Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Good, Bad, and Downright Ugly

The Good:

File this under "Best Sign of the Week". Maybe of the year, though it's hardly fair to go that far while we're still approaching the halfway point. This is a sign sitting along Hwy. 8 in Lindstrom, just where everything's slowed down to 30 mph due to a construction project designed to a: ruin all the businesses in town, or b: make travel faster and safer as it goes through the heart of town by creating opposing one-way streets a block apart through town. The project, like the sign, garners all kinds of reactions from folks, depending on their perspectives. But unlike the project, the sign at least brings me a smile each time I see it.

"The shortest distance between two points is under construction."

The Bad:

The radio story was interesting, a tale of lowering Colorado water levels and how it affected recreation like rafting and fishing on the river. What caught my interest, however, was the pronunciation of the name of the town the reporter was covering at the end of her report.  If you read "Buena Vista" you'd automatically mentally pronounce the first word "bway-nah". Instead, the reporter casually tossed off "byoo-nah".

Huh? Say what?

So I checked with Steve, someone who spent his childhood in Greeley. Was there really a town pronounced that way or was the reporter as ignorant as I presumed she was? He not only confirmed she was correct, he further modified the pronunciation to "byoo-nee". So I'm left with my irritation at what I perceive as someone's in-your-face flagrant flaunting of their woefully ignorant pronunciation of an unfamiliar language and their pride in the process. And I'm sticking with that until -and if - someone can come up with a better reason why it's not pronounced the way everybody else would pronounce it.

The Downright Ugly:

I stopped for gas mid day on Tuesday when I spied a sign advertising $3.429 a gallon. Prices at home were clinging to the $3.599 point, so I was determined to fill the tank however much it would hold by then. It was also time for a more personal pit stop, so after filling one tank I went into the store to drain another. The pumps and convenience store were at one end of a small strip  mall, and it turned out that the restroom served the whole mall. It wasn't in the store.

I followed the pointing finger to the door into the mall. Business must have been bad for a while, as I could find only two other business open in the entire place. And that's how far I had to walk, way to the other end of the mall. The whole mall stank of mold, an old building damp and neglected for way too long. I thought of my allergies the whole trip, but need prevailed. Once inside the ladies room, the floor was littered with TP among other things best not checked closely, and there was no  door on one of the stalls, limiting my choice to a tiny low knee-killer, but again, need prevailed. The mold smell disappeared, but this was hardly a blessing. Rather, something had apparently died in that place. I mean actual decomp. Possibly something as small as a mouse, but about a week past ripe. I felt blessed that there was actually soap, water and towels.

The mold was almost a relief on the hike back to the store. Once I made it into my car, I happened to look at the price sign again. They'd waited until I filled my tank before dropping the price another $.03.

Gee, thanks.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Wild, The Weird

"The polar bear has been rounded up and she has been returned to..."
"Contrary to earlier media reports, she was not wandering around the downtown area. In fact she never made it more than 10 feet beyond her enclosure."
"When we saw the pictures of the seal on Grand Avenue we knew we had a problem with our animals."
 "All the predators have been accounted for, but we're still not sure..."
"When we got to the SA we saw that the three of us were bleeding all over."
"There was the car standing on its end in the hole..."

Oh yeah, baby, that's what I'm talking about! Those are the reports kept me glued to the news station of MPR this morning, listening while driving, hurrying back to the car to catch the next bits, listening between jobs instead of, say, reading the good book I packed, or even taking a nap.

By now you've probably heard at least as much as I did about the storms and flooding in the Duluth area. Better yet, you've probably seen scads of photos and videos, where I only had radio and imagination to paint my pictures. But boy did they have a wild weather day. "Unprecedented" is the word that kept cropping up, along with the data to back it up.

Start with the rain. Nine to ten inches fell, in a less than 24 hour period. Closest in the record books was eight point something inches, and that was spread over 72 hours. When you build a city into the side of a cliff, rain matters. It all goes downhill and takes anything it can with it. Like parts of streets, or even whole driveways. Or maybe it leaves the street behind and undercuts everything supporting it so cars can drive in and disappear.

