in the woods

This is my first blackberry post. Since my thumbnails are so short I’ll have to pick my words wisely. This might be too much pressure. I’ll get on with it.

I’m writing from the woods in south central Minnesota. The stars look like they did in a 1967 episode of Star Trek. I can’t prove they are real. The crickets sound authentic, though.

I’m on the balcony of a lodge in an attempt to get a quiet moment after being surrounded by children – but they’re still darting all over the place – gimme a break, it’s almost 10 PM and these kids have been running at full speed all day!

Anyway, our angel of a child is asleep, and this moment in Lutheran paradise is ruined for me because other people’s children are less perfect than ours.

Signing off under a full moon, which may in part be responsible foe the behavior of these rascals…

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318 Cafe

What follows is my first attempt at a musical review.  This is going to be a little awkward for me since, in my own mind, I have some real existential problems with critics in general.  But I think a critic is fulfilling a useful role if they adhere to the age old addage of “If you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all.”  Sounds simplistic, but since I thought about that comment for about 30 seconds prior to typing it in at this internet cafe terminal,  as a personal favor to me, please accept it as a universal truth. 

 Okay, I thought some more and need to qualify the comment above.  It only applies to criticism of the arts, not digital cameras, not machettes, and not clumping kitty litter.  I think that just about covers it.

Now that I’ve vanquished any lingering doubts you might have about my credibility, we’re ready to proceed.

So last night my wife an I drove to a little cafe in Excelsior, Minnesota to hear one of our favorite artists, Becky Schlegal, perform (with Brian Fessler.)  Turns out this was a particularly good deal because Kevin Bowe and Dan Israel were also part of the gig.  All three were, at one time or another, winners in the Minnesota Music Awards… a fact humbly conveyed to the audience at one point, eliciting the following thoughtful comment from Kevin:  “We envy us.”

The 318 Cafe creates an almost communal dining environment during showtime with several long tables perpendicular to the performance area.  My wife and I were pleasantly startled when we were seated at the end of the center table closest to the stage.   Kevin warned me that Becky had a tendency to spit when she sang, which brought me back to the last time I was sprayed by a performer – by Frank Black, in fact, in the middle of a Pixies mosh pit decades earlier in Omaha, Nebraska.   I remember when I used the restroom at that concert that the sink had about 3 pints of fresh blood in it.

I sensed I wasn’t in for the same thing here, though.  My fellow diners were quite a bit more senior than I’d expected, so a mosh pit would have resulted in at least 5 or 6 broken hips.  No, the setting was very low key, and both the service and food were great.  Given my proximity to the band, I had the pleasure of eavesdropping on their banter as they set up, munching on my turkey and brie sandwich.  Kevin was clearly the wise guy of the bunch, Dan the proud young father, Brian the grinning picker and Becky the radiant, approachable Dakotan we’d expected.

Things got started on an uneasy note when Kevin, sensing a level of comfort in the crowd he was uncomfortable with,  announced to the crowd:  “So, Dan and I are jews.  That’s what we do.”  Near as I could tell, I was the only one convulsing in response to that comment, save a few of the performers family and friends in the back.  The other performers seemed to be battle hardened to Kevin’s humor and bided their time until it was meat and potatoes time, in the musical sense.

Becky and Brian started on the far left, followed by Dan and then Kevin.  Beautiful guitars abounded – Becky and Brian on Martins, Dan on a Taylor cutaway, and Kevin on a big ol’ Alvarez 12 string.  Becky could have been lip syncing to her CDs, which is exactly what we’d hoped for.  Dan was full of upbeat, choppy energy and Kevin supplied the dark side in spades via black lyrics and deft sitar like 12 string playing.  Throughout, Brian Fessler was supplying surgical picking accompanyment that seemed a genetic match for whatever it was that he was picking up on.  His contribution, along with Kevin’s knack for the verbally absurd were perhaps my favorite elements of the show.

It was easily worth the drive for us.  It even made me forget about my hemhorroids, if only for a precious couple of hours.  I can deliver no better compliment than that.

