A Guilt Trip for the Holiday

Here’s a rather stern holiday address from our Forager-in-Chief, Bart the Bear, thumbing some thoughts our way from his cellphone in the woods. It has been translated from the original Usurs Textish.

Hello, Bart here.

Just a note to everyone coming to the woods for Labor Day weekend.

You’re on holiday, but I’m at work. Don’t forget that. I don’t get time off.
A bear’s job is survival, every single day.

I know your song and cartoon bears dance and play and eat picnic baskets, but that’s a make believe life and I can’t afford to live it. I’m real. Really real. So if you see me in the woods this weekend, give me a little room to work. Getting too close is a hazard for me and you, and in case you didn’t figure it out, I smell bad. Really, really bad. And my breath is even worse. Trust me, you don’t want to get that close.

But if you HAVE to get my picture, why don’t you at least leave me a generous tip? Yeah, a tip. I’m just like a waiter down there in the Twin Cities – working hard while you relax and have a good time. I suppose you could imagine, like some people I won’t name, that I’m pampered and overpaid. But trust me, you’d be floored if you had to live the way I do, dressed in a thick fur coat all summer, dragging my big bear butt through the thicket and getting feasted on by mosquitoes and ticks. Yeah, ticks. I got some the size of chipmunks.

So drop me a bag of Fritos, OK? Or Pudding Pops. Cold stuff is good and I can get to it before it melts if you ditch it in the hollow log and get out of the way. You’ve got plenty, we all know that.

Maybe you’re thinking you don’t want to encourage us bears to eat people food. Maybe you’re thinking by not tipping us you can keep our lives more “natural.” Well, I say, thanks to you, “natural” is no longer a possibility. A newspaper blowing through here the other day had this article that said the North Woods are “retreating” to the north and east, so with climate change I’m gonna have to think about a very expensive move. Ever hear the saying “There’s a Bear in the Weeds?” Me neither. It’s “Woods”. Always has been. That’s what we like – trees. I won’t stay on the prairie. So as long as you’re changing my world and uprooting me, why don’t you do a little something to provide for me too?

Don’t have any extra junk? I’ll also eat healthy foods. I know you get to have blueberries year-round, and blackberries too. How about it? Share the wealth. I’ll even take a bruised banana. No big deal. What else are you gonna do with that stuff? You sure can’t take it with you. And if eating your Fruit Loops rots my teeth and kills me, well, it won’t do me in much quicker than the starvation I’ll face if I have to spend my days posing for pictures with you and your kids while your exhaust makes all the trees around me die and fall over.

My main point is this – have a nice weekend and enjoy the woods. It’s a wonderful place to visit. But while you’re having a good time, don’t forget to pay the help!

Your friend and host, Bart.

We all want to help Bart AND to do it responsibly, but leaving a package of Ho-Ho’s in the dwindling forest is probably not the best way.

What’s your favorite host/hostess gift?

Hello Hurricane!

Your Weird Uncle, Hurricane Earl

I hope the newest storm manages to pass along our most populated coast without hurting anyone or destroying property, because I would like to have only fond memories of a hurricane with the quintessential hick name – Earl. I’d like to think of this as a Labor Day weekend we were forced to spend in the company of an eccentric, unpredictable but ultimately harmless goofball uncle. How can we make that happen? Alas, imagination is the only useful tool we have against the weather, and you know I have a fondness for dopey heroic poetry, so here goes …

With his one clear eye and his wavy hair
He’s a big tough muscular column of air.
You can see him for miles. He makes flags unfurl.
And the people all call him Hurricane Earl.

Earl was a youngster when he made the map.
He can blow down trees and make light poles snap.
He can shake up houses. He can break some plates.
He can cause consternation in the Eastern States.

Down in North Carolina and way up to Maine.
Folks whisper of his power and his country name.
When he sweeps on by he’ll make the ocean whirl
You’ll get soaked, Manhattan. Courtesy of Earl.

If there’s one thing you’d better not do for fun,
Don’t spit in the face of this son-of-a-gun.
He packs quite a punch. He’s not shy at all.
He’ll blow it right back at you like a cannonball.

He’s a plywood king. He sells water too.
He’ll board up your home and your business too.
Look down from space to see his jaunty swirl.
Underneath is the havoc of Hurricane Earl.

If you’re on Long Island better go inside.
If you’re on Cape Cod, find a place to hide.
Down in Washington, take a few steps back.
There’s a surge a comin’, and it’s not Iraq.

He’s a pile of wind blowing in from sea.
He’s a massive concentration of energy.
He’s the ocean’s spawn. Singular, not plural.
He’s a hurricane by the name of Earl.

The hurricane names for the next few years have already been chosen, so if you’re not on this list,your only hope of seeing your name on a chunk of extravagant weather is to attach it to something else. I think a government strapped for cash should consider selling naming rights for all the significant weather events.

Bee Careful

Here’s a seasonal safety message from Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.

