Category Archives: Life

You know, life.

What would Frank do?

FrankUSMain

Alert: minor spoilers ahead. 

Our latest TV binge has been Shamelessthe american version of the dark British comedy, starring William Macy as Frank Gallagher. The series is perfectly named because Frank, a serial substance abuser, is truly shameless. He shamelessly lies, cheats and connives to support his habits without lifting a finger to work. I guess if he’d been born in a better neighborhood, he would have made a great CEO.

Shameless behavior isn’t limited to Frank, Steve/Jimmy steals cars and lies to his family and his lover. Sons Ian and Lip steal, swindle and deal to bring cash to their strapped family, the list goes on. But Frank is the most blatant and narcissistic. He’s a perfect role model.

We love the show. The producers shamelessly break every taboo of TV. Sometimes it’s so gross I have to look away. And then there are times when I can’t stop watching. If you’re disturbed by the human anatomy, don’t watch. The acting is stellar. Macy; Emmy Rossum as the oldest daughter valiantly trying to hold the family together; Joan Cusack gives a comedic performance for the ages as Frank’s sometime girlfriend; Emma Kenney as prepubescent daughter Debbie, leaves you wondering how such a young actor can be that good. There are no weak links in the cast.

Lately I started to think about adopting the motto, “What would Frank do?” I’ve been kind of drifting in life and I feel like having a guiding principle like that would be just what I need to straighten myself out.

For example, I was on a conference call the other day with some of my college classmates, planning our 45th reunion. We were brainstorming of ways to get more people to show up. Our school is kind of the NCAA champ of reunion attendance and people really get in the spirit, so the pressure is on if you’re a committee member. Most of the committee consists of the kind of achievement oriented, serious folks that you would expect from a school like ours. And then there’s me. Kind of a slacker by comparison, then and now.

One of the ideas we were tossing around was how to attract class athletes that might not come because of the class itself, but to the feelings they had for their team and the experience they had playing sports.

The idea, doubtlessly inspired by Frank, came into my head to get a list of all the athletes and send them notifications that they would be inducted into the Class of ’71 Sports Hall of Fame. Never mind that you rode the bench your entire career, it was your inspirational contribution to practices. Who could resist?

But, you say, we’d have to put together an award ceremony and have trophies and gimcrack of some kind. Stop being so negative! Frank wouldn’t even consider that a problem. After you get them to sign up and they arrive on campus expecting their moment of glory, just tell them, “Oh, yeah… We had to cancel that. Lack of interest. Sorry.”

But, alas, I don’t have the steadfast dedication to shamelessness that Frank displays. Too many times I’ve experienced the icy silence that follows the blurting of a brilliant, if out of box, idea. I held my tongue.

I can only dream of achieving Frank’s level of shamelessness.

Be careful what you wish for

snow-blower---1Last Tuesday I lamented the lack of snow here. Well we got almost 9 inches yesterday. I’m sitting here drinking coffee pondering the task of blowing out the driveway. It’s really not much effort because I have a big ass snowblower. I bought it from a guy who was moving to California. He’d gotten it the year before and never really had the chance to use it. It didn’t really snow much that year. So I got a virtually new snowblower for less than half price.

I used to think shoveling a big pile of snow from my driveway was good exercise. Screw that. If I need exercise, I’ll go to the gym. I wonder what the stats are for people having heart attacks while shoveling. At least if I keel over on the treadmill at the Y, they have defibrillators and presumably people who are trained in first aid. I heard a story about a guy who was delivering papers who, when pulling into a snow covered driveway felt a strange bump, as if he’d run over something. It turned out he’d gone over the snow covered body of the homeowner, who dropped dead shoveling. Not a good way to go.

So I’ve whimped out on shoveling, capitulated to the aging process. Or have I just wised up?

