Monthly Archives: April 2012

Where are all the Prostitutes?

Locally, the big news this week was President Obama’s Chapel Hill visit.  People complained vociferously about the terrible traffic problems around town.  But mentioned only quietly, was the unusual difficulty finding a prostitute during the week leading up to his visit.  Ah well, sacrifices must be made.

Perhaps second in importance only to the President’s visit was the annual “Brucemas” celebration.  Kind of frightening, but the Pony and I celebrate some major mile stones this  year.  The Pony turns 60, and Wednesday your idiotic author turned 65.  Cripes I feel old.  As if to prove it, I got off the bike from “the morning 40” on Tuesday and both hips were sore.  Thank God Medicare kicked in; I think I’m gonna need it! 

At my volunteer gig, the staff brought in nice treats, I got some birthday cards and we had a lot of fun joking around.  But I couldn’t help thinking everyone was just a little too happy for me, the smiles too sweet, the hugs a bit too heartfelt.  Behind it all, could they really have been thinking, poor bugger, his days are numbered?  Well, I’ve got news for everyone.  My days are numbered, but the number is huge.  I’ve told my investment advisor Emilio Ponzi (no relation, so he says) that I’m going to live to age 90.  Right now he’s frantically trying to recoup giant losses in order to avoid some lean years in my 80’s. 

The birthday celebration ended with Pizza and beer, then finally the cake.  Check this baby out.

That my friends is a chocolate mousse (not moose or mouse) cake, with way more mousse than cake.  It was prepared by Bonnie at Miele Bon Bon here in Carrboro.  I’m telling you, that woman knows what she’s doing.  A piece of that cake and a cup of coffee…you won’t care what age you are.  

Hey, Pony fans, it’s time for Pony News

On Friday I went out to Gene’s.  We turned on the gas (anyone can be trained), hit the starter and “voila,” the old boy started right up for us.  We ran it for 45 minutes.  The hydraulic pump was still not leaking oil, and the newly replaced oil line didn’t leak either.  There is some seepage of water around a couple of head bolts, but not enough to bother an ostrich.  The only oddity and this happened last time we ran it too, is that there is oil seeping up around one head bolt.  This defies explanation, but we’ve decided it isn’t going to stop us.  So for now, we’re going to ignore it, move on and start working on brakes and steering.  Next goal: getting the Pony to move under its own power.

I’ve got a few images left from the Minnesota trip, so I thought I’d throw one in this post.  As I was going through the photo albums at the Heritage Center in NYA, the one below kind of jumped out at me.

Kind of makes me wish I had some of that Conoco for the Pony.

The year’s strawberry jam is done.  I’ve been making strawberry jam for at least 20 years.  The Princess asked me whether I enjoyed making it.  It is an incredible rigmarole, and I had to answer that no, I didn’t.  The part I do enjoy is going out and picking the berries.  I don’t care what the weather, I never see unhappy people in a berry patch.  Laughing kids run up and down the rows, all with fingers stained red and some with red “clown mouths.”  Parents give quiet instructions:  “Snap ’em off to the side, honey…like this,”  “Don’t pick the green ones,” “Don’t squeeze them too hard,” “Hey, stop eating those!”  Other adults squat silently in their rows, half smiling, enjoying the scene, soaking in the sun, the breeze, the sound of a hawk screeching way off, and continuing a ritual performed by most for decades.

Numbered days,
Let the last one fall
Just after picking.

May all your berries be sweet, and thanks for reading.

