Thursday, April 5, 2007

Car talk

Here it's Thursday and I haven't blogged a thing since Sunday. The pressure to produce ever greater blogs is intense. I'm really not up to it. Even Tolstoy thought he could have done better. the trouble with blogs is that they demand time. If I could change my work/leisure ration from 5/2 to 2/5, I would feel more my own man.
Another problem is that there is so much to blog about. The perfect blog would be a transcript of my stream-of-consciousness. But who could bear to read it? All kidding aside, all of my waking thoughts and many of my dreams are worth a blog. This would have to be properly done of course. Who can I trust? Just these past seven days, I've been to "A Night in Italy," have hauled an '89 Honda Accord with no brakes from it's resting spot in a swamp up onto dry land and into town for a face lift, and have done one other interesting thing which I can't recall now.
The hauling of the Honda is the most accessible, yet it too has numerous spurs and tangents. But since I can see the Honda out the window, I shall go there.
This car belonged to my parents. The transmission went out one Sunday afternoon on their way back from Maine. My father was able to nurse the vehicle home to his retreat on Boston's south shore. The engine was overheating also, but he controlled that by turning on the heater full blast. My mother was not amused. This was in 1999. My mother said they were going to junk the Accord. She never had liked the low-slung seats and wanted something in taupe. I am a lifetime admirer of the Honda Corporation and told her I would givethem $900 for the car.. They shipped it over to the transmission place where it was discovered the alternator was kaput. Once the transmissionwas fixed, they sent it across the street to the Asian Car shop for a new alternator. The owner of this shop, a Japanese, said he had trouble getting the car started. I was starting to understand how the mind of gambling addiction worked.
Worst case scenario, I was getting a trip out of all this to the gorgeous coast of Massachusetts. In addition I was able to convince my friend Steve to join me on this excursion. This was really ridiculous because I would be bringing all three of my sons back to Wannaska on this trip. One of the sons was to picked up at the Minneapolis/St Paul airport. Steve realized the follly of this and opted to jump ship in Wisconsin on the way back.
The car, when I picked it up, did refuse to start at first. On the drive back I did not dare to shut it off. Also, you could not put in Park. Who needs Park? Put it in Neutral with a rock under the tire.
Anyway, we made it back to Minnesota. I got the shifter cable replaced, and got the starting problem fixed (starter relay under the dash) and I drove the car to work a couple of years until Joey needed a car to work in Boston. Joey drove the car back to college. At one point he ( a friend was driving) slid down a hill in a blizzard in Duluth and bent important front end components. Funnily enough, I had collision insurance on the car. It was totalled at $1,000. I was able to buy the car at salvage for $50. Repairs cost $900, so we made $50 on the deal.
I convinced Joey that if he didn't have a job while at college, he didn't need a car. He agreed. The car sat in the grass next to the garage at home for 18 months. In good weather I would take it out for a run. I could tell the car was slowly deteriorating, but why spend money when uncalled for.
Joey called last week and said he was getting a job and could we please have the Accord in running trim by Easter.
The grassy area around the car was wet and muddy. I made an appointment with the alignment shop to make the car roadworthy. My greatest fear is that a wheel will fall of the car at 65 mph, possibly reducing the McDonnell and other lineages.
I looked over the terrain surrounding the Accord last week. It was soggy but drying nicely. The forecast was for drying conditions. I would do nothing. Sadly it rained on Sat, which turned to snow of the wet heavy kind on Sunday. My appointment in town was for Weds. So on Mon. I came home from work and got the little two wheel drive Toyota parked in front of the Accord out of the way.
My true mission was with the Accord, lonely amidst the puddles of slush. I turned the ignition key, and... nothing. If only I could pull my good car up and give it a jump. But that was too risky, so I put my little six amp charger on and also plugged in the block heater for what that was worth. Meanwhile, I jacked up the front tires and slipped in eight foot planks. All this time a cold north wind was blowing and the bloody snow was wet and cold. Once everything was accomplished I went in the house and took a shower. I also washed up a few dishes. I was dying to get out there and fire up the old Accord, but I knew I had to give the charger time to do its work. As the sun was setting, I went out and turned the key. The starter spun over and the engine sputtered on 18 month old gas. I let off on the key at just the right moment and there was just enough momentum to keep the engine running. "God is good." Old Bess crawled up on the planks and, gaining speed, splashed through the mud holes and onto high ground.
I won't bore you with additional details, but I did get Joey's car to the tire shop Wednesday and it had to sit an extra day while parts were ordered, but it is running like adream now and I almost wish I could keep it for myself.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Go Jimmy

