27 August 2009

Who is this?


Every afternoon at the parking garage, I see this car and wonder about the person who drives it. This happens almost every day.
What is the story? Why the mountain of poptarts, baby diapers, magazines, cereal and junk mail. Why is there so much trash in the car that the driver (I'm almost certain it is a woman) can barely see out the windows?


Is the person homeless, mentally disturbed, both? Perhaps just a slob? I'm drawn to the car. I want to stand there and stare at the contents, put together the puzzle of the life of the occupant.

23 August 2009

It's a ball building, not a ball park


This weekend we drove downtown in search of the new Twins ballpark, Target Field. It's hard to find. You can tell where it is by the big Twins sign that occasionally peaks at you when you are at just the right angle on just the right street. But, it is not a downtown landmark that immediately grabs your attention.
The baseball purist in me applauds the movement of the Twins field out of doors. With the mild summers here this could one of the best places in the country to watch a ball game in July and August, that is, if you can get over the fact that with the DH it is a counterfeit version of baseball that you are watching. Recognize, however, that this is not a baseball town, it's a hockey town. While you have a handful of diehards here, filling a stadium requires a commitment from the casual fan as well. The casual fan is not going to pack this place when the weather calls for stadium blankets, schnapps, and mittens.
As I search downtown for Target Field, I realize it is not a ball PARK, in the conventional sense, it is a roofless building where they play baseball. Wrigley is a ball park, you can get there early, walk around it, grab lunch, haggle with a scalper, etc. Same with the center of the universe (Busch Stadium) and every other ball park I've ever been to. A baseball stadium should be a place that invites fans to get to know the feel of the place, hang around, talk to the locals, get a sense of what the field means to those who live it. Even out of season, it should be a place where people want to get close to, a place where in the dead of winter you can stand and dream of summer. It should be a place that a baseball fan would gladly detour to if passing through the city late at night. That happens in Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland, Boston, New York, all the time. I once was in Chicago with my oldest daughter in November. We went to Wrigley just to see it. All ball parks should be that welcoming to fans, have that special feel, even when the lights are out.
You cannot walk around the new Target Field. You can drive by it, have a wreck on the interstate while looking for it, take the light rail to it, but you cannot walk around it. It butts up against an array of other buildings, including the Target Center, where the timberwolves play their special version of basketball. You can't get a peak inside and see the field. There is no baseball feel to it.
Were it not for the Twins signage, you could drive by this building and not know you were passing a baseball stadium. Maybe things will change by opening day, and there's something i'm missing. I hope so.

22 August 2009

My one and only post on fashion

What Not to Buy: An open letter to the PR flaks out there#links

I lament the decline in appropriate dress for church over the 80's and 90's. The Christian community has tried to reach out to non-attenders and make it clear that it's ok to come to church right from work or school, regardless of how you are dressed or your clothes budget. That is the right attitude. When I was a kid poor people felt unwelcome in church because they didn't have nice clothes. We made them feel that way, God didn't.

Unfortunately some regular church goers at my church have taken this as a signal that coming to the house of the Lord is similar to going to Wal-Mart. I can dress however I want based on what is convenient for me. Coming into this building is about me, not about Him. Even at Easter and Christmas. I'm sure tomorrow my church will have its share of Vikings fans wearing Brett Favre jerseys. Sigh. Or old men in shorts showing their respect for the house of the Lord in all their grungy summer finery.

Two weeks ago I saw a man at church wearing a t-shirt with the caption, "My rod and my reel they comfort me". That's not even humorous outside of church, but what was this guy thinking. I'm going to corrupt scripture, put it on my clothes, and wear it into the house of the Lord... so people will know I like to fish??!? That's a great reason to take the Eucharist. Anyway, I'm being judgemental, I know.

But I found a great post along a much funnier line, see link above. I stumbled across the blog recently and while i'm not focused, at all, on fashion or decorating, the writing style is excellent. The series of blogs are addictive.

