onsdag, april 26, 2006

Update: I'm NOT Dead (Yet)

Just working in Florida this week, no time to blog. Bugger all!

tirsdag, april 18, 2006

Memphis, I Hardly Knew You

I'm supposed to be in Memphis right now but I wound up spending six or seven hours in O'Hare Airport's G Concourse on Friday while two connecting flights to Memphis were cancelled and the third (and last Memphis flight of the day) was not looking good. They were even on fierce standby for the Saturday flights (since so many Memphis / Nashville flights had been cancelled due to god-knows-what--excessive sunshine or something).

So I chatted up (politely, as I do) a vaguely Arabic, accented ticketing agent named Eileen at Gate G9 while behind me everyone cussed and complained about another cancellation. A flight was leaving for Minneapolis in 30 minutes from this exact gate at which my latest Memphis attempt had been cancelled. So I said, "Can I just go home to Minnesota?" The standby list was 11-deep. I became number 12. But Eileen and I: hey, we were connected. Everyone was angry but I said to her, "I know you didn't personally cancel these flights. No worries."

She put a hand at on her heart. "You're so sweet to say that," she said.

I wore an Amsterdam shirt. She said she wanted to go there but was afraid. I asked why. She grinned slyly, turned her eyes away. She said, "They have very nice men." I said, "They're the tallest in the world, actually."

Now she touched her face and blushed a bit. She said, "I think we can get you on this flight." POOF! My name moved on the video screen standby list from Number 12 to Number 2. Awesome. I was given seat 3A. Awesome. Somedays I just have skills.

Still: NOT going to Memphis? Not awesome. Natch.

My poor suitcase didn't make it home until the middle of the night, and came back looking drunk and disorderly with one of those security cards inside to let me know they'd had a gander at my drawers. The deliveryman showed up at my apartment at 12:45, and, groggily, I trudged down to the front door with the heavy gait of a man who's had hip-replacement surgery and who has, apparently, just recovered his sight, if we're to judge by the pale swelling around his eyes and the way he blinks repeatedly like a mole in a kid's cartoon. I marked a CK on whatever piece of paper this delivery man held out. Good thing I'd fallen asleep in my clothes. I would have wandered down in anything or nothing at all. I was so tired I felt the pressure of the earth spinning through space against my head.

Up abruptly at 4:30, wide awake and with my thoughts smoldering. Dreamt again of Japan.

mandag, april 17, 2006

An Irish Note

Somewhere deep down in my DNA is a strain we call Irish, which American culture conveniently allows me to use as an excuse for excessive drink, irrational temper, artistic flights of fancy, maniacal frugality AND fiscal prodigality, grudge-harboring, vagabonding, loquacity, verbosity and heat stroke...should I care to take part in any of that. Regarding the last one, of course, I'm sort of at the mercy of Mother Nature, that capricious wench.

Now, I've been remiss in updating things here, and I dearly need to write up a note about getting stranded in Chicago and having to cancel my Memphis rambles because of it, but I'll have to do that catching up tonight. For midday here, having just inhaled a sandwich and bottle of wild berry "Flavor Splash" water (Outstanding, by the way), I would like to say SEE THE WILD COLONIAL BHOYS. The photo above has been stolen from their site (though I've written for permission). They were a duo last night, but that photo was snapped at the same venue in which I saw them.

Caught 'em last night at the Dubliner Pub here in Saint Paul on the tail of an Easter Rising ceremony and Irish history quiz (which we won, thanks to having a real Irish ringer on the team). Great fun, all around. Should write about the ceremony too. I carried the people's army flag. Anyhow....

The Bhoys are a gas. Sharp band. They play the Dub every Sunday, I think. Good use of traditional but upbeat acoustic guitar, good harmony (of that shout-along-with-me Irish sort), and slightly hoarse lead vocals that suggest a right fine background in music such as the Dropkick Murphys crank out.


torsdag, april 13, 2006


Keanu says, "Whoa." A reverse heart-transplant? Two hearts literally beating as one inside this little girl? Oy!

onsdag, april 12, 2006

Happy Days on Mars

Our friend, the Red Planet, is smiling at us. How sweet.

