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On July 20, 1969, this four-year-old kid from small-town Iowa knew something was up when his Dad came home from work early one morning to watch television.  In fact, with a quick glance down the neighborhood street, I would have noticed lots of cars parked in the driveway – with everyone inside staring at their black and whites.

“Because of what you have done, the Heavens have become a part of man.”

The flight of Apollo 11 served as a rebirth in the United States in many ways. And my four-year-old eyes watched not really knowing what I was seeing, but impressed that my Dad – who ran his own business and worked long arduous hours to keep it going – took time from his morning to watch TV. And we continued to watch for the next three days – whenever the networks fed us NASA’s grainy footage of the astronauts doing their business out in space. The first-ever landing on the Moon. Listening as Neil Armstrong voiced to the world his impressions as he stepped of the lunar module ladder onto the Moon’s surface. The Moon walks. The lift-off from the Moon and the splash landing.

It’s all very surreal, but there are images in my memory banks from 40 years ago and it’s something my kids read about without consideration to the sheer magnitude of what was happening. Six hundred million people on earth watched and read about those three days in the summer of ’69 and we’re still talking about it four decades later.

Without question, it was something else.

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I’m intolerant today. So…

To the Red River, Fargo, Moorehead – and the two 100-year-floods which happened within six years of each other:

Folks, if you knowingly live in a flood plain, quit your whiney complaining. Your options, as you have known since the time you bought the property included flood insurance, sandbags and flood waters. If standing in your living room waist deep in Red River water is no longer fun for you, simply move.

And, City Fathers of both Fargo and Moore(dunder)head: Who are the Ph.Ds who voted to build a public school in a flood plain. Sheesh. I guess just a few hundred thousand people live in Nort’ Dakota for a reason.

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The South Beach of Miami and Key West held a varitable cornocopia of sites to see. We arrived on the front end of Spring Break, which meant plenty of youth, energy, martinis, mango margueritas, and Cuban pork (with black beans and yellow rice).

Best takeaways of 96 hours out of Minneapolis…

  • Exit and bulkhead row seating
  • No winter coat, no jeans and no socks
  • Manual elevators at Merv Griffin’s Blue Moon
  • The Seven-Mile bridge
  • Wandering roosters
  • Sand
  • Grey Goose martinis with triple olives (make mine dirty)
  • SPF 15
  • Self-guided tour of Key West on motor scooter
  • Hemingway’s Key West home complete with plenty of writing inspiration
  • Late night key lime pie and coffee at the Grand Cafe
  • Local artists
  • Walking Eastwardly for the best Cuban restaurant on the planet
  • 801 Duval
  • Peel and eat shrimp with horseradish
  • Tiki Bars
  • Helping the directionally challenged
  • The Southernmost Point
  • Blue Heaven’s avocado omelette
  • It’s a small island
  • No wristwatch

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Many Stories Still To Come

In a stunning discovery, daily page views at “Views from Minnesota” jumped a whopping 62 percent in the past 10 days! For all intents and purposes, I have no clue why the dramatic increase. I haven’t added new sites on the blogroll. I didn’t change my writing style. I didn’t add any deep, thought-filled content or amp my frequency of posts. There are, of course, the one or two keywords people Google that bring them randomly to this blog – and lately it’s been this local phenomena that seems to be driving lots of mouse clicks to my page. Like anything in life, the positive attention will be fleeting.

But to those who have not bookmarked me just yet, now is the time! You won’t be disappointed. Take a quick look at some of the stories soon to grace these pages in December (I’m only supplying headlines at this time so those Googling key words will find exactly what they’re after…of course). My blog is customer-service friendly, if nothing else.

Breaking News Planned for December

Dec. 2: Paris Hilton‘s nude sex antics secretly recorded on Flip video camera

Dec. 5: Foot fetish sting nets legislator; FBI takes credit

Dec. 8: American Idol winner announces, “I’m a lesbian”

Dec. 10: Anal retentive New York Times columnist clips Christmas coupons

Dec. 15: President Bush asks Senator Clinton: “I’m not your sex slave…am I?”

Dec. 21: Elves strike, leave Santa ho, ho hoping for help from Amazon.com

Dec. 23: Santa Claus submits to Elves demands, Christmas back on schedule

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

Why?

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.

Pul-eease!

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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Hard to believe that the Big 10 standings look like this two weeks into the season.

WolverinesMichigan. No wins. Imagine that. I feel a little sorry for the Blue. And I really wish the Hawkeyes had Michigan on its schedule this year. It could be a real drubbing, which Iowa doesn’t get to do very often when it comes to Michigan.

Things get even more interesting on Sept. 15 when the Wolfies will take on The Irish and the interstate rivalry between Iowa and Iowa State will help determine if the Hawks are for real…or not.