At Ease, Civilians! But don’t be TOO easy.

I’m here to remind you that this is the week before Labor Day, so there’s lots of traveling going on and picnics are happening everywhere. People are in their relaxed, summertime frame of mind. It may seem like fun to you, but from my perspective that’s a dangerous combination, especially compared to wintertime when you just assume that something bad involving extreme cold or loss of traction is going to happen to you in the next ten minutes.

Winter is harsh and difficult by nature. Summer is soft and easy. And you’ve had so much of it leading up to the last day of August, your guard could very well be down. I’m here to tell you, just like our nation’s military, you should always be trying to re-up your guard! You never know when you might have to re-deploy to respond to a new threat!

Why, you ask? What could happen?

Bees! Bees could happen to you at the end of summer. Wasps, yellow jackets, bumble bees, all creatures with pointy back ends are of great concern to me, and they should be to you as well! Some specific advice:

– Always remember to look INSIDE the open pop can before you take a great big drink out of it. Because you don’t want to have a bee in your mouth anymore than a bee wants to be in there! A human mouth is a gross, scary place to be, and if you were caught inside one, you’d panic and would do anything to get out.

– If you decide to go rolling down a grassy hill in celebration of the end of summer, be sure to conduct a careful survey of the terrain. Ground nests, once disturbed, are like those clown cars at the circus – there seems to be no end to the number of scary individuals who come pouring out. And why shouldn’t they? If a huge fleshy thing rolled over your house, you’d be upset too!

– Some people roll on the ground or jump in a lake when under attack by bees. This is NOT a good escape strategy. Rolling on the ground is what you do when you’re on fire. Jumping in the lake also works to resolve a flaming-clothes situation. But bees can find you in either of these scenarios, and will simply wait for an opportunity to inflict their portion of pain. The best approach is to run like crazy, pulling your shirt over your head to keep them away from your eyes. If you do this, the bees will get tired of chasing you, and they’ll also become helpless with laughter. But it is always a good idea to have your bee attack escape route mapped out at all times. Make sure your intended path doesn’t cross a major thoroughfare or a scenic overlook.

Even a single angry bee can set off a disastrous chain of events! The bee in the shirt of the bus driver, the bee in the hair of the horsewoman, and the bee up the pants leg of the construction worker have caused far too much havoc and heartbreak. So never, ever stop thinking about your next random encounter with our tiny, stingered citizens. Give them the space and respect they need!

Securely Yours,
Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty

This strikes close to home for me, since I was put in the hospital by a few bee stings when I was ten years old. I have been known to do a vigorous but spastic “bee dance” whenever one is nearby – an upsetting scene for everyone, bees included.

Got bees?

Nice Guesswork If You Can Get It

I have been known to construct an entire conversation between two people, playing both sides for maximum amusement. Putting words in mouths is an entertaining pastime and is easier work for an introvert than actually talking to strangers.

For this reason alone I tip my hat to the missionary who tore the knob off Clyde’s door this weekend. Clyde detailed his encounter in the comments attached to the Saturday entry, Bumper to Bumper. Say what you will about the evangelist’s theology, it does require boldness to profess your faith door to handle-less door. How does one muster the courage? Perhaps he had imagined how his conversion of Clyde would go – the greeting, the pitch, the resistance and the struggle, a key phrase uttered, a light goes on in the darkness, the opening of the floodgates, some weeping and the tearful conclusion. Maybe it does happen that way sometimes, I don’t know. But I wager when this fellow approached Clyde, he did not know Who He Was Dealing With. Still, you need an active imagination to succeed in this world. Why not use a little positive visualization and picture events unfolding in some way that benefits you? Fate will rewrite it soon enough. Sometimes you have to make stuff up and hope it’s at least partially true.

I thought of this while reading commentator Glenn Beck’s assessment of President Obama’s most deeply held religious beliefs. Beck has examined Obama’s underpinnings and finds them wanting. Since I doubt the president has time for a face-to-face, heart-to-heart theological discussion with a Fox News personality, Mr. Beck must have distilled this intensely personal information by filtering it through the heavy air of Washington D.C. at the Big Beck Rally this past Saturday. Opponents are so much simpler to defeat when you can handle their side of the conversation too. Trust me, I’m doing it to Glenn Beck right now and it’s very easy because he’s not saying a word!

In our media landscape today, whether you know what you’re talking about or not is hardly the point. The key is to get your version of the truth out there. Wrong or right, but especially if it’s amazingly, provocatively wrong, stuff takes on a life of its own.

One more instance of making things up – the head count for the Beck rally at the Lincoln Memorial. Here’s how the numbers were presented in Felicia Sonmez’s Washington Post Story:

Estimates on the size of the rally have varied widely. According to one commissioned by CBS News, 87,000 people attended the event. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R), who also spoke at the event, told a reporter afterward that she thought more than 100,000 people had attended … Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), speaking at her own event following the rally, said that no fewer than 1 million people had been in attendance.