Belly buttons, chalk, and a warm taste in one’s mouth

Well, yesterday I somehow felt really invigorated to write in the blog.  Tonight I’m feeling uninspired, yet obligated to write – perhaps for the generations to follow, ’cause there’s a grand total of nada reading this blog as of yet.  I might try adding a few categories like “Nice Russian girl,” “Wholesome co-ed,” or “Ballerina body” to see if that makes a difference.

For lack of any real substance I’ll ramble about the days events. 

ACT I

I had a conversation with an old friend, well placed in a significant corporate heirarchy, who told me about a meeting he’d attended.  If memory serves it had something to do with a female lawyer leaving the company under good conditions, characterized, unfortunately, by the speaker as leaving with “a warm taste in her mouth.”  Unfortunate indeed.

ACT II

My wife was out  of town with her mother and our daughter, and arrived home about the same time I did.  She’d done a little shopping, and inevitably, that means our child ends up with another toy or some similar space occupying posession.  This time it was sidewalk chalk, and provided my wife and I showed absolutely unswerving attention for the duration of the play period, she had a ball.  The following is the layman’s guide to drawing pictures that meet our daughter’s specifications.  These are the top six an aspiring art entertainer for our daughter needs to be fluent in, as a minimum:

Ava People

“Gaga,” is of course grandma.  Mind you, my renderings are no masterpieces, especially given the fact that they are normally accomplished with my left hand while my right hand is trying to change a light bulb with our daughter tugging at my elbow.  But they’re still better than what you see above, which were drawn in the Windows Paint program with a touch pad for a mouse, with my laptop on my stomach as I reclined on the couch.  Given those conditions I’m quite proud of how they came out.Daddy looks like Satan, which is technically incorrect.  Everyone else is photo-realistic in the extreme. 

So we spent the afternoon drawing perhaps 6 or 7 of each of these on the driveway, per our little taskmaster’s specifications.  As of the other day there are “beeg” and normal sized versions of each, and our daughter was clear in her expectation along these lines.

ACT III

I’m really running out of momentum here, as you can see by the fact that my content is degenerating progressively into yuppee parent speak.  But grant me one more foray into this realm – which is a description of Ava’s belly button behavior.  It comes to mind because she was doing it almost frantically today as my wife and I labored on our obligatory family imagery in the 92 degree heat.  Her habit is to lift her shirt, look at her belly button and exclaim “Hi Em Em (belly button.”  Then, after a period of time, she’ll lower her shirt and say “Bye Bye Em Em.”

This caused my mind to wander, which is not recommended when rendering artwork for our daughter, because any departure from the image templates (as depicted above,) however subtle, is absolutely not tolerated.  But I couldn’t help but think the “Hi/Bye Bye Em Em” thing could be a useful device in meetings.  It could perhaps serve as a polite means to convey that a participant no longer finds value in participation.  That is to say, a conversation with one’s belly button is more productive than anything that could occur in the meeting.  I’ll have to try that and report back- or, if any of you readers beat me to the gun, more power to you.

Belly buttons, chalk, and a warm taste in one’s mouth

Well, yesterday I somehow felt really invigorated to write in the blog.  Tonight I’m feeling uninspired, yet obligated to write – perhaps for the generations to follow, ’cause there’s a grand total of nada reading this blog as of yet.  I might try adding a few categories like “Nice Russian girl,” “Wholesome co-ed,” or “Ballerina body” to see if that makes a difference.

For lack of any real substance I’ll ramble about the days events. 

ACT I

I had a conversation with an old friend, well placed in a significant corporate heirarchy, who told me about a meeting he’d attended.  If memory serves it had something to do with a female lawyer leaving the company under good conditions, characterized, unfortunately, by the speaker as leaving with “a warm taste in her mouth.”  Unfortunate indeed.

