Who are we? We are our stories.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Fixie of Hipsters

I love steel bicycles. I cannot explain why in a rational manner. A few years ago it looked like the days of fine handbuilt steel were numbered. The younger riders didn't identify with them in the visceral way we did and the builders, the keepers of the flame, were not being replaced by new blood. The New York messengers were holdouts for steel and they are hypercool. The messenger wannabe "hipsters" followed suit. God bless their metrosexual hearts. It has become cool to ride steel, particularly fixed gear, and steel frames are having a renaissance. (This past weekend the Men of Steel race, a series for steel framed bikes, in Athens, Ga drew 40,000 spectators.)

I enjoy reading the Bike Snob NYC. The author has a fine sense of humor. Recently hipsters have been sighted running in groups. The following was from his blog today:

A "fixie of hipsters" running en masse in a Greenpoint, Brooklyn bike lane can mean
any one of the following:

--People have long spoken in hushed tones about a
"hipster communication network" which can only be accessed via a secret iPhone
"app." Through this network, "hipsters" receive regularly updated commands and
style mandates from their consumerist overlords

--an oligarchy consisting of
Nike, Apple, General Electric, Bank of America, Google, and Wal-Mart Stores. For
example, it was this oligarchy that recently ordered all of hipsterdom to adopt
the flat-brim fitted cap. Now it seems they may have ordered "hipsters" to
abandon their bicycles and take up running, most likely to increase sneaker

--The Fixed-Gear Apocalypse is upon us, and we'll soon be living out a "28
Days Later" scenario in which the streets are strewn with abandoned track bikes
and crazed undead jogging "hipsters" with ironic Prefontaine
who feed upon the flesh of the living.

--"Hipsters" are not in fact abandoning their bikes altogether; instead, they're taking up triathlon.
This is a necessity for them, as their beloved Williamsburg concert venue,
McCarren Park Pool, is in fact being
turned from an ironic pool back into an actual pool
. Expect old-timey swimming costumes to make
an ironic comeback, and don't be surprised if you see some competitors palping p-fars
on the bike leg.

--They're not actually abandoning bicycles; it's just
cross-training for the increasingly competitive (ahem) "sport" of fixed-gear

Hi Dorothy!

(I was going to say "Hi Dodo", but decided it wasn't proper.)

Adam Smith

"...capitalism is nothing but a false religion, with Mammon as its god and Smith as its high priest."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Albert Lea

I live in Albert Lea, Minnesota, population about 17,000 and falling. It is a pretty little town, The Land Between the Lakes, but it's dying a slow, lingering death. The major employers of 30 years ago, meat packing and light manufacturing are gone, leaving the Mayo Health System as the largest employer. We continue to grasp at straws, hoping that a savior will come and resurrect our economy.

The latest dream is Artspace, a nonprofit developer who is contemplating moving artists into lofts in the beautifully restored Freeborn Bank building. It is a stunning building - makes me want to join the art crowd just to live there.
We have also recently been visited by Dan Burden, founder of Walkable Communities, who reviewed the town layout and made suggestions on ways to make it more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. As a casual bicyclist myself, I am a favor of anything that will make it easier to navigate. Coincidentally, there has also been visits by Dan Buettner of Bluezones, an organization that sets goals for community health and vitality. When the smoke clears we probably still won't be a prosperous community again, but hopefully the quality of our lives will improve, which is more important than money anyway.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Arrest of Keith Ellison

Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, along with Donna Edwards (D-MD), John Lewis (D-GA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) were led away from the Sudanese embassy in handcuffs Monday after crossing a police line. The activists were protesting Sudan's expulsion of aid groups from the Darfur region. Ellison said "it is wrong to deny aid to what he calls 'the most vulnerable people on our planet.'

Make one proud to be from Minnesota.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Keeper and His Lady

The lighthouse keeper just returned a borrowed bicycle. He and his lady are returning to the big lake today for another year in their rolls of lighthouse keeper and shopkeeper. It would be wonderful to live in so beautiful a place.