Roads and highways were closed all over the area, including the iron range. Three state parks were closed. I've been in two of them. Jay Cooke stands out in my memory for a wide shallow river strewn with boulders, which in turn were festooned with small green and red plants clinging to the cracks and displaying early fall colors. That was years ago. Somewhere in the house I have a box or an album with pictures of those rocks and plants. They fascinated me back when cameras used film and I had to pay for every picture I took. I still took a bunch.

Hwy. 210 runs through Jay Cooke, now closed due to what was earlier described as a washout and later as a sinkhole. Regardless of the name, every report agreed on the dimensions: 100 feet wide and 30 feet deep! That's not going to get filled in an afternoon's work by a road crew. I had to wait all day to hear the welcome news that the 30 campers in the park had been successfully evacuated.

During the 11:00 hour they did almost the whole hour on flood news. More severe thunderstorms were rolling through the area and there were a lot of progress/damage reports, road closures, what-if scenarios. Nevermind what had been on the program agenda for that hour. So I pulled over about a block off Lyndale and Franklin in Minneapolis, rolled the windows down to let air circulate (muggy but cool-ish) and save on running the AC and burning gas, while waiting for the next run.

It may not have been the best location.

A weird looking guy walked out in the street next to my car and asked me a question. I turned the radio off to be polite and to be able to hear him. "Is that car electric?" Huh? Why on earth would he think that? It's a simple ordinary Hyundai Accent and he's standing right next to the gas flap.

"No, it's not." I turned the radio back up. He crossed back to the sidewalk and disappeared into a nearby apartment building.

Two minutes later he was back. This time he stood right next to my passenger door. I had to turn the radio off again. He wasn't earning any points. I mean, if I was turning down a nap for this, I wanted to hear the program. He bent over to talk to me, giving me a chance to notice his eyes. The pupils were light grey, the first like that I can remember. His right eyelid had a vertical scar running full length in the middle, so when it was open it had an upward point. I wondered what kind of other damage he might have sustained.

He started to tell me about a job he had once with a guy who kept a metal barrel on his porch and in his truck, like I should know what he was talking about... and then he looked surprised and interrupted himself. "Are you drinking a soda?" He obviously saw the Coke bottle in my center console area. I'd just poured some into my plastic cup and had screwed the cap back on. "Don't you know that soda's bad for elderly women?"

Uh, say what? Elderly? Wait a minute there, fella! He didn't really give me a chance to answer, so I just grinned and lifted the cup and took a few swallows.

"Hey, aren't you afraid it's going to decalcify your bones?"

Obviously not.

"Did you know that Pepsi's got more caffeine than Mountain Dew?"

Since Mountain Dew is a Pepsi product, I didn't think that needed a comment. I just took another couple sips.

Right then my Blackberry buzzed. I had work again. I reached for it and he startled. "Uh, I gotta go somewhere." As he scurried up the sidewalk, I wondered if maybe he was afraid of contamination from the cancer-causing radiation found in cell phones. Taking another sip of my Coke, I turned the radio back on to catch more of the day's news and started the car.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mixed Reviews

Mickey D's. That's the ice cream my diabetes nutritionist prefers for me. Nevermind that Klondike bars are tastier. Nevermind that Klondike portions are reliable, not larger or smaller depending on the whims and skill of the employee behind the window. Nevermind that I can get 6 bars for $2.98 to $3.28 at WalMart. That's what she prefers I have when it's ice cream time.

So, occasionally I hit their drive-through line and order a cone. For a splurge, I'll make it a hot fudge sundae. With nuts, please. I'll especially hit them if I'm working late and ice cream time will be long passed by the time I make it home.

They used to offer chocolate as well as vanilla, and the best cone was the twist, combining both flavors. Then they backed off that and only offered vanilla for years. I was so disappointed that I basically quit ordering cones there. About a year ago I discovered a branch that offered chocolate! Yeehaaaa! Unfortunately, I'm never in that area when it's ice cream time. So I've been delighted that suddenly lots of branches are offering chocolate again. It's not on their order board, and you have to ask. But a few are even offering choice of flavors and dropped the price to $.59! I expect that'll last at least a week.

Mostly, though, they have another ice cream promotion: chocolate dipped cones. $1.49. I thought I'd try one the other night, on my way out back of beyond with a late delivery. (Late for me. The run was on time.) The reviews from that one sample are mixed. I'm still deciding if I want another one.