What, nobody went for a billion? Leave it to our own Michele Bachmann to top everyone in this random number generating derby. She even beat the event’s organizer, whose method was so exact he called it somewhere between 300 thousand and 650 thousand. Perhaps he relied on the crowd estimation technique I claimed to use back when I was a reporter – count the number of legs and divide by two.

Obviously the total was a moving target, so you can choose any number that sounds good for you. Remember there’s no penalty for making stuff up.

What’s the biggest crowd you were ever in?

Bumper to Bumper

This week’s massive highway jam in China made me strangely happy, and I’m feeling pretty guilty about that. I get fidgety in slow traffic and am cheered whenever I’m gliding down the interstate and see that the opposite lane is backed up, simply because I’m not stuck on that side.

It’s schadenfreude, I know. Taking pleasure from the misfortune of others. It’s a silly reaction for a couple of reasons. Slow traffic on the other side of the interstate can easily trigger a gawker slowdown on my side, which can turn into a real smugness dampener.
And then there’s the air.

As I drive past any line of backed up cars here in the U.S. I can almost see a cloud of frustration swirling around the vehicles. Or is that exhaust? People tend not to turn off their motors, even if they’re going nowhere. Lungs ache at the thought of the air quality along China’s 10 day, 60 mile long stoppage. Add to that the fact that many of the bumper-to-bumper trucks were carrying coal to feed the country’s rapidly growing energy needs, and its easy to see this Chinese jam as both a hydrocarbon generating and hydrocarbon generated monster.

And it’s back!

What do you do when you’re stuck for days in the middle of a thicket of overloaded coal trucks? Get out, play cards, sit in the shade, talk with your fellow sufferers, sleep and pay ticket scalper-level prices for food and water. And make up limericks.

One summer, en route to Beijing
The road was a go-nowhere thing.
When the drivers got out
To see what was about
Their new settlement lasted ‘til Spring.

How do you handle gridlocked traffic?

What Time Is It?

There is a divide between professional golfers and ordinary golfers that we ordinaries long to close. The game is so fickle and unpredictable and the small variations that make a big difference are so incomprehensibly tiny, it is possible to imagine that some day, for no reason other than the whimsy of a random universe, I will step on the course and play, not like myself, but like Jim Furyk.

In reality, that will never happen. If the professional/ordinary gap is threatened at all, it is by scenarios like this one: Furyk has a dead cell phone, his alarm doesn’t go off, he oversleeps, misses his tee time and is disqualified from a potentially very lucrative tournament.

Oversleeping. How common. Although some are more prone to it than others.

In 25 years of doing a weekday morning radio show that started as early as 5 am, I can recall oversleeping two times. In each case I was about one half hour late and both times my duties were handled by an extremely capable co-host. I felt off my game for the rest of the day, and there were other ramifications too. I developed a blister on one foot because I rushed out the door with putting on socks, and my shirt was 15% more wrinkled than normal but nobody said a word about it, perhaps out of politeness. No harm done.

But oversleeping can he hazardous.

If, for instance, you’re involved in a bankruptcy proceeding and are ordered by the court to appear at a meeting of your creditors and then don’t show up because you overslept and later you still don’t show up even though your attorney calls you to ask “where are you?” and even later when the marshal calls of course you promise him you will surrender yourself at the courthouse within an hour and a half but instead you jump in a car and go with your girlfriend to Florida with this crazy plan to hide out in a boat because you harbor a wild fantasy that you will never have to come back to face the music, then, well, you could wind up in jail.

A good alarm clock and a little common sense will help you avoid many problems.

Have you ever been penalized for oversleeping?

State Fair Time!

The Minnesota State Fair begins today, so take some time to end your summer properly with a visit to the great get together. When I go I have my usual favorite things to do, and so does everyone else. My things and your things are not always the same things. The rules that govern time and space pretty much require that any one individual will have to pass up many, many Fair features in order to enjoy their special places, experiences and foods.

This year the Fair has worked that unavoidable fact into their promotion, inviting people to narrow down the field by selecting their “Fair Four”. The lists are then posted on the Fair’s website. Take a look. Last time I checked there were over 400 entries. I wonder how many there’ll be by Labor Day?

Everybody eats their favorite food at the Fair.

As usual, I intend to visit the Animal Barns, one of the French Fry stands, the Art Building and the Sky Glider. Somewhere along the way I’ll have a milk shake. Ah, that’s five Fair things. Next year’s promotion, I expect.

On my list of new things to do is to watch some high school wizards battle it out by proxy in the education building. There’s a robotics display, and today it’s Edina vs. North Branch at 10, noon and 2. May the best gizmo win!

For new food, I might have to go to the Fried Fruit stand for fruit salsa and tortilla chips, or to the Fudge Puppy stand for a Caramel Apple Puppy. These fruity mouth fresheners may pave the way for some other new offerings – camel on a stick, deep fried balogna and corndog pizza. Yum!

Going to the fair?
Discuss your strategy.

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