Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

December 15, 2005

Yogi quotes

Instead of typing in the quotes, I lead you here for a good laugh or two. Or three. I think, however, the last quote on the page is the most reliable.

My favorite: When the wife of the New York City mayor told him he looked like he was keeping cool despite the heat, Yogi responded, "Well, you don't looks so hot yourself!"

And this classic: "Even Napoleon had his Watergate."


My mother just emailed me a press release from Gov. Pawlenty's office: Russ Anderson, former Fertile resident, has been named Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Great news! In the few years Russ and Kristen lived in Fertile while Kristen was superintendent of schools at Fertile-Beltrami, I had a few chances to visit with Russ. Like most judges, he is a lively conversationalist--and just an all around warm person.

When Gov. Arne Carlson appointed Russ as associate justice in early 1998, I went down to watch the swearing-in ceremony at the Landmark Center in St. Paul. I spoke to Russ once later that year after Jesse Ventura was elected--that was about the time good solid Minnesotans were wondering just what we had done--and Russ was sanguine. "He'll do just fine," he said.

I met a few of the judges on the Supreme Court when I worked as a page at the Minnesota House of Representatives ten years ago. I got very lucky--Rep. Bernie Lieder arranged for me to work with the high school page program. Part of my job was to set up meetings with various government officials and then take the pages to hear them speak.

The Supreme Court justices were very, very effective with the high schoolers. They loved to talk. One of them explained to me (after he exceeded our allotted time by 45 minutes, as we were warned he would) that one problem with being a Supreme Court justice is that--when compared to legislative politics (he was a former legislator), life on the court was almost unbearably lonely. He don't have any contact with the public--just with endless briefs, some of them 100s of pages long--and lawyers.

I was surprised that the present Chief Justice, Kathleen Blatz, resigned. However, she seemed like kind of a spark-plug personality. It could be she got sick of reading briefs for 10 hours per day. She might rather want to run for something.

One of our meetings ended in disaster, I have to say. One of my favorite groups of high school pages got the giggles in front of an Appeals Court judge who had very bad Parkinson's disease. It was awful. Giggles are difficult to stop. What could I do? I wanted to crawl in a hole. I wrote the judge a letter of apology and hand delivered it an hour later. That might have been worse than doing nothing, I am not sure. The kids felt awful, so there was no need to scold them.

In any case, the news of Russ's elevation to Chief Justice should make all of us up here proud. Northwestern Minnesota has been underrepresented on the Supreme Court for decades, and now the man in charge is one of our own.

Twins sign Tony Batista

This is good news for Twins fans. Tony Batista went to Japan to play for a couple of years and was forgotten by the American teams. He had solid years there.

Often times, players who play a couple of years in Japan come back better than they were before. Once again, general manager Terry Ryan pulled a rabbit out of his hat. Batista is a third baseman. He hits home runs and gets lots of runs batted in, which indicates that he gets his hits when they matter.

So, at second and third base, positions which were black holes for the Twins last year--their two weakest spots on the team--Ryan has improved matters quietly without giving up a thing.

J. C. Romero was traded last week to the Angels for little or nothing in return. Manager Ron Gardenhire had given up on figuring out the pouty, moody, temperamental Romero and wanted him gone. Sometimes, I think, teams trade away players for little or nothing as a final insult. Branch Rickey of the old Brooklyn Dodgers would do that--if a player loafed on the field, he would get on the phone and offer him to other teams for $200 or something. There is a baseball legend of one old-time player getting traded for a cow.

As for Gardenhire, he had a nightmare season. He sort of lost control of the team at one point. Tom Kelly had his feuds with players, but for some reason nobody ever doubted that he was in charge. I think Gardenhire is a good manager, but not a great one.

But it is all a matter of chemistry. Look at Ozzie Guillen, the strange manager of the world champion White Sox. He's a motivator par exellance. I don't know about his in-game strategies, but he knew exactly what it took to wake up the always talented but ever moribund White Sox.

Fire-plug managers such as Guillen sometimes wear out their teams. Jack McKeon took over the Florida Marlins in May a few years back--they were way out of it--and he turned things around and won the World Series that October. But soon, they had to get rid of him.

Billy Martin--came in and fired up teams which underperformed. But after about a year, he and his drinking buddy pitching coach Art Fowler would wear out the pitcher's arms. Martin had a contempt for the long-term career prospects of pitchers and would keep them in the game until their arm hung at their side. You can't win with tired pitchers.

Then there's this pair. Yogi Berra, catcher, and Casey Stengel, manager. Geniuses both. Linguists both. Casey couldn't put together a grammatically correct sentence, but he sure could manage. Yogi said, amongst a million other things: "It ain't over till it's over!"


This was the extent of my Christmas decorating this year. More than most years. I hung some ornaments from the ceiling. Above is the bottom of the crow's nest.

It was fun at the party last night to hear some the kids say, "this is a cool house!" One said he was going to steal the design for himself. That would second the opinion of employee Dot, who said the house had the flavor of a little boy's tree house.

Well, I never did have a decent tree house as a kid because I was too scared to crawl high enough to build one. I crawled up into my cousin Tom's tree house and had to be helped down, I got so scared. So, I guess I am making up for it now.

Company party

Here is most of the crew who attended tonight's company party at the house. A finer bunch of people you will never find!

We were taking these pictures with the intent of sending them via email to Danilo and Cassio, the Brazilians who worked at the nursery this spring and went home in late summer. Then, somebody got the idea to do what Cassio insisted upon doing for every picture we ever took of him: Give this funny little sign. You couldn't put the camera up without him flashing this sign.