19 August 2009

Woman

A few months ago I found myself watching a dance scene from one of the teenage beach movies of the 60's. The Frankie and Annette genre. The girls in the bikinis all had one thing in common. Today they would be considered fat. They had hips, a tummy, and legs that looked like they were meant to transport this healthy torso around for many years. They would not make it on a beach movie today, or any episode of the old "Baywatch".

So, this post has been brewing in the brain for a while and finally composed as I sit and watch my daughter and wife take in the latest episode of "Project Runway".

Before anorexia became a trait of beauty, there were women on television and in the movies.


Maureen O'Hara


Real, normal, female humans. Not fat, not skinny, somewhere inbetween, give or take.




Donna Reed



When I was a kid and mad at my parents I wanted a mom like Donna Reed and a dad like Fred McMurray. Perfect folk who never got mad at their kids, never spanked them, never sent them to their room. I digress.






Ann Rutherford

These women were beautiful but not unbelievably so. Not perfect. Look at them a while and you'll find something you don't like. A nose too big, lips too thin, crooked smile... you know, humans. Healthy, tough, well fed. Like our grandmothers or great grandmothers these were the type that, if they had to.... could survive wartime or famine or pestilence. At least they look like they could. Or make it a few days without food. Carry a weapon, hoe a field, raise a roof. Illness hits and they've got the constitution to fight off the normal physical calamites and assure that the family survives.
Elizabeth Montgomery

When God created the first woman, I know she probably didn't look like Elizabeth Montgomery.







Woman

But, perhaps something like this Somali woman. In any event all of these are closer to what a woman looks like than the sacks of bones stumbling down Project Runway.

16 August 2009

Golden Eagle

We moved here in 2003. One of the things we miss the most are the peaches from Calhoun County, Illinois, just over the Mississippi River and about 30 miles north of our old neighborhood. From downtown St. Louis it's about the quickest way to get real rural real quick. If I was ever running from the law, I've always thought Calhoun County would be a good place to lay low. It's a maze of cornfields, peach orchards, hills, gullies, farm roads and thickets. (Of course, I can't do that now, its the first place you'd look for me. )

Nearly every August we would take the Golden Eagle Ferry from St. Charles, MO to Golden Eagle Illinois and load up on peaches. Like you, I've eaten a lot of peaches in my life, many from Georgia and South Carolina. They're good but cannot match these.

Since leaving Missouri, every summer the topic of peaches comes up, in particular these peaches from this one county in Illinois.... how good they are, how much we miss them, how juicy they were. The taste of a fresh peach is the taste of summer. And every August when the peach harvest was at its fullest, I'd say "let's drive down there some weekend". The response from the family was always, "that's crazy". Drive all the way to St. Louis for peaches!?

That's what they said but it's not what they mean. What they meant was. wouldn't it be great if one summer someone in our family was that wacko and would do the crazy, the weird, the bizarre, and actually make the 1000+ mile round trip for peaches.

The house was empty this week and a Saturday was approaching with nothing on the schedule. 4 am Saturday morning, i'm on the treadmill, getting in my run. 5am I'm in the car, heading south on I-35. Just over the Iowa border, I picked up the Avenue of the Saints and headed for Calhoun County.

The drive down was perfect, but rainy on the Minnesota section coming back. Most of it was through Iowa. Every American should drive across Iowa in the summer. It won't help you understand the country any better, but its a part of America that gets this special beauty when the crops are nearing their peak. The winter drive is not so nice. But in the summer.... Cornfields that make the term "amber waves of grain" come to life. Silos, farms, farmers in every direction. And there were many other little things that wove through the day. On the way down, doughnuts at the BP station in Floyd, IA. On the way back, a meatloaf sandwich for supper from the same place. Thoughts of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens while driving through Clear Lake, IA. Nice, medium size places like Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City. The town square in Quincy, IL, where Lincoln and Douglas debated the fate of a nation. A stop in Missouri at the "largest fireworks store in the world", which I had all to myself.

