Sunday, December 18, 2011

A.K.A. BOBO and MUFFY

Young girls love stuffed animals. They name them and pet them and never forget them. When my sister MaryJo was twelve, she rode out to Minnesota with me in my VW for my wedding. I was driving out two weeks early, and MaryJo, having nothing better to do, came along for the ride. She planned to stay at my future in-laws' farm where she would be involved in a power struggle with a truculent pony named Midnight.
I had most of my possessions packed in the back of my Beetle. Mary Jo had enough clothes for her visit as well as her two favorite stuffed animals. I don't remember their names, but let's call them Bobo and Muffy for now. My VW was in good shape, but I like to worry and the possible breakdown of this vehicle on the road between Boston and St Paul was at the top of my list. The radio was broken so my only distraction was watching MaryJo play “Julia Grownup.” That was the name of her own little cooking show and the glove box was her oven. I love my sister, but this show got old by the time we reached Albany. We stopped for the night east of Cleveland. As I fought through rush hour the next morning I realized it was a mistake not to have pushed on to the west side of Cleveland the night before. No matter, eventually we made it through the city and traffic lightened. MaryJo had just taken her first batch of muffins out of the glovebox when I noticed a stricken look on her face. “Bobo and Muffy! They’re back in the room!” “Well they can stay there,” I said, but soon we were fighting eastbound rush hour traffic as the oven cooled.
Bobo and Muffy were waiting patiently when I entered the room. The desk clerk averted his eyes when I turned in the key, a stuffed animal under each arm.
This event has become a classic McDonnell story, though only MaryJo and I truly appreciate it. I was telling the story to some friends and we wondered what the animals' real names were. I called Mary Jo and she said, “Well you always call them Bobo and Muffy.” It’s funny how names get transmogrified over time. Someone just told me recently that the Bay of Pigs should really be called The Bay of Orangesided Triggerfish.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Operation Treasure Chest

I’m not a survivalist, but sometimes I wonder how I would get along if things went kablooie. I know that when the power goes out here as it does on occasion, I’m unhappy for the hour or two until it comes back on. But say things go really bad and there’s no power and no expectation of power for the next few years. Then what? We’d start going to bed early. In winter we’d move to the basement and build a fire in the old wood furnace. I’d spend a good deal of time sawing wood because I’d run out of chain saw gas. Maybe I should buy a few extra saw blades when I have the chance. They’re going to be expensive when the store is closed. And what about food? I should stock up on oatmeal and buy a book on which weeds are good to eat. There would be open season on deer so I should get some more bullets, but soon the deer will be hunted out.
We’ll have a barter economy for a decade or two. What should I stock up on to trade? Cash won’t be any good. Gold? Not a good option in a gun toting society. What then? How about whiskey? Whiskey keeps forever. Might as well buy the cheap stuff; my customers won’t be trading for taste. I really should go out and buy several cases of Old Hawkalooie right now and bury them in caches out in the woods. Cover the spots with leaves. Keep the inventory locations in my noggin. Don’t ever write anything down. My only worry then will be whiskey sniffing TSA dogs. Better get a copy of Booby Traps for Home and Garden while the gettin’s good.
Cheers.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day Trips From Home

We live in northwestern Minnesota. Many consider this a remote area, but I don’t feel too out of touch knowing there’s a renowned ballet company just two hours to the north in Winnipeg.
I like this area because we’re just a day’s drive from so many interesting places. Now by a day, I mean 24 hours, and by a drive, I mean an average speed of 50 mph. This affords time to take a short nap, go to the bathroom, and refill gas tank and coffee cup. So in a day I can cover 1,200 miles which will get me to any of the following places: East: Buffalo, NY, South: Graceland, TN, West: a little east of Spokane, WA, and North: Churchill on Hudson Bay, though I’d also need a plane or a train, or a canoe.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

