bemused in bemidji

I’m not sure I can define ‘hip.’ I’m pretty sure I’ve been ‘hip’ occasionally (once in 1980, for about a month in 1994, and there might be a weekend in the early ‘aughts when I pulled it all together), but I’ve usually only acquired ‘hipness’ by being around other ‘hip’ people.

I’ll admit I’m an urban snob. I like having having symphonies, and pro sports, and the other things that go with a few hundred thousand people living together. The only time I haven’t lived in a big city was the three months in Bemidji, Minnesota, and that was a bit…less than hip.

So, realizing the power of language to change perception, I tried to get the locals to start calling Bemidji…wait for it…The ‘Midj.‘ That’s right–roll it around on your tongue–say it out loud. The Midj. Which sounds hipper–“I’m spending a few months in Northern Minnesota,” or “I’m doin’ The Midj this summer.”

I guess the hardest thing to get used to there was the talking. As in, people talking to other people. On the street. Just–randomly. You see, in big cities, we’ll talk to strangers on the street, but only to efficiently communicate important information:

“Watch where you’re walking, buddy!”

“Back of the line, asshole!”

“I have twenty dollars in my back pocket–please don’t shoot me.”

But there, people just say hello to you when they walk by. And they’re not asking  for money. Very disturbing. I think I might have pissed off one our neighbors, because when they asked “How’s it going?,” I said “I don’t have any change, but I can give you a cigarette.”

Three in the morning, I’m sitting on the front stoop having a smoke, and twenty-something dude walks by. He bums a smoke, and then, I assure you with no prompting for me, he says, “Yeah, some chick just hit my girlfriend in the head with a rock.”

Now when someone says something so…out of nowhere, I like to play a game I call “Guess The Backstory.” Like maybe he’s at a party, his girlfriend gets into a heated argument about “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” when suddenly a crazed Taylor Lautner fan gets all rock-throwy, and he decides to wander the streets of Bemidji hoping to run into an off-duty paramedic (who smokes, cuz it’s stressful to see your girlfriend hit in the head with a rock)? “Yeah, some chick hit my girlfriend in the head with a rock, and if you happen to know how treat a skull fracture that’d be cool.”

Then there was Random Talking Woman From Down The Street. I’m going to give you three things she’s said to me (although ‘to me’ isn’t really accurate—she simple says them as she passes me without actually looking at me)…now for your writing exercise, you “Guess The Backstory”:

“I’ll put my hair down as soon as it’s not so humid.”

“Thank God I finally got rid of that bassinet.”

(said while carrying a cushion on her head after leaving someone’s house) “At least I got a good chair—if you wanna fight, go ahead.”

I think even Random Talking Woman (her Native name?) would tell you it’s beautiful up here. Lake Bemidji is gorgeous. And at least they went to the trouble to name the lake, rather just describe it.

Amongst Minnesota’s thousand of lakes, it turns out there are several named simply ‘Round Lake.’ Now that’s just being lazy. I don’t know if there’s a state Lake-Naming Commission, but c’mon—were all the good names taken, so the town founders just thought, “Well, it is sorta round.”

There are at least ten thousand famous people are lake-worthy—nobody’s done philosophers, so why not Lake Schopenhauer? Or how about honoring one of the greatest progressive rock bands of all time with Emerson Lake and Palmer Lake? But instead, Minnesota has a lake named ‘Woman Lake.” Nice gesture, but go the extra step–be specific. You could…pay tribute to afternoon talk show hosts with Rikki Lake Lake. These are just off the top of my head, people!

My first week wrapped in a heartland americana snuggie ended with watching Bemidji’s annual Fourth of July Parade. It started with what must have been every emergency vehicle in the county (side note: maybe not good planning to tie up all the fire trucks on a weekend when people shoot off fireworks). Then the veteran’s organizations, or more accurately, four old guys in a jeep.

I had to support the local high school band, having walked that path myself (“OK—welcome to marching band…now just so the rest of the students can easily identify you as misfits, we’re gonna make you wear a tall furry hat while you march.”). Not sure why the girls in the flag team were dressed as wood nymphs (sprites? I get nymphs ad sprites mixed up.), but they looked kinda unhappy.

