Tuesday, August 31, 2010

L.A.-la land, pt. 3: "You WILL catch the bouquet and I WILL be your DJ!"

And so we come to the reason for our visit to Los Angeles: Jamie & John's wedding!

1st dance.

The ceremony was at Jamie's family's church, and the reception was at a gorgeous place in Marina del Rey called Shanghai Red's. It had the coolest entryway I've ever seen.

Spending some more quality time with the Shanghai Red's scenery.

Fish pond.

Pretty! And this is the view from behind the building...

Marina del Rey.

It was like sitting in a postcard. A postcard...with a smorgasbord.

Holy freakin' tasty. Smorgasbord.

My favorite part was when the DJ called Jamie out to do the traditional tossing-of-the-bouquet, and then he proceeded to spend about two minutes explaining it to everyone. Everyone was looking at each other, like, dude, we know. I don't remember exactly how it happened, but I know by the end of his speech Regina and I kept turning to each other and saying, "You will catch the bouquet and I will be your DJ!" and it still makes me laugh whenever I think about it.

Jamie was way more patient than I would've been.

After that, the DJ retreated to his station and his big heap of CDs, and balance was restored to the universe.

Yo, DJ!

It was so fun and beautiful and delicious, and I'm so glad we were there for Jamie's big day.

Jamie & Regina.

Yay, wedding!

Hummingbirds are jerks.

Sure, they look all sweet & dainty, but the swarms around our house seem to spend every waking minute chasing each other away from the bird feeders. WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE.

An unending skirmish.

Air attack.


Monday, August 30, 2010



You're a Horrible Person, But I Like You: The Believer Book of Advice
How could a book with so many funny contributors be so unlikeable? I was glad I got it from the library and that I hadn't shelled out any money; as this reviewer on Amazon put it, it's "all punchlines and no set-ups." Too many hipsters stirring the pot and a lot of potential squandered.

Inside the Minds of Animals (Time Magazine)
I read this a few weeks ago and it's stuck with me ever since...lots of food for thought.

The Thirty-Three Faces of Gretchen" on Tom & Lorenzo
So far, this has been my favorite season of Project Runway since Christian won - the challenges have been better, the cast is amusing (I'm particularly fond of Valerie, Mondo and Michael C.), and the editors have done a brilliant job of slowly bringing the Gretchen-as-manipulative-bossypants story arc to a boiling point. Last Thursday's episode was the best one in years, and Tom & Lorenzo skewer it magnificently. (Additional reading: the AV Club's awesome recap.)

The Real Housewives of New Jersey (on Bravo)
Tonight's the season two reunion show and OH MY SWEET GOD LOOK AT THE CRAZY.

(Also: this made me laugh 'til I cried.)

Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town (on IFC)
Is it on par with their old TV series? Not quite. But it's pretty funny on its own merits and it's been getting stronger from episode to episode. (Plus, the Chicken Lady made a guest appearance.)

Veronica Mars (Season 1 on DVD)
Why didn't I watch this when it was on the air?

Louie (on FX)
This falls into the same category as Curb Your Enthusiasm for me, in the sense that I love it even though it makes me incredibly uncomfortable sometimes to watch it. This takes a more surrealistic slant than Curb, and I love the way the tone of a scene can turn on a dime and go somewhere completely unexpected.

Flipping Out (on Bravo)
I can't get enough of this.

Huge (on ABC Family)
I feel like this show is slumming it, airing on this channel. Which maybe isn't fair, since all I know of ABC Family is that they air the idiotic (and frequent Soup target) The Secret Life of the American Teenager, but god, that's show's so dumb it taints anything that comes near it. Anyway, Huge is in a totally different vein; the characters have depth and the relationships between the campers (and the staff) are rich and nuanced. Weight is a central element to the show, obviously, but instead of it being the sole focus, the show's more about how everyone feels like a misfit sometimes, regardless of their age or pant size. Tonight's the season finale; no word on whether it's being renewed yet, but I hope it does.

Mad Men (on AMC)
Last season's finale was just the jolt this show needed - as difficult as it is to watch Don Draper circling the drain right now, it'll be interesting to see if he makes it to rock bottom & what might come after that.


- It's too damn hot and I'm ready to be done with this summer nonsense. Bring on the fall!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Police blotter.

Monday, 1:52 P.M.: Report of the theft of a toilet paper dispenser from the wayside in Glidden.

Wednesday, 11:34 A.M.: Report of subject hiding in bushes. Update: Subject said he was just resting under some trees.

Thursday, 1:08 P.M.: Caller reported a reckless driver on U.S. 2 near Iron River. Officer stopped vehicle driven by an elderly man who was confused about the road lines.

Thursday, 7:15 P.M.: Report of naked couple lying on long dock at West End Park.

Saturday, 6:24 A.M.: Report of dog feces in hallway and request for picture of same.