Good Bye Minnesota

I’ve got to share another dream with you.  Whenever one gets a recurring dream it’s got to be more important than a “single,” right?  I just had this one for the second time Saturday night.  I’m running through an expansive green area of grass, like a park, when all of a sudden I look down and find that the grass is covered for as far as the eye can see, with dog poop.  I freak out and begin running like crazy trying to get through and out of the dog poop, but there is no end to it.  And that’s the end of the dream.  Ok, let’s examine this, and see what we can learn.  The obvious, there’s way to much crap in my life, but let’s go deeper.  Could my life itself be crap?  I don’t think so; just recently, I don’t know what brought it on, but The Princess opined that, “You’re really a contented guy.”  I think she may have been alluding to the fact that I had such fun just going to have an annual physical.  So, no, my life is not crap.  Well, maybe it is, but not in MY mind.  Could there be some symbolism hidden in this dream.  The two striking features were acres of green grass and thousands of dog turds, hmmm.  Green signifies renewal, hope and fresh starts, while dog turds, well, they signify waste (hell, they are waste), decay and possibly evil.  Yeah, I think we can sum this one up.  Life is full of hope and renewal, but as you live your life, tread carefully, there’s evil everywhere.  And, of course, before you come inside, check the bottoms of your sneakers.

Hey, Pony news.  Went out to Gene’s today.  Last Monday we had fully disassembled the carburetor, checked it all out, and hooked it back up.  I told Gene, let’s do like I do with lottery tickets and let it sit overnight before we check to see if we have a winner.  So, today we gave it another try.  We gave it the usual dose of oil and gas in the head, closed it up and went for a start.  It was a bit of a struggle, but we got it going, and it ran for maybe 10 minutes.  We accidentally killed it, so after replacing the starter switch (which did seem to make a difference, don’t ask me why), we cranked it over again and it started.  This is actually a step forward in that this is the first time that we’ve ever gotten  it to start without the stupid “oil-and-gas-through-the-spark-plug-holes” business.  We ran it  for another 5 to 10 minutes, but then I noticed oil starting to leak from several places, so we had to shut it down.  I’ll get back to y’all on the oil business.  As Rose Ann Rosanna Dana used to say, “It’s always something!”

Alright, I need to finish-up the Minnesota trip.  On my last day, I drove up to Grey Cloud Island, not far from the Twin Cities to visit my God mother Laverne and her husband, Richard.  Laverne is my Mom’s cousin, and she bought me more pairs of pajamas for my birthdays as a kid than I thought ever existed.  I think she kept buying them right up into my college years.  My roommates, “Hey, nice jams, bud.”  So, the first day of the trip was all about my Dad’s side of the family, while the last was dedicated to my Mom’s side.

What an amazing journey to Grey Cloud Island, where Laverne and Richard have lived since the 1950’s.  Although just half an hour from downtown Minneapolis, it is a world away.  It’s an island nestled in the back waters of the Mississippi River.  Laverne and Richard have a beautiful home site in deep woods with a view out the back to the water and their own private island a hundred feet off shore.  Here’s a picture of Richard taken from the house looking down to the water and the island.

When we went down to the dock, there were a pair of bald eagles doing loop de loops right above us.  Richard keeps a lawnmower out on the island, so he can mow it and keep it looking neat.  In the winter they have holiday skating parties.  I don’t think he’d mind my saying it, but Richard is coming up on his 89th birthday.  He still holds I think three part-time paying jobs, he’s held every official position there is on the island, he knows everyone every single person on the island, he’s run boats down the river to the gulf (some really harrowing adventures), and he’s a veteran of WWII having served in New Guinea and Manila among other places.  Here’s a couple of pictures of Richard with some spears and paddles he collected while in New Guinea over 60 years ago.

He also shared some his childhood treasures with me.  Check this photo out.

These cast iron toys dating to Richard’s youth are from the early 1930’s.  He said that he loved them so much that he’d take them to bed with him at night.  Note that I am holding what he referred to (without any coaxing) as a Fordson tractor, nice paint!

I had it in my mind that if I got up to the Twin Cities with enough time, I’d like to visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.   And who better for a guide than Laverne.  As a young woman Laverne attended the Institute by day and earned her tuition by canning corn in a Green Giant plant at night.  She had some fairly important artists as teachers.  She’s got stories too.  One artist kept pressuring her to pose for him.  Another said he’d cut off his ear and send it to her if she wouldn’t continue seeing him.