The Toad

wise toad suffering
an ache of pending losses,
hold him in your heart

Ad's Moving On

Here's yesterday's note from Addy (she volunteered last summer at the NGO) :
"I interviewed for a position at a private school in Bangkok last Wednesday
called Sunflower School. My ex-student's family owns it, and as soon as I got to
the campus, it just felt right. I met the principal and she is sweet and made me
feel like I was a part of a family right off the bat. The school is beautiful --
definitely designed for children of Bangkok's power elite. I feel that working
at a school like this may go against my values, but I figure I can work there
for a year, save money, and go back to India and teach or work with Himachal
Pradesh Children and Development Organization
, the NGO I fell in love with while
I was in India before. I think my position at the new school will be a
combination of public relations, activities coordinator,and special ed teacher.
It will be good experience no doubt. I guess we'll see how it goes."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thanks for the Good Time

Just a public thank you to all those who furnished the wonderful food, wine, beer and strong drinks for our 5 hour sit-down last night. Wow. Just wow.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Das Wurst Haus

"Every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for." Thorton Wilder wrote it, and Peter Hoffman carved it into the huge wooden plank that hung on for years on the back wall of a local bakery. It came to mind again yesterday as I walked into Das Wurst Haus. I was surprised a little to be greeted by Arv, with his toothy smile and his greeting hand. It's a good handshake, long, firm but not bone crushing. After the first shake he waits a beat, leans forward... making intense eye contact, "Hello, my friend (everyone is Arv's friend), continuing his grip, "My friend Gunnar, how's it going?", then a final slow squeeze and release. It is kind of a generic question. He's really letting me know that he still remembers my name - which is a rare thing for him. I was surprised because Arv sold his restaurant some time ago, two owners back. He still came in every day to greet people and play polka music on his accordion, rather badly, but with gusto. Often other old Germans musicans would come in with their instruments and his wife would join in on the piano. Then a year ago he and his wife (who's name slips me at the moment) moved 45 miles away to Winona. I didn't see Arv at all last summer. So yesterday I asked why he was back there, and I got this long story about how it was closing this Spring, and people don't want to work these days, and it was 25 years, and he still loves people, and he couldn't let it go down, and he missed his friends. So he bought it back at a firesale price and moved back to town to do what he loves.

The reason that it is so much work is that they make the hard rolls themselves, they make the bratwurst and sauerkraut and the six different mustards to put on them; they make the rootbeer. When I say they "make", I don't mean they thaw something and then heat it up. Everything is made from scratch. Everything but the beer, the beer is factory brewed by Schells (since 1853).
Young people tend to think that everything is getting better, that all good things will last. I have seen good things come and go - good people come and go. I would guess that Arv and his Schotze are 70 to 75 years old. I know in my soul that this will soon all be a distant memory. It is standing for the moment on the razor-edge of danger.

Taking the Risk

If you're not careful, maps will trick you. This looked like a nice ride, gently uphill on the west branch, then north and pick up the road on the east branch coming back down. An honest disclosure: I am old (63 11/12ths) and I am heavy (fat). This is not usually an issue on flat ground. I am not as fast as I once was, but I can chug along for as long as I need to. Back to the map - I should have really looked at those pretty squiggly contour lines more closer. They contained a story and a lesson for the old man.
"Travel at Your Own Risk" read the sign. I was warned. It was a 90 degree day with no tree shade yet. The road was a little rough, with crushed rock over hard pan. I was continually fighting the ass-end squirreling around, as I pedaled hard up the undulating hill. It is the first time I've ever turned a pedal in anger with this bike, riding the small ring and biggest clog. Psychologically, I always like to keep at least one gear open in case of emergency. This was it. The emergency. With my mouth open, sucking wind and slobber dripping from my chin I eventually fought myself to the top of the bluff. The ride north on the flat was easier and I had a chance to catch my breath before picking up the east branch for the ride down. That was a little edgy too, too much braking on the loose surface and I would slide sideways, too little and the increasing speed could kill me. I braked when I could and rolled when I had too. When I got to the bottom I got off the bike and wheeled it across the pavement. I sat down on the bank of the Root and watched an Amish kid fishing for trout for about fifteen or twenty minutes, as I ate a bar and recovered. Maybe I'll take another crack at it later in the season when I'm a little younger.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More Fiddling Around

Continuing my campaign to numb the minds of all readers, I am posting before and afters of my latest tweek to the P.M. Originally I had a set of long handled Suntour shifters that mounted in front of the post. I couldn't mount them higher as the swing arc would hit the stem clamp bolt. In the low mounting position they interfered with a proper bell mount so I clamped the bell to the stem. "Why a stupid, geeky bell anyway?", you ask. Because at one time it was required by French law. I know that doesn't make sense, but it is the only explanation I have.

