Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jelly shoes and jelly donuts.

They're tearing down the old Super Valu grocery store on the corner of Highway 2 and 2nd Avenue West this week.

Super Valu demolition.

I know, it hasn't really been the Super Valu for a long time--not since it mutated into County Market and moved up Ellis Avenue like, ten-plus years ago--but it's always going to be the Super Valu corner to me.

In its previous incarnation (before my time), it was the A&P store that my Grandpa Skip managed along with his brother Ed. Later on, after Grandpa Skip had died and Grandma Vera started coming with us for our weekly grocery store runs (she didn't drive), it was the store where she'd spend twenty minutes in each aisle, obsessively reading the labels on cans of soup and Spam, trying to figure out which was the best value down to the nano-penny while my mom tried to keep three wriggling hellions from running the place ragged. The promise of donuts often did the trick.

And in its Super Valu form, it had the best donut counter in town, hands-down (did they really get them from the Sno-White Bakery? Am I remembering that right? Does anybody else my age even remember the Sno-White Bakery?). And it definitely had the best carts for kids to ride on--remember how they had those big flat grates on the bottoms that were perfect for incognito cruising along the floorboards? It didn't have a big fiberglass cow on the roof like Hunt's did down on the corner of Vaughn (now the Ace Hardware store), so it lost a few cool points on that front, but after Hunt's morphed into Economart and moved out by Pamida that poor cow got dwarfed and forgotten anyway. Which just proves yet again that in the grand scheme of things, quality donuts will outweigh fiberglass decorations in importance each & every time.

It was the store where I first saw "Gumphrey," the town transvestite. S/he was usually wearing a fetching sheath dress, a babushka, and jelly shoes. For some reason, this made preschool-aged-me want jelly shoes all the more. From my perch on that bottom rack on my mom's shopping cart, I was in a primo position to get an eyeful of those glorious shoes of his, and I did. I took it all in. Gumphrey didn't last too long in town, but his memory lives on every time I think of jelly shoes.

Later on, when I was in high school, I had a huuuuuuuge crush on one of the bagboys that worked there. HUGE. Let's just say I found a lot of excuses to go in there to buy gum circa 1995. Nothing came of it, except that I think I developed a lifelong aversion to spearmint. Blech.

It's hard to believe that when I was a kid growing up here, we had more than three grocery stores in town, plus all the little corner markets scattered throughout the East & West ends of we're down to County Market and the Super Wal-Mart as far as the bigger stores go, and most of the corner stores are gone, too. Which explains why I find myself driving over to the Washburn IGA more & more's a longer drive, but the donuts are so worth it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Today's horoscope:

"Now is a good time for you to move -- literally or figuratively. You're filled with good energy and any changes you make ought to keep you moving out in the right direction for quite some time."

Convenient, since in less than 48 hours I'll be going from this...
(April '08) this.
Brooklyn Bridge.

(May '06)

In the meantime, I've got to finish packing, finish wrapping my brother Whitey's birthday presents, and finish this, which I discovered
earlier this week. It's kinda like crack, only in ice cream form.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

One man's trash...

I did a lot of weird stuff in college. I made movies about killer Furbies, I co-founded a campus organization devoted to Ricky Martin, I stole a duck decoy from a campus construction site and returned it at the end of the year with a diary of its adventures. But strangely enough, none of those things (or the other weird stories I could tell here) evoke as many raised eyebrows as the admission that I went dumpster diving every spring as finals week wrapped up.

Dumpster diving.

When I was a student there, UMD seemed to have a pretty crap attitude about encouraging students to donate their leftover dorm/apartment stuff to charity as they were moving out for the summer. I can remember a few scant bins for unopened dry goods by the front doors of most buildings...but as far as any collections being organized for furniture, books, clothes, and so on? Nada. Zilch. So unless one were charitably-inclined and made their own arrangements to take stuff to Goodwill (located on the opposite end of town from the college, incidentally), anything that people didn't give to their friends or pack into their vehicles went KAPOW! into the dumpsters.

As the daughter of cheapskates and a person of some moral scruples, this irritated the living hell out of me. The idea of just throwing away perfectly functional things due to lack of foresight, creativity or any consideration of the greater community at large was completely foreign to me--that sort of thing just wasn't done at my house. I remember bringing this up to some student organizations I was involved with at the time--the student center programming board, and a student activist club as well--and while it elicited a vague, "Yeah, somebody should do something" response, no one ever took me up on my offer to help organize some sort of campus collection project. And as I got more engrossed in my later years of school and spent 23 hours a day reading so I could graduate on time in four years, dammit, it was a project that I had to leave unfulfilled, as well.