Not that snow blowing is effortless. Sometimes when the snow is deep and heavy and the plow has passed, leaving a compacted berm of dirty snow and ice at the end of the driveway, the wheels of the machine just spin, unable to push through. You really have to lean into it. And there’s also some discomfort. Sometimes you just can’t avoid shooting the snow into to wind. If it’s fine and powdery, it blows back a mist of ice crystals that finds it’s way into the smallest chink in your winter armor, making it’s way to your skin. It also freezes on your face, which makes for some great Old Man Winter looks.

Not to mention the possibility of injury. Think about pairing an accident prone person like me with a set of spinning blades attached to a self propelled platform. I know there’s a deadman’s switch, but if anyone can figure out how to take advantage of a formula for disaster, it’s me.

Wish me luck.

Super Bowl, bah humbug.

footballersIt’s Super Bowl Week. I don’t give a shit. My sports fan quotient has dropped like a rock over the last few years. I think it started when Gary Anderson missed the field goal against the Falcons in ’98. Damn, was it that long ago? That was the kind of crushing disappointment that only the Vikes can dish up. We haven’t had cable TV for awhile now and around here you just can’t watch sports without cable. The Vikings are on broadcast, but football has become an interminable slog for me.

I have a real hard time getting into watching a game if I have no dog in the fight, I’m not a fan of either team. And local teams just haven’t inspired much enthusiasm of late. Being a Minnesota sports fan these days is enough to get you reaching for the SSRI’s. Damn the Gopher Men’s Hockey team is the fifth best college hockey team in the state! Men’s basketball at the U is redefining the word pathetic. The Gopher Women are doing ok, the hockey team is a dynasty, volleyball went to the final four and the basketball team has two of the most dynamic high scoring players they’ve seen.

The Gopher WBB team is the best sports entertainment bargain in town. I get two season tickets for $400 and get to watch sixteen competitive games at Williams Arena. I love the atmosphere at Williams Arena.

Going to a baseball game at Target Field is fun, but expensive.

But football? Watching steroid crazed behemoths stand around for three hours, interspersed with a hundred commercials, is perhaps the very essence of boredom. Oh, there is eleven minutes of actual action going on in that three hours. I guess if you’re a sadist you might get some enjoyment out of the fact that you’re watching young men doom themselves a downward spiral of dementia by repeatedly smashing their heads together it might be entertaining. And of course there are probably some who enjoy the grunting.  But I guess I just don’t get it.

So while almost 200 million folks are watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, we will probably be at Costco avoiding the crowd.

 

The end of an era

My wife  has been working for the same company for longer than we’ve been married. And we’ve been married a long time. That is until last Wednesday when they laid her off. Thirty-nine years at the same company. Thirty-nine years at the same ad agency, no less, where people don’t usually stay for four years, no less forty.

It wasn’t unexpected and it’s not really a bad thing. We’re more than OK financially, although health insurance will suddenly get a lot more expensive. Becky has worked full-time since high school, this will be a nice opportunity for her to kick back and think about what she wants to do with the rest of her life. I should note that I learned a long time ago to never assume to speak for what she’s feeling or thinking. Maybe in a future post I should interview her. But one thing I know for sure, it’s going to be different around here.

I’m out of the house for the better part of four days a  week, I work three days at the newspaper and go to Coco to hang out with my WordPress buds on Wednesdays. But this does mean we’ll be spending considerably more time together. This could be a good thing, or a bad thing. I know I can be a pretty irritating person to be around for long periods of time. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

I get a headache every time I start to think about what we’re going to do about health insurance and how I’m going to figure out the Medicare alphabet puzzle. A B C D it looks kind of impenetrable at first glance. I promise that I won’t write any advice posts about the process, there’s enough confusion out there already, I don’t need to add to it.

Unless of course I come up with some very specific nugget of knowledge that every old duffer should know.

 

The dreaded Wintry Mix

blizzardVariable precipitation consisting of rain, freezing rain, sleet, or snow.

I can take a nice fluffy snowfall. It’s light and pristine, easy to shovel and get off the roads. It’s not usually hard to drive on.