After graduation  she got a job as an illustrationist and worked for the phone company doing advertising lay-outs.  That’s where she met Richard.  She also spent three months traveling in Europe and studying art, a pretty gutsy move for a young woman at the time (the late 40’s).  As if we’d slipped back in time at the museum, a security guard directed us to an elevator in order to get to the art I wanted to see.  Here’s a shot of that elevator.

Laverne then picked-up the receiver to pretend she was talking for another photo, and she was shocked that the phone actually worked, “Oh, excuse me!”  One more shot from the Museum.

That’s  a Cezanne on the left.  The woman who took this picture was so petrified that the flash might go off, you’d a thought she was about to steal the painting not take its picture.  Anyway, the flash did not go off, and we were all allowed to leave the museum.

On the way back to Laverne and Richard’s house, Laverne was telling me how she enjoyed taking trips with my mom.  She said that since they were kids my Mom was always a leader, while she has always been a follower.  She volunteered the following anecdote to prove her point.  She said that when Mom was about 8 and Laverne was about 4, a suitor took an interest in  Grandma (Mom’s mom).  Grandma had lost her husband to illness when she was still a relatively young woman.  Apparently Mom wasn’t too thrilled with the new suitor, as she told Laverne to cry and make a fuss, so that the man would get fed up and go away.  Jeez mom, you were a “pistol!”

Here’s something else that goes way back.

On a tour of her home, Laverne explained to me that the little green stove had been my Mom’s.  Just to show how things have changed, that stove was wired-up and worked just like a real stove.  Richard snipped the cord years ago, so their kids wouldn’t burn themselves while playing.  But, on seeing this stove a memory was triggered for me of playing with it as a kid way back when, in a Minneapolis apartment of Grandma’s.

The next morning I said my good byes and headed to the airport for the trip home.  Luck continued for me at the airport, where my flight was overbooked, and I snagged a $400 travel voucher.  Did that make me happy?  Check this out.

Yeah, me and the “WWI flying Ace,” Snoopy, happiest travelers you’ll ever see.  Back at home now, I’ve got to get back to work on the Pony, while trying to avoid the dog poop.  Thanks for reading.

Princess Kills Gecko! Geico Fumes

The Princess moved her beloved cactus garden back out on the deck last week.  She keeps them in the house during winter.  On Tuesday we were startled to look outside and see this.

We both were so freaked out that I said, “Yuck, I’m not going to deal with prying them off of there until tomorrow.”  The Princess, adopting my “head in the sand” philosophy, closed the blinds so she wouldn’t have to look out on the death scene.  The next morning I went out with a long-handled tweezers and started to pry one of them off.  Holy poop!  The dang thing tried to snap at me.  Jeez they’re alive!  So, with some trepidation I took the tweezers, pried like crazy and eventually, first one, and then the other were flicked down onto the surface of the deck…and they headed for cover.  So Geico, back off.  The most you could get us for is Gecko torture.  And even that, really, it was just “needle-boarding.”

CONCERNS RISE OVER GDP

No, not gross domestic product, I’m talking about the Gosh Darn Pony.  I used slightly different words, but you get the idea.  I’ve been out to see the Pony twice in the last week.  I reinstalled the radiator and then filled it.  This was after putting a new oil seal in the hydraulic pump just prior to my trip.  With the radiator all set, I tried to start the engine, got a couple of puffs of smoke, but couldn’t quite get it to start.  Turns out that once again I had forgotten to open the gasoline shut-off valve on the sediment bowl.  I’m going to have to hang a big sign from the rafters over the Pony asking HAVE YOU TURNED ON THE GAS?  It’s hell to get old.  Gene put a charge on the battery for me over night, and I went out again yesterday to see if I could get the Pony running.  I went through the usual rigmarole of putting oil and gas in through the spark plug holes, put the plugs back in and cranked it over.  Four straight times I got the engine to catch for about 2 seconds.  I tried various starting procedures, choke on, choke off, throttle high, throttle low, and every combination of those, but still, every time, two seconds and out.  GDP!  HELP!