One the positive side, the chocolate coating is absolutely delicious, really dark and rich-tasting, not at all waxy and bland like so many are. With every bite contrasting chocoalte with the vanilla ice cream, the flavor never got old to the tongue and disappeared, like so many other flavors do with repetition.

However, on the negative side, it's over soft-serve ice cream and the process of dipping melts the outer layer of ice cream under the coating. With the coating there, it's not possible to lick up the melting ice cream, so the only place it has to go is down, over the outside of the cone and your hand. Your only hope of no huge mess is a very quick and busy tongue, taking about 4 mop-up shlurping licks to every tiny bite off the top. The cone gets soggy quickly, not exactly my ideal. And the whole feat is best not attempted while driving.

Oops, too late.

What's really fun is when the chocolate coating finally gives way in the bottom ring and breaks into two pieces. One over-large one is in your mouth, curving up and decorating your nose or cheek, depending on which way it broke. The other is in your hand - if you're quick enough - and everything is busy dripping. Again, best not attempted while driving, or if you care about the appearance of your clothes.

Oops, too late.

But, yummmmm!

Monday, June 18, 2012


This one I've been seeing versions of all around town this spring and  now into summer, but the one last week really caught my eye: Huge Kid Sale....Boy Girl .....(street address). Three lines, no punctuation. Every time I see one of those, I wish I had the time to locate the address, stop, and hold a conversation something like this:

"Hi. How about this weather, eh? Say, if you're sure this kind of sale is not illegal, I'd like to actually see  how huge the girl is before I buy her. Are we talking huge-tall or huge-fat? How much you want for her, by the way? I assume you've got the papers for the transfer?"

*   *   *  *

I'm not sure why everybody wants to sell their garage this time of year. Is it just because the snow's gone and they don't think they're gonna need it for a while? I'd consider it, but there's no room left on my lot, according to city codes for setbacks. Why don't folks just convert their unwanted garages to extra bedrooms like we did and gain some equity in their houses? Think of all the problems it might help solve with under water mortgages.

*   *   *   * 

Kudos on these signs. I started seeing the billboards a little over a week ago. They're all bright yellow, and feature a single word or a very short sentence in black lettering. No product name. Text might be "smile" or "simple" or even "first finger food". Thing is, the dot on the "i" or the period at the end is a Cheerio.


And even bigger kudos to General Mills for coming out against the proposed Minnesota constitution amendment banning gay marriage. I'm gonna keep buying and eating Cheerios.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


So Darrell Issa is willing to bring Contempt of Congress charges against Eric Holder for not releasing documents he's asking for but which would be illegal for Holder to release. (Have ya noticed it's an election year?)

Eric Holder? Contempt of Congress? Really?

Surely not of more than one or two of them.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Training Lesson

I ran into a neighbor at the store last week. He lives kitty-corner across the back fence from me, but since his kids grew older and my hazelnut hedge grew up, we haven't seen much of each other lately. After a quick catch-up on news, he told me a story.

Each of us shares a property line boundary with a third neighbor. This neighbor owns a pair of boxers. As in dogs, not as in boxers-or-briefs.  I have no information on the latter.

I do have plenty of information on the dogs. The female of the pair has learned to jump the fence, 4 feet of chain link, into our yard. Fred is game to play, but she intimidates the hell out of Koda, so I'm not well pleased. It's best if the dogs all run up and down the mutual fence line, bark at each other all they want, and leave it at that. Good exercise.

She doesn't intimidate me. When she hops the fence, I just go all alpha dog on her, knowing I'm in command, and yell at her to go home. She does.

I've heard stories about the dogs both jumping the fence around the rest of their yard; not, I might add, a 4' chain link one. Folks about town have variously called them in to the local sheriff's department as escaped pit bulls or whatever else comes to mind that sounds scary enough to get some attention.

My neighbor informed me of his own recent experience with the dogs. His daughter was home on break from college, minding her own business in the back yard, when one of the dogs jumped the fence and approached her aggressively. He called the sheriff's office.

When the deputy arrived, he informed my neighbor that this was not the first nor even the second complaint about these dogs. He suggested they head out to the back yard and see what happened. Sure enough, one of the dogs jumped the fence again, and approached the two men, growling. The deputy calmly reached into his back pocket, pulled out his tazer, and ...zapppp!