Square dance float? Check. Local car dealers? Check. Local roller derby team? Check—whaaaaat? Well there’s something to boost civic pride! Nothing says country and patriotism like women in spandex crashing into each other at thirty miles an hour.

Ah, America, where we welcome with open arms anyone who can get past a security fence and present their papers, unless you have a suspicious-sounding last name. Now I really don’t mean to dwell on the diversity thing, but it was a parade to celebrate America.

So the whole town comes out for the parade and I see exactly three people of color. It really made me uncomfortable that two of them were on the same float—I was worried the parade was gonna end in some sort of auction. Thankfully, that was not the case.

You know, despite my crusty sarcasm, the parade was actually quite charming. The kids all seemed to have fun, the weather cooperated, and the forest sprites, I’m assuming, got to change out of their freakish outfits. The reality is, how can you not like a town with a roller derby team AND a statue of Paul Bunyan? Just ask Random Talking Woman.

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better than nice

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So for about three months, I lived in Bemidji. Oh wait—I just realized that with the way my mind works, you might be missing some details that would explain why I’m here.

I had a really primo writing gig until a couple months ago, at which point I was laid off. It seems weird to get ‘laid off’ from a creative job—shouldn’t I be pursuing a writing career because I was laid off from my ‘real job?’

But whatever ‘angel investor’ this company was waiting for never came, and they ‘let go’ around thirty of their forty-five employees. Sure glad they ‘let’ us ‘go.’ Nice of them to not force us to…keep working.

Anyway, because of my principled and long-held opposition to the banking industry, I didn’t have—what is it you call money that you haven’t already spent?—oh right, savings. Actually, that’s more because I usually have any ‘extra money’ tied up in weed.

I have an amazing network of friends who have bailed out my ass on many occasions, and thanks to them I’ve bought some time, but the reality is, I haven’t found work, and I’m gonna have to move.

Thankfully, The Girlfriend was willing to take me in. Oh right—I haven’t explained that either. I get a ‘friend request’ on Facebook a few weeks ago from a woman, and I accept. After which I get the following message: “You are now friends with Kara.” Cool. Not sure I know who Kara is, but…cool. A new friend.

Short version—apparently we really ‘clicked’ at a mutual friend’s party six-and-a-half years ago, and she found me on Facebook. I say ‘apparently’ because I don’t remember the party as clearly as she does, in that I don’t remember the party. But apparently, six-and-a-half years ago, I had some game—or she entered a convent six-and-a-half years ago and just got out.

Here’s the beauty part—she gets my sense of humor. Now I’ve dated people with a sense of humor, and they get my jokes, but there always was that one moment where I would say something snarky, and they would look at me like they were watching C-SPAN, and I’d be thinking, “You seriously don’t see why that’s funny? With the thing, and the deal, and that other thing? I THOUGHT YOU LOVED ME!”

So this one, this mysterious Kara person, laughs at the same shit I do! She gets my references! Oh yeah, and she’s really smart, and sweet and sexy—but my point is, she gets my references!

There were a few red flags that concerned me. I don’t mean the whole moving-in-together-after-only-knowing-each-other-for-four-weeks-and-one-(apparently)-memorable-night-six-and-a-half years ago—I’m talking about other stuff.

She had two cats. She’s not exactly the Crazy Cat Lady, but she’s only about one cat shy. Talks to her cats in complete sentences? Check. Refrigerator covered with cat-themed magnets? Check. Living room a minefield of cat toys and other cat-related things for me to trip over? Check.

I’m also a little concerned about something she told me when we first started talking about serious relationship-y things. Around week two, she told me she has “issues with men.” I thought this was troublesome, mostly because, demographically, I’ve always identified myself as being a part of that particular group. But so far, I guess, she hasn’t noticed that I’m a man. Damn—that doesn’t sound good at all. What I mean is—never mind.

Besides, with me questioning my career choices, carrying around anxiety disorder, depression and OCD, meeting someone with issues about only one thing is…downright refreshing.

I really do believe in things like romance, and destiny, and kismet, and I may have stumbled into all of those things here. Which brings me back to the concept of ‘here.’