MINNESOTA TRIP, PART MIDDLE

I didn’t explain this before, but as I found myself coming up on my big 65th birthday,  I asked The Princess if her birthday present to me could be a Mayo Clinic physical exam.  I must have caught her in a good mood, because she readily agreed.  I called Mayo about two months ago, got the exam scheduled, and used some frequent flyer miles to buy the airline ticket.  As the weeks ticked by leading up to the trip I mentioned my birthday present exam to a number of people.  Almost everyone thought it sounded nuts.  Some said so, and others just looked at me funny not knowing what to say.  Call me crazy (or just your usual idiotic author), but to me it sounded like fun.  My rationale was, get someone different to look me over for a change, make sure all the right tests were done and if everything came out fine, I’d have the added comfort of knowing a world-class outfit had decreed it.

The trip down to Rochester on Highway 52 from the twin cities was about an hour and a half, all smooth sailing.  I stopped at a roadside restaurant called Little Oscar’s on the way down for breakfast and took the photo below as I left.

I’m telling you, that Model T flat-bed truck sure brought back memories.  You too, Bill?  That’s the same model that cousin Ed and I brought back from, yes, Minnesota back when Grandma and Grandpa were still alive.  Boy, we had some fun with that thing.

When I got to the edge of Rochester, I pulled into a Target parking lot, grabbed the iPad and phone and started calling downtown hotels.  I settled on a Hilton Garden Inn, which turned out to be a great decision.  I was about three blocks from the buildings I would spend two days in, and it was directly connected to the skywalk/subway system from the second floor, the floor my room was on.  So, cool thing number one about going to Mayo’s, no matter what time of year you go, you’ll always be comfortable, because you never have to go outside.  Maybe I’ll just continue in this vein with a list of “cool things about getting one’s physical exam at Mayo.
Cool thing number 2, they’re thorough.  I met my internist, kind of my “point person” for the whole thing, at 1:00 pm.  She spent an hour with me, first just talking history, gathering facts and reviewing the few items I’d brought along.  She then went on to do the actual physical exam.  All right, I’ll admit it, I didn’t anticipate that for the first time my digital prostate exam would be performed by a female doctor, but she was really cool about it, and we joked back and forth as she did the procedure.  The side benefit, women’s fingers are smaller. 

Cool thing number three, they’re efficient.  Following my exam, my doctor and I sat down and talked again.  Based on what she heard, read and found during her exam, a plan for the rest of the exam was laid out.  This plan was fed into Mayo’s computer system and appointments were set-up.  I was given a set of set of pages that told me where to be, what for and when to be there.  As I went from place to place, I’d flash your pages, they looked in a computer monitor and sometimes they’d say, “Oh, says hear there’s been a change in one of your appointments” and hand you a revised set of pages.

When they drew my blood in a small cubicle, one of many, the phlebotomist slid a little door open in the wall, placed the samples on a conveyor belt, and off they went to the lab.  They say results are usually available to your doctor via computer in two hours.  They even took a little extra blood, so that, as in my case, when the doctor wants another test done, the lab already has the blood to do it.

Cool thing number four, it’s a beautiful place.  The buildings themselves are striking, and they are filled with artwork.  Here’s a little slide show of some of the art I saw. 

http://pix.kg/p/592863103507%3A1356993452/scl

By the way, at the information desk one can get an audio guide of some of the more impressive pieces of art.  Which reminds me of cool thing number five, you are never lost.  There are information desks EVERYWHERE staffed with friendly people,  well they’re Minnesotans, but they tried to find warmer ones for those jobs.

Cool thing number six, the shopping.  Via the skyways/subways one is connected to an indoor shopping mall with some really great stores, food courts and numerous smaller shops, handy for buying The Princess a small gift.  Here’s something that brought me up short.  One of the unusual stores, I mean unusual looking, was a Barnes and Noble book store built into what was once an old theater.  But as I was browsing I took the photo below.

