Saturday, October 31, 2009

One banana that's definitely ready to split.

Another Halloween, another excuse to torment Toivo.

Happy Halloween.

Still fighting it. One pissy banana.

Hannibal Lector.

Free me of this madness.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oh, for the love of god.

Ashland approves residency requirement, hiring policy

You've got to be kidding me, City Council. What's the point of all this rigamarole? Yeah, yeah, "they're city employees so they should be living in town, paying city property taxes, grumble-grumble"...I get what you're going for, but c'mon. Like this is going to make or break the city budget? It's a solution in search of a problem.

What I find really ridiculous is the hiring policy they want to implement, which would give applicants living in Ashland what basically amounts to "bonus points" on their applications. So theoretically, a less-qualified person would get a job instead of a more-qualified person, based solely on the fact that they already live in Ashland? How backwards is that? And hey, way to welcome new blood into town!

You know, Ashland, you complain a lot about how most of your young people move away. And it's true--almost all of my friends from high school went away to college and never came back. You can blame it on the economy around here (which does suck), you can blame it on them finding better jobs in the cities south of here...but you know what I think the biggest problem is? Your attitude, Ashland. Your negative, change-resistant attitude. I don't think the City Council is a mirror image of the town that elected them, but they do represent the people here. And when I see Ashland electing negative, small-minded people like the ones currently ruling the Council's roost, I think it makes our town look bad. Really bad. Why would anyone want to come back to that?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A job...well, done.

Man, I suck at finishing stuff lately. I've been hacking away at the same baby blanket for, like, two months now, and even though I have about a dozen projects I'd like to finish before Christmas, I just can't seem to get going on anything. I'm blaming it on the weather--we haven't had much of a proper autumn this year at all. It's like it went straight from 70-degree summer days to 30-degree windy winterness...the leaves had barely changed colors before they got blown off the trees. It's been too abrupt and it's throwing off my internal "how long do I have until Christmas to finish all this crap?" clock.

Which makes this a nice little feather in my cap: my first-ever embroidery project, FINISHED.

Dish towel.

It's nothing fancy, just a flour sack dish towel, but it felt really good to get something done.

The design was something I made up as I went along--I wanted to keep it really simple, since it was my first go at it, and mostly I just wanted to practice some of the stitches without having any strict pattern to stick to.


Y'know, I like embroidery--it feels so freestyle compared to crocheting, and I like that I can pretty much draw anything I want with a needle & thread. On the other hand, it's a little fussier than most of the crocheting I do, so it's more time-consuming. When I mailed this to my friend Emily, I told her I couldn't guarantee that my threadwork would last a lifetime...but eh, it should hold up for a while. I can only get better at it, right?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Movin' on up.

The fish have moved in from the pond for the winter, and this year, instead of being housed in a 5-gallon bucket on the floor, they've moved into a stylish new aquarium on top of the map case in the living room. That's some primo living room real estate, fishies.

Movin' on up.


It's obviously not as big as the pond, so it's a downgrade in that respect--but they seem to be adapting well. I think they're confounded by the big light that we turn on over their heads in the evening, though--they probably think the sun is exploding.

But still--it's better than the fish bucket.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Headache in T-minus 301 hours and counting...

The Daily Press is switching to an online-only edition on Tuesdays (and only Tuesdays) starting November 3rd. (There will still be a print edition on Mon/Wed/Thurs/Fri/Sat.)

This isn't going to go over well at my house. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow can keep my father from trudging out to the road to pick up the paper first thing every morning. He pores over the pages, yellow highlighter in hand, marking up obituaries, police blotter entries, and letters to the editor before he passes it across the table for my mother's review. They confer about who died, what's on sale at the grocery store this week, that nice picture of a barn on page 2, and about whatever shenanigans the City Council's gotten themselves into now. Only after the newspaper dissection is complete can they spring into action, trotting out into the yard for a day's worth of raking/painting/shoveling/weeding/sorting-of-different-sizes-of-nuts-and-bolts-into-various-old-coffee-cans. (Is it just me, or do guys in their early 60s around here suddenly take a huge interest in sorting various little metal widgets into different piles? That sure seems to be the case with my dad & his buddies. But I digress.)

I foresee this online-only-Tuesday thing biting me in the ass in one (or more) of the following ways:

1. My parents decree that I must access this online version for them and print it out every Tuesday. Their morning routine will be torn asunder, but perhaps they can just go outside earlier and save their newspaper dissection for after I get home from work?