While the dog was down and disabled, each took two of its legs, lifted it up and over the fence, and dumped it unceremoniously back on its own side of the fence. Once it was finally able to, the dog retreated towards its house.

It hasn't jumped into the neighbor's yard since. Nor, come to think of it, have I seen it in ours lately. My neighbor's still not taking any chances, though. He carries pepper spray in a pocket when he's out in his back yard.

Would You...?

Would you work an auction? How about if you knew it was going to be like this?

 Working an auction is fun. Usually, anyway. I like being up above the action or deep in the middle of it, seeing who bids on what, occasionally making my own bids, occasionally winning those bids.

Saturday turned out to be different. First, it overachieved in the temperature department, climbing over the forecast 90 degrees. We had shade, sort of, being located at the Anoka County Fairgrounds in one of their large buildings. However, to get air through, the large overhead doors had to be opened, and they were all located on the east side. This meant that the sun started pouring through the doors well before the 10:00 start, warming the building nicely. There were high windows on the west side and fans suspended from the rafters, though for some reason nobody ever explained those were turned off around noon, while we were there until after 4:00. I know it wasn't a noise issue. The PA system was one of the few things without any hitches that day. I could hear everything from back in my corner.

Yep, back in my corner. No view of whatever was going on. Things started going wrong - besides the heat that is - well before the auction began. We had a different crew. The usual folks are out on the road with the carnivals. Lots of overlap there. Some of the fill-ins are great, like our second auctioneer and his wife. She came for the show, wound up working. My job.

Steve and I showed up at 8:30. Doug requested 9:00, and we didn't want to be late. Plus, there were some end tables we wanted to look at, see if we wanted to go for them if the price was right. They were granite topped, and wound up going for about $200 over my budget, so they didn't go home with us. There were other things of interest. When not everything gets pictured on line, that's often the case. The first thing that caught my eye was a green couch, a three-seater with recliners on both ends. I tried it out for comfort, and found out not only was it too deep but the footrest on the side where I was sitting was reluctant to pop up, and a bit crooked once it had. Likely a cause-and-effect thing going on there.

Having discovered that, my attention was drawn to the other couch, white with green and pink - just the colors to go with one of my Persian rugs. The comfort test was passed with flying colors, being neither too deep to support the back nor sagging down so far it kills the knees to climb back out of it. It's as firm as a hide-a-bed, just without the bed part.

On further examination of the room, I found a single bar stool that would be perfect for in the kitchen in Arizona. We can perch on it over the stove, or over the sink while doing dishes. On the way over that morning Steve and I had been discussing my lack of foresight in disposing of a set of barstools I'd previously owned, believing there would never be a use for them.  Against one wall was an inflated air bed, perfect for the trip when we move down and bring along a family crew of helpers. Oh yeah, and a good air pump. And then there were the boxes of fireworks. LOTS and LOTS of fireworks. With that many I knew the prices would quickly come down, and we could get a box for a song and share it around among grandkids. Each held about a gross and a half of sparklers plus some packs of small, mixed fireworks.

Of course, I didn't get to see what was being bid on when, so I wrote up a list for Steve, prices I was willing to pay, and made sure he knew where each one was. He was working the table with the coins and other tiny items on it, but paid enough attention to what was happening that he managed to be present for bidding on the important stuff, including some of his own choices.

Even before the auction the problems with consignors started. One was supposed to bring in some 4-wheelers, and couldn't be bothered to show up. I got several questions about where they were and when they would be sold. Sorry. Another consignor had several generators on the floor, and when they weren't sold at the point in the auction when he thought they should be, he flew into a snit and pulled them out of the auction. Steve had been hoping to acquire one of them for his son, who will be setting up a fireworks booth in Pine City in the WalMart parking lot for the 4th of July season and needs electricity for lights and a cash register. I don't look for either consignor to be back.

Doug's daughter was to show up an hour ahead with a friend of hers, to run check in/check out, but she managed to get there only 15 minutes ahead of start, or what had been scheduled start. Our usual 10 minutes late turned into a half hour late. There were 104 bidders, and while all were not present at the start, it still took a long time to check them in. Many were new to Brown Auction, so it took even longer to scan drivers licenses, get phone numbers, briefly go over the rules like 10% buyer's premium, sales tax, 4% extra if credit card used to pay, etc. Doug was annoyed with her from the start.

