Thursday, October 30, 2008


The following search terms have apparently led people to this website over the past few months. I save the weirdest for their perversity and/or* strange poetry. Here are some mystifying favorites.
the deer pants -finlandia music

woman in blue shiny rain coats in bondage

it is tipped over so far that it appears to roll in space

silhouette of rabbits humping

practice how to label parts of the heart

where to get dolly parton birthday cards

karaoke Epic of a friend

"new york city" "hard place to live"

when they done closed end the sweden student admission in september 2008 session

distant melody from peter pan karaoke cd

is it true that cheerleader get finger banged at practice

cell phone antenna genocide

"deep forest" "nobody can bring"

ice coffin burial

And my all-time favorite, a mother's cri de coeur:
my 7 month old son has a husky voice why

*Incidentally: why can't English have a single word that means "and/or"? Is there any language that does? The construction is so graceless, but I find myself using it daily. (You say "ambiguous," I say "flexible.")

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Long ago, after having lived immersed in the hermetic world that is New York City for all of seven months, I boarded a bus to go snowboarding upstate. I still remember the utter shock I felt as we crossed the bridge and drove out of the city--that the ordinary world of parking lots (!) and untended expanses of ditch grass and trees that grew there simply because they wanted to could be driven to, that it was that close, all this time.

I have not lived in New York since 2003 and my relationship with it since then has been sort of burdened and quarrelsome. It's like:

ME: You think you're so great.
ME: Well, you're not, you know.
ME: I guess I do kind of miss you sometimes.
NYC: Hm? Were you talking to me?

After a week of fall break spent cramming in art, music, performances, a world of food options (beyond Chinese and bar!), time with loved ones, and a glorious close-down-the-house night roaring showtunes at a hole-in-the-ground piano bar (more on all this later, if I get to it), I have reconciled with the city. The relationship is now like, casual fist-bump. I like it. I appreciate it. I'm glad I don't live there. But I'm glad to hang out.

A previous misconception (mine) that I have corrected is that New York is where trends originate. Last time I traveled there, I fretted that I would look like a frontier bumpkin, flying in from provincial Portland, hopelessly backwater. Eager to update, I headed for the stores and boutiques and found... that everything looked like it had come from Seaplane or Motel, and three years ago at that. Birds, deer, wood and silver, raw-edged fabrics, reconstructed pretty things in muted colors. The Northwest influence is still mighty this fall: braving the wilds of Williamsburg in buffalo plaid and a beard to your nipples.

(Not to mention the New York Times is still bedazzled by real espresso and the ancient barista art of a fern drizzled in your foam.)

New York seems seized by a growing? perpetual? both? trend of longing to get back to the land without actually getting back to the land. I see more mustaches and beards per capita in Williamsburg than in my northwoods hometown (where the newspaper even holds an annual Jackpine Savage beard contest.) You'd think these dudes were all headed back to their log cabins to split wood and gnaw venison jerky; since the old pickup's on blocks, they had to take the L train. You could argue this is just fashion, but the Times and various lifestyle mags seem to carry articles every week about some well-heeled Upper West Siders or hip Brooklynites who quit it all to go raise heirloom pigs upstate.

I suppose what drives this urban fetish for the country is threefold: One, the woods are awesome, and I think a primal part of us wants and needs to be out in the real world (funny how we tend to refer to the entirely human-made constructs of work and urban life as the "real world.") Two, a nostalgic yearning for authenticity--it's disorienting to work in a universe where words and money and drawings and photos and mail and even voices are usually digitized, intangible, deletable. It's sort of wistful, these homespun sweaters and lumberjack getups. I am not exempt--I'm a devout champion of the Paul Bunyan jacket and furry winter boots, with only a Minnesota birth certificate and Oregon driver's license to my feeble credit.

Three, I suppose it is unfair to overlook that all that hair and wool really keep you warm.

If I could grow a beard, nonetheless, I would not. A blond beard looks weird at worst and ABBA at best. (On second thought...) A blond mustache looks salacious.

The Brooklyn Bunyans I can understand. But these next two deathless trends I cannot. At this length, I suppose they are no longer trends, but sadly forever embedded in our culture, like pleated Dockers and children named Madison.

UGGs. Why are these glorified bedroom slippers not over yet? (I suppose because they feel like glorified bedroom slippers.) They just keep flourishing like the mold they must foster deep in their sweaty toes, growing taller and ever more appallingly cotton-candy-colored and ubiquitous.
Whenever my normally reserved and soft-spoken friend Brock sees them, he is moved to holler, "UGG!" Which I think is an utterly appropriate response.