King of Trails

Rummage Road with Sloppy Joe


We called my sister-in-law Kathy last Friday and invited her and Pete to meet us in Grand Forks for supper, but Pete was in his woods near Park Rapids and Kathy didn't want to drive up from Moorhead on her own. Later Kathy called and told us about Market Day on Highway 75. U.S. 75 runs from the Canadian border down to the Gulf of Mexico. The 408 miles in Minnesota are designated “The Historic King of Trails” by local boosters. Kathy said the towns of Hallock, Kennedy, Stephen, Argyle, Warren and Crookston were all participating in this annual day of sales of produce, woodwork, antiques and funky junque. There might even be stands along the highway selling interesting things. The website said “Bring plenty of cash.”
We thought it over and on Saturday morning decided to head west to Highway 75. We saw one rummage sale in the town of Hallock. We stopped at Cenex for coffee. Ahead of us in line was a young couple. As we left we saw them head for separate semis. They were hauling gravel for Davidson Construction. As they separated they kissed. You don't often see truck drivers kissing. On the way out of town we saw a flashing arrow sign pointing to "Sale at Senior Center." Teresa bought a small knitted rug, otherwise it was a collection of other people's dishes and clothing. Who wants a mug that says “Flon Family Reunion” other than a Flon?
That was it for Hallock. There were no funky junque stands along the road, just endless soybean vistas and the railroad track. The little town of Kennedy had nothing. We drove around the half dozen residential streets. This is our friend Maude's home town and we had called before we left home to see if she was going to be in Kennedy but she did not pick up. We found out later she had been at a family rummage sale in town but we didn't see her. We called Kathy and she said she'd meet us in Crookston for lunch. South of Kennedy we passed a several mile long BNSF freight train moving at 15 mph. Next up was Stephen. Two rummage sales and barbeques on a bun at the Senior Center. Stephen has a nice residential area with wide parkways down the middle of the streets which curve sharply along the loops of the Tamarack River. I was beginning to lose respect for Market Day but there is really no such thing as a bad road trip and it was a gloriously beautiful day. Teresa admired the fat jet contrails in the sky.
Further south, Argyle had a rummage sale in progress. The museum in the old depot was open and we wandered around the old stuff. The depot had been moved back from the tracks in the 1980's. We heard voices from the new annex: it was sloppy joes and another rummage sale. The museum had a display of graduating classes ending in 1996 when the school merged with Stephen and the Eagles became The Storm. Luigi, a large carved Eagle, the team mascot, had been relegated to the annex. I sat at the stationmaster's bow window desk and imagined the steam locomotives coming and going. I returned to the car but Teresa called my cell. She had made it to the rummage sale in the annex. Everything was 25 cents. She bought two decks of cards and a laminated storage box. Now we could not get out of town because the train had caught up with us. We sat at the crossing admiring the boxcar graffiti. Back on the highway we passed the train again.


The town of Warren seemed to be ignoring Market Day completely. We drove around town admiring the old houses and lost 75. I thought we were on 75 but the sign said Oslo so we turned around. Son of a biscuit! The train had caught up to us, but 75 was now on the west side of the tracks so we passed the train for the third time.
We checked with Kathy. She was in an antique store in Crookston. I suggested we meet at The Irishman's Shanty. I'd never been there but they've had an ad in the diocesan newspaper forever. It's a tiny ad with a tipsy leprechaun promising fine food and cocktails. The guy at the antique store told Kathy the place was on the south side of town. We passed through town and kept going south. I was about to turn around thinking we had missed the place when I spotted the telltale shamrock. The antique guy told Kathy the place had a pub atmosphere, but it was faux pub. We entered through the bar and met the backs of the serious drinkers. On tap were Bud, Bud Lite, and Amber Bock, though they did have Guinness in a can. They were practically giving away bottles of wine, only charging a buck above liquor store prices, so we got a nice bottle of Liebfraumilch in a bucket of ice. The burgers were large with generous helpings of potatoes. Sadly, the atmosphere was old supper club. They should charge more for wine and give the place a makeover. On the way to the bathrooms I glimpsed a large gloomy family gathering in a back room. I wanted to order them a bucket of wine, but to my shame did not. Teresa said to cross The Shanty off my bucket list...forever.
The city of Crookston also seems in need of a makeover. with it's shuttered old cathedral looming over downtown. We visited three antique stores, all devoid of customers. Rents must be low here. In one of the shops I bought a guide book to Rome published during the Mussolini administration. It was in Italian and German. Only one dollar. We visited a tiny Latino grocery on Broadway. The sign said 'sweet bread," but the woman told us the truck had not come this a.m. so we settled for some spicy puff balls.
We said goodby to Kathy and I started on a long siesta as we peeled away from The King of Trails.