And she didn't bring her friend, who was supposed to sit next to her at "my" computer and do data entry on the auction while I was in the thick of things documenting everything on paper. The building is too big to set up with a high platform on one end to clerk and auctioneer from, so it's a wandering team, located where the center of the action is, with a runner to bring filled-in sheets back to the desk with the computer so everything gets collated and can be printed out as buyers check out. Nobody else could do the data entry, so there I sat, off in the corner, behind a desk where everybody walked by, thinking they could check in/out with me, "needing" to talk to me abut things I had no control over or information on, and generally grumbling over how long the process took and how much in a hurry they were. The paper part got taken care of by the wife of the fill-in auctioneer, recruited on the spot for the job. Fortunately, she wasn't bad. The runner turned out to be much more interested in conversation than keeping an eagle eye on how full the sheets were getting.

The one thing they were right about was it being slow. The info on the sheets is in a different order and format than on the screen, and I needed to keep one finger marking my spot on the page while I used the right  hand to type it all in. As if that weren't slow enough, the computer was flaking out. Doug's margin of profit is anything from low to negative, and one way he keeps his overhead down is to continue reusing an old laptop with a dead internal fan. It didn't start that way, but is that way now. Within about 30 minutes of being turned on, it overheats. The first time it happened, the computer died and the auction got shut down for several minutes while we converted to a paper auction. That was months back. We "solved" that by setting it up off the table on whatever is handy, blocks of wood or whatever, so air could flow underneath, and turning a little table fan on to run air across the top and under it.

While it prevented the laptop from shutting down completely, it didn't keep it from acting up. A single "enter" could skip it three jumps forward, so when you thought you were putting "buyer number" data in, it was throwing it into the "quantity purchased" field instead. Buyer 32 was not amused when it happened to him and I didn't catch it. Trying to catch it was really slowing me down, and that was not the only glitch. In the field where you type in the description of what was being bid on, the first letter of the word often was kicked to the end of the word and the rest filled in behind it. Box became oxb, for example, and I know it wasn't my typo, especially when it happened over and over. Everybody standing in line heard me grumbling to the computer, though I kept the language choices mild.

Once a sheet was filled in, I sat and waited for the next sheet to be brought to me for data entry. With 18 items per sheet, it could be a bit. With my runner deep in conversations, it could be even longer before she walked over with it.

Doug's daughter found every excuse imaginable to leave her post. Some of them were even legit. However, it left me getting interruptions from people needing her services or needing questions answered. Having her there eased up on me so I could go back to grumbling at my laptop, but in exchange I was treated to a barrage of language that would do a sailor proud. I'm sure a few of the customers managed to be treated to it as well.

Steve and I planned on being mobile for the auction, and packed the back of my car with both scooters, in broken-down form. Assembly is easy enough: we'd certainly gotten enough practice on the trip last February. Steve used his, but I was suddenly not so mobile. There was room for a single metal folding chair at my spot behind the table. Had I known, I'd have brought the padded office chair on wheels with an extra cushion which I bring to auctions where I spend it perched up on a stage. Most of the time those metal chairs just wick the body heat right out of you. That day, it was so hot the chair was temperature neutral. I could have used a good wicking. I went through a bottle of Cherry Coke Zero and two of water without needing to run across the grounds to the ladies room for the whole auction, and was glad I saved a fourth bottle of water for afterwards.

Oh wait, I remember now. A good share of bottle three wound up outside me, not in. It felt so-o-o-o good!

On the positive side, I wound up next to the only fan in the place. If I tipped my head way forward, I could catch a breeze across my face.

So. Knowing now what the day was like, would you have worked that auction? Would you do it for that couch? How about if we threw in the airbed? Or the barstool? How about for a box of fireworks? Would you do it if you knew that the boss was going to look over your sheet of purchases and refuse your check, marking it all "paid"? How about if he threw another $40 in your direction, and made arrangements to bring your new couch - the only thing that wouldn't fit in the back of the car with the scooters - over to your house on Friday when he's going to be out this way anyway, no charge? Would you do it then?

I did.

I would again.

I might, however, try to persuade him to leave his daughter home.

