should have rights is not something to be decided by a majority and therefore subject to its prejudices -- this is why we HAVE a judicial system. Third, President Obama (whom I still support, of course) should stop trying to cater to the conservatives who will never vote for him anyway and consider his political base instead.

Monday, October 18, 2010

video monday

Since nobody complained about the Olivia Newton-John video last Monday, I'm going to stick my neck out and try to put a video on every Monday for a while (until I get tired of doing so): Mostly music videos, from the sublime to the ridiculous, inspiring or silly... Here we go....

Sunday, October 17, 2010

stones in the a.m., moss in the p.m.

When I walked into the coffee shop early this morning, "She's A Rainbow" was playing (1967, the Rolling Stones, from their album Their Satanic Majesties' Request).

"Wow," I say to the young woman behind the counter, "I've heard that song like five times in the past week, and before that I hadn't heard it in ages!"

"That's how it is with me and David Bowie," she says. "I go for months without hearing him at all, and then suddenly I hear him everywhere!"

"Maybe it's just a phase of the moon," I reply, and we agree that yep, that must be it.
This afternoon, I don my Randy Moss #84 jersey and head to the Vikings-Cowboys game. This is Moss's first home game since being back on the Vikings team, and the 65,000 fans there will go crazy seeing him again. Probably a quarter of those 65,000 fans will be wearing #84 Moss jerseys, which like me they kept hanging in the back of their closets since he was traded a few years ago. The ones who in the intervening years dropped their Moss jerseys off at Goodwill have regrets.
Hanging like a dark cloud over my normal activities these days are continuous thoughts of my brother-in-law John, in intensive-care in a hospital in New Jersey, his condition grave. I hate feeling helpless. I want him all well again......

Saturday, October 16, 2010

you know how i love the park

Some more gushing about the weather. Forgive me.
A gorgeous October Saturday afternoon. Another beautiful fall weekend that makes Minnesotans nervous: Is this the last one? And then there is the Minnesota guilt that maybe it's too nice: "But we really need some rain!"
After meeting Joan downtown for coffee, going home didn't seem like a good option, so I took my book with me and went over to one of the park benches at Loring Park, about a block from our condo. The fountains have been turned off until spring and it's a sweatshirt temperature, I guess, but I enjoyed sitting there reading and listening to the bells at the Basilica and watching the people walking and biking past me. Over on the other side of the lake, there was a wedding party taking photos. Definitely a good photo day. I took a few myself.
Just got an email from my son Tom. This afternoon in his bowling league, he got a 211, his highest score ever. Wow!

Friday, October 15, 2010

entertainment for a captive audience

My cousin Beverly (remember her? the ultimate Elvis fanatic? I told you about her August 16th) sent this email:
Just saw on TV where one of the Chilean miners was a die-hard Elvis
fan. He requested Elvis music sent down in the mine and would lead the
miners in Elvis sing-a-longs. Elvis Presley Enterprises has offered him
and a loved one an all expenses paid trip to Graceland. Remarkable how the
love of Elvis gets people through some rough times in their lives. I know
this is true.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

sports coming out our ears

Earlier this week, I had my car radio tuned to KFAN, the local sports-talk radio station, and part of that time as I listened I was wondering about the hosts and the callers-in, Do these people make sports their whole lives? How many times can you, for instance, analyze every detail of the Vikings-Jets game last Monday night?
But now I realize how full of sports my week is this week. Unusually so -- I might be setting a personal record! First, there I was watching the Vikings-Jets game on Monday Night Football; then I attended the pre-season home opener Tuesday for the Minnesota Timberwolves (basketball); tonight my son Tom and I are going to the Minnesota Wild regular-season home opener (hockey); Saturday I'll be watching the Phillies on TV as they continue in the playoffs to try to get to the World Series again (baseball); and Sunday, Jerry and I are going to the Vikings-Cowboys game at the Metrodome (football again).
I know it's just a short time when all four major professional sports games are going on at the same time, but as I am complaining that those KFAN listeners should be Getting A Life, I realize that this is a week when I had no life either!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

going underground

As I write this, the 33 Chilean mine workers that have been trapped 2,000 feet underground for 70 days are being brought to the surface, one by one (13 so far). The world, misty-eyed, is watching them being reunited with their families and friends. A feel-good story in the news, finally.

