Who are we? We are our stories.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

And the Sermon for This Week is...

From Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Wind Farms.

Bicycling against the wind - the hill that never ends.

Below is posted WITHOUT permission of the very Rev Dick. Can we have an "Amen!" from the congregation?:

Open letter to The Wind

Dear Sir or Madam,

Given the recent increase in your disruptive activities, I regret to inform you that you are henceforth persona non grata. All Church members (and I mean that how you think I do) are herewith instructed to Shun you. This shall include the Turning Of The Cheek, the Going To The Drops, and potentially the devastating Choosing Of Other Routes!

Where these options are not available (such as on my commute, where you insist on blowing hard first one way and then, denying me the tailwind!, another) you shall be cursed. Members are encouraged to be creative in their cursing, for it is by the very inventiveness of their invective that they shall be delivered.

Should you wish to make an appropriate Act of Contrition, you (clearly) know where to find me.

The Right Reverend Richard Greyson

Friday, November 21, 2008

School News

With the stock market in freefall, Lorna is thinking about reconsidering her decision to retire this Spring. She doesn't have to decide right away. We'll see.

On a happy note, Ad called yesterday with the news that her Augsburg diploma should arrive in the mail within two or three weeks. That should make it officially official. Congratulations Addy! In spite of multiple major changes, it took her just four years to become an educated woman. Now its time to get back to work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Guitar Man

Lorna called this late this afternoon and asked how I was coming on painting the bedroom. Not good. Not good at all. Earlier I stopped by to see Clarence, the guitar guy, and give him a few bucks for a uke for my daughter. He cut the price in half because he was friend of my father. Thanks Clarence.
Clarence and Barb live in an old house filled with wonderful clutter. In the front room there is a piano where she gives lessons, music stands, and a couple of chairs and a sofa. Scattered over, under and behind the furniture are a big C.F.Martin guitar, a nice old Gibson banjo, a bunch of violins, and rack of bows, an old mandolin and six accordions. These are the instruments that Clarence teaches. My first reaction seeing such a sight is, "Boy is this going to be fun!". And of course it was.
We shook hands, exchanged cash and got down to the real business of the day - talking about long dead friends and relatives, and music - mostly music. Clarence's family are all in North Carolina, and that's where his musical heart still is. We talked, he played in little on the Martin, mostly folk songs he grew up with -"real" country music. Then he caressed it softly as he laid it down. Smiling he said, "Its just wonderful". Then for me, because I love it, he took the mandolin out of a terribly battered case. The mandolin was not much better, at least to look at. "It's a 1920 Regal, not as expensive as some of the other brands, but it plays as well as any." A big smile spreads across his face, "Somebody left it on my doorstep." When Clarence plays the mandolin it's not fast and "excited". It's soft and gentle, and he plays songs about the wildwood flower and my sweetheart long ago. He says his stiff old fingers won't play fast, but I think he just likes it slow. I know I do after hearing him play it. Anyway, it took me three hours to drop off the money.

Thanksgiving Wines

I agonized over the Thanksgiving wine selections again this year. Its a hard meal to match. Even though its technically poultry, most whites won't stand up to the richness of the meal. My answer is to give us lots of options. This week a UPS truck dropped off a large carton with my 12 choices for the meal. Two years ago we went through 16 bottles, but other people will bring a bottle or two of something special they've been saving. It started with just a bottle or two, but as the family has grown, our pocketbooks matured and out tastes have gotten more sophisticated, things have gotten out of hand. And I love it.

Over the years our Thanksgiving duties have evolved. Larry will do two or three turkeys in different styles, maybe grill one or fry one in peanut oil, or find a heritage breed (it's a large group of people to feed!). Lorna does scalloped corn and relish, I do wine, etc. We may have a new entry this year. Ruby used to do pies, but she's too old to handle it now. Addy has been making pumpkin pies from scratch this year- from real pumpkins - and crust from scratch! If she has time - sometimes she works really long, odd hours. I'm hopeful.

Addy: Like a Stone Skippin' Across the Water

My daughter was home for the weekend. She is working temporarily in Mpls as a home care assistant for disabled people. We'll see her again on Thanksgiving for the day, then in early December, when she'll be turning in her notice and spending a little family time with us before heading to Thailand after the first of the year. She'll be teaching in a village on the central coast. The village is so small, it doesn't show up on our maps or Google, but it does have internet service.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Breakfast with "T"

This morning I had breakfast with "T" - rather I bought his breakfast and he talked. He is a sign painter - an intelligent, philosophical man in his mid fifties who writes angry letters to the editor railing about the unfairness of our economic system. I knew he was having a tough go of it again because he wasn't eating, just sitting at the counter drinking coffee and putting it on a tab. I pay for his meals and he talks to me. A fair trade. It turns out he is living in his shop without a bathroom or kitchen ..... again - can't afford the $260 rent he was paying for a apartment. In the past he has hit low enough that he lost his shop and had to live in his van. He can't afford a telephone, so customers have to find him. He is a typical street dwelling alcoholic or drug abuser - except he is neither. He suffers from depression at times, but mostly he has just fallen through the cracks. Like he said, at some point you can't get a job because you haven't had one for so long and you are not qualified to do anything. He used to play guitar in band, but now the guitar is gone. So he does what his father did; he paints signs in a town that doesn't have any new businesses and doesn't need any signs. Me, I got no answers for him and that makes me sad.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Words of Minnesota Wisdom

Saturday morning Lyle and I were pussy-footing across the glare ice from the pickup to the Elbow Room across the street. Lyle says, "This reminds me of something your Ol' Man said". Then he waits for me to ask. He's patient. If I didn't ask I'd never find out what the pearl was. "What was that?" "Never walk on ice with your hands in your pockets." Slowly, carefully, I took my hands out of my pockets.