I in-painted the new rear mount shifters with the same green
as the frame, buffed them out a little and replaced the tightening screws with the same Campagnolo shifter tightening thingies that I used on the old set up. Nice. I drilled and tapped a hole in the stem spacer ring for the bell. Clean and more discreet. (There are two kinds of trail cyclists, those with bells and those with mirrors. The passers and the passees. I'm a bell guy.) Dinger! Dinger! On your left!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Oak Trees, etc

The Wise Toad writes from Oregon that everything's covered in pollen out there and he's suffering. I know the feeling, but it won't hit us for a while. We have 12 wonderful large craggy bur oak trees. The lake and the oaks drive the whole ecology of the neighborhood, plants, birds, squirrels, even insects. Probably the type of people who live here too. Do oaken people chose to move here? or do they become stronger by living 'neath the oaks? We moved to Oakwood 20 years ago on Aug 1st. There were a few things I didn't factor in when we bought the house that I learned the first year.
1. October. The wonderful cool shade of the leathery oak leaves translates into a shitload of bio-mass to be dealt with in the Fall.
2. December. The street we're on is actually a narrow one-way alley that seldom sees a snowplow. 4-wheel drive. (Actually it isn't one-way, but you can't meet a vehicle without playing chicken until someone either backs up or pulls into a driveway.)
3. January. The winter winds are northwesterly and all the snow that falls out on the lake drifts into my driveway. Snowblower.
4. May. The bur oak, Quercus macrocarpa lays down a solid coat of powdery pollen coating on everything.
4a. I'm allergic to Quercus macrocarpa pollen.
Oh, and 5. The oak leaves are like dark green leather, but when they first come out they are a translucent lime green, and look like stained glass. For a week or two in the Spring everything is bathed in an otherworldly green light. Why isn't that in any of the books?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Natural Happiness

From Paul Bloom, NY Times:
"Our species has spent almost all of its existence on the African savanna. While there is debate over the details, we know for sure that our minds were not adapted to cope with a world of billions of people.
"This history has left its mark on our minds. Children are irrepressible taxonomizers, placing the world of distinct individuals into categories based on their appearance, their patterns of movement and their presumed deeper natures, and some psychologists have argued that the hard-wired capacity to organize and structure the world is specially adapted to nature: we are natural-born zoologists and botanists. We may also have evolved to get pleasure from certain aspects of the natural world. About 25 years ago, the Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson popularized the “biophilia” hypothesis: the idea that our evolutionary history has blessed us with an innate affinity for living things. We thrive in the presence of nature and suffer in its absence."

The images are of Thailand's Khao Yai National Park where my daughter is presently working.

Friday, April 17, 2009

CIA Missing!

"MCLEAN, VA—Silently, under the cover of darkness, the national headquarters
of the CIA vanished Tuesday, leaving no sign that it had ever been there at all.
The multibuilding campus of the intelligence-gathering agency reportedly
disappeared without warning, taking with it all occupants and leaving in its
place 258 acres of peaceful woodland. "I don't know what you're referring to,"
National Intelligence Director Dennis C. Blair said. "I've never heard of this
headquarters or the agency it supposedly housed. There's no story here." An
anonymous source claimed to have more information on the incident, but a
reporter dispatched to meet him in a Langley, VA parking garage found the
facility empty, and left having only heard a few dull thuds and the squealing of

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Passing of Stan Haley

This was posted today on the Classic Rendezvous site. I did not know Stan Haley, nor do I know his friend Tom Sanders, I just liked it:

