Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

February 24, 2006

Schmoozing

This morning brought at least a foot of new snow to the nursery. Minutes after posting the picture of the deer below, I attempted to drive to the nursery from my house with my 4-wheel drive pickup. Things were so white, I couldn't see the road and I plowed into a big drift and ended up buried halfway up my doors.

Dad to the rescue, as usual. He pulled me out and cleared a path so I could find my way. Eventually, after wading through the knee-deep snow and gathering what needed to be gathered for my booth at the Fargodome, I got in the pickup and attempted to head to Fargo.

Although the five miles between the nursery and the highway were under a foot of snow, the main highway was plowed and the trip to Fargo was easy. I checked into a hotel, set up my booth, and started to schmooze.

Some of my least favorite people in the world are people who have booths at things. This weekend, I am one of them. It sort of put me in a malevolent mood. The 380 lb man across from me selling health drinks seemed emblematic of the whole sorry shebang.

But immediately people start stopping by the booth to say that they loved visiting the gardens or that they love coming to the nursery and are you going to give a class and when is it and oh I wouldn't miss it and your place is just so much fun--and then I perk up and start enjoying myself. Flattery gets me every time.

A couple of weblog readers stopped by--hello to Milt and Jay!--which was fun.

People watching. I love it, but it is also depressing. How did people get in their present condition? A schoolmate came by using a cane. Am I that old? Another woman came by with a daughter to say her mother--now a grandma rode on the bus with me in school. Ugh, another punch in the gut.

And then there are the insane people. One poor woman bends my ear for about 1/2 hour every year, oblivious to the fact that there are other people waiting to talk to me. There is no getting a word in edgewise, or moving the conversation toward a conclusion--winding things up is not acceptable. When she breathes, I don't know. She must have learned how to talk both while inhaling and exhaling. The topic matter? Nothing to do with anything--her medical matters, her relatives, her genealogy, whatever. I don't know her from Adam. Or Eve.

Today, she hovered at my booth three times. Each time I was busy talking with somebody else. She went away, apparently bored at not getting attention right away. I know from past years that she will be back, however.

What is frightening to me is to realize that this poor woman has been functioning like this for years. I might regard my annual half-an-hour with her as enough misery and craziness to last me for the rest of the year--but she is going on like this somewhere every single day of the year. In a sick way, it is miraculous.

It brings to mind this one slightly unhinged customer we have who always arrives at the nursery at an odd hour, storms out of his car as if he is on an urgent mission, and rushes around the greenhouse in a jerky manner as if he is some sort of songbird jumping from branch to branch. It is bearable, if a bit sad, to watch him for five minutes. It is unbearable to think that he is going through life rushing and jerking into and out of stores every day, not just when he comes to the nursery.

So, those are my thoughts as some of the people come up to the booth. Oh my goodness, I forgot about you. I can't imagine you have been going on like this for another entire year. How do you do it?

Another favorite, the barbed compliment:

"I enjoy your column."

"Well, thank you!"

"Of course, not all of them are as good as the others."

I haven't figured out how to respond to that one yet.


Competition at the birdfeeder



The birds weren't sure what to make of this visitor this morning. Here he looks in the window at me taking a picture of him from a range of about five feet. Then he went back to digging for bird seed. The digging is getting tougher. Today we are getting a good five to six inches of snow, and the wind is supposed to blow later on today.


Touchy feely Twins

An annoying pattern has emerged in the coverage of the Twins by the Twin Cities media in the past year: They sound like a mother who just wants their kids to get along.

This article is a prime example. And it is an example of why I prefer Torii Hunter when he's out in centerfield doing his thing so you can't hear him talk.

Hunter has decided he is going to be the "chief counselor" in the clubhouse. Gardenhire has yet to decide how he is going "interact" with the newer players. Morneau and Hunter have patched up their differences and apologized to each other. Lohse and Gardenhire are now best friends and golfed together. Oh what a relief. Love all around.