Friday, November 14, 2008

God's Will

I've been struck by Sarah Palin - again. In interviews Mrs. Palin has been saying that she'll run for Pres in 2012 ..... if its God's will. It brought to mind a situation that happened years ago. I was working for a gentleman named Phil Shayner. Okay, I lie; he wasn't a gentleman, but he's been dead for years, so he's become a gentleman. Anyway, we were interviewing to hire another engineer and had found one in Denver that looked pretty good. He interviewed well, but was hesitant to make the move. Eventually he came around. He said after much prayer, God had spoken to him and told him to take the new position. Within a couple of weeks on the job it was obvious he couldn't handle it - a real loser. Within days, Phil came into my office and said, "I let him go - terminated him! God may have told him to take the job, but God must have changed his mind, because he told me to fire his sorry ass". God can be fickle.

If God does convince Sarah to run as a Republican in 2012, it will confirm a suspicion I've had for some time. God is a Democrat ... and he has a perverse sense of humor.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Howling at the Mooney

Okay, this post is really for myself.

I bought this Peter Mooney a couple of years ago and have been playing with it off and on since. When I bought it off of Ebay it had been "upgraded" with a bunch of junk, and I slowly brought it back to life. One thing that always bothered me was height of the bars. It had about 1 1/2" of headset spacers. I couldn't remove the fork to cut it down, because sometime in the past quarter century someone had overtightened a stem which wasn't inserted far enough. This caused a budge in the threaded fork pipe which prevented the headset top cap from being unscrewed. I knew eventually I would have to deal with it, if only to grease the bearings. Now it had come to a head, because I've decided to have the main pipes painted and I have to disassemble everything, including the fork to do it.

Saturday I took it to Jens, who had the proper tap to recut the threads. After an hour or so of smart talk and and fusting we got the threads cut, the fork removed, and cut about an inch off the tube. It may not seem like much, but its enough to be visually "right", but still keep the bars pretty high, enough for bag clearance and to save my old back.

Now I can knock her down and haul it up to Chris Kvale for painting. I was lucky on the paint.
Curt Goodrich built a killer bike that was painted a color which had originally been mixed to match 1938 Ford blue. When I asked him if he had a number or formula for it, he said there was enough left over to paint a bike and I could have it, rather than just let it dry out on a shelf. Gunnar Scores! I think we'll keep all the lugs, braze-ons, rear triangle and front fork chrome and maybe red for the "Peter Mooney" graphics and red infilling on the crank, etc. The chip below really doesn't capture the color... too many generations of computer grabs.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Big Snow on the High Plains

We awoke to snow yesterday. It was just enough to cover the ground and it's been flurrying a little since. I received the following from a friend in Rapid City. It's always worse somewhere else. (published with permission of the victim):

Wednesday evening and Thursday have been quite memorable. The normal November inconvenience-snowfall did not materialize; instead, as predicted, an old-timey High Plains blizzard showed up and it was open for business. Thursday was a wash-out. I arose early to assess the situation and from the horizontal snow, lack of visibility, and hundreds of cancellations already being aired, decided to cancel our 7th Annual Wilderness Symposium. I caught one of our speakers at his Denver hotel before he went to the airport and got him headed off, then borrowed Jana's 4X4 and drove downtown in low gear to get to the office. Finally got all the other speakers contacted before they did something foolish and arranged with the hotel to cancel the event. Thankfully, because it was weather induced, they will not assess the cancellation penalty. So my budget is going only be out the $1K I've already put into the event.

The Northern Hills were hit harder than RCity. Four feet of heavy wet snow deposited with the help of 70 mph winds (gusts of 90 mph at Belle Fourche). Middle son in Spearfish advises that his truck is plowed in out front of his house and his girl friend's car is stuck in the garage behind the house, that situation compounded by an unplowed alley.

Today the snow has stopped and the wind isn't blowing so hard. It's eastern SD's turn in the barrel. Schools here are closed for a second day and most businesses are closed to allow streets to get cleared and folks dug out. The Gov has turned loose the National Guard to help clear roads. Reportedly Meade County is fairly screwed because nobody thought to send snowplows home with drivers on Wednesday. Now they can't get the crews out to the county shops.