Which for a few months was Bemidji, Minnesota, from the Ojibwe word meaning ‘fours hours from the nearest real city.” Please don’t get me wrong. Though I consider myself an urban guy, I can appreciate small-town charms. The leisurely pace, the friendly neighbors, the WHO AM I KIDDING WHERE ARE THE MUSEUMS, AND THE THEATERS? I WANT TO BE ABLE TO GET THAI FOOD AT ONE IN THE MORNING WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE BARS ARE CLOSED ON SUNDAY GODDAMMIT?!

I didn’t want to judge the place too quickly, so I did a bit of research online. Hey, they’ve got a college here. Let’s see if the campus groups give me a little big-city diversity. There’s gotta at least be a GLBT group—what? Muslim student union? Nope. Hillel for my young Jewish brothers and sisters? Uh…no. There are however, two Christian athletic fellowships and, I’m told, a vibrant Young Republicans group.

Here’s an example of how aggressively bland this part of the country can seem. People in the region refer to a concept known as ‘Minnesota nice.’ It’s never really defined, but it’s culturally midway between the ‘love ya, babe’s of L.A. and the ‘fuck you’s of New York. Born of repressed Nordic stock, and forged by a (let’s be real here, people) uninhabitable climate, ‘Minnesota nice’ is really more ‘Minnesota polite,’ or ‘Minnesota don’t cause a fuss.’ Well…here in Bemidji, there is a café CALLED ‘Minnesota Nice!” Across the street from a secondhand store called ‘Twice But Nice’!

On the plus side, I immediately became one of the edgiest people in town, and I might already be the most famous bisexual Jew in the history of Bemidji.

My urban prejudice notwithstanding, it is lovely there. A beautiful lake, cute little downtown, and I discovered a terrific Italian bistro. I wouldn’t have picked as a relocation destination, but I got a little peace of mind, maybe found a little clarity, and got some writing done. Besides, there was someone there who seemed to want to provide my broken-down middle-aged ass with some nurture. And that has been better than nice.

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unpacking my life

I like feeling settled. After many years of living on the edge, I love that, when a friend ask me what’s up, I can actually say, ‘Nothing new,’ by which I mean, no new crisis (“Crisis-Free Since 2010!”)

Settled—weird word, since it’s usually a negative (“You settled for this when you could’ve had that?”) Now, I have choice anxiety with everything—an ideal restaurant menu for me would have, like, three or four items, tops, otherwise I spend half an hour just figuring out what appetizer to have (and then, no matter what I choose, I end up envious of what someone else ordered.) So picking a place to live and (gawd no!) settle down, used to make my head explode.

I’ve moved around a lot, sometimes from things, usually away from things, all the while trying to ‘follow my bliss.’ Turns out, apparently, I had my bliss with me all along. Must have been in a suitcase under some sweaters. Understand, Minneapolis had always been my default go-to place when the wheels fell off (I’ve moved here four times), but this time I had a novel idea—maybe I’ll stay.

I got an apartment right the hell where I was, in Minneapolis, and after a few months, I can officially say—I’m happy here. I think it was Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (or illusionist Doug Henning—I get my vaguely hippie seventies fringe celebrities mixed up) from whom I first heard the phrase “Be here now.” I always knew that was a profound way to live, to be in the present, connected to the now. But my problem was, I was always too busy packing for there, then to devote much time to being here, now.

I lived here for several years in the eighties, but since I always felt I would move somewhere else, I never really tried to ‘grok’ the place (which I’d explain, but I’d rather people read a little Heinlein.) I was always just here ‘until I have enough money to move.’ This time feels different–I intend to embrace Minnesota. To that end, here’s a hotdish full of random Minnesota observations—you might enjoy these with some tater tots!