All this psychobabble which comes under the guise of "team chemistry" is just crap. I keep thinking of the old Oakland A's who brawled with each other on their way to three consecutive World Series victories in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Or the Yankees of 1978. Fist-fighting in the dugout. Billy Martin, drunk, finally fired. And, a World Series win.

Now that's baseball. None of this touchy-feely bunk. Just a bunch of crusty ballplayers chewing tobacco and winning. And a bunch of cranky old managers who were more like platoon leaders in World War II than the therapy group facilitators we get for managers today. Interact? No, they led.


February 23, 2006

Fargodome

Tomorrow, I head to the Fargodome for the first nursery promotion event of the year, the Home and Garden Show. That means I will be manning a booth for three days. I am also going to give a couple of seminars.

I have a little problem; I forgot which seminars I agreed to do, and I can't seem to find a list of the seminars online or anywhere else. I think they will be published in the Fargo Forum tomorrow. I will call into the Fertile Hilton and perhaps Aunt Olla can fill me in. It helps to know what I am speaking on ahead of time in case I could bring some handouts.

Handouts. People love them. I dislike them. Why not just give them the handout and leave the room? You hand them the speech and then you go through the motions of giving it. Ugh.

I have been to a few meetings lately where they have Powerpoint presentations--slides on the computer with their points laid out in outline form. The different points like "We are working together collaboratively!" zoom in from off to the side, or come together out of thousands of little bits, or dissolve into thousands of bits--all kinds of graphic tricks which do little to mask the insipidity of what is being said.

To add to the inanity, the speaker usually hands out a handout with all of the Powerpoint points listed already--so putting them on the screen is redundant, and saying the points out loud adds yet another layer of redundancy.

And oh, how agonizing it is to get stuck on slide number three when you hold in your hand 52 additional pages of slides that you know you will have to endure unless you are fortunate enough to be stricken with a sudden illness.

So, I resist handing out handouts--but it is something people insist upon. Do you have a handout? No. Well, why not?

Just to have something to hand out I had Cindy make 500 copies of an old handout I used four years ago with a bunch of smart aleck comments on it which seems to have aged well enough to use again. Better than having to dream up a new handout just for the sake of having a handout.

Perhaps I will see some of you at the Dome! We should have a secret sign. Weblog readers who come to the Fargodome this weekend--let's see...why don't you stop by my booth and say something cryptic like....

Aw heck, just say hi.


Photo hiatus

I have been snapping pictures, but the colors are coming out funny. I don't know where the problem is. When I first put them on the computer, they look fine. When I look at them again, they look orange.

If I edit out the orange, they look better--until I post them on the website, when they get too dark. So, this is frustrating. My enjoyment of photography is predicated upon total control and instant satisfaction. When I lose one or the other or both, my interest dries up in a hurry.

I am going to have to consult some color management experts--and there are some on the planet--to get this resolved. Until it is resolved, I probably will be taking a bare minimum of photos. That is fine--I am so sick of winter scenery that I really don't want to look at it anymore.


February 22, 2006

Snowy day



All week, we have had flurries on and off. It is starting to build up. The deer are getting hungry, so hungry that even loud machinery doesn't scare them off from their foraging for flowering crab berries in the snow. When this one finally bolted for the woods, the snow all fell off. He went twenty feet, then turned around and came back to the food.



I always love a cottonwood in the middle of a field. The woods in the background is my former farmstead before I moved into the new house. The cottonwood grows precisely on top of the property line between two farm fields. So, it has survived because nobody wanted to take responsibility for taking it down.


February 21, 2006

Internet baseball intelligence

Thanks to the internet, one can be a more-informed baseball fan. The best Twins website is hosted by 23-year-old Aaron Gleeman, a University of Minnesota student who's dream of becoming a sportswriter happened more quickly than he might have imagined thanks to the world of weblogging.

Of course, you don't make much money (none) from a blog, but it can give you quite an audience and perhaps a start on a career.

Gleeman is big into statistical analysis. When the Twins signed Tony Batista, the media pointed to his 30 home runs and 100 RBIs per season. Gleeman pointed to his inability to get on base. In fact, Gleeman had identified Batista as the worst hitter in the major leagues two years before the Twins signed the third baseman.

