Category Archives: Uncategorized

Power’s Out

I think it’s fair to say, now that it’s officially over, that the summer was unsettling to say the least.  It didn’t help that I tried to blow up the neighborhood.

I was sitting in my bedroom that morning, working on a file, when I heard a bang and saw a flash in the hallway out of the corner of my eye.  And the power immediately went out.  I rushed to the back of the house and although I could smell a little lingering smoke, I couldn’t see anything.  When I went downstairs and out to the backyard, all the other neighbors were out as well, checking to see what had happened; everyone had experienced the same thing, hearing the bang and seeing the flash.  Everything looked ok – no power lines down, no big blackened patches on garage roofs or yards.  And the smoke smell dissipated pretty quickly, so we texted the power company and wandered back inside our respective houses.

The power company showed up about an hour later.  I saw the lineman up at the power box two houses down; the power came on for about 10 seconds and then there was another bang and flash.  And again, the power left us.  Since I was standing in my backroom watching the power guy, I saw exactly where the flash came from – the power lines at the back of my yard.  It gave me a sick feeling, quickly totting up the various worse-case scenarios.  The power guy must have seen it as well; he headed straight for my garage roof, I headed for the backyard.  After about 10 minutes of poking around with a long pole, he headed back to the line to reinstate the power.  This time it stayed on.

I couldn’t resist going to talk to him and was rewarded with a tale of exactly what had happened.  A branch had broken on one of my trees, but instead of falling into the yard, it had tipped over and connected two power lines, one at the top and one at the bottom of the branch.  That caused the first burst.  When the power was restored the first time, the branch was still in place, so it connected and exploded again.  After he poked the branch with the pole, it fell into the yard; with no more connection, no more issue.   It’s hard to see in the photo above, but the branch is all blackened and many of the leaves are dry and burnt.  I was so relieved that it hadn’t been anything horrible and/or expensive to repair, I fessed up to all the neighbors that my tree was the guilty party.

When was the last time you had to have a repair person to your place?

San Diego Surprise!

When YA and I went to San Diego last month, the second attraction on our list was the San Diego Zoo.  The zoo has a great reputation and YA has wanted to go there for years.

It was hot that day (although not as hot as the day before at the Safari Park) and due to covid, none of the zoo shuttles were running.  Like the Park, the zoo is built on the hills of San Diego, with different regions of the world represented in their own areas.  And like we did at the park, YA and I covered the whole thing during our day there.

Our first surprise was the North Sulawesi Babirusa.  Never heard of it?  Neither had we!  The last time I encountered an animal new to me was 20+ years ago on my first trip to Africa.  In Kenya I saw an okapi – a large deer that looks like a cross between a horse and a zebra.   Babirusa means “pig deer” Malaysian and have daunting looking teeth and the males also have remarkably dangerous looking upper tusks.   We didn’t see any baby babirusa but if you look online, they are very cute.

We got our second surprise about an hour later in the Africa Rocks section of the zoo.  We came upon a large empty enclosure with a sign that said “Fossa” – another animal that neither YA nor I had ever heard of.  One of the zoo employees told us that they had just cleaned the enclosure and would be putting out “lunch” for the fossa in a minute, so we stayed.  She put food all over the space so the fossa would “hunt” for it.  If you’ve every thought about what the result of a dog and cat union would be, the fossa is it.  Or maybe dog, cat and weasel?  It was beautiful with a long, luxuriant tale and looked like it would be quite a proficient hunter.  Their natural home is Madagascar and apparently they are able to bring down even the largest lemur species.

It was a great day and we were both happy to have made the acquaintance of two new animals that we had never encountered before.

Have you learned anything new lately?

Surviving 2020

Last Friday here on the Trail, right after it was learned that a hero named Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died, the comments shifted, from musicals and the fires out West, to her passing:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. That is so difficult to accept.

Now it all gets surreal.

I was so sure she would simply refuse to die with 45 in office.

…I feel just hollowed out by this.

This news comes on the heels of the devastating fires in (mostly) California and Oregon; the crippled economy and school system; continued protests, violence, and looting in some cities following several instances of police brutality and murder, particularly to people of color – all this as we still struggle with the isolation and loss of life from Covid 19.

The next comment pretty much sums up how I’ve been feeling as this 2020 election approaches:

…Someone close to me is having such a bad time with political events she is seeking medical help. I’m struggling too, relatively speaking. These are difficult times.

