Archive for October, 2007

Happy Halloween

This pumpkin sat at the pumpkin stand last night at 8 p.m., still available and ready for carving.  So he came home with me and together we came up with the face. He’s an angry one because our weather suddenly shifted from mild to much more Halloween-like, which means windy and 40 degrees for the kiddies tonight.  I hope pumpkin will be able to keep his glow out on the front steps.




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All due respect to Esquire magazine and its monthly celeb page titled “10 Things Men Don’t Know About Women,” but it goes both ways ladies. So indulge me for a few minutes as I share my “10 things” list. These are, I trust, things you didn’t know about the guys you’ve entrusted your lives and heart to. Only now you know…but please don’t tell anyone where you got this info!

10. When you question our ability (think: “asking for directions, plumbing a new faucet or financing the new Harley we bought on impulse,”) we immediately conclude you no longer love us. Try giving a thumbs up and a smile instead.

9. Like your shoe collection or spending $300 on your hair at the salon, widescreen flat panel displays are REALLY that important to us.

8. You know that favorite running bra you retired but couldn’t part with because it’s well-broken in and has since become your favorite thing to wear to bed and sleep in? Yeah…not so sexy.

7. When we say we had a really rough day at work, it means our boss (or our boss’s boss) failed to recognize something we thought was important. Mix us a strong drink and just listen. Don’t try to solve the problem.

6. The importance we place on smoking an expensive cigar now and then is overblown. The stench and taste make us green in the gills just like it does you. But humor us please.

5. If you know a sport really well, share the knowledge. You gain instant cred with us when you spout sports jargon like “spread defense,” or “3/2 zone.”

4. Contrary to popular belief, guys don’t have to win every debate. If you’re right, don’t give in to us. Prove yourself and we’ll raise the pedestal we’ve already put you on.

3. We may not be able to spell and define efficacy, but we notice your grammar and get turned on by the big words in your vocab. Use it liberally!

2. Part of how we size you up is by how attractive your girlfriends are. The prettier your pals, the more proud of you we’ll be. It’s caveman thinking, but 100% truth.

1. We may not ask “does my butt look fat in these pants,” as directly as you do, but we want to know if you’re losing your attraction due to increasingly large love handles. We promise we won’t shoot the messenger…much


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Fun endeavors often leave us with entirely new perspectives on life if we’re only open to “seeing” the meaning. This happened, recently, when I made caramel apples for my kids and me. It’s somewhat amazing that life itself can be boiled down to the making and eating of candy and fruit.

Caramel appleStep One: It’s all about the apple.

I used Granny Smith green apples. The green skin of a Granny Smith gives the apple a durable and tough exterior. This apple isn’t easily bruised. They might serve better baked in a pie, but my son has always been a fan of eating Granny Smiths. A GS covered in caramel – that seemed like a no brainer. Combine the tartness of the apple, with all its flavor and juice, with caramel and you’ve got one damn good treat!
Step Two:  The caramels.

I used the standard Brach’s caramel cubes that come individually wrapped. As I sat peeling the sticky cellophane from each caramel, I couldn’t help but eat a few during the process. Pure caramel is sickening sweet and addictive. Too much of a good thing is bad news. Too many caramels at once and head-spinning sugar highs will leave you with regrets.

Step Three: The coating process.

Temperature. Temperature. Temperature. I melted the caramel in the microwave and dipped the first apple into the bowl – but the caramel was a little too warm. As in life, whether it’s our education, love, career or whatever – if we’re not open to accepting it and embracing it at just the right moment, these momentous occasions won’t stick. They slide off our tough exteriors. The apple was cool, the caramel was hot and it slid right off. I had to find patience and let the goo mixture cool. Perseverance! On my third attempt I got the caramel to coat the apple and stay on – mostly.

Step Four: Getting stuck.

Then came perhaps the most poignant moment of the process. As in life, we get f*cked from time to time. Sometimes we are repeatedly screwed over – by the boss, by a friend, by a lover.  We go through seemingly endless streaks of getting f*cked and it’s simply not fair! Imagine now, the wooden stick piercing the butt end of the apple. We’ve all felt that displeasure – theoretically at least. It stings. It leaves us hurt. But we’re tough and we don’t let it show on our exterior.

The outside of the apple remained glorious and tempting to eat. In fact, when we did eat the apples, they were deliciously sticky and tart and sweet and I felt like I needed a shower after eating mine because the caramel goes wherever it likes.

Just like life, eating a caramel apple (no matter how hard you try to do it gracefully) – in the end – is satisfying, but leaves us wanting more even though it might be a mess. We get our fingers into things we shouldn’t. We taste things that perhaps don’t agree with us. We open ourselves to risks of getting hurt if something we want desperately doesn’t work out the way we plan. But if we don’t try, we haven’t lived…really lived.

It’s the sticky sweetness and messiness of living life. As Eve discovered with her apple, our choices belong to no one except ourselves.