  • Minnesota, of course, gave the world Garrison Keillor and Prince—although I don’t think they ever shared a stage…A Purple Home Companion?
  • Inventors in Minnesota created the aluminum bundt pan and the Tilt-A-Whirl, Scotch tape and Cream of Wheat—four of the pillars of American society…I might be exaggerating, but they’re all pretty cool.
  • The Minneapolis suburb of Maple Grove (“I’ll take Generic Bucolic Place Names for 600, Alex”) has a huge Hindu temple, and Hampton, Minnesota is the site of one of the country’s largest Cambodian Buddhist temples. Factor in the large Somali and Hmong populations in Minneapolis, and I guess it’s not as monochromatic here as I thought. (Although I would have loved to have been at the Maple Grove city council meetings to hear the objections to the Hindu temple—“It’s not the Hindus we don’t like—it’s those damned finger cymbals…”)
  • This state has the only gas station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright—welcome to Cognitive Dissonance, Minnesota!
  • There’s a pizza joint here whose drivers, clad in superhero costumes, drive electic cars from their wind-powered store. Stoners in Minnesota probably think they accidentally called the future.
  • Street views of North Oaks, Minnesota are not included in Google Maps, because the privately owned town successfully sued Google for trespassing. We might want to look there for the next terrorist cell.
  • Minnesota was the first state to declare an official state mushroom. This place definitely knows how to celebrate fungus.
  • Longville, Minnesota is the “Turtle Racing Capital of The World’—every Wednesday, right down Main Street. My guess is, the city fathers realized how slow life was in Longville, and figured by having turtles race, visitors would see the turtles and think the people in Longville were leading fast-pace lives by comparison.
  • This is a weird and wonderful state, politically speaking. Forgetting the wrestler and the comedian, the good citizens here saw fit to elect the first Muslim representative to Congress AND an arch conservative Luddite harpie. I think this fiercely independent streak stems from an attitude, as winter starts to descend in November, of “Well, I’m kinda bored, and we haven’t had one of those before..” And despite the presence of people who would elect Michelle Bachman, overall, our lefty cred is pretty solid—we’re the only state Mondale carried, for chrissake.  I think this is because as provincial and reserved as Minnesotans can be in public, in the anonymity of the voting booth, people here end up deciding government oughta do some stuff.
  • Bob Dylan AND Charles Schulz. “It’s Blowin’ In The Wind, Charlie Brown!?”

The only Minnesota thing I can’t get behind is lutefisk, which is cod soaked in lye. Roll that around in your brain. Cod. Soaked in lye. I picture the early settlers thinking “Ya know, I like fish a lot. Amost too much, don’t ya know. Maybe if I added something to the fish, that’s like, a poison. We’ll put it on some dry crackers and call it traditional!”

Every day I remind myself why I fell in love with this very…yin-yangy place. And if I ever start whining about a lack of ‘edge’ here, remind me of these two stories, which happened within a week of each other:

I’m at my neighborhood coffeehouse, doing the same work I’d be doing at home, but here, people can SEE that I’m a writer (“ooh—he’s smoking and he has a laptop…wonder what he’s working on”). Now the first thing I noticed was the graffiti on the side of the building—who tags a coffeehouse? What kind of props do you earn marking the local java joint…are there gangs claiming this as turf? “Yo yo yo—acoustic open mic is ours, bitch—you better step off!” Then, as I sit writing this very piece, all of sudden two dudes are fighting. Punches thrown, rolling in the shrubbery, iced mocha splatter everywhere—you expect fisticuffs in front of dive bars, but you rarely see a fight in front of someplace with a special on cranberry-walnut muffins.

Speaking of dive bars, at my nearest watering hole, I spent part of one night talking about the Twins game for an hour with a transgender lesbian biker Navy vet. I’m pretty sure Norman Rockwell never painted that.

Everything’s falling into place for me here, with strange and quirky details, like a film that was started by Fellini, but with a final cut by Bergman. And to top it all off, now our baseball team can suck outdoors, like God intended. Don’t tell the student loan people, but I’m gonna be here for quite a while.

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making the team

I have never been what you would call an athlete. My high school sports career consisted of one practice with the junior varsity basketball team. It’s not like I didn’t learn the value of teamwork, though. I was a key member of the Quartz Hill High School Math Team—talk about dealing with the pressures of competition, try being the guy on the team everyone turns to when the team has a differential equation to solve! But, I just tried to stay inside myself, bring my ‘A’ game, and give a hundred percent (it was the math team, after all—we knew that you can’t give ‘a hundred and ten percent’).

I was at a lot of games in high school, because I was in the pep band, and I’d like to think I brought quite a lot of pep to my school. The problem was the music. It was the mid-seventies, and band directors across the nation began to toss out John Phillip Sousa in favor of watered-down Sousa-like arrangements of hip tunes the kids might like. Our band actually marched to an arrangement of the theme from ‘Shaft.’ Which would be like your grandpa performing “Me So Horny.”