A Couple Carney Stories

While we’re on the topic of touring with the carnival, I did glean a couple interesting stories from Rich about his life on the road. He didn't share many. Apparently the life is different enough that the general attitude is the rest of us can’t possibly understand what it’s like, and why bother to try to explain? I just figure they’re not hired for their communication skills, unless it’s to persuade somebody to buy whatever they’re selling.

First, a disclaimer. Any inaccuracies in the following are from  my imperfect memory. They are as close as I can come to what I was told, but that was a while ago.

Lumberjack Days

Stillwater has an old and proud history as a stopping point on the St. Croix River for collections of logs as they floated on their way to the sawmill. Each summer they host a festival to commemorate those bygone days called Lumberjack Days. Well, until now, anyway, It seems they hit a severe financial snag and had to cancel this year. But a couple years ago it was in full swing.

Part of the big event was fencing off the riverfront and requiring admission for a concert featuring a big name band. It might have been Chicago, or if not, somebody equally good at drawing in a crowd. Rock is just not my thing, sorry. Rich and crew were inside the fence, enjoying the music and dishing out cheese curds to an enthusiastic and hungry crowd. They were parked on the periphery, near the fence keeping the crowd of non-payers out. A sizable crowd they were, however, as rock bands' amplified music is no respecter of chain link fences.

As one of the employees was returning to the wagon from a break, someone called from the other side of the fence about how much the cheese curds were and could they order some? Suddenly a great opportunity was born, and for the rest of the evening into the wee hours one of the staff was kept busy running the fence, collecting money and orders, and delivering cheese curds. It turned out to be one of their best days of the summer.

Black Friday

When my granddaughter heard this story, she was offended at the perceived racism in it. But it is what it is.

After his first gig in Dallas at the Texas State Fair, Rich came home and tried to describe what it was like. The biggest impression was left by what the locals, carneys and cops, refer to as “Black Friday.” It isn’t on a Friday every year, but the name sticks. Every fair there is one day, sometimes more, when the local gangs show up in force. In that part of Dallas, the gangs are black. Hence the name.

With multiple rival gangs in attendance, there is always the possibility for conflict, and the potential for bystanders to become involved, however innocently. Once gangs start showing up, police presence increases. Word goes out to the carneys. It includes warnings to keep your noses in your own business, stay close to your spot, and avoid trouble if at all possible. Word is also spread to all who might need to know it about the special closing that evening.

If all goes well, it happens at regular time. If it’s a day of problems, it may occur early. The cops line up at the far end of the fairground. They’re each next to the other next to the other, in close formation spread all across the grounds. I think I remember that a large number if not all of them are mounted, but, like I said, it’s been a while since I heard about it. A signal goes out and all the exhibits and rides are shut down, booths are closed up, windows boarded and locked, employees huddling inside regardless of the weather until the grounds are cleared. For that’s what the cops do. The long line proceeds through the park, driving every visitor in front of it and outside the grounds. Nobody is missed. If necessary, a few or more are arrested. If no problems are caused, the gangs go home peacefully just like the rest of the crowd. Once the grounds are cleared, employees finish their tasks and enjoy the rest of their evening, ready for the next day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Couldda Been A Lonely Summer

I just got some good news. No, not for me, though I'm very glad of it, but for Richard.

But first, the back story. Rich, as he prefers to be called, works seasonally, traveling with a small carnival. Mostly, now that he's proven dependable, he manages a cheese curd booth, supervising from inside the back over the hot fryer. Emphasize hot. They make four flavors of cheese curds, served with a side of marinara sauce. Only one creamery in Wisconsin provides cheese curds of the proper quality for them. There is also a lemon-shaped lemonade stand, and some games. It travels Minnesota during the summer, setting up for fairs, festivals, Gay Pride events, etc. His reputation with his current boss has gotten him a good slot to work during the State Fair, a place the boss himself doesn't work. He also works gigs in Miami at their fair March/April, and the Texas state fair in October. It's hard work, and he almost makes a living at it. He likes his boss, though not necessarily all the boss's relatives who get 1st crack at working for him. Nepotism rules.

Three summers ago he hooked up with another of his co-workers on a casual basis. It helped make the job much more enjoyable, apparently for both of them. I cautioned him that those things can tend to get serious, and to be careful in minding his boundaries, and hers.