What I  hate is this. First it rains for an hour and then the rain starts to freeze, and then it turns to sleet, whatever that is, and then heavy, clumpy snow than seems to come down in pellets rather than flakes. If you are driving through this you find that you are getting more miles to the gallon of gas than you are of windshield washing fluid.

And then it turns cold. The layer of sodden slush freezes as hard as a rock. The roads become skating rinks and the commute becomes a destruction derby. If you are unfortunate enough to have left your car outside, it’s covered with heavy snow that, once removed, reveals a layer of ice encasing the entire vehicle. You can’t scrape it, it has to be chipped off. And then if you’re really lucky, your locks are frozen shut, which is a good thing, because now you don’t have to drive in it.

The real fun happens when the temperature drops fast and deep, into single digits or less, before the plows can get all of the muck removed. The surface of the roads are like a skating rink on the surface of the moon. Deep ruts and sharp ridges cause you wheels to spin and your car to bounce like a bizarre carnival ride.

If you’re really lucky, the temperature stays below freezing for a couple of months, just to extend the fun. If you happen to get a dusting of snow on top of that ice, it becomes almost impossible to move. Any Minnesotan is familiar with the scream of spinning wheels as frustrated drivers race their engines while going nowhere.

We haven’t had a really good wintry mix disaster yet this year, but cheer up, there’s lots of winter left.

Snow time like the present

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Not much snow

The East Coast got nailed by a huge snow storm this week and the internet is saturated with pictures and stories of white disaster. It’s snowing here, just a few flakes, nothing special. It’s been snowing lightly since late yesterday. I can sympathize with the easterners, nobody likes to be completely buried in it, and they aren’t as prepared as we are to deal with it. It sucks to be snowed in. I just would like to see some balance. Minnesota in the winter without snow is no fun, send some our way.

We have snow, but not much. And it’s come in tiny doses. I’ve only had to use my snow blower once. In the morning I go out and look at the driveway and it’s covered with snow, but only thin coating, less than an inch. I just can’t justify firing up the beast for that. It would be a declaration of weakness that even I couldn’t tolerate. But it takes longer to shovel a dusting that it does to clear off six inches. (I originally wrote “blow six inches,” but I that would make Rache just a little too gleeful.) There are also hazards involved in shovelling, besides the classics like slipped disks and heart attacks, I’ve had fluke accidents with unpleasant consequences.

There are cracks in my driveway that can be invisible after a light snowfall. When the snow is fluffy I use a wide shovel with a long handle that’s designed to push the snow and not really scoop it up and throw it. I get kind of nonchalant when I’m in that shoveling mode, holding the handle low and moving fast. More than once I’ve hit a crack in the concrete, bringing the shovel to a sudden stop while my body keeps going. There have been times when the position of the handle results in it being driven into that most sensitive area of a man’s anatomy.

So really, if it’s going to snow, at least give me enough to fire up the beast.

Fable has it that the Eskimos (that’s probably not the PC term anymore) have fifty, or however many, words for snow. We have “wintery mix.” Tomorrow I’m going to talk about that kind of snowstorm and why it’s the worst.

Dinner and a movie, not in that order.

Yesterday afternoon we went to see The Revenant. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but I doubt if you would be surprised to hear that this two and a half hour film builds to a pretty dramatic, tense climax. That’s a lot of footage of Leonardo DiCaprio having a really bad hair day. We went to the newly remodelled Plymouth Theater, which has reclining seats that are like Barcaloungers on steroids. Movies had better be entertaining or the audience will certainly be napping.

Leo’s interminable slog through the wilderness managed to keep me just above the snore zone. I was told by someone that the director claimed that there has never been a movie made like this one. I’m not sure what aspect of it he was referring to, but if that’s true, why did we pretty much know what the outcome was going to be. I’m not necessarily complaining, I enjoy a good survival and revenge flick as much as the next person. And the locations were spectacular.

About a hundred and thirtyfive minutes in, just as the final, final climax was starting, Beck leaned over to whisper in my ear. I know it’s rude, but we try to be fairly quiet. I thought to make some comment about action on the screen.