We got my pickup out this morning and went down for coffee and bagels. Ran into a friend whose father-in-law has a sheep ranch north of Newell -- out on the High Flat No-Where. His wife and daughter had gone shopping in Gillette, WY, on Wednesday and couldn't get home. Thursday he was alone on the place and decided during the height of the storm that he should go out to the barn to see 1) whether the sheep had found the door he'd left open for them, and 2) to count the dead. He left the house and shortly discovered that he was lost in his farmyard. He couldn't see the house, the barn, or any of the other out-buildings. Nothing but blowing snow. Spooked, but thankfully not panicked, he had the presence of mind to follow his tracks in the snow back to the house before they were drifted over. My friend says that this morning his father-in-law was finally able to check the sheep and found most of them had made the barn and that only a few of them had died outside in the storm.

I was impressed. I hadn't heard a story like that since I was new to the territory and listened to some old-timers talk about the '30s. Stuff like that isn't supposed to be happening now days. Maybe flickering lights and an extended period with a shovel to get your truck out, but dying wandering around your barnyard? I was convinced that kind of stuff was too archaic. I was bitching because the internet server at the office has been down for two days.

-- J.M.

Conspiracy Theory

In the Minnesota race for the U.S. Senate, incumbent Norm Coleman leads challenger Al Franken by 226 votes, pending a recount. Norm won the seat six years ago, sneaking through the back door when his opponent Paul Wellstone died in a terrible airplane crash while campaigning. Senator Wellstone had originally won the seat by defeating another incumbent, Rudy Boschwitz. In Scandinavian, whitebread Lutheran Minnesota what do these four gentleman all have in common? They are all Jewish! Apparently in Minnesota, all Jewish men over the age of accountability (50?) are required by law to run for higher office.

In this past election Minnesota had a 89.57% voter turnout. Freeborn County had 94% turnout. My home at 1410 Oakwood Drive had 100% turnout. All numbers remarkable; all favoring Obama.

Friday, November 7, 2008

$5 Funeral

Lorna went to the funeral home this afternoon. There was a service for the Mother of a grade school student. He came home from school last week and found his Mother dead from alcohol related causes. His Father died some years ago from similar causes. The obit was late getting into the paper, probably because there was no immediate family to deal with it. She said it was a short service. Nobody cried.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Frigid vs Warm

For half of the year Minnesota is cold and nasty, whereas California is the land of eternal sunshine. Two days ago, in this time of economic stress for all, Minnesotans voted to tax themselves more. They passed a constitutional amendment for an additional sales tax to help fund the Arts and the Environment. The same day California passed an amendment banning same-sex marriage. I think I'll stay in Minnesota.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


The proudest now is but my peer,
The highest not more high;
To-day, of all the weary year,
A king of men am I.
To-day alike are great and small,
The nameless and the known
My palace is the people’s hall,
The ballot-box my throne!
Who serves to-day upon the list
Beside the served shall stand;
Alike the brown and wrinkled fist,
The gloved and dainty hand!
The rich is level with the poor,
The weak is strong to-day;
And sleekest broadcloth counts no more
Than homespun frock of gray.
To-day let pomp and vain pretence
My stubborn right abide;
I set a plain man’s common sense
Against the pedant’s pride.
To-day shall simple manhood try
The strength of gold and land
The wide world has not wealth to buy
The power in my right hand!
While there’s a grief to seek redress,
Or balance to adjust,
Where weighs our living manhood less
Than Mammon’s vilest dust,
--While there’s a right to need my vote
A wrong to sweep away,
Up! clouted knee and ragged coat!
A man’s a man to-day!
--John Greenleaf Whittier

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


After I had a cup of coffee I rode my bike up to the polls. Minnesotans are voters, not always well (Jesse Ventura), but often. We regularly lead the nation in percentage of registered voters voting -80%. After seeing the long lines on television I was relieved to find no line. I guess if normal is 80%, 85% doesn't knock the wheels off the cart. My name and address were checked against the registration list by a sweet blue-haired little lady. Signing my name on the roll, I noticed Lorna had already voted ahead of me. I was given a little card to hand to Phil Rogers, who was in charge of handing out the paper voting forms. As we waited for a booth to open, I talked to Jane Hoffkamp, then went in to mark my choices. I voted straight Democrat this year. A couple I cast tasted bad. I voted for Al Franken only because his opponent, Senator Norm Coleman is just awful. Coleman may end up with the distinction of being defeated by both Jesse Ventura and Al Franken. Put those two dingleberries on your resume. Franken went to grade school here. He's been around a lot during the campaign, claiming local boy status. We'll probably never see him again if he wins. Rep Tim Waltz only had one hard vote, the Wallstreet bailout, and I think he blew it. He voted against it, the politically correct vote, but I think, shortsighted. He got my vote only because his opponent is extreme right. On the way out I slipped my ballot into a scan reader and another little old lady gave me a little red "I voted" sticker. Ten minutes, fifteen tops. Got on the bike again and pedaled over to Nancy's Cafe to reward myself with coffee, newspaper and breakfast.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Vote early and vote often...unless your inclination is not Obamian, but McCainian.

To Rev Dick

Motivation: 1 part water to 4 parts The Glenlivet.