A couple of weeks ago, Gleeman got a report from a resident of the Dominican Republic where Batista was playing winter ball. It was not good. Batista was fat and didn't seem to care.

Gleeman got blasted by some Twins fans for relying on a single report. He admitted that it could have been faulty, but then some more reports came filtering in from fans in the Dominican.

Not only is Batista fat, but he has an attitude problem so severe that his hometown fans have been booing him. In one case, he responded by taunting them and grabbing his crotch.

Just what the Twins need at third base. A couple of days ago, Star Tribune writer Pat Reusse made the same point Gleeman had been making for months. Reusse interviewed a member of the Twins scouting team who had been to the Dominican Republic, and the scout confirmed what we already knew back here in Minnesota: Batista is fat and seems a bit lax.

I really wonder if Reusse would have been onto the story if it hadn't popped up on Gleeman's weblog first.

IN ANY CASE, it is bliss to know that soon we will be able to watch Johan Santana pitch once every four days. Enjoy it Twins fans; he could turn into one of the best ever. When he's on, he's Koufaxian.

And, Joe Mauer. He could be a great one as well. Watch him behind the plate--I am no expert on catching, but that is where he really excels, according to informed observers.

The Twins have a lot of talent, but I think Gardenhire lacks boldness as a manager. Of course, he comes after the utterly confident Tom Kelly who didn't suffer fools gladly and always seemed to know exactly what needed to be done, even if he didn't have the tools to do it.

Kelly was feared by young players, and I think that is healthy. Sometimes they hated his guts--Todd Walker is one who really couldn't stand the man--but Walker, however well he could hit, had an iron glove, and you can bet Kelly made his life miserable for that reason alone.

I really would like to see what Tom Kelly could do with the present group of players on the Twins roster. He never had pitching this good, that is for sure. Good grief, he went to the World Series with a team which had Dan Schatzader in its bullpen! And Joe Niekro! And Les Straker in the #3 spot in the rotation. That's impressive.


February 20, 2006

Sunset in cold country



The setting sun illuminates the snowsnakes slithering across the highway west of the nursery while a ominous bank of clouds hover over the horizon like a range of mountains.



Snap, crackle and pop

There must be some major humidity changes going on in the house. Last night as I was drifting to sleep, a huge snap awakened me, followed by stuff rolling around. My curiousity got the best of me, so I got up and walked around until I saw what happened: A big beam snapped down the middle which freed up one of the pegs which concealed the lag bolt holding the beam in place. The peg was what was rolling around.

A few hours later, at four in the morning, another enormous crack--almost like thunder--and apparently another beam formed another new crack.

The house has been very humid for most of the winter. Many people report that their new houses were moist the first winter. Now, however, I think things are drying out. The beams are cracking. Gaps are appearing where things were once tight. And you can sit awake at night listening to the wood move.


February 19, 2006

Hymn sing

Weblog reader Chuck and his wife Barb hosted a hymn sing last night at their home. A good time with an interesting mix of people. After about an hour or more of singing, out came the snacks. Chuck and Barb are grand hosts.

A couple of the singers know the hymns so well, even even the numbers I consider obscure, that they didn't look at the book. So, these hymns are deep in people's memories.

In addition, there are some very good sight readers around. I think it is the Lutheran choral tradition. I can't follow the tenor line for anything, but there were some good tenors there who held it very well, so I just followed them until my voice got tired and I had to go back to bass or melody.

After the hymn sing, I went into the Legion, as you would expect to do after a hymn sing. There was a small party there for a friend who is headed off to Afghanistan. He's in the National Guard. Forty-one years old, two kids in elementary school. He will be gone eighteen months training Afghan security units. Afghanistan is much safer than Iraq, thank goodness.

Woke up this morning with a little sinus headache, I suspect from the smoky environs at the Legion. So, I used my Neti Pot, and I'll be darned if all traces of the incipient sinus headache didn't immediately disappear.