What an ordeal it must have been, in large part because at the beginning their rescue appeared doubtful.

But beyond that, wow, can you imagine spending 70 days underground, in a very confined space, with your co-workers?! I asked my co-worker Theresa, who has worked with me for 21 years this month, what that might be like. Let's just say, her response was not positive and pointed out some of the ickier sides of the situation: 70 days almost naked, with no shower, no deodorant, no toilet facilities.

And I wonder how soon you'd run out of things to talk about. Would you get in heated arguments, just to ease the boredom? Would you come up above ground being better friends or hating each other forever? Maybe the Chilean miners will give us some insight.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

day in court

I worked in downtown St. Paul for almost twenty years. We moved the office over here to Minneapolis seven years ago, but I find that I still have a certain fondness for downtown St. Paul. I just don't get to stroll the skyways over there much anymore, where once it was part of the daily routine.

Today I had to go over to St. Paul to testify in a client's divorce trial. I was sort of nervous about that -- it's kind of a contentious divorce -- but I stayed remarkably calm and relatively articulate, and, on some perverse level, I ended up enjoying being up there on the stand. Before I went to the courthouse, though, I had some time to kill and walked through the skyways and reminisced. Or maybe I just was missing being seven to twenty-seven years younger.

Stopped for lunch at a cajun fast-food place where I used to go there in the skyway (they have great bourbon-chicken), and the same people are still working there, and the lady was happy to see me.. "Long time no see!"... Then after lunch, I was walking by the security desk at our old office building, and the security person, a wonderful woman named Sabrina, called out to me and seemed excited to see me again.

There are times when it's nice to be anonymous in an urban setting, but it also feels kinda special to be recognized and remembered.

Monday, October 11, 2010

and now for something totally unexpected....

Turn on your sound and enjoy some music from 1980 (bad hair and all)...

(Actually, I'm just trying to figure out how to post a video)....

(click Play only once or you'll get double-exposure, and single-exposure is plenty)...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

ten ten ten

10/10/10. or 10.10.10. 10 October 2010 or October 10, 2010. Maybe a perfect 10 of a day? No, I guess the perfect "10" day was 10.10.1010, and I don't think that any of us remember that day, and did they even have calendars back then, and did anybody even have any idea what the date was? It was still the Dark Ages, you know.

As I was heading to the coffee shop this morning and feeling perfect temperatures and seeing fallen leaves everywhere but with a lot of colorful leaves still on the trees and as I enjoyed the autumn moment, I was thinking, Why can't we just freeze time right here and stay like this forever (Although I hesitate to use the word "freeze")?

Instead the moment passed, and now I'm in my office catching up on work (on a Sunday morning) and taking a couple minutes to blog with you fine folks.

Jerry is in San Juan, Puerto Rico for three days, for three reasons: To re-visit Puerto Rico now and then because he lived there for a year a couple decades ago and all of his memories of it aren't bad; to visit his good friend Jose; and mostly because he needed the frequent-flyer miles to keep his Delta Silver Medallion status (And fares to Puerto Rico are apparently cheap).

and uh-oh, I see on an Internet website that Brett Favre is in trouble. I need to get back to work and get the heck out of here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

it was seventy years ago today

It is hard to imagine what John Lennon would have been like at age 70. He was born seventy years ago today and was murdered thirty years ago December 8, and we were all cheated out of watching him grow older.
And in those forty years that he lived, what a difference he made. It's hard to imagine how our lives would have been different if there had been no Beatles, and, let's face it, John Lennon was the creative spark of the Beatles.
And it's also hard to imagine how our lives might have been different if he had still been with us the past thirty years, not only for his musical new directions but also as a voice and influence for peace and sanity.
Closer to home and on a more personal level, it was twenty-nine years ago today that my younger son Tom was born. I remember that day so well, and he has been a joy from Day One. We celebrated his birthday last night, had cake and ice cream up on the 21st-floor rooftop on a perfect evening, and in a few minutes I'm taking him out for a birthday breakfast. It's hard to imagine what life would have been without him the past almost-30 years!