(Thanks due to Carlson for sending along this distraction. It's almost as good as Japanese robot news!)

tirsdag, april 11, 2006

Why Winter Isn't So Bad

After five months of winter, one is truly appreciative of warmer weather. Can you blame us? We'll take every minute we can outdoors now. I may even forego watching my precious Days midday and take a walk during this lunch hour instead.

Last night it was in the upper 60s, I think, so with the mums and grams in town, bro sis and I thought it'd be good to eat outside here in Cathedral Hill. We've many good restaurants on Selby, and during the warmer months we eat outdoors, drink coffee outdoors, wander like vagabonds outdoors. I called Frost to ask if the patio was open, but they were turning everything to voicemail (as if they're THAT busy), so I called the Vintage. I asked if the garden was open and she said, "Give us five minutes." "I'll give you 30," I said.

When we arrived, there were already six full tables or so. I popped into the restaurant to make sure we didn't need to check at the desk first. There wasn't a soul but a very lonely-looking bartender in there.

The corner of the garden was still littered with iron table legs and other detritus that will gain order as the weeks progress, but we'd caught the staff so entirely off-guard. They are saints for setting it all up.

A sauvignon blanc, a pizza and some fine conversation later, I felt for the first time this year that we might really be beyond the reach of winter and that the neighborhood's sun season would now govern our lives.

Fingers are crossed.

søndag, april 09, 2006

Park Point, Duluth

Duluth was needed…and so horribly easy to do that one (i.e., I) wonders why one (i.e., I) does not take 24-hour trips more often. The car’s willingness to fail at any moment comes to mind, but that’s a hideous excuse. I won’t use it. So:

I worked like mad Friday from 6 am to noon, which was not necessarily an easy feat on the tail of Thursday night’s Tartan Day celebration. I traveled in the way I normally do: pell-mell. Threw nearly a full clean load of laundry in a suitcase, sat upon it sitcom-style to close it—beads of sweat, unintended grunt—put two extra pair of shoes in a target bag, grabbed my computer, verified I was carrying a cash card (and id and proof of insurance) and hopped in the car. Like that, I was on my way.

Two hours and 30 minutes later, I descended upon the city of Duluth via its network of twisting bridges and over/under passes. I swept along the hillside and thought to myself, “The signage up here sucks.” (Clearly I had not yet decompressed if signage was on my mind. Hey: Relax your sphincter, animal.) I passed the stacks of taconite and gravel, the massive rail system for loading these heaps into barges, and frightfully angled cuts in the rocks upon which it’s all built and that made me think this place had a violent origin: all dynamite and death.

Have you seen this place? Driving in you’ll see many tall narrow homes in the hills, things that remind me of the homes in old American paintings—which is to say paintings depicted on the cover of Hawthorn books. I set up camp in the Radisson tower, the architecture of which resembles a kaleidoscope. It offers a “waterfront view,” which means the waterfront is 400 yards of parking lots and taconite offloaders away.

(Note: The Sleepnumber Bed is interesting, but I feel no change in my life from that. The waterfront, though, had power.)

Downtown Duluth is constructed of more shades of uninterrupted brown than a city should use, and the windowless white AT&T communication tower resembles something that might have been built by the Soviets or maybe China before the China boom, but all in all Duluth has a good vibe. It has the feeling of a city that knows it must make some changes; it’s just injuriously patient and cautious about making them. How ‘bout a little color Duluth? Just a little, really, would do wonders. Please take a page from other harbor towns.

The evening was going to be spent a mile down the road at Carmody’s, a not-yet-opened Irish pub for which my buddy Bill did the interior work. In the short span before that, and while I’d still some daylight, I drove out to Park Point, which is a little rugged beach at the end of a long spit seldom wider than 50 meters. The spit is largely a road with homes on either side. No side streets. From time to time, there’s a break in the houses to reveal scrub-spotted dunes and a little beach. That’s it. It’s a sandbar with a park at the end.