The anniversary of our son’s death was last Sunday, 9/13, and I hardly acknowledged it. Then I felt guilty for not feeling the usual grief, not doing something special to mark the day, and suddenly realized – I’m already feeling so much of a different kind of grief, it didn’t occur to me to pile any more on.

Mostly, I’ve been grieving for the country and culture I thought I knew, and thought I was living in… the place where people can feel strongly about something, but can agree to disagree, and still live and work side by side. The place where we can still respect each other and treat other civilly even when we’re totally at odds.

The level of vitriol and hateful speech that has come out, for example, over whether or not masks are worn leaves me speechless. I’ve found myself shying away from Facebook because of what I might find there. (I’ve refrained from Unfriending a couple of acquaintances from “the other side”, to see if I can figure out how they think.) I frequently run into something so nasty it makes me want to cry, for the person who posted it as much as for those of us liberals or Demon-crats it’s aimed at. I don’t want to totally give up FB because I also, at times, find very beautiful or funny things there.

So I hang out with like-minded people or baboons whenever possible. I’d like to pick your brains a bit – could be in your own words or someone else’s, could be poetry, jokes, stories, music, art … anything: 

Do you have any words of wisdom about how we all hang on till we’re through it, whatever “it” is?

Salty Language Advisory – Redux

In honor of “Talk Like a Pirate Day” today, this post comes to us from the archives, gratitude to Dale Connelly.

With some sharp language-related news cutting through the air of late involving the U.S. Navy and some people standing in the road in North Carolina, I thought it would be enlightening to consult with someone I consider to be an expert in the field of salty talk, the skipper of the pirate clipper Muskellunge, Captain Billy.

I tossed some relevant press clippings into a bottle and launched it down the Mississippi through a hole in the ice near Fridley about a week ago, and much to my surprise a reply from the Captain arrived on my desk late last night, boldly dashed on a piece of damp parchment by someone using a parrot feather dipped in pomegranate juice. I deduce that it came from somewhere in the southern climes. Maybe Mendota Heights or even as far away as Cottage Grove!

Ahoy!

Many thanks fer yer question about public language an’ what is an’ what ain’t considered foul!

As Cap’n of a pirate ship, people automatically assumes I has a sharp tongue, a form of stereotypin’ which I resents. Me and me boys labors under heavy expectations from landlubbers regardin’ our manner of public discourse.

Fer instance, if’n one of me boys enters a waterfront saloon anywhere in th’ world, he ain’t taken serious until he either punches somebody’s lights out or utters at least a half dozen choice curse words in th’ local dialect. This gets t’ be a problem on account of th’ vast number of places we visits an’ all th’ different local standards fer rough talk. We ain’t scholars out here, an’ it’s quite a chore t’ keep up wi’ current foul language fashions.

Believe it or don’t, a surprising number of me boys is kind hearted souls who took t’ th’ life of piratin’ t’ get away from uncouth situations at home, an’ they ain’t much inclined to employ harsh language anyhow. They often declines shore leave, on account of th’ fact that it’s too much work to make th’ kind of impression a pirate has to make merely to get served a beer in some places.

But I caution’s ye against thinkin’ pirates is in any way refined. I prefers t’ think we’s Libertarians, language-wise. On board th’ Muskellunge there’s no rules about what a pirate can or can’t say, an’ that goes both ways. Most standard obscenities is allowed as well as any kind of precious, non-piratical sissy words like “Gosh”, “Jeepers” an’ “Swell.”

Where I draws th’ line is attitude. Me boys is not permitted t’ be mean spirited towards one another or anyone else, unless it has t’ do wi’ official pirate business, such as pillagin’ a quiet coastal town or ransackin’ a defenseless vessel.

Th’ one spoken word I never wants to hear on board th’ Muskellunge is th’ last name of that famous FAKE movie pirate, Johnny Depp. If’n one of me boys curses another with a “God Depp” or a “Depp You” or a “you’s a no good barnacle Depper,” I’ll wash his mouth out with a fruity wine cooler – a horrible insult t’ any boy what loves his grog.

Yers in love o’ th’ language,

Capt. B.

The captain has a strong point that the “bad”ness of words is more a question of local custom than universal truth, and the attitude we bring to any exchange is more important that what is actually said. Given that, I do think he is a bit of a hypocrite for taking such an uncharitable attitude toward Johnny Depp.