September 10, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Thorns of Prince Head


An incident from the eighties


We made an oddly assorted crew that day. My father was captain and crew was whoever was around and wanted to go for a sail in the 28’ ketch Nave Sho. My sister MaryJo was along as well as our brother Steve’s two older kids Brendan and Faith, both under thirteen at the time.
It was a fine afternoon and the wind was light so we wouldn’t be going too far, but we towed the tender behind which meant we could land on an island if we pleased. We sailed past Bumpkin Island and made our way across Hingham Bay towards Peddocks. On the chart Peddocks Island looks like a one legged ant, the single leg being Prince Head, which is attached to the main island by a narrow spit of tide-wracked stones and seagull feathers. The further end of the head is a low drumlin, a quarter mile long and 150 feet across. This drumlin or glacial hill slopes gently on its ends but its sides have eroded over the millennia, exposing ribbed cliffs of pale yellow clay.
We dropped anchor in the lee of Prince Head and ate lunch. Though we were within a 10 mile radius of millions, we could just as well have been way up in Maine for the remoteness felt there. Dad said he was going to rest his eyes awhile so the rest of us rowed ashore. “Let’s climb the cliff,” someone suggested. The cliff sides were steep but climbable. As we went up, the stone studded clay tended to crumble away under our feet. MaryJo and I each got behind a kid and pushed them up. It was fun going. There was a thick ridge of grass overhanging the top and we pulled on this to get ourselves onto the top. The top was a jungle of tall sumac trees and black raspberry bushes. The berries were ripe and delicious and we all ate our fill. We returned to the edge but the prospect now was forbidding. I tried hanging over the edge and my feet dislodged clay and small stones which clattered on the boulders twenty feet below. I might be able to slither down without killing myself but what about the others?
I pulled myself back up and said, “Let’s walk down the end of the island.” We headed the way I thought would be shorter. The blackberry brambles tore at us and I was the only one wearing long pants. “Let’s try the other way.” But only a rabbit could have navigated that tangle of brambles and sumac. We turned back the other way again. I looked down the cliff once more and out at the boat rocking dad asleep.
“We can’t go down the cliff,” I said. We forced our way through the not so bad patch. I stomped down the brambles to make a path and MaryJo tried to keep the thorns away from Brendan and Faith. By the time we climbed aboard the Nave Sho the blood from our scratches had dried. Dad listened to our story. “You had a little adventure while I was sleeping,” he chuckled.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hey, tu!

Where do carney barkers go in winter.
Do they laze about in Florida camps
Enjoying their hard earned wealth.
Or do they migrate further south
To work the pampas
And the Chilean strip.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Few Good Names

It bugs me when people make up names for their babies. It's almost as bad when they ring changes on existing names: Kelly, Kelli. K'Lee. Parents say they want their kids to be unique, but saddling them with a crazy name is as bad as giving them a tattoo for their fifth birthday. According to the Social Security website most parents are sticking with the old standbys. Of the top 10 most popular names in 2010, I would only reject Jayden, Aiden and Madison. Please don't name your kid after a capital city. If a parent insists on a unique name they should look in Luke, chapter 3, which has a slew of great names no one is using. Jesus' step-father of course was Joseph. Great name that. His grandfather was Heli, a name you don't see very often. Very unique. There's another 73 great grandfathers before reaching God. All the classics are there: Levi, Amos, Joshua, Nathan, David, Jesse, Jacob, Issac, Abraham, right on up to Noah, Jared, Seth and Adam. Take your pick. But if those are too mundane, how about Naggai or Joda? Those are names you never hear. Or Neri or Cosam or Eliakim. Then there's Obed and Boaz and Ram and Pharez. Consider Terah and Nahor or Reu and Peleg and there are many, many more like that on Luke's list. The beauty of these names, odd as they may sound, is that they were real people from the bible who are now up in heaven and who will guide and protect your child through life. St. Elmadam would be delighted if someone brought new life to his rusty old name. This list doesn't help girl babies at all. But Mary is a nice name. And Mary has dropped to #109 on the popularity list. Your daughter will be the only Mary in her class and the tattoo options for that name are amazing.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Squibs From the Township

The cookie of self-confidence
Contains this message:
"You may be wrong."