The fun of college football certainly beats the scripted NFL story lines. After all, who would have guessed Michigan would be out of the Top 25 after the first two weeks of play (the team was ranked No. 5 in pre-season polls). You just can’t make it up!

Saturdays in September and October can be so much fun – and I didn’t even watch a snap of a game. That’s sure to end pretty soon, however, as teams making upsets become too fascinating not to watch.

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Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s approval rating has skyrocketed recently. Why? In the aftermath of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13 people, his face, name and voice have saturated the media. The Republican, now twice elected as governor, has stepped up, admitting some of his own short-sighted thinking about passing legislation that would have increased the gas tax a year ago. These funds naturally go toward funding for roads, highways and bridges – something the entire U.S. has discovered gets sorely under-funded.

But the PR machine for the Pawlenty camp has done an admirable job since the bridge fell down. The Governor has drawn favorable reviews following appearances on the national morning news programs, local radio and newspapers. And even though partisan politicking egos continue to exist in Minnesota, it’s tough to blast a governor for doing his best in bad circumstances.

Unlike the Bush situation in which the general public is not only sick and tired of hearing his excuses but have, at last, peeled back the rose-colored glasses when it comes to Iraq and our country’s foreign policy.

These serve as case studies, proving that any leader has only a short time to carry out effective leadership directives. Getting a major interestate highway bridge built in 18 months sounds accetable to the average Jane or Joe. I think we all would have been amazed if we could have liberated Iraq, established some peace initiatives and gotten the hell outta there in three years time. We may have applauded Bush for that accomplishment. But six years?

Not saying a bridge and war are good comparisons, but it does highlight the style differences between Bush and Pawlenty. On one hand, the President knows how to wear out his welcome versus the Governor who simply wants to get something done right in a timely fashion.

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On Aug. 16, 1977 I was standing outside my junior high school, waiting Elvisfor orientation to begin when a friend told me Elvis Presley had died.  The King. Gone. I’ve never been a big fan of Elvis, although I’ve known many people who were, including my Grandma Elliot.

This picture is the Elvis I grew up on. The Las Vegas Elvis. He was the first celebrity that helped me realize that if you did something really well, women would throw their panties at your feet (in today’s standards that would be thongs, not panties).

So, to honor the King of Rock-n-Roll, here are a few of his more pithy quotes:

The only thing worse than watching a bad movie is being in one.

I don’t know anything about music. In my line you don’t have to.

The world is more alive at night; it’s like God isn’t looking.

Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.

I don’t want to read about some of these actresses who are around today. They sound like my niece in Scarsdale. I love my niece in Scarsdale, but I won’t buy tickets to see her act.

Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity.

Every time I think that I’m getting old, and gradually going to the grave, something else happens.

That last quote cracks me up. Yep, something else happened and it took the King from us at the age of 42, which just happens to be how old I am.  Thankfully, I’m not addicted to any pharmaceuticals – or to bacon for that matter.

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Out of the chute let me say I’m not a big professional sports fan. Sure, I follow (at arm’s length) the home town teams of the Vikings, the T-Wolves, the Twins and the Wild (although I just don’t get hockey). Pro sports are, in my view, getting closer and closer to resembling the World Wrestling Entertainment franchise and less like a place where great athletes can show off their prowess on a team or a field. Therefore, I’m much more a watcher and fan of the Olympics – where amateurs (and yes, some professionals), can legitimately compete.

A recent trade completed by the Minnesota Timberwolves however, prompted me to think back on the tradees career – at least that that has been visible to me through the media.  Power forward Kevin Garnett has moved to the Boston Celtics after 12 years as a T-Wolve. He came right out of high school – one of the only talents in the NBA to do so and become a superstar. Fans here watched as he matured and became an MVP player – one of the best – many people say.

Like many NBA greats, he is deserving of an NBA championship, but it has eluded him because of many reasons, none smaller than inept ownership and management of a team that has shown windows of greatness – only to be defeated by poor decision making by the administration.

The Celtics, on the other hand, have a history of great teams. NBA championship teams. So as Garnett moves to Boston and joins several other mature players hungry for a winning season, the Timberwolves enter a rebuilding phase.  Boston gets the better deal.

Not only is KG an athlete and a winner, he is a quiet contributor to the community he lives in.  While in Minnesota, Garnett gave millions to various causes – many involving kids who live in poverty. These kids only need a boost, a glimmer of hope, to stay on a good path – to stay in school.  Garnett provides millions of glimmers of hope to kids each year.  So the City of Boston will benefit through Garnett’s transition to Massachusetts. And the Celtics, they benefit as well with a new leader, an MVP-type player and someone who wants to win it all before his days on the court are done.

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