And of course it did get serious, at least for him. For her for a bit too. She moved into town and they spend a lot of time together in their off season.

Their boss used to travel with another larger carnival group, often setting up together, sometimes splitting and setting up in separate locations for separate events. Then last year that owner bought himself a cheese curd stand and a lemonade stand of his own. This summer Rich's boss is pretty much traveling independent of the other group. However, while they traveled together they made a lot of friends.

So when this spring the other group started earlier then Rich's group, and his girlfriend was invited to come along and work for them, she jumped at the chance to make more money. The initial plan was for her to join Rich's group a couple weeks later, but she was invited to join full season. Provisionally, she accepted.

There was a bit of sturm and drang in the household when this happened. Before as well, as there were some issues in the relationship this spring also. I drove Rich down to southern Minnesota to start setting up for their first gig last week, not knowing whether she would change her mind or not. He had pointed out to her that their boss would consider her leaving a personal betrayal. He's very big on loyalty, understandable in a business with a high turnover rate and lots of work to be done. The boss would most likely not welcome her back for the Dallas and Miami gigs, and might even spoil her relationships and chances for work at the state fair. In a close-knit community, relationships are key. And those "off-season" gigs are the ones which bring in the most cash for the workers, as well as the owners.

As I dropped Rich off, she was thinking over her choices. If she showed up down there Friday, ready for the weekend, it meant she was back. And back with Rich. If not, it would have been a long lonely summer. He promised to text me with the news, whatever it was.

I didn't hear. Over the weekend I sent him a couple texts, inquiring, and letting him know some pertinent localized storm information. Still nothing. I couldn't call because his budget ran out along with his cell minutes just before this gig, and texting was all he had left. I, on the other hand, refuse to pay for something I don't use, and he can only text me - and vice versa - via my email on my computer. Apparently he forgot that part.

Yesterday Steve got a text on his phone from Rich, saying he was having a hard time reaching me on my phone. (Yeah, ya think?) However, his girlfriend had shown up on Friday! Yay, Hooray!

And I'm guessing it wasn't just the cell phone that delayed his communicating with us until Monday.

Friday, June 8, 2012


It's not a corner of the yard I go to much. From the street it's hidden by a corner of the house and behind a large amur maple. It's where the sump pump empties out into the yard, and the meters are gathered. Still, I had big plans for it once upon a time.

My favorite rose ever is the Mr. Lincoln. Big red blossoms, perfect form, and the fragrance - oh the fragrance! It's everything you think all roses should be, the very essence of rose. The Chrysler Imperial comes close, but the Mr. Lincoln has slightly better form in the hybrid tea blossoms. I planted one there, out in front  of a pair of Patriot blueberries, upright-growing rather than spreading, and producing large fruit.

The first Minnesota winter killed it.

I kinda suspected it might, and was only moderately heartbroken.

I never planted another there, and mostly forgot about that spot, except to weed it every couple of years and watch the perennials from the rest of the front garden spread around the corner and into the spot. After a couple years, I noticed a wild rose sprig poking up from the spot. Spindly and gangly, I think it managed a bud, but I managed to miss whatever bloom it produced due to inattention. I knew the Mr. Lincoln had been killed back to below the graft, and had no expectations.

A week ago, Paul called me back to look at it. There was a huge bush, long arcing branches, filled with deep red single-petal blossoms, lightly fragrant (darn). I have a red climber! It's gorgeous!

Maybe in another few years I'll produce a trellis for it.

Or maybe not.

But I will start paying attention.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


It was the worst one ever. For all the nursing homes I deliver to, that's saying quite a bit.

Usually it's the long hike that gets to me. Sure, this place had one of those, down three halls to the elevator, then up to third floor, and down another long hall to the nurse's station before you can find some person authorized to sign for meds. It wasn't even the getting-trapped-at-the-elevator-because-you-don't-know-the-secret-code trick they use to keep the wanna-be escapees from being successful. I finally figured that one out too, since they used a trick I'd run into before: push both the up and down button at the same time to call the elevator.

No, what got to me was the level of staffing compared to the level of need.