One reason we signed up for Netflix was to be able to watch the classics everyone is raving about, Hitchcock, John Ford, and so forth. Well I've been terribly disappointed. I've watched several of the classics, and they're like looking the wares at a flea market.
Last night we watched The Shop Around the Corner. This was supposed to be one of Jimmy Stewart's best films. And he is very good in it, but overall it's a stale Hungarian confection. There was probably a good reason for setting the story in Budapest. Someone lovingly wrote "mens room" in Hungarian in the right places, but it had "Hollywood" written just below the surface. The film came out in 1940. Hungary was allied with the Nazis by this time and was about to undergo fifty years of subjugation. There is no hint of this in the movie. Yet the movie takes place in a shop that sells suitcases. The subtle message is "get out now."
The plot of the movie is simplistic. "You've Got Mail" was based on it. Jimmy Stewart has a pen pal he falls in love with. She comes to work at the shop and they can't stand each other. Frank Morgan, the Wizard of Oz, is the shops money grubbing owner who turns out to have a heart of gold.
The camera work is modernistic. It jumps around the shop mostly following Jimmy Stewart. The heroine's personality is unattractive until she realizes it is her fate to wed the hero.
I should give the movie some slack, it's 67 years old. But Jane Austen doesn't need any slack, or Vincent or Michelangelo. Why do films hold up so poorly? Will the movies of our day bear watching in 50 years?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Good Counsel

They brought in a counselor at work today to help us to communicate. The hour passed quickly and we heard several amazing claims. First, that communication is 55% body language, 38% voice tone, and only 7% the words spoken. I've wondered why my words so often go unheeded. I need a voice coach and a demeanor coach.
Next, she said that when a man hears something it must go through 16 places in the brain before it reaches the area that handles feelings, and most often it never makes it there. When a woman hears something it goes straight to the feelings dept. and usually stays there. If that's true, I just give up. I don't believe my brain has 16 places. And whereabouts is the feeling place? I want to give mine a rap, if I can find it.
The last part was about workplace gossip. Gossip is bad, especially for the victim. Her suggestion is to say to the one bringing us the tasty morsel, "Have you told the subject of the gossip about this?" If that's not clear enough, we should say, "I don't want to hear this."
"You are noble," I thought. "And righteous too."

Missed a Cog

Apologies to my blog reading public. I got home late last night. Teresa was there. We hobnobbed about her adventures in the Falls. About the creepiness of a late night motel exercise room. Give me a soft pillow and a good book anytime.
While she was gone I made a major breakthrough in my studies. I have been studying French off and on since I was 14 and have not broken the skin yet. I've gone through my little "Teach Yourself French" book several times and still comprends rien. Then this summer I decided the key to learning the language was to learn lots and lots of words. I went through my word frequency dictionary. This has the 7,000 most commonly used words in French. I copied the words I didn't know onto both sides of 46 sheets of loose leaf paper for a total of 2,760 words. This took a couple of months. I reviewed these words off and on all fall, putting the difficult words onto 3x5 index cards. We took a trip to New Orleans in January and I brought three quarters of the cards along to study in the car. I lost the cards in Nashville. I called the motel, but no one had turned them in. In February I went through my sheets again and filled up 46 cards with 1012 words. Just finished on Tuesday. Once I learn those of by heart I'll be in trouble. I'll know the 7,000 most common words in French, but I won't understand French. What to do? And why should I even care? That's for a future blog. Just grant that it's very important that I do this.
I have banned all reading in English (except Bill Bryson in bed) until I crack this nut. I'm only listening to the French language station in Winnipeg of which I understand about 4%. I'm not sure why I called this a major breakthrough. Just to encourage the troops I suppose.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Day Two

rolled out of bed at six a.m.