ACT II

My wife was out  of town with her mother and our daughter, and arrived home about the same time I did.  She’d done a little shopping, and inevitably, that means our child ends up with another toy or some similar space occupying posession.  This time it was sidewalk chalk, and provided my wife and I showed absolutely unswerving attention for the duration of the play period, she had a ball.  The following is the layman’s guide to drawing pictures that meet our daughter’s specifications.  These are the top six an aspiring art entertainer for our daughter needs to be fluent in, as a minimum:

Ava People

“Gaga,” is of course grandma.  Mind you, my renderings are no masterpieces, especially given the fact that they are normally accomplished with my left hand while my right hand is trying to change a light bulb with our daughter tugging at my elbow.  But they’re still better than what you see above, which were drawn in the Windows Paint program with a touch pad for a mouse, with my laptop on my stomach as I reclined on the couch.  Given those conditions I’m quite proud of how they came out.Daddy looks like Satan, which is technically incorrect.  Everyone else is photo-realistic in the extreme. 

So we spent the afternoon drawing perhaps 6 or 7 of each of these on the driveway, per our little taskmaster’s specifications.  As of the other day there are “beeg” and normal sized versions of each, and our daughter was clear in her expectation along these lines.

ACT III

I’m really running out of momentum here, as you can see by the fact that my content is degenerating progressively into yuppee parent speak.  But grant me one more foray into this realm – which is a description of Ava’s belly button behavior.  It comes to mind because she was doing it almost frantically today as my wife and I labored on our obligatory family imagery in the 92 degree heat.  Her habit is to lift her shirt, look at her belly button and exclaim “Hi Em Em (belly button.”  Then, after a period of time, she’ll lower her shirt and say “Bye Bye Em Em.”

This caused my mind to wander, which is not recommended when rendering artwork for our daughter, because any departure from the image templates (as depicted above,) however subtle, is absolutely not tolerated.  But I couldn’t help but think the “Hi/Bye Bye Em Em” thing could be a useful device in meetings.  It could perhaps serve as a polite means to convey that a participant no longer finds value in participation.  That is to say, a conversation with one’s belly button is more productive than anything that could occur in the meeting.  I’ll have to try that and report back- or, if any of you readers beat me to the gun, more power to you.

July 4th Unprovoked Insect Attack

Shortly after posting the previous post I realized I was out of options as far as avoiding cutting the lawn went.  I knew activity would ramp up as we approached grill and fireworks time, so I thought I’d ease the pain by getting the lawn done ahead of time.  I hate cutting the lawn, and to make matters worse, the “self propelled” of my machine left me a couple of years ago… so I’ve been pushing this mower with at least several pounds of dead weight attached since then.

But there’s something to be said for ultimately attending to a task, no matter how repugnant.  One minute into cutting the lawn I was feeling pretty good about myself when I felt a searing pain on the inner forearm of my right arm.  I danced a quick jig in an attempt to extract myself from whatever was causing thepain, but when I looked, alas, there was nothing there but a pretty large red lump.  Nothing shocking so far, but the problem was that five minutes later the lump had become an island in a sea of disgusting, very three dimensional hives.  I was determined to finish the lawn, so rare was this moment of near satisfaction, so I pressed on.  The hives continued to spread until I placed myself in the bath after finally finishing – at which point, everything miraculously disappeared.

 I must admit, though, given the level of trepidation about July 4th manifested in my previous posts, things went pretty well.  The steaks I grilled were edible, I did not set myself (or my neighbor) on fire, and the fireworks were thoroughly enjoyed by my daughter from afar (our front lawn.)

My prayers answered, I go to bed humbled, happy to still be in  my skin.

Fear of Failure on the 4th of July

I have a gas powered grill that scares the crap out of me.  Not because there’s anything wrong with the grill… rather, it’s because I only attempt to use it one or two times a year and consequently have to consult the bloodstained directions that came with it every time I light it up.  On top of that, as the MAN OF THE HOUSE, I feel as though it’s expected that my grilling skills be developed to the point that guests don’t have to rush home with a “sitter emergency” before they take their first bite of food.  But when that happens, it’s of little consequence since I’m so relieved that I didn’t become enveloped in flames during the startup process and end up running down the street, a screaming, unguided missile leaving a trail of smoldering fleshy footprints smelling like chicken.

