Friday, July 31, 2009

Are you trying to tell me something, Facebook?

I'm not sure why, but Facebook keeps presenting me with this ad on my homepage every time I log in:

What gets me is that he's just standing there in a puddle of his own filth.

I don't recall ever posting anything about urine, soiled mattresses, bunnies, or any combination of those subjects, so I'm not sure what algorithm is feeding them the idea that I desperately need this particular product.

What really gets me is that the bunny, despite an obvious awareness of the puddle of urine around his feet, continues to just stand there, soaking in his own filth. Step out of the puddle, dummy!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When dinosaurs roamed the earth, and people owned strange things called "head cleaning tapes."

Gather 'round, children, and I'll tell you of a time before YouTube, before Netflix, before portable DVD players...heck, before
stationary DVD players. It was the late 1980s/early 1990s: VHS was king, and life was good.

Main Street was home to Ashland's two primary video rental shops: Video-to-Go (across from the courthouse), and Video Land (across from the post office, now home to Buddy's Burgers). Both of them rented out movies, video games, and equipment (VCRs, Nintendos, etc.), so that kids with parents reluctant to shell out for a VCR (aka, mine) could occasionally convince them to drop $15 for a weekends' worth of lazy bliss. In addition to those two places, a lot of the grocery stores & corner markets set up downscale rental rackets of their own--Economart, Piggly Wiggly/Super H, and the Sixth Street Market all had shelves of movies at one point or another. (Anyone else remember the one that was out in the mini-mall by Pamida when it first opened?)

Eventually, my parents gave in and bought a VCR, and after that my mom spent
many Friday and Saturday evenings waiting out in the station wagon while me and my brothers scrambled around Video Land, scouring the racks for "something good" or, well, something passable, at least. Back then, only the boxes that the movies & games came in were put out on the shelves--the tapes themselves were kept behind the cash registers, organized under a tedious-looking number system. The number Sharpied onto each tape matched a little cardboard circle that velcroed to the corresponding tape's box out on the floor--when you wanted to rent something, you'd pull off the little circle & bring it up to the registers. No little circle velcroed to the box? No movie for you to rent.

I clocked a lot of time walking around Video Land...I think we favored it because my brother's buddy Ben worked there for a spell and could score (or, in layman's terms, steal) us leftover swag. Sometimes when I'm wandering around the rental shops Ashland has now, I'll see a movie's cover and it will give me a pleasant little jab of nostalgia in my brain. "
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, heh-heh." Or, "Oh my god, what possessed Mom to rent Bebe's Kids for us that one time?" Or, "I will never, ever forgive Nothing But Trouble for being so horrible."

And, weirdly enough, there are some movie box covers that have stuck with me all these years...even though I never saw the movies themselves. I can still picture where they were on the shelves in the store--one in the main room, on the classics rack near the register; another on a shelf in the next room over, just over the ramp, close to the kids' section.

It's strange what the brain holds on to.

I've still never watched any of these movies. I guess I worry that if I do, they're almost sure to be less funny than the versions in my head.

"The Pope Must Diet!"
Thanks to this one, I literally cannot hear the word "Pope"
without my brain adding "must diet."

I called this one
Zelig Zelig Zelig Zelig Zelig Zelig.

"The Ghost and Mr. Chicken"
For some reason, I got it in my head that this was a sequel to
The Apple Dumpling Gang.

"Casual Sex?"
When you're a twelve year-old girl, there is no movie box more mortifying to walk by with your mother than anything with SEX written right on the front of it. I remember practically running away from this one
every time I passed it on the rack.

"Private Benjamin"
I thought this was about concentration camps. (She looks so glum!)

Video Land had a little cardboard promo set up on their counter when this movie was released that featured that exact same picture from the cover, only with a pair of red blinking lights popped through Roseanne's eyeballs.

"Daddy's Dyin'...Who's Got the Will?"
For years, I assumed the guy in the back with the bandanna was Pauly Shore.

Monday, July 27, 2009

So, if Johnny Canuck and Johnny Reb got in a fight, who do you think would win...?

So there's this kid who drives around town in a pickup truck with a big Confederate flag decal on the rear window, which is hilarious because dude, are you lost? You know you're about as far north as you can get (around here, anyway), right? Hell, there are chunks of Canada that lie further south than Ashland. Let it go already.