I leaned toward her and heard, “Weren’t we supposed to be at Becker’s tonight?”

Oh crap. I knew this was somehow my fault, I’m the organizationally challenged one who has a very long record of space outs.

We’d been invited to dinner hosted by the world’s greatest entertainers, along with two other couples that whose company we enjoy. One does not refuse an invitation to the Becker’s.

Although I had put it on the online calendar, I hadn’t put it on the paper calendar taped to the refrigerator.

“When?”

“Now! Should we just duck out now?”

Hell no! I’m not investing this much time in a movie and not see the end!”

We were in weekend at home mode, looking pretty rough. Not as bad as Leo, but for suburbanites, pretty rough. We would need to go home and change. We usually are underdressed by comparison, but this would be taking slovenliness to the extreme.

We bolted from the theater as soon as the credits started to roll, jumped in the car, called our hosts to beg forgiveness and let them know we’d be late. Rushed home, changed clothes and rushed back out the door, we made it to their house, only about a half hour late.

The movie end of the movie was exciting, dramatic and tense. But the real adrenalin shot came from our dash to dinner.

 

 

 

 

Car Shopping

mazda-3_0
This is not a driverless car. It’s the Brit model, which we aren’t looking for.

I made the claim that I would be banging out 300 words between my second and third cup of coffee in the morning. That didn’t happen today, but here I am at the keyboard to keep my streak alive as twilight approaches.

The reason I didn’t write this morning was that Beck took the day off so we could go look at a car. We’ve been a one car family for years, but now that I have a job in South Minneapolis we’ve been running into some “who gets the car” conflicts. So the morning was spent not buying a car.

We’re not looking for just any car, we’re looking for a car that meets B’s specifications, a 2012-2013 Mazda3 hatchback that has Skyactiv Technology, heated seats, a moonroof, and is a cool color. Very specific. And hard to find. The reason for the tight date range is that Becky likes the body style of the previous version, which was last produced in 2013. We also want the Skyactiv thingy because the 3s equipped with that, whatever it is, get 10 more miles to the gallon than those without. We were operating under the impression that 2013 was the first year it was available. Today we learned that it is available on some 2012s.

Beck found one online Wednesday that almost fit the bill, color was silver, not a cool color. But it did have heated seat and a moonroof and we were beginning to think we weren’t going to find that absolute perfect car. We go up this morning and headed to Morrie’s Brookdale Mazda to check it out. Do you ever wonder why car dealerships cluster together? The stretch of Brooklyn Boulevard that Morrie’s is on is almost all dealerships, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a car salesman. Sorry salesperson.

Crap, the car we had in mind was already sold. We should have called ahead. All was not lost, because Roger, the 22 year old car salesperson was determined to not let us off the property without selling us a car. Which meant we got to ask him all kinds of questions and he even explained to us the virtues of leasing over buying. And leasing would be a good deal if you wanted to have a newer model car and always have a car payment. But that’s not the way we roll. We get a car and drive it into the ground. But he pulled out all of his tricks and when I asked how much we would need to put down on a new car in order to have a $250 monthly payment, he figured he ad us. That’s not the way to figure out if you can afford. But I was just curious and we were going to say no anyway. But that question got a manager out there and almost got us a second explanation of why leasing is the only way to buy a car.

Now I know I could make this more interesting (that’s a low bar, I’d be surprised if anyone has even read this far) by ranting about or parodying the high pressure salespersons. But that wouldn’t really be fair, because they were actually very polite and helpful while trying to, to use sales lingo,  overcome our objections. But when we said no, they didn’t do the “won’t take no for an answer” sales thing.

But I did tell them that Becky was a stubborn Norwegian, and most Minnesotans know what that means.