Why does no midwestern town proclaim:
"Where the East begins!"

The spendthrift blows like Old Faithful,
then his wad is gone.
The miser feels like a corpse,
oozing from a thousand wounds.

All I really do is choose.
Yes, the devil made me do it,
but I let him,
knee deep in ashes.


Anaysis, in dollars and cents,
tells exactly what it is,
while killing it.
Poetry hints,
by washing it in love
and eternal light.


The French are accused of arrogance,
but any people that masters such a malin*
lanuage deserves to pat itself on the back.
*malin=your typical French word, having six meanings.
It means: 'difficult' or 'tricky';
but it also means: 'shrewd' or 'clever'
Which they consider themselves;
or: 'malignant' or 'malicious'
As those who do not like them think.


If you can't be on time, be pretty.

Bread and Circuses: our circus is the scandal du jour or true crime we swallow; and no fear of that show closing. But I'm getting worried about the bread supply.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Preferably Never

At coffee break someone brought up the End of the World scheduled for May 21. On her way back from Fargo she had seen a line of identical campers painted with warnings of the end. This reminded me of a time as a kid when the end was predicted for a Good Friday. The nuns said it was hooey, but after church I went home and waited, not in fear, but with curiosity. At the first tremor I planned to run to the closet where my mother hid the Easter candy and go down gorging.
At work I'm known as Mr. Know-It-All, so I cut my break short and googled May 21 which is actually Judgement Day. The end of the world is to follow on Oct. 21. The End also looms in the Mayan Calendar. I had to return to work and left that for a future search. These predictions play on our awareness that the world will end in three or four billion years at the latest. Even science is on board with that. They resonate even more by scratching at the hard layer of denial that covers our personal abyss.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

There is nothing more charming than the sound of someone who loves you making your breakfast as you snuggle under the covers.

Thor Bless America

A few years back, during a midnight drive across North Dakota, I spied two pop machines glowing in the dark, one for Pepsi, one for Coke. That’s what America is all about, I thought: choice. There may only be two choices, but at least there’s a choice. Competition is always good.
When I picked up the menu in my favorite restaurant back home and ordered a Coke, the waitress said, “Is Pepsi ok?” No it’s not ok. Pepsi is cloyingly sweet, and surveys show it’s the preferred soft drink of Republicans. “You had Coke the last time I was here,” I said. It seems Pepsi had paid the restaurant a bonus to serve Pepsi exclusively. Coke had done the same thing at the other restaurant in town, the one with the lousy food. This is also what America is about: destroy your competition at all costs. I have the choice of going to the supermarket if I want Coke. I thank God Pepsi has not bought off the supermarket, because it’s my favorite supermarket in town. But what if they do, God forbid. And once they’ve managed that, they may buy off the churches too so we can only pray to Allah, or one of the Gods in the Hindu pantheon. Shakti would be a good choice. The Energy Goddess.

Bar-O-Meter

If the president wants to know how he’s doing among the real people, he should check out the flat screens at Gene’s Bar & Grill in Roseau, Minnesota. Gene’s is a nice cozy sports bar on the edge of town. Three large TVs on the walls are enough for everyone to have a good view. Since the place opened 15 years ago those TVs have been tuned to Fox News. The sound is muted, but there’s enough verbiage on the screen to put a person in the know. The news is generally bad which puts the clients in a drinking mood. But the day Obama was elected, someone changed the channel to CNN. How long is this going to last, I wondered. I wish I wrote down the date they went back to Fox. It was probably during the Health Care debate. That was an ugly time, I admit. Even I closed my eyes. When I opened them last Monday morning, CNN was back at Gene’s and Osama was dead. That’s Osama with an s.

