July 31, 2004
Spent the last two days of this week on the road south of here. First, to Morris for the Horticulture Night at the U of M experiment station there. They have a beautiful experimental gardens there, and I presented a little seminar on planting annuals. They had several food stands, displays by nurseries, dozens of seminars, stuff for the kids to do, and as the evening wore on, a band played marching tunes in a big tent. Quite an event.
What perfect weather. Well over 1,000 people attended the event. Even though it was three hours south of home, there were many people I knew. I took 65 pictures before the battery ran out on my camera. The trial gardens are where new varieties are tested; it is good to see how they do before committing greenhouse space to them next season.
I stayed at the Best Western in Morris since I was slated to perform at the Pope Art Gallery in the tiny town of Terrace, MN, near Glenwood last night. I spend yesterday afternoon in Glenwood along the shore of Lake Minnewaska. Took a long nap. Walked along the beach. Visited the Pope County Museum, which has a great collection of Indian artifacts from all over the nation. Some very valuable stuff.
Then on to Terrace to the Pope Art Gallery, owned by Merlin Peterson, which is an old church which Merlin has transformed into his home--and a gallery. He holds events there every Friday night throughout the summer. I performed there two years ago and had a good time, so was happy to come back.
There was a good crowd--about thirty. Good acoustics in the old church.
July 29, 2004
Spoke and performed tonight at a Chatauqua in Devils Lake, ND. Nice bunch of people. Beautiful auditorium--with a Steinway grand! A good sound system as well.
I left home in plenty of time so I could stop at UMC in Crookston and pick up the textbooks for the classes I am teaching there this fall. Then, an oil change in Grand Forks. Finally, off on US Highway 2 to Devils Lake.
The Twins were in a tangle with the White Sox--a great game. Twins won in the 10th, 5-4. After the game, I opened up the texts and paged through--while driving, I know--trying to figure out if I could comprehend them.
And, I forgot to fill on gas. I looked at the guage right at a town called Doyon. Never heard of it. I knew I wouldn't make it more than a couple of miles, so I pulled into town. Gravel streets. Maybe twenty houses. No gas station.
I found a gas pump with a card reader near the grain elevator. My card didn't work.
The elevator was closed, but there was a crew putting up a new bin. I asked them if they knew where I could get some gas. Well, they had just sent a kid to the next town 7 miles down to fill a couple of little cans--so apparently, they had no idea where there was anything closer. The man did say that he would let me use his car to go get gas, and that this was a one-family town and that probably everybody in town would have a card that would work in the reader if I wanted to go knocking on doors.
I did, but there seemed to be nobody home anywhere. The houses all looked empty. Perhaps there was a family reunion somewhere else.
Finally, a big semi turned into town. I ran him down. He said he had a card in his vehicle. He let me fill two gallons. I gave him a five. He objected. I said keep it.
I headed to Devils Lake. Just as I entered town, the man passed me in his SUV and waved. He had followed me all the way to town to make sure I made it. Nice guy.
So, I went to downtown Devils Lake to find a restaurant and ended up at the Old Main. Charming place. Sirloin steak for $6.95, hash browns and salad included. Not an empty seat in the place. The only difference in the people: Some cowboy hats. You don't find that around here.
I shouldn't have eaten so much. It seemed to interfere with my voice, both while singing and while reading. I made it through, but it wasn't as smooth a performance as I would have liked. I ended with a song I just learned--Ain't it Funny How Time Slips Away--by Willie Nelson, and was pleasantly surprised that they all recognized it and clapped after the first line. A little feedback always helps.
BACK TO THE TWINS: The game today had the feel of playoffs. The Twins were attempting to sweep the White Sox in their own park. The White Sox are struggling. They weren't playing smart at all. They made errors, both official and unofficial. The Twins announcers, especially Dan Gladden, were really hard on the Sox for flopping around the basepaths and making unnecessary outs. In the end, the Sox basically handed the Twins the game on a platter.
The White Sox have had problems playing the game right for the past five years. They don't know how to bunt. They make silly errors. They don't seem to care. They changed managers last winter, but the new guy, Ozzie Guillen, hasn't seemed to be able to cut through their lethargy yet. Let's hope he doesn't.
Meanwhile, the Twins have committed to Justin Morneau, the 23-year-old phenom at first base. That means they are trying to dump poor Doug Mientkiewitcz on the trade market. There is going to be some pain coming up as the Twins are going to be forced to dump some expensive people who we are used to in favor of some cheap, albiet very talented, rookies. Milton, Guardado, Hawkins and Pierzynski went last winter--and the team is still in first place.