Friday, October 8, 2010

i really don't want to get a flu shot

The office building sent emails about free flu shots yesterday, and then after work I walked over to the gym and there were signs at the front desk about free flu shots, and then there are of course signs over there at Walgreens and CVS.

And I guess a lot of people do get flu shots. I know this because I always seem to hear about it when they have a reaction to the shots and are under the weather for a day or so. But I haven't had a flu shot since 1976 (one of those swine-flu years), and I don't think I've had the flu in a couple decades. This makes me highly unmotivated to stand in line for a flu shot. And who knows what they put in those vaccines? Plus, it's 83 degrees outside: who can think about cold-and-flu weather?

Tempting fate? Falling into one of those "over-60" categories of people who should be getting flu shots but ignoring the warnings? The heck with it, I'll take my chances for another year. And if in a couple months, I'm blogging about being sick as a dog or coughing my brains out, try not to remind me.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

favre to moss

It was a big sports-news day yesterday, so let's recap!

Football: The New England Patriots traded wide-receiver Randy Moss back to the Vikings, and this has caused tremendous excitement here in Minnesota (except, of course, for those few contrarians who can't stand Randy Moss). What quarterback Brett Favre has lacked this season is an excellent pass receiver to throw to, and, in my humble opinion at least, Moss is the best. Let's hope that they have perfect chemistry together and can make the rest of this season entertaining at least and maybe even of champion caliber!

Baseball (2 days in a row!): The excitement from the Moss trade helped to offset the Twins' disappointing loss in the first playoff game with the Yankees. Everybody here is thinking, Oh no, here we go again, probably not getting past the first round of the playoffs.

But, for me, a Phillies fan, it was also a good day because the Phillies not only won their first playoff game, but their pitcher Roy Halladay threw for a no-hitter. There has not been a no-hitter in a post-season game since 1956! An amazing accomplishment.

And I won't blog again about sports tomorrow unless some other spectacular thing happens. :-)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

damn yankees

Today a lot of people here in downtown Minneapolis wore Minnesota Twins shirts to work. That's because, after work, a few blocks away, the baseball playoffs start. The Twins won their baseball division in impressive style. Reality, though, might hit them hard in the face now since the first (and maybe only) team they're meeting in the playoffs is their nemesis, the New York Yankees. In their last 18 meetings, Minnesota has won two games and the Yankees have won 16. Of course, everybody in the country other than Yankee fans hate the Yankees, so maybe all that hate flowing from around the U.S. will energize the Twins to victory.
Then, if somehow they get past the Yankees, the Twins will face either Texas or Tampa, and the winner of that match-up will go to the World Series to face the National League champ, which of course I'm hoping will be the Phillies. Philadelphia starts their playoffs tonight against Cincinnati. It's a lot of good teams to get past, but a Phillies-Twins World Series would be great, wouldn't it?
The Phillies were in the World Series last year, you know, but ended up losing to -- whoops, the Yankees. Damn!
Football note: I'm so glad I kept my Randy Moss Vikings jersey!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

facebook: the movie

A couple nights ago, I was able to drag Jerry away from his laptop and Facebook to go see the new movie about the founding of Facebook, The Social Network (see my blog post on September 16).

This film has opened to critical acclaim and box-office success. It is sort of a fictionalized/non-fiction story of how Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his Harvard dorm a few short years ago and how it has developed into a company worth billions.