Every time I see a Confederate flag on a bumper sticker or whatnot (which frankly isn't all that often, given the aforementioned northernness), I remember sitting around with my friend Josh from Missouri back in the day, riffing about how "the South will rise again...eventually...once they get around to it...just give them a while, it's on the to-do list, really it is. Stop pressuring them!" If a guy who'd been to a Civil War re-enactment theme wedding saw fit to mock it, I figured it was fair game.

Anyway--I refer to this pickup truck kid as Johnny Reb (as in "Johnny Reb, turn down your Kid Rock album, not everyone in the parking lot wants to listen to that right now"), and the other day I wanted to look that name up online to make sure I was using it properly. Because that's the kind of nerd I am: if I'm going to mock someone under my breath without them ever possibly hearing it, I want to make sure my mockery is based on a solid foundation of proper usage.

Well, that "research" led to the discovery of this list of various national personifications. And this crap is really fascinating. Some are based on stuff like geographical features; some are the local equivalent of "the average joe"; some are symbols of political or cultural defiance; and many are borderline propaganda. (Or, y'know, just blatant, outright propaganda.) Or a mix of all of those. Why we never learned about interesting stuff like this in school, I don't understand.

I was particularly tickled to note that the U.S. had the most national personifications of them all. Uncle Sam! Lady Liberty! Yankee Doodle! Johnny Reb, Billy Yank, Johnny Appleseed & Paul Bunyan! We win again! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Coming along nicely...

The big Oredock mural on the side of Book World downtown is coming along nicely...

The Oredock mural-in-progress...

The Oredock mural-in-progress...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why I haven't been posting much lately:

Trips to Minneapolis, two weekends in a row--that's the most ambitious travel docket I've had in quite a while!

First: a run to Roseville to meet up with Emily & her family, who flew in from Montana for a wedding. I haven't been back to Helena for two years now--TWO YEARS!--so this was the first time I've seen her daughter Aine since she was a toddler, and the first time I've seen Elliot, period. And Owen--oh my god, he's almost up to my shoulders and he's only six. He'll lap me in no time!

Emily & the latest addition. "Oh, I'm just texting Indochina." Strongman!

(Emily and Elliot; Aine playing with someone's cell phone ["I'm texting Indochina"]; Owen blasts his quads.)

And then this past weekend, I went back down to Minneapolis to see two of my former college roommates: Laura, who lives in Minneapolis and recently got engaged, and Meredith, who's married, teaches out in Arizona and is expecting her first bambina around Halloween. Mer and I hadn't seen each other since June of 2002--the time I drove back from Montana for my younger brother's high school graduation--and I don't get down there to see Laura nearly as much as I could, so it was great to all sit down together and catch up. And to flip through old pictures and laugh at what goofballs we were in the late 90s/early 00s, too.

Mer and I took a thrilling ride into downtown Minneapolis on the light rail, which doesn't go very fast but eh, it beats driving and the people-watching was superb. We looked at the new Twins stadium, saw a crazy mural that I'm still wrapping my head around, and most importantly, picked up a stromboli for her dad. He really wanted that stromboli.

Classy! A thrilling encounter with public transportation.

(Mer after our successful stromboli run [nothing classier than a pregnant lady hanging out in front of a strip club with a stromboli...well, actually, this does look classier than that picture we took in front of the Wabasha in Duluth back in the day...]; me, with very flat hair, enjoying a thrilling ride on the light rail.)

And I forgot to take a picture of Laura, so this stirring artistic tableau from her fiance's house will have to do:


(Not Quite) Fifty Nifty United States.

I had to go to a conference in San Francisco in April '05 and I spent a day walking from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge (and back), which felt like quite a hike. I brought apples & peanut butter with me from Montana (and bought a loaf of bread when I got there), and spent all my per diem money on postcards and Chinatown knickknacks instead. I bought so many knickknacks, in fact, that I had to leave my jar of peanut butter behind when I left.