"Stan Haley was a bike mechanic. He wrenched for nearly all the
local Lansing shops, even though he had a couple of Graduate Degrees. He
just loved bicycles. He spent the last 16 years of his mechanic's career
working for my buddy Bill at Holt Pro Cyclery. Then Stan decided to
retire. He had some good years. He got a job as a rural newspaper
delivery person to supplement his income or as something to do, I really don't
know which. Stan was out working on that weekend before last when he was struck
by a car and killed. Besides his family, Stan left behind vintage bicycles,
a huge collection of vintage jerseys, bike tees (some of which may come to
Cirquewith me) and bike tools. And one last and very unusual
request. His beloved regular ride was a custom built 'bent. Off
topic to us here, but very much on topic for Stan. True to Stan's wish, the
thing was taken to my buddy's shop last Friday and Bill worked far into the night
getting Stan's ashes into its' frame. His wish was to have his ashes
installed in it and to have it hang over his favorite bar, where he had spent
many a happy hour. I think they hung it yesterday. So Stranger, if your
travels should take you to Beggar's Banquet, a very venerable and well known Bar
in East Lansing, Michigan and you should cast your eyes up above the
bar and see a rather exotic recumbent bike in a place of honor, think of old
Stan, who is hanging out there, still.

Tom Sanders
Lansing, MI USA"

2009 Amstel Gold

Okay guys, the next big one up is the Amstel Gold this Sunday, the race that is, not the beer; though I am sure there will be copious amounts of the beer consumed by the crowd too. This is a new race, first run in 1966, but the narrow side roads and steep climbs through the Limburg region of Holland make for an interesting race, and a chance for the climbers to show their legs. The 257km course starts in Maastricht and climbs the Cauberg hill twice, the second the finish near the top at Valkenberg. I would guess that there will still be an attack group together as they approach the Cauberg the second time and the race will be decided near the top of this last killer hill. All and all an interesting race to watch, even though it certainly doesn't have the history and drama of Paris Roubaix.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Charles Morgan Rules

When I was looking for a picture of a proper Morgan automobile I came across this. Since 1910 the Morgan Company has been owned and operated by the Morgan family. Okay, that's cool. But read on. In the September '08 race cited, the car was driven by a team which included Charles Morgan! Now what the hell, if you own the company, enjoy the ride! I love the way the British will say things like, "The cars are showing great pace...", when we know what they really mean is, "These suckers go like a bat of the hell...", a quality which Morgans always have had.

"Congratulations to the team at the FIA GT3 Championship at Brno coming in 5th and 21st in the second race, a fantastic result , with the lead car beating all Ferraris, Porsche, and Lamborghinis.
The cars are showing great pace and are now starting to worry the really well established teams. Charles Morgan shared a car with Frederic O’Neill, finishing well and really enjoying the race. The only driver racing with his name on the front of the car!! Well done to the drivers and the team.
The 3 car “AutoGT Racing” team, sponsored by Banque Baring Brothers Sturdza S.A., is run by the renowned F1 racers Jean Pierre Jabouille and legend Jacques Laffite.
Fitted with a dry sump 5.0 litre BMW V8, with some 420 Bhp, a Holinger 6 speed sequential gearbox, reworked suspension and racing brakes, carbon bodywork and revised aerodynamics the package is now proving highly competitive."

Morgans and Mooneys

Double click on this one. I think the detail is quite nice.

When I was a young man I owned a series of sports cars. At that time Class "C" was dominated by Porsches and Morgans, the tail-heavy Porsches snaking their way though the course, fighting off the Morgans in their 4-wheel drift, a sliding turn controlled by the accelerator. I drove that way on the gravel backroads I grew up on and always assumed that as an older gentleman I would be driving a Morgan motor car, driving it too fast for a man my age. Life and the market being what it is, I will never own a Morgan. It struck me the other day that the Peter Mooney I have been playing with recently, IS a Morgan in spirit. Of course it doesn't have the 400 BHP of a new Plus 8. (The 1993 Plus 8 pictured is for sale.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Signe Rose Anderson

The first of our family's next generation. Tomorrow's hope. May she have a wonderful life.
(My wife has pointed out that Signe is NOT the first of the next generation, that we have more nieces and nephews that I have never known in California.)

Paris-Roubaix Results

Today the capacity crowd in the old Roubaix banked-track velodrome stood and cheered as local favorite, Tom Boonen entered the stadium alone and rode the traditional lap and half to the finish line. It was Boonen's third Roubaix victory and his second in a row. George Hincapie placed something like 6,947th. A guy stuck a microphone in his face and asked if this would be his last Paris Roubaix. The beaten down Hincapie hesitated, thought a bit, then replied, "No, I'm coming back next year. I can't let it end this way." As a young man he placed as high as second. Trying to win this, "the only race the matters", eventually tends to consume them.