So I parked out a ways, out where it feels like the end, though I can't be sure it is, and crossed over the wooden boardwalk that opens onto the beach and Lake Superior. I’d one of only two cars in the lot, and I paused a moment before the water was in view.

Large bodies of water are redemptive even for those of us who live so far inland. Perhaps in this portion of the country we also have the advantage of the sound of wind whipping through the arms of old white pines, and that sound very much resembles the sound of waves about to break; but we do not have as easy access as we’d like to open water. Lake Superior, cold though it is, is a gem.

A ways down, a young woman sat beneath a green blanket with two kids. They sat upon a rotted birch log, and while I stood watching the waves they rose and walked towards me. They seemed to contemplate leaving. There was some sort of discussion and the children kept very close to her sides, though it did not seem to be for warmth and one of them seemed too old for such clinginess. I wondered if perhaps she was not their mother but an older sister, or maybe they were people in extreme circumstances: homeless or from a broken home or on the run...as such a group could be in a mid-80s movie. You’d root for them.

You would.

So they walked toward me. It took them 5 minutes for they walked slow and the sand was heavy.

I’d been warm when I stepped onto the boardwalk but now that I was on the beach I zipped up my sweatshirt and kept my hands in my pockets. I remembered a description from a Wallace Stegner novel about a man whose coat pockets were loose as if he’d long walked about with apples in them.

They approached. They said nothing. They passed very near me and stood not far away. We all watched the water rolling over itself, listened to its shushing. My nose began to run in the chill. Not even the gulls were out with us.

In a different place in my life, even a week on either side of this encounter, I might have said something to them. I might have sought that story. But I took the time as my own. They didn’t seem to be in a dangerous situation, but I sensed they were lonely. It was just they’d caught me on a day on which I very much wanted to be alone with the water.

I left. When I looked back, they were watching me and starting a slow walk in the direction of the boardwalk. The scrub grass poking from the dunes lashed at the wind. For a moment, I thought I’d made a mistake, so I waited in my car to see if they came over the hill. I waited to see if they’d show up and signal me and I’d find out all the awful things I once imagined were true. But they remained on the beach. For all I know, they’re still there, and they’re playing with my thoughts.

fredag, april 07, 2006


Ah, the sewer. I grew up 600 feet from the city sewage plant. When they opened the locks on a hot summer day, it could be (and was) stifling. I’ve burned into my mind the image of teenagers with turtlenecks pulled up to their eyes as they slink past the sewage yard.

Did I ever own a turtleneck? Maybe a mock turtleneck—I mock you, turtleneck!—but never a full-blown one. I’m sure of it. I couldn’t have; I just don’t like things on my neck.

I’m rationalizing.

At any rate, I’m thinking of sewers. I watched an episode of Bones recently that prominently used a society of sewer people. Many points of the god-awful Demolition Man movie (Sandra Bullock, Sly Stallone, Wesley Snipes) make me laugh, and it’s a good laugh. (Seriously.) That has a sewer society. Zombies crawled out of the sewer in Whacko’s mid-80s “Thriller” video. And, of course, there’s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…who seem to have made a comeback in pop culture. I swear they went down for the count in 1993. Maybe they just went into the sewers?

Today, it’s the open manhole plotline on Days that I find horribly wonderful. I was disgusted to see they used the open manhole initially as a half-baked way for Shawn to save Belle. She's distressed over the recent marriage of Shawn and Mimi—whose hump calls travel through the building’s air vents into her apartment. Oh, her heart still pines for Shawn. So a distracted, upset Belle wanders out in the middle of the night, head down, arms folded. She trips. Slow motion! I realize that this is the sewer society plotline I’ve craved. Alas, Shawn is out mailing a letter. He sprints over, saves her.