Do you have to watch your language?

Chez Abattoir

I’m starting to feel like our animals are staging their own production of Sweeney Todd around here.

Guinevere is fast.  Really fast.  No squirrels yet but she’s way into double digits with rabbits and chipmunks.  Last week when I called her in at the end of the night, she wouldn’t come.  I looked out into the yard and saw a large furry lump that Guinevere was clearly guarding.  It looked too big to be a rabbit so I slowly made my way out.  It was a possum.  It didn’t look alive but then I remembered that old phrase “playing possum” and wondered if maybe it was really alive.  YA was out at that point and we managed to catch Guinevere and take her inside.  YA stayed in the yard (taking pictures) and within a minute the possum had raised its head and looked around.  Within 20 minutes it had moved to the very back of the yard.  In the morning, before we let the dog out, we checked and the possum was gone.  We figure that it wasn’t injured, but putting on a good show to throw the dog off.

Nimue is also on the rampage.  It’s that time of year when mice try to find a warmer spot (apparently a mouse can get in a hole that is half the size of a dime) and this year is not exception.  Like most cats, Nimue isn’t even remotely interested in the mice after she’s chased them around and then killed them, but it does mean that I’ve come downstairs in the morning to find the little lifeless bodies – several of them in the last week.  Unfortunately, when the cat gets busy during the night, the dog thinks she needs to go down to see what fun is being had without her.  Then there is barking and some mess making.  The last couple of nights, we’ve put up the gate at the top of the stairs to keep the dog from joining the mayhem.

Usually the mouse situation is a short term issue… in a couple of weeks, the mice will have found a warmer spot and the cat will stop leaving us little gifts. The backyard?  It will remain an abattoir as long as Guinevere on guard!

What’s the last musical you’ve seen?

Yard Signage

There are quite a few fairy gardens on the various paths that I walk each day.  Some at the edges of the sidewalk, two different ones in big pots, one on a tree trunk.  My favorite though is a large one near Lake Harriet that wraps around the bushes along the front sidewalk.  It has just about everything you can imagine including a teeny tiny yard side for Black Lives Matter (in the upper right corner).  As you probably can figure, I think this is charming.

I come by my love of yard signs naturally.  My folks usually always had a sign up for some candidate or other at election time.  The year my dad was the campaign manager for a friend running for city council, one whole side of our yard (that faced the busier street) was lined with them.  They even let me put up a “No Nukes” sign when I was in college, although our house at that point was at the end of a cul de sac so I’m sure the sign didn’t get seen by too many people.

I’ve been thinking about adding a yard sign for my presidential favorite almost every morning when I’m walking the dog, but then I get back to the house and promptly forget about it.  After seeing the little fairy garden yard sign, I sent myself an email to remind me, then drove up to Northern Sun (I love them – I was SO happy when I realized that I had moved to the city where their store is located!) and picked up my sign, which is now in my yard, along with my BLM sign.  Somehow having two signs feels quite natural – guess I’ll have to find another sign after the election so I will still have two!

Are you a yard sign person?  Or a fairy garden fancier?

I’d Sure Like to Meet…

Today’s post comes to us from Minnesota Steve

In 1960 when I saw To Kill a Mockingbird, I knew it was a great film that would become a classic. I also knew—or thought I knew—that Gregory Peck must be a thoroughly decent man, not just an actor who played the role of a decent man. And yet, that second notion is actually not as obvious as it often seems. Not all great actors are ethical, friendly or likable in real life. Happily enough, Peck turned out to be as nice as the part he played. His costars have praised him endlessly for his generosity and kindness. Time has been as kind to Peck’s reputation as it has to his most iconic film.

But being a great performance artist is difficult, and not every performer who reaches the high levels of artistry is as likable as Gregory Peck. While it is understandable that fans want to believe their favorite performers are also good people, not all performers are as likable as they are talented.

Some accomplished performers have complicated reputations. John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Pablo Picasso are often mentioned as people you might admire but would not enjoy being close to. In the world of business, Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Elon Musk and Henry Ford are usually considered difficult human beings, if not worse. I used to dislike Bill Gates, but either he changed or I was badly informed. He seems admirable now.

Steve Goodman is an interesting person in this context. Goodman was funny, smart and easy to like as a performer. And yet I’ve read that his close friends knew he could occasionally be one of most annoying persons on earth. One person saying that was Goodman’s wife, Nancy, who loved him deeply.