Huh?  What you see in this photo is about a fourth of the books offered in this category.  Am I just really old, or incredibly out of touch, or does it say something about kids when books on Teen Paranormal Romance take up an entire row in a major bookstore.  Is normal no longer good enough for romance, it’s got to be paranormal?  This was the scariest thing I saw on my entire Minnesota trip.

Cool thing number seven, the museum.  Still, within the same complex of buildings lies a small historical museum, including this old, horse-drawn ambulance, which used to bring local patients into the clinic.

Cool thing number eight, Jaspers Restaurant.  Just a few steps from my hotel was this truly first class small restaurant with Alsatian cuisine.  I ate there both nights.  One night I had the walleye, you know, when in Minnesota…everything delicious.  But connected to this cool thing is another, number nine, Daub’s Bakery, a local institution.  Turns out that Daub’s owns Jasper’s.  I stopped at the original Daub’s on my way out of town and was not disappointed.

But of course, number ten, the coolest thing of all, getting a “clean bill of health” from my doctor during the wrap up session.  Well, “ok, almost clean, certainly nothing life threatening.  As a matter of fact, the doctor says I have only a 7% chance of dying in the next ten years.  Hey, why didn’t she say I have a 93% chance of living, doesn’t that sound better?  Those Minnesotans, I tell ya.

I had a ball at my Mayo physical.  I guess that’s the best recommendation I could give.  I even got a free T-shirt as a souvenir after donating blood.  To all of you, I wish you good health this Easter Day and thanks for reading.

It’s Been a Quiet Week in Young America

It was actually balmy here last week, and even though growing season hasn’t started yet, people are already whining about the fact that more rain is needed.  This is really just a built-in reflex in farm folks.  In fact, it rained like crazy on Monday afternoon, but if every one’s  sitting on bar stools in Bouncer’s lying and throwing a few back, and on top of that the music’s playing loud, and the few small windows there are, are all filmed-over with cigarette smoke well…then to those folks, it didn’t rain.

All the talk in Bouncer’s centered around the “water tower incident” of a few weeks back.  It’s no secret that many in Young America are still simmering with anger over the merger of nearby Norwood with their beloved Young America.  Things simmer and then every now and then boil over, and this has been going on since 1997 when the dastardly deed was done.  Everyone knows that the only reason those no good Norwoodians wanted to hook-up with Young America was to siphon off tax dollars in an ill-conceived effort to revitalize Norwood.  Ha!  Everyone in YA knew that that could never happen.  You know, silk purse out of sow’s ear, and all.  Meantime the infrastructure in Young America is falling to pieces, and one more winter will surely spell the end of First Street altogether.

Letter’s to the Editor have been cyclical too, and every now and then there are a spate of them filled with vitriol and innuendo.  The local rag absolutely steers clear of the controversy having changed its name to the NORWOOD YOUNG AMERICA TIMES years back.  It periodically announces a temporary ban on such letters in order to make room for others, like this one:
Dear Editor:
I double dog dare you to publish this letter. 
Ever since I’ve lived here in YA, not NYA (but that’s for another letter), I’ve been  complaining to no avail about the odor of chicken poop wafting out of the Shady Lane neighborhood.  I know for a fact there’s some over there that bury tons of that stuff in their gardens (against city and county ordinance), those same people showing up at the Carver County Fair each year with bigger zucchini than God ever intended and walking off with boxes of ribbons.  I don’t think those people should be allowed to stink up the air, pollute the ground water, flaunt the law and then profit from it.  Someone needs to look into this.
Signed,
Bertha Bessner, Concerned Citizens for a Cleaner Environment

Everyone knows that Bertha is still miffed that Martha over there had whupped her Zucchini-growing butt for more years than one can count (chicken poop or no), and that there is no such thing as the CCCE, but Bertha just won’t let go.  But getting back to the Norwood Young America business, once again that pot is boiling.

Young Americans are practically giddy with joy with the recent decisions of the State Police and the Post Office to designate a separate Zip Code for the geographic area that comprises what used to be Young America.  They’re crowing that this is the first step in the inevitable and justifiable dissolution of the failed experiment in combined government. 