Paris Roubaix Weather Report

Chance of Rain. Scattered Clouds. High: 69 °F . Wind NW 13 mph . Chance of precipitation 20% (water equivalent of 0.01 in).

It could be worse. Let us hope so.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Paris-Roubaix: The Hell of the North

For me, this is the BIG ONE. Since 1896 cyclists have ridden this masterpiece of a race, originally north from Paris to Roubaix, but now from Compiègne to Roubaix, across rutted back roads with 27 sections of man breaking, bicycle bending cobblestones of the worse kind. It is the type of race that spawns books and legends. I have a wonderful coffee table book, A Journey into Hell, and maybe the best cycling movie ever made, A Sunday in Hell. Often the weather conditions are brutal, with cold rain and harsh winds. If the rains don't come (a damned shame!) the riders still have to deal with the dirt and dust from between the pavés, and the narrow, dirt shoulders, where much of the race is ridden to avoid the pounding of the pavés. It doesn't have mountains where attacks are made and races won, the attacks come on the cobbled sections. This is where the race will be decided.

The course is brutal, with section 18, the eerie, ancient cart path, the Trench of Arenberg, often the deciding section. It is long, straight and deep enough into the race that the men are being to tire. If you are strong and have the legs, a good place to strike, to launch an attack. It is the place to gain enough time over the peloton to position yourself to win the race and the Golden Pavé awarded to the victor.

In the 1960s and 70s the race was in danger of dying as the cobbles were slowly paved over with asphalt in the guise of progress. The 'Les Amis de Paris Roubaix' was formed by a group of volunteers to preserve and maintain the remaining cobbled sections. Bless their cobbled, little French hearts.

For years the riders rode steel frames, painted and decaled to resemble their sponsors frames. Now a number of the bike manufacturers make special Paris Roubaix models, not always successfully.

Again George Hincapie comes to mind. He is the prototypical Paris-Roubaix rider, hard-ass tough and strong, yet he has never won the Queen of the Classics. Last weekend at the Tour of Flanders he crashed and placed 34th. You need luck to win Flanders, even more to win Paris-Roubaix. At 36 the old boy is running out of the years and the luck to win the big one, his favorite race. The grim, hollow-eyed stone staring man in the photos is big George... as is the snapped stem, crushed bicycle. Hincapie only had a broken collarbone. Others have not fared as well. There will be blood.

Generally Wikipedia is suspect, but in this case maybe because the race is so epic, is quite a good source. From Wiki:

"No sooner was de Rooy off his bike than the CBS crew jumped on him. His haggard face was covered with mud and blood when they asked for his race impressions. He was so exhausted he could barely speak, but he muttered something about how hard and heart-breaking Paris-Roubaix could be. So dejected did he sound and so naive was the crew (who didn't know this was the umpteenth time the Dutchman had ridden the race), that they asked if he would ever ride Paris-Roubaix again. De Rooy's face instantly transformed. 'Ride it again?' he asked incredulously. 'Of course I will. This is the most beautiful race in the world! "

Get your beer and popcorn, feet up in a good chair. Same day coverage on Versus at 5:00 on Sunday.

"This is not just a race. It is a pilgrimage." -Henri Pélissier after his 1919 victory.

(Rory, I know I committed to pulling for your Liquigas boys, but for this one I can't. You're on your own. Enjoy the race, Iowa Boy. I envy you.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Gathering Storm

This is from Rev Dick's latest sermon, in reaction to the NOM -Gathering Storm anti-gay television commercial. Can we get an Amen? :
"I will have no choice." That is correct white teenage girl! You WILL have to...uh, what was it she will have no choice about again? Whatever. Hey all you gays- you stop destabilising my marriage! It is on the rocks now on account of you and your darned love for one another! God hates stuff I want Him to hate!

