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Archive for August, 2008

From time to time, the planets do align. Tonight was one of the times.

After a catch-up day of work, there was no list of to-dos waiting for me at home. When I got into the car to commute to my western suburb, a DJ on the radio reminded me: Tonight singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile would give a free concert at the Minnesota State Fair. And while I’d been to the fair on Saturday – just 48 hours earlier – I thought, “Why not?” It was picture perfect weather and Brandi Carlile singing…free. A no brainer.

I got home knowing my 17-year-old daughter would be home following four days of camping north of Duluth with her closest friends, but I assumed she would want to go with me if the activity included live music and an opportunity to buy a bucket of Sweet Martha’s Cookies. Good dad/daughter time. I changed and we hopped back into the car – arriving at the fair just before 7 p.m. for an 8:30 show time.

The free concert zone, aka the Leinenkugel’s Lodge, is itself a north-woodsy-themed outdoor stage with lots of knotty pine, cold beer and room for maybe a thousand people to sit comfortably and rest their feet after walking around the fair grounds. When we arrived to find a seat, it was already standing room only. But we found a decent place immediately stage right and very close to the front.

Carlile and her band took the stage right on time and performed for 90 minutes. In the set they sang tunes from her first two CDs as well as three songs from her soon-to-be-released album. The crowd was into the music and everyone started singing along when she did “Folsom Prison Blues,” by Johnny Cash. She drew in the crowd even further coaching us to sing a little three-part harmony on “Turpentine,” from her CD titled The Story. And yes, she sang the title track as well.

Of course, she ended the night with her signature performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which I’ve blogged about previously.

It’s been a great summer for outdoor concerts: Missy Higgins, The Gin Blossoms, The BoDeans and now Brandi Carlile. Maybe it’s because her show was free…maybe it’s because she has an amazing set of pipes…maybe it was the smell of corn dogs and cheese curds boiling  in hot oil just yards away…but Carlile wins the trophy for best summer outdoor concert of 2008.

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I’m not a big fan of major league baseball. The local team known as the Minnesota Twins is an under-funded, mid-market, dome-playing bunch and usually the team doesn’t perform well. But this year, as a new outdoor ballpark is being built for the team across town, the players have decided to lead their division. It’s a fun way to run out the summer – watching 20-somethings rip off singles and come-from-behind victories in an effort to make the playoffs.

That’s what happened on Saturday, Aug. 16. It was a classic, bottom-of-the-ninth inning, bases loaded, single that scored the winning run for the Twins and kept them in the fight for first place.

Good baseball isn’t just about how the team performs on the field. It’s who you go with. I have a small group of friends, most of whom are new acquaintances to me, who just happen to know how to have fun no matter what the sitch. We’re a Seinfeld-esque bunch, I’d say – complete with loads of sarcasm and self-deprication to keep us all laughing.

At the game on Saturday, we managed to develop our own sign language, examine wart faces, sing badly during the seventh-inning-stretch, and make great imaginings about the foul balls bouncing off inattentive fans’ foreheads. It was all in fun and made the game’s three-plus-hours go by in a flash.

That’s how good baseball is meant to be played…with great friends.

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In June – just a couple months ago, Kristin Armstrong traveled through Minnesota. She rode with a teammate in the Nature Valley Grand Prix, crushing all competitors along the way. In fact she won three out of five stages during the grand prix here. In her quest for world champion status, she placed first in the women’s general classification at the NVGP for three consecutive years.

So I wasn’t surprised yesterday when Armstrong won a gold medal in the Olympic time trial event held in Beijing. Once again, she didn’t just win…she won by 24 seconds against a field of competitors from around the world, including Emma Pooley, the favorite from the U.K.

I’m proud to say I know a gold medal Olympian. I stood next to her on the streets of Minneapolis, St. Paul , Mankato, and Stillwater. I watched as she chatted with kids and spoke to the media about her goals to represent the U.S. in China. She’s an all-American woman and as only the second American female cyclist to ever win a gold medal in the time trial event, she’s given the cycling community goosebumps.

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So Good – Vodka Lemon Slush

This is a perfect summer drink. Lemonade, limeade and orange juice concentrate, plus a little sugar, water and Skyy citrus flavored vodka. Frozen over night then served up with a splash of Sprite and a couple fresh raspberries.  Dangerous!

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Here’s a video link to a behind-the-scenes look at the progress made on the new structure that spans the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis one year after the I-35W bridge collapse that happened Aug. 1, 2007.

http://www.minnpost.com/videos/35wbridge2/

The new bridge is scheduled to open in mid to late September – a full three months ahead of schedule.

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