The last year I was in band, the school began issuing letter jackets. To the band. And the choir. That’s right, you could letter in band. I chose not to get one, realizing I was enough of a target carrying a briefcase and a clarinet. I didn’t need the jocks, who were already inclined to shove me in a locker, to think I was mocking them by wearing a jacket that looked just like theirs, but with an embroidered music lyre on the sleeve.

I love watching sports, but I follow baseball more than the others. The NBA has become a little…thuggish for my tastes. With the chest thumping, tattoos, trash talking and women dancing on the sidelines, I’m never sure if I’m watching a sports event or a rap video. Football’s exciting, but it’s hard for me to root for guys who are just grownup versions of the guys who…shoved me into lockers.

Baseball is my sports passion. My favorite thing about it? It’s the only professional sport that the average guy can watch and say things like “Hell, I could have made that catch.” Now, granted, the average guy probably couldn’t in fact “make that catch,” but we all think we could, because, hey—it’s just catching a ball. No different than having a catch with dad, except that dad wasn’t juiced on ‘roids. As far as I know. Point being, nobody watches a Vikings game and thinks “Damn, I could have tackled that two-hundred fifty pound guy who runs the forty in under five seconds!”

The pro sport I can’t get into is hockey, which is followed with religious fervor here in Minnesota. The high school tournament is actually televised here, which creates scenes of middle-aged men in bars swearing at sixteen year-olds playing a game. Plus, the puck is too small. Make that thing the size of a discus so I can figure out where the hell I should be looking. Also, in the NHL, too many teams make the playoffs. I’m pretty sure if I could get five of my friends together with some sticks in late January, we would be given a playoff berth.

I’ve moved around so much, my team loyalties are literally all over the map. Wherever I am, I follow the home teams, because if they win a championship, I can help overturn cars and set shit on fire downtown, because that’s how we celebrate athletic excellence in this country.

I spent some time in Chicago, and I think my favorite moment as a spectator came at Wrigley Field. Game against the Phillies. I was in the bleachers for batting practice, and a misguided woman was trying to get the attention of one of the Phillies outfielders, screaming that she loved him. Suddenly, with no prompting, HUNDREDS of Cubs fans began chanting “SHUT UP BITCH”, in unison, until she, in fact, shut up. Very fun, in a scary, villagers-with-torches sorta way.

Sometimes, a team’s name is what seals it for me. I’ve been a Vikings fan since I was a kid in Southern California. Sports is combat, and your name is what you carry into battle. Historically, if Vikings defeated you, they pulled your lungs and still-beating heart out of your body, and that’s what I want my team to do. Metaphorically, of course.

The other Minnesota team names are less intimidating. ‘Timberwolves,’ I suppose, are scary enough, but ‘Twins’? “Hey, honey—I think the twins are coming for the weekend, would you make up the guest room?” The U of M Golden Gophers? Please. Is that the meanest animal you could think of? “Watch out—the Gophers are in town—they’ll…annoy you by burrowing in your yard!” And don’t get me started on the missing-an-‘s’-so-it’s-not-really-a-team-name Minnesota ‘Wild.’

Hockey also has the ‘Avalanche’ and the ‘Lightning.’ Look–a team’s name should be either something iconic, specific to that city (‘Pistons,’ for example) or the name of an animal that might kill you. And it should be plural. I think the reason the WNBA hasn’t drawn more fans is that half of their team names are…just concepts. The ‘Dream.’ The ‘Sky.’ The ‘Liberty.” These would be great names–for a team entering a poetry slam. It’s a slippery slope—what’s next–an expansion team called the Anchorage Angst?

Now. If you happen to own a team, and you’re not able to extort a gazillion dollars from the city you’re in for a fancy new stadium, so that city calls your bluff and you move your team—pick a new name. Utah Jazz is an oxymoron. Call yourself the Utah Missionaries, or the Salt Lake Polygamists, but leave the Jazz in New Orleans. L.A. doesn’t have Lakes—you don’t get to be the ‘Lakers.’ You can be the Los Angeles…Tourists. And while British Columbia may have grizzly bears, so there could be Vancouver Grizzlies, ‘Memphis Grizzlies’ just sounds stupid. How ’bout the Memphis Presleys?