2. My parents courageously decide they can find the online version by themselves, thankyouverymuch. On Tuesday mornings, my mother will go down to her computer in the basement and successfully load the Daily Press website, but will get flustered when it asks her if she wants to open or save the pdf file. ("Mary, it told me to download the pdf. Is that a virus?") My father will come down to "help her," but since he doesn't know much beyond turning the computer on & off, he won't actually be much help. Uncertain of what to do, they will abandon their quest, and the computer, and the first thing I'll hear when I walk through the door is "go fix the computer, I don't know what I did to it."

3. My parents will figure out their newspaper issues...but what about my 90 year-old Grandma Rosie down at the Ashland Arms? And all her 70-to-90 year-old friends? Who don't have computers, don't want computers, and spend a good chunk of their day commiserating in the building's lobby about what they all read in the paper that morning?

This is not going to end well for me. Remind me to buy a bottle of migraine pills before November 3rd.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Police blotter.

Wednesday, 1:28 P.M.
: Report of someone dumping their trash in caller's garbage can and an animal got into it.

Wednesday, 11:29 P.M.
: Caller from Bayfield requests information on what to do about a broken oral thermometer; dispatch advised her to call MMC ER for advice; she called back and requested that someone come to talk to her 15 year-old son who was "freaking out" about the broken thermometer; per officer, the son has calmed down and they received advice from Poison Control on how to deal with the broken thermometer.

Wednesday, 11:33 P.M.
: Caller states that his girlfriend's ex just went over to his house and "talked a bunch of crazy" to him.

Saturday, 9:55 A.M.
: Caller would like to speak with a deputy about a telemarketing company calling him 36 times yesterday.

Monday, 7:48 P.M.
: Caller reports that his 38 year-old son took away his cane and his phone.

Tuesday, 3:13 A.M.
: Report of a donkey running around Highway 137.

Tuesday, 1:01 P.M.
: Caller from Mason is concerned about the amount of mud on the roadways and would like to know what the laws are regarding this.

"Too sexy, please, don't do it! NO, MY FRIEND, TOO SEXY!"

Okay, so this is being advertised as a "sexy" Halloween costume...

Allegedly "sexy."

I don't think the model looks convinced. Maybe the product description will help? "Freddy Krueger may have lived in a boiler room, but this sexy Freddy costume is hot!"

They're kidding, right? She's sporting a torn-up t-shirt from Goodwill with her grandpa's old hat on top and a crappy clawed glove from the dollar store...all for the low, low price of $55. Take away the hat and the glove, and this looks like one of the nightshirts I wore to slumber parties in junior high.

(Whenever I see some product desperately flailing to advertise itself as "sexy," it reminds me of this.)

Monday, October 19, 2009


And now for something completely different: there's a multi-part documentary about Monty Python airing on IFC this week, along with other Python staples like The Life of Brian, The Holy Grail and selected episodes of the show...well, it's a regular Python-a-thon. The documentary's been interesting so far, and I've caught the Hollywood Bowl show and Holy Grail, too. Good stuff.

I hadn't watched The Holy Grail straight through, I think? It's a movie that's tied-up with a lot of my memories from high school. The first time I watched it was at my friend Emily's house--I remember it was a snowy winter day, a bunch of us had gone sledding in the ravine up the street from her house, and when we got back there to warm up, it was airing on TBS or some channel like that. I'd never seen anything like it, and felt like I was gaining admittance into some kind of secret club that the rest of the kids at school totally wouldn't understand.

Of course, it didn't take too long before it dawned on me that most of my social circle had seen this movie long before I did. And so had millions of other people around the world. But still, it made me feel clever, and like my friends must be pretty clever, too.

A few years later, on a run to Sam's Club in Duluth with the parents, me & my brothers convinced them to spring for a pile of Monty Python shows on VHS. We got a lot of mileage out of those tapes. Money well spent, Mom & Dad!

I don't think I could pick a favorite sketch--there's just too many. But here's three that spring to mind right now that would definitely make the top 20:

"Oh, garsh!"

Last week, I found out that my friend Joyce passed away a few months ago.

Me & Joyce.
At Glacier National Park, June 2007.