Extrapolation Nation

Two points about four dollar gas: Back when gas was two dollars a gallon, the price went up a penny a crack. At just under four dollars, our providers say, “What’s another four cents?” At this rate we will soon be staying home and letting the Internet do our shopping. This time we seem resigned to the breakage of the four dollar barrier. We’re told the Chinese and the Indians are demanding their share of the gas and we sympathize. Rather than kick and scream, we’re now buying fuel efficient vehicles in serious numbers. Forty miles per gallon has become the new 15. In future, SUV will mean: Smaller, Underpowered, and Vastly-more-efficient.
Point two: speculators are blamed by the politicians for bidding up the price of gas. Are they stupid? The speculators, I mean. Someone’s going to bid $4.10 just before the price falls to $3.90 . It’s a game of musical chairs and someone has to lose big time. Or maybe they insure themselves with default swaps. I think I was invested in those babies in a bad way back in ’08.

Advice to Writers

It's ok to use big words, slang and clichés as long as you manipulate those bad boys with kid gloves.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Smokestack Lightning

Don’t try to revisit the places of your youth. The old home, the old school, they've been ruined for you by their new owners. Your old downtown will either be burnt out or horribly gentrified, so stay away. The books and movies of youth don’t hold up well either. But music seems immune to rust and moth. I searched out one of my first albums, Smokestack Lightning, I thought by the Kinks, and could not find it When I realized it was by the Yardbirds I found it easily. The original album had 12 or so songs. The offering on Amazon was a mash up of two cds with all the songs mixed up. I flicked through the songs listening to each a few seconds and recognized nothing till I got to the first of two live versions of Smokestack Lightning. There they were, pure and pristine. There are many songs out there about trains and you say there’s the whistle or the click of the rails, but this song is all train all the way with the boys going full out. It’s a six minute howl of unrequited love. How do I know? In my age I now take time to listen to the words. And elemental words they are . The poor slob is calling for the pretty baby to stop her train so he can go for a ride. But he has to ask where she went last night. Not a good sign. Soon he’s bidding her farewell. He knows it’s hopeless. This train is not stopping for him, with the sparks like lightning blowing from the stack. There’s a couple of weird thirty second stretches of slow hammering on a hanging rail. Mournful like.
Hearing they say is the last thing to go. And music will go with it.
Bye-bye pretty baby.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Music To Be Played At My Funeral

Any blues. They're not making any more of that, which pleases me. Most rock, some country, some gospel, half of jazz, a soupçon of opera and a fair modicum of the classics.
Fare thee well.

In The Secret Service of the President: Division of Blame Division

Certain people are blaming the president for the mess we're in. Let's get certain things straight. On Inauguration Day the president was responsible for zero per cent of the mess. He who must not be named was responsible for 90% and Bill Clinton gets credit for 10%, just because. Now, two years on, Bill Clinton continues with 10%, hwmnbn has had his blame reduced to 70% and the president is now responsible for 30%. Thirty per cent of this per cent is due to errors and foibles of his own and 70% is because it's such a terrible mess no one could really be expected to fix it in just two years. These percentages total 110% which takes into account the inaccountability of life: the wicked fluff that keeps us from getting along. With the enemy within the gates, all the president can hope to do is get his share down to 10% by the time he joins Bill and George in the Hall of Blame.

The Beast With The Least

My solitary road trips go like this: first no radio, only my own thoughts. In desperation I soon turn on public radio, but this also is disturbing and repetitive, and I return to my own thoughts, but not for long. I am now far from home and search the local channels, mostly new loud country, but for every ten stations there is a voice. Now the voice of one speaking for the Lord. Now the morning radio show hosts. How do they fill the long minutes in an hour? Primarily, they leave long pauses between their pronouncements. They repeat themselves often. Next they do a few ads, a few public announcements, and the braver ones allow callers. The rare callers praise the hosts for their righteousness or bring up a point the host agrees with. If anyone is disagreeable, the host has a big knob he dials down to get rid of this pest, with "Sorry, we have to break for a word from our sponsors."

Gold Bearing Ore

Sellers of music say they must charge a lot because they have to develop ten performers to get one that makes a profit. That sounds right, because I have to buy ten cds to find one I want to keep.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Poorly Done, Standard & Poor's"

After giving Triple A ratings to enough toxic assets to drag us into our current mess, Standard & Poor's has the nerve to even think about downgrading the U.S. debt.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

For The Kids

Driving around big cities and small towns you see almost no kids out playing. People my age say that it's because their parents are afraid they'll be kidnapped. But if kids wanted to be outside, they'd find a way to get around their all too indulgent parents. No, kids just want to to be looking into a screen, a pool of light. And that may be all right. This may be the next stage in our evolution. Just a milllenia ago the old folks were saying to one another, "You never see kids out spearing squirrels anymore."