Tour of Flanders

George Hincapie is a 36 year old journeyman bicycle rider, not a star, but better than a domestique, a water carrier. His career is noteworthy mostly because for years he was the man who protected Lance Armstrong, who led him up the mountains before unleashing him for the final attacks. George realizes he is not the type of rider who can win a two or three week tour race. He is big, strong and deliberate in his style. What fits his style, what he wants, is a victory in either of the two Spring Classics which are cobbled races. The first of these, the Tour of Flanders, is run over narrow rural roads with occasional cobbled sections and steep hills. This year the historic 21% gradient Koppenburg is included among the 16 cobbled climbs which will turn a bicycle rider into a pedestrian in a heartbeat. I've heard it described as "like riding your bike up stairs". They slow down to a crawl, gasping, pumping, willing their bikes up the hill. If they hesitate or slow down they are off, and there is simply no way to gain momentum again. If one man fails, everyone behind him fails, a line of grim men trudging up the hill, leaning on their machines. The long tours get a lot of press. They are races of snake thin, spidery men - tactical races where teams nurse 5 second advantages for day after boring day. The one day Spring Classics are races for real MEN.

Last Sunday the 93rd Tour of Flanders was won by local favorite Stijn Devolder, his second consecutive . George Hincapie was not among the leaders. Paris-Roubaix has been run since 1896. Next Sunday may be big George's last real chance at it. Paris-Roubaix doesn't have the hills....but it's worse! The only word is "Epic". Same day coverage on Versus at 5 o'clock. More later. (Check out the 2006 Koppenberg climb, it's great!)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Moonlight in Vermont

The Toad writes free form Haiku as Tweekus - just distilled thoughts and sights in his daily life, and inflicts them on the world. He is a much more courageous man than I. A couple of recent ones brought back to me my favorite song lyrics ever written. While Margaret Whiting did the original and probably the standard version, everyone, well nearly everyone, has recorded it. Don't miss Billy Holiday's version. In world short-sightedness, there seems to be no Lady Day YouTube version of this. Huh? You'll have to settle for Betty Carter. Tough way to settle, rather like having to settle for a wonderful Malbec, 'cause all the Pinot was killed the night before.

Pennies in a stream,
Falling leaves, a sycamore..
Moonlight in Vermont.

Icy finger waves,
Ski trails down a mountain side
Snowlight in Vermont.

Telegraph cables,
that sing down the highway
And travel each bend in the road,

People who meet in this romantic setting
Are so hypnotized by the lovely
Evening summer breeze,
Warbling of a meadowlark,
Moonlight in Vermont,

You and I and moonlight in Vermont.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

It's Been a Quiet Week

LAKE WOBEGON, MN(AP)—Though local residents insist it has been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, MN, their hometown out on the edge of the prairie, state police officials descended on the small community Tuesday when another 24 corpses surfaced along its placid waterfront.
In the last year, the viciously mutilated bodies of 57 Lake Wobegon citizens have been found in the lake. Nine of those discovered were members of the town's floundering baseball team, the Whippets, whose severed throwing arms were never discovered.
"The Wobegon Killer typically stalks his victims in the dead of night, murders them, and discards their hacked-up bodies in the water," Minnesota State Police chief Ron Taggard said. "We believe this same individual may also be responsible for the bombing of Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility Church in July; brutally maiming local waitress Darlene with a meat cleaver; and force-feeding lutefisk to the owner of Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery, Ralph, until his stomach burst."
Added Taggard, "We're dealing with a madman here."
According to officials, the bodies were discovered when hundreds gathered to watch Mr. Berge's 1949 maroon Pontiac sink into the thawing lake as part of the annual Sons of Knute Ice Melt contest. As the car submerged, onlookers witnessed a number of purplish- looking corpses float to the surface, most of them decapitated.
"Last time I saw a crime this bad was a couple weeks ago at the Chatterbox [Café], when Dorothy ran out of rhubarb pie," lifelong Lake Wobegon resident Daryl Tollerud told reporters. "Huh, the high school choir's gonna have some trouble getting its April concert together if that's Miss Falconer's head bobbing up and down out there."
Other corpses that have been positively identified include former Lake Wobegon High School football coach Mr. Margadant; 87-year-old Myrtle Krebsbach, whose husband joked that it was the only way we could get rid of her; and Bunsen Motors co-owner Clarence Bunsen, who, according to autopsy reports, had his throat slashed with an ice skate before being chained to a large stone head with grass in its ear and sunk to the bottom of the lake.
While investigators are determined to find the murderer before he kills again, Lake Wobegon citizens have remained surprisingly calm.
"What's the use in complaining?" Irene Bunsen, Clarence's sister-in-law, told reporters. "It's like the cold weather. Everyone has to deal with it, so it's better to just keep quiet. And besides, maybe Pastor Inqvist and his wife deserved to die after they went to Florida for that one week in January while the rest of us sat here and froze."
"Pardon me, I have to check on my tomatoes," Bunsen added. "Set the record in '78 with a 25-ouncer, and I'm not going to stop trying to beat it because of a few grisly murders."
Immediately after the gruesome dredging, locals gathered at the town's watering hole, the Sidetrack Tap, to speculate as to who could be responsible for the killing spree. A group of Lutherans claimed the killer is most definitely Catholic, as evidenced by the fact that they saw him drive away in a Chevrolet. The town's Catholics said the murderer must be Lutheran, because they saw him drive off in a Ford.
"I'll bet it was Clint Bunsen," bar regular Mr. Hoppe said after ordering a beer and a bump. "He's still steamed he isn't chairman of the Fourth of July parade anymore, so he flew off the handle and started killing people. Even his own brother. I'm tellin' ya, it's the truth."
"I think it was the Tollefson boy, Johnny," an intoxicated Mr. Berge told reporters. "Big New York man, moved out of here as fast as he could and always thought he was too good for us. His father was a great man, though. Best grain elevator operator this town has ever seen. Here's to Byron Tollefson!"
While most maintain that Lake Wobegon c itizens are incapable of serious wrongdoing, law enforcement officials have uncovered new evidence indicating the killer could be a local.
"We do have one suspect: a Caucasian male in his mid to late 60s, who was last seen dressed in a dark suit, a red tie, red socks, and sneakers," Taggard said. "This deranged psychopath talks in a very breathy, slow cadence, and was overheard several weeks ago saying, 'I have to finish what I started. It's gotten out of control. All of them must die.'