Last weekend, after a seven-year hiatus from my dumpster diving excursions, I made it back up to UMD on the last day of finals week to see if conditions had changed. Conclusion: not much. The dumpsters were a disaster area, as always...we got there a bit later in the day (after 7:00 P.M.), so I'm guessing some of the more "choice" items had already been picked up by the roving groups of locals that I'd see scavenging through campus every spring when I was a student there. That didn't stop us from scoring a few stellar finds, though...

Sweet bucket!

Sweet art! (With buttons!)

Sweet chair with filthy toaster oven.
And this! No, no, not the filthy toaster oven, the chair! The glorious chair!

My fondest hope is that someday, UMD gets their act together and makes an effort--just a liiiiiiittle effort--to discourage this kind of rampant wastefulness and to build a framework for a more charitable, thoughtful disposal of this kind of stuff. Because frankly, it's shameful that the student body isn't doing better than this--it reflects very poorly on the character of the campus and makes them look completely disinterested in the greater good of the community. It looks bad.

Way worse than the people picking through the castoffs beside the dumpsters, at least.
One man's trash...

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Pants for Real People."

"Pants for Real People."
As opposed to pants for fake people/androids/robots.

Can't all the pants just get along?

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Is it just me, or doesn't the intro music to NPR's All Things Considered* sound exactly like the "Cheesy Poof" song on South Park?

*Click on any of last week's shows to hear what I'm talking about. YOU be the judge.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bump in the night.

Things that scared me when I was a kid:

1. The dark.

2. Sleepovers. (To the point where I didn't sleep over at any of my friends' houses until I was in middle school.)

3. The sound of my pulse in my ears when I was trying to fall asleep.

4. The story my Uncle Bob stupidly told my parents in front of me about a girl who'd gotten kidnapped, chopped up and thrown in some psycho's trunk.

5. Dogs.

6. Roller coasters.

7. PBS station IDs.

8. Dreams about tornadoes and elevators.

9. The diamonds out on the Oredock.

10. THIS.

Terrifying me for as long as I can remember.

Which hung at the top of the stairs leading to my parents' room. Because nothing calms down a five year-old insomniac like facing an ominous portrait of a monk cradling a skull on the way to ask her mom for a glass of water.

My mom mailed this to me for my 25th birthday, along with pictures of Jesus and the Virgin Mary painted on black velvet by some guy who was in 'Nam with my Uncle Charlie. I hung it in my living room so my houseguests could experience the wonder.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bayfield County Fair, 1985.

Me (age 6):
Mom, can I ride the roller coaster?
Oh, I don’t know, I’m not sure if you’re big enough for that yet.
No, look! Look! The sign says I have to be “this tall” to ride, and I am!
Hmm...well, I don’t know...
We’ve got to use up the last of these tickets before we go home!
Are you sure you don’t want to ride the Ferris wheel instead?
Okay, okay, you can ride it--and look, there’s no line or anything.
WHEEEE!!! I'm going in the front car!

Thirty seconds later:
The scariest moment of my life circa 1985.

Mom: Smile for the camera, Mary!
Me: *expression of utter terror*
Gene Amos the Cabbage Patch Kid:
*also silent*

Monday, May 12, 2008

"I never did like this town."

"The items marked with an X express my sentiments and tell the news."

I found this for $1 at an antique shop in Ironwood, MI not too long ago, and picked it up on a whim. A few notes:

1. I doubt that it's actually Australian, because on the back it says it was published by Hammond Publishing Co. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Why it says it's "Australian," I don't know--maybe that's a slice of early 1900s humor that's been lost to the ages or something. (Then again...he has checked the "weather very hot" box, and it would be hot in Australia in January, wouldn't it...)

2. It was addressed to a Mr. D. W. Anderson at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. And it was postmarked January 25, 1908 at St. Paul, Minnesota (that's how I figured out what year it was sent, since that corner got torn off on the front).

3. I LOVE the many options to select from here (particularly that one about the "liver not working well," which seems head-scratchingly specific), but one had me confused--the last one in the left-hand column, "This is a jay town." A quick web search tells me that "jay" was "a term popular in the early 20th Century meaning a rustic newcomer unfamiliar with city ways."