We hope it means nothing offensive.

So, very little blogging today, and in the past couple of days. A couple of weeks ago. I had Cindy, the nursery bookkeeper, send out the invitations to a Christmas party at my house. A little later I asked her for a list of the people who worked for us in the past year--the only qualification for attending the company party is that you put in one or more hours of work in the past year at the nursery--and I was shocked at how many there were. I realized that the business has grown a little since the last time I held a company party at my house. And I got a little worried that I couldn't handle it.

Brother Joe to the rescue. Although I did some work getting the food ready (all frozen stuff), Joe took over when crunch time came. He has vast experience feeding large crowds while working at a restaurant, and he has supervised kitchens at retreats before--so he kicked in and took over. Thank goodness. Then I could concentrate upon ambling around making sure nobody was starving or thirsty. If they were, I said go see Joe.

Mom made pumpkin pie out of squash grown in Dad's garden. Excellent as always.

A fun night. It was particularly fun to see the high schoolers enjoy themselves. They joined in with singing and carrying on, not sullen or reticent at all. A delightful bunch all around.

But, as you can see by the time of this post, I am not able to sleep. It is bright outside. I am in the crow's nest. All the lights are off, and the blue glow of outdoors is eerie, but calming. However, after a busy social event there is no way I can sleep even if I lay off coffee. I had just as well get up and keep busy.

December 14, 2005

War on Christmas update

It finally happened.

December 13, 2005

Cuddle nation

I recieved this email this morning, and pass it on for the general enrichment:

Dear Eric,

Noticing your May 24, 2004 Affection Deficit Disorder posting I offer you the following possibility.

Thought you might like to know about a rather wacky looking but serious effort to provide opportunities for people to address their Affection Deficit Disorder without pharmaceuticals and with a great deal of serious personal responsibility communication training and practice. The surface reaction to this phenomenon is based on our cultural quirks, but if you choose to look deeper this is a truly valuable option which some of us have found and are building around the country and the world now. Please take a look.

Check here for the NYC national web site and for our local one in AL go here.

One of the upcoming 2006 facilitator training programs will be held in MN and if you know of anyone in the area who might like to hit Affection Deficit head on with a freesponsible, behavioral, experiential, and integral approach please guide them to Cuddle Party. It might save you some time and efficiency to send em where it's available.

You put your self out here in cyberspace, isn't it amazing what comes around to you for your efforts. Thank you for sharing and caring.

Be well,
Len Daley
Montgomery, AL
Certified Cuddle Party Facilitator

December 12, 2005

History bunch

Spoke to the Clearwater County Historical Society in Bagley tonight. It was their annual meeting. Much to my surprise, there were at least 45 people on hand, and they served an opulent potluck dinner which included at least ten desserts. Wow. Didn't expect that from a history bunch.

Learned something, of course. Bagley is only 45 miles east of here, not very much closer to Lake Superior--yet, Clearwater County has a tradition of sending men to work on the ships which go out of the port of Duluth. They figure over 100 men from the county have worked on the boats over the years. One local narrowly missed embarking on the final voyage of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Three more have been ship captains, including one at present.

The topic came up because the Clearwater County museum has been running an exhibit on sailors from the county. I had no idea. I have never heard of a single person from around this area working on the boats.

I stepped out of the room as the annual meeting proceeded, ostensiably to gather my thoughts--more realistically, I just hate to sit through annual meetings. But I listened in a bit. It was a lighthearted affair. The head of the museum was asked why their were less assets now than a year ago, and she replied deadpan: "Because I spent more than we took in."

Later, the director listed some of the many activities of the society during the year. She paused and said, "I get exhausted just listing them all!"

"Then siddown!!" growled a voice from the back.

I knew about half of the people already, and met most of the rest throughout the evening. I talked about local history--including the 1918 flu which I wrote about in yesterday's column. Afterwards, one woman said to her husband, "didn't your mother lose her twins in the 1918 flu?" He nodded and turned and walked away. Didn't want to talk about it.

It was fun listening to people interested in history talk to each other. One old farmer laughed, and said, "poor old Ike, having to babysit both Patton and Montgomery!"

EVERY TIME I speak to people in Bagley, I am impressed by the people's interest in things like gardening, history and music. The men in particular are more lively over there--the garden clubs are almost half men, and the history society was split about equally--something less common this far west.

One man said they have a group which gets together in a heated building out in the country once per month to sing--"if anybody brings anything written after 1960, we..."

"Throw them out?" I said.

"Well, we try to be polite," he replied.

Capital punishment

The Governator of California has to decide today whether to grant clemency to death row inmate Tookie Williams, who is due to die at midnight tonight.

If I had such power, I would grant blanket clemency to every death row inmate just to make sure that nobody innocent died on my watch. You can't reverse an execution. Innocent people have been convicted of crimes in the past, and will continue to be so convicted in the future.

At the same time, I don't like it when people rally to the side of a death row inmate just because he has written a cute book, or been a model prisoner, or converted to evangelical religion. Either fry 'em all, including the charming ones as well as the unrepentant, illiterate, uncompelling ones--or don't fry 'em at all.

Executing somebody who has a face, a name and a compelling story might, I hope, draw people's attention to the general barbarity of the practice. I am not advocating softness on crime--I just don't think it is decent for a government to kill people who have been rendered harmless through incarceration. Lock 'em up and throw away the key, but don't give the public the ignoble spectacle of an execution. It lowers everybody's sense of decency.