The Minnesota Experience

Uffda, Min ne so da!

Levi Peterson

I was born at the close of WWII and grew up in a Norman Rockwell small town. In this pre-air conditioner world, summer evenings were spent on front porches visiting with family and friends, escaping the pent up daytime heat of the house. After I was tucked into my bed in the room I shared with my younger brother, I would lay with my head next to the window, trying to catch any stray breeze I could. One of my earliest memories was dozing off to the neighborhood sound of muffled conversation, radio baseball and soft distance harmonica music.
The harmonica was played by Levi Peterson, who lived two doors to the south. Levi was old, well into his eighties, with his wife long gone, when I first knew him in 1950, and over a hundred when he died. My world was small then, I wasn’t allowed to cross streets at that point in my life. Levi lived near the end of my world, which was bounded to the south by the end of the sidewalk.
During the week Levi wore straw hats, chambray work shirts and denium overalls left over from a long life of farming. Obviously he had grown smaller with age. His clothes were loose and baggy. After a long life of hard work his sun dried soul was wrapped in yards of faded blue cotton. All that was left was his essence. Levi was one of my first adult friends and I thought he was the most wonderful musician in the world. We would sit on the glider on his front porch, sipping strawberry floats while we talked business, and he would play his Hohner Marine Band. He played old songs, simple tunes tunes that were easy to remember. When he learned to play, some of the songs were new - new tunes that he played for pretty young girls. I still have Sweet Betsy From Pike and Darling Clementine etched deep in my brain where the emotions and memories are stored.
Levi was the first person in our town to have a television. He was really not particularly interested in the programming, but in the people who would drop in in the evenings to sit huddled in the dark room with their eyes glued to the miracle in the corner. I don’t think Levi ever watched. He was too busy in the kitchen making popcorn, coffee and snacks, just enjoying his house being full of the energy of young people. He was a good friend for a kid to have.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Ol' Dexter says I seem to developed a predilection for death and dying. That's absurd. It's bicycles and riding that fascinate me.

The Life and Death of Camille Danguillaume

Helmet. Helmet. Helmet! Thanks to Aldo Ross's Pic of the Day

Camille Danguillaume (right) leads the winning break of (left to right) Antonin Rolland, Louison Bobet, and Rémy, up the côte Lapize during the 1950 French National Championship at Montlhéry. With his strong final sprint, Danguillaume was favoured for a possible win, but.....