“I don’t know why the city leaves these things open,” he says.

Crap. I cussed at the screen. I said, "Ahhhh! It would have been so much more fascinating to have Belle fall into a sewer society with sewer people!"

Oh, but the gods of Days heard my calls. Later in the show, Bo gave Chelsea the right fine talking to she's deserved for MONTHS, and in her distressed state of havin' been told exactly what one ought to say to her connivin’ self, she went out walking on this street I swear to you has NEVER been on the show, and OH! OH! she falls in that same manhole.

She's unconscious now in the fog-riddled sewer. It looks like an elf kingdom down there, sans elves. Awesome. Can you say Ninja Turtles? Can you say orcs?

tirsdag, april 04, 2006

Excuse My Language, But ...

We're growing bladders in a lab. BLADDERS. We're taking bladder cells and GROWING new fucking bladders.

I can't control my language or awe with that. Sorry, but that's really fucking strange and cool and very very creepy.

This recalls to me a scene from Swamp Thing. The villains just chopped off Swamp Thing's right arm. He's chained to a wall. They leave the room. So Swamp Thing, being mostly plant matter, strains to get his stump arm into sun light. He's waiting for the sun to angle enough. He needs this arm, baby, if he's going to get out of this thing alive. C'mon Swamp Thing!

There it is! The sun! The light hits his arm, photosynthesis rages, and Swamp Thing regrows his friggin' arm, breaks out, and, we can assume though I don't have a memory of it, exacts revenge.


So as not to end on a profane note, allow me to quote for you the tagline to Wes Craven's 1982 cinematic production of Swamp Thing:

"Science transformed him into a monster. Love changed him even more!"

Here's hoping we can all be a little more like Swamp Thing as we sally forth into an ever more incomprehensible future.

mandag, april 03, 2006

Sort of Fresh

Lunch and I'm feeling only mildly up to speed. Good thing it's a Bo-Hope, Frankie-Jennifer day on Days, which means I can work through lunch...not that one should, but when necessary, hey: The Frankie-Jennifer plotline is so boring one needs not be concerned.

(Crap. Why all the e-mail content on the show? It's riveting, really, to watch characteres stare at computer screens.)

Of late, it seems only about half of each episode of Days is fresh. I suppose this is the mode in soap tv now. They have to pay the actors for each episode on which they appear (whether filmed for that day, one day's shooting spread out over mulitple episodes, or shown as flashback), but they don't have to pay all the set workers. I'm sure of that.

So, yes, half an episode. What with commercials every five to seven minutes, I suppose we have 15 minutes of new footage in an hour drama, if that, per day. The rest is flashbacks to the previous episode and recent episodes; you know, get people up to speed. Have they tired of doing this with dialogue? Example: "Do you mean to tell me that you're giving up on your love for Bo? Your soul mate? The man you've been with for 25 years? You're giving up even though you are both suffering over the death of your son Zach due to the negligent driving of Bo's daughter Chelsea? Even though the two of you have been through so many other things, such as when Bo saved you from Stefano's island prison? Even though he's the father of your son Sean who's just married my sister Mimi?" Must have tired of it. The white-washed flashback is queen.

Most entertaining: They just showed an extended montage from 20 years ago. Bo and Hope on a boat, a la Duran Duran's "Rio" video. The accompanying music I'd heard before, so I did a search and found the Bo and Hope song by one Kelly Moneymaker.

Again, lunch. Ate a bean and rice burrito bigger than a brick. The motherly woman who took the order frowned at me and skimped on the black beans. The daughterly woman next to her smiled and gave me extra guacamole. Lovely.

Morning Distractions

Much to do and am running about like a chicken with its head cut off (Lara, you lovely chicken, thanks for sending the above manifestation), but if you need distractions, please check out a trip to the movies from one of my favorite blogs, Lorie Stories. Good narratives over there.