It seems like we'd always e-mail each other a lot in the spring & fall...the last time we exchanged notes was in April, and then our communication fell off through the summer like it often did. I e-mailed her the other day, and when it bounced back, I got a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Joyce and I served as AmeriCorps VISTAs together in Montana back in '01-'03, and lordy, she was a real spitfire. On the surface, she was this sweet, earnest old woman--and she was sweet, and she was really friendly and curious about everyone she met--but there was a biting wit just underneath the surface, too, and so much energy. During her first VISTA year, she started up literacy tutoring programs at three schools in the Flathead Valley (near her home in Kalispell), was constantly traveling to visit her grandkids scattered around the western half of the country, and ran a not-so-secret scrapbooking business on the side. (I remember the first time I visited her at her house--I walked in and the first thing she said was, "Oh, garsh, I know I'm not supposed to have a side job while I'm a VISTA, Mary, but, won't tell on me, right?")

Joyce fell into the category of a "non-traditional VISTA"--anyone over the age of 18 can become a VISTA, but it generally attracts a lot of people in their 20s, often fresh out of college and still deciding what to do with themselves. There were (are?) quite a few of those in Montana--it's easy to attract young people to cities like Missoula and Helena, but harder to attract fresh blood to the smaller towns that dot the state, so it was pretty common for local people to be recruited to fill those positions. What made Joyce stand out from a lot of the "older" VISTAs was that she got along with everyone, and she loved to mingle--she was one of those people who could bounce around a room and start up a dozen lively conversations.

Joyce really seemed to love being around young people...and the 20-something VISTAs loved being around her, too. It was a great fit.

ACMAC, November 2002.
AmeriCorps Member Advisory Council meeting in Helena, Fall '02.

That was one of the things I loved most about her--she was totally comfortable being the oldest person in the room, but she didn't weigh her life experience against anyone else's. There were a few senior citizen VISTAs I worked with who seemed to regard the 20-somethings as a bunch of flakes, but Joyce was genuinely awed to see young people getting involved in community service and truly curious about what everyone else had to bring to the table.

I hope I can be like that when I'm an old lady--open to what the world has to show me, and excited to be there.

When I think of Joyce, I'll always think of Glacier National Park. She took me on my first trip there in September of 2002, and when I was watching Ken Burns' documentary about the National Parks a few weeks ago, I thought of Joyce many times throughout the broadcast. She loved the park, and I think she relished the chance to drive a flatland Midwesterner like me across Going-to-the-Sun Road for the first time. I couldn't have asked for a more enthusiastic tour guide.

Joyce at Logan Pass in Glacier, 9/02.
At Logan Pass in Glacier, September 2002.

The last time I saw Joyce was the last time I visited Montana, way back in June 2007 when I was out for my friend Ryan's wedding. I made a special trip up to Kalispell to see her, and spent a day driving around Glacier and the Flathead Valley with her and her gentleman friend, Doug. Going-to-the-Sun Road wasn't open all the way across yet--the top of the pass was still snowed-in--but we went in as far as we could, watched rivers raging with the spring runoff, and sipped root beer on the shore of Lake MacDonald. It was a great day, and while I'm sad it was our last trip to the park, I'm really glad we got there together one more time.

My mom and I are talking about going out to Montana next summer...she's been inspired by that Ken Burns documentary, and I'm long overdue for a return trip. I hope we get up to Glacier, and while I'm sorry my mom and Joyce never got to meet (I think they would've gotten a kick out of each other), I hope I can be as enthusiastic a tour guide as she was.

A tasty drink after a long day's drive.
Drinking fancy drinks south of Big Mountain, June 2007.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Police blotter.

Wednesday, 6:30 P.M.:
Caller reports there is a big rock in the middle of U.S. Hwy 2 just west of Iron River; officer found a big piece of tree bark and removed it.

Thursday, 2:45 A.M.:
Extremely confused subject walked into caller's home, took his shoes off and turned on all the lights. When the homeowner woke up he asked the guy what he was doing in his house and the guy said he owned it. The homeowner informed him that he did not own the residence and the male put his shoes back on and left the residence. Caller believes the individual is on his way to Red Cliff.

Thursday, 11:39 P.M.:
Report of an individual passed out at the casino and they would like him removed.

Friday, 8:15 A.M.:
Caller reported that a vehicle has been parked in his parking lot for two years.

Friday, 11:08 A.M.:
Caller reported that someone wrote "desire" in the fresh cement on Beaser Avenue.

Friday, 11:22 P.M.:
The mayor reported that near the "Welcome to Ashland" sign on U.S. Hwy 2, someone spray-painted a penis on the highway.