I liked it. The film is very face-paced and engaging, and Jesse Eisenberg as Mark is totally convincing. Jerry liked it not quite as much, and I think that my sister Joan didn't like it much at all, finding the story not all that interesting. But for those of us who have made Facebook a part of our everyday lives, I guess that it's just a film to see.

Meanwhile, real-life Facebook dramas continue. People get happy with it for a while, and people sometimes get offended by thoughtless Facebook "friends", even to the point of dropping out of Facebook altogether. And then you miss them when they're gone and you hope they come back.

Monday, October 4, 2010

hymn-singing with garrison keillor

OK, I wasn't quite "singing". I don't do that. But I do listen.

And it was billed as "an old-fashioned hymn-sing", held at our church yesterday afternoon, led by Garrison Keillor, author and host of the radio program A Prairie Home Companion. I guess it was sort of a tip of the hat to "the evangelicals" in this decidely non-evangelical church.

Garrison grew up in a fundamentalist evangelical church, as did I and as did the music director of our church, and we're apparently still all "in recovery" from those days. Yet it felt sort of good to hear some familiar songs (I knew them all by heart), even though they are full of "blood" and "sin" and all the buzz words related to guilt. "If any of you grew up hearing rough preaching," Garrison told the audience, "this may be emotional for you." And maybe it was, a little, even though there is for me a total dis-connect theologically between me and these hymns. I think for most of the people there, though, these 150ish-year-old gospel songs were brand new.

Garrison Keillor seemed a lot older and more feeble than the last time I saw him, four years ago, by the way. I wonder if he would think the same about me!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

the heat is on

I hate myself for mentioning the weather again, but here it is.... and it's mostly all positive for the moment, so why not celebrate it? The past week has been one of the most beautiful early-autumn weeks that I have seen. The leaves are changing color, but the temperatures have been in the 70s for the most part. I have a friend Marty who says that his favorite weather is "shorts and sweatshirt" weather, so I know he is relishing these days.

A little blip on the radar now and then reminds us that these days are fleeting. Last night, the temperatures fell into the upper 30s, and, even though the next week will bring us temps back into the 60s and 70s, a killer frost can't be far behind.

Our 23-story condo building has either air conditioning or heat available to be turned on in the individual units, never both at once. This morning, there was a notice in the elevators: The heat has been turned on. Which means that, unless a freak heat-wave turns up anytime soon, we don't have an air-conditioning option until next spring. Ominous.

No reason to turn on heat yet for us, though. Let's open some windows and let the breeze flow through.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

my competitive brother

My brother Davy, who generally splits his time between San Antonio, Texas and Shanghai, China, called me on my cell phone yesterday from an Air Force base in Indiana, waiting for an Air Force military hop to Hawaii. He retired from the Air Force about twenty years ago and still has the benefit of getting cheap/free? military flights (as long as he doesn't mind no frills and being on standby indefinitely).

And why Hawaii, you ask? Well, first of all, Hawaii is Hawaii, and everybody should see Hawaii sometime. But also because Hawaii was one of the seven states that Davy had never been in, and I'm realizing that he and I are suddenly in a competition to see who visits all 50 states first. I have three to go, and now he will be down to six, and later this month he is coming to visit us in Minnesota with the intent of taking road trips from here to North Dakota and Iowa, which will bring him down to four.

So do I start booking flights to Oklahoma City and San Antonio and Portland, or let him win? Am I as competitive as he is? :-)

Friday, October 1, 2010

another downside of watching too much television

The political ads! They are mostly hideous, and the barrage will only get worse between now and November 2.

What is most appalling about them is how they have become totally devoid of substance. There is zero intelligent discussion of any issues. It's just negativity and distortion. And I say this about the campaigns even of the candidates that I support and will vote for.

The problem, other than of course that this is no way to operate an effective democracy, is that it turns off so many potential voters by Election Day that they don't go vote. Or is that part of the reason for the disgusting ads, to keep voter turnout down?