Colorado: I went to my AmeriCorps VISTA Leader orientation in Denver in the summer of '02. I remember going to a huge bookstore downtown and spending too much money there, and walking to a Walmart near our hotel (we were out in the boondocks somewhere, in one of those concrete suburban wonderlands where everything looks like a shopping center) and buying a cheap little guide to crochet stitches for a refresher. Which I just found in my garage a few weekends ago.

Florida: The first time I went there was in the spring of '97, on a trip with my high school marching band to Disneyworld. I went back in May of '07 for my friends Liz & Peter's wedding. The most notable differences between the two trips were that the second time, I didn't have to wear a wool/polyester-blend marching band uniform in 100% humidity, and I was able to procure rum runners with ease. Some might say too much ease.

Georgia: I rode through Georgia on my way to Florida in '97. All I remember is that it was hot, and that when we stopped at a Burger King for breakfast one morning, the cashier absolutely, positively could not understand my accent. "Could I get some French toast, please?" "WHAT?" And repeat. I know I can go a little bit Yooper sometimes, but seriously, who can't understand Yooper?

Idaho: I can't remember if it was my first trip through Idaho or not, but the most memorable was the 4th of July I went to Grangeville with Emily & her husband Kevin's family (2002). Grangeville really knows how to whoop it up--fun run in the morning, egg toss on the main drag, a carnival, a "cowboy breakfast" where everyone stuffs themselves silly--but I particularly remember the craziness of trying the "scones" at the carnival. (For some reason I'm not aware of, at the carnival in Grangeville, fry bread = "scones." While obviously much more delicious than actual scones, due to the much-higher fat & grease content, it's a very confusing naming custom to outsiders such as myself.) Oh--and it was memorable because out of the blue, my mom's cousin Michelle (who lives in Grangeville) found me at Kevin's grandma's house and came over to visit. That was so delightfully random!

Illinois: My high school marching band went to Chicago when I was in the 10th grade. One of the funniest things I remember about that trip happened in the hotel room--I was bunking with Kristy DeLasky, Kristin Nelson, and Jenni Bassett, and the night we arrived I flicked on the TV to watch Letterman. And it happened to be the night that Drew Barrymore flashed him.
SCANDAL! I rode through again on the way to Florida in '97 (that is one looooooong state), but I wasn't back again until my friend Georgia's wedding in '07.

Kentucky: We rode through on our way to Florida in 1997...I vaguely remember being parked at a truck stop in the middle of the night, and going in for Ding-Dongs with my friend Buzzy. But it was pretty late at night, so my mind might've jumbled that a bit--maybe we went in for Twinkies? Or Ho-Hos? Or was it some other snack food product entirely? We may never know.

Maryland: On one of my last hurrahs in AmeriCorps, I went to Baltimore in the spring of '05 for a big national service conference. I walked to Edgar Allen Poe's grave one day with my friend Will, and we tried to find his house, too, but the map we got was wrong so we just wound up wandering around the 'hood for a while. The next day, I skipped the conference stuff and rode a train down to Washington, D.C., where I spent the whole day walking from the train station to the Lincoln Memorial & back, stopping at lots of museums and parks along the way. I think I probably got a lot more out of that than the conference in the long run.

Michigan: The summer that Emily's family moved to Brainerd (1998), we made it our mission to drive around everywhere within a sixty-mile radius of Ashland (except for Duluth--I was specifically not allowed to drive to Duluth in my sweet garden-hose green '78 Oldsmobile because my parents were afraid what would happen to it on the hills) to take pictures of all the Big Stuff along the road. Big fish in Hayward, big apple by Bayfield, big fish by Bodin's--you get the idea. Anyway, we found lots of stellar big stuff around Ironwood: the Big Boy restaurant (alas, it's not a Big Boy anymore), the big corkscrew (to be fair, that's on the WI side of the border, but close enough), the giant skiier, the big loon down the road in Mercer, and of course...Hiawatha, the World's Tallest/Largest Indian. God bless the U.P. and its penchant for crazy.

Minnesota: Considering how close we are to Duluth, our family trips there were surprisingly infrequent during our formative years. My parents were afraid to cross The High Bridge (really!), and at the time, the mall in Superior was a hoppin' place so I guess we didn't feel like we were missing anything. But I remember going there when we were little to take one of the harbor cruises, and climbing up Enger Tower, and going to the museum at the Depot, and going to several years' worth of Ice Capades at the DECC (the Smurfs! Super Mario Bros.!)...and there were rare trips down to St. Paul to see relatives, too. But all in all, pretty infrequent, usually just back-to-school and Christmas shopping trips. And then, y'know, I wound up going to college there...