Sunday, 1:52 P.M.: Report of bear seen in dumpster.

Sunday, 8:07 P.M.: Report of dollar bill received with Santa Claus face on same instead of Washington.

More Muppet-related observations:

1. The Muppet Show, while classic, would've been even better without a laugh track.

2. This makes me wonder if the SNL writers of the late 80s watched a lot of The Muppet Show when they were growing up.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

L.A.-la land, pt. 2: "Turn left at Disneyland."

I come from a town of 8,500 people. I live in the third largest county in the state, and it doesn't have a single stoplight. The busiest street in Ashland has four lanes, but the speed limit is (a loosely-enforced) 25 mph. Some people own GPS units around here, but I don't think anybody uses them unless they're going downstate - there just aren't all that many roads to pick from up here. And most of my freeway/interstate driving experience has come from skirting around the edges of the Twin Cities, or the vast, open roads of Montana.

All of these may have been contributing factors as to why, on our way to Disneyland, we wound up at the L.A. shipyards. ("This seems like a funny place for an amusement park.")

Forty-five minutes later, after we'd gotten turned around the right way and made another death-defying trip across the freeway, we arrived at the Happiest Place on Earth™. The last thing the GPS ordered us to do before Regina shut it off in disgust was to "turn left at Disneyland"; an instruction that sounded simple enough, but which proved impossible to obey because the road it was telling us to turn onto was closed. That kind of sums up our relationship with the GPS throughout our visit to L.A., actually. I think it had the best of intentions, but it was a little out of its element, too. (I blame myself for the dock mix-up, though...I think I put in the wrong ZIP code or something.)

My friend Kristin works at Disneyland as an electrical engineer, and when she found out I was coming to L.A., she very graciously offered to let me & Regina into the park for the day on her employee pass. I felt like a real tool for keeping her waiting while we made our impromptu detour to the shipyard, but she patiently offered to meet us a little later in the morning and boy, was I glad to see her!

Thanks for the VIP treatment, Kristin!

(It wouldn't have felt like a proper Disney trip without a member of the Nelson family there - this was my third trip to a Disney park and Kristin's been there for all three of them.)

Kristin gave us a quick Disneyland primer, including some tips on which times of day were best for some of the attractions, then hit a few rides with us before she had to go back to work. Left to our own devices, Regina and I made a beeline for the one, the only, "It's a Small World."

"The Happiest Cruise that Ever Sailed"

Neither of us had ever been on it before, and we were thrilled to discover that it's every bit as insane as we'd imagined. (Not Lisa-Simpson-at-Duff-Gardens levels of overwhelming, but close. And I must report that the Disney water was

It's every bit as crazy as you'd imagine. Frankly, it's a little overwhelming.

Suppressing the urge to make Yakov Smiroff jokes. The end!

Having scratched that off our to-do list, we played it loosey-goosey for the rest of the day and just steered ourselves toward rides that happened to have short lines the moment we walked by.

Splash Mountain.

(Does anyone buy these pictures anymore? I mean, why pay when you can just sneak a picture of the picture with a digital camera?)

The Happiest Turkeys on Earth.

Turkeys granted Presidential pardons on Thanksgiving come to live at Disneyland. They did look pretty happy, as turkeys go.

California Adventure.

After spending about half our day in Disneyland proper, we wandered over to the adjacent California Adventure park to check that out.

The sun's going down...

I get combative when I get hot.

Around the time the nightly fireworks extravaganzas (yes,
extravaganzas - there's more than one) were about to begin, we decided to forgo the kabooms and try to cram in some more rides while everyone else was distracted. It was the best decision we made all day - the lines got so much shorter! - and we had our three favorite rides of the day during this span of time, too.

First, on the Grizzly River Run (Midwesterners: think Thunder Canyon at Valleyfair), we wound up on a raft full of tweens who were riding it over and over again, derangedly singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" nonstop. It sounds annoying, and maybe in my regular state of mind, it would've been, but by then I was so exhausted and overwhelmed that it was hilarious. That's how they get you at these Disney parks - they wear you down until you can't help but laugh at it all!

Next, we ran back over into Disneyland to try to get on the Indiana Jones ride, which had been broken and then backed-up all day long. The line was HUGE - 80 minutes or so, way more than me or Regina were willing to wait - but then we remembered a piece of advice Kristin had given us about asking if they were looking for any single riders. The kid tending the start of the line gave us the nod, sent us in through the exit, and a few minutes later we found ourselves on a "secret" elevator to the front of the line. Much like Bench was my favorite ride at Disneyworld a few years ago, Secret Elevator quickly zoomed to the top of my Disneyland list.

Our favorite ride of the day.

Last, but certainly not least...the teacups. My third trip to a Disney facility, and I'd never been on the teacups before. How could something so simple leave us feeling so bonkers? I don't think I stopped laughing the entire time we were on them.