To be fair, it was just after supper, when everybody needs care at once. Everybody was in the halls in their wheelchairs, marginally mobile -meaning they could move a bit here and there, enough to clump and block access to everybody - and vocal about needing help. Presumably staff were busy in individual rooms assisting residents, because there were none in view. The one I did finally find - or thought I did - was sitting at the front desk of the nurses station in her nightie and robe. She smiled cheerily at me - likely the only smile in the whole bunch - but I quickly garnered that she wasn't my "authorized person". Finally a young man appeared and signed off so I could leave.

Now this is a church-sponsored care facility, actually build adjacent to the church sponsoring it. I won't tell you the denomination. If I thought there was any real neglect going on, the kind arising from indifference or lack of caring, it'd be a comment tossed in another direction. What I did see was likely just overwork at the worst time of the day. I'm sure they care. I'm sure they try.

Or at least I want to think so.

But what set me off was the patient who greeted my sight as I got off the elevator on the floor.

She was sitting in her wheelchair, reaching toward the chairs at the windows giving residents and visitors a nice view of outside. Eventually she managed to snag what she was after, one of those velcro-fastened support booties for a bad foot/ankle. As she was wearing one shoe and had one stocking foot, I presumed it was hers. Apparently she had propped her foot up on a chair, and in putting it down again the bootie had slid off.

Another apparent resident was standing next to her, talking to her. She was wanting help, and the other resident was scolding her, not offering her any help, and telling her to stop yelling for help and crying when none came.

Did I mention the yelling for help? She was at the end of the long hallway farthest away from the desk from whence all help came. Loud as she yelled, the bedlam on the desk end of the hallway precluded anybody from hearing here, had they even been there. When not yelling, she was deep in conversation with somebody who was not actually present. Arguing, actually.

Had I felt more sure of my own diagnosis - and immunity from lawsuits - I might have rendered assistance. In the time it took me to finally dispose of my package and return to the elevator, the friend had disappeared, the blue bootie was in her lap clasped in one hand, and she was vainly trying to move her chair towards the other end of the hall. As I watched, she made about 8" of progress.

In a curve.

Not knowing the extent of the reason for the bootie, I didn't try to place it back on her foot. Not knowing if she could keep the foot in question up off the floor, I didn't dare try to push her chair down the hall. There were no foot rests on the chair. As I returned to the elevators, she greeted me like her savior, face lit up in a huge smile and arm outstretched to me. I had to walk by.

It broke my heart.

I knew that she wouldn't be there all that long, and she didn't appear to be in any great pain or needing actual medical assistance, beyond replacing the bootie properly.  When it came time for bed checks later, the staff would of course find her and tend to her, if that's how long it took. If I couldn't leave the floor without a minute's worth of decoding the elevator, she wasn't going anywhere. But she haunted me.

The only thing I actually got out of it was a profound sense of gratitude that neither of my parents had to spend time in a facility like that, neglected, or feeling neglected. Mom went quickly, and Dad spent his last years with us.

Now I had been realizing these last several months how hard that actually was on me. I'm very capable of stuffing my feelings and just going on, taking care of business because that's what people do. That's what's necessary. But they've been popping up lately for me to finally deal with. And I have.

But I've also been feeling somewhat like the wounded party. You know, as if it had all been somehow about me. Sure, there's a bit of a place for that, and it wasn't then. Then it was all about meeting Daddy's needs. So I guess now is when and how it has to be. But it's been a bit of a struggle, coming all at once.

Finally, in that one nursing home visit, I gained the perspective I needed to pull myself out of the wallowing. I was able to see how bad the alternative could have been. It's what Mom saw with her own mother, and why she determined no medical assistance after a certain point. She had a horror of ending up like that. And I was now profoundly grateful that I/we were able to keep my Dad home, with family instead of abandoned, having his needs met as soon as possible after he made them known, having constant attention once he needed it, feeling loved.


Hey Blogger: A Complaint!

Everything's gotta be new, different, and "improved", right?

Phooey! (I would've said something else, but this is a family blog.)

Blogger jumped on the "improve" bandwagon, and the result is completely frustrating. There is no link on the front page of the blog, nor in the page I'm using right now to create a post, that will get me to the place where I'll be able to pull up an old started-but-not-finished posting in order to complete it.

The only thing I can edit is what I've already posted!

Hey, guys, your change sucks!