Missouri: I went to Warrensburg, MO to visit my friend Josh at his hovel around Halloween of '04. I got lost in a giant haunted house in Kansas City and banded together with a group of Spanish-speaking high schoolers to find my way out. Oh, and I got chased by a dog, too. (Not at the haunted house, but back by the hovel.) I flew back to Montana on Election Day of 2004...when I left Kansas City, Kerry was ahead, but by the time I got to Montana, Bush had won. Sigh. I returned in May of '05--we flew out to London by way of Kansas City, and when we got back, we went to the shooting range where I shot a gun for the first time. Kind of a quintessential Missouri experience, I suppose.

Montana: The first time I went to Montana was in the summer of 2000--Emily and Kevin had just gotten married that spring and moved out there, so I went out to visit for a few days before I headed back for my last year at UMD in the fall. And I took the train, because my parents were of the opinion that "planes are too complicated & expensive." Being in a long chain of train cars rolling across the middle of nowhere for the better part of two days is quite an experience on its own, but coupled with the interesting people who choose train travel over air travel...well, let's just say it was definitely memorable. The first time I set foot in Montana was at the Amtrak station in Glasgow; I got off the train and met Emily & Kevin at Havre's station, which is charmingly located next to a junk yard, and on the same Highway 2 that runs through my hometown in WI. I guess something about the place struck a chord in me, because I moved out to Helena the following summer after I graduated from college. And the rest, as they say, is history.

New York: My friend Regina kept encouraging me to come & visit her in Brooklyn, and I finally did in April '06. My three favorite memories from that trip were when we stowed away on a boat out to the Statue of Liberty (Regina used to work for the cruise line and her friends recognized her & slipped us on for free), going to the Forbes Galleries (which are too awesome for words), and visiting the Panorama and the Unisphere out in Queens. Oh! And Coney Island! And going back in '08 along with Jamie after she got back from the Peace Corps, too--that was pretty great.

North Dakota: North Dakota's one of those states I've mostly just driven through on my way to & from Montana, but I think it's a lot prettier than South Dakota. So much greener! And with far fewer irritating/aggressive/cree
py/powermad law enforcement officials, too. (See: South Dakota.)

Pennsylvania: My friends Becky and John got married in Harrisburg in May '04, and I met up with two more of my AmeriCorps buddies (Ryan and Aaron) for the hitchin'. Other than the wedding/reception, my most distinctive memory from the trip is flying in over Three Mile Island on the approach to the airport...that was kind of weird.

South Dakota: I will never go back to South Dakota. Sorry, Mt. Rushmore; screw you, Wall Drug; sayonara, Corn Palace. I was driving through in June of 2002 with my friend Will, on my way back to my brother Whitey's high school graduation (and Will on his way back to his parents' place in southern MN), when we got pulled over for...well, no reason. Allegedly, it was because I had an air freshener hanging from my rearview mirror, but that seemed like a pretty flimsy reason to pull somebody over. The cop was just bored. And aggressive. And also afflicted with a wild imagination, because he got it into his head that we were drug runners making a cross-country doobie run. He made me get out of the car, took me back to his squad car, sit in his front seat and answer twenty minutes' worth of questions about whether or not we had any "stash" in the car. This was all the more laughable considering I barely drink, and have never smoked so much as a cigarette, for crying out loud. After twenty minutes of this idiotic cat-and-mouse game of his, he gave up, issued me a "complimentary warning" for the air freshener (yes, that's really what it was called), and sent us on our way. And I've never been back, and I'll never go back.

Tennessee: Another one that we drove through on the way to Florida in '97. All I remember is a rush of billboards on the way into Nashville, and wondering where I was in relation to Dollywood.

Utah: The first time I ever flew on an airplane was when I went to Salt Lake City for my AmeriCorps VISTA orientation in July 2001 (22 years old). It was a pretty overwhelming experience, but I remember being struck by how weirdly clean downtown Salt Lake was. It was...pristine. I'm not sure what it says about me that I found that rather off-putting.