WordPress Wednesday

It’s Wednesday and that means it’s WordPress Wednesday. Every Wednesday a group of my fellow WordPress enthusiasts meet at CoCo to work, hang out, and share expertise with each other and anyone who shows up with questions. Coco is a Twin Cities provider of co-working spaces, providing members with a place for working and networking. My membership gives me 5 days a month to use the facilities. You can do 3 days a week or every work day. I joined so I could hang with the WordPress Wednesday group and so I could get out of the house once in awhile and get some human contact. Working at home can make you feel very isolated.

I got into WordPress as a platform for blogging, actually for this blog. Xanga was going downhill fast and I wanted to have a self hosted platform for Horizontal Ambition. I had some experience with building static websites, having used Dreamweaver to build a portfolio site that I thought was pretty cool, but to blog you really need a CMS (content management system). At the time I didn’t know what that was, but I got myself a Godaddy hosting account and registered the domain and started my first WordPress installation. Not too long after that, I was at the now defunct cigar shop in the neighborhood and somehow fell into building them a website using WP. Then another denizen of that smokey cave told me he’d heard that I was a WordPress expert. He needed help with his site, so I jumped in and quickly learned that I didn’t know jack about WordPress.

From that point on, it was down the rabbit hole. I googled around and discovered that WordPress was actually a CMS that could be used to build just about any kind of dynamic website you could think of. I went to the monthly meetup of the MSP WordPress User Group and sat through some presentations that went so far over my head they had contrails. But I met all kinds of helpful people and heard about WordPress Wednesday. I traded in my iMac for a Macbook Pro so I could bring my work to with me, and I’ve been showing up on Wednesdays ever since. Although I’ve been kind of scarce since I had my unfortunate confrontation with a floor, but I’m moving around much better now and I’m getting back into the groove.

In fact, that’s way more than 300 words and I have to shovel the f**king driveway and head over to CoCo Northeast.

That’s two day in a row! The Timberwolves would call that a winning streak.

Meanwhile back at the ranch.

IMG_1466To say there’s been a lot going on in my life since my last post is like saying the Titanic sustained some minor damage from an iceberg hit. I got a new job. I broke my hip, my daughter got married, I learned to surf. Ok that last one is a lie.

In August I was contacted by on of my web clients, The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder,  asking for me to recommend a print designer. The Spokesman-Recorder is a weekly newspaper for the African-American community, it’s the oldest Black owned business in Minnesota. Their designer had left for another job and they were looking for someone who could take over and help them with laying out the paper and handle collateral design projects.

I’ve been tossing around the possibility of getting a part-time job, a few hours a week to supplement my retirement income. But given the fact that I can’t really bend my knees or be on my feet for long periods of time, I’m kind of limited to what I can do. I already failed as a barista. But doing some design work in-house a few days a week would be perfect. So I recommended myself. I’ve been working there for a couple of months now and I really enjoy it, great people to work with, perfect hours and a regular paycheck. Between Social Security, my freelance income and this, I’m almost as much as I did when I retired.

Actually I didn’t break my hip. I broke my greater trochanter. Which is the little nub on the outside of the top of the femur where the glutes connect to your leg to articulate your hip. If you’re walking through a house that has a sunken dining room, looking back over your shoulder talking, it’s the part that hits the floor first when you miss the step. Yup, that’s what I did. In Chicago at the rental house we were staying at, two days before the wedding. I had the pleasure of escorting my daughter down the aisle on crutches.

The fracture wasn’t displaced and didn’t require surgery. They didn’t see the crack on the X-rays in Chicago, they diagnosed it as a bone bruise. It wasn’t until the pain wasn’t getting any better and I went to a local bone doc who discovered the break. I didn’t have much pain in resting position, but there were certain movements that gave me a breathtaking shot of pain. I was told to use crutches until the pain went away and start physical therapy. It’s been about five weeks now and the pain has pretty much gone away, it seems to be getting better by the day. I’m down to one crutch now, and sometimes I find myself walking around without it. I’m hoping to be crutchless next week for the Gopher Women’s Basketball opener.

Yes, Lucia and David got married. I’m going to save this story for another post.