By 1pm I had finished the mission and headed back. I returned with a bushel of the worlds finest peaches. Also, the triumvirate of fireworks, firecrackers, roman candles, bottle rockets, unfortunately banned by the Minnesota politburo. 10:30 pm I'm back at home. Sunday was spent on a 12 mile run from Mall of America to the house. This was followed by an afternoon of blanching, peeling and freezing peaches, and watching the PGA, which was just down the street a dozen miles or so. I had a much better day than Tiger Woods, though I did not make near as much money.
Great trip and great to do another one of those "why don't we's" that we all have on our mind. I should do more of them, and I will.

12 August 2009

I still miss 'em

In the fall of 1968, just after I turned 12, I had my first cigarette. Behind the gym at Everitt Junior High School in Panama City Florida. Actually it was my second if you count the lit butt I found on the sidewalk outside our house in Chicago in 1962, I was six and took one puff. I guess that doesn't really count.

Anyway, the junior high event started me on this love/hate relationship with cigarettes that continued off and on through high school. In college it was more off than on as I took up running and would quit for months at a time while I took in the new passion for pounding the streets. I started again with the onset of my first real job after college, management trainee with JCPenney in Little Rock, Arkansas and continued through engagement to my wife, marriage, the birth of our first child. All of these were major life events that caused me to swear off cigarettes, but that only lasted a day or two.

October 15, 1983 was the day of the Texas/Arkansas football game. In the days of the old Southwest Conference this was one of the most important events of the year for Arkansans, whether one was a big sports fan or not. We lived in a place the locals referred to as Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a bedroom community of Little Rock. Although I grew up with my dad's affinity for Texas football it didn't run very deep and the passion of my adopted state for the Razorbacks was infectious.
On the morning of the game I thought again about the need to quit the habit and wondered how I could make it through the weekend without lighting up. I thought through the weekend as a series of time compartments. I got this sense that if I could just make it past the game I could probably make it through the whole day. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense but it did at the time. My oldest daughter was almost three and I asked her if she would go running with me before the game started. This would get me through the first time slot. We went outside and for about 30 minutes chased each other around a long block that circled a nearby church. The trot was enough to remind me of how much I loved running and how the tobacco was wearing on my lungs.

When we got back to our little apartment I was determined to at least make it to halftime. Made it. Third quarter, made it. Fourth quarter, game over. Razorbacks badly beaten, 30 something to 3. I had made it and on through the rest of the day. Sunday morning, once I made it past the church service, the rest of the day was not quite as hard. Monday, Tuesday, easier. That was over 25 years ago.

I still miss 'em. While giving up the habit has saved me over $66,000 (2 packs a day @ 3.50 average per pack for 26 years) there are still times when I would love to sit on the porch with a cup of coffee, the newspaper, a pack of Salems, and a couple of fellow smokers. If I thought I could get away with it and not start the habit again, I would. I'm not that strong. That physical sensation that came from quenching the nicotine craving with a freshly lit cigarette was really something. Especially after a good meal. You know what I mean.

Occasionally I will pass the smokers outside my office and remember my old habit. When I quit, smoking was still common in office buildings. I never had to go outside. Never had to take a break from work to light up. I smoked on buses and on airplanes. In my house, in my car, with my little girl on my lap.

I now pass these folk as they huddle outside my office building and sometimes remember that I was one of them, though the memory is fading. When I am traveling out of the country and can pick up a carton of cheap cigarettes, I do, and then give them away. Can't pass up that bargain. In the winter I will shake my head and quickly walk by them, thinking about how weak they are, not strong like me to kick the habit. But i'm not as strong as I think. I have other habits that have taken the place of that one.

Every once in a while I will see them chatting, laughing, sharing some joke, or a problem, getting acquainted, sharing a light, cursing their habit in the bitter cold, cursing the political correctness that forces them outside, and I will envy them. I will forget all the bad things about smoking, all the money I wasted and how smokers are forced to plan their days, friends, work and life in general around the habit. I see them and ponder if I would be tough enough to be in their ranks today, especially when the temp outside is double digits below zero. I am glad that they are still there and I hope they continue to thumb their noses, or ashes, at those who force them into alleys and corridors. There are a lot of bad habits in this world that lead to a hoard of pain and suffering. Gluttony, drunkedness, greed, and the like. In the big scheme of things this one is hardly worth noticing.