I think all real sports fans look forward to the Olympics, and next year the Winter Games will be in Vancouver. The one event I never understood in the Winter Olympics is the biathlon, which is essentially trudging through snow, while stopping occasionally to shoot a rifle. I get cross-country skiing, and I get shooting things. Do one or the other.

I mean, while we’re combining random things, let’s have an event in the Summer Games that combines the 100-meter butterfly with…archery. The next Summer Olympics will include two new sports—rugby and golf. Now THERE are two activities that should be combined. Golf would be much more interesting if you could tackle your opponent as he lined up his tee shot, and all the golfers got into a big scrum at each hole.

To any actual athletes reading this  (‘Athletes Who Read’–on the next Tyra!), understand that I harbor no ill will toward those of you who might have picked on me. And really, it worked out for the best. Sure, because of your freakish physical talents and genetic luck, you have the opportunity to earn millions of dollars while I have the opportunity to…i dunno, have dozens of people read my stuff. But it’s been years since I’ve been shoved into a locker, and besides, I’ll always have the clarinet to fall back on.

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snow in october

Ah, the middle of October, when thoughts naturally turn to ghoulish pumpkins, crunching leaves, and drunk Germans. Unless you live in Minnesota, where we got our first snow a few days ago. Granted, it was only a couple inches, but THAT”S NOT THE POINT! I  want to have burnt sienna tinted thoughts of baseball and bountiful harvests. I should be trying to find my rake, not my windshield scraper.

I’m no meteorologist, but I think we had four days of autumn this year. We had a lovely mild summer, with none of those four-day stretches of ninety-three degrees and eighty percent humidity during which an entire city becomes cranky. But no matter how nice summer is, Midwesterners know that it’s all a tease; winter will always show up, distract us with a week of crisp, clear forty-five degree days, and then proceed to stick its frozen boot up our fat Midwestern asses for five months.

I’m not a native Minnesotan. But I’ve always preferred cold-weather cities to the other extreme. Do the math with me—no matter how cold it becomes, if you put on enough layers, you’re no longer cold. You’re unable to move because of all the layers you’ve had to put on, but you have defeated the elements. Whereas, in someplace like, say Phoenix, even when you’ve removed ALL your layers, you can still be miserable. Cold places are better than hot places—Q.E.D. (which stand for ‘quod erat demonstrandum,’ which is Latin for ‘I took some advanced math classes and for some weird reason remember the Latin phrase for ‘there—I proved my point’)

I’m not a native Minnesotan, though, and I don’t quite think like one yet. The first time I saw the temperature forecast on the front page of the newspaper (news used to printed on paper) and read “8 degrees,” I thought it was a typo. That’s missing a digit. That’s not enough degrees, I thought. But Minnesotans have this amazing, resigned calm about the whole winter thing.

Everybody here has the same attitude you see in “Chinatown” when the photographer says to Nicholson, “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” Here, it’s “Stop whining, Sven. It’s Minnesota.” Everyone seems to have accepted their fate. It’s a strange, mass-delusional badge of pride, making it through a brutal winter. You get to the other side of it and people pat each other on the back saying, “Yeah, that winter in ’88—the pipes froze, Grandpa slipped on that sheet of ice, we had to drive in whiteout conditions…” You don’t hear people say “Man, remember the summer of ‘92? That was awful—it got really…hot.”

So people in Minneapolis do the rational Scandinavian thing. We cope. We trudge through snow banks, each of us wrapped up like old Ukranian women walking through  the shtetl, muttering things like “We have a great theater scene here. We have a great theater scene here. We have a great theater scene here.” And there’s no use complaining, because when you do, a local is always nice enough to point out “It could always be worse.” Thank you, Captain Perspective.

I like that people here openly taunt Nature. For example, skyways.  If you haven’t experienced one, a skyway is an elevated, enclosed climate-controlled bridge, and Minneapolis has a series of them connecting, essentially, all the buildings in downtown. It’s like a Habitrail, with hamsters in suits and Starbucks kiosks. And it’s our way of saying “Screw you, God. That winter bullshit? Bring it on.” (note: if there is a God, then what I’ve written is satire and I don’t actually mean “Screw you.”)