Washington: There are three trips I remember into Washington. The first was when I went to Bloomsday in Spokane with Emily & Kevin's family, which was insane--the crowd was huge, the fun run's route went through all these bottlenecks in the middle of town that backed things up all crazily, and there was a guy in a giant vulture costume at the bottom of a hill, ominously warning us of impending windedness. Then there was the trip to Seattle with my friend Brie on my birthday in April '02. We went to an Eels concert at the Crocodile Club, which was boffo (I got my picture taken with E after the show), wandered around downtown quite a bit, and I remember being proud of myself for driving in a "big city" without crashing my Lumina or doing anything stupid. And the third trip I remember was the time Regina, Jamie & me went down to Colfax (by Pullman) to visit Kevin's friend Grey (he was the best man at their wedding, I was the maid of honor, so we considered each other "friends-in-law"). I have a picture of our visit to the Codger Pole up in my room & it still cracks me up.

Wisconsin: The mother country. Some of my favorite memories of living here are from high school, and taking trips with the band, the forensics team, and other school people to areas of the state I'd never been to before. Our family didn't travel much when we were kids, so trips to places like Eau Claire and Madison seemed pretty exotic to me! The three things I missed the most about WI during the years I was out west were the colors (so green in the spring & summer, so red & orange in the fall, and so blue on all the lakes), the goofy accent (it took moving away for me to admit that yes, we really do sound like the people in "Fargo" sometimes), and the people. This really is a very genuinely warm, friendly place, with streaks of a stoic "it could be worse" mentality that will never cease to crack me up. "It could be worse" should be the secondary state motto, seriously. (Oh, and Lake Superior. I missed that a lot, too.)

Wyoming: Wyoming is...well, it's like Montana, but more desolate. Regina, Jamie and I rode down to Cody in the spring of '03--I bought a little woodcarving of a hand making the "peace" sign at an antique shop, and I still keep it on my dresser. I remember listening to William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy songs on the drive there, which made it seem all the more isolated & surreal, like we were driving on the moon or something.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Police blotter.

Friday, 8:52 P.M.:
Pedestrian flagged down an officer by the post office to ask if the officer knew of any lodging available.

Saturday, 5:02 A.M.: Firecrackers in mailbox.

Saturday, 12:42 P.M.: Anonymous male caller reports that a male left a butcher knife on the front steps.

Monday, 2:39 A.M.: Caller reports there's a guy sitting in a tree smoking a cigarette.

Monday, 9:09 P.M.: Caller states she is caught between two neighbors who are trying to annoy each other with loud noises like loud music and barking bear dogs.

Tuesday, 7:20 P.M.: Complaint of sheep and goats in yard.

Wednesday, 6:55 P.M.: Report of kids being loud and vomiting.

Thursday, 9:39 A.M.: Caller states someone put Dairy Queen food on her car.

Thursday, 9:35 P.M.: Report of logs burning in fireplace inside store with no one around; per responding officer, it appeared to be a decorative fake fire.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Burn, baby, burn.

I've never really gotten a sunburn. Well, not one of those pink-as-raw-hamburger, peels-like-an-onion, hurts-just-to-look-at-it types of sunburns, anyway. I get my annual nose burn in the late spring, usually in conjunction with my annual burning-of-the-hair-part on my head. But most summers, that's the worst of it.

I don't remember ever burning when I was a kid--me and my older brother were just un-pasty white enough to tan. Our poor little brother, though, looked like an albino and I can remember him getting red as a damn lobster a few times after trips to the beach.

The more I think about it, I can only remember three times I've ever gotten fried anywhere other than my nose:

1. A warm-but-not-blistery pinkness on my shoulders after a trip to the beach the summer I graduated from high school, with a big white hand print in the middle where somebody'd slapped me with some sunblock.

2. A series of rosy triangles on my legs the day I sat Indian-style for too long out on the student center lawn at UMD.

3. And a ridiculous one-by-four inch patch on my right arm this weekend--up above the elbow, where my sleeve sat. Just one little rectangle on my arm. Nowhere else.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


I have no desire to see the Transformers sequel...but this? This, I could get behind.