Also, I found a disc with more than 80, single-spaced, 10-pt-font-blanketed pages of e-mail sent to friends, co-workers, and industry colleagues from the last two of five years spent working in a typical office. I'm unpacking some of that former life this week at the Crush.

søndag, april 02, 2006


On Saturday, I went into Minneapolis for the late morning and early afternoon because it was sunny. I’d just had a haircut and was feeling light as a feather (though softer in the middle, natch). So began a day of vagabonding.

At the Local, I ate Irish breakfast and regretted that I’d misread the fixtures. The Man U match had already ended, but they’d put the pressure on Chelsea, so that was good. Munster rugby came on, so I stayed to watch and write. (Munster is more successful but just as luckless as the Cubs.) While I don't follow much sport carefully, I do find myself more interested in these things in the spring, perhaps as motivation to shed some winter weight.

Loaded with sausage and coffee, I began wandering about the Nicollet area of Minneapolis between 12th and 9th. Lots of folks were out enjoying these first cool days of spring, but it’s lovely to be outdoors, so we’ll accept the chill and wander with a smile. Café workers were power-cleaning the outdoor tables in preparation of the lounging season. I could feel everyone’s anticipation for the outdoor half of the year. There was just a good energy on the walk. People sat straighter, they talked easily, they waited patiently at stop lights.

Perhaps for the sake of international parity, I stopped at Brit’s for an early afternoon pint of Newcastle and a bit of Newcastle’s football match against Hotspur. (Sidenote: A couple beers of an afternoon are really far more satisfying and relaxing than the same amount in the evening. Further proof we do things backwards?) A grizzled man with UK accent next to me at the bar complained that the chips weren’t crisp enough, though I could hear them shattering in his mouth and gave him a bemused look about it. “I told ‘em to burn ‘em,” the bartender insisted. “Aye,” the man said. “They’ll learn.”

Home again, typed up some writing on what continues to be a bottomless novel, a well without walls. Took two phone calls long distance (great laughs, thanks for those, friends) and felt compelled to seek out a cat named Ian who often hangs at the Dub and who tells great stories...so long as you catch him early enough in the day.

So in I walk through the Dub’s backdoor. I’d snared the last spot in the parking lot—already an odd occasion: Why so full?—and now wandered into a mess. The place was full of kids, parents, oftdowells, and a number of wrinklies. They’d pushed all the tables from the center to create two long tables at the back and two bake sale tables in a split L at the front. In the open middleground, there atop the old well-scarred floorboards, they paired up while a man called out odd directions. On the small, slightly raised stage sat musicians armed with two flutes (one keyless), a banjo, a fiddle, and an accordion that seemed to have been fabricated from an old hardcover dictionary and heavy typewriter keys. It had such a lovely, crazed organ sound. Really interesting.

To the side of the stage sat three bodhran players. They began to play.

Abruptly the place filled with commotion. The players wailed on their instruments. The unskilled dancers thundered away. Rosy-cheeked girls in black tights and long black skirts kicked and hopped through the dance lines. Men whooped. Everyone was grinning. They grabbed one another, they spun one another. They clapped and stomped and bumped into those of us who'd pressed ourselves against the bar trying to avoid the melee.

I asked the bartender, “Who is this group?” He shrugged. I said, “Do they just come in and take over the joint?” and he said, with something of an I-can't-wait-for-the-shift-change smirk, “They sure as fuck did today.” Indeed.

On it went, tune by tune. Different dances were called for. Their joy was evident. I was reminded of what Kassandra had said on the kilt night about how she needed to be patient with her daughter. “She’s just a teenager,” Kassandra said. “And she has breasts. That’s really the best thing about that age.”

But here for the Irish dance they came in all manner of forms and awkwardness, boys and girls. I was really surprised at how many of them were there and participating and really embracing it. I don't mean to be sentimental about it. That's not how it felt. True, it was just a brief point in the day and week, and it harried the inner peace of the bartender, but for a moment they all seemed quite comfortable with themselves and one another. They'd received a stay upon judgment and moved without doubt.
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