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Lost In Translation

My cat, Sawyer, thinks I’m bilingual.Sawyer

Who am I to meow anything differently? Fluent Catanese is not an easy tongue to learn. It’s taken a good 20 years of practice, understanding the dialect and perfecting the correct enunciation.

The thing that continues to confound me, however, is why when Sawyer meows me awake in the middle of the night and I tell him to shut the hell up, he rarely listens. Or maybe his tiny cat brain just doesn’t compute vulgarities spewed forth in the dark.

When it comes to nighttime translations, his hearing seems a bit selective. Eventually, he’ll get tired of spending the night in the laundry room.


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My Most Favorite Place

CaribouWhether it’s a cup of Obsidian dark roast or a skim vanilla latte I’m after, the crew at Caribou always come through. This morning my order included a cinnamon chip scone. What’s better than that on a cool autumn morning.

While I;m reading my paper in the corner of the shop, in walks a girl and her boyfriend – they might have been 20 years old. She proceeded to be flamboyant as he placed their order, clearly still half-cocked after a night of drinking. He remained polite and attempted to quiet her down. They sat sipping their coffees and all too frequently she laughed loudly and swore.

“Oh, fuckkkkkk!!!’

“Not SO loud,” he’d say. But she kept at it until the shift manager finally walked out from behind the counter and asked her to keep it down.

She gave the manager a dirty look and said, “This coffee is too hot to even drink.”



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New movie releases that only open in New York and LA often get ignored in fly-over states like Minnesota. But if there’s a movie to keep on the radar this fall, “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” sounds like the one.

Reviews such as this one in The New York Times, make me jittery to see this film. Directed by Sidney Lumet, who happens to be an octagenerian (and who also happens to have directed 40-plus movies in the past 50 years), “Before…” is an all-in-the-family crime-gone-wrong story. The trailer sucked me in. The cast includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, and Albert Finney to name a few. And yes, Hoffman plays the bad seed…the provoker. His ability with characters such as the one in this movie always make viewers despise him…in a good way.


Those getting sneak peeks at the film are saying Lumet has hit his prime…in his senior years. If you don’t know, Lumet also directed such films as Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and Prince of The City. “Before the Devil…” may just make him a household name.

Interestingly, several years ago The NY Times ran a piece about Elmore Leonard and his 10 Tips on Writing. In that piece, Leonard suggests that if a writer must provide detailed descriptions about characters, he or she isn’t doing his job. Liken that to this line written in The NY Times review of “Before the Devil…”:

Andy and Hank are not explained, dissected or excused. They speak their lines and carry out their actions, and, by the time the film is over, we know them inside and out.

Seems like Lumet and Leonard are on the same page.

I’ll be seeing this film.


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I want to get paid to write a column for a liberal newspaper.


Earlier this week, a local Minneapolis columnist (who happens to write for the Star Tribune) inked a piece on the newly chosen contractor who has been selected by the State to build the replacement bridge over the Mississippi River. (You likely remember that a bridge collapsed on August 1. So the city needs a new bridge to carry traffic over the river.)

This columnist’s viewpoint focused in on Flatiron, the Colorado-based contractor, and how it was shipping in several Ford F-150s it purchased from a Colorado-based car dealer. He conjectured that Flatiron chose to buy its work trucks from its home state in order to cheat Minnesota out of $65,000 in sales taxes.


So when I get miffed about stupid thinking, I tend to fire off responses. Here’s what I wrote to the columnist after reading his flotsam…

I skim your column from time to time. Today’s was a little embarrassing. Hyper sensitive guys like you tend create people panic over trivial observations that are written or said with no authority or verification. In your latest piece, you contend that Flatiron is somehow screwing the state out of $65,000 in taxes because it shipped in its work vehicles for the I-35 bridge project. Hmmm. Consider:

1) Does Flatiron have a contract with a Ford Dealer in Colorado? Did you call the Ford Dealer out West to ask if Flatiron was under legal obligation to buy vehicles from it?

2) How much in salaries and employment taxes will Flatiron pay while its here in the state building the bridge over the course of the next 12 months. Let’s do a quick guesstimate. Two hundred people, averaging $50 per hour and working 60 hour weeks for the next 52 weeks. That’s $31 million in salaries paid locally – a bulk of which will get spent locally – and the state will get several million in employment taxes. Doesn’t feel like we’re really short-shrifting anyone now does it?

But don’t publish that statistic. Just continue building paranoia among your weak-kneed liberal readers as you further your belief that somehow the State of Minnesota and its bridge builder are both trying to get away with something evil.

It’s a bridge for shit’s sake. You would do well to do some bridge building of your own.

(-My Signature and phone number here)

PS: I wonder if Flatiron ever buys its trucks from its Colo dealer for a location job and then winds up donating or selling them on the cheap to local charity when the job is completed?