Maternity Wear For All. Why is every shirt and dress designed in the last three years shaped to grip the collarbone and/or bust before billowing forth in a vast tent, turning us all into either prospective mothers or sexless children? I wore a dress very much like this when I played Helen Keller in my high school's production of The Miracle Worker. (A star turn, I was told by my grandparents. Unfortunately, video exists.) The reason I had to wear it was because it made me look like I was eight.

I am neither pea nor pod. I just want something that has been cut for a human, not a pyramid.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Shenanigans galore and a touch of the paranormal in the Park Rapids area, courtesy as always of the good ship Enterprise:
A cash register was reported missing in Akeley; Three mailboxes were damaged in Lake Emma Township; An 11th Crow Wing Lake resident reported being unable to sleep because of music coming from Akeley; An Arago Township resident reported a strange light over the southwest corner of Potato Lake, thinks it may be a UFO (unidentified flying object); A loud party was reported in Todd Township, possible underage drinking; Tires were slashed in Helga Township; An Akeley Township caller reported someone trying to kick in his windows; A Lakeport Township resident reported his tires slashed twice in two days; A vehicle was reported passing in the no passing zone; A Park Rapids caller reported receiving a phone call form a person who states her car windows will be broken tonight; A cash register was reported in the river in Nevis Township; A driver was reported leaving a Lake Alice Township bar intoxicated; A Henrietta Township caller found a car on his property and would like to speak to an officer; Harassing e-mails were reported in Akeley; Pain reliever Percocet was reported stolen from a Park Rapids residence; A loud pickup was reported tearing around on the road in Nevis Township; ATVs were reported tearing up the Nevis High School parking lot; A caller reported deer appearing to suffer from malnutrition in a fenced area in Todd Township; An older male was hit by a tractor tire in Hubbard County, ambulance requested; A Straight River Township caller reported cows in her yard again.
It's hunting season, so I expect the next few Incident Reports might get a bit rowdy.

Here is a picture from Uff Da Days, which took place in Nevis on Labor Day weekend. Photo not mine (I wish!)--full gallery here.

Monday, October 6, 2008


...and pick up my slack, because I wasn't fully ready (spoiled by years of Oregon's ingenious and pragmatic ballot-by-mail system! Why doesn't every state do this?) (P.S., Amanda, I really needed your Deep Throat voter guide--consider branching out from Oregon.)

Today I registered and cast my ballot, under Ohio's relatively new early voting system. Because I registered five minutes before voting, I think what I received was a provisional ballot--but any anxiety about my ballot being somehow mishandled or not counted is balanced by relief that I didn't have to use one of those suspect Diebold touch-screen voting machines. They are not the big sturdy steel robots I had envisioned; they looked like Leapfrog learning pads on crutches. Give me a ballpoint and a paper ballot any day.

Already there was a line out the door when I arrived. It had grown down the block when I left. Even though we were standing in a line snaking through a gray-carpeted fluorescent-lit office, the excitement was palpable. A young election official told us happily that already in six days of early voting, they had been visited by 2100 people.

The total for the entire last presidential election was 2000.

My only regret, and it's a real pang, like it makes my stomach kind of hurt, is that I came without knowing anything about the ballot measures and the judges up for election to the Ohio Supreme Court. I did my best to parse the cagily neutral language and discern what the ballot measures were really about, and I voted on those--correctly, it now turns out. Whew.

But the judges? I didn't want to risk voting for the wrong one, so I swallowed it and voted for none.

Ohio's Supreme Court, it turns out, is currently 100% Republican. The New York Times ran a huge article two years ago about how the judges are bought and paid for. And in case of a tight vote count in Ohio, this big important swing state? Guess who decides.

So here's who I wish I had voted for, if I had known.

  • Kucinich-endorsed Peter Sikora (vs. conservative anti-choice incumbent Evelyn Stratton; very important)
  • Progressive Joseph Russo (vs. moderate Republican incumbent Maureen O'Connor; not as dire)
  • YES on Issue 1 (sets earlier deadlines to file ballot measures)
  • YES on Issue 2 (environmental protection and conservation)
  • NO on Issue 3 (which attempts to privatize groundwater)
  • There is no Issue 4.
  • YES on Issue 5 (cracks down on predatory cash-advance payday loans)
  • NO on Issue 6 (allows a casino to go up in Wilmington, OH, promising lots of tax revenue for the state--but the catch is that if anyone else builds a casino in Ohio, ever, this one's taxes must be dropped lower than the new one's. So if, say, a Native American casino is built? No taxes for either.)

