Archive - May 2010


May 28th

Good baseball

Pitching. Defense. Tonight's Twins victory over the Rangers was a great contrast to the usual sloppy baseball played between the two teams. 

I really enjoy 2-1 victories. That's great baseball. 

It is also great to get the Yankees out of town. 

What a great time to be a Twins fan. New stadium. Highly talented team. It looks like a fun summer ahead.

IT WAS another quick week in the nursery business. Friday seems to come around instantly when we're busy, busy. 

I am tuckered out on people. I can do work like cleaning and mowing, but as soon as I get involved with customers I get short-tempered if anything goes awry. 

It happens every year. At the end of May, something just snaps and it takes a major effort to be civil with people who I don't particularly like. 

Of course, most customers I enjoy. For the first eight tenths of the season, the fun people hold sway. At the end, however, a single irresolute mother nagging me to decide the color of her graduation reception planters for her will send me over the edge into barely concealed rage. 

Listen, lady, it just doesn't matter. 

So, I took most of the day off. I napped for several hours. Had vivid dreams of an Old Testament bent. Vast storehouses of grains, including infinite pallets of Cherrios stacked to the ceiling of a building that made Sam's Club look like a corner market. Mansions filled with silver serving sets. Rich fields of cabbage so thick that you could walk across the heads. 

It was all owned by a benevolent ear-nose and throat specialist with whom I had an appointment. The first test he gave me was to throw darts at a cinder block wall to see if I could get any to stick. No luck there, so it was obvious that I was pretty sick. 

What could it all mean? Will I get a multi-colored coat? 

After hang-gliding over the coast near Camarillo, CA, I awoke so exhausted that all I could do was yawn. 



May 27th

Over the hump

The season at the nursery has passed the peak.

Everybody is worn out and wanting to rest, including me.

Phone call a few minutes ago: 

"Hi, I just got some cabbage--not from you--with aphids all over it. What should I do to get rid of them?"

Soak them in gasoline?  

Speaking of things to get rid of, I am glad that the Twins won't be facing the Yankees any more after tonight. Why they can't shake the Yankee jinx, I don't know. What an awful night last night, losing two games in the space of a couple of hours, both games that could easily have been won. 

I am reading Jimmy Carter's memoir of his youth in Plains, GA, An Hour Before Daylight. It is excellent. Carter is a writer, probably more of a writer than he was a politician. His writing rings of honesty and truth.

On June 21, I will join a group of teachers from northwestern Minnesota on a tour of Civil War historic sites. We will start in Gettysburg and end up in Georgia. Thus, the Carter book is on my reading list. I look forward to the trip very, very much. It will be an intense trip, but it is well-planned. 

At one point, we will spend a day with James McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom, the best single-volume history of the American Civil War ever written. That alone made the trip a can't-miss on my list. 

May 24th

Hilton report

With the mucky weather today, I went to town and stopped by the Fertile Hilton to see Aunt Olla. 

Things are going okay, although there are some power struggles going on over vitamin issues which I am not going to get involved with unless things turn violent. 

After dealing briefly with vitamin matters, Olla announced that she was going to relaxation class and she wanted me to come along. 

A relaxation class is about what I needed today. I woke up early, but decided to just sleep in after a busy weekend. It was raining anyway. 

When I finally got going, I was in no mood to visit with people at all. As I drove up to the yard, I noticed a customer that has been very unpleasant for the past three years. Over the winter, I contemplating sending him a letter not to come back. He ruins the day for the employees, he's so unpleasant.

It was a good thing he was driving out the driveway as I came in; it saved me the embarrassment of telling him off. 

So yes, I needed a relaxation class. 

We went down to the activities room. The "instructor," as Olla called her, (she turns on the tape) shut the blinds, shut off the light and turned on the tape. We relaxed for twenty minutes. 

It was actually pretty therapeutic. 

We were to repeat mantras over and over:

I am very relaxed. 

My feet are getting warmer.

My stomach is warm. 

I am placid. 

My muscles are smooth. 

I am sinking into my chair. 

After the session, I came back to the nursery and have been kind and loving towards all ever since. 



May 22nd


This is one of Mozart's perfect pieces. The phrase from 3:48-4:12 has to be one of the most eloquent musical passages ever written. 

Here is another favorite. It is likely the last passage of music that Mozart wrote, although he died before completing it and other composers finished up the Lacrimosa and then wrote the remainder of the Requiem from scratch.

The history of the Requiem is complex, but I think it is clear that after the Lacrimosa, the level of genius drops off considerably. 

Although Bach is the greatest musical craftsman ever, Mozart displays the greatest genius per note. Somehow, in the fewest notes possible, you know it is Mozart. Nobody else could have written even his simplest phrases. 

Subtract the genius from Mozart and you are left with Haydn. 


May 21st


Had a board meeting today. At the end, there was to be a Powerpoint presentation. 

I despise Powerpoint. 

Here is the Gettysburg address reduced to Powerpoint. 

You get the point? 

Powerpoint presentations always begin with technical glitches. Always. 

Today's Powerpoint glitches took about twenty minutes to resolve. 

Meanwhile, we all sat there with a printed handout of the Powerpoint presentation in our hands. We already knew what was coming. 

I asked, "Is this the same as we're going to see on the screen?"