Yum-factor

Salt is the connecting clutch plate between the engine of whatever you put in your mouth and the rear wheel drive of whatever your digestive tract has been asked to crank out.

Fly By Dog

Not to make Greyhound look bad, but if flying was a bus...it's name would be Allegiant. An airline no one has heard of unless he wants to fly dirt cheaply from an obscure place to a more famous one. You're flying by the seat of your pants. And if your pants are gone when you get there, well what do you expect for dirt cheapness?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What, Me Worry?

We do well to worry about China. I would worry too if I owed my bank my annual salary for the next three years. But let's not get carried away. Consider the following: China wants to dominate Asia, but has Japan to worry about as well as a host of assertive pups at her feet and the awakening giant India on her underbelly. We dominate two continents and all we have to worry about is Brazil. China is a big Brazil. Japan is a little United States. If you still must worry, read John Hersey's White Lotus. You might as well enjoy yourself while you fret.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Poor Man's Shrimp

The best substitute for shrimp for the poor man is shrimp-on-sale. My goal in cooking is to make cheap foods taste like shrimp. I have succeeded with potatoes and cabbage. I can't really describe how it's done. I must show you. Come stay at our S&B (Shed & Breakfast). Even then you may still think I'm crazy. Why not just enjoy the natural taste of the potato or the cabbage head? I can't help myself. There's a fishward leaning bent to my nature.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Seeking Harvard Dropout

Are you a disgruntled Ivy League computer genius who is looking to dump the academic scene as soon as he finds the idea for the next Facebook? Well I have that idea and I am looking for you. (If you are not a disgruntled Ivy Leaguer please stop reading here.) My idea is better than Facebook because it will make its creator incredibly rich. After you and I get filthy we will sell the site to Google so we can spend more time with our families. My idea is based on the rule that the stock market runs on two things: fear and greed. Everyday the market goes up or down. Down, based on reports of oil price increases, war, or tsunamis. Up, based on reports of fewer people filing for unemployment or better than expected sales of Tickle Me Elmo at Target. Your job is to write a program that will predict how the stock price of companies in the major indexes reacts to the daily news. Then we buy or sell that stock based on our findings. We also sell diet ads on the right side of the page. We'll have to start small. I can't afford to pay a salary, but you're free to use my garage and the local convenience store is looking for a night clerk. I've opted for Jeff Bridges to play me in the movie of our spectacular rise. Who do you want?
The working name of our website is NoocyT (tycoon backwards).

What's The Opposite of The Placebo Effect?

MALCEBO EFFECT: Physically experiencing all the side effects of the pill you are taking because you have read them on the warning label.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Does Anyone Remember Major Qaddafi?

Qaddafi was an army captain when he took over Libya. He is supposedly an all-powerful dictator. Why is it that in 42 years he has not gotten past the rank of colonel?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

SHIMATA

The Jananese are supposedly a non-litigious people, but a Japanese woman is suing Google because her drying underwear showed up on Google's Street View of her apartment. I love Google Maps. They make me feel like an alien approaching earth in a UFO. You click in on Tokyo say, then switch over to Satellite View. Click in closer till you can see the buildings and streets, then grab the liitle yellow man in the left corner and drag and drop him anywhere. Presto, you're on earth. It's a static earth, but you can turn 360 degrees and move around town on the white lines. You get a feel for what a place really looks like, but it soon grows tiresome because every move, even a few feet up the street, is at warp speed. Then it takes several seconds for the new view to come into focus. As for the Japanese woman, I wondered why she didn't mind her neighbors seeing her underwear, but got upset when Google put them on its site. I suppose she became a celebrity in her neighborhood. Instead of losing face she found an unwanted one. In court she admitted to mental health issues being exacerbated. She only wants $7,000. Perhaps to pay for professional help.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/22/google-street-view-sighting_n_786774.html#s188191&title=undefined