Detailed information on the various 'pediae out there: Ohio Supreme Court elections detailed on Judgepedia, ballot measures explained on Ballotpedia.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Main Street (remember that ol' thing?) is suddenly back in vogue, invoked hourly by politicians and pundits. Suddenly, after years of being completely ignored, Main Street has currency again--because it is the opposite of Wall Street. And everyone is scrambling to be as opposite of Wall Street as they can. Back to the good old days.

A little too late, alas. Funny that now they care about Main Street. What Main Street exactly are they talking about? I don't mean metaphorical Main Street, I mean real Main Street, as in the ones that have been emptying out and dying and going ghost-town for the past twenty years as strip malls and Wal-Marts suck the life out of the town center and into gangly, hideous, ever-extending limbs.

With the assistance and approval of many a plum tax incentive and dare I say many of The American People.

Downtown Park Rapids.

My hometown of Park Rapids, MN, which has a population of 3500 and a Main Street three blocks long, "got" a Wal-Mart last year. Concerned citizens had staved off Wal-Mart for many years, fearing what would become of the local merchants on Main Street, who already have an uneven time in a rural economy whose residents' median income is half that of the rest of Minnesota, and have to rely largely on three months of summer lake tourism to carry the rest of the year. But crafty Bill Jones, our resident crooked lawyer--seriously, the guy is like a villain from an old western, the stunts he's pulled approaching legendary in their brazen corruptness, like literally scamming little old ladies, he is a genuine crook of the classic order, and somehow despite the malpractice suits and license suspensions he always snakes back onto the scene--Bill Jones bought 28 acres of land along the highway, got the city to annex the area against many of his neighbors' wishes, and then sold it to Wal-Mart for $1.2 million.

Now there is a 161,000-square-foot Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Park Rapids.

The devil's advocate might argue that Wal-Mart will draw people from all over the region to Park Rapids, and some of that money might spill over to Main Street.

However, Wal-Mart has also sprung up 36 miles south of us in Wadena (pop. 3900), 43 miles west of us in Detroit Lakes (pop. 8000), and 52 miles north of us in Bemidji (pop. 13,400). Consider that there's not much more than woods, fields, and a handful of one-block towns scattered between, and relative to the area, that's a Wal-Mart blanket.

So this classic Main Street we love to wax nostalgic over is like the elderly citizen left to deteriorate in a "rest" home: how great it was, a paragon of goodness, those were better days, gotta run, see you next holiday. Obviously it's not just Park Rapids. Take the lovely and half-empty downtown of Bemidji, where all the picturesque brick sidewalks and benches and four-way stops can't stanch the hemorraghing of customers to the lopsided big-box growth metastasizing out of the northwest end of town. I'd wager most old Main Streets in an American small towns--where, for all the proud extolling of their virtue and importance, hardly anyone lives anymore--suffer the same fate, including Wasilla, Alaska, where Mayor Palin wooed in the chains, including W-M.

Downtown Bemidji.

And now a "Wal-Mart Mom" has become a viable voting demographic--joining NASCAR Dads, I guess, among the first (?) electoral demographics stamped with a corporate brand.*

But maybe even more insidious than Wal-Mart--which is indisputably soulless, a non-place--are the new fake Main Streets that have been cropping up all over, especially in affluent suburbs and planned communities. In the Portland suburbs, they call it The Streets of Tanasbourne™; the one near Cleveland is Crocker Park ("It's all in a park-like setting filled with the captivating charm and bustling energy of a traditional downtown main street.") But it doesn't matter what they're named. They're malls without roofs. They spring up instant and glittering like those crystal gardens we grew on rocks in elementary school, and are stocked exclusively with mall staples. You can even live in them. (Overheard in the Crocker Park Gap: "Oh, we moved into one of the condos above Talbot's down the street.") They even sport the kiosk directory of stores, replete with YOU ARE HERE. Wherever that is.

*I can't help but think here of Infinite Jest, set in a near future where the years themselves no longer have numbers but corporate sponsors: Year of the Maytag Whisper-Quiet Dishwasher, Year of the Depends Adult Undergarment, Year of Glad.