"Yes," the presenter said. 

So...I wondered why in the world were we spending twenty minutes getting the computer glitches taken care of merely so we could see the very information we had in our hands shone onto the wall. 

The speaker didn't see it that way. Like most Powerpoint dependents, he intended to read parts of his presentation right off the wall while we all followed along either on the wall, or on the handout in our hands. 

The first two slides took twenty minutes. Because of the handout, I knew we had twenty pages to go. 

The topic was deadly boring to me, so I started to doodle. I got busted by the man next to me, a fell0w board member who was fascinated by the topic. 

Eventually, I had to leave to get back to the nursery. The Powerpoint presentation was less than one-third finished. I can't imagine how long it continued. 

The last meeting I attended also had a Powerpoint presentation. The speaker read from it, right off the screen. The entire exercise was pointless.

As the emcee, I had the job of interrupting the reading to get the speaker off the stage. Nobody cared. 

Powerpoint is boring. Powerpoint is a crutch. Powerpoint is evil. 


May 19th

So long, 13 Towns

For the past many years, my column has run in the 13 Towns. For the past weeks, it has disappeared and people from the Fosston area have been asking me why I quit writing. 

Of course I haven't quit writing, the paper just stopped printing the column. Today I decided to call the editor and see what I should tell people was the reason. 

Before I called, I suspected the editor dispensed with me after he announced that my column on the Sioux nickname controversy "contained racial slurs." He was the only editor out of 23 who didn't understand that the article was satire, and perhaps he didn't want to be humiliated like that again. 

Much to my surprise, that column had nothing to do with his decision to cut the column. 

"I am glad you called, Eric," he said.

Turns out, the nursery was asked a few weeks ago to sponsor a garden section in the 13 Towns.

Well, we have our advertising spending allocated ahead of time so that we get maximum bang for the buck. We don't make advertising decisions based upon returning favors, etc., as that is no way to run a business. We declined to take out an ad. I did not make the decision, but that really doesn't matter. 

"This is a quid pro quo deal," he said, meaning that if the nursery wasn't going to advertise in his paper, he wasn't going to carry my column. 

The advertising I placed in his paper last fall promoting my last book was obviously forgotten. So too the fact that I have in the past hired the company that owns his paper to print our catalog as well as three of my books. 

I was so taken aback I hung up. 

First, it was a rude surprise to learn that felt that he had been running my column all these years as an of act of charity.

I charged his paper $5 per week. I may be delusional, but I think it is worth every penny.

If an editor doesn't feel he or she gets $5 benefit out of the column every week, they should quit carrying it and not sit around waiting for us to buy nursery ads to justify it. 

The whole notion of quid pro quo is a bit slippery, especially in journalism. According to most notions of journalistic ethics, there is supposed to be a firewall between the advertising department and the editorial offices. Of course, in small town newspapers, they can be the same person. But that doesn't mean the traditional firewall can't be observed. 

Yes, there are instances where advertising dollars effect editorial content, but most editors have enough knowledge of ethics not to admit it!

So, for those of you 13 Towns readers wondering where I went, that's the story.

I suspect you won't read about it in the paper. 

And the column is available for free on this site.



May 18th

On a roll

 The dam broke loose last Friday and hasn't been patched up yet. Thankfully. The heat is bringing in customers in droves. This pace is unsustainable, of course, but while it lasts it is kind of fun. 

A customer tonight told me, "Eric, you have to smile!" Apparently, I looked a little stressed. 

The phone rang today (I am not kidding, as silly as this story sounds), and the person on the other end asked "What is your number?" 

"It's the one you just dialed!" I said. 

Turns out the operator has dialed the number for him, so the question wasn't as crazy as it sounded. 

Yet another phone call: 

"I am the party who ordered the three flowering crab."

Okay, which party would that be?

Caller, annoyed: "I ordered three flowering crab in April and I want three more." 

The flowering crab in question were tiny seedlings for $2 each. Indeed, they went out in early April, but the event didn't loom as large in my memory as the caller imagined. In fact, I had survived the entire month without even being told of the legendary "party who ordered the three flowering crab."



Oh so sad

 One just hates to see self-righteous hypocrites exposed. At least he was straight and thus eligible for quick and easy forgiveness!

May 17th

Syttende Mai

 Performed and spoke to the Bemidji Sons of Norway Syttende Mai dinner tonight at the Concordia Language Village north of Lake Bemidji. It was a fun group.

I spoke there about five or six years ago as well. When I was picking out shirts this afternoon, I seemed to remember that the room was very warm. So, I wore a short-sleeve cotton shirt, which was lucky because it was sweltering.

The scenery north of Lake Bemidji is stunning. Lakes and woods. All in lime greens and whites and pinks right now. Birch, Norway pine, flowering plum, flowering crab. Very beautiful. 

The wild busyness continued at the nursery today. The weather brings the people out. I shouldn't have left to speak, but I couldn't resist a Sons of Norway group. 


May 16th

Busy Weekend

With the weather turning nice, this weekend was just crazy at the nursery. It was just a blur. I didn't get to watch a single inning of the Twins and the Yankees, but who wants to watch the Twinks lose to the Evil Empire, anyway.

They lost until today, at least. It sure would have been fun to watch Kubel hit that slam off Rivera.