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Death and Snekkes

My late friend, Toad told me I should plan for my demise, (as he did - but he had more than decade to see the horseman coming) so I've been giving it some thought. It all kind of fell into place this afternoon as I was painting door trim. What I really want is a pyre; you know, a big bonfire to burn my body. It just seems to have more theater than just being shoved into a furnace and coming out ashes cooling down for a cremation urn. 

Some of the Native Americans added a nice wrinkle. They would let the body decompose up on a rack away from critters, then later collect the bones and burn them. Oakwood is a close knit and pretty laid back community, but off hand, I think some of the downwind neighbors might complain about a decomposing body in Oakwood Park.

But I'm thinking the Viking tradition would be really great - a Snekke, a longship, carrying the deceased atop of a boatload of firewood. A night time service with some Willemoes Stout, Akvavit, some strong cheese and pickled herring, all the folks gathered around a big fire in the center of Oakwood Park.

The crowd is weeping, singing those old songs of joy and grief, laughing at past life stories until they cannot stand - sad from the loss, happy with the memory ... and the Akvavit - "the water of life". Then deep in the Akvavit night, just before dawn kisses the horizon, a cry rises from the dark edges - The Judge calls, "Time! Time! Time to light'em up!" Then all of Oakwood rises as one to their feet and stumble, fall and crawl to the boat. Those still able to stand, grasp the gunwales. "Heave! Heave! Ho!", calls The Judge, and the snekke begins to inch along on it's last slip-slide down the flowery slope of 1410. As the longship passes, the designated Sober Man lays torch to the snekke, now captained only by the shell of Gunnar, armed with his Bulldog Forge spade and fork, riding atop a burning cord of Oakwood Bur Oak. Ipicks up speed, clears the walking path and splashes into the quiet waters of Edgewater Bay. Drifting to the center of the bay, the blazing boat lights up the morning sky, covering the water with a thin skim of  Gunnar ash. 

Permits! Man am I going to need permits and variances for this one. I got to get me a good lawyer. A good Nordic lawyer (man, now that's an oxymoron). I'll get The Judge, Ol' Chesterman; he always likes to challenge the establishment.

Akvavit! Vestfyen Willemoes Stout! I'll need cases of Akvavit! This shouldn't be a BYOB event (although that would lend a certain local Scandinavian touch). Aalborg was the birthplace of my grandfather, my namesake, so that would be appropriate. But not the regular Aalborg Taffel Akvavit, it should be the Aalborg Jubilaeums, the good stuff. 

A Snekke? Where can I get a proper Snekke? Maybe the North House Folk School in Grand Marais? 


It was announced today with a flourish of excited optimism, that the DOW closed over 8000. While I feel good about it, as most of my net is invested in, what has proved to be, fly-by-night highbinders, the realist in me says, "Okay, that's nice, only 6500 more to go". (Did you know that "highbinders" got caught in a spellcheck? It must be a farm thing.)

On Ancesters and Death

I received an email today from a gentleman with an interest in family tree and family history software. I suppose because I often write about deceased family members in this blog, he felt I was interested in family history.

My friend, Toad has a blog, http://yourethicalwill.blogspot.com/
dedicated to preparing what he calls “Ethical Wills”, a way of “keeping your values, stories, and wisdom alive for future generations”. I have read it and daydreamer that I am, have actually thought about it, and I have come to these conclusions:

I am self-centered, I am only interested in my family and the people that I actually knew and cared about in life. The rest of them are names in the dust, chiseled on mossy old granite markers, or on the back page of a musty bible. They are just names. I don’t feel anything for them.

And now the other thing: When I die I want a short note in the newspaper so friends are informed of my passing. There should be no mention of how I earned my keep or what a terrific person I was. Those who knew me know where I worked and whether I was a worthwhile person or not, and it’s not the concern of the creepy funeral followers. I want to be cremated and have the ashes spread anywhere other than a cemetery. If those left behind feel they have to visit me (which is to me a bizarre concept) they can spread them someplace pleasant. When those who knew me in life also die, I want to have my existence on earth, my life slate, wiped clean.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


There are reports of "well organized anarchists" at the G20 meetings. Well organized anarchists? Huh? Have these people no pride?