Ashland is a totally jay town. I should print up a modernized version of these, they'd sell like hotcakes.

Somebody get Delta Burke* on the line...

has all the makings of a wacky sitcom, don't you think?

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (AP) -- Elizabeth Halverson is a judge. But the way courthouse staffers see it, she expects to be treated like a queen.

Her former bailiff, for example, says Halverson made him feel like a "houseboy."
He says the judge -- who is obese and uses a motorized scooter to get around -- made him put her shoes on her feet, massage her back, cover her with a blanket for naps and make sure her oxygen tank was filled. He says she asked him, "Do you want to worship me from near or afar?"

Halverson also surrounded herself with her own hired guards, saying she did not trust the courthouse security force to protect her.
Another time, she allegedly had her husband sworn in so that she could ask him under oath whether he had completed chores at home.

Since then, the 50-year-old Nevada district judge has been locked out of her Las Vegas courtroom, suspended from the bench and brought up on judicial-misconduct charges that include not only misusing her position and treating her staff like personal valets but also tainting juries and falling asleep on the bench.

...Halverson did not respond to an interview request.
A shirtless man who answered the door at her home pointed to a "no trespassing" sign and ordered a reporter off the property. The yard is clean these days, after the city cited Halverson for leaving it strewn with junk and letting the water in her pool grow murky and stagnant.

Fat lady on a scooter? Check.

Disgruntled coworkers? Check.

Shirtless guy answering the door and telling people to git off her land? Check.

Sassy sidekick? I'm sure we could write one in.

It's like
Roseanne meets Judge Judy. Somebody tell Fox to get on this before Lifetime beats 'em to the punch!

*I am so adding
The Best of Designing Women to my Netflix queue.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Don't be afraid, you can call me. (Maybe.)

In what may come as a shock to some of you, last Monday I blasted into the mid-1990s and got myself...a Tracfone. Rest assured that I remain staunchly disinterested in owning a cell phone, and that this signifies only a subtle policy shift, not a sweeping rejection of my fondness for landlines and rotary phones.

Why don't I want a cell phone? Oh, there's a lot of reasons, but foremost amongst them are these:

1. Generally, I'm either at home or at work, both of which have phones. If I'm not at one, try the other.
2. If I'm not at either, I don't want to be found.

"Then why the Tracfone?", you're wondering. Well, I'll be doing some traveling this spring, and after what happened when I was traveling last spring, I'd prefer not to have to run willy-nilly all around the airport, trying to find pay phones and digging out long-distance calling cards as I fight off the urge to carjack one of those little zoom-zoom golf carts and crash it into the TGI Friday's in the heart of the C concourse. BEEP BEEP BEEP.

Also, as confident as I am in Bessy (the 1996 Chevy Lumina) and her amazing ability to keep running as smoothly as she does at 130,000+ miles, let's face it--she's getting on in years/mileage. So having an emergency out available if something goes wrong out on the open road isn't a bad idea.

Plus, this Tracfone dealie is cheap, and it requires very little commitment on my end. Bingo!

So, my travel-related communications worries are at an end. Or, well, diminished, at least. Now if I can just remember to bring the dang thing with me and/or to turn it on...
On an entirely unrelated note: thanks to the good works of my brother Whitey & my previous affection for Tom Goes to the Mayor, I am now completely obsessed with Tim & Eric.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Be on the lookout for rogue emus and nude toddlers (with knives).

Monday, 1:57 P.M.:
Caller states someone dumped a couch in the caller’s wagon.

Monday, 5:44 P.M.: Female caller reports she lost an "adult magazine" in a black wrapper between Wedal Road and Washburn; officer located the item.

Monday, 9:16 P.M.: Caller states that while she was sitting on her porch an unknown male entered her house and used her bathroom.

Wednesday, 2:08 P.M.: Emu is running on the highway.

Wednesday, 4:49 P.M.: Report of a car that crashed into the Oredock on the ice.

Wednesday, 9:48 P.M.: Caller (who sounded intoxicated) called 911 to ask if he owns his house, if he is the one who has to move out.

Friday, 7:07 A.M.: Caller reports a male walking around his yard and in the alley with a light on his head and binoculars looking into his windows: officer told subject to stop this type of behavior.

Saturday, 4:25 P.M.: Caller reported a car went airborne and went into a ditch along Highway 63, vehicle was damaged but driven out before authorities arrived.

Saturday, 6:15 P.M.: Report of highly intoxicated person found lying in snow at intersection, seemed happy to be there.