Yeah. I need to be a columnist.


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Fire.  We typically think it a good thing, unless it engulfs a prairie, attacks our home, or comes from the sky in the form of a meteor – then it’s not so good.

At one point in my childhood, Dad drove a ’73 Ford Econoline van. That van experienced an engine fire once and after it was repaired, we all got to smell the result of the fire for 10 hours on the next family vacation.  

Today, uncontrolled flames are torching the landscape and cityscapes of Southern California. It is beyond our imaginations. The smoke, the fire, the smell, the devastation. Satellite shots of smoke trails and video coverage of firefighters battling the blaze do not do justice to the fire’s enormity and severity. 

More than a half-million people have been evacuated from their homes. A friend’s daughter who goes to the University of San Diego flew back to Minneapolis on Tuesday and isn’t sure when she’ll return.

Today the LA Times reported:

The scale of the relocations was most visible at Qualcomm, the 60,000-seat home of the San Diego Chargers. Cots lined concrete gangways. Tents were pitched near tunnel entrances, and the three-quarter-full parking lot ringing the arena was doubling as a campground. Mountains of disposable diapers, stacks of bottled water and other supplies were everywhere.

In three areas of the stadium’s second floor, medical teams were treating 350 to 500 patients from nursing homes, assisted living centers and independent living facilities, said Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health.

Indeed, the crowd in and around the stadium appeared to be represent a broad cross-section of San Diego County: Longhaired motorcycle riders and retired couples from Rancho Bernardo; working-class families and others clearly middle-class.

Whenever people must flee to a football stadium for safety, I start to worry. Reminiscent of Katrina, will our state and federal governments fail to do what’s needed in support of the thousands who are losing their homes, jobs, belongings – and in worst cases – losing loved ones who got caught in the blaze?

Let’s pray the winds die down, a cooling rain falls over this part of the country and the fires subside so those affected can retake their lives that are, for now, dictated by the very same fire cave dwellers rejoiced in when they fell upon its discovery.


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An Autumn Canopy

Autumn Gold

Autumn Gold: From the Elm Creek Park Greenway, Oct. 21, 2007


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Ten Favorite Movies

I enjoy movies. Even in single life, I don’t hesitate to hit the theatre on my own. I can sit where I want, no one is in whispering (too loudly) in my ear asking, “what happened,” and there’s no sharing of popcorn. 

There are two movies I plan to see this weekend, in fact: Michael Clayton and Gone Baby Gone

So while I’m thinking about movies and the few DVDs I have actually bought, it became apparent that I have a list of favorites. These are the movies I enjoyed from the onset – and the ones I’ll watch when I find myself scanning the cable channels on a Sunday afternoon. They’re worthy of sitting through even if it means TV edits and commercial interruptions (and even though I have several in my DVD library).

1. Unforgiven.  Clint Eastwood directed and starred in this throwback western with Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman. I’m a huge fan of Clint and he nailed this role of good guy gone bad ass (again) even against his better judgment.

2. Memento. This is a must own movie because it’s one you have to watch at least 10 times to get. I’m still watching it and figuring out the nuances of a killer script and so many twists it numbs the mind.

3. Meet Joe Black. Claire Forlani, Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins in a story about love, life, death and taxes.  Actually, it’s really about life and making the most of it. 

4. Serendipity. The title says it all. John Cusak always portrays the every day guy in a way that seems so…every day. Kate Beckinsdale plays the superstitious, but amazingly likable love interest.

5. Platoon. Oliver Stone has several productions that could make my Top 10 list, but this one stands out due to a great cast and the human trauma about Vietnam that is captured so well.

6. Rear Window.  Not sure when I first saw Jimmy Stewart in Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but I never get tired of watching the movie. Maybe it’s the innuendo that exists between Stewart and Grace Kelly. Maybe it’s the way Raymond Burr stares eerily into the camera.

7. Finding Neverland. If you haven’t seen Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet in this remarkable movie about playwright J.M. Barrie (who would go on to write Peter Pan), you’ve missed one of Depp’s best films. I could have placed Pirate’s of the Caribbean on this list, but that’s too obvious.

8. Once Upon a Time in Mexico. This is simply a fun and well directed movie with some action, a plot and cool filmography.

9. The Departed. I’ve only seen this recent movie once, but there are parts of it that are still fresh in my mind (like the elevator descent when Damon has finally caught de Caprio only to get totally smoked when the doors open). Martin Sheen is also in this movie and I’ve liked Martin Sheen for a variety of reasons.

10. Million Dollar Baby.  The 10th movie is always the hardest to list. I could go on listing another 10 or 20 movies (like Dances with Wolves, Mulholland Drive, A Bridge Too Far, Seven, China Syndrome and others), but I’ll end with Million Dollar Baby because it’s Eastwood and Freeman (again!) in a story that has so much heartache and realness. No wonder it won an Oscar.


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