As my bowl of oatmeal boiled, I read the bible book. Ps. 141:10 Que les méchants tombent dans leur filets,... which means something like "Let the wicked fall into their (own) nets...That's what I like about the psalms, they're realistic. Jesus would say 'love the wicked...' OK, I wish the wicked well, but if they set a trap for me, I hope they drink a few beers while waiting for me to come along and trip and fall into their own trap. Just to teach them a lesson.

It was a frosty freezy morning this morning. On the gravel road leading to work I saw deers in the field, their backs coated with frost. On the blacktop a crow flew out of the ditch followed by a bald eagle. I had to take off the cruise control to avoid hitting the eagle. I took this as an omen. The eagle of course in the U.S. The crow is Iran. An owl would have been better but it was definitely a crow. They had both been feeding on roadkill in the ditch. That was Iraq.

Things were just fine and dandy over at the nursing home. Another day of no crises.
I like the new daylight savings timethat started a couple of weeks ago. Lots of sun in the evening. If that was a Bush initiative, then I say his time in office wasn't a total waste.

Teresa called from I-Falls. All is going well there. She was invited to a yoga class. Stretching covers arthritis. She'll be back tomorrow.

I heated up the chowder I prepared last night. It was ambrosial. You can only ingest it in appetizer sized portions. Ned came home and declined his portion, so I will bring his portion to the neighbor who used to sing for chowder in a fancy St Paul restaurant.

I'm so pathetic. I was still hungry after this savory dish. But then, so was Esau. So what I did was I cooked up some spaghetti, which I reserved in a sieve, while I heated some olive oil in the hot pot, threw in some crushed garlic, crushed red pepper, and salt. Just four ingredients, like Guiness. It made my nose run and killed off the viruses that had been hanging around.

I make bread with four ingredients too: flour, yeast, salt, and water. (good for you)

When I googled the name of my new blog "Joe's Place blog" I got more than a million hits. I went through the first 13 pages and saw some intersting stuff. Where is my blog, though? How do I get to number one? I don't want to spend too much money.

Good night.

Monday, March 26, 2007


I was born sixty years ago today. So this is a good day to blog. I awoke this morning to the sound of my alarm, a blatting ring. I popped out of bed and put the kettle on for coffee with lots of sugar and cream, followed by oatmeal. I read Psalm 140 en français. The psalms are obtuse to me in English. How much more so in French? "They sharpen the tongue like the serpent..." The evil men are ever out to get us... Only the Lord can preserve us from their designs...

It was dark in the early morning. The dawn was masked in fog. My wife sang me happy birthday, replacing my name with the word 'honey.' Then she packed her bag. She said she would be back by Weds. She's going to I-Falls to help the court system get their new computer program up and running.

I drove through the fog to Roseau to meet with my colleagues at the Guest House for breakfast. By the time I got to Greenbush, 20 odd miles to the west, the fog had lifted. After all, it was my birthday.

It was a quiet day at the nursing home. No major crises, just the little crises that litter every life.

The weather was soft. I drove home and when I got there I made clam chowder. To make chowder in the midland you need a bottle of clam juice. How many gallons of clam juice have I swilled and now I pay big bucks for a tiny cocktail's worth. But it's worth it. A most savory liquor. Boil small potatoes and onion in it, add pathetic minced clams, and heavy whipping cream, plus salt, freshly ground pepper, butter, flour [put the flour in a bowl, add some of the chowder, stir vigorously, and return to the main chowder], let sit overnight in the reefer.

What shall I eat this night. How about some thin spahetti. Set it aside when cooked and pour olive oil in the hot pot, with minced garlic, crushed red pepper, and kosher salt. Re-introduce the pasta and you have the most delicious dish you will ever taste.

Good night