Thursday, January 20, 2011

DO YOUR JOB

Have you ever watched "Undercover Boss?" It's fun to see the CEO in disguise doing grungy jobs while his employees try to tell him nicely this is not his cup of tea. The best part is the boss revealing himself to the workers, telling them how they're going to be promoted or how their sick kid is going to get better doctors. It's an eye opener for the boss to see what his employees have to deal with and to see what outstanding workers he has, but I wonder how many company screw-offs get the ax when the camera quits rolling.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Pause That Never Ends

I sat in the back row of a funeral the other day and saw a woman pulling on a pint bottle of pop. I won't say I was shocked. I saved that emotion for the pallbearer in bluejeans. But I was chagrined, baffled and nonplussed. Couldn't she abstain for sixty minutes? Perhaps she has some rare Diet Coke deficiency that requires topping up every 15 minutes. And what makes me so superior? There might have been friends of the deceased labeling me Funeral Crasher as they smiled and nodded.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

WINTER

Winter is a fierce beautiful beast. To endure it we must prepare ourselves, like the lion tamer cumbered with upheld chair and whip. Always alert, we might enjoy for seconds at a time his roaring and his rippling grace as he circles the cage seeking to get at us. But we're stuck in this cage for months on end with no applause from the crowd to compensate us for our danger and discomfort.
The saddest day of the year is June 21 when the days start getting shorter. Everything ripens then decays. This too is beautiful and makes no demands on us. But soon we're hauling out the heavy coats and paying the fuel man. Life becomes dark and messy. The lights of Christmas distract us from the loss of daylight. On December 22 there's only eight and a quarter hours of sun. But there's hope in this because the days are getting longer now. By January 27 the sun is rising before eight and setting after five and that helps me bear the cold and snow. February is made short to boost our hope. Winter's back is broken by March and Spring has her birthday then.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Cat Problem

There are cat lovers, cat haters, and people like me who feel overwhelmed by all the problems cats and the rest of us have to face. Today is the first anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. Last Saturday several people were gunned down by a madman in Tucson. ASPCA has a commercial in which Roberta Flack sings over incredibly sad-eyed dogs in shelters. They will be killed if no one adopts them. Tonight cats will hang around farmhouse doors hoping to be invited in out of the cold. Up to a year ago a cat hanging around my mother-in-law's door would have been invited in. The cat would have been confined to the laundry room and shooed out at daybreak, but least it would have enjoyed a good night's sleep and something to eat. Unfortunately Frances died last year and her husband is indifferent to cats. He'll tolerate them outside and will even feed them on the porch, but he can't abide them in the house. A cat once ate his hearing aid, but even without that disaster he would not be having any cats inside.
My sister-in-law loves cats. She and her husband were up to visit the farm last weekend and saw first hand the plight of the two cats who hang around Einar's house. One of them will soon have kittens. Kathy did not try to convice Einar to let the cats come inside, but she did ask me to pick up a pet warmer mat. At her suggestion I put the mat in the garage out of the wind. A little red light came on when I plugged in the mat. After a while I carried the pregnant cat to the garage and set her on the mat. She immediately returned to the front porch. The mat instructions said the mat would not feel warm to the touch in cold climates. The pet will get warm it says by lying on the mat. I'm hoping the cat will somehow figure this out. The mat has a nice fleece cover and maybe she'll curl up on that tonight when it gets down below zero.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Delta, I Cave

I was in a snit about the high cost of flying to Boston on an upcoming trip and threatened to drive there. At first Teresa was agreeable to saving hundreds of dollars, but as she weighed those dollars against the cons of driving she asked if we didn't have enough miles for a free ticket. We have a Visa FlexPerks card which we were given after the Delta-Northwest merger. Delta went with American Express and Visa tried to hold on to it's Northwest carholders by pronising free tickets on any airline. I had little faith in this promise but checked our account and was surprised to find we had enough miles for two tickets. The Visa site took us to Travocity and a few minutes later we were booked through to Boston and back. So I say to Delta, Visa, Pope Benedict, and anyone else I may have offended, I apologize.

No Worries

We truly need to start worrying about the Chinese when they start coming over here adopting our orphans.