July 27, 2004
Santana untouchable, friends appear on TV
The Twins won tonight behind the stellar pitching of Johan Santana. Great to beat the White Sox in their own park. Great to see some hitters get clutch hits with two out.
My friend Mark called from his cell phone to say that he was going to go to the game in Chicago with his wife and daughter. Later I called him to see where they were sitting. With 38,000 at the park, a capacity crowd, I didn't think there would be any chance of seeing them.
One inning later, there was their daughter Annika on the screen. The camera was focused on the woman next to her, but there was Annika, talking to her mom. She was there for a good ten seconds.
So I called Mark's cell phone and left a message to the effect that Annika was wearing an orange jacket and sitting in seat 13. He called back a little later to say that I had it right. Kind of a coincidence!
Eighteen years ago almost this week, Mark and Teresa were married. I played organ at their wedding (this is a long story, please be patient). A couple of days before they got married, the Twins traded for Bert Blyleven, my hero. I left the wedding dance and sat in my car to hear the first game he pitched after rejoining the Twins.
Okay--after the dance, Mark and Teresa disappeared on their honeymoon. I went to Minneapolis for a Twins game--to see Blyleven's first home game since he was traded. I sat in the upper deck behind home plate.
As one of the later innings started, I was watching Reggie Jackson through the binoculars as he warmed up in right field. He missed a ball (not unusual for Reggie), and I happened to follow the ball as it bounced into the stands. It hit off a fan and rolled back onto the field.
As I put my binoculars down, I thought--hey, there was somebody I knew in that picture. I looked again and here it was Mark who had missed the ball that Reggie missed. The Twins bullpen guys were giving him heck for not catching it. His new bride, Teresa, was laughing derisively at her knight in shining armor.
Imagine, picking them out of the crowd of 36,000 at the Metrodome that day. No cell phones at that time, so I couldn't call Mark and tease him about it--in fact, I didn't get to talk to him until they got back from their honeymoon.
And now, tonight, I see them on television from Chicago! And Bert Blyleven was the announcer on TV!
Can you imagine.
I watched the Twins beat the White Sox last night 6-2. A great game for the Twins. Radke pitched well again. The only bad news was that the Twins lost Nick Punto, their fireplug utility infielder, for the season due to a broken collarbone. I look forward to sitting in front of the television again tonight.
Then I heard that I missed a bunch of speeches at the Democratic convention last night. Former president Jimmy Carter spoke, as well as the Clintons. For some reason, I just can't bring myself to watch. What came across on the news reports this morning is exactly what turns me off: The convention was described as "well-choreographed." Ugh. I don't like watching pageants.
THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER--I wonder where that phrase came from? I'll have to look it up. It sure fits. It is hot. The fields are turning tan. Harvest has not yet begun. Sometimes a lonely cricket chirps.
Right now as I sit at my desk at the nursery, there is a group touring the gardens. They came in a big tour bus. The driver left it running at a high idle, so you can barely converse within 100 yards of the bus. I suppose he wanted to keep the bus cool. But it isn't exactly a tranquil trip through the gardens with a diesel engine roaring in the background.
Writing satire has its risks--and rewards. When I wrote last week's column, a lampoon on The Lake, I didn't anticipate that anybody would take me seriously. I forgot that I was poking fun at about the most humorless segment of the populace, people in their late forties and early fifties; usually, but not always, female, people who are fully engaged in the rat race of getting the right home, the right car, the right college for their kids, people for whom it is important and vital that their pursuit of the good life be considered Holy and Sacred--and a heavy cross to bear, at that. No surprise, then, that making fun the Holy Grail of that life, a place on the lake, would incite some indignation.
When people take satire seriously enough to respond with indignation, it is a sure sign that the target was fat and ripe. Most of the indignation has centered around how much these people work
out at the lake, etc. It never ceases to amaze me how important it is for people to suffer
. They can even turn a lake cabin into an example of how hard they work!
This reminds me of the time I made fun of prom and all the money people spend on that stupid event. Whoa! You would think I had attacked God and Country.
July 25, 2004
The column I wrote on The Lake last week was innocuous enough, I thought. Then I got a nasty email saying it was "unintelligent and stupid." The writer of the email was anonymous, of course. Then I started hearing from people-- "I loved your column on the lake! I am sure you'll get some hate mail from that one!"
Really? I thought it was utterly uncontroversial. I re-read it today and there wasn't a single line I thought was provacative. Oh well, you just never know what's going to push their buttons.