Similarly interesting is the singer Loudon Wainwright III. Several people close to him have accused him of being a shoddy human being. One person expressing that opinion is the singer himself. While he has admitted to philandering and other mistakes, Wainwright’s open way of discussing them makes him more interesting or even likable.

My daughter has met several authors, and it wasn’t always good. Bill Holm and Michael Ondaatje behaved like jerks at book signings. Louise Penny, by contrast, could not have been more friendly and fun.

Garrison Keillor has been an important personality in my life for 56 years. I am a fan of much of his work, but not of the man himself, for I know he can be discourteous or even cruel. It is a cliché that humorists are often gloomy, unpleasant people, but remember, sometimes clichés are true. The charges of sexual harassment complicate the reputation of a man who was already highly complicated in my mind.

While it is difficult to know what celebrities are like in real life, with some performers you just know in your heart that they are someone you would enjoy as a friend. Bonnie Raitt has so much compassion and respect for other performers that I can’t imagine not liking her. Similarly, Emmylou Harris is unfailingly generous with other performers. Who could possibly dislike her?

Who among famous people would you like to know as a friend? Why?

Snippets That Stick

Today’s post comes to us from our Ben

I was talking with a friend the other day and we were talking history of our area and I made the comment that I am always surprised to see in older photos how few trees were in the area. I tend to think, in the terms of Laura Ingalls Wilder, of the men clearing the fields of trees and making room. So to see these old photos and there simply are not any trees for hundreds of acres.

 

And my friend says “yes, Minnesota was Oak Savannah, so clumps of oaks, but really, not much else”. And I thought oh yeah, I guess I must have learned that in middle school, US history, or Geography, or a visit to the nature center, or something. But I forgot. And then he simply says “It was Oak Savannah” and now it’s stuck.

Isn’t that interesting how we can learn something in school but it won’t stick and then 23 years later someone says “Big pointed bars are called ‘drift pins’” and there it is. Stuck in your brain.

People say “lefty loosey, righty tighty” and I’ve never been able to make that work. I just know you turn it this way to put it on and that way to take it off. Lefty?? From the top of my fingers or bottom?? That just makes me think too hard.

What’s stuck in your brain?

Lining Up For Lobster

Until the last oil boom, fresh fish of any kind was a rarity here in the grocery stores. The influx of oil workers from Gulf Coast states changed that, and now we have a pretty reliable supply of fish and shellfish.  Fresh lobsters are still a rarity, and when one of the local grocery stores advertised fresh lobsters, $9.99 each, Husband and I decided to try to get a couple.

The sale was on for a Saturday starting at 10:00. Customers were limited to four lobsters each.  We arrived at 9:45 to find the line stretching from the back of the store to the front door. We qued up, and waited  patiently while the line got longer and longer behind us. Store employees were taking photographs of the customers.  By 10: 15, they were sold out. We didn’t get to move ahead much at all before the lobsters were gone.

I can’t say I was too disappointed not getting lobster. It was going to be a busy weekend anyway, and a couple of lobsters would have made it even busier. I marveled, though, at the dozens of people who got there before us, determined to get a lobster at a fairly decent price.  I typically hate standing in line for things.  I don’t know why I was willing to do so this time. I suppose the novelty of fresh lobster was a draw.

When have you stood in line for something.  Was it worth the wait?

 

The Little Bridge

Yesterday Guinevere and I turned right where we normally turn left.  It was just a half a block later that I noticed a path peeking out between the trees with stairs heading down toward Minnehaha Creek.  I was pretty sure where the path would lead so we took the path.  After just a bit, I could see the bottom of the steps; there was a rainbow-painted bridge across the creek that I had never realized was there.  The steps were completed embowered (I love that word) by a little forest of trees and the creek gurgles nicely as you walk over the bridge.

For several years I avoided using rainbows.  It’s hard when something becomes a symbol for a movement; you’ve never sure how your use of that symbol will be interpreted.  And not just rainbows but the symbol of the rainbow bridge!  But I’ve found that I’m craving rainbows the last couple of months – for me, they give me hope and bring me beauty.  I’ve made lots of rainbow-themed cards over the summer and added some rainbow stamps and dies to my collection.

So I was very happy to see the little rainbow bridge.  I think that Guinevere and I will visit the path and the bridge often in the future!

If you had a symbol for your life, what would you choose?