Hey man, I can still slap open a zippo with the snap of my fingers and light a match with a nick of the thumbnail. I miss 'em.

11 August 2009

Thank you Kim

Didn't get her last name (something Polish) but she was the gate agent for United at B5 at O'hare today. Got me on an earlier flight home just as the gate was closing, after a morning of meetings in Chicago.
Everyone has a bad O'hare story. Now I've got a good one. Actually a lot more good ones than bad thanks to folks like Kim. In a way this is payback for the experience in the blog entry titled "Nooooooo" below.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

08 August 2009

One year

This blog started a year ago with a brief tribute to one of my earliest known ancestors. Originally intended as a commentary on my development as a barbecue chef, but I quickly realized there is only so much you can write about how you prepare one cut of meat. Go to any food website and you'll see what I mean.


Coincidentally, last night I went with my daughters to see "Julie and Julia", a movie inspired by the lives of Julia Child and a blogger, Julie, who wrote about a year of cooking her way through "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". If I judged movies by whether they kept me from falling asleep, this one would rate an A. But I don't.


My blog was inspired by the efforts of my brother and oldest daughter. After reading every entry on each blog I was overwhelmed by how much they wrote and the quality of their postings. But, here I am, a year later with a nice little collection of my own, the closest Ive ever come to some sort of diary.

The movie was preceded by dinner at Fasika, a restaurant I should go to more often. Simply one of the very best restaurants in the Twin Cities and a place that makes me happy just to walk through the doors. There are few restaurants that have this effect on me, or anyone for that matter I suppose. But if I had to name a few that just the thought of brings good memories the list would include Gene and Georgetti in Chicago, Fasika and Edina Grille in the Twin Cities, The Dry Dock in Mullins, SC, Hunan Peking in Ballwin, Missouri, and any Cracker Barrell.

Our original plan was to go to a ball game afterwards, but rain got in the way and we took in a movie. A great evening. No drama, no arguments, no tension. Just one of those perfect evenings that you can only imagine when you're changing a diaper, putting out a backseat fist fight between siblings, or helping with the struggles of fourth grade math.

05 August 2009

The streak

5:50 am, another day of running completed. Five miles. Not a day missed since Jan 1, 1998. 27,884 miles. Average of 6+ miles a day. One of my fellow runners noted the hardest thing about a running streak is not the starting, its stopping. Here's the list, from the US Running Streak Association. There are better ways to use my time, but I would have about 150 lbs more to carry around.

04 August 2009

Noooooo !!!!!

How does a platinum level frequent flyer end up in the middle seat in coach on a four hour flight from MSP to ANA? ( We are, of course, the biggest bunch of whiners and crybabies among the traveling public. Welltodo fat guys with a sense of self-importance.)
Fortunately this travel injustice was offset by a great meal with an old friend at The Cannery restaurant in Newport Beach. First time to eat there, doubtful I'll be back, but would be nice.
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02 August 2009

A summer without Churchill

My family and friends know this image. The Onyx Churchill cigar. Linked to me and my summers for the past ten years or so. Not this year. Of the physical things that bring pleasure to life... food, clothing, and other comforts, I would put this cigar at or near the very top.

In order to get back on the non-smoker rate for my company life insurance I am enduring a year without this old friend. There is no middle ground with my company's insurance provider, Minnesota Life. You are either a smoker or you aren't. Any use of tobacco of any kind during the year and you are a smoker. A few more months to go.

I haven't been a habitual cigar smoker but have been a long standing one of some twenty years or so. I never had a problem setting it aside when the weather turned cold and it was impolite to bring the use indoors. Generally something for the summer months. A good cigar is a great pleasure and must have been what God had in mind when he invested tobacco. Not a constant habitual use, but the occasional hours long indulgence that clears the mind, brings friends together, seals important life events. Similar to how the indians used it.
Most notably this year it has been absent from my yardwork. I used to joke about how the lawnmower wouldn't start unless I had a good cigar going. It will also be absent from our family gathering in September in Tennessee. At least one neighbor has noticed and commented that it doesn't seem the same for me to be mowing the yard sans cigar. Tell me about it.