The best thing about winter is spring. I grew up in Southern California, and sure, they have seasons. I’ll never forget the first time I felt the subtle change as the calendar turned from the Brushfire Solstice to the Mudslide Equinox. But there is no feeling quite like that first time the mercury hits fifty after five months of ridiculous, marrow-chilling temperatures. The entire city erupts in a communal ‘woohoo!’ that can be heard as far south as Des Moines.

So I’m fine with winter. I embrace the invigorating chill, and the wind that cuts through you like a set of knives from an infomercial. It’s just too soon. Snow this early in the year is like giving someone a Nobel Peace Prize after a few months as President. It’s beautiful, but it’s too soon.

I’m just not ready to get all Currier and Ives-y. It’s too soon to start thinking about when I have to mail gifts I haven’t even bought yet. It’s too early for winter storm watches, and weather advisories, and road conditions. It’s too early to hear that “the temperature is thirty-one, but it actually feels like it’s nineteen.” I’m not ready for…ah, who am I kidding. I’m a Minnesotan now. Bring it on.

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and the senate seat goes to…

Having lived in Illinois during the Blagojevich era, I came to enjoy political scandal as theater. In a state where reading the local political news feels like reading Soap Opera Digest, reactions from people on the street to the latest allegations weren’t so much “Oh no he DIDN’T” as they were “Ah, what are ya gonna do?”

Here in Minnesota, political controversy is a much bigger deal because, well, it’s pretty darned unusual.  We like our politics as clean as our cities, don’t ya know. In an exhaustive ten minute internet search, I was only able to find one previous scandal in Minnesota:

  • Minnesota State Senator Sam Solon (D-MN) Pleaded guilty in 1995 to telecommunications fraud for letting his ex-wife make $2,430 in calls on his State Senate telephone line

Outrageous! Where are the reformers?! The system is broken! Seriously, folks–that’s it. Over a decade ago, a state senator’s wife made some long-distance calls. See, ‘Minnesota nice’ means that we don’t have scandals. Heck, we even have a Muslim congressman, and the hubub over that here in Lutheran Land lasted maybe a week. And though right-wing nutjob Michelle Bachman is TRYING to generate some cymbal-clanging outrage, we tolerate her, too.

Our politics is quirky here. Minnesota has historically been a bastion of old-school liberalism (Hubert Humphrey, of course, and don’t forget we’re the only state Mondale carried), but we also elected a professional wrestler as governor. And, if is former comedy partner is to be believed, our current senator is the only member of that august body to have dropped acid.

So I figure there might be an opening in the next election. The issues which grip this state will be the same–having enough Target stores, keeping Garrison Keillor on the radio, and solving the Twins’ pitching problems. So I have decided to launch an ‘exploratory committee’ in advance of the 2016 race.

Let me offer a little background for the voters. I have always registered as a Democrat, except for the year in California when I switched my registration to the Peace and Freedom Party. Suffice to say, there was a woman involved. And some weed. On the issues, I’m opposed to crime, and in favor of education. I will save the state millions of dollars by running official business from my apartment,, and since I am currently unemployed, I will have the time to commit at least three hours each day to solving the state’s budget crisis.

The state’s unemployment will be addressed by the creation of a massive public works project.  I propose we build a giant insulating dome over the city of Minneapolis, thereby courting conventions and tourist dollars even in the middle of winter.

Now here’s the most visionary part of my plan. Forget ‘sin’ taxes, which clearly haven’t stopped people from smoking or drinking (every smoker I know has said things like “When cigarettes get to be more than x dollars a pack, I’m quitting,” and in reality, we would buy them for fifty dollars a pack out of the back of a van).

Instead, I am proposing a  tax on healthy things. Soy milk. Broccoli. Bicycles. Especially bicycles. And everything related to bicycles–tax their goofy little blinking lights, tax their ridiculous bells and tax their helmets which apparently make them feel invincible as they cross three lanes of rush hour traffic and ignore stop lights even though the helmet will only protect your skull while the rest of your body can still get RUN OVER! Sorry. Bicyclists just seem a little full of themselves sometime.

Oh, and to avoid any possibility of getting caught up in some pay-for-play, graft-fueled corruption scandal, I will sever all ties with any professional politicians. I will only talk to my closest friends. Just my buds. Who will also be my advisors. And who will serve in various positions in my office.

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