Sunday, 10:05 A.M.: Report of nude toddler running through church parking lot, carrying a knife.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Bonnie Tyler & beef jerky.

It seemed only right that I take the wheel for the drive home from Billings that day, since Ryan had helmed the great beast on the way there...but I distinctly remember not being too thrilled about it. If you've never experienced the singular pleasure of driving an Econoline van bigger than Delaware across mountain country during a blizzard, let me sum it up for you:

"Oh, crap."
"Holy crap."
"Sweet Jesus."
"Holy balls."
"Oh, sweet baby Jesus' crap."

You know, the whole trip had been kind of lopsided from the start. Somehow, through either Machiavellian pluck (unlikely) or sheer dumb luck (bingo!), every damn year the Governor's Office of Community Service managed to schedule the Governor's Conference on Civic Engagement during a weekend when the time changed. I loved those guys--seriously, they were fun people to work with--but their perpetual inability to consult a calendar when planning major events was astounding. (What's more, they usually managed to do this both in the fall and in the spring, which maybe does lend a little credence to the Machiavellian pluck theory after all...hmm.) So in addition to the usual amounts of controlled chaos we were dealing with at these statewide functions, we had the fun of trying to remind a bunch of people staying in a hotel to turn their clocks forwards or backwards, most of whom would either (A.) forget, (B.) not know how to operate the strange alarm clocks in their rooms, or (C.) get too hammered to care much one way or the other what time they got up the next morning. (The term "AmeriKegger" didn't invent itself, people.)

Billings, 2002.
(VISTAs enjoying adult beverages responsibly.)

On this particular occasion, the time change came the night before we left, which, for the most part, mitigated the chaos--at least people were at home, with their own familiar clocks to fiddle with. We still had one person in our project’s Helena delegation oversleep (*coughcoughJOSHcough*), but one out of a dozen or so ain't bad. Considering that certain members of the Helena group frequently managed to be late to trainings in their own town, it was better than usual, actually.

By the time we were loading back into the state motor pool van to head home at weekend's end, driving three hours back to Helena in the middle of a damn snowstorm was just about the last thing I wanted to do. I'd had a loooong weekend of VISTA Leader-ly duties: herding people from place to place…listening to people's litanies of complaints about their host sites/the conference/the hotel/the food at the hotel (I never ceased to be amazed at how people making subsistence salaries could be so incredibly picky about free food)…and trying to stay on top of all the political stuff that was always going on behind-the-scenes. Don't get me wrong--I truly loved my job and the people I worked with, and I had a good time at these things and I think I handled it well, but by the end of them I was usually pretty tuckered-out, physically and mentally. Knowing I had three hours of driving a bigass, clunky van in the wind and snow ahead of me wasn't helping matters. As I gassed up the beast at the station next to the hotel, I had a knot of dread in my gut that felt as big as the damn Econoline.

Cut to two hours or so down the road...we were winding through the stretch between Livingston and Bozeman. The wind tossed the mighty van around our lane, snow flying scattershot in every direction...the giant orange wind socks posted along the edges of I-90 were shooting straight out from their poles. It was bad--not the worst I’d ever driven in, but still, pretty bad. I should’ve been white-knuckled, hunched over the steering wheel, a ball of raw nerves...but I wasn’t. I mean, I was white-knuckled, and I was hunched over the steering wheel, but the hunching part was mostly from laughing.

“And I neeeeeeed you NOW, TONIGHT! And I neeeeeeed you more than EVAH!”

The limits of that Econoline’s sound system (and good taste) were tested that day, my friends, courtesy of Ryan’s portable CD player and the four other brave souls who’d hopped the first van back to Helena along with us (a second van came later in the day, and by all accounts they didn’t have nearly as much fun white-knuckling it as we did). I hadn’t underestimated how crappy the roads would be on the drive, nor had I underestimated how nervous I’d be at the helm--but I had vastly underestimated my friends’ ability to make me lighten the hell up.


It was one of those times when, even in the midst of our collective interpretation of the immortal sounds of Bonnie Tyler, I remember my internal monologue kicking in and it saying, “Remember this.” Like my brain was a camera, and there was a little ‘click’ right about then. Ever since, when I hear Bonnie Tyler, I think of that godawful van and the great time I had in it that day, and I also think of the horrific smell of hot Dr. Pepper mingling with beef jerky wrappers (thanks, Josh, for leaving that bottle on the heating vent all the way home).