Merrily rattled.

It seemed fitting that a day that started off so ridiculously ended on an equally ridiculous note.

Struggling to contain the magic.

And now, to find our way back to the parking lot trams!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How I just described the noises my car's suspension is making to the mechanic:

(Other than the honking, it's a pretty accurate representation.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Police blotter.

Monday, 9:36 A.M.: Report of vacuum cleaner found on side of road.

Tuesday, 7:27 A.M.: Report of zucchini theft.

Tuesday, 1:54 P.M.: Caller reported that his 92-year-old father took off on a lawnmower and now the family could not find him, requested Barnes Fire Department to assist. Subject was located.

Thursday, 9:53 P.M.: Report of woman locking herself in closet. Update: Subject freed from closet.

Friday, 6:11 P.M.: Report of woman holding an injured loon. Update: Loon was released.

Saturday, 11:48 A.M.: Report of bear trying to get into house with caller saying, "The bear is going to eat me up."

Saturday, 12:30 P.M.: Report of threat to "saw a bike in half with a chainsaw."

Sunday, 5:21 A.M.: Report of male walking on highway with 12-pack on shoulder.

Sunday, 7:20 P.M.: Report of naked male getting out of vehicle and squatting in highway. Update: There was a valid Ashland County warrant out on subject and he was taken to jail.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

L.A.-la land, pt. 1.

About five minutes after we got the save-the-date cards for Jamie's wedding, me & Regina had already booked our plane tickets, lined up the rental car and started making a list of all the touristy crap we wanted to see in Los Angeles. It was a no-brainer; we were going. (Of course, the fact that we got the cards in the dead of winter probably helped spur us along a
little. Who doesn't want to daydream about sunshine and palm trees when there's two feet of snow on the ground?)

The end of July finally came, and early one morning I found myself scrunched into the window seat of a plane hurtling from Minneapolis to L.A., an octogenarian on the aisle and a woman who bore a striking resemblance to Frau Farbissina in the middle of the row. I usually like the window seat, because I don't usually need to get up to use the bathroom...but this time, my timing had been thrown off since our plane left almost two hours late. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Unfortunately, Frau Farbissina proved not only a physical obstacle, but a cranky one at that. I purposely waited until Granny on the aisle had gotten up to walk around, and for the Frau to finish her third sandwich of the flight (she was a skinny broad, but holy crap, it was like she raided an Old Country Buffet before she got on the plane, she had so much food in her carry-ons) before I politely asked to be released from my seat. "You window seat people!" she muttered as she stowed her chips in her duffel bag of snacks. "Don't sit there if you have to go to the bathroom." Oh, okay, next time I'll just throw on a pair of Depends so as not to disturb the delicate genius as she takes on a little nourishment. Christ. When I got back two minutes later, she rolled her eyes and made a big show of wiggling out of her seat again to let me back in...like air travel isn't unpleasant enough, right? Just be decent, it's not so hard.

Anyway, after that minor ordeal was over, Regina and I found each other at LAX and almost immediately, we stumbled upon a thick vein of comic gold at the rental car place down the street. As a kindly gentleman was helping me check in, an irate woman stomped through the waiting room behind me. "My car won't be ready for two hours??" she hollered to no one in particular. I turned around to see who was causing all the clamor and you guessed it - it was Frau Farbissina! What are the chances? The Frau launched into an expletive-laced diatribe about the poor state of Alamo Rental Car...at which point the kindly gent who was helping me chimed in, "Ma'am, this is National, Alamo's downstairs." "I KNOW THAT!" she screamed. "Well, we can't help you, ma'am, you'll have to go back downstairs and sort this out with them." Stomp-stomp, scream-scream. It was like a Godzilla movie.

We crashed at the hotel that afternoon, and a little later on, Jamie picked us up and took us out for some lazy sightseeing and eating. Two of our favorite things! First up: Venice Beach.

Venice Beach.

Regina & Jamie.

Pink, but not sunburned.  Just very pink.

It wasn't as crazy as I expected it to be (hey, I've seen
Mixed Nuts), but we did get a few flashes of nutso.

Spoiler alert: it's Jebus!

Spoiler alert: it's Jebus!

"Positive Rocks."

Oh, California, you and your positive rocks. I would've been a little disappointed if I hadn't seen something this hippy-dippy-trippy on the boardwalk.

When we all lived in Montana, Jamie would wax poetically about the orange trees in her backyard when she was growing up...this always sounded terribly exotic to the rest of us, coming from the land of the ice & snow, so after a stop for tacos Jamie took us to her house to pick some citrus fruit. Our minds were blown.

Minds were blown.  Oranges were picked.

Then again, my mind was also blown by the fact that speed bumps are referred to as "speed humps" in Jamie's neighborhood, so the bar maybe wasn't set all that high by that point in the day.