Plus, I had a choking incident 7 or 8 years ago.  I’d grilled chicken that was safe, in the sense that the meat was the texture of starched cotton – so well cooked, it was.  However it was unsafe insofar as it caught in my throat and made me think I was having a heart attack.  How ironic, to be a military veteran, and to die on the 4th of July in the manner of Momma Cass.  I didn’t die, but felt terrible for several hours.  The next week I was told by the doctor that I should probably get an endoscopy, which was a strangely comfortable experience.  Turns out I suffered from a condition known as Schatzki’s Ring, which basically prevents one from swallowing when it’s flared up.  Prevented me from swallowing, too.  My ring had to be dilated, and I had foggy memories of the doctor mumbling something to that effect after I awoke from the procedure.   The guy on the bed next to mine awoke about when I did, but instead of being reflective about what he’d just gone through, he took to dancing a little jig around the room with his ass hanging out of the gown.  I made sure my privates were covered and returned to reflecting.

The birth of our child 19 months ago adds more pressure to the whole situation.  Do we go see fireworks, i.e., compete violently for a parking spot, haul our incredibly complex baby support system to a decent viewing location in 112 degree weather, only to find out that somebody pushed over the Porta-potty and the firworks aren’t starting for another 2 hours (did I mention my stomach would likely contain 7  beers and 2.2 pounds of fiery buffalo wings?)  Also, at her age it’s a distinct possibility that our child will be horrified by the sound, and we’d have to evacuate in the dark, stepping on people’s groins and tuna sandwiches along the way in the absence of any discernable escape route (that’s undiscernable without the beers.)

 So it’s a fearful day for me.  I’ll ask that you join me at this point in a word of prayer:

Heavenly Father, allow me the meager accomplishment of cooking edible food on this, our nation’s Holy Day.  Provide me with the strength to serve my own interests over those of my child on this day as I struggle with the primordial question of whether or not to attend fireworks.  Amen.

Oh, and one more thing:

If anyone is to burst into flames or lose fingers, let it be my neighbor.  I’m sure his pain threshold is higher than mine, but his IQ is much lower.  Amen.

Happy 4th, everybody… especially you readers in East Timor!

Initial burst of flatulence

Pardon me while I fend of my 19 month old, joyfully engaged in trying to yank my blackberry out of it’s holster.  Here’s what she looks like:

Ava

If you feel compelled to comment that I (header guy) am much more attractive than my daughter, you wouldn’t be the first to say so.  But that makes her that much more loveable.

 She’s given up on trying to get my blackberry… something about my having broken a beer bottle and waved it menacingly in her face I suppose.  She’s now occupied with attempting to yank large chunks of fur out of our docile little Shih Tzu, Jesse.  He needs to learn a little aggression, so I’ll let them work it out. 

Yeah, I’m getting older.  I tried to capture a rumination I recently had on the subject thusly:

            Sitting before this window, I see myself before a similar window in 30 years time.  Marinating in my own bodily fluids, blessed with a singularity of thought that precludes a pre-occupation with the wretched nature of my physical state, my hobbled mind tills the soil of years gone by.  Forever fertile, this field of memories, with nuance gained and lost with each pass of the plow. 

The wonders of science provide for the possibility that I will become living detritus well before my ultimate passing, maintained to the very end by those paid to do so.  Those being they who will have never sampled the opiate of a dysfunctional consciousness, or grimaced in the face of searing realities laid bare by unfortunate forays into lucidity.

I’ll have become a stationary target indeed, for that mysterious force of nature for which I am being fattened. 

Geeze, I can’t control this html editor to save my life. I’m not against random formatting, though… random thoughts either, as you may have gathered by now.  Be forwarned that I stand poised to comment on the controversies of the day.  I would ask that my readers understand that I don’t have a research staff, nor any particular inclination to be informed of the facts pertaining to whatever I choose to comment on.  It’s all about process, and the willingness to blurt out semi congealed thoughts, independent of the baggage familiar to writers that are hung up on tired old concepts like voracity and (my favorite) “TRUTH IN JOURNALISM.”  We’ll see how things shape up from here.