Of course, everyone knows that none of this ever would have happened had it not been for the collusion of the Smutgert brothers back in the mid-90’s,  which same brothers by the way don’t even live here anymore having fled to Ocala, Florida after the whole business was found out.  The story goes that those two thieves once ensconced as mayors of the two cities managed to pull-off the biggest ruse since the owners of the Vikings convinced the people of Minneapolis that football should be played inside and built the HHH dome, which dome should have been more aptly called the HHH dish, as it spends more time concave than convex…but I digress.

Anyway, the two brothers figured (correctly) that when the finances of the two towns were merged it would be an opportune time for funds to “disappear,” and didn’t retirement sound pretty good.  It was a similar plan to the one used in the much more recent MF Global fiasco, where client funds to the tune of $1.6 billion have gone missing and everyone is “pleading the fifth” in front of Congress and anyone else who will listen.  Well, in the NYA scenario only about $360,000 went missing, but that was well enough for those two schmucks to get a nice, new, warm start for themselves down in Ocala.  No one ever did find out how they did it, so no charges were filed, but death threats and the lure of the warm climate sent the brothers permanently down the road.

But what’s now occurred is a whole nuther thing.  Three weeks ago the big beige water tower that sits between Second and Third Streets, that had a new coat of paint just last year and the name Norwood Young America emblazoned on it, became the victim of a “prank.”  Folk’s woke up to find that in a fairly expert manner, someone had painted out the word Norwood.  I mean, you could hardly tell it used to be there, and depending on your position on such matters folks were either giggling and smirking quietly, or openly, and loudly furious.

In cases like this Carver County sheriff, Jesson Baelfuss, usually asks his sources over at Central High School to keep their ears open, because usually when something like this happens the perpetrators just can’t keep their mouths shut and start quietly bragging about their misdeeds.  A week went by with no leads, but Baelfuss kept up his end of the investigation by systematically hitting every paint and hardware store within a 25 mile radius of YA asking if anyone had bought a large quantity of Binson’s, Hession Beige, no. 34967, oil-based, exterior paint.

He finally struck pay dirt over in Chanhassen where it turns out a couple of teenagers paid cash for a 5 gallon pail of the paint in question.  With the clerk’s descriptions of the two boys, Baelfuss headed over to talk to Central High Principal, Otto Uenks.  Uenks immediately identified Jens and Sven Olleson (Swedes, what a surprise), and Bailfuss hauled them out of class and took them into custody.

The boys had some story.  According to them, they’d gotten a phone call that promised two cases of Schmidt’s if they’d take the cash in a plain envelope that waited under a rock next to their driveway, go buy the aforementioned paint over in Chanhassen and place it behind the old Boehmke hatchery building just off Shady Lane where their Schmidt’s would also be delivered the following day if they followed through.  The boys felt they should be believed using as proof the fact that they’d been good and liquored-up for almost a week.  Nice and neat.  He let the boys go, but confiscated the few cans of Schmidt’s they had left.

That would have been the end of the story had Pinzer Stolzherz not been walking down First Street and noticed some clothes stained with beige paint in a dumpster.  Pinzer, being a nosey type pulled them out and called the sheriff.  This could have been just another useless lead, but inside the pocket of the paint-stained flannel shirt Baelfuss found a charge receipt with a name on it:  Lars Thomason (those Swedes, all from the same mold).

Well, just to wrap-up after it’s too late to make a long story short, Thomason confessed to the whole thing.  He had been President of the Young America Chamber of Commerce just prior to the merger of the towns.  The merger cost him his job and status in the community, and he’s been fuming ever since.  He had thought that after the recent edicts on the zip code changes, he could keep the momentum going (as he saw it) for dissolution of the merger by changing the name on the biggest thing in town.  His plan may actually gain some traction, as the town has no funds to repaint the tower and just going with a plan that’s already been set in motion  appeals to a lot of folks around here (by that I mean here in Young America).

Thanks for reading…and April Fools!